Sunday, October 25, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Where Were Your Ancestors 80 Years Ago?

It's time to look at the 1940 census for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun with Randy Seaver!

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

(1) Determine where your ancestral families were on 1 April 1940, 80 years ago, when the U.S. census was taken.

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

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

I actually had several ancestors alive in 1940 (not "direct ancestors", because that's a nonsense term; someone is either an ancestor or a collateral relative).

• My father, Bertram Lynn Sellers, Jr. (born 1935), and my paternal grandparents, Bertram Lynn Sellers, Sr. (born 1903) and Anna Gauntt (born 1893), were living either in New Jersey or in NewYork.  I have looked up, down, and sideways for them in the 1940 census and have not found them.  At this point I don't expect to, because when my grandfather compiled a list of all the places he had lived during his life, he included three(!) locations for 1940.  I'm pretty sure they simply were missed by census takers.

• My paternal grandfather's mother, my great-grandmother Laura May (Armstrong) Sellers Ireland (later called Nanny Ireland; born 1882), was also not enumerated in the 1940 census.  I know the address at which she was living on Broad Street in Mount Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey, but that house number was missed by the census taker.  It does not appear in the enumeration district.  I have a photo of the house, though, which was owned by family members for at least 40 years.

• My paternal grandmother's parents, my great-grandparents Thomas Kirkland Gauntt (born 1870) and Jane (Dunstan) Gauntt (born 1872), were living at 119 Hume Street, Mount Holly Township, Burlington County, New Jersey.  I not only don't have a photo of the house, I can't find the address on Google Maps, so the street name might have changed.

• My maternal grandparents, Abraham Meckler (born 1912) and Lillian Esther (Gordon) Meckler (born 1919), were living at 484 Livonia Avenue, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York.  My mother was there also, in a way, because my grandmother was pregnant with her when the census was taken.  I don't have a photo of the building from that time, and a quick peek at Google Maps shows a pretty modern-looking building, but I might be able to get a photo by paying New York City.

• My maternal grandfather's father, my great-grandfather Morris Meckler (born about 1862), should be in Brooklyn, but I haven't found him yet.  I really want to find him in 1940 because I have been told that he married a second time after my great-grandmother Minnie Zelda (Nowicki) Meckler died in 1936.  If he actually did, that second wife might be enumerated with him.  I know he was alive in 1940 because he didn't die until 1953.

• I might have found Minnie's father, my great-great-grandfather Gershon Itzhak Novitsky (born about 1858), also in Brooklyn, at 99 44th Street.  I think it's him, even though the person is enumerated as Jean, not Gershon, because the age and birth location are right, and he is enumerated with a wife named Ethel.  If this is the correct couple, that Ethel is Ethel (Nowicki) Perlman (botn about 1868), who was Gershon's niece.  I was told many years ago that Gershon had married his niece later in life.  Apparently, it was not uncommon in some Jewish communities for an older man who was widowed to marry a niece.  This wasn't necessarily a fully "active" (ahem!) marriage; the reason for it was for the elderly widower to have someone to take care of him.  I have a second one of these uncle/niece marriages in my family.  I don't have a photo of this residence, and Google Maps shows me a modern concrete building, so that ain't it.  This is another location that I might be able to obtain a photo through New York City.

• My maternal grandmother's parents, my great-grandparents Joe Gordon (born about 1892) and Sarah Libby (Brainin) Gordon (born about 1885), were living at 10 Livonia Avenue, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, just a few blocks from my grandparents.  Also living with them was their oldest child, Sidney Gordon (born 1915).  I don't have a photo, and when I look for that addresss on Google Maps, I can't even tell what the building looks like, because it's covered with scaffolding.  Yet another location that I might be able to get a photo from New York City.

So I have a total of twelve ancestors who were alive in 1940, seven of whom I have found in the 1940 census.  Four of the remaining ancestors I have conceded that I will never find.  The only one left after that is Morris Meckler; I haven't given up on finding him — someday.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Top 10 Free Genealogy Sites

I'm not really a fan of "Top 10" and similar posts, but at least I can come up a list fairly easily for the subject Randy Seaver has chosen for today's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

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

(1) Last week we defined our top 5 or 10 fee-based genealogy websites.  This week, let's define our top 10 free genealogy websites!

(2) List your Top 10 (or 20 if you want!) FREE genealogy sites and a short reason for listing each of them.

(3) Share your list on your own blog, in a comment on this post, or on Facebook.  Please leave a link to your list wherever it is.

Drum roll, please:

1.  FamilySearch.org, absolutely.  Not only does it have a massive collection of records, it also has a wonderful wiki with great information on so many research topics.  Plus there are the FHL catalog, online digitized books, learning center, and the FamilyTree, if you want to have your tree online.  And all totally FREE!!

2.  Chronicling America.  Since I love newspaper research so much, this one is a natural, plus it's our tax dollars at work for us.  Chronicling America is the online collection that grew out of the mandate for all states to catalog and digitize their historic newspapers.  One day, all fifty states will finally be posted . . . .

3.  SteveMorse.org.  You can also find this site by going to StephenMorse.org and StephenMorse.com, but not SteveMorse.com.  Just remember, that guy is the imposter; the genealogy Steve Morse is the real deal.  Steve started working on his genealogy shortly before the Ellis Island database went online; when he discovered how badly designed the search engine was, he created his own, and it has only grown from there.  Not only does he have better search pages for Ellis Island, he also has pages for most of the major immigration databases and a huge list of BMD search sites, plus all sorts of cool tools, such as transliterating Cyrillic and Hebrew to the Latin alphabet and figuring out the dates for Easter and Passover every year.  And a whole bunch more besides those!  Oh, just go check out the site and bookmark it!

