Wednesday, October 1, 2014

1 Billion Obituaries Coming to FamilySearch

FamilySearch and GenealogyBank made a major announcement on 1 October 2014 thatobituaries will bring 1 billion searchable obituaries to FamilySearch.

Genealogy researchers know that obituaries are a key resource in finding and proving information about their ancestors.  In many cases, they provide family and personal information that isn’t found in any other written record.

The obituaries are taken from newspapers from all 50 U.S. states and cover 1730 to the present day.  FamilySearch notes that the completed index will include 85% of U.S. deaths from the last decade alone.

The success of the obituaries project depends on FamilySearch Indexing Volunteers.   The sheer size of the collection would be daunting for most organizations to index but thanks to the thousands of FamilySearch volunteer indexers, the indexing should proceed relatively quickly. 

Researchers need to help with the indexing of the collection.  FamilySearch is providing the hosting and indexing resources.  GenealogyBank is providing the obituary images.  The genealogy community is to provide the indexing labor to share our part of the costs to put this huge collection online for free access by everyone.

Learn more about indexing at FamilySearch here.


Posted 1 Oct 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fifty Questions for Family History Interviews


Many folks are taking advantage of the FamilySearch initiative “Meet My Grandma.”interview  The initiative focuses on writing about memories of her, typically from the memory and experience of the writer.  It is a wonderful exercise that benefits not only the writer but the family and friends of ‘grandma’.

We should also write more in-depth histories about our ancestors.  Hopefully, we capture their memories, knowledge, sense of humor and sense of reality from their perspective.

A great way to uncover clues to your family history or to get great quotes for journaling in a heritage scrapbook is a family interview.  By asking the right, open-ended questions, you’re sure to collect a wealth of family tales. Use this list of family history interview questions to help you get started, but be sure to personalize the interview with your own questions as well.

·    What is your full name? Why did your parents select this name for you? Did you have a nickname?

·    When and where were you born?

·    How did your family come to live there?

·    Were there other family members in the area? Who?

·    What was the house (apartment, farm, etc.) like? How many rooms? Bathrooms? Did it have electricity? Indoor plumbing? Telephones?

·    Were there any special items in the house that you remember?

·    What is your earliest childhood memory?

·    Describe the personalities of your family members.

·    What kind of games did you play growing up?

·    What was your favorite toy and why?

·    What was your favorite thing to do for fun (movies, beach, etc.)?

·    Did you have family chores? What were they? Which was your least favorite?

·    Did you receive an allowance? How much? Did you save your money or spend it?

·    What was school like for you as a child? What were your best and worst subjects? Where did you attend grade school? High school? College?

·    What school activities and sports did you participate in?

·    Do you remember any fads from your youth? Popular hairstyles? Clothes?

·    Who were your childhood heroes?

·    What were your favorite songs and music?

·    Did you have any pets? If so, what kind and what were their names?

·    What was your religion growing up? What church, if any, did you attend?

·    Were you ever mentioned in a newspaper?

·    Who were your friends when you were growing up?
·    What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?

·    Describe a typical family dinner.

·    Did you all eat together as a family? Who did the cooking? What were your favorite foods?

·    How were holidays (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) celebrated in your family? Did your family have special traditions?

·    How is the world today different from what it was like when you were a child?

·    Who was the oldest relative you remember as a child? What do you remember about them?

·    What do you know about your family surname?

·    Is there a naming tradition in your family, such as always giving the firstborn son the name of his paternal grandfather?

·    What stories have come down to you about your parents? Grandparents? More distant ancestors?

·    Are there any stories about famous or infamous relatives in your family?

·    Have any recipes been passed down to you from family members?

·    Are there any physical characteristics that run in your family?

·    Are there any physical characteristics that run in your family?

·    What was the full name of your spouse? Siblings? Parents?

·    When and how did you meet your spouse? What did you do on dates?

·    What was it like when you proposed (or were proposed to)? Where and when did it happen? How did you feel?

·    Where and when did you get married?

·    What memory stands out the most from your wedding day?

·    How would you describe your spouse? What do (did) you admire most about them?

·    What do you believe is the key to a successful marriage?

·    How did you find out your were going to be a parent for the first time?

·    Why did you choose your children’s names?

·    What was your proudest moment as a parent?

·    What did your family enjoy doing together?

·    What was your profession and how did you choose it?

·    If you could have had any other profession what would it have been? Why wasn’t it your first choice?

·    Of all the things you learned from your parents, which do you feel was the most valuable?

·    What accomplishments were you the most proud of?

·    What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?


Posted 27 Sep 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Recording Your Fondest Memories About Grandma

My wife and I reminisced about our grandparents today.  My paternal grandmothergrandfather died long before I was born and both of my grandmothers died when I was five.  I only have a single memory of each of them.  My longer surviving grandfather wasn't involved in my life to any degree but at least I have mental images of him that are replete with audio and video.

As grandparents, my wife and I have tried to be active in the lives of our grandchildren.  Along with our children, they are our true treasures.
This week I have spent time this week tutoring some of them in math, in the use of cloud apps, answering their questions about life and Elmering one of them as a prospective ham radio operator.  Only a few of them have been physically present but with Google Hangouts the rest have only been a couple of clicks away.

At the end of the week, they reported back with great scores on tests, tales of successfully wowing their teachers with their mastery of cloud based apps and even a newly minted amateur radio operator.

My wife and I try to make memories with our children and grandchildren.  It doesn't involve a lot of money.  I just involves giving them our time, attention, sharing a little knowledge and of course some laughs.

Our granddaughters love their art, sewing, cooking and crafting stay overs with grandma.  Our grandsons enjoy the art lessons as well but tend to enjoy building rockets, paracord weaving, camp fire cooking, amateur radio operation and genealogy research projects with me.

