Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Survey of Genealogy Activities

This week's challenge for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun sounds similar to the one Randy Seaver posted on May 21 of this year, but this time he has given specific questions and made the exercise less open-ended, which actually makes it easier in a lot of ways.  But it's a lot longer!

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible music, please!):

Answer these questions in my survey about your genealogy resources and usage:

a)  Which genealogy software programs for your computer do you use (e.g., Family Tree Maker, Reunion, GRAMPS, etc.)?

b)  Which online family trees have information submitted by you, in either a separate online tree (e.g., Ancestry Member Tree) or a universal (collaborative) online tree (e.g., WikiTree)?

c)  For which subscription genealogy record providers (e.g., Ancestry) do you have a subscription?

d)  Which FREE genealogy record providers (e.g., FamilySearch) do you use regularly?

e)  How much time do you spend each week doing actual genealogy research online?  [Note:  not reading, or social networking, but actual searching in a record provider.]  Estimate an average number of hours per week.

f)  How much time do you spend each week doing actual genealogy research in a repository (e.g., library, archive, courthouse, etc.)?  Estimate an average number of hours per month over, say, a one-year period.

g)  How much time do you spend each week adding information to your genealogy software program (either on your computer or online)?  Estimate an average number of hours per week over, say, a one-month period.

h)  How much time do you spend each month at a genealogical society meeting, program, or event (not a seminar or conference)?  Estimate an average number of hours per month over, say, a one-year period.

i)  How much time do you spend each month on genealogy education (e.g., reading books and periodicals, attending seminars, conferences, workshops, Webinars, etc.)?   Estimate an average number of hours per month over, say, a one-year period.

j)  How much time do you spend each week reading, writing, and commenting on genealogy blogs, Web sites, and social media?   Estimate an average number of hours per week over, say, a one-month period.

2)    Answer the questions in a blog post of your own (and please drop a link as a comment in this post), in a comment to this post, or in a Google+ or Facebook post.

Here's my breakdown:

(a) The only genealogy software program I use regularly for my own family tree information is Family Tree Maker, v. 16.  I also have:

Reunion 9
Mac Family Tree
Legacy Family Tree
Personal Ancestry Writer
Roots Magic
• and I think one or two more

I keep the other programs handy to be able to open other people's files if necessary.

(b) I have submitted no information to any online family tree anywhere.  I have a page with the names I am researching on my own Web site.  I have also discovered that a distant relative of my brother-in-law has entered my mother's information on

(c) I have a paid subscription to, because it's the only way I have found to have access to the British newspaper collection.  I still think the interface sucks.

(d) My definition of a free genealogy record provider includes those databases I can use for free at my local Family History Center (technically, FamilySearch Library), in Oakland, California.  These are the sites I use regularly.

• Chronicling America
• (another site with great material but an awful interface)
• FindAGrave
• USGenWeb
• FreeBMD
• RootsWeb
• Google
• Wikipedia
• Newspaper Archive
• 19th Century British Newspapers
• ProQuest Obituaries
• GenealogyBank
• VitalSearch

(e) Online genealogy research each week averages about 15 hours.

(f) Repository research each averages about 3 hours.

(g) I don't spend a lot of time adding information to my own family tree program.  It's probably only about 2–3 hours each week.

(h) Genealogy society meetings and events run about 15 hours every month.

(i) Genealogy education takes about 15 hours of my times every month, once I take into account conferences and seminars.

(j) Reading, writing, and commenting on genealogy blogs, sites, and social media runs about 20 hours each week.

Yikes!  My weekly total is about 70 hours each week that are devoted to genealogy.   That sounds about right, but I hadn't realized it was so high.  This year is probably running a little higher than average due to the number of conferences and seminars on my schedule (SLIG, San Francisco History Days, Sacramento African American Family History Seminar, CSGA [twice!], Jamboree, Ancestry Day, Civil War Teachers Institute, IAJGS, IBGS, and the Contra Costa County Genealogical Society's John Colletta seminar).  And this total didn't even include volunteer work!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Two of Jean La Forêt's Letters Go around the World

We're going to take a step back in time — otherwise known as I just discovered that I have earlier documents relating to Jean La Forêt that were hiding in the folder, probably because they're smaller items.  So I have rearranged everything in what I hope is now chronological order again.

These are two empty envelopes that are covered with postmarks on front and back.  I cannot read them all clearly, so I'm not sure I can trace the complete path of either envelope.

The first envelope is dirty white and is 5 1/4" x 4".  The original postmark seems to be June 23, 1906, when Jean mailed it from Cavite, Philippines.  His return address at the time was Headquarters, First Brigade, USMC, Depot Quartermaster's Office, Cavite.  The envelope was addressed to Mrs. and Mr. Edward Briam, General Delivery, Post Office, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.  The cost of postage was 2c.

The second envelope is a muddy buff and measures 5 7/8" x 3 1/2".  It was originally mailed on August 20, 1906, from the same address.  This envelope was addressed to Monsieur Edouard Briam, Poste Restante, Lyon, (Rhone), France. Europe.  Postage for this letter cost 5c.

