Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Byker-Hill for Tenth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge

This post is written as a submission for Bill West's Tenth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge at West in New England.  This Bill's challenge.
Find a poem by a  poet, famous or obscure, about the region
one of your ancestors lived in.  It can be about an historical event, a
legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river) or a local
animal....  0r, if you prefer, post the lyrics of a song or a link to a
video of someone performing the song.
 Bill will publish all contributions on his blog on Thanksgiving Day, November 22. 

While researching the town of Byker-Hill (or Byker Hill or just Byker), in Northumberland, England, where my coal mining ancestors lived, I came upon a Wikipedia entry which led me to a song by that title.  It should have been no surprise that it was about coal miners.  The nearest I could come to learning its origin was that it was a folk song, written in the early 1800s.  It's probable that my Doyle and Laws ancestors heard and perhaps even sang "Byker Hill."  I share this in honor of the men in those two families who were all "collier lads."  (Sing along if you like:  the lyrics are below the video.)

            Byker Hill

            If I had another penny
            I would have another gill
            I would make the piper play
            The Bonny Lass of Byker Hill

            Byker Hill and Walker Shore
            Collier lads for ever more
            Byker Hill and Walker Shore
            Collier lads for ever more

            When first I come down to the dirt
            I had no trousers and no pit shirt
            Now I've gottin' two or three
            Oh Walker Pit's done well by me.


            The pitman and the keelman trim
            They drink bumble made from gin
            Then to dance they do begin
            To the tune of Elsie Marley


            Geordie Charlton had a pig
            He hit it with a shovel and it danced a jig
            All the way to Walker Shore
            To the tune of Elsie Marley


            Oh, gentle Jenny's behind the barn
            With a pint of ale underneath her arm
            A pint of ale underneath her arm
            And she feeds it to the baby


As is true of many folk songs I found three or four variations of lyrics and more than a few extra or alternate verses.  This seems to be a drinking song and perhaps, as the collier lads became more inebriated, the lyrics deteriorated.  You can see several variations here at Mainly Norfolk:  English Folk and Other Good Music


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 5, 2018

An Addition to Our Family Tree

Our newest grandbaby was due today.  But when I awoke on Saturday morning I noticed I had two text messages.  The first came from my daughter, sent at 7:28 a.m. and said, "Headed to hospital."  The second, sent at 9:17 a.m., said,  "Baby boy born 8:39 this morning."   It was accompanied by a photo.

We're welcoming little Noah, the newest bud on our family tree.  We've had conversations and congratulations, welcomes and virtual kisses and hugs plus photos to keep up with his welcome home by his brothers and sister.  Thank goodness for the immediacy of virtual technology!  We'll get to meet him in a few days.

My daughter tells me he's a serious sleeper -- during the day -- but not so much at night.

Isn't this about the easiest way possible to add to a family tree?  No searching, no uncertainty, just a new baby, a new name, a date and location, all provided by the parents.

Welcome, welcome, Noah!  We're looking forward to meeting you, sweet boy.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

All Saints Day, Sociedad, El Salvador

In El Salvador in 1978, Halloween (or All Hallows' Eve) was not celebrated.  The day of celebration was November 1:  All Saints Day, or Dia de los Santos.  We were told it was celebrated as a holiday throughout the country. 

All Saints Day was a happy day for the people of El Salvador because they believed that their dead children had become angels and were in Heaven with the saints.  Nearly every family had at least one little angel to remember and honor.  Though they missed and sorrowed over their little lost ones, they celebrated the child's place in Heaven.

Cross with wreath in Sociedad, El Salvador, decorated for All Saints' Day or Dia de los Santos On the morning of November first, we found vendors in the town square selling both fresh and paper flowers and greenery.  There were beautiful wreaths of fresh jasmine and other flowers.  There were equally beautiful bouquets of crepe paper flowers of all colors and kinds.  They had a beauty all their own because they had been very finely handcrafted by women in the village.