Recently, FamilySearch announced a campaign to gather and record your fondest grandma stories.  Because my grandmothers died when I was so young, I don’t have any fond personal memories about them.   My wife only has a one or two about her grandmothers because they too died when she was a relatively young girl.  We wish we had known them better.  We would have recorded our memories of them.  Hopefully, our grandchildren will engage in the FamilySearch campaign and record their fondest memories of their grandmothers.

I’ve read that after the third generation, basically all family stories are forgotten if they aren't written down.  I wish I had the life stories of all of my grandparents rather than just their basic birth, marriage, death and similar facts.   When I do find life story information about them, it almost gives me more joy than finding their names when their associated brick research wall crumbles.

I’m sure that stories about the lives of your ancestors are equally exciting to you as well.

Are you going to take the opportunity to record your fondest memories of your grandmothers along with tens of thousands of others?  The FamilySearch initiative runs from September 20 - 30th.  Why not take the time to join in and write or record the stories.  Share them with your family and if you’d like share them with others by posting them to their records on Family Tree on FamilySearch.  I hope some of my older cousins record their memories of our common grandmothers and post them now.  They haven’t done so before but maybe the FamilySearch initiative will be the enticement that sparks their interest.   #MeetMyGrandma

Posted 21 Sep 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Using GenScriber for Genealogy Research

Genealogy researchers constantly encounter old handwritten documents that we need to transcribe as a reference resource.  One of the best tools I've found for transcription is GenScriber.



The application was created by Les Hardy who updates it with tweaks and features from time-to-time.   It is available in both Windows and Linux versions.  The current Windows version is 2.2.3.



The program is simple to use, just point it to the folder that holds the document images you want to transcribe, click on the file and go to work.  The top half of the screen shows the image and the lower half is your worksheet for transcription.
Built in tools include zooming in and out, contrast, sharpen, tint and the conversion to gray scale.


To start transcribing, create a new document, set the number of columns (you can resize them by dragging the columns and start typing.

Les Hardy notes that "the latest version now allows unformatted text input which can be either rich text or plain text.  There is also a gedcom import/export."

Watch the following videos to help you get started using the excellent tools in GenScriber:

GenScriber: How to copy a single record from a web page


GenScriber: How to enable the special paste buttons


Using smartpaste in GenScriber


GenScriber: Gathering SSDI data (The easy way)


GenScriber: Import FreeBMD search results the easy way


GenScriber: Importing and merging xls files


Posted 9 Sep 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Do Young Folks Have Enough Time for Genealogy Research?

Over the years, I've worked with youth hoping to instill of love of the ancestors inmother_daughter their hearts.  Few of them viewed genealogical research as one of the best detective 'games' in existence.  No it doesn't have the flashes, fireworks and sizzle of an electronic game, but the brain exercise exceeds digital games significantly.

Initially, finding the names of our farmer ancestors is boring but when we discover that they were on the front lines in the Revolutionary War, bore 10 children in a one-room home on the frontier and escaped raids multiple times, changes our perception about them.   They could have kicked our tails before breakfast and would have forgotten about it by noon.  They weren't joy stick jockeys.  They were 'real men' and 'heroic women'.

Once young folks tumble to the excitement of such discoveries, the repeat performances of the game on the display screen in the family room become boring.  

Real life ancestral heroes are exciting.  Digital heroes become boring.  

Of course, young folks today can't escape the digital world.  It is an integral part of their reality.   However, we know that it isn't as satisfying or lasting as physical reality.

If your family is like ours, even their education has moved online.   Will they become bored with it too?   They don't have to.   In our family, the digital lessons and testing  measure their learning and progress carefully, and if they are on track, it lets them advance through the curriculum very quickly.   To compensate from strictly digital education, our 6th & 7th graders are doing crime scene investigations down to and including the entomology and maturity of the carrion feeding insects, as part of a course.  Cool stuff.  They constantly move from room to room and setting to setting in their school during the day, carrying their desk, pens, papers, research library, etc.,  (i.e. Chromebook) with them as they go. 

They  understand the digital world and how to navigate its throughways and byways.  Hopefully, they'll put those skills to work mining the wealth of online resources for data about their ancestry.  

Fortunately, even with the handicap of our "ancientness", we can still help them from time to time.   In our own family for example, If they get hung up on something, they start a Google Hangout with me asking how to do it.   I smiled the first time I realized that the whole class was crowded around listening to our conversation plus reading the concurrent text chat.  The teacher / leader came over and asked who they were talking to...   "My Grandpa."  "He's a subject matter expert."    I laughed so much that I had to mute my microphone for a minute lest they hear my guffaws....   Times really have changed.    My generation and possibly some of your generation are probably dinosaurs (based on the number of cycles we've burned in relation to the maelstrom of time ticks in this technological age)..   Feeling old yet?  

If we think back and try to put the perceived reality of early our lives in perspective with those of our children and grandchildren, it's hard to find matches on many of the tracks of our respective timelines.    Can you imagine having the thought cross your mind, let alone having the technology to call your grandpa for help on Java coding when you were in 7th grade?  (or whatever its equivalent would have been?)    It never would have happened or even crossed my mind back then.  Today, our grandchildren regularly contact me "face to face" or "text to text" for help on something or the other thanks to the tech at their finger tips.

All of that said, do the young folks in your home and family have enough time to do genealogy research during the school year or is free time limited to summer vacations and holidays?   Their lives are busy with school, homework, sports, dancing, musical lessons and thousands of other activities.   Is there time in their lives for genealogy? 

Yes.  Especially, if they can see the enjoyment in being a detective and flout the mastery of their technological skills.   "Here, grandma, grandpa, mom or dad."  "Let me show you how to do that."  "Look what I found about our ancestor, the inventor, queen, pirate, diplomat!"

