Saturday, March 15, 2008

New England Historic Genealogical Society databases

I have been a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) for about 16 years, and enjoy reading the New England Historical and Genealogical Register (a quarterly scholarly journal) and the New England Ancestors magazine (a quinterly (is that a word? 5 times) in 2007). The NEHGS web site is You have to be a member of NEHGS in order to access the databases on the web site.

You can see a list of all of the databases on the web site at

Some of the unique databases (at least to me) available on the web site include:

* The Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841 to 1910. This database has a search engine that you can use for first names, last names (with a Soundex option), counties, towns, volume/page, and/or birth, marriages and deaths (the index is balky, however - sometimes it clears without warning). The page images are the summary pages submitted to the Massachusetts Secretary of State by the town clerks each year. I have used these extensively in my own research. The birth data provides the maiden name of the mother and the birthplaces of the parents. The marriage data includes the residence, birthplace and parents names (often with mother's maiden name) of the bride and groom. You can do a search at the site in order to see if a birth, marriage or death is included in this database.

* The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1847-1994 index and page images, with a search capability. This is, of course, the premier journal for New England genealogy research, and has many family history articles, plus many town, church and vital record abstracts or transcriptions.

* 19th Century U.S. Newspapers from Thomson-Gale (not available to institutional members). I haven't used this database as often as the others listed.

* Early American Historical Newspapers, Series I, 1690-1876 from Newsbank (not available to institutional members). This collection is fantastic - it is included in the collection too.

* Abstracts of Wills, Administrations and Guardianships in New York State, 1787 - 1835 - created by William Applebie Daniel Eardeley. The original materials are part of the Brooklyn Historical Society's manuscript collection.

There are some vital record databases for Connecticut (but not the Barbour collection), Maine, New Hampshire (but not the NH VR collection from town records), Rhode Island (the Arnold books) and Vermont (but not the VT VR collection from town records). I'm puzzled why THE major New England repository doesn't have these basic record collections for each state online (they do have them on microfilm, as does the Family History Library).

Except for the two premium databases above, the information on the site can be accessed at a library that subscribes to the society databases. In San Diego County, the Carlsbad Public Library provides access to the NEHGS site. In other locations, please contact your local or regional library to see if they provide access.

I checked the Death Indexes web site, and it doesn't list the NEHGS web site for the 1841 to 1910 records. The Birth and Marriage Index site also does not list the 1841 to 1910 NEHGS records. They should!

I checked Cyndi's List for the NEHGS vital records and other databases in the Massachusetts section, and they weren't listed there either! The NEHGS wasn't listed in the Library section and the Register and New England Ancestors were not listed in the Periodicals. What's up with that? It did list NEHGS in the Societies and Groups section.

If you have a significant number of New England ancestors, you should consult the NEHG Register at your local or regional library (there are indexes available in CD and book form), in addition to using the FHL microfilms for the state vital records. You should also consider joining the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

The actual society library in Boston is wonderful - an excellent book collection, many microfilms on site, and online databases. The real prize at the Library are the manuscripts in their collection - they are unique and may contain records and information found nowhere else.

It's St. Patrick's Day!

Did you know that TODAY is St. Patrick's Day for 2008? It is - see here. Apparently, the Roman Catholic Church changed the day this year because 17 March is Holy Monday of Easter week. That won't happen again until 2160, according to Wikipedia.

You would think that with a fine New England ancestry (about 50% of my ancestors lived in New England) that I would have at least a smidgen of Irish ancestry. Much to my chagrin, I don't have any Irish ancestry that I'm aware of. I keep hoping that I'll find an elusive ancestor that includes an Irish DNA strand, but I haven't found it yet, and really don't anticipate finding it anytime soon.

Therefore, Randy O'Seaver has no claim or allegiance to Ireland or Saint Patrick. I don't like beer or whiskey, so celebrating that way is not for me.I do enjoy the music, the parades, the dancing, and the wearing of the green (when I was a boy it was great fun to pinch those not wearing green).

I did notice that has put the Index to Griffith's Valuation 1848-1864 and the Ireland Tithe Applotment Books 1824-1837 on their New Database list here. I haven't done any research in these in my genealogy career, and they are probably in the World Deluxe collection on Ancestry.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) web site has "The Search for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements placed in The Boston Pilot 1831-1920 " in their list of databases. This is also a subscription site.

I hope that someone will post a collection of Ireland genealogy research helps over this weekend - one of our new CVGS members has many Irish lines and needs some guidance. I guess I could send her to Cyndi's List, which has a wonderful list of Ireland links. She could also use a good guide to doing Ireland research - perhaps this Beginner's Guide to Tracing Irish Ancestors.

Last year, I posted "Funny names in the census - St. Patrick's Day edition" for the edification and amusement of my readers.

My little celebration of Saint Patrick's Day this year is to turn Genea-Musings into a "green page" for the weekend. I hope you enjoy it! If you're reading this in a reader, please click on this to see the beautiful colors of Ireland on my blog.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Rootsweb to be in Ancestry domain

The announcement that the separate domain would be incorporated into the domain struck the genealogy community at about 3 p.m. yesterday (just as my genealogy efforts for the day ceased due to my granddaughter arriving for fun with Grandpa - big genealogy announcements always happen when I'm with my grandkids - I can count on it!). The announcement by Tim Sullivan, The Generations Network CEO, can be read at

* the Rootsweb Newsroom blog, which has some comments
* the Ancestry Insider blog, which has few comments
* Juliana Smith's 24/7 Family Circle blog, with some comments
* Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter blog, which has many comments * Kimberly Powell's About Genealogy blog, with her own and several other comments.
* DearMYRTLE's blog, no comments. DearMYRTLE has her comment on her blog,
* and many other blogs (too many to list here).

