Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - The "When I Was Young" Genea-Meme, Part 3

It's Saturday Night, 
time for more Genealogy Fun!!

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I challenge you to:

1)  Geneablogger Alona Tester has devised a new meme called the "When I Was Young" genea-meme on her blog, LoneTester HQ.

2)  Since the genea-meme is 25 questions, let's do the last 10 this time.  This week, answer questions 16 to 25.

3)  Share your answers on your own blog post, in a comment on this blog post, or in a Facebook post or a Google+ post.

Here's mine: 

Q16.  What was entertainment when you were young?

A16.  Defining "young" as between the ages of 12 to 21...and I won't cover TV or music.  I listened to baseball on the radio if we didn't take the #2 bus down to Lane Field in San Diego and try to sneak into the minor league San Diego Padres games.   My brother and I would go downtown or up to North Park on the bus to go to movies occasionally - this was the era of cowboy movies - Hopalong Cassidy and Davy Crockett were our favorites.  

Mostly, we entertained ourselves - down at the park playing sports or roaming around the canyons, or riding our bikes all over San Diego, going to the San Diego Zoo for free, ten-pin bowling.  We spent summer days in Balboa Park at the Morley Field swimming pool, or at the Little League or Pony League baseball fields where our dad coached.  

Q17.  Do you remember what it was it like when your family got a new fangled invention? (ie. telephone, TV, VCR, microwave, computer?)

A17.  Let's see...what about a refrigerator?  We had an ice box, then got a refrigerator, but it didn't make ice.  I remember going with my father to the Ice Company downtown to get blocks of ice.

We had a telephone not on a party line - the number was AT1-4182 (the same backward and forward).  

We finally got a washing machine in the 1960s, I think.  My mother could wash clothes and then hang them out on the clothesline to dry.  

Q18.  Did your family have a TV? Was it b&w or colour? And how many channels did you get?

A18.  Our first TV was a big black and white box with a small screen (maybe 8 inches wide?) - we got it in about 1950. In the mid-1950s, there were two San Diego TV stations, KFMB Channel 8 was CBS, and KFSD Channel 10 was NBC.  We finally got an ABC station, Channel 6 XETV from Tijuana, in about 1960. 

We watched the early TV shows in the living room - Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Ed Sullivan, I Love Lucy, The Lone Ranger, Leave it to Beaver, Howdy Doody, etc.  

I think the TV was black and white up into the 1970s, although the screens got bigger.  My first real football game I watched was the Giants-Colts overtime NFL championship game in 1958.  After that, I was hooked, and was in heaven once San Diego got the Chargers in 1961.  I recall watching World Series games on weekends in the late 1950s too.

Q19. Did your family move house when you were young? Do you remember it?

A19.  Yes, but not far!  My parents lived in Chula Vista when I was born, and my mother and I moved into my grandparents house in San Diego when my father went into the U.S. Navy in 1944.  When he returned in early 1946, we moved next door to our own apartment flat, and then across the block to the upstairs apartment flat at 2119 30th Street in 1947.  I lived there until I moved out in 1966.  My folks lived there until 1978.  

Q20.  Was your family involved in any natural disasters happening during your childhood (i.e. fire, flood, cyclone, earthquake, etc)

A20.  No fires, no floods, no cyclones, and only relatively small earthquakes.  

Q21.  Is there any particular music that when you hear it, sparks a childhood memory?

A21.  One of the highlights of my early life was listening to the popular music on the radio on Sunday mornings after breakfast.  We sang along.

Then, in Junior High School, rock and roll hit the scene, and I listened to the radio to the Top 40 stations - KDEO-910, KFMB-760, and KGB-1360 were the favorite San Diego stations.  We could also hear KFWB-980 and KHJ-930 in Los Angeles.  

All of it sparks memories, I can still remember lyrics from most of the Top 40 hits from 1955 to 1967.  From Elvis  to Everly Brothers to Motown to Beach Boys to Beatles to Stones.  

Q22.  What is something that an older family member taught you to do?

A22.  I learned almost everything by osmosis at school and at home.  My father tried to teach me basic carpentry and painting, but that didn't work - he was too impatient.  Same with driving - I finally took lessons. 

