Saturday, November 30, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Should Genea-Santa Bring You?

It isn't actually December yet, but Randy Seaver is getting into the retail spirit and starting Christmas early for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) Only 25 days until Christmas now!  Have you been a good genea-boy or genea-girl?  

(2) What gift should Genea-Santa bring you for Christmas?  What do you need, or want, to help you with your family history, your research, etc.?

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

Well, I think I've been a good genea-girl this past year.  I volunteer at my local Family History Center every week.  I support my local genealogical societies by coordinating a research group, editing a journal, scheduling programming, giving presentations, and serving on two boards.  I'm sure I could do better, but I do put in a lot of time.

As for what gift I would like from Genea-Santa, I'm going to sound like a broken record, but what I want the most is to find out what happened to the son my Aunt Dottie gave up for adoption in 1945.  She gave him the name Raymond Lawrence Sellers.  We have no idea what name he was given later.  I've done everything I know to do:  Dottie's DNA is in the Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, and GEDMatch databases; Raymond's siblings (full and half) are in AncestryDNA and 23andMe.  I'm at a dead end with state research, because this all happened in New Jersey, and they aren't very friendly on this subject.  Dottie registered as being willing to accept contact if Raymond should look for her, but that's all Jersey allows.  They give out no information.  Dottie is now 94, and I fear age is catching up with her.  I keep hoping we'll find a DNA match, but no luck so far.  If there is anything else I can do to help further the search, I'm open to suggestions.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Great Thanksgiving Listen 2019

This week the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving, when people gather together in appreciation of their families and friends.  And as a genealogist or family historian, this is a particularly special time because all those family members and friends are gathered together in one spot, making it the perfect time to sit down and share stories, one of the most precious things you can collect.

In 2008, StoryCorps, a nonprofit oral history project begun in 2003, launched the National Day of Listening, when Americans are encouraged to record the stories of family members, friends, and community members.  StoryCorps designated the Friday after Thanksgiving as the Day of Listening as a deliberate contrast to the commercial perspective of Black Friday.  This year the event has been rebranded as The Great Thanksgiving Listen, with a tag of #TheGreatListen (plus the organization has a new logo!).  And if you pledge ahead of time to participate, you will receive e-mails during the week to prepare you with ideas and tools.

Set aside time this Friday to interview a relative or friend and record that person's story.  Use a mobile phone, digital camera, videocamera, cassette tape, the StoryCorps app, or whatever you have handy.  Write it down if you have to!  (StoryCorps does have recommendations for questions, equipment, and resources for people to conduct their own interviews, since you have time to plan ahead.)  If you are with more than one family member, make it a family event and have multiple interviews.  Save those family stories and share them with other family members.  Make sure your family's and friends' stories are not forgotten.

After Thanksgiving, if you have time and are in one of the right locations, StoryCorps has recording booths in some cities in the United States and also conducts mobile tours, where people can come and record interviews.  These must be reserved ahead of time.  One of the benefits of doing a StoryCorps interview is that the recording is preserved in the Library of Congress with the rest of the collection.

StoryCorps has several specific "initiatives" focused on oral histories from particular segments of the population.  Visit the site to learn about the Stonewall Outloud (LGBTQ), Memory Loss, Military Voices (service members), and Griot (black Americans) initiatives, in addition to others.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Thanksgiving, Genealogy Edition

We're getting into the Thanksgiving spirit early here for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) Think about the answers to these questions about your thankfulness for genealogy:

a.  Which ancestor are you most thankful for and why?

b.  Which author (book, periodical, Web site, etc.) are you most thankful for and why?

c.  Which historical record set (paper or Web site) are you most thankful for and why?

(2) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link in Comments to your own blog post or Facebook post.

Okay, here are mine:

a.  The ancestor for whom I am most thankful is my maternal grandmother, Lillyan E. (Gordon) Meckler (1919–2006).  Not only did she spark my initial interest in family history because she (along with my mother) related stories about family members all the time while I was growing up, she had four big boxes of photographs along with many more photos that were displayed in her home.  I convinced her to identify all the photos and allow me to label them, luckily before she had a stroke and was functionally blind, and she could no longer see the photos to tell me who was in them.

b.  The author for whom I am most thankful is David L. Gauntt, who wrote Peter Gaunt 1610–1680 and Some of His Descendants, a very well documented 583-page book about the Gaunt/Gauntt family, beginning with Peter Gauntt in Lancashire, England.  This is my paternal grandmother's family and has wonderful information about so many generations.

c.  The historical record set for which I am most thanksful is, which provides all of its information for free for everyone to use.  The records cover the basics used in genealogy — censuses and birth/marriage/death and related records— along with military records, pension records, land records, family histories, and so much more.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Number One Songs

When I saw the title for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, I thought it was going to be talking about our favorite songs.  But that wouldn't be very genealogically oriented, would it?  No, Randy Seaver had something else in mind.

Tonight, we're going to go down memory lane a bit.

(1) What was the #1 song on the day you were born?  Or on your birthday when you were 15?  When you were 18?  Or when you married?  Or some other important date in your life.

(2) Go to, enter the date, and select from UK, US, or Australia record lists.  Note:  The first date available is 1 January 1946. 

Alternatively, go to and search for "number one songs in yyyy" (insert your year), enter the month and date, and see a list of number one songs for each year since 1940. 

