Friday, February 27, 2015

The February 2015 Issue of ZichronNote Is Out the Door

The latest issue of ZichronNote, the quarterly journal of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society (SFBAJGS), has been printed, e-mailed, and mailed by the U.S. Postal Service.  As usual, the articles cover an interesting range of subjects.  SFBAJGS President Jeremy Frankel has wrapped up the report of his research on his cousin, including the revelation of an amazing find on the sidewalks of London.  Board member Heidi Lyss wrote about her impressions and what she learned on an excursion to the Jewish quarter of Córdoba, Spain, last year.  Jeanette Rosenberg, of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, kindly allowed me to reprint her article on the basics of using Facebook for genealogy, which makes a nice segue into the society's June presentation on social media for genealogy (presented by the only other Sellers who is a member of our society!).  And treasurer Jeff Lewy reported on what worthy genealogical endeavors SFBAJGS was able to support in 2014, with help from the donations generously given to the society by our members, above and beyond their membership dues.

You could be a part of this too!  I could be talking about your article in ZichronNote.  Have you had a breakthrough in your family history, solved a family mystery through painstaking research, discovered a better way to use resource materials, or walked where your ancestors walked as part of a heritage trip?  Have you had success or made progress at the San Francisco Genealogy Clinic with the Mavens?  Do you have an interesting story about Jewish family history in the San Francisco area?  We would love to read about it in the journal.  Send me a message, and we can discuss!

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Surprise from AncestryDNA

I have to admit, after the breakdown AncestryDNA gave of my deep ancestral background, I of all people never expected that the information would lead to any useful connections.  But when I received the e-mail message in my inbox about the new, better, "improved" results, I of course clicked on the link and looked at the page.  Not only was I surprised to see some names that actually made sense with my family history, I found a relative.

One of my possible top-level connections showed the names Armstrong and Stackhouse in New Jersey.  These are the surnames of my fourth-great-grandparents, so they caught my eye immediately.  When I looked at the person's online family tree, her Armstrong and Stackhouse were the same as mine!

After investigating the tree a little more, it was easy to determine which child my possible cousin descended from, as only one line was really fleshed out.  Lucky for me, it was one of the children who appeared in the 1840 census of the family as only a hash mark with no name, and who was not with the parents in 1850, so one of those hash marks now has a name in my own tree.

Even though my newly found cousin (about fourth or fifth cousins, once or twice removed) has very few documents linked to her tree as sources, I was able to find many, many documents on my own when I began researching to verify the online information.  (I use online trees, particularly those without documentation, as clues only, and verify all information with my own research.)  So far almost all of the info in the family tree appears to be correct, though I have learned quite a bit more than what is posted.  (This was the family for which I obtained so many documents when I spent a day on research while in Salt Lake City for the FGS/RootsTech conference.)

Through this cousin's tree I also discovered the second marriage of a daughter who was in her parents' household, apparently as a widow, in the 1850 census but whom I had not been able to find in 1860.  I was then able to follow her family through censuses, vital records, and newspaper accounts, adding new generations to that line.

I was very disappointed that the tree did not have any  information on my fourth-great-grandparents beyond what I already know.  My cousin appears to be stuck at the same place I am in that regard.  No federal censuses for New Jersey prior to 1830 survive, so I really need to buckle down with tax and land records to go further on this line.  That will probably necessitate a trip to New Jersey at some point.  Maybe my sister will let me stay with her; hey, maybe she'll even help!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

FGS and RootsTech: Saturday and Overall Impressions

As I walked to the Salt Palace Saturday morning for the last day of the FGS-RootsTech conference, I realized I had accomplished a lot during the week — attended several informative talks, networked with a lot of genealogy colleagues, even scanned more than 400 photographs.  I could have gone home then and still have had a very successful trip.  Lucky me, I was able to add even a little bit more on Saturday.

