Sunday, October 14, 2018

Google Translate versus Professional Translation

As a professional genealogist, one of the things I do is translation.  I'm a member of a group of professional genealogy translators that was started to help raise awareness of the benefit of using a professional translator with specialized genealogical knowledge, as opposed to finding a general translator or just using Google Translate (or some other machine translation option).  The group formed about two and a half years ago, and so far we haven't made much progress.  Why we haven't made much progress is often a topic in our monthly online meetings.

The biggest problem we seem to have is conveying why it's better to use a professional translator, particularly one with specialized genealogical knowledge, as opposed to simply popping over to Google Translate and using its "automagic" translation.  Google is awesome, right?  It does so many cool things, and the translation is always improving.  Why should I go out and actually *pay* someone when I can get it for free at home?

Well, for one thing, machine translation is far from perfect.  Yes, it's improving all the time, but it still misses the mark quite often.  A wonderfully entertaining article by Fred Hoffman (a professional translator) that points this out is available online in the October 2016 issue of Gen Dobry!Another article by Fred, this one in the November 2009 issue of GenDobry!, truly makes clear why relying only on modern machine translation is no substitute for effort taken to find the correct meaning of an obsolete word.

Then what's a genealogist to do?   To be fair, Google Translate does have its place.  If you don't understand the language a record or document is written in, absolutely go to Google Translate, enter the text, and see what Google comes up with.  It is rarely perfect (or 100% accurate), but you should be able to get the gist of what's going on.  After that, if it seems as though the document is relevant to your research, find a professional translator to do a more accurate, more nuanced translation.

But why not just settle for what Google gives you?  I equate that rough translation Google Translate gives you with the ubiquitous family trees on Ancestry.com and other sites.  Since the vast majority of those trees have no sources listed (or list only other trees as sources), I look at them as hints and possibilities.  I use them to mine for ideas for research.  But I never rely only on them, because I have no idea where the information came from.  They're stepping stones on a journey, but not the final destination.

Google Translate gives you hints.  It's a "rough draft" of the meaning of your original text.  But translation is an art, not a hard science, and machine translation still has many years to go before it can truly compare with what a professional translator can do.  So it's a stepping stone on your journey to an accurate translation of your document.

And once you've decided you want to find a professional translator, where should you look?  Well, for genealogy, I recommend going to the Association of Professional Genealogists site and clicking on the link for "Other Searches" under the "Find a Professional" navbar.  On the "Advanced Search" page, you can scroll down and choose "Translator" on the "Service Category" pop-up and your desired language right below that.  Then look through the results.

Of course, not every language is available.  About 30 people come up for French, 25 for Italian, nine for Russian, and even three for Czech, but none for Finnish, Greek or Slovenian.  So what to do if no APG members work in your language?

The next place to look is the American Translators Association.  Near the top of the page you can search for a translator (or even an interpreter) by your beginning (source) language and then the language you want it translated to (target).  ATA of course has members who translate from French, Italian, Russian, and Czech, but you can also find Finnish, Greek, and Slovenian, along with many more.  The advanced search allows you to look for a specialized knowledge area; unfortunately, ATA doesn't list include genealogy on the list, which is why you're better off starting your search at APG.  Professional genealogists are generally more familiar with terminology that appears in documents important to family history research and often have come across obsolete terms in old papers.  Most ATA translators focus on modern-day language and may misunderstand older terms.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Sporting Activities

It looks like more people are helping Randy Seaver come up with new themes for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

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

(1) What sporting activities did you participate in as a youth and as an adult?


(2) Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook or Google+.  Please leave a comment on this post with a link to your post.

Thank you to Lisa Gorrell for suggesting this SNGF topic.


Sports, huh?  Never one of my strong points.

I don't remember any organized sports from when I was really young.  I know I had a sports uniform (which I have kept all these years), worn one day a week, when I attended 5th grade at Woollahra Demonstration School (in a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales).  I think Friday was sports day.  I can't think of what sports we played at school, though.  I recall having the opportunity to play soccer, cricket, and rugby while I lived in Australia, and I strongly disliked the first two.  I doubt I was particularly good at any of them.

When my family returned to the United States, I was able to be bad at more sports.  The only F I ever received in my life came in physical education.  My teacher, who looked a little like Crystal Gayle but whose name I don't recall (I can still picture her in my mind), didn't believe that I couldn't do a cartwheel and failed me for that.  She thought I was faking.  Sorry, lady, I still can't do a cartwheel.  But I'll always remember you (and not in a pleasant way).

I had various attempts at archery, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and softball, all of which I was very bad at because I can't aim well.  (My father learned this when he tried to teach me to shoot a gun.)  Even trying to compensate for how I missed didn't work.  One thing I was reasonably good at with baseball and softball was catching, but I never learned how to use a glove properly, so I always caught barehanded.

I did some bowling, mainly during summer breaks, but that was another thing where aiming was almost a prerequisite.  I was the queen of gutter balls.  I think my lifetime high score is in the 70's.

I was long and lanky, so I should have been good at running, but nope, I sucked at that also.  It wasn't until I was in college that I learned I had totally flat feet.  (One healthcare person told me they were so flat they almost went the other way.)  At least that explained why I was so miserable at running.

I am pretty sure there were Girl Scout badges for sports stuff, but I don't remember if I earned any of them.  I know I saved my uniform and badges, but I have no idea where they are in the house.

My brother and I used to play sandlot football in Villa Tasso with some of the other kids living out in the sticks.  I always wanted to be a quarterback (I dreamed of playing for the Minnesota Vikings when Fran Tarkenton retired), but that whole problem with aiming bit me again.  I was a good lineman, though.  The guys had trouble moving past me, because it was like my feet were planted in the ground.

