Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Free Records Every Day for a Month

MyHeritage is giving everyone a gift well ahead of the holiday season.  Every day for the month of June, a different subscription record collection on the MyHeritage site will be freely available to all researchers.

The databases that will be available are being grouped by country.  They have started off with an emphasis on Scandinavia.  June 1 was a Swedish database, June 2 and 3 Danish, and June 4 and 5 will be from Norway.

After that come eight days of U.S. record sets, then two from Canada.  Crossing the pond to Europe, we'll see records from France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Hungary, and Spain.  Then it's off to the bottom of the world — Australia!

After that it's zigzagging back and forth:  Israel, Brazil, and back to Europe for Greece and Germany.

That certainly covers a wide territory, and there should be something in there to please most researchers.

Each of the databases will be totally free to use on its given day, but you will need to create an account to sign in on MyHeritage.

The complete list of databases by date is posted on the MyHeritage blog.

Warning:  As I discussed in my Webinar about the MyHeritage newspaper collections, you cannot bring up a list of the newspapers in the Massachusetts, Florida, and Canada collections.  I wish you could, but you can't.  After you have made a search, you can look through the list of papers that show up in the results, but that's it.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Tell Us about Your "Last Ride"

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun isn't quite the light-hearted essay that most are.  This is Randy Seaver's challenge tonight:

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

(1) Check out "The Last Ride ..." on my other nongenealogy blog.  I thought it was beautiful and started thinking about my "last ride."

(2) Consider where you would go on your "last ride."  Where would you start, where would you finish, what stops would you make to live a memory?  What memories do you have about those places?  

(3) Tell us about your own Memory Lane in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a post on Facebook.  Be sure to leave a link to your work as a comment to this post.

This was a hard one for me, because I have lived long periods in four different locations during my life, none of which is where I am living now.  So those areas have far more memories attached to them, but I'm planning to live in this area for the rest of my life, and if I go to hospice, it will likely be here.  In addition, I have been traveling here regularly since 2007, so that's another 10 years of memories to add to the 2 1/2 years of living here.

I think I'll start with my current residence, as Randy did.  That's in Gresham, a suburb to the east of Portland.  Since I arrived in 2017, I've been saying that I lived in my house in Oakland for 24 years, so I intend to do the same here.  By that time I'll be 79; maybe I'll be ready for hospice then.  But the hospice will be in Vancouver, across the river in Washington State, so that's where I'll end.

In Gresham I'll visit the apartment where my middle granddaughter lived with her father and his second wife.  I went there several times to visit.  And before leaving we can pass the school where my granddaughter used to go; I picked her up from that school once, under the watchful eye of teachers.

From Gresham I'll go south and west to Milwaukie, to the home of my friends KR and Jan.  They are members of my group of dinner friends, the first people I met in Portland when I started visiting.  For the seven years before I finally succeeded in moving up here from California, I stayed with them when I came to visit.  While in Milwaukie, I'll have the driver go past the Stone House, the former home of my ex, which he showed me on one of my first trips up here.  He loved that house so much he named his company after it.

Heading west from Milwaukie will take me across the Willamette River to southwest Portland and Brian's house.  He's another member of the dinner group.  I've been to the house many times for dinner and for gaming.  A few miles from there, also in southwest Portland in an area called Hillsdale, is where John and his family lived.  Another place of many dinners and games, and also of backyard barbecues.  One of my favorite photos of myself was taken there.

From Hillsdale we will head further west, out to Aloha (or Beaverton, or Portland; the name seems to depend on who is talking at the moment), where my older stepson lived for quite a while.  I helped him move in there, and I drove out several times to visit and have lunch with him.  Sometimes I dropped off my youngest granddaughter there when she was visiting; sometimes I picked her up from there after a visit.

After Aloha we'll go almost due north to North Plains, off of Highway 30, way up in the hills, where my boyfriend lives.  I haven't been able to visit much recently, but the house has lovely views of the Columbia River.

Next we'll head south and east, back across the Willamette River and into Portland, to the St. John's neighborhood and my friend Jody's condo.  That's another place where the dinner group has gathered, and I also visited many times outside of the dinners.

From Jody's place it's a little more east, just past I-5 and still in Portland, to the odd little duplex where my ex and his housemate currently live.  That's also where my ex was living when I first started coming here, so I know the house well.  There were many parties and barbecues, several of them with tandoori chicken cooked in the tandoor I gifted him for his birthday in 2007.  We used to cook a lot together in the small kitchen.

At this point we'll leave Portland and Oregon and head north on I-5 to Washingotn State.  I'll have two stops there, both in Vancouver, before going to the hospice.

The first stop will be where my daughter-in-law and my three youngest grandchildren live now.  Not only are there plenty of memories and many, many visits associated with them, but that's also where my younger stepson lived when I first came up here.  Many visits there to see him over the course of almost ten years.  That home and KR and Jan's home in Milwaukie were the first two places I learned how to get to on my own.

