Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Giving Thanks for an Amazing Genealogy Resource

It's the time of year when people give thanks for many things in their lives.  Prompted by Elizabeth O'Neal of My Descendants' Ancestors, I want to give thanks for one of the most important, amazing resources in genealogy:  volunteers.  Without them far less would be accomplished.  It's particularly gratifying when someone is inspired by something you wrote to step in and help.

Earlier this year I wrote about a photo that I had found two years previously, for which I had been fruitlessly trying to find the owner.  One of my readers, Alan, took it upon himself to try to figure out who the beautiful woman in the photo was — and he succeeded.  By juggling well selected search terms in Google, he identified her as actress Juanita Moore, and even figured out who her nephew was.  Then I realized I knew the nephew, and I was able to return the photo to him.  I learned that he has been researching his aunt's career in order to nominate her for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the photo was the only known copy.  If not for Alan's help, it's unlikely the photo would have made its way back home.  So my biggest thanks this year go to him.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Expanded Ancestor's Geneameme

You've heard of the game of 20 Questions, right?  How about 70 questions?  That's how many Randy Seaver is asking readers to answer for today's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music) is:

(1) Jill Ball created a 40-question "Ancestors' Geneameme" in 2011, and Linda Stufflebean recently expanded it to 70 questions on her Empty Branches on the Family Tree blog.

(2) Let's do Linda's expanded list this week for SNGF.

(3) Copy and paste the list of questions below and replace my answers with your own.

(4) Share your answers as a comment on this b;og post, in your own blog post, or on Facebook or Google+.   Please leave a comment and al ink to your answer in a comment on this blog post.


Ok, here are my answers.
  1. Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents  Yes
  2. Can name my 32 great-great-great-grandparents  No
  3. Can name more than 50 ancestors  Yes
  4. Have photos or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents  Yes
  5. Have an ancestor who was married more than three times  Yes
  6. Have an ancestor who was a bigamist  Not that I know of
  7. Met all four of my grandparents  Yes
  8. Met one or more of my great-grandparents  Yes, rumor has it
  9. Bear an ancestor’s given name/s  No
  10. Named a child after an ancestor  No
  11. Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland  Yes
  12. Have an ancestor from Asia  Not that I know of
  13. Have an ancestor from continental Europe  Yes
  14. Have an ancestor from Africa  Not that I know of within recent history
  15. Have an ancestor who was an agricultural laborer  Yes
  16. Have an ancestor who had large land holdings  Not that I know of
  17. Have an ancestor who was a holy man:  minister, priest, rabbi  Yes
  18. Have an ancestor who was a midwife  Not that I know of
  19. Have an ancestor who was an author  Not that I know of
  20. Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki, or Ng    No
  21. Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy, or Jones   Not that I know of
  22. Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X  No
  23. Have an ancestor with a forename beginning with Z Yes
  24. Have an ancestor born on 25 December  Not that I know of
  25. Have an ancestor born on New Year’s Day  Not that I know of (whose New Year?)
  26. Have an ancestor who shares your day and month of birth  Not that I know of
  27. Have blue blood in your family lines  Yes
  28. Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth  No
  29. Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth  No
  30. Can trace a family line back to the 18th century  Yes
  31. Can trace a family line back to the 17th century  Yes
  32. Can trace a family line back to the 16th century  Yes
  33. Have seen signatures of some of my great-grandparents  Yes
  34. Have ancestors who signed with an X (or other mark)  Yes
  35. Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university  No
  36. Have an ancestor convicted of a criminal offense  Not that I know of
  37. Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime  Yes
  38. Have shared an ancestor’s story online or in a magazine/periodical  Yes
  39. Have published a family history online or in print  Yes
  40. Have visited an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries  Yes
  41. Have a family Bible from the 19th century  No
  42. Have a family Bible from the 18th century or earlier  No
  43. Have an ancestor who was part of a multiple birth (twins, etc.)  Not that I know of
  44. Have a family member who closely resembles an ancestor  Yes
  45. Have an ancestor who owned their own business  Yes
  46. Have an ancestor who belonged to a trade guild  Not that I know of
  47. Have an ancestor who moved more than 100 miles away from his/her birth home, EXCLUDING immigration to another country  Yes
  48. Have an ancestor who gave birth to twelve or more children  Yes
  49. Have an ancestor with a rare/unusual/uncommon forename  Yes
  50. Have an ancestral family who changed their surname  Yes
  51. Have a passenger list or travel manifest for an ancestor  Yes
  52. Have an ancestor who was adopted  Yes
  53. Have an ancestor who adopted a child  Yes
  54. Have a naturalization record for an ancestor  Yes
  55. Have an ancestor who received a military pension  Yes
  56. Have a school record or school census for an ancestor  Yes
  57. Have an ancestor with a gravestone still in existence from the 18th century  Yes
  58. Have an ancestor with a gravestone still in existence from the 17th century or earlier  Not that I know of
  59. Have an ancestor who had only one child who survived to adulthood  Yes
  60. Are descended twice from one couple  Yes
  61. Are descended three times or more from one couple  Yes
  62. Are descended from an American president or other political figure  Not that I know of
  63. Are descended from a person famous in history, other than in politics  Yes
  64. Have an ancestor with a rare/unusual/unique surname  Yes
  65. Have an ancestor who you have found mentioned in a pre-1870 newspaper  Yes
  66. Can name the ship on which at least one ancestor emigrated  Yes
  67. Have a female ancestor who worked outside the home pre-World War II  Yes
  68. Know of at least one ancestor who returned to the ancestral home after emigration  Yes
  69. Know of at least one ancestor who permanently returned to the ancestral home after emigration  No
  70. Have an ancestor who was survived by 50 or more grandchildren  No
So I have 43 yeses out of 70.  I was expecting more.  Guess I have work to do!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Genealogy Resources Are Like eBay


I can already hear some of you muttering out there:  Barely two months in Portland, and the rain has already turned her brain to mush.  I know it sounds like a weird comparison, but hear me out.