There are minutes here and there throughout the week when they can put their tech skills to work as family history detectives.   Combine that effort with holiday and summer schedules and they can uncover real treasures.  These victories won't fade with time like the successful conquest of a game on a PlayStation.  Instead, they are permanent.   The ancestral discoveries that I made at age 10 are still as valuable to me and my family today as they were to that freckle-faced kid all those years ago.   Take a little time and introduce your young folks to their own ancestral quest.   Help them win the long-lasting reward of ancestral discovery.

Posted 4 Sep 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hey Pretty Girl ~ Marriage Proposals

I'm always searching for the stories associated with prominent events in the lives ofbride my ancestors.  The photos that I find of them are typically of 'old' people, not the young vibrant young folks that they saw in their own memories.  The stories help me envision them as young folks too.

Sometimes I find a story about them that displays their 'goofiness' or at least their humorous selves.  Their lives were more physically stressful than most of ours in our mechanized day and if portrait photos are any indication, they smiled a lot less than us.   Of course, that's if you believe the grim look on faces in the old photos to be the truth about their society.

Families love to discover the real stories behind their ancestors.  Our grandchildren love to hear the stories about their young grandma and myself.

Today, we can take videos of our significant life stories and post them in the Internet.  They say that once something is posted there, it never goes away and will haunt you forever.  Perhaps that is exactly what we want in this case.  Our digital file may disappear from our hard drives over the years, but it may survive on the storage media of Google or other large entities.  The NSA probably doesn't take requests from the public to pull up the old files though, so I guess we'll have to hope that a commercial entity's storage survives the decades and centuries.

Recently, I encountered a marriage proposal of a local man, Tyson J. Henderson to his sweetheart, Hayley Wilson that their descendants will tell and retell for generations to come.

Sorry Tyson, Kip is the better singer between the two of you.

Best wishes to Hayley and Tyson in their marriage and may your descendants enjoy your story as much as we have in our family.

YouTube Video Tutorials and Tools for your own video uploads:youtubelogo

Posted 2 Sep 2014 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Using Getty Images On Your Genealogy Blog

Genealogy blogger love to share their research discoveries, tips and tools with each other. computer monitor2 In most cases, our research successes come from many hours, days, weeks or even years of concentrated research effort.   When we finally find our long lost ancestor or family member, we rejoice and want to share our success with the world.

Most amateur genealogists aren’t wealthy.  We don’t make money from our work.  We do the research out of love of family as well as a deep desire to find who we are in relation to time, place and those around us.  Much if not all of our free cash goes into the expenses associated with genealogy research.

We are an army of Junior Sherlock Holmesian characters searching for clues, documents, stories and photos that uncover at least some of the truths about our ancestors and their families and lives.  Granted, few of us wear a deerstalker cap, smoke a pipe and carry a magnifying glass while on our quest but our spouses usually have a name for our genealogy “Go-Kits” and research demeanor. 

We write about our research successes on our blogs.  Our logic is that others will benefit from our research and share the happiness associated with our discoveries.   We want our blog posts to be attractive, convey knowledge, excitement and accurate information. 

It isn’t words that tell the story however.  It’s the images that we include with the words. 

In an August 2014 New York Times interview, Jonathan Klein, co-founder and chief executive of Getty Images, noted that “The world’s most-spoken language isn’t Mandarin – it’s pictures.”   Pictures grab our attention and can convey a wealth of information.


Mr. Klein notes that Getty has changed their business model to a degree to allow for the embedded non-commercial use of their images in blogs and other social media sites.  The rules are very clear about how they can be used and for what purposes if you want to use them for free.  The embed code contains documentation of the image source along with links to Getty and other tools. 

When you use the embed code from Getty, it generates traffic to their site.  They are a commercial entity.  They and their photographers and artists derive their income from selling their creations and catalogs for commercial and other uses.  Allowing folks like genealogy bloggers to embed their images in our posts generates a lot of traffic to their site.   Mr. Klein noted in the interview that, “Basically, 99 percent of the traffic on will never buy a picture.” ….  but all of the traffic has significantly increased their sales.  Their new business model has been disruptive but it is translating into successfully achieving their bottom line business goals.

So, genealogy bloggers, how can you legally use the fabulous Getty images in your blog posts to both improve its style and visual impact and thank and support Getty Images for the use of their images?

It is simple. 

  1. Follow the rules completely.   Embed the image.  Getty gives you the code.  NEVER copy an image and include it in your posts.  Embed only.  The embed html code provides the links to Getty and the other social sharing tools they want you to use as part of their licensing agreement.  Read their FAQ, “Working with embedded images” before you do anything.
  2. Find the image you want to use by going to
    1. Mouse over the image that you want to use.
    2. Click on the embed icon on the bottom right. </> getty_embed_icon_arrow
    3. Copy the “Embed this image” code from the popup window.getty_embed_code
    4. Paste it in your blog post by selecting the HTML button or tab.

That’s it.  Add some HTML code if you want to center it, etc., but it is just that easy.

Everyone wins.  You get wonderful images for your non-commercial blog and Getty gets a lot of exposure and links to their site which result in increased sales of their products.

Posted 30 August 2014 by Lee R. Drew on the Lineagekeeper's Genealogy Blog

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Massive U.S. Obituary Collection Added To FamilySearch

FamilySearch has partnered with to add their massive U.S. Obituary Collection to FamilySearch.obituaries
The collection currently consists of 506,812 searchable images.  The FamilySearch Wiki notes that the collection is an "index to obituaries from thousands of newspapers throughout the United States."
Given the breadth of the digitized newspapers held by NewsBank from across the U.S. and through time, it is easy to project that the total collection may possibly consist of hundreds of millions of obituaries if all of it is eventually published on FamilySearch.
As all genealogists know, obituaries are genealogy gold.  They typically contain a wealth of family history information.   The NewsBank collection is extremely valuable to researchers, not only due to the sheer probable volume of records in the collection but also because of the record extract design they've used.   Obituaries a presented complete with its full source and a full extract of the obituary.
FamilySearch notes that the collection should be cited as:  “United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014.” Index. FamilySearch. : accessed 2013. Citing NewsBank, Inc., Naples, Florida.

