Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Is around the Corner

Other than simply looking at the dates on my calendar, I have another way to tell when the new year is coming:  Many genealogy groups suddenly start scheduling their talks for the upcoming year.  I am happy to say that I was one of the beneficiaries of the scheduling whirlwind, and in one week I was scheduled for eleven presentations in 2014, by the Oakland FamilySearch Library, California Genealogical Society, and Sacramento African American Family History Seminar.  Most of the talks will be topics I have spoken on previously:  newspapers (online, black, and Jewish), maiden names, Jewish genealogy, and vital records.  But I will also be adding presentations on new subjects, including cemetery and probate records.  Probably the most unusual of the talks will be part of a new series offered by the California Genealogical Society:  genealogical research that took on a life of its own.  That talk will be about some research I conducted for someone else, but I became so fascinated by the man at the center of it that I've continued to look for information about him, on my own dime.

I really enjoy giving talks and sharing knowledge with others interested in genealogy.  I also always learn from the people who attend my presentations.

Here's wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and productive new year, with lots of answers to genealogical questions.  And if you come to one of my talks (here's the schedule), please come up and say hi!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

2014 Forensic Genealogy Institute

I have written before about the fantastic educational opportunity that the Forensic Genealogy Institute offers.  Now, keep in mind that when I say "forensic" as applied to genealogy, I mean it in the true definition of the word:  "genealogical research, analysis, and reporting in cases with legal implication" (from the Web site of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy).  I don't mean merely using science in your own genealogical research, such as when you compare the results of your DNA test with someone else's to determine if you might be related, or if you analyze the backs and edges of photographs to figure out if they were printed at the same time.  Neither of those is forensic genealogy (no matter what a book might be called), because there's no legal implication in the results.  Scientific?  Sure.  Forensic?  Nope.

So now that we have that out of the way, the 2014 Forensic Genealogy Institute, to be held in Dallas, Texas from Monday–Saturday, March 24–29, offers in-depth instruction in tools and techniques for genealogists who are doing or want to do forensic research, along with real-world examples and business advice.  Two tracks are offered:  "Foundations in Forensic Genealogy" and "Advanced Forensic Evidence Analysis."  More details are now available for the two tracks.  The early-bird discount ends December 30, 2013 (only a few days from now!).  A discount is also offered to those registering for both tracks.

In "Foundations in Forensic Genealogy", which will run Monday–Wednesday, March 24–26, 2014, the sessions to be offered include:
• How to establish a forensic genealogy business
• How to evalute the ethics of a case
• How to deal with the legal profession in complex research cases
• How a forensic genealogists establishes credibility as an expert witness
• A mock witness cross-examination, conducted by Michael Ramage, JD, CG
• "Forensic Techniques for Genetic Genealogy", which will explain the concepts of DNA and how it can be utilized by the forensic genealogist, taught by Debbie Parker Wayne, CG

The "Foundations" track is a prerequisite for "Advanced Forensic Evidence Analysis", which will follow immediately after, running Thursday–Saturday, March 27–29, 2014.  Sessions will include:
• Current advances in DNA technology and application of the science by a forensic genealogist, taught by Debbie Parker Wayne, CG
• Department of Defense methods used to identify and confirm missing military personnel through the use of DNA and forensic genealogical work
• Finding missing heirs in an ethical and professional manner, taught by Michael Ramage, JD, CG
• A case study of heir searching with international consequences and lessons to be learned, taught by Catherine Desmarais, CG
• Insight into the process of dual citizenship, from clients to contracts to international case studies, taught by Melissa Johnson
• How to manage research projects and subcontracted researchers in foreign countries, taught by Catherine Desmarais, CG
• Who, what, when, where, and why forensic genealogists might need the services of a certified document translator

The instructors for the Forensic Genealogy Institute combined have more than 70 years experience in the field and its related specialties.  The "Foundations in Forensic Genealogy" track is a comprehensive course of study covering research techniques, methods, business preparations, business forms, work products, legal and ethical courses with case studies, and more.  The new advanced track is designed to present a new set of challenges and instructions each session.  This year's "Advanced Forensic Evidence Analysis" will include instruction found nowhere else concerning allied and subspecialty fields to aid the forensic genealogist.  Both tracks are designed as learning opportunities for those already experienced in the field, as well as for the professional considering accepting forensic cases.

So far, among those registered to attend the 2014 Forensic Genealogy Institute are:
• More than half of the genealogists who attended the original two Foundations tracks are returning for the new Advanced track.
• About a dozen people have signed up for the combination Foundations and Advanced tracks.
• Among those registered are 17 full-time forensic genealogists, several new forensic genealogists, three investigators, five attorneys, one journalist, and two paralegals.
• We have one Accredited Genealogist (AG), seven Certified Genealogists (CG), and one Fellow, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (FSA).
• Attendees will be coming from Canada (1), Germany (1), and 22 U.S. states, including one person from Hawaii.

Come join this diverse group of professionals (including me!) at the 2014 Forensic Genealogy Institute.  And if you're on Facebook, Like the Institute's page there to keep up with the latest announcements.

If you are considering going, make your hotel reservation as soon as possible.  Rooms may be scarce during the Institute due to sporting and other events in Dallas.  Please use the hotel reservation link found on the Institute Web site.  Rooms may not be available if you delay making your reservation.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Nilgiri Hills: Christian Memorials 1822–2006"

Another resource for Anglo-Indian research will be available soon.  Dr. John C. Roberts and N. P. Chekkutty wrote a book earlier this year on Christian burials and memorials in towns of India's Malabar coast, which was published by the South India Research Association (SIRA).  Now SIRA, a volunteer group of researchers and scholars registered in New York, is getting ready to publish Roberts and Chekkutty's second book, Nilgiri Hills:  Christian Memorials 1822–2006.  The comprehensive research took two years and covered cemeteries and many isolated graves.

The Nilgiri Hills book will be about 500 pages, with detailed maps of the cemeteries and of coffee and tea estate locations.  It will also include full-color reproductions of historical images of the area.

As with the previous publication, this will be a limited edition.  A production run of 250 copies is the only printing planned.  The anticipated release date is February 15, 2014.  The prepublication subscription price is 1,000 Rs.; after publication the price will rise to 1,250 Rs.  Postage outside India is 500 Rs; postage within India is free.  You can place your order through info.sira@yahoo.in.

Actually, they said that there would be a less expensive second printing of the Malabar book, but I haven't heard anything more about it.  In this age of computers and electronic publications, perhaps they might want to consider some form of e-book.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"The Baobab Tree" Summer and Fall Issues

Back in March I posted about being named the new editor of The Baobab Tree, the journal of the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (AAGSNC).  My first issue as editor came out in September, just barely squeaking in for the summer.  Articles in that issue included a man figuring out just who a previously unknown brother of his great-great-grandmother was; the story of a freed slave from Arkansas who became a master carpenter and left the South for California; the second half of a story about a family that was very active in the fight for civil rights in the South; and someone who went to a Black Family History Day for assistance, followed up on the research suggestions, and found great information on his family.

The fall issue is almost finished and should be published soon.  (Gotta get the schedule back on track ....)  This issue includes articles on how a chance DNA match led to more questions than answers; thinking about the many variations names and nicknames can take; a collection of helpful online links for black family history research; and the educational benefits of attending genealogical conferences.

Articles for The Baobab Tree are accepted from both members and nonmembers of AAGSNC.  If you submit an article that is published, you will receive a copy of the issue with your article even if you are not a member.  Submissions may be articles and/or graphics, both original and previously published, and must be relevant to black family history research.  Submission guidelines, including deadlines, are available online.

