Thursday, February 7, 2008

Want to have lots of children? Marry a third cousin!

Science Daily has an intriguing article dated 8 February 2008 - titled "Third Cousins Have Greatest Number of Offspring, Data from Iceland Shows." It summarizes a paper titled "An association between the kinship and fertility of human couples" that was published in the journal Science February 8, 2008.

The statistics show:

"For example, for women born between 1800 and 1824, those with a mate related at the level of a third cousin had an average of 4.04 children and 9.17 grandchildren, while those related to their mates as eighth cousins or more distantly had 3.34 children and 7.31 grandchildren. For women born in the period 1925-1949 with mates related at the degree of third cousins, the average number of children and grandchildren were 3.27 and 6.64, compared to 2.45 and 4.86 for those with mates who were eighth cousins or more distantly related.

"The findings hold for every 25-year interval studied, beginning with those born in the year 1800 up to the present day. Because of the strength and consistency of the association, even between couples with very subtle differences in kinship, the authors conclude that the effect very likely has a biological basis, one which has yet to be elucidated."

Isn't that interesting? The average number of children born to a union went down between 1824 and 1949, but the comparison held. Read the whole article.

Iceland has wonderful and nearly complete records and was pretty much a genetically closed society for a long time, so this is really a useful study to geneticists and demographers.

Now do you see why I'm looking for distant living cousins? I don't have any in Iceland, unfortunately!

Music from before our time

I found a wonderful web site recently, thanks to the latest Internet Genealogy magazine.

The "Popular Songs in American History" web site at has a wealth of songs through the ages - not just American written or sung. Some are sentimental, some are romantic, some are raunchy, some have a twist, some are silly. Before electricity, playing music and singing songs in a family or in a group was the prime entertainment in homes, churches and public places. Except in Puritan colonial New England, I guess.

What I really like is that you can hear the tune (without singing), see the lyrics, read some information about the song and its background, have some some related links that connect to the history of the area or time, and see the source of the lyrics and music.

There are about 200 songs at this site, separated into historical time frames. There are also links to English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh songs.

This is a wonderful web site! I've only listened to about 20 songs, but I really like The Deceived Girl, Sally in Our Alley, Free America, Rosalie the Prairie Flower, and Grandfather's Clock.

Do you have a favorite? Tell me...I don't want to miss anything.

Letters from home - Post 2

This is the first letter in the stack of Letters from Home to Austin and Della (Smith) Carringer, residing in San Diego, California in 1888. An explanation of the family situation is here.


From Davie Smith in McCook, Nebraska to mother Abby (Vaux) Smith in San Diego. Envelope with return address of Blue Front Livery Stable, D.D. Smith proprietor, McCook Nebraska. Addressed to Mr. Austin Carringer, National City Cala. 2 cent stamp. postmark on front dated Aug 31 1888, McCook Neb, postmark on back dated Sep 5 1888, National City, Calif.
Letterhead of D.D. Smith, proprietor of Livery, Feed and Sale Stable,

McCook Neb Aug 31st 1888

Dear Mother and all,

Your letters received some time ago and found us all well.

I received the BB Bal all OK and think it is fine. Every one that seen it thought it was elegant.

Well I got a letter from DJ several days ago and he thought he had sold your timber claims for you for cash. Now if you folkes don't want to use the money for any thing this winter I will take it off you and pay 1-1/2 per cents a month and send out to you each month if it suits you folks. Write me at once and let me know. I will buy up grain while it is cheap for a years use. Now if I get it of you can get it for you any time in the spring by 30 days notice ahead when you need it.

Buck tells me that DJ cropps are not extra this year as his corn was not taken care of. Matie seems to be satisfied here but as soon as I can ... will visit that country.

Love to all, Davie.


This letter is all about business. This family had an abiding interest in business, making money, saving money, being responsible, planning ahead, etc. You can see it throughout these letters, and throughout Della's Journal that I've published during 2007 in weekly installments.

DJ Smith must have been down at the ranch in St. Francis. I don't know where the timber claims were - perhaps in St. Francis or in McCook. Davie offers 1.5% a month to use their money - a pretty good deal!

"Matie" is Mary Ann Smith, Della's and Davie's sister, daughter of DJ and Abby (Vaux) Smith, who also lives in McCook.

More to come!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Genealogy Parade is here!

Bill West asked his fellow intrepid and creative genea-bloggers to submit entries to a Genealogy Parade, and about 15 of us took him up on it.

The "Genealogy on Parade" post is on Bill's West in New England blog, and it has a fine display of floats, marching bands, a grand marshal and the like. Flutaphones played a large part in this parade, but that's another story.

Please go "watch" the parade and read all of the fine posts displaying imagination and honoring our ancestors.