There are many comments on the APG mailing list here, here and more - read the March list of posts here. I haven't seen many yet on the other lists I subscribe to, but I'm sure that there will be an avalanche of vitriolic, and mostly uninformed, comments.

1) The salient points from the Tim Sullivan announcements are, IMHO:

* TGN has supported and hosted the Rootsweb community for free since 2000, per their agreement with the genealogy community.
* TGN is bringing Rootsweb into the Ancestry domain in order to "better serve" users of both domains - to "introduce users to and vice-versa."
* "This move will not change the RootsWeb experience or alter the ease of navigation to or within RootsWeb. RootsWeb will remain a free online experience." The links to current pages will continue to work.
* "RootsWeb will remain a free online experience dedicated to providing you with a place where our community can find their roots together."

Of course, there are many skeptics that TGN will live up to these commitments, present and past. You can read their comments at the links above.

2) I am not a skeptic - I think that TGN will live up to their commitments both past and present. I think that they have to do that to maintain their customer base and the feelings of good will of their customers. They can't afford not to live up to the commitments. I will be very disappointed if they don't! Their reputation in the genealogy community is affected every time they make a decision and torque off part of the community (e.g., the Internet Biographical Collection snafu last August). There are many in the community who absolutely distrust and dislike (dare I say "hate?") TGN/Ancestry for current and past "sins," including charging for access (they do), being a for-profit company (they are), stealing data (they didn't), being a monopoly (they aren't), etc.

3) My observations include:

* Many commenters have stated that's traffic will be higher on the "traffic counters" when Rootsweb is a sub-domain, and they can charge higher ad rates. From a business standpoint, this is great - they might cut subscription rates, digitize more databases, reward investors with higher dividends, and grow the company. IMHO, they should do all these things - they are not mutually exclusive!

* There will be TGN and banners on all Rootsweb pages, and advertising on Rootsweb pages (aren't they already?). This doesn't hurt anybody, and might help researchers find more information.

* The Rootsweb mailing lists are brimming with posts about state and county sites, and country sites, migrating to non-TGN supported sites, and that is their right to do so. However, if some or many of the databases currently housed on the Rootsweb domain move off Rootsweb, then the GenWeb sites will have to modify many of their links.

* I hope that the databases (including search box), free web pages (for individuals and groups, such as genealogy societies), mailing lists (including search box), message boards (including search box) and other services on Rootsweb will stay where they are. Individuals and groups are free to migrate, but I hope they don't - there's no real good reason to do that - see the AUP below.

* The current Acceptable Use Policy clearly states that (in part) -
"You are licensed to use the Content only for personal or professional family history research, and may download Content only as search results relevant to that research. The download of the whole or significant portions of any work or database is prohibited. Resale of a work or database or portion thereof, except as specific results relevant to specific research for an individual, is prohibited. On line or other republication of Content is prohibited except as unique data elements that are part of a unique family history or genealogy."

And that for submitters of information to Rootsweb sites (in part)

"For this Content, the submitter is the owner, and is only a distributor. By submitting Submitted Content to, you grant, Inc., the corporate host of the Service, a limited license to the Submitted Content to use, host, and distribute that Submitted Content and allow hosting and distribution on co-branded Services of that Submitted Content."

4) My "suggestions" to TGN/Ancestry include (they didn't ask me - these are freely offered):

* That there be a prominent FREE section on the main page that links to all of the Rootsweb free databases, web pages, mailing lists, message boards, etc. that any researcher can easily use with the available Ancestry search engine capabilities (exact or Soundex, wild cards, etc.)

* That the URL and current sub-domains continue to work, but links to the Ancestry sub-domains.

* That TGN insures that Google and other search engines can find the FREE information on the Rootsweb sub-domain. The search engines currently find mailing list posts, message board posts, free pages and WorldConnect database names, but not other Rootsweb databases (e.g., the California Death Index - I didn't check any others).

* That TGN clearly states, and include in their Acceptable Use Policy or other statement, that the web sites and databases currently on Rootsweb web pages will now and forever be FREE for access by all genealogy users.

5) Your thoughts and opinions are welcome (even skeptical ones! Please write your own blog post or comment on this post. I look forward to hearing from you.

UPDATED: 2 p.m. added Kimberly's blog post and edited my text a bit.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I love conference syllabi

Even though I want to attend the regional and national conferences held each year, I have succeeded in attending only one NGS conference (1995 in San Diego) and the four Family History Fair's in Escondido (in San Diego County) in 2004-2007. I have high hopes to attend the FGS Conference in Philadelphia this year, and I will attend the SCGS Jamboree in June in Burbank, and we're thinking about taking a genealogy cruise.

The next best thing to attending the conference is to obtain the syllabus for the conference with the speaker handouts all in one publication. I've purchased several of these in book form over the past years, but was disappointed when the 2007 NGS and FGS conference syllabi were not offered for sale to non-attendees.

DearMYRTLE told us that the syllabus for the St. George (Utah) Genealogy and Family Heritage Jamboree for 2007 and earlier were available. The web site has them for sale for $9.95 for CDROM and $18.00 for book form. There are other syllabi there also. The 2008 syllabi are not yet available.

The CDROMs came the other day and I spent an enjoyable two hours reading them "cover to cover." There is so much useful information in these syllabi. I made a list of web sites, and printed off several helpful articles and pages for my own use.

Conference syllabi like these are excellent bargains for genealogy education - whether a beginner or an experienced researcher.

I hope that other regional and national conferences will put the syllabus for their event on CDROMs and offer them for sale for a nominal fee. They are an excellent method to recover some of the costs of the event and educate researchers who cannot attend the conference.

By the way - what is the correct plural of syllabus? says that it is either Syllabi or Syllabuses... and says that it is Syllabi, Syllabus or Syllabuses depending on declension (huh?). I do like syllabi!

