Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BookDrive Pro - A Cradle Scanner

The following article is taken from the 30 March 2009 Eastman's EOGN:

"BookDrive Pro - A Cradle Scanner
I want one of these!

This week, ATIZ of Los Angeles introduced a brand-new cradle scanner, called the BookDrive Pro. It is designed to scan books, maps, newspapers, and other documents without inducing any page curl and with minimal handling of the documents. The result is sharper images and little or no damage to delicate documents being scanned.

I haven't had a chance to get my hands on a BookDrive Pro just yet. After all, they were only announced this week. However, I did talk today with Nick Warnock at ATIZ. He patiently answered my questions and offered additional information about his company's new scanner.

If you have ever tried to scan a bound book by using a normal flatbed scanner, you are probably already familiar with page curl. If you turn a book upside down and place it on a normal flatbed scanner, such as any of the scanners for sale at your local computer store, you will note that the outer two-thirds of each page will scan well. However, as you get closer and closer to the bound edge of a page, the image is degraded. The binding prevents the entire page from being placed flat on the scanning surface. The result is referred to as "page curl." The image is not very useful, and using OCR software to decode the words on the page will probably be impossible.

See the images in this article for examples.

A "cradle scanner" is one that places the book or other document(s) to be scanned in a V-shaped cradle. In this case, the cradle is in the bottom of the scanning device. Cameras are mounted overhead and take pictures of the pages to be digitized. The advantage of a cradle scanner is that the pages are flat and always perpendicular to the camera, resulting in a better picture.

The BookDrive Pro includes two pieces of non-glare glass mounted in a V-shape that are placed on top of the pages being scanned to make sure they are held completely flat and perpendicular to the cameras. The combination of V-shaped book cradle and V-shaped glass holds the book open at a non-stressful, 120-degree angle for scanning by high-resolution digital SLR cameras.

I have written before about some high-end and expensive cradle scanners that include automatic page turners. These units typically sell for $120,000 and up. The BookDrive Pro does not use automated page turners; a human must flip each page manually as the images are being made. Nick Warnock reports that the BookDrive Pro does not damage the pages in the manner of some of the automated page turners. If you have a delicate and rare book, would you want an automated robot turning the pages for you, or would you prefer a trained human to do the work? Nick pointed out that this is especially important when the pages are stiff or brittle and may not turn easily when using a robotic device.

In fact, the robotic page turners cannot operate in a truly unattended fashion. A human operator must always be nearby to handle jams or any situations in which the pages do not turn smoothly.
The BookDrive Pro can provide loving care for the book being scanned, assuming the human operator is properly trained. (Training requires only a few minutes' time.)

The BookDrive Pro has much less mechanical complexity than the automated page turning book scanners, so prices are much lower. The BookDrive Pro also uses standard, off-the shelf digital cameras for creating the images. The scanner can be ordered without cameras if you wish to provide your own. However, the more popular option is when ATIZ includes two Canon EOS XTi cameras in the order. Nick pointed out that for very high-resolution work, such as scanning maps, the user might want to substitute higher-resolution cameras. In fact, cameras up to $40,000 are available from Canon and other manufacturers, but it is doubtful if anyone will need cameras at that price range when scanning books and newspapers. Cameras in the $400 to $600 price range will work well for most applications. The scanner does use two cameras at once: one for digitizing the left-hand page and another for digitizing the page to the right.

The BookDrive Pro includes BookDrive Capture software, an application that controls the cameras. It supports a wide range of Canon EOS SLRs cameras and lets you configure camera settings directly within the software. Press one button and the cameras will shoot left and right pages and render them on-screen immediately. You will have a true left page and a true right page, just like the originals.

The scanner also includes BookDrive Editor Pro software for post-scan image processing. It goes hand in hand with BookDrive Capture and can also be used with other scanners. BookDrive Editor Pro helps produce images of the highest quality, ready for distribution. The image enhancement tools and the intuitive user interface are used together to deliver professional results with minimal fuss.

The BookDrive Pro does require TWO computers for Dual PC mode, capturing left and right images simultaneously. These must be Windows systems running either Vista (32 bit system) or Windows XP. Sixty-four bit systems are not supported. Each computer also must have a one-gigahertz or faster processor, at least one gigabyte of memory, at least 10 gigabytes of available disk space, and a monitor with at least 1024 x 768 pixels. In other words, most any Windows computer sold today will suffice. Such computers are available for $500 and up. The scanner and software will also accommodate any of a long list of Canon cameras. Since cameras do not have standard interfaces, the software does not support other brands of cameras.

The price of the BookDrive Pro is too high for most private individuals: $12,595 without cameras. ATIZ also sells a bundle consisting of the BookDrive Pro scanner and two Canon EOS XTi cameras and two matching lenses for $14,995. I cannot imagine a genealogist purchasing one of these for use at home, but I am sure it will be very popular for libraries, archives, public records offices, and perhaps even genealogy societies that have significant libraries.

The BookDrive Pro certainly is much cheaper than a $120,000+ automated page-turning scanner. In fact, anyone can purchase eight BookDrive Pro scanners for the price of one robotic scanner.

I'd love to use one of these for a few weeks in any major genealogy library. Can you image scanning all the out-of-copyright books in the place?

For more information about the BookDrive Pro, look at http://www.atiz.com.

To see a short video showing the BookDrive Pro in operation, visit http://vimeo.com/2916589 "

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Update on GIMP

Readers will recall that a few days ago we offered our opnion on GIMP. I am still using GIMP, and I believe its applications for my clients work will be invaluable!
However, I reported on a video from RootsWeb that showed the viewer how to use GIMP, and at first glance, their manor for adding text at the bottom of the photo seemed to work flawlessly. But after using GIMP for several days, I'd like to report that the RootsWeb video is a bit confusing, and has the viewer take steps that aren't necessary in saving photograph.
I will walk you step by step through using GIMP.

From the FILE button in the left hand corner of the program, click on OPEN. From here you will be able to peruse your own files and obtain the photo you would like to add text to.

After your photograph has opened onto the screen, you will need to resize the file in order to add text at the bottom. So, you will now click on IMAGE. When that window opens, click on CANVAS SIZE.
A new window will open: SET IMAGE CANVAS SIZE. In order to change the canvas size to add text, you must first unlock the ratio. In order to do this, click on the image of the chain links. [A broken chain will appear, which allow the ratio to be disproportinate.] I leave the image on pixels [the default setting] as it easiest for me, however, you can change the setting to inches if you prefer. Now we want to change the HEIGHTH of the canvas. So click on the Increase button for the Height of the canvas until you see enough space beneath the photo appear to add the appropriate amount of text you wish to add. Once you have that, click on RESIZE at the bottom of that window. The window will now close and your resized canvas appears with a gray area at the bottom.
You will now want to add text. In the Toolbox window, click on the big bold letter "A" [for text]. [The Toolbox works similar to Word or Publisher and is easy if you are even fairly familiar with those programs.] At the bottom of the Toolbox you will now see a variety of settings you can change for your text. For the Font, I generally am satisfied with the Sans Bold for my client work. You might want to choose another setting, there are several to choose from. The size will depend upon the photo you are working with, and can be increased or decreased simply by clicking on the up or down buttons.
Once you have set your font and size, you now need to bring your cursor to the canvas and click in the upper left corner of the gray space. The GIMP Text Editor will appear. In this area you will type the text you want to appear at the bottom of your photograph. Once you are finished writing the text, you need to click on CLOSE. The GIMP Text Editor window will close. You may now need to adjust the size of your Font within the Toolbox to get the print to fit your text area.

Once you have your print the way you want it, you must now Crop your photo. From the Toolbox choose the rectangular button just as you would from most photo programs. Bring your cursor to the photo and bring your cropping area within the boundaries you choose [you can see this really well on the RootsWeb video]. Once your field of cropping has been determined, right click on your mouse, then click on Image. Now click on Crop To Selection. Simply hit your + or - key on your keyboard, and your crop is complete.
Now you need to merge the two fields you have created [photo and text]. Simply right click on your mouse once more. Click on Image, then click on Merge Visible Layers. Another window will open, Merge Layers. Make sure the setting is on Expand as Necessary [the default setting], then click on MERGE. [You will not see a visible change.]

Now you must flatten the image for saving. Once more, right click on your mouse. Click on Image, and then click on Flatten Image. The text at the bottom will lose it's gray background and the background will turn white.
All that's left now is to save your image! Simply click on FILE in the upper left hand corner of your screen. Then click on Save As. Choose the location and title for your file, and click on Save. Another window will open up, giving you the opportunity to change the size of the file. [Default setting, and the only setting for saving is a JPEG file, however, you can change the size of the file for saving space. Be forewarned, I haven't tried yet to change the size of the file, as I'm not sure if that will cause degradation of the photo yet or not.] Click on SAVE.

Once your photo is saved, you will then click on FILE in the upper left corner again, and then click on CLOSE. The photo will then leave the larger window and is now safely stored in your files.
Since this program saves files only in JPEG format, I would suggest that you use an external source for saving your files. Either save to data CD, a USB stick, or to an external hard drive. This will help save space on your computers hard drive. [I personally keep all clients work on an external hard drive.]
I hope this helps you to better understand how to utilize the GIMP program.
An example of using this program with a photo, and another using it with a document, is above.

Keeping Up Waith Data Rot

From the 28 Mar 2009 EOGN comes the following:

" Computer formats come and go leaving some users with data no longer compatible with software or hardware. As David Pogue reports, this is called data rot.

This CBS News video gives a great overview of the problems associated with preserving audio, video, and computer data. The story also describes briefly how to preserve electronic data with data migration.

You can watch the video at http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4836762n%3fsource=search_video.

My thanks to newsletter reader Milo Wright for telling me about this video. "

Library of Congress Embraces YouTube and iTunes

The following blog is taken from the 28 Mar 2009 EOGN:

" The U.S. Library of Congress has begun uploading its audio archives to iTunes, and it will soon begin to post videos on YouTube, in an effort to make its materials easier for the public to access.

The library already offers the materials at its own Web site, LOC.gov, and through interactive exhibitions on its new, personalized Web site at myLOC.gov, but the expansion to YouTube and Apple's iTunes is part of the library's efforts to make its 15.3 million digital items more accessible, said Matt Raymond, the library's director of communications.

"Our broad strategy is to 'fish where the fish are,' and to use the sites that give our content added value -- in the case of iTunes, ubiquity, portability, etc.," Raymond said in an e-mail.
You can read more at http://www.networkworld.com/news/2009/032709-library-of-congress-embraces-youtube.html. "

Friday, March 27, 2009

The New Gold Rush!

Also from EOGN for 26 March 2009:

" Now you have a chance to follow the steps of your ancestors, assuming they went to California in 1849 to find gold. Geologists estimate that during the gold rush of 1849 in California, about 80 percent of the gold was never found. Today, with the price of gold soaring and the economy falling, the idea of panning, digging or diving for precious metal has become serious business. In fact, significant amounts of gold can be found within an hour's drive of downtown Los Angeles.

NBC News has an interesting story about modern-day prospectors at http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/NEW-CALIFORNIA-GOLD-RUSH.html. "

400 Years of London History Launches Online!

The following announcement was found in the 26 Mar 2009 EOGN. It is lengthy, but well worth the read! - cbh

The following announcement was written by The Generations Network, parent company of ancestry.co.uk:

1 in 2 Brits with ancestors in collection, including J.K. Rowling, David Beckham and Patsy Kensit

77 million records when complete, including workhouse, parish, school

Famous names include Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Pepys and William Blake, as well as ancestors of contemporary celebrities JK Rowling, David Beckham, Patsy Kensit and Britney Spears

An estimated 165 million people around the world has an ancestor in the collection, including more than half of the British population

The definitive collection of records detailing the rich history of London and its inhabitants over 400 years is available online for the first time today at leading social and family history website Ancestry.co.uk, in partnership with London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts following a competitive tender by the City of London to digitise and exclusively host their collection online.

Starting with records from London’s infamous Victorian workhouses memorably depicted by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist, the London Historical Records, 1500s-1900s will include more than 77 million records, providing an unprecedented insight into the colourful history of one of the world’s greatest cities.

Key record types include parish and workhouse records, electoral rolls, wills, land tax records and school reports. According to a recent family history survey, more than half of the current British population will have an ancestor in the London Historical Records, 1500s-1900s.

Furthermore, it is estimated that approximately 135 million people from the U.S., Canada and Australia will also be able to trace ancestors in the collection due to London’s status as the city at the centre of the British Empire for centuries.

Assembled over time direct from various London institutions, the collection includes the names of millions of ordinary Londoners alongside famous and infamous figures from the city’s past. Notable examples include Oliver Cromwell’s marriage record, the baptism record for poet Samuel Pepys and the burial register listing for writer and statesman John Milton.

A number of modern day celebrities can also find ancestors within the collection. JK Rowling’s 3x great-grandfather, William Richard Rowling, appears in the Mile End marriage registers for 1872, while Patsy Kensit’s ancestor Thomas Kensit can be found in Shoreditch Baptism records from 1815. David Beckham’s London roots are also well documented; with his 3x great- grandparent’s marriage listed in the collection. Even international pop star Britney Spears can find her great-grandfather, George Portell, listed in the Tottenham marriage records for 1923.

The workhouse or ‘Board of Guardians’ records now online contain the names of anyone who was born, baptised or died in a London workhouse in the 19th and early 20th century. During this time, men, women and children who couldn’t support themselves were forced to live in these institutions, working long hours in tedious jobs in exchange for minimal food and board.

The conditions were kept intentionally poor to deter others and unofficial beatings or starving of inmates were not unheard of. Overcrowding was also a major problem, compounded by the influx of Irish immigrants after the potato famine of the mid 19th century. While conditions improved slightly in the early 20th century, the workhouses were still a feared ‘last resort’ by most until their abolition in 1930.

The workhouse records cover 12 key London regions[iii]. Also included today are a variety of workhouse creed registers, admissions, discharges, apprenticeship papers and lists of ‘lunatics’.

Workhouse records are just one of the record types which comprise the London Historical Records, 1500s-1900s. Others include:

* Parish Registers - from 1538, priests had to keep records of all baptisms, marriages and burials in their parish. These records are taken from over 10,000 Greater London parishes, and as they pre-date both civil registration and censuses, they are the essential ‘next step back’ for people wishing to trace their family history beyond the 19th century

* School Admissions and Discharges - contain records taken from 800+ London schools dating from the early Victorian times through to 1911. They provide admission details and information about millions of London students

* Non-Conformist Registers - details the birth, baptism, death and burial of religious dissenters who did not worship at the established church in England from 1694 to 1921. The majority of the records are for Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed churches, although there are smaller collections of other denominations such as Quakers and Seventh Day Adventists

* Diocesan Divorce Exhibita - one of a number of interesting records from the London diocesan courts, when applying for divorce, a husband or wife would submit evidence for their partner’s marital failings, including love letters, witness accounts and sworn testimony, which were then kept on record.

Josh Hanna, Senior Vice President of Ancestry, comments: “We estimate that half of Brits will be able to find an ancestor in this collection, which pre-dates civil registration and censuses, and documents the history of a great city and its people, their birth, poverty, fortunes, faith, education, marriage and death.

“No city in modern history other than London can claim to have been the capital of such a far reaching empire, which really is why this collection is of such significance not only to Brits, but also to many others around the world with ancestral ties back to England.”

Dr Deborah Jenkins, Assistant Director of the City of London’s Department of Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Library, comments: “We were delighted to work with Ancestry.co.uk to digitise this impressive collection of documents.

“Not only will this mean that millions of people will be able to access this resource from the comfort of their own homes all over the world – it also ensures that we will be able to support the long term preservation of the documents and provide fast, free access to researchers who visit our sites.” "

Gems in the Rough: A Success Story

The following was taken from the 26 Mar 2009 Eastman's EOGN:

Michael Pollock is publishing the Methodist Episcopal Church records for Gloucester County, Virginia (a severely burned and very old county). He contacted me recently to describe a recent success and suggested that his experience be published in this newsletter as an example to others. I agreed and asked him to write the article as only he could. He kindly agreed.

The following was written by Michael Pollock:

I have always been of the mind that one should NEVER publish something one knows to be false – not just because once it is published it can never be fully retracted, but more significantly, the longer it remains around and the wider its circulation, the greater the chances of a false statement coming to be regarded as truth, no matter the evidence to the contrary.

However, I am also of the mind that so long as it is presented as speculation rather than fact, one should not withhold something from publication simply because it cannot be proven, for it often results in someone coming forward with information that either refutes or proves the speculation.

Over my publishing career, beginning with a collection of marriage records for Henrico County, Virginia, issued by Genealogical Publishing Company in 1982 and most recently with Gloucester County, Virginia, Methodist Church Records issued by New Papyrus Publishing Company in 2007, I have had the correctness of my position reaffirmed numerous times, though never coming close to the near epiphany I felt when approached by a rare book and manuscript dealer who discovered I had published the book on Gloucester while doing some "leg work" on the internet as a prelude to selling a manuscript on Gloucester he had acquired. Where he had described it to me as a collection of Disciples of Christ records, I knew immediately on seeing the manuscript that it was not just Methodist Episcopal records, but an EARLIER companion volume to the collection on which my book was based. Though it covers such a brief period of time, 1835-37, the manuscript contains nearly 1000 names, both white and black, many with notations of a nature that probably would not be found in the civil records for the same period even had they existed, AND THEY DO NOT – deaths (generally only the year, but sometimes an exact date), marriages (generally only the surname of newly married woman, but when her husband also was a member of the church, his identity can be established by the fact both had their marital status altered from "s" to "m"), removals (sometimes giving the specific place to which the person moved), and expulsions for reasons ranging from failing to attend to services on a regular basis to being an habitual drunk, adultery and gambling.

There is virtually no way to place a dollar value on this book. Further, it is far from clear that, had the previous owner not contacted me and as a result sold it to someone else, it would have been bought by a person or institution who not just recognized its value, but also would make an effort to share the same with the genealogical and historical communities with interest in Gloucester County.

I would like to think there will be a further benefit in this particular instance of this article encouraging people across the country to keep their eyes and ears open for other "gems in the rough" waiting to be found, whether it be a trunk in an attic or basement or a "store," and to act upon them in much the same manner I have when they are found. "

****Well done Michael! - cbh

Thursday, March 26, 2009

News From Footnote.com

Footnote.com is pleased to announce our new Great Depression Collection including the Interactive 1930 US Census. Innovative tools combine with census documents to help you discover details about your family during the Depression, allowing you to attach photos, share stories, or simply click "I'm Related" for each name you find. Other records on Footnote.com include historical newspapers about the Depression that highlight events from Washington, D.C., to mainstream America.

Visit Footnote's Great Depression site today to see how names become people.

Thank you,
The Footnote Team


As promised, I downloaded the FREE GIMP program as mentioned earlier. I also titled 3 of my photographs for genealogy as practice and to get to know the program.

Unfortunately, the GIMP manual does not automatically download for the program, but you can review it for free online. However, I opened the Roots Television video in one window, and followed along with the instructions offered with the GIMP program. And it is a breeze! The second and third photo went much smoother and faster.

I believe I am going to truly love this program. Especially for my clients, who often have no idea who individuals in the photographs are. You can also download the free program at: http://www.gimp.org/

I often upload my photographs for clients into books and have them printed out in hardcover. This will work great for that as well! I won't be required to bounce back and forth between WORD and my image program to combine the photograph and a title, or explanation, for each!

I highly recommend the program. However, I do suggest that you read the pro's and con's for it's use as listed on Eastman's EOGN for 25 Mar 2009. The comments are well worth taking a moment first before deciding if the program is right for you. You can view that post and comments at: http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2009/03/labeling-digital-genealogy-images.html

Enjoy! - cbh

Labeling Genealogy Images

The following is taken from the 25 Mar 2009 EOGN:

"Labeling Digital Genealogy Images

Roots Television has a must-watch video for genealogists trying to manage their digital photos. The video shows how to label your digital genealogy images so you and others can easily identify them later. There are plenty of free good programs available to change the canvas size and add text. This example uses GIMP. "GIMP" stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and is free for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux.

The video is available at: http://www.rootstelevision.com/players/player_howto3.php?bctid=13970104001&bclid=958499738 "

****This idea is new for me, and I am personally going to give it a try, and will report back ot our readers on this program! - cbh

Is It The Sundance Kid???

The following is taken from the 25 Mar 2009 EOGN:

"Is the Body Unearthed in Utah Really the Sundance Kid?

Did the Sundance Kid really die along with Butch Cassidy in South America, or did he live to ripe old age in Utah? DNA evidence may soon answer the question.

The Oscar-winning movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" more or less followed the official version of Utah's most famous outlaws: Butch and Sundance high-tailed it to South America. Things didn't go well there. In a shootout with the Bolivian Army in 1908, both outlaws died in a blaze of gunfire, if not necessarily glory.

Dr. John McCullough, who has long experience as a forensic anthropologist, told us, "Two gringos definitely died, but we just don't know which ones."

Three months ago, McCollough and television documentary producer Marilyn Grace obtained permission to dig up a grave in the Duchesne City, Utah Cemetery. They're hoping to prove that William Henry Long was, in fact, the Sundance Kid.

The researchers also have photographs of William Henry Long and earlier photographs of the Sundance Kid. At a glance, the photos don't look strikingly alike, but when transparencies are lined up one on top of the other, the images seem to fuse into the face of one very wanted man. "It's a perfect match, almost a perfect match," McCullough said. "Both have broken noses. Both have a notch in the ear. Both have a notch on the chin."

Long died an old man in 1936, a Utah rancher with a shady reputation and a mysterious past. "Everybody knew he was an outlaw. They didn't know which one," Grace said

You can read more and watch a video on the KSL web site at: http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=5952997. "

****I personally just watched a documentary on this subject on Monday evening. An interview was done with the "Kid's" sister in the 1950's. She claimed in the 1920's he came back to visit her, as she'd been born after he left home and was already an "outlaw". She claimed her mother was certain it was him, as were other family members still living at the time.

It will be interesting now to see what DNA provides!

History may need to be re-written!

Hmmmmm. Wonder if they've attempted DNA to prove Ollie P. Roberts [aka: Brushy Bill] and William Bonney [aka: Billy the Kid] are one and the same? Twould be interesting indeed!!!

Another Look at Duffy's Cut!

The following is from the Mar 25, 2009 EOGN:

Several newsletter readers wrote to call attention to an excellent article on the BBC web site about Irish immigrants to America.

In 1832, 57 emigrants from Donegal, Derry and the surrounding counties set sail for a new life in America. They found work on the railroads, but within weeks they were all dead, struck down by cholera - or possibly even murdered by locals who believed the immigrants had brought the disease with them.

The men were buried where they had died, in a mass unmarked grave along 'Duffy's Cut', the section of the Philadelphia and Columbia railroad they helped to build. The grave was unmarked and soon forgotten, except for a few historians who kept the knowledge alive. Now the grave site has been found.

You can read the full story at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/foyle_and_west/7961564.stm. "

Shufflebottoms in Decline!

Via Geniaus, an article from The Australian titled "Name shame causes Cock shrinkage but Wang is on the rise." The Times of London chose a less shameful headline.

Cock, Daft, Death, Smellie, not to mention Gotobed, Shufflebottom and Jelly: they are all surnames that would have caused their owners considerable embarrassment over the years. A new analysis of British surnames reveals how names with rude overtones have seen the sharpest decline over the past 120 years as their owners have changed them to something more innocuous. [Link]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Info On Smithsonian Videos

For anyone who doesn't know this:

If you are interested in watchig any of the Smithsonian videos in full, you can download the iTunes player for free [there's a link on the Smithsonian site], and watch any of the videos listed on Smithsonian in full-length.

The cost is about $1.99 per video. You can then keep the video on your computer, or burn it to a dvd if you'd like, to watch over and over.

It's great value!


From a Reader - Regarding Irish Mass Grave

There are clips from a program that the Smithsonian Channel has done that you can watch from their online video player for more about Duffy's Cut and the story of the Irish men.
Below is the link to the video player. Once there you will have to select History and Mystery, and then scroll way downto 3 separate clips: The Ghost Hunt Begins, the Mystery of Duffy's Cut,and The Costliest Mile. http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1155838635
But if that doesn't work, try going into the http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/site/smithsonian/home.do and then from there, go to video, and so forth.
Being half Irish, I will be very interested in the outcome of the DNA results on the remains. Natalie SiemborHistorical Research ServicesOswego, NY

Irish Immigrant Mass Grave

The following is from this morning's post on APG. Please take a few moments and click on the links. It's well worth the read. - cbh

"This is an interesting article about the search for, and location of, the mass grave of Irish immigrant workers in PA."Bones may be from US grave of 57 Irish Immigrants", http://apnews.excite.com/article/20090325/D974R1E00.html
There is more at: http://www.duffyscutproject.com/
Kate "

DNA Reveals Story of Dads Disappearance

Taken from EOGN 24 Mar 2009:

"DNA Reveals Story of Dad's Disappearance

John Smithers of Raleigh, NC had spent more than six decades looking for clues about the father who abandoned him, his sister and their mother when he was just a baby. At 82, he had about given up on ever learning what happened to James William Smithers. He had long suspected his father got in trouble with the law and fled abroad. Decades ago, it was easy enough to disappear, and Smithers' father had seemingly vanished into thin air.

On the other side of the world, Lucinda Gray had always wondered what her father's life was like before he moved mysteriously from the United States to Australia. She had spent years just trying to find out his real name.

In mid-December, Smithers and Gray learned their elusive fathers were one and the same. DNA provided the proof.

You can read the full story in an article by Ruth Sheehan in the News & Observer website at: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/1454594.html. "

***Be sure to read this article! Very interesting! - cbh

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Who Do You Think You Are" to aire on NBC on April 20 at 7p.m.

The following is taken from Dick Eastman's EOGN for 23 Mar 2009:

""Who Do You Think You Are?” to Premiere at 7 PM April 20 on NBC

The U.S. version of Who Do You Think You Are? will be broadcast in a few weeks. The genealogy-based television program has been scheduled. It will be broadcast at 7 p.m. April 20 on NBC. (The exact time might vary from one time zone to another. Check your local listings.)
The program is based on the popular BBC documentary series of the same name and will explore the family histories of celebrities including Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon.

According to an NBC news release, the series will take viewers on an inspiring and personal journey into the past of America’s best-known celebrities as they uncover stories of heroism, tragedy, love and betrayal that lie at the heart of their family story. The series will highlight the making of our nation and the people who traveled here in search of freedom and opportunity. "

*****I can't wait! - cbh

What Happened to Find A Grave???

Find A Grave's Database is Temporarily Offline

Find A Grave at http://www.findagrave.com is a very popular web site that features a database of gravestones and locations. The database is temporarily offline although it is expected to be back online within a few hours.

The home page and several other pages are still in operation. However, any attempt to access the database results in the following message:

This page is temporarily unavailableThe page you are attempting to view is temporarily unavailable. We are performing some database maintenance that prevents this page from showing. You can read a bit more about the upgrade here. Almost all of the 'non-famous' pages will be unavailable during this process but the Famous Search Page and Discussion Forums are both up and running. We apologize for the inconvenience! We expect to be back online by Monday Afternoon.

**The above was reported on EOGN. However, we are pleased to announce that as of this morning, we see that FindAGrave is back in service! Their databases are up and fully accessible! Thanks guys! We use and LOVE your site! - cbh

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Send Emails AFTER Your Death!

The following wastaken from the 21 March 2009 EOGN:

This sounds morbid, but do you have a method of passing on important information to others in the case of your death? David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, has had plenty of time to think about the issue.

"I work in the world's largest medical center, and what you see here every day is people showing up in ambulances who didn't expect that just five minutes earlier," he said. "If you suddenly die or go into a coma, there can be a lot of things that are only in your head in terms of where things are stored, where your passwords are."

He set up a site called Deathswitch, where people can set up e-mails that will be sent out automatically if they don't check in at intervals they specify, like once a week.

Why would you want to do such a thing? The company's web site points out a variety of potential reasons, like not leaving your coworkers and family high and dry without important passwords or information and getting a secret off your chest now that you're gone. I might send a message to the boss, telling him what I really think of him.

You might call it "information insurance."

The basic service is free and includes a single email. The pay service, $20 a year, allows you to compose up to 30 emails with 10 recipients each. Only the pay service allows you to include attachments. Death Switch determines when to send out the messages by sending out messages to you on a regular basis. If you fail to respond to enough of those messages in a row, the emails are mailed out.

You can see the service for yourself at http://www.DeathSwitch.com. "

Friday, March 20, 2009

Church, Genealogist in Tussle

The following is taken from Kentucky.com dated 16 March 2009 [we previously reported on this matter!]:

"It doesn't want him sharing photos, info from cemetery

By Beverly Fortune - bfortune@herald-leader.com

Among the hundreds of graves in the Old Union Christian Church Cemetery on Russell Cave Road, genealogist David Shannon found those of several relatives, including his great-grandparents Julia and Lloyd Harp.

With beginner's zeal, Shannon began to compile the names, birth and death dates on the tombstones, which date back to the early 1800s. "Once I got into it, I figured other people trying to find ancestors would find information in the cemetery helpful," he said.

So he created an independent research Web site, www.oldunioncemetery.com, where he's posted the information on the 475 documented burials collected and a photograph of each visible stone.


But the church board at Old Union took offense.

In February, the church's governing board sent Shannon a letter telling him "to cease publishing pictures of stones ... not part of your family because it is sharing family information without their consent."

Old Union's minister, the Rev. Scott Winkler, said the church's position is that Shannon's actions are an invasion of privacy. "If you're going to publish other people's private information you need to get their permission," he said. "Any cemetery has to protect rights of people buried there."

Winkler said he did not think the church board will pursue the issue with legal action but still felt the need to state its opinion.

The church sells a $10 book with all the tombstone information in it, but no pictures, compiled for an Eagle Scout project several years ago with the help of church historian Leslie Nash Huber, Winkler said.

The difference between the book and Shannon's Web site is "my church board and congregation approved the book," he said. "Since most of these folks (at Old Union) have people buried there, they approved publication of the information."

But Shannon felt he had a right to publish the information; he also considered it a community service.

Birth and death dates are public information, recorded in county courthouses and with the Kentucky Department for Public Health's division of vital statistics.

What is inscribed on a tombstone also is public, said Mary Davis, Stites & Harbison professor of law at the University of Kentucky College of Law. "If a fact is in the public domain, it's not private and it can be published," she said.

It is another matter, Davis said, if someone tries to protect private information. For instance, if you are in your house and a peeping Tom takes photographs of you through a window, that violates privacy you are trying to protect.

"But if something is in the public, and you haven't exercised any protection over it or (indicated) any desire to keep it within your own sphere, you can't tell others they can't have access to it," Davis said.

Some genealogists expressed surprise at Old Union's prohibition on sharing family genealogy information.

Former Fayette County Attorney Margaret Kannensohn said that historically, the reason for tombstone inscriptions was "to commemorate, for the ages, the existence of that person. That's why they went into a lot of description."

If information about the person was intended to be kept private, "it could have been confined to the family Bible or oral tradition, but kept within the family," said Kannensohn, also a genealogist.

A movement called Free Genealogy promotes disseminating as much information as possible, she said, "so everyone has a possibility of researching their roots." Within that movement, she said, "Shannon is doing an incredible service."

Ann Johnson, head of the Kentucky Historical Society's cemetery preservation program, said she has never encountered a cemetery refusing to allow photography or requiring permission of family members.

"You can go to ancestry.com and pull up the same information on anybody you want to. You don't have to be a relative," Johnson said. If the death certificate is available, "you can even print them off."

Lisa Sanden, president of the Fayette County Cemetery Trust, said she was "absolutely shocked" when she learned of the church's unwillingness to share genealogy information from the cemetery.

Kentucky statutes do not address privacy of information on tombstones, Sanden said. "I went back and re-read them. The statutes speak to tombstones not being desecrated and not publishing photographs for profit."

Shannon isn't making a profit, she said; "he is doing this out of the goodness of his heart, sharing his information." "

Ancestry.com May Help You Find Living Relatives!

The following post is written by Diane Haddad in the Genealogy Insider:

"Funny coincidence.

I was sitting here proofing the final version of our July 2009 Family Tree Magazine article on reverse genealogy (searching for living relatives) when I got an announcement from Ancestry.com about its new/updated collections of recent records. Which could help you find, say, a cousin or second cousin.

Now, through a partnership with the people finder MyLife.com (formerly Reunion.com), your Ancestry.com search results may include links to MyLife.com’s public information profiles on more than 700 million living people.

But wait, there’s more: In the next week or two, Ancestry.com will replace its current US public records database with one containing more than 525 million names, addresses, ages and possible family relationships of US residents between about 1950 and 1990.

Finally, Ancestry.com launched an upgraded collection of obituaries extracted from papers all over the world—helpful because survivors named in relatives’ obituaries may be cousins. (Also see last week's post about Ancestry.com's "1940 census substitute.") See the details on the Ancestry.com blog. "

The Ancestry Insider Offers Reports

The following is taken from the 19 Mar 2009 Ancestry Insider blog:

"Check out these reports.
Susan Easton Black, keynote address; as reported by R. Scott Lloyd, "Family history is professor's 'great joy'," Mormon Times (www.mormontimes.com : published 16 March 2009).

Loretta Evans, "My Ancestor on eBay?" as reported by Michael De Groote, "Your ancestor on eBay?" Mormon Times (www.mormontimes.com : published 18 March 2009).

Claire Brisson–Banks, "Genealogy and Family History — The Perfect Social Media" as reported by Michael De Groote, "Finding family history connections online," Mormon Times (www.mormontimes.com : published 16 March 2009).

Kory L. Meyerink, "Cemetery Research Online: Pitfalls and Promises" as reported by Sharon Haddock, "Cemetery stomping a thing of the past," Mormon Times (www.mormontimes.com : published 16 March 2009).

Daniel M. Lynch, "Google Images, Video and Other Tools for Genealogists" as reported by Michael De Groote, "Finding family history images and videos with Google," Mormon Times (www.mormontimes.com : published 15 March 2009).

Alan E. Mann, "What's New in Family History Technology" as reported by Sharon Haddock, "Sharing -- the newest thing in genealogy," Mormon Times (www.mormontimes.com : published 14 March 2009).

Joseph Irvine, "No Experience Needed: Beginner's Guide to FREE Family History Websites"; as reported by Michael De Groote, "Building a free family history Web site," Mormon Times (www.mormontimes.com : published 13 March 2009).

John Vilburn, "Collaboration Clean Up"; as reported by Sharon Haddock, "Modern-day genealogists need to fix mistakes," Mormon Times (www.mormontimes.com : published 16 March 2009).

James W. Anderson, "Some nFS news," FHCNET, discussion group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FHCNET : published 16 March 2009)."


Allow yourself about 45 minute to an hour to sweep through all of these reports. They are quite informative, and are well worth the read!!! - cbh

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Annie Moore Memorial Ceremony

If you read yesterday's post about Annie Moore's marker, you can watch a touching video of the ceremony performed here. Under the search option, write in Annie Moore Memorial Ceremony.

You'll also to get to hear Ronan Tynan sing Brendan Graham's beautiful "Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears" written about Annie specifically for the ceremony. It certainly brought tears to my eyes!

Enjoy!!! - cbh

Watch RootsTelevision.com on your TV!

The following is taken from the March 18, 2009 "Megan's Roots Woorld":

"I'm delighted to see that folks are loving the new full-screen viewing available at RootsTelevision.com! For those of you who might have missed it, you can read all about it here. Just click on the little box with arrows underneath a video and whatever you're watching fills your whole monitor. No more squinting!

This made me curious. If you've purchased a TV over the last few years, you may have noticed that you can connect all sorts of goodies to them, so I decided to check whether I could hook up a wireless laptop to a TV. Sure enough! Here's my husband, Brian, watching RootsTelevision.com on one of our TVs!

It took me about 30 seconds to hook it up -- just connected a cable to the laptop and the TV and clicked the "input" button on my remote until RootsTelevision.com appeared. That was it! If you're not sure how, here are some easy-to-follow instructions:
How to use a TV as a monitor for a laptop

So now you can watch free, genealogical videos on your TV whenever you want!"

***This is super! So much better than squinting at the little monitor version! Yeah!!! - cbh***

Ancestry.com: Post-1930 info, improved 1880, USPRI & MORE

The following was taken from the March 19, 2009 Dear Myrtle blog [thanks Myrt for sharing!]:

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: Thanks to Anastasia, my contact at Ancestry.com for this news update. Please address all inquries to support@Ancestry.com . We’re excited to tell you about two collections that provide post-1930 family history information on a national scale.

The first is an update to our 1940 census substitute. Last week Ancestry.com launched more than 2,000 U.S. City Directories, representing more than 45 states, for 1940 and surrounding years. Forerunners of phone books, city directories typically list head of household with address and occupation. Look for additional directories to be launched in the coming months.

Second -- in the next few weeks, we’ll be launching more than 525 million names, dating from 1950 to 1990, in U.S. Public Records Index database. See below for more details on this update. New Ancestry.com Content

Last week we posted the improved 1880 U.S. Federal Census. This update includes new, higher-quality images that, in many cases, fix completely illegible images. (Chris Lydiksen, Product Manager for U.S. content at Ancestry.com, includes sample before and after images in his blog post here.) The improved 1880 census is the second of the U.S. censuses we will be updating, through partnership with FamilySearch, over the coming months with improved images and indexes. (The 1900 census was the first, released 2008.) The updated 1880 index was not part of this release, but will be coming in the next few months. Other content additions and updates include:

U.S. Circuit Court Criminal Case Files, 1790-1871
United States Obituary Collection - Updated
Irish Canadian Emigration Records, 1823-1849

You can view the full list of recently added databases, extending back a couple of months, at http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/recent.aspx.

U.S. Public Records Index Update
In the next few weeks, Ancestry.com will be adding to the U.S. Public Records Index (USPRI) database more than 525 million names, addresses, ages, and possible family relationships of people who lived in the United States between roughly 1950 and 1990. This information, which will be available online for the first time, is an excellent resource in discovering information about ancestors who lived after 1930 – often a challenging area of research because many records are not yet publicly available.

The soon-to-be-added records will replace the existing USPRI records, which contains recently compiled public records dating back to about 2000 and are primarily used for searching living people. As part of this change, you might notice that some search result pages on Ancestry.com include basic search results for records on MyLife.com. We have partnered with MyLife.com, a leading subscription-based people search service. We believe that MyLife.com, which includes current public information and more than 700 million profiles of living people, is better equipped to offer these services than we are. While we will no longer serve post-2000 USPRI records on Ancestry.com, members who have already saved records from the database to an online tree will retain free access to those records.

Website and Product InformationMessages—A New Way to Connect with the Ancestry.com Community
Last week we launched a new site feature – Messages – to help members connect with each other. Found in the upper right corner of almost every page on Ancestry.com, the Messages link is your portal to sending and receiving messages to and from other Ancestry.com members. Ancestry.com product manager David Graham discusses this new feature here.

Free Webinars
March 19 – Conquering the Challenge of Reading Handwritten Document; Part 1 – 6 pm ET; Part 2 – 8 pm ET. We all encounter source documents that can be difficult to read if the handwriting isn't "clear." In addition, contributors to the World Archives Project take on the task of reading hand-written documents and keying the information that will become an index that researchers will use. Whether you are a beginning researcher, a more seasoned researcher, or a keyer we invite you to join us for an hour of learning and sharing tips that will improve your skills in deciphering handwritten documents. You can register for this webinar here.

Archives Webinar – Family Tree Maker 2009
New Features Demo Join the Family Tree Maker 2009 team for a tour of the new features just added to Family Tree Maker 2009. Learn tips and tricks to get the most out of the new features. Program developers from the Family Tree Maker team will answer some of your questions. You can view this archived webinar here. Note: To register for a webinar or view an archived webinar, click on the Learning Center tab on the Ancestry.com home page. Then Keep Learning and, finally, webinars. http://learn.ancestry.com/LearnMore/Webinars.aspx

Highlights from the Ancestry.com Blog
The Ancestry.com blog is a great place for site updates and info, as well as tutorials. Here’s what Ancestry.com employees have been talking about:

Ancestry.com DNA haplogroup designations, posted by Wendy Jessen, marketing manager for Ancestry.com DNA

Changing text size on search results, posted by Anne Mitchell, Product Manager for Search

Creating family tree posters from your online tree, posted by Stefanie Condie, brand manager for MyCanvas "

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Annie Moore Gets Her Marker

For those of you who had been watching for news of Annie Moore's marker progress, I forgot to post the beautiful pictures and story that Bridget English did on the stone and the memorial.

You can still view it at:


For all of you who contributed to the Annie Moore project, the contribution[s] you made were well worth the effort!


Interview with Chris Pomery

The following is taken from EOGN's March 17th post:

" At the recent Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE! event held in London, I had a chance to talk with Chris Pomery, a genealogy and DNA expert. Chris talked about why DNA has recently become so important in genealogy research.

I was also pleased to announce that Chris will be writing articles in this newsletter.

Roots Television recorded our conversation and you can watch and listen at http://www.rootstelevision.com/players/player_conferences3.php?bctid=16661826001&bclid=14621417001.

Don't forget that you can now watch Roots Television videos in full screen mode. On the bottom of the video player, there is a rectangle with arrows coming out of the corners, to the left of the volume control. If you click that icon, you will switch the video into full-screen mode. "


Be sure to watch this fascnating interview! - cbh

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Church Issues Cease & Desist Order to Genealogist

The following is taken from the March 16th EOGN:

Genealogist David Shannon found the graves and tombstones of several relatives, including his great-grandparents Julia and Lloyd Harp, in the Old Union Christian Church Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky. Shannon began to compile the names, birth and death dates on the tombstones, which date back to the early 1800s. "Once I got into it, I figured other people trying to find ancestors would find information in the cemetery helpful," he said.

Shannon then created an independent research Web site, www.oldunioncemetery.com, where he's posted the information on the 475 documented burials collected and a photograph of each visible stone. But the church board at Old Union took offense.

In February, the church's governing board sent Shannon a letter telling him "to cease publishing pictures of stones ... not part of your family because it is sharing family information without their consent." Old Union's minister, the Rev. Scott Winkler, said the church's position is that Shannon's actions are an invasion of privacy. "If you're going to publish other people's private information you need to get their permission," he said. "Any cemetery has to protect rights of people buried there."

You can read the full story in an article by Beverly Fortune in the Kentucky Herald-Leader web site at http://www.kentucky.com/181/story/727210.html. "


Since Old Union Church cemetery is listed online, at several different index sites for cemeteries, I wonder what the church board would say about that? Hmmmmm???? - cbh

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Somewhat African Queen

The following comes from the March 15th "The Genealogue":

"According to one historian, Queen Victoria's grandmother Charlotte had African ancestry.

If you google Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, you'll quickly come across a historian called Mario de Valdes y Cocom.

He argues that her features, as seen in royal portraits, were conspicuously African, and contends that they were noted by numerous contemporaries. He claims that the queen, though German, was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family, related to Margarita de Castro e Souza, a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman nine generations removed, whose ancestry she traces from the 13th-century ruler Alfonso III and his lover Madragana, whom Valdes takes to have been a Moor and thus a black African. [Link] "

The Vikings: It Wasn't All Raping and Pillaging

Taken from the March 14th EOGN:

"Perhaps it is time to re-write the history books once again. For centuries, the Vikings have been stereotyped as marauding barbarians arriving in their helmeted hordes to pillage their way across Britain. But now a group of academics believe they have uncovered new evidence that the Vikings were more cultured settlers who offered a "good historical model" of immigrant assimilation.

The evidence is being unveiled at a three-day "Between the Islands" Cambridge University conference starting this weekend, with more than 20 studies revealing how the Vikings shared technology, swapped ideas and often lived side-by-side in relative harmony with their Anglo-Saxon and Celtic contemporaries. Some may have come, plundered and left, but those Vikings who decided to settle rather than return to Scandinavia learnt the language, inter-married, converted to Christianity and even had "praise poetry" written about them by the Brits, according to the experts.

The conference draws on new archeological evidence, historical studies and analysis of the language and literature of the period, and shows that between the 9th and 13th centuries, the Vikings became an integral part of the fabric of social and political life that changed Britain and Ireland far more profoundly than previously realised.

You can read more at The Independent web site at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/the-vikings-it-wasnt-all-raping-and-pillaging-1643969.html. "

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Alex Haley's Roots...

The following was taken from the Genealogue.

"DNA testing shows that the paternal ancestors of Chris Haley (and of his famous uncle Alex) came from Africa by way of Scotland."

View the video at: http://www.genealogue.com/2009/03/haley.html

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ancestors Lost to Mining

The following is taken from the March 10th Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

CHARLESTON, WV: Walter Young can't find his great-grandmother's grave. The coal company that had it moved doesn't know where the remains ended up.

"It always looked like a safe, good place nobody would bother," the 63-year-old retiree said of the cemetery along Pigeon Creek where his relative, Martha Curry, was buried. "It was up on a hill."

But that hill was in West Virginia's southern coalfields, and over the years, it changed hands. The land around and under the cemetery passed from one coal company to another as mines grew up around it. Now, no one is sure where Young's great-grandmother was ultimately laid to rest.

The loss is a problem that resonates across West Virginia as small family cemeteries and unmarked graves get in the way of mining, timbering and development interests. Advocates are asking state lawmakers this year to enact regulations that would require better tracking of the graves and protect families who believed that their loved ones wouldn't be disturbed.

"We just keep hearing about more and more cases of it," said Carol Warren, a project coordinator with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Young hadn't visited his great-grandmother's grave regularly since the 1970s, but wanted to check up on it when he realized the cemetery, near Delbarton in the southwestern corner of the state, was near a site being built to store coal waste. When he called for permission to cross company property, he was dumbfounded by the response. The company that now operates the site didn't know where the grave had been relocated.

"I wanted to secure in my mind that this cemetery was OK. I found out it wasn't OK. It was gone," Young said.

The graves get lost because sometimes, nearby mining makes it difficult for families to gain access to burial grounds. Sometimes, companies don't give proper public notice before removing or disturbing the graves.

One measure being pushed by the coalition would triple the no-disturbance buffer zone around cemeteries from 100 feet to 300 feet. Another would delete seemingly contradictory language in a law intended to protect human remains, grave artifacts and markers. Currently the law says it isn't meant to "interfere" with normal activities by landowners, whether they be farmers, developers or coal operators.

The current law is vague and allows individuals to waive any responsibility, said House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, a co-sponsor on two measures.

"The more vague a law is, the less likely it is to be enforced," said Perdue, D-Wayne. "I really believe that we have to make sure that hallowed ground is not hollowed ground or harrowed ground."

A third proposal would require coal companies to explain ahead of time how proposed surface mines would affect nearby cemeteries. And a fourth would allow West Virginia University's extension service to use a global positioning system to map and plot small cemeteries near mountaintop removal mines.

"Let's begin the process of trying to document where all these small cemeteries are located," said Delegate Robert Beach, D-Monongalia.

The legislation was prompted by a fly over Beach took last year of mountaintop removal mines. The mining method involves blowing up ridgelines to expose several coal seams.

A lot of people living near the expanding surface mines are afraid family cemeteries are "just going to be covered over and become nonexistent," Beach said.

Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, says coal operators follow the law and try to be sensitive when cemeteries get in the way, treating families with dignity. However, he can't say how often such disputes arise.

International Coal Group's Patriot Mining Co. is currently in court in northern West Virginia, seeking approval to relocate a cemetery where the last burial occurred more then 70 years ago. Patriot received permission last year to move a nearby cemetery.

Patriot estimates there is 7,000 tons of coal beneath the 22 graves it wants to move. Because of buffer zone and blasting laws, Patriot technical services manager Tom Jones said 80,000 to 100,000 tons of coal would be lost if the cemetery isn't relocated. At today's spot market prices, the coal would be worth at least $5.2 million.

Patriot says it will treat the remains with respect and move them to a public cemetery with perpetual care where descendants can visit. Eight of 12 descendants have agreed, but one is challenging the move.

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition organizer Robin Blakeman doesn't know how much coal is beneath her family cemetery in Brier Branch Hollow. The Harless-Bradshaw Cemetery had been used by her family and the nearby community since the mid-1800s, and contains the grave of a Civil War cavalry corporal. The last burial was in 2001 and the area is overgrown by trees.
In the past five years, Blakeman has watched Ravencrest Contracting slowly encircle the wooded knoll where the cemetery is located. The former farm passed out of her family's hands more then 50 years ago. The family relies on state law and an agreement with the coal operator to reach the cemetery on a gravel roadway used to haul coal out of the mine.

On a recent Saturday, Blakeman planted Gladiolus bulbs near several of the stones. As she worked, the sound of heavy mining machinery and trucks drifted across the narrow valley.

"Sometimes in the midst of all this destruction, sometimes the only thing you can do is try and add a little bit of beauty," Blakeman said. "I'm also thinking these flowers will at least alert somebody to the fact that somebody cares."

In Lincoln's Watch....

The following was taken from the March 10, 2009 NPR:

A couple of screwdrivers, a pair of jeweler's goggles and a steady hand have finally put a mystery to rest after almost 150 years: Did a repairman really engrave a secret message on Abraham Lincoln's watch the day the Civil War began?

That's what watchmaker Jonathan Dillon told his family in the late 19th century. He claimed he was working in a posh jewelry store in Washington, D.C., in April 1861, just after Lincoln was elected. And he was assigned to fix the president's beloved gold pocket watch — reportedly the first watch the humble Lincoln had ever owned.

Dillon told his family that as he held the watch in his hands, the store's owner rushed up and shouted, "Dillon, war has begun." Dillon was a Unionist — he lived in a city that bordered the South but was loyal to the North and the federal government — and as the story goes, he brashly opened the watch and secretly engraved the words: "The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a President who at least will try."

Or words to that effect, Dillon told his family. And in 1906, Dillon, by then an elderly man, also told his tale to a reporter from The New York Times.

At this point, the story leaps ahead more than a century. Dillon's great-great-grandson, Doug Stiles, was researching his family background when he unearthed the newspaper article. He discovered that the fabled watch had been at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History since 1958, so he called a curator there last month to ask if his ancestor's story was true.
"We said, 'What story?' recalls Harry Rubenstein, who's in charge of the museum's Lincoln collection. "We had never heard anything about a secret engraving in this gold watch before. So we decided we had to open the watch and look."

Smithsonian officials invited a group of journalists to bear witness as a master watchmaker carefully opened Lincoln's watch to the inner workings. When he spied scribbles lightly engraved onto the back of the watch face, he handed the magnifying goggles to Stiles — so he could have the honor of being perhaps the first man to read them in almost 150 years.

"Jonathan Dillon April 13-1861 Fort Sumpter [sic] was attacked by the rebels on the above date. J Dillon," his great-great-grandfather had written, followed by "April 13-1861 Washington. Thank God we have a government. Jonth Dillon."

The inscription wasn't precisely the way Dillon remembered it when telling the tale to family.

But the moral still holds: Sometimes tall tales are true.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jesse James An Ancestor?

The following is taken from the Ancestry Magazine:

By Jana Lloyd

Betty Duke is certain that her great-great-grandfather James L. Courtney was actually Jesse James. Now facial recognition technology and other modern genealogical techniques are helping her marshal the evidence to make her case.

Betty Duke is in the middle of a genealogical war. The battle? To prove that her great-grandfather, known by friends and family as James L. Courtney, was actually Jesse James.

On the other side are purported James descendants, James enthusiasts, and even members of Betty’s own family. But that doesn’t stop Betty from asserting her claim that Courtney was, in fact, James. She’s dedicated 13 years of serious research to proving her case—and written two books about it, including 2008’s The Truth About Jesse James.

Betty’s story started when, as a youngster in Texas, she heard tale after tale from family members about how her great-grandfather was Jesse James. “I heard so many treasure stories when I was growing up,” she said, “that I really literally thought, just being a little kid, that if you needed money, all you had to do was go out in the yard and dig some up.”

As she got older, Betty dismissed the stories as tall tales—that is, until she turned 47 in 1995. She says she had what “I can only describe as a driven feeling to find out … something to do with my heritage.” She knew she had Native American blood and thought perhaps she should find out more about that. “So that kind of led me to [Jesse James],” she says, “because he had married a woman who had Indian blood, so then that made me recall all the old family stories and I found a lot of old family pictures and diaries and a lot of information on him. He was the hot topic. … And then, next thing I know, I’m consumed with him.”

The first thing that made Betty believe that maybe these old tales were true was an old family photo she found of her great-grandfather Courtney’s mother. The woman in the photo was missing her right arm; James’s mother was also known to have lost her right arm during a dynamite explosion in her home. The dynamite was planted there by Pinkerton detectives who were attempting to wound or kill James. In addition, Courtney’s mother was wearing a dress identical to one worn by the woman known as James’s mother in a photograph historically recognized as being of her.

Not content with her own conclusions, however, Betty decided to take the photograph, plus others of her great-grandfather and other family members, to Identix, a company that specializes in facial recognition, as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety. Both said the woman in the photographs was the same person, but that wasn’t all: According to their facial identification software, photographs of Betty’s great-grandfather matched the most historically recognized photograph of Jesse James.

If that weren’t enough, other evidence kept piling up. For instance, Betty found that her great-grandfather “accidentally” signed his diary “J. James” on several occasions. The first or last names of all the members of the James Gang showed up in his diary at some point as well. Several entries seemed to make cryptic reference to heists in which James had participated.
And when Betty interviewed neighbors in Texas who had known her great-grandfather personally, they all talked about how much money he had. They said it was stored in five-gallon buckets in his house, and they also recalled seeing numerous gold bars stacked up in his farmhouse. Besides that, the family had inherited many treasure maps from him, which, according to family legend, pointed the way to the cash he’d gotten from robbing banks. Betty’s own grandmother was said to have found $3,800 where “X” had marked the spot on one of the maps.

With all this evidence, why do so many people resist Betty’s claim? One big reason is that DNA tests performed in 1995 by George Washington University law professor James E. Starrs assert that James is buried in Kearney, Missouri. According to the history books, James was killed by Bob Ford, a member of his gang, in Kearney on 3 April 1882.

But Betty’s research says that Starrs obtained his DNA results by using teeth and hair from the James farm in Kearney, not from remains in the exhumed Kearney grave. Statements from several others involved in the Kearney exhumation seem to corroborate her findings. The items tested, Betty believes, belong to someone in the James family, maybe even Jesse himself; however, they don’t prove who is buried in the Kearney grave, since those remains were too decomposed to be tested.

Betty is currently trying to conduct her own DNA analysis: she has gathered mitochondrial DNA results from 90-year-old Sue Laura Hale, granddaughter of James’s sister, Susan James Parmer, and is attempting to get an exhumation order for her great-grandfather Courtney to see whether their mtDNA matches or rules out a family relationship.

In spite of her evidence, Betty is still booed and harassed by most of the Jesse James community—she’s become an outlaw in her own right. “I’m not trying to cause war,” Betty says, “but I have been through one since I came forward with my family story.” Even many members of her own family have turned on her, saying they never heard stories about their grandfather being James and that Betty made up the family story.

For her part, Betty says she isn’t sure why they won’t own up to the family legend. Maybe they’re ashamed of James—or maybe they just want to keep the James money in the family.
Still Betty persists. “I just want to know the truth,” she says. “It’s important to know who you really are.”

Jana Lloyd is the editor of the Ancestry Monthly Update.


The following is from Dear Myrtle's latest blog:


Since September 2008, I have been remiss by not telling my DearREADERS about a great resource for creative family tree templates. With family get-togethers over Easter, upcoming weddings and the family reunion next summer, this is just the sort of thing Ol' Myrt here needs to tell our family story in a format the non-genealogists in the family will appreciate. Recently that site added seven more designs.

From recent communications with the owner, we learn: www.FamilyTreeTemplates.net features printable family trees and has recently added seven more printable family trees and genealogy charts.

Now, there are more than 25 family trees and charts at FamilyTreeTemplates.net, all free to download and print in PDF format, or users can pay $4 to instantly download a version in .DOC format that is fully editable in Microsoft Word and similar programs.

There are simple trees, family trees for kids, and genealogy charts in variations all the way up to seven generations. Some are in full color while others are graphics-free. The new additions are a direct result of site visitor requests and fill the needs of non-traditional families, such as step families, adoptive families and families in which there are many siblings. There's also a new family group sheet.

If you have any questions, contact Kevin Savetz, CEO Savetz Publishing, Inc. www.SavetzPublishing.com email: kevin@savetzpublishing.com.

Pop-Top Genealogy

The following is taken from EOGN:

I recently read a message on one of the online message boards that disturbed me a bit.

Apparently this person is rather new to genealogy and was experiencing some frustrations. He wrote, “I'm bummed though because I am not having any luck with Ancestry.com on finding any of my ancestors. Any advice on that?”

While genealogists have long dreamed of the day when we could sit at home and do all our family tree research via computer, we certainly have not arrived at that Utopian state yet. There are millions of genealogy records available today online, but the data available in electronic format at this time only scratches the surface. The writer of this online message apparently was not aware of the other resources available. From his brief message I would assume that he had only looked at the World Wide Web. Perhaps he only looked at the one site. I must say that several people jumped in to answer his online remarks, and the writer soon received a lot of good advice. However, for every person who asks such a question, I wonder if there are many more who never ask.

I have never seen any statistics on the topic of electronic genealogy resources available, but my “gut feel” is that probably less than 2% of the records of genealogical interest have ever been computerized.

In short, even with all the online databases available today, the newcomer who uses only an online database has searched no more than a tiny fraction of the genealogy records available.

The newcomer to family tree research still needs to find and use the excellent genealogy sources that have been available elsewhere for years. Luckily, this is easy to do -- and it is rather inexpensive.

Microfilmed records of hundreds of millions of births, marriages, deaths, census records, military records, land transfers, and more are available at no cost or low cost. You can rent the microfilms at any of the thousands of local Family History Centers. In addition, there are still more microfilms available at many larger libraries as well as at the U.S. National Archives Regional Libraries. Major libraries often have both books and microfilms, as do may local genealogy societies. A few societies, such as the New England Historic Genealogical Society, may have very large libraries and many staff members who can help. Of course, writing letters asking for copies of old records still works very well.

In short, perhaps the genealogy community needs to work still harder at attracting, encouraging, and educating newcomers. Maybe I should not say, “work harder;” perhaps I should say, “find new approaches.” The new approaches may, in fact, be easier than today’s methods. I suspect there are millions of people who now believe that they can have the instant gratification of “pop-top genealogy:” go online and find all your ancestors before the ten o’clock news. These newcomers are disappointed when that doesn’t happen. I suspect many newcomers quickly drop the project and move on to some other interest.

The biggest losers in this process are the would-be genealogists and their families; they do not obtain the family heritage information they seek. However, the providers of online genealogy information also lose out since these short-term genealogists probably will not come back next year to find newly-added information. If we could get these newcomers interested, motivated, and even excited, genealogy database vendors would profit from future sales. I suspect that genealogy societies would profit as well as seeing their membership numbers increase. Best of all, the newcomers and their families would benefit as they discover their true heritage.

What is the answer? I suspect there are several. However, I would suggest that local and national genealogical societies hold the key. How about offering coupons online that can be downloaded and printed, offering a free three-month membership in a local, regional, or even national society? Even better, how about a trial membership in an ethnic society of interest? I am sure an Ohio resident of Hungarian descent would love to find out more about the resources available from the Hungarian Genealogy Society of Greater Cleveland. Today, most Hungarian descendants in Ohio probably don’t even know that such societies exist.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could give these newcomers an opportunity to discover the world outside of the online databases? Not all of these newcomers will take advantage of such an offer, but a percentage of them will. A society web site's introduction should suggest that the newcomer fill out a form and click a “Submit” button, and voila! They receive a newsletter or two and get invited to the next local meeting.

As I see it, the primary distribution mechanism for these “coupons” should focus on the various online web sites. I do not think the commercial companies will create these “electronic coupons” by themselves. They simply do not have enough profit motive to do so. In these lean business times, we (the genealogists) cannot sit back and wait for a public-minded commercial company to invent this incentive for us. Instead, someone within our own community should invent the “electronic coupon” and then supply it to all the genealogy vendors at no cost. I suspect that most vendors would be willing to include such an “electronic coupon package” on their web sites.
Indeed, any society interested in such offers can contact me and I will be glad to publicize such offers on www.eogn.com. However, that is but one outlet; we need many more.

Hopefully we can encourage the person who wrote, “I'm bummed though because I am not having any luck … finding any of my ancestors.”

Any other suggestions?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Texas Land Records Online

The following is taken from EOGN for Sunday, 8 Mar 2009:

Did you know you might find your ancestor's land grant online?

The Texas General Land Office maintains the Land Grant Database at http://www.glo.state.tx.us/archives/landgrant.html, which will let you locate your ancestor's land grant under that jurisdiction.

The Land Grant Database contains a listing of all original land grants that have been issued an abstract number by the Texas General Land Office (GLO). This database does not contain information on the subsequent subdivision of this land. Record of subsequent sale, subdivision, etc, is a matter of county record.

Original land grants are defined as grants of land issued by the sovereign of the soil—that is, one of the governments of Texas: Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the State of Texas. An abstract number is a unique identifying number assigned by the General Land Office to an original survey on a county-by-county basis. For example, Borden County will only have a single abstract number, 93.

The Land Grant Database is not a complete listing of all land grant documents or records relating to a specific individual that may be on file in the GLO. It does not contain records of invalid Mexican land grants, canceled or rejected grants, or documents from the Agency Special Collection.

I found the Land Grant Database to be simple to use: go to the web site and fill in the blanks.

There are data entry fields for the county, abstract number, original grantee, patentee, class, file number, certificate, title date, patent date, patent number, patent volume, part section, and "Survey/Blk/Tsp." Of course, you can simply leave blank any unknown information.

I decided to search for a few typical entries, using my own surname. Luckily, that name is not common in Texas. I went to the database and filled in the name "Eastman" in the entry for original grantee, and I left all the other spaces blank. Within a second or two, the database returned 50 records of grantees with the surname of Eastman.

I then clicked on the record for Rebecca R Eastman and the following was displayed:

County: Denton
Abstract Number: 407
District/Class: Fannin ScripFile Number: 002037
Original Grantee: Eastman, Rebecca R
Patentee: Eastman, Rebecca R
Title Date:
Patent Date: 19 Feb 1863
Patent No: 252
Patent Vol: 16
Part Section:
Acres: 70Adj Acres:

While not all data fields contain information, it is obvious that Rebecca R Eastman received a grant of 70 acres in Denton County on 19 February 1863. This record does not include any images of the original records, although other records may. If so, the records can be viewed on-screen as PDF files.

To see all the remaining information, I need to order photocopies of the files referenced in the Land Grant Database. Prices vary from $1.00 to $3.00 per page, depending on the page size and whether or not a back-and-white copy will suffice or if you need a color copy. Other research of the official records of the General Land Office that may require staff to perform extensive searches can be conducted for $25.00 per hour. Details are available on the same web site.

All in all, this is a great web site for genealogists. For information on how to perform a comprehensive search of GLO documents, go to http://www.glo.state.tx.us/archives/service.html.

For another great online reference for Texas research, you can check out the Handbook of Texas Online at http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online.