Saturday, February 9, 2008

"Finding Your Ancestor's Home in England" with Beth McCarty

The second hour at the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting today was Beth McCarty's talk on "Finding Your Ancestor's Home in England." Beth's curriculum vitae and talk summary was posted here.

Being the naive sort of genealogist I am, I thought that this talk would be about finding the actual "home" of my ancestors, rather than a great review of all of the records that can be used to find the place they lived, the church they attended, and who their family members were. There was no mention of actual houses or domiciles.

Beth's review of the available British genealogy resources included --

* Nationwide Civil Registration Indexes for 1837 to the present. She highlighted the web site which has the birth, marriage and death indexes from 1837 to 1980, but are incomplete. These indexes are complete on microfilm at many regional FHCs, including San Diego. In her handout, she also listed as a subscription site with the same records (of course, the site is now She offered the web site as a place to obtain the actual registration forms using a credit card (rather than sending a check in pounds sterling) with 5 day service and the lowest cost around.

* The LDS International Genealogical Index (IGI) has many pre-1837 church records in their database. You can check the LDS Parish and Vital Records Index and the Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers for the records available for each parish and if they are on the IGI or on FHL microfilm. She mentioned non-cornformist church records, which are listed in the Parish and vital Records Index.

* British and Irish biographies of prominent persons (doctors, judges, lawyers, gentlemen, members of Parliament, etc.) or those who worked for the foreign service, are available in a set of 101 sets of microfiche, all under FHL Microfiche number 6,342,001. There are 255 sources in this collection.

* Probate indexes and wills are in two sets - pre-1858 and post-1858. The British govenrnment controls the post-1858 records, and there is a Calendar of Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Principal Probate Registry, which is available on FHL microfilm under ENGLAND-PROBATE RECORDS-INDEX. Before 1858, the probate records were controlled by the Anglican Church Prerogative Courts of Canterbury (PCC) or York. The jurisdictions are very complex, to say the least! There are separate indexes for up to 1700, 1701-1749, 1750-1800, which are on microfiche but not at the FHL. The FHL does hold microfiche of the 1801-1836 manuscript indexes. There are many books that summarize or index English estates of American colonists.

* Beth mentioned English Court Records, Emigration and Origins, Occupational Records and Military Records in passing because she ran out of time.

Beth is a recognized expert in researching British records and it surely was evident when she discussed the intricacies of parish records, Civil Registration and probate records. She provided a four page handout with all of the reference books and web sites mentioned in the talk, plus more bibliography. She mentioned at the end of her talk the book Ancestral Trails. The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History by Mark D. Herber as a veritable Bible of how to do research in Britain.

Frankly, I wish that Beth had been able to do two full hours of the British genealogy talk so that she could have provided more detail in the subjects she had to skim over, plus the chance to hear some questions and answers. She is very knowledgeable and an excellent speaker and obviously loves this subject!

"Effective Use of LDS FHCs" with Beth McCarty

Beth McCarty from Orange, California was the featured speaker at the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting today. She had two subjects - the first was "Effective Use of LDS Family History Centers" in the first hour of the 2.5 hour meeting. Beth's curriculum vitae and talk summary was posted here.

As the Director of the Orange County Regional FHC, Beth has a wealth of knowledge about the resources offered at FHCs, and she shared them with the audience of about 90 attendees. She used overhead slides to show examples of the genealogy databases, books and microforms available at the FHCs and online at

In this talk, Beth described the Ancestral File (AF), Pedigree Resource File (PRF), International Genealogical Index (IGI), Vital Records Index, Family History Library Catalog (FHLC), Research Outlines, Census Indexes, etc. She showed examples of the databases, how to find the submitters, and how to evaluate the quality of the information.

I learned a few new things from this talk, including

* You can see the full database submitted to the Pedigree Resource File on CDs at the FHC.

* Persons can still submit GEDCOMs to the Pedigree Resource File.

* The DAR Lineage Books are on microfiche and microfilm at the FHC.

* There is an Asian Microfilm Card Catalog for records in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.

Beth didn't talk a lot about the rental of microfilms at FHCs for some reason - to me, the access to original source records from earlier times is one of the most useful resources for me in pursuing my family history. Other than going to each locality or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, being able to access probate, vital, tax, town, military and other records on microfilm at the FHC is absolutely necessary to my genealogy work.

She mentioned the New FamilySearch web site only in passing, and didn't mention the new databases at the Record Search web site or even FamilySearch Indexing. She did mention the digitization project and that perhaps 30% of the "owners" of the content on the microforms would not approve of the digitization of their content. That is unfortunate! She mentioned access to on the FHC computers, but not access to Footnote, WoldVitalRecords, godfrey Library, HeritageQuestOnline, etc.

