Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Goals and Resolutions

With 2011 starting tomorrow, now seems like the perfect time to plan and reflect.  2010 was a great year in terms of genealogy research for me and I'd love to just keep that momentum going into 2011.  I can't really think of any other genealogy resolutions for next year besides staying on the same path.  Here are just a few of the things I got to cross off my genealogy bucket list in 2010:
  • Went to my first conference and had tons of fun (and can't wait until I get to go to another).
  • Broke down one of my longest standing brick-walls and learned the names of my great-grandfather's parents (Matteo Lapiccirella and Carmela/Carmina Scarano).  I have my FHC and the wonderful folks at the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library to thank for it!
  • Joined several genealogical societies.  My only regret was that I wasn't able to get as involved in their activities and events as I had wanted to.  That is something I'd definitely like to do more of in 2011.
  • Met many new "cousins," enriching my genealogy database at the same time.  In fact, I've heard from so many new cousins that I'm drowning in e-mails and terribly behind in responding (apologies to anyone still waiting on a reply from me!).
I also accomplished a lot that I can't really put into words.  I've learned so much and changed and expanded my approach to genealogy research so much in the past year that I hardly recognize the researcher that I was before.  Looking back on the year, I think this has been my biggest and most unexpected accomplishment

In terms of things that I'd like to happen in 2011, my list is very much the same as in years past:
  • Find Heman Doyle's parents.  I now know he had a half-brother in Buffalo in 1840 but that hasn't proved very helpful as yet.
  • Find (Maria) Nicoletta Riccia's parents.  My great-grandmother is such a mystery and the only thing I learned about her in 2010 was that she wasn't from the village she said she was from.
  • Go further back with my Lapiccirella and Scarano lines.  I'm lucky that they lived in a village in Italy that was good about keeping records and that those records have been microfilmed.  Now I just need to spend more time are my FHC!
  • Go further back with Priscilla Mason's parents.  I'm hopeful that the mtDNA tests my mother and I took will be helpful in this area but we'll see.  As I've said before, Priscilla (and by extension her mother) are haplogroup K with a rare 16265G mutation.  I only did the HVR1 but my mother did the full test so hopefully when her results come in we'll know even more about this line.  I am hoping to learn where this line might have originated and find a cousin or two.
  • Find some information on my Allen ancestors.  My birthday present this year was for my father to take a Y-DNA test.  We're are awaiting the results and some of us (okay, just me) are a bit more excited than others.  There is an Allen group and it appears that R1b is the most common haplogroup.  I'm hoping to find a cousin or two since my Allens have only been in this country since the 1850s, before then we don't know where in Scotland they originated.
One thing I'd also like to mention that is pretty huge is that there is a new genealogy buff in my family: my mother.  I talked her into attending a few sessions at the California Family History Expo in October and she has been interested ever since.  She isn't as interested in it as me but I think one more shove gentle push and she'll be on her way.  Her interest in genetic genealogy has especially surprised me and I think is a big reason why I am as interested in the subject as I am.

I hope everyone has a happy, safe and prosperous 2011!  May your brick-walls come crashing down and your genealogy resolutions come to pass in this new year!  And, a big thank you to everyone who has stopped to read this blog in 2010 - you guys really did make my year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Interviewing My Grandmother

I've been interviewing my grandmother and asking her all the questions I should have asked ten years ago when I first tried to interview her.  The first time I interviewed her I only asked her what she knew about her ancestors and asked her nothing about her life.  Well, now I'm righting that wrong.

Last weekend we started and covered her life in Petaluma (the first seven years of her life).  I had no idea it would be as educational as it was or that it would turn out to be as emotional as it got at times.  Here are some of the highlights of what I learned about my grandmother, and the interview process:
  • My grandmother had an older brother, David, who was either stillborn or died shortly after birth.  I'd heard rumors about a sibling of hers who had died but this was the first time she ever really spoke of him.  She didn't know much about what happened to David (like when he was born or where he is buried) as her mother (my great-grandmother) never spoke of him and would cry whenever anyone mentioned him. 
  • My grandmother was almost named Susanna Marie but her parents ended up naming her after her two grandmothers.  Problem is, the person who filled out her birth certificate misspelled her name and no one caught it until it was too late.  Not surprisingly, she has gone by a nickname all her life.
  • When my grandmother was little there was a man at her church who said he could pull himself up by the bootstraps and that if my grandmother practiced enough, she could too.  She then went home and promptly began trying to, literally, pull herself up by her bootstraps.
  • My grandmother was the youngest in her family by quite a bit and there weren't many playmates for her on the street where they lived.  So she invented her own playmates named Balloon and Barbara Shed.  Apparently she and her "friends" were pretty close.  One day, when she was about five, she was at a gathering when a little boy asked her if she wanted to play.  My grandmother told him that wanted to bring two friends and that she'd have to ask her mother if it was alright.  After she got the okay, she came back with Balloon and Barbara and the little boy went running for the hills.
  • I had my mother with me as I was interviewing my grandmother and I can't even begin to say how glad I am that she was there.  I don't think the answers I got would have been nearly as detailed without my mother's input and best of all, my mother thought to ask questions that hadn't even crossed my mind.
  • My grandmother was more than a little apprehensive about being interviewed at first.  Then I began bringing up stories and anecdotes that she had already told me.  It put her at ease and I think showed her that I was sincerely interested in what she had to say.
  • I threw the script out the window after about five minutes and just let her guide the conversation.  I'm so glad I did.
After about two or three hours we called it quits for the day.  She was getting restless and there were things to do.  I thought that was the end of it but then at dinner she started bringing up little tidbits from her youth that she had remembered through the day.  After the meal, my mother had to leave and run an errand and my grandmother and I stayed and kept talking.  She wanted to talk about her father as the last question I had asked her during our interview that morning had to do with her memories of him.  After a few stories she started to tear up and said "He never said 'I love you' but I know he did... He was such a wonderful person in so many ways."  After that the room got quiet and a few minutes later my mother got home.  We started talking about Christmas and the little things around the house that needed to be done.   Then it started to get late and my mother and I were getting ready to leave.  We were saying our goodbyes and I was hugging my grandmother when I realized that that hug lasted just a bit longer than they usually do, and that so much more had happened that day than me just interviewing my grandmother.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I was more than a little surprised to discover this morning that I had been nominated  for the Family Tree 40 for 2011 in the "My Family History" category.  Actually, I'm pretty speechless about the whole thing.  Nominations came at a pretty busy time for me and I completely missed the boat.  I'm happy that the blogs I wanted to nominate were and amazed (and humbled) that I've been included with them. 

To whomever nominated me: Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.  The last couple weeks have been kind of hard for me for a variety of reasons so I can't even begin to say how much this has lifted my spirits.

The list of nominees can be found here.  You can vote for your choices, including me (which I'd heartily appreciate) if you're so inclined here:

Thank you again for the nomination and to anyone who votes for me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Adventures in Genetic Genealogy

Early last month I took an mtDNA test from Family Tree DNA, yesterday I got my results.  I'm in haplogroup K which can be found in many European countries and is known for being the haplogroup of many Ashkenazi Jews.  Most of my matches had traced their roots to Ireland which was exciting because one of the strongest candidate families for my furthest back matrilineal ancestor (Nancy Moore)  is from Ireland. 

