20 December 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Liberal Reward

From: The Oakland Tribune, 12 February 1912


LOST in the vicinity of 16th and Clay st., Saturday afternoon, gold nugget bracelet; name Marjorie engraved on nuggets. Return to owner, Miss Marjorie Rambeau, Box Office Ye Liberty Theater; liberal reward.

13 December 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Lincoln Was an Aviator

From: The Oakland Tribune, 12 February 1912

Two Out of Forty Knew of Lincoln

Out of 40 drunks arrested in the past 24 hours whose release on recognizance was authorized by Judges Mortimer Smith and George Samuels this morning only two were able to tell who Abraham Lincoln was and for what he was famous.

Captain J. F. Lynch received the authorization from the two judges to release the prisoners arrested for drunkenness on their own recognizance. Captain Lynch decided to put his inebriates through a short examination before releasing them.

"Whose birthday is this?" was the first question. It was met with blank surprise.

"Who is Abraham Lincoln?" Lynch demanded of each of the long line as they stood ready for release.

"He was a great general and father of this country," responded a Swede.

"I don't know," answered an ordinary American when cross examined. Several  ventured guesses, and one man suggested that the great Liberator was an aviator.

06 December 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Autoist Takes Victim

From: The Oakland Tribune, 02 November 1912

Autoist Takes Victim Home and Disappears

H. B. Jackson, a stationary engineer for the California Best Wall Company, living at 2496 Peralta avenue, was run down by an automobile while riding his bicycle on Fruitvale avenue near Tallant street last evening. Jackson sustained a fracture of two ribs. The chauffeur removed him to his home and then disappeared. The police have not ascertained the name of the driver of the machine. Dr. Munroe attended the injured man.

29 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Badly Beaten by Victim

From: The Oakland Tribune, 01 November 1912 (evening)

Bandit is Badly Beaten by Victim
The Blood of Fighter Flows through Veins of Louis Goubert

The great grandfather of Louis Goubert of 230 Seventh street fought with the great Napoleon at Waterloo and some of the fighting blood of his ancestor has been inherited by young Goubert. As a consequence a robber who attempted to hold up the fighting Frenchman fared ill, and in addition to being badly bruised in an encounter, was captured and consigned to a cell in the city prison.

Goubert is an employee of Chanquet Bros. wine and liquor merchants of 734 Broadway. While on his way home from the store about 1 o'clock this morning, he was accosted at Seventh and Webster streets by a stranger, who struck Goubert with his fist and then started to reach for his purse.

Goubert was not slow to respond to the attack and came back with a right swing which cut a gash in his opponent's cheek. While struggling Goubert shouted for reinforcements.

Patrolmen Green and Gardiner were in the neighborhood arresting a drunk, and brought up a posse which started in pursuit of the robber. The man was followed to the Bethel lodging house, 823 Harrison street, where he was arrested and identified by the cut in his cheek by Goubert.

The prisoner gave his name as Albert Kersting of Alameda, but refused to discuss the holdup. Kersting was placed in detinue, and is being questioned by Inspectors T. J. Flynn and Dennis Holland.

23 November 2011

Beautiful Books: Brecknock

A gorgeous title page from 1809:

22 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Girls in Male Attire

From: The Oakland Tribune, 01 November 1912 (Evening edition)

4 Girls in Male Attire Arrested
Sixteen year-old Maiden Says She Had Long Wanted to Be Boy.

"Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a boy, and this was my first chance," explained pretty Blanche Sizzelove, aged 16 years, when she appeared in Judge George Samuels' court room this morning following her arrest with three other girls for masquerading in boys' clothes on the street as a Hallowe'en prank last night. The other girls arrested by Patrolman William Tusher while sporting coats, shirts, and trousers were Celeste Dufin, 567 Sixth street, aged 16; Frances Sheen, 602 Sixth street, aged 18 years, and Helen Flentt, 564 Sixth street, aged 18.

The girls were arrested last night and were later released on $5 bail each, furnished by their fathers. When they appeared before Judge Samuels this morning Prosecuting Attorney W. J. Hennessey questioned them and received demure replies from all but Blanche Sizelove [sic], who declared that not only on Hallowe'en by every other day of the 365 she wished to wear male attire.

No complaints had been filed. On the motion of Hennessey the cases were dismissed and the bail returned.

Due to the strict orders issued by Chief of Police Walter J. Petersen for the observance of the curfew law, few acts of vandalism were reported to the police last night, and Oakland passed one of the quietest Hallowe'en celebrations in its history.

16 November 2011

Beautiful Books: A Dainty Authoress

It may just be me, but I love the author photos of the women who created a number of our most genealogically-valuable books. What strikes me most is that the male authors tend toward very stoic portraits of them in waistcoat with chain, while the women seem to opt for being shown with their weapon of choice: their pen.

From: Biographical History of Cloud County, Kansas (1903).

The Full Story

I love newspapers, because they give us so much information, but sometimes what we learn is so tantalizing, I can't help but wish I could get the full story. Like this Want Ad from the 02 November 1912 issue of The Oakland Tribune:
REFINED young lady (blond) is desirous of meeting dark complected gentleman between 30 and 35, temperate habits, medium height, comfortable income; object matrimony; no triflers. Box 87??, Tribune.
Of course, who knows what her "object" really was, but I can't help but imagine a petite young woman dropping off this want ad at the Tribune offices. I wonder if she ever found what she was looking for? Judging by what I remember from dating, probably a whole lot of "triflers!"

15 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Into a Tub of Water

From: The Oakland Tribune, 01 November 1912

Jaw Dislocated; Goes to Hospital; Loses Prize

While bobbing into a tub of water for an apple at a Hallowe'en party last night, John Coyne of 1414 West street opened his mouth so wide that he dislocated his lower jaw. The police ambulance was summoned and Coyne was taken to the Receiving hospital, where the dislocation was reduced by Dr. W. H. Irwin and Steward Emlay. He then returned to the festival but in the meantime the prize had been carried off by a competitor. Coyne is an electrical worker and 31 years old.

10 November 2011

Defining Research, Part Two: The Internet vs. Research Skill

"Mother, what are these strange things?"
In my last post on the topic of defining research, I ranted about discussed what I consider to pass only falsely as real genealogical research. But, shy of getting irate about calmly considering how such people influence the overall tenor of the genealogical community, the thread of importance involved in assessing the calibre of their research seems to end there. Much more interesting, to me, is how, when interacting with other genealogists, our personal definitions of research (and even our own estimations of our abilities) can get in the way of the potential for productive discussion.

By way of an example, I was lucky enough to volunteer for the daylong Ancestry Day in San Francisco this past weekend, a one-day genealogy "mini-conference" that was hosted by the California Genealogical Society, of which I am a member. I was able to work through the day as one of a battalion of genealogical consults, sitting with researchers and spending a strict 15-minutes helping these clients review issues or dead-ends they had reached in their research. It was an amazing experience, and a great chance to connect with some people who were incredibly enthusiastic and excited about their research adventures.

But something struck me about these consults, and  made me realize how definition of terms can be incredibly important... namely, how one defines "research." In essence, it gets to the issue, I think, of how records and resources available on the internet have fundamentally defined the concept of research for most genealogists.

Here's what I mean: in the course of speaking with a number of my consults, I was struck time and time again by them saying that they had "done the research," that they "couldn't find a trace" of their ancestors, and that these ancestors had, as far as their research was concerned, disappeared.

It took me a few consults to get the hang of the tight time, so after a few I began to ask, "When you say research, what do you mean?" or "You say you researched, which records did you check?"