Thank you, Bill, for a fun time! Wasn't it cold out there on the street? Inquiring minds want to know how many people lined the sidewalks of your town to witness this dazzling display of flutaphone wizardry and float creation?

Letters from home - snapshots in time - Post 1

I'm going to post the letters that were in the Carringer and Smith treasure chest of family papers that were handed down by four generations to my mother and then to me. These letters are from the period of 1888 to 1898, and are to and from Austin and Della (Smith) Carringer, Della's mother, Abigail (Vaux) Smith, her father Devier James (D.J.) Smith, Della's brother David Devier Smith, and several other Smith and Carringer cousins.

Austin and Della (Smith) Carringer came to San Diego in 1887 on their honeymoon and settled here. Devier David Carringer (named after his two grandfathers, Devier J. Smith and David J. Carringer), the first son of Austin and Della Carringer, was born in August 1889 and died in May 1890. Lyle Lawrence Carringer (not named after anybody as far as I can tell!) was born 2 November 1891.

The available letters start after the married couple settled down, and Della's mother, Abigail (Vaux) Smith lived with them for some time, perhaps to help with the babies. In the mean time, Devier J. Smith and David Devier Smith are in McCook, Nebraska or on their Spring Ranch near St. Francis, Kansas (in Cheyenne County, Kansas), up the Republican River a ways from McCook.

These letters are only glimpses of the daily life of these people - their concerns, their interests, their lives. I am sure there were many more letters exchanged during these years, but these are the only ones which have survived.

I feel fortunate to have the letters that I have - these people, like many others, would pass letters from their relatives to other relatives as a way to keep everybody in the family informed. Most of the letters I have are from another place to the family in San Diego, but there are several letters from Della and Abby to Austin while he was in Colorado in the early 1890's - he must have saved them and brought them home.

Writing letters is how people stayed in touch when the distances were too great to visit on a regular basis. We forget that telephones were not common in these years, and the cost was probably too high for most people to afford it. Many families lived on farms or in town with no electricity - writing was the best, and cheapest, way to communicate with distant family and friends.

One of the reasons to search for distant living cousins is to find out if they have letters or other records written by my ancestral families and sent to a distant place.

Each of these letters is precious to me, and some of them are priceless. You'll see what I mean!

Beth McCarty at SDGS Meeting on Saturday 2/9

The monthly meeting of the San Diego Genealogical Society is this Saturday 9 February at 12 noon at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in San diego (8350 Lake Murray Blvd, at Jackson Drive) in San Diego.

The program will be two talks by Beth J. McCarty --

1) At noon, "How to Effectively Use The Family History Center." Are you getting them ost out of the FHC? Learn how to effectively use their special indexes and databases and other resources as well as FamilySearch.

2) At 1 PM, "Finding Your Ancestors Home in England." Do you have English ancestors? Learn which sources and strategies to use to find your ancestors in England even if you don't know the county or parish. Some nationwide indexes will be examined as well.

Beth's curriculum vitae includes (courtesy of the February 2008 issue of the SDGS Newsletter)--

"Beth J. McCarty, a native Californian, holds a Bachelors Degree in Education from California State University at Long Beach and a California teaxhing credential. She has been doing genealogical research for over 35 years, and has taught genealogy for over 25 years. For more than 20 years she has been researching English records.

"Beth is President of the Southern California Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists and has served as Director of a Family History Center for 20 years and is currently Director of the Orange County Regional Family History Center. She and her husband Bill live in Orange, California."

San Diego genealogy buffs are fortunate to have several excellent genealogy society programs to attend each month. You can find out what programs are scheduled by checking the web page regularly.

The Elusive Russell Smith - Post 6

In my last post about my search for records concerning Russell Smith and his purported father, David Smith, in Oneida County NY, I noted that I had ordered microfilms at the FHC for Will Abstracts and Deed Indexes of early Oneida County.

The films came in last week, and I spent two days reviewing them, with the following results:

1) Abstracts of Wills of Oneida County NY, 1798-1848. Volumes 1 and 2 (1798-1832) were on FHL US/CAN Film 0,851,122, Item 3. There were indexes for both Volumes 1 and 2 (I was confused because the index for Volume 2 was before the Volume 1 abstracts, and the index for Volume 1 was before the Volume 2 abstracts). Right now I am only searching for Smith, but the indexes helped identify persons named Smith mentioned in the will abstracts, and witnesses named Smith. Unfortunately, there were no David Smith or Russell Smith entries in the indexes. I copied all of the Smith entries onto my flash drive as JPGs using the microfilm scanner/computer system.