4.  DeathIndexes.com.  This is actually just one section of a cool site created by Joe Beine.  There are also links to sites for German research, immigration databases, Black research, county histories, and more.  Plus you can sign up for e-mail notifications of when new links are added.

5.  CyndisList.com.  This is still the granddaddy (or should I say grandmomma?) of genealogy portals.  It includes links to hundreds (thousands?) of categories of genealogy sites covering all sorts of topics, and more are added regularly.

6.  FindAGrave.com and BillionGraves.com.  These are two different sites owned by different companies (Ancestry owns FindAGrave; BilliomGraves is independent), but they're essentialy the same thing:  collections of data collated from tombstones in cemeteries and contributed by volunteers.  There's overlap between them, and each has information the other doesn't.  If you're looking for a death, check 'em both out.

7.  Family Tree Webinars.  This used to be an independent site, part of the company that created Legacy Family Tree software, until the parent company was gobbled up by MyHeritage.  The site itself isn't totally "free", but most of the Webinars offered are free to watch when they air and for up to a week afterward.  Lots of genealogy topics are covered, sometimes multiple speakers covering the same subject at different times.

8.  Wikipedia.  At first I thought of one specific page on Wikipedia, the List of Online Newspaper Archives, which I contribute to regularly.  Then I decided I should broaden the listing to include the entire site, as a free online encyclopedia is useful for research in so many ways.  But my favorite page is sitll the List of Online Newspaper Archives.

9.  U.S. GenWeb.  This is a volunteer contribution site for the United States.  It's broken down by states and counties.  You never know ahead of time what you're going to find for a given location, because you don't know what someone might have contributed.  So it's always good to check and see what is there.  And if you feel like contributing, or maybe vounteering to be the coordinator for a county that doesn't have one, so much the better.  Oh, and there is an archive of older U.S. GenWeb info, too.  (There is also a World GenWeb which works similarly, so check that out too.)

10.  Google.  Yes, I know, Google isn't actually a genealogy site per se, but you can use the tools to help you with your research, and it is free.  And as Randy pointed out in his top 10 list, in addition to Search (which I admit keeps getting worse and worse as Google continues to dumb it down for mobile users, but I still like it better than the alternatives), Google also has Blogger (the platform I use for this blog), Translate, Images, Books, News Archive, Maps, and more.

So there they are, my top 10 free sites that I use for genealogy.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Discovering a Family Health History

Mary Lou was the mother of my half-sister Laurie.  I try to write about her on her birthday, October 16.  In previous years I've shared some fun stories and memories about her (2019, 2018, 2017, 2016), but this year I have a more serious topic.

Because I love genealogy so much, of course I did research on Laurie's mother's side of the family.  It also helped that I knew Mary Lou.  I had the opportunity to ask her some questions about her family, but I didn't make significant progress until after she passed away.

I had collected a reasonable amount of information and had entered everything into my family tree database.  I only had four generations at the time, but I had everyone's birth and death dates.  So I printed out a basic family tree to share with my sister.

I was looking over the tree and suddenly noticed something.  In four generations of men, only one had lived to see the age of 60.

I thought I must have made a mistake.  I went back to all of my documents and certificates and checked everything.  But I wasn't wrong.

In Mary Lou's generation, her brother Robert died at 54.  Her cousin William died at 50.

Her father Francis died at 49.  Her paternal uncle Paul was dead at 59.

Her grandfather William died at the age of 58.  And his father, John, died at 57.

Okay, I was getting a little creeped out.

When I looked at the death certificates, the cause of death was the same for every man:  heart attack.

The only man in the family I have found so far who lived to see 60 was Mary Lou's cousin Jimmy, William's brother.

I've often wondered if Jimmy looked around and noticed that his brother, father, cousin, uncle, and grandfather weren't around any more, and whether he knew that they all died of heart attacks.  I actually met him once but didn't feel I could ask him that question.  I do know that he retired young and that he survived to celebrate his 60th birthday.

I hadn't looked for this health history in Mary Lou's family, but it was so striking that I couldn't help but see it once I put the information together.

But putting together a health history of your family is something you can do when you research your family history.  Read all those death certificates to learn what the causes of death were.  Do you see any trends?  Let other family members know about them.

I know not everyone gets into genealogy (!), but this is one aspect of it that you can share with your family members that they might appreciate a little more.  Maybe you can save someone's life by letting them know which health problems are part of their history.

Mary Lou would have been 82 years old today.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

If You Don't Ask, the Answer Is No

Way back when I was a little girl, my mother taught me that if I wanted to learn something, I should be willing to ask questions to find my answer.  If I wasn't willing to ask, then the answer to my question was automatically no, because I couldn't find the answer that way.

This is particularly pertinent in genealogy.  If you don't want to ask family members what they remember about older relatives, or how the family fared during the Depression, or what happened at your cousin's wedding that everyone still snickers about, then your answer is no.  You most likely won't be able to find out.  Even if you think that your aunt probably doesn't know, until you ask her, your answer is already no.  So why not go ahead and ask, and maybe that no will become a yes?

When I was researching my ex's family, I had made some good progress, but I had lost track of his maternal grandparents.  I knew they had moved from Massachusetts to California, but I couldn't find them after that.  My ex was convinced that they had returned to Massachusetts and died there, but I hadn't found records to verify that.  I had searched through several indices and had not found their names.

