Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Accounting for February - the To Do List

All things considered, I think February was a successful month even though I didn't complete everything I intended to do. I'll post March's to do list in a day or two.

Below are my accomplishments (or not) for the month:

Post my to do list at the beginning of the month and my successes (or lack thereof) at the end of the month

Watch one RootsMagic webinar and put what I learn to use (from January)
undone - for the second month in a row

Transcribe at least one page of Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Pension File (carried over from January). In total I scanned and transcribed 7 documents, combined into 2 posts.

Rename and organize at least one batch of photographs (20-50 images scanned on the same date)
  • Feb. 29 - barely done in time to attribute to this month

Participate in Abundant Genealogy at least two weeks in the month

Share one Tuesday's Tip

Publish one Surname Saturday post. This will be an irregularly updated list of surnames and surname variations

Continue my educational efforts

Also completed

Monday, February 27, 2012

If You Know Where They Lived in 1940...

... it will be easier for you to find your family and ancestors in the 1940 U.S. Census. It may not be easy but it will be easier.

If you know the state, county, town/city, and street name, the maps at 1940 U.S. Federal Census ( will help you find the enumeration district (E.D.). With the E.D. at hand, you will be able to browse the census images which will be available on April 2, 2012.

--->Don't confuse 1940 U.S. Federal Census with the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project. The two are completely different websites.<---

My parents lived most of their married lives in Mineral Ridge, Trumbull County, Ohio. I just recently learned that the little village of Mineral Ridge crossed the boundaries of two counties: Trumbull and Mahoning. I'm also in the situation of having parents who married in 1939. I know they lived in Niles and in Warren after they married but I don't know when they bought their home in Mineral Ridge. If they're not in the Ridge in 1940, I'll be looking for them in the two other cities.

Below, on the left is Trumbull County, on the right is Mahoning County. You can see the outline of the Ridge in both. Although in two different counties, the E. D. is the same for the whole village.

Not all census maps are created equal. The one for Mineral Ridge has only the main thoroughfares named. It's unimportant since the village of Mineral Ridge is all in the same E.D. On the maps of large towns and cities which have many enumeration districts the street names appear. If your ancestor lived on a named street in a large town or city you'll probably be able to find it on a map and identify the E.D.

Please note that after you click "Get ED Map Images" the next screen that opens may give you a list of two or more maps to view. You may need to look at more than one to find the street you're searching for.

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When the 1940 Census becomes available on April 2, it will not be indexed. If we have no idea where our ancestors lived, we'll have little hope of finding them until the census is indexed. I encourage you to help index at the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project. You'll help yourself and help others, too.


I Wish I Was 18 Again

Three facts, and then the story:
  1. My dad, Lee Doyle, claimed he couldn't sing, couldn't carry a tune. I saw his mouth move while everyone else sang hymns at church but I never heard him sing.
  2. Dad was very strict with my siblings and me but with the grandchildren he was much more lenient. His first two grandchildren were twins, Jeff and Holly, who lived not far from my parents' home. The twins visited frequently and both Holly and Jeff had Dad wrapped around their little fingers.
  3. After Dad retired he bought a motor home and he and my mother traveled, sometimes spending several months of the winters in Florida or Texas. Occasionally they went on shorter outings and took Holly or Jeff.
Holly has always been vivacious with a joyful spirit and a great sense of humor. She told me the following story about an event that took place when she was young and spent a weekend with her grandparents (my mom and dad) in their motor home.

One evening they were all settled into their beds but no one was asleep. Holly suggested they play Truth or Dare until sleep came. (Only Holly could get my father to play a game like this.) Holly remembers asking Dad, "Truth or dare?" to which Dad replied, "Dare." He was always one to keep his life private and who could guess what kind of a question might come out of the mouth of a granddaughter with a sense of humor. Dare was the safer of the two responses.

Holly's dare? Sing "I Wish I Was 18 Again." Only Holly would come up with a dare like this! And Dad sang despite his claim to be unable to sing! Holly said he knew the words and sang the song pretty well, too.

My father had a sense of humor but when I remember him it is as a serious man. It's a pleasure to know, through this second-hand memory, that my father was willing to play this game with his granddaughter, take a dare, and sing when he claimed he couldn't.

"I Wish I Was 18 Again" was written by Sonny Throckmorton in about 1979 and was recorded by George Burns at about that time.

Today would be my father's 99th birthday if he were still here. Happy Birthday, Dad!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

RAOGK: The Bible of Wells Rogers

This is a Random Act of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) for a friend who is seeking descendants of the family of Wells Rogers, born about 1829 in New York. She found his Bible among her mother's things and would like to learn if her own family is related to Wells's family. She's done some research but hasn't yet made a connection. I suggested posting the Bible to see if anyone else might be searching and find the photographs here. So that's what we're doing. Unfortunately, the Bible does not have family history pages.

This is the information she's collected thus far:
Wells's parents were Hiram Rogers, b. 1795 and Cynthia.
His grandparents were Eliphalet Rogers, b. 1764 and Irene.
Wells Rogers married Henrietta, b. 1837.
Their children include Harriet Rogers, b. 1857; Mackintire, b. 1859; Marie, b. 1867; and Nelly J., b. 1878.
Wells's son, Mackintire, married Katherine and they had a daughter, Harriet J. in 1889.