A typical will abstract looks like this:

p.338. JAMES SMITH of Remsen, Oneida Co.
Dated Feb. 8, 1811, Probated Aug. 17, 1812.
Mentions: wife Elizabeth, son: Seth, James, Joab, Oliver, Bohan; children of my dau Hannah Rogers, decd.
Executors: wife; son Bohan
Witnesses: Ezra Green, Enoch Rogers, Seth Smith
Signed: James Smith.

2) Deeds, 1791-1901, Oneida County NY. The Grantee Index for names Sm-V, 1791-1884 was on FHL US/CAN Film 0,364,854, and the Grantor Index for names Q-S, 1791-1884 was on FHL US/CAN Film 0,364,846. For reference purposes, the Grantee is the person who BUYS the property, and the Grantor is the person who SELLS the property.

These books have columns of information listed by year, including the first name(s), last name, other party, liber, page and date recorded.

The Grantee (Buyer) index had only two entries for a David Smith or a Russell Smith:

* Liber 12, Page 204 and 205; 1805, Sep 30; Grantee: David & Wait Smith &al; Grantor: John Murray.

* Liber 12, Page 607: 1087, May 23; Grantee Russell Smith; Grantor John Lansing Jr..

The Grantor Index (Seller) had quite a few entries for a David Smith or a Russell Smith:

* Liber 9, page 77: 1801, Sep 1; Grantor David Smith; Grantee Prosper Rudel.

* Liber 11, Page 158: 1803, May 14; Grantor David and Wait Smith &al; Grantee Ambrose Curtis.

* Liber 12, Page 418-420; 1806, Nov 4; Grantor David and Wait Smith &al; Grantee Samuel Potter.

* Liber 13, Page 521; 1806, Jan 21; Grantor David Smith &al; Grantee Orremon Tuttle.

* Liber 21, Page 561: 1812, Jun 10; Grantor Esther & Russell Smith; Grantee Henry Smith.

* Liber 23, Page 21: 1813, Jan 12; Grantor Esther & Russell Smith; Grantee Chas Leffingwell.

* Liber 27, Page 47: 1817, Apr 11; Grantor Esther & Russell Smith; Grantee Nehemiah Muscoll.

* Liber 27, Page 366: 1817, Sep 5; Grantor Esther & Russell Smith; Grantee Benjamin Rudol.

* Liber 30, Page 196: 1818, May 7; Grantor David Smith; Grantee Jos. Northrop &al.

* Liber 34, Page 372: 1822, Jun 8: Grantor David Smith by exrs; Grantee James Butter.

* Liber 35, Page 150: 1821, Sep 27; Grantor Ruth, widow of David Smith; Grantee James Barrow.

* Liber 36, Page 20: 1822, Jun 8; Grantor David Smith by exrs; Grantee James Butter.

* Liber 44, Page 489: 1827, Nov 12; Grantor Esther & James C. Smith; Grantee Wm Dayton.

The actual Deeds are on many microfilms (there are two volumes per microfilm for these years). I have ordered Volumes 11-12 on FHL US/CAN Film 0,364,861 because there are two deeds with David Smith as a party and one with Russell Smith as a party, including the only instances of them as Grantees (buying or receiving land). I'll order more next time. They cost $6.20 each now at the FHC for a 6 week rental.

There are several intriguing deed references here:

* Several deeds list David and Wait Smith - was Wait a brother, sister or wife of David Smith? Who are the &al? That usually means other family members are a party to the deed - perhaps this is a deed from David's wife's family.

* Several deeds list Russell and Esther Smith. This is the only original record I've found so far of a wife's name for Russell Smith, and it matches the name given in the obituaries for two of their sons. There is also the possibility that, since Esther Smith is mentioned by name as a Grantor (that means she signed the deed and perhaps released her dower rights) that the deed may be for land passed to Esther (and Russell?) by one of her family members.

This research process is long and slow because of the need to order microfilms from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. They are coming within 10 to 14 days, so I can use my time "waiting" by doing other research tasks. When I can read, copy and transcribe the deeds, I will get only several at a time, and I'll have to order more microfilms, wait awhile, and recycle the process over and over. This is, of course, how genealogy research was done before the Internet for every type of genealogy record! There is something to be said for having time to think about what research opportunity should be pursued next. The problem is that you get distracted and don't complete the task in a reasonable time.

There are three alternatives to doing this research by renting FHL microfilms and reading them in San Diego -

* Go to Oneida County NY and try to find and copy the records at the courthouse or other repository. Right now, it's too cold in Oneida County for me to do that! The airline and hotel costs would be high, but it would be fun (hi Apple!).

* Go to Salt Lake City and visit all of the microfilms in the Family History Library. This is by far the quickest way to get the answers, but there is a cost associated with this option also. This would be fun, too!