So I tried a different angle.  My ex's brother is two years older than he.  I figured two years was enough that he might remember what happened to the grandparents — when they had died, or moved, or something.  My ex didn't want me to ask, insisting that his brother couldn't possibly remember anything he didn't remember himself.  So my answer was "no."

But I kept working on him, and finally he relented and gave me his brother's e-mail address.  And lo and behold, what do you know?  Yes, indeed, he did remember.  The grandmother had died in California, and then the grandfather returned to Massachusetts and died there.  And he had a pretty good idea of the years, also.

Now that I had years to work with and could narrow my search, I found the grandmother's death in California and the grandfather's death a few years later in Massachusetts.  Both names had been indexed poorly, and I hadn't been able to pick them out because I was searching through too many years and overlooked them.  But now I had them!  I turned the no into a yes simply by asking.

Another time I was willing to ask questions was a little more daunting.  I was doing research on a man who had lived in San Francisco for about six years and had owned an automobile repair garage.  I had been asked to find a photograph of the garage.  I had determined the address but had discovered that the building was no longer there.  In its place were parking spaces in front of a gas station convenience store, part of a larger piece of property which included the gas station itself.  After more research, I figured out that the same gasoline company had had a gas station on that corner property for more than a hundred years, including the period during which my guy had owned his garage.

Logically, at some point the gas company must have bought the lot which had the garage and added it to the gas station.  It seemed that asking the company about the history of the proprty might be a useful step.  But who goes around asking gas companies questions like that?  They seem to be pretty protective about their information, especially in a city like San Francisco, where gas companies are not held in the highest esteem.

But if you don't ask, the answer is no, remember?

So I looked up the phone number of the administrative office of the gas company.  I explained I was researching the history of the property and was wondering if the company might have an archive of some sort with information about the company's history.

And it did.  (By the way, this is a relatively common thing.  If a company has been around for more than a century, it probably has an archive.)

Not only did it have an archive, the archivist was friendly and helpful!  She was able to find a little bit of the history of the property.  She even found two photos of that specific lot!  Unfortunately, they were after the garage had been torn down, so I didn't get the photograph I wanted, but I did have some additional information, including verifiying that the gas company had bought the land where the garage used to be.  And I confirmed the lesson I learned from my mother all those years ago:

If you don't ask, the answer is automatically no.  But if you ask, you might just find out something.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Statement of Non-Support: Board of African American Genealogy

Most of my blog readers know that one of my research specialties is Black genealogy.  I started that research about 25 years ago for extended family members.  Since then I have discovred my own Black relatives and the African ancestry that appears in my DNA.

This is to say that I am not new to this field.  Although I am white, I have many years of involvement in the Black genealogy community.  I, along with many others, have often looked for more visibility for the community.

But this isn't the way to do it.

I learned of the Board of African American Genealogy this past Friday, October 9, when I received a message forwarded from Nicka Smith, a genealogy colleague of mine.  We used to serve together on the board of the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (AAGSNC) and worked together on AAGSNC's quarterly journal, The Baobab Tree.  She is a nationally known lecturer on Black genealogy and the founder and host of BlackProGen Live.

She discovered that the founder and promoter of the Board of African American Genealogy (BOAAG) was using her name and the names of other genealogists prominent in the Black genealogy community to market the new organization, without their permission or knowledge beforehand.  She learned that some of those individuals had contacted BOAAG to try to find out more about what was going on and had either been rebuffed or given the run-around.

Nicka has written an opinion piece about the situation which I recommend anyone interested in Black genealogy read.  It lays out the facts as known at this time.

It is possible that BOAAG actually has the good of the Black genealogy community in mind.  But for now it is taking actions that appear to be more self-serving than beneficial to others, and doing so in a way that is not completely aboveboard.  So I agree with Nicika's assessment and announcement, and I have added my name to those listed with her post.  I do not recommend supporting the Board of African American Genealogy.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Top 5 or 10 Fee-based Genealogy Sites

It's Saturday night, so it must be time for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun with Randy Seaver!  Tonight he's gone in a direction I don't think I've seen before.

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

(1) Ken McKinlay posted My Top 10 Fee-based Genealogy Sites this past week, so I've made it the challenge this week (thanks to Linda Stufflebean for the suggestion!).

(2) List your Top 5 or 10 top fee-based genealogy sites and a short reason for listing them.

(3) Share your list on your own blog, in a comment on this post, or on Facebook.  Please leave a link to your list wherever it is.

Ah, so this is a third-hand challenge!  Ken McKinlay wrote it, Linda Stufflebean saw and suggested it, and now Randy has posted it for the rest of us.  It's a good thing we're all friends in genealogy.

This is an interesting question for me, because I don't actually pay for many sites.  But here we go.  I'm going to stick to a Top 5, and I will point out that this list is skewed toward American research.

1.  Yup, Ancestry.com.  It has to be.  It's the 500-pound gorilla of the genealogy world.  And for fee-based sites, I believe it does have the most records of anyone.

2.  FindMyPast, I think.  I still don't like the fact that it dumped the really good search forms that it used to have and dumbed everything down for the American market, but it's a great collection of records, including many not available on other sites, such as the British parish records.  This is the one subscription site I pony up for every year (in fact, they just charged me my renewal recently).

3.  Newspapers.com.  It's a tough call which should be #3, this or NewspaperArchive.com, but I went with Newspapers.com for two reasons:  its strength in mid-20th-century newspapers and the fact that you get a discount if you bundle it with Ancestry.com, which owns it.  I was known as the "newspaper queen" in the San Francisco Bay area because I taught so many classes on using newspapers for genealogy, and I still think they're goldmines for research.  For a lot of people who are still working on tracing their families back to the early 20th century, the mid-20th-century ones can be critical in bridging the gap backward from what relatives still remember.

