Saturday, November 25, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Are You Writing Your Personal History?

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver didn't resonate with me, so I'm doing the one from November 4 instead, which I wasn't able to do at that time.

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

1.  Are you writing about your own personal history?  What are you including?  How are you doing with it?  Who will you distribute it to?

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

I am writing about my personal history, but not in a really organized way, I guess.

The primary method I am using to write is this blog.  I follow a couple of established memes (Wordless Wednesday and Saturday Night Genealogy Fun) to help me generate posts, a lot of which are directly related to me.

I also look for inspiration for posts in lists of "National Day of . . ." (such as National Day Calendar).  I try to tie these national days to events in my family and my own life.

I created one tag (family events) to post about the life events (births, marriages, and deaths) in my family (and want to wrap that up by restarting where I last left off to finish the calendar year).  Most of those events are not about me, though, so not really my personal history, but there are connections to my history.

What am I including?  That's part of where I'm not really approaching it in an organized way.  I don't have an overall plan; I kind of go with whatever topic is presented to me if it makes me think of something to write.

I'm doing . . . okay with it.  After surgery a few years ago and then the disruption of COVID, I have had a lot of trouble getting myself back into a regular writing routine.  I'm doing better with this restart than the previous times, so I'm feeling cautiously optimistic.  And if I backslide again, I'll just pick myself up and start over (again).

Because it's a blog, I am distributing it to the world at large simply by it being there, and I have had relatives find me that way.  I also routinely tag relatives who are mentioned in my stories or who I think are interested in the stories so they can see the posts.  I have learned that some of those relatives semiregularly read the blog on their own, which was a pleasant surprise.

I have been blogging for almost 13 years now, with a total of a little more than 2,000 posts.  I'm amazed that Randy has close to 17,000 posts.  I always say that I'm not really a writer at heart.  I have downloaded the entire contents of my blog a few times to preserve my work, and I have thought about creating some sort of "book" with the material.  If I eventually do something like that, I'll probably give copies to my siblings and maybe my closer cousins.  I don't really know who else beyond that would be interested, if even those individuals are.

I did create one photo book specifically about me, but it's me with my furry and feathered children.  I'm guessing most people wouldn't really say that's my personal history.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Today in the United States it is Thanksgiving, a national nondenominational day to gather with friends and family and give thanks in appreciation of what we have.  I hope you are having a good and happy Thanksgiving and are able to spend it with people you care about.

Tomorrow is The Great Thanksgiving Listen, launched by StoryCorps in 2008 (originally called the National Day of Listening).  It was deliberately scheduled on the same day as the (now infamous, as far as I am concerned) Black Friday, a day of rampant commercialism that officially used to kick off the pre-Christmas spending season (but that seems to have crept all the way into August at this point).

The Great Thanksgiving Listen, or just The Great Listen for short (#TheGreatListen), is a day when you are encouraged to talk with family, friends, and community members and record their stories.  An old proverb, attributed to multiple cultures, says that when an elder dies, a library turns to the ground.  If we don't record people's stories and share them, those stories disappear when the person passes away.

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

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

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Have You Written/Made Genealogy Books?

I think the answer to Randy's question tonight for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun can be interpreted in more than one way.

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

1.   Have you written or made a genealogy or family history book for your family, for eBooks, or for book publication?  How did you do it?

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

So I suspect most people when reading Randy's question are going to think of something written/text-based, such as a narrative history, some sort of family tree or descendant report, or something along those lines.  But I have created several photo-based books and shared them with family members.  And those count as family history books!

I wrote about my photo book projects way back in July 2020 (wow, during the early part of the COVID pandemic, when we were all newly stuck at home!).  I had designed fourteen different books at that time.  I don't think I've created any new ones since then, so I guess I'm still at fourteen.

I haven't put anything else together as "books", but for the holiday season every year (Chanukah and Christmas), I used to print out descendant reports for all of my family lines and send copies of the relevant lines to every relative I was in contact with.  I routinely mailed about 50 fat manila envelopes during November and December.  No, not the same as writing a book, but I was sharing the family history regularly with siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.  And I had relatives contact me because they had found out I was doing the family history, so it was an effective method of communication.

Maybe one year I'll do a "real" book.  Maybe.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Smoking versus Not Smoking

Image by Alexas_Fotos

Today, November 16, is the 2023 observation of the Great American Smokeout, observed on the third Thursday of November, one week before Thanksgiving.  The day is meant to get tobacco smokers to quit smoking, either by quitting that day, not smoking for just that day (as a first step), or making plans to quit.  (And when will we start trying to get pot smokers to stop that smoking????)

I grew up with smokers.  Both of my parents smoked, and my mother's best friend, Aunt Sam, also smoked.  I remember at least one or two years that my mother asked my brother, my sister, and me what we wanted for Christmas, and we responded, "We want you and Daddy to quit smoking!"  To which my mother replied, "Yeah, what do you really want?"  So even when we were very young, well under 10 years old, we knew smoking wasn't good for people.

Yet sometimes you get what you wish for.

Shortly after my family moved to Australia in 1971, my mother and father made a bet with each other about who could quit smoking longer.  I have absolutely no memory of what prompted their bet.  Maybe cigarettes cost significantly more in Australia and they wanted to save money?  Whatever the reason, they made the bet.

My father gave up after three days.

My mother, even though she had already won the bet, continued not to smoke.

And became more and more irritable and unpleasant to be around.

To the point that we children actually begged her to start smoking again.

