Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blog Caroling 2011

I think I'm sneaking in just under the deadline for blog caroling this year. footnoteMaven has challenged us to blog our favorite Christmas Carol for blog caroling. Last year I blogged my favorite carol, The Little Drummer Boy, by the Harry Simeone Chorale. But as there are several other carols in my top ten list (though perhaps not as many as ten), here's this year's contribution.

I first heard this song a few years ago, and it was this version by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd, which I think is just beautiful.

Wikipedia tells me that this carol was written in 1984 by Mark Lowry (lyrics) and Buddy Greene (music).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Random Genealogical Find - Post-Mortem Stereoscopic Daguerreotype

Every so often, I run family names through Google to see what appears. Often, I've found some interesting things, but last night's discovery was something entirely unexpected.

I Googled the name of my 3rd great grandfather, "Jonathan Williams Biddle" and found a stereoscopic daguerreotype of him in an online exhibit from The Library Company of Philadelphia.
I've seen daguerreotypes before, and the Archives at my place of employment has a stereoscope and set of stereoscopic images, which I've tried, but this is the first time I've seen a stereoscopic daguerreotype. From what I can tell of the little device in the photo, the stereoscope is built into the casing of the daguerreotype.

But the even more interesting thing about this image, is that the image of Biddle was taken post-mortem. The caption states that the image was taken shortly after Biddle's death in April 1856, commissioned by his uncle (not named).

The above is a cropped portion of the larger image - for copyright reasons, I'm reluctant to grab the whole thing and post it here (tempted as I am). The see the entire post-mortem image, head over to: Scroll down to nearly the bottom of the page to the entry reading:

Stereoscopic Daguerreotype of post-mortem portrait of Jonathan Williams Biddle displayed in Mascher's Improved Stereoscope. Philadelphia, 1856. Courtesy of the Print & Picture Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving meme - Mayflower Line

I haven't posted in a good long while, though not for lack of potential topics - life has just gotten in the way lately. Not enough hours in the day for my genealogy. Anyway, I was inspired by Randy Seaver's Mayflower Families series of posts yesterday and thought posting my own Mayflower line might nudge me to get back to blogging. And in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, it seems appropriate.

I discovered several years ago that I'm descended from William Bradford. This is the only Mayflower line I'm aware of at the moment:

  • William Bradford (1589/90?-1657) married 1623 Alice Carpenter Southworth (1595?-1670)
  • William Bradford (1624-1703/4) married 1650 Alice Richards (1629?-1671)
  • Hannah Bradford (1662-1738) married 1682 Joshua Ripley (1658-1739)
  • David Ripley (1697-1781) married 1720 Lydia Cary (1705/6-1784)
  • Gamaliel Ripley (1740-1799) married 1772 Judith Perkins (1747-1803)
  • Elizabeth Ripley (1776-1829) married 1798 John Adams (1772-1863)
  • William Adams (1807-1880) married 1835 Martha Bradshaw Magoun (1812-1885)
  • William Adams (1840-1888) married 1867 Helen Coolidge (1848-1929)
  • Margaret Adams (1876-1929) married 1898 Lewis Stone Greenleaf (1872-1947)
  • Richard Cranch Greenleaf (1917-2000) married 1939 Ann McCormick (1919-1992)

Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Descendants of the Pilgrims Who Landed at Plymouth, Mass., December 1620. Volume Twenty-two: Family of William Bradford. Compilted by Ann Smith Lainhart and Robert S. Wakefield (General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2004). Note: this source used for tracing William Bradford down to Elizabeth Ripley's birth in 1776.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lenox Cottagers Urged Home from Europe at the Outbreak of World War I

Lately I’ve enjoyed attempting to link my genealogical findings together to create more of a documented story – something to give insight into my ancestor’s lives beyond straight facts and dates. To this end, I’ve long used the society columns in the New York Times from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to shed light on the social activities of my ancestors with “cottages” in Lenox, Massachusetts. I’m a direct descendant of both the Greenleaf and Biddle families, but have allied connections to the Parsons family as well - all of whom owned cottages in Lenox in this time period.

One recent New York Times discovery is an article dated 15 Apr 1894 listing the Lenox cottages by name with their occupants. It appears that the vast majority came from New York, which may be one reason their social scene was covered as extensively as it was. [1]

Moving forward, on 2 Aug 1914, the New York Times headlines declared:

“Germany Declares War on Russia, First Shots are Fired;

France is Mobilizing and May Be Drawn in Tomorrow;

Plans to Rescue the 100,000 Americans Now in Europe” [2]

On that same date, an article was published listing Lenox cottagers currently in Europe, noting that efforts were being made to contact these individuals. Listed among them is my 3rd great aunt, Emily Williams Biddle (1855-1931) and her older brother, Dr. Thomas Biddle (1853-1915). [3]

A follow-up article dated 14 Aug 1914, notes that the Biddles have decided to “pass the summer in Europe.” [4] A search of Passenger Lists on revealed that Thomas and Emily Biddle left Europe in late September, sailing from Liverpool on the Campania, 26 Sept 1914, and arriving back in New York 4 Oct 1914 via Ellis Island. [5]

Other of my Lenox cottagers ancestors who were in Europe during the summer of 1914 were my great-great grandmother, Adeline Stone Greenleaf (1849-1936) and her son, Richard Cranch Greenleaf (1887-1961). Adeline’s husband, Richard Cranch Greenleaf (b.1845) had died in December of the previous year, 1913. Approximately six months after his death discussions were underway by members of the Lenox Club to purchase the Greenleaf residence, Windyside [6]

As of 16 Aug 1914, a New York Times article reports that the whereabouts of the Greenleafs in Europe was still unknown, though they were believed to be in the south of France. Apparently Adeline’s signature was needed on documents to complete the sale of Windyside to the Lenox Club. [7] Passenger lists indicate that Adeline Stone and Richard Cranch Greenleaf left Liverpool on the Finland, 4 Sept 1914, arriving in New York 12 Sept 1914 via Ellis Island. [8]

[1] “An Early Season at Lenox; Several New Cottages to be Opened in the Berkshire Hills,” New York Times, 15 Apr 1894. Online : Accessed 12 Oct 2011.

[2] “First Shots Fired in the Russo-German War.” (1914, August 2). New York Times (1857-1922),p. 1. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2007). (Document ID: 105456133).

[3] "Urge Tourists to Leave Europe," New York Times, 2 Aug 1914. Online : Accessed 12 Oct 2011.

[4] "Crosby Out of War Zone" New York Times, 14 Aug 1914. Online : Accessed 12 Oct 2011.

[5] “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” database, ( : accessed 12 Oct 2011), entry for Emily W Biddle, age 59, arrived 3 Oct 1914 on the Campania.

[6] Special to The New York Times.. (1914, June 22). MAY COMBINE LENOX CLUBS :Plan Is to Purchase Greenleaf Villa for a Home -- Berkshire Personals.. New York Times (1857-1922),9. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2007). (Document ID: 100676302).

[7] "Lenox Gains Through European War," New York Times, 16 Aug 1914. Online : Accessed 12 Oct 2011.

[8] “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” database, ( : accessed 12 Oct 2011), entry for Adelaide [sic] Emma Greenleaf, age 65, arrived 13 Sept 1914 on the Finland.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Ahnentafel Roulette

(Yes, it's no longer Saturday night, but better late than never.)

This week's fun from Randy Seaver at Genea-musings has several steps:
1. Determine how old your great-grandfather is now or would be. Divide his age by 4, and round to a whole number. This is the ahnentafel roulette number.
2. Use your genealogy software to determine which ancestor the number in step 1 corresponds with.
3. Give three facts about the person
4. Post your findings.
5. "Spin" again if you don't have an ancestor identified who corresponds to the ahnentafel roulette number.