The second stop in Vancouver will be where my younger stepson lives now.  Not only have I visited him there many times, that was also the starting point for all of our driving lessons, when I taught him to drive.  I wasn't sure how well I was going to do as an instructor, but I couldn't have been too bad, because he passed the test for his license on the first try.

One of the reasons for making that the last stop before the hospice is because he has promised me that he'll take care of me when I get old (something I need to be concerned about, with no spouse and no children of my own).  So he'll probably come with the driver and me as we go to the hospice and help me settle in.  And I know he'll visit me while I'm there.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Share a Childhood Memory

Sometimes Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenges are great for sparking ideas for future blog posts as well as the one for that night.  Once I started thinking about childhood memories, several came to mind all at once.  So it seems that I'll have good fodder for future subjects to write about!

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

(1) Have you written your memoirs yet?  If so, please share with us one story from your childhood.  If not, then start your memoirs!   The story could be a memory of your family life, your schoolwork, your neighborhood, etc.  It doesn't have to be a certain length, just something you recall.

(2) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a post on Facebook.  Be sure to leave a link to your work as a comment to this post.

The Sugar Ant Invasion

This incident happened when I was about 13 or 14, I think.  My family had already moved to Villa Tasso, a small setttlement (unincorporated part of Walton County, in the very southwestern corner) in a rural area of the Florida Panhandle.

Florida is a great place for bugs of all kinds.  I used to joke that if there was a bug anywhere in the world, there was at least one of that bug somewhere in Florida.  It's bug heaven.

My family lived in two mobile homes that had been connected by a custom-built addition between them.  Being out in the country, there was no citified sewage system, so we had a septic tank.

One day I was in the bathroom at the back part of the second mobile home, doing what one does in a bathroom.  After I finished my task, I stood up and turned around to flush the toilet — to see hundreds of big sugar ants swarming out of the toilet bowl!

You can be sure I beat a hasty retreat out of the room as I started yelling for my parents.

We discovered that a break had occurred in the line connecting the toilet to the septic tank, and the ants had been attracted to all the goodness leaking out.  I was just the lucky person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In writing up this little memory, I wanted to find a photograph of a sugar ant to accompany the story.  I discovered that sugar ants are properly a subset of carpenter ants.  I also learned that what we used to call sugar ants in Florida might not actually be sugar ants, as the information I can find seems to indicate that they don't occur in Florida.  What I remember is they were big and black and headed my way, and there were way too many of them.  They might have been black carpenter ants; this guy looks kind of familiar.

By Muéro at English Wikipedia.  Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons, Public Domain

Sunday, May 17, 2020

My Father the Photographer

While I absolutely adore finding (and identifying!) photos of my ancestors and other relatives, and that's certainly the direction that Elizabeth has suggested to celebrate National Photography Month for the Genealogy Blog Party, I'm not taking that tack.  Instead, I'm focusing on the most important photographer in my life:  my father.

Self Portrait, by Lynn Sellers

Daddy was what he called a semiprofessional.  He was really into it, and we even had a dark room in most of our homes while I was growing up.  He often competed (and won prizes) in contests.

He primarily worked in black and white, and that's the only type of photographs he developed at home.  He said that working with color was a lot more difficult.

I still don't have access to the vast trove of the photos my father took.  They were moved from Florida to Texas after he died last year.  Currently they're at my sister's house in San Antonio.  Her niece might be working on digitizing some, or at least that was the plan.  Being the family genealogist, I hope that at some point they will make their way out here to Oregon.  I want to (with any luck) make sure they're all identified and then store them archivally.

Before taking the containers of photos to my sister, my stepbrother found one photograph I was happy to see.

My father had stored the framed photo in a box.

That's me, sometime in the 1970's.  My father took the photograph.  I don't know if the photo or framing has any indication of the exact date.  The sepia tone might have come via my stepbrother's phone, with which he took a photo of the photo, or the original may have taken on some tint over time.

While going through one of my old photo albums — the kind that had sticky backing paper and plastic overlays, which we now know are so bad for photos, so I was carefully peeling off the photos and removing them all from the album — I found this photo, which I know my father took.

One of the many Sellers family Siamese cats.

Unfortunately, by the time I found this photo and asked my father about it, his health was very poor and he was forgetting things.  So he didn't remember which of our many Siameses this one was.  In fact, he wasn't even sure he had taken the photograph, although I am.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Maternal Grandfather's Matrilneal Line

When I saw the subject for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, I knew I was not going to get as far as Randy Seaver did.

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

(1) What was your mother's father's full name?

(2) What is your mother's father's matrilineal line?  That is, his mother's mother's mother's . . . back to the most distant female ancestor in that line.  Provide her Ahnentafel number (relative to you) and her birth and death years and places.

(3) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please put a link to your post in the comments here.

See, my mother's side of the family is the Jewish one, and once you get past the most recent generations I don't always have a lot of information.  But I discovered that for this line it wasn't as bad as I expected.  I actually have a few generations AND surnames.