Which she finally did.  And became our regular mother again.

And there was great rejoicing.

Don't get me wrong.  I know smoking is bad for people.  It's better for your health to stop, sooner rather than later.

But sometimes there are extenuating circumstances.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Calendar Coincidence

A couple of days ago, on November 9, I picked up a photo of my great-great-grandparents' tombstone which was sitting on my desk.  They are buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens.  And I saw that my great-great-grandmother had died on that exact date, November 9, in 1934.

Maybe she was calling to me?

November 9, 1934 on the Hebrew calendar was 2 Kislev 5695.  So my great-great-grandmother's yahrzeit (date of commemoration of her death) is 2 Kislev.

On the 2023 secular calendar, 2 Kislev will fall on November 15.

So even though I blew it by not posting this on November 9, I'm ahead of schedule for the yahrzeit.

And thank you to Steve Morse for the handy calendar conversion tool.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: A Photo of You with a Grandparent

I really should have more (and probably do), but at least I was able to find one photo for tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver!

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

1.  Do you have a photograph of yourself with one or more of your grandparents?  How about your great-grandparents?  Show us what you have, and tell us your grandparents' names.

2)  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

As I noted above, I should have more photographs of me with grandparents, but I was able to come up with one because of the recent photo bonanza I received from my sister.

This photo is of (back row) my mother, Myra, and her parents, Lily and Abe, and (front row) me, my sister, and my brother.  It was taken in Australia, probably late 1971 or early 1972.  I'm pretty sure Bubbie and Zadie (Yiddish for grandmother and grandfather) visited us there during summer.

I wish there were a photo of me with a great-grandparent.  The only great-grandparent who was still alive when I was born was Sarah, the mother of my grandmother pictured above.  My mother used to tell me that she took me to Florida when I was just a little bitty baby, and my father even remembered her doing so.  I was my mother's first child, so it makes sense that she wanted to show me off to her parents and grandmother.  But my grandfather, who took photos of so many other family events, somehow missed a photo of four generations of women in the family.  As far as I know, no such photo exists.

Friday, November 3, 2023

There's a National Subway Day, You Say?

Novoslobodskaya Station, Russian Metro
by Alex 'Florstein' Fedorov, CC BY-SA 4.0,

I was talking with a friend a couple of months ago and we started comparing notes on which subway systems we had each traveled on.  Somehow my mind went from that to thinking that could be a fun subject to blog about, then to wondering whether there was any sort of official "national subway day."  I Googled it and found that yes, indeed, someone had declared a National Subway Day on November 3, 2015.  That also seems to have been the only day it was celebrated, but I took it as an excuse to blog on the topic anyway.

I'm not sure that subways are my favorite form of transportation, but I don't mind using them, and I've been on several.  In no particular order:

Moscow, Russia Metro, 1982:  At the time I was there, it was still the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic, one constituent member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  And the Metro (pronounced mye-tro) was beautiful.  Each station was a work of art, and we were told that was the intention.  I don't recall that it ran late.  One incident that happened to me when using the system was when a friend and I were leaving the station and standing on the escalator as it gently took us back to fresh air.  For some reason I had my friend's passport in my hand and was looking at it in detail, when one of the people ahead of us, who appeared to have been drinking heavily, suddenly stumbled backward and fell onto me.  Not only did I catch him and not fall myself, I didn't even drop the passport.  But my friend and I took a few steps backward, just in case it should happen again (it didn't).

Paris, France Métro, 1983:  I don't remember as much detail about the Métro in Paris, probably because whlie I was there I was dead broke and walked almost everywhere rather than pay for transportation.  But I did ride it a couple of times.  I don't recall that it was awful or great, just kind of there.

London, England Underground, 1996:  The Tube, as it is commonly called, has a reputation all its own.  People ride it just to say they've done so.  I rode it to get from one point to another, but I did notice the signs saying, "Mind the Gap," which are well known.  When I was going from the Prime Meridian to the Tower of London, I should have taken the Tube, but I didn't realize how far I was going to have to walk.  By the time I got to the Tower, it was closing for the day, and all I did was walk around it.  So that was one time I really blew it by not taking the subway.

New York City Subway, 1997 and 2005:  Another transportation system famous in its own way, the New York City Subway has the most stations and is one of the busiest and longest in the world.  In 2005 I wanted to visit a cousin who lived in the heart of Manhattan, and she convinced me not to even think of driving but to take the subway instead.  So I did.  It was a nice trip there and back.  I also took it once with my sister when I was visiting her in New Jersey, because she found out I had never been on it.  So we rode into The City and walked around for a while.  We somehow fortuitously ended up on 57th Avenue and I was able to show her around The Compleat Strategist, an adventure games store that carried products from the company I was working for at the time (this was in 1997).  She is still the only family member who actually got excited to see my name in print, jumping up and down in the store.

Washington, D.C. Metro, 2000 and 2011:  The outstanding feature of the Metro in DC is how huge the tunnels are.  They are absolutely cavernous.  I was told that the reason for their ridiculous size is that they're supposed to be emergency shelters for people if something really horrible happens outside.  But that doesn't make sense, unless the people are supposed to stand on each others' shoulders, because most of the space is up.  So I suspect the real reason is something else entirely.  But it's a nice system, and I definitely enjoyed riding it.

Montreal, Quebec Metro, about 1999:  I traveled to Montreal once for work, and while there I learned about the underground transportation systems.  Not only is there a subway, but there are underground walkways between buildings so that people can move around in the dead of winter.  I thought that was pretty smart of them.  I don't remember anything in particular about the Metro, so it couldn't have been bad.