* Hire someone in either Oneida County or Salt Lake City to do the research in these records. My guess is that this task would take about 4 hours to complete, which would be cheaper than going to either place (say $200 in SLC, $100 in Oneida County). But that would take all the fun out of the search, wouldn't it? I'd rather do it myself, perform the happy dance at the FHC if I'm successful, or berate the genealogy gods if I fail.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Searching for Distant Living Cousins is Hard

I'm sure that all of you know this, but I'm just finding out how hard it is to search for "Distant Living Cousins." These are the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. cousins who share a set of 3rd, 4th or 5th great-grandparents with you. In general, you don't know who they are or where they live.

My observation is that most people know the names and often the locations of their first cousins, but relatively few know anything about or are in contact with their second cousins, and it is rare to find people in contact with their third or more distant cousins (well, except for genealogists, of course - we tend to find very distant cousins). Many families are spread all over the country and the world, and many families have complex relationships, and therefore have less contact with their aunts, uncles and cousins.

Why should we, as genealogists and family historians, search for these folks? I have two major responses:

* These people may have family pictures, family Bibles, family letters and other records that relate to your ancestral families. Did your family send letters to people? Where might they be? If they sent them to a cousin, then the cousin, or their descendants, may have them. Certainly, your ancestor doesn't have them, unless they were returned or they made a rough draft of their letters.

* Some of these family lines may be able to help with genetic genealogy issues - a patrilineal line back to a common ancestor may be very helpful in proving ancestry in that surname by providing a Y-DNA match to other people with the surname.

Of course, if you are able to find these distant cousins, and are able to make contact with them, you still have the problem of convincing them to send copies of their ephemera, photos and Bibles to you. But you can't contact them if you can't find them, right? So we have to try.

How can you find these distant cousins? It is a lot easier now than it used to be before the Internet. The process I'm using is to:

* Use online resources to define the families of distant cousins into the 1930s or 1940s - using the vital records, census records, military records, newspaper records (e.g., historical newspapers), cemetery records, Social Security Death Index, City Directories, town and county history books, the USGenWeb county sites, the WorldConnect, Ancestry and FamilySearch tree databases, Google and other search engines, etc.

* To find people after the 1930s and 1940s, I search the Social Security Death Index, City directories, online current newspapers, online obituary sites, cemetery records, etc.

* To find people living in the last 10 years, I use the Ancestry People Finder databases, online telephone books at and, public records sites (probates, deeds, etc.), Google their names and locations, and use and detective sites like, etc.

* Search the surname and locality message boards and mailing lists for other researchers who might have information about my distant families, or might be willing to search for them in specific localities.

* Enter the families you find into my genealogy database, along with facts found, research notes and source notes. I usually make a descendants genealogy report to define the families.

Ancestry has an article by Kip Sperry about finding living people here. Kimberly Powell at the About:Genealogy site has an article here.

The census records are by far the most useful records for defining families, but they run out in 1930, which is several generations ago. It is not unusual for small children in the families in 1930 to be living, but finding them is a challenge, and finding their progeny is a bigger challenge.

It is a lot easier to do these searches in states that have vital records available online - like California and Texas. Doing research in states without online vital records - like Pennsylvania and New York - is really hard, especially for common surnames. Sometimes you get a break by finding an older distant cousin in the SSDI, and then find an obituary that lists living relatives, and you can then try to contact those people.

The problem is, of course, you are trying to work forward in time, instead of backward in time. Without the memories or papers of our parents and grandparents, this is a much more difficult task.

I'm going to post genealogy reports with some of my searches for distant cousins in the next few weeks - my hope is that there will be somebody on the Internet who is Googling their name, their parents names or their grandparents names and are motivated to make contact with me via email. I'm going to try to not list living people in my posts for privacy reasons, and I'm only going to use publicly available records in my searches.

Have you searched for these distant cousins? What resources or methodologies have you used?

41st Carnival of Genealogy - It's the Best Yet!

The topic for the 41st Carnival of Genealogy was "If you could have dinner with four of your ancestors who would they be and why?" Jasia has posted the Carnival on her Creative Gene blog at

There are 31 wonderful, intriguing and often humorous stories in this Carnival - the biggest ever. And the best Carnival ever, in my opinion. Jasia does a great job in capturing the essence of each post. Please go and read the Carnival, and read the posts from these 31 bloggers. They deserve your time, and you will enjoy their work.

The really neat thing about the Carnival is that there are often new genealogy bloggers on the list and visiting their blogs opens new opportunities for learning about their families and ancestral homes.

The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy will be: The Best of The Best! It's Academy awards time... time for the Academy of Genealogy and Family History aka AGFH (an esteemed organization that all genea-historian bloggers who participate in this next edition of the COG will become founding members of) to honor their best blog posts of 2007 in the following 5 categories:

Best Picture - Best old family photo that appeared on your blog in 2007. Tell us which you liked best and why.

