Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 Goals: Writing

Instead of just rattling off my goals for 2012 in one post, I'm going to do individual posts on each and then a summary post which includes how I did with my 2011 goals.  My goals fall into four categories: Research, Writing, Organization and Wild Card.  The inspiration for this, as was the case in 2011, was the We Tree blog.

My Writing Goal:

So I finally wrote the book on my grandmother's grandfather that I had been kicking around in my head for three years.  I gave it to her at Christmas and she really liked it, as did the other relatives who saw it. I'm happy with the book, though I knew from the time that I wrote it that I would be updating it at some point.  I thought about waiting until I felt it was truly "ready" but who knows when that could be, if ever?  And more importantly, the person I wrote it for is not getting any younger (or more lucid).

As an added bonus to putting it out there now, older relatives were able to comment on it and share what they knew about the subject (my great-great-grandfather, John W. Berger).  And, in doing research for the book, I discovered new avenues and databases I hadn't realized were out there.

My goal in 2012 is to update the book.  I want to include what my relatives related to me about John, and the new records I will be requesting come January.  I also want to make it more scholarly (meaning footnotes and source citations).  I did a straight narrative for the audience I was presenting the book to, but if I put it online (which I want to do) I want it to be fully sourced.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Not All Wikipedia Pages Are Created Equal

While doing a recent project on my grandmother's German ancestors, I was getting more and more frustrated because of the lack of information I was finding on Wikipedia.  Yes, I know Wikipedia isn't the most reliable, or scholarly, but I like using it as a "jumping off point."  I'll get information which can send me off looking for more information in more credible locations.  Also, I'll often look something up there and find links at the bottom of the page to additional information - and more scholarly works.

Clearly, I was having one of my more denser days because it took awhile for it to sink in that maybe I should check other Wikipedia sites for the same information.  Case in point: Rinnthal, Germany.

My grandmother's family came from this small (very small) town.  The English version of the Rinnthal page is thoroughly underwhelming (  The German version of the same page is much better and even includes a picture of the church (  Since I don't speak German I use Google Translate, and while it isn't the most accurate or logical at times, I can pretty well get an idea as to what the original German says.

Another example is my great-grandmother's hometown: Peschici, Italy.  The English page ( gives some information, but nothing like what can be found on the Italian Wikipedia (

This holds true for other articles besides those on communities.  I found wonderful Wikipedia pages on dialects, foods, culture, history, etc. all on non-English Wikipedia sites.  It is easy to use also.  Just look up what you are interested in on the English Wikipedia, then when you think a non-English Wikipedia site might have more information, click on the language of your choice on the toolbar to the left.  Doing so will take you directly to the same Wikipedia page you were on, just in a different language - and more information in many cases.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Plot Sale

I had never heard of the buying and selling of cemetery plots making the newspaper before I found the following concerning my great-great-grandmother:
29 Jan 1893, The San Francisco Morning Call, p. 3
    "Mountain View Cemetery Association to Mrs. Susanna Berger, lot 271, plat 14, said cemetery.  Oakland Township; $57."

What is odd is that her husband had died and was already buried there when she bought this plot.  Did she move him or was this an additional space purchase for her?  That $57 would the equivalent of over $1400 today.  Yikes!  I bet plots at Mountain View don't sell for $57 anymore...

What is even stranger is the fact that they were buried in what was, even in the 1890s, a pricey cemetery, yet don't seem to have been able to afford a tombstone for either of them.  At least some of their many children went on to be quite successful and wealthy yet none of them seem to have thought of getting stones for their parents graves either.  What's up with that?!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Another recently discovered, unlabeled, picture from my family archives.  The crying little girl(?) in the middle might be my grandmother (I have pictures of her in a similar big white bonnet), but I can't be sure.

If it is my grandmother then this was probably taken in Petaluma, Sonoma, California around 1929.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Where Is It?

I recently found some more family photos.  Unfortunately, most of them aren't labeled - including this one:

There is a flag of California in the picture, but I cannot place it further.  I'm thinking the Bay Area, maybe Golden Gate Park?  Another possibility is the fact that the 1915 World's Fair was held in San Francisco, though I think this might have been taken later than that (based on the clothing).

Anyone with any knowledge (or guesses) of this place, please contact me - I'd really appreciate any clues!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Comparing SSDI Results

With all the recent kerfuffle over changes to Social Security Death Index and its removal from Rootsweb, I wanted to re-evaluate all my options.  I also wanted to see how different databases deal with people deceased less than ten years (Ancestry has removed social security numbers for their entries).  I compared four databases, if you have one that you really like that isn't included below, please let me know about it!

My "test subject" is my grandmother who died about seven years ago.  First at

The next is FamilySearch:

Lastly, NEHGS:
While both NEHGS and FamilySearch include social security numbers, I like FamilySearch best because it includes the state of issuance (like Ancestry and GenealogyBank).  FamilySearch is also free which makes it even better!  Here's hoping they won't be making Ancestry-esque changes to their database anytime soon...