Abigail A. (Vaux) Smith

I have a soft spot in my heart for those ancestors who lived through hardships and persevered and had a productive life.

One of my favorite ancestors is Abigail A. (Vaux) Smith - born 28 October 1844 in Aurora, Erie County, New York, married Devier J. Smith on 4 April 1861 in Rolling Prairie, Dodge County, Wisconsin, and died 11 September 1931 in San Diego, California at age 86. She was the daughter of Samuel and Mary Ann (Underhill) Vaux - Samuel came to Erie county, New York in the late 1830's from Somersetshire in England with his parents and several brothers.

I don't know Abby's middle name - only her initial - A. I've often wondered if the A. stood for Ann or Ardell (since she named her first daughter Abbie Ardell and they called her Della).

I know quite a bit about Abby's life from the Smith Family Bible, the Letters from Home, and Della's Journal, in addition to all of the family photographs (strangely, I don't have a photo of just Abby in my computer files). But I can only imagine the "rest of the story."

As a young girl in Aurora, New York, Abby was surrounded by the Underhill and Vaux families - there were many cousins, aunts, uncles, and her Underhill grandparents. Before 1859, her parents took the family to Dodge County, Wisconsin. How did they travel there, what did they take with them, how hard was it to say goodbye to the families? They likely traveled on a coach, wagon or cart from Aurora the short distance to Buffalo and boarded a boat to go across Lake Erie to Toledo or Detroit. Did they then take a coach, wagon or cart from there to Wisconsin? Or did they stay on the boat and sail up through Lake Huron and into Lake Michigan to Milwaukee or another port in Wisconsin? Think about the adventures - on the coach or wagon seeing new places and new peoples, and on the boat, especially when the wind and waves came up, or a rain squall buffeted the boat, and the land disappeared from view. How long did this trip take? It must have been several weeks or more. Where did they stay on the way? Inns or hotels? This teenage girl experienced this to start her lifetime of travel from East to West.

When they arrived in Dodge County, Wisconsin, who did they live with? Several of Samuel Vaux's brothers and cousins also settled in Wisconsin - perhaps before he did. Did they buy a farm or house, or did they build one? What chores did Abby do as a teenage girl in this place? She had several younger siblings - did she watch them, teach them, or work outside the house?

Abby married Devier Smith in 1861 at the age of 16 - was she escaping a family situation, or did she fall in love with a debonair young man of 22? He was probably working for his father in the Four-Mile House inn in Rolling Prairie. After they married, where did they live? The babies came soon enough - Della in April 1862, Davie in October 1863, Matie in July 1866, and Aggie in February 1868.

Devier's mother, Mary (Bell) Smith, died in 1865 in Rolling Prairie. His father, Ranslow Smith, soon sold the Four-Mile House inn and meeting place, and moved with his son Devier and his family to Bedford township, Taylor County, Iowa. This trip was made over land - probably by coach or wagon over several weeks time - with at least three adults and three small children, and perhaps with other families, including Abby's parents, Samuel and Mary Ann Vaux, who ended up in Andrew County, Missouri before 1870. Perhaps Ranslow and the other males traveled by cart taking the household possessions to Iowa by wagon and then returned by railroad to bring the women and children. Family tragedy struck in April 1870, when the youngest girl, Agnes Bell Smith, died before age 2. How did this loss affect Abby?

Ranslow Smith married a widow, Julia Johnston, before 1870 in Taylor County, Iowa. The Samuel Vaux family settled in Andrew County, Missouri - not too far away from Taylor County, Iowa. Over time, Devier and Abby Smith moved their family to Andrew County, Missouri, into northern Kansas to Concordia in Cloud County by 1875, to Shannon in Pottawotamie County, Kansas before 1880, and back to Concordia before 1885. They had another child - Lucian, called Lutie, in June 1875, and she died in Concordia in March 1878 before her third birthday. In the 1880 census, Abby and her children headed a household in Blue Rapids township in Marshall County, Kansas with her parents.

Devier and Abby Smith bought a farm and moved their family to McCook in Red Willow County, Nebraska on the Republican River in April 1885. Devier was a land speculator, a snake-oil salesman and an inventor during these years. In McCook, he opened the Blue Front Livery Stable with his son David. He bought a "ranch" on land up the Republican River from McCook in St. Francis, Cheyenne County, Kansas, and apparently Devier settled there and left the Livery Stable to his son. The family letters indicate that he traveled back and forth to McCook. Della Smith's scrapbook indicates that she spent at least several months each year in St. Francis, as indicated by the theater playbills and her summer marriage to Henry Austin Carringer there. Where was Abigail? Was she enjoying the town life in McCook with friends, her sister Elizabeth Crouch, and her children? Or was she caring for her aging parents in Kansas? Or was she on the ranch with Devier?

After Della married Austin in September 1887, they took the train to San Diego on their honeymoon and settled in National City. Abby came to San Diego, likely by train, when Della had her two children, Devier and Lyle, in 1889 and 1891, respectively. She probably traveled back to McCook at least once to see her husband, who was in McCook permanently after selling the ranch in 1890. Her son, Davie, and daughter, Matie, both married in 1889 in McCook, and they eventually came to San Diego also.

Devier J. Smith died in May 1894 in McCook, Nebraska. Davie Smith sold his livery stable and moved to San Diego with his wife and daughter. Abby now lived full time in San Diego with Della and her family. When the Carringers bought two lots on the block on 30th Street in San Diego, Abby bought the third lot on the block. She also bought a lot and house in East San Diego by 1908, which she granted to Della in 1922. Abby carried out a fine correspondence with her sister Elizabeth (Vaux) Crouch, whose family resided in Long Beach, California, and occasionally traveled to visit that family and probably other Vaux and Underhill cousins in the Los Angeles area.