First, at the E-Z Photo Scan booth I managed to finish scanning the rest of the photos I had brought with me to Utah (thanks again, Arnold!).  I think my total over the three days was around 500.  I know that's a small drop in the bucket of the 100,000 the company was trying to preserve during the conference, but I was happy to be part of the total.  The photos I brought with me were all unidentified.  I decided to focus on those because now that they're scanned, it will be a lot easier to share them with cousins who are likely to recognize a good number of the faces.

Second, while I admit I did not find the Saturday sessions to be as good as the ones earlier in the week, I still learned something from each one I attended.  The best was Deena Coutant's talk about the U.S. nonpopulation census schedules.  The high points were that she gave a good overview of the six different types of nonpopulation schedules (farming, manufacturing/industry, defective/dependent/delinquent, mortality, supplemental, and social statistics), some ways in which they are helpful in learning more about your family, and which ones are online (not all of them are, something I did not know previously).  Unfortunately, most of the images on her slides were too small to be effective, and she zipped far too quickly through the slides that showed where one could find several of the series offline (and didn't include that information on her handout, having taken valuable real estate there to show partial images of schedule pages).  Coincidentally, she wrote a guide to the nonpopulation census schedules that's available for sale, and it was the only resource listed on the handout that she talked about during the class.  Hmmm . . . .

The other two presentations I went to were not as good as the census one.  A talk about online resources for black genealogy research was rambling and disjointed.  The speaker gave incorrect information several times, such as saying that all books digitized on Google can be read online (many, many books are available in snippet view only or can't be read online at all); if it has to do with genealogy and is online, Mocavo will "grab it" for you (Mocavo searches specific databases only); and you can log in at with your library card to look at their databases (you need to go through your library's Web site for authentication).  Almost all the useful information was in the handout (where she spelled "Afrigeneas" incorrectly).

The last talk I heard, on the Digital Library on American Slavery hosted at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, was a little better but still frustrating.  Way too much time was spent on "jokingly" whining about how research was done prior to the advent of the Internet and how it cost lots of time and money to do so.  One short example would have been sufficient; four long ones was overkill.  The slides didn't really show how to do searches or how to link results together (not that it looked particularly difficult to figure out), and no real explanation was given of how to determine where to obtain copies of original documents after you decide that an abstracted record is relevant to your research.  One positive thing, especially in relationship to the "tech" part of RootsTech, was that the speaker announced at the beginning that there would be a hands-on practical learning part for the final quarter of the time block — but that was unfortunately not included in the handout, so not everyone was prepared for the opportunity.

Unfortunately, the talk I told Randy Seaver I was looking forward to the most, "School Daze:  Finding the School Records of Our Ancestors", was in the very last time slot of the conference, from 4:00-5:00 p.m.  My flight back to Oakland was scheduled for 6:10 p.m., so I had to miss the entire class.

My overall experience at the FGS-RootsTech joint conference was pretty good.  I learned about new resources, and more information about resources that I already use.  More than three quarters of the sessions I attended were offered by FGS.  I saw many of my genealogy friends in person, some for the first time, and did lots of networking.  And I think I made effective use of several of the special deals offered by vendors in the exhibit hall.  I'm thrilled I won a free registration.

My impression of RootsTech specifically — not quite as good.  I remember when RootsTech started as the great technology conference, with apps, developers, and programming as the focus.  Even though this was the first time I have attended, I noticed an extreme lack of tech overall and even in many of the sessions officially labeled "RootsTech" (as in no mention of technology of any sort in session descriptions).  I heard several attendees, particularly programmers and developers, comment negatively on the lack of technology orientation.  One woman I spoke to was aghast that the winner of the Innovator Challenge was something that essentially allowed you to record a phone call; she had been rooting for the application that could do OCR on handwriting.  (I tend to agree with her.)  A man next to me in a session said this year would be the last he attended due to the lack of programmer and developer focus.  It appears that FamilySearch's desire to have a conference to attract entry-level genealogists has had a negative impact on the appeal of the conference to those outside that category.  It's a shame they didn't just create a new genealogy conference with that focus and leave RootsTech independent.  It was probably an economic decision.

