Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I got my daily Geneabloggers newsletter, and in it, Thomas MacEntee said:

"As many genealogy bloggers are either traveling over the river and through the woods, or getting ready to host family, most of us will take some time and say thanks - either through a blog post, in a prayer, or perhaps aloud to our family and friends.

"I would like to thank all the readers of GeneaBloggers for helping to build a vibrant community of genealogy and family history bloggers. Whether engaged on Facebook, or Twitter or blog posts, it continues to amaze me what a great time it is to be a genealogist!

"GeneaBloggers will have its 500,000th visitor (yes, can you believe it?) sometime next week and I want to thank everyone for their support."

To that I say: Thomas, thank you! You got me into this, and I'm glad you did. You do a great job -- and it is a LOT of work, we can all see that -- with Geneabloggers. Thank you for all you do.

As for Thanksgiving, ours is a bit weird. My husband is up in Darien, Georgia, with his mother's people. I didn't make the trip this year, because it's fatiguing, and I am using this day to rest from the rigors of classes and child care, and do some studying and paper-writing. Our younger daughter, who lives with us, pulled a muscle at work yesterday, and is in her bed resting the affected leg and keeping it warm. She stepped wrong or something, and pulled a hamstring, probably. Not fun.

Our other daughter and her husband and son are at her mother-in-law's today, with that family, celebrating with a lot of good food, I'm sure!

So our family celebration will be Saturday. We're not doing it tomorrow because two sisters who live in the area, friends of the family, will be celebrating with us, and they have to work tomorrow, as does our hamstrung younger daughter. These two sisters are a pair of characters, and are always fun to have around. Their only local family is their father, who is slowly fading away under the influence of Alzheimer's, and is in a nursing home. They'll visit with him today, and celebrate with us Saturday.

A bit unorthodox, but we'll get the job done, even if a bit late.

And now for the list of what I'm thankful for:

My husband of nearly 39 years (next February), for his support and belief in me over the years.

My daughters, for being good hardworking people, each with a great sense of humor!

Enough to get by on without having to struggle too much.

The opportunity to go back to school and study some fascinating stuff!

Some great professors, who genuinely care about their students, and who give fascinating lectures.

Great, caring, active, funny friends.


Monday, November 23, 2009

SNGF -- Late Again

Well, once again it's Sunday night and I'm just -- excuse me, it's actually Monday morning, and I should be getting to bed because in less than 6 hours I have to get up and take care of my four-year-old grandson!

However, before hitting the hay, even though I am as usual a day late (never mind a dollar short), I'm going to do the latest in Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

1) Who is your MRUA - your Most Recent Unknown Ancestor? This is the person with the lowest number in your Pedigree Chart or Ahnentafel List that you have not identified a last name for, or a first name if you know a surname but not a first name.

2) Have you looked at your research files for this unknown person recently? Why don't you scan it again just to see if there's something you have missed?

3) What online or offline resources might you search that might help identify your MRUA?

4) Tell us about him or her, and your answers to 2) and 3) above, in a blog post, in a comment to this post, or a comment on Facebook or some other social networking site.

My MRUA is my great-grandmother Augusta Hetherington, number 9 on my pedigree. The only thing I can say about her is that she was born around 1851 and that she married my great-grandfather Oscar Merry Packard in Bloomington, Illinois, on 17 August 1871 (unfortunately, it wasn't until 1872 that Illinois began collecting a LOT more information than just the bride and groom's names and the date! I do wish they had waited a year). I do not know who her parents were, though truth to tell, I just have not had the time to do the searching yet.

So what I probably need to do is search the 1870 census of Bloomington and see if I can find Augusta (whose name may have been Sarah Augusta) living with her family, as that would have been the year before she and great-grandpa Oscar got married.

She apparently died in California, for they were there in the 1930 census. So I need to check the California death records for her death certificates (and Oscar's while I'm at it). That could also give some useful information.

And now, good night all!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Journey of a Thousand Li

An old Chinese saying is: A journey of a thousand li begins with a single step. I've taken the first step on a journey that could literally cover a thousand miles before I'm done.

I have plans for my next book, to be an examination of the history of St. Augustine, Florida, during the second Spanish period of Florida's history (1783-1820) through the lens of genealogy, as I have mentioned before. I haven't yet heard about the grant I have applied for, but I do have one step toward the goal accomplished. The Chair of the Department of History at the University of North Florida has approved my proposal for a Directed Individual Study (DIS) which will be an examination of the family structure of St. Augustine. I will have only one term, from January into May, to complete the study, so I cannot do the entire ball of wax I plan for my eventual book during that limited time. So what I propose to do for the DIS is to produce a series of short genealogies of the families of St. Augustine just during that 37 year period.