The closest I ever came to playing football was, many years later, being an assistant coach of a professional women's football team.  I can't remember the team name or how I found out about it, but I drove from near the USC campus out to Van Nuys for the nighttime practices.  This was not long after my knee surgery (see below), so I couldn't do a lot, and there was no pay.  But I was thrilled to be part of it.

In college, however, I did find a few athletic activities at which I was at least adequate.  I got into weightlifting about the summer of 1982, when I really, really wanted to try out as a walk-on for the USC football team.  I had a couple of friends on the team, one of whom was a walk-on himself (Rick Vasquez, a quarterback), who encouraged me, and wide receivers coach Nate Shaw thought I should at least be given a chance.  But John Robinson refused to talk to me.  I competed in a couple of local weightlifting contests and even won two prizes.

During the time I was working out with weights, I also started bicycling as exercise and part of my training regimen, not just as a means of transportation (because I didn't have a car at the time).  I used to ride laps around the USC campus.  I think I built up to 11-mile runs, and then fall semester came and I was taking classes full time and working half-time in an office.  Between that and wrenching a knee (which eventually needed surgery), boom!, there went the exercise routine.  Because of the way I injured my knee, now I can't even ride a bicycle half a mile.

The other sporting activity I got into and enjoyed a lot was swimming.  I had been swimming since I was a kid, but nothing major.  USC had an Olympic-size swimming pool in the old PE building.  I did lap swimming and built up to a mile at a time.  I found it very relaxing and enjoyable.

At this point in my life I'm mostly fat and lazy.  I walk, and that's about it.  As a fan, however, I love the NFL and root for the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders.  I enjoy baseball (see Lisa Gorrell's post on this topic) but haven't gotten really enthusiastic about a team since the Montreal Expos ceased to exist.  And I will always love the Boston Celtics.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: 20 More Questions

Hmm, this week's questions for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun actually require a little bit of thought.

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

(1) Ellen Thompson-Jennings wrote 
20 More Questions About Your Ancestors and Maybe A Few About You this week and Linda Stufflebean thought it would be a great SNGF challenge.  I agree!

(2) Copy the questions from Ellen's post or from my post below and insert your own replies.  Be sure to comment on Ellen's blog so she knows you wrote about it.


(3) Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook or Google+.  Please leave a comment on this post with a link to your post.

Thank you to Ellen for her post and to to Linda Sufflebean for suggesting this topic.  If you have an idea for an SNGF topic, please let me know.


Q1:  Why do you love doing genealogy/family history?
A1:  Solving the puzzles.  No two families are the same, so the answers are never exactly the same.

Q2:  How far have you traveled to research an ancestor?
A2:  Only to Connecticut.  But I sent my brother on research in Manchester, England. 

Q3:  What do you think your favorite ancestor would think of our lives today?
A3:  I'm not really sure that I have a favorite ancestor.  If I have to pick someone, I guess it would be my great-great-grandfather Gershon Yitzhak Nowicki (~1858–1948).  His occupation on the passenger list when he arrived was given as wood turner, but in the United States he became a Hebrew teacher.  From what I have been told, he was a pretty lively guy, even right up to the end and apparently adjusted reasonably well to living in this country after moving here at the age of about 64.  I think he would be curious about our lives today and willing to learn new things.

Q4:  What do you think that your ancestor would like/dislike?
A4:  That's a damned good question.  I haven't a clue.

Q5:  What was the most unusual cause of death that you’ve found?
A5:  I can't think of any particularly unusual causes of death that I've found in my own family.  In my half-sister's family, I did find four generations of men who all (but one) died of heart attacks before reaching the age of 60.

Q6:  Which ancestor had the most unusual occupation?
A6:  I must have a pretty boring family, because I don't recall any particularly unusual occupations.  The aforementioned great-great-grandfather, who was marked on his 1922 incoming passenger list as a "likely public charge", probably because of his age, was enumerated eight years later in the 1930 census with the occupation of Hebrew teacher, however, so he was still working at the age of about 72.

Q7:  Have you ever gone to where your ancestor lived and it felt like home even if you’ve never been there before?
A7:  Unfortunately, no.  That happened to me the first time I came to Portland, but I have no family connection to the city.

Q8:  Do you have a distant ancestor (several generations back) that looks like someone in the family?
A8:  Sort of.  I have a copy of a photograph of an unidentified man whom I believe to be my 3rd-great-grandfather, because he bears a strong resemblance to my great-great-grandfather (his theoretical son) and has the distinctive Gorodetsky ears.

Q9:  What is the oldest ancestral photo that you have?
A9:  The oldest photo I have is of my great-great-grandparents Victor Gorodetsky and Esther (Schneiderman) Gorodetsky and their first child, Etta.  It was taken in Kamenets Podolsky, Russia (now in Ukraine), probably about 1890.

Q10:  Did you have an ancestor that had an arranged marriage?
A10:  Not that I know of, although it's likely that some of my Jewish ancestors did have arranged marriages.

Q11:  If you could live in the time period of one of your ancestors what year would it be?  Where would it be?
A11:  About 1834 in Manchester, Lancashire, England, the year after my 3rd-great-grandparents Richard Dunstan and Jane Coleclough married.  I especially would ask Jane who her parents were and where she was born.

Q12:  Which ancestor was married the most times?
A12:  My father and his father were each married three times, but my grandfather also had a long relationship with my grandmother without benefit of marriage, so he probably wins.  Grampa married Elizabeth Leatherberry Sundermeier about 1922, Anita Clarice Loveman in 1953, and Adelle Cordelia Taylor in 1961, and he lived with my grandmother Anna Gauntt from about 1934–1952.

Q13:  If you’ve tested your DNA, what was the biggest ethnicity surprise?
A13:  The 12% Irish ancestry that Ancestry said I have, and then also said that my brother has.  So far I have nothing in my research to substantiate that.  On the other hand, I don't actually believe it, either.