Ironic comments about the technological aspects of RootsTech:
• Tuesday, the day registration opened, the system crashed and wiped out records of people's paid add-ons.
• The Web site crashed during the conference.
• Nowhere online (or at the conference) could I find a version of the schedule that listed all events happening at the same time together.  Clear separation of every aspect of the conference (FGS, Innovators Summit, Getting Started, Getting Started, RootsTech, keynote sessions, computer labs, and events) was maintained throughout.  Maybe sorting a database by times is too much to ask of technology?

As a final note about my time in Salt Lake City, while I was waiting for the light rail to take me to the airport, I met a woman who told me she was from Murphys, California.  I asked her if she was a member of the Calaveras Genealogical Society.  When she said yes, I told her I would be seeing her in April, because I was going to be the speaker at the spring seminar.  She told me she was the new director of the FamilySearch Center in the church, where the seminar will be held.  Considering the fact that the population of Murphys was counted as only 2,213 in the 2010 census, that's a pretty amazing coincidence.


My previous comments on the conference are here for Tuesday and Wednesday, and here for Thursday and Friday.

Calaveras Genealogical Society 2015 Spring Seminar Registration Is Open

When I announced in January that the Calaveras Genealogical Society had chosen me to be the presenter at its 2015 spring seminar, I promised to post when I learned about registration details and if there was a fee.  And now I know:  If you preregister, which requires your check to be received by April 16, it's $25 for Calaveras GS members and $30 for nonmembers; registration includes lunch.  Registering at the door is also $30, but I don't know if you'll get the lunch.  The information hasn't been posted on the Calaveras site yet (because the Webmanager is on a jury for a trial), but I have the registration flyer available on my site for downloading.

The four talks I'll be giving are:
• Reconstructing Family Information When You Start with Almost Nothing: A Case Study
• Get Me to the Church on Time:  Finding Religious Records
• Where There's a Will:  Probate Records Can Prove Family Connections
• They Wouldn't Put It on the Web If They Didn't Want Me to Use It:  Copyright Issues for Genealogy

The seminar will be on Saturday, April 18, at the LDS Church, 400 Bret Harte Drive, Murphys, California.  Several people have told me how beautiful it is in the area, so come for the scenery and a great day of genealogy!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

FGS and RootsTech: Thursday and Friday

On Thursday, the RootsTech part of the joint conference with FGS began.  This meant that the exhibitor hall opened!  I was ready and waiting at the entrance for the 10:00 a.m. opening because I wanted to go straight to the E-Z Photo Scan booth.  There had been lots of announcements prior to the conference about their free scanning opportunity, with the company having a goal of 100,000 photographs preserved the course of the conference.  The purpose of the promotion was to show off the capabilities of the Kodak Picture Saver Scanning System (I think I was using the PS50).  I have to say, I was extremely impressed.  Arnold Hutagalung, one of the company reps at the booth, was very helpful.  He showed me how to get started, and it was pretty smooth sailing.  I scanned almost 350 photos in half an hour!  That's all it took!  It took a little while longer to copy the files to my flash drive, and I was done.  I can't afford one of these, but I was told that a big focus of the company's marketing is FamilySearch Centers and Libraries.  I'm hoping we'll get one in Oakland.

After I retrieved my flash drive, I ran off to the far reaches of the Salt Palace for more FGS learnin'.  The outstanding session of the day was Craig Scott's talk on Civil War medical records.  When I wrote about my great-great-grandfather Cornelius Godshalk Sellers, I mentioned that he had been in the hospital twice, and I'm very interested in finding more records related to those incidents.  Craig started off his talk by warning everyone that if they would be uncomfortable seeing information about STD's, they shouldn't go anywhere near Civil War medical records.  Apparently STD's were the leading cause of men needing to go to the hospital during the war.  Craig mentioned that even George Armstrong Custer (then only a lieutenant) was treated for gonorrhea!  Craig explained things such as the levels of care men might have received, which records might mention medical information, the top two medical reasons for which men received pensions (diarrhea and dysentery), and several of the National Archives Record Groups in which records might be found.  I felt inspired, but now I need to go to Washington to do research!