If you are searching the Rogers family in Ohio or New York, please leave a comment on this post.

Click on any of the photos in this post to see them larger. When finished, press the return arrow in your browser to come back to this post.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

1940 U.S. Census Ambassador

Are you getting excited about the release of the 1940 U.S. Census? I am. It wasn't until I learned what the questions in the census were that I began to realize the wealth of information I will find (if the census taker took care of his assignment) about several generations of my family: that of my parents, that of my great-grandparents, and my great-great-grandmother. Exciting!

Did you know that there's a 1940s U.S. Census Blog? You can read some fun and interesting posts about the census and about the 1940s. That generation had survived and was just coming out of the Great Depression but had not yet become involved in World War II. From afar they watched changes in European countries, including Hitler's take-over of numerous countries from the mid-1930s on. What must they have wondered and thought?

I'll be posting more about The 1940 Census in the coming days and weeks. As of Saturday, February 25, there are just 37 more days until the Census is released.

Genealogy Collections at Local Libraries - Abundant Genealogy Week 8

During the early months of my genealogy efforts I learned that the State Library of Ohio had a genealogy section. It contained genealogy books for Ohio, of course, but also for all the other states. Some states had books for every county. The library also offered some online databases free of charge.

Just as I was learning my way around the holdings of the library and getting ready to delve into its resources, I learned that Ohio legislators had decided that the State Library of Ohio was no place for genealogy research. All the books were removed and the online databases cancelled. What a shock. The library was a very comfortable place to research.

Hallelujah, though! All books (unless there were multiple copies) were moved to the downtown building of the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML). The library already had part of a floor devoted to genealogy research. The collection from the State Library increased CML's collection, which also offers the same online databases at no cost to patrons.

CML has extensive resources for the City of Columbus and for Franklin County, including many newspapers on microfilm. They have books for every state and many of the counties in those states. There are collections to support research in other countries, though they fewer in number than the local and states collections. They have other general history and research books which are available for loan. I found it a great place to begin searching.

I especially like the fact that all the books are on the shelves and open to patrons. I can search by call number or browse if I choose. They have helpful and knowledgeable staff members who can answer questions and find resources when the need arises.

The Columbus Metropolitan catalog is available online where you can search by title, author or subject and offers a link to the library's main webpage where you can find hours of operation, phone number, etc.

- o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o -

The Archives Library of the State of Ohio is housed at the Ohio Historical Society. It's a larger library than CML but most of their books, pamphlets, and other holdings are hidden from view. They must be paged after finding the call number, filling out a request card, and turning it in at the desk. I find their online catalog less than user-friendly.

The resources that are readily accessible include city directories for cities throughout Ohio from time periods as early as the mid-1800s through the late 1900s. Also easily accessible are county histories and books of transcriptions of county records.

They have an extensive microfilm collection. I've found deed indexes, government records, and newspapers. Their newspaper collection comprises more than half of their microfilm collection. It includes dates beginning from about the time the state was formed through the late 1900s, for cities and towns throughout Ohio. I know many newspapers are available online now, searchable with OCR (optical character recognition), but it seems that many of the newspapers from the areas where my families lived in Ohio are not yet online. So I trek to OHS and search the newspapers there. They also have paper copies of some newspapers.

There is no charge to use this library. At the Archives Library's website you can find more information about the holdings available there.

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This post was written to participate in Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy which is hosted on Geneabloggers. The theme will change weekly and may be posted any day of the week. I invite you to join in if you'd like.

This week's theme was Genealogy Libraries: Genealogy libraries (and dedicated departments in regular libraries) are true treasures in the family history community. Tell us about your favorite genealogy library. What or who makes it special?


Friday, February 24, 2012

A Postive Attitude - a Friday Funny

Last Saturday when I went to the archives library I made several mistakes.

In transcribing an obituary from a 1950s newspaper I had my pad of paper on top of the newspaper as I wrote. The young librarian sweetly cautioned me that the papers were old and that I shouldn't put anything on top of them.

I then asked about whether I could use a camera. I was given a sheet of instructions with a space to sign at the bottom and I retrieved my camera from the locker. When I turned it on to photograph a death notice in the same newspaper I forgot to switch the camera from its automatic lighting position to no flash. I was sweetly reminded by the same librarian that no flash was allowed.

When I went back this week the same sweet librarian was at the counter. Thinking that she probably recognized me and remembered my mistakes from last week, I told her that I hoped to "stay out of trouble" this week. She sweetly and smilingly said, "Oh, I'm sure we'll have to remind you about several things this week, too."

I was positive I would do better. She seemed just as positive -- in a negative sort of way -- that I wouldn't.

When I next go I will either stay away from that librarian or hope that it's been long enough between visits that she's forgotten me. (And I suppose I should review a list of dos and don'ts for public archival material.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Historical Documents - Abundant Genealogy Week 7

You will no doubt be surprised to read that I consider this tattered, crumbling paper my most precious historical document. It is a church marriage certificate for my paternal great-grandparents, William Doyle and Tressa Rose Froman. They were married in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania, on March 17, 1885.