While she had daily contact with Della and her family, it's unclear if she had much contact with her son Davie and his family. Davie married twice. He divorced his first wife, Leava Smith, before 1900, but Leava and their daughter Eva lived in San Diego and married a father and son DeFrance. Davie married Amy Ashdown in 1908, and they had a daughter Maybelle. Davie died in 1920 in San Diego. The names Leava, Amy, Eva or Maybelle don't occur in Della's 1929 journal. I do hope that Abby experienced teaching her granddaughters about life, love and work - surely they would have benefited from her attention as her grandson, Lyle Carringer, did.

Abby is one of the "stars" in Della's Journal - probably more so than Austin Carringer. Della and her mother do many things together in the 1929 journal, and we read about her physical maladies as she is slowly dying from old age.

Abigail A. (Vaux) Smith died on 11 September 1931 in San Diego, and she is inurned at Cypress View Mausoleum in San Diego. She had one husband, five children, three of whom lived to adulthood, and four grandchildren.

What a life. Abby experienced so many joys, sorrows and hardships that I can hardly imagine them. She moved her household at least eight times and probably more. She observed and experienced travel improve (?) from coaches and wagons to steamships and railroad trains to automobiles and trolleys to airplanes. She witnessed communication improve from letters to telegraph to telephone to radio. She lived on farms, in towns, on a ranch, and in a growing city. She "worked" in the house to the end of her life - doing the things that she learned to do at her mother's knee and taught her daughters to do.

There are big gaps in my knowledge about Abby's life - I don't have any letters from the 1860 to 1887 time frame, or from about 1900 to 1929. The Letters from Home and Della's Journal are just short moments in time - snapshots of life in a place and time. But they are precious to me and invaluable to my family history.

What a life! How I wish she had left some memoirs - they would be worthy of a book.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

CVGS Research Group meeting today

We had our monthly Research Group of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society today at the Library with 14 attendees, including five of our recent new members.

After introductions and a brief description of the purpose of the meeting, Randy Seaver presented the Genealogy News of the Month. He also passed around examples of family tree charts made from FamilyTreeMaker 16 and Legacy Charting for comparison and discussion.

Then it was time for description and discussion of member research problems, and two of our new members wanted help with:

1) Charlotte has great-grandparents born in French Canada who died in Massachusetts in 1906, and had children in Massachusetts during the 1890s. She wanted to know how she could find their birth dates, birth places, death dates and places, and parents names. The group suggested using US and Canada census records, newspaper obituaries, city directories, naturalization records, border crossing lists, and the Massachusetts Vital Records (birth, marriage, death) at For the French Canada connection, the Drouin and Loiselle records are online at in the World collection.

2) Toni has an immigrant grandfather from Greece in about 1919, who settled in Montana, worked on the Great Northern Railroad, and died there in 1931. She cannot find a 1920 or 1930 census record for the family. She has his death certificate, her mother's birth certificate, some photographs but not much else. She wants to find a marriage record and some sort of immigration record that might lead to his birthplace in Greece (or perhaps Bulgaria or Macedonia). The group suggested a newspaper obituary (from a local library or historical society), passenger lists, border crossing lists, and a marriage record where his wife resided before marriage, and at points between there and Montana.

Bobbie shared the two page article that she had published in the Lake County (IL) Genealogical Society newsletter, and read the society president's message about their correspondence. Bobbie's case study about resolving conflicting evidence with respect to the cemetery listings published by the society and other records that identify the grave of her great-great-grandmother, Kunigunde (Boehmer) Titus. We asked if we could publish it in our newsletter too!

This was a very spirited meeting and was an excellent introduction to our society activities for the new members. We took some time to explain the best San Diego repositories for research, along with basic repository and online research techniques. Randy handed out several copies of his "A Beginner's Guide to Genealogy Research" with some forms attached.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" coming to NBC TV in USA

Leland Meitzler's Genealogy Blog post links to a (UK) Guardian article titled "BBC genealogy show bought by NBC." This refers to the very popular "Who do you think you are" series on BBC TV in the UK, which has also haa programs on Canadian and Australian TV. The "money" graphs in the Guardian article are:

"NBC is to make a US version of the hit BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?, which will be co-executive produced by Friends star Lisa Kudrow."

and ...

"Producers are researching the family trees of several interested candidates to see if they have compelling enough backgrounds."

and ...

"It's great storytelling, a journey of self-discovery for these celebrities and truly moving and life-changing," the NBC executive vice-president of alternative programming, Craig Plestis, told the Hollywood Reporter. "You often see a very different side of them."


I have some suggestions - just trying to help the NBC folks, and Lisa Kudrow, out:

* Tom Seaver (Hall of Fame pitcher) - I listed his Seaver ancestry here.

* Pat Boone (actor, singer) - I listed his Boone ancestry here (hint - he's not descended from Daniel Boone)

* a descendant of Santa Claus - see my story here.

* William Jefferson Blythe (Clinton)

* Teddy Kennedy (classic immigrant story?)

* John Kerry (not Irish!)

* Homer Simpson (cartoon character)

* George Foreman - any of them!

* Mitt Romney (former governor of MA)

* Anna Nicole Smith (might be interesting)

* Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean!)

* Donald Trump

The field of potential "candidates" is rich - politicians, movie/TV stars, sports figures, business people, etc.

Chris Dunham on his The Genealogue blog has had over 100 contests trying to find obscure ancestors of famous persons.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak has done quite a bit of research on some of the presidential candidates.

There are whole web sites with many genealogies of famous or infamous people - such as

As far as I'm concerned, any TV show that advances knowledge about family history and genealogy is good - genealogists will get more recognition, more people will pursue their ancestry, and genealogy societies, businesses, publications, web sites and bloggers will thrive!

