Sunday, June 20, 2010

To my father and forefathers

My father is a hero. I know every little girl says this, but my dad really is. As an adult, I see my father for the hard working, honorable, intelligent, upstanding, fascinating and reliable man he is. As an adult, I respect and like him. The little girl in my heart still sees him as the giant who knows why the sky is blue, how to tie shoes and tell time, how to fix broken things, and who would give his life to keep me safe. As a little girl, I love him. I deserved every spanking I got.

My father taught me to be a citizen of the world. He encouraged me to think, to explore, and grow. He gave me the world and told me that it's ok to be smart, pretty, and successful in it. He gave me my first "real" job in the corporate world but he didn't coddle me. He taught me to be tough, but honest and fair, in business and that it's perfectly ok to be a woman in a man's world because I'm his daughter and he said so. Anybody who had a problem with it would not have a problem much longer...not because he fought my battles for me, but because he taught me to get in there and fight them myself. But he always had my back.

A girl just couldn't ask for a better dad.

I won't get to talk to him this Father's Day. As I write this, he is in Afghanistan and I don't even know his phone number. But I know that he is protecting our liberty and making a difference in the world. He is a hero to us all in his own intelligent, upstanding way.

Neither will I be able to talk to any of my grandfathers. They are all dead. I miss them, but today I honor their memories. I am so lucky that there is not one disgrace among them. They were honest, hard working, brave men who always provided for their families and taught their sons to do the same. The ones I was fortunate enough to know followed their sweethearts to the grave, or prepared the way for them. Their love for their chosen companions, their families, and their country survives, evident in their actions, their letters, wills, and even deeds.

I've been taking a bit of a break from my own family history, but today I feel called to return. There are so many grandfathers yet to discover, so many more lives I could honor and appreciate.

It was my father who introduced me to genealogy, actually. And it was genealogy which, in a way, introduced me to my father. It was the bridge of peace between rebellious teenage daughter and fed-up father. Because of our mutual interest in the past we were able to stand on neutral ground and rebuild our relationship. It made all the difference in the world to me.

So, happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you. This blog's for you.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Just because it's written in stone doesn't mean it's actually true

In my ongoing quest for documentation and verification of my "hand me down" genealogy, I discovered the other day that the headstone for my four-times great grandfather, Benjamin Williams, is wrong. Oops. The stone marking his grave in the Logan City Cemetery, Cache Co., Utah states "Benjamin Williams/Born/Nov. 10, 1823/Died/Mar. 1, 1905." [1]

However, his death certificate states that he died of dropsy (edema) on 28 February 1905 and was buried 3 March 1905.[2] Granted, it's only off by one day, but still: it's wrong. Note also that the death certificate spells his given name as Benjamen [sic] rather than Benjamin.

The moral of the story: Just because it's written in stone doesn't mean it's true.
A second moral of the story: Typos can be expensive to fix.

According to New Family Search, Benjamin was born in Llanidloes, Wales, and he has two sets of parents and three mothers, which I highly doubt. Now don't get me wrong, I am not speaking ill of New Family Search, but garbage in garbage out...and there's a lot of garbage floating around. So I take it with a grain of salt. Some of that information was based on personal knowledge of early LDS church members. But as we see from Benjamin's tombstone, sometimes the people responsible for remembering and recording the information don't remember correctly. I'm looking for *documentation* and verification.

According to the 1900 Census, Benjamin and his wife Mary Williams both immigrated in 1848, which at first glance sounds like they were married before they came to America, except for the fact that the 1900 census indicates they married about 1856. [3] Benjamin was a naturalized citizen by this time, but since he immigrated so early I do not expect his naturalization papers from Utah to provide any details about his specific place of birth. Therefore I haven't even bothered to look for them at this time.

I don't particularly like the 1856 marriage date, because my ancestor Mary Williams was born four years prior to that in Pottsville, [Schuylkill Co.], Pennsylvania on 16 May 1852, according to her death certificate. [4] This does not surprise me at all. In addition to my own ancestry research, I frequently discover my client's Welsh coal miners wandering around south western Pennsylvania during this time period and from there moving westward as the country opened.

In fact, I came across this interesting quote written by "an Aberdare (Glamorganshire) native, John R. Williams, [who] wrote a message home 10 November 1895, describing coal mining in Pennsylvania" on a fascinating website about Welsh in the Knoxville, Tennessee area:

"The coal trade in the anthracite districts has been extremely dull all through the year, the production overwhelmingly overbalancing the demand. Labor is so plentiful that operators can do just what they please. Pennsylvania is swarming with foreigners -- Poles, Hungarians, Slavish, Swedes, and Italians, etc. -- who are fast driving the English, Welsh, and Scotch miners out of competition. Noticeably, the Poles and Hungarians are a harder-working people and physically stronger men than the English and Welsh. They live much harder and at about half the cost and can stand more and harder work than our countrymen.

"Before the influx of the foreigners I have named into this country, the Welsh had the best show in the mines here, but in consequence of their foolhardy and unreasonable impositions in pretty well everything, they at length became perfectly unmanageable and the operators had no alternative but to send and get whole cargoes of the foreigners I have named, who now practically monopolize the business, and no longer will America hold out a friendly hand to the British miner who must stay at home and do the best he can there or come here and starve. There are in America today and especially in the west, thousands upon thousands of our countrymen who would gladly return to England and Wales if they could only do so, but they cannot find the money". [citing Alan Conway, ed., The Welsh in America: Letters from the Immigrants. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1961), p. 205.]

Although there are actually a very few births recorded for this time frame in Pottsville and other valuable information about this mining community [5], Mary's birth was not among them. Nor was there a record of the marriage of Williams-Watkins. [6]

I started exploring LDS church records yesterday to get to the bottom of the mystery. Although it should have been an easy thing to grab Mary Watkins Williams's place of birth from LDS records, she was not found in Logan 4th ward records where I expected her to be based on her death certificate. That is to say that she was not listed in early Logan 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th ward records, and in an odd twist of fate, the death records from 1911 (when her death certificate says she was in 4th ward) didn't make it to microfilm. It was the one year for which death records were mysteriously not on microfilm. Grrr. So the Williams quest for verification and documentation continues another day.