In most cases, the answer was "Well, I looked on Ancestry."

Now, despite the fact that many of these consults self-identified as intermediate level researchers, the truth was that many were actually still in the beginning stages of their research experience. Many had never written for a vital record, hadn't visited the NARA website, and some were unaware that the Catholic church kept extensive records that would be of help to genealogical researchers. So, in many ways, I don't fault these researchers for not looking beyond the internet to solve their research problems. What I found myself saying, again and again, was:

"You're going to have to move your research offline."

My advice to many researchers included how to write to various offices, how to order records from NARA, and how to go about ordering microfilm to be reviewed at a local FHC. Not terribly complicated stuff, but a revelation for many of my consult clients.

Now, when it comes to defining "research," if I had not asked explicitly in what places, in what resources, and in what record groups these individuals had looked, we may have run in circles for quite a long time. Why? Well, when speaking to a researcher who considers themselves intermediate I would assume that they have already done things like contact county offices regarding death records, or searched for probate documents, or even taken the time to determine the religion of the people they are researching. I would never assume that they had searched on Ancestry and then, finding nothing more, determined that they had run into a brick wall.

But this, I think, is a consequence of the emergence of records on the internet. Digitization facilitates research immensely, and I am one of its largest and strongest advocates. I like to go to sleep at night dreaming that every record I may need will be online some day. But, of course, they aren't, and so genealogy remains an endeavor that is aided by technology, but still depends upon some very dusty, blurry or even archaic means of discovery.

However, the quick successes that internet-centric genealogy affords also, I think, gives a false sense of research success to individuals, who, instead of plotting out specific approaches to solving research problems just type a name into a database interface and hope for the best. The former approach is focused and targeted, while the other is simply casting a wide net and hoping to find something of import. Both yield results, but only one builds skill and increases knowledge. Only one, in my opinion, is research. Many who may believe that they are intermediate researchers, but the truth is that many have only accumulated names and cherry-picked online records--leaving them with substantial trees but very little real research skill.

Of course, it's been said time and time again that even as companies like Ancestry increase the efficiency and abilities of us all to complete our research, it does, in some way, retard the generation of true research ability by truncating the experience that leads to improved research skills. In a way, we become dependent upon the easy availability of online records, and I wonder, if in the long run, this hurts us as researchers--even as much as it helps us as genealogists.

What I do know is that those who are starting genealogy now are at even more of a disadvantage in this regard than someone like me, who has been researching for just ten years. When I began, much was online, but the offerings have become staggeringly robust in the past decade, to the point that many of the records I sent off for and files that I ordered when I was first beginning (as well as books I consulted and resources at offices I visited) are now available online. New researchers can save time and money over what I had to expend, but they do, I think, lose something in the process--mainly an understanding of what research truly is, and how, in reality, it takes offline experience to gain the sorts of skills that can help solve some of genealogy's most difficult problems.

09 November 2011

Beautiful Books: Nebraska's Resources

Not sure what this is all about, but it did catch my eye:

Could be there because the book was sponsored in a way by the Nebraska Farmer Company.

From: A Condensed History of Nebraska (1903).

08 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Music Teacher, Armed with Spike

From: The Oakland Tribune, 21 October 1912

Music Teacher, Armed with Spike, Party to Peace Disturbance

For the purpose of defense purely the matrimonial alliance of Mrs. Eva Lincoln, a music teacher, and H. C. Rodgers, her divorced husband, was resumed yesterday when the police went to the latter's home to arrest him for disturbing the peace of Mrs. Charles Conlin, a neighbor. Mrs. Conlin telephoned to the police that Rodgers had played a hose through her parlor window.

Corporal James Flynn and Patrolman Nick Williams went to Rodgers' home at 2724 West street to make the arrest, and Mrs. Lincoln thereupon alleged to have gone to the defense of her former husband with a a wagon spoke, aiming her blows at the complaining witness.

Rodgers started to run and was tripped down the front stairs by Flynn. The divorced couple were taken to the city jail in the patrol wagon. This morning the neighborhood wrangle was adjusted to the police court of Judge George Samuels when the husband pleaded guilty and his wife pleaded innocent. The former will be sentenced October 23 and the wife will be tried on the same day.

04 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays Follow-Up: Death Stopped Wedding

I posted earlier this week a Tribune Tuesday story about Alice Atwood, whose fiancee died just three days before their scheduled wedding in 1904. A few people mentioned in comments and emails how sad and haunting the story was, and most wondered what the rest of Alice's life was like.

Well, I did too, so I set off to find out!

Now, what follows here is a mash-up of what I've been able to find online, so I haven't gone and ordered any records or consulted anything in person, however, I think I've been pretty successful in finding out about Alice's life.

Armed with the knowledge that Alice Atwood was living in Oakland in 1904, and was the daughter of E. N. Atwood, I started out checking Alameda county voter registrations to see if I could establish her father's first name. I was able to locate an Edward C. Atwood, but nothing more. Searches of directories turned up blank.

I had my first big clue when I went back to the noblest source of all (NEWSPAPERS!) and found this item in the Oakland Tribune, 30 June 1907:
The marriage of Miss Alice Atwood and John Madison Walthal was quietly solemnized last Tuesday at Trinity Episcopal Church. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. John Bakewell. There were no attendants and only the immediate relatives of the couple attended the wedding.
The bride has won many friends by her gracious personality and attractive manner. She is popular in society about the bay.
Walthal is a graduate of the State University and is prominent in politics, holding the office of District Attorney in Modesto.
After a honeymoon trip Mr. and Mrs. Walthal will make their home in Modesto.
Now, nothing here corroborated that this was the same Alice Atwood, but I found it peculiar that two likely young people would celebrate a wedding in so restrained a fashion--particularly when the society pages were overflowing with details about the elaborate (and costly... and large) weddings that seemed to typify the time. If this were the same Alice Atwood, it seemed to me, the muted nature of the 1907 wedding would have happened out of a sense of respect and sorrow over the death of her first intended.

With this information, I looked up Alice and her husband in the 1910 US Federal Census. I found a listing in Modesto for a "Mathew L. Walthall" and his wife, Alice A. Walthall, who was born in Maine. Although the name for the groom was off, this seemed likely to be the right household. In 1920, in Modesto, Stanislaus, California, I found this:

Walthall, John M., 48, California, Attorney
Walthall, Alice A., 35, Maine
Walthall, Sidney, 8, California
Atwood, Elizabeth, SIL, 32, Maine

It seemed clear I had identified the Alice and John who were married in Oakland, and I now had a name of one of Alice's siblings: Elizabeth. Taking this under advisement, I jumped back in time to see if I could identify Alice in the 1900 census, and get a fairer idea if this was the correct woman.

In the 1900 Federal Census for Lake Valley, El Dorado, California, I found the following clincher:
Edward Atwood, 38, Maine
Alice Atwood, 16, Maine
Bessie Atwood, 14, Maine
Lillian Atwood, 13, Maine
George Whitefield, 25, England (Physician)
Remember, of course, that the name of Alice's intended that had passed away in Los Angeles was named Dr. Whitfield [sic], a physician from England. The same, it appears, was enumerated along with the family in 1900, as a visitor! There's Alice, born in Maine abt. 1884, and her sister Elizabeth from the 1920 enumeration, born in Maine about 1886.  Why were they in Lake Valley in El Dorado county? My best guess is that, as the census was performed in June, the family and guest were enjoying themselves in Lake Valley--perched on the beautiful southern shore of Lake Tahoe.