1.  My mother's father's full name was either #6 Abraham Meckler or Abe Meckler (1912–1989); I've been told both.  There is an Abraham Machler listed in Ancestry's New York, New York Birth Index, who appears to have a birth date of July 23, 1912.  If I could get a copy of that birth certificate from New York City (ha!), I might be able to verify that's him, but I'm pretty sure it is.  I called him Zadie ("grandfather" in Yiddish).

2.  Zadie's mother was #13 Mushe Zelda Nowicki, called Minnie in the United States (about 1880–1936), who married Moshe Meckler, Morris or Max here (about 1882–1953).  Mushe was born in the Russian Empire, probably in Porozowo, Grodno gubernia; married in the Russian Empire, probably in Porozowo or in Kamenets Litovsk, Grodno gubernia; and died in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York at approximately age 56.

• Mushe's mother was #27 Dube Yelsky, Dora in the United States (about 1858–1936), who married Gershon Itzhak Nowicki (about 1858–1948).  Dube was born in the Russian Empire, probably in Porozowo; married in the Russian Empire, also probably in Porozowo; and died in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York at approximately age 78.

• Dube's mother was #55 Frieda Bloom, which was probably not really Bloom, but it's the only name I have (about 1838–about 1898), who married Ruven Yelsky (about 1838–about 1898).  Frieda was born, married, and died in the Russian Empire, likely in Porozowo and almost definitely in Grodno gubernia.  Based on the scant information I have, she lived to be about 60.

And that's it.  I have no idea who Frieda'a parents were, and I'll probably never know, since Grodno gubernia is the black hole for Jewish records.

Unlike Randy's line, all these women probably started in the same place, Porozowo.  The two who immigrated to the United States both died in Brooklyn, which is likely the only place they ever went after their arrival at Ellis Island.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Favorite Genealogy Sites

Randy Seaver decided to go to town on superfluous quotation marks with this week's installment of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

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

(1)  What are your "Favorite" genealogy websites?  What ones do you have in your web browser "Bookmarks" or "Favorites" bar or listing?

(2) Please list them in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link to your work in a comment on this post.

Perhaps we can help each other, and our readers, find some new resources!

I suspect that most people will have similar lists of favorites and not many new discoveries will be made, but let's see, shall we?

The only site I visit routinely that I go to from a bookmark or toolbar is  Most sites I access by going to the address bar, entering the first one or two letters, and clicking on the link as it pops up.

My short list:

• Chronicling America
• California Digital Newspaper Collection
• Old Fulton Postcards
• Wikipedia Online Newspaper Archives page
• Family Tree DNA
• 23andMe
• Legacy Family Tree
• Google Translate
• Google Maps

Since I rely primarily on the address bar and not bookmarks or the toolbar, I don't have a second quickie list.  Most of my regular sites pop up when I start typing (and I rely on typing because I'm a trained touch typist and that's the fastest thing for me to do).

Now, in my bookmarks, I'm like Randy in that I have hundreds more links.  I have one folder named Genealogy that has lots of saved links.  As with Randy, these are less used sites, although I wouldn't say I don't use them anymore.  It's more that they're for specialized topics, such as research on specific family lines or for other people, and when I'm doing that research I bring them up.  I have one folder just for Jewish research.  I also have close to 200 links in my general list that I haven't sorted and filed yet, and I know several of them are for genealogy.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your "Where I'm From" Poem

Today for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy decided to revisit a previous theme.

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

(1) Write your own "Where I'm From" poem — you can see a sample format at  But make it unique — yours!

(2) Share your poem on your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook.  Be sure to leave a comment with a link to your poem.

Here's mine.

Where Is Janice From?

I am from constantly moving freeways, from slow country roads,
From skyscrapers and apartment buildings, from small churches and family homes.

I am from too many homes to remember,
From the city and the suburbs and the country.
From Southern California and Sydney and Florida,
From behind the sausage factory and from the trailer park.
From trees and trellises and bookshelves to climb,
From swimming pools and bayous to swim in.

I am from sagebrush and oleander, from honeysuckle and raspberry bushes,
From manicured lawns and rose bushes, from kudzu and live oaks.
From dogs and cats and gerbils as pets,
From cottonmouths and ground-dwelling hornets to avoid.

I am from Sellers and Meckler and Gauntt and Brainin,
From Armstrong and Dunstan and Nowicki and Gordon,
From Lippincott and Wynn and Yelsky and Blum.
From tall and short and thin and fat,
From misers and spendthrifts, frugal and gamblers,
From cheerful and dour and friendly and aloof.

I am from college and books, from mechanics and taxi drivers,
From bookkeepers and cashiers, from dressmakers and farmers.
From "You can do anything you want to do" to
"Why aren't you married and where is my granddaughter?"

I am from Lancashire and Baden, from Grodno and Podolsky,
From Cornwall and Courland, and maybe border rievers,
But not from John of Gaunt or Peter Sellers.
I am from La Puente and Pagewood, from Niceville and Villa Tasso,
From Los Angeles and Berkeley and Oakland.
I am from California, from New Jersey, from New York,
From delis and chili, from take-out Chinese and ham for Easter.