Q14:  Did you have a female ancestor that was different or unusual from other females from that time period?
A14:  My mother, who was not inclined toward domesticity and worked outside the home from the earliest that I can remember.

Q15:  Did your ancestor go through a hardship that you don’t know how they managed?
A15:  Not an ancestor, but a collateral relative.  According to information from the 1900 census, my 3rd-great-grandfather's brother's wife (I said collateral, remember?) had three children who were living, but in 1910 she reported that she had had three children and none of them was alive.  Losing all three of your children within a ten-year period would have to be devastating.

Q16:  How often do you research?  Are you a genealogy addict?
A16:  I do some research almost every day, but even if I'm not researching, I do something related to genealogy every day.  I'm definitely addicted.

Q17:  Do you have someone in your family that will take over the family history?
A17:  Not yet, and definitely not for my own family.  So far the most interest has been shown by my older stepson, in my research into his family.

Q18:  Have you had a genealogy surprise?  What was it?
A18:  By the time I finally got the results of the DNA test it wasn't that much of a surprise, but I did confirm that my paternal grandfather's father was not the man his mother married.

Q19:  Are you a storyteller?  What’s your favorite family story?
A19:  I am a pretty good storyteller, which works well when I'm giving genealogy presentations.  My favorite family story is about how my father competed on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour and came in second place to Gladys Knight.

Q20:  What was your greatest genealogy discovery?
A20:  Learning that the Sellers family is descended from Alexander Mack, the founder of the Schwarzenau Brethren (Dunkers), even though I've since learned that I'm not actually a descendant of Mack because I'm not biologically a Sellers.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Oregon Archives Crawl

While I was living in California, I wrote about the Sacramento Archives Crawl (this year taking place tomorrow, October 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), part of the outreach during Archives Month.  The point of Archives Month is to make more people aware of archives and the great information you can find in them, and to encourage everyone to preserve their own records.

Well, after I moved to Oregon, it sure wasn't going to be practical to fly back to Sacramento just for that Archives Crawl.  But now I've learned about the Oregon Archives Crawl!  (There was no crawl in 2017, so that's why I didn't hear about it last year.  But Oregon appears to have been celebrating Archives Month since 2008.)

It seems to be set up similarly to the one in Sacramento, with a few facilities hosting tables for many archives and records repositories.  This year's event is being held on Saturday, October 20, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (a couple of hours shorter than the event in Sacramento).  The host institutions are the City of Portland Archives and Records Center, the Oregon Historical Society, and the central branch of the Multnomah County Library.  You can start crawling from any of the hosts and then progress to the others.

This year's theme is "Changing Attitudes."  Thirty-two groups are participating, including some from Washington State.

The Crawl also has a Facebook page, where it has been featuring posts about several of the groups that will have tables.

So I'm looking forward to visiting the different locations, talking with lots of archivists, and learning about what's available.  Anyone want to come out and "crawl" with me?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wedding Wednesday

Mirta and Max
I learned via the New York City marriage index, which became available through the efforts of Brooke Schreier Ganz and Reclaim the Records, that my 4th cousin Max Szocherman married Mirta Mata in New York (probably Manhattan) in 1959, 59 years ago.  (Max and I share 3rd-great-grandparents Avram Yaakov Nowicki and SIrke.)  After consulting with other cousins on that side of the family,  I have been told that the wedding was about October 2, so I'm commemorating it today with photos that were shared with me by those cousins.

Max and Mirta were both born in Cuba, Max probably in Guanabacoa and Mirta in Habana.  I know the Szocherman family had already been traveling to and from New York prior to Castro coming to power, but they apparently moved there permanently after that event.  Max and Mirta likely knew each other already in Cuba.

Max, Tania, Julia, Louis, Mirta (face mostly hidden), ?, ?; Foreground: back of rabbi's head

Front row:  Julia, ?, Mirta; Left/middle:  ?, ?, Tania, Fanny, Welwel; Back:  Max, Honey, ?, ?

Left:  Julia, Honey, Eli; Right:  hat, Fanny, Louis; Back:  ?, ?

Left:  Julia, Honey, Eli;  Right:  hair, back of head with hat, Louis, Fanny, ?

Julia, Tania, Honey, Eli

?, Louis, Fanny, ?, ?, ?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Whoops! A Tad Behind in Wrapping Up FGS Day 3

Where does the time go?  I just realized that I didn't finish reporting on this year's FGS conference, having failed to write about the last day, even though one of the best sessions took place then.  Shame on me!

I began my Saturday with a volunteer shift at the Association of Professional Genealogists booth in the exhibit hall.  We usually don't get a lot of people stopping by, but it's nice to have the resources available for those who want to ask about the organization.  As usual, most of the inquiries I fielded were about how to find a professional genealogist to help with research, but a couple of new BYU graduates with degrees in family history asked for advice on starting a professional genealogy business.  I'm happy to spend some time in the booth to help promote the primary American organization for professional genealogists.

During my time in the booth, I popped out a couple of times and spent some time looking in the exhibit hall for good deals to spend some free "dealer dollars" that I received with my registration.  I finally decided on one of those books for a grandparent to write down information about his life and give to a grandchild — my boyfriend wants to create memories for his younger granddaughter, and I thought this would be a helpful supplement to the time they spend cooking together — and a more general memory book focused on events on each decade from the 1930's to the current time.  It's always fun to get free stuff, and the books ended up costing me not even a penny.

After my shift was over, I zoomed over to catch a session in the first time slot.  As much as it pained me to do so, I did not attend Tony Burroughs' presentation on oral history.  While Tony is one of my personal inspirations as a genealogist, I have read quite a bit about taking oral histories, and I thought I would be better served to learn something new.  In that vein, I went to Tina Beaird's talk on Scottish Presbyterian Church records, and I'm glad I did.  I know a fair amount about religious records, but I learned some specifics about the Presbyterian records, which can include not only the sacramental records one would expect (births, marriages, deaths) but also confirmations, transfers, pauper records, school records, session minutes, suscription lists, and print publications.  Wow, that's a lot of places to find information about your family members!  And Tina was a good speaker, too!