My great-grandfather Gouverneur Cadwalader was born in February 1880. Had he lived, he'd be 131 today. Divide by 4, is 32.75, so I chose to round up to 33.

Using Reunion's ahnentafel report, I find that person 33 is my 3rd great grandmother, Mary Parsons Whitney.

Mary Parsons Whitney was born 6 Nov 1810 in Quincy, Norfolk, Massachusetts to Rev. Peter Whitney, and was baptized 11 Nov 1810 by her father. [1, 2]

She married Richard Cranch Greenleaf 10 Feb 1841 in Quincy, Massachusetts. The couple was married by her father, Rev. Peter Whitney. [2] She had at least two children: a daughter who was born and died in 1843, and a son, Richard Cranch Greenleaf (1845-1913).

Mary P. Whitney Greenleaf died 3 Apr 1889 in Boston, Massachusetts, at age 78 years and 5 months. The cause of death is recorded as "Senile dementia and Old age". [3]

[1] Vital Records of Quincy, Massachusetts to 1875. (Online database: (, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2005), (Unpublished transcription by Waldo C. Sprague from original records held at the Randolph Town Hall, donated from the estate of Mr. Sprague to NEHGS in 1962)

[2] Quincy, MA: Church records, 1762-1870. (Online database: (, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2005), (Unpublished transcription by Waldo C. Sprague from original records held at the Randolph Town Hall, donated from the estate of Mr. Sprague to NEHGS in 1962)

[3] Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910. (From original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: (, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004.) Vol. 402, p. 108.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday's Tip - Chronicling America - Historic Newspapers at the Library of Congress

I've still got 17 minutes (give or take) left in Tuesday, and though I should probably be trying to sleep, I'm noodling around looking at historic newspapers online. And I stumbled across something that inspired me to write a quick Tuesday's Tip post.

I've been aware the Library of Congress's Chronicling America project for some time, but haven't done much active searching until tonight - mainly due to lack of content I'm interested in. But tonight I discovered the content has been greatly expanded since my last visit. I love how easy to search this site is, the resulting displays are easy to read, and there are some great features for downloading content easily.

I hit the "Advanced Search" screen, where I can first limit by state or specific paper, as well as by date range. There are also several boxes for text searching that correspond to standard Boolean search options: OR, AND, phrase, and proximity.

The results list is easy to read, giving you a snapshot of the page with search terms highlighted.

From each newspaper page, you can zoom in and out, navigate to other pages in the issue, or download PDF or JP2 files.

My favorite feature is the "clipping". Zoom in on the page to an article of interest, click the "clip image" button, and you get a snapshot of your zoomed article (complete with stable link) that can be printed or downloaded.

There are links to LC's U.S. Newspaper Directory (1690-present), making it easy to look up information about a particular paper. And if the digitized paper is included in Chronicling America, there are links to the digital content.

My biggest regret is that there isn't more content in some of the states I'm interested in, but I have high hopes that more newspaper content will be forthcoming on this site.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Who's Buried in Greenleaf's Tomb?

Last spring I spent a few days in Boston and Quincy, Massachusetts. In part to get away for a few days, and in part to soak up a little family heritage by osmosis. I wasn't doing any hard genealogical research, but instead was just enjoying being in a place my ancestors once lived. As many genealogists and others who are family history minded will appreciate, part of my enjoyment was browsing cemeteries. And while in Quincy's Hancock Cemetery looking for a few family graves, I came across this tomb:

Any additional information that might have once been on the front of the tomb was gone, leaving me to wonder which Greenleaf (or Greenleafs) were buried there, and who Appleton and Woodward were?

So some time after returning hme, I started looking into this question. Being that this cemetery was in Quincy, my first stop for possible information was NEHGS' American Ancestors site. I found the following information in their database, Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections:[1]
  • Greenleaf : 436+; Greenleaf (Tomb) Daniel & Thomas (with Dr. E. Woodward & _____ Appleton)

  • Appleton : 436; Greenleaf & Dr. E. Woodward (Tomb)

  • Woodward : 436; Dr. E. (Tomb) (with Appleton & Greenleaf)

So at this point, I'm still a little vague on Appleton, but I have the names Daniel Greenleaf, Thomas Greenleaf, and Dr. E. Woodward. I actually ended up going back to one of the Greenleaf genealogies, in this case the 1896 edition by James Edward Greenleaf [2], to see if these names might give me a hint as to the families buried here.

I found the above:

Thomas Greenleaf (1767-1854) whose sister, Elizabeth Greenleaf (1865-1839), married her cousin, Daniel Greenleaf (1762-1853). And Thomas' two daughters, (1) Elizabeth (1794-1854) who married William Greenleaf Appleton, and (2) Mary Ann (b.1796) who married Dr. Ebenezer Woodward.

Heading back to American Ancestors, I located information in their Quincy, MA: Church Records, 1762-1870 [3] database, that confirmed for me:
  • Dr. Ebenezer Woodward married Mary Ann Wroe Greenleaf on 13 Nov 1837.
  • William G. Appleton married Elizabeth Greenleaf on 19 Feb. 1835.
Is it perfectly complete research? No, but it gives me enough to hypothesize the occupants of "Greenleaf's tomb" might well be:
  • Daniel Greenleaf (1762-1853) and wife Elizabeth Greenleaf (1765-1839)
  • Thomas Greenleaf (1767-1854) and wife Mary Price (d.1855), and children:
  • Ezekiel Price Greenleaf (1790-1886)
  • Elizabeth Greenleaf (1794-1885) and husband William Greenleaf Appleton
  • Mary Ann Greenleaf (b.1796) and husband Ebenezer Woodward (b.1798)
If the Greenleaf Genealogy is correct, this branch of the family is extinct. Odd that an extinct family should be uncovered (unearthed?) some 125 years after their line died out.

I am still looking into this, trying to find any additional records for Hancock Cemetery that might confirm my hypothesis.

[1] Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections. (Online database., New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002.)

[2] Greenleaf, James Edward. Genealogy of the Greenleaf Family. Boston: Frank Wood, Printer, 1896. p. 210. Online. Internet Archive : Accessed 29 Aug 2011.

[3] Quincy, MA: Church records, 1762-1870. (Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2005), (Unpublished transcription by Waldo C. Sprague from original records held at the Randolph Town Hall, donated from the estate of Mr. Sprague to NEHGS in 1962)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Your Heritage Pie Chart

Yes, Saturday was several days ago, but I wanted to complete this week's "fun" since it involves playing with data - one of my favorite activities.

So last Saturday (July 16th), Randy Seaver asked us to:
  1. list our 16 great-great grandparents
  2. determine countries or states these ancestors lived in at their birth and death
  3. make a heritage pie chart for the country of origin (birth place) for these ancestors
Before doing this challenge, I spent some time playing with (calculating) the ahnentafel numbers for these folks. [See also my post, Calculating Ahnentafel Numbers] I used Reunion's ahnentafel report to generate the following:

16 Dr. Richard Cranch Greenleaf. Born on 12 Feb 1845 in Boston, Massachusetts. Richard Cranch died in Lawrence, Long Island, New York, on 4 Dec 1913; he was 68. Buried in Lenox, Berkshire, Massachusetts.

On 21 Jun 1870 when Richard Cranch was 25, he married Adeline
Emma Stone.

