Tuesday, December 21, 2010

La Real Pragmatica de Casamiento (Royal Law of Marriage)

In the past year of doing research on the family structure of St. Augustine, Florida, during the Second Spanish Period (1783-1821), I have come across a number of interesting details of which I had no hint when I started.  The latest of these is something I found in the marriage license applications 1785-1803 in the East Florida Papers.  They all mention something called the Real Pragmatica de Casamiento -- the Royal Law of Marriage.  It was instituted by Carlos (Charles) III in 1776.  I have not delved into it in detail, though I have found some sources on it.  What I get from a cursory look at these is that the law was originally intended to be applied to the royal family, to be sure that there were no "unequal" marriages (no royals marrying commoners, that is).  This was necesitated by the amorous and dissipated adventures of Crown Prince Luis de Borbón, son of Carlos III  (Note 1)  The Real Pragmatica found universal application to all subjects of the Spanish Crown, including those in the New World colonies, by 1778.  (Note 2)

One provision of this law was that a person under the age of 25 (though I find it applied to older persons, as well, in St. Augustine) had to have the permission of his or her parents or other older relative in order to marry. (Note 3)   This was often waived in the case of the colonies.  The waiver was based on the fact that many of the people in St. Augustine had come by themselves, leaving family behind in Spain or Menorca or the Canary Islands or Cuba.  In these cases, where the intended couple had no older relatives in close range, the governor of the colony would be the one granting the permission.  (Note 4)

Usually in these cases also, the groom or bride would bring in witnesses to make sworn statements that they knew the individual had no older relatives in the area. These sworn statements, and the other documents in the file of each application, have revealed further information on these families.  I found out that a couple of men who shared the same surname were indeed brothers.  I found that a woman living in St. Augustine was the aunt of one applicant, and I have found the names of parents, which I had not known before.  These documents are helping me make a little more progress in linking related people together.

The imposition of the Real Pragmatica on all Spanish subjects was a departure from what had been a less stringent attitude on the part of the Catholic Church, which up until the promulgation of the Real Pragmatica had pretty much been in charge of the marriage business.  The church was not that concerned about status inequality in marriage, and in fact was in favor of free choice of marriage partner without requiring parental permission.  That lax attitude was contravened by the Real Pragmatica. (Note 5)

Next: further provisions of the Real Pragmatica.


Note 1:  María Luz Alonso, "El consentimiento para matrimonio de los miembros de la Familia Real (Sobre la vigencia de la Pragmatica de Carlos III de 1776)," Cuadernos de la historia del derecho, No. 4, Servicio de Publicaciones, UCM, Madrid, 1997, 64.

Note 2:  Christian Buschges, "Don Manuel Valdivieso y Carrión Protests the Marriage of his Daughter to Don Teodoro Jaramillo, a Person of Lesser Social Standing (Quito 1784-85)," in Richard Boyer and Geoffrey Spurling, eds., Colonial Lives:  Documents in Latin American History, 1550-1850.  (Oxford University Press, 2000), excerpted on the website Women in World History, file:///G:/Personal%20Data/My%20Documents/UNF/HIS%204609%20DIS/Real%20Pragmatica%20de%20Casamiento/Quito%20lawsuit%20re%20Real%20Pragmatica.html (accessed 19 December 2010).

Note 3:  "The Real Pragmatica of 1776 - What Does it Say?" on website Unequal Marriages in Spain: the Pragmatica, http://www.heraldica.org/topics/royalty/pragmatica.htm#pragm%E1tica (accessed 19 December 2010).

Note 4:  See, for example, East Florida Papers, Matrimonial Licenses 1785-1803, Reel 132, Bundle R298R9.

Note 5:  Buschges, "Don Manuel Valdivieso y Carrión Protests the Marriage of His Daughter . . ."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Little Cautionary Note

We are coming to the end of a year, and barring the sun exploding, the beginning of another one.  So it will once again be time when we will be writing the wrong year for a brief while.  We all do it.  It was more frequent back in the old days when we used to write checks to pay for stuff.  But we still do it on calendars, homework, papers, memos, etc.

We genealogists need to be aware that it is not just us modern folk who do that.

I am transcribing yet more documents for my St. Augustine research project.  This time I'm into marriage license applications in St. Augustine from 1785 to 1803.  For one thing, I'm getting a real sense of just how much rigmarole people had to go through to get married in that place and time!  They really must have been in love to put up with all that bureaucratic nonsense!  I'll talk about that in another post.

Another thing I have found is that those who lived two hundred or more years ago were not immune from writing the wrong year.  And they had to really be off the beam to do it, too, because they wrote so many documents, every day.  The government scribe, Domingo Rodriguez de León, did nothing but that, day in and day out.  

And on the cover sheet for the papers involved in the marriage license application for Antonio Palma, of Spain, and Margarita McFail, of Scotland, there is, big as life (in letters of a size comparable to about a 42 typeface today) the month and year that Domingo Rodriguez de León entered -- January 1785. (1)

Well, Domingo -- it was 1786.  The first document in the package, wherein Antonio Palma pleads his case to be allowed to marry his dear Margarita, is dated January of 1785.  Every other document in the package is dated January 1786.  The latter is probably correct, just from the preponderance of appearances of 1786 as the year.  The strange thing is that they did not get married until 4 December 1786.  The reason: is that in 1784, 1785, and 1786, marriages were only performed in December.  The parish had been reorganized, along with everything else in that time period of transition between English and Spanish rule, and the two new priests, Thomas Hassett and Michael O'Reilly, both Irish, were overwhelmed with organizaitonal matters.  As baptisms and burials were performed when necessary, they decided to put marriages on the back burner.  After 1786, marriages were conducted all year round, as requested.  (2)

So be aware in looking at old documents that a date written in January may have the wrong year attached to it, and further verification would be a really good idea.


1.  Marriage license application, Antonio Palma and Margarita Macfail [sic], East Florida Papers, Matrimonial Licenses, Reel 142, Bundle 298R9, folio 12r.
2.  Patricia Griffin, Mullet on the Beach: the Minorcans of Florida 1768-1788 (Jacksonville, University of North Florida Press, 1991). 171.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day 2010 -- Family History and General History

Today's meme was suggested by Thomas MacEntee in his daily "Geneabloggers" e-mail.  We are to talk about voting in our family, any traditions, or any ancestors who may have run for office.

The last ancestor I can point to who held public office would be my 8x-great-grandfather Samuel Packard, who emigrated to Hingham, Massachusetts (Plymouth Colony) in 1638 from Suffolk, England.  He was, at various times, Collector of Ministers' Rates (tax collector, basically) and Surveyor of Highways.  Most of the rest of us have kept a low profile, politically speaking.

I have made a point of voting in each election since I became eligible to vote in 1968 -- primaries, general elections, special elections, whatever.  My husband had an unbroken streak until last spring's primary, when he ended up in the hospital on voting day, and had not taken advantage of early voting.

Early voting is what we have here in Florida, and I'm sure other places must have it, too.  Polling places are established at various venues, usually the local public library or a school.  The polling place is run exactly as the usual Tuesday-election-day polling place, under the direction of the county Supervisor of Elections.  The early voting goes on for something like a week (maybe 2, not really sure) before the election.  My younger daughter and I even voted on Sunday this week!  The library itself was closed, but the meeting room was open, and set up just like the regular polling place.  And the best sight of all was that we had to wait for a voting booth.  There were at least 10 of them set up, and every one of them was full, with a line waiting.  I hope this kept up all week.  We need bigger voter turnouts.

So with voting going on even on the weekends, there's no excuse for anyone able to do so not doing so!  And for the rest, absentee ballots are good, too.  They just require a little planning.