Feeling sure that I had found "our Alice," I moved forward to find out more about her life after her marriage to J. M. Walthall. And, by all apparencies, it seems to have been a good one.

Firstly, Mr. Walthall wasn't a shabby looker, as you can see by a portrait of him in the History of the Bench and Bar of California, 1901:


And, according to a passport application Mr. Walthall filed in 1908, he stood at 6'3" tall... the perfect imposing height for a man working as an attorney-at-law. 

This same passport application revealed Alice's birthplace and birthdate, including the lines "accompanied by my wife, Alice A. Walthall, born at Portland, Maine, on the 17th of September, 1883..." The couple, it seems, travelled abroad for a bit in 1908, returning to New York City from Liverpool, England on 16 September 1908 aboard the ship Etruria. I couldn't help but wonder: did she visit Dr. Whitefield's home and family while she was there?

The 1921 History of Stanislaus County included the following information on John Madison Walthall and his wife, Alice Norton Atwood:
At Oakland, on June 25, 1907, Mr. Walthall married Miss Alice N. Atwood, a native of Portland, Me., daughter of Edward N. and Emma Atwood. Mrs. Walthall's grandfather was an analytical chemist and discovered a process to make kerosene out of a liquid found in Lake Trinidad ; but about the same time oil was discovered in Pennsylvania, and John D. Rockefeller put the scientist out of business before he had really begun to accomplish his aim. Afterward, Edward N. Atwood was employed by Mr. Rockefeller as an assistant to Henry Rogers in the Philadelphia office of the Standard Oil Company; and when his health broke, he settled in Oakland, where he became general western manager for a large Eastern life insurance company. And in Oakland, in October, 1909, he passed away, esteemed by all men. 
Mrs. Walthall went to college, and also attended the Convent of the Holy Names in Oakland, receiving there that finish to an education and culture which have always been recognized as among her real accomplishments. Mr. and Mrs. Walthall have one daughter, Sidney, nine years of age, a bright pupil in Modesto grammar school.
 The "E. N. Atwood" who was mentioned in the 1904 article turns out to be Edward N. Atwood, and Miss Alice Atwood turns out to be a rather accomplished and educated lady in her own right.

The Modesto papers on which I did a general search turned up a number of tidbits about the Walthall family, featuring, as they did, prominently on the society pages. They hosted bridge clubs, and summered in their cabin on Pinecrest Lake in the Stanislaus National Forest. Life, it seemed, was pretty good, at least until J. M. Walthall died on October 6th, 1933.

Her daughter, Sidney, didn't turn out to be a slouch, either, if one can judge by her interesting and heartfelt obituary posted on SFGate.

Sidney's obituary mentions that in 1938, "after the Japanese surrounded Peking," she left China with her young son and went " to her mother's home in Alameda, California." The obituary also notes that Alice's middle name was Norton... a few more details that might help track down Alice's final years.

So what happened to Alice after her husband's death? 

I lost the thread on Ancestry and other sites, so decided to do a general Google search on "Alice Walthall" +Alameda. What I found was a cemetery survey for Mountain View Cemetery, listing what seems to be a burial for "Alice A. Walthall Peck," born 1883, died 1976. The plot was shared with a Lillian Peck, and Elizabeth Atwood as buried in the plot. 

Had Alice remarried?

My first stop to investigate the new information was the California Death Index, where, sure enough, there was listed an Alice W. Peck, born 17 September 1883 in Maine, died 15 January 1976 in Alameda. 

It seemed apparent that Alice, after her husband's death in 1933, had remarried.

Diving back into the newspapers, I located a 30 July 1937 Oakland Tribune article about growing tensions in "Peiping" and some of the Bay Area residents who were living in China at the time. Mentioned was Sidney Walthall Lismer, along with a picture and a note that Mrs. Lismer was "a niece of Elizabeth Atwood and Arthur Peck of Alameda."

Did Alice marry an Arthur Peck?

A death notice from the 13th December 1934 issue of The Oakland Tribune provided another interesting twist to the mystery:
PECK- In Alameda, December 12, 1934, Lillian Atwood Peck, loving wife of Arthur Preston Peck, mother of Alison Preston Peck, and Norton Atwood Peck, sister of Mrs. Alice A. Walthall, and Miss Elizabeth Atwood, aunt of Sidney Walthall; a native of Maine, aged 48 years. [Interment Mountain View Cemetery]

So, it appears that it was actually Alice's sister Lillian who married Arthur Peck, and perhaps not Alice at all. So what to do with the information we have and how can we reconcile it?

Without having seen a photo of the gravesite enumerated in the Mountain View Cemetery, I can imagine that there is a large plot headstone with the name "Peck" engraved on it, then listings of the individuals buried in the plot, which include Lillian's two sisters, the maiden Bessie Atwood and Alice Walthal. Thus, in the course of the gravesite listing, Alice may have been listed as a Peck.

How to explain, though, the question of the California Death Index's entry for an Alice W. Peck, with the same birthdate and place as our Alice? Did Alice coincidentally marry a man by the name of Peck? Or perhaps an in-law of her sisters? Or did she marry her dead sister's husband? Or is this an error in indexing or record creation? Of course, the mystery may be solved by ordering the actual certificate... but since I probably won't be dropping the $14 for it,  I guess this mystery will have to stand for now!

Overall, I think this afternoon-long exercise in online resources offers a good glimpse of poor Alice Atwood's life after the tragic death of her young husband-to-be, George Whitefield. Her descendants--through her daughter Sidney and her son Peter--still live in the Bay Area, and who knows... they may even run across this blog entry! Should they turn up, I can only say: what a wonderful family story.

02 November 2011

Beautiful Books: A Bright Legacy

Another in the line of donation/collection stickers that would be of interest to genealogists:

I wonder if the scholarship is still in effect?

From: A History of Preston County, West Virginia, Part One (1914)

ed.: Apparently, this scholarship is still in effect, along with a slew of other ancestral-related scholarships!

01 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Death Stopped Wedding

From: The Oakland Tribune, 18 May 1904

Dr. Whitfield Passes Away on the Eve of Wedding

A romance which promised to culminate in the marriage of Miss Alice Atwood of 587 Merrimac street and Dr. Whitfield has terminated sadly with the sudden death of the young groom elect in Los Angeles. A few weeks ago the pretty home on Merrimac street was the scene of busy preparation for the coming wedding and gifts and good wishes poured in upon the young bride-to-be. The marriage was to take place at the home and the relatives and young friends of Miss Atwood were bidden to the ceremony when the telgram came to E. N. Atwood, the father of the young girl, telling the sad news of Dr. Whitfield's death, just three days before the date set for his marriage to Mr. Atwood's daughter.

Early that day Miss Atwood had received a letter from her fiance intimating that he was not feeling as well as usual, but full of hope and promises to be in this city the next day. Following close on the wake of that hopeful message came the sad tidings of death, and the first shock of grief. Mr. Atwood and his daughter left for Los Angeles to attend the funeral.

Dr. Whitfield was a bright and promising young physician whose home was in England, but who had traveled extensively on this continent. During his visit here he met and wooed the American girl, who was to accompany him to his home as his bride.

Dr. Whitfield had been an interested tourist in the southern part of California and at the time of his death was visiting Monrovia, the pretty suburb of Los Angeles. The young physician's mother is in England and the news will come as a heavy grief to her. She was expecting her son with his young bride.

Miss Atwood is now in Los Angeles, and seems overcome with the sad calamity which has befallen her. Plans are in progress, however, for her to accompany her father to the East, and it is hoped that travel and changes of scene will lessen the great grief which has clouded her life.