Our deep appreciation goes out to NewsBank, FamilySearch and those who are bringing this collection to us as genealogy researchers.  We understand and comprehend its value to our community and express our appreciation for it.
Posted 28 Aug 2014 by Lee Drew on the Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Grandchildren, Ancestors and YouTube

Sterile facts and dates doesn’t elicit much interest in genealogy in the hearts andship minds of our digital world grandchildren.   They live in a world of always on digital eyes into almost anywhere or anything.  Static pages of names, dates and places not only make their eyes cross, but they put them to sleep.

I’ve told ancestral stories to our grandchildren all of their lives.  Their ancestors come to life in their minds based on the words in my stores.  When I show them the same information on my website, the dreaded eyelid closer syndrome launches and its lights out.

It is important for them to have a sense of their place in history both of the world but especially in their ancestral tree.  They love the stories but relating them to historical events didn’t happen in the process.

What tools could I use to bridge the gap between facts and the scenes that the stories evoked in their minds and turn them into long lasting loved memories?

The answer was actually simple.  Turn the stories into movies on YouTube.  The solution captures the facts, stories, technology and long lasting scenes in one.

My wife and I invite sets of our grandchildren to spend time with us every summer based on ages and sex.  By the end of the summer, all of them have spent time with us and with their cousins in the same age range.  We add couple of gatherings a year that includes everyone, even busy parents, to keep familial relationships, giggles, food and fun functioning as it should in a family.

When our older granddaughters were with us, I scheduled a ‘grandpa’ day for one day of their visit.  I told them that I wanted to work with them to create a video for YouTube about one of their favorite ancestral stories. 

It was the right way to further engage them in our family history.

  • We wrote the script on a shared Google Doc using a laptop and their tablets.
  • We chose speaking parts for everyone and created another Google Doc listing the color coded voice actors names and changed the corresponding lines in the script to the correct color.
  • We found many of the photos, document images and graphics that we wanted to use.
  • Late in the evening, we recorded the voice files using the free app, Audacity.
  • We used the free app, Irfanview to crop images and put names and dates on them.
  • We stored our audio digital files on Google Drive, DropBox and OneDrive accounts along with the backup copy of the Windows Movie Maker template we created..
  • After the young folks completed their stay, I assembled the parts using Windows Movie Maker and posted the video on YouTube.  

Along the way but still based on a ‘free’ solution for tools used to create the project, we learned some lessons. 

  1. We needed a better microphone
  2. The voice lines for the narrator needed to be broken down into shorter lines both for editing and for voice inflection work.
  3. It takes a lot of time to find Public Domain images and to gather the pertinent genealogy documents that you want to use in the video.
  4. Editing shared Google Docs is easy and our young ladies quickly polished their script working on it together.
  5. The free software tools we selected worked pretty well.  The kids could use them in the future for all kinds of projects in school and in their online social lives.  Even starving students will be able to create good digital products with them.
  6. You can’t assemble a video out of images, audio files and video files using the Video Manager on YouTube.  You have to build it first and then upload it.  The Video Manager gives you a full set of tools to add tags, ratings, balloons and other enhancements to your video.
  7. We laughed too much while writing the lines and recording them.  No, wait.  That wasn’t a problem!  That was a big part of the fun and the reason for the project in the first place.
  8. The most important discovery.  Making a video about your ancestors with grandchildren is a joy, especially when they do most of the work!  Trust me on this.  Give them concept of the desired output, the story(ies), reserved time, snacks, and love and they’ll turn your sterile facts and images into magic. 

The video about some of the adventures in the lives of our ancestors, Charles Joseph Gordon Logie and Rosa Clara Friedlander has been published on YouTube. If you want to entice your young folks into the wonderful world of Family History, consider a similar solution.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Death of George Radcliffe Hutchison in World War II

Memorial Day enticed me to spend time looking for information about a distantHutchison_George_Radcliffe cousin who I assumed had died as a result of action in World War II.   Facts proved his death, but it wasn't due to battle but was due to the war.

George Radcliffe "Hutch" Hutchison was born on 2 Jul 1917 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania to Gerald Milwood and Helen Ewing Radcliffe Hutchison.   His father was an interior decorator who opened his own store that was popular in the area around Pittsburgh.  

When old enough both George and his younger brother, Robert went to work in the store.    George was a salesman and Robert took care of ordering, stocking and shipping.  The family business had grown into a success when on a Sunday morning in early December 1941, America was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor and at other locations in the Pacific arena.

On 27 Mar 1942, George enlisted in the Army Air Corps in Pittsburgh.   By the end of the war, he was a 1st Lieutenant in the Corps flying a B-29B-60-BA Superfortress. 

You can imagine the celebration that occurred with his air crew when VJ Day was announced on 2 Sep 1945.   The war was finally over on all fronts.   None of them realized it was the last day of their lives.




They were ordered to fly a mercy mission taking supplies to Osaka for U.S. POW's.  The huge B-29 took off only to experience mechanical trouble a few hours after takeoff.  They radioed that they were returning to the Northwest Air Field on Guam and everything looked fine until the landing.  The big craft swerved at just as it was touching down causing a wing to clip a tree which resulted in a huge explosion.   Breaking in two, the three gunners in the back of the plane escaped the fire although one of them subsequently passed away.  The pilots and remained of the crew all perished in the flames.

Their bodies were interred on Guam until March 1949 when they were moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

George never returned home to his wife and family.   Nor did the other eight men who died in the crash.  The war was over but it was still claiming victims, a theme that unfortunately continued for many years after the active cessation of battle.