Elections themselves, and the polling places, are quieter than in the past -- at least on election day.  The run-up to the election is pretty doggone noisy these days, but the election itself is not.  No more do party hacks and other malefactors ply voters with liquor, or attempt to bribe them to vote a certain way.  (It's a secret ballot and always has been.  How did these crooks know whether or not a voter was just taking their money and voting how they pleased?)  Polling places are policed by the pollworkers, and poll-watchers can observe and report any shenanigans.  Political signs have to be a certain distance from the polling place (50 feet in Florida; lots of near-sighted oldsters like me who can't see that far!)  And no "electioneering" is allowed within that 50-foot perimeter.  Nobody can accost you in the polling place and urge -- or threaten -- you to vote a certain way.  That is a change from the early days of the Republic, and a good one.

Now if we could just get the screamers and thumpers on the extreme ends of the spectrum to dial it down a bit!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blog Action Day: Water

My connection of the clean water theme of Blog Action Day to genealogy is easy:  My husband and I both served in the United States Coast Guard, which -- among its many and varied duties -- is responsible for enforcement of federal clean-water laws in federal waters.  I had some connection to this in some small ways.  As the officer in charge of a sub-unit of reserves who manned the Jacksonville, Florida, Marine Safety Office during the 1980s, I was in charge on my weekend of pollution response.  There were a few small incidents of "a visible sheen on the water," the principal sign of pollution.  It mainly came from factories along the St. Johns River or from the ships that called at the port of Jacksonville.  We never had any serious pollution problems on my watch.

Currently I'm taking a class on the environmental history of the St. Johns River, for which we in the class will be taking oral history from people involved with the river in one way or another.  I am not on a team that is looking into the varied sources of potential pollution to the river, or the history of that aspect of it.  My subject is how artists have depicted the river over time, and how that depiction has changed.  Or not.  I have not yet encountered any visual arts representations of St. Johns River pollution.  Though I have as yet found no artistic representations (paintings or art photographs), there are news photographs of such things as the periodic algae blooms the river is unfortunately subject to, and historical photographs of channels of the River or its tributaries choked with water hyacinths, which at one time constituted a hazard to or at least an obstacle to navigation.  They are pretty much under control these days, though it is a continuing battle.  The explsotive growth of the hyacinths through much of the twentieth century, and the problems they presented, is an object lesson in the hazards posed by invasive species here in Florida.

The algae problem is due to the introduction into the river of hypernutrients, via runoff from agricultural fields and residential properties.  The nutrients spur the algae growth, which uses up the oxygen in the water.  In consequence, fish and plants die.

These problems are not a direct threat to the population hereabouts, for very few areas get their drinking water from the River.  They get it from the Flroidan aquifer, a large system of underground limestone caves.  However, with the population growing, especially in the central part of the state, some municipalities south of us (which is actually upriver, not down, as the St. Johns flows north) have their eyes on diverting many hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from the river for their drinking water.  This prospect alarms those of us living downriver (i.e., north), because of the real harm it could do to many aspects of life on the river, including commercial fishing and recreation, as well as the problems it would cause with salt-water intrusion into the river itself.

The problem is more severe in other parts of the world, where climate change, war, and other conditions have altered the availability of water in drastic ways, threatening populations with actual extinction.  There are ways to conserve water, keep it pure, and provide for these peoples who need it so much.  That is what this year's Blog Action Day is all about.  Even in my own very small way, on a very local level, I've helped through my service in the Coast Guard.  It is a problem we all need to be aware of.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

When it is Difficult to do Family History

I am wondering about this subject because in the county where I live, tonight there is a little toddler who is someday going to find out, probably after he is grown, that his father was shot dead by his uncle.  This happened Monday night, and the killer shot not only his own brother, but the brother's friend and his own parents.  His parents survived and are now in the hospital; the other two did not.  At this hour, that uncle is still on the loose.  One of the places they think he is is in the state forest that our lot backs up to.  Not an event that will lead one to sleep very soundly, and I'm not.  So I am up wondering.

Black sheep can present a very thorny problem at times.  They can present family history investigators with a dilemma:  How does one  record this black sheep whose actions still cause pain in the family?  Or does one  even bother?  Would it not be better to just forget about that one?

While I can understand the motivation to sweep a really heinous black sheep under the rug, that is not the best policy.  At the very least, one would record the basic genealogical information.  If one does not want to go further than that, because of the pain this person has caused in the family, that is all right.  That is what I tell my audiences when I give my talk on black sheep.

On the other hand, if one does want to find out about a black sheep one has found out existed, perhaps a hundred or so years ago, where does one look?  Some state archives have prison records.  I've blogged here about the prison records at the Florida State Archives.  Like those in the Florida Archives, these records in other state archives are likely to be restricted in access.  For more current information, including those presently incarcerated, the State of Florida's bureau of prisons has a website with all the information on it.  Other states may have the same kind of information posted. 

Newspapers are a great place to look for information about a black sheep.  They make good copy.  Likewise, you may find out about an infamous ancestor in a local history.  And don't forget the censuses: prison populations are enumerated, too.

But tonight I wonder about that little baby, and what he is going to wonder about his father's fate, years from now.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mappy Monday: Property ownership? Why bother?

That seems to have been the question my parents asked each other.  Today's blog post comes from the Mappy Monday mene from the Ravenna (Michigan) Area Historical Society's blog.

My parents never owned a house.  When they married, my father was in the Navy, undergoing flight training at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, where my mother grew up.  The peripatetic nature of military life, and their penchant for moving in civilian life, brought them to the decision, apparently, never to buy a house, but just to rent.  Therefore, the avenue of tracing their exact whereabouts at any given time through county or municipal property records is not available to me.

I have used some city directories to find them, but that is chancy, as coverage is sometimes spotty.  The variety of city directories of the nineteenth century got pared down in the twentieth.  I have looked in many of the digitized directories online, and not found them.

Some tracking of their residences is in my father's Navy service record, which I obtained from the National Personnel Records Center.  That has been a big help.

My own memory helps somewhat for the period during my cognizant life (from about four or five years of age onward), but sometimes an address is not to hand, even then.  I remember our address when I was six and seven, when we lived in Tarzana, California.  With that address, I have seen the house on the "street view" of Google Maps recently.  Funny that I do not remember the house seeming as small as it appears on the street view photograph, nor do I remember the houses being as close together as they look in the photo.  I guess everthing looks bigger when we ourselves are small.

The places where we lived in Pensacola, Florida, when I was four and five were rural in nature -- one of them being a working farm where we actually had crops of corn, watermelons, and blueberries.  But they had rural-route or post-office box addresses, which I never did know.  I only know them by the names attached to them by virtue of where they were located, but I have not been able to pinpoint them using Google Earth or Google Maps.  I have found approximate locations where I think they were, but I cannot be sure.  No correspondence addressed to my father or mother at those houses survives, and I have not found us in the city directories for Pensacola.

It is a little frustrating not to be able to go to county property records and find information about my parents, but I have used these other ways to glean a little more information, and once I finish my college degree, and the book I'm working on, I will get back to further searching for where they were all along the way.

I just wish they had stayed put a little longer!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Talented Tuesday: Elizabeth Reed

My aunt . . . well, let me back up here. 

My mother was an intra-family adoption, as I've discussed here before.  So Elizabeth Reed, my mother's adoptive sister, was really her cousin, and my second cousin.  But I always called her my aunt, and she was instrumental in raising me.  So I'm going to continue to be "genealogically incorrect" in this post.

Elizabeth Reed was a registered nurse whose specialty was public health.  She never married.  She was a large woman, and never was successful at losing weight.  But she was a character.  She spent a lot of time on the lecture circuit, mostly within the state of Florida, where she was Director of Health Information for the State Board of Health (now the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services).  And along with her serious speechifying about health and wellness, she would entertain her audiences with monologues.

The art of the monologue ranges from Robert Benchley to Johnny Carson and Jay Leno.  Elizabeth Reed's monologues told a story, or presented a slice of life with a comedic twist.

