16 November 2015



Just went to see a terrific exhibit - three hours in the hall - where I learned so much more about our American history, how complicated the question of slavery was throughout what would become our nation, back in the day when half of it was still territory, in dispute.

So here's a little story.  Twenty or more years ago it was still not acknowledged, despite the documents that genealogists would find, not even by some college history professors, that some Native Americans had slaves.  I myself found documentation proving this in a western county of North Carolina, but it just wasn't acknowledged.  A research friend of mine actually went to a professor at a college in Florida where he had once attended to discuss his findings and was told to his face that this had "never happened."

But this exhibit admits it.  Even the Cherokee chief John Ross had slaves.

Could it be that people did not see much difference between a slave and chattel labor?  It seems so.
In fact, the very poor who survived through chattel labor were in a class only slightly higher than a slave and individual circumstances being what they were, might not have actually been better off.  They might not have been "owned" the same but their living conditions could be deplorable.

I had not known that coal miners also hired and imported immigrant labor where men were put under contract to work.  I'd known about servants who came into the early colonies and worked years to pay off the price of their ticket, but didn't know this happened in the mid 1800's during the Gold Rush.

Also up for going against stereotype:  Prostitutes in the Wild Wild West, often depicted as willing and having a great time of it, when it's known that sex trafficking went on.   (I've known about the situation in San Francisco with imported Chinese women and children, often put in cages and locked underground, even given the tools to commit suicide once they became infected with VD, but somehow I bought the movie depictions of White Women going west for the opportunity to make money the only way they could among the gold miners.)

A simply amazing array of  historical objects, paintings, proclamations, and other museum-worthy items are on display, along with some diary narratives read by actors at the touch of a button that give various perspectives.


This brings up the USE OF DIARIES and NARRATIVES in your genealogy an history research.  Some of you may know about the SLAVE NARRATIVES that were collected by the WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION which are on a searchable database.  Additionally, you may find narratives in other places, such as written narratives available through FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REQUESTS, as well as some military related documents.  WILLS can also be a form of NARRATIVE.

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03 November 2015


As identity thieves and frauds have been using the Social Security Death Indexes for criminal activity, over the last few years there have been some removals (Rootsweb's Free Indexes, now owned by Ancestry.com) and restrictions. 

To sincere and honest persons intent on genealogy research this has been upsetting.  However, as someone who has been subject to the use of such information for criminal activity, I myself have been wondering when our United States government will begin to restrict the use of all the free or low cost information available on the Internet and on specialty databases that have citizens so easily spying on each other; the exact behavior we loathed back in the day when we heard citizens of the Soviet Union were encouraged to do so.

Socially, it's a real turn off to meet someone for coffee for the first time and have them tell you all the things they found out about you on the net. 

I went to a historical site one time where the docent, who apparently took pride in her family's involvement in the region, looked at my signature in the sign in book and then asked, "And what is your maiden name?"  (I told her "that IS my maiden name!) She was a bit much.  Now, I hold my own family cards closer to my chest.

I've also had the experience of people calling relatives, lying that they are my friend, and then saying that they need my current address and phone number.  And these dummy relatives gave that information out! 

But since ANCESTRY WORSHIP - GENEALOGY BLOGSPOT is for the sincere and honest researchers, let's talk about the UNITED STATES SOCIAL SECURITY APPLICATIONS and CLAIMS INDEX, which, as provided by Ancestry.com databases, covers the years 1936-2007.

First, you can still send away for the ORIGINAL APPLICATION. Those of us who used to send away to the Social Security Administration for ORIGINAL APPLICATION copies when the cost per each one was relatively inexpensive and reasonable were also upset when the fees went up to about $36 - $38 each.  The lesser fee was for those applications in which the SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER of the applicant was known.  Using a database you might be able to find that number even if you were not a close family member.  (If the information is over 75 years old, it will generally still be available to anyone for the asking.)  Of course, in filling out the application the government knows who is asking for it, so if there is criminal behavior involved that is documented.  That's good since the sincere and honest researcher is an ethical person who is not using the information for criminal activity or spying.  (Anyone involved in PROFESSIONAL GENEALOGY RESEARCH SHOULD BE AWARE THAT THE FAMILY THAT IS PAYING FOR THEIR SERVICES EXPECTS THEM TO RESPECT THEIR PRIVACY AS WELL!)
So -


It is useful beyond the obvious.

Let's say that you use it by NAME of the deceased and it has this information (a fictional example).

born  November 15  1925
Father  Greyson Andrew SCMIDT
Mother  Rose Ann CRABBE
Death November 15 1999
June 1941
May 1943  Marianna C. SMITH
May 1945 Marianna Rose WEAVER
August  1950  Marianna R.  ROSCETTI
Nov 23 1999  Marianna R. ROSCETTI

Here is the information you might be able to deduce from what appears to be "just the facts, mam, just the facts."