(3) Tell us what your results are (if you are sensitive about your age, don't list the date or year) in a blog post of your own, a comment to this post, or a Facebook status line or note.

So, let's see what I came up with.

• Birth date April 9, 1962:

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song in the United States was "Good Luck Charm" by Elvis Presley, also #1 in Australia on that day.  (YouTube says that the song hit #1 the week ending April 21, which means spanning April 15–21, so the "This Day in Music" site may not be entirely accurate?)

• 15th birthday, April 9, 1977:

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song in the United States was Abba's "Dancing Queen", which was also #1 in Canada on that day.

• 18th birthday, April 9, 1980:

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song in the United States was "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)" by Pink Floyd, another song which was also #1 in Canada on that day.

• 25th birthday, April 9, 1987 (which was important to me because I turned a quarter of a century):

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song in the United States was Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now", which was yet another song that was also #1 in Canada on that day.

• I haven't been married, but my anniversary date with my ex is February 14, 2007:

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song was Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" (which I've never heard of, but I haven't heard of any of the other songs from that date either).

• 50th birthday, April 9, 2012:

From "This Day in Music", the #1 song in the United States was "We Are Young" by Fun (featuring Janelle Monáe), would you believe another song which was also #1 in Canada on that day.

The year 2012, when I turned 50, was also the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and I celebrated my birthday at a costume ball commemorating the ship.  According to one site, the most popular song that year was "That Haunting Melody" by Al Jolson, but I can't find anything for a specific date.

"This Day in Music" also provides the #1 song in Australia and in Germany, by the way.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (on Sunday!): A Veteran's Service and Gravesite

I've missed the past few Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenges, mostly because they were repeats of ones from previous years and I didn't have anything new to say.  This weekend, however, Randy Seaver came up with a new twist for Veterans Day:

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) To celebrate Veterans Day, pick one of your ancestors or relatives with a military record and a gravestone.

(2) Tell us about your ancestor's military service.

(3) Tell us about your ancestor's gravestone:  Where is it, what is the inscription, when were you last there?  Show us a picture of it if you have one available. 

(4) Write your own blog post about this ancestor and gravestone, or share it in a comment to this blog post or in a  Facebook post.

The reason I wasn't able to do this for Saturday is because at first I couldn't find one of my military relatives for whom I had a photo of a gravestone.  I went through several ancestors, futilely searching:

Umpty-umpth-great-grandfather Hananiah Gaunt, Revolutionary War veteran:  no known tombstone in his own time

Umpty-umpth-great-grandafther (one fewer generation than Hananiah Gaunt) Moses Mulliner, Revolutionary War veteran:  no known tombstone in his own time, unknown location of grave now

Father Bertram Lynn Sellers, Jr., New Jersey and Florida Army National Guard veteran:  He doesn't have a tombstone.

That finished the ancestors whom I know had any type of military service.  Then on to collateral lines:

Maternal uncle Gary Steve Meckler, U.S. Army veteran:  I don't have a photograph of his tombstone.

First cousin John McKay Appleton, Coast Guard veteran:  I don't have a photo of his tombstone.

Second cousin once removed Victor Gordon, U.S. Navy veteran:  I don't have a photo of his tombstone.

Granduncle Sidney Gordon, World War II U.S. Navy veteran:  I don't have a photo of his tombstone.  At least I have photos of him in uniform during the war.

Great-granduncle William Brainin, World War I U.S. Army veteran:  I don't have a photo of his tombstone.  I used to have a photo of him in his Army uniform, but it has disappeared.

I also looked at individuals in my adoptive Sellers line:

Great-great-grandfather Cornelius Godshalk Sellers, Civil War veteran:  probably no tombstone originally, now unknown grave location (because the cemetery was sold for a housing development and only graves for which people ponied up money were moved)

Distant cousins Edwin Elias Sellers, career U.S. Army veteran, and his son David Foote Sellers, career U.S. Navy veteran, actually do have tombstones I can find images of.  I considered writing about one of them — and I would have had tons of material, because they both had long, well documented careers — but I kept hunting for someone on one of my blood-related lines.  And I finally found:

Great-granduncle David Harry Brainin, World War I U.S. Army veteran (and William's brother).  Born approximately March 25, 1888 (at least that's the date he used on some records in the United States), probably in or near Kreuzburg, Russian Empire (now Krustpils, Latvia); died May 6, 1971 in Vineland, Cumberland County, New Jersey; buried in Alliance Cemetery, Norma, Salem County, New Jersey.

I wrote about Dave and my discovery of what little I know of his Army service a few years ago.  He registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 in Butte, Montana.  According to his fast-tracked military petition for naturalization, he arrived at Camp Lewis, Washington on March 5, 1918.  He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on June 4, 1918.  The two witnesses on his petition were a captain and a first lieutenant, probably officers in his unit.  I don't know when he officially entered or mustered out of the Army.

But I do have a photo of his tombstone:

There isn't much of an inscription:  Just BRAININ over DAVID 1888–1971 and BETTY 1900–1978.

Thank you to Mary Ann Missimer-Moore, who took this photo and has given blanket permission to use the photos she posts on Find A Grave.

There's about an 80% chance that any documents relating to Dave's service were destroyed in the 1973 National Personnel Records Center fire.  I actually live not far from what was Camp Lewis, now Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  I searched and discovered that Lewis Army Museum is on the base.  I doubt there will be anything specific to my uncle in the museum.  But I won't know for sure about either until I try, will I?