Boston, Massachusetts Subway, 1991, 1992, 1993:  The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) looks and feels ancient, or at least it did when I was using it.  I used to go to Boston at least once a year and took the subway a lot.  The cars always felt rickety, and when they careened around curves you worried whether you were going to go airborne.  The cars seem to just barely fit in the tunnels.  I heard rumors (never substantiated) that some people who were working had been crushed.  Not a friendly system.  I have one friend who knew the system inside out, backward and forward, to the extent that he could figure out in his head that if we went two stops past where we wanted and then came back one stop, we could walk far fewer stairs to get to the street.  He was amazing.

San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit:  The subway system with which I am most familiar is BART (I love acronyms!).  Not only did I live in the Bay Area for 28 years, but I worked as a train operator at BART.  I have to admit, I loved riding BART around, especially in San Francisco, because I hated driving in San Francisco.  BART is a great system.  I even wrote two blog posts about using BART to get to genealogically important research sites (in San Francisco and in the East Bay)!

So that comes to eight systems.  Hmm, I thought it was more than that.  I guess I need to get out there and ride a few more! 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Where Were Your 16 2nd-great-grandparents Born, Married, and Died?

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise from Randy Seaver had me looking up a lot of information!

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

1.  Where did your 16 2nd-great-grandparents live and die?  What are their birth, marriage, and death dates and locations?

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

I can write about only twelve of my great-great-grandparents.  I may have their names committed to memory, but not all that other data.

James Gauntt:  born June 18, 1831 in New Jersey; married February 1, 1851 in Westhampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey; died February 16, 1889 in Rancocas, Burlington County, New Jersey

Amelia Gibson:  born June 1831 in Burlington County, New Jersey; died June 19, 1908 in Lumberton, Burlington County, New Jersey

Frederick Cleworth Dunstan:  born January 18, 1840 in Deansgate, Manchester, Lancashire, England; married October 18, 1858 in Manchester, Lancashire, England; died September 21, 1873 in Hulme, Lancashire, England

Martha Winn:  born August 12, 1837 in Manchester, Lancashire, England; died November 26, 1884 in Manchester, Lancashire, England

Simcha Dovid Mekler:  unknown when born, possibly in Kamenets Litovsk, Grodno gubernia, Russia; married before 1885 in Russia; died before 1904, possibly in Kamenets Litovsk, Grodno gubernia, Russia

Bela <unknown maiden name>:  unknown when born, in Russia; died before 1924, possibly in Kamenets Litovsk, Grodno gubernia, Russia

Gershon Itzhak Novitsky:  born about 1858, probably in Porozowo, Grodno gubernia, Russia; married about 1875 in Russia; died December 12, 1948 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York

Dora Yelsky:  born about 1858, probably in Porozowo, Grodno gubernia, Russia; died February 9, 1936 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York

Victor Gordon:  born between 1864–1868, probably in Kamenets Podolsky, Podolia, Russia; married before 1891 in Russia; died January 25, 1925 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York

Esther Leah Schneiderman:  born between 1868–1874 in Russia; died December 10, 1908 in Kishinev, Bessarabia, Russia

Morris Brainin:  born between 1860–1863, probably in Kreuzburg, Russia; married before 1883, possibly in Kreuzburg, Russia; died February 13, 1930 in Harlem, Manhattan, New York County, New York

Rose Dorothy Jaffe:  born between 1866–1871 in Russia; died November 9, 1934 in Harlem, Manhattan, New York County, New York

As fuzzy as some of the information is for my great-great-grandparents on my mother's side, at least I have something, which is more than I can say for my paternal grandfather's paternal side.  I'm still hunting for that biological father.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Photo Bonanza!

The origins of this story go back to 2019, when my father passed away.  I didn't know what there might be in his estate, but I had told my siblings that I was really interested in only two things:  his racing trophies and his photographs.

My father raced cars (and some motorcycles) everywhere he lived:  New Jersey, Florida, California, Australia, Florida again, Texas.  And he won lots of trophies (although my stepfather informed me that most of the time that's all he won; rarely did the races have any cash prizes).  Daddy talked about getting rid of the trophies a few years before he died, but I made him promise not to, because they're such an important part of his (and therefore our family's) history.  I even got to ask the Archive Lady how best to preserve them!

But this story is about the photographs.  My father used to be kind of a semiprofessional photographer.  He took photos everywhere and of everything.  Lots of family photos, lots of photos of cars, and all sorts of other stuff.  As the family genealogist, I knew I needed those photos to help tell our family story and to find more information about family members.

Due to various things that happened after Daddy died, the photographs ended up going to Texas with my stepbrother, and then to my sister in San Antonio.  I kept asking about them, and at some point she told me that her niece had started scanning them, and that eventually I would get a copy of the scans (and the photos themselves).  I asked a few more times after that and I was always told that the project was still going on.  After a while I stopped asking.

Out of the blue, about a week or so ago, I received an envelope from my sister.  In it was a flash drive, 128 gig!  (The biggest I've seen.)  I asked her if this was indeed the scanning project and was told, "Yes."

I finally had a chance to look at the flash drive a couple of days ago.  OMG!  Something like 6,000 scanned files!  The niece grouped them by whatever storage unit they were in:  a black tote, a can liner box (um, what is that?), a little white box, a U-Haul box.  Files and files and files!