This document is interesting because my great-grandmother's name is written as "Rose Froman." The name by which family generally knew her was Tressa or Tressa Rose. She was listed as Rose in one census record but when I asked my father's half-sister, Tressa, she said she never went by Rose, always by Tressa. So now we know that at one time my great-grandmother called herself Rose.

The certificate was given to me by my mother. I don't know who first rolled it but it has been rolled up, wrapped in tissue paper, and stored in a heavy cardboard tube where it doesn't get bumped or flattened. It was crumbling before she gave it to me and crumbled even more when she opened it to show me what it was. It is about 14" wide and maybe 20" long (guessing by the number of layers in the roll and the distance around one layer).

Small photographs of William and Tressa, nestled behind oval openings, once graced the document. They were removed before it was rolled. At right you can just barely see the shadow of an oval on Tressa's photograph. In the top photograph you can see where the ovals were cut out of the certificate.

Either my mother or my Aunt Tressa had the original photographs and loaned them to me to make copies. Unfortunately it was in the days before digital cameras or scanners. I made color photocopies. If Mom had the photos, they are probably with my brother or sister. If Aunt Tressa had the photos, they are probably with one of her daughters.

I would like to save this document but I don't know where or how to begin. I would like to see all the pieces of crumbling paper plus the photographs put back together, protected and safe. I believe I would make a copy and hang it in my home. If any readers know of archival restoration experts in Central Ohio, please leave a comment.

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This post was written to participate in Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy which is hosted on Geneabloggers. The theme will change weekly and may be posted any day of the week. I invite you to join in if you'd like.

This week's theme was Historical Documents: Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have? How did you acquire this item? What does it reveal about your ancestors?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pennsylvania Certificates Online - Tuesday's Tip

Hooray for Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania for making some of Pennsylvania's birth and death certificates available to the public. What a boon to family historians. It's only been a week or so since they went public but the Pennsylvania Vital Records office is probably inundated with requests. I know I've sent for five death certificates already and I've just started. I think I'll give them a break from more requests from me for a month or two.

Did anyone else get lost trying to find the non-certified certificates page? I went directly there from the link at Claudia's Genealogy Blog. When I went back a day or so later I ended up at the site where one can request certified copies for $9.00 each. As a family historian I'm happy with the $3.00 version of the records. I thought I'd share step-by-step images and links for anyone else who wants to order Pennsylvania Birth or Death Certificates.

This page explains how to search; has links to the indexes; gives information about downloading and completing the order form; and gives the address where to send it. These certificates are non-certified and cost $3.00 each.
Act 110 - Public Records.

If you click on the link for births on the screen above, you'll be taken to a screen that looks like the one at left.
Public Records - Birth Indices.

If you click on the link for death indices at the Act 110 - Public Records screen, you'll go to a screen that looks like this. Click on the year the person died. If you don't know the year, begin with a reasonable guess & keep track of which years you searched.
Public Records - Death Indices

When you click on a year the next screen you see will give you an alphabetical option. Choose based on the last name of the person whose certificate you're hoping to find. (This is a screenshot for 1926.)
1926 Alphabetic Surname choices

After you click on the letter you'd like to search, be patient. The files are large and may take a minute or so to download. Use the column on the left to take you closer to the surname you're searching. If you don't find your surname immediately remember to check for spelling variations. (My Gerner was Gener.)

The "Genealogy Requests" screen is for certified copies and the cost is $9.00. Unless you need a certified copy, click "Public Records" under "Birth and Death Certificates" in the column on the left to  download the form to request a non-certified death certificate.

Have fun searching. I hope you find everyone you're looking for and that all your certificates give the parents' names and places of birth.


Conclusions and The Genealogical Proof Standard

I found the discussion on Susan Clark's Nolichucky Roots post, Sweating the Details, where she mentioned posts by Russ Worthington, When to enter data into your genealogy software?, and by Randy Seaver, Events, Assertions, Evidence, Fact, Sources, Analysis, Conclusions, Software, Oh My! But Michael Hait of Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession started it all with his blog post, What is a conclusion? What he started is a discussion of The Genealogy Proof Standard; what and how we interpret the results of our research; and how we evaluate and reach conclusions based on those findings. If you'd like, you can read all of those posts and the comments by clicking on the links, which will open into a new window in your browser.

Genealogy and family history are more than a hobby to me but I'm not a professional genealogist nor do I aspire to that worthy profession. And yet I'd like to become a better family historian. I'd like to think that what I leave behind for my descendants is a well-researched, well-documented genealogy with as little ambiguity or uncertainty as possible, possibly even worth the approval of a professional genealogist. I don't want to attach my name to a slap-dash family tree like some I've seen. Let's just say the details are important to me.

This discussion, which I read yesterday, spurred me to look again at The Genealogical Proof Standard at the website of the Board for Certification of Genealogists to evaluate my own research efforts, see what I've overlooked or omitted, and learn how I can improve.