Members of AAGSNC receive The Baobab Tree as a membership benefit.  Individual back issues are available for purchase.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

An Orphan Heirloom Needs to Finds Its Way Home

A U.S. Navy photographer who went to Beirut in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war found a photograph album in the rubble of the city and brought it home with him.  He is now trying to find family members to give the album to.  Clues include the name "Didi" and the year 1975 written on the cover page, and a postcard in Arabic sent from Spain and addressed to Lydia Gatehouse in London, England.

The Daily Star of Lebanon published a story about the album on December 6.  Anyone who can help identify and/or locate the album's owners should contact the Daily Star.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Genealogy Research in the East Bay via BART

A death certificate from
the Oakland History Room
I've previously written about using BART to travel to genealogical research locations in San Francisco.  It's time to give equal attention to the East Bay.  Since I live in Oakland I often drive to these places, but parking in downtown Oakland and Berkeley is comparable to San Francisco, so being able to take BART lets you avoid that mess.

The first stop on our East Bay research tour is Lake Merritt station.  Follow the exit signs toward 9th Street, and you'll see a very large sign that says "Superior Court."  Exit at that corner, and when you come up above ground, you'll be at the corner of 9th Street and Oak Street.  That puts you five blocks from the main branch of the Oakland Public Library, four blocks from the Alameda County Administration Building and Superior Court, and three blocks from the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder.

If you're taking a train from Pittsburg/Bay Point, Millbrae, or SFO, you need to transfer to a Fremont or Dublin/Pleasanton train get to the Lake Merritt station.  Instead of waiting for a connecting train, you might want to get off at the 12th Street/Convention Center station, though it's a longer walk.

Similar to the San Francisco Public Library, the Oakland Public Library has two important resources for genealogists:  the Oakland History Room and the Newspaper and Magazine Room.  The History Room is on the second floor of the library and has information and records primarily about Oakland, but also for other cities in Alameda County.  Probably the most significant items are original Oakland birth and death certificates from 1870–1904, before the state of California began collecting vital records, but you can also look at a complete collection of Oakland city directories (1869–1943); Alameda County voter registers (1867–1944); Tax Assessor's block books for Oakland (1877–1925); various Sanborn fire insurance map books from between 1882–1951; photographs of Oakland, Piedmont, and Emeryville; vertical files of newspaper clippings; several local high school yearbooks; information on the origins of street names for Oakland and Berkeley; and more.  There are indices to several local newspapers and to articles in books and magazines.  Staff will do free look-ups and will mail you copies of items for a small fee.  The Newspaper and Magazine Room, which is at the other end of the second floor from the History Room, has the complete historical run of the Oakland Tribune on microfilm, along with many other local newspapers, including a significant number of black newspapers.

The Alameda County Administration Building houses the Superior Court records office and the Tax Assessor.  The records office, on the basement level, holds probate and civil indices and microfilms.  If the records you want to look at have not been microfilmed, they'll have to be retrieved from storage, which can take several days.  Unlike San Francisco, there is no charge to request records from storage.  Also, some records may be housed at different courts.  Criminal records apparently are treated similarly.  The Tax Assessor's office is on the first floor.  You can walk in and ask the nice people there to look up who owns a property.  I've been told it's possible to get complete tax records for a property, but I haven't done that myself (yet).

The Alameda County Clerk-Recorder holds birth, marriage, and death records from 1905 to the present and land records dating back to the 19th century.  There are no restrictions on who can order an informational copy of vital records in California, but more recent records may have some names, such as the medical examiner on a death record, redacted (privacy laws).  The Recorder section has computerized and microfilm indices and records for land transactions and fictitious business name registrations.  A computer with an in-house index for vital records includes records that occurred after the published indices end.

The 12th Street station is the closest one to the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO).  Exit toward Ogawa Plaza and then head west on 14th Street.  AAMLO is about four blocks away.  AAMLO is a great resource for researching the black communities of the Bay Area and California.  It has diaries, oral histories, videos, newspapers, and other materials relating to local people and organizations.  It also has general resources relating to black history in the United States and important historical individuals.

Our next stop is the 19th Street station in Oakland, the closest station to the California Genealogical Society and Library (CGS), as Kathryn Doyle pointed out in my post about San Francisco genealogy locations.  You can follow the exit toward Broadway and 20th or the one toward 20th; either way you'll have to cross a street (20th for the former, Broadway for the latter) to get to the corner with the beautiful green I. Magnin building.  Then walk up Broadway two blocks, cross one more intersection, and turn left to enter the old Breuner Building, where you will find CGS on the lower level.  CGS has resources not only for California but for the entire United States, as so many people came to California from other places.  Its extensive library includes books, manuscripts, and microfilm.  It also offers genealogy classes throughout the year, including an introduction to genealogy the first Saturday of the month.  Several databases are available on the Web site and in the library.  The library is open to all, but nonmembers must pay a $5 user fee, except for the first Saturday of the month.

Continuing further up the Richmond line (but passing MacArthur and Ashby stations), the Berkeley station puts you not too far from Bancroft Library on the University of California campus and in easy walking distance of the Berkeley Public Library and the Berkeley Historical Society.  If you're going to Bancroft, exit the station via the plaza escalator.  Go east on Center Street, cross Oxford, and enter the campus on Grinnell Pathway.  Turn left on Campanile Way.  After about three "blocks" distance, you'll come to Doe Library; Bancroft is on the east end of the building, with the entrance on South Hall Road.  Bancroft is primarily an archive, with collections of Western Americana, Mark Twain papers, the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, and the university archives, among others.  It also has a significant photograph collection, much of which is being digitized.  Generally, you need to page materials ahead of time (which is a whole separate post!), but some reference materials are on the shelves.

To go to the Berkeley Public Library, follow the signs at the Berkeley station to exit at Shattuck and Allston on the west side of the station.  When you come up above ground, walk south one more block and you'll be at the library.  The big attraction for researchers here is the Berkeley History Room, which has city directories and phone books, Berkeley High and University of California yearbooks, Sanborn insurance maps, the Berkeley Daily Gazette from 1894–1983, oral histories, photographs, maps, and more.

For the Berkeley Historical Society, exit the Berkeley station through the plaza escalator and head west two blocks on Center Street.   The society's History Center has a library and an archive.  I've been told it has Berkeley High School yearbooks (including some years that the Berkeley History Room doesn't have) and a photograph collection, but I haven't actually made it there yet to see for myself.

One very important genealogical location that BART doesn't reach directly is the Oakland FamilySearch Library.  The closest station is Fruitvale.  When you exit the station, to the right is a large board listing the AC Transit buses that leave from the station.  The board also has a handy map showing the bays from which each bus departs.  Currently the #39 bus will take you to the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Monterey Boulevard (but AC Transit has changed this route several times, so the specific bus line might be different when you go).  From there walk back down the hill a little to the entrance of the LDS temple campus and follow the signs to the Visitors' Center/Family History Center (the former name of the FamilySearch Library).  The library is on the lower level of the building.  Before you walk in, make sure you enjoy the beautiful view of the bay.

The Oakland FamilySearch Library is a branch of the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah (the mother lode of genealogy libraries).  It is a noncirculating genealogy library with almost 10,000 print items, 38,000 microfilm reels, and 10,000 microfiche.  The collection has a strong regional focus, so you will find lots of records about California (particularly the Bay Area Portuguese community), but there is something for almost everyone here.  The San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society (SFBAJGS) regularly donates publications and microfilm, so the library has a significant number of Jewish research resources.  The 75 computers have access to more than a dozen subscription genealogy Web sites, including Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.co.uk, NewspaperArchive.com, and Fold3.com.  Classes are offered regularly, and several genealogical groups, including SFBAJGS and CGS, hold meetings, classes, and events in the library.