I want to see how the families were related during that time. Who married whom will be an important question. I will be examining censuses, land and tax records, and birth, marriage, and baptism records. For these, I will be looking at the East Florida Papers on microfilm, which can be very difficult to deal with due to issues of faded ink, poor microfilming, tearing of the original documents, and other damage to the documents, as well as some instances of absolutely atrocious handwriting! Other documents I will be using will be some land records at the Florida State Archive in Tallahassee, so that will be another visit to that repository. I previously spent three days in Tallahassee at the state archive for my forthcoming book on the sources to the colonial, territorial, and state censuses of Florida.

I will also be examining records at the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine, at their archive. These will be the birth, marriage, and baptism records.

If I receive the grant, I am thinking of using it to go to Washington, to the Library of Congress, to examine the originals of the East Florida Papers, which may be better than the microfilms. One thing I'm going to try with the microfilm is to take digital photographs of the screen image on the microfilm reader. The problem with my local source, the Jacksonville Public Library, is that their scanning microfilm reader produces only .pdf files, which I don't like for this particular purpose. I prefer .jpg files, which I can manipulate and work with to improve the readability of the image. Some genealogists have said that they have had good results from taking digital photos of the image on the screen, so I'm going to experiment with that over the holiday break.

This will be a new approach to the history of St. Augustine, and I hope I will be able to make some definitive statements from this new perspective. I also hope it will make just one more little step -- in a journey that could take more than a thousand miles -- toward bringing genealogy to the academy in a meaningful way.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

SNGF -- A Nice Thing

Has it really been a week since I last posted? It has gone by so fast! And I guess it will continue to go by until I get to catch my breath a little -- but just a little -- after Dec. 11, which will be my last day of finals for the term. Between now and then there is Thanksgiving as well as a few more papers and tests, and on top of that, getting together my request for a Directed Independent Study for next term, and speaking to the local chapter (Jacksonville, Florida) of the Sons of the American Revolution this coming Thursday, on Spanish and English paleography.

Anyway, here's the latest of Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, and it comes with one of those Easy buttons:

1. What is the Nicest Thing another genealogist did for you, or to you, in the last week or so? (If you have no examples for this past week, go back in time - surely someone has done a nice thing for you in recent years!).

2. Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, in a comment on Facebook, or in a tweet on Twitter.

This one is really easy, because something extraordinary happened to me in the last week which might get me a lot of information about a segment of my father's family line. Though this isn't exactly according to Randy's instructions, because the individual who did a Nice Thing for me is a historian. I don't know if she does genealogy.

A historian in Illinois, Rhonda Kohl, has my enduring gratitude! She contacted me after reading one of my blog posts involving my great-great grandfather Matthew Hale Packard's family, including one of his many brothers, Thadeus (we have determined it is one "d" not two) Bullock Packard. Thadeus served in the Civil War in the 5th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry. Another brother, William, was in the same unit, but Thadeus did something it looks like William may not have.

He kept a diary. Rhonda used that diary in her research on the Illinois 5th cavalry, about which she has written articles and now a book. She let me know that Thadeus's diary is in the Illinois State Archives, and I can get a copy. As soon as I can come up for air, I'm getting that copy!

So, Rhonda, if you are reading this, you were my genealogical Nice Thing for the week (and I'm sending you the muster rolls tonight). Thank you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

SNGF -- REALLY late: Surname Distribution

I'm really late this week with Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, but it is getting toward the end of the term, and I have lots of reading to do (including the entirety of Boccacio's Decameron, which was considered terribly salacious in ages past, but is mild compared to what we see on television these days!) and papers to write and other stuff going on.

So here it is: This week, according to Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings, we are to look at the geographic distribution of one of our surnames.

1) Find out the geographical distribution of your surname - in the world, in your state or province, in your county or parish. I suggest that you use the Public Profiler site at, which seems to work quickly and easily. However, you cannot capture the image as a photo file - you have to capture the screen shot, save it and edit it.

2) Tell us about your surname distribution in a blog post of your own (with a screen shot if possible), in comments to this post, or in comments on a social networking site like Facebook and Twitter.

Searching on my paternal surname/maiden name of Packard at the website recommended by Randy in his instructions, reproduced above, I found that the worldwide distribution shows the surname mainly in Europe and North America, with a smattering in India, Australia, and a bit more densely in New Zealand. Europe shows the surname distributed thus:

What stuns me is that the name shows up in Spain and a tiny bit in Italy. What is even more surprising to me is that in Spain, the surname is present in Andalucia, which is where I was in the month of May a couple years ago, when I went to Seville to research at the General Archive of the Indies. If I'd known that, I would have grabbed the phone book and done some looking. It would have been big fun to have met my primos españoles (Spanish cousins).