17 Adeline Emma Stone. Born on 14 Jul 1849 in Schooleys Mountain, Morris, New Jersey. Adeline Emma died on 17 Jan 1936; she was 86. Buried in Lenox, Berkshire, Massachusetts.

18 William Adams. Born on 31 Jan 1840 in New York. William died in Scarsdale, Westchester, New York, on 14 Jul 1888; he was 48.

On 14 May 1867 when William was 27, he married Helen Coolidge in Madison Square Church, New York.

19 Helen Coolidge. Born on 13 Nov 1848 in Connecticut. Helen died in New York, New York, on 20 Jan 1929; she was 80. Buried on 22 Jan 1929.

20 Thomas Joseph McCormick. Born in May 1850 in Ireland. Thomas Joseph died in Sprague Falls, Maine, on 27 Sep 1905; he was 55. Buried on 30 Sep 1905 in Menands, New York. Buried on 11 Jul 1906 in Menands, New York.

Thomas Joseph married Margaret Gilligan.

21 Margaret Gilligan. Born on 18 Jan 1851 in Ireland. Margaret died in Albany, Albany, New York, on 3 Jan 1927; she was 75. Buried on 5 Jan 1927 in Menands, New York.

22 Henry Edward Gillespie. Born on 23 Sep 1854 in New York. Henry Edward died in Albany, Albany, New York, on 27 Jan 1933; he was 78. Buried on 30 Jan 1933 in Menands, New York.

Henry Edward married Anna Ambrose.

23 Anna Ambrose. Born in Nov 1860 in New York. Anna died in Albany, Albany, New York, on 1 Sep 1934; she was 73.

24 Petera Brown Worrall. Born on 23 Aug 1844 in Media, Delaware, Pennsylvania. Petera Brown died in Roslyn, New York, on 16 Feb 1916; he was 71.

On 29 Dec 1868 when Petera Brown was 24, he married Mary Catherine Young in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

25 Mary Catherine Young. Born on 6 Jan 1845 in Leesport, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

26 Joseph Harrison Collins. Born on 5 Dec 1853 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Joseph Harrison died in 1887; he was 33.

On 18 Jan 1883 when Joseph Harrison was 29, he married Rebecca Sharpless Delany in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

27 Rebecca Sharpless Delany. Born on 17 Apr 1861 in Brooklyn, New York. Rebecca Sharpless died in Feb 1949; she was 87.

28 Richard McCall Cadwalader. Born on 17 Sep 1839 in Trenton, New Jersey. Richard McCall died in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, on 9 Dec 1918; he was 79.

On 26 Nov 1873 when Richard McCall was 34, he married Christine Williams Biddle in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

29 Christine Williams Biddle. Born on 14 Feb 1847 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Christine Williams died in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 23 Mar 1900; she was 53. Buried on 27 Mar 1900 in St. Thomas Church, Whitemarsh, Montgomery, Pennslyvania.

30 John Ruckman Fell. Born in 1858 in Pennsylvania. John Ruckman died in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 15 Nov 1895; he was 37. Buried on 19 Nov 1895 in St. Thomas Church, Whitemarsh, Montgomery, Pennslyvania.

On 15 May 1879 when John Ruckman was 21, he married Sarah Rozet Drexel in Pennsylvania.

31 Sarah Rozet Drexel. Born on 28 Aug 1860 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sarah Rozet died in Whitemarsh, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, on 3 Feb 1929; she was 68. Buried in 1929 in Whitemarsh, Montgomery, Pennsylvania.

Birthplaces: United States = 14 (PA = 6; NY = 4; NJ = 2; CT = 1; MA = 1), Ireland = 2

I found the visual representation of this information quite interesting. Granted, this represents only the birthplaces of a single generation, but I tend to think of my ancestors as being more from Massachusetts than New York, but the above chart doesn't illustrate that with this particular set of data. I can definitely see myself using tools like this more to capture similar information.

Calculating Ahnentafel Numbers

Genealogical numbering standards are something I'm peripherally aware of. I know they exist, I know my software can display or output them in various ways, but I don't really use any numbering systems in my day to day genealogical work. So how did I get to calculating Ahnentafel numbers?

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings, in last week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, asked us to list our 16 great-great grandparents. Fine - this I can do. But I noticed in Randy's post that his 16 great-great grandparents were numbered from 16 to 31. I figured this numbering was a standard of some kind, so I turned to Google, and then found myself in Wikipedia.

Wikipedia's article on Genealogical Numbering Systems helped me determine that the numbering in Randy's post was the ahnentafel system. I thought the Wikipedia article on ahnentafel was quite good, and in addition to explaining the system, explained a couple of ways to calculate the numbers. So I decided to try and calculate the ahnentafel numbers for my 16 great-great grandparents. Sure, Reunion could spit these out for me, but I liked the idea of doing the calculations and as part of that, understanding better the basis of the system itself.

I chose to calculate my numbers using Wikipedia's "second method," explained in the Ahnentafel article, using binary to represent each father ("0") or mother ("1") in the relation string, and then converting the binary number to a decimal. I worked from my father's paternal line to my mother's maternal line, and the results were:

Sara's father's father's father's father
10000 = 16
Richard Cranch Greenleaf (b.1845)

Sara's father's father's father's mother
10001 = 17
Adeline Emma Stone

Sara's father's father's mother's father
10010 = 18
William Adams (b.1840)

Sara's father's father's mother's mother
10011 = 19
Helen Coolidge

Sara's father's mother's father's father
10100 = 20
Thomas Joseph McCormick

Sara's father's mother's father's mother
10101 = 21
Margaret Gilligan

Sara's father's mother's mother's father
10110 = 22
Henry Edward Gillespie

Sara's father's mother's mother's mother
10111 = 23
Anna Ambrose

Sara's mother's father's father's father
11000 = 24
Petera Brown Worrall

Sara's mother's father's father's mother
11001 = 25
Mary Catherine Young

Sara's mother's father's mother's father
11010 = 26
Joseph Harrison Collins

Sara's mother's father's mother's mother
11011 = 27
Rebecca Sharpless Delany

Sara's mother's mother's father's father
11100 = 28
Richard McCall Cadwalader

Sara's mother's mother's father's mother
11101 = 29
Christine Williams Biddle

Sara's mother's mother's mother's father
11110 = 30
John Ruckman Fell

Sara's mother's mother's mother's mother
11111 = 31
Sarah Rozet Drexel

I used this tool to covert the binary numbers to decimal.

It took an evening to do, but was fun and productive genealogically in a new way.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Follow Friday - Lisa Alzo on Google News Archives

Source of inspiration: Alzo, Lisa A. "Google's Archives: News You Can Use." Internet Genealogy 6 (June/July 2011): 7-9.

I've known about Google News Archive for a while, but haven't really spent much time with it. This is largely because I work in an academic library and have easy access to other subscription resource for newspapers. But after reading Alzo's article I decided to play with the Google News Archives and found a lot to like about using this tool to search newspapers for some of my ancestors.

I decided to try modeling some of Alzo's examples in her article using my own genealogical case study, Marion Constance Greenleaf (1871 - 1900). Marion Greenleaf was my great-great aunt, the older sister of my great-grandfather Lewis Stone Greenleaf. In the few years that I've been researching this family group, I've found them mentioned numerous times in the society pages of the New York Times recounting some of their years in Lenox, Massachusetts. Marion in particular has caught my attention - maybe because she died at age 29 on Christmas Eve of the year 1900. Or maybe because she was the oldest, but never married. But I've long wanted to do a more detailed tracing of Marion in the New York Times society pages, trying to develop a more thorough picture of this aunt who died young and left no direct descendants of her own.