Q23.  What are brands that you remember from when you were a kid?

A23.  I don't recall many - Wonder bread, Sunkist soda, Oreo cookies, Carnation ice cream, Spam.

Q24.  Did you used to collect anything? (ie. rocks, shells, stickers … etc.)

A24.  I collected stamps, coins, bottle caps, baseball cards, and more.  We visited the stamp stores downtown,  and my grandfather gave us plate blocks for our collection;  We saved coins from our parents coin jar and put them in the coin books;  we rode our bikes all over town to find different bottle caps;  we bought the 5 baseball cards and a stick of gum for 5 cents at  grocery stores and five and dime stores all over town; 

As a teenager, I started collecting radio station Top 40 surveys by writing to stations.  I went up to L.A. twice with friends to visit other collectors with different station surveys, visited Capitol Records, and wrote away to radio stations all over the country.

Q25.  Share your favourite childhood memory.

A25.  I think my favorite memory is being a "free-range" kid - I could ride my bike or flexy anywhere in San Diego, and could take the bus anywhere too.  We used to hitchhike to Mission Beach from the Texas Street hill in the summer.  We went to the park every weekend and played or roamed.  Freedom is/was invigorating.  

Thank you, Alona, for the genea-meme - it was fun to recall 50-60 years ago!  

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

Surname Saturday - MASON (England to colonial Massachusetts)

It's Surname Saturday, and I'm "counting down" my Ancestral Name List each week.  

I am in the 8th great-grandmothers and I'm up to Ancestor #1107 who is  Abigail MASON (1660-1705) 
[Note: the earlier great-grandmothers and 8th great-grandfathers have been covered in earlier posts].

My ancestral line back through three generations in this MASON family line is:

1. Randall J. Seaver

2. Frederick Walton Seaver (1911-1983)
3. Betty Virginia Carringer (1919-2002)

4. Frederick Walton Seaver (1876-1942)
5. Alma Bessie Richmond (1882-1962)

8. Frank Walton Seaver (1852-1922)
9. Hattie Louise Hildreth (1857-1920)

16. Isaac Seaver (1823-1901)
17. Lucretia Townsend Smith (1827-1884)

34. Alpheus B. Smith (1802-1840)
35. Elizabeth Horton Dill (1791-1869)

68.  Aaron Smith (1765-1841)
69.  Mercy Plimpton (1772-1850)

138.  Amos Plimpton (1735-1808)
139.  Mary Guild (1735-1800)

276.  John Plimpton (1708-1756)
277. Abigail Fisher (1711-1785)

552.  John Plimpton (1680-1730)
553.  Susanna Draper (1688-1769).

1106.  John Draper, born 24 June 1656 in Dedham, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States; died 05 April 1749 in Dedham, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States.  He was the son of 2212. James Draper and 2213. Miriam Stansfield.  He married 03 September 1686 in Dedham, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States.
1107.  Abigail Mason, born 06 January 1660 in Dedham, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States; died 23 January 1705 in Dedham, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States.

Children of John Draper and Abigail Mason are:
*  Abigail Draper (1686-1730), married 1711 John Battle (1667-1730).
*  Susanna Draper (1688-1769), married 1707 John Plimpton (1680-1730).
*  John Draper (1690-1766).
*  Mary Draper (1693-1700).
*  Hannah Draper (1695-1700).
*  Joseph Draper (1699-????)
*  James Draper (1701-1719).

2214.  John Mason, born about 1627 in England; died 18 January 1688 in Dedham, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States.  He married 05 May 1651 in Dedham, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States.
2215.  Mary Eaton, born before 20 March 1631 in Dover, Kent, England; died 06 May 1676 in Dedham, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States.  She was the daughter of 4430. John Eaton and 4431. Abigail.

Children of John Mason and Mary Eaton are:
*  Mary Mason (1651-1651).
*  Hannah Mason (1655-????), married 1677 Jonas Eaton (1648-????).
*  John Mason (1657-1659).
*  Abigail Mason (1660-1705), married 1686 John Draper (1656-1749).
*  Rebecca Mason (1661-1705), married 1683 Thomas Ockington (????-1732).
*  Judith Mason (1666-1666).
*  Elizabeth Mason (1666-1716).

