Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Birthday to our Lady in the Lake

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated 121 years ago on October 28, 1886.

Currently, if asked, I am Transylvanian, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, British, French, German, and possibly Choctaw. Except for that one small possibility, I'm 100% immigrant. I'm also 100% American.

The presence of anti-Immigrant attitudes in America disturbs me. It tells me we're forgetting our history. I wonder if some people were to have a conversation with the spirits of their great-grandparents, what those ancestors would say to them.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

-- "The New Colossus" - by Emma Lazarus

Lovely Lady Liberty
With her book of recipes
And the finest one she's got
Is the great American melting pot
The great American melting pot.

-- "The Great American Melting Pot", Schoolhouse Rock

I like Polish sausage, I like Spanish rice,
and pizza pie is also nice
Corn and beans from the Indians here
washed down by German beer
Marco Polo traveled by camel and pony,
he brought to Italy, the first macaroni
And you and I as well we're able,
we put it all on the table

-- "All Mixed Up", by Pete Seeger (also performed by Peter, Paul, and Mary)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Can DNA solve these mysteries?

For the 35th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, The Genetic Genealogist, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry with a concentration in genetics, has offered to analyze whether or not certain family mysteries could be solved by DNA tests.

I’d actually been giving this some thought prior to the announcement, reading various websites, wondering whether I should get a test done, or convince a relative or two to do so. A relative has already participated in the National Geographic Genographic study, which might eliminate the need for others in the family to take the same/similar test.

There are basically two mysteries/questions. My non-expert conclusion is that DNA could help solve one of them, but unfortunately, not likely the other.

Family Mystery #1

There is a family myth that we have a Native American ancestor. My mother’s mother’s mother’s mother – Sarah Hartley, who married Ebenezer Denyer. (If true, it is significant, since Ebenezer's brother, Samuel, was killed by Native Americans, as his daughter, Ida, wrote about in her poem. The 1870 census indicates that once both her parents had died, Ida spent some time living with her uncle, and possibly Native American aunt. There may have been some tension there if her ancestry was known.)

No vital statistics are known about Sarah (birth date/location; death date/location; names of parents) so tracing her ancestry is difficult by normal means. If she were a full-blooded Native American, or if half-blooded, and her mother was full-blooded, it is my understanding that an mtDNA test of either myself, or my mother, would verify this. Of course, if the test came back negative, it would still be possible she was half-blooded, and her father was the full-blood.

There are some reports of genetic tests that tell you that you are x% Native American. That suggests that it isn't telling you about your mother's mother's mother's mother's.....mother only. That it can look at your broader genetic makeup. If that is possible, then it's likely my mother should take the test, because whatever the percentage is, her percentage would be twice mine, and easier to detect.

Family Mystery #2

This mystery is whether or not my research regarding Selig (Dudelsack) Feinstein’s siblings is correct. I think I have found one brother (Julius Odelson) and one sister (Tillie Oberman). Unfortunately, no descendants of the sister would have the Dudelsack Y chromosome. I wouldn’t either, but there are several direct male descendents of Selig who might be willing to take the test. Possible brother, Julius, had two sons, though I believe only one had a child, and that child was a daughter. So even if she has living descendants (which isn’t clear) there’d be no way to test their relationship.

So I’m left with Tillie’s death certificate, with parent names that match Selig’s, which is almost certain proof in my mind that she was Selig’s sister, and by deduction, the likelihood that Julius was probably their brother. Julius had a daughter who probably has some descendants in St. Louis, but the name of her husband was relatively common, and the list of people I’d have to blindly write letters to is extensive. I might do it, but it’s not a job for DNA.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Blogging may be light in November

I plan on participating in National Novel Writing Month in November, which will necessitate a slight decrease in my genealogical pursuits. However, the tentative title for my planned masterpiece is Ahnentafel Falafel.

Limitations of DNA testing

News articles on the limitations of genealogical DNA testing

I've been reading a lot about DNA testing recently. I have one relative who has participated in the Natl Geographic project, placing our family's paternal ancestry in the K2 haplogroup. I am considering getting an mtDNA test to answer a question about a maternal ancestor. I will be writing more about that later.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Patrick Swayze - direct descendant of ....

This morning I found Patrick Swayze's alleged genealogy, and confirmed that the Swayze in my tree intersected with his tree. I haven't done the math yet1 to see what number cousin we are. I have two left feet though. The only dirty dancing I can do is with iambics, and even then, I'll frequently step on a foot.

We allegedly intersect at Judge Samuel Swayze (1688-1710).