Best Screen Play - Which family story that you shared in 2007 would make the best movie? Who would you cast as your family members?

Best Documentary - Which was the best informational article you wrote about a place, thing, or event involving your family's history in 2007?

Best Biography - Which was the best biographical article you wrote in 2007?

Best Comedy - Which was the best funny story, poem, joke, photo, or video that you shared on your blog in 2007?

Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Monday, February 4, 2008

My Genealogy "Elevator Speech"

The marketing types say that you should have a 15 to 30 second "elevator speech" prepared to deliver the minute someone says "What do you do?" in an elevator or other closed environment. The theory is that this short presentation may result in sales for yourself or your company.

How do you answer the question, "What do you do?" Here's my answer:

"I do genealogy and family history research. I go to libraries and surf the Internet to find information. I attend genealogy society meetings, and write genealogy articles. I'm a retired aerospace engineer, and I do this full-time. I don't take paying clients, but I enjoy helping others with their search.

"In the process, I learn a lot about history and interesting places. I enjoy meeting cousins and researchers and sharing data. I feel like I honor the lives of my ancestors by telling their stories. I really enjoy the inteelectual challenge of being a detective searching for my roots. I have a lot of fun."

What do you think? Too long? Too much information? It's about 30 seconds - I can't memorize any more than that! Does it give you some idea of my work and my life? Does it lead a person to ask more questions?

A more extended discussion might go into more detail about researching, repositories, society work, speaking, writing, etc. It might lead to the inevitable questions like "How far back have you gone?" and "Are you related to anyone famous?" Heh heh. Like an insect caught in a spider's web! I always tell people "I can bore you for hours if you let me."

Do you have an "elevator speech?" If not, should you? Try to write one, and tell us about it (either on your own blog or in Comments below).

If you already have one, tell us if it has helped you focus your genealogy efforts. Has it gained you clients or new friends?

Best of the Genea-Blogs - 27 January - 2 February 2008

Here are my picks for great reads from the genealogy blogs for this past week. My criteria are pretty simple - I pick posts that advance knowledge about genealogy, address current genealogy issues, are funny or are poignant.

I don't list posts destined for the Carnival of Genealogy, or other meme submissions (but I do include summaries of them), or my own posts.

* " 'What God Hath Joined Let No Man Sunder:' Divorce and Spiritualism in the Family Tree" by Tim Abbott on the Walking the Berkshires blog. Tim obtained additional information about an ancestor that was, well, difficult to understand. There are often two or more sides to a story, as Tim finds out.

* "Family by Choice, not Genes" by Donna Pointkouski on the What's Past is Prologue blog. Donna tells us about Father George who was a special person in her life.

* "Genealogical Evidence Is Where You Find It: Locating Births, Deaths and Marriages" by Arlene H. Eakle on the Arlene H. Eakle's Genealogy Blog. In addition to a good summary of web sites, Arlene's advice about what sources you use should be must reading for every researcher.

* "The Pajama Game: Can a Romance Blossom Between Genealogy Societies and Stay-at-Home Genealogists?" by Thomas MacEntee on the Destination: Austin Family blog. Thomas compares the attitudes of entrenched genealogy societies and truculent Internet researchers to the characters in the play, The Pajama Game. Then he shows each side how much they are alike, and how they really need each other. Brilliant!

* "Bob Andy Pie" by Terry Thornton on the Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi blog. Terry's wife sure knows how to make some good eating stuff - and Terry can tell stories about them, with recipes too! I seem to add a pound or two just reading about Terry's eats.

* "Milo Morgan and the Amazing Palpitating Bosom" by Lidian on The Virtual Dime Store Museum blog. Lidian does a bit of research on the subject matter and uncovers a dastardly deed about a titillating subject. (Thanks to Janice Brown for the link to Lidian's blog!).

* "3rd Edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy" by Jessica Oswalt on the Jessica's GeneJournal blog. Jessica is trying to build this Carnival - if you have Central or Eastern European ancestors, please blog about them and submit the article to her Carnival.

* "A Million Dollars for Your Research" by Schelly Talalay Dardashti on the Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog. Schelly answers the question posed by Robert Ragan in part - and asks for more suggestions.

* "A Million Dollars? Just for Genealogy Research?" by Becky Wiseman on the Kinexxions blog. Becky ponders the Robert Ragan question, and thinks she would wisely put her affairs in order and go have fun in ancestral and family localities. She needs to find the rich uncle first, though!

Please go to the blogs listed above and read their articles, and add the blogger to your Favorites, Bloglines, reader, feed or email if you like what you read.