Trying to follow the travels of the first letter, it has a second postmark on the front from December in Manila.  It indicates it was forwarded to Paris, France at some point.  It also has "Retour a l'envoyeur par" (Return to Sender), "ret Cavite", "Returned to Writer", and "From Dead Letter Bureau / Manila P. I."  At the top, in red, "Mare Island Cal." is written and the original return address in Cavite has been crossed through.

On the back I can read one on the 20th of an unreadable month in 1906, probably in Cavite; July 1906 somewhere; July 28, 1906, San Francisco, California; July 30, 1906, San Francisco; October 20, 1906, Dead Letter Office, F. D. U.S.A.; December 13(?), 1906 in another Dead Letter Office; December 19, 1906, Cavite; December 25, 1906, Cavite; December 25, 1906, Manila; February 7, 1907 in (I think) Vallejo, California; and a stamp in the middle that has "NON RECLAMÉ" (unclaimed).

So my best guess is that after Jean mailed this letter from Cavite to Edward Briam in San Francisco on June 23, 1906, it transited another post office in July, then arrived in San Francisco at the General Delivery office on July 28.  From there it acquired another San Francisco postmark on July 30, perhaps on its way out of the city to the forwarded address in Paris.  It was not claimed there by Briam.  On October 20 it was postmarked in a Dead Letter Office in the United States, then went to a second Dead Letter Office, which sent it out on December 13.  This is probably when it wended its way back to the Philippines.  It was postmarked in Cavite once on December 19 and then again on December 25, which I think came before the December 25 postmark in Manila.  The Manila postmark on the back has "1130 A", as does the second postmark on the front, although I don't understand why it needed to be franked on both sides.  The final postmark, February 7, 1907, would seem to be when the poor letter finally made its way back to Jean, who had transferred to Mare Island from Cavite.  This also matches the information from Jean's journal, where he wrote that he was in Mare Island from November 1906 to December 1907.

Sometime between when Jean wrote the first letter in June and the second letter in August, he apparently learned that Mr. Briam had moved from San Francisco, and so the second letter was mailed to France.  It has a second postmark on the front, January 7, presumably 1907, from Manila.  It also has markings of "OVER", "Returned to Writer",  "From Dead Letter Bureau / Manila P. I.", "Retour a l'Envoyeur" twice, and "Mare Island Cal."

The back has Jean's return address in Cavite at the top and bottom, which has been crossed through in both places and "Mare Island Cal." written beneath it.  Above the address is something in pencil.  I can read "100" and a word after it that starts with a "G", but the rest is very light.  It kind of looks like Guam, but that doesn't make sense.  The postmarks are August 20, 1906, Manila; August (probably) 22, 1906, Rhone; November 20, 1906, Dead Letter Office, F. D. U.S.A.; January 4, 1907, Dead Letter Office, Manila; January 8, 1907, Cavite; January 9, 1907, Cavite; January 9, 1907, Manila; and another "NON RECLAMÉ" stamp in the middle.

This letter didn't have as many postmarks because it didn't take a detour through San Francisco before it went to France.  Otherwise its travels were similar to the first letter's.  Jean mailed it on August 20, 1906 to his friend, whom he thought was in Lyon, France.  It went through Manila on the same day, then arrived in a Rhone post office on August 22.  As with the first letter, it was not claimed.  It went to a U.S. Dead Letter office, which postmarked it on November 20.  From there it traveled back to the Philippines, where it was received January 4, 1907.  It went back to Cavite on January 8, was sent back to Manila on January 9, and probably that same day was routed to Jean in Mare Island, although this envelope does not have a postmark indicating when it was received in California.

Even more impressive than these letters' international travels, at least in my mind, is the fact that Jean kept the envelopes.  Both envelopes are empty, so the letters themselves might have eventually made it to Edward Briam.  But why did Jean consider the empty envelopes important enough to keep?  He not only kept them, he had them in their own envelope:

This envelope is off-white and measures 6" x 4".  I realize the handwriting didn't scan well, because the words are written in blue pencil:  "Briam letters around the world."  Maybe Jean and Mr. Briam laughed about the letters following Jean back to California.

Briam is not mentioned anywhere in Jean's journal:  no stories about him, not included in the birthday list, no address or other notes about him.  How could Briam be so important that Jean kept these envelopes, yet this is the only memento of him?

An interesting side note that occurred to me is that Jean mailed the first letter in June 1906, only two months after the earthquake and fire in San Francisco.  I wonder if the quake is the reason Mr. Briam was no longer living in San Francisco?

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Declaration of Intention — from Cuba

I have written before about the research I am doing on my Cuban cousins, the branch of my family that immigrated to Cuba from Eastern Europe before coming to the United States.  My presentation at the recent IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy was about my research.

Besides learning more about my cousins and adding to that part of my family tree, one of the goals I had set for myself was to obtain actual documents from Cuba about my relatives.  That turned out to be a much more difficult process than I had imagined, but so far I have two birth certificates, one marriage certificate, and something that seems to be the equivalent of a U.S. Declaration of Intention, the first step to naturalization.  This gave me some wonderful information about Max's life.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --


Arianne Martinez Remedios, Registrar, State of San Miguel del Padrón.