On a positive note, while researching the Williams family in the Logan LDS records, I came across the Hendersons. The Williams and Hendersons line merge for me with the marriage of James Henderson born 7 Aug 1847 in Haddington, Scotland to Mary Williams referenced above. I was delighted to find the rebaptism of Mary Henderson in 1864 because it provided me not only her place of birth and the names of her parents for my documentation delight, but also her paternal grandfather. More about this in a minute.


1. Headstone for Benjamin Williams, born Nov 10, 1823; died Mar 1 1905, Logan City Cemetery, Logan, Cache Co., Utah. Photocopy of headstone in possession of Heather Henderson as of March 2010.

2. Utah State Department of Health, Certificate of death (Utah Death Certificates 1904-1956), Certificate #31, Benjamin Williams, 28 February 1905; digital image, Family Search, Family Search Record Pilot ( : accessed March 2010); Utah State Department of Health. Certificate of death. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah.

3. 1900 U.S. Census, Cache County, Utah, population schedule, Logan, enumeration district (ED) #79, Sheet 10A, Household #192, Family #202, Benjamin Williams; digital image, ( : accessed March 2010); Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.

4. State of Idaho, Department of Health and Welfare, Death Certificate #108033 (copy issued 18 Feb 2010), Mary W. Henderson [died 24 Feb 1938, Pocatello, Bannock Co., Idaho]; Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Boise, Idaho.

5. Phillip A. Rice and Jean A. Dellock, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, vital records : genealogical and historical miscellany (Laughlintown, Pennsylvania : Southwest Pennsylvania Genealogical Services, c1989-1992) FHL 974.817 H2r v. 1 -3.

6. Miners Journal, Pottsville, Schuylkill Co., Pennsylvania, marriages, deaths, burials, obituaries, 1829-1855 [i.e.1862]; FHL 974.817/P2 V4m.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Always call ahead...and don't forget the local library

The tale of Penelope Stout (good) and my wasted afternoon (bad)

I learned a little lesson today. And was rewarded for remembering another one. First, here's the lesson I learned today: Although you may think the library or archive you are about to drive two hours to visit will be open, (because their website says they are open Monday through Friday 9:00-5:00) you should always, always call ahead...just to be sure. Here's why.

The Bad News

You may have seen on the news or experienced first hand the storms that rolled through the east coast last week. Well, in addition to leaving a trail of broken tree limbs and downed power-lines all over New Jersey, evidently one of them set off the fire alarm at the Alexander Library at Rutger University in New Brunswick. This happens to be where the special collections are stored, and genealogy is a very special collection. Unfortunately it happened to be especially inaccessible today because when said storms set off the fire alarm, a chemical powder was released and coated the holdings. This caused someone to have an asthmatic reaction this morning and so they closed it a few hours before I arrived. Drat!

The Good News

Which brings me to my second lesson, the one I was rewarded for remembering: Don't forget the local library. In my quest for locating the Sartor family I found myself in New Jersey examining a possibility that my Sartor family is related to the New Jersey colonial Salters. (The Sartor surname has also been spelled Salter, as shown in Revolutionary War pension application files and other documents) Ergo the attempted visit to Rutger Special Collections. Since I was in the area, I stopped in Hopewell, New Jersey. It was here that Benjamin Merrill is believed to have been born about 1731. Benjamin is claimed by some sources to be the father of my Nancy Merrill who was born about 1756. I am well aware of the fact that I haven't followed up on Nancy since my visit to North Carolina when I discovered that although Benjamin did have a daughter named Nancy, it doesn't look like she was my Nancy. So I'm not even certain Hopewell is still relevant, but since I was here I decided to check it out. Since the settlers of the Jersey Settlement in North Carolina came from Hopewell, I have a hunch that place is going to prove relevant, Benjamin Merrill or not. And I want to feel its local flavor, drive its back roads (and believe me, I did!) and all in all, I just plain wanted to go there. So I did.

Hopewell, New Jersey Cemetery

It was delightful, and although I still don't know who Nancy's parents really are, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this charming town. There are two cemeteries. (Note: I don't see either of them at Find A Grave) The first was rather small, perhaps a quarter of a block, and was located behind the Catholic church. The other was large, old, and fabulous. Except I don't think any of my people have headstones there. I was hoping to consult the cemetery index in special collections at the library at Rutgers. (such disappointment...I should have called ahead!)

I made a stop at the local library, the Hopewell Public Library, where I was ably assisted by a cheerful and extremely helpful librarian. The library is quite small but it does the job. It has local histories of the area which were interesting and informative. I haven't had time to digest everything I copied yet, because I was in a rush to get to Rutger. (darn it...what a complete waste of time...I should have called ahead!)

The Tale of Penelope Stout

Of note is the fact that Nancy Merrill's paternal grandmother was alleged to be Penelope Stout. (once again, I have to reiterate this is probably not true...but it's still an interesting story for the real descendants of Benjamin Merrill!) The first book the librarian handed me told the story of a Penelope Stout. Not my Penelope by any means, but I secretly wish I could claim her. Hopewell Valley Heritage, by Alice Blackwell Lewis, gives the astonishing account of Penelope Stout:[1]
[Penelope] was born in Amsterdam about the year 1602, by the name Penelope Vanprincis. About 1620 she sailed with her first husband for New York (then New Amsterdam). This husband's name is not known. The vessel became stranded at Sandy Hook but the crew and occupants got ashore and started marching toward the said New York. Because Penelope's husband had been hurt in the wreck, they could not march with the others. As they tarried in the woods, Indians came upon them and thinking they had killed them both, stripped them to the skin. However, Penelope came to. Her skull was fractured and her left shoulder hacked so that she could never use that arm like the other. Also, she was cut across the abdomen exposing her bowels, and she had to hold them in with her hand.