Judge Samuel Swayze's parents were Joseph Swayze and Mary Betts. Whoever entered the Swayze tree doesn't carry Mary Betts' line back further than Mary's mother Joanna Chamberlain Betts, however, Joanna is (according to One World Tree) a direct descendant of Chaucer. Which would make cousin Patrick one too.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Five

Five names from various census -- all thematically related

DNA Smith – M - 1900 – Lagrange IN – 5 years old
Genetic Biggers – F – 1880 – Parker TX – 3 years old
Helix Humphrey – M – 1930 – McDowell WV – 1 year old
Amino Cassain – M – 1910 – Morgan, IN – 1 year old
Genome Kelly – F – 1920 – Blount, AL – 17 years old


Recently when commenting on the Cost of Genealogy, I said that I didn't see myself travelling to Europe to do research due to the cost of travel.

Since I have programmed "Transylvania" as one of my News Topics at my customized Google News page, I learned this morning that there's a Budget airline in Europe called Wizz that has stops in London, England; Cluj, Romania; and Poland. The news article wasn't specific about cities in Poland, but Wizz Air has an English website, and they do stop in Warsaw. Anyone planning a trip in Europe might want to check out their routes - there are stops in France, Spain, Germany, Norway, Italy, and Greece as well.

London, Cluj and Warsaw would be the three main stops of any Family History trip I would probably make. Whether it was to do research, or just visit the locations my ancestors lived. I could do a round-trip from London-Cluj for 53.60 GBP ($109). Of course, I have to get to London. It's probably still not any time soon, but it's nice to know about a budget airline that stops in so many European cities.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Of hogs and ghoti.

Terry Thornton has honored me with adding my blog to his list of H.O.G.S. Blogs, even though I stated a preference for ghoti over pork. (I've also always preferred swimming in oceans to wallowing in mud, though there is, alas, photographic evidence I have done both. Luckily, I went to college pre-youtube.) I accept the honor, and have added the logo to my sidebar.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Birthdays, Brothers, and Euphemisms

Boris Efimov turned 107 on September 28th. Billed as "perhaps the oldest Jew in the world" (can't be positive of course), he is best known for caricatures he drew of Hitler, Goebbels and others. He is still employed in Russia as a cartoonist for the newspaper, Izvestia, where he's been for 85 years.

In his childhood, Boris Efimov and his brother – now a well-known journalist Mikhail Koltsov – both bore the last name Fridlyand. However, as often occurred during the Communist regime, people working in the creative and public sphere took on a pseudonym so as to be able to circulate their works in various Soviet publications.

Since his brother's repression during the terrifying years of Stalin's reign, Boris Efimov is often known to say "I live two lives – one for myself and one for my brother"

I read that and, not completely understanding the last sentence, thought to myself, "How old is his brother?" and started looking for information about him. I learned that his brother was 'most severely' repressed in 1940 or 1942. Luckily he was 'rehabilitated' by the Soviet government in 1954...but not by a reanimator as skilled as Anita Blake. Alas.

It seems I'm not up on my euphemisms. The story about Boris, though is a good one. He has certainly seen a lot, and has lived to see a Russia with greater freedom.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mac Genealogy Software Demo and Upgrade Comparison

Many people like to test software before they buy – which is why software companies create Demo programs. Limitations of some sort are always placed on Demo packages (otherwise, people would never buy the full software.) Below is a comparison of the Demos offered by three major genealogy software programs for the Mac. I’m not suggesting one should buy the full program based completely on the demo, but the three are significantly different in my opinion making the differences worth mentioning.

MacFamilyTree [website]

Their demo is fully functional, except you can’t save any entries. At least that is what the website says. I bought the software from a store without testing the demo. Taking the website at its word, this is an interesting limitation. I could import a gedcom created in another software program, and give it a full test. However, if it were the first demo I tried, I would be frustrated, because I’d have to enter enough data to test it…and do it in one sitting, because I couldn’t save anything. I assume there is no time limitation on the demo – not really necessary with the ‘no save’ feature in my mind.

Reunion [website]

Also seems to be a non-expiring demo. However, you can’t import or export GED files. You can’t save charts. And printouts have a watermark on them. You are also limited to 50 entries.

Not being able to import a GED file, makes it more difficult to test. They do provide a sample "Family File" (The Kennedy family). It contains 35 entries, but with few entries that are 'outside the norm' to adequately test the software, so you will likely end up entering data to do so.

