Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday: Sam and Rose Newmark

Several geneabloggers participate in a weekly meme known as Tombstone Tuesday where they post photographs of tombstones of interest.

I thought I would participate, and for the first entry I chose one which contained an early lesson for me. I took this photo in the summer of 2007, only a few months after the start of my genealogy obsession. Those who offer advice usually suggest not to go grave hunting in the middle of the summer. It can involve a lot of walking around, which isn't pleasant in the summer heat. But I didn't want to wait until the fall to visit the gravesite of my second great grandparents Sam and Rose Newmark.

Due partially to the heat, once I found the grave, I clicked the camera a few times, and went home -- without looking around nearby for other relatives. I must have been suffering heat stroke or something to miss what the camera picked up so easily. Sam and Rose's daughter, Cissie was right behind them. Her maiden name is on the tombstone; I really don't know how I missed it. So I had to go back the following weekend.

(double click to enlarge)

July 2, 1917 - East St. Louis

The theme for the 71st Carnival of Genealogy is: Local History
As genealogists, we are used to tracing our ancestors and the history of the places they lived. Not all of us live where our ancestors did. Do we take the time to see the history all around us? Use some of your investigative skills to research the
house, street, or town/city where YOU live. Write about an interesting person, place, or event of local history.
I do live where my ancestors lived - or at least moved to between the 1880s-1920s. I have talked before about St. Louis History. Most notably about:
I considered writing about a positive, uplifting moment in our city's history, but then I recalled running across information a year or so ago about a race riot, in the same neighborhood some family lived at the time. Technically, it didn't occur in the same city I live. A river and a state boundary separates the two. Some may accuse me of violating the purpose of this carnival's theme. But the term 'local' is more encompassing than city. Measuring from the office building in which I work, the place the riots occurred is 8 miles closer than the home in which I live.

July 2, 1917, one of the largest race riots in United States history occurred in East St. Louis, Illinois. Estimates on deaths range from 48-150 people killed, making it the bloodiest until the LA riots in 1992 may have surpassed it. Though since less than 60 died in LA, the record may still stand.
The police chief estimated that 100 blacks had been killed. The renowned journalist Ida B. Wells reported in The Chicago Defender that 40-150 black people were killed during July in the rioting in East St. Louis. Six thousand blacks were left homeless after their neighborhood was burned. [Wikipedia]
Here is a contemporary account:

On the first of July, 1917, between 9 o'clock and midnight, two automobiles loaded with white men drove through the negro settlement of East St. Louis shooting toward negro homes. This naturally aroused the colored people so that by midnight great numbers of negroes were marching the streets in the colored settlement portion of East St. Louis armed with shotguns, rifles and revolvers. The police department having been informed of these conditions ordered a sergeant of police, two patrolmen and a chauffeur to proceed at once in an automobile to the south part of East St. Louis, the seat of the trouble. Upon reaching Fifteenth Street and Bond Avenue, this detail of police encountered about one hundred negroes marching in the street in battle array. After some conversation between the police and the negroes, the negro mob fired into the automobile, killing the sergeant of police and one patrolman. 'This occurred about 12.15 a. m. of the second of July, 1917.

From 8 o'clock a. m. to 10 o'clock a. m. on July 2, 1917, the automobile that had been occupied by the policemen and which was riddled with bullets was standing in front of the police station at East St. Louis, around which automobile crowds of people had gathered. Some of the leaders called on these people generally to go to a certain hall to discuss the situation. At this meeting incendiary speeches were made and when the crowd left the hall, it marched down Collinsville Avenue, the principal business street of East St. Louis. Assaults on colored people by this crowd began to be made about 10 o'clock a. m. and continued until 11 p. m. of July 2, developing into the most lawless and disgraceful race riot. About 8 o'clock in the evening of that day the white mob began applying the torch, burning large areas of houses occupied by colored people. In this riot, eleven white men and probably one hundred colored people lost their lives. Many of the bodies were completely burned, some were thrown in the Cahokia Creek, and the exact number of those killed will never be known.

During all of this time, there was not the slightest effort made on the part of the police force of East St. Louis nor the sheriffs force of St. Clair County to stop the riot.

Biennial report and opinions of the Attorney General of the State of Illinois By Illinois. Attorney General's Office, Illinois, Published by State Printers, 1918 (pp 16-18)
The area is better defined in a 1982 account:
Between ten o’clock and eleven o’clock, other colored people were attacked along Collinsville Avenue between Broadway and Illinois Avenue. This area became a bloody half-mile in the following three or four hours. (Race riot at East St. Louis, July 2, 1917, by Elliott M. Rudwick, 1982, p. 44)
There were a handful of bright spots
Many Negroes owed their lives to the alarm sent by True Light Baptist Church which rang its bell to indicate that rampaging whites were coming. Sympathetic whites hid Negroes in their basements while flames illuminated the night sky. Hundreds of refugees were brought to the city hall auditorium.(The East St. louis Action Research Project)

A few whites who attempted to protest against the violence were threatened; some were ‘hissed’ and ‘hushed’ by women carrying hatpins and pen knives as weapons.
(Rudwick, p. 44)

And several others, though sympathetic, were too scared to act.
(Left: Political cartoon. Caption: Mr. President, why not make America safe for Democracy?")

Some of my ancestors moved between East and West a lot; especially the Cruvant branch. As I noted above, then, as today, if you worked in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, living in the Illinois suburbs could actually be more convenient.

My second great grandfather, Moshe Leyb Cruvant, lived at 415 Collinsville Avenue up until his death in 1911. My great grandmother, Bertha Cruvant, likely lived there until she married a month before her father died. I believe his son, David Cruvant, was already living there, or moved into the house at that point. He was definitely living there in 1918, when he registered for the war. The Sanborn maps I looked at date back to 1905 when Collinsville Avenue extended only to the 350s - right on the border of Illinois Avenue. It appears the numbering hasn't changed - on current maps, 415 is just North of Illinois Avenue, just outside the boundaries of the riot defined by Rudwick. Another son, Ben, was also living in East St. Louis, not too far away.

So where were my great grandmother's brothers during the riot? I don't know. Only a generation removed from European pogroms, it's hard to believe they did anything truly regretful. There are no family stories I have heard, and their names aren't mentioned in any of the online sources I searched.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Amanuensis Monday: Bees, Chicken and Corn

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

The below letter was written by my great grandmother, Margaret (Denyer) Van Every to her daughter Minnie in 1917. Minnie was my grandmother Myrtle's oldest sister. Evva was another sister. Marguerite and Shirley were Minnie's two eldest children. Agnes was the daughter of Willa, another sister of my grandmother's; Willa had died in 1916. Jud was my great grandfather Melvin Van Every's brother. Melvin was an apiarist (beekeeper).

