Monday, February 28, 2011

Place Name Standardization

Randy Seaver at Geneamusings has 'standardized' all of the place names in his genealogy database.  This means that his colonial ancestors are recorded as having been born in the United States, even though that is chronologically impossible.  He says this is for allowing geocoding, and suggests future software may even require it.

Tamura Jones at Modern Software Experience wrote back in 2009 -  
"It is possible for someone to always live and work in the same town, yet be born in Saint Petersburg, marry in Petrograd (1914-1924), have children born in Leningrad (1924-1991), and die in Saint Petersburg. If that is how it happened, that is how it should be documented. Events should be documented using the names that were current at the time of the event."
I side with Tamura.  If a software program requires me to lie about my ancestors in order to use it, I will not use the software program.  That's the only term I can imagine using, for if I know the information isn't true, and I speak the information or write the information down as truth, it is a lie.

If the hypothetical genealogy software adds fields for "current name of geographical location" I wouldn't mind filling in that field, but it is by its nature a field that would constantly have to be updated.  Place names are still in flux.  As databases grow, the need to constantly check to see if place names are 'current' would be cumbersome.

I guess that could be computerized, but I can also envision software making a decision that the user doesn't like.  A current example - is someone born in Jerusalem born in Israel or Palestine? Regardless of your personal preference, would you allow a software program to make that decision for you?

I remember once writing a post referencing my Transylvanian-born grandfather, and mentioned that I preferred saying 'Transylvanian' to either 'Hungarian' or 'Romanian'.  I received a fiery comment insisting that All Transylvanians are Romanians, and Hungary has nothing whatsoever to do with Transylvania.  Nationalistic pride in the commenter clearly colored his historical vision, but the area of Transylvania in which my grandfather was born was in Hungary at the time of his birth.  For me to write down that his birthplace was Almasu, Romania would be wrong.  He considered himself of Hungarian birth, and was proud that his father had served in the army of Franz Josef.  He was born in Varalmas, Hungary.

Addendum

It also occurred to me that if you are creating any reports or charts from the database for relatives, one might be able to include the notes field in a report, but there isn't always space in charts, so if the historically inaccurate place name is in the database, that is the place name that will appear in the chart, and you're left with a product that might confuse your kin.

It also troubles me greatly that any software produced by major genealogy websites (such as FamilySearch, which Randy mentioned) would encourage genealogists to 'standardize' in this fashion.

Amanuensis Monday: Come Home and Stay

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

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

This week I transcribe a letter my maternal great grandfather, Melvin Van Every, wrote to his daughter (my grandmother) Myrtle, in October of 1925.

Amanuensis Monday - February 28

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

If you have an Amanuensis Monday post on your blog, please feel free to add a link below.  An explanation of this weekly blog theme follows.



  • 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 an historical document?
This is what Amanuensis Monday was created for. Amanuensis is an obscure word, but it derives from the Latin, ‘Manu’ meaning ‘hand’. I began this project back in February of 2009, and since then, many others have joined in on the meme.  Why do we transcribe?  I provide my three reasons in the linked post.  You may find others.

Monday, February 21, 2011

There is No Federal Holiday called President's Day (repost)

first published in 2010
George Washington's Birthday is celebrated as a federal holiday on the third Monday in February. It is one of eleven permanent holidays established by Congress. 

Federal holidays apply only to the federal government and the District of Columbia; Congress has never declared a national holiday binding in all states and each state decides its own legal holidays.
[...]
Contrary to popular belief, neither Congress nor the President has ever stipulated that the name of the holiday observed as Washington's Birthday be changed to "President's Day."
 Source: National Archives

Of course...state governments, schools, or the company you work for, can call a holiday whatever they want to call it. They can also declare the holiday celebrates whatever they want it to celebrate.  But the Federal Holiday that is today is only for George.

Ironically...Washington was born on February 11, 1731 (while the Julian calendar was still in use.)  This became February 22nd, 1732 when we switched to the Gregorian Calendar.  The earliest the Third Monday of February can fall is February 15th.  The latest it can fall is February 21.  It is impossible for the Federal Holiday "Washington's Birthday" to be celebrated on Washington's real birthday, according to either the Julian or Gregorian calendar.

Amanuensis Monday: Myrtle Van Every at age 19

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

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them. 