After Tina's talk came the lunch break.  Near the end of the break, MyHeritage held a trivia quiz in their booth, with attendees who answered questions about flags correctly winning various prizes, including DNA tests and annual subscriptions.  I managed to eke out a three-month subscription by guessing the right answer for the flag of Papua Guinea.

I spent the afternoon learning more cool genealogy information.  Ari Wilkins talked about how former slaves, after Emancipation, used newspaper advertisements and the Freedmen's Bureau to try to reconnect with family members.  No study has been done to determine how successful people were, but it appears that for the most part they were not.  It seems that more researchers are successful nowadays in reuniting family branches by using DNA and tracking down cousins.

Janis Minor Forté spoke about strategies to identify slave owners and then using that information to reconstruct slave-era families.  I already knew the techniques she described, but it's always good to attend talks such as this because there are often little gems you find nowhere else.  Since I have not been able to move any of my family lines past the 1865 barrier, I need all the help I can get.

The final presentation I heard was Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, covering copyright myths, in her version of the top ten.  The most important thing I learned in this session was that something I had been told years ago was wrong.  I don't even remember where I learned it, but someone I trusted gave me incorrect information about copyrights on photographs.  After Judy's talk it became clear to me that having your photographs developed in no way reduces or negates your copyright in those photos.  The developer functions as a publisher does for a book.  I'm glad I never passed on that bad information to anyone else but annoyed at myself for not having analyzed it better.

I had a great time at this year's FGS conference and learned a lot.  I'm so glad I had the opportunity to go.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Family Pet Stories

It's another great topic for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (but I might be biased)!

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

(1) 
What were your family pets?  What were their names?  How long did they live?  What stories do you have about them?


(2) Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook or Google+.  Please leave a comment on this post with a link to your post.

Thank you to Janice Sellers for suggesting this topic.  If you have an idea for an SNGF topic, please let me know.


My family and I have had a lot of pets during my life, so I'll see who I can remember.

My mother used to tell me stories about a standard poodle that we had when I was a little baby.  He protected me as if I were his own puppy.  His name was Pepe (which I learned from my father; my mother never mentioned his name), and he died of an epileptic seizure.  This had to have been around 1962 or maybe 1963.

The first pets I remember were Shazam, a solid black purebred Siamese (some kind of throwback), which we got from my dad's brother, who bred Siamese (Shazam's mother was named Ding-a-Ling); and Zeby, a German shepherd or shepherd mix whose origins I know nothing about.  Shazam used to catch birds, insects, and small rodents and bring them to my mother, who freaked out and told one of us kids to get rid of them.  As I recall, she just disappeared one day (one of the many reasons I am firmly in favor of indoor cats).  Zeby was a pretty good dog from what I remember.  She was another pet who ran away and we couldn't get her back; one day she got out of the yard accidentally.

I do remember that we had those two pets while we lived in La Puente, maybe about 1966?  One day the two were getting into some sort of a fight, and the babysitter who was watching us tried to intercede — not a good idea!  The babysitter and Zeby got really scratched up.

My parents apparently were not too good on getting animals fixed, because Shazam had a litter of kittens of which we kept one, Velvet, who was also solid black.  Zeby had puppies at some point and we kept one of them, which my mother named Bubbala.  Velvet was my cat and used to sit in my room all the time.  One day she ran away and didn't come back.  Shazam, Zeby, and Velvet all disappeared in Pomona.  That would have been about 1969 or 1970.

Bubbala was a special dog.  It's the only time I have heard of when a vet has called a dog retarded.  Bubbala never really learned to be housetrained and was always a little slow.  We had him in Pomona also.  I don't remember what happened to him.

Other pets we had in Pomona were various small hamsetrs and gerbils, and a green snake that was kept in the garage.  He was primarily my mother's pet.  He got away three times; the first two times my mother was able to find him and bring him back, but the third time he was gone for good.  I think it was the second time he escaped that he bit my mother when she retrieved him.  I remember her staying that it hurt, but he wasn't poisonous, so she wasn't worried.

I only remember one pet from the period we lived in Australia.  When we were in Pagewood we had a cat that was permitted to be indoor/outdoor.  She was run over by the neighbor's car.  That was in 1973.

When we returned to the U.S. and moved to Niceville, Florida, we had a series of Siamese cats with names evoking the devil — Beelzebub, Demon, Diablo, Lucifer, Satan, Shaitan — as chosen by my mother.  One of them — maybe Demon? — wasn't very friendly with other people, including family members, except he liked me.  Then one day he attackec me for some reason (I recall him being nervous because a bunch of people were in the house), and that was the excuse to find him a new home.  I think Lucifer is the cat we came home and found dead in the middle of the living room, but that was after we moved to Villa Tasso.  These were between 1974 and 1978 or so.

Somehow one day we ended up with a small, female white cat.  We went in the opposite direction with her:  Her name was Angel.  She was a very sweet, loving little girl, mostly mine.  She appeared to undertstand what I told her in English and act approriately.  We had her in 1977 or 1978, I think.

There were some dogs also, although I don't remember most of their names.  My mother was a bookkeeper for a breeder of show Shelties.  One puppy was born with an undershot jaw, and the breeder was going to put it down, but my mother convinced him to give the dog to her.  I think that dog died of a heart attack.  Then there was a dachshund who loved to play by rolling over onto his back for you to rub his belly.  He ran into the street one day and did that for a truck that was coming through.  My mother rushed him to the vet, but he didn't make it.  These were also around 1976 to 1978.

The most confusing choice of pet I remember was one summer when my father came home with a St. Bernard.  Remember I said we lived in Florida?  Besides being the wrong dog for the local weather, Bear thought he was a lap dog and was always trying to jump up on people.  As I recall, we didn't keep him long.