Phoenix June 1, 1917

Dear Daughter Minnie

As I have a few minutes time I will write you few lines. We are all well but have not found a location yet altho we have bought 35 colonies of bees. I believe this is a good honey country but there is so many bees here it is hard to find just what you want. Agnes and I are here in town waiting for Daddy to go look at some places we were told we would like. It seems like every body here is so busy they just don’t have time to do anything. How do the crops look by now. I guess everybody plowed up their corn. There is some tasseling here about 3 feet high which will never amount to much. I see some cotton which looks good but the people have very few gardens. it seems tat every body lives in town. When we go out in the country nearly every house we see is closed. This seems to be the ideal chicken country for the small breed of chickens. They say it is too hot here for the large kind. How is every body. Do you see Myrtle much? I wish you could see her real often. I believe she is grieving for me. Tell her I am alright and if anything happens I will let her know first of all.

I write Myrtle oftener than anyone because I am afraid she worries about me.

I sure sleep well. The nights are so cool you have to have blankets on the beds. They say this is unusual here.

I am getting tired of this traveling around no place to lay your head. It was fun at first but now it is more like work. I wish I could step right in your house and see what you are doing .

Tell me all the news. Do I know the man Miss Della married? Tell Marguerite and Shirley I will write to them soon. You see my knee is my table and I don’t enjoy writing much. Tell every body hello for me.

What is Horace doing. Are the bees doing anything yet. I wonder if Evva is with you yet. I sure enjoyed myself while I was with her.

She intended coming your way there real soon. I am looking for a ltetter from you real soon and I hope I will not be disappointed. If I got a letter from you one week and one from Myrtle the next and one from Evva and Bro Jud inbetween I am all right. Agnes is just the same. It takes a clean dress every day to keep her any way clean at all. Every thing she sees she wants me to buy it to send Myrtle. Kiss all the children for me. Write when you can.

Lovingly, your mother

Here's a blown up section containing the one word I can't identify. It looks like lassalin, and from context it has to be something grown on a farm.

If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, please add a link to your post below.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Some Frost for Friday Morning

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

So begins The Road Not Taken (1915) a famous poem by Robert Frost, often interpreted as a poem about individualism. (and often given a different title in people's memories.) The poem continues.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

The narrator takes the route that ‘wanted wear’.

Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

Wait! Is the narrator suggesting that both roads wanted wear equally?

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.

Yes, it appears so. No step had trodden black either road. Neither road had been traveled.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

But, still, only one road could be taken.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

The narrator looks into the future and predicts how the event will be recalled.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

However, is this the truth, or just how the narrator-grandparent will recall the events, so to speak? It appears Frost may be talking, perhaps cynically, about the control we have in describing our own past the way we want to describe it. As long as there is no evidence to the contrary.

An uncle tells a story of asking my great grandmother, Bertha Cruvant, late in her life, if she was pretty when she was young. My great grandmother responded, “Yes, Yes I was. Extremely pretty. And who is there left who will say otherwise?”

A smart woman, but photographs discovered have backed her up (at least in my own mind). She was pretty. But still, she knew her response to my uncle was hers to make, and she chose the response she wanted.

Back to the poem – it can be interpreted in several ways. Even if we agree both roads are untraveled when the narrator reaches the fork – that means Frost’s narrator is taking a road ‘less traveled’ regardless of choice. Suggesting not the viewpoint of a cynic, but that of a trailblazer. Many people when they approach options untried, will turn around and head back. Maybe that’s why both routes had untread leaves. Frost’s narrator made a different choice. There was another option equally new, but the narrator still didn’t do what most people did. The individualistic interpretation of the poem is definitely still valid.

However, to my mind, the final stanza is a prediction, and not an absolute vision into the future. Furthermore - Frost’s narrator, in the here and now of the poem, never declaratively states he (or she) took the (or a) road less traveled; all we have is the evidence elsewhere in the poem to piece together the past, and whether the truth will be told in the future, or not. Which leads to different readers interpreting the truth differently.

I see no connection between this poem and family history research whatsoever, so I have no idea why I am posting this to my blog. Sorry for the poetic intrusion. (smile)

30 minute college lecture on the meaning behind Frost's poem:

LA Times Opinion article which won't take 30 minutes to read.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sept 26, 1926 - Aimee McPherson, Half Dimes, Nelson and Alice

Below is one of a series of letters my great grandfather, Melvin Van Every, wrote to my grandmother, Myrtle. The year was 1926.

Minnie and Evva are two other daughters. A.H. Goldstein is the name of the individual who according to the deeds, sold to Melvin their land in El Paso in 1917.

Garfield, N. Mex.
Sept 26 – 1926

Dear Machen

This is a dreary day, it rained last night and it has drizzled all day. We got ready for Sunday School at 10:00 but it was raining real heard so we did not go.

I was sick in bed two days this week but am feeling fine now. Had the first cool spell the past week. Sept has been unusually hot. I hope we don’t get an early frost as we have 40 acres of late cotton. We have cut 2 bales here at home but have not hauled it to the gin yet. Cotton is cheap selling here for less than 15c. Guess we will be short on money as cotton is all we have.

You ask in one of your letters what I thought about Mrs. McPherson. See I thought for awhile she was kidnapped but now I have changed. I have lost confidence in the old sister.

My oldest brother Nelson died Aug 29th. He lived in Page Neb. My sister Alice is still lingering between life and death.

I have not heard from any of the folks at El Paso since writing you. I will write Minnie today. I guess now she realizes what I was up against when she tells of the hard times she had at home slaving for me and I being so stingy. I worked many a day for 1.50 a day to keep her in school and one time in Goldstein’s office I recall Evva as saying how she had worked and did without decent clothes to wear and Goldstein ask her if I hadn’t worked any and if she knew how much it cost to raise a child. He told her that with the income I had (rented land) he thought I had done unusually well for my family. I wish all that could have been different but I have always been poor and I guess God intended it so. But these children that think they had such a hard time when children let them show the world how to raise children and prosper and get rich. I made failure and I am willing to admit defeat. I am not trying to please everybody that is more than our savior did. All you children had a better start in life than I. I never went to school after I was 10 years old and I helped my father support his family quite a few years after I was married.

I guess my cousin in California can tell you of hard times other children have had. I want you to see him when you get there.

Love and Best Wishes

Yes, I know my Grandfather was named Andrew. I have a half dime he gave me the last time I seen him. Am glad you are coming.