For seven days she continued in this condition, taking shelter in a hollow tree and eating berries and whatever she could find; then two Indians appeared. She was glad, as she thought they would put her out of her misery. The older Indian prevented the younger one from violence, and throwing his matchcoat about her, he carried her to his wigwam and cured her of her wounds and bruises. After she was well, he took her to New York and made a present of her to her people. He expected to receive a present in return.

While residing there she met an Englishman whose name was Richard Stout. Their romance resulted in marriage and she bore him seven sons and three daughters, viz: Jonathan (founder of Hopewell), John, Richard, James, Peter, David, Benjamin, Mary, Sarah, and Alice. There were many children born to this family through good marriages. The mother, Penelope, lived to the age of 110 and saw her offspring increase in number to about 502, in the time of about 88 years.

So, I guess my afternoon could have been worse. Although it was pretty much a complete waste of time after leaving Hopewell, at least I was not attacked by Indians and I have a nice clean comfy hotel room to sleep in and get ready for another adventurous day tomorrow. I hope Lower Merion Historical Society proves as fun as Hopewell!


1. Alice Blackwell Lewis, Hopewell Valley Heritage (Hopewell, New Jersey: The Hopewell Museum, 1973) Hopewell Public Library, p. 8.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

17 Clues to 17th Century Sartor origins...Genealogy Sudoku

Emmitt Smith's story last night on Who Do You Think You Are was amazing. I think it hit me much harder than last week's episode because Emmitt is a real person, not an actor, and his story is so poignant. (If you missed it, or just want to see it again, you can watch it here on hulu) I was once again struck by the amazing power of identity. As he stood there looking into the woods where his people were buried I have to admit that I teared up. I know that feeling. They are there; somewhere. We can't see them, but they are there.

African American research is hard. My heart frequently breaks for my African American clients because it's so hard and time consuming, therefore expensive, and frankly rather sad. Sometimes I literally can't find *anything* about them because they just slipped through "the system" and disappeared from history leaving nothing but a memory planted in their DNA. Emmitt took my breath away when he said "we may be at a dead end; and that's not what I'm looking for, a dead end." I couldn't agree more.

I've been in Baltimore all week researching a client's family which has serendipitously coincided with my own adventure researching my Sartor family origins. Now that the project is winding down, I'm able to take a few personal days to get that ball rolling again. I'm so excited and motivated by Emmitt's story.

Much of the foundation for my work on the Sartor family comes from a book published by Juanita Sample Taylor in 1986 called The Sartor Search. I can tell that Ms. Taylor cared about these people every bit as much as I do, and I wish I had met her before she died. I also wish she had cited her sources. But I missed that opportunity, and in her defense she wasn't trained to cite sources and it was cumbersome and you have to admit it takes up a lot of time and space. Decades later we have better technology, standards published by Elizabeth Shown Mills, and we know that it's absolutely worth every inch and minute. But hindsight is 20/20. So I'll get off my source citation soapbox and get to the good stuff.

In The Sartor Search, Ms. Taylor cites a letter attributed to William Sartor born 11 Mar 1760. He (allegedly) states:

The Sartors came from Wales in 1687 to Roanoke, Va. My grandfather attended law school in (name illegible) and while there met my grandmother who, I am told was Miss Mary Gray. The Grays were very prominent people. My Mother died when I was an infant. I want the people who come after me to know this little that I have gathered. My Grandfather after marrying came to South Carolina and settled on the Broad River and turned his attention to farming. He was also in the war with the Indians. My Father, John Peter Sartor was born in 1733. He had one sister, Elizabeth.[1]

If I had a birthday cake and could really and truly have a wish come true just by blowing out the candles, I would wish for the original copy of this letter. (We'll save the genie in the bottle for a time machine. I have at least 60 more birthday wishes left in me to wish for more documents.)

But I don't have the letter. And I don't have source citations. And I don't want to think about birthdays right now. So, what I do have is a giant Genealogy Sudoku. I love Sudoku! I have broken this letter down into 17 clues. If everything is true, all the clues will line up in nice, neat columns, rows, and squares of documents, historical context, and reason. Like Sudoku, if something is wrong, it will stick out like a sore thumb and provide a "handle" for research.

So, here's what we've got:
1. The Sartors came from Wales
2. They came in 1687
3. They came to Roanoke
4. They came to Roakoke, Virginia [note that this is a separate clue in and of itself]
5. William's father was John Peter Sartor
6. John Peter Sartor was born 1733
7. John Peter Sartor had a sister named Elizabeth
8. William's mother is not named
9. William's unnamed mother died when he was a child, possibly in the 1760's
10. John Peter Sartor's father attended law school
11. John Peter Sartor's father was in the "war with the Indians"
12. John Peter Sartor's father met Mary Gray at law school
13. John Peter Sartor's father married Mary Gray
14. The Gray's were a prominent family
15. John Peter Sartor's father, after marrying, turned his attention to farming
16. John Peter Sartor's father, after marrying, went to South Carolina
17. John Peter Sartor's father, after marrying, settled on the Broad River in South Carolina

I'm not quite confident enough to call these clues evidence yet. That's coming; I need more documentation. But there is enough truth in the last few clues about South Carolina that I'm willing to accept this letter as a framework for my little Genealogy Sudoku and provide me with some structure and reasoning. You have to start somewhere, and I have as much reason to believe this letter as to not believe it. No one has provided me evidence to the contrary, so for now, these 17 clues are my foundation for researching the 17th Century Sartor origins.

I think Emmitt Smith said it best: "It's wild. It's challenging. It's heartbreaking. But just finding the information is incredible."


1. Juanita Sample Taylor, The Sartor Search (Liberty Hill, Texas: Self Published, Spring 1984), p. 6.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Visiting my living history

Yesterday I went to visit my great-grandmother's sister, Tudy, who is 94 years old. To my honest shame, I had forgotten she was alive until I went to my great-aunt LaRue Smith's funeral a few weeks ago. Tudy walked into the funeral and took my breath away because she looks exactly like my great grandma. Just an adorable little spry bird. A wave of love and appreciation crashed over me and I rushed over to give her a hug and was greeted with an adorable "oh, hello!," followed by "now who was that?" as she walked away.