I certify that I saw Book 12, Page 75[?], of the Citizenship Section of Civil Registration; the record appears which is copied verbatim here and which states:


In San Miguel del Padrón, Havana province, at 3:00 p.m., on September 10, 1937, before His Honor Luis de la Paz Cervera, Municipal Judge, Head of Civil Registration, and Manuel de Lazaro Sixto, Secretary, appeares Morduche Szocherman, native of Polesie, Poland, 25 years old, single, businessman and resident of this neighborhood, First and Gabriel, Rosalia Division.  Verified his appearance asking to register in the Civil Registration his reununciation of Polish nationality and sworn intention of becoming a Cuban citizen, as described in the sixth article, fifth subsection, second heading of the Constitutional Law of this Republic, and under oath declares that he was born in Polesie, Poland on January 6, 1912, being legally recorded at that time as the legitimate son of Chaniania and Reyzel, of the same nationality and residents of Poland.  That he is single and has no children.  That he does not provide a birth certificate because he does not currently have it, but in accord with Presidential Directive 1859 of the year 1908 has written to the archive where it is located with the approximate dates.  That he arrived in Cuba on the steamship Orbita on December 24, 1932 and since that date has resided in the Republic with no interruption.  That he formally renounces his Polish citizenship and swears to his intention of becoming a Cuban citizen, to observe and comply with the Constitutional Law of this Republic, the laws that govern and governed the same.  Witnessing this information and this act are Marcos Torriente Torriente, native of Pedro Betancourt, Matanzas, married, and Ismael Hernández Torriente, native of Matanzas, single, both of legal age, employed and residents of 11 Rastro, Havana, which they swear to under oath and being warned of the penalties with which the Law punishes the crimes of perjury, swear it is correct.  His Honor the Judge, by merit of the oath and the information received from the witnesses, has accepted the renunciation of Polish citizenship and sworn intention to become a Cuban citizen from Morduche Szocherman.  Read and found to conform to the present act, sealed and signed by the petitioner and the witnesses after His Honor the Judge, who certifies.

Appears the legible signature of His Honor the Judge, the petitioner and witnesses, and stamp.

At the request of the interested party, this is issued on April 12, 2016.

Arianne Martinez Remedios
Civil Registrar

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

This has given me a lot of material to work with.  I knew Max's parents' names already, but I now have a birth date (which I may never be able to verify), his date of arrival in Cuba, the ship he traveled on, even which Havana neighborhood he was living in.  He must have known the witnesses; maybe they worked with or for him.  Plenty of new leads to follow!

I am disappointed, of course, that this is a typed transcription of the original and not a copy, but that's the way they do business in Cuba.  I'm still not sure whether they even have photocopiers there.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Jean La Forêt Receives a Letter after the War

This is a letter written on a lightweight bluish-yellowish 9" x 6" piece of paper.  The paper has a visible weave but no watermark.  It has a hard fold down the middle lengthwise and was also folded again, probably to fit into the envelope it was in when I received it and which appears to be the envelope in which it was mailed.  A letter was written on the paper based on the hard fold, so the pages of the letter are 4, 1, 2, 3 as the images appear here.  I will transcribe and translate the letter in numerical order, though.  The writing, in black ink, is clear and easy to read.  Jean wrote in pencil on the first page when he responded.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

[page 1]

Saint-Eugène, le 25 Juin 1919

Answ'd 7-17-19 [in pencil]

Mon Cher Ami,

L'Allemagne vaincue accepte les conditions de paix des alliés.  Cette nouvelle nous a été annoncée hier soir par une salve de nos corps de canons.  Aujourd'hui Alger est en fête, les écoles sont licenciées.  C'est la fin de la guerre.

Dans ce moment de joie ma première pensée va vers vous, vers ce brave Monsieur La Forêt qui m'avez toujours encouragé et soutenu dans les

[page 2]

mauvais jours.  Maintenant c'est la fin de ce long cauchemar.

Vive la France, vivent les alliés, vive l'Amérique qui a si puissemment contribué à la victoire.

Ne m'en voulez pas trop, mon cher ami, de mon silence si prolonge, je voulait attendre la paix avant de vous écrire — vous m'aviez écrit après l'armistice et cette paix a été si longue à venir.  Mais ne croyez pas, parce que je suis négligent et paresseux, que je me pense pas souvent à vous.  Détrompez-vous.  Comment pourrais-je oublier

[page 3]

les bons moments que nous avons passés ensemble?  Comment pourrais-je oublier toutes vos gentillesses et vos bontés pour moi et pour ma famille.  Avec ma femme, nous parlons souvent de vous, de Mme La Forêt et de Rosita, qui doit grandir à vue d'oeil.  Vous devez vous trouver heureux d'être en famille.

Les vacances sont fixées le juillet et le 11, nous prendrons le bateau — toujours la Marsa — pour la France.  Maintenant qu'il n'y a plus de sous-marins

[page 4]

on peut voyager sans crainte[.]  Voilà sans que nous n'avons été au pays, il nous tarde d'aller embrasser les vieux parents et d'aller respirer un peu l'air des Pyrénées.  Ma femma surtout en a bien besoin.

Que faites-vous dans votre bled?  Comment passez-vous votre temps?  Croyez-vous toujours être chargé d'une mission en Europe?  Aurais-je le plaisir de vous revoir un jour et de trinquer ensemble?  Qui sait?