A really interesting set of records is at another location that requires you to take an extra step after getting to the BART station.  Go to the Hawyard station and take the shuttle to California State University of the East Bay.  In the university library's special collections is a set of original Alameda County voter registration forms from 1875–1925.  Most of this type of record around the country were destroyed, so these are unusual survivors.  This particular set includes a record for author Jack London.  The library also has collections of historical slavery documents and World War II Japanese relocation materials.

So far I've only discussed Alameda County locations, but Contra Costa County is also in the East Bay.  I don't know of anything you can get to directly by BART, but some core repositories are reachable by BART and a bus connection.  The Contra Costa County Clerk, Superior Court, and Historical Society are all in downtown Martinez.  The best way to get there by BART is to go to the Walnut Creek station and take the County Connection #98X (express) line to the Amtrak station, which is only a short walk from the three locations.  You can also take a bus to Amtrak from Pleasant Hill (#18), Concord (#16, #19), and North Concord (#28/627), but the bus lines from those stations take significantly longer.

The Contra Costa County Clerk's office has birth, marriage, and death records, land records, and fictitious business name filings.  Searchable indices are online and on computers in the clerk's building.  The Superior Court records office holds records for closed cases, which are what genealogists usually deal with.  The Contra Costa County Historical Society's History Center is an archive with photographs and original documents relating to the history of the county.

I realize it seems as though I'm giving Contra Costa County short shrift, but I don't know of other genealogy research locations that are easily BARTable.  For example, the Plesasant Hill branch of the Contra Costa County Library has a genealogy collection, and members of the Contra Costa County Genealogical Society volunteer at the library and help people with their research—but the closest station is a mile away on the other side of the freeway, and I didn't see a direct bus connection.  If you know of other BART connections, feel free to post a message letting us know!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Recent Updates to the Wikipedia Newspaper Archive List

I didn't realize it had been a few months since I had posted about the latest links I have added to the Wikipedia newspaper archives page, but the timing worked out well — this is my 500th post!   I never would have guessed I could write so much about genealogy.

• The first addition to talk about isn't actually an archive link, it's a search engine.  Elephind (which I added under "Worldwide", since it searches sites from Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United States) is a free mega search for newspaper archive sites.  It never hurts to have another finding aid.

• Ireland:  The Church of Ireland Gazette has a current online archive for 2005–2011 and has posted the complete run of the newspaper for 1913 (free)
• United Kingdom:  Many issues of Colburn's United Service Magazine are available on HathiTrust; issues often listed births, deaths, etc. (free)
• United Kingdom:  Historical Newspapers has an index to the New York Times and two indices to the London Times (pay)
• Alabama:  The Alabama Citizen, a (mostly) weekly Birmingham newspaper, apparently complete from November 10, 1913 through August 10, 1918 (free)
• Alabama:  The Huntsville–Madison County Public Library online index to obituaries in its newspaper collection, currently covering 1819–2006 (free)
• Alabama:  The Tuscaloosa News, scattered issues from 1910–2000 (free)
• Colorado:  Scanned obituaries from the Fort Collins Coloradoan from 1988–2002,  courtesy of the Larimer County Genealogical Society (free)
• Indiana:  Elkhart Public Library index to obituaries in the Elkhart Truth from 1921–present (free)
• Massachusetts:  Lincoln Public Library obituary index from 1959 to "recent" (free)
• Michigan:  Name index to Dziennik Polski (Polish-language Detroit newspaper), 1904–1941; the search page uses Steve Morse's One-Step tools (free)
• Pennsylvania:  Altoona Area Public Library birth (1931–2011) and obituary (1929–present) indices (free)
• Pennsylvania:  Kutztown University database of the Kutztown Patriot, the local newspaper, with articles from 1889–1940 (free)

Don't forget, since this is Wikipedia, you also can add links to online newspaper archives that are not listed.  If you don't want to, send links to me and I will be happy to add them to the page.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Latest ZichronNote Is at the Printer

The November 2013 issue of ZichronNote is at the printer, and the electronic edition will be sent to members this week.  The main article in this issue is about how one woman was surprised to discover a possible Jewish line in her family while researching her great-grandmother, and her search for more information to prove it.  Other articles include member comments about their experiences at this year's IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy, the ways in which the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society supports Jewish genealogical research around the world, and the benefits members of the society receive.

Speaking of benefits, one of them is that the most recent issues of ZichronNote are available only to members of the society. If you join (at the still very affordable annual membership rate) you get a subscription to the journal, help fund research projects, and support a hobby you enjoy.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Unidentified Portraits from India during the Raj

The illustrations in question were done in 1908, most likely in Calcutta, by an Englishman named Whitwell Tryon Nash, who spent a number of years in India prior to World War I.  He was a civil engineer and worked with both railroads and waterworks in places such as Calcutta, Cawnpore, and Kasara (to use the spellings current at that time).  After serving with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during the war, Nash returned to India in late 1919 and was there for some indeterminate time before immigrating to Canada, where he died in 1948.

His descendants have a number of these illustrations—clearly caricatures of people he knew and perhaps worked with—and are trying to identify them. If you think you might have an inkling of who any of these people might be, they would appreciate hearing about it.  Nine portraits are posted online; contact information is on the site.

Golf, anyone?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Portrait of a World War I Veteran

Zalmon Reuben Orlowsky was born about 1891, probably in Bachmach or Glukhov, Chernigov gubernia, Russian Empire (now Bakhmach and Hlukhiv, Chernihiv oblast, Ukraine).  When he immigrated to the United States, arriving in New York City on October 30, 1906, his father was likely already dead, as he listed his mother, Elke Orlowsky, as his closest relative in the "old country."  His occupation given on the ship manifest was merchant.  A family story says that he taught himself to read English by going back and forth between Russian and English versions of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

By 1910, Zalmon, now going by the last name of Orloff and sometimes the first name of Sam, was living in New Haven, Connecticut and working as a shop laborer.  On December 16, 1914, he was naturalized as an American citizen in New Haven.  He registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, still in New Haven.  Surprisingly, he does not seem to have been enumerated in the 1917 Connecticut military census, or at least I haven't been able to find him in the database on Ancestry.com.

The state of Connecticut, to show its pride in its citizens who had served during the "War to End All Wars", published a three-volume work in 1941 with details on those citizens' service.  According to his entry (in the second book), Zalmon was inducted into the National Army on October 3, 1917 at Local Board 2.  (The number 1,912,305 isn't explained in the book; I'm thinking it might be his service number?)  He was living at 31 Anne Street, New Haven.

Zalmon was assigned to the Headquarters Company of the 319th Field Artillery Regiment through to his discharge.  He was made a corporal on December 7, 1917; a sergeant on February 1, 1918; and also a supply sergeant on February 1, 1918.  He was with the American Expeditionary Forces from May 19, 1918 to March 25, 1919.  He was honorably discharged on April 4, 1919.

From letters Zalmon wrote to his sweetheart while he was in the Army, we know that he went through basic training at Camp Gordon, Georgia.  His tour with AEF took him to France, where he was near the front lines.  As with many soldiers, he was deeply affected by what he saw during the war.