With arms full, there was a long, steady parade of people going to the graveyard that morning.  Families walked together -- all the families of the village, it seemed -- with their flowers and wreaths; with shovels, rakes, machetes, and other tools; with paint and paintbrushes.  At the cemetery they cleaned the gravesites and chopped the grass.  They repaired and painted the wooden crosses or put new ones on the graves.  Then they added the wreaths and flowers for their dear infant-angels.  Tears were shed, prayers offered, and memories shared while at the gravesites.

Going to the cemetery was a beautiful and unique experience, but we were to learn that All Saints' Day was not over and neither was the celebration of the day.

Children with candles on church steps for All Saints Day or Dia de los Santos in Sociedad, El SalvadorThe children celebrated the evening of All Saints' Day by begging door to door for pennies or pieces of cooked squash.  They were happy to be given either.  The squash they ate.  The pennies they used to buy candles which they took to the entrance of the church and lit.  Taking turns, several children kept vigil with the lit candles while others continued to beg.  As candles burned low and went out, the children replaced them with new ones.  It was a beautiful sight.  There was a peaceful serenity, an unselfishness to the evening celebration of the children's own making.  As far as I could tell no adults were involved other than giving squash or pennies and keeping the little shops open to sell candles.  The families in the community were generally very poor and any celebration was looked upon with eagerness.

November 2 was Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Difuntos.  It was a much quieter day without celebration of any kind.  On this day they remembered the adult family members who had died by offering prayers in their behalf.  Prayers were needed because they didn't know if the adults had gone to Heaven or not. 

Halloween is my least favorite holiday and I generally ignore it (except for buying candy on sale the day after).  I think the celebration in El Salvador changed my perspective.


Copyright ©2013-2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Monday, October 29, 2018

It's Not a Rabbit Hole when It's Mytreeitis

FamilySearch sends me notices when someone has changed one of my ancestors an individual in a family I'm working on in FamilySearch.  Of course, I can't just let it go.  I must check and see what's been done, no matter that I'm not currently working on that individual or family. 

(On my mytreeitis soapbox here:  I'm fine when people add information and sources to clarify and give detail to an individual on Family Tree.  I'm not happy when people delete information I've added, delete people I've added, or merge people I've added.  (I already spend too much time researching to be sure the person should be added in the first place.)  I'm especially not happy when people use an 1850, 1860, or 1870 census to add relationships that may not exist, particularly parents and parents-in-law.  Let's do more research, folks, before claiming an individual as a parent when no indication of parentage exists in a record, especially before adding the relationship to a public tree.  In fact, let's do more research in general before adding or attaching individuals in Family Tree.  Rant over, stepping down from my soapbox.)

The person in question this time is Jacob Saylor (with spelling variations including Sailer, Sailor, Seyler, etc.).

The ID number for the Jacob Saylor is LHNJ-6FD.  He is the father of Catherine (Saylor) Froman.  Whoever made changes merged this Jacob with another, giving Jacob a new ID number.  Some of the attached information was correct but not all.  I know that because I had to compare my own sources with the sources attached to Jacob.  It almost felt like going down a rabbit hole but in search of what I already knew but didn't remember.  I "resurrected" Jacob Saylor, LHNJ-6FD.  We'll see how that goes. 

Another researcher attached parents to Jacob Saylor's daughter, Catherine, ID 9K6G-YFP.  The attached resource was for a New Jersey marriage between Catherine Sailor and S. M. Denney.  The bride's parents' first names, Jacob and Elizabeth, were correct but Catherine did not marry S. M. Denney and neither she nor her parents, Jacob and Elizabeth (Shaefer) Saylor, lived in New Jersey.  And I didn't even look at dates....  Catherine married John Froman, became a widow in 1870, died as Catherine Froman, and was buried in Sandy Lake Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

Some things I've learned from this experience
  • Check the "watch" star for direct-line ancestors on Family Tree to receive notifications of changes to the individuals.
  • When FamilySearch sends notices of changes in Family Tree, check them.
  • Attach a source to an individual in Family Tree as soon as possible (after doing whatever is necessary to confirm it's the correct individual). 
  • Ask RootsMagic to add Family Tree ID numbers to ancestors and use them to compare to any changes on Family Tree.
  • When others have added individuals and sources to Family Tree look at them as possibilities to further your own research.