Right there and then I resolved to visit her more often. Then she fell and broke her hip, I got swamped with work, and here it is weeks later. But I finally went to go see her yesterday and I am so glad I did.

I grew up in the Army, so I didn't spend a lot of time in the small Idaho towns where my parents were raised. Every time I visit our ranch, I am required to recite my ancestry so that people know who I am. When I explain that I'm Tom's daughter, understanding lights their eyes and I am once again told what a wonderful voice my mother has. And they are right. I am so blessed to have such wonderful family history.

So I was embarrassed to realize as I was driving to the rest home yesterday that I don't even know Tudy's name anymore. She's not a Smith anymore and hasn't been for over 70 years. Turns out she's Castleton now, and she loves chocolate. We were best friends right away. I visited with her for over an hour. I told her about my family and love for family history. She told me about her three husbands, her kids, grandkids, and how she came to be known as Tudy. (She was born Alice Ruth Smith, but couldn't pronounce "Ruthie;" it came out Tudy, and she has been known and loved as Tudy ever since.)

She was born in 1916, and waited 36 months for her sweetheart Nate Thomas to come home from his LDS Mission before they were married and had three girls. Nate's best friend tried to steal her while Nate was gone, but she didn't "go with" anyone else; she knew she wanted Nate. They wrote every week, and the sweet romantic story absolutely melted my heart.

She loves basketball, hates cats, and can't remember how old her grandkids are, but there are 9 grandkids and 9 great-grandkids. She remembers my father, and knows that he loves her dearly. Despite being 94 years old and breaking a hip just a few weeks ago she is still spry and mobile and sharp as a tack. She walks up and down the halls so much that she says she's afraid they're going to tell her to stop wearing the hall floors out. (LOL!) She likes to read, but she'd rather crochet.

As she sat in her lazy-boy recliner, bright eyes blinking under her huge glasses and beautiful snow white hair I just kept thinking how lucky I am to meet my great grandmother's baby sister. I am so grateful for the time I had yesterday to get to know this woman. Not just because she reminds me so much of my dear great-grandmother, but because she's my great-great-aunt. She belongs to me and I got to meet her and hug her before she became another name in my database. I am really grateful to know her.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A case study in location identification

Tonight I was working on my mother's side of the family, for once, and was following the trail of George Roberts and Martha Thomas, who lived in Lambston, Pembrokeshire, Wales, at the time of the 1851 census.[1]

Here's how it looks at

The image quality was a little scratchy. It looks like Martha was born in Harrelston West, Pembrokeshire, and that's how transcribed it. I have some choices here. I can accept the transcription. I could cheat and look at New Family Search, the IGI, my grandfather's typed pedigree charts, and other compiled sources which might be correct. But that's not the point. The point is that I want a clean, well-sourced, accurate family database true to each piece of evidence according to modern research standards. And I also happen to want to read and transcribe this record correctly so that I can find Martha later.

So, I did what I would do if I didn't have a way to cheat, and if had transcribed it incorrectly. Which happens sometimes.

The Family History Library Catalog doesn't think they know of a place called Harrelston. Google Maps and MultiMap were likewise confounded. Even The National Gazetteer of Wales and GeoNames came up empty handed. Time to pull out the big guns. When The NGA GEOnet Names Server (GNS) didn't have a match, I knew I needed to get a little more creative.

Searching har* in the UK, the closest match I could come up with was Harleston. Unfortunately it's not in Wales, let alone Pembrokeshire.

So, it was time to use the free Parish Locator Program which is a wonderful indispensable tool for UK research. (did I mention that it's free and I love it?) I ran a report for all parishes in Pembrokeshire, and what do you know? There was Haroldston West.

Turns out that it was right there on MultiMap all along. Funny how that works! Now I'm off and running in the right direction...Haroldston West.


1. 1851 Census of Wales, Pembrokeshire, Lambston, Class: HO107; Piece: 2478; Folio: 413; Page: 6; GSU roll: 104236., George Roberts; digital image,, (accessed February 2010); Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1851. Data imaged from the National Archives, London, England.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

GeneaBlogger Games Update

I have been absolutely swamped with a big new client project, but I am pleased to report that I have not let the ball drop completely on my personal goals. I've continued to squeeze in a few quick activities here and there; I just haven't had time to blog about them all yet. I need to report my progress for the GeneaBlogger Games, but will continue to blog in greater detail about my experiences today and tomorrow. I don't anticipate the following statistics will change.

So here's what I did:

1. Go back and cite your sources: Platinum.
I added over 500 citations to my new, clean database. Wow; that feels so good!

2. Back up your data: Diamond in platinum setting?
I have a comprehensive backup plan including digitizing my hard copy files. Original documents and photos are all now in waterproof containers and my newly organized data is backed up to server. To be honest, though, maybe I didn't quite reach platinum if "all data" is to be taken literally, because the sheer volume of my files makes it impossible for me to have *everything* scanned yet. Only the "good stuff" has made it to moisture protection yet. Copies of books, notes, etc. are still in the cabinet waiting for digitization. So if Salt Lake City were hit by an earthquake today I would lose some stuff. But I'm well on my way.

3. Organize your research: Platinum
I'm thrilled at the improvement in my organization. It's still not quite perfect, due to the sheer volume, but I have organized *well* over 20 each of hard copies, digital files, photos, digital photos, and data from my voluminous collection. I have also prepared a report (which is still improving) to share with my family.

4. Expand your knowledge: Platinum
Used Google Maps, TimeToast, and Wordle. I browsed the FamilySearch wiki both for client and for personal reasons. I started a page for my grandmother, Anna Helen Hill Henderson Howard using's I Remember on Facebook. I really enjoyed these activities and I'm really glad Thomas MacEntee suggested them.