4428.  Robert Mason, born about 1604 in England; died 15 October 1667 in Dedham, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States.  He married before 1625 in England.
4429.  Elizabeth, born about 1609 in England; died April 1637 in Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States.

Children of Robert Mason and Elizabeth are:
*  Thomas Mason (1625-1676).
*  John Mason (1627-1688), married 1651 Mary Eaton (1631-1676)
*  Robert Mason (1631-1700), married 1659 Abigail Eaton (1640-1711).

Information about this MASON family was obtained from:

*  Dedham and Medfield Vital Record books.

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

Friday, April 17, 2015

How Good Are Tree Matches?

Like many users, I occasionally get an email notice about Geni Tree Matches.  There are always five for some reason.

As most researchers know, the Geni World Tree is an online collaborative family tree system, where every person should have one profile, not a system with many separate trees.  The prospective matches occur because one or more researchers add a duplicate profile to the system.  By accepting correct matches, one or both researchers involved may acquire more information about the ancestors and/or descendants of the matching profile. permits matches to be rejected, or ignored.

The email I received today said:

The first match is always (I think) a "Featured Match:"
 In this case, this Match was the same person, although I have more information about him in my part of the tree than the other researcher does.  So I clicked on the blue "View this Match" button and saw a comparison of the two profiles:

Since they were the same person, I clicked on the blue "Yes, request to merge" button.

The second match on my list was a son of Daniel Thevou above, so I requested to merge him also.

The third match on my list was this one:

Note that the profile for the right-hand prospective match person has no dates, the mother doesn't match, the spouse has a different maiden name, and the names of the children don't include my Joanna Wilson.

When I viewed this match, I clicked on the "No, remove match" button.

The fourth match on my list was this one:

Again, the right-hand profile has no dates or places, different parents, no siblings, a different spouse, and a different child.   It's another "No, remove match."

The fifth match on the list was this one:

In this case, the profile for the right-hand person may be the same person as the left-hand profile.  The names of the spouse and the one child (on the right-hand profile) are in the left-hand profile, but there no dates or places.  I decided to click on the "I'll decide later" link.

In summary, these 5 Geni Tree Matches were:

*  2 were the same person.
*  2 were not the same person.
*  1 might be the same person.

This has been pretty typical of my experience with the Tree Matches that they suggest to me.

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copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 68: #75 Hannah (Smith) Sawtell (1768-1827)

Amy Johnson Crow suggested a weekly blog theme of "52 Ancestors" in her blog post Challenge:  52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on the No Story Too Small blog.  I am extending this theme in 2015 to 104 Ancestors in 104 Weeks. Here is my ancestor biography for week #68:

Hannah Smith (1768-1827) is #75 on my Ahnentafel list, my 4th great-grandmother. She married in 1789 to #74 Josiah Sawtell (1768-1847).

I am descended through:

*  their daughter #37 Hannah Sawtell (1789-1857) who married #36 Zachariah Hildreth (1783-1857), in 1810.  

*  their son, #18 Edward Hildreth (1831-1899), who married #19 Sophia Newton (1834-1923) in 1852.  
*  their daughter #9 Hattie Louise Hildreth (1847-1920), who married #8 Frank Walton Seaver (1852-1922) in 1874. 
*  their son, #4 Frederick Walton Seaver (1876-1942), who married #5 Alma Bessie Richmond (1882-1962) in 1900.
* their son, #2 Frederick Walton Seaver (1911-1983), who married #3 Betty Virginia Carringer (1919-2002) in 1942.
*  their son, #1 Randall J. Seaver (1943-....)