Once I graduated college and moved out on my own, I had pets of my own.  Every single one has been a rescue of some sort, with me almost always being at least the second owner.  The first was a Russian Blue/Persian longhair mix I found at the Los Angeles animal shelter in 1985.  I walked into the cat room, and she was the only one who talked to me, so I figured she was the right cat.  Her original name was Mura, which I thought was odd, so I changed it to Tamara.  She was a beautiful cat.  She looked like a "luxury model" (as a friend called her), but she was a good mouser, always making sure to leave some left over for me.  She was with me in my first apartment in Los Angeles, then the four-bedroom house I rented, moved with me to two houses in Berkeley, and finally to the house I bought in Oakland.  Her nickname was Fuzzybutt.  She lived to be 15.  She had an enlarged heart (I saw the X-ray; it had grown to fill her entire chest cavity), which is what killed her.  I learned how to give IV feedings while she was ill.

Right around 1993 my aunt and uncle somehow ended up taking care of a female German shepherd mix which had shown up in their neighborhood, probably dropped off in the country by some peabrain who simply didn't want to take care of her anymore (I was told this happened relatively often).   They (mostly my uncle) didn't really want another dog, so they talked me into taking her.  Cody started off being a nice dog but eventually became aggressive.  I ended up surrendering her to the Humane Society with the recommendation that she be in a household with no other dogs.

Then came Hank, who used to belong to a friend who had combined households with two other friends.  Four cats came together, and Hank was the odd man out, not quite fitting in.  He was a beautiful black and white Persian, complete with the wheezing, and a very mellow boy.  His previous owner had called him "the big duh", but he was far more intelligent than she had given him credit for.  I had always liked him, so when he wasn't happy in the new household, my friend offered him to me.  I went to pick him up, and he was waiting on the bed as if he knew I was coming.  He went straight into the carrier and was ready to leave.  This was in 1996.  He liked to curl up with me under the covers at bedtime.  He lived to be almost 18 and died in 2011.

Soon after Hank was Kirby.  He was a purebred Sheltie.  While I was out of the country for three and a half weeks in 1996, Cody stayed with a friend of a friend, who had Kirby, and the two got along great.  Not long after I returned to the States and brought Hank home, Kirby's owner contacted me and asked if I would like to take him.  She never went into detail about why she couldn't keep him anymore, but over time I began to figure out that someone had been whipping Kirby, and I suspected that she was giving him away to get him away from that problem.  He was a wonderful dog.  Even though Shelties are known for barking problems, he was pretty quiet.  As a herding dog, he was very good at keeping the cats in line when they started hissing or fussing.  He would just charge between them, almost like he was saying, "Knock it off!"  As he became older he had diabetes, then became deaf and almost blind.  When he started walking into rooms with a look like he couldn't figure out what he was doing there, I knew it was time.  All the employees at my vet came in to say good-bye to him, he was so well loved.  I think he made it to 15 also.  That was in 2009.

Napoleon arrived after Kirby.  While my housemate and I were at the 1995 GAMA Trade Show, a cat crawled into my basement and had a litter of kittens.  When we discovered them, about a week after our return, I was told by the Humane Society to start socializing the kittens so that they would be adoptable.  When it came to take them to be adopted,  we decided to keep the runt of the litter, a little white male shorthair.  He thought he could take on the world and had a definite "superiority complex", so we named him Napoleon.  Possibly due to his ignominious beginnings in the basement, he acquired an immune deficiency and had multiple problems, including severe allergies (I learned how to give allergy shots with him).  In 2000, at the age of 5 he had a stroke, and I took him to the evening emergency vet.  His odds of survival were extremely poor, so I had him put to sleep while I held him.

Later in 2000 a friend of mine circulated a message as a favor to a friend of his.  The other friend's girlfriend had found a cat and five kittens in a laundry basket in her apartment building parking lot and had been taking care of them.  She supposedly thought they were about four weeks old and was looking for homes for them, and the mother was said to be a Himalayan.  I waited a few weeks to allow the kittens to be weaned and then contacted the woman.  I discovered that they were only about four weeks old at that time; apparently when the lowlife left them in the parking lot, the kittens had just been born.  The mother wasn't actually a Himalayan, although she obviously had some sort of "Siamese" type ancestry.  (I eventually figured out she was probably a Birman.)  The woman also had a dog and a young baby and was desperate to find someone to take the cats.  So, I gave in.  I took all six of them home with me and kept them in a closed bedroom, where the kittens could be safe.  I socialized all of them really well and when they were weaned found them homes, and I kept the mother.  She was a little bitty thing, but when I was able to take her to the vet, they estimated that she was about 5 years old.  I named her Sassafras, Sassy for short, and she was my little fluff bucket, all long fur and fuzzy undercoat.  She was always small, 8 pounds at her absolute heaviest.  I adored my little princess.  But after Hank died, she just wasn't the same, and she really missed me when I traveled.  I came back from a trip and discovered that she really hadn't eaten for about four days, which is often deadly for cats.  In her case, it was; she didn't recover.

In 2003 Noodle entered my life.  He was a black and white shorthair from the Boston area.  His original name was Nunu, which I discovered was the name of the vacuum cleaner on Teletubbies, which I learned to despise when it was imported from the UK to PBS.  He obviously needed a new name.  If I change someone's name I try to keep it sounding somewhat similar, and my cousin's wife suggested Noodle, as in Mr. Noodle from Sesame Street, which worked for me.  He was a little punk, always picking on Sassy.  He moved up to Oregon with me but had heart failure earlier this year, surviving only two weeks after that.  He was about 15 1/2 when he died.