M. Dominique Amygues, Ben Geretta et bien d'autres me chargent de vous dire bien des choses.  Présentez de la[?] part, de ma femme et de Marie-Louise les meilleures amitiés à Mme La Forêt; et vous recevez une cordiale poignée de main de votre ami


Embrassez bien fort Rosita pour nous.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Saint Eugene, June 25, 1919

My Dear Friend,

Conquered Germany accepts the Allies' peace terms.  This news was announced to us last night by a salvo of gunshots from our unit.  Today Algiers is celebrating, the schools are closed.  It is the end of the war.

In this moment of joy my first thought was about you, about brave Mr. La Forêt who always encouraged me and supported me during the bad times.  Now it is the end of this long nightmare.

Long live France, long live the Allies, long live America, which has contributed so powerfully to the victory.

Do not blame me too much, my dear friend, for my prolonged silence, I wanted to wait for peace before writing to you — you wrote to me after the armistice, and this peace has been so long in coming.  But do not think, because I am negligent and lazy, that I do not often think of you.  Think again.  How could I forget the good times we had together?  How could I forget all your kindness and your generosity toward me and my family.  My wife and I speak often of you, of Mrs. La Forêt, and of Rosita, who must be growing up before your eyes.  You must be happy to be with family.

The holidays are set for July, and on the 11th we will leave on the ship — again the Marsa — for France.  Now that there are no more submarines we can travel without fear.  Since we have not been home, we look forward to kissing our elderly parents and to breathing the air of the Pyrenees.  My wife especially needs it.

What do you do in your little town?  How do you pass your time?  Do you think you will still have an assignment in Europe?  Will I have the pleasure of seeing you again and of raising a toast together?  Who knows?

Mr. Dominique Amygues, Ben Geretta, and many others asked me to pass on their good wishes.  All the best from me, my wife, and Marie-Louise to Mrs. La Forêt; and a warm handshake to you from your friend


Give Rosita a big kiss from us.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

I realize this is not on the level of the armistice, but I think it's pretty cool to have a letter celebrating Germany's acceptance of the peace terms.  It was an important historic event, after all.  And schools in Algiers closed for the day to celebrate!

The Saint-Eugène from which Mr. Ortety was writing is a neighborhood of Algiers and is now called Bologhine.

Whoever Mr. Ortety was, he appears to have been a good friend of Jean's while the latter was in Algiers.  Jean helped cheer him up.  The two families used to get together; both men's daughters are mentioned.  I notice he didn't use either wife's given name, but I guess that was just the conventions of the time.  Of course, I have no idea if Ortety was a given name or surname, though my guess is surname.  I notice that two of the friends had their full names given.  I tried searching for them on Google, but no results.

The French word that Ortety used for the little town where Jean lived was not a complimentary one.  Two of the translations are "boondocks" and "one-horse place."  Jean must have told him about Overland when he wrote after the armistice.

I tried looking for the Marsa that Ortety and family would have taken back to France.  Maybe it was the one on this page.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

The envelope is 4 3/4" x 3 1/4", and the exterior is made from the same type of paper as the letter.  The envelope is lined with a purple paper on the front and the envelope flap.  It has a 25 centime stamp from France (République Française) and three postmarks.  There are three notes written by Jean over the mailing address.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --


Monsieur La Forêt
Overland, Mo.,
(St. Louis Co., Missouri).
U. S. of américa
P. O. B.ox 169

Notes written by Jean, from left to right:

Rec'd 7-16-19
Answ'd 7-17-19
Ortet (in very large letters), although the letter was signed Ortety


One postmark is over the stamp, and I cannot read it over the dark blue of the stamp.

Moving right, the second postmark has "1040 / 25 –6 / 19" in the center, indicating (probably) 10:40 a.m., June 25, 1919, which date matches that on the letter.  The bottom of the circular writing appears to be "R DE STRASBOURG", which likely means "rue de Strasbourg", the street in Algiers on which the post office was situated.  Several letters in the top of the circle are not clear, but the part to the right might say "ALGER", which is Algiers in French.

The third postmark has "5 PM / JUN 30 / 1919' in the center and "U. S. ARMY M. P. E. S. 702" around the circle.  MPES stands for "Military Postal Express Service", so the letter took four days to clear the U.S. Army, which apparently was processing mail for the French?  The number 702 appears to be the APO (Army Post Office).  A quick search online did not give a clear answer where that was, but it seems to have been in France.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Baby Boomers Recognition Day

I just learned about Baby Boomers Recognition Day, which was today, August 17.  Based on the information on the Web site, it appears to be primarily an excuse to go to rock concerts and hang out with friends.  In my family, all four children of my father are Baby Boomers — born in 1957, 1962, 1963, and 1964 — so even my younger sister is a Boomer, having been born the last official year of the boom.  So I'm celebrating today as Sellers Children Recognition Day!

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Saturday Night (delayed) Genealogy Fun: Male Ancestors' Ages at Death

A week ago, Randy Seaver asked everyone to work out the lifespans of their male ancestors for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, which was a natural follow-up to the one from the week before that, when he asked people to figure out the lifespans of their female ancestors.  I was out of town when the quest for male ancestors took place and did not have access to my family tree database, but I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise, so I'm coming in really late with it.