She would present the natural history of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" as sung by a little girl at a recital, a honky-tonk singer, an operatic diva, and other variations on the theme.  All of the variations were hilarious, and delivered with great gusto.  Another of her monologues showed a hospital volunteer "cheering up" a patient by discussing the competence of the surgeon who operated on him, dietary restrictions, the sounds and smells endemic to hospitals, and other joys.  She had a stock of monologues, and not a one was written down.  They were all stored in her memory.  She told me one day that she had tried to write one of them down, and it looked so dreadful on paper that she never tried to commit one to writing again. 

Unfortunately, she died before the arrival of home videotape, and the usual home-movie 8mm that we had did not have sound.  I would give a lot to have these monologues on videotape.

Not all of them were comedic, though the majority of them were.  She surprised me one day when she appeared at my high school in 1964.  The school's speech and drama teacher, Sabina Meyer, arranged for my aunt to perform a monologue for the speech and drama classes.  My classmates were skeptical, and were making jokes about the whole prospect of a monologue performance -- and my aunt's size -- which were getting me angry.  But then she started the monologue, which was a surprise to me in that it was not a comedy, it was drama, and it was one which I had never before seen. 

The story was an old grandmother who had made the arduous overland crossing to the American West in a covered wagon, and had lost a child "on the plains of Kansas" counseling her teenage granddaughter about life and relationships.  Before my aunt was one-third the way into the monologue, the joking and chatter had stopped and you could have heard a pin drop.  There were even some tears glistening in the girls' eyes.  After the performance, the kids couldn't wait to tell me how much they had thought of the monologue, and that my aunt was great.

Well, I knew that.

One modest individual in a small city in the middle of the Twentieth Century with a talent that could make people laugh or cry.  That was my aunt, Elizabeth Reed.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The picture becomes clearer

I've been working in the baptismal records of St. Augustine during the early part of the second Spanish period (Volume I, 1784-1792) in the transcriptions available at the St. Augustine Historical Society research library.  It is much easier to use these transcriptions, at least from 1784 into the fall of 1788, because the entries during that period were made in Latin, and I do not read Latin.  It was in 1788 that Bishop Cirilo de Barcelona made his visita (inspection tour) of St. Augustine and he decreed that henceforth entries should be made in Spanish.  He cites errors and other unacceptable conditions in the records, and prescribes a form which is preserved in the baptismal record. 

I have also just finished transcribing from the original the 1786 census of St. Augustine taken by Father Thomas Hassett, the priest at St. Augustine.   It is not a complete census, as Hassett himself points out in his introductory comment.  He purposefully left out the government officials and the troops stationed at the Castillo de San Marcos.  Spanish censuses frequently left out military personnel.  For one thing, they were probably considered transient, even though other records I have examined show many of them participating in the daily life of the town. 

These documents, along with marriage records, form the basis for reconstructing the family structure of the town, and I am beginning to see patterns of relationship.  Another aspect found in the baptismal records is the godparent relationship, which I've mentioned previously. 

It is necessary to bear in mind that with these Spanish censuses, however, the one consistent aspect of them is their inconsistency.  There were no prescribed formats and no preprinted forms.  Not all entries have all the information.  For example, it is traditional in Spanish records (as it is in French records) for a woman, married or not, to be recorded by her maiden name.  This is a boon to family historians researching their female lines.  Most of the entries in the census and baptism records have the women by their maiden names, but not all of them.  Then, too, it is careless to assume that because the woman's surname is the same as her husband's, that it is not her maiden name.  Non-first cousins could marry, and sometimes did.  It is also possible that, even in a town as small as St. Augustine, you could have two unrelated individuals with the same surname.

More information is necessary in these events, and the marriage records are the best source for that.

They're next.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Answering a Comment: More on SmartDraw

Today in my comments to be moderated, I found this from Ben Sayer:

Hi, Karen. Thanks for sharing news of this tool's application to genealogy.

What would you say are the reasons one might use SmartDraw instead of the capabilities of their existing genealogy software to create diagrams?

Why are computer fillable forms the "holy grail" for you?

I find the forms in genealogy programs to be rigid; they cannot be edited, or if they can, it isn't easy for me.  SmartDraw forms can be edited, modified, changed around.  And easily, too!  Besides, which -- heresy of heresies -- for my St. Augustine project, I'm not using a program, I'm using paper forms.  I am an old-school scholar who responds best to paper.  

My St. Augustine project has specialized needs: for instance, I needed a form which would show a godparent and all the children he or she had been godparent to, with their parents.  I didn't find anything I thought suitable in a genealogy program, but was able to create one in SmartDraw in a very short time with very little effort.  

As for why computer-fillable forms have been my holy grail:  my handwriting is horrible!  That is one of the chief reasons.  For another, I have arthritis, and it is impossible for me to write small enough for some forms -- that's another complaint I have about forms in general, that often they do not have enough room for what I need to enter into a particular blank.  With SmartDraw, if I feel that a blank or an area in a form is not large enough, I can change that.  And with some of these Spanish names, I need LARGE blanks on the forms! 

Thanks for your comments, Ben; gave me fodder enough for another blog post!  And thank you for reading my blog.

I know where I was 39 Years Ago Today!

I was in the hospital, having given birth to our older daughter!  Happy birthday, kiddo!

The picture shown here is one I had done at what was then (December, 1971) Jacksonville's premiere department store, Cohen Brothers.  When I went downtown to pick up the prints, the manager asked me if it would be all right if they displayed a very large (something like 2 ft. x 3 ft.) poster-sized print in their department, on the wall.  I said it would be all right -- especially when they told me that when they were ready to change the display, they would give us the poster-sized portrait!  So my beautiful baby was highly visible to the elite of Jacksonville for a while.

Software for Genealogists: SmartDraw

Someone on a forum I participate in recommended the program SmartDraw when we were talking about creating genograms, which are used particularly by health professionals in plotting family health histories.  Genograms can have other applications, and I thought they might be useful in my research project.

I downloaded the trial version of SmartDraw and discovered that in addition to genograms, there are family group sheets, pedigree sheets, individual record sheets, and various forms for genealogists to track their research progress, such as correspondence record sheets.  The beauty of these forms is that they are all computer-fillable!  This has been a holy grail of mine for a long time.

With SmartDraw you can modify each of their pre-stored forms to fit your own situation.  You can also create your own templates, as I did in creating the form I am using for tracking compadrazgo -- the godparent relationship -- in the population of St. Augustine, FL, during the Second Spanish Period.  What I am finding there is leading me to investigate the importance of the patrón in St. Augustine society.

SmartDraw also has maps.  Lots and lots of maps.  And again, you can modify the maps to fit your needs.  I may try my hand at creating some meaningful maps, especially if I can import formats from scanned images. 

I was disappointed to discover that SmartDraw's timelines are completely business-oriented, and I am having a difficult time modifying that particular template.  I will have to try more experiments when I have a little more time.  But overall, I am very pleased with the usefulness of SmartDraw, its flexibility and its ease of use in connection with my project.  I anticipate further uses later on, as well, when I am finally able to get back to doing my own family's genealogy once again!

Required disclaimer:  I was not given the copy of SmartDraw; I paid for it with my own money.  I was not asked by anyone connected with SmartDraw or with any other entity to write this review.  Views expressed herein are mine and mine alone.  Neither I nor any member of my family is employed by the company which created and sells SmartDraw, nor do we have any other connection with them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The records do not always give us what we want

I have recently had an inquiry concerning a Spanish marriage record from the middle of the 1800s.  The individual who sent me the copy of the record wanted to know why the prospective groom's grandparents were not mentioned in the record, to see if the page she sent me revealed any information on that score.

Alas, it did not.  It often happens in these records that there is a variation -- sometimes a wide variation -- in the amount of information provided.  You would think, for instance, that a will would name any heirs to an estate, or that an inquiry into an intestacy would reveal the names of heirs.  Not always.  I had one probate case -- in fact, it was the one I have discussed here before, of the doctor who committed suicide in St. Augustine in 1809.  The rather lengthy packet of documents mentions, more than once, the doctor's two daughters.  Nowhere in the documents are their names revealed.