I search for lots of different kinds of items on eBay related to my family's history, particularly historic postcards with images of ancestral towns.  Something I've noticed over the years is that the sellers who post items on eBay generally target only the market they are involved in and don't think about any cross-marketing.  For example, a postcard with a scene from Tukums, Latvia might be listed as a postcard, with details about the postmark and/or the stamp, or possibly a description of the scene.  But practically no one includes the sender's and recipient's names written on the postcard, even if they are in Roman characters and easily readable, in the item's description.  I believe that happens because those sellers are totally focused on their own communities — collectors of stamps, postmarks, postcards, etc. — and don't see other value to the items beyond that focus.  It never occurs to them that there might be a descendant or other family member of the person to whom the postcard was sent who would be interested in the item.

So, for example, the image shown above is the address side of a postcard with postmarks from 1900.  It has a May 14 Warsaw postmark and one from May 29 from Paris.  The front of the postcard has two views of Kamenets Podolsky, from the north and south.  The description of the item mentioned the postmarks and that the images were of Kamenets Podolsky.  It did not list the addressee — Mademoiselle Suzanne Lambert, Chez Madam sa Mére, Rue de la Rochelle, Bar-le-Duc, which translates to Miss Suzanne Lambert, c/o her mother, Rue de la Rochelle, Bar-le-Duc — even though it's pretty easy to read.  If you were related to Suzanne Lambert, wouldn't you love to find this card available online?  But the odds of you doing so would be diminishingly small without her name in the listing.  So you need to think of other ways to search for items, such as looking for the towns your family members were in.  One man I knew used that method to find some postcards sent between relatives and then followed the sellers, who continued to post more over time.  Eventually my acquaintance acquired more than half a dozen postcards, which were instrumental in learning more about his family.

And how does that relate to genealogy resources?  Something many, many people forget is that the vast majority of resources genealogists use in our research were not created for genealogical purposes.  While the mega genealogy sites (FamilySearch, Ancestry, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage) have made it much easier to find records based on any individual's name, not all indices are that thorough.  Probate records are still often indexed only by the name of the decedent and not any of the heirs.  Many records in archives may not have a finding aid at all.  We can't count on the repositories to create indices that cater to us, because as I said, those records weren't created for us.  We need to keep in mind why records were created and how a repository uses them and then tailor our searches to fit those parameters.  It's nice if a repository allows something such as an every-name index to be made, but we can't count on that.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Make an Ancestor's Timeline

 I haven't participated in Saturday Night Genealogy Fun for the past few weeks, partly because I'm still unpacking mountains of moving boxes (will it never end?!) and partly because the themes weren't really up my alley.  This week, however, Randy Seaver chose a topic that looked a little more fun to me.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music) is:

(1) Have you created a timeline for one of your ancestors using a genealogy software program (e.g., Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, Legacy, Reunion, etc.), an online family tree (e.g., Ancestry Member Tree, FamilySearch Family Tree, Geni, MyHeritage, etc.), or a spreadsheet (e.g., Excel)?

(2) If not, try to create a timeline using the program/Web site of your choice.  If so, create another one for the ancestor of your choice!

(3) Show us your timeline creation and tell us how you did it:  which program/Web site, the process you used, and how you captured the images to display your timeline.

(4) Share your timeline creation on your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook or Google+.

1 and 2.  I have created a timeline before.  In fact, Randy used this idea in 2016, and I posted a timeline then.  In addition, the program I use, Family Tree Maker, automatically creates a timeline with the facts that you enter about each individual.  I created the timeline I'm posting tonight specifically for this exercise.

3.  I use Family Tree Maker v. 16.  I created a Genealogy Report that included all the facts I had for my great-grandfather Thomas Kirkland Gauntt.  I exported the information in an RTF file, then added additional facts and edited the file in MS Word.  I copied and pasted the text from Word directly into this blog post.  I have found that makes it easier to read, as opposed to doing a screen capture.  As Randy commented, it's pretty plain, but the benefit of exporting the file and opening it in a word processor is that I can add as much information as I want to it.


THOMAS KIRKLAND GAUNTT
May 25, 1870, born in Fairview, Medford Township, Burlington County, New Jersey
June 28, 1870, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Medford Township, Burlington County, New Jersey
June 15, 1880, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Mt. Laurel, Burlington County, New Jersey
May 15, 1885, enumerated in New Jersey state census in Centre, Camden County, New Jersey; occupation farm laborer
September 2, 1891, married Jane Dunstan in Greenland, Burlington County, New Jersey
May 15, 1895, enumerated in New Jersey state census in Centre, Camden County, New Jersey
June 27, 1900, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Mt. Laurel, Burlington County, New Jersey; occupation farm laborer
June 1, 1905, enumerated in New Jersey state census in Burlington County, New Jersey
April 27, 1910, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Mt. Holly, Northampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey; occupation insurance agent
June 1, 1915, enumerated in New Jersey state census in Mt. Holly, Northampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey
February 1920, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Burlington, Burlington County, New Jersey; occupation farm laborer
April 23, 1930, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Mt. Holly, Northampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey
1935, living in Burlington, Burlington County, New Jersey
April 15, 1940, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Mt. Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey
August 1, 1954, died in Mount Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey of a pulmonary embolism
About January 23, 1951, buried in Brotherhood Cemetery, Hainesport, Burlington County, New Jersey

Monday, October 30, 2017

Photographs: A Cautionary Tale

Harriet Gordon,
bar mitzvah, 1960
I have posted before about the benefits of showing unidentified photographs to older family members to see if they recognize any of the faces.  It's important to do that as soon as possible — multiple times, if necessary — because once those older family members have passed away, no one else in the family may recognize the faces in those old photographs.  And sometimes it doesn't even have to be as dramatic as someone passing away for the opportunity to be lost.