Do you ever have problems with Family Tree?  Do you ever end up down a rabbit hole confirming  others' additions?  Do you have mytreeitis?


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Walking to School, Riding the Bus

For last night's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun at Genea-Musings, Randy offered this question:
How did you get to your school(s) through high school?

The timing for this topic couldn't have been better.  My husband and I were just talking about the schools we attended in our respective towns.  I thought it strange that I attended two schools twice during different years.

I lived in the village of Mineral Ridge my whole life.  Because the Ridge was too small to have a city school, the local school was part of the Weathersfield Township Local School District in Trumbull County, Ohio.  The school I first attended, Mineral Ridge School, included all grades and was in the center of Mineral Ridge.

Mineral Ridge High School
The children and teens who lived in the Ridge walked to school (and the students who lived in other parts of the township arrived by bus).  If there hadn't been buildings in the way, I could have seen the school from my front porch.  Our house was the second on the north side of Furnace Street, so I walked up Furnace Street toward Main, turned left to walk past the Methodist Church, crossed Morris Street, passed Isaly's Dairy (all to my left as I walked), crossed Main Street, and I was at school.

Evansville School
I attended Mineral Ridge School through third grade.  I assume Mineral Ridge and the township had an increase in students because a new elementary school was being built but it wasn't ready by the time we began fourth grade.  For the first part of fourth grade I went to Evansville School, another township school not too far away.  To arrive there I first walked to Mineral Ridge School, then boarded a school bus and traveled the several miles to Evansville School. 

Sometime in the middle of fourth grade the new Seaborn Elementary School was completed and we began attending that school after Christmas holiday.  Once again I had to walk to (what was now called) Mineral Ridge High School to catch the bus to the new elementary school.  Seaborn was probably less than a mile from my home, not far from the end of Furnace Street, but I suppose farmers didn't want us walking through their fields to take the direct route.  Neither did our moms, I'm sure.  Hence, we rode the school bus.

For seventh and eighth grades we returned to Evansville School and, again, rode the bus.

From ninth through twelfth grades I attended Mineral Ridge High School and I walked to and from school.

All of the schools I attended from first through twelfth grade, from 1956 to 1968, have been demolished.  Seaborn Elementary survived less than 60 years. 


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Parting Ways with My Ancestors

Sometimes my ancestors and I part ways for a while.  That happened in September when there were too many real life experiences happening (my husband's foot surgery, a new 20-hour-per-week calling at church, a coming grandbaby who needs a quilt made by his gramma, etc.) requiring my time and attention.  I just couldn't fit family history into my life.  It was too full!  Usually my ancestors' lives are somehow connected to and a part my own, even if only thinking of where to search next or imagining theirs lives, but occasionally I have to let them rest while living my life takes precedence over searching for them and their lives.  I imagine them watching from afar, cheering me on while hoping I'll get back to them soon.

Before I left my ancestors in September I was searching for more information about my Doyle ancestors in England in the early to mid-1800s and in Pennsylvania in the mid-to late-1800s.  The paper copies of documents I'd printed and purchased looked like this, a nice stack several inches high, piled into a notebook.  Each paper has a name and a source and many have additional notes.  Sadly they are not organized other than by surname -- well, two surnames; or maybe three.  But they're all related, the Doyles, Laws, and Reays.

I can almost hear readers who prefer digital saying, "That stack of papers is exactly why I use digital images instead of paper."  To which I would respond, we all have our own preferences but I can assure you that my digital copies for these individuals don't look too much better than these paper ones.