The other great talk of the day was by Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, who spoke about federal court records and how they can be useful in family history research.  (This was scheduled as a RootsTech session, though the only discernible "tech" connection I could find was the seven URL's she listed in her resource list.)  This was the first time I have heard Judy in person, and it was fun.  She discussed which types of cases could be heard in federal courts (and which couldn't), where records are held (almost nothing is online), and who might appear in records.  Beyond the expected plaintiffs, defendants, and judges, maybe you have a relative who was a court officer, investigator, attorney, witness, juror, bondsman, or someone in Customs, the Treasury, or the FBI?  Judy also talked about how you could follow people or an issue through a case and showed some interesting examples.  One man was prosecuted for running a still, and the file had lovely photographs of the still, from several different angles no less.  An inheritance dispute between some family members (which went through the federal court because it involved people in one state and land in a second state) included photographs from childhood to old age of the deceased man who had bequeathed the land, and fantastic family information about who was related to whom and questions of the paternity of a putative grandchild.  The cases she chose to showcase issues were on polygamy in the Utah Territory, and the famous Dred Scott case.  The decisions in those cases had lasting effects and are obviously relevant to families affected by them.

The best talk I attended on Friday was also by Judy, this one on justices of the peace.  After pointing out that, while originally the position was held almost exclusively by men of high social standing, not-so-prominent men could be JP's, Judy gave several examples of historical JP's, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.  A couple of unexpected justices were Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones (no, not about the genealogist), and the famed Judge Roy Bean.  We heard about the first known black American JP, Macon Bolling Allen, who was appointed in 1848 in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and the first female American justice, Esther Hobart Morris, appointed in 1870 in Sweetwater County, Wyoming.  Judy covered the varying responsibilities of JP's, what kinds of records might exist, and tips on finding the records.  Again, most of these are not online.

The other session I found particularly useful on Friday was a computer lab on finding and using online newspapers.  Yes, I know, I am the genealogy newspaper queen of the Bay Area :), but there is always more to learn.  The focus of the class was on telling attendees about large free online newspaper collections.  (They included the Wikipedia newspaper archive page I contribute to regularly.)  A short slide presentation showed the basic process of how newspapers are digitized.  Then everyone was instructed to go to the Indiana Digital Historic Newspaper Program site, create an account, and sign in.  After that we were told to do a basic search. None of that is too exciting, right?  The useful part was when the presenters explained in detail how the system to correct mistakes in the OCR worked.  This correction system is valid in almost all Veridian newspaper databases, so I tried it with the California Digital Newspaper Collection, which I use as an example in several of my newspaper talks, so I know of some specific mistakes there.  It was interesting to see the search results change after making a correction.  The search engine no longer finds the incorrect word, but when you search for the corrected text, the results still display the incorrect OCR reading.  I'm going to be adding this to my talks.

Other cool things on Friday were scanning another batch of photos at E-Z Photo Scan (thanks again, Arnold!), meeting Eric and Karen Stroschein of the Northwest Genealogy Conference (where I am scheduled to be a speaker), doing a group photo of California Genealogical Society members here at the conference, helping at the Association of Professional Genealogists booth during lunch, getting my photo taken with Randy Seaver (because I won my RootsTech registration through his contest), and talking with Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Thomas MacEntee, and Dear Myrtle.  The only real downer was the people at the booth.  They paid to have a promotional card inserted in the registration packets, saying that there would be free blank charts and free black and white charts available.  It seems that they didn't plan adequately for the number of attendees, whether ones asking for the promised charts or printing out color charts at the booth, and the booth people got grumpy and snappish and told me there weren't going to be any more free charts.  Sorry, guys, not a good impression to make on a (former) potential customer.

The other negative was that FGS' position as red-headed stepchild meant that less attention was given to that end of the conference hall.  Not only did the containers of ice water run out and were not refilled, even the attention to maintaining the women's room was minimal, and trash overflows were common.


My other comments about the conference are here for Tuesday and Wednesday, and here for Saturday and my overall impressions.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

FGS Conference: Society Day and Librarians' Day

Here I am in lovely Salt Lake City.  It's February, but those of us here for the joint Federation of Genealogical Societies and RootsTech conferences have been enjoying relatively mild temperatures of 50's and even low 60's, rather than the snow we had been anticipating.  No complaints!