IFamilyForTiger [website]

Almost fully functional 10-day demo. You’ve only got ten days to test it, the version might be an older version than the most current, and you're unable to export a GED file. Otherwise fully functional. (The website says that you also can't use the menu option to upgrade the demo to a newer version. I'd think that was common sense, but they probably have to say it.)

It comes with a sample database – the British Royal Family – with over 3000 entries which provides ample records to test all of the features. You can also import any Gedcom you already have, with no limitation on size.

Upgrade Policy Comparison

This is a much shorter comparison – and something someone might later wish they considered prior to making their initial purchase.


Original software: $100
Upgrades: $60 (based on current price for Reunion 9 Full vs Upgrade)


Original software: $50
Upgrades: $25 (based on current price for MacFamilyTree 4.5 Full vs Upgrade)


Original software: $30
Upgrades: Free

(note: I round all prices to the nearest dollar.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Snafu City

Going through some photos my maternal grandmother took. Most of them in the 1920s and 30s, though a small handful of them from the early 40s. I came across one without any people in it. It looks like a humorous billboard that caught her eye, though I have no idea where it was located.

I say I have no idea where it was...however, "seabee" is a term for the 'construction battalions' of the US Navy. Rats is a term often associated with members of the Army. And SNAFU is a military term. So I wouldn't be surprised if this were at a military base of some sort. However, this would date the photo to the 1940s, as the 'sea bee' term was coined for WWII, and it would probably be the most recent photo in the box.

I don't know if there was another meaning for the term before then. My suspicion is that this isn't an example of 'antedating'.

The Vicious Chiffonier Part II

This is part II of a story that happened almost 100 years ago in Transylvania.
Don't start here.
Start with Part I

Ted: So this day he didn’t go very far, he left the gun at home. When he left his home he had a chiffonier. And in there he locked up the bread and locked up any other stuff the kids might take. And his gun. So he forgot to lock it this time.

When I first listened to the tape, I had no idea what a chiffonier was, so I had no idea what Ted was saying. But I knew it was a container of some sort, so I got out a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus and went to the section on containers and read through the list until I found it. So anyway…

We have a loaded chiffonier, and three kids: Armon, Ted and Ed. It’s not certain that my grandfather was in the room at the time, and Jean was with their mother and father, wherever that was. A total of seven.

Ted: I went to the Chiffonier. It was open so I went to get the bread. If it was locked we couldn’t get the bread, but if they left the key open, we’d go in and look for bread.

Martin: Something to nibble on

Ted: Yeah, so we found a gun in there. We didn’t know what the hell it was. I thought it was a plaything. Armon was older than I and I don’t know if he knew what it was. But he wanted…he took it away from me…And showed it to me. And then Eddie got it, and he was looking at it. He thought it was something to whistle in because the barrel was there, and if you blew your breath in there you could whistle.

So Ed does it. He tries to use the gun as a whistle.

Ted: Yeah, he held it up against his mouth like that and suddenly the damn thing went off and it went through his upper jaw and through his nose. It came out thorough his nose.

But Ed isn’t the one who dies.

Ted: Eddie, Luckily he wasn’t hurt much…He always had a spot around his nose where it came out…He didn’t take the thing in his mouth, he just pointed it this way where you’d blow into it…If he had shot himself in the mouth…when Mother came home he was bleeding a lot but they took care of that.

It's hard for me to imagine how much blood there probably was. Nor can I imagine my great-grandparents' reactions when they returned home. There was probably a lot of yelling and screaming. Probably focused a lot on Armon, the eldest child who was supposed to be 'in charge' of his younger brothers. Even though he was only seven or eight.

Ted: So he got scared because Ed was bleeding and there was no doctor around there to take care of it. Nobody knew what to do. Anyhow, after awhile, Dad and Mother blamed him, and he got scared and he got depressed that he was to blame for the entire thing…He was depressed in every way. He wouldn’t eat right. Finally about a month later he passed away…He was just scared. He was just scared stiff.

Martin: He died of fear or something like that.

Martin mentions a memory of a coffin in the house, and Ted confirms there was one, and that Armon was buried in a cemetery not far from the home – about the equivalent of two blocks. My mother visited the town a few years ago, and looked in the cemetery, but the inscriptions were so worn, even if they had been able too afford a marker for the grave, it was unfindable.

The Vicious Chiffonier - Part I

In the 1970s my maternal grandfather, Martin, and his brother, Ted, sat down and recorded their recollections. Both of them were born in Transylvania/Romania/Hungary in a small town called Varalmas, Nagyalmas, or Almasu, depending upon the language.