I have the traditional K mutations of 16224C and 16311C as well as the "hotspot" mutation of 16519C.  I have another mutation, 16265G that doesn't (at least in the research I've done) seem to be shared by many Ks, though I found a few Hs at mitosearch that had it.  Anyway, this is all very new to me and I obviously have a lot of learning to do on the subject but I'm excited to find out all I can about genetic genealogy. 

In other genetic genealogy news, my father took the 23andme test the other day so I'm looking forward to finding out his results.  There are also rumors that my mother wants to take the 23andme test (as long as the deal is going on) which I am hoping she does at it would save me from having to order the HVR2 from Family Tree DNA. 

If there are any other Ks out there (especially ones connected to my ancestors!), please let me know and if anyone can recommend any literature on the haplogroup I'd love to know about it. 

For anyone interested, my matrilineal line goes:
Me>My Mother>My Grandmother>Georgiana Wellons>Mary Anna Webb>Priscilla Mason>Nancy Moore

Nancy was born in the 1780s or 90s in, I believe, Tennessee (then a part of North Carolina).  She married Samuel Mason in 1806 in Wayne Co., Kentucky.  They moved to Lawrence Co., Indiana some years later where Nancy died at an unknown date.

NOTE: I am in no way affliated with either Family Tree DNA or 23andme nor did I received payment or reward of any kind from either company for posting this article.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Two Finds From Out of Nowhere

The other day my grandmother was at her country club with friends when a lady walked up to her, handed her an envelope and said "these belong in your family." 

Inside the envelope were two wonderful little treasures:

They are both pictures of my great-grandfather, Elmer John Shinn.  Written on the back of the first is "May, 1889" and his name followed by the studio information ("B.P. BATCHELDER.  PHOTOGRAPHER. 133 EL DORADO ST. STOCKTON -- CAL.").  Elmer would have been eleven at the time and was born and raised in nearby Woodbridge.  The next picture is a bit harder to date, but I'm guessing (based on research I did on the photographer) it is from the early 1910s.  All that is written on the back is his name and the photographer's information ("Photographic Parisienne.  Edw. Belle-Ondry.  Over Abrahamson's Store, Entrance on 13th, Street.  Take Elevator.  Oakland, Cal.").  He never lived in Oakland so why he was getting his picture taken there is beyond me.  His future wife was from that area but they weren't married until the early 1920s. 

I'd like to get more information on the lady who gave these pictures to my grandmother.  My grandmother gave them to my mother who in turn gave them to me and told me what she knew of the encounter (which wasn't much).  The three of us will be Christmas shopping this coming weekend so I plan to ask my grandmother about it then.  The fact that the mystery person had a picture of my great-grandfather as a young boy makes me think she is somehow related to the family.  Elmer had many cousins and nieces and nephews who remained in the same area and I'm thinking this mystery lady might be connected to one of them. 

(The above images are not to be reproduced or reprinted without the consent of the image holder, the author of this blog.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Group Picture

Another unidentified picture from my great-grandmother's collection.  The only person that is labeled is my great-grandmother's brother, Ebb Boulder Wellons.  He attended the University of California, Berkeley between 1905 and 1907 and I'm guessing this picture has something to do with his days at Cal.  If anyone recognizes any of the other people or the lapel pins several of them seem to be wearing, please tell me!

Image is the sole property of the author of this blog and is not to be reused or reproduced in any way or form without the consent of the owner of the image.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Madness Monday: Is the Tombstone Wrong?

(First of all, let me preface this by saying that I know very little about military history beyond what everyone learns in school.  I also know very little about the protocols within the various branches of the US military and Veterans Affairs.  This post will reflect that so please forgive any mistakes or dumb questions within it.)

I know very little about my grandfather's life.  He and his son (my father) had a complicated relationship and only sporadically kept in touch over the years.  I do know that my grandfather was a veteran of WWII and was a Staff Sergeant in the US Army.  I know that because that is what it says on his tombstone.  The tombstone, however, fails to mention other things and only serves to confuse in other areas.

First off, my father always has said that my grandfather's time in WWII was very brief and that the war had ended by the time my grandfather got out of basic training.  He was seventeen when he enlisted in February, 1945 (three days before the Battle at Iwo Jima).  The war was over within the year so it does corroborate what my father has said about my grandfather's service being brief (I'm thinking he enlisted for the standard duration of the war plus six months which would have meant he'd been in for about a year and a half).  But I can't see how he could reach the rank of Staff Sergeant in that short amount of time. 

Another thing that is puzzling is that my father has always said that my grandfather wasn't even in the Army during WWII, it was the Navy.  Apparently, he didn't like the Navy so when the Korean War started he enlisted with the Army where he remained.  Yet his tombstone does not reflect his brief time in the Navy.  Another thing his tombstone omits, is his service in Korea and Vietnam.  Unlike WWII, my father was alive and witness to both wars and his father's participation in both so there is no hearsay basis to it.

I have seen tombstones for veterans of multiple wars and in every case but my grandfather's, the marker reflects the service in multiple wars.  I've also seen tombstones for those who served in more than one area of the armed forces, and again, they reflect this varied service.

Is it possible my grandfather's tombstone is wrong?  I really have no reason to doubt my father, especially in regards to my grandfather's service in Korea and Vietnam.  Does anyone know how Veterans Affairs decides what ends up on a veteran's marker?  I always have assumed that they just copied the veteran's service record, but like I said at the beginning, I'm not very familiar with protocols within the military and Veterans Affairs.  Any thoughts or input on this subject are most welcome.

My grandfather's marker.
Fort Mitchell National Cemetery, Russell, Alabama

(NOTE: Yes, I know this could probably be all cleared up if I were to get my grandfather's service record.  But I'm not his next of kin, my father is, and he has shown no interest or desire to pursue these records.) 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: John C. Fremont High School

My great-grandmother was a teacher before she married, but I have no idea if she ever taught at John C. Fremont.  These pictures of the school were in her collection.  I don't know who the two ladies are but I assume they were teacher friends of my great-grandmother's.  I'm guessing these were taken in the 1910s.

(c) 2010,
Leah, [Address for private use], California
All rights reserved.  Images are not to be reproduced in all or part without my consent.

NOTE: This John C. Fremont High School was in Oakland, California not the high school of the same name currently in Los Angeles (founded in the 1920s).

UPDATE: I did some more research on the school and found that is was located as 2230 38th Ave.  I looked the area up on Google Maps and it appears the school is no longer standing and was replaced with housing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Mystery Street

I usually keep my unidentified photos separate from the identified ones, which also means I tend to forget about the unidentified ones.  I had planned on getting these up a long time ago, but better late than never, right? 

All three of these pictures are from the same street.  It is from my great-grandmother's collection.  I believe these were taken when she was living in Oakland in the 1910s but can't be sure.  If anyone has any ideas as to where these buildings are, I'd love to hear about it.

Note the white building on the far left, the house just behind it (the gravel path is leading straight to it) and the house on the far right. 

This is clearly the same white building as in the previous picture.  The ladder makes me think it was under construction, maybe?

Again, I think this is the same house as in the first picture.  I believe it is the same as the one behind the white building and down the gravel path.