Marianna was born on November 15, 1925 in Germany.  However, her parents may or may not have been citizens of Germany.  They might have just been on a vacation or visiting relatives when she was born.  It might be interesting to check the ship records, incoming and outgoing - Germany and the United States where we might find the family.

It follows that she was living in the United States and likely an American Citizen when she went to work in about June of 1941 and made her first application for Social Security as at this point payments to Social Security would have been made from her employer to the government in her name. 

A couple years later, it's possible  Marianna decided it would do her some good to CHANGE HER NAME from the clumsy Scmidt to the name Smith and that she is using her mother's illustrious Crabbe surname as her legal middle name.  Of course we will want to prove that before accepting it.

There may or may not have been a legal name change and if so, it may be on file.  Checking around the 1940 census, we can possibly learn if her parents were living, if she was living with them or elsewhere, and where she might have processed a legal name change.  We also know that we have to check for Marianna under the name Smith from now on. 

It's also possible that the change in name to Smith was because she married.  We would want to check the marriage indexes.

In May of 1945 it is very possible that Marianna did marry someone with the surname Weaver. 

And it's possible that she married for the 2nd or 3rd time in August of 1950, a Mr. Roscetti.  Now we are looking for marriages, deaths, and divorces in each case.  In November of 1999, still going by the name Marianna Rose Roscetti, the lady died and at that time she was collecting Social Security.

We would want to follow this up with a search for her death records, civil, cemetery, and/or church.

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27 October 2015


Several months ago I realized that I was over stimulated and informed of violence.  I decided that I would stop exposing myself to repeated views of violence and try to stop reading about it.  It's not that I don't know how bad things are in the world; dead refugees,  ferry's sinking,  major natural disasters, gunmen gone crazy, and seriously evil people.  It's that I believe we are all OVEREXPOSED TO IT through the media, and through our cell phone news apps too and that it is doing something bad to us, making us numb, making us feel helpless and hopeless, making us think that the world is a very bad place, alienating us from others since we can't trust them, and making us forget the good.

I'm not sure exactly when it was that I began to feel that I had to know so much, even things that I'm sure I cannot do anything about, especially because they already happened and in places where my vote will not count.

My least favorite genre in film is Horror.  I don't want to be scared.  I don't want to be grossed out.  I do not want to see mutilation or blood - even when I know it is Hollywood fake. 

I decided that I had seem way too many murders watching psycho-thrillers, murder mysteries, and the like.  I went to a local library that possesses several thousands DVD's and it was difficult to find something that wasn't entertaining and funny.

Is goodness BORING?  A friend of mine seems to think that's true and why the media focuses on the extreme, the unusual, and a certain famous for being famous person's unusually large behind for her smallish size.

All I ask you is to think about this.  When is the last time you felt secure?  At peace?  Satisfied that you did a good job?  Looked forward to an in-person conversation with a good friend?  Saw beauty in nature?  Took a walk instead of watching the evening news?  Invited someone over for a home-made meal and conversation instead of watching a film? 

Did a good deed?  Acknowledged someone else's best characteristics or gave a sincere compliment?  Did a little something to help someone else without any expectation of reward or acknowledgement?

14 October 2015


(Check out my past posts about Halloween and All Souls Day using the search feature embedded on the sidebar of this Google Blogger!)

Did your family have any special holiday celebrations or traditions that were ethnic or their very own special invention?

I find that writing about this subject can really bring a kind of "warm and fuzzy" feeling to a family history writing project, along with all the genealogy data that you're compiling.  You can even gather your family to have a little writing group and write as individuals together in the meeting on various events, read your writing to each other aloud, and include the writing in the MEMORIES part of your book.

For Halloween you might write about the first Halloween costume you ever wore.  Could you breath through the mask?  Did your mother sew it?  Did you walk wearing it in a parade?   Did your family celebrate this holiday in any special way?   Is Halloween a holiday that is spiritual, funny, or spooky for you?

All Souls Day;  Did you go to church?  Did you pray for a relative that passed?  How old were you when you understood what death was?  What was the first funeral you remember attending like?  How did it make you feel?

Thanksgiving:  The best and worst Thanksgivings you've experienced.  Favorite foods (be sure to credit the right cook!)  The furthest you've ever traveled to attend a Thanksgiving Dinner.

Christmas:  Your earliest memories of the holiday.  How old were you?  Pictures with Santa.
The year it didn't snow.

You get the idea.