This is being written for the 34th Carnival of Genealogy, which is themed for the Halloween season. However, despite the setting for the tale, there are no vampires involved. And while wolves will be briefly mentioned, they probably weren't of the were-variety. I briefly considered titling this post "The Were-Chiffonier" for the poetic qualities, but settled on the current title for accuracy. There isn't anything supernatural about this, it's unknown what time of year it occurred, or even whether it occurred under a full moon. But horror stories are one of the sub-themes, and this may well be the most horrific story I have discovered in my family's past. I hope I never discover anything that exceeds it.

I've had this audiotape for a while, and digitized it a year or so ago, but I made a transcription specifically for this entry. It's been on my to-do list, but it got moved up a bit, for which I am grateful. This way, instead of just summarizing the events, I can use the words of my grandfather and great-uncle.

After they announce that they’re going to talk about an Accident that brought the number of family members from seven to six, several minutes are spent discussing years, birthdates, and ages. They know their parents were married in 1898, and they think the oldest child, Jean, was born in 1899, and Armon, 1900. However, it’s also possible Jean was born in 1900 and Armon 1901.

The year of the accident is never stated, but from the ages of the children, it was probably 1908. Ted was about six at the time, and my grandfather, Martin, was two. The other main player is ‘Ed’ who was between Ted and Martin in age.

Ted: It happened that Dad always carried a gun when he went out of the village. He carried a gun with him because you travel through the mountains

Martin: Highway robberies

Ted: Not robbers, but

Martin: Hunting

Ted: Protection. Not not hunting, Protection from wolves.

Martin: Animals.

Ted: There are wolves around when you cross the mountains. He always had a gun

Martin: A revolver. A pistol.

Ted: A revolver or handgun. For protection. Not from robbers, but he did run into wolves. Wolves run in packs and you never know when they will attack you. Especially if you camp at night.

Martin: I wondered about that and how a gun got into the house.

This post is getting long, so I’m going to break and continue it in a second post.

Blog modifications

I decided I wanted the ability to 'cut' longer posts, like you see on some blogs. Have a lead-paragraph, and then let the reader click on something to read on...

There are instructions on how to do this in the Blogger Help manual, but their version isn't togglable. It's always on. Which explains the sudden appearance of a linked asterisk at the bottom of every post, if you're on the front page, or in a monthly archive. (Otherwise, you won't see it.)

I didn't want it to say "Read More" if there wasn't any more to read. If it's a short post, or an old post, the * will just provide a secondary link to the page with the entry+comments.

I am curious how confusing this post was, though. How long did it take you to figure out there was more to read, and where to click?

If anyone can come up with a better suggestion than an *, that's easy to change.

Update Thanks to Chris who in the comments directed me towards a better hack which makes the query above unnecessary.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My type of blogging

Terry and Randy have been thinking about acronyms and what type of blogger they are. I like acronyms. It may be in my genes.

When I first started a personal blog, back in 2002, I called it Politics, Religion and Drew Barrymore. If I had added the topic of "Insanity", I could have called my type of blogging: DRIP. I won't discuss my next title for the blog, but the initials were PBFIW. Not much you can spell with that. (Pfiwb?)

While the acronym fits, I am uncomfortable with adopting the HOGS moniker, even though Terry assures one commenter pork posts aren't a requirement. I definitely like the "Tribe" in Randy's GHOST. But I don't view myself as a "Ghost blogger" either. I do write under my own name, after all. And while most of those who get mentioned here are no longer living, that's not universally the case. I considered possibilities for the letter "N". It's the first letter of my surname, for example. I could take a picture of a pair of shoes for a logo. (Other possibilities for logos came to mind, too, but they wouldn't have been family appropriate.)

Instead, because of my love for the English language, I fell upon G.H.O.T.I. Some of my posts here are just about as Insane as they are on my personal blog, and I believe all my stories fall under one of the other categories. So in honor of the genius of George Bernard Shaw1, for Klingons everywhere, and because in my short time as a family history researcher I've learned the importance of knowing how to spell phonetically: I choose to be a GHOTI blogger.

1 I know that GBS claimed he didn't invent the spelling, but he did popularize it.

(the original image came from the US Fish and Wildlife public domain image website)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Five

I was gong to hold off on doing this one for two weeks, but since I'm thinking of cancelling my subscription to Ancestry, I'm doing it today. (Sure, I could write everything down and post it in two weeks, but why not get into the holiday spirit early?) And no, this isn't my submission to the Carnival.