Several years ago, in 2003, I visited my grandmother, Bubbie, in Florida.  We had lunch with several of her cousins, and she remembered that she had photos that were important to them:  "I have a photograph of your parents on their wedding day."  "I have a photo of you when you were a baby."  When we returned to her apartment after the luncheon, she had me drag out four big boxes of photos and we went through them looking for those she wanted to give to the cousins.  Bubbie wouldn't let me label any of the photos, but we put aside the ones she wanted to give to the cousins.

Fast forward two years to 2005.  Bubbie's memory had started to fade a little.  She hadn't actually begun to forget things, but she was repeating herself several times in one conversation.  I remembered those boxes of unlabeled photographs and thought I better do something.  I was already planning to visit a paternal cousin near Orlando, Florida for Thanksgiving, and my grandmother lived near Fort Lauderdale.  That was pretty close, so I  told Bubbie I wanted to visit her and quickly added a flight to Fort Lauderdale to my schedule.

This time Bubbie was much more amenable to labeling the photos.  I brought piles of sticky notes.  We went through all four boxes again, and she let me put a note on every photo.  This not only meant that every photo was identified, it led to the discovery that one photo was of my great-great-grandparents.

And why is this a cautionary tale?  The visit to my grandmother was in November.  The next summer, in 2006, she had a severe stroke.  While her brain and memory functions were left relatively intact, she was functionally blind.  She could no longer see the photographs and would not have been able to tell me who was in them.

I am very fortunate that I took advantage of the opportunity to visit my grandmother and convince her to let me label the photographs she had.  If you have a lot of unidentified photos in your family, don't wait.  Talk to those older relatives and ask for their help in letting you know who is in the photos.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Top 10 (or 20) Surnames in Your Family Tree

In this week's installment of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver is updating another of his statistical analyses of his family tree database.

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

(1) 
Go into your genealogy management program (GMP; either software on your computer or an online family tree) and figure out how to count how many surnames you have in your family tree database.

(2) Tell us which GMP you're using and how you did this task.

(3) Tell us what the top 10 (or 20)  surnames are in your database and, if possible, how many entries.  How many different surnames are in your family tree?

(4) Write about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, in a status or comment on Facebook, or in a Google+ Stream post.


I last did this analysis in 2015, although Randy mentioned that he ran it in 2016 also (I must have missed that day).  I am still using Family Tree Maker 16 on a PC (if it ain't broke, don't fix it).  To find the total number of different surnames, I go to the Tools menu, then Family File Statistis, and then click on Calculate "Total number of different Surnames."

I have 2,004 different surnames.  Two years ago I had 1,952 surnames.  I have made a little progress.

My program does not provide me with a handy list of the top surnames.  I have to count them manually.  Even though I have added more than 50 surnames to the database, the top ten are the same, and the numbers have not changed much.

1.  Gantt/Gaunt/Gauntt, 879 people
2.  Sellers/Söller, 633 people
3.  Allen, 142 people
4.  Mack/Mock, 132 people
5.  Fuller, 103 people
6.  Crawford, 66 people
7.  Dunstan, 64 people
8.  Eckman, 61 people
9.  Wickham, 52 people
10.  Smith, 50 people

So the only changes are in the top three names.  I know I've done work on the Gauntts and Sellerses, so I understand why they increased, but the additional Allens don't make sense to me.  But statistics don't lie, right?

And I still don't count "unknown" as a surname.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Piranhas and Stream of Consciousness

Photo by Greg Hume
October 16 was the birthday of Mary Lou, my half-sister's mother, so it seems like a good day to rremember her and tell a couple of stories about her.

The first story comes from my own memories.  As I wrote last year, Mary Lou and my sister lived with my family for a while around 1968.  After they moved to a place of their own, they couldn't have been too far away, because we used to visit them semiregularly.  One of the really fun things about visiting was that Mary Lou had a fish tank with real piranhas.  (Yes, I'm pretty sure it was illegal even then to have piranhas, but I was a kid, so I didn't think about these things.)  Mary Lou would let us feed raw ground beef to the fish, always warning us that we shouldn't let our fingers get in the water because the fish would be more than happy to bite us along with the meat.  We loved watching them gobble up the beef and then look for more.

The second story was one my mother told me.  When Mary Lou wrote letters, it was stream of consciousness.  Whatever she was thinking about, she wrote.  So a letter might start off with the latest family news and then continue with, "Oh, someone is at the door.  I'll get it and be right back."  Then it would pick up with information about whoever had been knocking, whether friend or salesman.  She even wrote e-mail messages like that sometimes, just whatever popped into her head.  Since Mary Lou was Irish on both sides of her family, maybe she was channeling James Joyce?

Mary Lou has been gone since 2004.  I like to think she knows I'm writing about her and appreciates it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Were You Doing in 1990?

I think I can guess what generated the topic for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.  Randy Seaver found the Christmas letter that he quoted in his post and decided it would be a great idea for an assignment, with his already prewritten.

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

(1) Do you recall what you were doing in 1990?  Family, school, work, hobbies, technology, genealogy, vacations, etc?

(2) Tell us in a blog post of your own, in a comment on this blog, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.


I don't have a convenient Christmas letter to remind me of everything I did during the year 1990, so let's see what I can dredge up from memory.

I began the year living in a house in Berkeley, California, as an unpaid housekeeper/nanny/cook.  Halfway through the year I moved two houses down the street, first to the main house and then to a little in-law cottage in the back yard.

I was still a part-time college student in 1990, as that's how I continued to defer my student loans until I eventually paid them off.  I was taking American Sign Language and creative writing classes at Vista College in Berkeley (now Berkeley City College).