The purpose of The Genealogical Proof Standard is to improve credibility of conclusions. Below are the elements of The Standard and, after bullets under each, the contribution to credibility of each.
Reasonably exhaustive search
  • Assumes examination of a wide range of high quality sources
  • Minimizes the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion
Complete and accurate citation sources
  • Demonstrates the extent of the search and the quality of the sources
  • Allows others to replicate the steps taken to reach the conclusion. (Inability to replicate the research casts doubt on the conclusion.)
Analysis and correlation of the collected information
  • Facilitates sound interpretation of the data contributed by each source
  • Ensures that the conclusion reflects all the evidence
Resolution of conflicting evidence.
  • Substantiates the conclusion's credibility. (If conflicting evidence is not resolved, a credible conclusion is not possible.)
Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion
  • Eliminates the possibility that the conclusion is based on bias, preconception, or inadequate appreciation of the evidence
  • Explains how the evidence led to the conclusion

I've come a long way since accepting as fact the family story of my grandmother dying when my father was two weeks old but there's still plenty of room for improvement.

Thanks to Michael Hait for writing the post, to Susan and Randy for bringing it to my attention, and to Russ for participating in the discussion. I notice that Michael has written 33 other posts relating to The Genealogical Proof Standard. I think I can learn some things from him.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Abel Armitage - Alive Another Year

The last knowledge I had of Abel Armitage was the 1880 U. S. census in which he was 61 years old and disabled.  He was living in Steubenville, Ohio, with his 49-year-old wife, Ann; 3 sons; 1 daughter; two grandsons; one granddaughter; and 2 boarders.  I have been unable to find any record of his or his wife's death.

I am a great-great-grandaughter of Abel through his daughter, Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen; through her son William Carl Robert Meinzen; through his daughter, Audrey Meinzen Doyle.

Another Armitage researcher contacted me last week and sent word of a news article in a Cincinnati newspaper about Abel's wife Ann suing the city of Steubenville in January, 1881.   I made a quick trip to the Ohio Historical Society Archives Library this Saturday with the hope that one of the Steubenville newspapers offered more information than the one in Cincinnati.

Yes!   There were two articles in two different papers.  The suit was filed by both Abel and Ann Armitage, which adds another half year to Abel's life.   The newspapers published the court case as a newsy item, not as a court item, but I noticed that several of the newspapers announced the outcome of another case or two.  I hoped that I would find more about Abel and Ann's case but after searching several subsequent weeks, I found nothing.

My next step for more information?   Court of Common Pleas of Jefferson County, Steubenville, Ohio?

Transcriptions are below:

The Ohio Press (Steubenville), Friday, January 21, 1881, Vol II No. 23, p. 4, col. 2, OHS Microfilm Roll #3026203

"-----Suit entered against city by Abel and Ann Armitage to recover $5,100 damages by reason of injuries sustained by the latter in November last, by falling over a stake set in the gutter on Fifth street-----"

The Steubenville Daily Gazette, Saturday, January 15, 1881, p. 4, col. 2, OHS Microfilm Roll #22103

---W. A. Owesney, Esq., this morning commenced a suit in the Court of Common Pleas for Abel Armitage and Ann, his wife, against the City of Steubenville, to recover damages in the sum of $5,100 which they claim to have sustained by reason of Mrs. Armitage falling on the street and fracturing her left leg above the knee.  They aver that the city negligently permitted a post about ten inches high to stand in the gutter on the West side of Fifth street, and that on the 25th of November last she was passing along the street, slipped on an uneven place and fell on this post resulting in the injury complained of.

Copyright © 2012 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What is Snagged by the Brambles of Time?

After visiting a World War I cemetery filled with the graves of soldiers, Susan Orlean wrote in Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend,
As I drove away in the dusky light, I kept seeing the tailored rows of graves, those tiny repositories of stories that are hardly remembered, all those sad and broken boys resting in the velvet lawn of St. Mihiel, forever.   Almost one hundred years of resting there, enough time to be forgotten, the lives that continued after theirs ended having now filled up the space that opened up when they died, so their absence now has been lacquered over, smoothed out, almost invisible.

What lasts?  What lingers?  What is snagged by the brambles of time, and what slips through and disappears?  What leaves only a little dent in the world, the soft sunken green grave, the scribble on a scrap of paper, the memory that is bleached by time and then vanishes bit by bit each day?

Could it be that we fill out our lives, experience all that we experience, and then simply leave this world and are forgotten?  I can't bear thinking that existence is so insubstantial, a stone thrown in a pond that leaves no ripple.   Maybe all that we do in life is just a race against this idea of disappearing.  Having children, making money, doing good, being in love, building something, discovering something, inventing something, learning something, collecting something, knowing something: these are the pursuits that make us feel like our lives aren't flimsy, that they build up into stories that are about something achieved, grown, found, built, loved, or even lost.

I appreciated Orlean's musings on this topic of what lingers, what lasts, and the substance of life.  Her thoughts ask questions some of us answer, to some extent, by searching for our ancestors, by recording our family history, by writing our own memories, by keeping journals.  Many of us wish that so much more had been snagged by the brambles of time.  We’d have an easier go of discovering and making sense of the lives of those who came before us.   For me, family history is about remembering those who have gone before, about noticing the ripples that circle from their lives to mine.

No, our lives are not flimsy or insubstantial.  I believe the substance of our lives is this:  the things we do and experience will affect us and others with whom we come in contact.  Our experiences, along with the things we learn, become part of who we are – in fact, shape who we are – and will go with us through eternity.  For me, life is not a race against disappearing.  If it's a race at all, it's a race about becoming better than I was yesterday, about doing something positive and worthwhile whether anyone else remembers or not (though it is pleasant to be remembered).  One day in the near or distant future my body, too, will rest under a velvet lawn and though my mortal life will have ended, the substance of my life will continue in another sphere.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Surname Variations

These are some of the surnames I'm researching in my family history. I will continue to update this list as I work on different families.