1)  PERSON (with source citations as indicated in brackets):

*  Name:                      Hannah Smith[1]

*  Alternate Name:      Hannah Sawtelle[2]   
*  Alternate Name:      Hannah Sawtell[3]  
*  Sex:                         Female   

*  Father:                    unknown Smith (    -    )   
*  Mother:                   unknown (    -    )   
2)  INDIVIDUAL EVENTS (with source citations as indicated in brackets):
*  Birth:                      about 1768, probably Raby, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States
*  Death:                    8 February 1827 (about age 59), Hillside Cemetery, Townsend, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States[2–3]
*  Burial:                      after 8 February 1827 (after about age 59), Hillside Cemetery, Townsend, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States[2–3]   
3)  SHARED EVENTS (with source citations as indicated in brackets):

*  Spouse 1:               Josiah Sawtell (1768-1847)    
*  Marriage 1:            5 February 1789 (about age 21), probably Raby, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States[1]   

*  Child 1:                  Hannah Sawtell (1789-1857)   
*  Child 2:                  Josiah Sawtell (1791-1871)   
*  Child 3:                  Mary Sawtell (1793-1831)   
*  Child 4:                  Chester Sawtell (1795-1872)   
*  Child 5:                  Esther Sawtell (1797-1852)   
*  Child 6:                  Horace Sawtell (1799-1825)   
*  Child 7:                  Neuma Sawtell (1803-1826)   
*  Child 8:                  Walter Sawtell (1806-1857)   
*  Child 9:                  Price Sawtell (1810-1891)   
4)  NOTES (with source citations as indicated in brackets):

Hannah Smith was born in about 1768, perobablty in Raby (now called Brookline), Hillsborough County, New Hampshire.  No record has been found for the birth of Hannah Smith, and no parents are positively known.  

There were many Smith families in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire in the 1760 to 1770 time frame.  Joshua Smith was the only one who resided in the town of Raby (now called Brookline), and he lived in the southeast part of Raby on the road towards what is now Pepperrell, Massachusetts.  There are many town records of Joshua Smith, and the town history names his two wives, but they do not name a daughter Hannah Smith.

Hannah Smith's maiden surname is known only from the Boston Transcript newspaper article described below.  The most information about Hannah Smith's family was obtained from a query contribution to the Boston Transcript (4th Series, entry #3534):[1]

"(3534)  1. SMITH, SARTELL, BISHOP.  Hannah Smith, born Jan. 1 1768, at Amherst, Mass., married Feb. 5, 1789, at Amherst, Josiah Sartell of Hollis, Mass.  I wonder if her parents were Noah Smith and Mary, daughter of Edward Elmer, who were married in Amherst in 1766 at Amherst (probably).  If this is true, who were Noah Smith's ancestors? The children of Hannah Smith and Josiah Sartell were:

(1) Josiah, Jr. born Brookline, N.H. Nov. 26, 1791 (I believe married Rebecca Manning).
(2) Hannah, born Brookline N.H. Nov. 6, 1789, married Zachariah Hildreth, who was born Townsend Mass.and died at Townsend Jan. 22, 1857; Hannah died at Townsend Jan. 13, 1851, children: Aaron, Clarissa, James, Clarissa 2d, Elizabeth, Milo, Moses, Edward, Harriet and Moses.
(3)  Mary (Lee), born Townsend April 11, 1793, and died at Pelham, May 26, 1831, children Enos, Edwin, Samantha.
(4) Chester, born Townsend Aug. 6, 1795, died April 19, 1875; children Sophia and Mrs. Bizel.
(5)  Esther, born Townsend May 13, 1797, died Amherst Mass. March 5, 1859.
(6) Horace, born Ashburnham, Mass. July 9, 1799, died Mason, N.H. May 21, 1825, married Sally Saunders, had daughter Elizabeth.
(7)  Neuma, born Townsend June 6, 1802, and died Mason, N.H. Aug. 11, 1826.
(8)  Walter, born Townsend, March 21, 1806, and died Townsend, Aug. 26, 1857, married Louisa Adams; had a son Perry.
(9)  Price, born Townsend, Feb. 2, 1810, married Eliza Bishop at Watertown, N.Y., Feb. 21, 1831, who was born Dec. 12, 1806 at Westmoreland, Vt., and died Feb. 14, 1875 at Milwaukee; Price died Milwaukee, June 5, 1891.  (Who were the parents of Eliza Bishop?)."

The writer likely confused Amherst, Hampshire County, Massachusetts with Amherst, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire (just north of Brookline, New Hampshire).   Noah Smith (1742-1830) and Mary Elmer (1743-1833) married in 1766 in Amherst, Hampshire County, Massachusetts and had a daughter named Hannah Smith born 3 January 1767, but this family remained in Amherst, Massachusetts, and that Hannah Smith married Martin Cook on 28 January 1785 in Amherst, Massachusetts.  Hannah (Smith) Cook died in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1846.