The FGS conference began on Wednesday, one day earlier than RootsTech, with Society Day.  It became clear very quickly that FGS is the red-headed stepchild in this joint-conference relationship.  Its sessions are tucked away in a far corner of the Salt Palace, much closer to JB's Restaurant than to where the RootsTech sessions will be.  If attendees actually have the audacity to want to attend sessions from both FGS and RootsTech on the same day, they're going to have quite a walk to travel between the two.  The exhibitor hall doesn't even open until Thursday — when RootsTech starts.

Getting back to Society Day, however, I figured I should attend as many sessions as possible, since I'm a board member of three genealogical groups.  I had hoped I would find helpful nuggets in at least one of the sessions, and indeed I did.  Two talks were particularly useful.

One of my boards, the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, is working on a new policies and procedures manual, and Ann Staley of the Jacksonville Genealogical Society taught an informative class on that subject to start the day. She clearly defined the purpose of a P&P manual and outlined a good process for putting together or updating one.  Though she unfortunately didn't include the URL's in her handout, she showed three good examples of other societies' manuals which are available online.  I'll be tracking those down and downloading them to use as inspiration for the SFBAJGS project.

Later in the day, genealogy tech guru Thomas MacEntee's topic was "Technology Initiatives for Genealogical Societies."  Thomas always has great information, but I had seen that his handout dealt with several topics that had come up in discussion in recent board meetings, so I was really looking forward to hearing the specifics.  One of the best pieces of advice he mentioned was that if you create a free Web site using and already have your own domain name (such as, you can transfer your newly created site to your domain, again for free.  That could be helpful not only for the society, but maybe even my own Web site!  He also mentioned that a society that sponsors a FamilySearch Wiki page no longer is required to maintain that page (though assistance is always appreciated), so it is an excellent publicity opportunity to do so, and kind of missing the boat not to.  He even described ways to use Pinterest (which I truly have never understood the point of) that may have convinced me to start using it as part of the SFBAJGS publicity efforts.  I definitely got a lot of bang for my buck from his session.  Overall, I was pretty happy with Society Day.

I actually arrived in Salt Lake on Sunday night and spent all day Monday doing research at the Family History Library.  I came fairly well prepared and retrieved/scanned about forty documents for my own family, plus about another fifty for other people.  It was a great beginning for my trip!

Even before Wednesday, though, I had begun my conference educational opportunities.  On Tuesday, I attended the Librarians' Day sponsored by ProQuest.  We enjoyed five speakers (and a great buffet lunch).  Curt Witcher from the Allen County Public Library spoke about how librarians need to change their established methods to work better with the new types of patrons who come in.  He particularly picked on what he considers to be the obsolete, old-fashioned reference desk — or, as he termed it, the "fort" — and how it divides the librarians from the patrons.  An archivist from The National Archives (of the United Kingdom, and yes, that's with a capital "T") discussed how TNA's online holdings help bring people into the archives in person to do more research.  Librarians from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio and the Tulsa (Oklahoma) City-County Library talked about genealogy tourism and how repositories can help bring tourist traffic to their areas.  Though these talks aren't directly applicable to my volunteer work in the Oakland FamilySearch Library, there were some points I'll be bringing up when I get home (such as the reference desk as a fort to hide behind).

The big news that came out of Tuesday was during the talk by Bill Forsyth from ProQuest.  He revealed that HeritageQuest Online (HQO), long a staple offering from libraries and often accessible at home by library card holders, is undergoing a major overhaul.  HQO has partnered with and is scheduled to roll out a new interface and new collections next month, in March.  The search pages on HQO will now be in the Ancestry style and will have more flexibility, such as Soundex and sounds like, instead of only exact spelling.  Several U.S. census databases will be added, such as the nonpopulation schedules.  I freely admit I have never liked the HeritageQuest interface, and I was very happy to hear that HQO hadn't gone the FindMyPast route and hired programmers to create a new, subpar interface when a good one was already available.  HQO will continue to be available through libraries, so if you have been able to use it through your local library Web site with your library card, that shouldn't change.  My only concern is that we have yet another company in bed with  "Incestuous" is becoming an understatement when describing the interrelationships in the genealogy marketplace.