Below each surname are the spelling variations, the dates found in records, and the location where the ancestor lived at the time.

ARMITAGE (Abel, Elizabeth)
  • Armitage - 1841-1861 Yorkshire, U.K. Censuses; 1880 U.S. Census
  • Harmatage - 1870 U.S. Census, Steubenville, Jefferson, Ohio
  • Armiddage - 1874 final naturalization record, Jefferson County, Ohio
  • Armatage - 1875-76 Steubenville (Jefferson County, Ohio) City Directory

BICKERSTAFF (Augustine, William, Ellis, Edward Jesse, Emma)
  • Bickerstaff - early 1800s-present, Jefferson, Mahoning, & Trumbull Counties, Ohio
  • Biggerstaff - (Ellis) 1890-1907, Civil War Pension File; Jefferson, Mahoning, and Trumbull Counties, Ohio; Alleghany and Westmoreland Counties, Pennsylvania

  • Gener - 1926 - Pennsylvania Death Certificate Index, Butler County, Pennsylvania

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spice Cake, Oat Cookies - from Gramma's Webster's Spelling Recipe Book - Family Recipe Friday

Gramma Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen wrote these recipes in pencil. The paper may have originally been a light off-white color and the handwriting may have been darker, but time has muted the pencil and deepened the paper's color so that the handwriting nearly disappears. On the image you see below the color has been altered so that the handwriting is visible.

There aren't any surprises in these recipes. We rarely use lard these days but it was common in the early 1900s. There are no mixing or baking directions, also common for the time. In the Spice cake recipe she used one large bracket to indicate that the soda and baking powder should be mixed into the flour. When I bake this cake I will omit the nut meats and bake in a 350-degree oven. When I try the cookies I will substitute Crisco for the lard. Gramma may or may not have used Quaker Quick Oats which were introduced in 1922. There's no date on the spelling tablet or on any of the recipes.

I was talking with a friend today about food and cooking. She said someone had come to her home and couldn't figure out what there was to eat because there were no boxes of mixes or other prepared foods; no microwave meals in the freezer; no pre-prepared food at all. My friend makes real food, from scratch. These recipes from Gramma were written when prepared food probably included things like saltine crackers, rolled oats, canned soup, and pre-ground coffee. I still like real food from scratch best.

Spice cake
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 " butter
2 eggs
1 cup sour milk
2 1/2 " [cups] flour
1 teaspoon soda }
1 [teaspoon] B. P. [baking powder] } in flour
1 [teaspoon] cinnamon
1/2 [teaspoon] nutmeg & cloves
1/2 cup nut meats

Oats cookies
2 cups flour
2 [cups] oats
1 [cup] lard
1 [cup] sugar
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1 cup raisens [sic]
1/2 [cup] milk
1 teaspoon soda in milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thoughts on the SSDI

Most family historians and genealogists know what the SSDI is but there are many who visit genealogy blogs who may not know what it is, what has happened to it, and why it's important to keep it publicly accessible. This post is primarily for those readers.

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a list of people who have died who had social security numbers. It tells the name of the person, approximate date of birth, month of death, location where the last benefit was paid, and the social security number. Until recently the SSDI was available publicly, at no cost, on rootsweb and one or two other websites. Family historians used it, banks used it, the IRS should have used it.

Late last year the SSDI was removed from public access. I don't know specific details of its removal but I understand that people have been stealing social security numbers of deceased individuals by claiming them as their own or as those of sons and/or daughters on income tax returns and in various other ways. Cheaters.

If you ever searched for someone who lived or died during the last century, you know how helpful the SSDI can be. If you ever needed to learn the social security number of a deceased family member, you know the importance of the SSDI. We all know that the IRS could create a computer program to search the social security numbers on income tax returns, thereby stopping theft of social security numbers.

The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), a joint committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, National Genealogical Society, and International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, initiated a Stop Identity Theft Now campaign by creating a petition at We the People, Your Voice in Our Government. If you agree that the SSDI, properly used, could be more helpful open than closed, I encourage you to sign the petition. More than 21,000 signatures are needed by March 8.

However, you can do more (and probably better) than just sign the petition. You can write a letter to your U.S. representative and senator and send or fax a copy to Congressman Sam Johnson, chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, where discussion of the future of the SSDI is now taking place. Click here to see a sample letter and use the links to find who your senator and representative are.

Losing the SSDI is one more step away from access to precious documents and records.

If you'd like to learn more about the campaign, please go to SSDI Call to Action at the RPAC website.

Invalid Pension: $8.00/month - Civil War Pension File

While working my way through Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Pension File I realized that most of the documents in the file are ones that Ellis, his attorneys, or doctors sent to the pension office. A few are documents completed and retained by the pension office; it's likely that a few of them are duplicates of ones sent to Ellis.

After Ellis's initial claim request, he was given a pension number which follows his paperwork through the pension file. Every paper has that number, even the earliest papers when he had not yet been approved for a pension for his service in the Civil War.