One never knows where one will find important clues to one's family history. This week I transcribe a list of events from the 34th District Court in El Paso, Texas - the list appeared almost 91 years ago, in the El Paso Herald on February 27, 1920.  I found this at the ChroniclingAmerica website on Thursday night.

Amanuensis Monday - February 21

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

If you have an Amanuensis Monday post on your blog, please feel free to add a link below.  An explanation of this weekly blog theme follows.



  • 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 an historical document?
This is what Amanuensis Monday was created for. Amanuensis is an obscure word, but it derives from the Latin, ‘Manu’ meaning ‘hand’. I began this project back in February of 2009, and since then, many others have joined in on the meme.  Why do we transcribe?  I provide my three reasons in the linked post.  You may find others.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Onion Radio News: Sixth Grader's Family Tree Fails to Hold Up to Scrutiny

1942 Tax Returns

Many of us already have, or are working on completing their tax returns.  I recently discovered my maternal grandparents' 1942 Tax Returns. (They filed separately, likely because my grandfather was overseas.) I found them interesting.  Here are two clippings. 

1) It's nice to have further confirmation that my grandmother worked for the Post Office during the war.  Her "Official Personnel Folder" (OPF), ends in 1937, when she resigned after marrying my grandfather.  I checked to see if a second OPF had been created under her married name, but none was found.  My mother knew that she had worked during the war.  I also have a copy of the resignation letter she submitted to the Inspector-in-Charge in 1944. 

2) It's possible to compare relative dollar amounts at MeasuringWorth.com.  My grandmother's earnings in 2009 would have been worth $19,600 on the Consumer Price Index.  The "Value of the Consumer Bundle" would be $37,200.  These are the two indexes the site recommends for comparing wages.   I know she started working in May (see letter excerpt below), so this is only for 8 months of work at most.

My grandfather's earnings would be $50,500 on the CPI and $96,600 on the consumer bundle.

3) I wondered what I would find if I compared my Grandfather's earnings to current military wages.  There turns out to be too many unknown variables.

I looked up current salary ranges for active military.  My grandfather spent (approximately) five months of 1942 as a Captain, and six as a Major.  Today, depending upon years in service, he would make between $38,089 (less than 2 years) to $57,267 (10 yrs).  However, while my grandfather would have been on the low end for active service, I know from a letter he wrote that he got a 10% increase due to time he had spent in the reserves.

Furthermore, part of my grandfather's earnings in 1942 was for one month as a Postal Inspector in the St. Louis Post Office.  I have no idea what he earned for that one month.  My grandmother's OPF contains a nice spreadsheet outlining her salary for every year at the Post Office.  Unfortunately, my grandfather's doesn't have a comparable page.

An excerpt from a letter my grandmother wrote to him helps a little, but not enough
I figured my income tax yesterday and find I’ll have to pay $167.04 federal income tax. I earned only $1489.13 last year as I didn’t start to work until May. The only exemptions I claimed were $500 (for a “single” person) and my contributions and sales tax. I’m leaving all the other exemptions to you because of your larger income. Your income as a POI and army officer (base pay only) amounts to approximately $3430 and possibly $100 additional as interest on investments, so you see it won’t be so bad. I understand that as head of the house you can claim $700 exemption plus $700 for our daughters.  (V-mail sent from Myrtle V Deutsch to Martin J Deutsch - Feb 14, 1943)
$3430 is equivalent to $45,100 on the 2009 Consumer Price Index.  However,  I don't know if that includes the 10% bonus my grandfather received.  (I suspect it doesn't.)  And I know it still includes the unknown salary from the Post Office.

4) However, there is one thing I can compare without any missing variables.  The child deduction.  In 1942 it was $350 per child.  In 2009 dollars, that would be $4,610 on the Consumer Price Index.  Slightly higher than the current $3,650.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

To A Lady
by Victor Hugo,
From Les Feuilles D'Automne

Child, were I king, I'd yield my royal rule,
     My chariot, sceptre, vassal-service due,
My crown, my porphyry-basined waters cool,
My fleets, whereto the sea is but a pool,
     For a glance from you!