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible music, please!):

1) Review your pedigree chart (either on paper or in your genealogy management software program) and determine the age at death of your male ancestors back at least five generations (and more if you want to).

2)  Tell us the lifespan in years for each of these ancestors.  Which of your male ancestors in this group lived the longest?  Which lived the shortest?  

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

These are my male ancestors for whom I have at least approximate birth and death years in my family tree program:

• Bertram Lynn Sellers, Jr., 1935– (still alive!), 80 years and counting

• Bertram Lynn Sellers, Sr., 1903–1995, 91 years
• Abraham Meckler, 1912–1989, 77 years

• Joe Gordon, about 1892–1955, about 63 years
• Thomas Kirkland Gauntt, 1870–1951, 80 years
• Moishe Meckler, about 1882–1953, about 71 years

• Joel Armstrong, 1849–about 1921, about 72 years
• Mendel Hertz Brainin, about 1861–1930, about 69 years
• Frederick Cleworth Dunstan, 1840–1873, 33 years
• James Gauntt, about 1831–1889, about 57 years
• Victor Gordon, about 1866–1925, about 59 years
• Gershon Itzhak Nowicki, about 1858–1948, about 90 years

• Franklin Armstrong, about 1825–after 1869, about 45 years
• Richard Dunstan, about 1813–after 1860, about 47 years
• Hananiah Selah Gaunt, 1795–1852, 57 years
• Abel A. Lippincott, 1825–after 1884, about 60 years
• Ruven Yelsky, about 1838–about 1898, about 60 years

• Joel Armstrong, about 1798–1854, about 56 years
• Hananiah Gaunt, 1762–about 1799, about 37 years

• Joseph Gaunt, 1740–1806, 66 years
• Moses Mulliner, 1741–1821, 81 years

That's everyone I have entered in my database.  As with the female ancestors, I have more names and dates for the Gauntt lines (and maybe some for the Dunstans), but they are not in the database yet.  But I apparently have more of my forefathers entered than I do foremothers, or at least I know more dates for them.

The longest lived I know about in those seven generations was my paternal grandfather, Bertram Lynn Sellers, Sr., partner of Anna (Gauntt) Stradling, who lived to be 91 years old (two and a half months shy of 92).  The shortest life was my great-great-grandfather Thomas Cleworth Dunstan, husband of Martha (Winn) Dunstan, who lived to be only 33 years old.

The average age for these 21 men (about two thirds of Randy's total) is a little more than 70 years.  (Again, I used to have more, until I proved that Elmer was my grandfather's adoptive father.)  The averages for each generation are:
• Father:  80 years
• Grandfathers:  84 years
• Great-grandfathers:  71 years
• Great-great-grandfathers: 63 years
• 3x-great-grandfathers:  54 years
• 4x-great-grandfathers:  47 years
• 5x-great-grandfathers:  74 years

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: How Many Autosomal DNA Matches Do You Have?

I was out of town last week and missed Saturday Night Genealogy Fun because I didn't have my family tree database with me, but I'm back now!  That's a good thing, because to look up the information for this week's project from Randy Seaver I needed the logins that are on my home computer.

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible music, please!):

1) Have you had you autosomal DNA tested by a genetics company?  Which companies?

2)  How many autosomal DNA matches do you have at each company, by approximate relationship?

3)  Tell us about them in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook or Google+.  Please add a comment to this post so folks can find your information.

I have had automsomal DNA tests done through AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, and Genes for Good.  I have uploaded my raw data to

Here is my match information.


• One 1st cousin (actually a known aunt)
• One 2nd cousin (actually a known 1st cousin)
• Three 3rd cousins (one of whom is a known 2nd cousin once removed)
• 327 4th cousins

Family Tree DNA

• One parent (my father)
• One aunt/uncle (an aunt, different from the one on Ancestry)
• One 2nd to 3rd cousin (the same 2nd cousin once removed who is also on Ancestry)
• Forty-three 2nd to 4th cousins
• 506 3rd to 5th cousins
• 1,088 4th to remote cousins
• 2,589 5th to remote cousins


• 25 with fewer than 4 generations (among these matches are the 2nd cousin once removed, the 1st cousin from AncestryDNA, and the aunt who tested through FTDNA, along with a couple of other cousins whose names I recognize)
• 748 with 4.0 to 4.4 generations
• 1,227 with 4.5 to 4.9 generations

Genes for Good allows you to download your raw data, but so far it can't be uploaded anywhere else.

I know that an important reason I have so many matches is the endogamy common among Ashkenazi Jews.  I will probably never determine the connection I have with anyone past 3rd cousin, and if I figure out any of the 3rd cousins I'll be doing well.

Going through this has been helpful in a few ways.  First, I realized I have not transferred the raw data of my aunt who tested through AncestryDNA to FTDNA.  I also have not transferred her data nor that of my father to GEDMatch.  These are both necessary steps to take, as I am trying to determine the biological father of my paternal grandfather.

Second, while looking through the lists on the different sites, I recognized several of the names who appeared as new matches.  I need to check those out further.

Third, I noticed some names were on all three sites, which means we should be able to compare our information more effectively.  And that means I need to get back to doing more work with my DNA results!

And last but not least, I finally found something where my numbers are higher than Randy's!