Please make a comment to them also - we all appreciate feedback on what we write.

Did I miss a great genealogy blog post? Tell me!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Super Bowl of Genealogy

Most American residents are focussed on today's Super Bowl XLII to decide the championship of the National Football League. After 20 weeks of play, the New England Patriots (18-0) are favored by 12 points over the New York Giants (13-6) in the game to be played in Phoenix, Arizona in an indoor stadium on real grass, starting at 3:30 p.m. (PST). The pre-game hype, er, programs, started at 7 a.m. this morning on Fox TV. My prediction, based on my own biases and yearlong futility at picking winners of all the NFL games, is Patriots 27-20 in a good game.

What if there was a Super Bowl of Genealogy? Where would it be played? What teams would play? Who would be the head coaches? Who would be the stars of the game? Who would win? What would be the score? Who are the cheerleaders?

1) Where would it be played? The obvious answer is Salt Lake City at the Family History Library!

2) What teams would play? The obvious answer, in early 2008, is The Generations Network (Ancestry) on one side and the LDS FamilySearch on the other.

3) Who would be the head coaches? Perhaps Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak on the TGN side (Chief Family Historian) and David Rencher (Director of Records and Information for FamilySearch) on the FS side.

4) Who would be the stars of the game? This is more difficult because we don't know the names of many of the players on either team. We only know the names of some of the leaders, and some of the publicity people. Thousands of people toil in anonymity in order to bring new databases and web sites online for all of us to use and learn from.

5) Who would win? The game is still being played, obviously. TGN and FS have gone head-to-head several times over this last year, and have cooperated some also. Their game plans are very different - one team puts information online for a fee (but offers free access at selected places) while the other does it for free.

6) What would be the score? The game is still being played. In my mind, the two teams are tied right now. FamilySearch had the lead for several years (with free access to old databases, and indexes for certain census records), but TGN caught up and passed them (offering more databases with a superior search capability). FamilySearch is aggressively digitizing and indexing records from public sources and their vast microform collection, and they have, in my mind, tied Ancestry at half-time.

7) Who are the cheerleaders? You and me, of course! All genealogy researchers.

Are there other players? Of course - FamilyLink (nee WorldVitalRecords), Footnote, New England Historic Genealogical Society, National Genealogical Society, GenealogyBank, FindMyPast, Godfrey Library, MyHeritage and others are playing in the Genealogy All-Star league. They are all winners, in my book.

Competition between companies and societies are a good thing - they bring out the best for everybody, as long as there is cooperation and collaboration. I think that we've seen a lot of competition and collaboration over the last year in genealogy, and I hope that they continue in the coming years.

There are many individuals in the wide world of genealogy that make things happen that are not affiliated with companies - bloggers, researchers, speakers, society leaders, writers, editors, and the like - all working to make genealogy research better, and challenging all of us to learn more, perform better research and help others along the path to genealogy research excellence.

The real winners of the "genealogy playoffs" and the "super bowl of genealogy" are the users of genealogy resources and databases - the millions of researchers rooting for all of the teams to play and succeed with their game plans.

We all dream of playing in big games. My dream is to be a wide receiver in the Super Bowl of Genealogy - running down the field in a zig-zag pattern and catching a big database chock full of information about my ancestors. I'd love to score touchdowns in Dodge County WI, Oneida County NY, Windham County CT, Louisa County IA, Oxford County ME, Barnstable County MA, Norfolk County ON and in Wiltshire in England. In a stadium full of my relatives and ancestors cheering me on ... maybe they'd hold a dinner or a parade in my honor. Wait, those are earlier posts!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Genealogy Fun on Saturday Night

Tim Agazio found the Blog Addiction test and "made" many of us take the test (heck, who can resist?) at

I got an 80% but can't figure out how to make the graphic show up on this post. I managed to get most of it on my blogger page by sticking the HTML in the Template (I'm stlll working on the old blogger where it isn't easy to put stuff on your blog).

The highest score I've seen so far is Miriam at 82%.

Then Janice Brown at Cow Hampshire stuck a dancing video in her "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" post starring three nefarious genea-bloggers - you can see the video here (click on Replay if it doesn't work when you hit Play). Thanks, Janice (I think!)! My Angel Linda loved this - and wished that I was still that thin and agile - it's been about 35 years, I fear. If I tried that now, the earth would shake and grown women would laugh themselves silly - not to mention my grandchildren. I might even strain something or two.