The marriage date of 5 February 1789 for Hannah Smith and Josiah Sawtell was obtained from the Boston Transcript query;  it was probably based on a family record available to the author of the query.

The cemetery entry in the Townsend Vital Records book says:[2]

"Sawtelle, Hannah, w. Josiah, Feb. 8, 1824 a 50y."

The Find A Grave memorial for Hannah Sawtell does not show a gravestone image.  It does show a transcription, apparently taken from the gravestone.  It reads:[3]

"In memory of
wife of
who died
Feb'y 8th 1827
ae 59 years
The death day (8 February) are the same in the vital records book and the gravestone inscription, but the year of death, and age of death, are not the same for some reason.  If she was born in about 1768, she would be age 56 in 1824 and age 59 in 1827. If she died at age 50 in early 1824, that would make her birth year about 1773, and she would have been about age 16 in 1789 at her marriage. I have used the 1827 date.


[1]. Boston Transcript, (Boston, Mass.), 21 April 1932, Item 3534, "SMITH, SARTELL, BISHOP," Boston Transcript Genealogical Column Microfiche Collection, Card 7 1832; San Diego Public Library, San Diego, Calif.. citing Carlos Parsons Darling, Boston Transcript genealogy newspaper columns, June 6, 1896-April 30, 1941 (Middletown, Conn. : Godfrey Memorial library, 197-), on 682 FHL microfiche.

[2]. Henry C. Hallowell (editor), Vital Records of Townsend, Massachusetts (Boston, Mass. :  New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1992), New Cemetery Records, page 367, Hannah Sawtelle entry.

[3]. Jim Tipton, indexed database, Find A Grave (, Hillside Cemetery, Townsend, Mass., Hannah Sawtell memorial #141409870.


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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ancestry Academy Launched Today has launched Ancestry Academy today - see the press notice at Introducing Ancestry Academy, a New Way to Learn About Family History.  The article notesL:

"We are excited to announce the launch of Ancestry Academy, a new educational website that offers exclusive, high-quality video courses taught by genealogy and family history experts. Ancestry Academy courses cover a wide range of relevant family history topics and offer something for genealogists of all levels."

Ancestry Academy is a genealogy education  website with self-paced multi-class courses on specific topics.  Courses are taught by expert instructors, including some employed by Ancestry.  At the end of each course, the student can take a test, and if s/he passes the test, receive a course completion certificate.  There will be free courses, and fee-based courses.

Ancestry Academy's director is Laura Prescott, a well-known professional genealogist.  She gave an overview at RootsTech 2015 of this offering.  In addition, some geneabloggers have had advance access to the beta site to see how it works.

Here is the opening screen (when I'm signed into my account):

There are links at the top of the screen for "My Courses" and "Course Library" and a search field.

I clicked on the "Course Library" link and saw the list of available courses.  There are 15 at present:

The 15 courses available at the launch are:

*  "Finding Your Military Veterans on Fold3" with Krista Hegerhorst
*  "DNA 101: An Insider's Scoop on AncestryDNA Testing" with Anna Swayne
*  "Getting the Most Out of Family Tree Maker" with Duff Wilson
*  "Digging for Answers With Find A Grave" with Michael Lawless
*  "You Found What in the 1940 Census?" with Anne Gillespie Mitchell

*  "Your Family History Online: Laying the Foundation" with Anne Gillespie Mitchell
*  "Who is That Tick Mark? Using Early Census Records" with J. Mark Lowe
*  "Exploring Pension Application Files" with Debbie Mieszala
*  "Brother vs. Brother: Exploring Civil War Ancestors" with Amy Johnson Crow
*  "Finding Ethnic Origins and Passenger Arrival Records" with Juliana Szucs

*  "Public Libraries: Mining Untapped Genealogy Resources" with Patricia Moseley Van Skaik
*  "Street Smarts: Finding Your Ancestors in the Big City" with Juliana Szucs
*  "Cousin Bait: Make Social Media Work for You" with Anne Gillespie Mitchell
*  "The Buckeye State: Researching Your Ohio Ancestors" with Amy Johnson Crow
*  "Native American Ancestry?  Steps to Learn More" with Paula Stuart-Warren

There are several more courses coming soon:

The Ancestry Academy "Help" page has a short video tour describing the offerings:

I will write more about the Ancestry Academy after I've gone through a few courses.