As for me, I have some rich holiday memories such as:

That my aunt, in the days before you had to go through inspections at airports, actually took a cooked ham in a roaster pan on an airplane as her contribution to a meal in Florida.  Reportedly at some point the ham beneath her seat moved and had passengers scrambling.  (She proudly walked off the plane with the roaster pan before her.)

Being six years old and seeking my first body in a casket.  It wasn't creepy exactly.  The person appeared to be at peace - and waxy.

Wearing costumes that were made for me at dancing school for Halloween too - just with a simple mask.  My neighbor who made home made candy apples - just a few for the closest neighbor kids - and gave out candy bars to the rest.  Living in a suburb where one year several hundred kids came to the door.

The Christmas that my most treasured present was something small but yearned for that was in my stocking.  The Christmas my cousin swore that she saw Santa and the reindeer from the window view from the top bunk bed.  The Christmas a loved one died.


10 October 2015


The Benjamin Franklin connection is exploited for the title of this PBS video that is part of the Secrets of the Dead series.  His 18th century residence in London, which was the home of a family at 36 Craven Street was also the home of Dr. Huston, a doctor who was probably more or totally responsible for the burial of human bones in the basement.  Though Ben Franklin's experimental and scientific nature is well known, there is no way to prove he ever had anything to do with them. 

This film is about the state of the art of medical science in that era. It is about the "body snatchers,"  people who would sell dead bodies to doctors (science) so that autopsies and dissections could be performed.  Check your gag reflexes because this is a time honored practice to learn about the human body and expected in medical schools.  The "body snatchers" were not always the most moral and ethical people, however, and so by modern day standards they may be thought of as criminals.

But what else did those who wanted to understand and some day cure diseases that killed people like typhus and cholera have to work with if not the bodies of the dead?  Methods then were primitive compared to now, as were the tools to saw a skull in half.  In this society there was no concept of virus or germs and people were dying of kidney stones and gall stones, which we well understand today, as well as broken bones.  Today many people donate part or all of their bodies for organ transplants and skin grafts and there is huge debate over the ownership of sperm and eggs that are frozen for later use once the people who donated them don't want to or can't pay for them to be kept.

In the 18th century, men who were sentenced to death wrote begging letters to their families to claim their bodies before they were sold or given away, fearing the desecration even though they'd be dead.

So though Benjamin Franklin is one of my favorite most fascinating historical personages, perhaps what was more interesting was that when he returned to America, this "Second Family" he had lived with in London was brought here to live and their family tree is full of doctors, including a woman who will show you some of the family documents that link Ben Franklin and their family.

03 October 2015


Anthropology is one subject I love.  I love learning how the human developed culture, how cultures spread, and DNA is enhancing our understanding of human migration, ethnicity, and race.. 

I love knowing this life I lead is so much of the times.  Can I even really imagine the world of my great grandparents?  The ancient Greeks?  The life of a tribe in the Amazon?  Well, could they in their lives imagining air travel or rock and roll?

With anthropology we can try on what it was to live in another time and place, since we cannot yet actually TIME TRAVEL for a look-see.  But besides living there is dying.

Along with Anthropology, there is Archeology (digging evidence up and applying scientific methods and analysis to it), the two often going hand in hand.  One of the things that the Anthropologists and Archeologists look at is BURIALS.

Burials tell us so much about the person, the people.  The posture they are buried in, if they have a shroud, if there are tools or jewelry buried with them, or perhaps their pet cat...  if they were laid into the earth, had stones put on top of them, had a carved wood casket, were embalmed, had ordinary clothing on or were naked, and what direction they - and others in that graveyard - were facing; all of this telling.

One time I asked an Archeology professor, if so many millions of people had died on this earth in the past, why were there not MORE burials, more evidence of their lives.  He said most people were not buried.  They were cremated, or left out for the vultures,  or otherwise exposed.  Also many burials are now deep under the earth or the graves were robbed.  So when a burial is found and explored it can be a wealth of information.

Some of the more exciting burials I've learned about are in museums.  I saw an exhibit at the Getty in Malibu, California that had the painted cases that some ancient Greeks had been buried in, though living in Egypt.  Each had a painting of the person's face, as to be remembered in life. This was a time and place burial, influenced by both Greek and Egyptian notions.

Then there are the burials found in Hungary in which the people inside beautifully painted caskets, many who had died of TB, were found to be naturally preserved mummies.  Scientists of medicine are studying TB through these mummies.

Take a look at the stack of beautiful coffins at this link VAC HUNGARY - NATURAL MUMMIES - NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

Reading around these Hungarian mummies, I've learned that they are known people, for whom there are records, and descendants alive.

I don't know about you, but I personally do not think I would want to see any of my dead relatives  dug up so I could see what they look like, but did you know that a son of the Big Bopper,  the 1950's rock and roller who died in a plane crash, did just that, before having him cremated?