I am from Jews and Catholics, from Chanukah and Christmas,
From Quakers and Dunkers, from Lutherans and Separatists.
From a fervent Quaker witnessing from her knees,
From a cremated Jew who attended Midnight Mass.

I am from the Mayflower, from 20th-century immigration,
From the Depression and from the Holocaust.
From the free-wheeling West Coast, the intellectual East Coast,
And a little bit of hick from the South.

I am from photographs and jewelry and yarmulkes and silverware,
From dishes and menorahs and crocheted cups saved and treasured.
From family names remembered through the years
And reborn in the lives of descendants.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Is Your Birth Surname Henry Number?

Tonight for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun Randy Seaver has us poking around in our genealogy databases.

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

(1) Do you know what a "Henry Number" is?  It is a descendant numbering system from a specific person.  The Wikipedia article for Genealogical Numbering Systems describes it as:

"The Henry System is a descending system created by Reginald Buchanan Henry for a genealogy of the families of the presidents of the United States that he wrote in 1935.[3] It can be organized either by generation or not. The system begins with 1. The oldest child becomes 11, the next child is 12, and so on. The oldest child of 11 is 111, the next 112, and so on. The system allows one to derive an ancestor's relationship based on their number. For example, 621 is the first child of 62, who is the second child of 6, who is the sixth child of his parents.  In the Henry System, when there are more than nine children, X is used for the 10th child, A is used for the 11th child, B is used for the 12th child, and so on. In the Modified Henry System, when there are more than nine children, numbers greater than nine are placed in parentheses."

(2) Go to your earliest known ancestor with your birth surname in your software program and calculate your Henry Number from that person.  Show each generation of your line of ancestors with your birth surname with their Henry Numbers.

(3) How did you calculate the Henry Numbers?  What do these numbers tell you?

(4) Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment on this blog post, or in a Facebook post.

2.  Well, my birth surname is the same one I have now, Sellers.  When I checked my database, I discovered that I have 575 Sellerses in there.  Going back in time from myself, the earliest ancestor I have with the name Sellers is only seven generations back, because before him the name was Söller (of which I have four generations in the database).  Here's my Sellers line:

1 John Sellers (1731–1783)
11 Abraham Sellers (1758–1831)
11X Peter Franklin Sellers (1800–1863)
11X1 Cornelius Godschalk Sellers (1845–1877)
11X12 Cornelius Elmer Sellers (1874–1918)
11X121 Bertram Lynn Sellers (1903–1985)
11X1214 Bertram Lynn Sellers, Jr. (1935–2019)
11X12142 Janice Marie Sellers (1962–living)

3.  I calculated the Henry Numbers manually.  I started with the first generation with the name Sellers and moved forward through time.  Not only is creating reports in Reunion something I don't enjoy, it didn't give me an option of using the Henry Number system.

Two things I had to contend with which are not described in the handy-dandy description that Randy quoted are an adoption and multiple marriages.  My grandfather was informally adopted by Elmer Sellers and was not his biological son.  Since Elmer was the only father my grandfather knew, however, and since neither my grandfather nor any of his siblings knew this was the case, I counted my grandfather as child #1.

My father was the first (and only) child of my grandparents, but he was my grandfather's fourth child, because my grandfather had three children with his first wife.  Since this system follows the father, I counted my father was child #4.

I was the first child of my parents, but my father and his first wife had a child before me.  Again, following the father, I am child #2.

4.  I have this blog post, a comment on Randy's blog, and a Facebook post!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Yom HaShoah: Remembering the Names of the Lost

Today is Yom HaShoah, the annual day of remembrance to honor the Jewish victims of the Holocaust during World War II.  It is usually held on 27 Nisan on the Jewish calendar, which this year fell on April 21 on the Christian calendar.

The following is the list of my known family members who died in the Holocaust.  They are all from the Mekler/Nowicki side of my family and lived in Grodno gubernia in the Russian Empire (now in Belarus).  May their memory be for a blessing.

Beile Dubiner
Eliezer Dubiner
Herschel Dubiner
Moishe Dubiner
Sore (Mekler) Dubiner
Aidel Goldsztern
Golda Goldsztern
Josef Goldsztern
Pearl (Gorfinkel) Goldsztern
Tzvi Goldsztern
Esther Golubchik
Fagel Golubchik
Lazar Golubchik
Peshe (Mekler) Golubchik
Pinchus Golubchik
Yechail Golubchik
Mirka (Nowicki) Krimelewicz
— Krimelewicz
Beile Szocherman
Chanania Szocherman
Maishe Elie Szocherman
Perel Szocherman
Raizl (Perlmutter) Szocherman
Zlate Szocherman

The Dubiner Family: Eliezer, Sore, Moishe, Herschel, Bela (front)

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Which Ancestors Would You Like to Talk to?