My search was quite simple - a basic keyword search for the name Marion Greenleaf. The first page of results, 10 articles, were all highly relevant to my search for Marion. The results all mentioned the Marion Greenleaf I'm interested in, were published in the New York Times, published between 1892 and 1900, with the first hit being news of Marion's death from typhoid fever in December 1900.

The second page of results was also fairly relevant:
- 4 articles mentioned my Marion Greenleaf, and were published in the New York Times between 1893 and 1900
- 2 articles mentioned Marion's niece, Marion Greenleaf Nash, my great-aunt, presumably named after her aunt.
- 2 articles mentioned an unrelated Marion Greenleaf who apparently lives in Miami, FL - not the right person, but the results can't be faulted given my search
- 2 articles mentioned the words "Marion" and "Greenleaf" in close proximity, but not as someone's name

On the first page of results, nine of the articles were for "Marion Greenleaf", but one result had the spelling variant "Marian Greenleaf". Having noticed her name spelled as both Marion and Marian in the society columns I've read, I was pleasantly surprised that the variant spelling appear in the results set. I'm not sure quite why this is though, so would be cautious about assuming Google will return variant spellings automatically. A quick test shows the reverse is also true - a keyword search for Marian Greenleaf brings up articles with the spelling Marion Greenleaf - but the results vary from the first search.

Google's results nicely list the source of the original article and the date, so it is easy to see what the original sources of the news items are. The result listings also make at easy to see which articles have an attached fee for viewing at their publisher web sites.

Clicking through to the publisher's site, will sometimes provide additional information that helps me evaluate the article's relevance to my research.

In the above example from the Boston Globe, I get additional information on finding the article in the Boston Globe, plus a brief abstract. Noting which articles of interest carried a charge, yet having the basic citation information at hand, I was easily able to return to my employer library's subscription database resources to find this article available through other means. [Yes, this is not the Marion Greenleaf I started searching for, but her niece, my great-aunt. I did get some additional information from this obituary.]

But I think the feature of the Google News Archive I most like is the timeline.

The timeline serves several purposes. First, it quickly illustrates the date distribution of the results set. Second, clicking on a decade of interest will narrow the results further.

Looking at the distribution for the articles written in the 1890's, I can see a peak from 1892-1894. Drilling down further to examine 1893 in detail, I see that there is another peak in July-September, which logically corresponds with society news about the "season" in Lenox, Massachusetts.

My search could be improved by adding additional keywords, such as "Lenox" to the name "Marion Greenleaf," or by using Google's Advanced Archive Search which has additional features like limiting by date, source, or article price. In the end, I found some fairly interesting things in my search for additional information on Marion, but that's another post.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wednesday's Child - Theodore James and Francis Edward

I think this is the first non-relation tombstone I've highlighted in my blog. But I saw this stone in Copp's Hill Burying Ground during a recent trip to Boston. According to an entry on Find A Grave that I'm fairly certain is a matching entry, the stone is for the children of Samuel and Sally Brewer.

I didn't really think much of this particular memorial when I passed by it at first. But something caused my to turn around after I passed by, and as such I noticed the back of the tombstone.

I've found information on various sides of tombstones before, but this is the first time I've seen a stone that looks like it was made from a section of another stone. The more I explore the burial places of my ancestors, the more interested I am in finding out more about cemeteries, tombstones, symbolism, and such. I'm not sure exactly where to start looking to find out more information about tombstones and their construction, but I'll be interested to see what I can turn up.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

This is the Face of Genealogy

The seven sons of Richard McCall (1839-1918) and Christine Williams Biddle Cadwalader (1847-1900), taken circa 1891. The boy in the back row, middle, is my great-grandfather.

In response to Thomas MacEntee's call to action.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New Tag Cloud Tool - Tagxedo

I've previously blogged on using Wordle to generate family name clouds - the first a surname cloud of non-living people in my database, the second a cloud of first names of the non-living. Tonight while reading the Flowing Data blog, I read about a new word cloud service, Tagxedo.

What's different about Tagxedo is that you can create your word clouds in shapes. So I hopped over to see if I could generate a word cloud in the shape of a tree, or something to highlight my genealogy.


I used the same process as in my two previous posts to generate the file. I then copied the text into Tagxedo. At first glance, Tagxedo seems to have a wide array of design options - color palettes, fonts, shapes, word orientation (horizontal, vertical, any which way) - as well as some more advanced features using color saturation. My settings are pretty basic - a tree using a color palette with a nature orientation, my choice of font, and selection of the horizontal word orientation.

According to the site FAQ, some Tagxedo features are open for free during the beta period which will then be locked down to premium account (i.e., non-free) users. I didn't see a way to create an account to save my cloud to a profile, so was hesitant to overly experiment with some of the options for saving clouds. I was able to download the cloud as JPG file directly from Tagxedo and could select from a wide variety of file sizes. Tagxedo also offered options for embedding content or printing.

I'll be interested to see how this service develops, and particularly what features remain free and which will switch to a premium account. I have fun playing with word clouds, but don't use them enough to warrant paying for the service. Wordle more than does the job for me at present, but I enjoyed playing with the shape option here to highlight the "family tree" aspect of my cloud.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Find A Grave

Time for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver! This week's fun is to search Find A Grave for ancestor's for whom we have no known burial location. Describe who you searched for and the first person you found for whom you did not previously have a burial location.

William Adams (1848-1888) - no listing
Henry Gillespie - no listing
Anna Ambrose Gillespie - no listing
Richard Cranch Greenleaf (1808-1887) - no listing
Mary Parsons Whitney Greenleaf (1810-1889) - no listing

Joseph Gillingham Fell (1816-1878) - Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia

John Greenleaf (1763-1848) - listed with unknown burial location
Lucy Cranch Greenleaf (1767-1846) - listed with unknown burial location
William Greenleaf (1725-1803)- listed with unknown burial location
Mary Brown Greenleaf (1728-1807)- listed with unknown burial location
Richard Cranch (1726-1811) - listed with unknown burial location
Mary Smith Cranch (1741-1811) - listed with unknown burial location

I just started working my way backward through my direct ancestors for people for whom I had no known burial location. I had several "no hits" before finding an entry for my 3rd great grandfather, Joseph Gillingham Fell, in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. The interesting thing about Fell's entry is that it did include photographs of the crypt, and it appeared as though his wife's name, Amanda Ruckman Fell, was listed below his on the stone, though there was no entry for Amanda in Find A Grave.

The interesting group was the six people who I did find listed, and linked to each other as spouses, parents, and children, but for whom no known burial location was indicated. I admit I don't quite understand the point of entries in Find A Grave when there is no known burial location. Find A Grave does address this in their FAQ's (, so I guess it's legit, but still a little aggravating.

I do have (at least) two ancestors who were cremated and for whom I'm fairly certain there is no actual burial location. And it looks as though, according to Find A Grave's rules, I could still create memorials for them.

A fun excercise that got me diving deeper into one of my favorite resources.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Wordle

Tonight's Saturday night fun from Randy Seaver is to create a word cloud using Wordle. There are no restrictions on the content of the word cloud, and we can get creative in our use of Wordle's settings for the cloud's appearance. We then need to save the cloud as an image and explain how we did that.

I did this back in January, and created a surname word cloud of the non-living people in my database. Having played with this once before, I knew that my blog itself doesn't necessarily generate an interesting cloud. So I decided to do something similar to January's word cloud, only with first names of non-living people in order to see what the most common first names among my ancestors were.