At the beginning of the year I was doing part-time work as an in-home aide for a woman with cystic fibrosis.  One of the errands I used to run for her was dropping things off at a local independent thrift store.  One day while I was there I was bitten in the face and neck by a dog belonging to an employee.  I was calm about the whole thing, while the dog owner was hysterical.  He drove me to the hospital and paid for all the bills, though, so there was nothing to worry about.  I used to have a 2" scar on my cheek from the attack, but it seems to have gone away with time.

The other exciting thing that happened in 1990 was a little more unusual.  The couple for whom I was a housekeeper/nanny (let's call them "Bob" and "Carol") was engaged in a wife-swapping arrangement with another couple (say, "Ted" and "Alice").  "Ted" apparently was not actually that happy with the situation.  One night when "Alice" was at our house with "Bob", "Ted" came over, started screaming at "Alice", and dragged her out of the house physically.  Brilliant me, in a long nightgown and with no shoes on, but concerned about "Alice", followed them down the stairs and asked "Ted" where he was going and what he was going to do.  He told me if I wanted to know to come along.  So I did.  He drove all around Berkeley, up and down streets, in circles, and eventually ended up at his and "Alice's" apartment.  He dragged her in there, where she collapsed in the corner cowering and crying.  I followed him into the kitchen, where he picked up a big knife and looked at me.  For a moment I considered whether he was going to kill me and/or "Alice", and I was going to die trying to defend someone who didn't seem inclined to defend herself.  Then suddenly he calmed down and put the knife away.  It was like a switch was turned off.  He collected "Alice", we all went back to the car, and he drove us back to the house.  He dropped me off, but I don't remember if "Alice" stayed or went back with him.  And nothing was ever said about that incident.

I began working at Chessex sometime in the late summer or early fall when I needed a job with more income.  I started out asking at Berkeley Game Distributors (which no longer exists) about work, but they didn't have any openings at the time and pointed me downstairs to Chessex, which was in the same building and was looking for an assistant production manager.  And so began my career in the adventure game industry.

My brother came out to the West Coast early in the year, probably for his once-every-three-years trip to Reno for the big amateur bowling tournament he used to participate in.  He was able to stop by and visit me in Berkeley for a few hours.  It had to be the early part of the year because I was still in the first house, where I was a housekeeper.

The primary traveling I did was to and from the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire (maybe in Devore by that time?) in the spring on the weekends.  In fact, the day I was bitten by the dog had to be a Friday, because we drove down to the faire as soon as I got out of the hospital.  I worked the Northern California faire also, but that was only going from Berkeley to Novato.  I probably also went to Los Angeles once or twice for game conventions.

I remember that I went to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving.  I drove back on Sunday, which I discovered was a horrible mistake, as that's the day everyone else goes back home.  I had bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-5 for pretty much all 400 miles of the trip.  I swore I would never do that again!

I don't think I was able to visit my family for the Christmas holidays due to a lack of funds.  I don't remember if they were still in Texas or if they had already moved back to Florida by then.  It might have been the year I worked on a cross-stitch Christmas piece for a present for my aforementioned brother.

Monday, October 9, 2017

RootsTech 2018 Schedule Available

Even though I'm a speaker at next year's RootsTech conference, I did not receive a notification from FamilySearch that the schedule is now available online.  I'm lucky that I read about it in a couple of other bloggers' posts, so I headed over to find out when my talk is scheduled.

I am teaching one class at RootsTech 2018:

Online ≠ Free: Copyright Issues for Genealogy
Saturday, March 3, 3:00 p.m.
Session RT9427

So if you plan to attend the full length of the conference, think about coming to my session, in the very last time slot.  Registration is also open, so you can take care of that now, before you forget.  There is a huge variety of classes on the schedule, with something for just about everyone.  I look forward to seeing lots of my fellow genealogists in Salt Lake City at the conference!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Own Newspaper Article

Sometimes an idea just clicks.  When I read this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is:

(1) Go to the The Newspaper Clipping Generator (http://www.fodey.com/generators/newspaper/snippet.asp) and create one or more articles using this tool.

(2) You can generate articles that didn't appear in the newspaper, articles you wish had appeared in the newspaper, or even your own obituary (in the future).

(3) Share your newspaper clipping(s) with us as an image or a screen capture on your own blog, as a comment to this blog post, or on a Facebook or Google+ post.

(4) Please give me a link to your clipping in a comment to this post.


I am harnessing the power of positive thinking.  If I dream it, it can happen.

The Family History Times, October 29, 2017

Of course, we all know that this is a fake newspaper article.  But if anyone recognizes the names of my aunt and/or her son and can share any information that will help us learn what happened to him, please write to me at janicemsj@gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

My Second Nugget Issue — Finally!

The first issue of The California Nugget after I became the new editor was published in January.  In theory, the second issue should have come out in May, but between my house sale and move to Oregon, and the layout person's busy summer schedule (including a trip to see the eclipse), we slipped.  The finals went to the printer last week, and they should be in the mail by now.  With the issue being published so late in the year, there will only be the two issues this year (which worked better logistically for CGS anyway).

The new column about genealogical methods might look like it's by a different author because of a name change.  Rondina recently married and is now Rondina P. Wallace (and still a CG).  Her column this issue is on things to think about when using derivative records.

The lead article is by Barry E. Hinman and delves into the life of his ancestor Joel Burlingame, the father of the man for whom the city in California was named.  Joel lived during most of the 19th century, and Barry used a family narrative to show how Joel's life reflects what was going on in the United States at the time.  This article is a two-parter, with the second half coming in the next issue.

Another first-run article in this issue is by Bill Chapman of the UK, who has been studying the history of Esperanto.  He found several California residents in the early 20th century who were listed in Esperanto contact directories.  Perhaps you'll find one of your relatives in the list?