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is almost too easy in some ways.

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

(1) We sometimes find we have questions we would love to discuss with our ancestors:  the who, what, when, why, and how questions that might help with our genealogy research.

(2) Which ancestors would you like to talk to?  What questions would you ask?  

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

So the easy answer here is, "Every one!"  I have questions I would like to ask of every single one of my ancestors (and collateral relatives, too).  The most obvious question is parents for those end-of-line ancestors, but I'd love to know about birth dates, marriage dates, siblings, grandparents, details of their lives, and so much more.  I can't think of a single ancestor for whom I know everything, which means there's always something more to learn.

Oh, we're supposed to come up with something concrete?

Well, feh.

In that case, the first person who comes to mind of whom to ask questions is my paternal great-grandmother Sarah Ann (Armstrong) Sellers Ireland.  And the first question to ask of her would be, "Who was the biological father of my grandfather, Bertram Lynn Sellers?"  I have to hope she would actually know the answer, of course.

The second question I would ask is, "Who was the father of your daughter Bertolet Grace Sellers?"  (Who was born three years after her husband Cornelius Elmer Sellers had died.)  I think it's a safer bet that she would know the answer to that one.

And for a possible third question, I might ask, "Did Elmer know that my grandfather wasn't his biological son?"  I'm pretty sure Elmer knew, but it would be nice to confirm that.

Gee, after that, nothing else seems quite so compelling.

I do have two questions about photographs that I would like to ask of ancestors, though.

I have a photo of my great-grandmother Sore Leibe Brainin and her mother, Ruchel Dwojre (Jaffe) Brainin, with another woman and two girls.  I want to know who those other three people are.  I think they are Ruchel Dwojre's sister, Yetta Rashe (Jaffe) Michelson, and possibly her two daughters.  But I don't know for sure, and no one I know can verify or refute my hypothesis.

I also have a photograph of a photograph of a man.  It looks as though it was colorized.  The man resembles the male Gorodetsky members of my family.  My hypothesis is that he is Gersh Wolf Gorodetsky, my third-great-grandfather.  I think asking my great-grandfather Joe Gordon (originally Joyne Gorodetsky) or his father, Victor Gordon (originally Avigdor Gorodetsky), would be good options to get that answer.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: The Games Your Family Played

I hope Randy Seaver is able to keep us occupied with plenty of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenges while we're all trapped in our homes!

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

(1) Think about the games that your whole family would play when you were a child. 

(2) Tell us about one (or more) of them — what was it called, what were the rules (as you remember them), who played the game, where did you play the game, who usually won?

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

The first games I remember my siblings and I playing were card games, primarily poker and pinochle.  My parents used those games to start teaching us numbers when we were pretty young.  They taught us the standard rules and played with us in the beginning, but later it was just the three of us, playing cutthroat.  I don't remember who won the games.  My brother was always the most competitive of the three of us, so it might have been him, but the winning may have been more evenly distributed.  As I recall, we played on the dining room table during nonmeal times.

Next we moved on to Monopoly.  My mother and father probably played with us some when we first started, but for the most part the competitors were the same, my siblings and I.  This game, however, my brother absolutely won almost all the time.  I don't recall that we played with any variant rules; I think we just followed what was written.  After a while it wasn't any fun to play, Mark won so much.  It's still not a game I enjoy very much, in great part because of that.

And then came chess.  That's a two-player game, so we obviously didn't all play at the same time.  And that was another one my brother won most of the time.  I don't remember that my sister ended up playing very much.  Mark studied standard opening moves and beat me soundly every time.  After a while I was no longer a challenge, so he started playing against my father's friends who came around to visit.  And he beat them also, usually in about five moves.  I remember my father enjoying that a lot.  And the first time I won a chess game didn't come until I was 29 or 30.

The next major game I remember us playing was Pong on a Magnavox Odyssey.  I won the Odyssey through a coloring contest sponsored by K-Mart, I think in 1975.  (I was really good at coloring contests.  I won that K-Mart contest three years in a row.)  That was pretty cool stuff at the time.  We had the Odyssey connected to a TV in our family room.  My father used to play with us kids, but I don't think my mother did.  I don't remember who won the most when we played.  Probably Mark again!

The only game I remember my mother playing a lot with us was Scrabble.  She liked word games and crossword puzzles, so that was more up her alley.  I enjoyed playing that with her.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Telling Part of My Story: My Tattoo

It's my birthday today!  Yes, I have survived one more revolution around the sun and am now 58 years old.  Not the oldest person around, certainly, but since I had some people predict I wouldn't make it past 30, a lot better than it could have been.

One of the recurring themes for family history during the past few years has been that along with documenting all of those ancestors, the family genealogist should also remember to document his own life.  So starting today I decided I will write something about myself for my blog on my birthday.

After such a momentous decision, however, comes the next one:  what to write about?  What is interesting about me or my life?  Or interesting to me about my life?

I finally settled on a topic that in some ways is intrinsic to my identity, or at least to identifying me, but which for years my family knew nothing about.