According to my records, Melvin's sister, Alice, lingered until 1930. I don't have the letters my grandmother sent, which Melvin often responded to in his letters. My guess is she learned about her great grandfather from the cousin she met in California, and asked what her father knew of him. Melvin would have been 10 when his grandfather died. Here's a clipping from The History of the County of Brant, Ontario on Andrew Van Every:

Contrary to the history, Andrew David Van Every was according to most records born in Canada. He was my only ancestor who spent his entire life in Canada, as his parents were born in New York, and fled the country as Loyalists, and his son Samuel returned our Van Every line to the US.

I am continually amazed at how easy the internet has made research. In years past when reading the above letter I would have struggled over what a "half dime" was, and the historical reference to Aimee McPherson. Today I found the answers I needed within seconds.

Finally, normally I wouldn't have included Melvin's comments about his daughters, but they were inextricably intertwined with his comments about himself. Still, I think it is probably universal that children aren't completely appreciative of what their parents go through until they are adults themselves.

Amanuensis Monday: April 20, 2009

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.
  • Is there a letter, journal entry, speech, other document, or audio recording, written or delivered by or about an ancestor you wish to transcribe for future generations?
  • Are you engaged in a transcription project of a city directory, or other historical document?
  • Is there poetry or prose by a favorite author you’d like to share.
Why transcribe?

1) Handwriting fades over time. As long as one continues to back up digital documents, they won't fade. (This is an advantage to both scanning and transcribing.)

2) Text can be searched. If you have word documents on your computer that contain transcribed letters, and you put a name into your computer's search function, it will find the name in the letter. This won't happen if the letter is a scanned image. Nor will it work for an audio recording.

These are the two primary reasons that are compelling me in my transcriptions, and why I encourage others to do so as well. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, please add a link to your post below.

(Please consider published works are possibly under copyright if originally published after 1923 in the US. The current minimum in countries adhering to the Berne Convention is fifty years after an author's death, though several nations go beyond this minimum. The copyright status of unpublished works such as letters can vary, though it is the author who retains the copyright, not the recipient.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Week #15 Genealogy Blogging Prompt

Week 15. List some vital signs. Talk about specific birth, marriage and death certificates. Topics may include misspelled names, fudged dates, other anomalies that stand out in your records.

What was my second great grandmother, Rose Newmark's maiden name? I've blogged about this conundrum before, but I thought I would share with you some of the confusing documentation.

Three birth certificates of her youngest children Kate, Cecile (Cissie) and Israel David (Buddy). All three born in England, though the family had originated in the town of Warka, in the province of Warsaw. (If the Declaration of Intents filed upon their arrival in the US are accurate. I might doubt it if they had written down Warsaw, as it is common that immigrants wrote down the large cities nearest to their origin. But they didn't.)

On Kate's birth certificate, her mother's maiden name is listed as Sankad

On Cecile's birth certificate her maiden name is 'Sonka'
On Israel David's birth certificate it is 'Sandgart'
Her husband, Samuel, was the informant for both of the daughters. Rose was the informant for Israel. One might assume she pronounced her name more clearly than her husband, though that is uncertain. Both were illiterate in English, as both signed their names with an X.

On her death certificate her maiden name was listed as 'Sundberg', and the informant was her son, Barney (my great grandfather). Her father's name is listed as Hirsch.

A search of the JewishGen databases (now also available at Ancestry) reveals three individuals named Cantkert (pronounced Tsantkert) in the 1907 Duma Voter Lists in the town of Warka, one of them named Hersz. It is conceivable her father was still alive in 1907. If born 30 years before Rose, he would still have only been 72 in 1907. Unfortunately, all the voter lists indicate is that he was over 25. However, since this family was residing in the same town I know Rose and her husband Samuel came from, and the surname would have been pronounced close to what ended up on her children's birth certificates, it is my best lead.

Listen to TransylvanianDutch

Using Odiogo I have created a computer-voice audio podcast of this blog.

(It's free to setup, and fairly straightforward. The activation email wasn't as instantaneous as some sites, and took a couple minutes to arrive, which resulted in me thinking that something was broken and emailing Support, and then getting the activation email about 5 seconds after I submitted the support request. So, if you decide to set this up on your blog, be more patient than me.)

You can subscribe to the podcast by going here, or following the link in the sidebar on the right.

The computer voice isn't too horrible, though it stumbles over some contractions and abbreviations.

I'm not a podcast subscriber, but the Odiogo help pages say that the text of the entries is embedded in the podcast, and can be read through the 'lyrics' function on an Ipod and some other MP3 players. I suspect images are lost.

The letters I transcribe may be the posts best suited for this computer translation.

St. Louis Post Dispatch Obituaries

The below information is outdated.
Please follow this link for more recent info.
The St. Louis City Public Library website offers two ways to search indexes of obituaries from the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch Obituary Index has annual indexes for 1880-1927, 1942-1945, and 1992-March of 2006. They have stopped updating this page, and it isn't linked to from their main site, so it can only be found via old links to it. (Or new ones like the one I just made.)

There is also the Obituary Search database which currently has data from: 1880-1930, 1942-1945, 1960-1963, and 1992-1997. This doesn't contain the more recent years, however, since the Post Dispatch archives allow you to search back to 1988, that's not a big deal. The older years are more important.

The database now has all the pre-1988 data the old index had, with some additional years. However, there are advantages to the index. The biggest advantage is that it gets indexed by Google, so you don't always need to know about the index in order to find the information. With the index it is also easier to locate misspelled names.

The database has some flexibility.

You can search on fragments of names, so if I enter "New" in the name field, and a year such as 1945, I receive 24 suggestions which include my great uncle Mandell Newmark, but 23 other individuals whose last name begins with "New".

A search on: Mel N (without any year) yields 65 results, including my grandfather Melvin Newmark. However, I can't differentiate between first and last name, and the database limits results to 100, so a search for: 'Ben C' doesn't yield my great grandmother's brother, Ben Cruvant. There are way too many last names beginning with 'Ben' for the database to reach the Cs. A search for "Ben Cr" works though.

What do you do once you find the date of the obituary you want?

Post Dispatch Archives

You can purchase the Post Dispatch archived articles for $2.95, and get the text of the obituary that way, or you can write down the date and look them up in the same fashion as below.

St. Louis Public Library Index or Database

If you do live in St. Louis, you can find the obituary in the microfilm archives at either the St. Louis County or St. Louis City headquarter libraries.

You can also request the County library photocopy and mail it to you. The fee is minimal.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Poetry and Genealogy

Randy at Geneamusings for his weekly Saturday Night Genealogy Fun has a 'call for submissions' of poetry
1) Create a poem - rhyming, free verse, doggerel, limerick, etc. - about genealogy research, whether general or specific.