To generate the file I used, I first one of Reunion's presets to generate a list of non-living people. (More details on that preset are in my earlier post.) I then marked the people on the list and exported a text file of their first and middle names. Reunion allows you to select which fields you want in text file exports, but there is no option for first names only.

I copied the text file to Wordle and to create the above cloud. The Wordle settings I used are horizontal layout, alphabetical tags, and color/font choices.

To create the image, I opened the word cloud in new window and made a screen capture (command-shift-3 on a Mac). I opened the screen capture in Preview, cropped it, and re-saved the .PNG file as a .JPG to upload to my blog.

I had originally hoped to do some more targeted files to analyze in Wordle, like descendants in a particular line to examine naming patterns, but need to poke more at Reunion to find the right settings and features.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Scavenger Hunt

Tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings is a scavenger hunt. Randy lists 6 names and we need to find the name of the mother of each and the geneablogger to whom they are related. He asks that we tell how we did this and what we may have learned from our searches.

I used Mocavo for this challenge, doing a phrase search for each name listed, enclosing the name in quotes. I then scanned the results lists until I found blog entries mentioning the person, usually on the first page of Mocavo's results.

The first two were fairly straightforward, and I found the answers in a single blog post. But the last four names required me to use more than blog post for each person the get the appropriate names and relationships. And in one case, I used the person's Find A Grave entry to find his mother's name, as I wasn't easily finding it in the blog.

1. Lois Velleda Dreher - mother of Cynthia Beane Henry of Mountain Genealogists.

2. Mary Philomene Laurent - her mother was Olivine Marie St. Louis; Mary Philomene Laurent is the great-great grandmother of Brian Zalewski at Zalewski Family Genealogy.

3. Ernest Francis Sheern - great-great grandfather of geneablogger Sheri Fenley at The Educated Genealogist, his mother was Ann Emily LeSeure Sheern. (For this one I needed to combine resources. I quickly found Earnest Sheern listed on Sheri Fenley's blog, but used his Find A Grave page for his mother's name.)

4. Cecelia Jost - great-grandmother of We Tree's Amy Coffin, her mother was Cecilia Kurta. Amy has a wonderful series of posts called "The Search for Number 16" in which she tracks down Cecilia Jost's parentage.

5. Mary Jane Sovereen - her mother was Eliza Putman Sovereen, and she is the great-great grandmother of Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings.

6. Bethia Brigham - daughter of Anne (Richardson) Brigham, related to Elyse Doerflinger at Elyse's Genealogy Blog.

What did I learn from this challenge? The documentation and sources notes on each blog for these names was quite good. And the blog posts were generally tagged nicely, making it relatively easy to find related entries. I'm inspired to make sure my posts are well-documented with complete names and relationships, and written so they're possible for non-family members to follow. And it gives me thought for new posts I might include in my own blog.

(I started this before midnight Saturday, but goofed up while publishing and ended up with a Sunday date stamp.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Fell-Van Rensselaer House

Dome, Fell-Van Rensselaer House, April 2011

7. Dome [Part of a set of 10 photographs from the Historic American Buildings Survey in the Library of Congress' Built in America Collection, American Memory Project.]

The glass dome pictured above is one of the last surviving original features of the Fell-Van Rensselaer house on Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia. Built by my great-great grandmother, Sarah Drexel Fell from 1896-1898, following the death of the first husband John Fell in 1895, this was the home of Sarah and her second husband, Alexander Van Rensselaer (1850-1933).

The interior of the house was gutted in October, 1974.

[1] Library of Congress. Fell-Van Rensselaer House, Eighteenth & Walnut Streets, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA. Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Online. American Memory Project ( : accessed 4 May 2011)

[2] Philadelphia Architect & Buildings Project. Van Rensselaer Residence. Online. ( : accessed 3 May 2011)

[3] Webster, Richard J. Philadelphia Preserved: Catalog of the Historic American Buildings Survey. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976. pp. 108-109.

Tombstone Tuesday - Emily Williams Biddle

About a month ago, I wrote a Wednesday's Child post on the "Lost Biddle Children" where I recounted finding the Biddle family plot in St. Thomas' Episcopal Church Cemetery in Pennsylvania. My narrative in the earlier post makes it sound as though I miraculously happened across the plot, which isn't quite how it came about that I was there looking for it.

The family group I'm discussing here are the following individuals:
  • Jonathan Williams Biddle (1821-1856)
  • Emily Skinner Meigs Biddle (1824-1905)
  • Children:
    • Christine Williams Biddle Cadwalader (1847-1900)
    • Charles Meigs Biddle (1849-1853)
    • Williams Biddle (1850-1852)
    • Mary Biddle (1851-1851)
    • Thomas Biddle (1853-1914)
    • Emily Williams Biddle (1855-1931)
According to Find A Grave, Jonathan Williams Biddle is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. So I didn't question that he was there, and assumed that the remainder of Jonathan's family would be buried in Laurel Hill as well. So I was actually a little surprised to discover while researching Emily Williams Biddle, that his family was buried in St. Thomas' cemetery.

I probably wouldn't have given much thought to Emily Williams Biddle except I recently found out that the family had a house in Lenox, Mass., a place several other ancestors have called home over the years.

I came across an article from the Springfield Weekly Republican (Springfield, Mass.), dated Thursday, February 18, 1932, which covers the contents of her will. Emily was the last surviving member of the above family group, survived by six nephews, the sons of her sister Christine Biddle Cadwalader. Among the bequests covered in the article, is:

"To St. Thomas's church, Whitemarsh, Pa., is left $2,000, the interest to be used 'to care for the lot where my father and mother and their unmarried children lie buried. And I wish my body to be buried alongside that of my brother, Thomas Biddle with a stone similar to that now over his grave to mark my grave.'"[1]

The lot contains individual headstones for Emily Meigs Biddle, and each of her children, Charles, Williams, Mary, Thomas, and Emily. What it doesn't contain is an individual headstone for Jonathan. There is a large horizontal slab listing Jonathan, Emily, and each of their five children buried in the plot.

So, I really have no idea which cemetery Emily's father, Jonathan, is buried in, and I admit I haven't spent much time looking yet. Another mystery to track down with this family.

[1] "Lenox Coachman is Bequeathed Life Interest in $45,000 Fund," Springfield Weekly Republican, 18 February 1932. Online. Genealogybank ( : accessed 3 May 2011).

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Satruday Night Genealogy Fun - Problems in your Genealogy Database

Tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings is another software challenge - by far my favorite type of Randy's challenges. So tonight's challenge is to find the data error or problem report in your genealogy software, create the report, and describe the number of problems and types of errors, as well as any surprising results.

My usual genealogy software is Reunion, and I have to say I had a fair amount of trouble finding a way to produce these reports. I found nothing easily in browsing Reunion's menus, nor did I have any better luck searching the help file for keywords like "problem" or "error". So I turned to the ReunionTalk online forums and finally found an avenue to an answer, one I never would have found on my own.

The date feasibility report gives common date errors such as birth, marriage, or divorce events occurring after death, births occurring before or after particular ages, or marriages before certain ages. This report is nicely hidden under "Reunion preferences --> Dates" not listed amongst Reunion's other report options.

I ran the report using the default options. Output is a plain text file. Mine contained 9 various date errors, combinations of:
  • child born after parent died - 3
  • child born before parents' marriage - 3
  • child born before parent was age 12 - 2
  • child birth date is after death date - 1
Most of these merit a second look at the data entry and sources consulted. One of the "errors" reported is in fact, not an error. My grandmother's eldest child was indeed born after her first husband died in World War II. And I expect at least one error in the "child born after parent died" category may be a similar case.