I have a tattoo.  Meet Dart.

My inspiration for having a tattoo started when I was very young:  My father had a tattoo, and I loved it.  (It occurs to me now that I don't know if we have any photographs of it.  My sister and I think it was on his left arm.)  It was of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of wind, air, and learning.  And I thought it was so cool, I wanted a tattoo also.

Actually following through on that took a long time.  I had to work myself up to it.  I found someone to do the artwork about 1983.  I wanted a dragon for strength.  I don't remember the name of the guy who did the drawing (which I admit is bad), but he let me have the artwork to take somewhere else.  My roommate at the time got a tattoo the day before she was going to be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy (because you're not supposed to get tattoos after you've become an officer) and vetted the tattoo artist as doing clean work.  (It used to be you worried about getting hepatitis from an artist who didn't use clean needles, but by this time you had to worry about AIDS.)

The artist was Bob, and the place was Spotlight Tattoo on Melrose Boulevard in Los Angeles (and they're still there!).  I remember it cost $75 and took one hour for the tattoo.  But during that hour Bob asked me something like four or five times if I was okay.  He finally said he had never seen anyone stay so white for so long.  (Um, yeah, low pain threshhold, sorry, dude.)

So I finally had my tattoo!  And I loved it!

I named the dragon Dart after the dragon in the Roger Zelazny short story "The George Business" (I'm sure this transcription of the story violates copyright), which I read in the anthology Dragons of Light, edited by Orson Scott Card.  Dart was strong and intelligent, which I thought was a great combination.

And no one in my family knew about him until about 2007.

See, my maternal grandmother was Jewish.  And Jews traditionally aren't supposed to get tattoos.  I've always been told that you can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery if you have a tattoo.  And I didn't want my grandmother to know that I couldn't be buried in a Jewish cemetery, because I was the grandchild the most interested in our Jewish history.

So to make sure that Bubbie (my grandmother) wouldn't know, I figured the safest thing to do was not to let anyone in the family know, just in case it might somehow accidentally come up in conversation sometime.  I never wore anything sleeveless around family members.

And I managed to keep that secret.  Bubbie died in 2006.  At that point I had conditioned myself so well that it still didn't occur to me to mention it to family.

Until I watched a program that explained how a body was identified because of the tattoo the person had.  Investigators publicized the tattoo, and someone who recognized it was able to identify the deceased person.

I realized it was unlikely, but it occurred to me that if something similar were to happen to me, investigators could publicize the tattoo all they wanted, and no one in my family would know it was me.  Because they didn't know about the tattoo.

So I told them.  And I stopped worrying about being an unidentified body.

Monday, April 6, 2020

My Grandfather Bertram Lynn Sellers and His "Wives"

My paternal grandfather, Bertram Lynn Sellers, was born April 6, 1903.  This took quite some time to confirm and turned into almost a scavenger hunt.  But eventually the documentation showed that yes, this was indeed his birth date.

Grampa was married three times, lived in sin with my grandmother (while still married to his first wife), and fathered five children that I know of:  three with his first wife, one with my grandmother, and one with his second wife.  Here are photos of him with my grandmother and the later two wives.

Anna Gauntt and Bert Sellers (probably 1930–1940)

Anita (Loveman) and Bert Sellers (probably 1954–1957)

Adelle (Taylor) and Bert Sellers (probably 1961–1970)

Something I realized while writing this post was that the first names of all three of these women begins with the letter A.  I never noticed that before.

Another thing I realized is that not a single one of these photos is dated.  I can narrow them down somewhat, but that's very frustrating.

Not as frustrating as still having no photo of Grampa's first wife, however.  I've been trying for a while to find a photograph of Grampa with Elizabeth Leatherberry Sundermeier, but no one in my family seems to have one, or even one of her by herself.  It's almost as if she never really existed, except that I knew my aunts, who were her daughters.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Oldest Family Photos

I'm always happy when I read the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver and know exactly what I'm going to write about.

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

(1) What are the oldest family photos that you have?  Can you date them?  Do you know who is in them?

(2) Show us one or more of your oldest photos and provide a date and the subjects.

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

I have only one really old family photograph, so this was an easy choice.

The photo was taken in Kamenets Podolsky, Russian Empire about 1890.  The people in the photo are Avigdor, Etta, and Esther Leah (Schneiderman) Gorodetsky.  Avigdor (later Victor, after he immigrated to the United States) and Esther Leah were my great-great-grandparents.  Etta was their first child and the older sister of my great-grandfather Jojne (Joe in the United States).

I have photocopies and scans of some older family photos, but that just isn't the same as having the real thing.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: A Facebook "Have You Done This?" Meme

It's good to see that almost whatever is going on in the world, genealogists can count on Randy Seaver to challenge us with new questions for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!

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

(1) Another "Have you done this?" meme was going around Facebook this past week.  Let's do it!!

(2) Copy and paste the list below, delete my answers, and add your own.

