What day of the week was it?

We don’t think about this very much, but as I was looking at some dates related to my philatelic pursuits, it struck me that it was likely that a lot of records wouldn’t have been dated on a Sunday.  But how do we know what day of the week any particular date fell on in history?  UNIX systems include a utility called “date” in almost all distributions. 

To those of you who don’t have UNIX or Linux systems handy, which is the great majority of genealogists that I know, take a look at a site currently called The return of Calendar.  Using a cgi script, the site calls the date function on the web server with year numbers dating as far back as 1582.  The output is a full year’s calendar in the Gregorian calendar (the calendar that most of the Western world uses today).

Links from Geneabloggers Radio

I was able to check in at Geneabloggers Radio again tonight, making this my third week participating live.  Tonight’s topic was cemeteries.  This week’s reading list (in no particular order) from the chat is…

Looking at a land patent

I’m doing a little researching around today to try to fill in some of the holes in my database from the 19th and early 20th centuries.  One of the resources that I purchased at the FGS conference recently was Family Maps of Montgomery County, Indiana.  I bought the book with the intention of looking up some of the original documents that were referenced within it.  Today, I finally looked up the records listed there in my direct line.

A silver bullet from FGS

Looking through my notes again today before heading out to work, I find the best quote that I heard from my time at the FGS 2011 conference.  It was from Dr. David McDonald’s session on Wisconsin history:

There is no silver bullet.  We’ll show you where to mine the silver and how to make a bullet out of it.

My last day at FGS 2011 in which I scare the bejeebus out of a genealogist

Yeah, sad to say that I finished my visit to the FGS 2011 conference today.  The conference will continue tomorrow, but I’ve got another meeting in another state to get to tomorrow morning.  So this will be my last update from the show.  But, it won’t be the last post with information and resources gained from attending the show.  As to how you scare a genealogist, read on…

A little more from Thursday at FGS

Well, hanging out with other Geneabloggers is certainly much more entertaining than sitting around in my hotel room writing the next post.  I said there would be more from Thursday, so here is a bit more before I head out again to attend FGS today.  Also there’s a time-sensitive promo code in this post…

FGS day 2 (for me)

Okay, so I’ve got an hour or so before the blogger reception across the street from the conference location, which should be enough time for today’s recap.  I didn’t get any photos yet; there may be a few later tonight at the blogger reception, so watch tomorrow.  I was able to talk to the FamilySearch rep about what I missed on Tuesday, so there’ll be some of that in here too….

WTF is Fold3?

So I logged in to my various news readers and social networks today getting ready to write about something I noticed in the 1865 New York state census (which I still plan to post, just not today), and I saw a news release announcing a “new” site called Fold3.  Actually, it’s not a new site, but a rebranding of a site that many genealogists have come to know well, Footnote.

Project advice from a veteran researcher

In my current work assignment, I have the opportunity to listen to quite a lot of audio as I edit photographs for an online retailer.  One of the podcast episodes I listened to this week, although not specifically about family history or genealogy research, should be required listening for every genealogist that is working to create a narrative document for future generations.  The show was Stuff You Missed In History Class and the episode (get the mp3) was the second part of an interview with multiple Pulitzer Prize winning history author David McCullough.

A little more on today’s Mystery Monday…

So I did a little more digging around to see what other records I could find on Francis Lamb and Anne Quinn and family today.  I came across the family listed in the 1850 U.S. census as well, without any Thorntons in the same household.  However, there were Thorntons elsewhere in the building in 1850…

Mystery Monday–Who was Mary Thornton?

So I know that my Lamb ancestry traces through New York City, specifically Harlem, back to Ireland.  The family legend is that my ancestors emigrated during the great potato famine.  The 1860 U.S. census for New York supports all of this, but adds a mystery that I have yet to solve.

Another record set of note

Yeah, it’s been a while since my last post.  As usual, life got in the way, but things are settling a little again (just in time for another disaster, but more on that later), so it’s time to update the blog.  I was listening to Genealogy Gems episode 114 this week and heard about all the new record sets available to search.  In the discussion on the British Library digitizing a massive amount of public domain materials (news: Reuters, Engadget, Guardian, HuffPost), I was reminded of another project that was mentioned recently on the BBC History Magazine podcast this month - the fine rolls from King Henry III's reign.

The fallacy of patronymics

Yes, I've missed a couple Saturday posts, this was mostly due to serving as the model contest chairman for the National Model Railroad Association's Midwest Region at the recent Badgerland Express region convention.  The delay is also due to some last minute findings on the surname that I was going to post about next.  I'm still digesting the information that I've found for it and will post it at a later date, but in the meantime, I've made another observation that is important to remember when researching family history.

D minus 365 days

Today is April Fool's Day, or as I saw it on another site early this morning, Lirpa Sloof Yad.  There are plenty of pranks going around like the story about Minnesota DOT tunneling under Wisconsin to implement high-speed rail service or the attack on an Improv Everywhere actor on the New York Subway (and there are a number of lists of this year's pranks online to help alleviate your boredom).  But one story that is not a joke is that we are now officially one year away from the public release of the 1940 U.S. census enumeration.  There is quite a lot of interesting information at the U.S. Census Bureau's official website, but I don't see anything obvious about how the original 1940 documents will be released yet.  One site making the rounds today among my genealogy friends on Facebook is 1940census.net; they've got a bit of information and seem to be a gathering place of sorts for links to more information about the enumeration and the era in which it was made.

It will probably be a little while after the release next year before the entire 1940 enumeration is online as scans of the original pages, but there again, based on the explosive growth in indexing at FamilySearch (which is one project where I participate), I don't think we'll have to wait too long.  I guess the best task for me to do right now to prepare for the release would be to look through my databases to find out who was alive and would have been counted in 1940 so I know where to concentrate my searches.