And in the marriage record in question, there is no information as to why the groom's grandparents were not named, nor would there be.  It is often the luck of the draw in how much information we find in a particular document.

I am currently dealing with baptism records in my research into the families of St. Augustine, FL, during the Second Spanish Period, and I find a tremendous variation in the amount of information provided.  Some records list not only the parents and godparents, but both sets of grandparents as well.  Some reocrds list the profession of the father or the godfather, and sometimes both.  Others are mute on the subject. 

One tactic I intend to employ, once I get all the transcriptions done, is to see whether it was one particular priest who entered the more complete information into the records.  That may or may not have been the case, but it has my curiosity up.  It could very well be that one of the priests was more prone to gather more information than the other one was.  It could also be that parents just did not reveal a great deal of information about the family.

We just have to understand that we may not always find what we want to find in the documents.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reports of my demise . . .

. . . are grossly exaggerated.  I apologize for not posting for quite a while, but it's been a madhouse.

Various family things have occurred, including a stay in the hospital for my husband.  He's home now and doing fine.

Classes started last week, and I missed the first day because of the abovementioned unscheduled stay.  But I'm getting back into it, and of course, I have a lot of reading to do.

Then there's my research project.  I haven't got as far as I wanted, but I have a few items that I think might make for a promising journal article and presentation, which I am required to do as part of the package.  I probably will not be terribly active blogging this term, and I regret that.  Priorities must be set.

I will try to keep the blog going but it will be minimal at least until Christmas.  Then I hope I can be more active at it after the first of the year.

In the meantime, let me recommend that you stretch your mind with Michael John Neill's Daily Genealogy Transcriber .  He invites everyone to try their hand at interpreting the day's sample.  (Shucks -- he beat me to the idea!)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Favorite Star Trek Episode

What does Star Trek have to do with Genealogy?  In the case of this one episode, everything.

I have a number of "favorite" Star Trek episodes, really, from many of the offshoots of that many-branched series (almost like a family tree, in fact).  One of these, like many of the best episodes of that saga, is completely without bang-bang shoot-'em-up.  It is a thoughtful episode, and it is about genealogy.  The episode is from the Voyager series, which many fans did not like, but which I am very fond of.  After all, we finally got the female captain that Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, envisioned at the beginning, more than forty years ago.

The episode is called "11:59," and in it, Captain Kathryn Janeway, not having to fend off this or that hostile alien race at the moment, explores a family legend.  Like most of us, she finds that the legend is not exactly what it is cracked up to be.  Briefly, the legend concerns her ancestor Shannon O'Donnell, at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.  She was an astronaut, so the legend goes, and an engineer.  She helped build a fantastic early twenty-first-century structure called The Millennium Gate, in a small town in Indiana.  Janeway finds that the legend has flaws, and discovers the most important part of it, which apparently had been downplayed in the telling:  the small town in Indiana, where Shannon O'Donnell did actually end up, was home to a fellow named Janeway, whom she eventually married, and thereby began the branch of the family tree from which the captain emerged.

In pursuing the legend, Captain Janeway uses the methods of genealogy, searching court records, vital records, newspaper records, censuses, and other familiar documents and sources.  All of these are stored digitally in the ships computer, loaded with all the knowledge of earth from earliest times to their own twenty-third century, a great mobile internet "wayback machine."  The rest of the crew gets caught up in the search, giving the captain advice, helping her search the records and history.  First Officer (the series' name for what we in our own century would call the executive officer), Chakotay offers a tongue-in-cheek version of their own situation, as a future family legend might tell it.

In the end, the captain, though slightly disappointed to find the legend was somewhat less glamorous than she had been told as a child by her Aunt Martha, apparently the keeper of the family history, reconciles herself to the facts.  Neelix, a crewmember, even finds a photograph of Shannon O'Donnell Janeway, late in life, with her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren arrayed around her.  It is a great genealogical story,and to the uninitiated viewer, would have been a wonderful introduction to the fun of genealogy..  Many people over the last nearly fifty years have mentioned how watching Star Trek as children influenced their career choices later in life.  I wonder if anyone has been influenced to pursue their family history by the episode "11:59?"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wisdom Wednesday: What Would My Mother Think of This?

My mother used to say, "Fools' names and fools' faces appear in public places."  This was usually said to assuage my feelings of unpopularity -- at least by being obscure (relatively speaking), I was not a fool with my name and face in public all the time.  Then there was Emily Dickinson:

I'm nobody.  Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us -- don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Well, look at us today.  All over the internet, blogging, commenting, being listed here, there, and everywhere.  What would my mother think?  Emily, I believe, would just shake her head, draw her drapes, and write a poem about all of us who go skittering about the Web, croaking our names to the admiring bog.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What's in a Name? Or: Clues are where you find them

One problem genealogists run into, of course, is names.  Spellings, variants, two people with the same name -- these occur across cultures and across the decades and centuries.  It is no different in St. Augustine from 1783 to 1821.

One potential problem is one I was unaware might even exist until, in connection with my research on the project, I read Patricia Griffin's Mullet on the Beach: The Minorcans in Florida, 1768-1788 which is the story of the in-migration of several hundred residents of the Balearic island of Minorca, in the Mediterranean just off the coast of the Spanish autonomous region of Cataluña, to work the indigo plantation of Dr. Andrew Turnbull during the British Period (1763-1783).  Griffin mentions one woman who married a fellow named Matias Pons.  Next page she renders the husband's name as Marcial Pons.  I have come across both names in my research, but did not have any idea that there might be a problem.   Were these two different people that the woman was married to (serially, we hope!)?  Or was this one person known by two different names?  I will have to do further research to resolve that one.  Either possibility could be the case; it was not unusual in colonial times, either in the Spanish colony of St. Augustine or in my own ancestral Massachusetts colonies, for a bachelor-man to marry the widow of his deceased brother, nor is it that unusual for a man to be known by two different names.  My own great-great grandfather Matthew Hale Packard was known by his first name in some areas, and by his middle name in others.  In the case of Matias/Marcial Pons, I found a valuable clue in one of my derivative sources.

Another problem is the perennial one of two people, usually men, with the same name.  I have my two fellows named Diego Hernandez and my two others named Bernardo Segui, among others.  These do happen to be father and son, in both cases, but that is not always so.  In the English colonies, Sr. and Jr. often did not carry any indication of family relationship at all, but were just a way to distinguish between an older man and a younger man of the same name in the same town.  The case is (to over use a word) the same in Spanish St. Augustine, where we find "el mayor" (the older) and "el joven" (the younger) used whether or not there was any familial relationship.  There are instances when I do not know whether it was "el mayor" or "el joven" unless there is some clue somewhere in the sources.

Some of the clues are overt, as in the case of tax collector Fernando de la Maza Arredondo and his son of the same name.  The elder had to be away on city business, and his son took over doing the quarterly town accounts, which he was courteous enough to sign "Fernando de la Maze Arredondo, el joven," and sometimes added a phrase indicating that he was temporarily doing the job in his father's absence.  Other clues are not so overt, and I have learned the value of not skipping over the most mundane parts of the documents I am using from the East Florida Papers.  In one testamentary proceeding, that concerning the legal consequences of the passing of one Juan Lauren (or Jean Laurent, in his native French language)., there is the problem of which man of the same name is the one mentioned in the document.  Lauren died intestate, and his effects were sold at public auction.  One of the purchasers at the auction was Bernardo Segui -- but which one is not indicated in the recording of the sale.  It is only in the mundane attestations made by the scribe that he duly notified Señor Segui to come pay for the stuff he bought and haul it away that the answer appears.  These are the boring little notations that the scribe dutifully made, one after the other after the other, to indicate that he crossed all his t's and dotted all his i's, where I end up with my eyes crossed.  The notification in this case is attested to have been sent to Bernardo Segui el joven.  This time, reading all the "doy fes," as I call them because they all end with the phrase "doy fe" (I give faith, or I attest), paid off.