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

So here's this week's list:

1.  Driven 100 mph:  I'm with Randy, I don't think so.  Probably 85 mph is the fastest I've driven.  I have been a passenger in a car with someone driving 90.

2.  Ridden in a helicopter:  Once, from Ontario (California) airport to LAX.
3.  Gone ziplining:  Oh, hell no.
4.  Been to an NFL game:  Not many, but yes.  Only one with my beloved Minnesota Vikings.
5.  Been to Canada:  Yes, to British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Québec.

6.  Visited Florida:  Yes, visited and lived there.

7.  Visited Mexico:  Once, to Acapulco, as a stop while on a cruise ship on the way back to the States from Australia.

8.  Visited Vegas:  Yes, visited dozens of times and also lived there.

9.  Eaten alone at a restaurant:  More times than I can count.

10.  Ability to read music:  Yup, since I was a kid.

11.  Ridden a motorcycle:  Yes, and I still have my license.

12.  Ridden a horse:  Yes, a few times.

13.  Stayed in a hospital:  Yes, abdominal surgery.

14.  Donated blood:  Yes, earned a multigallon pin.

15.  Been snow skiing:  Never.  I've barely been in snow.

16.  Been to Disney World or Disneyland:  Yes, both.

17.  Slept outside:  Yes, camping with family and with Girl Scouts.

18.  Driven a stick shift:  Yes, that's what I learned first.

19.  Ridden in an 18-wheeler:  Not that I can recall.

20.  Ridden in a police car:  Not that I can recall.

21.  Driven a boat:  Yes, small boats when my family lived in Florida.

22.  Eaten escargot:  Yes, once for my birthday.

23.  Been on a cruise:  Yes, when returning to the States from Australia.  We stopped at New Zealand, Fiji, Mexico (mentioned above), Panama, and the Canal Zone (when the latter two were still separate political entities).

24.  Run out of gas:  Yes, two or three times.

25.  Been on TV:  Yes, several times with the USC Marching Band (The Greatest Marching Band in the History of the Universe).

26.  Eaten sushi:  Yes, many, many times, including several times in Vegas at the San Remo (awesome sushi!).

27.  Seen a UFO:   No.

28.  Been bungie jumping:  Not only no, but hell no.

29.  Visited another continent:  Yes, Australia and Europe.  South America if you count Central America as being part of it.

30.  Been to Ellis Island?  No, but it's on my list.

Not bad, only seven noes.  I expect three of those to stay that way.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What's on Your Genealogy Bookshelf?

I'm way too disorganized for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver!

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

(1) Teresa at the Writing My Past blog wrote a post about her genealogy bookshelf, even showing photographs of the books on several of her shelves.  Linda Stufflebean thought this was a good SNGF topic, so here we are! 

(2) Tell us what books, or types of books, are on your genealogy bookshelf/ves in your home.  Do you have a photo of them?  Are there specific books that you use more than others?

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

Well, I'm not only in the same boat as Randy, with too many books on too many shelves and impossible to gather in one photo, but I have lots more books not even on shelves — in boxes, in stacks on the floor, wherever I can fit them.  That's partly because I still haven't finished unpacking after my move (yes, it was more than two years ago, but I have torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders, so moving boxes full of books is not an easy thing to do) but also because I still keep getting more books!

That said, I took a photo of several of the books currently closest to my desk.  It's quite a random selection, as you will see.

Instead of laying them on a bed, I kind of organized them on the floor near my desk.  The photo seems a little blurry to me, but I didn't feel up to arranging everything again, and so here we are.

Starting from the left and working across, we have:

The California Register, 1954, Social Blue Book of California
History of the Alpha Phi Fraternity, 1872–1902, Ruth Sanders Thomson
Figures de la première génération:  Les enfants du notaire Michel Roy et leur destin ("Important People of the First Generation:  The Children of Notary Michel Roy and Their Lives"), Raymond Douville, in French
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford
Mary Mattoon and Her Hero of the Revolution, Alice M. Walker

The Library:  A Guide to the LDS Family History Library, Johni Cerny and Wendy Elliott, editors
Spirits of the Passage:  The Translatlantic Slave Trade in the Seventeenth Century, Madeleine Burnside and Rosemarie Robotham
The Lanphere Family Research Aid, Shirley (McElroy) Bucknum, compiler
The Southern Magazine:  Mississippi Edition, April–May 1934, Volume I, Number 2
Family Tree Factbook, Diane Haddad and editors of Family Tree Magazine
The Sea Captain's Wife:  A True Story of Love, Race, & War in the Nineteenth Century, Martha Hodes

Census Substitutes & State Census Records, Volume 1:  Eastern States, William Dollarhide
Census Substitutes & State Census Records, Volume 2:  Western States, William Dollarhide
These Hundred Years:  A Chronicle of the Twentieth Century, as Recorded in the Pages of the Youngstown Vindicator
Strange, Amazing, and Funny Events That Happened during the Revolutionary War, Jack Darrell Crowder
The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society:  New Perspectives on Civil War–Era Kentucky, Volume 110, Numbers 3 & 4, Summer/Autumn 2012
Nothing Like It in the World:  The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863–1869, Stephen E. Ambrose

Legacy Family Tree User's Guide, Millennia Corporation 
A Directory of Old Boys of Trinity College School, 1865–1960, The T.C.S. Association
The Mississippi Valley Historical Review:  A Journal of American History, Volume XLIII, Number 1, June 1956
МАЛЫЙ АТЛАС МИРА ("Small Atlas of the World"), in Russian

It is rather an eclectic lot, I admit.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Fearless Females!

