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...

05 May 2011

Slave History, Poetrized

Finding inspiration in the most interesting of places...

The poet Bill Grimke-Drayton has uncovered long lost papers connected to slavery during the 18th and 19th centuries that were stored in the attic of his family home the United Kingdom's county of Cheshire.

The College of Charleston, South Carolina in the United States has decided the papers are of significant historical value and recently paid the Grimke-Drayton family $60,000 for the right to retain the papers for research and preservation.

The papers may never have come to light were it not because of Grimke-Drayton's research for his latest collection of poetry titled, Freedom Reclaimed (Poetry by Bill Grimke-Drayton), in which he explores his family's connection to the slave trade in the United States' Deep South region, and at the same time deals with his own deeply-felt experiences with racism.

Read more at: Working Writers Newsletter: English Poet Uncovers Slavery Papers Worth $60k

03 May 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Familial Bliss

From: The Oakland Tribune, 11 January 1901


A marriage license was issued yesterday to Joseph Lawrence, the pioneer police officer of Alameda city, and Miss Constancia Rosa of San Leandro. Lawrence gave his age as 48 years, and that of his prospective bride as 28. The groom is a widower. He has been in litigation with one of his daughters over the property left by his wife. The daughter has already declared war against her step-mother-to-be.

02 May 2011

Devil's Advocate: The Mysterious Ms. Dexter

It felt good this week to blow some of the dust off of the genealogy files and delve back into the lives of some of my set-aside (but ne'er forgotten) kin. Something good about taking a break from your research... revisiting old notes and research trails leads one to notice the assumptions being made along the way. Some good, some great, some pretty awful.

On that tip, today I'm playing RDR: Devil's Advocate. Here I present a current problem, and play devil's advocate against my assumptions, making my researcher-self reason out and justify the decisions I've made along the way. Let's get devilish in our advocating:

Tell us about it, Jim (er, Jennifer)!
Everyone has their pet ancestors, the ones they turn to again and again, looking for new information, and rehashing old papers hoping to bring something new to light. One woman I have a hard time getting out of my mind is Mary C. Dexter, my husband's GGGG-Grandmother.

Born in Massachusetts about 1805 (as per census enumerations and her death certificate), Mary somehow managed to meet and marry a South Carolina native, Samuel Harvey, sometime in the mid-to-late 1820's (first child born abt. 1828). Mary died in Charleston, South Carolina on 21 March 1889 from old age and dysentery, and is, according to her death certificate, buried in Magnolia cemetery in that city.

So, Dexter, huh? Where in G*s name did you get that from?
Mary's maiden name is taken from the death certificate of her son, Charles Tift Harvey, who died in 1915. Her maiden name is either not asked or left blank on the death certificates for other children located thus far, so unfortunately I don't have a corroborating source. As a side note, the death certificate also says that Mary was from Boston, Massachusetts.

I haven't located any marriage records for Samuel Harvey and his wife Mary. Not yet, at least.

While I acknowledge that the information on the death certificate requires a circumspect handling, every other iota of information on that death certificate has been verified, and it has been spot-on every time. Charles' wife, while (of course) possibly wrong about her husband's mother's maiden name, was remarkably correct on every other piece of information she supplied in the death certificate... which makes me feel confident in the maiden name.

Also, it's the only lead I have.

You got nothing else? Not a thing?
Nope. No will, no probate, no court files, no headstone, no marriage documentation, no birth records for the children. Not yet, at least.

So... She's a Dexter(?). I'll give you that, since otherwise this project gets stuck up on the shelf. How are you looking to verify her maiden name?
With a gut feeling and some confidence in Mrs. Charles T. Harvey, I have set my sights on a possible coincidence--or, viewed alternately, a meaningful item that could prove fruitful.

The best lead thus far is that a man by the name of Edward Dexter (native of Massachusetts), who resided in Key West, Florida at the same time as Mary lived there with her husband Samuel Harvey and their children.

Now, Key West at that time was a pretty small place... just about 2700 people. One Harvey family, one Dexter family. Edward Dexter, as I mentioned, hailed from Massachusetts. Further research into his family revealed that he likely hailed from Boston, Massachusetts... the purported birthplace of Mary Dexter as well.

Samuel served, at least twice, along with Edward Dexter as Port Warden for Key West (1843 & 1851). And, like Samuel, Edward Dexter was a ship carpenter.

So, Mary Dexter resides in a small town, in Key West, Florida, in which her husband likely works and serves along with a man with the same last name, who also comes from her birth city. Pretty good, right?

Big coinkydink. Could be something. Might not. What's your plan to get to the bottom of this?
Well, since I live 3,258 miles from Key West, I did what any reasonable researcher would do. I contacted an APGen member who lives in Key West. I'm asking for some copies of marriage records that I have only seen the indices for,  and relying on this person's local expertise to guide the research to some sources that I may not be aware of.

Are you sure you're not just lazy?
Between my Northern and Midwestern ancestors, and my husband's ancestors in the South, I've  been researching in just about every state in the Union. My head hurts when I start thinking about doing all the required background research on the location. I'm a little tired, and not up to learning about Key West resources, when I can just hire someone to do it for me. So yes. Basically I'm just lazy.

I can't overstate how much I love laziness. After all, idle hands are... well, you know. Let me know how this turns out, so that I can tear the results to shreds!
I look forward to it.