4.  NewspaperArchive.com.  I find that NewspaperArchive has a broader collection than Newspapers.com, but its strength is in older periods.  That won't help you so much if you haven't gotten your family lines back to the 19th century.  So I made it #4.

5.  Fold3.com, I guess?  After my top four, I really had trouble deciding what would be the next most useful site.  I decided on Fold3 because that's where Ancestry shifted a lot of its military records and where the new ones in that category have been added, plus it has a lot of city directories and some newspapers.  In addition, as with Newspapers.com, if you subscribe to Ancestry also, you can get a discount.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Create a Fact List in Your Genealogy Software

Almost every time Randy Seaver asks us to do something with our genealogy database software for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, I end up leanring something new.  Tonight was no exception.

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

1.  Does your genealogy management software (e.g., Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, Reunion, Heredis, Family Historian, etc.) create a "Fact List" report (or something similar):  a list of the profiles in your family tree that have (or don't have) a specific Fact (e.g., birth, death, burial, immigration, etc.)?

2.  If so, run a Fact List to determine which people have a specific Fact (or don't have a specific Fact) and share it with us. 

3.  Share your results with us in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook post.  Leave a comment on this post with a link to your results.

I still have not resolved my problem with reinstalling Family Tree Maker (FTM) since my laptop hard drive died, so I'm still using Reunion.  But because I intend to go back to FTM, I haven't really learned the ins and outs of Reunion.

While working on tonight's challenge, I learned that in addition to being able to search for lots of basic facts (e.g., name, birth date, marriage date, etc.) Reunion has a selection of preset searches.  One of them is "With Multiple Spouses."  I decided that would be a fun search to run.

Running the Find request automatically created a list.  I discovered that 291 people in my database are listed with multiple spouses.  Technically, that's actually multiple partners, as I know that several of them don't have marriage dates but were noted in FTM as having met, not having been married.  Apparently when I imported the GEDCOM file into Reunion, that distinction was not retained, or at least Reunion doesn't distinguish between the two for the purpose of this search.

The list gives me an option at the bottom to create a report.  When I clicked on that, it took about 8 seconds for the report to be generated and opened in Word.

And I 100% agree with Randy's comment that being able to run searches and create reports such as these are advantages of using a family tree database program versus having an online tree.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your "7 Generations in 1 Chart"

We're digging deep into our genealogy databases for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise from Randy Seaver:

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

1.  The DNAsleuth (Ann Raymont) created a 7-in-1 chart showing seven generations of ancestors on one page several weeks ago.  See her blog post at https://dnasleuth.wordpress.com/2020/09/01/7-gen-1-sheet/ target="_blank".  In her post is a link to her Word document if you wish to use it.

2.  Linda Stufflebean's husband, Dave, took the concept a step further and created an Excel template for the 7-in-1 chart.  You can download Dave's file from my Google Drive at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1s7rTacxacWVCWxUEWq5pAArJCv8mCZWT/view?usp=sharing.  Linda's completed chart is at https://emptybranchesonthefamilytree.com/2020/09/using-excel-to-display-7-family-generations-on-1-sheet/ (I opened it to "Editor" so you can download it and work with it).

Here is an image of the blank 7-in-1 chart:


As you can see, the left column is the generation number, and the other columns are for ancestors of Gen. 1 listed in columns for each grandparent.  So the chart covers Ancestors #1 through #127 in an Ahnentafel list or a large pedigree chart.

3.  The challenge tonight is to fill out your 7-in-1 chart and show it to us.  I used the spreadsheet, added the ancestor numbers while adding the names (starting with 1 = me, 2 = father, 3 = mother, etc.).   I added the names and birth/death years (if known) for the first seven generations.  Then I colored the boxes by birth place by countries and saved my chart as an XLS file.  I then saved my chart as a JPG by using the Windows Snipping Tool to create the image.  This task took me an hour to complete, so plan ahead!

4.  Show us your 7-in-1 chart in your own blog post or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link to your creation in a comment on this post.

Well, mine isn't nearly as well filled out as Randy's.

I filled out the cells with names and birth/death years, as Randy did, but I have a lot more unknown names than he does.  I also color-coded the cells by country; my color code is at the bottom of my chart.  I made a screen capture of the image using the native Mac OS capability, which automatically saves the image as a JPG.  I'm not sure how legible the image is, though.


I was doing well through the 3x-great-grandparents, but I pretty much fell apart on the 4x-great-grandparents.  Notice the entire right side is full of unknowns?  The left side isn't much better.

Ah, well, just more inspiration to continue my research, right?

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Happy 75th Birthday, Cousin, Wherever You Are

Seventy-five years ago today, on September 23, 1945, my paternal aunt, Dorothy Mae "Dottie" Sellers, had a son whom she named Raymond Lawrence Sellers.  The father was Clarence Newcomb "Zeke" Lore.  This was Dottie's second child, and the second out of wedlock.  Although she had kept her first son, because of different circumstances in her life this time, she made the difficult decision to give Raymond up for adoption.

Dottie is currently 94 years old.  About the time she turned 90, she asked me if I could help her find Raymond.  She kmew she doesn't have too many years left on this earth, and she wants to reunite with her son if possible before she dies.

Raymond was born in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey.  He was also surrendered for adoption in Cumberland County.