Finally, there is the problem of the multi-cultural nature of the St. Augustine colony and some of the quirks of naming that show up from other languages and cultures.  A case in point is the Irishman John McIntosh, grandfather of the troublemaker John Houston McIntosh of the "Patriot War" of 1812-1813 in Spanish East Florida in which Americans tried to invade Florida and take it over with the intent to hand it over to the United States.  John McIntosh the elder was known as John McIntosh, Mor or John Mor McIntosh, "mor" being a Gaelic naming convention meaning "the great" or "the elder."  One writer rendered the name as John Mohr McIntosh, as if it were a middle name.  It likely was not, but rather this Gaelic naming convention.  I would not have known about that had I not also added to my reading list Charles E. Bennett's Florida's "French" Revolution, about an earlier coup attempt to grab Florida for the U.S.

We all know about the problems that can crop up with names.  We also need to be aware that clues about these name problems may turn up in the darnedest places!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nothing to do with Genealogy, but . . .

. . . It's intriguing, all the same.

I write like
Kurt Vonnegut
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I participate in a private mailing list of people I've known in cyberspace for over 30 years, some of whom I've actually met face to face, and from whom I've experienced kindness and true friendship.  One of them took this little test.  So I thought I would, too.  I entered three paragraphs from my blog a couple weeks ago about the doctor in St. Augustine who committed suicide in the first decade of the 19th century.

And the badge above is what I got.  So I write like Vonnegut, eh?  Well, well.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tom MacEntee's "What Do I Do" Meme

Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers, found at http://www.geneabloggers.com, has come up with a "meme" which can be found at http://www.geneabloggers.com/meme, asking what technology we use to do our genealogy and other stuff.  Here's mine . . .

But first, you may ask why I didn't use HTML to just put live links in the last paragraph.  I am not doing that because Blogger's HTML editor is very bad, and is driving me to dangerously high blood pressure.  I know enough to be able to troubleshoot my own HTML, and I am doing it right.  Blogger's HTML editor is just bad.

Done with the rant (and that is a very short version); now to the "meme."

* Hardware:

1.  Desktop computer put together by my husband, running Windows XP Professional.
2.  HP Dv6000t laptop running same.
3.  Asus Eee PC running Linux.
* External storage:
1.  Several 1-2 gigabyte USB drives.
2.  1 130 gigabyte portable hard drive (made to Department of Defense specifications for durability -- I could run over it with my car and it would be unharmed).
* Online storage:
No.  I do not do this.  I will not put my work, the product of my effort and time and knowledge, into "the cloud."  I don't trust it.  So . . . I'm a dinosaur.
* Backup:
1.  HandyBackup
* Firewall:
1.  hardware firewall installed at the cable
2.  ZoneAlarm
* Virus protection:
1.  Symantec
* Spyware:
1.  AdAware
2.  MalwareBytes
* File cleaner:
None yet, but shopping
* Printer:
HP Deskjet F4280, which I am very unhappy with because of unnecessary things it does!  My next printer is likely to be a Kodak!
* Phone:
1.  Landline
2.  Nokia Communicator 9300 (I think)
* Mobile media:
1.  I just do not want to mess with this!  I really don't care.  I have enough patience to wait until I get home.
* Music player:
1.  Cowon iAudio 7
* Car audio:
1.  The radio and CD player that came with it
* eBook Reader:
I don't.  I don't want to.  I like my eyes too much, and I like the feel of real books, thank you.  The readers are too expensive, and they can break or fail.  Books don't break.
* Browser:
Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.  I avoid IE whenever possible.
* Blog:
Here it is, right here.
* RSS:
Google Reader, or Feed Demon.
* FTP:
Not very much.  My husband gave me something-or-other, I don't know what it's called.
* Text editor:
Programmer's File Editor, which you cannot find any more.
* Graphics:
Only in the games I play.  Oh, well, I do use Paint Shop Pro 7.
* Screen capture:
I use Paint Shop Pro 7
* Social media:
* Social bookmarking:
* Social profile:
I'm not very.  I try to release as little personal information into the wild as possible.
* URL shortener:
* Office suite:
Microsoft Office (grudgingly); OpenOffice.org (they could make some components better)
* E-mail:
Mozilla Thunderbird, though I find something wrong with all of them.
* Calendar:
No.  Just can't make 'em work for me.  (Well, we have a paper calendar that we use)
* Accounting:
TurboTax when the time comes every year.  Other than that, paper files in the file cabinet. (Hey, at least we're not using a shoebox!)
* PDF generator:
OpenOffice.org does it just fine for me, and in fact Microsoft Office 2007 will, too.
* Genealogy database:
The Master Genealogist.  I tried Family Tree Maker 2010, but it just wasn't there for me.
* Genealogy tools:
Pen, paper, forms, reference books. 
* Other tech stuff:
I do a lot of transcription of Spanish documents from past centuries, and I find a little program called Transcript (about which I've blogged before) to be super for the task!  I love it!

Monday, July 5, 2010

How many genealogists . . .

My husband and I get into some silly discussions sometimes, letting our minds run free and make all sorts of associations and come up with all sorts of stuff.  On the trip back from Tampa on Saturday, after my presentation for the Florida Genealogical Society of Tampa, I came up with this bit of silliness:



One to screw it in.

One to create the original document describing the event and all the participants in it, tracing the lineage of each one back seven generations.

One to write the source citation for the document, in accordance with Evidence Explained.

One to transcribe the document.

One to abstract the document.

One to index the document.

One to place the document in an archive.

One to write it up in a peer-reviewed journal.

One to write a subsequent article in the same journal, disputing the findings of the first author.

One to digitize the document and upload it to Ancestry.com, Footnote, and FamilySearch.org.

One to blog about the document, the event it describes, its creator, and the participants.

One to write a source guide to the document and all similar documents which describe this event or similar events, or which contain information about the participants in the event, and their families.

One to give a presentation about the event, the original source document, its creator, and the participants and their family lines at the Federation of Genealogy Societies conference.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

3 July: Paleography and Praise

Blogging from the John F. Germany Public Library in Tampa, Florida:

3 July is my day for paleography, it seems.  Last year on this date, 3 July 2009, I was speaking at the national convention of the Sons of the American Revolution in Atlanta, on the subject:  "Paleography: Interpreting Old Handwriting, Spanish and English."

Today I gave that same presentation to the Florida Genealogical Society of Tampa.  Wonder where I'll be talking about paleography next July 3?

The presentation went well and was well-received.  This one of my favorite talks to give (the other one being "Our Black Sheep Ancestors: How to Approach Them").  I had some new examples, which worked very well.

That's the paleography; now the praise.

One of the members of the Florida Genealogical Society of Tampa is George G. Morgan, author of a number of books on genealogy, leader of guided tours to Britain for genealogical research, columnist on Ancstry.com, and one of the "Genealogy Guys" podcast.  He introduced himself and told me, "I love your book on the Florida censuses."  He told me how he has told a number of libraries they need the book.

I consider that high praise, and a good review.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: Google Books

From Amy Coffin, this week's 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy challenge is:

Take a stroll through Google Books. Most of us have probably used Google Books in our genealogy research, but have you really taken the time to explore what’s there? Look at the magazines and featured books. Check out the subjects offered. By taking the focus off research for a bit, your mind is open to see other ways this tool can be used. Bloggers can discuss any interesting items they found on Google Books during this exercise.

The chief benefit in my mind of Google Books is providing the text of classic works in all fields, those which are now in the public domain.  I will not go into the recent lawsuit concerning the posting by Google of excerpts from books which are not in the public domain (one of which is mine, and I'm of two minds about that).  But the contribution Google Books has made to history, genealogy, and a host of other research fields in posting these old -- some of them VERY old -- books is nearly unparalleled.