Again, I think this house might be on the same street - possibly the same as the house on the far right in the first picture?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marshall County

Last year I had a ton of fun researching poets and poems from places where my ancestors lived for Bill's Great American Local Poem and Song Genealogy Challenge and I'm very excited that he will be hosting it again this year!

I had another poem planned for this year but at the last minute stumbled upon this one by accident:
In the solitary forest
By the rushing "yellow water"
Which the Indians called Wy-thou-gan,
When the birds were singing gaily,
In the Moon of Leaves were singing,
Came the white man to our county.
In the forest swung their axes,
Felled the trees and built their cabins,
Built them for their families' coming,
Coming hither in slow ox-carts.
Here to battle with the forest
And the wolves within its shadows.
Strong and brave their hearts and spirits
To endure the storms of winter
And the drought and heat of summer.
Children, let us all be brave as they were-
We are proud of them, our fathers,
And we're proud of Marshall County.  - Minnie H. Swindell
I don't know what the name of the poem is, I found it at the beginning of Minnie's book Marshall County which is a history of the county written in 1923.  It isn't a great poem, but I like it and it tells me a little something about a place I didn't know much about to begin with.  The Marshall County in question is Marshall County, Indiana which is just south of South Bend.

My Barger/Berger ancestors settled there in the 1830s when it was still the wilderness Minnie describes.  The "rushing 'yellow water'" refers to the Yellow River (though it makes me think of something else entirely...).  What is interesting is that the author seems to have "borrowed" from Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha which contains:
"...In the solitary forest
By the rushing Taquamenaw,
When the birds were singing gayly,
In the Moon of Leaves were singing..."
I am working on a book about my Bergers for my grandmother for Christmas so I've had Marshall County on the brain.  While I had found several nice poems about Indiana in general, this was the only I could find that had to do with Marshall County specifically.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday Finds: October 24th to November 6th

Not much genealogy got done these last two weeks so this will be pretty short...

Internet Finds:
  • Lincolnshire Marriages 1837+.  I learned about the website here and spent most of my (limited) free time recently playing around with it. 
  • Dorset OPC.  I've been a fan for years and it was one of the first places I looked (and actually found!) information on some of my more frustrating Dorset ancestors.  Anyone with Dorset roots is sure to find something useful here.
  • Somerset OPC.  Like Dorset above, a very valuable site for anyone interested in Somerset genealogy. There are other OPC sites available besides these two, see here.  
  • A Vision of Britain Through Time.  One of my favorite websites, I'm surprised I haven't written about it before. Whenever I want to learn more about a village or town where an ancestor lived, this is the first place I check. 
Blog Posts:
  • None.  I practically have abandoned my GoogleReader in the last couple weeks.  I'm sure many excellent blog posts have been published in the last two weeks and I look forward to reading them all soon.
Online Books, Papers, Articles:

  • BCG Sample Works.  Not only do they give you a good idea as to what the BCG might be looking for (if you're interested in certification), but I found them all incredibly informative reads.  I've read The Maternal Line of Elizabeth (Niesz) Titus several times and have referred back to it time and again when research my Berger/Barger ancestors who followed a similar path as the author's family.  
  • Also from the BCG are their Skillbuilding articles.  I've read about a quarter of them and whenever I have some free time, I try and read another.  

Offline Finds:

  • Henrico County, Virginia, Land Patent Abstracts with Some Plat Maps by Selena Mayes DuLac.  This is really more of a want than a find.  The author was at the California Family History Expo last month but I never got a chance to speak with her.  I'd love to learn more about the books (I know of there being three volumes) and possibly buy them, but don't know where to look (has anyone heard of these and/or know where to find copies?  I know some libraries have them so maybe a lookup is the route I need to go...).  The books have twice won the Donald Mosher Memorial Award for Colonial Virginia Research.  

Closing Tip:  It is a pretty well known tip to look at the neighbors of an ancestor on a census record in the hopes of finding a familial connection.  One thing I've started doing however is to look at how close an ancestor was to a state or county line.  I've had several ancestors who fall under this category and have been having success looking for the same or similar surnames the next jurisdiction over.

Friday, November 5, 2010

November To-Dos

First off, let me preface this by asking that whoever has been regularly Googling my grandfather's name contact me.  Seriously, every time I check my stats I see that you(s?) landed on this blog again and again by searching for him.  This has been going on for a long while and it is starting to get a little creepy.  I really hope that you aren't just ripping off everything I've posted on the family but given the fact that you have never tried to contact me, that is the conclusion I'm left with.  So, please contact me and prove me wrong.  Thanks. 

(This applies to everyone else who has landed on this blog by Googling a recent shared ancestor and not contacted me - and I know there have been a lot of you.  It is a huge pet peeve and really not cool so knock it off.)

Back to our regularly scheduled program...

Well October was a bust!  I started off great but after the Expo ended the real world caught up with me and genealogy research went on the back burner for the most part.  Since October was such a lackluster month, I'm just rolling over those goals into November. 

One thing I did do was get the copies of the DAR applications I had on my October to-dos.  All I can say is wowee!  I wasn't too excited about getting them because they are so old and from long before the DAR adopted the strict documentation standards they have now.  To my surprise these two older applications turned out to be very well sourced, even better sourced than the previous copy I got from a 1986 application.

Speaking of ordering copies of previous verified applications to the DAR, did you know you can now locate, buy and read them in a matter or minutes?  I have to give major kudos to the DAR for making this possible as I know it must have been no small feat digitizing the applications and making this whole thing possible.  Check it out if you haven't already.

I'd also like to get back to work on the Berger book I am writing for my grandmother.  I'd like to give it to her at Christmas but am so far behind, I worry I'll be able to meet that goal.  I plan on offering a free electronic version to any relatives interested but will give my grandmother a hard copy and would like to make that an option for everyone.  Does anyone out there have any knowledge/experience when it comes to self publishing?  I've used Blurb and like it a lot but I'd like to know more about the other options (like Lulu) before I commit.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Italian Wedding

Ornamental crossI've always been interested in world religions but am generally more versed in the doctrines than the rituals, which is why I almost wasn't going to participate in this edition of the COG.  But I figured this would be a good opportunity to learn more about the rituals that were so important to my ancestors.  I was especially interested in learning more about my grandmother's family and the religious rituals they might have partaken in.

My grandmother was a first generation American, the daughter of Italian immigrants who settled in Warren, Trumbull, Ohio in the 1920s.  Like most Italians, they were Catholic and attended the local church (St. Mary's).  But my grandmother left the church as an adult as did her mother after my grandmother's father died.  Therefore none of the Catholic traditions my grandmother knew were passed down and I know very little about them.

I was particularly interested in the religious rituals of the family in Italy.  Since my great-grandparents marriage was the most recent religious ritual in the family that took place in Italy, it is the concentration of this post.  Information on a Catholic Wedding Mass (aka the Sacrament of Marriage) can be found everywhere online and seems to be the same or similar in most countries so this post will focus on only the cultural elements of marriage found in Italy.  What I learned:

It wasn't uncommon for a marriage to be arranged and a bride always brought a dowry (including a hope chest) with her to the marriage.  The dowry and hope chest would contain things (like dishes, clothes and other household items) the couple would need once they started their life together.