2) Post it on your blog, on Facebook, in Comments to this post so all of the world can appreciate your creativity.
April is National Poetry Month, so this is definitely an appropriate challenge. Over on my personal blog I've challenged myself to compose 30 poems in 30 days. So far I am doing well in the challenge.

Inspired by Randy, here's some free verse on Genealogy Research

Four Questions

Will I find the answer I seek
on a roll of microfilm
in the back of a cabinet
at the local library
or perhaps written
on the back of a photograph
buried in a box
in the attic?

Can I trust research
conducted by a stranger
posted on the internet
without any sources cited
any more or less
than the uncited research
of a 19th century distant kin
published in a book?

Why do some cousins
respond excitedly to my letters
while others are silent?
Is it me, my cousins, or the letters?

How many roads must a man pursue
before a brick wall comes down?
I’d ask Bob Dylan,
but I know the answer he’ll give me,
and I want something more.


And here's a video I've posted before (back in July of 2007) by one of my favorite modern poets, Billy Collins.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I could'a been a Canadian?!

Canada today announced a change in their Citizenship Requirements
A new law amending the Citizenship Act will come into effect on April 17, 2009. The new law will give Canadian citizenship to certain people who lost it and to others who will be recognized as citizens for the first time.

Citizenship will be automatic and retroactive to the day the person was born or lost citizenship, depending on the situation. These people will not have to apply for citizenship, but may need to apply for a certificate to prove their citizenship. People who are Canadian citizens when the law comes into effect will keep their citizenship.
The link above, to the Canadian Govt website, goes into detail about the changes in the law, for those who are curious as to whether or not they might be a Canadian.

The part that surprised me was the following:
Under the current rules, it’s possible for Canadians to pass on their citizenship to endless generations born outside Canada. To protect the value of Canadian citizenship for the future, the new law will – with a few exceptions – limit citizenship by descent to one generation born outside Canada.
My second great grandfather, Samuel Van Every, was born in Canada. It appears that before today, it's possible I could'a been a Canadian! But wait, it also says: People who are Canadian citizens when the law comes into effect will keep their citizenship. So was I a citizen when the law went into effect, and I just didn't know it?

Not being 100% clear on the past requirements of Citizenship-by-Descent. I did some further research. The government website lists several scenarios

Here's one scenario:

Second or subsequent generation born abroad after 1977

Fictional case: Maria is a fourth-generation Canadian born abroad:

  • Maria was born in Belize in 2001 and has never lived in Canada.
  • Maria’s father was born in Belize in 1978 to a Canadian mother (Maria’s grandmother).
  • Maria’s grandmother was born out of wedlock in Belize in 1955 to a Canadian mother (Maria’s great-grandmother).
  • Maria’s great-grandmother was born in Belize in 1937 to a father who was born in Ontario in 1915 (Maria’s great-great-grandfather). Maria is a citizen today and must take steps and apply to keep her citizenship before she turns 28.

Citizenship status: Under this bill, Maria would remain a citizen and would no longer be required to apply, before her 28th birthday, to retain her Canadian citizenship.

If Maria has children abroad after the bill comes into force, her children would not be citizens.
I wasn't born after 1977, and I am over the age of 28. If one had to apply before the age of 28 in the past, it appears I missed my opportunity. However, my niece and nephews appear to fall under a scenario similar to the one above, and all three of them have some time to think about whether or not they wish to apply.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two Year Anniversary

In April of 2007 a friend sent me a copy of the 1930 census sheet with my great-grandfather Barney Newmark, and told me he had found it online at HeritageQuest. Once I had a taste from the online buffet, I was unable to extricate myself. I am now a gluttonous fool.

On April 16th I started blogging about my research, so today marks the two year anniversary. There are a few earlier entries on this blog, but they are reprints from my personal blog where this blog got its start, and pre-date my research addiction. My family history has long interested me; that's how my friend knew my great grandfather's name. And I have been a blogger since 2002. I had no idea, however, what awaited my discovery.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mandell Newmark (1923-1945)

The theme for the 70th Carnival of Genealogy is Uncle, Uncle!

There are several uncles I could write about, but with the deadline for this carnival being April 15th, that made one uncle most appropriate.

My paternal grandfather’s brother, Mandell Newmark, was born Jan 31, 1923. He was almost certainly named after his great-grandfather Mandell Mojsabovski. He enlisted in the army on Feb 22, 1943, and served as a Sgt. Technician Fifth Grade, in the 163rd infantry. He was killed in action on April 15, 1945. Less than a month prior to VE day. I posted a couple more photographs of him a month ago, and last December.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Jan 31, 1925: Of Marriages and Mexicans

Below is one of a series of letters my great grandfather, Melvin Van Every, wrote to my grandmother, Myrtle. The year was 1925. This is actually one of the earliest letters I have from him written to her after she had moved to St. Louis in 1920. At this point he was writing weekly, and I have no reason not to believe he wrote weekly in the five years previous. I just don't have those letters.

Minnie was Melvin's eldest daughter, and her two eldest daughters were Margie and Shirley. Josie was Melvin's second wife.

Garfield N.M.
Jan 31 – 1925

Dear Machen

Your letter received Wed. Was glad to hear from you. You say you are having some very cold weather. We are also. It freezes every night but the days are warm. The coldest we have had was 6 above zero and it hangs around 20 any night.

We have had quite an excitement among the Mexicans the past week. A Mexican man on my place give me $10.00 to take him and his girl to Hillsborough the next county seat to get married and I found out on the road the girl was only 15 and they swore she was 18 and was married. They stopped with some other Mexicans before they got home and ask me to find out how the old took it and when I got home I found them very mad. They scoured the country far and wide but did not find them. They about give them up they came to me and tried to get me tell where they were. They came home today. There was no one hurt but they may prosecute them for swearing a lie.

Got a letter from Minnie they were well. Roswell and Margie were with them and Shirley was about to get married. The man she intends marrying seems like a good fellow But

I hope you do well and get a man who can make a living. How about his parents? Do you know them? You know children take after their parents and if their parents are worthless they will prove so also. I believe Roswell will prove good soon as his parents good people and have made a success.

We went to Sunday school this morning and took dinner with a neighbor. Josie was afraid of the Mexicans and they were to come home at noon.

... We have our trees pruned and the orchard looks good. I have to spray for scale while the trees are dormant. and then several times later for other Bugs.

We are getting on nicely farming...

Love and Best Wishes Dad

In some of his letters my great-grandfather illustrates some disappointing views on Mexicans, however, his views were likely typical in 1920s Texas. Still, he was willing to help out a young couple getting married. It's not clear whether he discovered the girl was underage before or after the marriage. Considering his religious nature, I suspect it was the latter.