Names from various census indexes:

1. Ghoul Nipple, M, 1930, Caroll IN, 36 years old
2. Goblin Fester, F, 1900, Amity IA, 12 years old
3. Witch Layers, M, 1920, Marathon WI, 31 years old
4. Pumpkin Upshaw, M, 1910, Elbert GA, 13 years old
5. Halloween Hovey, F, 1870, Fenton MI, 1 years old

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Blog Finder

Sometimes it pays to actually click on a few links on a blog's sidebar or topmenu, rather than just reading the posts as they come in through your newsreader, only going to the blog to comment.

I just found The Genealogue's Blog Finder. Of course, if I knew about his Blog Finder, I might have found his Blog Finder more quickly? Does that make sense?

Chris has catalogued over 600 genealogy-related blogs, and allows you to search the posts on all of them. He's also categorized all the blogs into useful categories based on their focii.

As near as I can tell, the last time he mentioned it in one of his posts was six months ago, back in April, which was a little before I started researching. Of course, the link has been on his site the entire time; I just hadn't clicked.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Descendents of William Denyer and Elizabeth Sliver

I included a poem by an ancestor a few posts ago which I found in a Fretz Family History book published in 1890. I have now entered the 7 pages from the book that pertain directly to the descendents of William Denyer and Elizabeth Sliver, and since much of the information isn't available anywhere else online, I created a page for it on my website.

There is a lot of good story information in the text, and since it was published in 1890, most of the information probably came directly from the individual, or a sibling/child. It's probably as trustworthy as first-person narration usually is. (Which means some of the story might be slightly exaggerated, but the general details are probably accurate, as are the dates.)

The one consistent alteration I made to the text is that I spelled out abbreviations. (I think the only exception I made were a few titles like Dr. and Rev. since it is rare that they are spelled out as titles.) The author over-abbreviated to conserve space, which is completely understandable, but space isn't an issue online, and I feel it is easier to read without abbreviations.

Fun and Games

This is in response to this week's 5-question prompts for Family History Month from the 24/7 Family History Circle. I am completely ignoring the five question concept and I'm going to ramble. However, I'm sure someone can find at least five questions that I answered.

As a child, I subscribed to Games Magazine. I loved all manner of games and puzzles. I definitely inherited my love for word games from my paternal grandfather, who would attack the newspaper's Crossword Puzzle daily, and he also taught me a game called Jotto where you select a 5-letter word, and try to guess your opponent's 5-letter word before they guess yours. I'd have Sunday dinner at my paternal grandparents house a lot, and they had a lot of games in their closet that I would play with my siblings and cousins: Rummikub being the most memorable. My grandmother had a Mah Jongg set, but I never learned how to play.

My maternal grandfather taught me to bowl. He was a much better bowler than I ever have been. I struggle to break 100, and he almost always broke 200. My maternal grandmother (actually step-grandmother, as my mom's mother died young) taught me how to play gin rummy, and it remains my favorite card game. My grandfather later purchased me a copy of Hoyle, and I taught myself several more games.

The game I remember playing with my brother the most was Stratego. I consistently lost until my brother told me his secret. All he had to do was watch me set up my pieces, as I always put my flag down first, and then surrounded it with bombs. Knowing exactly where my flag was, the game was easy for him.

A St. Louisan born and raised, my favorite professional sport to watch is Baseball. There is no close second. I'll tune into the Superbowl for the ads, and I've watched a little WWE with friends for the socializing, but Baseball is the only sport I've actually ever followed. I remember watching the final game of the 1982 World Series – age 13 – from the bleachers, and running onto the field with my brother when it was over. I can still name the players of the 1982 Cardinals team by position. And I can still hear Jack Buck's voice.

Finally – since age 6, I have considered reading Fun and Games, and I am still three decades later a voracious reader. I've read a lot of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror over the years, but my favorite novel of all time is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Hence, the first domain name I ever purchased was -- it says a lot that the character I most identify with is the mischievous child.

I've emboldened the present tense in the final paragraphs, because I noticed that the questions were all focused on childhood. I realize this is Family History, so we're talking about things that happened in the past, but I want to make sure I state that for me, fun and games doesn't end when you turn a certain age. Fun and Games goes on forever. Otherwise, life gets boring, and I don't ever want that to happen.