The other crew members who lost their lives on that September day were:

  • 1st Lt. Lester R Nahouse
  • Capt. Lewis D Town
  • Capt. James O. Clark
  • Sgt Thomas C. Passarello Flight Engineer
  • 2nd Lt. William E Bradley
  • 2nd Lt. Carl W. Strait
  • 2nd Lt. Robert H. Yost
  • Sgt. Leonard V Steveson
  • Sgt. Melvin E Berkey


Map picture



  • U.S. World War II Enlistment Records
  • U.S. Veteran's Gravesites
  • Find-a-grave
  • U.S. Census Records
  • U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records

Unique Names and Cousin Teams

All genealogists hope to find that they had ancestors with unique names. team


So we can trace them.  It's a lot easier to find Americus Vespucius Tirrill than it is to find William Bennett or Elizabeth Smith. 

I hoped that the name Isaac LeFever would be prominently displayed on census, marriage, land and other records but alas, the 'correct' Isaac only appears once along with my cousin Agnes Bennett on a census record.  Forty hours of focus haven't found a further recorded trace of ether of them.  Other folks have speculated about their whereabouts, death years and family, but unfortunately, all they have done is spin a tale without any proof based on reality.

It isn't unusual to not find records about an ancestor.  We all have holes in our ancestral trees for that reason.  In the case of Isaac, he and Agnes have remained elusive over a period of thirty years of searches by several of us cousins working together.  As a group, our team has proven to be a fairly formidable puzzling solving unit, but alas, we have sent far too many "NJ" (no joy) emails to each other in the quest for Isaac and Agnes.

It looks like another trip to local libraries and records in Ohio will be required in this case.  Between the members of our team, we have subscriptions to all of the major and most of the minor records sites online as well as easy access to all of the major family history research libraries in the U.S., yet all of these resources have only provided 'goose eggs' to date.

We have over 500 years of research experience between us.  There aren't many if any research tricks and tools that we haven't employed.  We know that the couple existed.  The were clearly recorded in the 1880 census.  Were they listed by their little known names during the conversation with the census enumerator?   Possibly.  We've looked at the records of every LeFever in a 200  mile radius of their home location in the census without finding them again.  

Folks moved with some frequency in that day when new land became available to homestead.  We've surfed the waves of westward expansion.  We've retraced their probable routes back to the birth states they reported in the census.  We exhausted the records about their known family records hoping to find a trace of them.   "NJ" notes have been mailed in every case.

Eventually one of us will find them after looking at the problem through a different window.  It will happen.  The team is like a pack of junk yard dogs looking for their favorite bone.  Once the hunt began, it is impossible to call it off.  We've tasted 'blood' too many times in impossible quests in the past to give up on the trail of our prey when we've had such a strong scent to mark the trail.

Cousin teams are wonderful.  We bring a wealth of unique perspectives, skills and resources to the table.  Well functioning cousin teams magnify these resources.   In our team, the sum of our research acumen and success is not directly proportional to the linear values of our respective skills and resources but are rather multiplied far exceeding Orwell's 2 + 2 = 5 dogma into real synergetic magic.

We laugh at times wishing that we enjoyed more common ancestral lines.  Not only does the team enjoy a huge success rate but we have a lot of fun working together.  Imagine your birthday present being the focused research of a seasoned team all working to crack 'your' genealogy brick wall.   Sometimes we fail but typically the walls fall into a pile of pulverized dust.   Once the keystone plug is removed, the structure falls en masse.

The team finds itself with a brick wall today in the case of Isaac and Agnes, but the wall will fall eventually just as soon as we find that single weak brick  or fact that has held it intact thus far.  Once it is removed, the story of their lives will flow forth for the enjoyment of all of our family.

If you aren't already a member of a cousin research team, find one or create one.  The communication and data sharing tools that grant almost instant feelings of success are are readily available.  Try it Mikey.  You'll love it!

Cousin Lost in a Snow Storm

My 2nd cousin, James Lawrence Ashton, was a lineman for Utah Power and LightAshton James Lawrence Company in the early years of the Twentieth Century.   Utility linemen frequently engage in activities to keep the power on that 99% of society would never consider doing of their own free will. 

Think about it.  When a major storm or disaster happens somewhere, who do we see in the television coverage of the event?  The reporter, cameraman, police, fire and medical personnel and power company line and ground men.  Linemen are involved in even more nasty weather conditions than those in the 'big' events.  They are constantly called out in the nastiest weather conditions to repair downed power lines so the rest of us stay warm in well-lit homes.

Early in 1951, the power line that crossed the mountain from the hydro generationAshton Lawrence lost snowstorm2 plant at Snake Creek, Utah to American Fork Canyon in Utah County, failed during a record breaking snowstorm.    The line failure caused the voltage in Utah County to sag due to storm and cold related line loading.  it was dark.  It was cold.  People used more power and part of the supply wasn't available, so voltage sank until sections of the system was systematically turned off to protect the rest of the customers.  The related power outages weren't acceptable in those weather conditions.

On Monday night, two power company linemen, Alma Earl and Lawrence Ashton, started walking the line route on snowshoes from the American Fork side to slog through over 5 ft of new snow looking for the downed wires.  By late that night, they still hadn't returned home nor contacted the power company dispatcher.     Concern mounted that the men had become trapped in the record breaking snowfall.   Tuesday came and went and there was still no contact from the men.  On Tuesday evening the two families started calling asking for volunteers to go look for the missing men.  Just as the rescue party started to organize, the men returned home.

The severe snow storm had brought the lines down in multiple locations and the repairs took a lot longer than the men had anticipated before they left early Monday morning.  They spent the night in a ranger's cabin protected from the weather and finished the repair work before walking back down from the top of the mountain pass to the valley far below.

Rescuers on both sides of the mountain were quickly notified of the safe return of the two men. 