Can you tell that it's that time of year... that Halloween and All Souls Day are not so far away?

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22 September 2015


Recently I started going through boxes of research that had been in a storage unit, had been brought to my residence, had made it through a flooding so so, and that I had not entirely forgotten about.  Things had gotten scattered so I also didn't know what I still had, where it was, and if it was still valuable to my research.

Most of the research was handwritten and old photocopies.  Because of the time spent and the detail, I know I have to read each and every piece of paper and evaluate it for the value it has to my present personal genealogy.

The condition of the paper varies, making me wish that I had never ever used any sort of typical lined, punch holed, paper.  But not everything can go on archival paper.

A friend suggested THE CLOUD for storage.

No not even if said friend PAYS for me to have a CLOUD!

Having had computer disks thrown away and memory sticks stolen, having purchased a couple lap tops only to see them become defunct rather quickly, any suggestion of THE CLOUD as optimal storage, any suggestion that I SCAN all these papers, and I react negatively.

I do not want to give up my paper copies, no matter what electronics could be applied.  I don't want to worry about equipment, monthly fees, or being hacked.

As I looked through these papers, besides seeing that various brands of the lined, punch holed paper had discolored and had folded in different ways, the cheaper papers no deal, I also noticed that no doubt PHOTOCOPIES showed less aging and held up better, and ANY PAPER KEPT IN PLASTIC did very well.

THE PLASTIC HOLDERS are heavier.  So your binders can be difficult to carry, but I think that binders and plastic holders with paper inside is the way to go, so long as you also remember to cover them on the shelf to prevent dust from settling in.

Because sure enough old plastic binders do show dust and dirt and age.

Through all of this I have a cardboard mailing tube that contains some of my oldest, handwritten, and hand drawn charts.  Much of what I wrote on these charts was there proven, some of it was speculation or calculation (birth and marriage and death dates.) 

But when I think of the person(s) who will inherit my research, I think:

1) The hand written and hand drawn charts will probably feel more personal and valuable.

2) It's going to cost a whole lot to ship all this research to them.

3) But do they only want the end results, the book, or do they want to follow along with my research, realize just the high price of those end results, and will they be inspired to continue, documenting my life when I'm probably dead perhaps, or to travel to the places that their gggparents left?  Will they even take care of all my research, such as taking care to pass it along to the person in the family who they deem the most interested and worthy?

4) I've concluded that I will provide some simple electronic resources, such as family pictures and some scans on CD.

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14 September 2015



I sent away for the marriage records (civil) of my aunts, uncles, and parents and grandparents. I wanted the marriage dates and places as well as the mother's maiden names.  Eventually everything came in.  My shock was learning that my parent's did apply for a marriage license but there is no record of them actually having got married.  I got a note back stating that an extensive search had been made.

I'm sure they did marry.  But now I'm not sure they married the same year they got the license.  This is because there's a story about how they got married and then went back to work on Monday, no honeymoon, and that they got married on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.  The year on the license and the date I recall they celebrated their marriage doesn't line up with the Friday, Saturday, or Sunday or the story that they met and married in a year.  I remember celebrating their Silver Anniversary but I can't remember what year we did!

What can I do to prove they married?

Ruth - Pittsburgh PA


Hi Ruth,

I checked FAMILYSEARCH which does have SOME records of marriages for Allegheny County - Pittsburgh area - Pennsylvania, just in case, and nothing came up.  Sending away was the right thing to do.

I suspect that your parents got married in a local church and the priest didn't send the paperwork in that he should have to the Allegheny County people to make a CIVIL RECORD of it.  But as usual it could simply be a missing, burned up, or otherwise document.

But there are a few things I want you to do.

First, check the date you remember as their anniversary for several years after that license to see if the dates work for the story.  It might give you a date, it might not.

Second, call and ask Allegheny County this question, "Once a couple applied for a marriage license, was there a time limit that they could use it, say a few months or a year or two, before they would have to apply again?  (This could vary by location, so anyone else reading this, call the location)

Three, check city directories and or census or possibly Social Security APPLICATION, to try and figure out about where they were living.  Then check to see what churches might have been in the area.  Additionally, if the area is right next to another county, then maybe they married in another county.  So you also want to ask, "In PA, if a couple got a marriage license in Allegheny County, could they use it in Washington County?"

Four, If they likely married Catholic, call the CATHOLIC DIOCESE ARCHIVES and ask them if they have records of marriages.  Explain that the CIVIL RECORD does not include evidence that the marriage actually occurred.  Possibly the actual PARISH still has records, but with so many churches closing, I'll bet on the archives first, especially if you cannot be sure of the church.

LINK! http://diopitt.org/department-chancellor/office-archives-and-record-center

I hope this helps!