Tombstone Tales

Last night I went to the monthly meeting of the St. Louis Genealogical Society. This month’s discussion topic was an appropriate theme for October: Tombstone Tales. There was a lot of good information presented on dos and don'ts regarding visiting tombstones. (Don’t clean a tombstone with household solvents. Very little is safe for a tombstone beyond water. If it’s a family burial ground, it’s not public, and you need to ask permission, or you could end up facing an unhappy landowner with or without gun. What you should wear. Tips on taking good photographs. Stuff like that.) There was also discussion and handouts about common symbols and artwork you find on tombstones and what they mean.

The presentation ended with several slides of tombstones…some from all over the world, and some from St. Louis. I had no idea that General William Tecumseh Sherman, who marched through Georgia, was buried here. But there were two graves shown, several slides apart, that caught my attention. After seeing the second slide, I wanted to raise my hand and ask a question, but I wasn’t sure if I recalled the first slide correctly, and didn’t want to embarrass myself if I remembered it wrong. So, alas, I said nothing.

The first slide was a picture of the tombstone of Dred Scott. It was originally an unmarked grave, but a stone was eventually erected. It says on the stone “Freed by my friend, Taylor Blow.”

Several slides later, was the tombstone of famed educator, Susan Blow.

Taylor was her uncle. Her grandparents were the owners of Dred Scott. Her father was Henry Taylor Blow, one-time ambassador to Venezuela. But census records clearly indicate brothers Taylor Blow and Henry Taylor Blow were separate individuals.

I either wasn't paying attention during the Local History section of my education, or the connection between these two was never mentioned. I actually couldn't remember much about Susan Blow beyond that she was important to education in some way. She introduced the concept of kindergartens to the US.

State and Regional Resources

Family Tree Magazine has a list of "best websites". Here's their section on State and Regional Resources.

It looks like Arizona one-ups Missouri's certificate database. I've been very proud of Missouri's taking a lead, and scanning in their death certificates, but Arizona has been scanning in their birth certificates as well. (Up through 1931 - a 75 year privacy window - which means many living persons.) Unfortunately, I don't think I have any relatives born in Arizona. However, I did find the birth certificate of Cesario Chavez (direct link to pdf), and the death certificate of Baron Michael Goldwater. Barry's father. Barry's birth certificate should be there, but I can't find it. Cardinal ballplayer Solly (Solomon Joseph) Hemus should be there, too.

There are several states that have impressive indexes that will help many researchers.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Cost of Genealogy

Jasia at CreativeGene has been blogging about the cost of genealogy. It's a topic that hit home for me. She’s been at it for ten years, and I’ve just begun within the past few months, but I can already see the costs piling up. I work in the not-for-profit community, and don't make a large amount of money. However, being single without dependents does give me some hobby-money.

In some instances, I think the costs she lists are a little high. Especially for documentation from the US. They’re perhaps what they cost in Michigan, but document prices are dropping all over. Missouri’s death certificates from 1910-1956 are all online for free, unless they haven’t been scanned in yet, in which case they’re $1 if you’re superanxious. I ordered an 1854 marriage certificate from Gonzales Texas for $1. Chicago’s vital stats are going online in January. I’ve heard people say on mailing lists that in some county offices around the country you can walk in with your digital camera, and ask to ‘look’ at a certificate, and they won’t charge you the full price, since all they’re doing is looking it up. You’re not getting a “Certified Copy," but I don’t feel I need it to be certified. I just want a clear image of what is on the document.

Many documents do still cost in the $15-$25 range. Marriage, birth, and death certificates from the UK GRO cost 7 pounds, which is about $15 with today’s exchange rate. But there are many bargains for particular counties and states, and the number of these are increasing, not decreasing, as county and state agencies realize it’s more cost-efficient to put everything online than it is to hire staff to look up the documents every time someone asks.

Still, everything adds up. I’ve now ordered 4 certificates from the UK, and there are another four I know about which I will ultimately order if I can’t convince a relative to do so. ($120) There are also several marriage certificates I want to obtain.

I’ve told myself that ignoring any bargains under $5, I’m limiting myself to 1 certificate a month. I figure if I keep myself to that, I won’t spend much more than $200 on documents in a year. A birth certificate from the UK was my October purchase over the weekend. (One of my great-grandfather’s sisters.)

I started out with a monthly World Subscription to Ancestry. Since I found all the UK census records I’m likely to find, and the GRO indexes are free, I’m now at the Domestic level, until new international databases get added that affect me. I haven’t decided whether or not to subscribe for the full year. I probably will because I like being able to search from home, and I consider the benefits worth the cost, however I’m going to refrain from renewing next month and see how it feels not to have immediate access.