Things got worse when I spread out the papers to sort and organize them.  I had printed the results of searches from the U.K.'s birth, marriage, and death indexes at FreeBMD, Find My Past, and FamilySearch.  I'd also printed indexed church transcriptions from U.K.'s FreeReg and FamilySearch.  And there are transcriptions for a number of families from the 1841 through 1881 U.K. censuses, not to mention 1870 through 1920 U.S. census records.  And, of course, there are the copies of records I received from U.K. GRO.  A treasure trove of Doyle records and notes!  Many of the records have been transcribed into my word processing program but few have been added to RootsMagic.

To make progress on these papers there are some things I need to do.
> Sort them by individual, where possible (not possible with census records)
> Sort them into families
> Note names, relationships, ages, locations, etc.
> Compare information
> Evaluate the information and relationships
> Transcribe (if not already done)
> Add to RootsMagic

The lesson I need to learn is to sort, organize, and file documents when I find them.  On the other hand, having found several documents does not confirm that they are the correct people to add to my family tree.  Sometimes it seems like a delicate balance.

For the sake of conversation and my curiosity, do you ever find yourself with a pile of papers (or digital images) that need sorting and organizing?  If so, what steps do you take?  And do you ever part ways with your ancestors?

I don't like parting ways with my ancestors and hope it doesn't happen again for a while and never for as long as a month!


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Trio of Earliest Memories - Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings regularly hosts Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.  This week's assignment, suggested by Janice Sellers, is to answer the following questions.  Thanks for hosting, Randy, and thanks for the idea, Janice.
1) What is your earliest memory?  How old were you, where did you live, who are the characters in your memory?

It's hard to know which of these memories is the earliest but it's possible and likely that I was younger in the first than in the other two accounts.

My mom did not seem a particularly maternal mother.  It was almost as though she had some discomfort touching me.  I remember being little -- maybe two, maybe three years old -- wearing a one-piece footed sleeper, and I'd been crying.  Mom was sitting in a rocking chair, holding me and rocking.  She was wearing cologne (which I might recognize if I smelled it but cannot describe), and was dressed up, maybe ready to go out for the evening.  She was either trying to comfort me or just trying to get me to quit crying.  I had a sense of her unease, almost discomfort.  It's just a wisp of a memory.

I have a vague, nebulous memory of awaking in a crib, climbing over the side, and going downstairs to the living room in our home on Furnace Street in Mineral Ridge.  Surely I was three years old or younger.  It must have been a late afternoon in mid or late fall because I remember that the windows and doors were closed and the house was warm.  I can't remember who was in the living room but I think they were surprised that I'd gotten out of the crib and come down the stairs.  I especially remember the golden glow of the setting autumn sun coming through our living room window. 

Another memory from about the same time is of my mom cleaning the living room.  She had moved the furniture to the center of the room so she could dust the baseboards and clean the floor.  My father was repairing a watch at his roll-top desk in the adjoining room.  I was sitting on the edge of the couch, possibly playing with a doll.  My father came into the room, picked me up, and put me over his knees.  He told me that since it was my third birthday he would spank me three times, which he did.  Then he stood me up and give me a large coin, probably a half dollar or a silver dollar.

I think it's strange and interesting how little strands of events, sometimes the most mundane, common events, stay in our memory, while some of the most important events seem to have been completely erased.  It's also strange how the events before and after the memory don't exist in my mind.

Thanks for the genealogy fun, Randy.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Monday, September 3, 2018

The Work of My Ancestors

I'm thinking of my ancestors on this Labor Day.  They worked most days of their lives while today most of us have had a day of leisure.  I liked this quote by D. Todd Christofferson suggesting the need for both. 
Just as honest toil gives rest its sweetness, wholesome recreation is the friend and steadying companion of work.

In honor of this year's holiday I compiled a list of occupations, professions, and employment of my ancestors through my great-great-grandparents.  It was interesting to see the collective results of the list.