Update 04 November: You can read about the follow-up research I did on this story in another post.

29 October 2011

Defining Research, Part One

"Oh, it's my ancestry back to Eve!"
Recently, James Tanner over at Genealogy's Star discussed what he meant when he used the word "research." Now, I appreciate these sort of symantics-driven posts, because, as in most arenas of life, it is always important to define your terms before you begin any sort of discussion. And, as genealogy is full of the necessity of discussion (be it on blogs, on mailing lists, or via email), defining the word "research" certainly is key.

Why? I'd like to proffer an example of a recent exchange I had with a researcher who contacted me regarding information I have on an Ancestry tree. In this instance, note carefully the use of the word "research" by the person who wrote to me:

In this case, a woman wrote to me to notify me that some of my dates and locations for a man in my family tree were wrong. I had been researching this man for a little over five years, concentrating in this time on his life in the United States after his immigration. This woman speculated that my information was inaccurate, due to what her "research" had revealed.

Her "research," as it turned out, consisted of a naturalization index card she had found on Ancestry, as well as family information she had found on various family trees online (all of which, I would note, are iterations of my own research into this hitherto un-digitized family).

My information was faulty, she said, because unlike my family tree information which said that this man had arrived in the United States from his birthplace of Milan in 1839, the naturalization index card that she had found on Ancestry showed that he had arrived in 1848 and was from Austria. My dates, she said, seemed "wrong."

Now, in this case, the extent of "research" that had led this woman to seek to clarify/correct my own research was, it seemed, a piece of indexed information that she had found on Ancestry. I was happy to send along a scan of the gentleman's entire naturalization file which I had received from the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court's office. The file showed that the man in question had, indeed, arrived in 1839, although his declaration of intent was filed in 1848--this date was used on the naturalization card as the man's date of arrival in the United States.

I was also happy to point out to this researcher that the naturalization card was somewhat misleading in suggesting that the man was from Austria; in fact, as per the naturalization file, when he became a US citizen, he swore to revoke any and all allegiance to The Emperor of Austria, who, at the time of the man's naturalization in 1854, ruled over Milan as part of the Austrian empire.

Now, I concede that the naturalization card was somewhat misleading (and a good lesson as to how indexes can lead us to reach improper conclusions in our research). I also applaud her natural tendency to question the information she saw in my tree (I do, I'm sure, have some mistakes in there), but I also question this person's quickness to "correct" without having performed a modicum of true research on her own.

The key word here is "research." To my mind, calling this woman's work "research" is an abuse of the word, if only because what she had done was only half of the process deserving of that word. "Performing a search," "taking an overview of available information," or even "surveying previous research" is, of course, part of the research process. But locating an online family tree and preparing to undermine that research based on research that hasn't even been performed seems overeager at best, a slippery slope toward shoddy research at worst.

I'm happy (sarcastically) to report that the 15-page Genealogy Report regarding this matter that I sent this researcher has now been faithfully transcribed by her into her family tree, without attribution or documentation as to where she obtained the initial research. Of course, seeing as how I emailed her five years worth of research (along with scans) intending to bring her up to speed, and she never took the time to write and thank me for taking time to do so.... well, the move to proudly display my work as her own doesn't surprise me much.

It is, apparently, all part of her diligent "research."

28 October 2011

Blogger Headaches: Stat Spam

If you have a Blogger blog and enjoy checking your site stats, you may be seeing a bunch of links popping up from random sites that don't seem (on the face) likely places that would be linking to a genealogy blog.

I won't humor the idiots foisting fake stats on our blogs by naming them, but if you check your Blogger stats, you're likely to see one or two listed. One I get constantly is a goth site, another is an auto injury attorney's site. All of them, in my opinion, suck.

Anyways, just thought I would give a heads-up to fellow bloggers who may make the mistake of clicking on these false referrers, thereby giving the b*tards the view traffic they so sickly crave.

If you totally don't know what I'm talking about, there's a nice post from a Blogger help guru here. For those who do know what I'm talking about, the post is still an interesting and informative one, when it comes to the web's greasy underbelly.

26 October 2011

Beautiful Books: An Enduring Tribute

One of the most genealogically-interesting (if not also beautiful) donation/collection tags I have seen:


Found in: An Outline History of Orange County (1846).

25 October 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Hungry Dog

From: The Oakland Tribune, 22 October 1912 HUNGRY DOG ATTACKS FIVE-YEAR-OLD GIRL Attacked by a hungry dog while returning home from a butcher shop this morning, Georgie Santon, a 5-year-old girl living at 2239 Magnolia street, was bitten upon her cheeks several times by the animal. The little girl had been on an errand for her mother. She was taken to the receiving hospital by her parent where the injuries were dressed by steward Platt.

24 October 2011

Got a Good Genea-Mystery?

I was perusing the great Writers & Poets website this morning, when I ran across the following call for submissions:

SMALL PRESS seeking submissions for mystery anthology with genealogy theme. Open to interpretation as long as genealogy is main theme. You never know who’s part of your family! 3,000–4,000 words. Deadline: February 29, 2012. Free book upon publication. Send submissions to M. Dellafera, 94 Wheeler Rd., Hollis, NH 03049. Questions: mdellafera@charter.net or lwatskin@gmail.com.
I figured that I'm not the only genealogy-buff who also loves a good mystery, so all burgeoning writers should sharpen their pencils! The call is for short stories (3-4,000 words).

Maybe a short story called "The Mystery of the Citation-less Death Date"? Or perhaps "The Woman Who Gave Birth to Grandmother"? The possibilities are truly endless!

But seriously... if anyone wants to form a writer's support group let me know!

20 October 2011

Geneablogger Open Thread: The Genealogy Experience

Good ol' Thomas posted an Open Thread for this Thursday in regards to the necessity (and meaning) of the genealogy experience, and as for most other things in this world: I have an opinion!

Firstly, the intangible experience of genealogy, I believe, is vital to the process of discovery that drives all of our research forward. How that experience materializes is, undoubtedly, different for everyone. For me, at first blush it's a Sherlock Holmes-ian desire to root out the truth, discover the details, and see everything correctly in its place.

This part of the experience is exhilarating: there's the thrill of the hunt, running (sometimes in circles) around an ancestor, trying like hell to pin them down, to establish them distinctly. I find a record, or a corroborative link and the first words out of my mouth are "Haha! I've got you!" It's a chase, a pursuit, and the high when I come out on top is unspeakable. This is the part of genealogy I am addicted to.

Then there is the experience that lends itself to more thoughtful research. I call it "coloring inside the lines," and it involves getting the details on people's lives. This is a more-painstaking process, but incredibly gratifying, as the life experiences of the numbers and letters in my database turn into the story of real people, real lives, ensconced in history and reactive to the worlds around them. This is the part of the experience that reminds me that as I live today, so all these people lived... and I feel honored to know more about them. Sometimes I realize that I may be the first person to have thought of these people in decades, if not centuries. That feeling ties me to the people I research, and some of them, strangely, almost become my friends.

That, pared down and simplified, is my own experience of genealogy.

The software, the books, the libraries, the mailing lists and sites... these are all tools, as I see it, and not the central core of genealogy itself. Our mastery of them speaks not to our abilities but to the ways in which they have helped us manifest the true genealogy experience, therefore the tools rank secondary to the process of discovery and experience of genealogy as each of us experience it.

I see it like this: my husband, who is an electrician, is not made an electrician because of the tools he uses. You could never give his tools to an un-trained individual and expect them to perform the sort of complicated and dangerous work he does on a daily basis. The essence of his being an electrician is the extent of his learning, the depth of his experience, and the now-intuitive way that he understands electricity.