5. Write, write, write: DNF
I started tasks in each category but got swamped by a huge project this week and, a la Lindsay Vonn, caught an edge on this project and ended up in the netting far from the finish line. Just not enough time in the day. But that doesn't mean I won't finish them eventually! I am still working on my blog summary and adding pages, participating in Genealogy Carnivals, writing biographical sketches, and creating an ancestor index for the blog.

6. Reach out and perform genealogical acts of kindness: Platinum
I visited, followed, and commented at several new blogs and made new "friends" this week. Great! I posted photos at Find A Grave, invited genealogists to join the 21st century social network, participated in Family Search indexing, and joined the Baltimore County Genealogical Society in preparation for my research trip there in two weeks for my Sartors.

It has been a busy, busy week but I appreciated these tasks tremendously and look forward to growing from this new & improved footing. Just as our athletes will go home and keep practicing the sports they love, I'm going to keep improving every day as a professional and personal family historian.

USA! USA! USA! And Scotland, Denmark, Wales, Norway and frontiers yet to be discovered.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Timesaving Firefox plugins

I love having 100 things going on at once, and I've noticed this busy week that Firefox deserves an "assist" (or best supporting actor nomination!) in accomplishing my GeneaBlogger Games tasks this week because I've had to juggle a lot of random and completely unrelated stuff this week! Unfortunately for my computer, this means I frequently have 20+ tabs open at once in my Internet browser. Here are some things that have really helped me.

First, I've organized and synchronized my bookmarks using Xmarks. This way I can go from netbook to laptop to desktop to library computer without losing a bookmark. I've organized them into folders including folders for various clients and projects currently underway so that I can bookmark frequently referenced FHLC entries. For instance right now I have a folder called "Joe" and within that folder I have bookmarked the FHLC pages containing the film numbers for the wills, deeds, and other records I am planning to use so that I don't have to look them up again and again as I progress through the research and so that I don't have to keep the tabs open from day to day. I just synchronize them and then I don't have to worry what computer I happen to be using that day.

I also recently found another Firefox plugin which does essentially the same thing, except I don't think it synchronizes to a server for use on multiple computers. It's called ScrapBook, and it will allow me to save a collection of tabs into a single session so that I can recall that session and "reclaim" all the tabs I had open for that particular project. Nice.

I also tried Read It Later, although I have a folder called "Read this later" in my Xmarks. Like Xmarks, Read It Later lets you save a url to a list synchronized on their server so you can retrieve it from your iphone, whatever, to read later. Nice, but I decided to stick with my "Read this later" folder in Xmarks so everything would be in the same place.

While I'm on the subject, I have two more plugins that I've been using a lot this week, as I plow through my GeneaBlogger Games goals. The first is called Screenshot Pimp. It allows me to capture an entire website as a .png. This is handy for grabbing the entire screen of an database search result, database transcription, etc. if I don't pdf it. It's an image, so it's not text-searchable, but it will capture the full screen including title, breadcrumbs, transcriptions etc. in one click & save for storage as reference. Very handy.

Example screenshot using Screenshot Pimp for Firefox on an census view. Notice breadcrumb, citation, and transcription for reference!

And, lastly, I love TableTools. It allows me to copy and paste html tables as tab or comma delimited text to paste into Excel for sorting. That way I can port over the results of a search and crunch the data better in Excel by sorting, adding cross references and comments, etc. Linked to the .png of the reference generated with Screenshot Pimp, I can start something, get interrupted, and still pick up right where I left off without losing my train of thought.

And these days, that means a lot!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A note about Christian Dalziel

It was a busy, busy day doing a little thing called "billable work," but to post my GeneaBlogger Games update tonight: I added over 30 source citations and 17 "new" (verified) people in my new clean database. I documented and confirmed the line from James Henderson born 1847 back five generations to William Aikman and Margaret Birnie who married April 1717 in Colinton Parish, Edinburgh. (Efficiency thanks to the OPRs at ScotlandsPeople.) Also documented Dalziel and Inglis lines along the way.

Of note: Thomas Dalziel and Nicol (christened Nicholas) Ingles were married irregularly in Edinburgh 18 Sep 1778. [1] It was recorded in their parish at Musselburgh later; squished in the correct date area clearly after the fact. Although this sometimes suggests...added incentive, shall we say, to hurry and marry without posting banns, the first child I see registered for them is a Christian Dalziel (female) who was born 19 March 1780. Nothing wrong about the math there, so unless they miscarried first, it could be that Thomas and Nicol just never got around to filing the paperwork.

Here's the noteworthy highlight of the day, though. Thomas and Nicol Dalziel had two daughters named Christian Dalziel. According to New FamilySearch, my ancestor supposedly was the one born in 1780. But I don't think that's right. I think my ancestor was the *second* Christian Dalziel, who was born 24 May 1789. [2] She married James Henderson on 19 March 1811, at which time she would have been 22. [3] Although it is not impossible for her to have married older, the 1841 and 1851 censuses of Scotland both reflect a birth date about 1791 for Christian Henderson [nee Dalziel], which is much closer to the 1789 christening. [4] So, surprise surprise, I think I have a correction to make in New FamilySearch.

I also did two batches of FamilySearch indexing for baptisms in Spain in 1712. It's going to be another busy day tomorrow but I'm going to crop some photos while watching our USA team go for the gold!


1., "Old Parish Registers (OPR) Banns & Marriages," database, ScotlandsPeople ( accessed February 2010), 18/09/1778 Dalziel, Thomas (OPR Marriages 689/0120 0477 Inveresk and Musselburgh) 1778; no page number.

2., "Old Parish Register (OPR) Births," database, ScotlandsPeople ( accessed February 2010), 24/05/1789 Dalziel, Christian (OPR Births 689/0090 0172 Inveresk and Musselburgh) 1789, page 656.

3., "Old Parish Registers (OPR) Banns & Marriages," database, ScotlandsPeople ( accessed February 2010), 19/03/1811 Henderson, James (OPR Marriages 685/003 0170 0363 Canongate) March 1811 page 181.