The remaining articles are being reprinted from other publications, because they are great pieces and most members of the California Genealogical Society have probably not seen them previously.  Norm Ishimoto wrote a wonderful story about his mother and her career as a professional costumer, which was published in the Froghorn of another CGS, the Calaveras Genealogical Society.  Vinnie Schwarz's article on her discovery that her great-great-grandmother was a woman of color in Louisiana appeared in The Baobab Tree, the quarterly journal of the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California.  (Both of these also are multipart articles that will continue in the next issue.)  And Fred Hoffman's excellent short piece about the perils of relying on machine translation was published first in Gen Dobry!, the monthly e-zine of Polish Roots.

The next issue of the Nugget is scheduled for February 2018, to coincide with the 120th anniversary founding of the California Genealogical Society (CGS).  To help commemorate that milestone, I am particularly seeking articles and short items having to do with people and events in 1898.  If you are a CGS member and someone in your family was hatched, matched, or dispatched (born, married, or died) that year, send a message with the relevant information, and I will include it in a special calendar.  If something significant happened in your family in 1898, consider submitting an article about it.  If you had a relative who was a member of CGS during the society's first few years, let me know who it was and what activities that person was involved in.  Send your submissions and suggestions to Nugget@CaliforniaAncestors.org.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Good Genealogy Luck

I think Randy Seaver's luck has been a little better than mine.  In this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, he asked his readers to write about a time that good luck happened in your research:

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is:

(1)
When have you had a dose of good genealogy luck?  What document or resource did you find just by happenstance or chance?  By being in the right place at the right time?  By finding a family history treasure in your family's attic or basement?  By finding a helpful document or reference without even looking for it?  


(2) Tell us about it in Comments to this post, in Comments on Facebook or Google+, or in a blog post of your own.


For my own family research, I can't think of a time when I randomly came across a great document or resource.  I still don't have any real "family history treasures", much less one that I discovered by chance in an attic or basement.

But as Randy mentioned, some people have considered luck to come about because you prepared ahead.  From that perspective, my "luckiest" treasures came to me because everyone in the family knows that I'm the genealogist.

After my grandfather died, his widow (she was his third wife), who had no children, went to live with a nephew.  A couple of years after she passed away, the nephew contacted my father's oldest sister and asked if the family was interested in getting all of my grandfather's papers and photos that Adelle had brought with her.  Luckily, my aunt said yes.  She hung on to them for a while, then asked my father if he wanted them.  He told me he had them because he figured I would be interested in the information, and I was.  So I asked for copies — of everything.  He fiddled around with them for a bit before deciding that it was going to be too big of a hassle to make all those copies for me, so he just sent the entire lot to me so I could deal with them.

In those papers were records of every pay increase, commendation, promotion, and other positive feedback that my grandfather experienced in his career as a civil service mechanical engineer working with the Air Force.  Grampa also had created lists of every job and every residence he had had during his life.  I have learned a lot about him by reading through all of this, especially the list of residences, although I'm still trying to figure out how to research the two years he said he spent "out west" during the late 1920's.

Many of the photographs were of Grampa's second wife, Anita, and my youngest aunt, Carol.  I felt it was important to return those photos to them, which motivated me to track them down.  It took several years, but I finally found them.  Because I started corresponding with my aunt, eventually she got in touch with my father, which led to the four adult children of my grandfather getting together for the first time in their lives.  And knowing I had something to do with that is priceless, even if it isn't "lucky."

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Carrie Ann's Meme

This week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver has found another Facebook meme that looked interesting.  So today we're playing 20 questions.

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is:

(1) On Facebook, Carrie Ann Smith posted a meme earlier this week and I thought it might be fun for SNGF (thank you, Carrie Ann!).

(2) Copy the questions below, delete my answers, and put your own answers in.

(3) Post the questions and answers on your own blog, in a comment to this blog, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.  Be sure to leave a link to your blog post in my blog post.

So here is my contribution.

1.  Who are you named after?  I was named Janice Marie after the initials of my maternal great-grandparents, Joyne (Gorodetsky) and Moishe (Meckler).

2.  Last time you cried?  The morning of August 31, when I woke up and found one of my cats was missing because the man who bought my house had broken in during the night and left a window open.  I am thankful that the cat was found quickly. 

3.  Soda or water?  Water most of the time, although I do enjoy an occasional Mountain Dew.

4.  What's your favorite kind of pizza?  Italian sauage and jalapenos on thin crust. 

5.  Favorite flower?  Red roses.  After my grandfather died, I learned from my mother that he had always given red roses to my grandmother for Mother's Day, so I picked up the tradition and continued it until my grandmother passed away.

6.  Roller coaster?  I enjoy them, but I don't go often.

7.  Favorite ice cream?  Mint chocolate chip, with Ben & Jerry's Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz a close second.  

8.  Favorite book?  Encyclopedia Brittanica.

9.  Shorts or jeans?   Jeans.  I practically live in them.

10.  What are you listening to right now?  The washing machine.

11.  Favorite color?  Blue.

12.  Tattoos?  One, a Western-style dragon on my upper right arm.

13.  Favorite thing to eat?  Shrimp.

14.  Android or iPhone?  Neither.  I have a flip phone.

15.  Favorite holiday?  Chanukah, because I get to make latkes for everyone.

16.  Night owl or mornings?  I used to be an early bird, but I've been a night owl for the past few years.  I'm currently trying to retrain myself to mornings. 

17.  Fave day of the week?  I can do genealogy every day.  But maybe Tuesday, because that's the night for Chopped!, NCIS, and NCIS:  NOLA

18.  Favorite season?  Fall, for football season and cooler weather.

19.  Favorite sport?  Football, hands down.  

20.  Mountains, beach, forest, or snow?  Maybe forest, although I've never lived in any of the four.  I used to live near beaches when I was younger, but most of my life has been spent in cities.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Back to California — For Genealogy, of Course!

I haven't even been in Portland for three entire weeks, but I've already taken two day trips to California.  What could make me do that?  Genealogy!