Lee Doyle, 1913-1987:  coal miner, farmer, steel mill worker, insurance salesman, clock repairer and jeweler, clock builder, handyman
Audrey (Meinzen) Doyle, 1915-1997:  nurse, house keeper

Gust Doyle, 1888-1933:  farmer, coal miner
Beulah Mae (Gerner) Doyle, 1888-1913:  milliner, house keeper

W. C. Robert Meinzen, 1892-1979:  barber, electrician
Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen, 1893-1973:  house keeper

William Doyle, 1863-1941:  coal miner, farmer
Tressa (Froman) Doyle, 1867-1936:  house keeper

Frederick K. Gerner, ~1848-1926:  farmer
Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, 1954-1943:  house keeper, midwife

Henry Carl Meinzen, 1837-1926:  carpenter, gardener, confectionery shop owner
Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen, 1852-1920:  house keeper

Edward Jesse Bickerstaff, 1871-1945:  carpenter
Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff:  1872-1940:  house keeper

Andrew Doyle, 1836-1908:  coal miner, grocer
Elizabeth (Laws) Doyle, 1845-1910:  house keeper

John Froman, 1841-1871:  coal miner
Catherine (Saylor) Froman, 1844-1928:  house keeper

Christian Gerner, ~1820-1899:  farmer
Elizabeth (Stahl?) Gerner, uncertain dates:  house keeper

Dixon Bartley, ~1806-1900:  farmer, wagon maker
Rebecca (Smith) Bartley, 1820-1899:  house keeper

Abel Armitage, 1821- after 1881:  coal miner
Eliza (Hartley) Armitage, 1813-1856:  house keeper

Ellis H. Bickerstaff, 1840-1907:  carpenter
Virginia (Nelson) Bickerstaff, ~1846-1878:  house keeper

John Thomas Thompson, ~1850-1923:  laborer
Lydia (Bell) Thompson, 1851-1930:  keeping home

Except for a smattering of other occupations, the work of my male ancestors generally falls into two major categories:

     >  those who provided food, the farmers, and
     >  those who provided fuel, the coal miners
It's interesting to me that one group worked in the light of day, the other group worked below ground in the darkness of the earth.  What a contrast!

Of course all of my female ancestors were homemakers at least part of their lives.  I believe women get short shrift when it comes to the work of keeping a home.  Their work was different than those of the men and had more variety throughout a day or season but was no less laborious.  And the hours were often longer, at least in days of yore before labor-saving conveniences.

I hope you have or had a great Labor Day.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Friday, August 24, 2018

An Indexed Record ≠ a Source Document

There are indexes and there are indexes.  Some link to images of actual documents.  Some tell you where to find the actual document without linking to it.

When I find an ancestor in an index that's not connected to an image of a document, I print the indexed results and then try to obtain a copy of the document. 

Commonly used indexes, among many others, at FamilySearch are
> England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008
> England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005
> England and Wales Death Registration Index, 1837-2007

When I search one of these records I get results that look similar to the ones in the photo, above, and those below.

In this instance I searched for Jane Doyle, location of death as Northumberland, date of death between 1850 and 1865.  There are four individuals named Jane Doyle in the results, all meeting the criteria I requested.  Any of them could be (or could not be) the person I'm trying to find.  When I click on one of them I'm taken to a screen that looks like this one, below.

The only information in this record is name; quarter of death; location of death; and the reference to the actual source document in the U.K. GRO Index.  This is not an image of the actual document and does not give enough information to determine whether this is the ancestor I'm seeking.  No family members are named nor is any other specific information given. 

You'll notice that FamilySearch gives a citation for this record and offers me the opportunity to attach it to an individual in Family Tree.  But this is only an index result, not a document that helps me know whether this is my ancestor or not.  Until I order the document there is not enough information to tell whether this may be my ancestor or not.  I do not want to save this record to an individual in FamilySearch's Family Tree, order the record, and find out it isn't for the person I thought.  I'd rather wait until I know for sure, then attach this as a record along with a transcription of the document. 

These are the steps I recommend when when searching an index that does not link to an image of a document:
  1. Search the index and when you find a possible ancestor
  2. Record the information (in your research log or as a note in your personal genealogy program) and use it to
  3. Find a copy of the original document.
  4. Evaluate the information in the document and if you decide it's your ancestor
  5. Record the information in your personal genealogy program.
  6. Include a source citation and a transcription of the record in your genealogy program.