Let me add some "What were their parents thinking?" names from the 1930 census here just to liven up this Saturday night at the old genea-bloggers hangout:

* Devil Cochran (age 16, Jackson county, AR)
* Satan Scott (age 5, Malheur County OR)
* Scare Gartley (age 38, Butte County SD)
* Godly Gengenbach (age 37, Dawson county NE)
* Godlift Horasta (age 48, San Bernardino County CA)

* True Lover Smart (age 3, Mecklenburg County NC)
* Happy Day (age 5, Letcher County KY)
* Peerless Love (age 6, Wilkes County NC)
* Unique Glass (age 27, Oklahoma County OK)
* Kindness Price (age 29, Jefferson County AL)

* Funny Price (age 37, Harris county TX)
* Humble Mister (age 11, Upshur County TX)
* Playfair Plybon (age 26, Wayne County WV)
* Lovely Kidd (age 37, Jefferson County AL)
* Hater Perks (age 44, Hanover county VA)

* Evil Mink (age 8, Bristol VA)
* Fonzie Outlaw (age 9, Dale county AL)
* Dynamite Partee (age 30, Forsyth NC)
* Super Williams (age 5, Mercer County WV)

That's enough for now - isn't it amazing the names that people gave their children?

Visit to San Diego Public Library today

We changed our CVGS Research Trip plans and visited the San Diego Public Library (SDPL) genealogy collection today, because the FHC was closed. This library is in downtown San Diego and is difficult to access during the week, but on Saturday there is free parking nearby and smaller crowds in the library.

SDPL has local and California history resources in the California Room, and a small genealogy book collection in the Genealogy Room nearby. The book collection was donated to the library by a local DAR chapter years ago, but they have added new resources over time; however, the collection is space constrained and a number of books and periodicals are stored in closed stacks, which are accessible using call slips.

In the California Room, the library has:

* Nearly complete collection of San Diego City Directories from 1887 to 1980
* Complete Haines County Directory (by street addresses, with names and phone numbers) from 1970 up to 2006.
* Microfiche index for the San Diego Union newspaper for 1851-1915, 1930-1975, 1976-1980 and 1981-1983. The complete San Diego Union (and Tribune) newspaper archives are available on microfilm in the nearby newspaper reading room (the only complete collection in San Diego County).
* Microfiche file for the San Francisco Newspaper Index (1904-1949) and the San Francisco Chronicle 1950-1980.
* Vertical files of newspaper clippings by subject and name.

In the Genealogy Room, there are several unique (to San Diego County) genealogy resources, including --

* New England Genealogical and Historical Register (NEHGR - 1847 to present)
* American Genealogical Biographical Index (AGBI - complete set)
* Periodical Source Index (PERSI, 17 volumes, and 1986-1997 supplements)
* Filby's Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (1982-2008)
* Filby and Glazier's Germans to America series (65 volumes)
* Filby and Glazier's Italians to America series (12 volumes)
* Domesday Books
* Pennsylvania Archives
* DAR Lineage Books (166 volumes, to 1921).
* Boston Transcript genealogy columns on microfiche (index in AGBI).
* Vertical files of donated periodicals and family papers.

They have two computers reserved for genealogy users with the library databases, including Ancestry Library Edition, plus a CD collection.

There were only four of us today, and we worked from about 10 AM to 1 PM. I checked the AGBI for Russell Smith and several other names, and checked the NEHGR Index for Russell Smith. It's handy to have all of the books there to flip open and check a page. I used the Haines directories a bit also. I spent some time taking the resource inventory above, working on Ancestry for specific names, and talking to the staff about genealogy in general and library resources in particular.

San Diego is supposed to build a new main library in the near future, but it's tied up by local politics. If a new library is built, I hope it will not be in downtown San Diego where it will be more expensive to build and constrained by traffic and homeless issues. We would love to have a dedicatedx Genealogy and Local History area with a world-class collection, but that would take a lot of time and money.

We hope to take our next CVGS Research Trip to the San Diego Family History Center next month and try out all of the online databases on the computers there. These trips are useful for our new members because many of them have only done Internet research. Some of our senior members can't drive to these repositories so it gets them out and researching also. We carpool from downtown Chula Vista and have a great time talking genealogy on our excursions.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Genealogy video workshop survey

I just participated in a Family Tree Magazine survey about Genealogy Video Workshops. The questions asked (and my responses) were:

1. Have you ever taken a genealogy class via online video? If yes, what type of class and how was it offered? I put "Yes" and entered "a) The FTM 2008 and AncestryPress videos offered by - watch the presentation, hear the voices, communicate by email. b) Many videos at Roots Television of classes - but not participating in the class."

2. What topics would be of interest to you in a genealogy class via online video? (Please rate all that apply). Choices were Very Interesting, Somewhat Interesting and Not Interesting.