Why is the story so interesting to me?  My father was a lineman.  I managed linemen and construction crews for years.  I know of the bravery and hard work that this group of folks do to keep the power flowing to our homes.   Beyond that, even though I had a photo of my cousin Lawrence Ashton, I had little knowledge of he and his family.   The storm story added a lot of context in my mind about his life and the lives of his family.  We shared common reference points and to a degree, similar events in our lives due to our common occupations.

Genealogy research isn't just about names, dates and places.   They are only theAshton Lawrence lost snowstorm3 base framework in the lives of our ancestral family.  It's the stories that add the flesh to the barebones fact.   It's the stories that bring them to life in our minds.  It's the stories that make them memorable.  Be sure you are searching for the stories while you look for your ancestors.  The stories will make your ancestors real in the minds of your children and grandchildren too.

Broken Headstones Need A Little TLC

Visiting cemeteries before Memorial Day unfortunately revealed many broken tombstones.  Broken stones littered the grass as testaments to the rampage of a couple of bad egg teenage boys.  The reasons for brain-dead characterless young males is a theme for another discussion.  Unfortunately, others of that ilk had similarly devastated tombstones in the same cemeteries numerous times in previous years.

How do cemetery sextons and workers repair shattered sandstone markers?   Even when repaired, do they have any promise of a long life?  Possibly, but the loss of structural integrity will result in early failures in their projected life span.

It is hard to add just the right amount of epoxy glue to the broken seams of a tombstone.  The epoxy resin and hardening agent expand when mixed.  Only a little of mixture is needed between the faces of the broken stone. Misjudging the amount needed results in permanent waterfalls of adhesive on the faces of the stone.  A lot of experience with the adhesive product is needed by the person making the repairs if they are to minimize the adhesive overflow issue.   Hopefully that experience is missing in the life of the repair person because the headstones in their cemetery haven’t been damaged by vandals and equipment.

We appreciate the repairs of any broken headstone.  Without them, the pieces of the stone would be lost to us almost immediately.  With them, our ancestors still have a grave marker that will last for a decade or more if it was properly repaired giving us time to replace the broken marker.

Have the tombstones for your ancestral families been similarly broken or damaged?   If they were repaired are the repairs holding them together OK?  Did the adhesive overflow?  Were any of the pieces lost before the repairs were made?


Hoggard Jedidah headstone

Friday, August 22, 2014

Why Genealogists Should Use ACME Mapper

Genealogists are always looking at maps and for mapping tools that help them find locations related to the lives and stories of their ancestors.  As a single category, I've saved more map related bookmarks than for any other topic.  Why?  Because of my need to understand how locations related to events in the lives of the people at the focus of my research.

My most frequently used mapping site is ACME Mapper.  Mapper includes a number of tools that help in research including a location feature name search tool. 




For example: Finding small rural cemeteries is often impossible on normal mapping sites, yet is relatively easy using the tools on Mapper.




If I needed to look for the location on a Topo map, that format is only a click away.




Satellite photos often help us find features like cemeteries but we have to spend a lot of time scrolling across surface images to to find the feature.  In the case of cemeteries or locations that are dependent on visual topographical clues, photos from space don’t necessarily show features that we recognize unless we accidentally happen across the exact location in the photo.




Standard maps offer no references to this cemetery.  Mapper usually comes to the rescue with it plethora of tools and map types.

Mapper includes the marker, links and tools that are familiar to us on other mapping sites, plus a lot more.







Try ACME Mapper in your own ancestral quest and see if you also appreciate its power.  It will probably become one of the most used tools in your genealogy quiver.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What’s Your Ancestor Score?

How many ancestors names have you found in the first 10 generations of your lineage?

Randy Seaver issued a challenge to identify the number of ancestors you’ve discovered by generation.  He points to posts by Crista Cowan and Kris Stewart.for background information on the challenge.

Many genealogy bloggers are responding to the challenge.  Like them, I created an Ahnentafel list from my database then counted the number of persons I’ve discovered by generation. 

We have 1023 ancestors in those 10 generations starting with ourselves.  Counting the number of discovered ancestors we’ve found by 1023 give us our Ancestor Score..My score is73.5%

Here’s my ancestor score chart by generation:


How many ancestors have you found in the first 10 generations of your lineage?

No matter who you are, there are holes in the generational charts in your genealogy.  Never feel that there is nothing left for you to do in your ‘genealogy’ even if Aunt Mae has ‘done it all’.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Aldura Marie Hammer Ashton History

Mrs. Aldura Marie Hammer Ashton was born in Lehi, Utah on 21 April 1862, theHammer Aldura younger
daughter of Hans and Julia Marie Reese Hammer, old residenteers of Lehi.  Her parents were converted to the Latter Day Saints faith in Bornholm, Denmark in 1853, and immediately began preparation to immigrate to America.  They reached Salt Lake City in 1854, where they lived for four years.  In 1858, they moved to Lehi which was their permanent home.  Their children grew up there and joined the neighboring children in the social and religious activities of the people and the town.  Aldura's father had the first livery stable in Lehi.

When Aldura was five, her mother was called to pass on to her heavenly home, leaving the little brood of children to their fathers care.  He needed a help mate and soon married Anne Christine Orego.  She tried her best to be a true mother to them all, and the children learned to love her.  Aldura had seven brothers and sisters of which only she, George, Margaret grew to maturity.  Margaret and Aldura have always been companions, associating with the same group of young people and growing to womanhood together, marrying young men of the town.

Although they were separated for a few years, they have never grown apart at heart.