So far I have been able to go through the files from the can liner box.  I have looked at all 1,343 photos.  (Remember, that's only the photos from that one box.)

Along with lots of photos Daddy took — of family members, friends, houses, touristy stuff, TOO MANY CARS — there are also photos of him.  Some have notes from his mother, my grandmother, written on the back.  One has a note from my grandfather (I actually recognized his handwriting).  Photos of him when he was a little bitty baby.  Congratulation cards to my grandmother on his birth.

Photos of my half-sister and her mother when they were in California, living with us!  Photos of my father's parents when they were young!  Photos from when my family lived in Australia!  A genealogist's gold mine!

And I know what I need to do.  Those photos need to be labeled as soon as possible while there's still someone around (that's mostly me!) who actually recognizes people in the photos.  Just like I harp on other people to do.

Like I said, I have gone through one folder so far.  I stayed up all night Sunday, obsessed with finishing that folder, labeling photos with the names of the people in them.  Although I am still trying to figure out how to label umpteen photos of the same car (he did this with more than one car, too).

Just a small sampling:

Me and my brother, about 1964

My half-sister Laurie, maybe about December 1964, with my mother's menorah

My half-sister Laurie and my father, about December 1957

My mother, maybe 1964?

My grandfather holding my father, maybe January 1936 (Grampa's handwriting)

Back row:  my mother and her parents
Front row:  me, my sister, my brother
Australia, circa 1972

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Do a Genealogy Software Problem Report

I certainly didn't get the result I expected when I tried to do Randy Seaver's challenge in tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

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

1.  Have you created a Problem Report from your desktop genealogy software program?  Tell us which software you're using, how you found the "Problem Report", and your results using it.

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

I almost had to concede defeat.

I use Family Tree Maker2019.  I blithely went to it and looked under Tools, as Randy did for Roots Magic.  I saw:
• Date Calculator
• Relationship Calculator
• Soundex Calculator
• Global Spell Check
• Resolve All Place Names
• Convert Names
• Compact File
• Sort All Children by Birth [which is a really convenient tool I didn't know was there]
• User Information
• References

So nothing there seems to be the general kind of "problem report" that I'm looking for.

The other top-level menus are Family Tree Maker 2019, File, Edit, View, Window, and Help.  I looked under the first five and found nothing apparently relevant to what I was looking for.  So I tried Help and entered "problem."  That netted me:

• Managing Places
• Sync Weather Reports
• Errors to Include [which is about dates]
• To send a sync error report
• Incorrect Date Format
• To re-establish a link
• Send Sync Error Report
• Edit Name
• To open a tree
• Double Dates
• To check a tree's synchronization status

I learned that FTM is inconsistent about capitalization but nothing about problem reports.

Next I searched in Help for "error", with similarly unhelpful results.

I then tried my failsafe:  Google.  I searched for <family tree maker problem report>.  And I got:
• Troubleshooting Family Tree Maker
• Report a Bug | The Software MacKiev Company
• Managing the Data Error Report - Part 1 (The English was so fractured I could not figure out what this page was about.)
• How to fix the orange sync weather report in Family Tree Maker
• Family Tree Maker 2019 App Started Having Problems

Okay, looking pretty bad.

But the sixth result finally looked promising:

"Another Way to Find Errors in Your Family Tree", with teaser text of "Family Tree Maker has a built-in error report that may surprised [sic] you with its findings."

When I clicked that link, I found a lovely explanation of how to create what Randy is calling a Problem Report and what FTM calls a Data Errors Report:

  • Click the Publish tab at the top of the program.
  • Click Person Reports in the left column and choose Data Errors Report.
  • Click Create Report, then click Cancel to make some enhancements:
    • Choose to include All individuals.
    • Click the first button under Data Errors Report Options to open the Errors to Include dialog box. I chose to deselect two choices:
      • Spouses have the same last name (so what?)
      • Marriage date missing (that's because the document is not available)
  • Close the dialog box, click Generate Report, and wait.

Now, why that didn't come up when I searched for "error" in Help, I have no idea.  I also have no idea why someone programming this thought this was an intelligent place to put this function.  But now I know where it is (and I hope I remember it the next time I want to do this).

I also deselected "Spouses have the same last name", as the author suggested, because I don't do my data entry by making a woman's married name her family name (I know lots of people who do, though).  If spouses have the same last name in my database, it's because that's what their names were.

I did not deselect "Marriage date missing", because one of the uses of this kind of report is to point out to you what data you are missing.  If you're going to omit "Marriage date missing", you may as well take out "Birth date missing" also (I would have included "Death date missing", but that is not an option in the list).

That said, when the report was finished, it was 121 pages long!  The vast majority of the items were missing birth and marriage dates.  I reran it without those items to see how long that report ended up:  a mere nine pages!  Much more manageable.

I noticed that in the new list the majority of the items were "Event divorce contains no data."  If I know that a marriage ended in divorce, I'll add a field for a divorce even when I don't have the date.  It appears that FTM considers that a data error.

So I ran a third version of the report, deselecting "Event contains no data."  And that report is only five pages long.  Better and better!

Well, I certainly learned more about Family Tree Maker tonight!

Monday, October 16, 2023

Mary Lou and Shetland Ponies

To celebrate the birthday of my half-sister's mother (my father's first wife), here is my half-sister Laurie with a guest post!


And here I am again, faced with my mother’s birthday, and yet another request from my Seester to write something for her ancestry blog.  Except THIS time . . . .