Reunion does have other error-type reports I've used before: unlinked people and duplicate people, which I run on a semi-regular basis, especially if I do any Gedcom importing.

But I had hoped for a report that would deliver a variety of different errors in one place. One of Randy's other respondents tonight was Caro from Caro's Family Chronicles who reviewed Family Tree Maker's Data Errors Report.

Since I have the Mac version of FTM on my laptop, I decided to try this report in FTM. I don't use FTM regularly, but do have an older Gedcom of my database there so I can play with different genealogy software. So I easily found and ran the Database Errors Report, doing as Caro did excluding "birth date missing" and "marriage date missing". I also excluded "children out of order". The resulting report listed 25 problems, including date errors and a few unlinked people. But by far the most common error FTM listed was women who were entered using the same surname as their husband. I know I have the tendency to make this error, but was surprised to find quite so many (7). I don't easily see a way to find women entered with the same surname as their husband in Reunion, but I'll keep poking around.

At a glance, many of FTM's errors look different from the Reunion errors, so clearly I have some work to do to check these and correct them if they exist in Reunion. I'll also import a new Gedcom into Mac FTM once I get the errors cleaned up. I guess none of the errors really surprised me, but I'm surprised at the number of them. This was a great challenge, and I'm glad to have a few more tools to help me keep my data clean.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday's Child - Finding the Lost Biddle Children

Several Christmases ago, some old family photographs were circulated amongst the family, and in my possession I found a digital photograph of my great-great grandmother, Christine Williams Biddle Cadwalader (1847-1900) as a child. She was photographed with her parents, Jonathan Williams and Emily Skinner Meigs Biddle, and two younger siblings.

(Since I have only the above digital copy, I have no idea what form the original photograph takes.) Knowing that Christine was the oldest, born in 1847, I hypothesized that the photo was taken after 1850 and tried to identify the other children. The 1850 census listed the children in the household as:
  • Christine - age 3
  • Charles M. - age 1
  • Williams - age 1/12
Presumably Charles and Williams are the two other children pictured in the above photograph. But by 1860, the children listed in Emily Biddle's household (Jonathan died in 1856) were:
  • Christine - age 14
  • Thomas - age 6
  • Emily - age 5
But where were Charles and Williams, the two little boys pictured with their parents and older sister? I presumed they had died, but really wasn't sure where to go to find more information about the deaths of two small children in the span of 1850 to 1860.

So last week, I was wandering the church cemetery looking for more family graves when I found the Biddle family plot, not far from where Christine Biddle Cadwalader is buried with her husband and unmarried children.

In the Biddle family plot were three small graves, in a row.

Also in the plot was a large horizontal slab, listing the family members, among them three children.

There were Williams, who died in 1852, and Charles, who died in 1853, along with little sister Mary, who died in 1851.

I've come across child deaths in my genealogy before, and given the times, I shouldn't be surprised by it, and I'm not. But heartbroken, though, at the thought of this family losing three children in three years. I'm also a little haunted by the photograph of the children, which had to have been taken before Williams died in January 1852. The likelihood of having a photograph of two little boys who died in 1852 and 1853 seems remote, but I do have it, and can see their faces, and am glad to know where they're buried.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - How Many Surnames?

From Randy Seaver at Geneamusings, this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is counting unique surnames in our genealogy management program, whether software or online based.

I have 305 unique last names in my genealogy program.

Using Reunion, this is how I did this:
  • Go into Reunion's "list" menu
  • Select "last names"
  • Select "all people"
The result, is a table that lists all unique last names, with a count of each, the earliest and most recent dates for each, and the number of living people with the name.

The top five surnames in my database are:
  1. Worrall - 73 people - from 1719 to 2011
  2. Greenleaf - 68 people - from 1652 to 2011
  3. Cadwalader - 67 people - from 1677 to 2011
  4. (tie) Adams - 40 people - from 1626 to 2011
  5. (tie) Biddle - 40 people - from 1669 to 1945
  6. (tie) Coolidge - 40 people - from 1728 to 1929
  7. Fell - 35 people - from 1668 to 1961
  8. Meigs - 33 people - from 1708 to 1905
  9. Sharples - 32 people - from 1663 to 1851
  10. Addams - 30 people - from 1746 to 1951
The list defaults to an alphabetical sort, but all columns are sortable in either ascending or descending order. The results can also be exported in a variety of formats. The default export is to a Word document, but there is also an option to export the surnames list as a tab-delimited text file, which enables it to be imported into a spreadsheet program like Excel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

WikiTree Widgets Up and Running

I've been salivating for the WikiTree embeddable widgets ever since reading Geneabloggers' open-thread Thursday post on embeddable content a few weeks ago. I've been wanting a way to embed trees in my blog for some time -- mainly to give any family members who might be reading this a context for the people I talk about -- especially people less well known.

So a few days ago, on seeing that the widgets were out of beta, I signed up for WikiTree, uploaded a gedcom, and am ready to test.

I'm pretty pleased with how easy this was to get going, and can definitely see myself using this tool in future posts. My one issue at present is that most of the widgets are too big for my blog format. I tried modifying the blog template sizing, which worked okay, and is an option for the future. But in the meantime, the bare-bones 4-generation widget, which is the smallest, suits my needs.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fearless Females - Day Fourteen

From The Accidental Genealogist: "Newsmakers? Did you have a female ancestor who made the news? Was she famous or notorious? Did she appear in the social column?"

I have a variety of female ancestors who've appeared in various social columns over the years. I like social column postings. They help me place people in a context of location, amongst peers and friends, and help me relate to time and place in history, something I still struggle with in my family history research. But in thinking about this post, none of these social column postings are immediately leaping to mind as in any way more or less noteworthy than others, so I'm taking a different route.

Bucks County saint to be inducted into Women's Hall of Fame (

Drexel University founder, Anthony J. Drexel (1826-1893) was my 3rd great grandfather. Katharine Drexel was his niece, the daughter of his brother Francis Anthony Drexel. I can in no way do justice to Katharine Drexel's story in this short blog post. In glancing through some memorabilia from my grandmother's collection there's more to St. Katharine's story than the Philadelphia heiress who entered a convent. There's a young woman who lost her father and stepmother in a short span of time, inspired by missionaries wanting to aid Native Americans, who visited the Dakotas in 1887. Katharine entered religious training under the Sisters of Mercy in 1889, founding the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891.

Mother Katharine Drexel was beatified by Pope John Paul II in November, 1988, and canonized in October, 2000. I remember my grandmother telling me about Mother Katharine's miracles as each new one was discovered, moving her farther along the journey to sainthood. I have her travel diary from her trip to Rome for the beatification in 1988, her entry for Sunday, November 20th starting off with, "The big day at last." My grandmother died in May, 2000, not living to see Mother Katharine Drexel sainted.

Last week, The National Women's Hall of Fame announced St. Katharine Drexel as one of its 2011 inductees. Located in Seneca Falls, New York, I hope to attend some of the festivities in September.

Baldwin, Lou. A Call to Sanctity: The Formation and Life of Mother Katharine Drexel. Catholic Standard and Times, 1988.
Hanley, Boniface. A Philadelphia Story. Mother Katharine Drexel Guild, 1992.
"Katharine Drexel," Wikipedia. Online. Accessed 14 Mar 2011.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fearless Females - Day Four

From The Accidental Genealogist: "Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post of photo too if you have one."

What a difference a year makes! When I blogged on this theme one year ago, I had no marriage records for either my grandparents or great-parents. Checking over my records just now, I have marriage records for all of them -- 2 sets of grandparents and 4 sets of great-grandparents.