IAJGS 2016 — Conference Wrap-up and Looking Ahead

How time flies!  It's hard to believe, but the IAJGS 2016 International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is already over.  The second half of the conference had several useful sessions, plus we had not one, but two days of ProQuest databases (but more on that later).

Wednesday was a good day for some socializing.  One of the sessions I attended was the Professional Jewish Genealogists Birds of a Feather meeting.  The professional genealogists at the conference try to get together to talk about what’s going on in our field, how we can help each other, and things along those lines. About a dozen people came, and we had some productive discussions.  Then for lunch, three of us at the conference who have participated in the ProGen Study Group (Susan Kaplan, Janice Lovelace, and me) actually went out of the hotel (!) and had lunch together, in a real restaurant, no less.   It was an enjoyable break.

From the regular sessions I went to, I was surprised that the one I found most informative was on  I’ve been to one of the talks before (a thinly veiled sales pitch), but I always want to keep up-to-date on what’s happening with digitized newspapers.  I learned that for its new digitization efforts Ancestry has partnered with ProQuest, and this time it’s better for the newspaper publishers than in previous times.  Publishers actually get a copy of the digitized papers, which apparently didn’t always happen before.  I remember the sad experience I had trying to find the Poughkeepsie Journal online after it was dropped from Fold3.  It was digitized by ProQuest, and when the online agreement expired, the Journal didn’t even have a copy of the images of its own paper.  With the new agreements that apparently shouldn’t happen to other publishers.

Wednesday was also ProQuest database day in the resource room, which I always look forward to.  For several years the conference has been able to arrange access to many ProQuest databases for attendees.  Along with about 40 historical newspaper databases, some of which I had not seen at previous conferences — Austin American Statesman, Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, South China Morning Post — there was a database I hadn't heard of before, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  I had a field day!  I found files and reports about Jewish, Japanese, Chinese, and Sikh immigration into Ellis Island, oral interviews from 185 people who had immigrated through Ellis Island or worked there, even a series on INS investigations into prostitution and white slavery.

Thursday morning started far too early for my taste.  Because my talk was at 7:30, which I wasn’t happy about to begin with, Emily Garber organized a bloggers breakfast for 6:30(!).  I actually managed to get there early, which meant I had time for a nice cup of Earl Grey before everyone else arrived, and I was almost awake.  It’s nice to see people in person with whom you normally interact only in cyberspace, so it was worthwhile to be there.

I had been joking all conference that I was expecting about five people to show up for my 7:30 talk about the research I have done on my Cuban cousins.  I admit, it's a pretty narrow topic.  I was so happy to see thirteen people there!  My talk went well, although I finished sooner than I had expected, for which I apologized.  There were several questions afterward, though, and everyone seemed to enjoy it, so I think it was successful.

After my talk I was finally awake enough to notice that there were signs around saying that we had an additional day of ProQuest database access.  Yippee!  I was able to download the remaining oral interviews I hadn't had time for on Wednesday, plus find some additional newspaper articles.  ProQuest has never given us an extra day before, so this was a great treat.

Judy Russell’s presentation about being an ethical genealogist was straightforward:  Her three rules are tell the truth, play nice with others, and don’t tell tales out of school.   If you keep those in mind when you’re doing your research, sharing information with others, and posting family info online, everything should pretty much be fine.  That seems like a good approach for genealogy to me!

One big negative on Thursday was the session that was really nothing more than a sales pitch for research services.  The substantive information was easily shared in less than two minutes; everything else after that was the pitch (in a 75-minute session).  Someone not at the conference suggested to me that maybe what we need are to have some presentations clearly labeled as “vendor sessions.”

Friday morning, the last day of the conference, is always a mixed bag.  Many attendees leave the conference early, and sessions tend to be small.  I’m sure it’s difficult to decide what to schedule for those conditions.  A talk about proving the Jewish ancestry of a Catholic family was short on documentation (as in, none was shown) and lasted only 25 minutes.  Judy Russell spoke about some situations in which DNA has been used successfully when documentation did not exist.  And in the last time slot of the day, Michael Strauss gave an interesting presentation on the life and family of Levi Strauss (who is no relation, as he pointed out).  And then everyone began saying their good-byes and drifting away as they headed home.

I caught the end of one additional session on Friday, where two of the organizers of the IAJGS 2017 conference were seeking input on what attendees liked and didn't like this year and what they would like to see next year.  I heard some people say they have already decided they don’t plan to attend next year’s conference, which will take place July 23–28 in Orlando, Florida, the first time the conference will be held in the South.  While I agree that Florida in July is not exactly my idea of perfect weather conditions, I do hope to be at the conference.  Some research areas the organizers plan to emphasize are Jewish life in the South and in Colonial America.  Now I have an incentive to push myself to prove that the Daniel Joseph I have been researching in 1760’s Virginia is indeed the brother of Israel Joseph, a big macher in the Jewish community of Charleston, South Carolina.  I better get back to work on that research!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Jean La Forêt Receives a Postcard

This is a postcard 5 1/2" x 3 1/2" in size.  The paper is a muted green on both sides.  It is a little worn but is in pretty good shape.  Both sides have some preprinted text and handwritten parts.  It has a 10 centime stamp from France (République Française) and is dated May 29, [19]18.  The postmark says Pl. Victor Hugo, but I can't read the city.  I suspect it is Paris, however, as the message side of the card has "(XVIe)" for the 16th Arondissement, the location of Place Victor Hugo in Paris.