Hiring a Professional

I’m not sure hiring a professional makes economic sense if one doesn’t factor in time. Time doesn’t matter much to me. I don’t need to know everything possible now. On the other hand, I don’t want to spend ten years researching, and find out a professional genealogist could have learned everything I learned, but done it in a week’s time. I don’t think I’d feel my time was wasted, because I’m enjoying this. But I would feel like I’m a lousy researcher.

Still, I doubt that professionals are that much better at this. Better, yes. But not by that degree. They’re not miracle workers. They know more sources to go to, but I’m learning these sources as I go along.

Also, I know that whatever I pay a professional by the hour, they’re also going to be charging me for the documents, so I won’t save any money there. If anything, I will lose money, because they won’t necessarily be searching for the bargains.

And if I hired a professional genealogist, would they post queries on the community surname forums? I have, and found cousins, with information, and with scanned images of documents. Documents I would have had to pay for if I had hired the professional. And I wouldn’t have met a cousin in the process!

[On the other side of the coin, a distant cousin of mine who has done twenty years of extensive research on one section of my tree, has expressed gratitude for my interest, as I have read through her notes, and found some minor discrepancies other eyes have missed. Editing and proofreading are things I've received training in.]

Finally, a professional would also be likely to spend extra money on documents for quicker shipping so that they can produce the results quicker to the customer. Most customers like that, but as I said, time doesn’t matter much to me, and if it takes 4 weeks to receive the document instead of 1, I don’t really mind.

So I think in the final analysis I’d save time with a professional, but I would spend more money, and I wouldn’t extend my genealogical lines any further than I am able to on my own, learning as I go.

On further thought (10/11)

I do suspect there will come a time when I may hire a professional. Six out of my eight great-grandparents are Jewish, and I tend to reach dead-ends within one generation of their immigration. (That isn't too different for the other two great-grandparents, but their families have been in North America over a hundred years longer.)

The cousin I mentioned who has done 20 years of extensive research on one line, travelled to Lithuania multiple times to do onsite research. I don't see myself doing that. I do see myself finding a professional headed overseas to do some research in the Warsaw area, or Romania, who's willing to take on another quest. (That way one's only paying for the research, not the airfare.) I saw such a post on a mailing list a couple months ago, but I know I'm not ready to ask the question. I need to find everything here that I feel I can so that they're starting with the most information possible.

But I won't hire a professional to do research I know I can do, even if it's going to take me longer.

"Mother" by Ida Green

Yesterday I found a copy of Fretz Family History in the St. Louis Public Library. It was published in 1890 by Rev AJ Fretz, who published several family histories centered around families that settled originally in the Bucks County Pennsylvania area. I knew that my great-great grandfather, the Confederate soldier, would be mentioned in the book, but I was interested in finding information about his siblings. Little did I expect to find a poem written by Ida Green (nee Denyer), his niece, and the first cousin of my great-grandmother. The text of the family history is fully within the public domain, so I have no issues with reprinting it here.

I might take a few issues with meter, and modern political correctness, but I feel it’s wonderful a poem that clearly came from her heart has survived the generations through Rev AJ Fretz’s genealogical work, and encourages me on my own research and story gathering. (All the family history referenced in the poem are given dates and details in the bio that accompanies it.)


Mother! Ah, how oft that name
Our loving hearts have thrilled,
It soothes to rest in hours of pain,
Though death her pulse has stilled.

In life we were her constant care;
And often while we slept,
She o’er bent in silent prayer,
While Indians through our barley crept.

They had her loved companion slain,
Disguised in white-men’s clothes.
Whom he mistook for neighboring friends,
Till they had strung their bows.

And then upon that April morn,
When death his frame had chilled,
She stood beside that lifeless form,
Her heart with anguish filled.

And when we laid him in the tomb,
And sadly turned away,
Our mother knew that she alone,
Must guard us night and day.

Nor did she through those years of grief
E’er murmur or repine,
But sought in prayer that sweet relief
Which true believers find.

And when consumption seized her child,
The first that God had given,
She closed in death those eyes so mild,
And said, “We’ll meet in heaven.”

One year elapsed, then mother left,
To join the host above,
And four small children were bereft
Of either parents’ love.

And now those loved ones round the throne
Are beckoning us away;
Dear brothers, sisters, kindred ones,
Let us the call obey.

Yes! Let us follow in the path
This noble woman trod;
Perform our duty here on earth,
But lean upon our God.

Santa Maria, Texas, Oct 8, 1889.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Wanderer

They call me the wanderer, yeah I'm a wanderer,
I go around around around around.