Sometime between his discharge in 1919 and the 1920 census, Zalmon moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he worked as a mechanic.  By 1924 he was married and had a son, and by 1927 they had moved to the bustling city of Chicago, where some of Zalmon's cousins lived.  He had trouble getting good work, however, and was a paper hanger from 1924 to 1930.

Zalmon survived World War I, but he did not make it through the Great Depression.  He died March 1, 1930, in Chicago.  His death was unexpected; he is buried in a section of the cemetery where the plots were sold individually, on an "as needed" basis.  He is not far from a family member, though; his sister-in-law had died the previous year in a car accident, and he is buried only two plots away from her.

I am lucky to have a friend in the Chicago area.  She tries to visit Zalmon on Veterans Day every year to let him know he is not forgotten.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Family History in Sacramento

Saturday I attended the Sacramento FamilySearch Library's annual seminar, with the theme of "Get a Clue."  I think they've held them for a few years, but this is the first time I've gone.  It was a well organized day with a good selection of talks.  There were five class periods and seven classes during each period.

I was invited to give two presentations (which is the reason I went), on online newspapers and women's maiden names.  Both of my sessions were well attended, and everyone was really enthusiastic about learning new methods to find answers to their research questions.  I love seeing people get excited about family history research!

I attended talks on military records, researching collateral lines, and adoption research.  By far the standout was the session on adoption, which I thought was appropriate, since November is National Adoption Month.  The speaker, Don Mencarini, has worked in the Adoptions Support Unit of the California Department of Social Services (DSS) for more than 27 years.  He gave lots of detailed information on how the Adoptions Support Unit can help with research and also about the limitations of what they can reveal.  The unit has records going back to 1928 and handles all of them under California's closed adoption laws, even though California didn't actually seal adoption records until 1935.  Mencarini was very surprised to learn, however, that before adoption records were sealed they were indexed with other civil cases in county superior courts.  (Yeah, I'm the one who told him that.)  He also told us that DSS has a record of all adoptions in California.  I am very happy I learned about this useful resource.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Anniversary of "Black Tuesday", October 29, 1929

No Work
Today is the anniversary of "Black Tuesday", also known as the 1929 Stock Market Crash, which precipitated the Great Depression in the United States and the Western world.  (And this year it actually fell on a Tuesday again.)  Hundreds of businesses and banks closed, and many people were out of work and unable to support their families.

From a genealogical research perspective, this can mean that families were broken up and could be living in multiple locations while parents scrambled to find ways to support themselves and their children.  It is important to keep this in mind when searching for family members in the 1930 census.

I found my paternal grandfather's family, consisting of four people, in four different locations.  My grandfather was back living at home with his mother and two siblings, working at the large textile mill which provided most of the employment in that town.  His older daughter was in the county children's home.  His younger daughter was in an entirely different county, boarding with a well-off family otherwise unconnected to my family.  (No one has been able to tell me how that connection was made and how she ended up living with them.)  And the girls' mother, my grandfather's first wife, was living in that second county near her daughter, working as a live-in private servant to another unconnected family.

How did the Great Depression affect where your family lived?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wrapping Up Family History Month

October, which is Family History Month, is always a busy time of year for genealogists.  Along with attending a few events, I let myself be scheduled for several talks, including five in six days.  (You'd think I would have learned my lesson by now!)  It's been a great month, and I learned and shared a lot.

I started the month by going to the October 5 Angel Island Family History Day coordinated by the California Genealogical Society.  I very much enjoyed the event and the opportunity to learn about some of the different groups of immigrants who were processed at the "Ellis Island of the West."  And because it was the beginning of the month, I actually had time to write a separate post about it!

Saturday, October 12, was Family History Day at the California State Archives.  I was asked to give a talk on online newspaper resources, which went very well, with about 75 people in the class.  I also was able to attend three classes myself.  I took the opportunity to hear Lisa Lee's "Introduction to Black Genealogy" because although I've been researching black genealogy for many years, I had never taken an introductory class.  She had a lot of useful information and different perspectives from some other people I've spoken with.  I also attended sessions on Cherokee and Italian research, plus I took a tour of the archives.  Did you know the archives holds all the historical records for San Quentin and Folsom prisons?  Makes me wish I had a serious reprobate to research.

On Wednesday, October 16, I taught a class on Jewish genealogy at the Oakland FamilySearch Library for International Jewish Genealogy Month.  Instead of a general introduction to research, this class focused on what differentiates Jewish research from that of other groups.  The class had a good turnout, and someone who couldn't attend contacted me afterward to get information.  Even better, one of the people in the class is already following up by doing more in-depth research!

The Mt. Diablo Genealogical Society's October speaker canceled at the last minute, and they asked if I could step in.  Lucky me, I was able to do it because of the short BART strike.  (It kept me off the streets and out of trouble!)  So on October 18 I gave a presentation on how even if you have very, very little information to begin with, if you work methodically and thoroughly, it is possible to build on that small beginning and find documents and more information.  In the case study I discussed, I started with one person's last name, another person's first name, a third person's occupation (but no name!), and a town, and my research resulted in a seven-generation family tree with more than one hundred people.

The Concord FamilySearch Library and Contra Costa County Genealogical Society held their annual "Digging for Your Roots" seminar on Saturday, October 19.  I taught two classes there, online newspapers and finding women's maiden names, which were both well received.  I was able to attend several sessions, with the standouts being about Germans from Russia and overlooked military sources.  They both had a lot of useful information I had not seen before.

The San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society (SFBAJGS) held its final 2013 East Bay meeting on Sunday, October 20, at the Oakland FamilySearch Library.  At this all I had to do was open the library and set everything up!  Lisa Gorrell of the Contra Costa County Genealogical Society gave a talk on city (and other) directories and how they can be helpful in genealogy research.

The final 2013 SFBAJGS meeting for our peninsula location was Monday, October 21.  After several years of trying to work it out for me to give my talk about online newspapers there, I was finally able to make it down to Los Altos.  Several people who attended e-mailed me within the next couple of days to say they were already finding articles about their relatives — just what I love to hear!

The first organizational meeting for the 2014 San Francisco History Expo was Tuesday, October 22, at the Old Mint, where the Expo is held.  I went as a representative of SFBAJGS and . . . um . . . somehow ended up volunteering to be on the organizing committee.  (Oops.)  I figured it was the best way to make sure that all of the genealogy groups get to stay together in one room, which has worked well the past two years.

And last but certainly not least, this past Saturday, October 26, the California Genealogical Society held a big fundraising event, Their Roots Are Showing, its take on a Who Do You Think You Are? type of production.  Three local Bay Area celebrities — Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics, drummer Tim Alexander of Primus, and Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin — learned about their ancestors live on stage.  I did research on Beane's and Alexander's families for the event, and I was able to meet them in person, which was pretty cool.

And now I have a short break until November 2 (yikes! that's this Saturday!), when I'll be teaching two sessions at the Sacramento FamilySearch Library's genealogy seminar.

It's a good thing I love my work ....

Monday, October 21, 2013

Free DNA Test from 23andMe for Specific Immigrants

The DNA firm 23andMe is offering free DNA kits for a limited time, but only for specific members of the African diaspora.  This testing is not intended for those people whose ancestors were brought to the United States through the historic slave trade.  Rather, 23andMe is looking for more recent immigrants.  Before you request a kit or send the information to other people, make sure you (and they) fit the criteria.  If someone orders the test and doesn't fit the criteria, the company can withhold the results, since it is offering the service for free.  The below information is from the 23andMe Web site:

Please carefully review the eligibility requirements for this project.  Eligible individuals must:
  1. have four (4) grandparents from the same sub-Saharan African country.  Countries of interest include Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.
  2. be 18 years of age,
  3. have Internet access and be willing to take an online survey about ancestry and provide a saliva sample,
  4. live in the United States in a state that allows 23andMe shipping.*
*Please note that we cannot ship or provide services to residents of the state of Maryland.