For this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, we have a choice of 31 topics to write on!

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

(1) Lisa Alzo developed a series of Fearless Female writing prompts 10 years ago to celebrate National Women's History Month.  This year's listing of prompts is in Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Fearless Females Blogging Prompts.

(2) Today is March 14, so the writing prompt is "
Newsmakers?  Did you have a female ancestor who made the news?  Why?  Was she famous or notorious?  Did she appear in the social column?"  
If you cannot write about that prompt, choose another one from the list.

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

I don't know of any newsmaking female ancestors in my family, so I'm going with the prompt for March 28:  "Do you remember your mother's best friend?  Your grandmother's?  How and where did they meet?  How long were they friends?  What activities did they share?"

It's a fortuitous prompt, because I've actually been thinking about my mother's best friend for the past couple of months.  Her name was Samantha O'Connell, known as Sam.  She was originally from back east, I think Maine.

As far as I know, my mother and Sam met at work.  They worked the graveyard shift at a plant assembling circuit boards.  My mother didn't have a sister of her own, so Sam filled that role, and we called her Aunt Sam.  My father told me that they used to be known as Sam and Mike when they hung out.

I have vague recollections of my mother telling me when she and Sam would go out and play pool with people for money.  My mother was the shill, and Sam then came in and cleaned 'em out.

My mother used to tell me that she and Sam were proto women's libbers.  Then again, after I went to college, my mother started asking me regularly, "When are you getting married?  When are you going to give me a granddaughter?"  So maybe she recovered from being a women's libber.

They were close enough that Sam used to come over often with her children, Cathy and Jeff, for dinner, particularly on holidays.  I remember Jeff didn't like peas, but if we were having peas on a night when they were there, my mother's deal with him was that he had to eat ten peas and then he was off the hook.  He always ate the ten peas.

I especially remember Sam's impact on our holiday menus.  Sam was very fond of ham.  So for Thanksgiving we had turkey and ham.  For Christmas we had turkey and ham.  And of course for Easter we had — you guessed it — ham!  (My mother may not have been the world's most observant Jew.)

We had to prepare for Sam's visits, however.  She was morbidly afraid of snakes, to the point that even a statue of a snake freaked her out.  And my mother had a lovely statue of a cobra with its hood spread out.  So when Sam was coming over, we had to hide it.

Sam got throat cancer at one point.  It had to be before 1971, because we were still living in California when it happened.  While she was recuperating, she was limited in what she could eat, and the main thing she ate was baby food.  Even after she recovered, she still liked baby food.

When Sam got a hangover, it apparently hit her pretty hard.  She used to complain:  "My hair hurts.  My eyebrows hurt.  Everything hurts."

I don't know this from my own memories, but my mother told me that Sam didn't want to be 30, but she didn't want to lie about being younger than she really was.  So she went 29, 31, 31.  I just looked her up in the California Death Index, and she was born in 1937 (and in Maine!  so I remembered that correctly!), so she would have turned 30 in 1967.  I was only 5; that's a good excuse for not being able to remember that on my own.

My mother and Sam remained friends and stayed in touch even after our family moved from California in 1971.  In 1975 Sam remarried (I never knew if her first marriage ended due to divorce or her husband's death), to Don Ellerbrake.  When I returned to California to go to college in 1979, I got in touch with her and talked with her semiregularly.  When she passed away in 1985, I tried to stay in contact with Don, but he seemed to totally forget who I was, so I gave up.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Do You Have a Mary Smith?

When I read this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver, I was positive I wasn't going to have anyone who fit the bill.

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

(1) How many persons named Mary Smith do you have in your genealogy management program or online family tree?  How many persons named Mary Smith are ancestors?

(2) Pick out one of those persons named Mary Smith and do some online research for her in Ancestry, FamilySearch, or another set of record collections.  Your goal is to add something to your database.

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

1.  Well, I was totally wrong.  I actually do have a Mary Smith in my family tree.  One.  Just one.  She is not an ancestor; I have no known ancestors named Smith.  This Mary Smith is the wife of my second cousin once removed.

2.  I actually did find a record for my Mary Smith!  On FamilySearch, in an aggregated database, I found a record indicating Mary and her husband were living in Falls Church, Virginia sometime between 1996 and 2007.  I'm sure it's the correct person because the birthdate is exactly as I have it in my database.