Ellis was examined by two physicians who submitted affidavits on "Additional Evidence" forms. Dr. W. J. McDowell submitted an affidavit on December 11, 1890, which, in part, reads:

I have personally examined the applicant Ellis H. Biggerstaff of Co. D. 157 Regt, Ohio [illegible] [illegible] on this 10th day of December 1890–

I find him with history and present existence of Catarrhal trouble and chronic bronchial troubles. Symptoms. Headache, discharge from the nose, cough and almost constant throat iritation [sic], and reports constant tendency to take “cold” - Inability to withstand exposure. Has had trouble with his stomach and bowels, – gives history of lung trouble Unable to work any whatever for several months at a time. – There is some dullness on percussion over left lung . – Applicant states that he suffers constantly with his lung –––
I further declare that I have no interest in said case and am not concerned in its prosecution.
Wm. J. McDowell [signature]

Two weeks later, Dr. R. F. Gant examined Ellis and submitted another affidavit in which he stated:
Ellis H. Biggerstaff Personally appeared at my Office for examination for pension. I find the applicant Suffering from Chronic Catarrh and Chronic Bronchitis. The symptoms [illegible] are headache, (almost continuously) discharge from the posterior naries, constant irritation of the naries and throat, with cough and constant secretion from bronchial tubes. Halking [?] and spitting with pains in lungs. Petitioner claimed to have had these troubles for years, incapacitating him to perform manual labor to considerate extent, being obliged to have his work [illegible] indoors in cold or rough weather. Being a carpenter by trade his work necessitates him to be outdoors a good deal of his time in this way is hindrance to some extent in his work. Applicant is a soldier of company (D) 157th Regiment of Ohio State Guards Volunteer.
I further declare that I have no interest in said case and am not concerned in its prosecution.
R. F. Gant, MD [signature]

In a Surgeon's Certificate, form 3--111, the examiner concurs with the findings of the other two physicians. The next document (by date) is "Invalid Pension."

Ellis was awarded a pension of $8.00 per month commencing on July 26, 1890. Ellis began the paperwork to obtain a pension on July 19, 1890, and after 8 1/2 months was finally approved.

The value of $8.00 in 1891 was approximately equivalent to the value of $192.00 in 2010.

(You can click on any image to view it larger. When you're finished looking, click the back arrow on your browser.)

Also about Ellis Bickerstaff's Pension File:
Ordering Civil War Compiled Military Service Records
Reviewing Civil War Compiled Military Service Records
Ordering a Civil War Pension File
His Civil War Pension File Arrived
Civil War Pension File: First View
Civil War Pension File: Inventory
Civil War Pension File: Chronological Overview of Papers Pertaining to Ellis
Claim for Disability Pension - Civil War Pension File

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Musings on Books, Bytes, and Josh Coates

Despite the expanse of a century or more between my ancestors and me, I suspect we share similarities. Speaking of my ancestors living their lives and me living my life.... We experienced and know our own personal pasts because we lived through them. Living through present circumstances, we know how we fit into our own environments though outside our personal environments there are aspects of the present which are beyond our knowledge and understanding. And the future, it seems, is (sometimes far) beyond our imaginations. I particularly felt this way after listening to Josh Coates' keynote address at the Friday morning session of RootsTech two weeks ago.

For those of you who don't know Josh Coates, he is the founder of Mozy, the online data storage back-up company. He knows about data storage, the topic of part of his address. He mentioned clay tablets and disks as early forms of data storage but he spent more time talking about data storage on computers, explaining the various sizes of -bytes and how much data they store.
  • Megabyte (MB): a 300-page book
  • Gigabyte (GB): the human genome, read aloud. It would take almost 10 years to read it.
  • Terabyte (TB): paper equal to 32,000 trees, each 18" in diameter
  • Petabyte (PB): 1,400,000 truckloads of paper with 1 ton of paper on each, or approximately 1 million tons of paper
  • Exabyte (EB): about 30,000,000,000 (30 billion) trees cut down and turned into paper (or, all the trees in the U.S. which are 8" or larger). It would take 105 years to read 1 EB of data reading at 300 MB/second (that is, reading one 300-page book per second).
  • Zettabyte (ZB): equal to all the grains of sand on every beach in the world times 7 if each grain = 1 kilobyte (KB) (According to James S. Huggins' Refrigerator Door, one typewritten page equals two KB.)
When I try to contemplate the need to store even one gigabyte of data it boggles my mind. Yes, I have an 8 GB flash drive but what writing could I put on it to completely fill it? Can I possibly write enough that it would take nearly 10 years to read? How many pages of a journal would I have to fill each day and for how many years to use one GB of storage? At some point in his presentation, Josh Coates said, "This is your life!" My life is not that big or long or interesting. Even if I wrote about all the lives of all of my ancestors, I do not think I could use 1 GB of storage. (Yes, I understand that images use much more space, but I'm just talking about words right now.) Honestly, how much storage space does one person need? After a person dies, what will happen to all the stuff that's been stored?

As I pondered this idea of one person needing to store that much data, I remembered an "article" that had come to me via email in 1998 with the title, "B.O.O.K. - New Technology." It was written before the creation of Nook, Kindle, and so many other portable, electronic devices. You might enjoy the humor.
B.O.O.K. - New Technology

Announcing the new Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge device (BOOK). The BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use even a child can operate it. Just lift its cover!