This is another online genealogy education opportunity for beginning, intermediate and advanced researchers.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

Updated MyHeritage iOS Mobile App - Research Features

I posted MyHeritage iOS Mobile App Appears to be Updated yesterday, which indicated that the "look and feel" of the Family Tree and individual profiles had changed, but didn't find any new features.  

In this post, I want to continue investigating the app's Research capabilities.  

1)  I navigated in the iOS mobile app to my great-grandfather, Thomas Richmond (1848-1913):

I wanted to see what would happen if I tap the "Research" button under his name.

2)  The search in all of the databases available on MyHeritage found 892,917 results with the first name, last name, and birth year in the search fields (without the exact search box checked):

I noted that the first 22 matches were for one of the other online tree systems - FamilySearch, MyHeritage, WikiTree or Geni.  Then records followed according to the limited search criteria.

I didn't feel like scrolling through that many records to find census records for him.

3)  I wanted to change the search criteria to only census records, so I tapped the double right-arrow next to the name in the screen above, and saw the search fields:

I could have added more search criteria by tapping on the "Edit search" button.

On the list of record types, I tapped the "Census and Voter Lists" category, and saw:

Scrolling down, I found the 1900 U.S. Census for my Thomas Richmond:

4)  I tapped on the name on the screen above to see the information in the 1900 census and saw:

There's the transcribed and indexed information for the person.  Further down is an image of the census page and the household members:

And further down are the "Record Detective" results - related records and related people:

5)  All of that is very useful - the user can see what's in a record, can see the record, and can see related records by tapping the image shown.  

It would be more helpful to add more search criteria from the person's profile - a birth place, death date, a death place, a marriage date, a spouse's name, parents names, etc.  That would drive the "best matches" to the top of the results list as long as the search was not "exact."

However, the user cannot do anything but look.  There is no capability to attach a document or photograph image to the person searched, or to extract specific data items in the record into the person's profile.  The MyHeritage website permits record attachment and data extraction, but the current iOS mobile app does not.  Perhaps this feature will be added in a future version.

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

Treasure Chest Thursday - Post 258: 1757 Marriage Record of Ephraim Sawtell and Abigail Stone

It's Treasure Chest Thursday - time to look in my digital image files to see what treasures I can find for my family history and genealogy musings.

The treasure today is the  1757 marriage record of Ephraim Sawtell and Abigail Stone in Groton, Massachusetts:

The snippet of the Sawtell-Stone marriage;

The transcription of the record is:

"[December] 22d [1757] Ephraim Sawtell & Abigail Stone boath of Groton"

The source citation for this record is:

Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, digital images, (, "Groton, Births, Marriages and Deaths," no page number, image 106 of 990, Ephraim Sawtell and Abigail Stone marriage entry.

The published Groton Vital Records book has the same information:

The source citation for this entry is:

Vital Records of Groton, Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849 (Salem, Mass. : The Essex Institute, 1926-1927), Two volumes, Marriages, page 165, Abigail Stone and Ephraim Sawtell entry.

Ephraim and Abigail (Stone) Sawtell are my 5th great-grandparents, and the parents of Josiah Sawtell (1768-1847), who married Hannah Smith (1768-1827) and nine other children.  

Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Digital Microfilm -- Browse Probate Record Collections on FamilySearch

We had our monthly CVGS Computer Group session in the Computer Lab at the library today, led by my colleague, Shirley Becker.  Genea-Musings reader Ginger from Ohio was there - thanks for coming, I hope you learned something.

This was a very frustrating session for many of the attendees.  The topic was FamilySearch Browse Only record collections, with the goal of introducing the attendees to finding ancestral records without a search engine.