And so it is with genealogists.

This may explain why many who are in touch with their own true experience of genealogy balk so much at others who wield the tools and use the words, but seem to have no heart or skin in the game. Maybe we're not so much angry at them for sullying the world with misinformation, or so much peeved with them for their relentlessly fabricated trees as we are sorry for them that they have, in some way, missed the point. The experience of genealogy, the TRUE experience of genealogy, seems to have passed them by. They have the tools, but not the experience, and so seem woefully unprepared for their own research, and seem oblivious to their own family trees.

So yes, I would say that the experience of genealogy is central. Without that core emotional connection to the research, our ways become somewhat blind. We could travel the world and visit every repository, even piece together a remarkable family tree. But without the emotional component of genealogy, all it is is a process, and not an experience.

That, to me, seems somewhat devoid of meaning, and I regret those stuck on process who don't get to experience the subtle changes of perspective and sense of self that comes with the real genealogy experience. I wouldn't be who I am today without such experience, and to have lost the chance by being blind to it would be a sad fate for me, indeed.

18 October 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Instant Death

From: The Oakland Tribune, 14 October 1912 INSTANT DEATH UNDER FREIGHT TRAIN WHEELS Instant death followed a fall beneath the wheels of a freight train, when A. Nelson, a brakeman for the Oakland and Antioch Railway, lost his balance and fell between two cars. The body was mangled almost beyond recognition. The accident occurred at 10:30 yesterday morning at the junction of the Snake and Moraga roads, in the Piedmont hills. Mason was 33 years of age and unmarried.

Thoughts on Cleaning and Life (and Genealogy!)

I had started writing a comment to Greta over at Greta's Genealogy Blog about her response to the ongoing Geneamommy posts down the street and around the bend at The Scrappy Genealogist. (Ah, the genea-neighborhood). It got so long, I decided to shuttle my response over to this blog, so as not to hog all of Greta's screen space.

Firstly, what a great surprise to hear about Geneamommys! When I started this blog nigh four years ago, I had just had my first son, and I wasn't running into too many women who were trying to balance caring for young children with working on genealogy. My blog was going well, when, well, nature struck and I got pregnant with my daughter, who was born in January of 2010!

After a hiatus from blogging in order to accommodate myself to the new chaos of raising a toddler and a preschooler at the same time, I see that all sorts of new gals have joined the brigade, and I'm so excited about it!

But on to what Greta posted, about her dozen ways to get life in order, in order to get to life.

I particularly agree with #7 and #11. For #7 (chucking paper where digital will do), I know that since I got my Kindle two years ago I have purchased only two books in physical form... this from the person who had shipments coming in from Dover books many times per year. I cleared out the bookcases for donations to a prison reading program, keeping only the books I treasured most or knew I would read again. The bookcases are no longer groaning under the weight of a mass of modernist and victorian lit paperbacks, and I can change my mind about what I want to read in the middle of the night without having to get out of bed. How's that for improvement and making life easier?

And for #11 (sweating the small stuff so that it doesn't sweat you)... it's so true. Being in the "intense" phase of parenthood with a 4yo and 1.5 yo, the little things tend to not get done. When I walk around the house and count the chores, I get dismally tired!

To combat the stress, I scaled back my freelance work load for the rest of the year in order to get our house under control again, and it is making a huge difference. Cleaning out the fridge, defrosting the freezer in the garage, hanging up pictures that have been leaning against the wall for the better part of a year... stuff like that. It makes the world seem so much more serene when I feel like I have some semblance of control.

And that sense of serenity is what I need, what with the busy life I have tending to the kids, taking care of the house, cooking for the family, not to mention helping out my 81yo mother, visiting my father who is in assisted living, completing my freelance writing and editing work, completing the last five chapters of my first fiction novel, and shopping around my nonfiction manuscript to agents!

When my son goes into 1st grade next year, I'm hoping to place my daughter in a full-day care a few days a week, so that I can have some time to work on my projects in an uninterrupted fashion. If all goes well, in a few years, I'll have published my first two books, resurrected my now-dormant research and record retrieval services for the Bay Area, and be running my own team of writers offering editorial services to websites and blogs.

Well, a Geneamommy can dream, right?

13 October 2011

The Strange Road to Samuel O. Tift

Yesterday was an exciting day, because when I opened up my mailbox, there was a lovely (and rather heavy!) packet from the Allen County Library inside... filled with 103 pages copied from the Journal of Southwest Georgia History. How I ended up ordering these pages tells a lot about the strange roads we walk through our research.

One of my husband's ancestors, Louisa P. Harvey, married a gentleman by the name of Samuel O. Tift in Key West Florida in 1842. Louisa and Samuel had two sons together, but in both the 1850 and 1860 censuses, Louisa is enumerated with the household of her parents... no sign of Samuel.

I've wondered for a long time what happened to Samuel, and as my recent research odyssey into the Tift/Harvey family began, I only knew that Louisa disappeared after the 1860 census--whether she died or had re-married was unknown.

The problem has been a perplexing one, so I hired an APGen researcher to check for (among other things) information on Samuel Tift. His search, beyond the couple's marriage registration, came up null.

Now, the Tifts as a family made quite an impact on Key West, making a fortune salvaging wreckage from ships that ran aground of Key West's treacherous reefs. Two brothers, Asa and Nelson, even funded the construction of some of the Confederate navy's first ships. But how Samuel O. Tift was related to the notable Tifts of the area was unclear. I hoped that somewhere in the copious documentation and primary sources related to the Tifts, there may just be something about him.

In the course of learning more about the Key West Tifts, I posted a message to the Tefft mailing list asking if anyone knew much about the family. In response, I was contacted by a gentleman who was kind enough to send me a short report for information he had collected on a Solomon O. Tift, who, it seems, was also known as Samuel! Being a quality researcher, this gentleman's work was cited properly, and his footnote read as follows:
This information originated with Debra Boswell Crosby at the Dougherty County Public Library in Albany, Georgia. It came from various records at the library, among them the diaries of Nelson Tift. She shared it with Judith Mitchell Bennett, a Tefft descendant, who in turn contributed the information to Pettaquamscutt historian A. Craig Anthony. Mr. Anthony kindly passed this info on to me. 

Wow! That's a pretty circuitous route, but I am cheered that the provenance of this information is, at least, documented.  It gives me a trail to walk backwards (dangerous for someone as klutzy as me), which is a lot more than I had before. As an added bonus, the report included a death date and burial location for Louisa, who, it turns out, died in 1863.

As Nelson Tift was a founder of Albany, Georgia, I was pretty sure that a publication somewhere, at some point, would have published out his diaries. And, indeed, a PERSI search showed me that they had been excerpted by the Journal of Southwest Georgia History... leading to the tasty packet that arrived in the mail.

So yes, I'm excited to learn more about Nelson Tift, and to find more information on my man Samuel/Solomon. And what a twisted road to walk... online records, onsite researchers, a mailing list, an email, and an order to ACPL... I like to think that somehow, after tossing in some phone calls and connecting with some of those historical experts, my research trail will lead me to the story of Mr. Samuel O. Tift.

12 October 2011

Beautiful Books: An Unusual Author Portrait

I always appreciate the author photos in many of the older local histories; most usually they're photos of staunch (and slightly stern) looking older men, who have dedicated years of hard work to write the history of their native or adoptive hometowns.

This one, however, from The History of Ritche County, is refreshingly different:

A lot of period detail to enjoy!