4., "1841 Scotland Census," database, ( : accessed February 2010), James Henderson, age 50, Pencaitland, East Lothian; 1841 Scotland Census. Edinburgh, Scotland: General Register Office for Scotland. Reels 1-151. General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland;, "1851 Scotland Census," database, ( : accessed February 2010), James Henderson, age 64, Penston, Gladsmuir, East Lothian; 1841 Scotland Census. Edinburgh, Scotland: General Register Office for Scotland. Reels 1-151. General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On the trail of William Pitt Sartor...genealogy stone soup

Facebook is amazing. Let me tell you a fabulous story. I have a book called _The Sartor Search_ which has formed the basis of my Sartor research for over 10 years. It was written in 1984 by a woman who poured her whole heart and soul into researching the Sartor family. Unfortunately, she didn't cite her sources. And then she died. Bummer.

So the torch has passed to me, and I've been wandering around trying to retrace her footsteps. On page 14 of this book, Mrs. Taylor says:

William Pitt Sartor b. 1790/1800. This is the elusive William that Sarah Hughes Sartor named in her application for Rev. War pension in 1852 as having carried her Bible to Miss.

And that's all I knew of William Pitt Sartor until last November, when I received a Facebook message from someone saying "Hey, my ggggrandfather is William Pitt Sartor. Let's compare notes." Thanks to this distant cousin, last week we learned that William went from Union District, South Carolina, to Rutherford County, Tennessee. In Tennessee he had several children before moving on to Mississippi by 1852, when his mother Sarah complained of her missing bible.

Searching Rutherford County deeds turned up only two deeds mentioning William Sartor, but they were good ones. It turns out that William Sartor was the executor of the estate of Thomas and Elinore Linam, who died intestate in 1841. Further research shows that Thomas and Elinore Linam came from Union District, South Carolina. Thomas sells land in Union at the exact time I would expect him to sell in order to show up in Rutherford County, Tennessee, by 1835, where Elinore purchased 6 slaves from her son; which is the only other deed pertaining to Thomas and Elinore Linam.

Although I have not been able to prove it yet, I strongly believe that William was Thomas and Elinore Linam's son in law. Marriage records in South Carolina are notoriously difficult to find; therefore I am not all that surprised to find that even Holcomb has no suggestions for me. But a week ago I didn't even know where William Pitt Sartor had gone. So I'm not complaining. I have faith that somewhere there is an answer just waiting for me to come find it.

So thank you, Facebook, for finding my distant cousins and providing more pieces of the Sartor puzzle. Perhaps if we all put our heads together, this community will make a well sourced genealogy soup from stones after all.

GeneaBlogger Games stats as of 15 Feb

With Apolo Ohno as my inspiration, I'm off the starting line and heading down the track nicely in the 2010 GeneaBlogger Games. Here are my statistics so far:

1. Go Back and Cite Your Sources:
23 source citations added today

2. Back Up Your Data:
Aside from my automatic hard drive backup I have not addressed this "event" yet

3. Organize Your Research:
Digital files shuffled into the new organization system: Over 2,000, but about 500 of those still need renaming. Have not yet cropped out individual photos from batch scans. Added meta data including source citations to about 40 files.
New digital files added today, including metadata: 8 new documents
Haven't touched the filing cabinet

4. Expand Your Knowledge:
Did Wordle; will blog about it later. Did Google maps on Kesko's blog. Started a TimeToast timeline; will blog about it later.

5. Write Write Write:
Does Google Maps count again since that was this week's 52 Wees to Better Genealogy challenge? If not, I haven't done anything here yet.

6. Random Acts of Genealogy Kindness:
Haven't done any yet. That makes me feel mean. I think I will make that a priority tomorrow so I can feel better!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Data about data

My current organization blitz has now carried me to the point where I am ready to organize my data about my data. That is to say, the metadata. I just ran a properties report and my new, "clean" Genealogy folder has 2,621 files, 208 folders, consisting of 7.85 gig. And that's just what I got done this weekend. I've still got a long row to hoe.

Now it's time to add labels to all of these documents so that I can run a search for keywords and find them. Including keywords in the file name is one strategy, but it's very limiting. Now I'm going in and adding metadata to the document properties which will then embed itself in such a way that my computer knows how to find it without bogging my brain down with the visual overload of crowded titles.

How, you ask? Well, I use Photoshop for image files, and the Document Properties feature of Word and Excel. I give the document the same title it carries in my database source list, (I'm using RM4 these days, but Legacy will do the same) then I paste in the bibliography version of the source citation in the comments field, so that matches the source list, and then I just add keywords to my heart's content.

In Photoshop:
I use CS4, but it's the same process in all versions, I think. Click "File" and scroll down to File Info. The keyboard shortcut is Alt+Shift+Ctrl+I. One fun thing I can do in Photoshop is add a document rating. I can give something up to five stars. Also of note is the fact that I have a tab called "History" which doesn't have to be used for the document history. It can be used to embed a transcription. (

In Word:
I use Word 2010, but the basic concept is the same for other versions. Click "File." The default view is Info, which shows your document properties on the far right under the document thumbnail.

From there, click "Properties," which will drop down a menu with three options: show document panel, advanced properties, and show all properties. Click "Show Document Panel." In Word 2007 I believe this option was under "Prepare for print" or something. I can't remember, but the bottom line is that you want the document properties panel, as shown below. That is where you will be able to add keywords, etc. I paste in the bibliography version of the source citation, but you can paste in the full or short footnote version just as easily.

A word about PDF files: most people do not have the full version of Adobe Acrobat; they only have the free Adobe Reader, which will not modify metadata. If you want to modify PDF metadata I found a free program that looks like it might do the job, but I haven't tried it yet, since I can modify my files with CS4. It's called BeCyPDFMetaEdit. If you try it, please comment about how it worked (or didn't work) for you.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My new, slightly rebellious, organization system

I've been shuffling paper around and "getting organized" for what...8 years now? The perfectionist in me seems to keep getting in the way, because I want to make sure I'm doing it just right, and that takes time, discipline, and experience. Well, time's up, and I have 8 years of experience as a full time professional genealogist. No more excuses. If that's not enough time to figure out what I'm doing, 80 years won't be enough.