Another stunning thing about the map is Great Britain, where my 8x great-grandfather was born. The concentration of the surname is shown as being very low in England except for the teal spot on the Channel coast. That is East Anglia, part of which is the county of Suffolk, where my ancestor Samuel Packard was born. He emigrated to Massachusetts in 1638, to join other separatists (which we call Puritans) who could no longer stand the Church of England. (And here's another irony -- I was raised in the Episcopal Church, a member of the Anglican -- that is, Church of England -- Communion.)

The next map has a lot to say about where the Packards are most heavily concentrated now:

On the world map, the most dense concentration of the Packard surname is in the United States. There are some also in Canada -- where my father's line spent three generations, in between being residents of Massachusetts and ending up in Illinois. In the U.S., we Packards are in every state except North Dakota. My own line went from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to Vermont, which was my 4x great-grandfather Richards Packard (yes, there is an "s" on his first name, which is from the maiden name of his mother, Mercy Richards) in an ever-northward quest for land after the American Revolution, in which he fought in two different Massachusetts regiments. This search for land ended him up in Canada. Not every American who went to Canada after the Revolution was a Tory -- many of them went because in Canada they were giving land away and they didn't much care who they were giving it to!

After a couple or three generations in Canada, my great-great grandfather and a fistful of his siblings came back to the U.S., some by way of Massachusetts, some (including my ggf) by way of New York (Chautauqua County), and some directly to end up all of them in Bloomington, Illinois. From there, my great-grandfather Oscar Packard, who was a real estate developer, went to California in the early 20th century, a great time to have been in real estate in California!

Me, I live in Florida, and here's where the surname occurs in the Sunshine State (which, with the remnants of Ida meandering around, is not experiencing much sunshine this week!)

There are some in the panhandle, and the rest distributed from northeast Florida, where I live, down the peninsula. See Jacksonville up in the upper right? See the county which is completely white -- completely devoid of the surname -- just below Jacksonville (which comprises nearly all of Duval County)? That blank county is Clay County, where I live. I don't count in this because my surname for the past 38 years has been Rhodes! By the way, the surname Rhodes is shown to be present in Clay County in moderate density -- including one reprobate listed just below us in the telephone book, who apparently did not pay his bills and for whom we were getting collection calls for a while. I had to resort to recommending that the caller employ a straight-edge when looking up numbers in the phone book!

I have to say I was unaware that there were any Packards in Bradford County, which is the little triangle just to the west of Clay County, but apparently there are. None of these Packards are close relations to me. But I suppose I should at least try to get in touch with them and see if any of them are interested in genealogy and share some ancestors with me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Disappointment and Frustration

This evening has been an experience in disappointment and frustration, albeit mild ones, in the Great Cosmic Scheme of Things.

Waiting for my daughter to get off work after I finished my Spanish Literature class this afternoon, I sat in her office (the waiting room of the Mathematics and Statistics Department at the university), got my computer out, and did my e-mail and Twitter. I saw tweets about World Vital Records offering a free 6 months. So I thought, this sounds good, I'll sign up. I called and got signed up. Nowhere in any of the information, and at no time when I was talking to the very nice young lady on the telephone, was I told that this free 6 months consisted in anything less than full usage.

Well, it does consist in something less than full usage. I signed on tonight and searched on my great-grandfather Oscar Packard. Some links were returned. When I clicked on the links, I either got an external link (to for a census image citation, for example) telling me that I could sign up for a Footnote subscription or buy a single image for about 2 and a half bucks; or I was redirected to a screen within World Vital Records urging me to sign up for a paid subscription. I did not get access to images on World Vital Records with this free trial. So I know that there was an article about an Oscar Packard in the Logansport, Indiana, Pharos-Reporter, but I can not yet determine whether this was "my" Oscar Packard or not. Could I at least get some sort of abstract of the article in my search, so that I could make at least a good guess whether this was my guy or not?

That's a disappointment. And since I have not been able to fully test drive the complete functionality of World Vital Records, so that I really do not know whether what they have would be in any way useful to me, I'm not sure I'd sign up for a paid version. For one thing, if I got the paid version, would I be able to access the census image from Footnote as part of the World Vital Records subscription, or would I still have to buy a subscription to Footnote, or at least pay the two and a half bucks for the single image? I like full disclosure when someone wants to induce me to sign up for something, and I do not feel like I have been given full disclosure here.

I'll poke around it some more -- maybe there is a workaround. A citation would be helpful, so I'll look for citations. There is not a full citation to the newspaper article, but there was a citation to the census information. If the World Vital Records result comes from a free database, such as one I uncovered for an Oscar Packard (not mine) from Find A Grave, you are given access to the complete information and the images, through a redirect to that website. The convenience of having the links to a variety of free databases concentrated in one place might be worth money to some, but not to me. I am familiar with many of the free databases, have most of them bookmarked, and can do that sort of search for myself. I really don't feel a need to pay a third party to be a gateway.