He repeats the advice of judging a potential spouse by their parents several times in his letters.

Amanuensis Monday: April 13, 2009

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.
  • Is there a letter, journal entry, speech, other document, or audio recording, written or delivered by or about an ancestor you wish to transcribe for future generations?
  • Are you engaged in a transcription project of a city directory, or other historical document?
  • Is there poetry or prose by a favorite author you’d like to share.
Why transcribe?

1) Handwriting fades over time. As long as one continues to back up digital documents, they won't fade. (This is an advantage to both scanning and transcribing.)

2) Text can be searched. If you have word documents on your computer that contain transcribed letters, and you put a name into your computer's search function, it will find the name in the letter. This won't happen if the letter is a scanned image. Nor will it work for an audio recording.

These are the two primary reasons that are compelling me in my transcriptions, and why I encourage others to do so as well. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, please add a link to your post below.

(Please consider published works are possibly under copyright if originally published after 1923 in the US. The current minimum in countries adhering to the Berne Convention is fifty years after an author's death, though several nations go beyond this minimum. The copyright status of unpublished works such as letters can vary, though it is the author who retains the copyright, not the recipient.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

In Praise of a Library

National Library Week is April 12-18. Last April I wrote about the genealogy resources at the St. Louis County Library.

Some may know about the National Genealogical Society volumes that were transferred there in 2001 (all of which are now circulating, and available via Inter-Library Loan -- so, while the microfilm resources are extensive for those who do visit, if you want access to the NGS volumes, you don't have to come to St. Louis for that.)

But the advantages of having a St. Louis County library card don't end with the NGS collection, and the large microfilm holdings. It also provides you access to several online databases. (The descriptions below come from the website)

Access NewspaperARCHIVE.com
Large historical newspaper database containing tens of millions of newspaper pages from 1759 to present.

African-American History Online [Facts On File]
Covers the people and events in African American history from the 1400s to the present.

African-American Newspapers: 19th Century Pt's 1, 2, & 3
Primary source material providing insight into the cultural life and history during the first half of the 1800s through articles written by African-Americans for African-Americans. Includes biographies of people often overlooked in standard references.

American National Biography
Provides biographical information on North American men and women of renown. Only profiles persons who are dead.

Ancestry Library Edition (Available only on Library computers)
A standard reference for Genealogists providing access to a large number of databases of interest to genealogists.

The Civil War: A Newspaper Perspective
Contains articles appearing in the Charleston Mercury, The New York Herald, and The Richmond Enquirer between November 1860 - April 1865.

Ethnic NewsWatch [ProQuest]
Full text database of the newspapers, magazines and journals of the ethnic, minority, and native press.

HeritageQuest Online
Provides access to U.S. Census records from 1790 to 1930, full text of local and family history books, PERSI, Revolutionary War Pension & Bounty-Land Warrant applications, and Freedman's Bank records.

Historical New York Times
Full coverage of the New York Times from its inception in September 18, 1851 as the New York Daily Times. Current up to three years behind the current year of publication. This database along with New York Times provides coverage of entire run of the New York Times newspaper up to the present!

History Resource Center: U.S.
Covers people and events of historical significance in American history from Pre-Columbian America forward. Content includes primary source materials.

History Resource Center: World
Collection of primary sources, reference works, and scholarly journals providing geographic and chronological research materials for the study of world history.

MOGroupCatalog [FirstSearch]
A master catalog of books and other materials held by Missouri libraries.

Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers
Primary source 19th century newspaper content from urban and rural region newspapers throughout the U.S.

Oxford English Dictionary Online
Online version of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Oxford Reference Online
Full text access to dictionaries covering broad range of subjects.

Sanborn Maps - Missouri & Illinois
Online access to black and white images of Sanborn Fire insurance maps for Missouri and Illinois. Map coverage varies by location.

Wilson Biography Plus Illustrated
Contains thousands of profiles of historical and contemporary personalities. Includes photographs of the majority of persons profiled in the database.

Except for "Ancestry Library Edition," any St. Louisan with a library card can access all of the above for free from their home computer. St. Louisans without a library card are missing out on a lot of free resources for research.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Clan Ursula

In 1902 Samuel Tillman Hartley testified in front of The Dawes Commission that his mother was half-Choctaw and half-Cherokee. His sister was my great-great grandmother, on my maternal mtDNA line. Assuming Samuel was correct about his mother, and assuming he had the same mother as his sister, an mtDNA test of myself or my mother should have placed us in a Native American haplogroup.

Alas, it didn't. My mother's test came back this week, and we are in Haplogroup U5. (Clan Ursula)
Haplogroup U5 and its subclades U5a and U5b form the highest population concentrations in the far north, in Sami, Finns, and Estonians, but it is spread widely at lower levels throughout Europe. This distribution, and the age of the haplogroup, indicate individuals from this haplogroup were part the initial expansion tracking the retreat of ice sheets from Europe.

Haplogroup U5 is found also in small frequencies and at much lower diversity in the Near East and parts of Africa, suggesting back-migration of people from northern Europe to the south.

Haplogroup U5, with its own multiple lineages nested within, is the oldest European-specific haplogroup, and its origin dates to approximately 50,000 years ago. Most likely arising in the Near East, and spreading into Europe in a very early expansion, the presence of haplogroup U5 in Europe pre-dates the expansion of agriculture in Europe...Interestingly, individuals with haplogroup U5 and U5a may have been come in contact with Neandertals living in Europe at the time. 11% of modern day Europeans share this origin.
Nothing is wrong with being in this haplogroup, but we had hoped to confirm our Native American ancestry. It appears that Samuel and Sarah Hartley's mother wasn't 100% Native American. How much was she is uncertain.

With some research, I might be able to find a Y-DNA descendant of Sarah's brother to test the Hartley line. However, Samuel thought his father, George Hartley, was 1/2 Choctaw. If that meant George's parents included one full-blood Native American, that almost always meant the mother. Still, I think I would be interested in finding out his ancestry. Of course, even if I am able to find a direct male descendant, I don't know if I will be able to convince him to take the DNA test.

According to FamilyTreeDNA - they know of three matches for both HyperVariable Regions 1 & 2. They make it clear this doesn't mean they are necessarily closely related, and the common ancestor could be as much as 50 generations back, since mtDNA changes so slowly. However, they do provide contact information. The three recorded their origin as England, Ireland and Northern Ireland. Of course, there is no assurance that they were correct with the origin.