The marriage would be held in a church in the hometown of the bride.  No marriages were allowed during Lent and Advent and May and August were deemed inauspicious months in which to marry.  Most weddings were held on Sundays as it was considered the luckiest day of the week (though widows and widowers would usually marry on Saturdays).   A bride usually worn green (fertility) or white (purity) and in some places, even black and grooms would carry a piece of iron for luck.  Brides would usually carry a fan, even in cold months.  It was also considered lucky to tear the bride's veil and break a glass or vase after the ceremony.  Each piece of broken glass was thought to represent a happy year in the new couple's marriage.  

Other married women would accompany the bride and act as bridesmaids and unmarried women were not allowed to witness the marriage.  The new bride's mother-in-law would stay at her son's home in order to greet the new bride with a kiss of welcome. 
Confetti, nuts and grains were thrown at the end of the ceremony and small bags of mesh with candied almonds were often thrown.  This was to bring luck to the couple and the small bags of almonds were meant to represent the bitter-sweetness of life.  

The reception would consist of a large meal (between seven and eleven courses) though cake wasn't always served.  Instead candied almonds might be eaten, again to represent the union of bitter and sweetness.  After eating and drinking, the dancing would commence.  The "tarantella" is the traditional wedding dance throughout Italy.  I've found many versions and anyone who has seen The Godfather knows it.  The most common (and well known) version seems to be the Neapolitan one:

But since my family is Pugliese, that is the version I prefer:

I had a hard time finding any videos of anyone actually DANCING it but this seems to be the closest I could get:

The tarantella is a common dance in Italy, but when at a wedding it consists of the couple dancing together and the other guests dancing around them.

At the end of the reception everyone would say "Evviva gli sposi!" (Hurray for the newlyweds!) and in Southern Italy, envelopes of money would be given to the new couple. 

It should be noted that every region in Italy is very different from the other so some of the traditions mentioned above might not apply to everywhere in Italy.  I was especially hoping to find information on Pugliese wedding traditions but had no luck.

In researching this topic, I came across many excellent articles.  If you would like copies of my sources, contact me.  One source I used was the book Marriage Customs in Many Lands by Henry Neville Hutchison, which covers WAY more than just Italian marriage customs.  I don't know how up to date or accurate it is (it was published in 1897) but I encourage you to check it out.  It can be read here.

NOTE: October is also Italian Heritage Month.  I almost let it go by without notice, shame on me!  Consider this post my contribution.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Commons Photo Challenge

Hallow'een greeting.
From the New York Public Library
(I know, the picture has nothing to do with the challenge. 
But, it is almost Halloween and mentions tracing your lineage
 so I kind of had to post it.)

I was inspired by Kerry Scott of Clue Wagon with this post to recheck a resource I'd long forgotten about, Flickr.  A (very) brief look at this blog reveals the fact that I rarely, if ever, post pictures.  Part of it is simple laziness but part of it also stems from the fact that I'm a bit controlling about my family photos and prefer to share them on an individual basis.

But I do agree with Kerry about how photos really help to jazz up a blog and I was especially struck by what she said about how the right photo can even inspire a post.  Taking that to heart, I'm going to challenge myself (and anyone else who wants to play along can as well).  The challenge is thus:
  • Go to Flickr and find a picture either in the public domain or released under a creative commons license and post the picture with an accompanying article having to do, in some way, with said picture.   Some of the institutions that have pictures in the Flickr Commons are here and includes the likes of the Library of Congress and NARA.  You can also check out Flickr: Creative Commons to learn more about photo copyright policies and for more, non-institution photos. 
I'm going to try and do this as a once a week thing, but that is just me.  If anyone else wants to partake feel free to make up your own rules. 

Not only will this challenge add more imagery to this blog but I'm hoping it'll inspire me to write and research on topics I haven't really touched on yet. 

(Note: you don't have to register at Flickr to view the photos, but you apparently do have to register if you want to use their "share" feature to post the picture to your blog without downloading it to your computer.)

Disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with Flickr, it's parent company Yahoo! Inc. or any other companies and organizations under the Yahoo! Inc. umbrella.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Henry's Estate

"In the name of God, Amen.  I Henry Wellons of the County if Southampton being weak of body but of sound memory do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form as follows that is to say - First I give and bequeath to my loving wife Elenor Wellons the use of all my Estate of what nature or kind soever during her natural life or widowhood, and after the death or widowhood of my wife Elenor I give and bequeath my Estate aforesaid to be equally divided amongst all my children that may then be living all shear and shear alike to them their heirs and assigns forever.

I do hereby constitute and appoint my loving wife Elenor Wellons my Executor of this my last will and testament.  In Willings whereof I have hereunto set my hand I seal this tenth day of June one thousand seven hundred and seventy nine

Signed, seald in presence of                                               Henry  + (his mark) Wellons   {seal}
Thomas Lane
Henry Powers

At a court held for the county of Southampton the 13th day of Mary 1784
This will was presented in court by Elenor Wellons the Executrix therein
named and proved by the oath of Thomas Lain one of the witnesses the therein
who also deposed that he saw Henry Powers the other witness /who is said
dead/ sign his name theirto at the publishing thereof and was ordered to
be recorded.  And on the motion of the said Executrix who made oath accor-
ding to law a certificate is granted her for obtaining a Probat thereof in
due form giving feverty.  Whereupon se"

Southampton Co., Virginia Will Book 4, pages 58 and 59.

"An Inventory and appraisement of the Estate of Henry Wellons dead.
1 cow and heifer...............£9.5.0
1 Bull and a yearling...........1.7.-
1 Cow and a calf................2.--
2 Sows and 7 Sheats[?]......2.15.-
4 Sheep..............................1.4.-
3 feather beds and furniture.5.15.-
1 flap wheel.........................-.10.-
1 woollen wheel...................-.5.-
2 chests...............................-.8.-
1 Table and 2 chairs............-.3.6
1 stone jug and 4 bottles.....-.2.7
carried over     £17.15.1

Brought over......................£17.15.1
2 Basins, 2 dishes and 5 plates......-.17.3
1 looking glass and box[?] iron[?]...-.7.6
7 spoons and a pepper box............-.2.0
1 frying pan and 6 hoes..................-.9.-
1 whip[?] san[?].............................1.10.-
1 Gun, sword and bayonet..............-.10.-
1 plough hoe and 3 oxes[?].............-.11.-
1 iron pot and 2 pair of hooks.........-.2.-
3 piggins and 2 trays.......................-.5.6
5 Cyder casks................................-.5.-
     £22.14.4  Elender +(her mark) Wellons, Extr.
                     Sam. Pitman
                     Wm. Wellons} appraiser
                     Thos. Lain} appraiser
At a court held for the county of Southampton the 8th day of July 1784.  This inventory and appraisment of the Estate of Henry Wellons dead, was this day returned and ordered to be recorded."