11 October 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: A Small Heritage

From: The Oakland Tribune, 17 October 1912

Seek Missing Heir to Small Heritage

Chief of Police Walter J. Petersen has been asked to locate Robert J. McGregor, who has been missing for the past eight years, and for whom a small heritage is in litigation in Seattle, Wash. Joseph Kiernan, a relative of the missing McGregor, sent a letter to Chief Petersen today, stating that his relative had been last heard of in Oakland about eight years ago. Kiernan states that if McGregor can be found, he will help him to gain the fortune, but that if it can be proved that the man is dead, he would like to assume possession as he is the next heir.

06 October 2011

In Which I Stop the Madness, and Start the Research Logging

Wow, when it comes to logging my research, I'm the absolute worst. Really, I'm pretty sure that on a list somewhere--existing, perhaps, solely in the mind's eye of the genea-god(s)--I am at the tip-top of the logging poo-poo list. Not because I've made it a mission to make myself run in research circles, chasing the tip of the same old tail, but because I'm lazy, and I hate to interrupt the mad rush of research momentum in order to make boring notes about something that I've already done. I'm much more interested in what I have yet to do.

That said, the other day, when I spent about an hour pouring through some online records at FamilySearch, only to realize that I had already done this particular exercise in futility, I realized that enough was enough.

So, I succumbed. I started an online research log.

Does this make me insanely pedestrian? Or stridently superior? I can't tell. All I know is that I opted for the convenience of Google Docs to create a spreadsheet that will allow me to track my research:

Each surname will eventually occupy its own page in the spreadsheet, accessible via a tab:

It occurs to me that eventually it will be very crowded down there, but we'll see how it scales, I guess, and go from there! At least I started, right? Surely that must count for something... Anyways, if anyone sees a glaring omission in this research log, let me know!

05 October 2011

Beautiful Books: 1902 Railway Guide

As I run across a number of beautiful books in the indexing I do for my labor of love, the Google Books Genealogy Index GooBooGenI, I thought I would start sharing some of the illustrations and photos that really catch my eye.

To start, this one from the 1902 Rand-McNally Railway Guide. I think it really captures that excitement that goes along with travel, and I love the embellishment:

04 October 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: A San Francisco Butcher

From: The Oakland Tribune, 18 February 1912
John H. Eggers, Pioneer, Is Dead
ALAMEDA, Feb. 17--John H. Eggers, a business man of Alameda, and formerly a San Francisco butcher, died at his home here today. He is a pioneer resident of the State, and is survived by a wife and four children.

03 October 2011

Free Online Newspaper Archives

Recently I received an email on Ancestry from a member of an Iowa-based genealogical society, containing information about one of my ancestors. In the email, this woman kindly referenced their online newspaper archive, which was hosted by NewspaperArchive.com. The newspapers (mostly historical, some more recent), were free to access, and needed no NewspaperArchive membership to view.

Now, I have a subscription to NewspaperArchive, but imagine my surprise when I did a little sleuthing, and came upon the fact that they actually have a number of these sub-sites that offer free newspapers (and, in a few cases, city directories and township records)! These sites span the country (I did find a few international ones), and, I imagine, are available thanks to some working agreements made between these various institutions (publishers, libraries, historical societies) and the site itself. There's some great local and niche publications (schools, military regiments) available, for free, right now, to anyone.

Researchers in Iowa can particularly rejoice; NewspaperArchive is located in Iowa, and as such has made a number of agreements with Iowa libraries, so the pickings there are particularly hearty.

I figured I might as well get these subsites into a list, hoping that there's some useful information here for other researchers. I did not include in this listing sub-sites that require a full NewspaperArchive subscription to view the newspapers. This list is intended to catalog only those sites offering completely free access.










New Mexico:

New Jersey:

New York:

North Carolina:



02 October 2011

Alternative Sources for Obituaries

Barbara over at Life from the Roots had a post up recently about finding an ancestor's obituary information in a book dedicated to obituaries for Yale Graduates. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am almost obsessive in my newspaper research--and an exhaustive search for obituaries is one of the first tasks I undertake on an individual. Of course, life intervenes, and many times those searches come up blank.

So besides newspapers, where else can we turn? Books, as usual, to the rescue.

For example, there are the alumni obituary records such as the one that Barbara cited:

There are society and professional publications that note the passing of members, like this one from the New York Medical Society:

And there are publications put out by religious organizations that mention the passing of active members, like this one from the Reformed Presbyterians:

And then, of course, there are some of my favorites... those found in Pioneer and local history publications, like this one from the Firelands Historical Society, of Norwalk, Ohio:

As you well have noticed, these are all niche publications... not broad interest. While their coverage isn't comprehensive, these niche publications are great opportunities to put the minutia you have collected about your research subject to work. That symbol on their grave, the mention in the newspaper about how they served as President of a club... any of these can be pointers to an obituary in a publication which you'd otherwise probably ignore!

05 September 2011

Key West Inquirer Transcriptions-January 1836

Well, summer certainly passed ME by. Between a bunch of bad family news, and working to establish my own home-based writing and editorial business, poor Rainy Day Genealogy Readings hasn't had much of a chance to claim any of my attention.

At any rate, trickles of genealogy work is getting done, and I am looking forward to actually sating my genealogy yen at Ancestry Day San Francisco as a volunteer for the California Genealogical Society. Yay!

Til then, here's some tidbits I pulled from some pale Key West Florida newspapers put online in a great database project by the University of Florida (in concert with a few other entities). Here's hoping these help someone Googling their missing ancestors!

The Key West Enquirer, 02 January 1836
Per Schr Motto, from Tampa--Dr. Nourse, and Lieut. Duncan, USA
Per sloop Francisco for St. Marks--Hon. Jas. Webb, R. Fitzpatrick, Esq., Mr. L. F. Breaker, Miss Breaker, Mr. Prince, Lady and Family of Key West, and Mr. S. A. Spencer of Indian Key.
L.F. Breaker: Will be a candidate for the Sheriffalty of Monroe county at the election in February next. Jan. 2, 1836.
NOTICE: All persons are forewarned from shooting or otherwise trespassing on Knights Key, as I am determined to prosecute any who may be found in the act. JOSHUA APPLEBY, Dec. 24, 1835.
NOTICE: All persons having demands against the estate of Antonio Pacheco deceased, late of the county of Hillsborough, are hereby requested to present the same to the undersigned. All those indebted to said estate are required to make payment on or before the 16th of January, 1836. Wm. Bunce and Quintin A. Pacheco, adm.

Key West Inquirer, 09 January 1836

JOSEPH A THOURON Will be a candidate for the Clerkship of Monroe County Court, at the election in February next. Dec. 26, 1835.
ALDEN A. M. JACKSON Respectfully offers himself to the voters of Monroe County as a candidate for Clerk at the County Court.
By virtue of a writ of fi. fa. from the Hon. Superior Court for the Southern Jurisdicial District of Florida, to me directed and delivered, I will expose for sale on Saturday the sixth day of February to the highest bidder all the right, title, claim and interest of Lackland M. Stone to the following described property situated on the Island of Key West, to wit. Lots nos. 2 and 3 in square no. 44. levied on as the property of said Stone, to satisfy a judgment which Mary R. Emerson, wife of Emerson and late Mary R. Fleeming, and widow and legatee of John W. C. Fleeming, by her attorney in fact, William A. Whitehead, recovered against said L. M. Stone. Terms, Cash Sale, within the legal hours. Papers to be paid for by the purchaser. Thos. Eastin, U. S. M., by J. A. Thouron, D. M.