I feel slightly rebellious because I'm not following NGS numbering conventions, or anybody else's industry accepted standards for that matter, but here's why. NGS numbering standards work for print. They were designed to communicate the results of research; not to manage the living, breathing, and sometimes breathtaking flow of electronic data management. Elizabeth Shown Mills has laid down the law on source citation and numbering printed works, but the digital frontier remains the wild wild west.

So, today the sheriff came to town and said "To heck with being perfect. Elizabeth is not going to inspect your files. Just do something that works for you."

With this self-granted permission to think outside the box, I decided that from now on I'm managing electronic data my own way. It might be quirky, and it's definitely not conventional, but it's the order I want my ducks to be in so I know who they are without having to stop, think, refer back to my database, etc.

Here's what I'm doing. I created a brand new, clean folder on my hard drive. *Everything* will go in this folder. Sartors will not have their own folder anymore. Fergusons go in there too. Everybody. (except clients, obviously) No more of this "oh, that pertains to a distant Sartor so it's in the Sartor folder."

Within the main Genealogy folder there are four subfolders:
- Database Files
- Documents, Photos, Transcriptions, etc.
- Research Calendars, Manuscripts, and Notes (my research & analysis)
- Training & Reference

Within "Documents, Photos, Transcriptions, etc." there are now folders which all start with a number followed by the name of the person. I chose a numbering system rather than alphabetic because of the impact name changes, spelling, etc. has on sorting.

The key to the numbering is *not* based on a RIN, because I need to be free to use the same number in different databases, such as New Family Search vs. my old database vs. my new database, etc. Plus, it gets confusing if you find another child in the family years later and now the numbers are hundreds off from the other siblings. Too much thinking.

Now, my numbering is based on an ahnantafel from me. This works for me. My nephews can figure something else out if they want to when they grow up. Here's what I'm doing.

x.0 = Direct line ancestor (Even numbers = direct line male ancestor; odd numbers = direct line female ancestor)
x.#>0 = Indirect ancestor tracing to primary number shared ancestor
x.alpha = additional marriage
x.alpha.# = child of additional marriage
x.#.# = Keep going down the line from this common direct line ancestor

If I have no idea how this person is related to me yet, they start with unk. If they are just family friends they start with NR (no relation) plus a "see also" note so I don't delete them thinking they turned out not to matter.

1.0 Me
2.0 My dad
3.0 Mom
4.0 Grandpa Bobby
4.1 My uncle
4.1.1 My cousin
4.1.2 My other cousin
5.0 Grandma Helen
5.a Willis
6.0 Grandpa Larsen
6.1 My aunt
6.1.1 My cousin
6.2 My uncle
6.2.1 My cousin
7.0 Grandma Larsen
unk Thomas Sartor of GA (not sure which one yet)
NR Orrin Porter Rockwell (see also William West Woodland)

Kids usually go under the man because in my culture they carry his name. Illegitimate children would go under the woman.

I should also point out that the logic of an ahnantafel system allows me to a) predict the right code for the direct line ancestor and b) divide down to see how any numbered ancestor relates to me. I like that a lot.

In my clean new database which I started in January, I am adding this code in a custom field called "sort-code" so that it can be stripped from GEDCOM. (In RM4 I created the new fact type, then *deselected everything* from the "Include when..." list. I also added this field to the "Add new person" form so that I always remember to add it when I add a new person to the database.)

So, now I have a number-based mechanism for keeping everyone straight. But what about documents, photos, etc. that pertain to more than one person? Well, when I come across such thing I store the original in the primary individual folder, then just copy the citation and storage folder location into a file called " - See also.docx" (I put a hyphen in front of anything I want the computer to sort to the very top of the list) which is then saved in each folder for the person the document pertains to. For example, the 1930 census showing my Great Grandfather living next door to my grandfather is saved in my Great-grandfather's folder, but the source citation is then saved on my grandfather's "see also" list, my great-grandmothers "see also" list, my uncle's, etc. etc. etc.

The documents, by the way, are saved with their document type and location in the file name. For example "Census, 1930, Idaho, Bannock Co., Arimo, Bob Henderson.jpg" which will now sort correctly next to "Census, 1930, Idaho, Bannock Co., Arimo, Bob Henderson - Transcription.docx"

Maps, general historical reference, etc. goes in "Training & Reference" in nested folders. "South Carolina" has a folder called "South Carolina, Union Co." which contains files in descending geographic and date order such as "South Carolina, Union, Map 1840.jpg." I handle boundary changes the same way I handle multiple individuals...use a "see also" file in the folder.

My paper files will now follow suit. If something pertains to more than one, for instance a book about the Sartors, Hollingsworths, and other lines, I just pick one and put it there. Then I make a note on other files to cross reference as needed. Usually I pick the person of that surname who is most closely related to me.

I'm pretty happy about this. It might be a little quirky, but it makes sense, and I think it will improve my efficiency because I have a lot of files and until today none of them were named or stored consistently. Thank heavens it's never too late to change!

A Dane Called Kesko


According to my files, Andrew Peter "Kesko" Olsen was born 7 January 1832 on a little farm in Hjørring, Denmark called Kjaersgaard. As part of my verification and source citation of "hand me down" information, I obtained his christening record tonight from the State Archives of Denmark online.