Southampton Co., Virginia Will Book 4, page 67

"The last will and testament of Henry Wellons dead, was presented in court by Elenor Wellons
the executrix therein named proved by the oath of Thomas Lane Sr.[?] of the witnesses thereto who also
deposed that he saw Henry Powers another witness who is since dead sign his name thereto
at the publishing thereof and ordered to be recorded.  And on the motion of the said executrix who
made oath according to law certificate is granted her for obtaining a probat thereof in due form
giving security.  Whereupon the said Elenor Wellons with Thomas Lain her security entered unto and acknowledged their bond in the penalty of Two hundred pounds for the said Elenor
due and faithful administration on the estate of the said decedent and performance of his will

Ordered that Thomas Lain, William Wellons, Sampson Pitman and Charles Powers or an three of them being first sworn before a justice of the peace for this county do appraise in current money the slaves /if any/ and personal estate of Henry Wellons dead, and return the appraisement to the next court"

Southampton Co., Virginia Court Order Book 1778-1784, page 387

If you have ancestors from Southampton Co., consider yourself lucky because the Brantley Association has been diligently indexing and scanning pages of these early records and making them available online here.
[I am descended from Henry and Elenor's son, also Henry.  I do not know Elenor's maiden name but after reading these estate papers, I have to wonder if she is in some way related to Thomas Lain/Lane or the Powers family.]

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday Picks: October 9th - 23rd

(copyright 2010, I'm making my "Friday Finds" a Saturday thing and bi-weekly, hopefully I'll be able to stick to it if I do that... we'll see.  Anyway, these are finds and reads that I've discovered recently and enjoyed:
Blog posts:
  • I'm a huge Francophile so everything over at The French Genealogy Blog is a must read for me.  I especially liked the post Anonymous Parents - Accouchement sous X.  Not only was it informative, it was a touching read - like every good blog post should be.
  • I enjoy all of Barbara's posts, especially when it involves her photography - like her Wordless Wednesday posts.  Her Top Tens are also excellent and I was really inspired by the one she did on her brick wall ancestors.
  • I'm sad John and Greta are stopping their respective weekly round-up series, but can understand their reasons. 
  • This post isn't a new one, but it is one I keep coming back to and have found hugely helpful.  Anyone with Kentucky roots would be wise to read it also.  
Online Books:
  • A Century of Wayne County, Kentucky 1800-1900 by Augusta Phillips Johnson.  It can be read in "snippet view" on Google Books and in its entirety at Ancestry through subscription.  I wish every county history was as well done and interesting as this one.  Even if you aren't interested in Wayne Co. itself, it provides an excellent introduction to early Kentucky, southeastern Kentucky especially.  
  • Other Kentucky books I've found useful are Lincoln County, Kentucky (can be partially read at Google Books) and A History of Kentucky Baptists (can be read in full at Google Books). 
  • History of Rochester and Monroe County, New York (available in full at Google Books).  Not great, but helpful nonetheless.
Closing Tip :
  • This was one of the most useful things I learned at the Expo: study the water ways (creeks, rivers, streams, etc.) near where your ancestor lived.  This was stressed by Arlene Eakle at one of the sessions I attended and she also mentioned the fact that a water way could be named one thing in one county and another in a different county.  For instance, a creek runs through two different counties.  In one county it is called Red Creek but across the county line it is called Blue Creek.  I've found this very helpful in trying to track where my rural ancestor's might have lived.  

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Violin Story

One of the most exciting things to come out of the California Family History Expo was a discovery I made once I got home from it.  While at the Expo I got to meet Kathryn Doyle of the California Genealogical Society and got a copy of their publication A Most Dreadful Earthquake.  I'm very excited to start reading the book because it centers around San Francisco right after the 1906 quake from the perspective of a woman living through the chaos.  I knew the story of my great-grandmother's family and their experiences during and after the quake but until the other day I thought that was the extent of my personal connection to the quake. 

Then I showed the book to my mother and as she was perusing it she dropped a bombshell.  I mentioned great-grandma and what had happened with her family when my mother casually added "well, you know about the violin story also, right?"  WHAAA?!  I immediately quizzed her because it was like she was speaking a foreign language it such a shock. 

She went on to tell me about my great-grandfather, Gideon G. Berger and how he was in San Francisco at the time.  I never knew he ever lived in San Francisco, none of the records showed it and as far as I knew he was strictly an Oakland boy until he became a minister and left the Bay Area.  But him being in San Francisco at the time explains so much, like why he had a collection of photos of the city right after the earthquake and why there are pictures of him from the same time frame at various addresses that I Googled and found to be San Francisco locations.

The story goes that he was living in the city at the time and after the quake was wandering around the rubble when an older gentleman came up to him.  The man was starving and hadn't eaten in days but he was a musician and had a Stradivarius he was willing to sell for $10.  My great-grandfather managed to get the money and bought the violin.

Now it is very romantic to believe that it was a Stradivarius.  I have no idea if it is or not (I doubt highly that it is), but I do know the violin does exist, in fact, I've seen it.  It sits in my grandmother's living room.  I even held it but never examined the instrument closely because of how fragile it is.  I've even asked her about it.  Unfortunately, when I did it was after I had quizzed her on many other family heirlooms and stories and she was clearly getting tired.  By the time we got to the violin, I was getting three or four word answers and knew it was time to stop.  All she said was "it belonged to [her] daddy"  before looking for a chair to sit down.  I can see now that I'll need to ask her about it again (as well as examine the violin for any maker's mark or names). 

The story needs more investigation but at present I have no reason to doubt the basic points of the story.  I have to thank Kathryn and the Society for giving me the book that inspired this wonderful new piece of my family history.  It was so exciting to learn and made me realize that even when you think you've exhausted a resource (in this case my living relatives) they could still surprise you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

California Family History Expo Recap, Part 2

Saturday was a busy day, even busier than Friday. I got a later start than I had planned and missed the first class I had wanted to go to but the rest of the day went much more smoothly.  The classes I did take were:

How to Trace the Common Man Through Congressional Records with Arlene Eakle.  I had taken two of her classes the day before and was very impressed and then I took this class and it was just... "mind blowing" might be a cliche but I really can't think of a better way of describing it.  I had been on the fence about taking it until I took her Friday classes.  Even knowing that it would be a high caliber class, I was worried that it would be a little too dry and maybe over my head.  I was so wrong and so glad that I was so wrong.  I sat there listening to her and could literally feel (and it is a great feeling) a whole new world of research opening up to me.  A few months back I found an affidavit that an ancestor of mine gave to Congress and was over the moon.  I realize now that that was just the tip of the iceberg and there are so many new avenues I can take, as well as information to learn.  It also really hit home the fact that so many valuable records aren't available to the general public let alone online or in libraries. 

Putting the Flesh on the Bones with Ron Arons.  Mr. Arons is a masterful storyteller and I found myself captivated by the story of his ancestor who was quite a character (I won't say anymore because it would ruin the class for anyone who hasn't taken it yet).  Through the story, I also learned how to do an in-depth study on a single ancestor to not only flesh them out but to go back further in the line.  The information I gathered in this class has already inspired to me to look at particular brick-wall ancestors and the people and events near to them. 

An Introduction to Ellis Island and Castle Garden with Debbe Hagner.  I think a beginner would really benefit from the class but I found that I already knew a good portion of it.  Some information was new (for instance, did you know it was cheaper to come through Canada than New York?  I didn't.) and the question and answer period after the presentation was very valuable.  I also found myself being reminded of tips and tricks I knew but had forgotten so the class was a great refresher for me.

Think Like An Archivist with Nancy E. Loe.  I couldn't think of a better way to end the Expo than this class.  The insider perspective she gave was really illuminating and educational.  From the joys and travails of discovering, cataloging and deciding what is worth archiving to learning what is and isn't available to the public, the class was excellent. 