Who would you suggest? Who do you want to know the ancestry of?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My top 3 "genealogical smart moves"

After my post about My Top 3 "Genealogical Regrets" this morning, the footnoteMaven wrote about her four "things she did correctly" when she started doing genealogy research before listing her regrets - see her post in "Alas Regrets, I Knew Them Randy."

So I'll bite at the bit here with my three best "smart moves" - things I think I did correctly - that I've made doing genealogy research, especially in the early years:

1) I found the databases, books records, and research guides at the LDS Family History Library and Family History Center. Along with several excellent, experienced researchers who guided me through the early years (1988-1995) of my genealogy "career." They loved to see me coming because I soaked up what they taught me, I ordered a bunch of microfilms every week, spent plenty of quarters in the copy machines, and was a fervent evangelist for the FHC and its records, despite not being a Mormon. There hasn't been a month in the past 20 years that I haven't been to an FHC, except for the three and four week genealogy vacations we've taken over the years (including one stop at the FHL in Salt Lake City).

2) With my science and engineering education, and a research "bent" I intuitively understood how to do research in genealogy. The "scientific method" works extremely well in genealogy - evaluate, hypothesize, search, obtain, analyze, and recycle the process until you come to a proof or a conclusion (which might be negative). This leads me to seek out resources both online and in repositories and understand the strengths and weaknesses of each type of resource as far as the Genealogical Proof Standard goes.

3) I sought out and found a "genealogy community" early in my research, and have continued seeking colleagues over the years. The Prodigy bulletin boards (I was user MVTR18A - I still see reference to that on some mailing lists!) had a "critical mass" of like-minded researchers - mostly researching New England. I spent hours online in 1992-1994 "talking" to my "genealogy friends" and through the power of the "knowledge of the group" I was able to find many ancestors and the records that proved relationships. Many of my correspondents had their own copies of the Massachusetts town vital record books and willingly shared the information. This habit of sharing information and encouraging "group support" has led to the successful and fun Research Group activities at CVGS and my enthusiasm to help other researchers with their "brick wall ancestors.," It has also led to creating several presentations on the subject for local genealogy societies - sharing my knowledge and experience with others.

There were other "smart moves" -- joining NEHGS and other societies, visiting distant libraries and my genealogy "homes" while on vacation, using genealogy software, attending local society meetings, being active in my local society, posting my research on my web site, blogging (hmmm, maybe not?), reading and participating on the APG and TGF mailing lists, subscribing to Ancestry, etc.

What were your smart moves? Please blog, or comment, about them so that others can learn from your success stories. We learn many things by making mistakes and by having successes, and we should pass these thoughts on to others.

By the way, I tried to find a single word for "smart moves" in my post title, but couldn't think of one - even a word like "smartness" didn't seem right (and sounded too much like smarta$$). The antonyms for "regret" didn't fit either - "shamelessness," "contentment," or "satisfaction."

My top 3 "genealogical regrets"

Recently on the APG mailing list, Mark Fearer posed this question -

"I'm teaching a beginner genealogy class, and I'd like to help people avoid the mistakes we made when we started out. I have my own list, but I'd like to get an unscientific poll from this prestigious group of the three things you regret the most, when you started (i.e. not citing sources, etc.)."

He got many responses and, hopefully, will provide a summary on the APG list at some time - it will be useful to many teachers and lecturers!

My own top three genealogical regrets are pretty similar to some of the responses --

1) That I waited so long to start doing genealogy research. I have always been interested in family history, and was thinking about doing genealogy research in 1982 when I interviewed my uncle, Ed Seaver, in Massachusetts. My father was still alive (he died in May 1983), but I never interviewed him. I talked to my mother many times about family stories and received all of the family papers from her, and I interviewed my father's living siblings in person and on tape several times. I so wish that I had interviewed my maternal grandparents - they died in 1976/1977, and experienced so much by living through the 20th century. Both of them had many family memories of living in San Diego and seeing history being made, etc. I started genealogy research, finally, in 1988.

2) That I have done such a poor job of documenting my sources in my genealogy databases. I started off using PAF in 1992 (?) and have used FamilyTreeMaker since 1998. I chose to put my sources in the Notes section of these programs rather than add them in the Sources section. I have not used the Facts section to any great extent either. Now I'm faced with the monumental task of going through all of paper in stacks and notebooks and adding sources for births, marriages, deaths, obituaries, census, military, probate, deed and other records in the right place in my databases - over 40,000 individuals. Frankly, I would rather do other things in my genealogy life than that! You can see my "method" in the family summaries that I post with regularity. Then there is the issue of the format of my sources - I am gradually trying to fix those, in the Notes, when I encounter them.

3) That I stopped using Research Logs and putting collected paper in notebooks. I used Research Logs for about five years, put them in the notebooks at the head of the collected papers for each surname, and put the notebooks in the book cases. Over time, I added book cases as the collection expanded, until in about 1993 I was out of space in the genealogy cave. I have about 40 lineal feet of paper in the bookcases. Now I put my "new paper" in a stack that is about 16 inches tall - but I know where everything is, honest! I don't open my notebooks very often now because I have entered much of the information in the collected papers into my database. Then the Internet came along, and ... well, you know what happens! I haven't been rigorous in writing down where I find things on the Internet, although I often put source information in my Notes when I find it. The solution here is probably to scan everything of importance into the computer system, organize the computer directories into locality and surname, or even individual family, file folders, and pitch much of the secondary information that populates my notebooks. This is also a major project - essentially to re-organize all of my files, and again it is not a high priority item on my to-do list.