During her talk, Beth asked for raising of hands if the audience had accessed the databases or resources she was discussing. I was surprised that more people in the audience don't access on a regular basis, haven't explored the FHLC for resources, and haven't ordered and reviewed microfilms at the FHC.

All in all, this was an excellent talk for a beginner to intermediate level researcher, although advanced researchers received useful information. Beth is a knowledgeable researcher and an excellent speaker. Hopefully, her talks will encourage some of the audience to get back into the FHCs to do research in original source records.

Letters from home - Post 4

This is the third letter in the stack of Letters from Home to Austin and Della (Smith) Carringer, residing in San Diego, California after 1887. An explanation of the family situation is here.


From D.J. Smith in Wano, Kansas to wife Abby (Vaux) Smith in San Diego California. No envelope available.

Spring Ranch Oct 15th 1888

Dear Wife. Here I am tonight after dark and do not feel much like writing at all, not that I do not wish nor that I am sick, but I feel tired, I tell you. I put in a very buisey week every day last weak Monday I sliped of and did not let the folks here know, but I was lectionering and would be in town every night but Charley's folks. Went to Cedar Bluffs met Dave and Cammell that bang. Delleys claims delayed me on the Papers, so we went to McCook that night, got there at 9 AM. Mati was playing on the piano when I got to the door then she hollered PaPa and sed that she was so happily surprised we talked and visited until after midnight.

Then went to bed but did not sleep much, she is well and looks well, after Dinner Dave and myself went to Cedar Bluffs got Cammell papers all right and drove after dark to Oberlin do up the business next forenoon, saw Mrs. Linder she is in the store yet, she wanted your address Davey had given it all but the number of the box so I gave that and she sed she was going to write you, oh yes I saw Em Patrick she was there to Ed Beckwith's. She is looking fine. Her face is as smooth as any ladeys, we took an early Dinner had Hairpin drove 12 miles to Cedar Bluffs in one hour and a quarter, we was so buisy talking that we was there before we knew it.

Then Dave went home and I had to stay there until 10 next morning but then I went down the creek and gathered a good lot of box elder and ash seed before dark, got home Thursday noon all OK, but Cammells did not pay my expenses as they should as I spent my time and saved them going and I suposed as they talked that they would. Expenses was 10.75 I sent Dave the 300 and have not got but 85 of the balance of them yet but will try and get the balance this week and then will send Austin the draft. They are sick of the deal as they paid that other claim ...... at 100 and down to 75 cash price, but that does not matter they had ought to be willing to pay my expenses for I saved them twice the amount by doing the business for them. I gave Matie a Denver paper that Mr. Binkleman's sister gave me last Sunday with Mrs. Killpatrick's death in they took her remains east, perhaps Rufe and Betty may stop at McCook when they return if they came on the B&M. Well, Ma, as I said before I got home Thursday noon all OK.

I picked some corn next day and yesterday afternoon sold horses for Mr. Buck sold 20 odd and one week from next Sat I will sell as many more for him. I will send you one of the bills in this. I took a little cold Friday night the first I have had since I left California but am better of it tonight. I am working to get my work all up this month but will not make it out but I have got clear off the Gray Backs you better bett, how is that for high and I got your papers day before yesterday but have not had time to read them but will take it this weak and got a good letter from Austin and Delly Monday before I left for Oberlin and one from you to and let the children read them.

Ma I am feeling better Davey thinks he will sell the stock and rent the barn and then he will come here with me. Ma the way money is I am afraid that there would be money lost in running a car load of butter and eggs and chickens out there but I want Austin to talk with difrent tones and see and write me and to see if a fine matched team waying 12 or 1300 lbs each would sell for. Oh how I would like to come but I am afraid I can't match the samtifee to see if the 10 dollars excus comes off as want to for you will hear it long before I would. Oh if Dave only sells as he thinks he may and then I will have company.

I am so lonesome and no one here I have had a hard time since July. I expect to serve notice on these people tomorrow to vacate in 30 days. I will tell you all when I see you but do not worry for I will take cair of no one they shan't beat nor steel no more from me if I can help it. Now sweet dreams and 100,000 kisses and as many hugs By By yours,

DJ Smith


DJ Smith is a lonely man down in northwestern Kansas with winter coming on, and can hardly wait to see any of his relatives. The business part of the letter is complex - I have no idea what he's doing except he's working for the Cammells and thinks he should be paid for his work. I didn't know that DJ had come to California - it must have been after Austin and Della married in September 1887.