Only one free kit is permitted per family.  Family members of existing 23andMe customers are welcome to enroll in the project but are not eligibile for a free kit.

For more information, visit the project page.

Free Genealogy Seminar February 22, 2014

University of the Pacific
The San Joaquin Genealogical Society is presenting a free seminar on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.  Cosponsored by the California State Genealogical Alliance and University of the Pacific's Jacoby Center for Public Service and Civic Leadership, this is a great opportunity to attend four interesting talks at no cost, hang out with other genealogists, and learn more about the Alliance.

The presentations and speakers will be:

• "Family Stories:  Genealogy beyond Just the Dates", by Linda Serna

• "Fun Tools to Help Genealogists Work Smarter", by Tim Cox

• "Researching Your Mexican Ancestors", by Letty Rodella

• "Reconstructing Family Information When You Start with Almost Nothing:  A Case Study", by yours truly

I'm looking forward to the event and hearing the other speakers.  They're all covering topics I haven't heard before.

Even though the event is free, registration is required to receive the packet of speaker handouts, and seating is limited to 180 attendees.  More information and the registration form are available online.

If you have any questions or cannot register online, contact Sheri Fenley at (209) 373-6847 or sherifenley@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Immigration Stories at Angel Island

Ayala Cove
After 24 years of living in the San Francisco Bay area, I finally visited Angel Island last week.  I have been wanting to go for several years but somehow never managed to schedule it.  Luckily for me, the California Genealogical Society (CGS) coordinated a family history event this year for Family History Month — plus asked me to help find someone to speak about Jewish immigration through the island — so circumstances worked in my favor.  It was also a "chamber of commerce day" — gorgeous weather, clear blue sky, the kind of day convention and visitors bureaus send out their photographers to take promotional shots.  The ferry ride from Oakland to the island (with a change of boats at the Ferry Building in San Francisco) was very enjoyable, and there was even a great view of the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge on the return trip.

Barracks (front) and Hospital (rear)
The station has several points of interest.  CGS posted a helpful map of the station online.  There are informative signs throughout the area, describing not only the buildings (and former buildings) but also activities of people who were held on the island.  Just inside the gated entrance are what remains of employee cottages that were designed by the famed architect Julia Morgan.  It's a shame they didn't survive.

China Cove and the Immigration Station
Down by the water at China Cove was the dock where immigrants arrived (it was torn down years ago).  An administrative building used to be there also, but all that's left now is part of the foundation, showing the footprint of where the building was.  A fire in 1940 destroyed the building and caused the closure of the station.  A small plaza and an Immigrant Heritage Wall have been built at the cove as part of the renovation of the park.  Nearby is the hospital, which is not open to the general public yet but is under renovation and scheduled to open in 2016.  While we were there a group of nurses was given a private tour of the hospital.

Immigration Barracks
The two buildings that are currently open are the main immigration barracks and a World War II mess hall.  Several interesting displays, mostly about Chinese immigration, were set up in the immigration barracks for the family history event.  One of the docents had brought a lot of his own materials to share with attendees, and one of the speakers brought her research documents.  There were also tables with informational material from CGS and the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society.

Mess Hall
The mess hall is where the presentations took place.  Grant Din (staff at the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation) and Kay Speaks (genealogist) spoke about their Chinese ancestors who were processed at Angel Island.  Roslyn Tonai (executive director of the National Japanese American Historical Society) talked about her mother's family, Japanese immigrants who came through here.  And Maria Sakovich (independent researcher) described the paths across Europe and Asia that Jewish immigrants took during World War I and II that led them to Angel Island.  All of the speakers had interesting stories, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to learn from them.

In a nice bit of serendipity a woman who works at the Tenement Museum in New York City happened to be on the island as part of her vacation in California.  She is very interested in genealogy outside of her job, and she was thrilled to find out that there was a family history event going on.  We had trouble deciding who the biggest genealogy geek was.

I am happy I had the opportunity to visit Angel Island because my stepsons' grandfather, who was from Punjab, India, came through the island when he arrived in the United States in the 1920's.  Through research I have learned he was not detained, even though Indians were classifed similarly to Chinese (as "Asians" under the Chinese Exclusion Act), because he came as a student, not an immigrant.  But just knowing that he went through there made the visit special.

CGS has posted several excellent photographs of the day taken by Judy Bodycote on its blog.

The one flaw in my day was the climb from the ferry dock at Ayala Cove to the immigration station.  I swear I was told it was about a mile, but it's actually closer to a mile and a half, and most of it is uphill.  My poor little old knees were not happy.  The next time I go to Angel Island, I think I'll take the tram to the immigration station instead.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Audio Files of Auschwitz Survivors Are Online

The Fritz Bauer Institute, dedicated to studying the Holocaust, has posted 100 hours of audio recordings of Auschwitz survivors and guards online.  The recordings are from the 1963–1965 Frankfurt trial of Auschwitz guards and includes testimony from survivors along with responses from the defendants.  An article about the release of the records is on Yahoo!.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

When Names and Languages Collide

1803 obituary of Justus Fox
When doing family history research, I often caution people not to worry about spelling.  Until well into the 20th century, most people were either poorly educated or functionally illiterate.  Spelling was done phonetically, and a person's name could be spelled multiple ways within one document.  In the United States, one of the things that helped codify spelling was passage of the Social Security Act.  Suddenly you had to prove you were a specific person, the same person every time.  Consistent spelling made that a lot easier.

But what if the problem isn't spelling, but pronunciation?  I traced one of my family lines back to a man named Justus Fox in Philadelphia.  He was born in one of the German states and immigrated to the British colonies in North America around 1750.  The family name was formerly Fuchs and was Anglicized to Fox.

When I began to find information about Justus Fox, my mind automatically pronounced his name as "justice."  My first language is American English, and it came naturally.  But then I started thinking about it.  "Justice" (which I have seen spelled as Justus) is seen as a given name in today's society, but it didn't make sense for a German-born man in the mid-18th century.  And then I started to think about German pronunciation.  The letter J does not sound the same as in English.  It has a Y sound; for example, the German word for yes, ja, is pronounced "ya" in English.  When I applied that logic to my ancestor's name, I got "yustus" and was easily able to figure out that Justus is the German equivalent of the name Eustace.  I also found there have been many well known men named Justus.

Another instance of pronunciation affecting research was when I was working on my half-sister's family.  Her mother's ancestry was all Irish all day long, both sides.  My sister's grandmother had done some work, which my sister gave me as a starting point.  Her grandmother didn't have many documents but had written down what information she knew about births, marriages, deaths, and family stories.  One story her grandmother wrote about was a portrait of her mother that had been painted by a Mr. O'Kane.  I thought it was interesting but, beyond wondering whether the portrait was still in the family somewhere, it didn't seem like anything that would help with my research.

I started looking for the family in censuses and found several I was sure were the correct people.  But I found one I wasn't sure about.  The husband was gone, which was plausible.  The mother, listed as a widow, looked right, and one person listed as her child seemed to be correct, but another person that should have been a child was listed last in the household as a boarder.  But all of the names were common Irish ones, and I didn't see enough for me to make a determination.  So I saved that census and looked for other documents.