Love, were I God, the earth and its heaving airs,
     Angels, the demons abject under me,
Vast chaos with its teeming womby lairs,
Time, space, all would I give--aye, upper spheres,
     For a kiss from thee!

translation by Thomas Hardy
photogravure by Goupil et Cie, from a drawing by Deveria, appears in a collection of Hugo's poetry published by Estes and Lauriat in the late 1800s.


Why is today Valentine's Day?

There is a theory that the only reason today is associated with Cupid is due to a poem Geoffrey Chaucer wrote.
In 1381, Chaucer was busy composing a poem in honor of the arranged marriage between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. This was a very big deal indeed, and Chaucer was looking for just the right saint to honor on May 3, the day Richard II signed the papers of engagement to his Bohemia beauty.


His search ended, Kelly surmises, when Chaucer learned that a Saint Valentine of Genoa had an honorary feast day on May 3. Perfect! So he wrote the poem "The Parliament of Fowls" in the couple's honor.


"The Parliament of Fowls" literally means "the meeting of birds," says Kelly. "Chaucer dreamed up the idea that all birds chose their mates on May 3rd," he says.


After Chaucer's death in 1400, Valentine's Day celebrations got pushed back to February.
Why exactly is unclear, however, if you forgot about today, and someone is upset, perhaps you can use this information to give yourself a few extra months.

Amanuensis Monday: A Synagogue is Built in St. Louis - 1880

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

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them. 

This week may be the first week where the item I transcribe mentions no one related to me. However, it is a bit of history important to my family as it concerns a synagogue to which some member of my family has belonged for close to if not more than 100 years.

Amanuensis Monday - February 14

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

If you have an Amanuensis Monday post on your blog, please feel free to add a link below.  An explanation of this weekly blog theme follows.



  • 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 an historical document?
This is what Amanuensis Monday was created for. Amanuensis is an obscure word, but it derives from the Latin, ‘Manu’ meaning ‘hand’. I began this project back in February of 2009, and since then, many others have joined in on the meme.  Why do we transcribe?  I provide my three reasons in the linked post.  You may find others.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Two complete years of Amanuensis Monday

Back on February 16, 2009 I began a weekly meme I called Amanuensis Monday.  This past Monday I completed two years of transcriptions -- a total of 105 posts.  (The first two weeks I posted an extra three transcriptions, for a total of five.  I have also 'taken off' both Labor Days.  This explains why there are 105 transcriptions, and not 104.)

Awhile ago I created a chronological index of transcriptions, which I have kept up-to-date.  Originally I had one chronological  list of all my posts, but at some point last year I created two lists - depending upon whether the document referenced a maternal or paternal ancestor.  And I realized there was a significant imbalance.  As of this Monday, that imbalance has been corrected.  52 posts relating to paternal ancestors; 52 posts relating to maternal ancestors.  And one transcription relating to my self.

I find the differences between my research on my maternal and paternal ancestors interesting.  My maternal grandparents saved a multitude of letters.  However, finding mention of kin in newspaper archives has been difficult.  On the other hand, while less letters seem to have been saved by paternal branches, I have found a multitude of references in newspapers.  Part of the difference may be due to the fact I live where my paternal ancestors lived at least for a few generations.  I have a greater access to St. Louis newspaper archives than I do to Texas or New England newspapers.

What does the future hold for this space? As I mentioned in early January when I reached 100 transcriptions
I believe in 2011 I may begin including some transcriptions that don't directly mention kin, but are of interest historically, either in the Greater St. Louis area, or in other ancestral locations.  I also have a couple more audio tapes I still wish to transcribe - one of which excerpts from may appear here.
I also still have a lot of letters that haven't been transcribed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

One World Tree

I've had some fun before posting strange relationships from Ancestry's OneWorldTree

Lucille Ball being the grandmother of her husband, Desi

Catherine the Great being the 19th great grandmother of Henry David Thoreau (even though less than 100 years separate their births.)

But doing some 'fun' research for a friend I came across something new.  This is the supposed relationship of my friend's ancestor Aaron Baldwin, with Henry David Thoreau.  (One line of the genealogy chart ran off the page -- Aaron and Henry would have been next.)

If you click through the empty boxes, you get a message something like, "this person doesn't exist in One World Tree."

Apparently, OneWorldTree allows you to say Person A is the grandparent of Person B, and indicate that a non-existent person fits inbetween.  And as you can see on the right, they also allow "great-grandparent."  I wonder what maximum number of 'missing steps' are permitted.