Surname Saturday: Curtis

So we get to look at another of the more common surnames in my research.  Although it is not among the top 100 surnames in the United States today (according to the Wikipedia article linked in a previous post), it is one that is still pretty easy to recognize and even at the closest relation, was among the earlier settlers of New England.  The youngest in this line in my research was my sixth great grandmother, Jemima Curtis.

A healthy skepticism

In my current work assignment, I am able to listen to a wide variety of podcasts.  I recently started listening to the BBC History Magazine podcast and heard a line there that easily sums up my opinions toward most historical sources.  In the October 2007 episode, there was an interview with Laurence Rees.  He was talking about his experiences interviewing World War II veterans and survivors as part of a BBC Television production about the war (some of which is now online at WW2History.com) and the reception that he got for the interviews from other historians.  He said:
"Historians are skeptical of all sources -- everything, not just oral sources, but written sources as well."
He's not saying that historians think all sources are wrong, he's saying that historians are always willing to accept that the documentation could be incorrect.  Since we don't yet have time machines and can't go back to witness events first-hand, we have to rely on documentation.  But, how many of us have written checks in early January and wrote the previous year's number instead of the new year's number?  Even on the day of an event, when the person writing the document is physically present at the event and writing things down immediately, errors can and will be made.  Then when the events are researched later, the errors are copied and subsequently propagated to new research and eventually there are more references with the error than without.  As researchers, we have to keep a healthy dose of skepticism when we read documents and continually remind ourselves that there could be errors in what we are reading.  It is only through a complete analysis of all the source materials we collect that we can build a truly representative picture of the lives we are researching.

Surname Saturday: Cook

Okay, another week, another surname.  Today's surname is a fairly common name in North America, in fact Wikipedia cites this surname at 60th place in the list of most common surnames in the United States, belonging to just under 295,000 people in the U.S. (according to 2000 U.S. census figures).  I know about five generations of Cooks in my wife's ancestry, and all of them were born in the United States with the first that I know of born way back in 1781 in Pennsylvania.  So, let's find out more about the Cook line...

Surname Saturday: Cranston

It's another Saturday, so it's time for another surname study.  This week we'll take a look at another line where I only know of one person with the surname.  Today's surname is Cranston, as in Margaret Cranston of Ireland.

Surname Saturday: Collier

After missing a couple weeks of surname studies, let's pick this up again where we left off.  Today we've got another line where I know of only a very small number of people, starting with my wife's third great grandmother, Harriet Collier.

Surname Saturday: Cotten

With this week's surname study, we return to the American colonies and take a look at my tenth great grandmother, Dorothy Cotten.  It should be no surprise by now, but this line is yet another where I only know of one person with the surname.  However, what I do know is not yet fully verified to reliable primary sources.

Surname Saturday: Breschbuler

This week's surname study is another where I only know of one person so far.  Today we'll look at my wife's fifth great grandmother, Marie Breschbuler.

Surname Saturday: Cecil

We have reached another Saturday, and that means another surname study.  Today the links begin with my eleventh great grandmother, Margaret Cecil.  The connection to this line is still a bit tenuous as it has only been averred in Ancestral File entries, but here's what I know so far.

Whoa, a new look!

Yup, it's time to update the look of the blog.  I've upgraded to one of the new Blogger templates, but that unfortunately means that the scrolling list of tags in the right hand bar is gone for the moment.  I hope to have a good solution for this soon.  However, the new template allows me to expand the width of the content area a little, so I'll be able to show larger pictures there.  I've kept a similar color scheme, so the new look isn't too terribly different.  Time to get back to adding real content...

Surname Saturday: Boss

Today's surname study connects to the family with my wife's eighth great grandmother, Barbara Boss.  As with several other surname posts so far, I only know one person in my research with this surname.  Here's what I do know...

Surname Saturday: Carstarphen

Today's Surname Saturday post is a bit of a puzzle.  I am not entirely certain that it connects in the way that I have it in my database right now, and the more I look at it, the more likely it is that I have the connection wrong and I may be linking to another family entirely.  In any case, we'll take a look today at the family leading back from what I have currently listed as my fourth-great grandmother, Nancy Elizabeth Carstarphen.

Surname Saturday: Bircher

Now that the holiday rush is past, it's time to get back into regular updates again.  We pick up where we left off with a line on my wife's side again.  This is another case where I only know of one person with this surname.  It is her eighth-great grandmother, Verene Bircher.

Domestic partners in 1930

Okay, so I'm doing a little more indexing tonight before bed, and I come across this interesting gem.  In the 1930 U.S. census for La Crosse County, Wisconsin, there was the Molstead household.  Take a close look at the two highlighted lines...
In this case, the head of household was Myrtle Molstead, a 23-year-old single woman.  She lived with her 21-year-old sister Ella and a 25-year-old single woman named Amanda Belkey who is listed as the partner of the head of household.  Families like this might not have been discussed freely in the 1930s, but here is one documented case where it occurred.

A hundred years ago today....

So after a crazy busy December (which is why I haven't updated in the last few weeks), I'm doing a little bit of indexing while I finish my glass of Sweet Rebecca wine after a quiet celebration at home of the new year today.  Yeah, I'm a nerd, but what genealogist isn't a bit of a nerd?  Anyway, I'm indexing marriage records from Washington, D.C., and I come across this one...
On 1 January 1911, Guiseppe Carradi and Anna Cavalieri were married by Nicholas Yaselli at St. Aloysius Church in Washington, D.C.  As far as I know, this couple is not related to anyone that I've found in my family, but I thought it was a nice coincidence with indexing today that I get a record from exactly 100 years ago.