One day I pulled out the census page again and tried to figure out if there were other clues I could use to decide if it was the right family.  This time I looked at all of the boarders listed in the household.  The name Okane caught my eye, and I remembered the story about the portrait.  When I read the rest of the line, I discovered the individual was a boarder, Japanese — and a painter.  My sister's grandmother probably interpreted the name Okane in the context of her Irish background and thought it was Irish, with an O'.  But now I'm pretty sure that I found the right family.

Do you have any interesting or entertaining pronunciation stories from your research?  Or am I the only geek who thinks this way?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

International Jewish Genealogy Month 2013

International Jewish Genealogy Month (IJGM; http://www.iajgs.org/jgmonth.html) is coming soon! It is celebrated during the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, which this year runs from October 5 through November 3.  The purpose of IJGM is to promote the hobby of genealogy and to make people aware that there is a local Jewish genealogical society that can help them start their research.  We also honor our ancestors through our family history research.

The San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society (SFBAJGS) has four events during this year's International Jewish Genealogy Month:

This Saturday, October 5, the California Genealogical Society is presenting a family history day on Angel Island, sometimes called the Ellis Island of the West.  SFBAJGS and the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation are cosponsoring the event.  Speakers will discuss Chinese, Japanese, and Jewish immigration through the island.  The event runs from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.  Angel Island is accessible by ferry from Oakland, Alameda, Vallejo, Tiburon, and San Francisco.  The immigration station is about a one-mile walk from the ferry dock at Ayala Cove; shuttle service is available for those who do not wish to walk.  For more information, visit the California Genealogical Society page about the event.

On Wednesday, October 16, I will teach an introduction to Jewish genealogy class at the Oakland FamilySearch Library from 6:30-8:00 p.m.  Topics covered will include geography, languages, how Jewish culture and history affect family history research, and more.  The library is at 4766 Lincoln Avenue, Oakland, CA 94602.

On Sunday, October 20, SFBAJGS will have a meeting at the Oakland FamilySearch Library.  We start welcoming people at 12:30 p.m.  From 1:00-2:00 p.m. speaker Lisa Gorrell will teach about using city, county, and rural directories in your research.  Directories can hold a lot of information to help you learn more about your family members' lives.  After Lisa's talk, we will have use of the library until 4:00 p.m.

And on Monday, October 21, SFBAJGS will meet at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road Room 5/6, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022, with the doors opening at 7:00 p.m.  From 7:30-9:00 p.m. I'll talk about using online newspapers for genealogy research, with several Jewish examples.  I'll give an overview of what newspapers are available online and show techniques to improve your search results.

For more information, visit the SFBAJGS calendar at http://www.jewishgen.org/sfbajgs/calendar.html.  All the events are free, and everyone who is interested is welcome to attend.  If you have been thinking about researching your family history, this would be a great time to start, and these talks will help get you going. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sacramento Archives Crawl

This is a fairly new event (it appears to be the third year), and I had not heard of it until a fellow board member from the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society mentioned it to me.  The Sacramento Archives Crawl is held during Archives Month (never heard of that before either!).  The purpose of Archives Month is to educate people about the importance of historical records.  Four archives in Sacramento host the crawl, and each host repository has representatives from several archives from around the area set up with information.  Participants visit each host, learn about the different archives' holdings, view items on display, and collect stamps in a "passport" to earn a set of coasters depicting artifacts from four of the archives.

The Sacramento Archives Crawl will be held on Saturday, October 5, from 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.  The four hosts this year are the California State Archives, California State Library, Center for California History, and Sacramento Public Library.  I wish I could go, but I already have a commitment to be on Angel Island for the Family History Day being presented by the California Genealogical Society and cosponsored by the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation and the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society.  Three speakers will discuss Chinese, Japanese, and Jewish immigration through the island.  That's what happens during Family History Month — many special events take place, and it can sometimes be difficult to choose which to go to.  And since Archives Month is also in October, that just multiplies the options.  Maybe next year I can make it to Sacramento and crawl the archives.

Monday, September 23, 2013

"The Mexican Suitcase"

One of the boxes of negatives
I recently saw the documentary The Mexican Suitcase (2011), about the discovery of 4,500 photo negatives from the Spanish Civil War.  I particularly wanted to see the movie because a cousin of mine fought with the Lincoln Brigade, and I was hoping there might be something about the brigade in the movie.

The movie focuses primarily on the story of the negatives and the three photographers who took the photos.  Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and David "Shim" Seymour — born Endre Ernő Friedmann, Gerta Pohorylle, and Dawid Szymin, Jews from Hungary, Germany, and Poland, respectively — were said to be the first photographers to work in live war zones.  Prior to this, we were told, photos were taken before battles and afterward.  These photographers changed the way people saw wars by their work.  All three died while taking photos in war zones — Taro in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War; Capa in 1954, during the First Indochina War; and Shim in 1956, while covering the armistice of the Suez War.

The negatives had been kept in Paris by Imre "Cziki" Weisz, the darkroom assistant used by the three photographers to develop their film.  He was also Jewish.  Sometime around 1940 he became concerned about his survival in Europe.  He managed to deliver the negatives, which he had carefully catalogued and stored in handmade boxes (the "suitcase" of the movie title), to Francisco Aguilar González, a representative of Mexico to the Vichy government in France.  Aguilar apparently took the negatives with him when he returned to Mexico, because in 2004 his daughter gave them to filmmaker Ben Tarver in Mexico.  Eventually this led to an exhibit at the International Center of Photography in New York City and to the documentary by Trish Zeff.

Interspersed with interviews with several people about the photographers, the negatives, and the story of the negatives' survival were interviews with Spanish survivors of the Civil War and their descendants.  These interviews focused on feelings of loss, being uprooted, and having to make new lives.  The movie said that some 200,000 people fled Spain during the war.  Most of the interviewees were in Mexico; a few were in Spain.

I found some parallels between what happened to the Spaniards who supported the Republic and to Jews during World War II, though obviously not on the same scale.  For a time there was a concentration camp in Argelès in France that housed about 100,000 people who had fled Spain.  Most countries would not accept the Spaniards as refugees; this was because they recognized Franco's regime as legitimate, but Mexico and the Soviet Union (incorrectly called Russia in the film) did accept the refugees.  There are mass graves in different parts of Spain filled with bodies of those who "disappeared" during the war and later.  And most of the survivors were unwilling to talk about their experiences for decades.

One of the descendants who was interviewed was participating in an archaelogical dig at one of the mass graves in Spain.  She said she was trying to find out what happened to her grandfather, one of the many people who "disappeared."  Her story was presented in pieces throughout the movie.  It was not clear how many different skeletons they showed, but it certainly didn't appear to be more than two, making the identification of the site as a mass grave confusing.  Then, near the end of the movie, the young woman said that she was disappointed she hadn't found her grandfather at the site but that she would keep looking.  Nothing was said about how she was able to determine that none of the skeletons there was her grandfather, and since all they had shown in the movie was a few bones at the site, I don't know how any identification could have been made at all.

One of the most touching moments in the film was a short scene at the exhibit of the negatives at the International Center of Photography.  A woman found three photos of her grandmother sitting at a desk, writing a letter.  The family had been told about the photographs having been taken, but the woman had never seen them before.

As for the Lincoln Brigade, it was mentioned only obliquely in the movie.  One of the nurses who helped take care of Gerda Taro the day she died was interviewed for the movie; her on-screen credit said she was a nurse with the Lincoln Brigade.  And a dedication at the end of the movie included a man in the Lincoln Brigade (not my cousin).