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere -- even sitting in an armchair by the fire -- yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc. Here's how it works....

Each BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. These pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binding which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs in half. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now BOOKs with more information simply use more pages. This makes them thicker and harder to carry, and has drawn some criticism from the mobile computing crowd.

Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly to your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet. The BOOK may be taken up at any time and used by merely opening it. The BOOK never crashes and never needs rebooting, though like other display devices it can become unusable if dropped overboard. The "browse" features allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows you to open the BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session -- even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous bookmarks can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (Pencils).

Portable, durable, and affordable, the BOOK is being hailed as the entertainment wave of the future. The BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform.

Look for a flood of new titles soon.
Sitting with a book beside me and a keyboard and screen before me, I am in the past, present, and future. With books I am completely comfortable. With bytes, not so much, though I make a dedicated effort to help my brain assimilate this new knowledge. I'm caught in the present, comfortable in my own environment, yet working hard to meet the advances of the future as they become part of my present. How about you?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Eureka! I Found Him!

Or, better said, I found his name (misspelled!) in the online index to Pennsylvania Death Certificates. A few years ago I requested my great-grandfather Fred Gerner's death certificate from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. They took my $17.00 and returned a "No Record Certification" of death saying they couldn't find any record of him. I guessed Fred's surname name was probably misspelled in their indexes.

Tonight when I learned from Claudia's Genealogy Blog that the Pennsylvania Death Index was available online, I immediately went to the website and began searching name variations for Gerner. I was almost certain I would find him under "Garner" but he wasn't there. Then I began to think of misinterpretations of handwriting and continued down the pages to the names beginning with "Ge." Sure enough, there was "Gener, Fredrick K., Bruin, died March 26." His certificate number is not completely legible but I hope the employees at the public records office will be helpful.

Finding Fred's death certificate is important to me because I am optimistically hopeful that the names of his parents will be on it. From his youngest daughter I know that his parents' names were known to family members but when I asked her for information she was in her late 90s and couldn't remember their names.

Thank you, Claudia, for posting the link, and thank you, Governor Tom Corbett for approving PA Senate Bill 361.

I don't know how long it will take for a death certificate to arrive but perhaps I'll be writing about another named generation in the next month or so.

An additional note: I don't have a death certificate for my great-grandmother Tressa Rose Froman Doyle. I found her in the index, too. I will be sending two requests in the same envelope. I'll be looking forward to my colorful return-addressed envelope in the mail in coming weeks.

One more note: It looks like I'll be waiting longer than a few weeks. The website states, "Mail requests are processed in approximately sixteen to eighteen weeks from the date of receipt." I've been patient this long, I guess I can continue to be patient.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Family Heirlooms - Abundant Genealogy Week 6

Sometimes I forget I have things that once belonged to and/or were made by my parents and other ancestors. I decided to make a list, as far as my memory takes me today, and make more additions later. Now that the list is made I should photograph these things and write about them.

It's hard to say for which I'm most grateful. Some of them in combination speak of one aspect of the life of a family member and are things that were a part of my childhood. Other treasures hold no actual memory of my ancestor and yet our hands meet across time as I touch the same thing he or she touched. Some are more present in my life and are in use often; others are seldom seen. Either way, I'm grateful for all of them.

Heirlooms in my possession either permanently or on temporary loan
  • my father's roll-top desk
  • several small chests of drawers that my father used for watch parts and other small items with drawers are about 1" high and from 18" to 22" wide (You can see two of them on top of the desk in the photo at the link above)
  • small parts, papers, containers, and tools from inside my father's desk
  • a mending basket and a button basket that belonged to my grandmother
  • a pink depression glass lidded jar that my mother used in the kitchen
  • my grandfather's fedora
  • a rocking chair that one of my great-grandfathers made for my mother when she was a child
  • a framed village scene that hung in my grandfather's barber shop (which my grandmother was going to throw it out and I rescued)
  • several journal books that my father kept to record the repairs he made and the cost of parts to make the repairs on houses he rented to others
  • two rectangular metal baskets my father used to carry tools to make the above repairs
  • my mother's photo album (on temporary loan, as I understand it)
  • my grandmother's photo album (also on temporary loan, as I understand it)
  • my grandmother's recipe box and a spelling tablet she used to copy recipes
  • several pieces of jewelry from my mother, father, and grandmother
  • a metal belt buckle with the letter "G" in its center which my mother once said belonged to my grandfather, Gust Doyle
  • one of my father's tobacco pouches
  • my mother's 1941 black Singer sewing machine (which I still use)
  • a double wedding ring quilt made by my great-grandmother (generously given to me by my brother)
  • a double- or queen-size Dresden Plate quilt top pieced by my mother
  • a single-size Dresden Plate quilt my mother pieced and she and my grandmother quilted
  • a set of hot-pads crocheted by my grandmother
  • linens embroidered by my grandmother
  • a family Bible that belonged to my great-grandparents (which doesn't have and never had family information pages)
  • ephemera and scrapbooks from my mother
  • more to remember
I have a post in progress about my mother's rocking chair.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
This post was written to participate in Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy which is hosted on Geneabloggers. The theme will change weekly and may be posted any day of the week. This week's theme was family heirlooms. (For which family heirloom are you most thankful? How did you acquire this treasure and what does it mean to you and your family?) This challenge ran from Sunday, February 5, 2012 through Saturday, February 11, 2012. I invite you to participate if you'd like.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Grampa As a Young Man - Wordless Wednesday

My grandfather William Carl Robert Meinzen's birthday is today. He was born on this day, February 8, in either 1891 or 1892. He became a barber, a husband, a father, an electrician, and a grandfather.