The year 2004 saw me branch out into birds.  I had always wanted a macaw, but when I had finally saved enough money to buy one I also had a cat, and I didn't think the two could coexist.  Many years later I met someone involved with a bird rescue group, and she explained how cats and birds can live together in some semblance of harmony.  I met Peaches, a blue and gold macaw, at his foster mom's home, and he took an immediate liking to me.  I determined that he was hatched about 2001, so he was only 3 years old when I brought him home.  He's now about 17, but since large macaws live to between 60 and 80 years old in captivity, he should long outlive me.

In 2005 I took in a second bird.  My boyfriend at the time really wanted a sun conure, so we went to look at some in a local pet store.  One of the birds had been returned after he hadn't worked out for the original purchaser (a guy who bought it for his girlfriend without asking her first).  He seemed like a nice little bird.  He was called Sunny at the store, apparently a very common name for sun conures, but I renamed him Ray.  He was friendly and very social, and the only bird I've had that I permitted to sit on my shoulder (actually not a great place for them).  The only negative thing about him is that sun conures have a rather high-pitched piercing scream, in some ways worse than macaws.  I never got used to that noise.  Ray took ill suddenly one day in December 2010, and I rushed him to the bird vet.  They thought he had a chance, so they tried some different therapies with him, but all it did was drag it out.  He died right before Christmas.

The second pet to join my household in 2005 was a guinea pig named Pulga.  I had gone to a local flea market just to browse and had no money with me.  A man who was trying to sell the guinea pig kept trying to convince me to buy it, but I kept telling him I had no money.  He finally begged me to take it, as he didn't want to have it at his house anymore.  He told me her name was Pulga, which means "flea" in Spanish.  Inasmuch as guinea pigs are pretty docile animals, she was a good pet.  Noodle, mentioned above, used to try to climb on top of her habitat all the time, so I housed her in the bird room, which Noodle was not a big fan of (Peaches scared him).  Pulga got along well with the birds and everyone was happy until Pulga suddenly died one day in 2009.  Peaches was very upset and screamed for two days.  I don't know if he really missed her or simply didn't like that somehing in his world had changed.

In late 2006 a third bird found his way into my life.  A friend of mine had asked me for advice on taking care of a bird that had been given to her daughter.  Zach was a green cheek conure.  I checked out his cage and food and gave her several suggestions.  Within a couple of weeks she called again and asked if I would just take the bird.  Her daughter didn't want to take care of it, and she didn't want it at all.  So little Zach moved in.  I learned that I was (at least) his fourth owner in less than one year.  This was a bird with trust issues!  He was always nipping and biting at me.  After a couple of years he finally figured out I wasn't going to dump him and became friendly.  One morning in 2011, when it was time for the birds to get up, I uncovered his cage and found him lying on the bottom, looking very distressed.  I rushed him to the vet, but he didn't make it through the day.

The addition of Zach to the house brought me to my personal pet maximum.  I had three cats, three birds, a dog, and a guinea pig from 2006 to 2009.

For a couple of years I looked for a new bird after Ray and Zach died, because Peaches definitely seemed lonely.  One day when I walked into my bird supply store, about 2008 I think, I saw a severe macaw that was listed for sale.  Caesar had been returned to the store after the couple that had bought him had had a baby, becaues they just didn't seem to have time for him anymore (not an uncommon occurrence).  He seemed to like me a lot and stepped up for me right away, so I checked with my vet about introducing him into the household and got an ok.  I should have been suspicious, because he was being sold for only $200.  It turned out that the store owner really didn't give me the complete story — Caesar is very territorial and extremely jealous, and one of the problems that the couple had with him was his jealousy over the new baby.  He was absolute hell while he went through puberty, but he's calmed down a little at this point.  He and Peaches have their own cages but are close to each other.  When I have boarded them, I have been told that if he isn't near Peaches, he screams constantly until his cage is moved.  Overall he's rather a brat, but I have assured him I won't send him back.  I think he should live to be between 40 and 60 years old, so he'll probably outlive me also.

The same kind of problem with loneliness happened with Noodle.  After Hank and Sassy died, Noodle was moping around the house and obviously needed a new companion.  I started checking out cat rescue organizations.  One day I walked into the same bird supply store where I had found Caesar, and they were displaying cats from a feral rescue group.  One of the cats was listed as a Himalayan.  Just like Sassy, this cat didn't look like a Himalayan (he's a short hair and looks like an orange tabby with points), but he seemed friendly and responded to my talking to him.  I jumped through the hoops and filled out all the paperwork, and "Brando" came to live with me.  I have never been that big of a Brando fan, so I renamed him Brandy, which he seems to have taken to reasonably well.  He and Noodle were the best of buddies and got along beautifully.  His actual age is unknown, as he was picked up as a street cat, but he's about 12 or 13, which is definitely "old" by cat standards (don't forget, they're seniors at 7).

And the latest addition to my home is Frankie, who came to live here in April of this year, just before his sixth birthday.  After Noodle's heart attack, my boyfriend was concerned that Brandy would be a lonely cat when Noodle died (his prognosis had been for three months at the best) and told me about Frankie, who was in kind of a foster situation but wasn't fitting in very well.  I figured it must be a sign that there was a cat that needed a home, so I said yes.  He's actually kind of like Noodle, a bit of a punk.  He and Brandy are still working their positions out, but things seem to get a little better every day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

RootsTech 2019: I'm Back

The announcement recently went out that registration for RootsTech 2019 is now open, and I have my own RootsTech announcement to make.  I am proud to say that for the third year in a row I will be at RootsTech to give a presentation on black genealogy (so my reviews from this year must have been good).  Next year I will be talking about records of the Freedmen's Bureau and their importance in breaking through the 1865 research barrier, to find information about family members who were enslaved.  This was a subject I spoke on in 2017, but it's an important one, particularly to the LDS church, which coordinated the digitization and indexing of the records.  I'm looking forward to another great learning experience and the opportunity to spread the word about using Freedmen's Bureau records!