The state of New Jersey has closed all adoption records after 1940, and that's a hard-and-fast rule.  We have no way of gaining access to the file.  The only procedure available to us through New Jersey is to have Dottie register with the state and attest that she is open to being contacted by Raymond if he goes through the state's system to try to find his biological mother.  We've done that.

I have searched the Social Security Death Index and the Claims Index with Raymond's birthday, just in case someone who looked like a likely candidate would pop up.  No luck there.

The way a lot of connections have been made after adoptions is through DNA.  Mostly you hear about adoptees having DNA tests and looking for their biological families, but it happens the other way also.  We have all the major databases covered — Ancestry.com, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, and GEDCom — with Dottie's DNA and/or that of Raymond's siblings, half-siblings, and first cousins.  So far still no matches on any of the sites.

We have no idea what happened to Raymond after his adoption.  He might have died as a young child or anytime between 1945 and now.  He might have remained single his whole life.  Or he might have married and had children.

At this point DNA appears to be the best, if not only, chance of finding Raymond.  I realize that in reality only a very small percentage of people have been tested, so the lack of a match does not mean he or his hypothetical descendants are not out there.  After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  I just have to keep hoping that he or one of those hypothetical descendants decides to take the plunge and see what all the fuss is about DNA.

And I hope it's in time for Dottie.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Volunteer of the Month


I have been doing volunteer work for most of my life.  I started about the age of 12 at the public library in Niceville, Florida, where I used to shelve books and help people with basic questions.  Since then I've tutored at an elementary school, distributed food at a pantry, cooked dinners at an AIDS support facility, worked as a docent at house tours, been an usher and green room monitor at performances of various types, portrayed a historical character at museum events, and lots more, paricularly focusing on genealogy for the past several years.

As I'm sure is the case with most volunteers, I do it because I enjoy helping people.  It's always nice to be thanked, and most organizations do that routinely, so that their volunteers know that they are appreciated.  But sometimes you get a really big thank you that stands out.

Since moving to Oregon three years ago, I have become involved with the Genealogical Forum of Oregon (GFO), one of two state-level genealogy organizations here.  And for September the GFO board named me its GFO Star!

On the one hand, the cynic in me says that GFO probably cycles through its list of volunteers and everyone is named a Star at some point.  But I'm still proud to have been chosen.

The announcement was made in the September 17, 2020 GFO weekly e-news.  The short squib about me is about a third of the way down.

Thank you, GFO Board!  I'm happy to help and thrilled at the recognition!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Moving On Out


It's Saturday, so that must mean it's time for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.  Let's see what tonight's theme is:

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

1.  Where did you go the first time you moved out of your parents' home?  Did you have roommates? Did you live by yourself?  Did you get married right away?  Tell the story — your children and grandchildren will want to know!

2.  Share your story in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or on Facebook.  Please leave a comment with a link to your post here.

The first time I moved out of my parents' home was when I was getting ready to go to college in 1979.  But instead of going straight to college, I lived with my grandparnents in Las Vegas during the summer.

I don't remember now why that decision was made.  It could have been my desire to get the hell out of Florida during the summer.  My grandparents might have offered to have me visit.  I'm pretty sure, however, that it wasn't my mother's idea, because she didn't want me going to the other side of the country at all.

We made a big trip out of it.  I packed all the clothes I thought I would need for the school year.  My mother and I flew to the San Francisco Bay area first and visited my aunt and uncle (my mother's brother and his wife).  I think we stayed about a week or so and did a bunch of touristy things.  One place we visited was Pier 39, where we ran into one of those age and weight guessers.  I decided to take her on.  She went on about how "the eyes are the windows to the soul" and would let her know how old I was.  She finally wrapped up her shpiel by saying I was 27.  I told her that I was only 17, and it really seemed to throw her off.  She was very disconcerted.  I offered to show her my driver license, but she said it was okay, she believed me.  I don't remember what I won for stumping her.

After that visit, Mommy and I flew down to Los Angeles for my USC freshman orientation, which was a few days or so.  Walk around the campus, kind of figure out where things are, see the dorm.  Get blown off by the advisor in my academic department (yeah, I still remember that).  Nothing exciting.

Then we flew to Vegas, where I stayed and my mother then went back to Florida.  I don't remember if I had my own room or if I slept on a couch, but I had a lovely time staying with my grandparents, except for when my grandfather would kvetch that I wasn't getting enough exercise.  He kept telling me I should go out for a walk, so one day I did.  I walked around in 107° and came back after an hour, long enough for him to be worried.  He didn't complain about me not exercising after that.

I was still living with them when the annual Jerry Lewis–Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon was being broadcast.  Zadie (my grandfather) asked if I wanted to see the telethon in person, which I thought sounded fun, so we went to the Sahara Casino, where it was held, and watched for a couple of hours.  Then they shifted another audience group in.  The main thing I remember from that year's telethon is that Charo was a guest and was dancing with a just-barely-large-enough-to-completely-cover-everything tube top that then started sliding down bit by bit.  The cameras cut back and forth between Charo dancing and Jerry sitting off to the side sweating while he worried if the dancing would end before the top fell.  (It did.)

Before the fall semester started, my grandparents loaded me, my clothes, and a bicycle Zadie had found for me into the car and drove to Los Angeles.  They helped me get set up in my dorm room and headed back to Vegas.  And I've always found my own place to live since then.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Happy Birthday, Sissie-poo!

Today is the birthday of my older sisetr (technically half-sister), which I've decided to celebrate on my blog, just because I can.  Oh, the joys of having a blog devoted to family history!