So many questions, so few answers, and not much hope of finding more answers.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Is the LNU family in your database?

A post on the Advanced Research mailing list linked to a Rootsweb Review article from 2003. The article is is priceless... Here it is:

"In Search of the Wild LNUs

"A long time ago in a kingdom far away there lived a fair maiden by the name of Fnu MNU. She married a handsome young knight named Sir Arthur LNU and thus she became Fnu (MNU) LNU. Wait! Stop! Does this sound a bit like a page out of YOUR family tree?

"Are you spending sleepless nights prowling the Web in search of your elusive MNU and LNU ancestors? Or perhaps you've encountered them in someone's GEDCOM file on WorldConnect at RootsWeb, and after doing more searches have come to the conclusion that there are many researchers out there hunting those wild and crazy LNUs.

"Well, it's time to let you in on one of genealogy's best kept secrets: LNU, MNU, and FNU are not real names. They are acronyms. (Acronyms are combinations of the first letters/syllables in a group of words to form a new grouping of letters that can be pronounced as a word.) They are:

"First Name Unknown (FNU),
Maiden Name Unknown (MNU), and
Last NameUnknown (LNU).

"They are first cousins to the mysterious UNK ancestors that you might have spent time tracking down until you realized that UNK was short for "unknown."

"Researchers have used these acronyms and other symbols and abbreviations for years, with little or no uniformity from file to file, to indicate the unknown or missing names. The meaning of these acronyms is often unclear and can be mistaken for actual names by new -- and not so new -- genealogists. After all, we all have a few oddly spelled names in our trees, so what's a MNU or two?

"On another note, be careful should you encounter any DITTO ancestors in your line. DITTO is an actual surname, but it is frequently mistaken as a surname by those reading an enumerator's "ditto" entry to denote that the name is the same as the one listed above it. (DITTO and DITTOE are Anglicized forms of a Huguenot name of unexplained etymology. The names are found in North America by 1700. Ditto also is a short form of the Italian personal name Benedetto.)

"All of this name confusion serves to reinforce the notion that while user-compiled genealogies are a valuable tool in research, you need to examine original records to verify or refute what the compiled records indicate. When possible examine the records for yourself.

"What can you do to make your files clear as to the abbreviation or acronyms you use to indicate any unknown given names, maiden names, or surnames? There are no perfect solutions or worldwide standards. Some compilers, especially those who use genealogy software, put a question mark to indicate that a name is not known, but this is not recommended as some creative family historians use one question mark, while others use two or three, and a ? for a name might mean one thing to you and something else to another researcher

"A recent unscientific search at WorldConnect revealed the following are being used as names:

"Unknown-- 2,742,761
LNU/Lnu -- 14,134
UNK/Unk -- 39,332
FNU -- 139
MNU/Mnu -- 3,357
?? -- 78,201
?,? -- 605,694
??? -- 140,665
___ (underscores of variable lengths) -- 6,244
- (one hyphen) -- 6,491
MRS/Mrs (as a given name) -- 555,699
[--?--] -- 3,125

"Obviously there is no standard for indicating that a name is not known-- hence the confusion. The search even turned up an ancestor by the name of Unk FNU -- with FNU probably used as an acronym for Family Name Unknown. Not surprisingly there was no birth date or place for her and one wonders why such information is even included. It serves no purpose.

"Unknown maiden names should be indicated by using square brackets with a single em dash (or two hyphens, if the software, typesetting or word-processing programs will not accept or use em dashes), or use a question mark amid the em dashes -- e.g. Catherine [--] or Catherine [--?--].

"The same format can be used when the given name is unknown or in doubt. The latter happens sometimes when you learn your female ancestor married someone whose surname is known, but not his given name. Such references can be recorded as [--?--] Smith. Some of the popular genealogy software has to be forced to use this format.

"In formal genealogical writing, the English tradition of putting a woman's maiden name in parentheses -- Elizabeth (Smith) Jones -- is commonly used by many genealogists. Therefore nicknames should not be put in parentheses, but rather enclosed in quotation marks. Example: Catherine "Cathy" [--?--] Jones.
Again, your genealogy software program may or may not handle nicknames in this format or might require some tweaking. For those female ancestors with middle names that might be (or mistaken for) surnames, such as Mary Morgan Kirby, it is important to indicate that Kirby is her maiden name. If her nickname was Polly, and she married a Smith her name should be recorded so that in a family history publication it appears as: Mary "Polly" Morgan (Kirby) Smith.

"Remember you do not have to fill in every field in your genealogy software. If you do not know the given or maiden name of a woman, either leave the field blank or use [--?--]. Her given name is not MRS, and certainly not Mrs. King William of England.