Additional comments about the conference are here for Thursday and Friday and here for Saturday and my overall impressions.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Relatives Born on My Birth Date

Randy's challenge tonight for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun was to find out if any of your ancestors or cousins had the same birth date as you do:

1)  What is your birth date (not the year, only month and day)?

2)  Review your records, or use your genealogy management program to create a list of persons in your database born on your birth date.  Are any of them your ancestors, or siblings of your ancestor?  Tell us how you figured it out too.

3)  List one or more of those born on your birth date in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or on Facebook or Google+. 

1.  My birthday is April 9 (which is also the date of the official ending of the American Civil War, when Robert E. Lee surrendered).

2.  I used my family tree program to look for this information.  I have information on additional relatives who are not yet entered in my program, so there may be another birth date match somewhere.  I was surprised to learn that I could not search by month in the birth date field.  What I ended up doing was creating an index of all the individuals in my database (7,626 people) and sorting it by birth year, then scanning each year for April 9.  Kludgy, I know, but it was the quickest way to do it.

I found six people with April 9 as their birthday.  None of them is an ancestor or a sibling of an ancestor.  The closest relative is a second cousin, the most remote a fourth cousin twice removed.  One person is not related to me at all; like Randy, I have information about extended family members in my tree.  I determined the relationships by using the relationship calculator function in the family tree program.  The earliest birth year is 1907, the most recent 1996.

I already knew that my third cousin Yoni and I have the same birthday.  We call each other "birthday cousins", which I mentioned in a post about him winning a sportswriter award in 2013.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Call for Artists: 2015 International Jewish Genealogy Month Poster Contest

International Jewish Genealogy Month (IJGM) is a celebration of Jewish genealogy supported by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS).  IJGM takes place during the Hebrew month of Cheshvan.  In 2015 this will be October 14 through November 12 on the secular calendar.

The primary means used to publicize IJGM is the winning poster chosen from the annual design contest for that year.  The poster needs to celebrate Jewish genealogy and help promote genealogy as a hobby.  It will be available to organizations and individuals to help promote IJGM.

This year's poster competition officially began on February 3, 2015, and the deadline to submit an entry is June 20, 2015Submission requirements are available on the IAJGS Web site.  Each submission must be submitted by an IAJGS member organization, but the artist does not need to be a member of the organization.

Traditionally, the winner of the contest has earned a registration to that year's IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.  This year's conference will be held in Jerusalem from July 6–10.  This year IAJGS has added an alternative option to registration, that of free access to the conference recorded sessions.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

2015 San Francisco History Expo

Are you ready for some San Francisco history?  That's right, the San Francisco History Expo is back for the fifth year!  Once again held at the historic Old Mint, this year's event will have more than 60 exhibitors, all of them looking forward to sharing history with attendees.  We'll have historical and ethnic organizations, museums, libraries, and of course genealogical societies!

An important theme for this year's expo is the 100th anniversary of the Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), which was held in San Francisco.  Three speakers will cover different aspects of the exposition:  Laura Ackley, a well known expert on the PPIE, will talk about the people who made the event happen; Mike Phipps and Don Holmgren, directors of the Cable Car Museum, will unveil the story of the cable car designated specifically to convey people to and from the PPIE; and John William Templeton will explore the life of Wesley Johnson, a notable black American who came to San Francisco in 1915 for the PPIE.  These presentations, along with films and other talks, will be held on the vault floor at the Mint.

Living history re-enactors in period costumes will circulate throughout the expo and mingle with visitors, giving impromptu performances of well known individuals from San Francisco's Gold Rush and Barbary Coast eras.  (I've heard rumors that Emperor Norton will again grace us with his presence.)  New this year will be singers from the San Francisco National Maritime Historical Park, who will regale the crowds with sea shanties (songs) about San Francisco from the time when it was an infamous port city.