At the age of eight, Aldura was baptized, on 15 October 1870.  She took an active part in Sunday School and other organizations of the church.  As she grew older, she affiliated with the Relief Society and was an active worker.  She was on the Old Folks Committee for many years.  When she lived on Lake Street, she married Henry Ashton on 23 June 1884.  Henry was the son of two other pioneers of Lehi, Thomas and Arminta Lawrence Ashton.  Their first home was in Lehi in the corner house at 500 West Main Street.  After their first child, Ethel, was blessed they moved out of town on to a small farm owned by Henry's father and built a one room house.  They
began their life as farmers there.  The remainder of their children were born there and four of them died in the home.  After a few years of hard struggle, they build a two room brick house 

They were very proud of the home and it still stands as a monument of their thrift and economic heritage.

All was well in that little home, until her husband Henry received an injury while doing some work at the sugar factory in Lehi from which he never recovered.  After a few years of suffering, he died on 24 June 1907 of pneumonia while in Los Angeles, California.  He left a widow to raise their small family of remaining children.

A few years after Henry's death, she sold their home on the farm and moved to town into a home at 100 South and 500 West.  Aldura was independent by nature and was not afraid to work.  She took in all kinds of work and also went out by the day as a helper until her health began to fail her.  At this point in time, her daughter Mable died, which was a blow from which she never fully recovered.  She steadily declined and grew frailer, suffering all of the time.  She was forced first to use crutches and then into a wheel chair with arthritis.  She was an invalid for twenty one years.  She gradually grew worse bodily.  During her last year of life, she was almost completely helpless.

During the last fourteen years of her life, she lived with her only living daughter, Ethel Ashton Huggard in American Fork, Utah.  Ethel worked to repay her mother for her birth and rearing by patiently waiting on her.  She lovingly tried to make the best of her ability to alleviate her mothers agonizing pain with constant care to make her life more bearable.  On Monday, 29 April 1935, the Lord saw fit to ease the pain by calling her home.  She died with full faith of a glorious resurrection, knowing she would be reunited with her parents, husband and deceased children.

She is survived by one daughter, Ethel Huggard of American Fork, two sons, Warren
of Salt Lake City and Marvin Ashton of Lehi.  She is also survived by a sister, Margaret Cox of Lehi, seventeen grandchildren, and five great grandchildren and a number of relatives and a host of friends who tried with Ethel to alleviate her suffering and comfort her in her affliction. 

Mother the sweetest, dearest word of tongue or pen,
Mother whose voice or smiles, we never on Earth will hear or see again.
Mother who listened to our woes and healed our pain,
Mother who guided us and tried our minds to train.
Mother who suffered so; like our Lord upon the cross,
She is still our Mother and her going is our loss.

What is the meaning of life, we wonder as we gaze,
Upon the still loved form that cannot raise.
The head from off the pillow made of silk and lace,
No matter when or how or what the time or place.
Sob may stifle us, agony may almost smother,
As we look upon the marble that fashioned our dear mother.

How patiently she suffered no earthly soul here knew,
So straight and beautiful she was yet how warped her body grew.
How she danced and laughed so full of fun, she'd rollick
Willing to help those who needed help, joining in every frolic.
It behooves us to wonder what our fate may be,
Will our crafts capsize before we cross life's sea.

Yes, it behooves us all to ponder what our fate may be,
And comfort instead of sneering at the cripple that we see.
Adults may say old crip and children lips may jeer,
But you don't know what may happen within the coming year.
You may be straight and slender, beautiful to behold,
Disease not only strikes the weak, but also hits the bold.

As I gaze back in memories book, I see a form so straight,
Eyes a sparkling, lips that smile and graceful was her gait.
She was the life of all the crowd a good time she did enjoy,
Care free and happy a friend of every girl and boy.
The cross of cruel suffering was given her to carry,
Along slow agony of torture year after year did tarry.

Let's profit by the good in life, forget what seems bad,
Remembering what is happy, forgetting what is sad.
Mother has joined her loved ones and happy be they all,
She has just gone home, yes gone home to God.
You'll plant her earthly temple 'neath a consecrated sod.

For now had come to her a happy release,
She is resting there in comfort, upon her face in peace.
Peace for the first time in years, no strain upon her face,
Resting in the arms of Christ, yet her suffering we can trace.
Children your mother has just gone to her well earned rest,
Try to believe the creator know and gives to us what is best.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Can A Genealogist Have Enough Monitors?

Can a genealogist have too many square inches of monitor surface attached to theircomputer monitor computer?  There was a time when I would have said "Yes" but with all of the collections and research tools online today, my answer has changed to "No!"

Back in the day, I was very excited to go from the 7" monitor I had attached to my old Sinclair computer.  I wrote my genealogy program in Basic.  It was little more than a long document with flags and notes but the difference between seeing it on a 7" monitor and the replacement 10" monitor was dramatic.   I even went from green to orange characters on the screen.  Wow!  It was great.

Over the years the monitor size went up from 10" to 14" then to the $1000 NEC 21" monitor.  With the newer video cards, I could increase the resolution enough to actually put a lot more data on the screen too.  I added a 2nd 21" monitor and thought I'd died and gone to heaven.  When I turned on the monitors the room would echo the "Bwaaang" of the tube in them powering up.   Who needed a heat vent in my office?  Those big old babies were like warming lights in a restaurant.  Cooling was the bigger issue when they were fired up.

Flat screens arrived on the screen and I replaced the NEC's with one 21" flat screen.  Even after cranking up the resolution to the maximum setting, I needed more surface area.  Who could work with only one monitor?  I was constantly have to minimize one instance of the browser so I could read the data on the one under it.  Half of the time I couldn't remember exactly what I'd just read and couldn't enter the data into my genealogy database without having to rotate between the screens a number of times.   Talk about cumbersome.  How did I expect to get any work done being so terribly encumbered?

A second matching monitor took care of some of the problem.  Now I could read one screen while I typed on the other one.  I still had to rotate between browser screens a lot to compare the data between multiple sources but my productivity rose dramatically with the second screen.