Do you have any suggestions for me, other than making the genealogy cave larger by moving it to another room or a bigger house? One solution would be to hire a team to go through my papers, scan them, put them in family folders in file cabinets and computer files, and totally re-organize my file system. I wonder how long that would take - I'm guessing about four person-years - 8,000 work hours. I doubt that my children or grandchildren will want to do this task, and they will likely throw them out or pass them off to someone who obtains paper collections and indexes them (in my dreams - I know Arlene Eakle does this - I'm not sure I want my stuff dumped on someone!). Maybe this is a job to do when I'm done blogging? That'll be the day.

What are your top three genealogical regrets? How are you overcoming them?

"Learning to unlock their past" article on SDGS

The San Diego Union-Tribune published an article about the San Diego Genealogical Society and its members on 28 February 2008; the article was titled "Learning to unlock the past" by Alison DaRosa, and is online here (although I don't know for how long).

The article reads:


SAN DIEGO – Peter Steelquist was intrigued when he received an e-mail at the San Diego Genealogical Society from a woman who wanted to know more about her father.

“He was stationed here in the Navy and soon after my birth he was hit by a car and died,” the San Diego woman wrote. “I know his name and that he was born in Pennsylvania. That's all my mother told me. Now, with advancing age, I'd like to know more.”

Steelquist, a past president of the San Diego Genealogical Society, couldn't resist the challenge and started searching. It's just what they do at the organization.

Steelquist and other members of the San Diego Genealogical Society, founded in 1946, are dedicated to helping one another – and the public – dig up their roots. The nonprofit maintains a 12,000-volume research library where those hunting for ancestors can peruse documents ranging from the Harvard Alumni Directory to San Diego's Greenwood Mortuary Obituary Collection from the 1920s through the 1980s.

“Part of what we do is collect, preserve and publish San Diego County genealogical and historical records,” said Karna Webster, a 25-year member of the group. The latest publication is a 311-page history of the El Cajon Cemetery, including an alphabetical listing of 8,800 burials there from the late 1880s through June 2007.

The 350-strong, volunteer-run organization, whose members range in age from 35 to 96 (four members are 96 years old), has its headquarters at 1050 Pioneer Way, Suite E, in an El Cajon industrial park. The library is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays; members get the combination lock to the door so they can hunt for ancestors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“If you go back 10 generations, you have a total of 2,046 ancestors,” said Marna Clemons, the group's president. “Then, after you have the names, you get to put the meat on the bones: find the diaries, ephemera, military records and so forth. That's the fun part.”

When Steelquist started his search for the San Diego woman's past, he hoped her father's “somewhat unusual name” would help. It did.

“I quickly found him in the 1930, then the 1920 Pennsylvania census records,” Steelquist recalled. That provided his parents' names, which led Steelquist to military records listing the family's ancestral home town in Slovakia.

“With sibling names from census records, I searched online and found his brother's obituary, which reported that the woman's father lived in Ohio,” Steelquist said. “With that lead, I found the father's death in the Ohio Death Index. He had died in 2002. The obituary listed his family and survivors.”

The San Diego woman was doubtful Steelquist had found her father, but she contacted the Ohio family and sent along a photograph of her father. “The Ohio relatives knew immediately that their father was in fact her father, too,” Steelquist said. “Neither family had ever known about the other.”

Apparently, the San Diego woman's mother had met him in Hawaii and become pregnant. She had moved to San Diego to live with an aunt and have her baby. Her mother had made up the rest of the story and never revealed the truth to anyone."

Added Steelquist: “Our San Diego woman not only found her father, but an entire new family as well as her ancestral line back to Europe.”


The article also has an information box about SDGS:

San Diego Genealogical Society facts:

* The group's headquarters and library are at 1050 Pioneer Way, Suite E, in an El Cajon industrial park.
* Annual membership costs $25 for one person, $15 for each additional family member.
* The society meets at noon on the second Saturday of each month at St. Andrews Lutheran Church, 8350 Lake Murray Blvd., San Diego.
* The group hosts events including a weeklong research trip to Salt Lake City in October.
* For more: or (619) 588-0065.

This was an excellent article that generated some interest in SDGS immediately - there were many visitors at the monthly meeting on 8 March, quite a few new members, and 30 attendees at the first session of the beginner's class.

All societies should be so lucky to get press like this! The "Our East County" special section of the San Diego Union-Tribune had a shorter article about SDGS in the 14 February edition, but I can't find that online. As I posted several weeks ago, the Chula Vista Genealogical Society had favorable publicity in February also, and received some benefit from it in terms of new members and community interest.

I learned something from this article about San Diego area records - that SDGS has the Greenwood Mortuary Obituary Collection in their Library! I didn't know that, and have never heard it mentioned before.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Bad Baby Names" Book is great

I ordered the "Bad Baby Names" book by Michael Sherrod and Matthew Rayback the other day - it is published by (surprise!) Ancestry Publishing, where Sherrod is a VP of Ancestry Publishing at TGN. The subtitle is "The worst true names parents saddled their kids with - and you can too!"

I must admit that while I've spent hours trying to find strange, funny, weird or obscene names in the census records (see this post for my contributions to the genre), that I have rarely considered using any of the given names, surnames or combinations that are in this book. Therefore, it has broadened my, ahem, "education." It's a wonderful read.

As I have said too many times to count - "what were their parents thinking?" The authors say this in their book too - on page 13.

The "best of the bunch" so far in my limited reading include (and considering "fair use"):

Toilet Queen (page 6)
Emma Royd (page 7)
Tackle Feigenbutz (page 16) (this is a girl!)
Wanna French (page 31) - there's a whole page of "Wanna"s, and Ima's and Lotta's too!
Uranus Stukey (page 44)
Hell Hess, whose husband is Christian Hess (page 53)
Lust Garten (page 87)
Acne Fountain (page 120)

And they didn't even use any of the obscene or risque names... my favorite is Hyman Spanker.