Laurie is my father's daughter from his first marriage.  Because my mother was very family-oriented, my siblings and I probably would have known about her anyway, but we really got to know her and her mother because they used to live with my immediate nuclear family when I was a child.  We were very forward-thinking for the 1960's, I know.  There's even a photo of the four of us from 1968:


After Mary Lou and Laurie moved out of our house, they were in California for a while before moving back to the East Coast.  But I always stayed in touch with Laurie by writing.

When my family moved back to the United States in 1973 after two years of living in Australia, we also went to the eastern part of the U.S., albeiit in Florida, and I continued to write to Laurie.  My brother and sister got to know her better because at different times they both ended up in her area and were able to visit in person.

Then, in 1991, plans were for my mother, my brother, and I to visit San Antonio, where my sister lived, for a big family Christmas.  And my sister decided to surprise everyone else by having Laurie show up.

They plotted and planned.  The day I was scheduled to fly in, Stacy went to the airport to pick me up and had Laurie come along.  Laurie was waiting in the area through which passengers exited.

I was walking along, looking for Stacy, when suddenly somone I had just passed said, "What's the matter?  Don't you recognize your own sister?"

I turned and had to take a few seconds before I realized that Laurie was standing there in front of me.  She later commented with great joy about me standing there with my mouth hanging open.

She also mentioned that after this wonderful surprise had been planned, for several days she had been telling her coworkers, "I'm going to see my sister I haven't seen for 23 years!"  Which of course just begged for an explanation she was happy to share.

Because we had all four siblings together again, we commemorated the occasion with another photo, all of us in the same relative positions as in the one from 23 years prior.


Which is one of my favorite family photos that I have.

Happy birthday, Laurie!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Grandparents Day


To celebrate National Grandparents Day today, here is a photo I recently found of my five children with my second (former) daughter-in-law.  It looks like they're having a fun, silly time!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Was Your Childhood Home Like?

Somoetimes the theme for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is unexpectedly funny for me, through no fault of Randy's whatsoever.  This is one of those times.

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

(1) What was your childhood home like?  How big was it?  How many rooms did it have?  What facilities did you have?  What furniture was there?

(2) Share your response on your own blog, in a comment to this post, or in a comment or post on Facebook.


So the first thing I have to decide with a question like this is, which home?  While Randy was fortunate enough to have lived in the same home until he was 19, me?  Not so much.  A few years ago Randy's theme was the houses in which you have lived.  I had racked up 27 addresses, 21 of them by the time I turned 21.

I think I'll go with the house at 434 Randy Street in Pomona, California.  Not only was it a home from childhood, which I tend to think of as a younger age, but I can actually picture more of what it looked like than most other of our homes.

434 Randy Street in 2011

Going by the information on Zillow, the house is currently 1,190 square feet and has four bedrooms and two bathrooms.  That number of bedrooms sounds right to me.  I think all three of us children had our own rooms.  We had a living/family room and a kitchen.  I remember a back porch off of the living room and a big back yard off of that.  I think there was a door off the kitchen that went to the outside, probably the back yard.  There was a garage, possibly for two cars.  The house had a curved driveway and a good-sized front yard.  I think there was some sort of overhang over the front door.

On the right side of the driveway, where the phoot above shows a hard surface, it was still part of the yard and we had roses planted along the curve.

In the living room we had a floor-to-ceiling bookcase, which I used to climb up, which freaked out my mother, who was afraid of heights.  We had a credenza of some sort, probably that included a TV.  I remember on that piece of furniture was where my mother's status of a cobra with its hood spread out used to sit.  We had to hide the statue when my mom's sister came over, because she was morbidly afraid of snakes, even inanimate ones.  There was a big couch on the opposite side of the room.

There was enough space in the living room to accommodate a folding card table, because that's where my parents would set up the table when they had friends over to play cards, probably poker and pinochle.  My parents didn't play bridge; my father only picked up the game after marrying my stepmother.  Sometimes when their friends were over I would walk through chomping on an onion as though it were an apple.

I don't remember what any of the bedrooms or bathrooms looked like except that I had a window in my room.  That I remember because my cat, Velvet, used to go in and out that way.

For some time we had a pet snake — a green snake, I think — which lived in the garage.  It escaped three times.  My mother was able to retrieve it the first two times, but the third time it was gone for good.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Time Capsule Fun

I've missed creating new posts for the past few weeks of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, mostly due to repeated topics and my surgery, but I'm back this week!  I love magic computer tools that aggregate information in one place for me.

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

(1) Go to the dMarie Time Capsule Website:  http://dmarie.com/timecap/.

(2) Select a date in your family history that you want to know about.  You might pick a birth date or wedding date of your parents or grandparents.

(3) Enter the date into the search form and select the news, songs, toys, books and other things that you want to feature.

(4) Share the date, why you picked them, and the results of your Time Capsule study on your own blog, in a comment to this post, or in a comment or post on Facebook.


I chose the wedding date of my great-grandparents, Joe Gordon and Sarah Libby Brainin, which was April 4, 1914, which I learned was a Saturday (and I realized when I chose it that my half-sister chose April 4 for her second wedding date, but she's my half-sister from the other side of the family, so that's just a random coincidence).

When I had an option, I chose events that occurred on that actual date.

The president in 1914 was Woodrow Wilson, and his vice-president was Thomas R. Marshall.

The top news headline for that day was that Perils of Pauline was shown for the first time in Los Angeles.

Of a few top songs for 1914, I chose "Play a Simple Melody" and "Land", both by Irving Berlin, because I thought there was a higher probability that they would have heard those songs.