Other things worth noting:
  • I got my copy of Professional Genealogy (see part 1 of the recap for more on this)!  Next I need to sign-up for the ProGen study group waiting list
  • I got to meet a second cousin!
  • I got to meet Kathryn Doyle of the California Genealogical Society.  I've been a fan of the Society's blog (authored by Kathryn) for a long and she was so nice and friendly, getting to chat with her was definitely a high point of the Expo for me. 
  • I won a year's subscription to AGES-Online!  Once I start investigating the site, I'll write more about it. 
  • I got to explore Pleasanton and Alameda County.  I've got loads of ancestors from there but never really explored the area outside of Oakland until now.  It was really fun getting to stand on land that my ancestors might have also stood on. 
  • My mother went to two more classes on Saturday for me and enjoyed them!  I don't think she has caught "the bug" but she definitely has a better understanding and appreciation for family history and I'm hopeful that the interest she showing at the Expo will carry on and grow. 
It was a great two days and I cannot wait until next year for the 2011 California Family History Expo.  If you haven't been to one yet, you're really missing out so go check out their calendar of upcoming events and sign-up for one.  Thank you to Family History Expos for coming to Pleasanton and thank you to them for allowing me to be a Blogger of Honor!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary membership to the Expo but no further remuneration.  My mother paid for the classes she attended and I was in no way prompted or compensated for writing this post by anyone connected with Family History Expos, Inc.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Madness Monday: Making Sense of the DAR Application

First of all, I have to give MAJOR kudos to the NSDAR Library.  I had heard horror stories about it taking months to get record copies of applications.  I sent in my check and request at the end of August and a week and a half later, the copy was in my mailbox.  I was surprised to say the least and very impressed at how quickly they had processed and shipped my order.  I was, however, less thrilled with the actual application...

Since I knew the national number of the woman who had submitted the application, I knew that it had been approved in the mid-1980s which made me hopeful that it would be up to snuff by today's standards and I could just piggy-back off of it for the shared generations. 

The application was indeed submitted and approved around the time I had guessed, 1986.  Unfortunately it was also incredibly vague.  Check marks litter the application.  Check marks after every name and date, residence and service but the list of references is, um... a little light:

[image removed, contact me if you'd like to know what it says]

I'm not sure that all those sources hold up by today's standards either.  I know the DAR Patriot Index, DAR Lineage Books and probably the compiled genealogies don't cut it nowadays.  Some of the sources do look intriguing though, especially the Chancery Court records and New York Historical Society reference.  I should also mention that the only generations the woman who submitted this application and I share are the first two (that of the Patriot and his daughter) so most of the application is pretty useless in terms of my getting into the DAR.   

Perhaps the most worrisome are the references (or lack thereof) for our Patriot ancestor's service:

[image removed, contact me if you'd like to know what it says]
Ugh.  Those check marks and vague bits of information are really helpful, thanks.  And what does "R. W" mean?  I plan on showing it to one of my local chapters registrar's for her opinion but I already have a pretty good idea as to what she'll say, this application doesn't cut it.

Luckily this isn't the only application that was submitted for this Patriot (though it is the most recent) and I can and will be requesting copies of the references cited in the application.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

California Family History Expo Recap, Part 1

While I am still trying to catch my breath and process everything from the last few days, I will say that it was a WONDERFUL time!  I met people (LOTS of people), learned new information (LOTS of new information), found new relatives, new family stories and even discovered the history of a family heirloom (which I will get into more in a separate post).  The only thing I regret is that I spent maybe fifteen minutes (usually either coming or going) the whole two days in the Exhibit Hall and only briefly got to meet some of the other Bloggers of Honor.  I also missed the Genealogy Gems Podcast event which I am sad about.  I was so tired after my last class that the half hour nap I took when I got back to the hotel around four o'clock ended up being several hours. 

But the classes and the people teaching them were wonderful and I met many people at the classes interested in the same areas of research as myself which was an added bonus.  Here is a run down of the classes I took on Friday:

Southern Land Records, Part 1 (and later Part 2) with Arlene Eakle.  All I can say is WOW.  Just wow.  I knew very little about land records and even less about the South going in to the class.  I also had no idea that so many records from the South had been lost, especially in Tennessee and Kentucky (two states I'm interested in) or that there were so many ways around the records lost.  I could have spent years researching the topic and not have accumulated a quarter of the information she shared with us in those two hours.  I also love that the syllabus for the classes was so well put together that I was able to just sit back and listen and really only needed to take minimal notes.  In the key note speech, Beau Sharbrough jokingly said to take all of Arlene Eakle's classes.  After attending the two I did that day, I concur wholeheartedly.

Hansel and Gretel: Finding the Trail Home to Our German Ancestors with Tamra Stansfield.  The audio problems the Expo had to deal with off and on both days was most evident in this class but the material itself was very interesting.  I will say that someone just starting out in genealogy would benefit the most from the class.  I already knew some of the information from the first part of the class (like where to look online for records and information) but as she started going into Germany's history and class structure my interest in the class started to pick up quite a bit and I ended up learning a lot.  Going in to the class I was a bit afraid to do German research (because of all the boundary changes, record loss and language barrier) but coming out of the class, I feel ready to tackle that area of my family tree. 

Using State and Territorial Censuses and Substitutes of the Western States with Leland K. Meitzler.  First off, let me just say that Mr. Meitzler is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet and the knowledge and obvious love of family history he brought to the class made it one of the most enjoyable of the Expo for me.  Going in to the class I knew a little about the census records of the states of California, Arizona and Nevada but he covered so much more.  For instance, I had no idea that territories seeking statehood held a census almost annually (in most cases) until they were admitted to the Union, which makes places like Oregon a census goldmine.  The substitutes he mentioned were also for the most part knew to me.  Alaska comes to mind here because even though there were no state or territorial censuses taken, there are some good substitutes out there which make up for the lack of censuses.  As a complete aside, Mr. Meitzler also happened to be the person who sold me my copy of Professional Genealogy - I wish now that I had asked him to autograph it for me! 

My saint of a (non genealogically inclined) mother even attended two classes that day:  Scanning and Photo Retouching with Tom Underhill and California Dreamin' with Gena Philibert Ortega.  These are two classes I had wanted to attend but they conflicted with the other classes above.  I am so grateful to my mother for going to these classes for me and I look forward to reading her notes on them.  Best of all?  She said she enjoyed them and wanted to go to more classes the next day!

All in all, Friday was a great day 1 of the California Family History Expo.