Both trips were to give talks that had been scheduled before my move out of state.  The first was a presentation to the Contra Costa County Genealogical Society (CCCGS) last week on Thursday.  I flew to Oakland (via Ontario!) and took BART out to Concord, where Martha Whittaker graciously picked me up and took me to the premeeting group dinner, and from there Lisa Gorrell drove me to the meeting.  It was gratifying to see that the room was full for my presentation about using resources compiled for Jewish research to help research non-Jewish ancestors.  I was very glad that everyone appeared to enjoy the talk and several people came up to say they learned a lot.

The second trip was today (Tuesday), to the Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society (SCCHGS).  This time I flew into San Jose, where Linda Sanders met me and took me to the Santa Clara City Library.  The topic was immigration and naturalization records, and the room was again full of genealogists.  I took up all the time allotted and had to leave a couple of questions unanswered because librarian Mary Boyle wanted to make sure I got to the airport on time for my return flight.  This talk also went well, and Mary said everyone appreciated the information.

I am grateful to CCCGS and SCCHGS for inviting me to be a speaker and then keeping me on the schedule after I moved.  Thank you both for your support, and I really enjoyed both presentations.  I hope I'm able to visit again soon.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Where Were My Ancestors 100 Years Ago?

For this week's edition of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver is doing a variation on a theme he used a couple of years ago.  Whereas that time he asked us where our ancestors were 150 years ago, this time we're moving into the 20th century and not looking back as far.

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is to:

(1) Determine where your ancestral families were on 16 September 1917:  100 years ago.

(2) List them, their family members, their birth years, and their residence locations (as close as possible).  Do you have a photograph of their residence from about that time, and does the residence still exist?

(3) Tell us all about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook Status or Google+ Stream post.


This is going to be a much shorter list for me than the 1865 version, because I won't be including any of the Sellers ancestor lines.  I still don't have addresses for my relatives, particularly for those living in Europe.

My 2nd-great-grandfather Joel Armstrong (1849) was living in Burlington County, New Jersey.

My great-grandparents Cornelius Elmer Sellers (1877) and Laura (Armstrong) Sellers (1882) were living in Mount Holly, New Jersey.  Elmer's World War I draft registration card, dated September 12, 1918, has the address 115 Clover Street, so that might be where they were in 1917.  (Elmer died two days after he filled out that draft card.)  My paternal grandfather, Bertram Lynn (Sr.) (1903), was also in the household, as were his siblings Catherine Marie (abt. 1907), George Moore "Dickie" (1908), and Nellie Elizabeth (1912).  It's possible that Herman J. (about 1914) and Amelia (after 1904) were still alive and in the household; I only know that both children died before 1920.

My great-grandparents Thomas Kirkland Gauntt (1870) and Jane (Dunstan) Gauntt (1871) were living in Burlington County, New Jersey, although I don't know if they were in Mount Holly or Burlington.  Children living with them were Edna May (1902), James Kirkland (1905), and Thomas Franklin (1908).

My paternal grandmother, Anna Gauntt (1893), was almost definitely living in Mount Holly, New Jersey with her husband, Charles Cooper Stradling (1895).  I don't think they divorced until the 1920's.  Also in the home would have been their daughter, my aunt Ruth Carrie (1914).

My 2nd-great-grandmother Bela (unknown maiden name) Mekler (unknown birth year) might have been alive.  I know she had died by 1924, but that's it.  If she was alive in 1917, she was probably living in the area of Kamenets Litovsk, Russian Empire (now Kameniec, Belarus).  I don't know who she might have been living with.

My 2nd-great-grandparents Gershon Itzhak Nowicki (about 1858) and Dora (Yelsky) Nowicki (about 1858) were still in Europe, probably in Porozowo, Russian Empire (now Porozovo, Belarus).  Chldren living with them might have included Louis, Chaim, Harry, and Mirke.  I don't know when Louis and Harry immigrated, and I don't know when Mirke married (she did not immigrate).  Chaim is said to have died in 1918 and no Anglicizied name was ever used for him, so he probably stayed in Europe also.

My great-grandparents Morris Meckler (about 1882) and Minnie Zelda (Nowicki) Meckler (about 1880) were living in Brooklyn, New York with all of their surviving children:  Sarah (about 1900; Sam (about 1903); Harry (about 1905); my maternal grandfather, Abraham (1912); Florence (1915); and Elsie (1919).

My 2nd-great-grandfather Isaac/Victor Gorodetsky (about 1866) was living in Brooklyn, New York, having immigrated in 1914.  I don't know with whom he might have been living; I suspect he was not living by himself.

My 2nd-great-grandparents Morris Brainin (about 1861) and Rose Dorothy (Jaffe) Brainin (about 1868) were living in Manhattan, New York.  Living with them were their children Lena (about 1884) and Benjamin (about 1896).  It's possible their son William (about 1892) was at home with them, but he enlisted in the U.S. Army for World War I, so he already might have been in the service.

My great-grandparents Joe Gordon (about 1892) and Sarah Libby (Brainin) Gordon (about 1890) were also living in Manhattan, New York.  At home with them were their sons Sidney (1915) and Alexander (1917), the latter of whom was a mere five months old.

None of my ancestors was living in the only home of which I have a photograph.  In 1930 my great-grandmother Laura (Armstrong) Sellers Ireland and my grandfather Bertram Lynn Sellers were living in the Armstrong home at 343 Broad Street, Mount Holly, but in 1917 Laura's great-uncle and -aunt were living there.

I have seventeen ancestors who were alive 100 years ago, and possibly eighteen.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Research Grief

I missed last week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun because I moved from Oakland, California to Portland, Oregon the day before, and I didn't get Internet until the Monday after.  Since this week's challenge is a repeat of the one from October 17, 2015, which I posted about at the time, I'm going to answer last week's question instead.

Your mission this [last] week, should you decide to accept it, is:

(1) The Family History Hound listed 20 Questions about Your Ancestor, and I'm going to use some of them in the next few months.