1914 prices and numbers were:
Bread:  $0.06/load
Milk:  $0.36/gallon
Eggs:  $0.33/dozen
Car:  $500
House:  $4,800
Stamp:  $0.02 for first-class mail
Average income:  $1,055/year
DOW average:  75

Several top books were listed for 1914.  I know my great-grandfather was a Socialist in his political leanings, but I don't know anything about what he or my great-grandmother might have liked to read.  I picked Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm and The Promise of American Life by Herbert Croly as possibilities, mostly because the rest sounded less plausible.  Realistically, I would not be surprised if neither of them could read English in 1914.

And author Marguerite Duras (born Marguerite Donnadieu) was born April 4, 1914.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Disaster Genealogy Go Bag

The topic for today's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is one I should think about more often but don't, so it's probably a good thing that Randy Seaver posted about it.

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

1. Thank you for this topic to Jacqi Stevens for her post today on Your Genealogy Go Bag on her blog A Family Tapestry.


2. My daughter Lori evacuated her home in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Tuesday due to a large fire.  Am I, or are you, prepared to react to a local disaster like a fire, earthquake, hurricane, or civil unrest?  

3. That prompted me to worry about "what genealogy/family history items would I take with me if I had 15 minutes to collect them?"

4. Write about it in a blog post on your own blog, in a Facebook post, or as a comment on this blog post.


Am I ready for a local disaster?  Not in the slightest.

I have stuff still scattered around the house from when I moved to Oregon three years ago.  I have far too many boxes that are not yet unpacked.  So I don't actually know where all the unique and important items I would want to grab and put in a go bag are.  But I can try to come up with a list of what I should look for.

• My desktop computer and Mac laptop are older and can be sacrificed.  My PC laptop is only a couple of years old and very portable, so that should go with me.  I do remote back-ups of my files on a regular basis, but I don't think everything is being backed up, so I need to check on that.

• Most of the books and periodicals I own can be replaced.  I do have some very uncommon, if not unique, items that I should have in a location where I could take them quickly.

• Most of my genealogy research is not digitized.  By coincidence, unrelated to any discussion of Randy's post, I was talking with my boyfriend today about beginning a digitization project for all those documents.  It only came up because he would love to see the papers gone, but hey, inspiration can come from all sorts of different situations.

• I do have many original certificates among all that research, however (which I warned him about).  So those should be separated out for quick accessibility.

• Photos, photos, and more photos!  And slides even!  I actually have digitized a good portion of my family photographs, but certainly not all of them, and none of the slides.  In addition, I would not choose to sacrifice many of the original photos if I could avoid it.  Some are unique.  So they need to be prepped for a quick departure also.

• I have only a very small number of items that equate to "family heirlooms", but most aren't easily transportable.  My grandmother's Passover china set is not a grab-and-go kind of thing.  My great-grandmother's silverplate flatwear would be easier to take with me if I kept all the pieces in the case, but I use them regularly.  Hmm, I have to think about how to handle that.

• The one earring I have left that was my great-grandmother's (because someone stole the second, along with a necklace she had made for me) I also count as an heirloom.  I have a few pieces of jewelry that were my mother's and grandmother's that are special.  Those are easy to collect together.

• One collection of items that isn't here but that is important to me to have saved is my father's racing trophies.  They are currently at my stepbrother's in Houston, which is prone to its own natural disasters.  As with my grandmother's china, the trophies are not something easy to grab and go when an emergency occurs.  But they are unique and an important part of my family history.  I'm still trying to figure out a way to curate them.

Well, that's what I can think of related to genealogy.  It looks as though I have some work to do!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Did You Or Your Children Know Their Great-Grandparents?

I'm going to broaden the scope of this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun question from Randy Seaver so I can have a more interesting post.

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

(1) Did you or your children know their great-grandparents?  

(2) Tell us in your own blog post, in comments to this post, or in comments on Facebook.  As always, please leave a link to your work in Comments.


As I've mentioned before, I have no biological children of my own, so if I restricted this question to exactly as asked, it would be a really short post.  Therefore I'm going to expand it a little.

First, neither I nor my siblings knew any of our great-grandparents.  The closest any of us came is the story that I was told not only by my mother but also by my father, that my mother flew with me to Florida when I was but a babe in arms so that her grandmother — my great-grandmother, Sarah Libby (Brainin) Gordon — could see me.  Unfortunately, there is no proof of this visit that I have yet found, even though my grandfather routinely took all sorts of family photos.  How he missed the opportunity to get four generatiosn of women together in one photo is beyond me.  One of these days (soon, obviously) I need to ask some of my cousins on that side of the family, who still live in the Miami area, if they remember this momentous visit.  Anyway, as it stands, it's a story with no documentation.

The only other great-grandparent who survived to when my two siblings and I were alive was my father's paternal grandmother, Laura May (Armstrong) Sellers Ireland, known later in life as Nanny Ireland.  After I began doing family history research, I discovered that Nanny Ireland had lived to 1970.  That was before my family moved to Australia.  We had made some trips back east to visit family, but it was always my mother's family.  My father was not close to his family, so we never visited them.  And that meant we did not meet his grandmother.  When I learned that we had missed that opportunity, I was a little annoyed, but it was way too late to do anything about it at that point.

Keeping this in my generation, I'm not sure if any of my sister's children met a great-grandparent.  The only one who could have would have been her son Garry, who was born in 1983.  My paternal grandfather died in 1985.  Stacy might have brought Garry with her on a trip to Florida, and he might have met Grampa.