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary registration to the event but no further remuneration and my mother paid for the classes she attended.  I was in no way prompted to write this post or any of it's content by any outside party including Family History Expos, Inc. and the event sponsors.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Finds

(c. 2010, don't know how good I'll be about sticking to this on a weekly basis, but I had an exceptionally good week when it comes to discovering new websites and wanted to write about them.  So here goes:
  • Did you know that Maricopa County, Arizona has records and files dating back to 1871 and that they are digitized and available to look at online?  My great-great-grandmother's sister, Nancy A. Webb Massey Wiley, settled in Phoenix in the 1880s and lived there for the rest of her life.  Thanks to this find I was able to read her probate records and learn more about her, her husband, her children and her step-children.  I was also able to find deeds and assorted other records pertaining to the family here. 
  • Arizona also has birth and death records online here (for births that happened more than 75 years ago and deaths that occured more than 50 years ago). 
  • I already knew about the Western States Marriage Records from BYU but I'd forgotten about it (mainly because it is rather sparse on California records).  But I'm glad I gave it another shot because I was FINALLY able to find the marriage information for my great-great-great-grandmother's sister who was married in El Dorado Co. in 1857. 
  • In looking for information on the Masons in my family who went to Texas, I found the East Texas Genealogical Society.  Most of my 3rd great-grandmother's siblings went to Smith Co. around 1850 and I have been wanting to find more information on them in the hopes that it might lead to more information on their mysterious parents, Samuel Mason and Nancy Moore. 
  • Another site I found specific to Smith Co. is the Smith County Historical Society.  I plan on writing to both the ETGS and the Society in hopes they might have something on my Masons. 
  • Kentucky land records including early warrants and patents.
  • Another Kentucky find was the Historical Society's website which includes many online databases.  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Expo Time is Almost Here!

I can't believe that in about 24 hours I'll be at the California Family History Expo in Pleasanton.  Saying I'm excited would be an understatement!  What I'm not excited about, however, are the classes I'll be missing because they conflict with other interesting sessions.  Picking out the classes I want to go to really has been the hardest part of getting ready. 

When I first announced that I would be going to the Expo, I asked for some advice and was told by several that the most important thing was to be flexible about everything.  I've taken that to heart and haven't really settled on any classes that I definitely want to go to, preferring instead to keep my options open (which is why I have two or three classes listed for each session time slot).  Below is my tentative class schedule in no particular class ranking:

Friday, 10am:
Land and Property Records with Arlene Eakle, Part 1  OR
My Ancestors Were From Germany and I Don't Speak German! with Tamra Stansfield  OR
County Websites: An Overlooked Resource with Jean W. Hibben
Friday, 11:30am:
US Vital Records Overview with Beth Taylor  OR
Hansel and Gretal: Finding the Trail Home to Our German Ancestors with Tamra Stansfield OR
Researching Your Criminal Ancestors with Ron Arons
Friday, 1:30pm:
Using State and Territorial Censuses and Substitutes of the Western States with Leland K. Meitzler  OR
German Records Other Than Parish and Vital with Tamra Stansfield  OR
Scanning and Photo Retouching with Tom Underhill
Friday, 3pm:
Little-Known and Under-Used Land and Property Records, Part 2 (see Pt. 1 above) with Arlene Eakle OR
California Dreamin' with Gena Philibert Ortega
Friday, 4:30pm:
Shaking the Myth: Proving/Disproving Family Legends with Jean W. Hibben  OR
Finding Your Irish Ancestors - Are There Really Any Records? with Marci Despain

Saturday, 8am:
Clue to Clue: Tracking A Family Across Miles with Jean W. Hibben  OR
Sharing Genealogy Electronically with Geoffrey D. Rasmussen  OR
Immigration and Emigration Records Online with
Saturday, 9:30am:
How to Trace the Common Man Through Congressional Records with Arlene Eakle  OR
Using Tax Records to Establish Genealogical Relationships with Leland K. Meitzler  OR
Finding Your Scottish Ancestors - What Do You Need to Do?  with Marci Despain
Saturday, 11am:
Putting the Flesh on the Bones with Ron Arons  OR
Census Techniques and Strategies for Finding Elusive Ancestors with Beth Taylor  OR
Finding Your English/Welsh Ancestors with Marci Despain
Saturday, 1pm:
Exploring City Directories with Beau Sharbrough  OR
An Introduction to Ellis Island and Castle Garden with Debbie Hagner  OR
Evaluation and Analysis of Genealogical Evidence with Arlene Eakle  OR
Saturday, 2:30pm:
Think Like An Archivist with Nancy E. Loe  OR
Church Records with Kathy Burrow

I'll be making the hour and half drive early Friday to get there in time for registration at 7am and from then on I doubt I'll be taking much of a break.  That evening I will also be attending the Genealogy Gems Podcast event and am very much looking forward to it.  When not in class, I'll be wandering around the Exhibit Hall or hanging out in the Beacon of Bloggers area.  If you see me, please stop and say hello as I always love meeting fellow "genealogy addicts."

Full Disclosure:  As a Blogger of Honor I received a free registration to the event but no other remuneration.  I was in no way paid or prompted by any party to write this post. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

October To-Dos

October is Family History Month (actually, every month is family history month for me) and to celebrate I want to get back to actually researching my family history.  I haven't been doing a lot of that lately and miss it which is why October will be a research-heavy month:

  • Order the Upper Canadian Land Petition records for Edmund Horton, Emanuel Horton, Jacob Beam, my Pettits
  • Order a record copy of the DAR application of the woman who joined under John Shinn
  • Order copies from the DAR of the sources mentioned in Thomas Smith's descendant's application.
  • Write to the New York Historical Society for information on the Committe of Safety in NYC during the Revolutionary War, inquire about any records they might have on Thomas Smith and his involvement on the Committee.
  • Look into getting naturalization records for James Tock and the Lapiccirellas and possibly the Croads (need to confirm first whether or not they even applied for naturalization)
  • Order Nicoletta Lapiccirella's SS-5 application (only if funds permit, might have to wait until November)
  • Contact the East Texas Genealogical Society and/or the Smith County Historical Society for information of the Webbs that settled in Smith Co. around 1850.
  • Order Wayne Co., Kentucky films
  • Find my library card! (It has been missing for several weeks now and I'm starting to go through withdrawls)
  • Attend (and participate in) at least two genealogy events from either here or here.  (Regular society meetings and the Expo don't count)
  • Complete anything leftover from September To-Dos (accomplished most things on the list except submitting my Mayflower Society worksheets - am still waiting on a certificate)
  • Have fun at the Expo (and try not to make an idiot of myself, which tends to happen when I get really excited)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Unlikely DARlings and Assumption Traps

In looking into joining the DAR, I was confronted with a serious error in thinking on my part.  One day, while perusing the DAR Patriot Index I discovered that I had more Patriots in their database than I had previously thought.  I was at a low point in that moment because I'd just completed several days of fruitless research on Anne Coles Mott, the ancestor I wanted to join through.  I was pretty frustrated, so in a huff I sat down and made a list of every man between fifteen and one hundred at the time of the war in my family tree.  Then I started plugging them in to the Patriot Index.  Most of the ones I didn't expect to pan out didn't, but there were a few surprises along the way as well.  I'm a little ashamed that I didn't know that they were in there already and even more ashamed at the reason WHY I didn't even bother to look before now.  Assumptions, that is the simple, honest answer for why I never even bothered to look them up until until that day.  Let me explain:

Assumption #1 I made: "He was a Quaker, therefore he couldn't have participated in the Revolutionary War."

WRONG.  I have a family tree loaded with 17th and 18th Century Quakers and nine times out of ten, they were pacifists as well and did not participate in any of the conflicts of their time.  In my John Shinn's case, I was wrong.   He served in the Quartermaster General's Dept. during the war. It is a pretty safe bet that a Quaker ancestor was a pacifist and therefore tried to stay neutral during a conflict, but as I've learned, it isn't a sure thing.

Assumption #2 I made: "He was too old to have fought in the war, therefore he couldn't have participated in it."