(2) Please answer the question,
"Which ancestor gives you the most researching grief?"

(3) Write your own blog post, make a comment on this post, or post your answer on Facebook or Google+.   Please leave a link to your answer in comments on this post.


The ancestor who has been giving me the most research grief of late is my paternal grandfather's biological father.  I used Y-DNA testing to prove that this man was not the husband of my great-grandmother, the man my grandfather grew up with as his father.  Since that time I have been working on trying to determine who the mystery man is.  My grandfather's original birth record did not list a father's name at all.

My father matches two men on 107 of 111 markers based on their Y-DNA test results.  Both of these men have the same last name, Mundy, which I have interpreted to mean it is the likely last name of my mystery great-grandfather.

I started looking for Mundys in and around Burlington County, New Jersey, where my great-grandmother lived.  As she did not have much money, I don't believe she could have traveled much, so my hypothesis has been that Mr. Mundy probably came to her area.  I have focused on Burlington County and Philadelphia, which is close by (just across the river) and the nearest big city.

I did find a Mundy family in New Jersey, but they were in the northern part of the state, so I noted them but put them aside.  I began to look at them more closely when a generous soul named Suzanne McClendon dug up several newspaper articles on Bert Mundy, a member of that northern Jersey family.  Good old Bert apparently was a traveling salesman and a philanderer, making him a decent possibility for someone who might have traveled to the southern end of the state and had a short fling.  Another thing that makes him a good candidate is that my grandfather's name was Bertram and he was said to have been named after a "close family friend."

I've done a lot of research on Bert's family, hoping to find some living not-too-distant cousins who might be willing to do autosomal DNA testing and compare results.  So far I've gone back two generations and brought everyone forward, but none of the lines has any surviving individuals.  Taking it back one more generation is getting to be a little too far to easily determine connections, but it's the most promising path right now.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Brother, Can You Spare an Hour (or Two)?

It's time for another round-up of projects that are looking for volunteer help, whether in the form of transcriptions, information, or time.  If you have an hour or two a week to spare or some specialized knowledge, maybe you're just the person for one of these requests.

Flooding in Montreal’s Bonaventure Depot in
1886.  Photo: George Charles Arless. Source:
McCord Museum, Montreal, Quebec, MP-1999.6.1
As is becoming more and more common, several of the projects are asking volunteers to transcribe digitized information.  McGill University in Montreal, Québec is hoping people will be interested in working on 150 years of meterological observations from the McGill Observatory.  The focus of the Data Rescue:  Archives and Weather (DRAW) project is studying the historical weather data to identify patterns and trends, but an article notes, “The Observatory ledgers are also full of interesting little notes about the daily lives of our ancestors."  So if you had relatives living in Montreal, you can learn more about what their weather was like and how it affected them.  The project site is still in a beta testing stage, but interested participants can sign up now and practice using the transcription tools.

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Yale University's recent foray into crowd-sourced transcription work is all about the drama — Yale's School of Drama, that is, along with the Yale Repertory Theatre Ephemera Collection.  The aim of the Ensemble @ Yale project is to create a database of Yale theatrical history.  Volunteers can browse digitized programs spanning more than 90 years and transcribe play titles, production dates, and names of directors, cast, and crew.  Once the first two collections have been transcribed and put into a searchable database, more Yale theater-related collections will be considered as additions.  If you had a family member at Yale or are into theater history, this may be the project for you.

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Ukrainian family from Tyshkivtsi,
Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1890
A transcription project more directly related to family history research is the one connected to the recently launched database of genealogical records for Ukrainians born between 1650 and 1920.  The database is said to include information on more than two and a half million people, with plans to increase the total to between four and five million people by 2019.  Documents used as data sources originated with the Tsardom of Muscovy, Russian and Habsburg empires, Poland, and the Soviet Union.  The index is currently searchable only in Cyrillic, but a Roman alphabet search is planned for the future.  (Remember, Google Translate understands Ukrainian and is your friend.)

If you register on the project site you can create a family tree.  The transcription site provides instructions on how to do the transcription work, and lists locations and whether documents have been finished or are waiting to be worked on.  Something I didn't find on the site is a list of what documents are being used, which would be useful for determining whether Jewish individuals might be included in the database.

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There are enough volunteer transcription projects now that someone has created a page to aggregate them.  It's on an education-oriented blog, and the focus is on students working with historical texts, but it's a nice collection of links conveniently grouped together.

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1903 Vacaville Reporter front page
A local request for assistance comes from the Vacaville (Calfornia) Heritage Council, which is looking for volunteers to take on projects such as scanning photo negatives, researching local history, organizing donated historical material, and various computer tasks.  Some of the historical items that scream to be cared for are the Vacaville Reporter's newspaper collection from 1930–2006, microfilm of newspapers going back to 1883, and photo negatives.  Interested individuals can contact council president Doug Rodgers at the e-mail address given in the article.

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Three more local requests, these from museums in eastern Contra Costa County, California, were featured in a recent newspaper article.  The Antioch Historical Museum, East County Historical Museum, and Pittsburg Historical Museum and Society have each received healthy donations of newspapers, microfilm, and other historical items that now need to be sorted and prepared for access.  Contact information for each of the groups is in the article, if you have the time to help.

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Dr. Kimberly Jensen, a professor at Western Oregon University, is trying to find more information about The People's Bulletin, a black community newspaper published in Portland, Oregon.  The only known surviving issue, from June 7, 1917, is Volume 1, Number 34, and is held at the University of California at Santa Barbara's Special Research Collections, as part of its “Portland [Oregon] African-American Collection, circa 1900–1970.”  So far all documentation for the newspaper indicates only the year 1917, although June 7 was in the 23rd week of 1917, so the first issues should have come out in 1916.  It's obviously a very rare paper; it isn't even listed in the Chronicling America directory.  Anyone who can provide information about The People's Bulletin is asked to contact Dr. Jensen at the e-mail address given in the article linked above.