I hope you have read my entries on the documents in the East Florida Papers concerning the death by suicide of a doctor in St. Augustine in 1810.  There is an inventory  in the file of his clothing, personal effects, and the small bit of furniture he owned.  There is also a separate inventory of his books.  There are books on diseases of the tropics, books on surgery, and books called "materia medica," descriptions of disease symptoms and treatments of the day (there are modern materia medica works, as well).  

Among the materia medica works is one by Boerhave and one by Cullen, both published in the mid to late 1700s.  These books are on Google books.  The Boerhave is in Latin, so is a bit of a rough go.  The Cullen is in English.   Seeing the actual texts has an immediacy that just cannot be beat.  Here they are, two of the titles the doctor had in his collection in St. Augustine.  Others that were in his collection may have copies in Google Books, as well, but I don't have time right now to go look extensively.

Just seeing those two books for myself is a pleasure.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Why Do Genealogy?

After having my own Saturday night genealogy fun with the aforementioned spam, here is the real deal:  Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings Saturday Night Genealogy Fun meme.   Tonight's instructions:

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1) Think about the question: "Why do I pursue genealogy and family history research?"

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

I do it for curiosity.  I do it because I like a puzzle.  I do it because I like detective work.  I do it because I am a born research nerd.  I do it because I'm a history buff.  I do it because I wanted to know more about the father I hardly knew because he died just after I turned 7 years old.  I do it because I wanted to know about the grandparents I never met.  I do it because it is fun investigating family stories and finding the facts behind them -- if there are any!

That's why I do it.  How about you?

Somebody does not read very well . . .

I got the following in my in-box this weekend:

"Subject:  hey there, nice blog =)  [sic]

"Hi there blogger!
"Just visited your "Karen About Genealogy" blog and I was super impressed by its design and content. We just opened up our community Lookville for beta testing. It's a place for people to have discussions, share tips, and ask questions about fashion. Currently, memberships are by invitation only and I would love to have you on it! Please accept this invitation if you're interested: [URL redacted]
And we would love to hear your feedback.
The e-mail was signed, but I am redacting that, too.
Other than laughing myself silly, I have only one comment:  No, dears, you would NOT love to hear MY feedback!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

More on the Case of the Doctor's Suicide

I am continuing to transcribe the investigatory documents concerning the case of the doctor who committed suicide in St. Augustine in 1810.  The file contains 82 pages, consisting in testimony of witnesses to the event, evidentiary submissions, and an inventory and sale of the decedent's personal effects, as well as papers concerning the disposition of the proceeds of the estate (the doctor seems to have died intestate; I'll determine that, of course, as I go through the documents).  It is going to take several days to transcribe this one.

Further developments, however, do paint a sad picture indeed.  The doctor's wife had died fourteen years previously, and apparently he was devoted to her, for he had told his friends that he was miserable without her.  Their two daughters were in Ireland, by that time probably grown young ladies, and according to the documents in the case, were well taken care of.  These are the heirs in Ireland mentioned in the first few pages of the file, which I referred to in yesterday's post.  They were residing in Dublin.

In one document, a witness to the event, another doctor, is asked by the investigator if there were not any signs that the doctor was suicidal, with an eye to the question of could it have been prevented?  I wish that investigator were around here in the early years of the 21st Century, for he would find that we do not have much more in the way of an answer to that question than he did in 1810.  Yes, there are signs, as there were in the case of this unfortunate doctor, and the witness says as much.  But as we see these days, those signs are not always given proper priority, not acted upon.  Is it that we are not any better at it than they were in 1810 or that it is just difficult to know?  And how much of a role did denial play then, as it plays now?  And the idea that one just "toughs it out" when life gets rough with us.  Certainly men in St. Augustine in 1810 were expected to soldier on in the face of all difficulties and despairs.  It is a legacy that bears on the earlier question of why we do not always pick up on the signs given by one who may be contemplating suicide.

The implications of suicide in our genealogy are stark indeed.  It is still a subject people do not like to discuss, though in today's atmosphere of letting it all hang out, and quite frequently on national television, there is more talk of it than previously.  It is painful for those who remain, bringing self-blame, despair, and fear.  One can only wonder how this doctor's daughters reacted and felt, and how the news was treated in their families, back in Dublin.  It is no less a difficulty and a tragedy today than it was then, when a very lonely man just wanted to be reunited with the dear wife who had left him too early.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Of overdoses, laudanum, and history

In my transcriptions of wills from St. Augustine, Florida, between 1783 and 1821, I have encountered one that is quite sad.  The individual in question was an Irishman living in Spanish St. Augustine (of which there were quite a few) in 1810, who had apparently been depressed or, as the investigatory documents state, "disaffected with life," having indicated as much to several of his friends the day before he took an overdose of two ounces of laudanum -- four times the amount needed for a fatal dose.

Was this suicide or an accidental overdose?  Indications are that it was suicide.  The above-mentioned disaffection with life is one factor.  Another factor is that the individual was a doctor, familiar with the properties of laudanum, a tincture of opium.  Certainly he would have known that two ounces was more than enough to kill him.  Four times over.

Apparently his relatives were not with him in St. Augustine, for the documents refer to heirs being "absent in their native country" of Ireland.  Was loneliness a factor?  Had he suffered reverses of some sort?  Was he terminally ill?  I have only transcribed part of the file, so I do not know yet if there is further information.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, laudanum was available over the counter, and was taken for a variety of ills.  Narcotics generally were freely available, even as an ingredient in soft drinks.  Coca-Cola is so named because it originally contained cocaine.  As the dangers of addiction, accidental and deliberate overdose, inability to function fully, and other dangers (including use as instruments of murder) became known, these substances were brought under control.

In our investigations of family history -- our own or someone else's -- we need to be aware of so many bits of history.  Medical history is only one of these.  Online sources for medical information include Wikipedia (for a general overview and possibly some sources to check), The Merck Manuals, and Antiquus Morbus.  The Merck Manuals provide modern information on such aspects as dosage and side effects of medications, and signs, symptoms, and treatment of diseases.  Antiquus Morbus is useful for finding what an archaic term for a particular disease refers to in modern terms.  

We genealogists are special historians.  Not only do we see the large trends of history which influenced the lives of our ancestors, we see the human factor as well, including one unfortunate doctor in St. Augustine in 1810, who so sadly felt that life was no longer worth living.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sometimes the Source Comes to You

I enjoy serendipity when it strikes, and it seems to strike more often for those who are primed for it.  Case in point:

Today I received in the mail my copy of El Escribano, the annual journal of the St. Augustine (Florida) Historical Society.  In it is an article taking a different look at the manumission of Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, an African woman who married the white planter Zephaniah Kingsley.  Kingsley was one of the "nuevos pobladores" (new settlers) whose arrival was recorded in a pair of ledger books contained in legajo (bundle) 743 of the Papeles de Cuba at the General Archive of the Indies in Seville, Spain, which I transcribed during my research there in May, 2008. Kingsley is one of the more prominent figures in my study of the family structure of St. Augustine and the possible influence family relationships had on the history of St. Augustine (or that the history may have had on family relationships).  Anna has long been considered by historians to have been Kingsley's slave.

In this case. the author of the article makes the argument that Kingsley never considered Anna a slave, but that the manumission papers which exist were a sham forced upon the couple by the increasingly unpleasant tenor of race relations in Spanish East Florida as the acquisition of the province by the United States loomed.  The author maintains that Kingsley executed the paper in order to protect Anna and their three mulatto children.  It is an effective case.

What has this article given me?  Family information on Kingsley, his wife, and their children, for one thing, with enough data to allow me to search more specifically for records to back up the information in the article, at least to some extent.  References, for another, which I can examine for the information they contain, and to mine their bibliographies and source notes for other sources.