* Internet research - "Very"
* Identifying and preserving family photographs - "Somewhat"
* Cemetery research - "Very"
* Foreign/ethnic research, such as German, British or American Indian genealogy - "Very"
* Civil War or Revolutionary War research - "Very"
* Finding and using basic records such as censuses, vital records, wills -'Very"
* Genealogy in specific US states or regions - "Very"
* Oral history - "Somewhat"
* Genetic genealogy - "Somewhat"
* Getting organized - "Somewhat"
* Other (please specify) - I listed "Newspapers, Immigration and Naturalization."

3. What skill level best describes you? Choices were Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced and Professional. I put "Advanced"

4. What would be most helpful to see in an online genealogy video? (Please rate all that apply). Choices were Very Helpful, Somewhat Helpful, Not Helpful.

* Advice from an expert in the class topic - "Very"
* Step-by-step demonstrations of computer or Internet techniques - "Very"
* How to use a particular Web site or software program - "Very"
* Virtual tours of libraries, archives and research repositories - Somewhat"
* Explanations of research methods/techniques - Very"
* Range of the above - "somewhat"
* Other (please specify)

5. What would interest you most: paying for video workshops on a per-class basis or buying a package that gives you access to multiple videos for a year? I put "Pay per class."

6. What would influence your decision to purchase a specific online video? Choices were Very Important, somewhat Important and Not Important.

* The featured expert - "Somewhat"
* The topic or focus of the video - "Very"
* The format (demonstrations vs. lecture-style) - "Very"
* The price - "Somewhat"

7. How much would you expect to pay for one 45-minute class? Choices were $5-10, $11-15, $16-20, $21-25. I put "$5 to 10" (naturally)

8. How much would you expect to pay for a package of five videos? Choices were $20, $30, $40 and $50. I chose $30 (cheap guy, eh? Hey, I'm retired).

Isn't that interesting? I'm wondering if Family Tree Magazine is planning on offering Online Video classes with special deals for those with a subscription? Or offering a subscription to the magazine if someone signs up for a number of video workshops?

There is probably a market for relatively cheap online video workshops if they are "on-demand" - essentially a lecture/demonstration format with no instant interaction (perhaps an email contact). Being able to select 10 or 20 videos from a national conference and see what you missed, for a price, is really attractive to me. Of course, that could lead to a virtual conference, I guess, where groups in different locations could sit together and watch a presentation from afar (which is already being done by some presenters for some societies, I understand); or where a number of presentations are made on video and individuals can watch them at their leisure at home.

There may not be as much of a market for an interactive "connect at this specific time" format due to personal scheduling issues. Perhaps a blend would work, like what Ancestry did with their FTM2008 and AncestryPress tutorials - offer the tutorial live with interaction, then archive it and make it available for others to view/hear without interaction. Of course, Ancestry was selling a specific product each time and was using the video as a sales promotion.

Just my opinions, for which I hope I don't become logophagous (look it up).

Tracing Immigrant Origins

With so much colonial American ancestry migrating from England (75% of my father's side, 40% of my mother's side) before 1700, and then another 25% of my father's side, and 12% of my mother's side, emigrating from England in the mid-19th century, I have not done a lot of research in European resources. All of my German and Dutch ancestry came to America before 1775 as far as I can tell.

The only other European research that I've pursued extensively was in Norway, which is 25% of my wife's ancestry. That turned out very well, and I am eager to try more European research, especially in Germany.

I went looking for some online articles and tutorials about researching immigrant ancestors, and found an excellent FREE series of articles at -

This site has

* Introduction to Tracing Immigrant Origins - 12 lessons

* Post Civil War Immigrant Sources - 6 Lessons

* Sources Between 1820 to 1865 - 6 Lessons

* Pre-1820 Immigration - 7 Lessons

* European Sources - 9 Lessons.

These all-text lessons were developed by Genealogy Research Associates ( and are very easy to use either one at a time or in a series. After completing one lesson, you will have to go back to the main GRA page and select the next lesson in the series.

I've learned quite a bit just paging through many of the lessons. If you want to hone your knowledge of immigrant origins and how to trace them, consider using this FREE resource.

I no sooner post the above and I see that Michael John Neill has a European Origins Online summary at This serves as a nice complement to the GRA lessons, which don't deal with online resources.

I welcome any other suggestions to help me with my search for European immigrant resources.

FHCs may be closed on Saturday 2 February

Many, or all, LDS Family History Centers will be closed on Saturday, 2 February, in honor of their deceased President, Gordon Hinckley.

I called the San Diego FHC on Wednesday and they said that they would be closed on Saturday.

If you were planning on going to an FHC on Saturday, I recommend that you call them today and see if they will be open on Saturday.

My CVGS Research group had planned an excursion to the FHC on Saturday, so we've changed plans and will visit the San Diego Public Library genealogy collection in downtown San Diego instead!