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There are always lots of Irish projects going on.  A releatively new one is Epic Journeys - Ellis Island, which aims to document the Irish experience going through Ellis Island.  The project began in 2015 with a focus on the parish of Tulla, County Clare but has now expanded to other departure points in Ireland, including locations in the counties of Cavan, Cork, Galway, and Tipperary.  The Web site is currently going through an upgrade, so contributions cannot be made through it directly, but they can be sent via an e-mail address on the site.

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The Edmonds Historical Museum (in Snohomish County, Washington State) is asking its area residents, whether military veterans, current service members, or civilians, to come forward and share their wartime memories, from World War II through to the recent War on Terror.  All interviews will be shared with repositories for permanent preservation, and participants will each be given a copy of the oral history interview to keep and to share with family members if desired.  After November 2017, the interview project will expand to general memories of Edmonds and south Snohomish County.  Details and contact information are in an online article about the project.

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This one isn't directly genealogy-related, but identifying the person should help one family.  Authorities from Orange County, California have put out a public request for help with their oldest cold case, who is a Jane Doe.  "Jane" was found dead on March 14, 1968 in Hungtington Beach, California.  She was estimated to be 20–30 years old, 5'2"–5'3", and about 130–140 pounds.  More information about her case, including the clothing and items found with her, is on the Defrosting Cold Cases blog.

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Detail from The Book of Magical Charms
The last project I'll mention today has nothing to do with genealogy, but it just sounds really cool, so I want to share it.  How would you like to transcribe magical manuscripts?  The Newberry Library in Chicago is giving you that opportunity.  The Book of Magical Charms describes how to care for toothaches, cheat at dice, complete a conjuring, and speak with spirits.  How can you possibly pass that up?  Atlas Obscura has an interesting article about the project, and you can visit the transcription project site to get started.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: John Schafer Buys Property of the Late John Smith


This sheet, and each of the three that follows, measures 8 1/2" x 14", the standard for legal size.  This first sheet is slightly yellowed but appears to have originally been a creamy off-white.  It's a heavy bond, possibly more than 20#, with a very sturdy feel.  It has a watermark that is difficult to read, but I can make out "Byron / –eston Co / —n Recor— / 1918."  I think the first two lines might be "Byron Weston Company", but I'm stuck on the next word.

This is a sheet of letterhead for the St. Louis County Land Title Company.  Everything is typed on the page except for a check mark in pencil on the left and one sentence in pencil at the bottom:  "Where does the eastern boundary come in?"




These three pages are of a lesser stock than the first.  They're all a muted yellow-orange with stronger color at the top.  Everything on each is typed except for a penciled check mark to the left of each transaction.

The first page tells us that the set of documents is a chain of title to lots 9 and 10, which are the land at the center of the dispute between Jean and Emma La Forêt and Emma's three Curdt siblings.  The receipt posted last week says that the order was for lots 9 to 16; we'll have to wait until we go through all the pages to see which is correct.

It's clear that Jean copied the information from these entries to create his abbreviated version, which did not include all the details for every transaction.  But he wasn't perfect with his copying — the first mistake comes in the first entry, with the name Solomon, which Jean typed as Salomon.

From these four pages, Jean copied the first entry in its entirety.  On the second page, he took highlights of the first three listings and then copied the fourth completely.  He seems to have copied everything from the third and fourth pages.

One question this resolves is why the land was referred to as a subdivision of John Smith's estate in the legal waiver that Louis Curdt signed.  John Smith's heirs sold lot 10 to John Schafer.  Apparently Mr. Smith wanted to make sure his children's names stood out a little more than his:  Louisiana Smith and Doddridge Smith are decidedly less common.

John Schafer purchased lot 10 directly from Smith's heirs in 1856, but he didn't acquire lot 9 until 1864, almost ten years later.  He purchased that land from Rufus and Mary Lackland, who do not appear to have been Smith's heirs.  Since the chain of title was concerned with the properties from the time that Schafer had them, we don't get information on when the Lacklands bought lot 9, but the description mentions 182-116 and that is was part of Smith's estate.  Schafer's purchase of lot 10 was 183-316, so it was probably not long after the Lacklands bought lot 9.

Comparing the descriptions of the two pieces of land, one finds a lot more detail in that for lot 10, which uses landmarks ("a black oak, 5 inches in diameter"), degrees of direction, chain measurements, and roads to define the plot.  The description of lot 9, on the other hand, is distinctly less precise — "32.49 arpens, more or less" — refers to a file in the surveyor's office instead of giving details, and has spelling errors ("noreth" for north, "be" for by).  Maybe the two transactions were processed by different clerks.

I can see some logic to Elizabeth's letters of administration being listed here, as her appointment meant that she was in control of the land, but I'm surprised that information about the family's marriages and divorces appears in the chain of title.  I don't think they're normally registered at the same county office as land transactions.  When I looked at Jean's compilation, I figured he had obtained documents from multiple sources.  But the chain of title refers to the marriage records; why?

Here's another confusing thing about these documents:  Why are some letters and numbers underlined?  On the first page, we see "0.43 1/2" and "page 141".  On the second page, there are "Smith's" and "plat".  The third page has "Miss" Elizabeth Schafer, but that might have been underlined to emphasize the error, as a widow should be Mrs.  But why does the last entry have "Schafer" twice and "Kink"?  Happily, the fourth page has no strange underlines.

It appears that the check marks on these pages might simply have indicated that Jean had copied what he wanted from the entries, since he checked every one.  I don't know why someone wrote the question on the first page, though.  The description of lot 10 says it is bounded on the east by lot 9.  (That information is confirmed in the description of lot 9, which says it is bounded on the west by lot 10.)  So if the eastern boundary is defined, why would someone ask where it comes in?