I love indexes but if I assume a person I find in an index is my ancestor without actually seeing the document I could go far astray.  An indexed record is not the same as a source document.

How about you?  Do you cite the results of index searches as documents?


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Monday, August 13, 2018

Dealing with an Impasse in Research

When I come upon an impasse in a family history search I often fall back and consider possibilities.  I prefer to call it an impasse — just a little hitch in progress until I figure out the next step, the next place to search for a solution. 

First, I consider all the records I have — civil (census, birth, death, etc.), parish, undocumented family records, and any others — and ask myself
  • Have I carefully reviewed every document for every scrap of information?
  • Have I missed anything in those documents and, if so, what?
  • Did I misunderstand or misread some record or some information given to me?
  • Was any of the information I received transcribed from another document/record else and, if so, how many times had it been transcribed from the original (knowing that every transcription allows for further misinformation to be passed along)?
  • Which information that I've received might be inaccurate?  Undocumented family records are high on this list.
Next I consider the possibilities.
  • If there was a feet to register the birth to create a civil document, might the event have been registered later than it actually happened and given a date within the registration deadline?  I can imagine this could happen if the registrants didn't have money to pay the fee at the time of the event.
  • If a child was born out of wedlock, might that have prevented the baby from being baptized/christened?  If so, there would be no parish record for the event.
  • If a child was born out of wedlock, was his surname listed as the mother's maiden name, or the father's surname?
  • If the child was born out of wedlock, was the child's birth require civil registration?
  • If the parents moved (or the county boundaries moved) between the time of their marriage and the birth of any of their children, which locations would need to be checked?

My Current Impasse
I am unable to find a birth or baptismal/christening record for William Doyle. 

Andrew and Elizabeth (Laws) Doyle married on November 14, 1863, according to their U.K. GRO marriage record.  By the same record they had both been living in North Seaton and married in the parish church, Woodhorn Church (St. Mary the Virgin, according to FreeReg transcriptions), in Northumberland. 

According to family records, their first son, William, was born on March 3, 1863, in Bedlington, Northumberland, 8 months before his parents were married.   However, also according to family records, his parents married on November 11, 1861 (instead of the date given on the civil record).

Considerations and Questions regarding this family
  • Did Andrew and Elizabeth forget the actual date of their marriage or did they fudge the 1861 date so William would have appeared to have been born after they married?  I find it hard to argue with both a civil and church document that give the same date of November 14, 1863.
  • If he was born before they married, would his civil registration be as William Laws or William Doyle?
  • Where were they living when William was born?  I began with a search of Northumberland then expanded it to Durham (though all information I have suggests they did not leave Northumberland until they emigrated).
  • Did his parents even register William's birth or have him baptized/christened?  

Further Thoughts
It's unfortunate that Andrew and Elizabeth and their family appear in no U.K. Census record.  They married, had children, and emigrated between the 1861 and 1871 censuses.  They do not appear in the 1870 U.S. Census:  Andrew arrived in late 1869 but was not a citizen.  (There is a 30-year-old Andrew Doyle in Philadelphia in 1870, apparently in a boarding house.  There are no identifiers other than a name.  My Andrew would have been 34 in 1870.)  His family didn't arrive in the U.S. until October, 1870.

U.K. GRO birth registration indexes tell me the probable birth locations of William's younger siblings were Morpeth in 1864, Alnwick in 1866, and back to Morpeth in 1868.  At FreeReg I can find no indication that there were parish records of their births.  (That is not to say that there aren't any since FreeReg has not yet transcribed all parish records.)

My biggest concern is this:  Does the lack of a birth record for William Doyle negate the relationships to parents, grand-parents, etc.?  William is listed as the son of Andrew and Elizabeth in the 1880 U.S. Census.

What do you do when this happens to you?  Do you have any other search strategies?


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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