(Note: Aaron Baldwin's middle initial is most definitely M, but the parents of Aaron P on OneWorldTree match my research.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Labors of Jurden

A year ago I learned my 8th Great Grandfather, Myndert Frederickse (son of Frederick Van Iveren), owned a slave named Hercules.

My research at the time uncovered the possibility of another, more recent, slave owner in the Van Every family tree, however the status of the individual (slave/servant) was uncertain, so I decided to wait and see if I could uncover any additional information.   Unfortunately, I have been unable to clarify the confusion, but I figured the month of February, and African American History Month had returned, and I would post what I know.

McGregory Van Every, my 5th great grandfather, and the great grandson of Myndert Frederickse, was a United Empire Loyalist, and fled the US after the Revolution, settling in Niagara with his sons.
In 1784, a map was published showing his farm to be in Township I [Niagara Township, Lincoln County] Lots 10 and 37 on the [Niagara] River where he had cleared eight acres and harvested corn with the help of his slave or negro servant, Jurden."(54) McGregory Van Every was age 61 in 1784.
(54.) Niagara Historical Society. Volume 27; and Ottawa Archives State Papers, No. 25.
Source: Warner Cemetery, An Important Piece of Canada's Heritage Worth Preserving, The Loyalist Gazette, Robert Collins McBride, Spring 2000.

Jurden is also mentioned in Mary Blackadar Piersol's, The Records of the Van Every Family, with the same ambiguous definition, and without any additional information.  The original sources don't appear to be online, but obviously they are a bit unclear on Jurden's status.

Our history books tell us that the Canadian territory was a safe-haven for slaves- but while slaves who managed to cross the border may have been guaranteed their freedom upon arrival, apparently slavery wasn't abolished there completely until 1834.
Black slaves lived in the British regions of Canada in the 17th and 18th centuries — 104 were listed in a 1767 census of Nova Scotia, but their numbers were small until the United Empire Loyalist influx after 1783. As white Loyalists fled the new American Republic, they took with them about 2000 black slaves: 1200 to the Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island), 300 to Lower Canada (Quebec), and 500 to Upper Canada (Ontario). The Imperial Act of 1790 assured prospective immigrants that their slaves would remain their property. As under French rule, Loyalist slaves were held in small numbers and were employed as domestic servants, farm hands, and skilled artisans. [source.]

Monday, February 7, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: The Obituary for Maurice Newmark

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

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

This week I am sharing the obituary of Moses 'Maurice' Newmark (1906-1949). He was a first cousin of my paternal grandfather.  I found his obituary mentioned in the St. Louis Globe Democrat Morgue, which is being indexed by the University of Missouri. [The Globe ceased publication in 1986 and donated its extensive clippings file to the University. The collection is nowhere near completely indexed, but covers the 1920s to the 1980s.]

Amanuensis Monday - February 7

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

If you have an Amanuensis Monday post on your blog, please feel free to add a link below.  An explanation of this weekly blog theme follows.



  • 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 an historical document?
This is what Amanuensis Monday was created for. Amanuensis is an obscure word, but it derives from the Latin, ‘Manu’ meaning ‘hand’. I began this project back in February of 2009, and since then, many others have joined in on the meme.  Why do we transcribe?  I provide my three reasons in the linked post.  You may find others.

Friday, February 4, 2011

PSA: Genealogy Can Save Your Life - 2011

Today is World Cancer Day, so I thought it would be a good day to post this annual PSA. This is now the fourth year I've posted this PSA. But it can't be repeated too often. Genealogy can save your life. It would have saved mine if I hadn't already known what I needed to know.

The American Cancer Society recommends the 'average' person to start getting checked for colon cancer at age 50. However, for those with a history of the disease in the immediate family, they recommend to start the tests ten years prior to the earliest it has been diagnosed. My maternal grandmother died at age 51. So I was prepared to start getting tested at age 40. Then a close kin, slightly older, had their test, and a polyp was discovered and removed. So, at age 39, I decided there wasn't any good reason to wait on ceremony, and my doctor agreed. I had my first colonoscopy, and I had two polyps removed. If I had waited until I was 50, there's a chance I wouldn't have made it. Since I knew to check early, the polyp was caught before it could become dangerous, and hopefully any future polyps will also be caught beforehand via regular colonoscopies.