RootsTech 2019 will take place from February 27 through March 2 at the famous Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah.  There's an early bird registration price for the conference, but you'll need to register before October 12 to take advantage of it!

So far my talk is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on the last day of the conference, but speakers have been warned that the program is still preliminary.  I'll need to keep an eye on it to see if my time changes, as last year I wasn't notified at all what time my talk was set for.

Wordless Wednesday


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hurricane Eloise, September 23, 1975

Hurricane Eloise, September 22
The recent news about the very destructive hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific this year have caused me to think about the one severe hurricane I was in.  Although it seems relatively small compared to the sizes of hurricanes nowadays, Hurricane Eloise was the most destructive of the 1975 Atlantic hurricane season, at least according to Wikipedia, and the name is on the retired list.  Today is the 43rd anniversary of it making landfall in Florida.

As with all hurricanes, you "watch" for the "warning."  This means that the hurricane watch comes first, when they start telling everyone in the area that you need to start making your preparations to leave in case the hurricane stays on its current path.  The hurricane warning is issued when the hurricane is actually expected to hit the area.

At the time of Eloise, my family lived in Villa Tasso, Florida, a small unincorporated community (maybe 200 people?) in Walton County, on the county line with Oklaoosa County.  Villa Tasso is right on the water, on Choctawhatchee Bay.  Being close to shore during a hurricane usually means more destruction due to storm surges.

When they issued the hurricane warning for Eloise, my parents decided we would not leave the area.  We did evacuate our home in Villa Tasso, which was two mobile homes connected together (because everyone knows that God hates mobile homes), but we went to stay in my father's garage in nearby Niceville (in Oklaoosa County), which was built of stone and had a very high probability of surviving the predicted storm.  It also was not as close to the water.

For three days my family of five (father, mother, brother, sister, and me) and my father's business partner were stuck in that building, with the business partner's two Doberman guard dogs locked in a room in the back.  The building was a great place to ride out the storm and took no damage.  My mother was talking on the phone during our stay and was zapped by lightning on the line.

When the rains finally let up, we drove back to Villa Tasso to see what had happened to our poor mobile homes.  Several trees on our property had been knocked down by the hurricane, but, amazingly, only one had actually hit a trailer.  Even at that, all it did was scrape the edge of the roof and land on the porch.  Our home had survived the storm!

After going through just one hurricane, I decided I didn't want to do that ever again, so when I graduated high school I chose to move back to the West Coast, where all we have to deal with is earthquakes!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Is Your Earliest Memory?

This is really cool.  Randy Seaver decided he liked one of my suggestions for a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun topic:

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

(1) 
What is your earliest memory?  How old were you, where did you live, who are the characters in your memory?


(2) Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook or Google+.  Please leave a comment on this post with a link to your post.

Thank you to Janice Sellers for suggesting this topic.  If you have an idea for an SNGF topic, please let me know.

Part of the reason I suggested this topic is because of the very clear early memory I have.

As a child, for many years I had remembered taking a train trip from Los Angeles (really east Los Angeles County) to Las Vegas to visit my grandparents.  I remembered my mother and her sister being on the train, and clearly remembered throwing up and my mother being upset about the mess.  I didn't remember leaving Los Angeles or arriving in Las Vegas, just the part when I threw up, who was there, and where we were going.

I finally asked my mother about me throwing up on the train and whether she remembered it, and if so when it had happened.  She looked stunned and said I couldn't possibly remember that.  I added the details about us traveling to Vegas and Aunt Sam being with us.  My mother looked utterly flabbergasted.  She told me I was remembering it correctly, and that it had happened when I was only two and half years old.  She could not fathom that I remembered that trip.  I guess, in my mind, it was such a traumatic event to throw up on the train that the memory imprinted itself permanently in my brain.

At the time we were living in eastern Los Angeles County.  If I was 2 1/2, and my sister was already born, we were probably living in La Puente.  I can kind of picture the house in my mind, but I don't think we have any photographs of it.  It's the house where I remember seeing a swarm of bees when I was a little older.  Before La Puente we lived in Montebello, and after La Puente I think is when we moved to Pomona.

What I found interesting was what I didn't remember about the trip.  Apparently my brother (one year younger than I) and sister (two years younger) were also on the train with us, but I have no recollection of them being there.  In fact, now that I think about it, we were probably going to visit my grandparents so they could see the new baby.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Was the First Genealogical Society You Joined?

Randy Seaver is back with a new challenge for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

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

(1) 
What was the first genealogical society you joined?  Why did you join that one?  What other societies are you a member of?


(2) Share your response in a comment on this blog post, in your own blog post (and provide a link in a comment on this post), or on Facebook or Google+.

NOTE:  Thank you to Jacquie Schattner for suggesting this topic in 2016.


Well, the first genealogical society I joined was the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society (SFBAJGS).  I've been a member since 2005.  I've been researching my family history since 1975 and just did stuff on my own.

I really don't remember how I learned about SFBAJGS.  Maybe there was a flyer at the Oakland Family History Center, or I might have heard about a meeting being held at the Jewish Community Center in Berkeley.  I remember I attended meetings for about a year before I officially joined, which I did because at that time I was primarily focusing on researching my mother's side of the family, it was the local Jewish genealogical society, and I wanted to support it.

Over the years I took on responsibilities for the society to support it further.  I became the publicity director in 2008, which meant I became a board member at the same time.  I started handling the program scheduling in 2010.  Also in 2010, I took over as editor of ZichronNote, the society's quarterly journal.  Those are all things I continue to do.  From 2015–2017, I was also the vice president, a position I stepped down from when I moved to Oregon.  And I've presented talks to the society several times over the years.