Key West Enquirer, 30 January 1836

NAVAL--The United States Sloop of War St. Louis, Capt. ROSSEAU, arrived at this port from Pensacola on the 28th inst. List of officers attached to the US Frigate Constellation now in Port:

Commodore: AJ Dallas

LIEUTENANTS: Edmondy Byrne, Jno. L. Bell, Grey Skipwith, Steven Johnston, Gurdin C. Ashton, CHAH Kennedy, Geo. M. Bache.

SURGEON: Leonard Osborn

Ass't Surgeons: Sam'l C. Laurison, Wm. Vaulk

Purser: Jno. DeBree

Act'g Sailor Master: Raphael Semmes

Lieut. of Marines: N. S. Waldron

Commodore's Secretary: Thos. Miller

Passed Midshipmen: Wm. Chandler, Jas. K. Bowie, Jno. F. Borden, Roger Perry

Midshipmen: Jas. M. Frailey, Jno. W. Taylor, A. S. Baldwin, Jas. H. Strong, Steven Dodd, Wm. Pope, Edmund T. Shubrick, Lewis c. Sartori, Saml A Turner, WS Williamson, PW Humphreys, Wm. B. Whiting, JS Booth, Jno W. D. Ford, Jno O. Wilson, Jno A Doyle, Wm. B. Beverly, Wm. May, Francis P. Hoban, Geo Wickham, Richard Lounds Capts. clerk: Jacob Martin

Gunner: Saml G. City

Boatswain: Chas. Mathews

Sail Maker: --- Crow

Carpenter: Jno O Butler

Lieut LM Powell, passenger to join the Squadron
The lot of Ground on Whitehead St. belonging to Felix C. Ruby, with the buildings erected thereon, consisting of a Dwelling House, Kitchen, and Work Shop, all in tolerably good repair. The lot contains about half an acre of ground, and is surrounded by a good stone fence. The premises rent at present for about $10 per month. W. A. Whitehead, Key West, Jan. 30, 1836.

21 June 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Married in the Window

From: The Oakland Tribune, 17 October 1912

Couple to Marry in Window of Store

That love is oblivious to curious stare and also surroundings is to be demonstrated tomorrow evening by George Steadman and Miss Maud Osborn, both of Alameda, who took out a marriage license this morning. The couple wll be married in the window of a store at Ninth and Broadway at 7 o'clock. Beyond the satisfaction of each getting the other the young folk will receive a $100 diamond ring, offered as a reward by M. Goldwater, proprietor of the establishment. Steadman is a contractor, 25 years old. Miss Osborn is 22 years old and resides at 2831 San Jose avenue, Alameda.
Steadman and his fiancee had planned upon a wedding to be held in two weeks but decided that they might as well take advantage of the offer.From: The Oakland Tribune, 17 October 1912

14 June 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Just Imagine

From: The Oakland Tribune, 16 October 1912

Youthful Bride's Troubles Win Sympathy and Interlocutory Divorce Decree

Just imagine a husband who got mad and nearly killed his wife's dog and then turned his wrath upon her when she protested; a husband who got mad again because she went to the store and charged a half-dozen eggs when she was hungry!
"Just imagine", said 18-year-old Edith Nauert, in testifying in her divorce suit against Henry P. Nauert today. "He hit me just because I went down to the creamery and got a half-dozen eggs. He never brought anything into the house and because I did go and charge anything, he got angry about it and I said: Who has a better right than I have to get anything and then he got mad and gave me the dickens about it."
The Court did imagine and the girl wife was given an interlocutory decree.

07 June 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: A Suspicious Husband

From: The Oakland Tribune, 16 October 1912

Suspicious Husband Cause of Near-Riot

The suspicious actions of a suspicious husband led to the police taking Lutero Cavasso temporarily into custody last night at San Pablo avenue and Twenty-third street. A telephone message came to the police that a man was hiding behind a fence in the neighborhood and that two shots had been fired.

Patrolmen Connolly and Conroy and Corporal Charles McCarthy hurried to the scene and found Cavasso. The shots proved to be no more than the missing fire of a motorcycle. Cavasso explained that he had been watching his home to see whether his wife was coming home with some other man.

31 May 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: A Wild Tale

From The Oakland Tribune, 13 January 1911


After the relation of a weird tale that reminds one of the stories told of the wild and woolly West in the days when men carried guns at their hips and their waists were circled with a cartridge belt well filled with the leadel pellets, Donald F. Saylor, former circulation manager for a Berkeley newspaper was granted an interlocutory decree of divorce from Martha E. Saylor, on the grounds of cruelty and desertion by Superior Judge Wells this morning.

27 May 2011

Setting Sail on the "Old Spanish Trail"

Public television station KCET's Blog has a fascinating article up about The Old Spanish Trail. I get hung up on the Oregon Trail as many others do, and haven't given much thought to the more southerly entrances into the Golden State, mostly because I don't believe I have any ancestors who traveled that way.

From the KCET post:
"In 1826, American fur trapper and explorer Jedediah Smith blazed a trail from present-day Utah to the Mojave Desert. After a clash with hostile Mohave Indians, Smith met two Tongva guides who offered to take his expedition to Mission San Gabriel, near Los Angeles. The guides led Smith along the intermittent Mohave River and over the San Bernardino Mountains near the Cajon Pass. Smith's party arrived at the mission on November 27, where they were warmly received by the missionaries...

Three years later, Santa Fe merchant Antonio Armijo led the first successful caravan from Santa Fe to Southern California, combining Smith's route with portions of the Franciscans' 1776 path to Utah to open what would later be called the Old Spanish Trail. In doing so, Armijo had established an important link between California and New Mexico, now the northern flanks of the newly-independent Mexican Republic."

Read more at the blog.

25 May 2011

Paper? Or Something More e-Tastic?

I finally got around to renewing my NEHGS membership the other day, and opted, once again, to receive a paper version of the Register. I have to admit I love getting my society publications in the mail, but I am from California, so always feel guilty about using paper when I don't have to. Plus, what's to like about a bookshelf full of dusty volumes that I can't search on my computer? And though I love to hold some paper in my hand when I read, I LOVE (like LOVE, like want to up and marry) my Kindle, and haven't read a "real life" book in the year and a half since I received it as a gift. An e-version saves trees, saves postage, saves fuel, maybe even saves gnomes. Just sayin'.

So, you would think, I'm a natural candidate for a digital version of the Register. But I'm also someone that doesn't do a whole lot of extensive reading on my computer. Too many temptations to get on Facebook, too hard to read the text on the screen, and my computer chair just isn't that comfortable.

I love that the NEHGS Register is available as a searchable PDF, and I love that the issues are available and searchable online. But I wish that they were available as an ePub file, instead of (or, really, in addition to) a PDF.

PDFs are great, but reading them on a Kindle really is NOT. I like to fall asleep to the soothing well-citationed sounds of Register articles in my mind, but reading PDFs on a Kindle is a navigational and low-functionality nightmare that I'm not interested in ruining my reading experience for. How excellent would it be to have an ePub version of the Register on my Kindle, where I could read and take notes? Pretty darn excellent.

It seems to me that genealogy societies have a vested interest in encouraging members to adopt e-versions of their publications. Saves them lots of money in printing and shipping costs, for one. So why aren't they making it just that much easier for me (and other Kindle users like me) to go digital?

Hey Genealogy Society, want me to adopt the e-version of your publication? Give me an ePub version!!!

Or send me a new iPad.

Totally up to you.

24 May 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Claimed She Was Drugged

From The Oakland Tribune, 12 January 1901

From Grave to the City Bastile
Anna Hollenbeck Declares That She Was Drugged

The peculiar actions of Anna Hollenbeck resulted in her arrest last evening by the police and this morning she forfeited $6 bail in the Police Court.