One set of records, those for my great-grandparents, Lewis and Margaret Adams Greenleaf (the subject of last year's post) who married in Lenox, Berkshire County, Massachusetts in October 1898, were accessed and downloaded at Family Search. The others records I got by writing to various city or state agencies in New York or Pennsylvania. I have no family stories on any of them, though, and no wedding photographs, either.

So this year's story...

I have plenty of wedding photographs of my maternal grandmother's first wedding in 1942. Her husband, Rufus L. Patterson III was killed in 1944, shot down over Germany. [see Follow Friday post on World War II Casualty Lists] Rufus' mother was Elsie "Lissa" Parsons Patterson Kennedy (1901-1966) of Lenox, Massachusetts. Through this relationship with the Parsons family in Lenox, my grandmother met her second husband, Joseph Harrison Worrall (1913-1979). Lissa's younger brother, Herbert Parsons (1909-1995) married Margaret "Margot" Sharpless Worrall (1909-1986) in 1935. Margot's younger brother was Joseph Harrison Worrall, my grandfather.

This is a fairly scientific post. I wish I knew more stories, more romance, but can only guess and imagine at emotions and what happened in these peoples' lives. It's an interesting connection my family has as a result - these interconnected families with skewed generations. But this is an important baseline for other stories I have to tell. I haven't even begun to do justice to the story, to the people involved, but at least I've started laying the groundwork, finally getting it out of my head and into writing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Follow Friday - NARAtions - Family Tree Friday: Digitized World War II casualties lists

NARAtions » Family Tree Friday: Digitized World War II casualties lists on ARC

My grandmother's first husband was killed in action in World War II while flying over Germany in 1942. I have a vague recollection of seeing these casualty lists while researching her first husband a few years ago, but don't seem to have saved the citations or any digital images. So when I saw these posted this evening on the NARAtiosn blog (link above), I decided to take a second look.

Column 3, paragraph 11, line 3:
Patterson Rufus L O-815755 2 LT KIA

Rest in peace.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Go For A Better Google Search

This week's fun from Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings:

In this week's challenge, Randy Seaver points us to the site of Randy Majors and directs us to use his Google Custom Search box for marriages.

1 + 2. "Go to Geneablogger Randy Majors website ( Add his blog to your RSS reader, if you don't have it already." Done and Done!

3. "Read his blog post 'AncestorSearch Using Google Custom Search - BETA'." Done!

4-5. To summarize, test out the form, describe your results, how useful they were, and if there is anything Randy Majors can do to improve the form.

I tested the form with two couples.

The first were my great-grandparents, Gouverneur Cadwalader and Mae Drexel Fell Henry, who married in 1921. Mae's maiden name was Fell. She first married Howard Houston Henry in 1904, and he died in 1919.

My search terms:
Coincidentally, I received a copy of their marriage application from the City of Philadelphia in today's mail. The interesting thing with this couple is that they were married in one of their residences outside the city, in Montgomery County, though the application was made in the city. As such, I elected not to specify a location. I search under my great-grandmother's married name, 'Henry', and placed her maiden name, 'Fell' in the alternate last name box.

Results? I received only three hits, but they were highly relevant. One pointed me to a Google Books entry mentioning the couple (not new information), and the other two to pages from a family site indexing descendants of a particular line. The family site was new information.

The second couple I searched for yielded more interesting results, in part because I made an error in the entering their data in the form.

I was making dinner while doing this, so was a bit distracted and made a mistake in entering their names. The couple I was searching for was Jonathan Williams Biddle and Emily Skinner Meigs. What I entered was Jonathan Williams and Emily Meigs, lacking their married last name of Biddle.

Results? Four pages of relevant hits, many highlighting their middle names, exactly as I'd entered them. I haven't done a great deal of research on this family, so much of what I turned up was new. One entry in particular caught my attention, as one of the things I'd been wondering is about portrait paintings of the couple, specifically Emily. The entry pointed me to a book in the Internet Archive ( describing a portrait of Emily Skinner Meigs Biddle. I have no idea where the portrait is today, but maybe it's still in the family someplace.

How can Randy improve his search? Only one thing comes to mind -- launch the results in a new tab or window so I don't lose the form.

6. "If you like Randy's custom search, add it to your bookmarks or favorites." Done! Randy's search form is now in my toolbox at

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Using Wordle to Generate a Family Name Cloud

Now that I'm finished Randy's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, I decided to have my own fun by playing with word clouds.

Earlier today I was in a presentation where my boss had used the Wordle tool to generate a word cloud that described our library. A word cloud visually captures a snapshot of text and presents the words in different font sizes and weights to illustrated the frequency of a word used within that text.

This is a tool I've heard of before, and had played around a little with, but had never seen used in a meaningful or illustrative way. I wondered if I could find an interesting way to generate a genealogy-related word cloud. Particularly, I wondered if I could somehow extract surnames from my genealogy software and create a cloud that would illustrate how frequently a family name appears in my database.

I have to say I'm fairly pleased with the results:

For privacy reasons, I decided to first exclude all living people from my cloud, since there are a handle of names used in recent generations only among the living. To generate the data used (using Reunion):
  1. Identified all non-living people using one of Reunion's preset searches. It finds all people with a death date, death place, burial date, or who is over 100 years. Imperfect, I know, since it is possible to have relatives living more than 100 years (I have none). It also omits anyone who has no birth or death dates at all -- many of whom in my database are in fact deceased. Nevertheless, I got a decent sized sample of 590 people.
  2. I marked the resulting people Reunion had identified as non-living, then exported a text file of their surnames.
  3. Copy and pasted the list of names into Wordle to generate the word cloud. Once in Wordle, you can play with fonts, colors and layouts, though Wordle determines the sizes of the words. (Regarding privacy: By not saving my Wordle to their gallery, the site claims none of my text was saved to their site:
My cloud turned out to be a pretty decent visual representation of the families populating my database. The largest names do tend the be the most populous. But in general most names in the cloud I can read with "the naked eye" (with a couple of exceptions) are families I remember researching and entering in Reunion.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - The Date You Were Born

From Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings, this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun has to do with date research:
  1. What day of the week were you born?
  2. What has happened in recorded history on your birth date (day and month)? List five events.
  3. What famous people were born on your birth date?
For each of the above, tell how you found out.

I used the Wolfram-Alpha search engine to answer all of these. Wolfram-Alpha is different from search engines like Google in that it delivers computations and factual information rather than linking out to external resources. It's not a resource I use often, but I decided to try it for this challenge, and I was able to answer all three questions with a single search.

I typed the date (month, day, and year) into Wolfram-Alpha's search box and received a page telling me not only day of the week, but other interesting facts such as time difference from today, official holidays or observances (if any), events taking place (including famous people born), anniversaries falling, and time of sunrise/sunset.