On this October 16, Mary Lou Bowen-Sellers-James would have been celebrating her 85th birthday.  Having been a single mother for a good part of her working years, she managed to find jobs or situations where she could work while I was at school or bring me along on her workday.

In 1967 we lived in El Monte, California in a house owned by the family she worked for.  In exchange for rent, we got to care for their horses and train Shetland ponies for the owner’s business.  At any given time, there were three to four horses and 30 to 35 ponies, along with a number of dogs and cats.  This in itself was her dream job, but there was a secondary job that seemed to be a part of every child’s life in the Los Angeles area in the '60's.

Along with a host of others, my mom worked as a roving photographer, taking photos of kids on Shetland ponies.  The crew would show up at the owner's property, prepare the ponies, load them up on the trailer, and then drive to a targeted neighborhood.  From there, each photographer would start walking, pony in tow, carrying a tripod, camera, chaps, vest, cowboy hat, whatever other equipment was necessary, along with her lunch, water and snacks for the pony, and a shovel, for a long day of photographing cowboy poses.

I was thrilled to be able to work alongside my mother as she got the children ready for the shoot and hear her talk about the horses to the kids and parents.

Of course, those were the days of developing film, so once the photos were ready, she’d be back to deliver the sleeves of photos to the parents, but while I was in school.

We took SO MANY photos of kids on Shetland ponies!  I grew up thinking every kid in the world had a picture taken on a Shetland pony!  Later in life I remember being shocked at the number of people with no knowledge of photographers and ponies just showing up in neighborhoods, looking for kids to dress up like cowboys!

It was a cool job and we were happy.  Even at the age of 10, I felt like we had found our place to be.  She loved what she was doing and I thought we were settling in.

Unfortunately, Mom suffered a back injury when she was thrown from one of the horses and we had to give up the house and the job.

That was the bad news.

Our salvation came in what most people would find an unconventional source:  My stepmother invited us to live with her, my father, and their three young children until my mother got back on her feet.

I thought I had hit the family jackpot!  I could actually LIVE with my siblings and, I’m pretty sure, we all had Shetland pony photos!

I’m not sure why, but we trained the ponies to stand in this manner as in the photo above, stretched out for the photo.  This guy’s ears were back, which my mother would never shoot.  She’d click and talk until the pony was looking at the camera, alert and ears forward.  She told me that making the pony look like it was enjoying its situation as much as the kid is what sold photos!

Photo posted by Maia C. and used under a creative commons license.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Baby Boy Kent

Stillborn, November 26, 1975

Buried December 4, 1975, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
Hamilton, Mercer County, New Jersey

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Have You Helped Someone with Their Genealogy?

Oh my goodness!  It was difficult to choose who to write about for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver!

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

1.  Have you helped someone (a friend, a colleague, someone you didn't know, etc.) with their genealogy and family history?  Genea-blogger Ellen Thompson-Jennings wrote on this topic last month in Have You Helped Someone with Their Genealogy? on Hound on the Hunt.

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

Helping people with their genealogy is what I do with a lot of my time, and I've been doing it steadily since 2000, when I started volunteering at the Oakland Family History Center (now the Oakland FamilySearch Center).  Since my move to Oregon in 2017 I've been helping at the Gresham FamilySearch Center.  I've also helped people in the various genealogical societies of which I have been a member, including Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon, Genealogical Forum of Oregon, and San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, which are a few of my current affiliations.

Probably the most interesting time I had helping people was when I worked at the Seismological Society of America and was doing the genealogy of all four people I worked with:  Susan N., Dorothy G., Kathy R., and Bo O.

Susan's family was mostly British Isles people who had been on this continent for a long time.  One of her grandfathers was from Greece, however, and I had fun reading Greek records on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  One great-grandfather went from Missouri to California for the Gold Rush, and I found him in an early California state census.

Dorothy was always saying that her family wasn't interesting, but I found that her Portuguese line was one of the original settling families in the Azores.  She had a grandmother who lived to be 100 and was feted in San Francisco.  Her parents eloped and then pretended not to be married for a few years because her maternal grandmother did not approve of her mother's choice of husband.

For Kathy I researched both her and her former husband's families, because she was interested in sharing the information with her children.  Kathy had ancestors from Alsace-Lorraine with a surname that originated in only three towns there.  She had always been told that her maiden name was from a Jewish line, and I found her ancestor in Colonial Virginia identifed as a Jew; he even signed documents in Hebrew.

Rumor had it that Kathy's former mother-in-law had had the family history well researched and then thoroughly obscured.  A "family tree" had been created that listed only the male of the line and his wife, going back several generations.  After only a small amount of research (two or three generations) it was clear that the tree had been made up of whole cloth.  It appeared that perhaps part of the reason to hide the real information was that the family might have been scalawags.

Bo had one parent who was Jewish and one who was solidly British, so the research went in two entirely different directions.  His is the only family I am still working on.  I've actually found some of his Jewish ancestors in European records, which is more than I can say for my own family.

Everyone used to comment how I knew more about their families than they did!

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Which Ancestor Lived the Shortest Life?

I love it when I remember that I've done some research already and can just look it up to get the answer to a question, as in this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver.

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

1.  Which of your known ancestors lived the shortest life?  Consider only the last eight generations and those ancestors with known birth and death dates.  Do you know the cause of death?  Was there an obituary?  How many children did s/he have?  How did you figure this out?