"Using acronyms or various symbols when names are unknown is not a good idea because you want to make it clear that the name is unknown so as not to send others and generations of future researchers on an endless and futile search for the wild LNU. Don't put your cousins in the position of having to ask 'What's MNU? Or who is Unk FNU?' "

The above was previously published in RootsWeb Review: Vol. 6, No. 35, 27 August 2003. Rootsweb Review permits publication of articles not otherwise expressly prohibited by the author or editor.

Seriously, how unknown names are entered into a database is important. I'm in the process of changing all of my UNKNOWN names into the recommended --?-- when I find them. I'm not putting them in brackets though - maybe I should. More work...

Ada Woodward - isn't she beautiful?

I posted this picture back in October 2006 here. Then, I didn't have the actual picture in my hands. I just found it today while digging through my box of Carringer treasures. The writing on the back solves a mystery - who were her parents?

One of the pictures in the family collection is of Ada Woodward, age 13, taken in November 1898 - according to the handwriting on the back of the picture.

Look at the long hair. Look at the eyes. Look at the face - absolutely beautiful. Stunning in fact.

The writing on the back of the picture says:

"Ada Woodward, 13 years old, Nov 1898.

"Nellie Woodward's girl, her father Charlie Woodward played organ at our wedding in Wano Kan 1887, Sep. 11th. Her brother Gene was a little older, after they went away from there he died of Dyptheria."

In the 1900 census, she was age 15, and resided in Belleville, Republic County, Kansas with her grandparents, Frank and Celia Munger, along with her sister Nellie, age 10.

So now I know the names of Ada's parents - and now I wonder what happened to them. Nellie (Redfield) Woodward was a daughter of Celia (Vaux) (Redfield) Munger, as was her sister Ada Redfield. Charles Woodward is a total mystery - he may have been a son of James and Mary (Vaux) Woodward - Mary was Celia's sister. But there is a Frank Woodward in Belleville, Kansas on the same census page as the Munger family - Charles may be their son. If they died in Belleville, then there may be a newspaper clipping or a cemetery plot there.

I don't know what happened to beautiful Ada Woodward. I hope that she had a wonderful life and passed on the genetic makeup that her Redfield and Vaux ancestors passed to her.

I keep learning this lesson - "write down everything you find in a permanent place so that you don't have to keep looking for it!" The problem is, of course, once you write it down then you have to remember where you put it. I try to put everything I can into the notes in my database, but I am not 100% successful in this effort!

Letters from home - Post 3

This is the second letter in the stack of Letters from Home to Austin and Della (Smith) Carringer, residing in San Diego, California in 1889. An explanation of the family situation is here.

From D.J. Smith in St Francis KS to wife Abby (Vaux) Smith in National City CA. Envelope has return address of Lock Box 202, addressed to Mrs. D.J. Smith, National City, San Diego Co, California. Postmark on front is St Francis KS dated Oct 15 1888, postmark on back National City Cal Oct. __ 1888. 2 cent stamp. Note on back of envelope: Sent Davie the $300.

Spring Ranch, Sunday Sept 1st 1889


Size doesn't always count. An elephant is bigger than you but give me you. Devier.

When fortune knocks, you want to be where you can open the door yourself.

Many self-made men have for wives and daughters Taylor-made women. Your father was a Taylor and you a Taylor's daughter.

Let me kiss him for his mother is proper to kiss a man for his ma. You will only stick to the plan. It oftener happens that some how or other Mother gets kissed for the man, how is that Dad.

Dad. Devier David where did I lay down my speckatels. Just under your nose Dad. Don't be so indiferent my son. You shouldn't trifle with the Old Man.

A chip off the old block. Austin how much does little Devier David love his father - hear Little D D one hundred percent. No discount. Fast collars with exchange on Spring Ranch. Austin, oh my father's own granson, say that again.

How is that for Austin. Delley, how much does he way, Austin I mean. I know what the boy ways from Pa and Gran Pa. By by to all and I will hitch up Hairpin and go and mail these. Kisses to all.


DJ Smith seems to write letters with a stream of thought method, and much of it makes little sense to me. He seems to "talk" to each person and has a little joke in each sentence.

I'm confused by the dates. When I transcribed this several years ago, the letter said 1889 but the envelope clearly said 1888. I just looked at the letter again, same thing! But he is speaking about his grandson, Devier David Carringer, who was born in August 1889 to Austin and Della Carringer. There is no other Devier David that I know of. The logical explanation is that someone put the letter in the wrong envelope at some time.
Hairpin is, of course, DJ's horse.

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!