Then I got my wife a tablet and she decided that she didn't need her computer any longer.  Her nice almost new big flat screen came into my possession.  It only took two days for the 2nd video card to arrive fro my computer so I could power the third monitor.   Once again, productivity soared with all the new screen real estate.  I could open multiple documents at the same time and stack them side-by-side on monitors two and three while entering the data into my genealogy program on number one.    Life was great and then....

I got a new computer and they threw in an excellent big flat screen.  Would number four be as useful as the other three monitors?  Oh yeah it is.  Now I can run a video in the corner, video and voice chats down the side and still display additional research resources.   How did I live without it?

Then a day arrived when I needed to conduct a meeting online, display my screens and still monitor a number of other activities and research groups that I lead.  I didn't have enough screen real estate once again.  My wife said I was nuts but after observing my activities for thirty minutes agreed that although I was aglow with reflected light from the monitors, I still needed more surface.

Adding my laptop to the mix helped during these periods of heavy activity.  Its 14" screen is perfect for Skype chats and other system and network monitoring tools that I watch while running certain processes.

Adding Synergy to my computer and to my laptops allows me to continue to run one keyboard and mouse to control both machines.

Another research group asked me to help them on and off during the day but I'd need more screen real estate once again.   I pulled out an older laptop to resolve the issue.  Although its processor is considered slow by new laptops today, it was plenty fast to take over the process monitoring and other less CPU intensive programs.   Synergy once again added control of the old laptop to the same keyboard and mouse that I used to control all of the other devices.

Many days now find me surrounded by over 180 degrees of monitors.  LIfe is good again.  For now I have 'enough' monitor real estate but how long will that feeling last?  I'm already looking at mounting racks for an upper row should they become 'necessary'.  

How about you?  Have you discovered the substantial productivity increase associated with multiple monitors?  If not, get another one and discover how quickly the extra screen real estate pays for itself.

No, you can't have too much monitor screen real estate.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Genealogy, Grandchildren and Google

Sometimes all of the stars align just right and one of your passions in life extends toComputer2 your descendants.  In this case, my love of genealogy and ancestral knowledge has extended to some of our grandchildren.

History courses in school provide the perfect enticement for them to explore their ancestry in greater detail. 

The process starts with a call to grandpa asking for help on the assignment.  We discuss the goals of the assignment then determine the ancestors that will satisfy its requirements and then the work begins.

We use Google Documents and Google Drive to jointly work on the research, share files, photos and Google Hangouts to talk both visually and in chat.  It doesn't matter where either of us is located in the world, our conversations and joint work happening in our own real time.

Like any researcher, we start with what we know and with the documents and photos already in our (my) possession.  Grandpa gets to play a little dumb at this point.  I act more of a online research guide.

After cataloging what we know, the next step is to record our data complete with the sources required to confirm the accuracy of the data.  Names, dates and places create the framework for the assignment but tell little of the story, so the next steps are to discover photos, graphics, histories and stories about the folks in the quest.

I drop the photos and stories I've collected into a Google Drive folder that I share with the grandchild.  They drop notes, stories, photos and anything else they find in the folder too.  

Using Hangouts, I share my screen with them and show them how I record the data and sources in my Legacy database.  I also show them how to add stories and photos to their ancestors records in Family Tree.  We continue with recording the information on my genealogy site which they can subsequently use for their presentations.

After they've written their project report and submitted it to their teacher as a Google Document, they use all of their online postings and documents to make their presentations to their teacher and class.

The process works well.  Our grandchild learns more about genealogy research, they put faces and stories on the facts they find and the genealogy 'hook' is deeply set in their minds.  Their assignments receive high grades.  They make their presentations with the confidence that comes from intimately knowing their subjects.  Additionally, even closer bonds are forged with grandpa.   They've caught a glimpse into my world and have learned a little about why I enjoy genealogy research so much.  They've gained a greater appreciation for who their ancestors were which gives them a reference point of who they are in relation to the timeline of this world, its history and its people.

Ten years ago we could have worked together on a project like this but the timeliness and effectiveness of our conversations would be greatly reduced.  Their reports and presentations back then would have been good but now, using the technology at our fingertips, are great.

In the past, I took my children to the Family History Library for long days of scanning through microfilms and "Q" series books.  Today, I spend time with our grandchildren searching digital collections online as we race to discover and prove an ancestral family.  Often, I lose the race and I love it.   We still need to visit libraries and other locations for the records, photos and documents that haven't been digitized but the race is well underway thanks to our connections to the digital world.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The FamilySearch Genealogy Mobile App

FamilySearch released two mobile apps on July 15th, 2014 that genealogists will love.  

FamilySearch Tree

The FamilySearch Tree app interfaces with Family Tree and presents the data with a pleasant nimbleness. 

Available for both iOS and Android, Family Tree provides numerous views of the data ranging from details, spouses, parents, sources, photos, stories to audio and charts.  

Navigation is simple with the touch on a name, location or photo or scrolling menu link.. 




Stories and Audio must be uploaded via the FamilySearch website unless you have an iOS device and have the Memories app installed.





The Memories app is only available for iOS,which is unfortunate given the huge Android user base.  FamilySearch noted that they were thinking of writing the app for android but at present it is nothing more than design mock up images.

With Memories, users can record and directly upload audio files, write and upload stories and take and upload photos directly to your ancestors records.



Photos can also be snapped and uploaded with the Family Tree app in both operating platforms in both the Photos and Sources mode..  Currently, there aren’t editing tools in the FamilySearch App or on Family Tree for these images, so you’ll want to experiment with taking “perfectly” framed photos before you use the app to upload an image to Family Tree.  I don’t have an iOS device to test at time of this post but hope that the Memories app includes editing tools.




Read more details about the apps on the FamilySearch Blog

‘Take them for a spin.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with their quick response and fairly full feature set.  Most users will join with me hoping that the missing features in the Family Tree app and Android version of the Memories app are soon added to the collection.

The apps are free.  Download them through the App stores.  .