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

My ancestor with known birth and death dates with the shortest life is my great-great-grandfather Frederick Cleworth Dunstan, who is my paternal grandmother's maternal grandfather.  He married Martha Winn October 18, 1858 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.  He was born January 18, 1840 in Deansgate, Manchester, Lancashire, England and died September 21, 1873 in Hulme, Lancashire, England. His lifespan was 33 years, 8 months, and 3 days.

His cause of death was chronic bronchitis for 11 months.  I don't know of an obituary, and since the family was very poor, I consider it unlikely there was one (doesn't mean I'll stop looking, of course).

Frederick and Martha Dunstan had six children that I know of, of whom four survived to adulthood.  The youngest was my great-grandmother Jane Dunstan (1871–1954).

I figured out the answer to Randy's question by recalling that for two previous Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenges he had asked readers to determine their female and male ancestors' ages at death.  All I had to do was find the two posts (from 2016) and look at the results I had computed then.

I had one female ancestor who died at a similar age as that of Frederick Dunstan, but I don't have a documented birth date for my great-great-grandmother Esther Leah (Schneiderman) Gorodetsky, who is my maternal grandmother's paternal grandmother.  I have her date of death from metrical records of Kishinev, Bessarabia, Russian Empire (December 10, 1908, adjusted from the Julian calendar still in use at that time in the Russian Empire), but I don't know when or where she was born.  My estimate is that she died at about 34 years old.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Genealogy Highlight This Past Week

As if I weren't far enough behind, I actually finally caught COVID!  So I've been isolating and recovering and trying even harder to catch up.  Thank goodness I had a ready answer for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge today.

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

1.  What was your genealogy-related highlight of this past week (or two weeks)?

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

By an amazing coincidence, my genealogy highlight this past week is also related to an AncestryDNA match who has an adoption in his line.

I've been corresponding with Edward for three and a half years now.  He matches my sister (whose kit I manage) at a much higher level than he does me.  We've been trying to figure out what names we might have in common, based on what he knew of his tree.

The big news came a few days ago, when Edward sent a message saying that he had been able to identify his paternal grandfather.  So now he has new surnames to add to the mix.  Unfortunately, we still don't have any that match in recent generations.  Currently the most promising lead is Asay, going back to the 1700's in each of our lines.  Hurray for old Quaker names in New Jersey!

But now I need to step up my research on my Asays!

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Make an Ahnentafel Report

I get all excited about having enough time and energy to participate in this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver, and my computer tries to thwart me by not cooperating.  But I won, and here's my post!

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

1.  Have you made an Ahnentafel report ("name table" in German) recently?  Show us yours!  How did you do it?  Which program did you use?

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

I will admit, it has been a while since I did an Ahnentafel report, and I don't think I have done one since I installed Family Tree Maker2019.  Things have apparently changed since the last time I did a report.

As just mentioned, I am using Family Tree Maker2019.  I went to my paternal grandmother, the person I had decided I wanted to do the report for, then clicked Publish, Genealogy Reports, and Ahnentafel Report.

After I clicked Ahnentafel Report, I got a pop-up screen that told me that whereas previous versions of Family Tree Maker offered an Anhentafel report and a simplified Ahnentafel report, this new version had combined the two reports and included all the options of both.  I don't remember there being two choices before, but I'll believe them.

After clicking ok to that little squib, I then clicked Create Report.

The output I got didn't quite resemble what I remember an Ahnentafel looking like.  It had a lot more information than I thought it should, I think partly because the options for the previous report I had created in the program (not an Ahnentafel) were carried over.  So I unclicked several items, and it looks slightly more like what I remember of an Ahnentafel, but still not quite.  Oh, and it doesn't even say Ahnentafel in the default header.

But that's why Randy has us do this type of project, right?  So we can learn about the capabilities of our computer programs.

This is page 1 of the Ahnentafel for my grandmother Anna Gauntt.

It only ran two and a quarter pages and has 32 people total over nine generations (I was optimistic and had requested 20).  I just don't have the same kind of information Randy does.

Then came the real fun.  This is only the second report I have run in my new FTM, and I had totally forgotten what to do next.  I couldn't find the report on my computer.  I searched on the computer, searched for help online, and finally realized the report is internal to FTM.  To obtain something I could use in this post, I had to print it.  Aha!

That worked.  It created a PDF, which I then converted to a PNG file so I could upload the image to Blogger.

Just remember, computers make our lives easier, right?

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Who Is Your LAST Immigrant Ancestor?

I actually knew the answer to this question as soon as I saw it on Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post tonight!

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

1.  Which of your ancestors was the LAST immigrant to your current country?  When did they arrive?  Where did they arrive?  Why did they migrate?

2.  Write your own blog post, or leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

My most recent immigrant ancestor is on my mother's side.  All four of my great-grandparents on her side were immigrants, coming to the United States between 1905 and 1911.  The last one to arrive was my great-grandmother Minnie Zelda (Nowicki) Meckler (about 1880–1936).  She was born in the Russian Empire, probably in Porozowo, which is now in Belarus.  She departed Antwerp October 14, 1911 on the Vaderland with three young children in tow and arrived in New York City on October 23.

She came to this country because her husband, my great-grandfather Morris Meckler, had immigrated earlier, in 1906.  The family was separated for five years.  They came primarily for economic opportunity.  Other family members had come earlier to pave the way.

As far as I currently know, on my father's side my most recent immigrant ancestor was my great-grandmother Jane Dunstan (1871–1954).  She was born in Manchester, England.  She departed England October 8, 1890 on the Lord Olive and arrived in Philadelphia on October 21.  As far as I can tell, she was traveling by herself.