I am currently a member of two additional societies — Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon (since 2017) and California Genealogical Society (since 2011) — and three professional organizations — Association of Professional Genealogists (since 2005), Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (since 2012), and Genealogical Speakers Guild (since 2011).  Past memberships include California State Genealogical Alliance (which closed down in 2016), Gesher Galicia, and African American Genealogical Society of Northern California.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Cornelius Elmer Sellers, November 7, 1874–September 14, 1918

Laura May (Armstrong) and Cornelius Elmer Sellers

Today, September 14, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of the death of Cornelius Elmer Sellers, my great-grandfather.  None of his grandchildren knew him, because he died well before any of them was born.  This is some of the information I have learned about him through my research, none of which my family knew previously.

Elmer, as he was known, was born November 7, 1874 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Cornelius Godshalk Sellers and Catherine Fox Owen.  His father died when he was 3 years old, and his mother remarried in 1882 in Mount Holly, New Jersey, to George W. Moore.  The family appears to have stayed in the Mount Holly area from that point on.

Cornelius and Catherine Sellers had three children who died young, and George and Catherine Moore had at least two children, only one of whom survived to adulthood.  Elmer's surviving sibling was Howard Evans Moore.

On November 7, 1903, Elmer married Laura May Armstrong and accepted her 7-month-old son, my grandfather Bertram Lynn Armstrong, and raised him as his own.  They went on to have eight additional children I have documented, three of whom lived to become adults.


Elmer was in the New Jersey National Guard.  In 1905, he received a service medal for five years' service, which was reported in the Trenton Times of March 20.  After five years, he was still only a private.


Elmer registered for the World War I draft on September 2, 1918, only two days before he passed away.


Elmer's occupation was listed as plumber on his 1903 marriage record, farmer in the 1915 New Jersey state census, and ship builder on his 1918 draft registration, but I have been told that the family was always poor and never really had any money.  When Elmer died, however, the funeral home costs were more than $100.  It took me a while to figure out where the money had come from — Elmer's mother had paid for the expenses.  She outlived him by five years.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Grandparents Day 2018

So today is Grandparents Day here in the United States.  While cynics may believe it was created as a manufactured holiday designed to sell cards, I think it's a great excuse to post a photo of myself with all five of my grandchildren.  This is from June of this year, after a day-long visit to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland.


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Crazy Thing Did You Do?

I knew right away what I would write about for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge:

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

(1)
What was the craziest thing you did to get some genealogical information? 

(2) Write about your "crazy thing" in your own blog, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook.  Please leave a comment on this post with a link to your response.

Several years ago, I was scheduled to travel to Montreal for a work-related conference.  I knew that I was supposed to have many cousins in Ottawa, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to try to meet some of them, while I was "in the neighborhood."  I looked up bunches of names, addresses, and phone numbers and then tried to find out how far apart the two cities were and how long it might take to get to Ottawa (this was before the days of the ubiquitous Internet and Google Maps, so it wasn't as straightforward as it is now).  I spoke with my travel agent, who told me it would take several hours to travel to Ottawa from Montreal.  I figured I didn't have that much time in my schedule and decided not to pursue it.

When I arrived in Montreal, however, I learned that it was actually only about two hours by train or bus to go to Ottawa.  Two hours?!  I had to do it.  Because I had decided not to go before leaving on my trip, I had left all of my carefully researched names and contact information at home.  Scrambling around with what I remembered, I was able to find one phone number of a store that belonged to three brothers, who were among my cousins.  With that in hand, I bought a train ticket and headed off.

When I arrived at the train station in Ottawa, I found a pay phone (I said this was a while ago, okay?) and called the store number.  One of the brothers answered.  I told him my name, explained that we were related, and said that I had come to town to try to meet some of my cousins.  He gave me his home phone number and said to call his wife.  I called, got an answering machine, and left a message explaining who I was and that I was at the train station.

Rather than just stand around and wait, I called the store again.  This time I got a different brother.  I repeated my little story to him and mentioned that I had left a message for the first brother's wife.  He did almost the same thing his brother had:  gave me a number and suggested I call his cousin.  And I did the same thing:  got an answering machine and left an explanatory message.

Again, not wanting to just waste time waiting, I called the store again.  I actually got the third brother on the phone that time.  After hearing my story, instead of suggesting I call someone else, he handed the phone to another cousin, who was working there in the store.  That cousin and I then started the fun game of "okay, how are we related?"

We had been talking on the phone for about five minutes when a woman walked into the train station.  By this point, I was the only person still there, so she walked over to me and asked, "Hi, are you Janet?"  I said, "I'm Janice, not Janet."  She said she had gotten a message on her answering machine from a possible cousin who was at the train station, and I said, "That's me!"  I gave her a quick run-down on the activity that had led up to that moment.  Debbie got on the phone with the cousin at the store (who had been politely holding on), told him that she was at the train station with me, and said she would be taking me around town.

She dropped everything she had been planning on doing that day and drove me all around Ottawa to meet cousins.  I learned that her family (my family!) had the only glatt kosher bakeries in Ottawa, started by her grandmother and her children when they immigrated to Canada from Europe.  We went to both stores (and I was sent back with tasty bialys and bagels).  I met many, many cousins, who were thrilled to meet me and learn how we were related.  One cousin let me make copies of photographs.  The most important one was of a December 1924 wedding in New York City that had my great-great-grandfather, my great-grandparents, and my grandmother in it, along with many other relatives.

It so happened that Debbie was the only person in this branch of the family who was interested in genealogy.  She had actually created a two-page questionnaire (on long Canadian-sized paper) for family members to fill out, and had received them back from almost everyone.  She made copies of all of them for me!

The final adventure of the day came when it was time for me to return to Montreal.  I had thought the return train was leaving at 7:00, but I hadn't realized the time was noted by the 24-hour clock, so it had actually been at 5:00 (1700), and I missed it!  Luckily, we were able to find a bus I could catch instead, and I was able to get a refund for the half of the train ticket I hadn't used.