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Address side:

République Française


Ce côté est exclusivement réservé à l'addresse

Monsieur LaForêt .                      

              Via Consul d'Amérique .

              30 bd Carnot .                

                                    Alger .     

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Message side:

107 Rue de la Pompe (XVIe)

My dear Mr. La Forêt .

I have found my father in a very critical condition and there is very little hope of his recovery, so I can make no plan at present for the future.

You should notify Oran of the day you took charge in order that consular agent can adjust his accounts.

With best wishes to yourself and Middour [?]

Cordially yours

Dionn [?] M Mason

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Translation of address side of postcard:

French Republic


This side reserved exclusively for address

Mr. LaForêt .                              

               Via American Consul .

            30 Boulevard Carnot .     

                                   Algiers .    

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This seems to be from someone associated with Jean La Forêt's position as Vice Consul, as he gives Jean instructions to communicate with the consular agent about when Jean took charge.  A few embassies are in the area of 107, rue de la Pompe today, so maybe this was where the American embassy was in 1918.

This document on the Algerian U.S. embassy site says that from 1913–1925 the Consulate was located "in a seafront building behind the main Post Office at 30, boulevard Carnot."  Boulevard Carnot in Algiers is now Avenue Taleb Messaoud, according to Google Maps.  Oran most likely refers to the city in Algeria.  But why is the consular agent in Oran if the Consul is in Algiers?  Was the embassy in Oran?

The bulk of the note, however, is about this man's father, whom Jean appears to know.  The father's name is not given, and the name of the writer is difficult to read ("Dionn" was the best I could do, but I don't really think it's correct), so I can't do much to figure out who either man was.  I also don't know who "Middour" was (which I suspect is also misspelled).

Overall, this postcard leaves me with more questions than answers!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy 2016 — Already Halfway Done!

I'm attending the IAJGS Jewish genealogy conference in beautiful Seattle, and it has certainly been an interesting three days.  The highlight of Sunday's presentations was, by far, the keynote address by Dr. Devin Naar, "Sephardic Family History as Jewish Family History."  He talked about how he became interested in family history when he was young and began serious research when someone sent him information about another family named Naar, wondering if they were related.  He traced the other family backward from New Jersey to the Caribbean, Netherlands, and eventually Portugal and Spain.  He has learned much more concrete information about the other Naar family than his own, unfortunately.  Though it is almost definite that his Greek Naar family came from Spain and is probably connected, he can't trace his family out of Greece, primarily due to a lack of records.  He integrated the stories of both families into the broader scope of world history, explaining events that affected them.  He even clearly explained the difference between Ladino and Spanish, which I have been wondering about for a while.  The fact that he is still stuck on his own family made his journey that much more realistic, because everything wasn't all wrapped up in a neat, pretty package at the end.  And he was an energetic, enthusiastic speaker.  I suspect his students at the University of Washington enjoy his classes a lot.

The most memorable line of his talk, however, wasn't actually about his research.  It was a translation of a Ladino saying:  the "relative of the heel." This is someone who is probably related to you, but you don't quite know what the relationship is, or he might be a distant relation, or perhaps an in-law of an in-law, or might really just be an old, old friend of the family with no blood connection at all.  It reminded me of Jeremy Frankel (the president of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society) and the "tenuously, absurdly distant" cousins he writes to, hoping that they have a photo or some snippet of information about the family.

On Monday I tended to a fair bit of business.  I went to a media lunch talk with the IAJGS president and other bloggers, a "birds of a feather" meeting for volunteers working with the JewishGen Yizkor Book Project, and the JGS Webmaster roundtable (standing in for the SFBAJGS Webmaster, who was not able to attend the conference).  But I was able to make time to see the documentary Havana Nagila:  The Jews of Cuba, which I really thought I should squeeze in, seeing as how my talk at this conference is about the research I did on my Cuban Jewish cousins.  It was an interesting movie, especially because it's more than 20 years old at this point.  I even recognized some of the people and locations from my visit to Havana last July.

Tuesday brought more variety to my schedule.  Two sessions I attended were all about research, in Australia and New Zealand (by Robyn Dryen, she of the oh-so-dry sense of humor) and in the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC, or "the Joint") archives.  My cousin's mother was from Australia, and I still want to hunt down some information on that branch.  And the Joint assisted so many people, I'm convinced I have to be able to find something on someone in my family.

Tuesday was also when I had consultations with representatives from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem, who brought laptops with specialized databases not available online.  Now that I know the names of more of my relatives who perished in the Holocaust, I was hoping to find documents about them.  There might be something in the ITS holdings for Maishe Eli Szocherman, who died in Auschwitz, but none of the other names appeared in any of the databases.  This means I have several names for which I need to submit Pages of Testimony.