Happy Birthday, Grampa!

Claim for Disability Pension - Civil War Pension File

Ellis Bickerstaff's effort to obtain a pension for his service in the Civil War began with this document, dated July 19, 1890. It appears to have been a two-sided document. In the transcription below, the words and numbers in italics indicate the handwritten responses on blank lines in the printed document. (You can click on the images to see them larger. The image will open in a new window. When you're done viewing it, click the back arrow on the upper left of your browser window.)

This document gives me Ellis's birthdate which, until I received this, I was only able to calculate to the year based on census records. It also gives me some information about his physical appearance.

Catarrah is a disease of the mucous membranes of the naval cavities. (The link sends you to a transcript of an article in the The New York Times dated March 3, 1865. No modern definitions here when we can find something closer to the time period!)

[Transcription of front]
220848 [rubber stamped in upper left]

E. H. Biggerstaff Applicant
Co. D , 157 Reg’t.,
Ohio Vols.
Enlisted 2nd May, 1864
Discharged 2nd Sept, 1864
Act approved June 27 , 1890

Filed by

[Transcription of inside]
Declaration of Soldier for a Disability Pension.

This must be executed before some officer of a court of record having custody of the seal.

State of Pennsylvania, County of Westmoreland SS.
On this 19 day of July, A.D., one thousand eight hundred and ninety ........... personally appeared before me a Notary Public of the County of Westmoreland a Court of record within and for the County and State aforesaid E. H. Biggerstaff aged 50 years, who being duly sworn according to law, declares that he is the identical E. H. Biggerstaff who was Enrolled on the 2nd day of May 1864, in Company D of the 157 Regiment of Ohio Vols., commanded by Captain Robert Bouls and was honorably Discharged at Camp Chase Ohio on the 2nd day of Sept 1864, and that he served for a period in excess of ninety days; That his personal description is as follows; Age 50 years; height 6 feet ...... inches; complexion Fair hair Brown; eyes Blue and was born at Steubenville Ohio on the 11th day of April 1840.
That he is now disabled for manual labor by reason of Catarrh and lung trouble and that said disability is in no respect due to any vicious habit on his part; and that he claims pension under the disability pension bill, being entitled thereto by reason of his inability to earn a support by manual labor.
That he has not applied for pension.
That he has not been employed in the military or naval services otherwise than as stated above
That he has not been in the military or naval service of the United States since the 2 day of Sep 1864
That since leaving the service this applicant has resided in the City of Steubenville Ohio in the State of Ohio and that his occupation has been that of a Carpenter
That prior to his entry into the service above named he was a man of good, sound, physical health, being when enrolled a Farmer. That he is now three fourths disabled from obtaining his subsistence by manual labor by reasons of his disabilities above described, and he therefore makes this declaration for the purpose of being placed on the pension roll of the United States, under the Act approved June 27 1890. He hereby appoints with full power of substitution and revocation McNEILL & BIRCH of Washington, D.C. his true and lawful attorneys to prosecute his claim; that his residence is No. ............, in ............................ street of Scottdale County of Westmoreland and State of Penna and his Post Office address is the same
Samuel B. McMillan [signature]
E. H. Biggerstaff [signature] Claimant's Signature.
Edward L. Rutherford [signature]
Attest--Two witnesses who can write

[Transcription of back side]
Also personally appeared Sam. B. McMillan residing at Scottdale State of Penna, and Edward L Rutherford residing at Scottdale, State of Penna, persons whom I certify to be respectable and entitled to credit, and who being by me duly sworn, say that they were present and saw E. H. Biggerstaff, the claimant, sign his name, (or make his mark) to the foregoing declaration; that they have every reason to believe, from the appearance of said claimant and their acquaintance with him, that he is the identical person he represents himself to be; that his condition is as stated and that they have no interest in the prosecution of this claim.

Samuel B. McMillan [signature]
Edward L. Rutherford [signature] signature of Affiants.

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 19th day of July A.D. 1890 and I hereby certify that the contents of the above declaration, &c., were fully made known and explained to the applicant and witnesses before swearing, including the words................ erased and the words ....................... added, and that I have no interest, direct or indirect in the prosecution of this claim.
John Rutherford [signature]
Clerk of the Notary Public

Other posts concerning Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Records:
Ordering Civil War Compiled Military Service Records - posted on 10/20/11
Reviewing Civil War Compiled Military Service Records - posted on 11/14/11
Ordering a Civil War Pension File - posted on 12/3/11
His Civil War Pension File Arrived - posted on 12/15/11
Civil War Pension File: First View - posted on 1/4/12
Civil War Pension File: Inventory - posted on 1/5/12
Civil War Pension File: Chronological Overview of Papers Pertaining to Ellis - posted 1/16/12
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