They have a blog, of course, called Sticks and Stones at

This would be a great stocking stuffer for a genealogist or an excellent raffle drawing prize for a genealogy society (no, you can't have mine!). It's only $9.95 retail, and you can get it for $6.97 at (I did!).

Here's a theme for my attentive readers and fellow genea-bloggers - "if you had a chance to name your children again, what names would you choose to honor your ancestors?"

"I Wish Someone Would Visit my Grave"

While Googling for Cornelius Feather (see my previous post here) today, I ran across the web site Treasures of the Past created by C.A. Currie.

The connection to Cornelius Feather was a mention of his name in a list of the witnesses to the will of Dugal Boyd in Washington County PA. This is a great resource - almost 500 will abstracts for the 1780 to 1815 time period - with witnesses, heirs, dates, etc. that someone (probably the owner of the Treasures of the Past web site) took the time to abstract and post on the Internet.

The real gem on this web site is the article "by Catherine Mary Hobart, 1791-1814" titled "I Wish Someone Would Visit My Grave." The first lines read"

"My name is Catherine Mary Hobart. I was born near Schuyler Town-Ship in 1791 and died near Schuyler Town-Ship in 1814. My father was a farmer and rope-maker, and my mother died giving birth to me. I never married, and my father always said I was plain in the face. I spent most of my life looking after the children of my father's second wife, who died in child-birth, as well. I never set foot from the county and had much pain from sour stomach and several abscessed teeth. I died of a fever that swept through Schuyler Town-Ship and its environs in the winter of 1814, and I was buried in the north-west corner of the grave-yard on the edge of town. I neither asked nor expected much in life, and in death, I expect even less. But it has been nearly two centuries since my death, and, in that time, I have grown lone-some, as I have been largely bereft of companionship..."

It continues and is very touching. Funny. Sad. True. How many graves are like this one - overrun by vegetation, never visited, cold and lonely?

This web site is just one example of what an individual with transcribing and abstracting skill, a free web site and enough time can do to advance genealogy knowledge in their small way. C.A. Currie has helped me a bit by doing the will abstracts, and I'm sure has helped many others by doing genealogy abstracting and transcribing. Efforts like this are the real strength of web sites like and - volunteers.

Readers of Genea-Musings know that I'm a sucker for poignant things like this... please go visit the web site and read the whole thing.

The Elusive --?-- (who married Cornelius Feather)

It's National Women's History month, so I am posting some of my most elusive women ancestors in hopes that someone will Google their name and find my post. Ideally, the Googlers will provide me with more information about my elusive female ancestor's ancestry. Realistically, they will commiserate with me about the lack of records and wonder why no researcher has figured the problem out yet.


Family of --?--

1. --?-- was born before 1785 in CT, and died before 1830 in probably Mercer County, PA. She married Cornelius Feather before 1804 in probably Trumbull County, OH, son of Stephen Feather. He was born 1777 in Middlesex County, NJ, and died 1852 in Mercer County, PA.

Notes for --?--:

The name of the wife of Cornelius Feather is not known. The only clue about her birthplace is the 1880 US Census record of her son, George Feather, which says his mother was born in Connecticut.

Notes for Cornelius Feather:

Cornelius Feather was with his father, Stephen Feather, when he moved to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania after the Revolutionary War.

Cornelius Feather married and settled in Warren township, Trumbull County, Ohio. He appears in the 1804 through 1810 tax records of Warren, Trumbull County, Ohio.

He moved to Mercer County, Pennsylvania in about 1823, settling in what is now Otter Creek township. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, voted the Democratic ticket, and served in the War of 1812. His family included John, George, Mary (Mrs. Charles Milner), Sarah (Mrs. Henry Carringer), all of whom are dead except George, who was born in Warren, Ohio in 1808. ("The History of Mercer County, Pennsylvania," published in 1888).

The Mercer County history book ascribes Cornelius' son John Feather as the one who married Phoebe Condit and had eleven children, including Stephen, George and Ira, who are described in the history book. However, research by Feather descendants indicates that the John Feather who married Phoebe Condit was the son of John Feather, brother to Cornelius. The primary evidence is the graveyard monuments in Oak Hill Cemetery near Sandy Lake, John Feather was the son of John Feather and the father of Ira Condit Feather.

In the 1830 US census for Mercer County, PA, the Cornelius Feathers household resided in Salem township. The household included one male aged 20-30, one male aged 50-60 (Cornelius), one female aged 10-15, one female aged 20-30 and one female aged 30-40. (National Archives Microfilm Series Roll 149, Page 206, also FHL Microfilm 0,020,623, page 206).

In the 1840 US census, the Cornelius Feather family resided in New Lyme township, Ashtabula County, Ohio. The household included one male aged 60-70 (Cornelius), one female aged 0-5, one female aged 5-10, one female aged 30-40 and one female aged 40-50. (FHL Microfilm 0,020,18).

In the 1850 US census, this family resided in Salem township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania (National Archives Microfilm Series M432, Roll 796, Page 349, dwelling #1319, family #1419, line 31, also on FHL Microfilm 0,444,764). The household included:

* Cornelius Feather -- age 73, male, a farmer, $1000 in real property, born NY
* Mary Feather -- age 58, female, born PA

The age of Mary Feather in the 1850 census record (age 58, born about 1792), and of the oldest female in the 1830 and 1840 census records, imply that Mary (and the oldest female) is not the mother of Sarah Feather (born in 1804), John (born about 1806), or George (born about 1808) but may be the mother of Mary Ann (born about 1815).

Children of Wife Feather and Cornelius Feather are:

2 ... i. Sarah Feather, born 07 June 1804 in Warren, Trumbull County, OH; died 09 April 1848 in Perry, Mercer County, PA (gravestone). She married Heinrich/Henry Carringer before 1825 in Mercer County, PA; born 06 June 1800 in Sandy Creek, Mercer County, PA; died 10 August 1881 in Columbus City, Louisa County, IA (gravestone, "age 78").