(I also love the One-Step social security number calculators and chart, so the state of issuance isn't that big a deal - as long as you have the number that is)

Disclosure:  I am in no way affiliated with any of the websites or companies mentioned in this post, nor was I prompted or remunerated by anyone to write this post.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Movies and TV Shows

I participated in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories series back in 2009 and haven't really felt the need to rehash or repost those entries (if you want to read them just check out the posts from December of 2009).  But today is a Grab Bag day and I really like what the Passionate Genealogist did with her Grab Bag post.  And, you know what else I really like?  Holiday movies, TV shows, music, etc.

In my household "Black Friday" had another meaning not at all related to shopping.  It was typically the day my father would pull out his copies of A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version from the 1980s is his favorite, but the Reginald Owen and Alistair Sim versions get equal airtime).  And thus the infinite loop of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Crachit, Tiny Tim and the whole lovable lot would begin and run until about New Year.  I like the movies, or rather, I like them the first time I see them each year.  But by the twentieth or thirtieth time in a week or two the charm starts to wear a little thin for me.  The one version my father doesn't care for is The Muppet Christmas Carol.

And can you guess which Christmas movie is MY favorite?  That's right, The Muppet Christmas Carol.  When I was little it was just because I liked the Muppets; now it is a mixture of the fact that it brings back memories of my childhood and the fact that the songs are really rather excellent (and yes I sing along with all of them).  Other movies that I have to watch every December are Holiday Affair (which I discovered a few years ago), Susan Slept Here (which I discovered many years ago - and get your head out of the gutter, it is nice clean 1950s stuff, despite the title), and Christmas in Connecticut (which I discovered as a teenager).  I also love White Christmas (Holiday Inn not so much) and The Man Who Came to Dinner (even if it isn't a Christmas movie in the strictest sense).  I'm not a big fan of most of the "classics" however.  I have seen Miracle on the 34th Street (both versions), It's a Wonderful Life and The Bishop's Wife.  I've even seen them more than once in an effort to like them.  Since most people love them however, I won't be a Scrooge so I'll just say "no comment."

On my birthday (which is a few days after Christmas), I always watch The Sound of Music.  Originally it was because it just always seemed to come on on my birthday, then it became a tradition.

TV Shows
I've watched them all and like them all.  The Rankin/Bass productions hold a spot in my heart though, Jack Frost especially.  A Christmas Day staple (because my mother would never let us put on anything that would hold our attention) in my home is the Yule Log.

When I was little I was obsessed with Feliz Navidad.  I don't know why, and I don't know why I still like it as much as I do.  I do know I went through a phase where I thought I knew Spanish because I mastered the lyrics.  Another song I loved when I was little was Mele Kalikimaka (yes, I thought I knew Hawaiian also) and I always had to sing it in my best Bing Crosby voice (which isn't great).  Now I pretty much like all the standards.

As far as my family goes, I don't know that they have favorite TV shows or music.  My grandmother loves Handel's Messiah though and watches it, usually with my mother, each December.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

SNGF: Christmas/Birthday Wishes

Dear Genea-Santa,

I know I'm probably not your favorite person because you always have to leave off a birthday present under the tree as well as the Christmas goodies, but I promise I've been good this year!

I've been better about sourcing.  In fact, I created a whole new tree from scratch and am only adding people, dates and events that are fully sourced.  I'm also working of a family history book (albeit slowly) and am doing my best to stay organized.  I'm trying to make you proud, Genea-Santa, I really am!

For Christmas/Birthday I would like:

  • RootsMagic 5.  I have version 4 and the update is the #1 thing I want this year. (Disclosure: I paid for version 4 all by my little old self and am in no way affiliated with RootsMagic.  I like their product, that is all.)
  • Indiana Genealogical Society.  I want a membership.  In fact, I've wanted one for a few years but somehow it always fell through the cracks.  All the branches of my grandmother's family tree passed through the Hoosier state at one point, hence my interest in IGS.
  • NGS Home Study Course.  Yeah, this one is a biggie.  Even with my member discount it is expensive (but I believe worth the cost).  I'm only asking for the first CD this year. (Disclosure: I have no affiliation with NGS.  I joined last July, with my own dinero, and it was the best "genea-decision" I ever made).
  • Evidence Explained, 2nd Edition.  I've wanted this one for awhile and even though edition 3 is likely in the pipeline, I'm asking for it now. (Disclosure: I have no affiliation with the publisher, author or Amazon.)  
Other things I'd love:
  • A research trip to Alameda County - especially the half dozen cemeteries where my ancestors are buried.
  • My great-grandfather's SS-5.  He would have been 120 last April so *knock wood* there won't be a problem getting ALL the information I'm paying for
  • A naturalization record for just one ancestor.  Seriously.  I have never had such bad luck as I seem to have with naturalization records.  They either aren't available or not where they're supposed to be. 
  • And, of course, the answers to some of my biggest brick-wall ancestors: (Maria) Nicoletta Riccia? Dutchi? Lapiccirella (1892-1987), Heman Doyle (1809-1881), Priscilla Mason Webb (1822-1863) and a host of others.
Thank you, Genea-Santa, for what ever Christmas/Birthday treasures you might bring me.  And thank you, Randy, for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!