WRONG.  Moses Morse was a fifty-four year old grandfather in 1776 when he signed the Association Test in Boscawen, New Hampshire along with all but one citizen in the town.  This service was enough to get someone into the DAR through Moses.  You don't need to have bared arms to have supported a cause.

Assumption #3 I made: "He was from England, his family was loyal, therefore he couldn't have participated on the side of the rebels during the war."

WRONG.  Thomas Smith was born in either Ireland or England and was possibly related to the Douglas family of Scotland.  He married Mary Green and they came to America in the midst of the Boston Tea Party.  They had a son, named after a hero of the Royal Navy (and a rumored relative) and they settled in a city that was a British stronghold during the war.  Mary was a fervent Tory, Thomas was not.  For whatever reason, they were split on their loyalties which I imagine made for a pretty tense home life.  Thomas gave shoes to American soldiers in New York City during the war (he was a cordwainer by trade) and was reportedly charitable to a fault, especially with colonial troops.  He never served in a military capacity however, probably because he was around fifty at the beginning of the war.  He did serve on the New York Committee of Safety which was enough to get someone into the DAR through him.  Family loyalties don't always dictate personal ones.

Another ancestor, the illustrious and discussed ad naseum Anne Coles Mott, qualifies based on her war service.  I've had to rethink joining through Anne recently, but once I'm in I fully intend to add her as a supplemental line. 

Speaking of Anne, she poses another potential "assumption trap."  As a woman it would have been easy to disregard her service in the war.  Honestly, the only reason I never did dismiss her service is because at the time I began looking into DAR she was the only person I knew of that for sure did anything on the colonial side and that I also had some documentation for already.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I let my first blogiversary go by without notice (because I forgot) but this second one has been on my mind for awhile and is a much bigger deal to me, as I'm sure all subsequent blogiversaries will be. 

I started this little blog on September 30th, 2008.  I was working on my genealogy website and wanted to start a blog as a companion to my site, sort of as a research journal to track my progress and hits and misses.  I'm ashamed to say that this blog actually had a pretty pitiful start and fell the way of countless other blogs rather quickly.  After a month I had  forgotten about it and it went dark for the rest of the winter.

It probably would have stayed unused and unloved were it not for the GeneaBloggers group on Facebook.  I had joined the group in July of 2008 when my interest in all things genealogy exploded like never before.  But at that time it wasn't really my "thing" so I filed GeneaBloggers under the nice-but-not-for-me tab in my brain.  I was very active on Facebook then (still do have an account, but if you friend me it might take me six months to accept, just FYI) and regularly got the GeneaBloggers event notices.  I never paid much attention since I wasn't an active blogger but then for some reason, I start reading them and getting caught up on what exactly GeneaBloggers was.  Before long I was hooked and decided to revisit this blog.  And the rest is history.

With the help of GeneaBloggers I've kept at it and hope to be "keeping at it" for a long time to come.  Thank you to everyone who has ever stopped to read, comment, follow or bookmark.  You truly do make this blog worthwhile for me and I wouldn't be celebrating today without you. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Best Genealogy Advice I Ever Got Was

I love genealogy advice, little nuggets of wisdom that can completely change the way you view a certain aspect of family history or mystery person.

Since I love getting genealogy advice, I'm asking for you to let me know what (in your mind) the best piece of genealogy advice you ever got was.  It can be as broad and basic as "start with yourself and work your way back" or much more specific .  It can be one sentence or a long paragraph.  It can be something that you heard or read and were struck by and have taken to heart or a piece of advice that was passed on to you.  It can be something well known that has stood the test of time or it can be advice for genealogy in the 21st Century.  It can even be something that you just thought up 10 seconds ago!  Here is some of the best I have come across:

On Lineage Societies:

"Start small and build up to the big leagues.  Go after a pioneer or century certificate from one of the counties an ancestor settled in before tackling something like the DAR on your first run." - a kind lady from a local genealogy society event I went to

On Early Ancestors and Places:

"Keep a list (and check it often) of when US states and counties were formed that pertain to your research.  You don't want to waste time looking for someone in a place that didn't exist yet. " - a distant cousin of mine, one of the first pieces of advice I ever got

On a General Outlook/Words to Live By:

"One of the biggest mistakes that the genealogist makes is to erect ethnic or religious walls around them self... the records themselves weren't segregated...  Our ancestors lived cheek and jowl, they shared a world, they interacted, they created records together..."- Elizabeth Shown Mills, in this video (actually, the entire video is some of the best genealogy advice you'll ever hear)

These are just some of my favorites and are words of wisdom that have stayed with me.  So I told you some of mine, what are yours? 

If you would like a chance to win a ticket to the CA Family History Expo, e-mail me your "best advice" (first one to e-mail me wins it). If you aren't interested in the ticket but still want to share your "best advice" with me (which I'd love to hear), comment this post. (Contest closed)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Informing on Informants

I don't know about you but it is one of the first things I look for when I get a certificate, who the informant was.  Because really, if you know or have an idea who the informant was you have an idea as to how genealogically valuable the document is going to be.  It has gotten to the point where if I know the ideal person to be the informant probably wasn't, that certificate falls to the bottom of my to order priority list.  Here is my breakdown of the best to worst when it comes informants based on my experiences:

  • Ancestors (parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents).  My favorite certificates are the ones that are usually the most tragic.  They were filled out by a parent or grandparent of the deceased (usually a child in these cases).  But, because of the close connection to the deceased, the certificate is usually pretty spot-on and thorough. 
  • Children.  Talk about hit-or-miss.  No certificate offers as much uncertainty as when a child of the deceased is the informant.  I've gotten some that were surprisingly thorough and others that are truly head-scratching.  When my great-grandmother died and her son supplied the information, he put "unknown" for both her parents.  Now, I knew my great-grandmother and she talked about her parents often so you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in my family who didn't know who they were.  I can only figure that he didn't read over the certificate very thoroughly before he signed it.
  • Spouses.  This is the most common informant I've found and usually one of the best.  If I know the deceased had a living spouse, the certificate goes way up on my priority list of ones to get.  I do find that while the deceased's parents are listed, little mistakes are often present and the maiden name of the deceased's mother is often missing. 
  • Other Relatives (cousins, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, etc.).  Much the same as children, very hit-or-miss (but usually miss).
  • Friends, Neighbors and Strangers.  I don't know about you, but I rarely discuss my family tree with people I am unrelated to or who are uninterested in genealogy.  If I were to die today, I can count very few people unrelated to me who would make a decent informant on my death certificate.  I have found that this is often the case with relatives, thus these certificates are usually disappointing. 
Before ordering a certificate, I usually look at where the person died to determine who the informant might have been.  If they were born, raised and lived in Rolland Twp., Isabella, Michigan and, for whatever reason, died in Los Angeles, California I know that the informant was probably someone not very knowledgeable about the deceased's family.  I also look at what living family members the deceased had and where they were living.  If that person from Rolland Twp. that died in Los Angeles happened to have a nephew also living in Los Angeles, then the nephew was probably the informant and my interest in the certificate goes up.

Obviously, any good genealogist goes after all the certificates available and I do.  But I'm also not a wealthy person so when ordering a certificate, I want it to give me the most information (and most accurate information).  That is why knowing or at least having an idea who the informant was is important to me.