And it all just fell into my lap -- or was placed in my mailbox.  Be open to all things in your research, and grab the serendipitious bit when it comes your way.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Accredited Online Colleges Blog Advertisement E-Mail

Or:  "Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, and spam," to quote Monty Python.

Like Bill West, of West in New England, I also received a spam mail from an outfit calling itself Accredited Online Colleges.  The e-mail read:

>We at Accreditedonlinecolleges.com recently came across your blog and were excited to share with you an article. "50 Places to Find Your Family History Online” was recently published on our blog at [link deleted] and we hoped that you would be interested in featuring or mentioning it in one of your posts. Please let us know if you have any concern."

>Unlike Bill, who has more self-restraint than I have, I did click the link because I am curious.  Dangerous, perhaps, but I have this thing about wanting to check stuff out. (My husband is a certified computer security pro, so we have firewalls and other stuff out the yang on our computers, so I feel reasonably protected.)  I have a lot of concerns. Sorry, guys, but you're not going to be terribly happy with what I have to say.

First off, they "came across [my] blog," no doubt, by sending out a 'bot looking for genealogy blogs, the authors of which -- like Bill and me -- would become targets for their advertisement e-mail.  Their unsolicited commercial e-mail.  Their spam.

Their list is divided into sections.  The sites they mentioned in the first section, "General," included some of the best-known such as RootsWeb and Ancestry.com.  However, their blurbs were too short, carried little real information, and did not do the reader the service of distinguishing between paid sites and free sites.

The next section, "Search," included FamilySearch.org -- twice.  These directed the user to two different interfaces for the same website.  That's not quite cricket, lads.  Now you're really down to 49.  This section also included some "gathering" sites -- use our site to find other sites that you could probably find on your own and that if you've been doing online genealogy any time at all you probably know about already, anyway.  Not terribly useful to the more experienced genealogical researcher, and not really the best thing to which to send the novice.

Much of the rest of the list included a lot of these types of sites, some of which I would not trust any farther than I could throw Microsoft's offices.  (Hint:  That's not very doggone far.)  At many of these sites, the trap is that you get to enter your information for the search, and will have returned to you nothing but index information. If you want the actual document, or more detailed information, you will have to pay for it.  I'd be rather wary of giving some of these folks my credit card information.

These sites say that they will get you documents.  Nope.  They get you index information, nothing more.  Unless, of course, you wish to pay for it (which is reasonable, but you can pay for it by contacting the vital records office of the pertinent state or county or town yourself, and you will learn more genealogical methodology in the process)

As we go further down this list, we find RootsWeb is also listed twice.  Now you're down to 48 and this is getting close to false advertising (50 sites?  Nope).

Another trick they use is to direct searchers to a part of a government website, such as eVetRecs on the National Archives and Records Administration website.  Again, the blurb that Accredited Online Colleges' blogger posted is too brief and does not give enough information -- such as the fact that eVetRecs can only be used by a veteran himself or herself, or the veteran's legal heirs, to order military records.  Other orders must be placed using the paper forms provided by NARA.

Another recommended site could give a novice the wrong impression.  They refer the user to the site Make Your Coat of Arms, which proclaims that anyone can "easily create and print out on your printer your unique family or personal coat of arms (or family crest) based on your family ancestry or on the values that are important to you and your family today."  Now, this is not to dissuade anyone from going to the site and having fun creating something that is perhaps meaningful or even just silly fun, but no one should take this seriously, because an actual historical coat of arms can only be bestowed by the recognized arms-granting body of a country which recognizes coats of arms as rewards for particular gallantry and service to that country.  The United States is NOT one of those countries.

Oh, yes, they got to my orthography button by referring to Interment.net as Internment.  Sorry -- interment is what we do to our dead; internment is what the U.S. Government did to its Japanese-American population during World War II.  

There are a number of other, more reliable, sources of information about where to go to begin your genealogy searches, or to continue them.  One place to start is with Cyndi's List, which is not mentioned.  Another good starting place or refresher for the experienced is RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Your Family Tree, which is not mentioned on the Accredited Online College blog's list, either.  

Another good place, of course, to find good information on beginning or continuing genealogical research is to read genealogy blogs!  Thank you for reading mine.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: State Archive

This week's 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy challenge:

Examine the website of your state or provincial archives. Take some time to push all the buttons and click all the links. What did you find? 

I have done research before at the Florida State Library and Archive.  The physical location is the R. A. Gray Building at 500 South Bronough (pronounced BRU-no) Street, Tallahassee, Florida.  The State Library is on the second floor and the State Archive is on the first floor.

On the website, my favorite part is the Florida Memory Project.  At this site, a researcher can find digitized documents from the Archive's collection, including Spanish land grants and Confederate Veterans' pensions.   Other exhibits have photographs and moving pictures of Florida's history.  My husband's great-grandfather's Confederate pension is digitized in the collection online, and it is beautiful.  My compliments to the State Archive for digitizing in color!

Another service is the Florida Electronic Library, which provides access to the library collections of public and academic libraries across the state.  It is not always up-to-date, but it is current enough to serve the purposes of most users.

It is time for me to plan another research trip to the State Archive, in connection with my current research project on St. Augustine.  I have already consulted the Archive's online catalog, so I know which record groups and series I will be examining.  The search function at this online catalog is not terribly robust (but then, neither is the search function at the General Archive of the Indies in Seville).  I have to do some digging and get creative sometimes with my search terms, but I can usually find what I need.  And if I don't find it in the online catalog, when I get to the Archive, the very knowledgeable and helpful staff will assist me in finding what I need.

Florida was one of the last states to institute a state archive, but the staff at our State Archive has done a great job!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Gold Mine

Working on my St. Augustine community family history project, I have just finished transcribing some documents from a probate file for a couple who were quite advanced in age for their time (circa 1809; the gentleman was some 90 years old) in which there appear the sort of documents we genealogists consider gold.

Because the couple apparently died intestate and there was a wrangle among heirs, the file contains copies of birth and baptism documents, marriage documents, and death records from the parish church.  It is a gold mine, as now I know the names of the children (from more than one marriage; apparently the last wife was number three), the names of the parents of the husband and the wife, the wife's date of birth, their date and place of marriage, along with the name of the officiating priest and the witnesses, and their dates and places of death.

In those days, "copies" meant handwritten transcriptions, attested by sworn statements to have been true and faithful copies of the original, along with the location of the original in the records (page number and other information).

And I'm not finished yet.  It is possible that I should be glad this couple died intestate, for if there had been a will, there probably would not have been a need for all these other documents to establish relationships.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sentimental Sunday: A Yeoman's Birthday

Here I am on my birthday, 12 April 1981.  I was a Yeoman Second Class in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.  As I have my uniform on, it was a drill weekend.  The location is at my father-in-law's house in Jacksonville, FL, where my husband had been busy all day baking and decorating that cake, which bears the insignia of a Yeoman First Class.  That day, at drill, I received my letter of advancement to YN1, and I had called my husband that morning with the news.  It was a nice birthday present.  The cake was a nice surprise, too, and my husband did it all by himself!

One Year!

Today is my first "Blogiversary" -- a year ago, I started my genealogy blog.  As many other fairly new bloggers have stated, I wasn't sure I could do this, not sure I had that much to say.  See for yourself if I have!

This next year, I hope to have more to say, especially about the lineages of St. Augustine, Florida, as I continue my research project.

I've been so pleased to be part of this phenomenon of genealogy blogging.  There are so many great blogs out there on the subject, covering all aspects of our favorite pursuit.  I want to give a special thank you to Thomas MacEntee, who runs Geneabloggers.  Without him, I would not be here running my mouth!  He does a terrific job leading the way for so many of us.

Congratulations to those bloggers chosen as Heritage 100 top blogs!  That's a great achievement for all of you!

Now to the beginning of another year of blogging.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Armed Forces Day: A Family History

Today is Armed Forces Day, so I am going to talk about ancestors and other relatives who have served in the military forces of the United States.