This leads me back to thinking about the names given to my great grandmother, Margaret Jane McAlpin Monteroy Denyer. The daughter of Sarah Hartley and Ebenezer Denyer, family names weren't uncommon as middle names in the Denyer line. However, the names could equally have come from fellow soldiers Ebenezer fought with during the Civil War - or elsewhere. I wouldn't mind having McAlpin lineage, though.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Happy Pesach (Passover)

The Velveteen Rabbi shares a wonderful Poem for Pesach which speaks to the generational passing down of tradition aspect of the holiday.

Monday, April 6, 2009

25 Most Popular Genealogy Blogs

ProGenealogists has come up with a list of the 25 Most Popular Genealogy Blogs for 2009 (26 actually, since there's a tie for 25)
For this study, hundreds of genealogy blogs were evaluated based on their overall content, Technorati rating, and industry experience. Due to the ever-changing nature of the blogosphere and the authority basis of Technorati rankings, it is anticipated that this list will change frequently.
Technorati's authority ratings are based on how many unique blogs link to your blog over a 6 month period (180 days). TransylvanianDutch, for example, currently has an 'authority rating' of 33, which means in the past 180 days 33 different blogs linked to ours. It's possible each of those 33 linked 1000 times. (Unlikely, but possible.) Technorati doesn't care. Technorati also doesn't measure hits, so it has no idea how popular you are among non-bloggers.

I am honored to be able to say TransylvanianDutch is in the Top 25. #15 to be exact. I was curious how much of the ranking was Technorati, and how much was ProGenealogists' subjective judgment of 'overall content' and 'industry experience'.

So I looked up the Technorati Authority Ranking for 25 of the top 26 blogs. (As ProGenealogist indicates, for some reason, Eastman's Online Newsletter isn't considered a blog. They say they found the data elsewhere, though I don't know where that is.) I should also note that this is as of April 6th. ProGenealogists' ranking was as of April 3rd. It's possible the Authority ratings for some of the sites below could have changed in 3 days.

1. About.com Genealogy (108)
2. Eastman Online Newsletter (?)
3. Genea-Musings (92)
4. Creative Gene (76)
5. Dear Myrtle (71)
6. AnceStories (69)
7. Genealogue (69)
8. footnoteMaven (57)
9. Genetic Genealogist (53)
10. Tracing The Tribe: Jewish Genealogy Blog (43)
11. GenaBlogie (39)
12. Olive Tree Genealogy Blog (37)
13. Steve’s Genealogy Blog (37)
14. 24-7 Family History Circle (30)
15. TransylvanianDutch (33)
16. GenDisasters (31)
17. Genealogy Insider @ FamilyTree (29)
18. Think Genealogy (28)
19. California Genealogical Society and Library Blog (28)
20. The Genealogy Guys (27)
21. CanadaGenealogy, or, 'Jane's Your Aunt' (24)
22. Ancestry Insider (21)
23. GenealogyBlog (22)
24. Ancestor Search Blog (18)
25. Tie Hugh Watkins Genealogue (12)
25. Legacy News (12)

So, basically the list matches Technorati's ranking, except in two cases where a blog with a lower ranking was moved higher on the list. Ancestry.com's 24/7 Family History Circle was placed above GenDisasters and TransylvanianDutch. And AncestryInsider was placed above GenealogyBlog. I won't argue with either decision.

Knowing what the numbers are should give those who are a little competitive an idea of how close they are to those above in the list, and who is breathing down their necks.

Note: As has been pointed out in the comments, while the order of the 25 closely matches Technorati's rankings, ProGenealogists did use some further subjectivity in selecting which blogs to include, as there are several genealogy blogs that are absent from the list with sufficient 'authority' to be included.

St. Louis Jewish Orphan's Home - 1930

Residents of the Jewish Orphan's Home in 1930
6630 Oakland Avenue, St. Louis, MO
(US Census. Ward 24, Enumeration District 152, Sheets 18A and 18B - as retrieved from ancestry.com)

Note: "Alternate Names" don't come from Ancestry, but are my own interpretations where I feel Ancestry indexers may have made an error. With one exception, I have not entered any of these as "Alternate Facts" at Ancestry, as I do not know the individuals, so I can't be certain, even if I am almost certain. In only one case am I positive, and that is the child Seymour Feinstein, as he was my paternal grandmother's first cousin.

Seymour wasn't exactly an orphan (yet). His mother, Dora (nee Servinsky) died in Aug 1920. About 1928, his father, Harry, remarried, and Harry lived until 1933.

I don't know if the children stopped living with their father due to the second wife, or if the reasons were financial. In 1930 the elder children were living with cousins. I'm not sure why Seymour wasn't. It's possible one of the employees of the orphanage was a relative or friend of his parents. There is still one son I haven't found in the 1930 census, and that is Willard, who would have been 19.

I post this as if I had difficulty finding Seymour, I figure maybe others having difficulty with their relatives may hit upon this page in a search and be able to use the Enumeration District and sheet information above. It also reinforces the occasional need to get creative in your searches for relatives.

Name as indexed at Ancestry.comAlternate NamesAgeOccupation
Arthur A Copeland33Superintendent
Bertha SarenerBertha Serence (Serenco - see comments)41Matron/Supervisor
Isadore Cutler7Inmate
Bessie Cutler12Inmate
Nathan Cutler15Inmate
Lydia Eisenberg10Inmate
Mildred Eisenberg9Inmate
Fannie FisseFannie Fiore13Inmate
Selma Minkowitz14Inmate
Barbara Fink15Inmate
Sydney Fink11Inmate
Seymore FeirsteinSeymour Feinstein15Inmate
Joseph FaclickJoseph Frelich16Inmate
Robert L Gold9Inmate
Violet Gruneberg11Inmate
Susie Gruneberg13Inmate
Sara Goldstein9Inmate
Jean Shaffer14Inmate
Isadore HaldstenIsadore Goldstein13Inmate
Manuel Getler3Inmate
Harvey Getler9Inmate
Marvin Huber7Inmate
Harry KrwtanskyHarry Krutansky7Inmate
Hyman KrwtanskyHyman Krutansky12Inmate
Wellie KrwtanskyNollie Krutansky13Inmate
Ralph LiebemanRalph Lieberman16Inmate
Harland Myar14Inmate
Rena Mandel15Inmate
Selma Mandel10Inmate
David Ostrovsky14Inmate
Donnis OstrovskyDennis Ostrovsky11Inmate
Harvey ShaperoHarvey Shapiro6Inmate
Ernest ShaperoErnest Shapiro10Inmate
Beverly ShaperoBeverly Shapiro8Inmate
Charles Schantz7Inmate
Pearl Schantz9Inmate
Wilbert Schantz16Inmate
Bessie Tutinsky15Inmate
Wathar Tutinsky17Inmate
Joe Tutinsky10Inmate
Shirley WeinpsonShirley Weinkraus6Inmate
Mandel G WeissMandell Weiss7Inmate
Harvey Weiss7Inmate
Dera ZinnermanDora Zimmerman17Inmate
Albert Zebelman9Inmate
Max Zebelman7Inmate
Boris Zebelman5Inmate
Charlie ZubrackCharlie Zebrack15Inmate
Martin SerenceMartin Serenco (see comments)21Salesman
Lester H SerenceLester H Serenco (see comments)16
Mirian GeistMiriam Geist41Matron/Cottage Mother
Ralph Geist10
Maurice Geist5
Blanche HolenesBlanche Holmes37Matron/Cottage Mother
Leora MahaoreLeora Mohaine24Cook
Eliz A GoseyEliza Gosey48Cook
Ethel MynesEthel Myers44Cook
Florence Cohen31Matron/Cottage Mother
Phyllis Cohen5
Belle RewaBelle Rewo28Cottage Mother
Mary C RewaMary C Rewo5
Lucien Berton21Janitor
Viola ManringViola Manning41Laundress
Julie M BallewJulia M Bailor38Maid
Frank BarineFrank Berine12Lodger
Carl BarineCarl Berine13Lodger