1. October 6 of the year I was born (I'm not telling which year) was a Tuesday.

2. As mentioned above, Wolfram-Alpha lists events and anniversaries taking place on a given date. Here are five for October 6th:
  • 1769 - Captain James Cook lands in New Zealand
  • 1889 - Thomas Edison shows his first motion picture
  • 1908 - Austria annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • 1927 - 'Jazz Singer' premieres
  • 1949 - Mutual Defense Assistance Act is signed
Because Wolfram-Alpha is calculating these events based on the year I input in the search, everything listed takes place on or before the year I was born. To find events on recorded history that took place after I was born, I re-ran the search using month and day only. By omitting the year, Wolfram-Alpha defaults results to the current year (2011) and turns up a few more items:
  • 2000 - Slobodan Milosevic resigns
  • 1981 - Anwar Sadat is assassinated
  • 1979 - first pope to visit the White House
3. The famous people Wolfram-Alpha lists as born on October 6th are mostly people I've never heard of. So either I was born on an odd date, or my general knowledge of 'famous people' is limited. (Probably it's a combination of the two.) Here are some I've actually heard of:
  • 1887 - Le Corbusier (architect)
  • 1914 - Thor Heyerdahl (explorer)
  • 1970 - Amy Jo Johnson (actress - seems best known as 'The Pink Range' in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Building a Research Toolbox - Open Thread Thursday

From Geneabloggers:
This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

"Do you maintain a Research Toolbox? A group of links to genealogy research websites that you frequently use? A Research Toolbox could be as simple as an unorganized list of bookmarks or favorites in your web browser. Or it could be a website that you publish much like Cyndi’s List but for your own use or for a specific area of genealogy.

Tell us a) what’s in your Research Toolbox, b) what is the most unusual resource in your Research Toolbox, and c) how you keep it organized."

My research toolbox is an assortment of links of vital records sites, online books, maps, cemetery information, and blog posts on topics I want to remember.

I'm not sure I have many unusual resources. I think they're fairly standard as far as genealogical research goes. But if I had to pick one... I'd say either the Hamilton County Ohio Probate Court online archive of records, or my list of GEDCOM tags.

Why these? The Hamliton County, Ohio site is only unusual in that it's the only Ohio link I have in my family at this point. My 3rd great grandparents, Joseph Harrison Collins and Martha Ann Judkins are listed in the marriage register for 1849. The marriage records are arranged alphabetically by both last name and first name, which amuses me. For example, all the last names starting with "J" are together, then subsorted by first names starting with "A", then "B", etc. The other thing I like about this site, is not only are the records online, but a number were recreated after fire and water damage.

My other unusual resource is a list of GEDCOM tags. As a librarian whose origins are in cataloging, I like understanding how data is being imported, exported, and displayed in my genealogy software. I don't do nearly enough exploring with this as I'd like, but I've got the links in case I get inspired some snowy weekend.

I use the Delicious social bookmarking site to keep my links organized. Delicious allows me not only to make a list of bookmarks stored in the cloud that I can access anywhere, but to write notes explaining why it's useful (or other evaluative information). I can also assign tags (keywords) to the links to keep them organized. I can then sort my tags into groups (location, record type, family name, etc.) and keep a nice menu handy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New York State Historical Resources

I loved seeing Dick Eastman's post a couple of days ago, "More Than Two Million Northern New York Historical Newspapers Online," in which he points users to the Northern New York Library Network's historical newspapers site.

NNYLN is part of New York's NY3R's system. Various of the 3R's networks have being doing great things in digitizing their regional heritage over the years. The projects are also expanding across the state, with other regions beginning to digitize their own local papers.

The New York Heritage site seems to be becoming a gateway to the partnerships evolving in these efforts. (I don't know that it's an official gateway, but many of the 3R's are cooperating in its ongoing development.)

Genealogy Insider Photo Checklist

From the Genealogy Insider, 'Got the Picture? Using Your Digital Camera for Genealogy.'

I really liked this checklist of sorts from the Genealogy Insider on digital photographs for genealogy. The gravestone and record/documents lists are pretty close to what I do currently. For the gravestones, I also always take photos of landmarks (buildings, fences, walls, trees, notable stones) near the site/plot I'm visiting so that I'll have a visual reminder to help me find the spot again on a return visit. Adding a ruler to photos of heirlooms is a great idea, and I'm embarrassed that it hasn't occurred to me before this.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Emily Roebling Cadwalader: Lying About her Age or a Reflection on the Men in her Life?

Today's 'Genealogy Tip of the Day' by Michael John Neill of Casefile Clues is, What Were They Smokin' When They Gave that Information? I found this quite coincidental as for the last couple of days I've been amusing myself with an age mystery for a relative whose birth dates in various documents are quite inconsistent.

Emily Roebling Cadwalader (d. 1941) was the wife of my great-great-uncle, Richard McCall Cadwalader, Jr. (d. 1960) These two were never high on my list of relatives to research, so the fact that I'm posting on them is a bit surprising to me. This all started a couple of days ago when I was updating entries for the Cadwalader family to Find A Grave, and posted photos of both their graves. [Richard ; Emily]

I originally posted Emily's birth date as it appeared on her gravestone, September 9, 1881. Since I had done no prior research on this, and really had no intention of doing much more, I normally wouldn't have gone further. But coincidentally, a few days before I'd received a book via interlibrary loan on the Roebling family [1] which happened to be sitting next to me. So I looked up Emily Roebling and found the following:
"Charles Roebling married, January 25, 1877, Sarah Mahon Ormsby of Pittsburgh. ... Five children, including one dying in infancy, were born to the couple : two boys, Harrison Ormsby, born November 7, 1877, died January 12, 1883, and Washington Augustus, 3rd, born March 25, 1881, died April 15, 1912 ; two girls, Emily, born September 9, 1879, and Helen, born December 15, 1884."[2]
The book is unsourced and gives no basis for these dates. I took them with a grain of salt and shrugged them off. But it does note that Emily's brother, Washington, was born in March, 1881. If these dates were at all accurate, it calls into question Emily's Sept. 1881 birth date on her gravestone.

Next step... The 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Trenton, NJ lists 9-month old Emily M. Roebling living in the household of her father, Charles Roebling, with her mother 'Sallie' and 2-year-old brother Ormsby. The 1880 census form also asks for the month born, if the listed person was born within the last census year. Emily's month of birth is listed as Sept. The family was enumerated on June 8, 1880, making 9-month old Emily born in Sept. 1879 -- the same date as in the Roeblings book.

Emily's birth date is also listed as Sept. 1879 in the 1900 census, while living as a 20-year-old in her father's household. Her brother, Washington, also in the household, has a birth date of March 1881 --again agreeing with the Roebling biography.

However, after Emily's marriage, begins the period of irregular reporting of her birth date. In all cases, the fact the she was born in September remains consistent. Among census data, a passport application, and ship passenger lists, her birth year changes.

In thinking about this, I found several things interesting.
  • Emily birth date while in her father's household is consistently reported (based on sources found) as Sept. 1879.
  • After her marriage to Richard Cadwalader, her reported birth year changes, though month remains consistent.
  • None of the dates I found match what I believe to be Emily's real birth date - 9 Sept 1879, or the date on her gravestone - 9 Sept 1881.
  • Her husband's birth date for the same sources is consistently reported as 7 Nov 1878. The one exception I found in his reported birth date is his World War I Draft Card.
  • The date on the draft card -- 7 Nov 1877 -- is the only one to match the date on Richard M. Cadwalader Jr.'s gravestone.
I'm left wondering if the change in Emily's age was self-reported out of vanity of some sort. But I also wonder if her husband, who may have been reporting data on her behalf in generation of these sources, reported her birth date wrong -- but why? Might he not have remembered it consistently, despite being able to report a date for himself fairly consistently? Or more vanity? I have no answers, but I found it a curious problem. If I get to the New Jersey State Archives some day, I can look up Emily's birth certificate on microfilm.

[1] Schuyler, Hamilton. The Roeblings : A Century of Engineers, Bridge-builders and Industrialists : The Story of Three Generations of an Illustrious Family, 1831-1931. Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1931.

Note: I borrowed this book as Schuyler wrote another work I used recently in my research, 'A History of St. Michael's Church, Trenton,' and was interested to see his treatment of the Roebling family.

[2] Schuyler, p. 315.

Edited for image readability.