I've had difficulty finding some relatives in the various census - due to name spellings, etc. But now I have run across the inverse.

A relative recently sent me a huge Register for one branch of the family, and in it is someone who I will call B.

On Jan 3, 1920, the census taker in St. Louis, MO knocked on the door, where B, his wife, and six kids were living. He was 53. Immigrated to the US in 1885. Naturalized in an unknown year. His mother tongue was 'Jewish'.

On Feb 3, 1920, the census taker in Greenville TX, knocked on the door where B's son, J. was a boarder. But according to the census, B was a boarder there too! Must have been visiting his son, and must have decided, "Cool! Another census taker! Don't forget to count me!" He was now 54. (We don't know when his birthday was - it's possible he actually was a year older.) He immigrated in 1891, and was naturalized in 1906. His mother tongue was Polish.

On Feb 11, 1920, the census taker in Redbud TX, knocked on the door of B's brother S. Guess who must have been visiting that day? Almost 200 miles from Greenville, but he had a full week to get there. Still 54. Immigrated in 1887, Naturalized in 1900. Russian was his mother tongue.

Apparently those are all we've found -- but not necessarily all there is. His occupation on all three is 'Merchant'. It also leaves me wondering what the 'record' is. Most 'appearances' in a single census year for one person.

DNA testing

Lots of people are turning to DNA tests to see if they have Nordic, Russian, Chinese, African, or Native American ancestry.

But what if you want to know if beloved Rover is part Alaskan Malamute, French Poodle, or Border Collie?

DNA testing for Dogs

Rascal's mom looked like Lassie. And his dad? Well, that's a good question. Rascal's ears make it clear that he was the product of something besides a collie, but his owners couldn't say exactly what. So Kathie Svoboda of Lincoln dabbed a swab in her pet's mouth, mailed it to a lab and, a few weeks later, unlocked the mutt's canine heritage.

Collie and cocker spaniel, as suspected, along with a twist -- Shetland sheepdog.

Only disappointment is that the article began with an attempt to tie "Rascal" to a famous ancestor. That's so not what dog genealogy is all about.

And as some people argue, enough generations have passed, and every dog is related to Lassie in some fashion. (Every Collie?)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Canadian Manifests

Discovered this resource today. If you have any ancestors who arrived in Canada by ship:

From the Canadian Archives Passenger lists 1865-1922

You can search by: Name of Ship, Year of Arrival, Port of Arrival, Shipping Line, Port of Departure, Date of Departure, and Date of Arrival.

Once you find a particular manifest, it's not indexed by names, so you will have to read the images carefully to find your ancestor. And personally, I'd like the ability to enlarge the images a little. (Yeah, I know, magnifying glasses are cheap at the local store, but I'm talking about a key I can press...*)

I know my great-grandfather Barney, and his father Samuel, should appear on the manifest for the SS Tunisian in May of 1904. At least when they crossed over into the US in 1907, that's the information that was provided for their arrival in Canada. The fact that it does match up to a real ship is hopeful, but my first reading of the 36 pages of names hasn't been successful.

Other databases at the Canadian Archives:

including immigration records from 1925-1935 which are indexed by name.

You can also search all their genealogical databases at once. And the search engine has the feature where as you type, it displays all the results for what you have typed so far. This didn't help me with my Newmark ancestors since they didn't stay in Canada long enough, but my Loyalist ancestors who skedaddled North after The Revolution ended are there.

*Update: I haven't looked at the 'world' in 800x600 for a few years, I briefly forgot I could, but that does help. They still aren't there, and I doubt 640*480 will make them appear suddenly. Now I have to figure out why they aren't.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Carnival of Genealogy #33

The 33rd Carnival of Genealogy has been posted. I haven't read all of the wedding stories yet, but those which I have have been enjoyable. The 34th carnival will be on the theme of Halloween and the supernatural.
...stories of haunted houses, ghosts, any superstitions, voodoo, stories of Halloween parties or traditions, trick or treating, good luck charms, curses, ... Bring on your hauntings and horror stories, humorous and happy ones as well...
One idea in mind already, in preparation, I have spent about an hour tonight transcribing ten minutes from an audio tape. It was my first experience doing this. Recently on the Family Oral History blog, I read a 6-1 ratio is about average for transcription, so I feel pretty good about my skills. It's not really a Halloween story, but it is set in Transylvania, and has many of the trappings of a true horror story, so it might work. We shall see. At the very least, I've had transcribing this excerpt on my to-do list for awhile, and transcription is a good activity during Family History Month.