But if we take it one additional generation, we have a definite positive.  Stacy's granddaughter, Natalie, absolutely met her great-grandfather — my father.  So by manipulating this challenge just a little (okay, quite a bit), I finally have one positive result!


This photo, from the family reunion/birthday party I coordinated in 2015, includes my father and my grandniece.  My brain seems to be mush at the moment, because I have blanked on how to draw circles around each of them using Photoshop.  My father is on the far left wearing the blue and white shirt.  My stepmother is to his right in the photo, wearing a yellow blouse.  My grandniece is behind her with her back to the camera.  So I have documentation of my story!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Major News Events during Your Life

This week's theme for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver is certainly appropriate given what's going on in the world right now.

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

(1) What are the major news events that happened during your life that you remember where you were when you heard about them?

(2) Tell us in your own blog post, in comments to this post, or in comments on Facebook.  As always, please leave a link to your work in Comments.


Okay, here are mine.

• The first major news event that I remember where I was when it happened was the Moon landing on July 20, 1969.  As I wrote last year for the 50th anniversary of that, I remember my mother having us three kids sit and watch the Moon landing on TV, but I don't actually remember seeing the landing itself.

• The explosion of the Challenger space shuttle on January 28, 1986 happened during the day while I was at work in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California.  I don't recall now how we heard that it had happened, but when we got the news we found a TV set somewhere and set it up so everyone could watch the reports.  I remember that the office supervisor was extremely annoyed that people wanted to learn what had happened, and we had to turn off the TV after a short while.

• I had been living in Berkeley, California for only a few weeks when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck on October 17, 1989.  This became a major news event because it occurred just as a World Series game between the Oakland A's and the San Francisco Giants was beginning, and a lot of people call it the World Series earthquake.  The film footage that was seen the most in other parts of the country was the liquefaction in the Marina District in San Francisco, the collapse of the double-decker Cyrpress freeway structure, and the part of the Bay Bridge that fell, although the most damage and devastation were actually in downtown Santa Cruz.  I was in the house in Berkeley when the shaking started, and I could tell it was significant.  In the living room, three of the four tall bookcases collapsed into the center of the room and all the books spilled out.  We lost power and I couldn't make outgoing phone calls.

• On September 11, 2001, I was working at the Seismological Society of America.  Someone called to let us know about the collapse of the Twin Towers, and then we followed the news online.  I don't recall that we were allowed to leave work early.  I remember when I got home and turned on the TV, all the channels but two were showing the same CNN footage over and over.  The Food Network had a static slide expressing sympathy, and Comedy Central was running its regular schedule.  I watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and the guests were They Might Be Giants.  Then I gave up on TV for the evening.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Abraham Meckler, July 23, 1912–December 10, 1989

Today is the 102nd anniversary of the birth of my maternal grandfather.  Abraham Meckler (or possibly just Abe) was born in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York to Morris (sometimes Max) Meckler (later Mackler) and Minnie (originally Mushe) Zelda Nowicki.  I don't know the specific location because the lovely City of New York won't release birth records after 1909, even though it has been more than 100 years.  I read a statement once where someone from the city declared that as far as they were concerned, these are not public records in any way.

Meckler family in 1915 New York State census; next to last is "Abie"

From what I was told, Zadie (Yiddish for "grandfather") grew up in a very conservative, traditional Orthodox family.  The two photos I have of his grandparents bear that out, but the one photo I have of his father shows a man with short hair and no head covering.  I don't know if that photo was taken in Europe or in the United States, so maybe the photo was taken here and he became less observant once he immigrated.

I do not have nearly the number of photos of my grandfather that I do of my grandmother.  The earliest one is from his bar mitzvah, which presumably took place in 1925, when he turned 13.


Later in life Zadie had heart problems.  He contracted leukemia from a blood tranfusion he received after a heart attack.  His health slowly worsened, but he held on until he and my grandmother had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, with a big family reunion in Las Vegas, where Bubbie and Zadie had lived for many years.  He passed away about a month later.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Photo Books for Everyone

The theme for this month's Genealogy Blog Party from Elizabeth O'Neal is "Create!"  That gives a lot of latitude.  There are so many creative things one can do to celebrate family history.

One creative thing I have been doing for several years is making photo books for family members.  Although I know how to use real desktop layout software, I use the Shutterfly site to put the books together, because it's so convenient and I can always find coupons for free books.  I'm still paying the "shipping and handling" fees, but the cost ends up being worth it.

In looking at my projects on Shutterfly, I discovered that I have created fourteen different photo books.  One of my favorites is the book I made to replicate my grandmother's photo album.


Only one person can have the original photo album (and that's me!), but I scanned the pages as they were in the original and made copies of the book for my brother and sister.  That way they can have their own copies of our grandmother's album.

In 2015 I managed to put together a small Sellers family reunion to celebrate my father's 80th birthday and 35th wedding anniversary (to his third wife), and my aunt's 90th birthday.  And then I made a photo book with the best photographs and gave copies to everyone who was there.


I created a book focused on my Gorodetsky family line and the city of Kamenets Podolsky, where my great-great-grandparents had a photo taken (they're on the cover).  I made a version for myself and then customized versions for my brother and sister.


I made a book for my stepsons' mother (which sounds less awkward than "my ex's ex-wife", I think) with photos of her grandchildren.


I've put together several books with photos of my grandchildren.  This is the one for my youngest granddaughter.


I even created a book with photos of my furred and feathered children.


These books are an easy but thoughtful way to create gifts for family members.  They are also a great way to share family photos.

And Shutterfly functions as a print-on-demand publisher.  Any time I need another copy of a book, I go to the site and order one.