And if anyone can demonstrate to me that I have a misimpression, do say so. I'd be happy to learn what I may not know about how to benefit from this free trial.

The frustration came from, for which I do have a paid subscription. I went to access an image, and since I use Mozilla Firefox, I got an error message saying that I would have to use Internet Explorer to view the image. That has not happened previously. The last time I searched on Ancestry and found images, just a couple weeks ago, Mozilla Firefox worked just fine. Is this somehow related to having gone public (that is an IPO I would like to have got in on . . . if I could have afforded it . . .)? At any rate, it is just a bit irritating. When they have something that works just fine for the greatest number of people (who use a variety of browsers), why all of a sudden should that change to a more restrictive stance, requiring the use of one specific browser? I like choice as much as I like full disclosure, and I don't like my choices limited, especially when they were previously unlimited.

I will grouse loudly and mightily, but I will grudgingly use IE on Ancestry from now on.

But can anyone please tell me how to turn off that d----d annoying popup that comes up on every page, sometimes multiple times, asking me if I want ActiveX to operate?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Some may believe, along with Daddy Warbucks in "Annie" that "Progress is the Root of All Evil," but not me. Progress towards one's goals is good, and progress in just being is also good.

Progress Note #1: I have just been notified that my post for yesterday, Data Backup Day -- My Story, was selected one of three winners of the GeneaBloggers DBD Blog Contest. I won a free copy of Handy Backup, which will be nice for future backups to that rugged external hard drive I wrote about.

Progress Note #2: Last week, in the midst of having a cold and an unrelated gastric distress, I finished proofreading my book and finished creating the index, getting all of that back to the publisher, thanks to my husband, who schlepped the manuscript to the post office. The book, Non-Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945: A Guide to Sources, will come out later this month or early next month, should all go as planned.

Progress Note #3: Tomorrow my grant application gets handed in, for the grant I'm seeking to help me do research as an undergraduate at the University of North Florida, and which will lead to my next book, a genealogical-historical investigation of St. Augustine, Florida, during the Second Spanish Period (1783-1820).

Getting that -- and the last of my Medieval History papers done -- does make me feel like I've done something, and does get some weight off my shoulders as the end of the term approaches. Now I have papers and quizzes in Spanish Literature, and a presentation to the Sons of the American Revolution to get through. Then -- the holiday break!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Data Backup Day - My Story

Several years ago, I had a catastrophic computer crash. It happened during the summer, in July. I lost a lot of data, most importantly the records I kept in my genealogy database software. I was able to reconstruct most of it from documents and printouts I had made and stored in the family binders on my bookshelf. as I tend to hang on to paper far beyond those documents which I will part with only when my will is probated and the documents are either passed on in the family or donated to the Southern Genealogists Exchange Society. The next summer, again in July, my computer crashed again. I took two actions: (1) I bought a new computer, and (2) the next June 30, I tunred my computer off, and didn't turn it on again until 1 August! Yeah, as the daughter of a naval aviator -- they being a superstitious lot -- I have my own quotient of superstition!

These days, I have generally been backing up my data, my photographs, genealogy database information, and other files onto CDs. My husband, a former civilian computer programmer for the Navy, supplied me another forum for backing up. He bought each of us an external hard drive which is constructed to Department of Defense specifications for ruggedness and durability. These are the kinds they are using in combat zones. You can run over it with a Hum-V and it will keep on ticking. You can jump out of a helicopter with one strapped to your back, land on it, and it will keep on ticking. Not sure it would stand up to an IED, but it will generally stand up to whatever I might do to it, up to and including running over it with my Chevy Tracker. That's where I keep my data.

One problem that we need to address concerning backing up to CDs is: when is the technology going to change again -- and it is going to change again -- and what are we going to do about it? One consideration in migrating to new technology for backing up data will be cost -- will we have to buy some sort of equipment? Inevitably we will -- some sort of writer/reader to create and use the data backup format, whatever it may be. I don't see an immediate prospect for that happening, as CDs seem to be a rather stable and dependable means ot storage.

What I think may change sooner than the physical format is the virtual format -- the programs we use for putting the data on the CDs and for reading it off the CDs. Will these be able to read older CDs which were created using older programs? And how about the operating systems? Will Windows 7 be able to read the CDs I created using Windows 98? Or even my current OS, Widows XP Professional? This is the nexus at which we need to be aware of changes, and keep "migrating" our stored data to the newer virtual formats. Microsoft has not been noted lately for its conscientiousness in providing "backward compatibility" through the various iterations of Windows.

So it's time for me to do some more CD backups . . .