Amanuensis Monday: April 6, 2009

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.
  • Is there a letter, journal entry, speech, other document, or audio recording, written or delivered by or about an ancestor you wish to transcribe for future generations?
  • Are you engaged in a transcription project of a city directory, or other historical document?
  • Is there poetry or prose by a favorite author you’d like to share.
Why transcribe?

1) Handwriting fades over time. As long as one continues to back up digital documents, they won't fade. (This is an advantage to both scanning and transcribing.)

2) Text can be searched. If you have word documents on your computer that contain transcribed letters, and you put a name into your computer's search function, it will find the name in the letter. This won't happen if the letter is a scanned image. Nor will it work for an audio recording.

These are the two primary reasons that are compelling me in my transcriptions, and why I encourage others to do so as well. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, please add a link to your post below.

(Please consider published works are possibly under copyright if originally published after 1923 in the US. The current minimum in countries adhering to the Berne Convention is fifty years after an author's death, though several nations go beyond this minimum. The copyright status of unpublished works such as letters can vary, though it is the author who retains the copyright, not the recipient.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wherein I make comments to some posts on another blog

Paul Duxbury of Genealogy and Family History has had a few posts this week that are stirring up some discussion. He moderates the comments to his blogs (which many do-often to prevent spam) and doesn't appear to approve all of them (which is certainly his prerogative). But I would like to make some comments on three of his posts.

In Genealogy Blogs on Blogspot he writes:
Although I have used Blogspot for some activity I have always preferred to have control over my own content. I wonder how many of those who host their blogs at Blogspot have actually read the Terms and Conditions? In particular I wonder how many of these fervent bloggers have read this part of the Terms and Conditions:

“By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Google services which are intended to be available to the members of the public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free licence to reproduce, publish and distribute such Content on Google services for the purpose of displaying and distributing Google services.” (emphasis his)
This reminds me of the discussion over Facebook. But Google does something Facebook didn't do. Google delineates what purposes Google is allowed to use the license for. For the purpose of displaying and distributing Google services.

Here is the full paragraph from the Terms of Service from which he quoted (*):
Your Intellectual Property Rights. Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Google services and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Google services which are intended to be available to the members of the public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, publish and distribute such Content on Google services for the purpose of displaying and distributing Google services. Google furthermore reserves the right to refuse to accept, post, display or transmit any Content in its sole discretion.
[*I do note that the terms he quoted differ from the terms I see by a couple characters. It appears that Google displays different terms depending upon whether you are in the UK or the US. The terms are the same, but the spelling of the words are different. In this case, the word: licen(c/s)e.]

When anyone views your blog post, that post has been reproduced or published on their screen. Google legally needs the worldwide, royalty-free license. But they limit it to the purposes they need, and they do emphasize it is non-exclusive. You are not losing your copyright or your control over your content.

In Do I Write All My Own Genealogy Blog Posts
Sadly there are some individuals around who don’t actually understand some of the basics of online activity. They hide behind the anonymity of a Blogspot Blog where they don’t even use their own names.
I assume he wasn't referencing Chris who writes The Genealogue, since his name is rather easy to see on his blog, and he links in his profile to other blogs/websites he operates. He may have been referencing me. My name actually had disappeared from my contact information on the right, though since I have used it in submitting numerous Carnival posts, and since I have talked rather extensively about my family history, I am hardly anonymous, though he had no way of knowing that at first glance at my blog. I have returned my name to its proper location above my email address.

I do apologize for implying he had plagiarized the eHow article. I have made the necessary corrections to my previous post. The concept of buying articles with the right to claim authorship troubles me, but I am one who places a lot of value in the words I write.

In the post that started it all: 5 Bad Genealogy Sources he attacks wikis, blogs, and personal websites for their lack of reliability. The same response can be made to all three accusations:

When you are looking at any website anywhere on the internet, if there isn't a source cited, you have to ask yourself the same questions:

1) Who/Where does this information come from?
2) Is the source trustworthy?

Wikipedia, while often containing inaccurate, unsourced information, also contains sourced information. Those who use the internet for research need to train themselves to notice when the information on any website, including Wikipedia, doesn't contain a citation. And when it does cite a source, to evaluate the reliability of that source. Suggesting that all Wikipedia articles are unreliable, and should be ignored, however, is suggesting that people ignore a valuable resource.

Since I have had this discussion with some friends recently, I will add, the Internet Movie Database is another website where you need to be a little careful. While it isn't immediately obvious, anyone can submit information. You don't have to be an actor, director, producer or agent to do so. I have done so myself, and I am no one. The information I submitted was accurate, as I knew the individual actor well, but if I can submit information so can Joe Schmoe down the street. In general, the site is likely accurate, especially with the more commercial movies. But if the entry you are looking at is on a more obscure film or actor, don't be so sure.

Glass House Genealogy Blogging

After reading 5 Bad Genealogy Sources, and reading the author's defense of himself here, and reading Chris Dunham's take here, I wondered why Chris hadn't listed the Genealogy and Family History blog in his Blog Finder? Surely a blog that incites such debate should have a place in his directory.

After a little investigating, I discovered a possible answer: Maybe he had blacklisted the blog because of suspected duplicate content. Take this post, "Genealogy Software: Tips on Finding the Right One," posted November 30, 2008. The advice is pretty generic, which may have made him suspect that it came from an article mill. Googling the first sentence brings up 170 results. Here it is posted on a different blog a year earlier.