Less than a year later, on September 2, 1891, she married Thomas Kirkland Gauntt in Greenland, New Jersey (although I don't know if it was the Greenland that is part of Magnolia in Camden County or the one that is part of Edison in Middlesex County).  Their first child, Frederick Cleworth Gauntt (named for Jane's father), was born a mere four months later on January 7, 1892.  My grandmother was their second child, born a year after her brother, on January 14, 1893.

I have never heard any story within the family of why Jane came to the United States, but her brother Frederick Dunstan (1868–1932) came here first, about 1888 (I still haven't found a passenger list for him).  Maybe he made New Jersey sound absolutely wonderful, and Jane just had to come.  Or since she hooked up with my great-grandfather relatively quickly (apparently at the latest by about April 1891, only roughly six months after she arrived), maybe Fred was being a matchmaker?

I will say, however, that I still have not identified the biological father of my paternal grandfather, and while I have a good candidate, who was a native of New Jersey, it's possible that Grampa's biological father might have been an immigrant and might have arrived later than Jane did.  The latest he could have arrived would be about July 1902, as my grandfather was born in April 1903, so my most recent immigrant overall would still be on my mother's side.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Three Things about an Ancestor

Tonight Randy Seaver has us thinking about the details of our ancestors' lives for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

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

1.  What are three things about one of your ancestors that you have learned doing genealogy research?

2.  Write your own blog post, or leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

I chose my great-grandmother Laura May (Armstrong) Sellers Ireland.

• Laura May Armstrong was born May 7, 1882 in Burlington County, New Jersey to Joel Armstrong and Sarah Ann Deacon Lippincott.

• Laura bore at least ten children, only four of whom survived to adulthood:
Bertram Lynn Sellers, Sr. (1903–1995)
Cornelius Howard Sellers (about 1904–1905)
Amelia Sellers (after 1904–before 1920)
Catherine Marie Sellers (about 1907–1989)
George Moore Sellers (1908–1975)
Nellie Elizabeth Sellers (1912–2004)
Harry J. Sellers (1913–1913)
Herman J. Sellers (about 1914–between 1915–1920)
Birdsall Sellers (1916–1916)
Bertolet Grace Sellers (1921–1927)

• Laura was apparently a bit of a wild woman for her time.  She gave birth to my grandfather in 1903 without benefit of a husband; his birth certificate, which took quite a while to track down, has merely the socially disapproving "OW" (out of wedlock) on the line where the father's name would normally appear.  She married Cornelius Elmer Sellers seven months after my grandfather was born.  Then, in 1921, almost three years after Elmer had died, she gave birth to another child who did not have a father's name on the birth certificate.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Top 10 Genealogy-related Books That Helped You

I suspect that most of my choices for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge will be different from those of other posters.

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

1.  What are the top 10 genealogy-related books that helped you the most in your family history research?

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

Here's my list.

Finding Our Fathers:  A Guide to Jewish Genealogy, Dan Rottenberg

Professional Genealogy, Elizabeth Shown Mills (editor)

Where Once We Walked (revised edition), Gary Mokotoff and Sallyann Amdur Sack, with Alexander Sharon

A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire (revised edition), Alexander Beider

Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names, Alexander Beider

Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia, Alexander Beider

Sephardic Genealogy (second edition), Jeffrey S. Malka

The Jewish Encyclopedia:  A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (1925)

Black Roots:  A Beginner's Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree, Tony Burroughs

Red Book:  American State, County, and Town Sources, Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG (editor)

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: How Are You Saving Family Photographs and Home Movies?

I'm still running behind, so I'm catching up on an older Saturday Night Genealogy Fun today.

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

1.  Almost all genealogists have family photographs and/or home movies of their ancestors, relatives, and friends handed down over the generations.

2.  What steps have you taken to obtain, save, and pass on those photographs or home movies to your family members?

3.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

I am the family genealogist, so I am the person who has ended up with most of the family photos.  I brought home two or three boxes of photos after cleaning out my maternal grandmother's apartment when she had a stroke and it was clear that she was not going to be able to live by herself anymore.  I have one or two boxes of photos from my maternal uncle, which he gave to me when I visited him and my aunt in the summer of 2022.  I even have photos given to me by a cousin's widower; I had visited them while my cousin was still alive, and after she passed away, her husband contacted me and asked if I wanted the photos from her side of the family (hell, yes!).

The exception is that my sister currently has custody of the photos that my father had in his possession when he passed away (and she got them from our stepbrother, but that is a long, complicated story).  I believe she also has our father's lifetime of automobile racing trophies, but they might still be with our stepbrother's widow.  (I said it was complicated.)

I don't know of any home movies that were made in the first place, much less that have survived.  My family seems to have stuck to photographs.

Before scanning became so easy and so ubiquitous, I had photo negatives made of a few photographs before giving the original physical photos to the family members pictured in them.  Then I had prints made from the photo negs.

I have done lots of scanning of the photos that I have and have shared a lot of those scans (although I don't think all) with family members.  I also share them by posting them on my blog, and this has helped get some of them identified.  I have given physical copies of photographs to people pictured in them or to close relatives of those individuals.  I have shared duplicate copies of some photos (made when the photos were first printed) with family members.  I always identify as many people in a photo as I can and try to include date and location when possible when sharing scans and giving physical photos.

I have put together photo books of different family lines and shared those books with family members.

I have also tried to find family members for photos that are of friends of my family but not my family members, to give them.  So far I haven't been successful with any of those searches.