[Note: As I understand it, the causal connection between polyps and cancer actually isn't conclusive. Scientists haven't proven that pre-malignant polyps always become malignant, or that polyps always lead to cancer. Nor that everyone who gets cancer had pre-malignant polyps at one time that could have been detected. But they know enough to remove the polyps when they see them.]

Other diseases have genetic predispositions. So it is important to know the medical histories of your parents, grandparents, and where possible, your great grandparents. The primary method of doing this, for those who are deceased, is to find their death certificates. It is rare to find any prior to 1900, but for those who lived into the 20th century, especially those who lived past 1920, finding death certificates, while not always easy, isn't usually difficult - if you know when and where they died.

1) Local Courthouses

Most counties in America house archives of their Vital Records (birth, marriage, death.) A few have strict restrictions on who can request copies, limiting them to 'immediate family' which may not include grandchildren.

2) State Archives

State archives often have copies of the county records, with fewer restrictions on access.

3) Online Databases

Some counties and states have begun putting their records online. Ancestry, FamilySearch, and Footnote also have some databases available to search.

4) Funeral Homes

Funeral homes often retain their own copy of the death certificate, and their copy may differ slightly from that held by the County or State. It may contain details about where in a cemetery plot the individual was buried, or details about the funeral itself. If you don't know the funeral home, search in archives of local newspapers and try to find an obituary, as obituary notices often include this information. The funeral home copy may also be at times the only copy you have access to if the county and state are too restrictive.

Once you have found the death certificate, if you don't recognize instantly the words written under 'cause of death' conduct an internet search on them at Google or Yahoo. My family history made identifying "Carc. of Col." as "Carcinoma of Colon" fairly easy, though I suspect some might have stumbled over the abbreviation. Several ancestors were diagnosed with "Interstitial Nephritis." I'd never heard of this before, but it is a kidney ailment often caused by a reaction to pain medication. Unfortunately, the death certificates didn't indicate the cause of the original pain.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Let it gleam, or let it glimmer... (repost)

This was first posted on Feb 2, 2010

One day, in the course of that winter, the sun had come out for a while in the afternoon, but it was the second of February, that ancient Candlmas-day whose treacherous sun, the precursor of six weeks of cold, inspired Matthew Laensberg with the two lines, which have deservedly become classic:

Let it gleam or let it glimmer 
The bear returns into his cave.
(Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, 1862, p. 730)
Bears and groundhogs are both hibernating animals.  I suspect it's a little safer to use groundhogs as official prognosticators.
THE LIEGE ALMANAC

The celebrated almanac of "Francis Moore, physician," to whose predictions thousands are accustomed to look with implicit confidence and veneration, is rivalled, on the continent, by the almanac of Liege, by "Matthew Laensberg," who there enjoys an equal degree of celebrity.

Whether the name of Laensberg is a real or an assumed паme is a matter of great doubt...The earliest of these almanacs known to exist is of the year 1636. It bears the name of Matthew Lansbert, mathematician, and not Laensberg, as it is now written.

-- The Table Book, W. Tegg, 1827, p. 138



Some feel it is cruel, and potentially dangerous, to wake up groundhogs.
While waking groundhogs from their hibernation has become a major tradition on Feb. 2, such efforts can actually put the animals' lives at risk...If a groundhog is awakened from hibernation too early, it might not have the energy to find food and survive in cold winter temperatures.
The St. Louis Zoo doesn't participate, but it's not due to groundhog health issues.
"The fact that we're not having a Groundhog Day celebration is not really a stand we're taking so much as it is that we have a really cranky groundhog who doesn't like to be woken up," St. Louis Zoo public relations director Janet Powell told the Tribune. [same link as above]
 More on the Candlemas origins of the holiday.

Wordless Wednesday - Tel Aviv hotels, and postage stamps - 1944

The below souvenirs are from my maternal grandfather's WWII collection. Allenby Road is almost certainly named after Edmund Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby.  While the hotels are in Tel Aviv, the Migdal David is named after the Tower of David in Jerusalem.

"Business cards" for three hotels on Allenby Road in Tel Aviv - 1944
Reverse side of business cards, and three cancelled postages stamps
Closeup of postage stamps. 50 mils.