Even though I didn't find a family connection, overall this movie was interesting, but in trying to present the two stories concurrently the narratives sometimes were difficult to follow.  You saw a snippet of one interview, then another, then another, not necessarily all talking about the same thing.  This choppy style did not lend itself well to a coherent storyline.  The photographs tell a story of their own, but most of them were not identified.  The movie is worth seeing, but you will probably want to supplement what you learn from the movie with additional research of your own to give a more complete picture of what happened.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Jim Parsons

The good thing about having a lot of work recently is that I can keep paying the bills and feeding the birds and cats.  The bad thing is that I get behind on things like blog posts.  But I'm finally catching up.

This was the last episode of the first season of Who Do You Think You Are? on TLC.  I haven't heard anything about the numbers, so I don't know how well the eight episodes did for audience share, but the program was renewed for a second season, so it couldn't have been too bad.  Perhaps what appeared to be skewing to a younger audience helped draw more viewers.

Jim Parsons was the celebrity who closed out the season.  The first voiceover told us that he would be researching his two French lines of his paternal ancestry in honor of his late father.  Then we learned that he is a classically trained actor who has acted on Broadway and the "big screen", but his breakout role was on The Big Bang Theory (some friends used to tell me that I'm just like Sheldon, which is kind of scary).  He has won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe, and was working on the HBO film adaptation of The Normal Heart at the time of the taping.

Parsons tells us he is from Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston.  His parents are Milton and Judy, and he had a good childhood.  He started acting in the first grade and pretty much got hooked on it, including going to graduate school for more theater.  His father was positive about his choice of acting and was supportive, loyal, and hard-working.  Family and friends were extremely important to him.  He died in 2001 in a car accident at the age of 52, when Parsons was only 28.

Even though his father is gone, Parsons is comforted to feel like he's still along for the journey.  He thinks his father would be very interested in family history.  What you come from is fascinating, and people are the sum of their parts.  He is doing the research in honor of his father's memory.  He knows little of his family's history; he has always been curious but doesn't know of any other artist in the family (ah, we have a theme).  He's been told his father's family was French and believes part of the family came through Louisiana, but doesn't know who those family members might be.

Parsons starts by talking to his mother to get family stories.  Judy travels to New York and brings some documents with her.  We first see a photo of Parsons' great-grandmother Jeanne (that's a French spelling!) Hacker, who married Thaddeus Parsons.  Judy has Jeanne's death certificate, which says she was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 24, 1882, and that her parents were Adele Drouet and Charles P. Hacker.  There's also a photo of Adele at age 90, which might have been taken in Louisiana.  Parsons and his mother decide that his next step should be to go to Louisiana to see what he can find there.  Parsons says that now he has "proof" of his Louisiana roots.  (After all, it isn't like anyone ever made a mistake on a death certificate before, right?)

In New Orleans, Parsons begins by saying that it's nice to have his French ancestry confirmed already.  Whether he goes to France or not, he's already happy with what he's learned.  (C'mon, we know you're going to go to France.)  At the Louisiana Historical Center (part of the Louisiana State Museum; in the "small world" category, my daughter is the executive director of the Louisiana Museum Foundation) he meets genealogist Judy Riffel.  He says he has contacted her to ask for information on his Hacker and Drouet family names.  Riffel tells him that Hacker is French, even though it might not seem so, and Drouet is definitely French.  Parsons asks, "Where do I go from here?"  (Calm down, you just started!  At least he looks a little sheepish.)  So Riffel tells him, "Let's do a little bit of digging on Ancestry.com."  (Did you see that coming?)  They find a Charles Hacker in the 1850 census in Iberville Parish, Louisiana.  He is 5 months old and born in Louisiana; his father, J. B. Hacker, is a physician, also born in Louisiana.  (This, of course, is not the way you should do research.  They should have shown Jeanne with her family, so we could have some context for Charles having been born about 1850 in Louisiana.  But remember, this is entertainment, not a research class, and only the sexy parts make it on air.)

Riffel explains that it was rare at that time for a doctor to be in as rural of a parish as Iberville, and he was probably the only doctor there.  Parsons asks again, "Where do I go from here?"  (Well, we know he isn't doing the research.)  Riffel says he should look into the Hackers, and that she has found someone familiar with 19th-century Louisiana history to help him.  She'll look into the Drouet family.  As he leaves, Parsons says that he is surprised to find three generations of his family in Louisiana, as he and all the relatives he knows are from Texas.

Parsons next goes to Tulane University, where Jeanette Keith, a professor of history at Bloomsburg University, greets him.  Parsons has asked her to look into Dr. Hacker's medical practice, and Keith has several documents ready.  First is a list of medical graduates from the Medical College of Louisiana.  The list includes Jno (short for John or Jonathan) B. Hacker of Louisiana, who graduated in 1842 at the age of 32.  He was the 55th graduate from the school, which was one of the best medical schools in the South.  Established in 1834, it was only the second medical school in the South.  (The medical college eventually became what is now Tulane University, the only state public university ever to convert to a private one.)  Keith explains that at the time it was not necessary to get a medical degree to practice medicine.  The profession had little regulation, and anyone could hang out a shingle and start a medical practice, with or without the appropriate education.  So Hacker put in extra effort for his profession.

Next Keith showed Parsons a book with Hacker's name and a reference to other degrees, honors, etc.  A note refers to an article published in New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal (still being published today).  Dr. Hacker wrote about "Yellow Fever in Plaquemine" (Plaquemine is the parish seat of Iberville), which was published in volume 10 of the journal in 1854.  He wrote about the 1853 yellow fever epidemic (8,000 died in New Orleans alone) and documented it for other doctors.  At the time people did not know how yellow fever was transmitted.  Parsons likens Hacker's experience to that of doctors working with HIV patients in the 1980's.  He is impressed with Hacker's commitment to his work and to humanity, to be willing to work closely with patients suffering from the disease when he didn't know if he would catch it himself.

courtesy of GenealogyBank
Parsons asks Keith, "Do you have more that takes us even further?", and in one of the most honest lines I've ever heard on this program, laughs and follows immediately with, "Of course you do."  Keith has Parsons go online to GenealogyBank.com (this is the second or third time I've seen GenealogyBank shown on the program; they must have paid a healthy "product placement" fee) and search for "Dr Hacker" in the time range of 1810–1900 (well, that's pretty specific, isn't it?  I guess she knew there was something that didn't include his given name).  Up pops an article titled "Loss of the Steamer Gipsy" (which came up as the top result once I sorted by oldest articles first) from the New Orleans Times-Picayune of December 8, 1854.  Parsons exclaims, "I'll be damned."  (I was surprised that wasn't edited out.)  The article reported that Dr. Hacker, his daughter, and his nephew died in a fire on the Gipsy.  Parsons says, "I just figured out who he is and now he's gone."  He talks about how Hacker died in the prime of his work and how Hacker was only four years older than Parsons is now.  Now he wants to find out what happened with the steamer to cause the fire.  He's very impressed with Hacker and realizes that even though he's researching his own family, it's connecting him beyond that.

To learn more about the Gipsy, Parsons visits Robert Gudmestad of Colorado State University, an expert on 19th-century Mississippi River steamboats, at a tourist boat named the Natchez, which Gudmestad says is a rough approximation of the 19th-century Gipsy.  Gudmestad explains that one difference is that a 19th-century boat was made all of wood and was powered by steam generated on the boat with live fires.  He also shows Parsons an 1853 painting of the Gipsy.  Parsons asks if Hacker and his daughter and nephew would have been traveling on the Gipsy for pleasure, but Gudmestad explains it was the normal and fastest way to travel in 1850's Louisiana.