Although New Family Search gives his christening and birth dates both as 7 Jan 1832, double checking the original shows that Anders Peter Olsen was christened 8 January 1832 in the parish church at Rakkeby. His parents were farmer Ole Johansen and wife Ane Marie Iversdatter, of Rakkeby. [1]

Rakkeby is about 10 miles south of Kjaersgaard, as shown on the Google map below. Andrew's mother Ane Marie Iversdatter was from Rakkeby, which is probably why he was christened there instead of one of the churches closer to Kjaersgaard. In Danish, Kjaersgaard means "beloved farm." It is pronounced, to the American ear "Kesko," which is how Andrew Peter Olsen became known as the Dane called Kesko. Because the patronymic naming system resulted in so many men of the same name, farm names and other nicknames were used as surnames as clarification. Their farms literally became part of their identity.

I went to visit this beloved farm Kjaersgaard in 2001. I rented a bicycle in Hirtshals and biked out to find the farm. It was an amazing experience I hope I never forget. I had seen black and white photos of the farm in the book The Dane from Kjaersgaard so when I came around the copse of trees and saw the actual farm compound with tidy whitewashed walls and red roof I felt like I had stepped through the pages of the book much like Alice through the looking glass. The new owners were very gracious and, after explaining myself and my story in my terrible Danish, allowed me to take dozens of photos.

Now as I click through the digital images or scroll through the microfilm verifying, citing sources, and looking for new clues, I'll keep in my heart the memory of that photo coming to life and imagine one day my documents will do the same.

View My Danes in a larger map


1. State Archive of Denmark, "Kirkebøger, Rakkeby, Børglum, Hjørring," churchbook, Statens Archiver ( : accessed February 2010), Christenings page 35, 1832, entry #1, Anders Peter Olsen.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Swifter, Higher, Stronger Genealogy

I love the Olympics, especially the Winter Games. I spent six years of my life planning the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, so I have a special fondness and appreciation for the meticulous detail required to create an amazing field of play where the athletes can do what they were born to do.

So you can imagine that I am delighted by Thomas MacEntee's idea for the Winter 2010 GeneaBloggers Games. There are six events, designed to stretch our genealogy muscles and push us to be just a little better.

So, here's what I'm going to do:

1. Go Back and Cite Your Sources!
I'm going for platinum here by citing 50 sources. My data-base right now is looking more like a myth-base.

2. Organize Your Research!
Again, I'm going for platinum by completing five organization tasks. I'll organize at least 20 each of hard copy files, digital documents, and digital photos including metadata, etc. I'll create at least 20 source entries in my database. Most importantly, I'll create a master list of my files and share said list with my family.

3. Expand Your Knowledge
Platinum tasks in this category include google maps, TimeToast, Footnote pages, articles, and Wordle. Looks fun.

4. Write, Write, Write
For this platinum I will write a summary of my blog, participate in a family history blog carnival, pre-publish draft blogs, write a biographical sketch of an ancestor, and participate in one of the 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy challenges.

5. Perform Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness
In order to platinum in this event I will visit, follow, and comment on a new genealogy friend's blog, post headstone photos at Find A Grave, join (another) society, and participate in Family Search Indexing.

6. Back Up Your Data
Once I finish the above tasks, it will definitely be time to back everything up again, and earn the final platinum! Digitally, I am already in the backup habit. The thought provoking items here involve my paper files. I have 3 filing cabinet drawers full of family research. I need to create an emergency plan for these files. My old photos are already secure in my gun safe (ironic that my pistol is on the book shelf and the photos are in the gun safe. Something is backwards here.) but I have photos of headstones and photos of my life adventures that deserve emergency planning.

It's a lot of work, and I'll be writing a lot of blog posts, but in the spirit of the Games, I will push myself just a little swifter, higher, and stronger to be the best personal, not just professional, genealogist I can be.

I think I hear cheering from beyond the grave.

Monday, January 18, 2010

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy - Challenge #3

Without going into too much detail, it's been a while since I focused on my own personal family history. Last week I was reminded what a privilege it is to be young, healthy, and two blocks from the Family History Library.

So, I'm stepping up and re-turning my heart to my fathers. And mothers. I'm starting with Challenge #3 of Genea-Bloggers 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy. (You can find them on Facebook if you want to know more.) Ironically, I missed weeks 1 and 2 because I was busy with a local family history conference. But that's kindof the point. I've been so focused on genealogy as a business that I have lost touch with my own roots and the reason I started down this path to begin with.

No time like the present. Our challenge this week is:
"Assess yourself! You’re great at researching everyone else’s history, but how much of your own have you recorded? Do an assessment of your personal records and timeline events to ensure your own life is as well-documented as that of your ancestors. If you have a genealogy blog, write about the status of your own research and steps you may take to fill gaps and document your own life."

The part that pertains to this blog is to 1. write about the status of my own research and 2. the steps I may take to fill gaps and document my own life. I have a copy of my birth certificate and social security card in my passport. Never been married, and I'm not dead yet, so those certificates are not applicable. So #2 is really easy. But I think there's probably more to the challenge.

I haven't actually lived that long, comparatively, but I have had a really interesting life. And although I don't have children now, I hope to some day, and anyway I have two adorable nephews who might be interested. People always tell me I should write a book, and my mentor has actually threatened to start writing one about me and all the crazy things that seem to happen to me. So, I accept this worthy challenge. I'm not sure how I'll go about it just yet, but I think I will start jotting down memories of my adventures.

As for #1, the status of my research, a few things leap to mind:
1. I've started a whole new database because I've found some unsettling errors in my old file after inheriting un-sourced information from my grandfather and my aunt. In their defense, it was really difficult with their equipment at the time and they just weren't trained to do so. Therefore, I started with *myself* and the aforementioned birth certificate and and just going through and putting everything in again as if it were new information, taking care to source each fact. That should take about my entire lifetime.
2. I need to resume the search for John Peter Sartor I. That will also probably take about my entire lifetime.
3. Wales has been on my mind a lot. I have a lot of Welsh ancestors and somebody there is trying to get through to me, I'm just not quite sure who it is yet. All I'm feeling is "Wales." I've been rude and haven't listened to them. Need to sit down and figure that out.
4. I have embarrassing stacks of genealogy shoved into the filing cabinet. Not so much filed as concealed. That's going to change and will probably lead to new goals.

I think that's a good start.
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