Shirley got the students to go to FamilySearch, find a state with Probate Records, and then follow directions in an article created by Robert Ragan of Treasure Maps fame (which I can't find online now) that described how to search the Browse Only collections.  Then...most of the attendees had comments like:

*  "Where are the search fields?"

*  "Do they expect me to look through 14 million images?"

*  "How do I know which "book" to search?"

*  "How do I find my ancestor's will?"

*  "How do I make the record image larger?"

There is no search field to magically make a will or other record appear on your computer screen when you're in a FamilySearch Browse only record collection. 

I helped two students understand the basic process (County > Index > Record Book > Record), and we searched New York probate indexes and will books for records, and were successful.

My guess is that 90 to 95% of all researchers are completely lost when faced with a Browse Only collection on FamilySearch.

I wrote a number of blog posts about this process for New York and Pennsylvania probate records in recent years, including:

*  Step-by-Step Process for Accessing and Finding New York Probate Records on FamilySearch (posted 16 April 2014)

*  Finding Genealogy Gems in the New York Probate Records on FamilySearch (8 April 2014)

*  Finding James Vaux Probate Records in Erie County, New York (5 July 2012).

I've done similar searches in Pennsylvania for:

*  Pennsylvania Probate Records on FamilySearch! (27 June 2012)

*  Finding Daniel Spangler's Probate Records on FamilySearch - the Russell Index System (15 October 2012)

Think of this process as "digital microfilm."  You have to manually search for the information you seek.  Rather than obtaining a series of microfilms (an Index, a Record Book, another Record Book, etc.), you do it online on FamilySearch; for FREE, in your pajamas.  Rather than turning a microfilm crank, you can advance image by image or by guessing an image number to zero in on the desired page.  And guessing again.  

 The process is fairly complex, but it can be boiled down to County > Volume List > Index > Record Book > Record Image (using one of my New York searches below):

1)  County

*  Know the State and County where your target person was a resident with property.

*  Go to the probate or estate collection for the target State [Note: not every state has a collection of this type yet.]

*  Use the "Browse xx,yyy,zzz images" link to see the County "Waypoints."

2)  Volume List:

*  Go to the correct County and note the list of "Volumes" of record books that are available.

3)  Index

*  On the County "Volume list" above, look for a "book" with an Index for probate records - another "Waypoint."  There may be more than one!  Think of this as the list of "digital microfilm" available for that county.

*  Search the Index for your target person.  The indexing may have a unique system - every one seems to be different.  You can jump to another image number using the field at the top of the screen.  You usually have to guess an image number and guess again until you find the right page.

*  If you find an Index item for your target, write down the column headings and the column information.

4)  Record Book

*  Go back to the "book" Index list of "Waypoints," and find the correct "record book" for the record you want to find.  

*  In the "record book," you have to guess an image number and then iterate until you find the right page.  Note that "page number" in the Index usually does not equal "image number" in the record collection.  Most of these digitized record books have two pages per image, and many "record books" contain more than one volume of records.

*  Be sure to check succeeding images in the "record book" - there may be more than one image for the record.  Some probate files can have dozens of record images.  

5)  Record Image

*  When you find the desired record for your target person, note the database name, the "bread crumb" trail to find the record, the image number, the volume number, the page number, and the specific item found.  

*  Download the record image to your computer and rename the file so that you can find it in your computer file system.  Cut and paste it into your digital file folder system (you do have one, don't you?).

It IS complex, isn't it?  

Please note that not every probate record in every county in every state was microfilmed, or has been digitized.  But about 30 states now have Probate record collections like New York's and Pennsylvania on FamilySearch.  These are often original source records (or derivative source records from court clerk transcripts) and are very helpful to determine death dates, relationships, real and personal property, and more.  

There are really three ways to find probate and land records in a distant state and county:

*  Go to the County of interest and search the musty books and estate files, and perhaps be allowed to take a photograph or obtain a photocopy.

*  Use Family History Library microfilm at the FHL or FHC (after renting the film)  to find records, and either take a photograph or a digital image..

*  Use the FamilySearch Browse Only collections - "digital microfilm" - to obtain a digital image.

I really appreciate the convenience, the organization, and the ability to download the records from the comfort of home, for FREE!  Every researcher needs to learn how to do this!

Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver