Saturday, January 31, 2009

Online Archive of California

The Online Archive of California,, is a website that provides a database of archive collections found throughout California. In some cases these archive collections are digitized and you can look at the actual documents or photos from home.

For the most part, you conduct a search on a name or phrase and your results will show you information about the collections that contain that search term as well as where the collection is housed and how to access the collection. If the collection is digitized, OAC provides a link for you to access the images.

I used OAC when I was researching my book and occasionally use it to look up people or historical eras. This is a great research tool that may not provide pictures or documents about your ancestor but, if you have kin in California, it can provide you with some historical documents and images for your research.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Twitter Diary

I love this idea. Chris Dunham blogged about this on The Genealogue. It seems that blogger David Grinner came across his great aunt, Genny Spencer's diary. The diary was one of those ones that you basically write a line a day. It doesn't give you a lot of room to go into detail. Just enough to share the highlights of the day. David made the observation that it reminded him of Twitter, the social networking site where you basically write about a sentence showing what you are doing at that moment. So with that he started placing a line from the diary each day on a Twitter site. You can read the diary at As of today there are 117 followers of this Twitter site.

This is a great way to share with others your ancestor's life. What a great idea-maybe you have a diary of your ancestors that you could Twitter or blog about?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Analyzing Evidence

The other day, I was telling a group that it is so important to analyze evidence (i.e., documents, newspaper clipping, books) that you gather for your family history research. One good example is 19th century books. During this time period, it was not uncommon to plagiarize large sections of other people's books.

Also, these works were not cited so they could basically claim anything in their non-fiction book. So in using a non-fiction book from the 19th century, you may want to find additional sources to back up any claims in the book. A good example of books that may be less than truthful is county history books or sometimes called "mug books".

On the website for the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records they have a form entitled How to Analyze a Document. It's a simple 1 page checklist of sorts that helps you decide the intent of the document. I like that 1 of the questions is "what biases do you find in the document?" Remember, everyone has an agenda.

To open the form you will need Adobe Acrobat, which is a free download. The form can be found at

They also have a form for analyzing a photo at

Seminar in Palm Springs

On Saturday, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Forensic Genealogist Extraordinaire is coming to Palm Springs. She will be presenting 4 talks;
  • You will Never Look at Your Photos the Same Way Again
  • A Different Kind of DNA Talk
  • Forensic Genealogy: CSI Meets Roots
  • The Hand in the Snow: Forensic Genealogy Solves the Mystery if the Crash of NW Flight 4422.
I always enjoy hearing Colleen speak and I especially love how she analyzes photos. I'll be there, so please say hi if you decide to attend!

For more information, see Colleen's website at

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oneida Community Genealogy Continued

On Sunday, I wrote about the Oneida Community as a part of my Church Record Sunday. At my presentation yesterday at the North County San Diego Genealogical Society I actually met someone with ancestors who were members of the Oneida Community. I almost fell over-mostly because The Oneidas were a small group so the chances are slim of meeting anyone, especially a few days after writing the post.

She told me about a book that would help researchers of the Oneida Community, beyond what I wrote about on Sunday. The book is entitled, The Oneida Family, Genealogy of a 19th Century Perfectionist Commune by John B. Teeple. This book was a limited run. If you go to Calcat ( you can look it up for the complete bibliographic record. It look as thought the only California library to own a copy is at UC Davis. World Cat shows 8 libraries in the US that own it including the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

This book includes a surname index and photos.

Johnson-Berg Family History

On Sunday I went to the LA Regional Family Center located at the Visitor's Center at the LA Temple. I presented on Using Google for your Genealogy. We had a great time and it was a large group.

While there I learned that they are closing that Family History Center (FHC) for remodeling. I don't remember the exact dates but I believe it was March and it will be closed for about 6 months. So if you want to research there drop everything and go NOW! On their website they do have a form, to fill out that so that you can be notified when they have their grand re-opening.

I also spoke to Shelly R. Johnson and he told me about his book and website on the Johnson/Berg families. This book follows the families of his grandfathers, Carl Johan Jonsson (AKA Carl John Johnson) and Sven Bengtsson (AKA Swan Bengt Berg). You may contact Shelly through his website at for more information.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Researching those Black Sheep

Tomorrow, I will be presenting my talk, Grandpa was in Jail?! at the North County San Diego Genealogical Society,

As part of that talk I will be pointing out a series of articles that a fellow blogger did. Paul K. Graham's blog Historical and Genealogical Research featured a 5 article series entitled, Researching a Red Light District. You can find it at:

He goes from looking for these ladies in the city directory, to Sanborn Fire Maps, to the U.S. Census and then on to records that are specific to the crime such as vice reports and court records. One thing he points on is that often Madams had accumulated some wealth and could be found in estate records.

This is a great series of articles even if you don't have a 'working girl' in your lineage. The techniques and resources he uses would be good for pursuing many different kinds of people.

All of these articles reminded me of something I read about a scrapbook that was kept by a "soiled dove" in Wyoming. The article is from the book,The Scrapbook in American Life , edited by Susan Tucker et al. Chapter 8 is an article entitled: The Secret Scrapbook of a "Soiled Dove" by Carol Bowers.

This article details a scrapbook that was in a rare book collection at the University of Wyoming's American Heritage Center in Laramie. It is the personal scrapbook of Monte Grover who was a prostitute in Wyoming in the late 19th century. The scrapbook is autobiographical and includes information about her previous married life.

Overall, this book is a great historical resources and is a good reminder that there can be interesting information about our ancestors in all sorts of places.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Church Record Sunday: The Oneida Community

One of my purposes in starting Church Record Sunday is that I believe that religion impacted our ancestor's lives. I believe that learning about your ancestor's religion and researching religious records can benefit your family history research greatly. I also wanted to include records of religions/denominations that may not be mainstream-in fact they may not even exist today.

Today, I am going to provide some links for records from the Oneida Community. You may be familiar with Oneida as a silverware company. This company was a result of the breakup of the religious group and their forming a joint-stock company. The Oneidians were industrious and one of the outgrowths of this was the present day silverware company.

The Oneida Community was a 19th century Utopian American religion founded by John Humphrey Noyes. Noyes theology was based on Perfectionism, which include self-perfection and communalism. The Oneida Community never had a large number of members, right before the breakup of the group in 1878, there were 306 members.

The Oneida Community was a communal group and had some ‘different’ ideas about marriage and relations between men and women. Suffice it to say, these ideas would have been risque for the time period. The Oneidas challenged a lot of the ideas of their time and were and still would be controversial for some of their beliefs and practices having to do with marriage, relationships and children. One of their more progressive ideas was the equality of women.

The Oneida Community mansion house, located in Oneida, New York is a museum and includes historical displays, A short history of the community can be found here If you want to know more about Oneida Silverware and its history, check out this website,

A digitized manuscript collection can be found at the Syracuse Library Digitized Projects at Their website states that they believe they have the largest collection of documents,. etc having to do with the Oneida Community. Digitized items on this website include finding aids, publications, and photographs.

Carrots and your Genealogy

What do carrots have to do with genealogy? Pretty much nothing, but I thought I would pass along this interesting piece of social history. We were watching an episode of Food Detectives last night (airs on the Food Network) and they addressed the issue of whether eating carrots is good for your vision.

As they addressed that answer they talked about where that idea came from. It seems to stem from World War II. The British claimed that their pilots were able to spot German airplanes better because they ate a lot of carrots. This was done to fool the Germans so they would not know about a new radar that the British were using. Not only did the misinformation fool the Germans but also the British civilians, who ate more carrots so they could see in blackouts.

To read more about this see the Snopes website at

Meeting the Mormon Battalion Today

Today a group of re-enactors who have ben tracing the Mormon Battalion trail since July are coming to Temecula, California. This will be one of their stop as they march on to San Diego.

As many of you know, last weekend I and my sons hiked 5 miles of the trail. So I figured it was only fitting to go meet the re-enacters. Not only will we meet them but hear some historians give presentations on the Battalion.

Check out their website and schedule at

Friday, January 23, 2009

God's Acre: Salem Moravian Graveyard

On Sunday, I wrote about the Moravian Archives in North Carolina, so it's only fitting to follow up with the Salem Moravian Graveyard, This cemetery is searchable by name and includes a photo of the grave. A printable map of the cemetery is also available. For more information on the Salem Congregation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina check out this link

The other thing I like about this site is there is a pdf article on burial customs, It explains a few of the Moravian burial customs including burying everyone in chronological order and that women, men and children are separated. All the stones are also simple to remind the living of "the equality of the dead in God's sight."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hillside Cemetery, Redlands, California

During my research today I was looking at the website for Hillside Cemetery in Redlands, San Bernardino, California,, and noticed that they have added interment records. Not all years are covered but those that are have quite a bit of information.

Years included are:

30 December 1996- November 26, 2008

Information is set up in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Please note that not all columns have information in them. Column headings include:

Last Name, First Name, Middle Name
City of death
Age (year, month, day)
Date of birth (year, month, day)
Date of Death (year, month day)
Cause of Death
Date of interment (year, month, day)
Type of Liner
Name of Undertaker
Nearest Relative/Friend/Relation
Address of Friend/Relation (this looks like it is not included for more recent burials)

StoryCorps is Coming to Los Angeles

Last night on the way home from a speaking engagement at the South Bay Cities Genealogy Society I heard on a local NPR radio station that StoryCorps is coming to LA. To read more about it check out this link,

StoryCorps is a non-profit project "whose mission is to honor and celebrate one another's life through listening." Each interview is recorded on a CD for the participant to take home and share. The interview is also archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

For more information about signing up for an interview consult the above link.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tax Records Online

Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Just as we dread paying taxes, so too did our ancestors. The good thing for us is that with taxes comes paperwork that can assist you in researching your ancestors. While these lists aren't going to provide you with a lot of detailed information, it will place your ancestor in a certain place in time, thus making it easier to find other documents.

To learn more about the history of American taxation, check out the Tax History Project, This web site includes a virtual museum of tax history covering the years 1660 to present day. Besides tax history you can also peruse the tax returns of the current President and Vice-President of the United States as well as some previous Presidents.
If you are curious about where your tax dollars go, see the graph at . This provides a visual representation of where our tax dollars are spent by the federal government.

In general, when looking for tax lists consult the Family History Library catalog at, the state library or archive, U. S. Genweb,, county sites and other large genealogical databases. The web site Census Finder at, is not only an index of free web sites that include the U. S. Federal census but also sites that feature other types of name lists including tax lists.
The following is a "partial" list of the tax records you can find on the Internet.

1836, 1840-1847, 1885, 1887, 1889, 1907, 1911, 1926 Saline County

1913-1942 Logan County
1920-1943 Moffat County

1891 Williamson County

1847-1850 Louisa County

1799 Henderson County 1823 Lawrence County

1798-1808 Baltimore Tax Index,

1905 Clay County

New York
1800 Erie County
1818 Essex County
1835 Essex County
1872 Essex County

North Carolina
1759 Rowan County
1780 Montgomery County
1779 Montgomery County
1786 Surry County and
1815 Cumberland County
Various years, Perquimans County

1811-1816 Belmont County

1734 Philadelphia County
1753 Lancaster County

1787-1872 Sumner County

1839 Houston

1780 New Kent County
1798 City of Fredericksburg
1813 City of Fredericksburg
1815 City of Fredericksburg

West Virginia
1802-1822 Wood County Tax Lists
1840 Kanawha County

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Whisper Through the Ages

As I was watching the inauguration of Barak Obama today, I was struck by how many times he talked about those who came before us. He talked about our ancestors and the struggles they endured so that we can live here today. He remembered those who died so that we may be free. He helped us remember all of our ancestors whose work led to this moment that we can enjoy in history.

This is why I do genealogy. I believe that I am the sum result of those who came before me. I have privileges and freedoms because of those before me. Because of their sacrifices, I have a better life.

When I was participating in the 5 mile hike a few days ago that retraced a portion of the 2,000 mile march of the Mormon Battalion, their sacrifice weighed heavily on my mind. I thought of all the inconveniences that I felt I was enduring, no restroom, it was sorta hot, I was hungry, etc...and thought of those ancestors who came across the plains not knowing what they would run into or even if they would live to see the end of their journey.

I am here because of them. It's the least I can do to research their lives and learn about them. It means more than birth and death dates, it means knowing them. They deserve at least that.

I know that for many who are interested in genealogy, they do not pursue it because of the perceived time commitment. Yes, it can be addictive, yes it can take a lot of time. In fact it can result in a life's pursuit. But there are those who came before us and kept going because one day we would be here. We are the living proof of their life's work. They deserve to be remembered.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Civil War at Knott's Berry Farm

When I was speaking at Questing Heirs in Long Beach yesterday, they announced this event. Knott's Berry Farm is having a Civil War Encampment on Feb 14 and 15. This will take place outside of the park, where Independence Hall is, so it is free but I'm sure you will need to pay for parking.

There will be 200 Civil War re-enactors with displays. Living history presentations including military drills and cooking will take place. President Lincoln will be there delivering his Gettysberg address. For more information check out the event calender at Knott's website at

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Church Record Sunday: Moravian Archives

The Moravian Archives, established in 1753, are one of the oldest archives in the United States. The Moravian Archives holds the records of the Moravian Church in America.

The Archives are open to researchers, for instructions on how to get to the Archives located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, consult their website at

The Archives house 12,000 memoirs of members of the Moravian church. These memoirs are compiled upon the death of the person and provides genealogical information about the person beyond just birth and death dates. Other church records include births, deaths, marriages, baptisms, genealogies written by families and the Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. The Records are a 12 volume work church diaries and other documents.

When researching or requesting information, please note that the Archives does not photocopy documents , instead they provide a typewritten report.

State Quilt Books

Yesterday, I went to a quilt show and shopped at one of my favorite vendors, Quilting Books Unlimited, (, he sells books on everything to do with quilts. I'm interested in quilt history so I always find some great books at his booth.

Anyway, I was browsing and was looking at a book, North Carolina Quilts. This book, like many others is based on a statewide quilt documenting project. A history of quilting in the state plus pictures of quilts, their makers, and some bio information is given. Many states did these books and you can usually find them through some of the bigger booksellers.

I was looking through the index and there was one of my ancestor's surnames. A member of this Chatham family, Alexander Chatham helped found the Chatham Mills in Elkin. There was some information about the mill and an early picture of the mill's building and employees.

These books are a treasure trove and are an unlikely source of genealogical information. This is one example of a hidden genealogy resource for researching female ancestors.

For a bibliography of these books, see the website Quilt History at

The Story of Francesco Lentini's Photo

When scanning a photo collection of a relative I came across this picture. I had to, of course, immediately ask, "who in the world is this?" Although this relative didn't know who it was, he explained that his grandparents, who lived in a small town in Nebraska, occasionally housed circus performers who came through town.
So, of course you know I had to find out more about this picture so I started googling different phrases to see if I could find information about this person. I soon found his name, Francesco (Frank) Lentini.
Lentini was known as the Human Tripod, for obvious reasons. He was born in Sicily in the late 1800's. At age 9 years, he moved to the US and started his circus career with the Ringling Brothers. He also worked with Barnum and Bailey and Buffalo Bill. My guess is that this relative came across Frank when he worked with Buffalo Bill, since Buffalo Bill had a home in North Platte, Nebraska.
A website has a copy of Frank's life story, published in 1940 where you can read more about him and see some additional photos at He was married and had 4 children. According to Wikipedia he died in Florida at the age of 77.
What I found interesting about this find is two things. One is that we, our families, etc, have pictures of other people in our albums and other people have pictures of your family in their albums. It's just a matter of locating those pictures (ok, so it isn't easy). But it points to the fact that genealogical research requires you to research the neighbors and collateral relatives. That's where some of the information is.
Also-here's this everyday family living in Nebraska, who knew that they had a brush with someone who was well known during their time. Our ancestor's lives were interesting, we need to capture that along with the birth and death dates.
What interesting dinner conversations must have happened at this family's home...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mormon Battalion

Saturday morning I am going with a bunch of scouts on a 5 mile hike that will follow the march of the Mormon Battalion through Temecula, California. This should be great as they are going to have re-enacters there and so this will not just be a hike but a living history hike.

Now, if I live through this (you should now I am not the hiking type, I am more at home indoors reading and have the pale skin to prove it), it should be a great genealogical experience learning about life in the 1800's.

The Mormon Battalion was a group of over 500 Mormon volunteers who were mustered into service for the Mexican War (1846-1848). Mustered in at Council Bluffs, Iowa, the Mormon Battalion was the answer to President Brigham Young's request of the United States government to provide aid to migrating Mormons. He believed that the Mormons agreeing to help the United States government would, in turn, protect them from groups wanting to persecute them for their religious beliefs. Although the Mormons may have been leery of assisting a government who had not stopped their persecutions at the hands of citizens in Missouri, Brigham Young encouraged the men to organize a battalion as their patriotic duty.

Battalion members carried on various duties, including garrison duty in California and helping to build forts, courthouses, and houses in California. Members of Company A of the Battalion were responsible for opening the first wagon route from California to Utah in 1848. Members of the Battalion were mustered out on July 1847 in California.

The men of the Battalion marched over 2,000 miles, one of the longest military marches in history. They marched from Council Bluffs, Iowa to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Then from Santa Fe, New Mexico they marched to San Diego, California.

Mormon men were not the only participants in the Battalion, some wives and over 50 children were also part of the makeup of this group.
A web site dedicated to the Mormon Battalion can be found at At this web site you will find a roster of those men who served in the Battalion, as well as the wives and children who went with the group. This site also includes pictures of Battalion soldiers, provided by their descendants. A list of links includes histories of the Battalion and individual histories of some of the men who served in this group. These individual histories may include pictures and scans of important documents regarding the person. In addition, the Mormon Battalion Visitor's Center in San Diego, California, is a place to learn more about this group and the sacrifices they made.

In the LDS Family History Library Cataloge, a keyword search on the phrase "Mormon Battalion" provides 115 matching records including, "Complied Service Records of volunteer soldiers who served during the Mexican War in Mormon organization." Lists of Mormon Battalion soldiers, as well as various histories are available through the Family History Library. Histories available through the Family History Library include those of the women involved in the battalion.

If your ancestor served in any branch of service during the Mexican War, you may be interested in the web site, Descendants of Mexican War Veterans at According to that web site, over 100,000 American men served in that war, with 75,000 of those serving in volunteer organizations. Ten thousand of the men who served died during the war, the majority of disease. This web site not only explains how to research your Mexican War veterans but also provides links to online rosters.
Some books that will assist you in researching your Mormon Battalion ancestors are The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army of the West , 1846-1847 by Norma Baldwin Ricketts (ISBN: 0874212154); Army of Israel: Mormon Battalion Narratives by David L. Bigler and Will Bagley (ISBN: 0874212944); and A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War 1846-1847 by Daniel Tyler (ISBN: 1428622020).

Two groups that may have a history of your Mormon Battalion ancestor are the Sons of Utah Pioneers, located on the web at and the International Society Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers have an online index of histories that have been provided to them on pioneers to the Utah Valley. From their home page, click on the link for the history department and then utilize their history card index to see if your pioneer's biography is represented. For a fee, DUP will send you a copy of this biography.

Presidential Inaugural Dinners

The Los Angeles Times had an interesting article in their Food section yesterday entitled, First Suppers (you can read it at,0,5905247.story).

The article included a picture of Abraham Lincoln's inaugural ball dinner menu which you can also see if you go to the above link. What I liked the most was the story about his inaugural dinner. The newspaper states that a lavish midnight buffet was planned to be held at the Patent Office because it had two large halls that could be used for dinner and dancing. Patent models were displayed in the same hall as the dinner was to be served. The LA Times goes on to say,

When the grand supper was announced, after several hours of dancing, the crowd rushed the table and people began grabbing, pushing and stuffing themselves shamelessly. In a matter of minutes, the sumptuous buffet was a shambles-as were several of the patent exhibits.

Well I think this just goes to show that you should always feed people before midnight, otherwise people who have been dancing may lose their manners when they are hungry (well, I would anyway;). I think it also shows that our ancestors didn't always behave like angels.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Soap Recipe

I often marvel about how lucky we are to live in this time period. Although everyone seems busier we actually are able to do more because of modern convenience.

A case in point is soap. We need to use it everyday, and not just soap for washing our bodies, hands and hair. But soap for clothes, dishes, cars, animals, etc.

My maternal grandma used to make her own soap and I remember that even when she didn't need to make it, she would take all the small pieces of soap that were hard to use and she would "melt" them down and make a new bar of soap. I actually have a bar of soap that she made the old fashioned way, like the recipe below. It's a great reminder of how far we've come.

So, are you wondering how they made soap? Here is a recipe I found in a little book I have by Joanne Dean, published by the San Bernardino County Museum Association. Joanne Dean's Historical San Bernardino Cookbook recipe states (page 78):

Well to do urbanites would have purchased their soap, but the poor people far from stores would have had to make their own. This recipe uses commercial lye, through the very poor would have extracted their lye from ashes; the weak lye thus obtained often made soap-making difficult.

1 can of lye
2qts. water, warm but not hot
5lbs. strained grease (beef or tallow)
2 tbsp. powdered borax
2 tbsp. liquid ammonia

Dissolve the lye in the warm water; be very sure that the water is not too hot, or it will bubble up when the lye is added. Pour the grease slowly into the lye and stir slowly 10 to 15 minutes. Bring to the boiling point and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the fire and add borax; let the mixture cool a bit, then add ammonia and stir slowly an evenly until thick as cake batter. Turn into molds or pans and finish cooking.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

1911 UK Census

I found this link for the 1911 UK Census,, via one of my friends on Facebook. For those who have ancestors living in England in 1911, this is the site for you.

Although it is a free search, you do have to buy "credits", that will allow you to view, print and save the pages you are interested in. This site looks to be a collaborative effort between the genealogy provider, find my and the UK National Archives.

The site does provide some interesting information about the 1911 census. On the page, About the 1911 Census it says that a large number of women, suffragettes, refused to be counted because of the government's refusal to give women the right to vote. The page goes on to say,

"There were two forms of protest. In the first, the women (or their husband) refused to fill out the form, often recording their protest to the enumerator. In the second, women evaded the census by staying away from their home for the whole night."

Very interesting. Basically, in either case, the woman will not show up on the census. Those who protested may have something recorded on the census about their refusal. The site further states that although it is unknown how many women refused, it is estimated to be in the thousands.

A bad piece of luck for genealogists but what a powerful statement by our foremothers. Another reason why knowing a little about history is vital in doing your genealogy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Digital Images to use in your Family History

Digital images taken years ago can add some rich detail to your family history. It can help provide your family with some ideas about what people wore, how places have changed, and how life was different in an earlier era.

The pictures don't need to be of only your family members or pictures that family members have. You could use online archives to find pictures that will enhance your family history.

Here are some of my favorites:

Frasher Foto Collection at This collection is located at the Pomona, California library. Burton Frasher was the West's most prolific photographer. His pictures were used for postcards in the early-mid 1900's. He took photographs of locations throughout California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada as well as other states. I used one of his photos taken in the Owens Valley for my book.

The above link includes a search that you can use to look for photos of a region or a landmark.

These photos are owned by the Frasher family so if you decide to use on in a publication, you must get written permission first. The library has information about obtaining permission. Once permission is granted you can obtain a digital copy from the library for your publication.

The USC Digital Archives,, includes all kinds of images including photos from different time periods, places, buildings and people. Collections include images from AAA, the Chinese Historical Society, Mission Photography, Korean American and Japanese Relocation. Use the search engine to type in an address, name, locality, or subject. A search on the term "cemetery" brought up 410 pictures including one of a cemetery in Madagascar, local Los Angeles cemeteries, and Native America cemeteries. Each picture includes a description of the image, the owner and information about obtaining the image.

The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Room,, is another place where you aren't necessarily going to find a picture of your great-grandfather or his house but you will find pictures of places, things, and famous people of different eras. Like the databases above, a search engine provides you a place to search by locality, name or subject. Once you conduct your search and click on an image you are interested in, you will be provided with information about that image. In some cases, these photographs may be copyright free, so that you can save it directly to your computer and use it in your family history.

This is a great site to use if you want a picture of some celebrity that you ancestor knew or rubbed elbows with. It also has some great photos from various eras. You can also search by the name of the photographer, such as in instances when you want to see works by a famous photographer like Ansel Adams.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Russian Family History: Stalin's Children

I saw a little article about the book, Stalin's Children in the newspaper today. You can read more about it on Amazon at

The author used his parent's letters as well as his grandfather's secret police files to write the story of his mother and her parents.

One of my Favorite Cemetery Pictures Part 2

I blogged about this headstone a few days ago. Some of my Facebook friends wanted to know more about it. It appears from the gravestone that Mr. Leavitt had 5 wives. This is an early polygamous Mormon pioneer family.
The first photo shows the front of the gravestone which includes the names of each wife, her birth, death and marriage date and the names of her children. The above photo on the right shows the left side of the stone and the photo on the second row shows the complete back side of the whole stone.

The names on the stone are:

Dudley Leavitt, son of Jeremiah and Sarah Sturtevant. (you can read about Dudley on Wikipedia at, he is the ancestor of the former governor of Utah, Mike Leavitt).

Mary Huntsman Leavitt, daughter of James William and Hannah Davis Huntsman.

Thirza Riding, daughter of Christopher L. Riding and Mary Ann Hale Riding.

Mariah Huntsman, daughter of James William and Hannah Davis Huntsman. Sister to Mary above.

Martha Hughes, daughter of James and Ann Picton Hughes.

Jeanette Smith, adopted daughter of Calvin Lazelle and Sarah Fish Smith.

Church Record Sunday: Seventh-day Adventist Records

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a nineteenth century American religion, probably best known for their avoidance of meat and observing a Saturday Sabbath. While it was founded in 1844 and officially organized in 1863 in Washington, New Hampshire, it was the later work of Ellen G. White with which many people are more familiar. According to its web site, the Adventist church has 10 million members worldwide with less than 10 percent living in the United States. For an overview of the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, check out

For those related to Ellen G. White, one of the leaders and visionaries of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, you may want to reference the web site for the estate of Ellen G. White at A page of the web site is devoted to her ancestry and includes a pedigree chart, Additional online resources include letters, manuscripts, and photographs,

Another important resource are the audio files for the series entitled "Pathways to our Pioneers", This 22-volume series provides stories of Adventist pioneers and events. It is also available for sale by the web site.

The Adventist Heritage Ministry is an organization dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Seventh-day Adventist church by purchasing, restoring and replicating historical Adventist pioneer sites. Their web site,, includes information about historical sites important in the early history of the Adventist church.

Andrews University is an Adventist University in Michigan that holds various resources for studying Adventist heritage and genealogy. A list of its Adventist resources is found at Its Center for Adventist Research, is a portal for resources, databases and indexes.

Andrews University's web site is the home of two important Adventist sources. The Periodical Index is an index to over 40 past and present Seventh-day Adventist journals and magazines. The index covers the years 1973 to the present. This index includes obituaries. Photocopies of articles can be obtained through any Adventist library or by contacting Andrews University in Michigan. For those interested in an annual CD of the Index, it may be ordered by individuals for $20.00.

The University is also the home of the Obit Index The Obituary Index is a subset of the Periodical Index. According to the web site, "the obituaries in this Index are found in a number of Seventh-day Adventist Church sponsored and published periodicals. The periodicals generally contain news and devotional material. Part of the news component is the listing of obituaries of people from the geographical area served by the periodical or in the Church at large. Local church pastors report deaths in their church to the editor of the periodical for inclusion in a later edition. Not all church members are included. Only those members for which the editor received information will be found in the magazine and therefore in this Index."

The Obituary Index covers the years 1850 to the present. The web site provides information on how to obtain a photocopy of an obituary if you are unable to request a copy from a local Adventist library.

Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California are important Adventist repositories. Loma Linda University Library's Heritage Room, holdings include diaries and manuscripts, newspapers, books, and oral histories. One of its holdings, the Seventh-day Adventist Document File includes materials resulting from the Loma Linda University and Seventh-day Adventist church there. This collection includes a local history and biography file. The biography file is indexed online at

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On the Book Shelf This Week

The Great War: A Guide to the Service Records of All the World's Fighting Men and Volunteers by Christina K. Schaefer is a look at World War I and the records available, worldwide, for those who served in that war. Whether your World War I ancestor was from England, the U.S. or even Russia, this is the book for you.

Countries covered in this book include, Australia and New Zealand, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada and Newfoundland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, The Ottoman Empire, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Empire, Serbia and Montenegro, South Africa, The United States, and The Neutral Countries.

The back cover states, "With help from dozens of individuals and institutions throughout the world...the author has managed to compile a guide to World War I service records that is not only unique but totally comprehensive."

Besides providing information on records available, the author has also provide a WWI timeline,maps, some history and research tips.

You can check out this book at Google books,

A good companion to this that would help add to your library of WWI reference books is Uncle We are Ready! Registering America's Men 1917-1918 by John Newman, This book is essential to learning more about the WWI draft registration.

Friday, January 09, 2009

One of my Favorite Cemetery Photos

One of my favorite pictures, well several, have to do with cemeteries. This picture is part of a headstone located in the cemetery in Bunkerville, Nevada. Bunkerville is in between Las Vegas and St. George, Utah. On my way to the Family History Expo last February, I stopped there to take some photos of family connected to my Chatham line.
While you can't see the whole thing, this gravestone is a memorial to Dudley Leavitt and a few of his wives.
What I love about it, is that it includes a life history of him engraved on the stone. His wives also have their histories engraved on the stone. Wouldn't it be fabulous if all our ancestors had this kind of stone? Genealogy would surely be a lot easier! Maybe we should all save our pennies so that we can have a gravestone like this when we die.

Facebook and Twitter

Ok, I admit it, I resisted social networking websites. I had preconceived notions based on what I knew/heard about My Space. About 9 months ago a cousin told me to join Facebook to connect with other cousins. She told me it would help me do genealogy. I thought “yeah, right.”

Then an invitation came from a fellow geneablogger. I once again thought “why would I want to do that?” I sat on the invitation for a while and then I decided I would go ahead and do it. I thought, “hey it’s a new year, let’s try something new”.

Now, for those who don’t know about Facebook, you can read about it at Wikipedia at and at Facebook’s website at

I LOVE FACEBOOK. Yes, it’s true. Facebook and other social networking sites are fabulous ways to work on your genealogy. Just last night, through my Facebook page I was able to do an instant message chat and talk to a cousin in Texas. She provided me with a ton of information and I was able to update my PAF file while talking to her.

I have used Facebook to upload old family pictures and then have cousins help me to identify them. I’ve used Facebook to get connected to cousins we didn’t know but were “friends” of other cousins.

Facebook has also been a great tool for being more connected to each other’s lives. With family in very far off places, well to us, like Florida and Puerto Rico, Facebook has allowed us to become a more regular participant in their lives through the update status feature and reading each other’s “wall”.

Facebook has also been a way for me to connect with other genealogists. I can learn from their posts, check out website links they have posted and expand my professional network.

Facebook would be great for those who have a cousin or two that they are working on genealogy together. You could post your recent findings, documents and pictures. You could update the other person about what you are doing next. It would be like a virtual research log.

Please try it. And once you try it, tell your cousins to try it. Now, other social networking sites do exist. Twitter is another site but it looks to me to have some limitations. (but I am not an expert on it). It appears to be basically just a site to give a shout out about what you are doing in just a few words. But I know some genealogists use Twitter to update their Facebook pages. And it is just another tool for you to use.

Join me on Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook, just use my name, Gena Philibert Ortega or my email On Twitter I am genaortega.
I’d love to hear how you use these applications to further your genealogy.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

99+ Genealogy Things Meme

Here is really way more than you probably want to know about me. But this is the 99+ Genealogy Things Meme. To learn more about this check out the Kinexxions blog at

These items might give you some ideas for your research. How many of the 99+ have you done?

Here are the rules:The list should be annotated in the following manner:

Things you have already done or found: bold face type

Things you would like to do or find: italicize (color optional)

Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

1. Belong to a genealogical society.

2. Researched records onsite at a court house.

3. Transcribed records.

4. Uploaded tombstone pictures to Find-A-Grave.

5. Documented ancestors for four generations (self, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents) .

6. Joined Facebook.

7. Helped to clean up a run-down cemetery.

8. Joined the Genea-Bloggers Group on Facebook.

9. Attended a genealogy conference.

10. Lectured at a genealogy conference.

11. Spoke on a genealogy topic at a local genealogy society.

12. Been the editor of a genealogy society newsletter. (I was the editor of a FHC newsletter)

13. Contributed to a genealogy society publication.

14. Served on the board or as an officer of a genealogy society.

15. Got lost on the way to a cemetery.

16. Talked to dead ancestors.

17. Researched outside the state in which I live. (Texas, Utah, Arizona)

18. Knocked on the door of an ancestral home and visited with the current occupants.(Did this in Bountiful, Utah)

19. Cold called a distant relative.

20. Posted messages on a surname message board.

21. Uploaded a gedcom file to the internet.

22. Googled my name.

23. Performed a random act of genealogical kindness.

24. Researched a non-related family, just for the fun of it.

25. Have been paid to do genealogical research.

26. Earn a living (majority of income) from genealogical research.

27. Wrote a letter (or email) to a previously unknown relative.

28. Contributed to one of the genealogy carnivals.

29. Responded to messages on a message board or forum.

30. Was injured while on a genealogy excursion. (I’ve fallen into a sunken grave and then had a small tree limb hit me in the head at a cemetery.)

31. Participated in a genealogy meme.

32. Created family history gift items (calendars, cookbooks, etc.).

33. Performed a record lookup for someone else.

34. Went on a genealogy seminar cruise. (Life couldn't get better than that!--genealogy and lots of food!)

35. Am convinced that a relative must have arrived here from outer space.

36. Found a disturbing family secret.

37. Told others about a disturbing family secret.

38. Combined genealogy with crafts (family picture quilt, scrapbooking).

39. Think genealogy is a passion not a hobby.

40. Assisted finding next of kin for a deceased person.

41. Taught someone else how to find their roots.

42. Lost valuable genealogy data due to a computer crash or hard drive failure.

43. Been overwhelmed by available genealogy technology.

44. Know a cousin of the 4th degree or higher.

45. Disproved a family myth through research.

46. Got a family member to let you copy photos.

47. Used a digital camera to “copy” photos or records.

48. Translated a record from a foreign language.

49. Found an immigrant ancestor’s passenger arrival record.

50. Looked at census records on microfilm, not on the computer. (state census)

51. Used microfiche.

52. Visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

53. Visited more than one LDS Family History Center. (at least 4 or 5 here in So. California)

54. Visited a church or place of worship of one of your ancestors.

55. Taught a class in genealogy.

56. Traced ancestors back to the 18th Century.

57. Traced ancestors back to the 17th Century.

58. Traced ancestors back to the 16th Century.

59. Can name all of your great-great-grandparents. (with the help of my pedigree chart!)

60. Found an ancestor’s Social Security application.

61. Know how to determine a soundex code without the help of a computer. (If I can use some sort of cheat sheet)

62. Used Steve Morse’s One-Step searches.

63. Own a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

64. Helped someone find an ancestor using records you had never used for your own research.

65. Visited the main National Archives building in Washington, DC.

66. Visited the Library of Congress.

67. Have an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower.

68. Have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War. (Moses Henry Chatham )

69. Taken a photograph of an ancestor’s tombstone.

70. Became a member of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits.

71. Can read a church record in Latin.

72. Have an ancestor who changed their name.

73. Joined a Rootsweb mailing list.

74. Created a family website. (working on it now)

75. Have more than one "genealogy" blog. (I will soon)

76. Was overwhelmed by the amount of family information received from someone.

77. Have broken through at least one brick wall.

78. Visited the DAR Library in Washington D.C.

79. Borrowed a microfilm from the Family History Library through a local Family History Center.

80. Have done indexing for Family Search Indexing or another genealogy project. (Through Genealogy Today)

81. Visited the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

82. Had an amazing serendipitous find of the "Psychic Roots" variety. (one of the times I fell over a gravestone)

83. Have an ancestor who was a Patriot in the American Revolutionary War. (Benjamin Jones from Wilkes County, North Carolina )

84. Have an ancestor who was a Loyalist in the American Revolutionary War. (I don’t think so but maybe)

85. Have both Patriot & Loyalist ancestors.

86. Have used Border Crossing records to locate an ancestor.(Mexican Border Crossing Records)87. Use maps in my genealogy research.

88. Have a convict ancestor who was transported from the UK.

89. Found a bigamist amongst the ancestors. (Well of course..)

90. Visited the National Archives in Kew.

91. Visited St. Catherine's House in London to find family records.

92. Found a cousin in Australia (or other foreign country).

93. Consistently cite my sources. (not always the best citations but the sources are cited)

94. Visited a foreign country (i.e. one I don't live in) in search of ancestors.

95. Can locate any document in my research files within a few minutes. (sometimes)

96. Have an ancestor who was married four times (or more).

97. Made a rubbing of an ancestors gravestone.

98. Organized a family reunion.

99. Published a family history book (on one of my families).

100. Learned of the death of a fairly close relative through research.

101. Have done the genealogy happy dance.

102. Sustained an injury doing the genealogy happy dance.

103. Offended a family member with my research.

104. Reunited someone with precious family photos or artifacts.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Head Cheese

You might be wondering what I'm up to with a title like Head Cheese. So many times we encourage people to give family recipes as genealogical gifts to non-genealogists. Afterall, who wouldn't want a recipe for something grandma cooked. Well, in my family you may not have the stomach for it.

Now, I'm sorry to all those who love head cheese out there. I realize my grandma made it out of necessity, making due with what you have. And I loved my grandma dearly. But unfortunately, I just don't have it in me to eat it. Luckily for me her head cheese making days were over by the time I came along.

If you are wondering what head cheese is, it is not a cheese product. It's basically the head of a pig boiled down and mashed and then formed into a loaf. A recipe for it is at,1626,144187-250192,00.html. A granddaughter must have thought the whole notion was funny and video recorded her grandmother describing how to make it on You Tube. You can catch the 56 second video at

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Do History

A few days ago I posted my handout from my talk in Palm Springs. One of the links was for a website called Do History. This is a great website for genealogists that offers some helpful tutorials.

Do History,, according to their website, shows you how to piece together the past from the fragments that have survived. To do this they use the case of Martha Ballard, a midwife whom historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote about in the book A Midwife's Tale.

At this website click on the link, On Your Own, and then click on History Toolkit. Here there are short essay on everything from using primary documents, stages of a historical research project, how to read 18th century writing to how to search deeds. Additionally, there are books and websites cited on how to conduct historical research. Some of the essays include forms to print out to assist you in your research.

The Archive of Primary Sources link has digital images of different types of primary sources. This is a great way to become more familiar with all kinds of documents that might help you with your family research. You can even try your hand at reading some of the documents including probate and other court cases.

Monday, January 05, 2009

So you Want to be a Photo Detective

I love analyzing old photos. I've given talks on identifying old photos but, Colleen Fitzpatrick over at Forensic Genealogy, knows how to really identify pictures. Anyone who has seen her work knows that she can squeeze every shred of information from a picture.

Well, she has information on her website so that you too can learn how to determine what time of the day and day of the year a picture was taken (obviously, this is for outdoor pictures). You can learn how to measure shadows and how to use shadows to determine the time.

Want to learn more? I highly recommend her book, Forensic Genealogy, available on her site. She is also speaking at the Palm Springs Genealogy Seminar at the end of this month, see her website for details or contact me and I will email you the flyer.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Church Record Sunday

My blog's new feature is Church Record Sunday. Knowing your ancestor's religion and finding church records can add so much depth to your research and knowing who your ancestors were were as people.

This week's record is actually a repository. The United Methodist Church's General Commission on Archives and History can be found at At this website you can search holdings, read bios, and learn more about researching ancestors from the United Methodist Church.

If you have an ancestor who was a Methodist minister or missionary, the home page for the Archives has a form you can fill out to get more information about them.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Links from my Palm Springs presentation

I spoke to the Palm Springs Genealogical Society today. We had a great time. This is a fun group and they are getting ready for their first seminar at the end of this month. They will be hosting Colleen Fitzpatrick. Colleen has info about the seminar on her home page at I will be posting the flyer here soon.

Anyway, I spoke on Putting Flesh on Your Ancestor's Bones. I update all my presentations regularly so if you have heard this one before, know that it has been changed and updated. So here are the links for resources I discussed.

Census Tools @ Excel spreadsheets that include research logs, federal and state census forms and other worksheets for your genealogy. Free.

BYU Ancestor’s Program @ This website has information form the BYU/PBS program, Ancestors. Charts and forms are also included as well as a viewer guide.

Online Searchable Death Indexes @ Joe Beine’s website that indexes free and fee based death indexes including, digitized death certificates, transcribed indexes, and obituaries.

Genealogy Research Guides @ Another of Joe Beine’s sites that can assist you in learning more about different genealogical resources.

William Dollarhide’s book, Census Substitutes & State Census Records.

Lulu @ A print on demand publisher that sells MP3 recordings from the FGS conference in 2006.

Roots Television @ Watch genealogy “TV” shows on your computer.

California Library Catalog @ Search by subject, author, title, etc and find out what books are available in the libraries throughout the state.

Arlene Eakle @ Website for genealogist Arlene Eakle. She has a general genealogy blog and a Virginia genealogy blog.

GenWeekly @ Blog for the online newsletter GenWeekly.

Genealogue @ This blog is just plain funny. It also has a genealogy blog finder.

Google Maps @

Panoramio @ Map program that displays pictures, submitted by the online community, of different locations.

NUCMC (National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections) @

University of Texas, Austin @ List of Women’s Manuscript Collections in U.S. University libraries.

Kansas State Historical Society @ Has a collection of United States newspapers that you can look at through interlibrary loan.

Do History @

Genwriters @

Sears Archives @

Friday, January 02, 2009

I'm on Facebook

I was recently invited to join the Genea-Bloggers group at Facebook. I appreciate the invite from fellow blogger Miriam Midkiff.

So now I am on Facebook and learning about social networking. I'm hoping to use it as a way to keep in contact with some cousins and get some serious genealogy done;) as well as adding to the blogging experience.

United States Vital Records Online

When I think of my grandmother and the methods she had available to her for doing genealogy, namely writing lots of letters, I feel very blessed to live in the age of the computer and the Internet. Increasingly, we are able to look at more and more records with just the click of a mouse. It seems that most recently, more vital records are becoming available to us both in digitized form and transcriptions. Some of these projects are collaborations between genealogy/historical societies and the Family History Library. As the Family History Library continues its indexing/digitizing project, even more records will become available to us.

Because of the vastness of this topic, I have not included other records that would confirm a birth, marriage or death date such as burial records or christening records. The web sites mentioned here are not the only ones with vital record information, they are just a sampling.

Also, you may find duplication here. In some cases records made available through Family Search Labs and through the state archives or are duplicates of each other. I have decided to include these duplications because in some cases you may be able to find an ancestor in one of the web sites but not in another. Leland Meitzler, editor of Everton's Genealogical Helper, discussed this recently in his Genealogy Blog. He was able to find an aunt in the Family Search Labs transcription of the Washington State Death Certificates, but hadn't found it in microfilm versions or in Ancestry's version. So it always pays to check multiple copies.

Ancestry has vital records or indexes for the following states or parts of states:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

To peruse Ancestry's collection of records for your state of interest, go to Ancestry's website at and then click on the ‘Search' tab. From the Search page click on the United States Map or on the list of states. To keep abreast of Ancestry's addition to its collections, check out the Ancestry Blog or its blog for Ancestry Weekly Journal

Family Search Labs

You can also view vital records that are being indexed and digitized by the Family History Library through its Family Search, website. Click on the link to the right that says U. S. and U.K. census on the Family Search homepage and it will take you to the digitized images.

Death records indexed include:
• Georgia Deaths, 1914-1927
• Ontario Deaths, 1869-1947
• Utah, Salt Lake County Death Records 1908-1949
• Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953
• Utah Death Certificates, 1904-1956
• Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960
• West Virginia Deaths, 1853-1970
• Texas Deaths, 1890-1976
• Texas Death Index, 1964-1998

Marriage records indexed include:

• Cheshire, Church of England Marriage Records, 1538-1907
• Freedman's Bureau Virginia Marriage Records, 1815-1866
Upcoming indexing projects will include marriage records from Wales, Ireland, Philadelphia, Arkansas, and Indiana. To learn more about upcoming indexing projects through the Family History Library and in cooperation with other agencies, see the Family Search Indexing website.

Other Websites

Rootsweb, has a few vital records indexes, including ones for California, Kentucky, Maine, Texas. In addition, it has transcribed vital records for parts of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia Washington D.C., West Virginia, and Wisconsin. To look at the previously mentioned indexes click on . To look at regional resources, including the transcribed records check out the Rootsweb regional index at

Overall, for a listing of various vital records online, you should consult Joe Beine's websites, Online Death Indexes and Online Birth and Marriage Records Indexes for the USA

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year 2009!

Can you believe it is already 2009?

I started my New Year's resolution yesterday and began making sure that all the ancestors and kin in my PAF file were sourced and were correct. I even went to and matched Texas ancestors with their death certificates. If you haven't used it, there are many digitized and transcribed records at Family Search. Just go to their website and then click on the link to the right for U.S. and U.K. Census. Click on the map where you are researching and you will be shown a list of link for various records. This is all part of the big indexing project that the Mormon church has been working on.

Today we are going to a Cub Scout activity. Was someone in your family a Boy Scout? Some of the earliest Boy Scout troops started in America around 1910. Some clues to having someone in Boy Scouts might be from small badges and medals, old uniforms, and pictures of activities like camping.