The boiler room on a steamboat was in the middle of the boat.  The day of the Gipsy's fire was very windy, and someone opened the door to the boiler room; the wind blew fire onto the deck.  The men's cabin, where Hacker was, was above the boiler room.  He probably didn't realize there was a fire until it was too late.  Gudmestad has a copy of the Plaquemine Southern Sentinel newspaper of December 23, 1854, which has an obituary for Dr. Hacker.  The obituary shows that he was well loved. Members of the Cannoniers, a local civic group, were going to wear "black crape" on their left arms for 30 days in remembrance of him.

Parsons finds it touching to learn about the reach of Hacker.  He compares Hacker to his father and the number of people who came to his funeral, which surprised him at the time.  He feels a sense of pride and says it isn't a far reach to think that the admirable qualities of Hacker were passed down through the family.

After leaving Gudmestad, Parsons visits Riffel again to learn more about his French roots, but this time at Hill Memorial Library of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.  Riffel tells him that she tried to find more information about the Hacker family but was unable to do so.  For the Drouet family, however, she has prepared a pedigree chart for Parsons to look at.  It shows that Adele Drouet's parents were August Drouet and Anaïs Trouard.  They then follow the Trouard line.  Anaïs' parents were Prosper Trouard and Eliza Delery Chauvin (Parsons' fourth great-grandparents); Prosper was born in La Rochelle, France.  Prosper's parents were Alexandre-Louis Trouard, born on March 15, 1761 in Paris, and Anne Marie Louise Gome Lagrange (Parsons' fifth great-grandparents).  Interestingly, they had all those names for Anne Marie but apparently couldn't find when or where she was born.  But Parsons now has a family line that goes solidly back to France.

Parsons says he's going to extend his journey and travel to France, to the French National Archives.  He loves the idea of traveling to France with these ancestors and wants to see what they were doing in 18th-century French history.

Parsons lands in Paris and goes to the French National Archives.  He had asked Professor Drew Armstrong of the University of Pittsburgh to "sift through the archives" for him.  Armstrong found the baptismal record of Alexandre-Louis Trouard and after letting Parsons stumble through trying to read it presents a translation.  (I liked the way they showed the original French writing overlaid on the translated text.)  It says Alexandre-Louis was the son of Louis-François Trouard, which takes Parsons back to his sixth great-grandfather.   It also says that Louis-François was the architect to the king, which it turns out was Louis XV of France, blowing Parsons away.  The godfather shown on the baptismal record is Louis Trouard, Parsons' seventh great-grandfather.  Louis was a marble supplier to the king, which would not have been aristrocratic but was still middle class and a good position.

Armstrong says Louis-François was groomed as a professional and that Louis would have positioned his son to become a member of an elite artistic circle.  Parsons wants to know how one became an architect to the king, as it couldn't have been easy or common to do so.  Armstrong shows him an 18th-century register and a transcription of an official document from September 20, 1754.  The translation says that Louis-François had "great aptitude" and had studied hard and in 1753 won the first prize, a scholarship to school in Rome.

Louis-François studied in Rome from 1754–1757, then returned to Paris.  As evidence that he had been cultivating supporters (his father wasn't the only one working on his professional improvement), Armstrong produced a letter dated February 26, 1769, when Louis-François was 40 years old (the same age as Parsons now), that says that the king had elected him to become a member of the second class of the Royal Academy of Architecture.  The Academy had thirty-two seats, with two classes.  One had to wait for someone to die for a vacancy.  It was the greatest honor possible for an architect, so Louis-François had to have been extremely good and very talented.

Parsons asks whether Louis-François had lived in the palace.  Armstrong says no but that Louis-François had an apartment in a chateau near Versailles Palace.  He suggests that to get a feel for Trouard and his work, Parsons should visit Versailles.

As he is leaving Parsons is still excited about what he has learned and says, "Damn it, we found somebody!"  (Again not edited out.)  He feels his own father was like Louis.  Even though he's not on the level of a royal architect, each father had supported his son in his academic endeavors.  Parsons says his father found a way to help him do the work he wanted to.

Cathèdrale St-Louis
(La Chapelle de la Providence)
Versailles, which is just outside of Paris, is absolutely beautiful.  Parsons goes to La Chapelle de la Providence, where he meets Ambrogio Caiani (now at the University of Kent, but apparently still at the University of Oxford when the episode was filmed).  The on-screen credit says he is a specialist in 18th-century French architecture.  Parsons says he wants to learn more about Louis-François Trouard and his work.  Caiani tells Parsons that Louis-François designed the church they are standing in and it was one of his masterpieces.  Parsons describes the church as elegant and classy, but inviting.  Caiani tells Parsons that in 1787 Louis-François was named an Architect First Class of the king, when he was 60 years old, and only two years before the French Revolution.

The French Revolution was sparked by the Age of Enlightenment.  The monarchy was abolished and King Louis XVI was beheaded (along with his wife, Marie Antoinette).  Many people associated with the king were also killed.  Even architects were executed or put in prison.  They were considered to be corrupt and associated with the old regime; their designs were part of the French court tradition and were ornate and heavily decorated.  Louis-François could have been executed, but he was a key figure in the redesign of churches.

Parsons of course wants to know what happened to him.  Louis-François was friendly with the liberal thinkers of his age.  He was also friends with Abbé Raynal, a forward thinker who was very radical for the time and was even against slavery.  Raynal used to stay at Trouard's apartment in Paris.

Caiani hands Parsons a book written in French.  Parsons is able to pick out some names and nothing else, but sees "John Adams" and "Mr. Franklin."  Parsons asks if it's Benjamin Franklin, which it is.  Caiani finally feels sorry for Parsons and hands him a translation.  It's a letter dated February 2, 1779 and addressed to Benjamin Franklin.  The letter is an invitation to Franklin to get together with Raynal and John Adams at the "House of Mr. Trouard."  Parsons was surprised to learn that all of them would have stayed there and asks why they would have been meeting.  Caiani suspects that Franklin and Adams were interested in Raynal's ideas about slavery.

Louis-François knew some of the greatest thinkers of his day.  Parsons comments that now he is learning about his ancestor beyond his architectural career.  Louis-François' thinking was not in line with the regime.  Caiani tells Parsons that Louis-François was not executed but died in 1804.  Apparently people didn't think he was corrupt or part of the old regime.

Parsons asks if Louis-François ever visited America.  Caiani says no, but that his children did.  Alexandre-Louis went to the French colony in St. Domingue, now known as Haiti.  His younger brother transferred to Louisiana.  This brought everything in a full circle back to Louisiana.  Parsons thanks Caiani for all of the information, and Caiani leaves him to look around the chapel.

In his closing monologue, Parsons talks about how both Hacker and Trouard were hard-working.  He thinks his father would have identified with that aspect of the two men.  Louis-François' father helped him achieve the highest level in his profession.  Now that Parsons himself is older, he has realized how much his father helped him.  He doesn't know what he would have become without his father's help but knows he would have been much less happy.

It was particularly enjoyable in this episode to see how sincere Parsons was when he thanked all the researchers.  He really seemed to appreciate all of the information he had learned.

Something I found interesting was how Parsons kept focusing on how old Louis-François was for each of the events that was discussed.  I figure he was thinking about Louis-François' age in relation to his own age or maybe his father's, possibly because his father died young.