The genealogy groups participating will again be the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California, California Genealogical Society, San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, SFGenealogy, and Sutro Library (the genealogy branch of the California State Library).  AAGSNC, CGS, and SFBAJGS will be in the same room as last year, but SFGenealogy and Sutro may be in other locations.  Come talk to us about your family, and we'll do our best to give you tips to help with your research.

The Expo will be held on Saturday and Sunday, February 28 and March 1, at the Old Mint, 88 Fifth Street, San Francisco.  (Powell Street is the nearest BART station.)  Hours are 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Saturday and 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Sunday.  The admission fee is $5.00, children under 12 are free, and no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

For more information about the Expo, and to see the list of exhibitors and the presentation schedule, visit or call (415) 537-1105 x100.

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, February 2, 2015

Family Discoveries: Franklin P. Sellers

The Jeffersonian
(Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania),
December 19, 1850, page 2
When I posted recently about my second-great-grandfather Cornelius Godshalk Sellers, I mentioned that I had found his father's name, Franklin Sellers, several times on a blog about Warren County, New Jersey, in the Civil War.  Most of the posts about Franklin were related to the newspaper he published, the Belvidere Intelligencer.  He was very pro-Union and invited Belvidere soldiers to write to him at about their experiences, and he would publish their letters in the newspaper.  He seems to have held true to his word, because I found several examples on the site.  He apparently was having a feud with John Simerson, the publisher of the Warren Journal, so his solicitation of letters from soldiers may not have been entirely patriotic, as publishing the letters was sure to help circulation.

Also mentioned in three of the transcribed newspaper articles was Franklin's stepson, William (or maybe John) Mathews.  I already was pretty sure my third-great-grandmother had been married previously, because the record of her marriage to Franklin Sellers called her "Mrs. Rachel Mathews", but this was the first time I had found information that she had children from the earlier marriage.  I'm currently on the hunt for documents about William, but in a timely coincidence, soon after I read that he was present when Colonel Elmer Ellsworth was shot and killed while taking down a Confederate flag in Washington, D.C., Antiques Roadshow aired a segment in the first episode of the new season with someone who brought in a piece of that very flag.  I got goosebumps watching it!

Through the Chronicling America newspaper directory, I have found the names of more newspapers for which Franklin was the publisher.  The Public's Advocate and Literary & Humorous Journal (now how's that for a name?) was published in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, beginning in 1838.  Olive Branch, under several name variations, was also published in Doylestown, from 1842 to about 1853; Franklin was the editor in 1851.  From sometime between 1850–1853 to 1857, Olive Branch came from Norristown, Pennsylvania.  Concurrent with that, The People's Beacon and Independent Weekly Record appeared in Lambertville, New Jersey, from 1853–1858.  And then there was the Belvidere Intelligencer, which Franklin ran from 1861 until his death in 1863.  (What was he doing between 1858 and 1861?)  I know newspapers from that period are hard to come by, but boy I would love to have a copy of at least one newspaper which he published.

Franklin's name shows up a few times in histories of Doylestown and Bucks County.  The stories say that he started Olive Branch, which was a temperance newspaper, because he himself had previously had troubles with alcohol.  (I'm sure many people will find it amusing that I have an ancestor who was involved in the temperance movement.)  But one history of Doylestown said it was a "very spicy paper", so I guess he wasn't stodgy!

If all of that weren't enough to demonstrate that Franklin was a newspaperman through and through, every document I received from the New Jersey State Archives relating to him was a receipt for payment for publishing advertising, announcements, and more for the Union cause.  Maybe I can claim I got part of my interest in editing and publishing from him?

I now have a mystery about Franklin, though.  My previous research had indicated his middle name was Peter.  According to the transcribed articles on the Warren County Civil War blog, however, he called himself Franklin Pierce Sellers in his newspaper.  Jay Richards, the author of the blog, suggested that Franklin might have renamed himself to sound more "presidential."  I will, of course, be adding the middle name question to my (long) list of research items . . . .