Most of the intrepid SFBAJGS attendees
Of course, the conference is always a wonderful opportunity to network and see other genealogists in person.  In addition to the 40+ members of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society who traveled north for the conference, I've talked to Maris Bredt, Schelly Dardashti, Banai Feldstein, Emily Garber, Roger Lustig, Jeff Malka, Jeff Miller, Israel Pickholtz, Garri Regev, Mary Roddy, Janette Silverman, Joel Spector, Susan Weinberg, and Joel Weintraub, along with several others.  And there are still three days to go!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Jean La Forêt's 1890 Naturalization

This sheet of paper is 8 1/2" x 13", which seems an odd size to me.  Maybe that was the standard for legal in 1890?  It is off-white and about 20# bond weight.  Everything on it is typewritten in clear black ink; this appears to be an original typed document, as I can feel the impression of some of the letters and punctuation on the reverse.  The page has no handwriting, seal, or anything beyond the typing.  There is no watermark.  It has three fold marks; when I received it, it was folded and in an envelope (see below).

I thought I had arranged all my "treasure chest" documents in chronological order, but I messed up with this.  It is a transcription of Jean La Forêt's 1890 naturalization in San Francisco Superior Court, which definitely predates his 1908 marriage to Emma.  It's nice that this copy is here, because otherwise there probably would be nothing to get, as most naturalization documents from San Francisco dating from before 1906 were destroyed in the fire after the Great Earthquake.

Jean was naturalized on March 22, 1890, which matches exactly the date that Emma put on her emergency passport application in 1917.  This page is not dated, however, so I don't know when it was typed.  I didn't find any misspelled words in the transcription, so someone seems to have done a good job.

Now that I have verified Jean's naturalization date, it's interesting to see where it fits into his timeline.  From the third section of his journal that I posted, he left the U.S. Army on August 11, 1889.  He naturalized the next year and was actually living in San Francisco — we finally have an address for him there, 123 Eddy Street.  (California Grocery is now at that address.  It's a few blocks from Powell Street BART station; guess where I'm going the next time I'm in San Francisco?)  Five months after his naturalization, he enlisted in the Marines (the first time).  The fact that he was already a citizen when he joined the Marines makes me think even more that he must have missed military life.

Jean apparently applied for citizenship through some sort of special provision for soldiers, because the document starts out with "( S O L D I E R )" at the top, and his two witnesses were one person and his honorable discharge.  As his naturalization was effected 16 years before the process came under federal laws and was regularized, it would have been under whatever laws San Francisco had at the time.  I'll have to figure out where to look for those.

The witness for Jean's naturalization was J. G. Wall of Alameda.  That name has not appeared in any other documents related to Jean.  I'm pretty sure it must have been a man, because I don't think a woman would have been allowed as a witness for a naturalization in 1890.  A quick search in city directories gave me Joseph G. Wall living in Oakland from 1889–1892, so the Alameda cited as his residence may have referred to the county.

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And this is the envelope which held the naturalization document.  The first words on it make perfect sense:  "Naturalization paper."  But then it has "Décès d'Elizabeth Curdt", which means "Death of Elizabeth Curdt."  So maybe at some point Elizabeth Curdt's death certificate was kept in the same envelope?  If so, it wasn't there by the time I received it.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Copyright Confusion

It seems that misunderstanding of the difference between attribution and permission is still common among genealogists. While preparing the current issue of the CSGA Newsletter, I encountered two societies that didn’t appear to understand that permission is required to reprint anyone else’s copyrighted material.

The first society had included an article in its newsletter that I thought had useful information for the CSGA membership, so I wrote and asked for permission to reprint it. During the course of the discussion, the other editor realized the article was not original to the society and no attribution had been given to its author (much less had permission been requested to reprint it). An erratum is planned to correct the lack of attribution, but I doubt permission (albeit belated) will be requested, or an apology offered, for reprinting the article as it was.

The second society asked if I could reprint an article about the society that had been published by a newspaper. Permission had not been granted or even requested from the publisher. The person who made the request did not appear to realize that this permission needed to be sought. When I explained that I would not reprint the article without the permission, a request was sent to the publisher. That publisher requires nonprofits to pay $150 for permission to reprint an article. Needless to say, neither CSGA nor the society in question was prepared to pay that amount, and the article will not appear in the newsletter.

Unfortunately, neither of these situations is uncommon in genealogy today. Many people believe that “if it’s on the Internet it’s free”, and they can reuse those items at will. Others believe that as long as correct attribution is given, everything is fine. Neither of these beliefs is correct. Anyone who has written something has copyright to it, giving the author the exclusive right to determine if someone else may reprint that material. While most genealogists do not pursue anything against persons or organizations that have reused their materials (even though they can and sometimes should), commercial entities, such as the newspaper that published the article about the society in my second example above, often do. When genealogical editors and individuals republish copyrighted material without permission, they open themselves and their societies to possible legal action.

Coincidentally, at the fall CSGA Seminar, scheduled for October 29, 2016 in San Mateo and hosted by the San Mateo County Genealogical Society, one of the talks will be on copyright issues in genealogy. If you are unsure what you should be doing when you want to reuse someone else’s copyrighted material, or if you believe everything on the Internet is free to use, I recommend you come to the seminar. Details about the time and location of the seminar, which is free and open to the public, are available on the CSGA blog.

An excellent source of copyright information that is readily available night and day, and that is often geared specifically to genealogists, is the Legal Genealogist blog.  Judy Russell writes a lot about copyright and wants everyone to know what they should be doing to share information but protect authors' rights.