This must be a fluke, right? Well, how about this post, "Ancestry.com: The Best Website to Learn About Your Genealogy," published October 30, 2008. 307 Google results. This post appears to have come from here, and this post from here. But given the lack of proper attribution, it's impossible to tell who wrote what when.

The proprietor of Genealogy and Family History seems to have cleaned up his act a bit in the past month or so. But maybe not. He wrote this just four days ago:

I recalled that I had written an article last year about Genealogists using Twitter as a means of connecting with others who were researching their Family History. So as it’s obviously a topic of interest to folks I searched the blog and here’s a link to the article which originally appeared back in October 2008:

Genealogists and Twitter
The linked article is remarkably similar to a tutorial at eHow.com, submitted by a user named Moomettesgram a month earlier.

Taking articles from article mills is one thing. It gives bloggers who have difficulty coming up with their own ideas a chance to give their blog a little verisimilitude, without really violating some ethical codes, as the articles are there to be taken. You're lying to your readers when you claim you wrote them, but the creators of the property don't care.

But if you read the Terms of Use at eHow, authors of eHow articles retain all copyrights. So taking an eHow article, and changing a few words here and there, isn't just creative sloppiness. Maybe it's an example of cryptomnesia?

As the author referenced comments on this thread, both he and the author of the eHow article may have retrieved the article from the same source - an article mill offering 'private label rights'. So he would only be guilty of 'creative sloppiness', which as I never argued otherwise, is legal. His new post explaining how he doesn't write all his articles is here. "Private Label Rights" do grant you the right to use 'ghostwritten' material, but it is still more honest to your readership to make it clear that you do, which at least he now does.

The Small Print: Proper attribution: Genealogists in Glass Houses.

Friday, April 3, 2009

My Area of Expertise

Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt #13: Have expertise in a specific area of study? Share your knowledge!

The idea is to let readers know where we consider ourselves knowledgeable, so they can better judge the veracity of our statements. As Michel de Montaigne once said:
"I would have every one write what he knows, and as much as he knows, but no more; and that not in this only but in all other subjects; for such a person may have some particular knowledge and experience of the nature of such a river, or such a fountain, who, as to other things, knows no more than what everybody does, and yet to give a currency to his little pittance of learning, will undertake to write the whole body of physics: a vice from which great inconveniences derive their original." - Michel de Montaigne 1533-1592 (Translated by Charles Cotton)
I am not a professional genealogist. However, I am a professional wordsmith. My daily salary comes from writing. In particular I am a grant writer. I also write the occasional piece of poetry or short fiction, but very little of this has been published.

Recently Chris Dunham of The Genealogue put together a list of "10 Genealogy Blogs Worth Reading" for blogs.com. His focus was on blogs from an amateur's perspective, and he included TransylvanianDutch. I was certainly honored to be included in the list. He mentioned the reason he included me was I added the word, "amanuensis" to his vocabulary.

And that is an excellent reason to recommend my blog. I use words like amanuensis, veracity, and verisimilitude.

Verisimilitude: The quality of appearing to be true or real.

(A useful term for genealogists since we know that some things can really never be 'proven' true. We can only increase the verisimilitude.)

July of last year I posted a link to this readability test where you can put your blog through a series of tests to measure its readability.

Today I redid the test, measuring all my posts from Jan 1, 2008 through the post prior to this one. (July's post explains how I did that, and how you can do that, if you use Blogger.)

Here are my updated readability statistics:

Total sentences: 16165
Total words: 123269
Average words per Sentence: 7.63
Words with 1 Syllable: 78725
Words with 2 Syllables: 23090
Words with 3 Syllables: 15634
Words with 4 or more Syllables: 5820
Percentage of word with three or more syllables: 17.40%
Average Syllables per Word: 1.58
Gunning Fog Index: 10.01
Flesch Reading Ease: 65.21
Flesch-Kincaid Grade: 6.06

My readability - with respect to the Gunning Fog Index, is identical. The Flesch-Kincaid grade level actually dropped a few percentage points, though it is still 6th grade. Average syllables per word has increased fractionally, and the percentage of words with three or more syllables has increased from 15.4 to 17.4 percent. It is still roughly equivalent to the readability of TIME or Newsweek. (The repeated usage of the five-syllable amanuensis is going to have an effect, but you may have noticed that this paragraph alone has thirteen words with three or more syllables.)

So, whether or not reading TransylvanianDutch will have any effect on your genealogical research skills is questionable. However, it may increase your vocabulary, without being too painful. You may also occasionally see quotes from 16th century French essayists, or 19th century French poets. When I quote someone else, I almost always cite my sources. Though I don't always document all my family history research, I do provide contact information for any relatives who might be interested in where my information was obtained.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

1890 Census Found in Attic

April 1, 2009

St. Louis, Missouri (TransDutch News Service) -- The world was stunned yesterday when Charles Claremont of St. Louis, Missouri declared he had found a copy of the 1890 census in his parents’ attic. For years everyone thought the only copy had been destroyed by a combination of fire, water damage, and the government.

“I was cleaning out my parents’ attic when I found all these boxes. When I looked inside I saw all these census forms. I didn’t know at first what they were, but I asked my son, who is fascinated with internet genealogy, and he told me what I had discovered.”

Experts are a little hesitant to declare it an actual copy. As Suzy Sugarbaker, APG explains, “there is no known connection between Mr. Claremont’s ancestors and the Census department, so it is unclear why these boxes would be in his parents’ attic. There is some unusual information on the forms as well. Many names get repeated. There are names of several celebrities who weren’t alive in 1890, such as Shirley Temple, Archibald Alec Leach (better known as Cary Grant), and Britney Spears. However, if this is a forgery, it is a cleverly done forgery, as initial analysis shows that statistically it is a perfect match to the statistics that were generated from the original census."

The statistics are available online, but there are 25 volumes, and the amount of work that one would have had to go through to create this by hand is surely insane. Though some have suggested a well-designed computer program could have simplified the task a bit.

An unidentified source from the US Census Department is elated with the discovery. “The purpose of the census is to derive statistical information. For decades we have had the 25 volumes of statistics without the census forms to back them up. Despite how the census is today used by genealogists and family historians, it isn’t for them that the census was or is done. We are required by the Constitution to do a head count, the names on the forms are irrelevant. Now we have the data that proves the statistics.”

Update!!: I have received word from a source at Ancestry.com that they are aware of Mr. Claremont's 1890 census schedules and they "will be posting them very soon. In only two or three years from now. Or four, or five. Not long."