3 ... ii. John Feather, born 1806 in Warren, Trumbull County, OH.

4 ... iii. George Feather, born 1808 in Warren, Trumbull County, OH; died 1890 in Mercer County, PA. He married Mary Keelan; born about 1812 in PA.

5 ... iv. Mary Ann Feather, born about 1815 in Warren, Trumbull County, OH. She married (1) Charles Milner in Mercer County, PA. She married (2) Dennis Harbaugh 12 February 1837 in Trumbull County, OH; born 25 April 1813 in Tuscarawus, OH.


Here is a nameless ancestor who played a vital role in creating several families, and she probably has several hundred, or even thousands, of descendants. She was a daughter of somebody and likely the inheritor of a fine New England colonial ancestry. And we (well, I) don't even know her first name, let alone her maiden surname.

My own ancestry is through Sarah Feather, who married Henry Carringer.

If anyone has additions or corrections to this family data, please, please, please, please (shades of James Brown, eh?) email me at

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Crime, Punishment and Your Ancestors" by Kathleen Trevena at SDGS Yesterday

Kathleen Roe Trevena was the guest speaker at the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting on Saturday. Her second talk was "Crime, Punishment and Your Ancestors." The description of her talks and her CV are here.

In this talk, Kathleen described how crime and punishment has evolved from colonial times to the 20th century. She focused most of the talk on colonial times, and discussed English common law, differences in colonial law with English law, and noted that most 17th century crimes were deviations from the social order - slander, blasphemy, gossipping and fornication. The goal of punishment was to shame the offender into leading a better life, and either re-integrate the offender into the community or drive him out. Punishment included stocks, pillory, whipping, wearing letters or papers, the ducking stool (worse than waterboarding!), branding or maiming, fines, and public confession.

Kathleen said that constables policed colonial towns to keep the peace, but did not investigate crimes. Counties had a sheriff to investigate crimes and enforce the law. In trials, the victim acted as the prosecutor and the defendant was forbidden an attorney. The judge was usually the local justice of the peace and the juries were men from the town.

In the 1800's, the number of property crimes and crimes punishable by death greatly increased, but corporal punishment declined. English criminals were often transported to other English colonies - especially Maryland and Virginia up to 1775, and then to Australia after 1786. She mentioned the Old Bailey web site for case summaries - see for information on more than 100,000 trials. Are your ancestors mentioned?

In the 19th century, the legal system became professional, prison became the only kind of punishment for serious crimes, and the community was seen as the source of bad influences on behavior, rather than as the source of good values.

Sources for records about ancestral brushes with the legal system of their times include court records, town records, journals, and newspapers that describe crimes and court cases. Your ancestor may have been a constable, jailer, sheriff, judge, plaintiff or defendant in a trial, served on a grand or trial jury, a witness at a trial or given a deposition for a law suit.

This was an interesting and helpful presentation that encouraged the listeners to study more about the life and times of our ancestors and to determine if they were touched by crime, punishment or the legal system in the localities where they lived.

Best of the Genea-Blogs - March 2-8, 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, personal family history, 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.

* "COG Posters:: A Retrospective" by footnoteMaven on the footnoteMaven blog. fM displays all of the posters she has created over the past two years for the Carnival of Genealogy. Doesn't she do beautiful work?

* "The Scots-Irish were Presbyterians by Covenant and by Law" by Arlene Eakle on the Arlene H. Eakle's Genealogy Blog. Arlene discusses some myths about the Scots-Irish and provides references and links for more information.

* "Two Roads: Do MacEntee and McEntee Converge or Fork? Part 2" by Thomas MacEntee on the Destination: Austin Family blog. Thomas continues his search for a common ancestry for two lines with similar names, and thoroughly documents one McEntee family.

* "The Vacationing Genealogist" by Lori Thornton on the Smoky Mountain Family Historian blog. Lori wonders if others do genealogy research while on vacation like she does. She got some interesting comments too.

* "Closing Circles: Jewish Naming Traditions" by Schelly Talalay Dardahti on the Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog. Schelly discusses an article about this subject. I find all naming traditions fascinating!

* "Genealogical Proof Standard and Reliable Sources" by Sharon on the Family History Research: Methods and Writing in Genealogy blog. Sharon discusses the GPS and evaluating sources and their material in this essay, which is part of a series.

* "What places are on your bucket list?" by Larry Lehmer on the Passing It On blog. Larry's takes the "bucket list" idea from Nicholson and Freeman and applies it to genealogy - what places would you like to visit?

* "An Amputation in Georgia - Henry's Story" by Terry Snyder on The Desktop Genealogist blog. Terry has summarized several Civil War Pension Files over the last weeks, all of them intriguing for what they tell us about these people. Read Terry's last paragraph in this one - well said!

* "In Honor of International Women's Day" by Jasia on the Creative Gene blog. Jasia reveals her mitochondrial DNA haplogroup (H) and wonders why there isn't more information about this group. She has started a Haplogroup H Blog to collect information about it in one place - smart move.

* "Legacy 7's Secret is Out" by Renee Zamora on Renee's Genealogy Blog. Renee has more news about Microsoft Virtual Earth being incorporated into Legacy 7, and some links to earlier insights on Legacy 7, and the add-on programs that will be part of the new release.

* "Senior Moments Anyone?" by Lisa Louise Cooke on the Genealogy Gems News blog. Lisa finds a hilarious YouTube video that many of us can relate to ... not me, of course. This isn't really genealogy but it was so funny I couldn't pass it up.

I encourage you to go to the blogs listed above and read their articles, and add their blog 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!