Anna Hollenbeck is the widow of the late Deputy Poundmaster Nathan Hollenbeck, who was shot and killed by a Chinese named Quong Mow about two years ago. She is also the supposed widow of the late Deputy Poundmaster Pete Farrell, who was shot by her brother, Edmund  Rivest, a few months ago during a dispute over the ownership of a stove.

The Hollenbeck woman yesterday hired a horse and buggy at the Club Stables and, through the drenching rain and deep mud, she drove to the grave of Hollenbeck in Mountain View Cemetery where she knelt down and wept bitterly.

On returning from the cemetery she stopped at a roadside saloon and ordered a drink of liquor, so she claims, because she was cold and shivering, and after quaffing the draught, she knew no more until friends at Twenty-sixth and Peralta streets tried to resuscuitate her.

She claimed she had been drugged.

The police patrol wagon was sent for and she was taken to the City Prison, where she afterward revived and was released on furnishing $6 bail.

18 May 2011

Thoughts on Digital Newspapers

Anyone who has been following this blog for any amount of time knows that I am interested--nay, obsessed--with the information to be found in local newspapers. I owe some of my most interesting family history tales to information found in newspapers. Newspapers have provided me with information on deaths, marriages, births, and even--in one case--established a family connection that broke a tenacious brick wall.

I love newspapers so much that I spend a great amount of time indexing and transcribing them. As I type out stories and items about people I have no connection to, I am hoping that others can make use of the information I find, and that they will consider doing the same for items they run across. It's that great genealogical sense of gifting, that largesse of family history research we all share. But I do it with particular imperative.

Because the truth is this: we cannot sit on our laurels and wait for technology to open the information in newspapers to us. Too often, perhaps, genealogists and researchers today think it useless or a waste of time to index or transcribe certain resources, because they feel like "they'll just get digitized" or "they're already searchable anyway."

While digitized newspapers are a huge boon, they are not, unfortunately, the end of the line. Anyone who has ever used searchable newspaper databases does (or ought to) know the extent to which those databases are hampered by the shortcomings of OCR technologies. Very few databases are accurately and fully indexed (and even these have mistakes). If you rely on search fields to research in newspapers, you aren't researching those newspapers at all.

Don't believe me? Try a test. Open any 19th century newspaper and look for a few names. Run a search on those names, and see if they come up. Do they? Or don't they? Depending upon the condition of the digital image (faded, torn, blurred, or irregular/unique fonts) you may get no results at all. How sure are you now that you've done your research? How sure are you now that those newspapers you thought you had checked don't actually contain information you may want or need?

So back to my original plaint: genealogists, researchers, lend me your keyboards. Do your part and transcribe a few items of interest next time you're thumbing through a newspaper. Post them to a blog. Email them to a message board. Just don't "wait" for technology to give us the gifts lurking in newspapers... if we leave it up to computers to read our newspapers for us, those gifts will be an awfully long time in coming.

17 May 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: A Mania for Setting Fire

From: The Oakland Tribune, 11 January 1901

Wm. De Frees Insane

William De Frees, who at one time ranked among the wealthiest mining men in the State, was taken to the insane ward of the Receiving Hospital last night by the police.

He has been stopping with his grandson, A. D. Taylor, at 626 Forty-sixth street. Of late, he developed a mania for setting fire to the place. Last Tuesday he luded [sic] the vigilance of the members of the Taylor family and disappeared from home. Although the police searched for him no trace of him was found until last night when he wandered back. He is nearly 78 years old.

He was examined this morning by Drs. Olmstead and Knox, who recommended that he be committed to an insane asylum.

16 May 2011

The Mysterious Ms. Dexter, Part Two

I wrote last week about my attempts to locate information on one of my ancestral "pets" Mary Dexter(?) Harvey, and the devilish time I've had trying to pin down quality proof of her maiden name and the Massachusetts family to which she is connected.

To that end, I hired a quality Association of Professional Genealogists researcher who resides in Key West, where Mary and her husband Samuel Harvey resided for upwards of twenty years. I was hopeful some onsite dredging would turn up clues where my research--performed in California--was falling short.

Alas, professional genealogists are mere mortals, and cannot conjure up something where little is to be found.

The Key West researcher did obtain for me a photo and a fine transcription of a marriage license for one of Samuel and Mary Harvey's children who married in Key West in 1842. No witnesses were mentioned, although the license did mention that the wedding was an Episcopal one, which confirmed my Protestant suspicions about the family.

The elusive connection between Mary D. Harvey and a gentleman from Massachusetts by the name of Edward Harvey (who also resided in Key West and worked with her husband) was not to be confirmed or denied by any research performed by the hire. I had been hoping for a death certificate for Edward Harvey that may have more information, but it wasn't to be.

Further information on Samuel Harvey's time in Key West? Also a poop-out. As the researcher said, Mr. Harvey didn't seem to leave very deep footprints during his Key West residence.

So where to now? I suppose we venture back to Charleston, where Mary and Samuel resided before their twenty years in Key West. Not that I mind hanging out in Charleston records... I simply had hoped the Great Key West Adventure of ought-11 would have turned up more dirt on a family that seems, well.... not desirous of being found.

10 May 2011

Speaking of Charleston... South Carolina Resources added to FamilySearch

I've been conducting a lot of Charleston research in order to assuage my pangs of jealousy regarding not being in Charleston for the NGS this year.

I was extremely happy to see that the FamilySearch site added two invaluable resources to their records this month:

* South Carolina Probate Records, Bound Volumes, 1671-1977

* South Carolina Probate Records, Files and Loose Papers, 1732-1964

If you research in South Carolina (particularly in Charleston) this is a huge addition to your online resources. Enjoy! I know I will!

Tribune Tuesdays: Stole a Coat

From The Oakland Tribune, 11 January 1901

Stole a Coat

Dr. Ambrose Sander secured a search warrant today for the recovery of a coat and vest he claims was stolen from the room of one of his employees at his 10 cent lodging house.

09 May 2011

Oh I Wish I Were in Charleston, Hurrah, Hurrah... or: The Charleston "Mariner's Church"

Words can't describe how badly I wanted to attend the NGS conference in Charleston, SC, where most of our noted brethren are headed this week.

My husband has a heavy swath of ancestors in Charleston, as well as some relatives living there today. We had the good fortune to visit in 2006, and I was enraptured by the city, which is so historical, so charming, so grandiose yet so comfortable.

In order to calm my envious passions, I have been devoting myself to some long overdue Charleston research. In trying to connect a certain gentleman to my husband's family, I found the funeral notice for his wife:

The Relatives, Friends and Acquaintances of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. H. Harvey, and of Captain John Carnighan and family, are respectfully invited to attend the Funeral Services of the Wife of the former, at the Mariner's Church, THIS MORNING, at 10 o'clock.-The Charleston Daily News, 13 December 1871.

I know that Mr. Harvey's father was a shipwright, and dear William may have been one as well. Mrs. Harvey's father, John Carnighan, was a Capt. Thus, I suppose, the affiliation with the Mariner's Church.

I found some interesting information on the church, which was actually heavily damaged in the 1886 Charleston earthquake:

The church was a Baptist one, which is an interesting piece of information for my research.

There is an interesting image of the Mariner's Church, post-earthquake, at the Charleston Museum site, here.

Interested in the history of the First Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina? Well, the internet has that too. Now if only it could jet me over to Charleston while the kids are taking their afternoon nap...