My most successful photo return was when I was given several photos of my paternal grandfather with his second wife and my youngest aunt (my father's only younger half-sibling).  That took a few years, but I found my aunt (and her mother)!  And I scanned those photos before giving them to her.

My sister was having her niece scan the photos she has.  I received copies of some of them, maybe all that had been scanned.  The last time I checked, scanning was still ongoing.

I don't do any colorizing.  I really don't like it.  I think it's far too easy for people to forget that the color was added later, and then they'll think that's what the photos looked like originally.  I have done some enhancements myself to try to make some photos clearer, but that's generally all.

When I determined that one photo I had was of my great-great-grandparents, including the great-great-grandmother who died in 1908 and whose death started the family's chain migration to the United States, I had it professionally scanned and cleaned up, because I considered it such an important photo for the family.

I still need to work on archival storage for the photos I have.  I know they can deteriorate, and I don't want that to happen.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Fishing with My Father

Today is not only Father's Day, it's also National Go Fishing Day.  I figured I could cover them both by writing about fishing with my father.  Brilliant, right?

Daddy used to like to fish for bass, but I wasn't that crazy about eating bass.  I liked fishing for catfish.  There's something about catfish and the steaklike texture of the fillets that I just love.

Since we were freshwater fishing in Florida, we would catch mud cats, apparently more properly known as flathead catfish.  They're scavengers that live on the bottom of creeks and rivers, ergo the mud in their nickname.  I don't remember what we used for bait, but the Wikipedia page about them says live bait is preferred, so it may have been small fish or possibly worms.

One of the interesting things about catfish is their skin.  They don't have scales.  Instead their skin is kind of like leather.  Like scales, you don't eat it.  Unlike scaling a regular fish, however, it's necessary to peel off their skin.

That was something I always left to my father.  I had a great time going out fishing with him, and I was always happy when we caught catfish.  But he was in charge of skinning them.

The way he did it was to nail the catfish's head to the porch and then, wearing heavy gloves, use pliers to peel the skin off the body.  I freely admit it was not something that I wanted to do.

Then we would have yummy catfish fillets for dinner.  I think my mother lightly fried them.  They were always delicious.

Another fun thing about catfish is that I was always told that their spines are poisonous.  I don't think it's supposed to be enough to actually kill you, unless maybe you're just a little kid, but I guess enough to make you sick.

One time when we had catfish for dinner, my brother was put in charge of taking the trash out afterward.  The spines and nasty bits of the catfish were on the bottom of the trash bag.  He took the bag out, dumped it upside down, and mashed it down so that the trash can lid would close — and stuck himself with a catfish spine.

He ran into the house screaming, blood spurting out of his hand.  My mother, who didn't deal well with blood in general and especially not her children's blood, became hysterical.  I had to tell my sister to get her out of the room because she was just freaking out.  I got my brother to sit down and I bled out the wound as best I could.  And now that I think of it, I don't remember my father being there.  Hmm, where was he?

I also don't remember if my brother went to the doctor the next day or did anything to follow up, but he didn't get sick, so I guess I did a decent job (or maybe the spines aren't actually poisonous after all).  He developed a small lump in his palm where the spine had stabbed him, and years later he finally had to have it removed.

photo by Bébéranol

Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Genealogical or Historical Societies Have You Joined?

For this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver asks about our membership in groups, something I'll have to think about to answer, at least for the past ones.

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

1.  What genealogical or historical societies have you joined to pursue your family history research over the years?

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

I am pretty sure the first genealogical society I joined was the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society.  I found out about it from someone who came to the Oakland Family History Center.  That was way back about 20 years ago.  For several years that was my only membership.  I have stayed a member continuously since joining.

I was a member of the California State Genealogical Alliance from 2006 or 2007 until the group was dissolved in 2017.  In fact, I was one of the board members who voted in favor of and helped with the processing of the dissolution.

I think the next group I joined was the California Genealogical Society, in 2011, after giving a presentation to them about online newspapers.  I remained a member of CGS until I moved to Oregon.  I think my last year was 2018.

Soon after CGS I became a member of the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (how's that for a mouthful?), in 2012.  That membership also ended when I moved to Oregon in 2017.

I think I was a member of the Southern California Genealogical Society for a couple of years in conjunction with having given presentations at Jamboree, but I can't remember which years.

The first group I joined after my move to Oregon was the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon.  As I recall, I joined not long after arriving in September 2017.  I had a break in membershp for about a year but returned and am currently a member.

I began participating in the African American Special Interest Group of the Genealogical Forum of Oregon also soon after I moved here, but that group is open to the public and didn't require joining officially — until I volunteered to take over as coordinator after the founder of the group stepped down.  To be a SIG coordinator, you have to be a member of GFO.  So I joined and have maintained that membership through to the present.

I was a member of the Oberlin African American Genealogy and History Group in 2020 and 2021, but I forgot to renew for 2022 and they didn't remind me.  Earlier this year I sent a message asking about current benefits of membership but was told that I would find out about benefits only after joining.  I didn't consider that the best way to market the group and still haven't decided if I'm going to renew.

I joined the Jewish Genealogical Society of Long Island in 2021 as a life member, so that's still current.

I was given a membership in the Virtual Genealogical Society because I gave a presentation at its 5th birthday party this year.  Hmm, I don't think I've received any messages from them since then, but it was only a month ago.

I can't recall ever having joined a historical society.

So that makes my current memberships SFBAJGS, JGSO, JGSLI, GFO, and VGS.