On my father's side, I can trace back to a Revolutionary War ancestor, Richards Packard.  He enlisted in Massachusetts at the age of 17, in 1780, and serve two enlistments.  We don't have any War of 1812 ancestors in this line, because in around 1796, Richards Packard headed up to Canada, not because of any change of heart after the war, but because in Canada, in Quebec, the government was giving land away without much worry about who they were giving it to!  He found farmland to his liking, and settled in the area of present-day Georgeville.  His movements after the Revolution had a northward trend, from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, up into Northern Vermont, and then into Canada.  I guess he was more picky about his land than about the winter climate!

My great-great grandfather Mathew Hale Packard "retro-migrated" back to the U.S. in around 1850, settling first in Chautauqua County, New York.  He is enumerated there in the federal 1850 and 1860 censuses and in the 1855 New York state census.  He was still in New York in the 1860s, and there enlisted in a cavalry regiment for the Civil War.  On the other side of the family, another great-great grandfather, Charles Reed, served in an Indiana infantry regiment.  Both men suffered more from illness than from combat action, neither having been wounded, but both feeling effects of disease.  Both received pensions based on disability; Matthew Hale Packard didn't benefit from his for long, for he died in 1881.  Charles Reed lived, in poverty, until 1920.

I don't have any record of anyone in World War I.  My maternal grandfather Perry Reed was a railroad freight agent, and therefore in an occupation of national security importance, so he wasn't drafted.  My paternal grandfather ran a dairy; I don't know if he had any particular deferment; I haven't looked for the draft  registration status of either one of these yet.  Just haven't had time.

My father, Arden Packard, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1929, right out of high school.  A year later, he took a competitive exam and won entrance to the U.S. Naval Academy (the way serving sailors got in).  He graduated from the Academy in 1934, served on aircraft carriers, and finally got to indulge a passion of his childhood and youth -- he entered flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1937.  It was in Pensacola that he met my mother.  He was medically retired in about 1939; in 1941 -- several months before Pearl Harbor -- he was called back to active duty.  He was restricted to limited flying because of his medical condition, but became a flight instructor.  Despite the limitations on his flying, he was rated in one fitness report among the top 5% of Naval aviators!

My brother, Arden Packard II ("Ned"), enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1960, after he graduated from high school.  I can imagine what our father, who died in 1954, would have thought of that.  Daddy taught his dog, Smoky (registered name Ceiling Zero) a couple tricks which indicated his opinion.  He would set two identical bowls of dog food down, calling one "Navy chow" and the other "Marine chow."  Smoky went for the "Navy chow" every time.  He would say to the dog, "Smoky, which would you rather be -- a dead dog or a Marine?"  The dog would roll over on her back, all four legs in the air.

When I was a little girl back in the 1950s, I was unconventional.  Alas, I grew up in an all-too-conventional family.  When I expressed a desire to go into the Navy, my mother and brother were aghast and absolutely prohibited it.  "Nice" girls didn't do such things.  When my husband and I got married, he was in the Coast Guard.  I saw what fun he was having -- he really did enjoy it -- and said I wanted to share in the fun.  "Sure," he said.  His confidence in me (and in my sense of honor and self-respect) enabled me to do what I had been blocked from doing earlier on.  I enlisted in the Coast Guard Reserve 3 February 1976 as a yeoman third class, becoming the first woman in my family to serve in the military. When I had to stand down in 1991 because I had developed arthritis, I was a lieutenant (junior grade).  I had been selected for lieutenant, but did not get to advance.

Happy Armed Forces day to all serving members and to all veterans!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Value of a UPS

Sorry, United Parcel Service, I'm not talking about you today, though I have had good service from you over the years.  I'm talking about that OTHER UPS -- the uninterrupted power source, a peripheral for your computer which is essentially a battery backup.  It comes on immediately when it senses that the elecrtic power is going off, and gives you time, if not to keep working, then to save your work quickly and shut down.

I live in a rural area in northeast Florida served by an electric cooperative.  We get good service, on the whole, from Clay Electruc Co-op, but occasionally, and for some reason more often during the summer, we are subject to very short blackouts.  The electricity will pop off suddenly and unexpectedly, and then quickly come back on. 

It is brief, but it is enough to trip a computer off.  And just a few minutes ago, I had just finished a particularly difficult transcription from a probate file for a resident of St. Augustine who died in about 1809, which constituted a half hour or more of work for one page.  I was just finishing adding the source citation and was just about to save the file, and the electricity tripped off.  It rapidly came back on, but it was enough that my work was gone.

Not only do we have these little blackouts, we are in Florida, the lightning capital of the world, where we also have frequent afternoon thunderstorms in the summer.

For one thing, I suppose I should save every 10 minutes or so.  For another, I asked my husband to buy me a UPS.  He sees the value in it, for he has one for himself.  I just hadn't asked for my own before, but just a few minutes ago, my need for one was made quite clear!

All of us who use computers in our genealogical investigations and who live in areas where the electricity is subject to frequent interruption should have a UPS.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Following the lead of Elyse's Genealogy Blog, I'll present my two speaking engagements for the month of May. Go check out Elyse's schedule, and if you're in her area, please take the opportunity to hear her.

I'll be speaking at 6:30 pm on 10 May at the headquarters library of the Clay County (Florida) Libraries at Fleming Island. The library has asked me to talk about my recent book on the Florida colonial, territorial and state censuses.

On 24 May at 2:30 in the afternoon, I'll be talking to the Sweetwater Genealogy Club at the Sweetwater Community in Jacksonville, Florida, about "Navigating the National Archives Website," showing them some guideposts for getting around that huge and very complex website that is chock full of information. If they have wi-fi there at their meeting hall, I will "go live" on the NARA website and show them around that way. If not, then I will update my PowerPoint on the subject.

Monday, April 19, 2010

That which was lost . . .

. . . now is found.

For months, nigh onto a year, I have been fretting over a copy of a document and a copy of a newspaper article, both pertaining to my great-great grandmother's divorce from my great-great grandfather. They seemed to have got lost from the binder in which I have other documents from the same time period, which I received from a cousin. I could not for the life of me find these documents, and I was getting very upset.

However, one good thing came of this apparent loss. I designed a "document tracking form," a blank copy of which now resides at the front of each of the binders in which I have family information. On the form, each time I remove a document from the binder for examination, I enter the Clooz ID number, the title or nature of the document, the subject person, the document's permanent location, the date it was removed from its binder, why the document was removed from the binder, and its temporary resting place. The form remains in the binder while the document is in use, and does not come out of the binder until the document is returned to its proper place in that binder.

Peace of mind sometimes has a price. This time, however, I did not have to pay that price, in the end. A few weeks ago, I dragged out an old plastic file tub, which has hanging files in it, and which I had used to store some documents and other items before I put everything into binders. I needed the tub to store files I am accumulating for my study of the family structure of St. Augustine, FL, from 1783 to 1821. I found not only the divorce document and article, I also found some photos I had been trying to find for the past several years!

I guess the moral of that story is: Put all your stuff in one place! And do it in a timely fashion!

I am very glad I found those items, but I think the step I took to devise my "document tracking form" was a great step, too, and I have used that form most faithfully!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Six Degrees of Separation

One thing that will probably help me blog through a busy April, when I do have time, will be the blogging memes that appear in various places, such as Genea-musing's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, from Randy Seaver. Tonight's task:

1) Find an ancestral line that atretches back to the time of the US Revolutionary War (1775-1783), about 230 years. Define your person-to-person connection (the person actually met the next person on the list) back to a historical figure from that time.

2) Tell us about it on your blog, in a note or comment on Facebook, or in a comment on this post.

My father was Arden Packard (1911-1954). He died when I was seven years old, but I do remember him.

His father was Walter Hetherington Packard (1879-1937) is shown along with his wife, Elizabeth Jane Reynolds (1879-1939) in a photograph with my father in about 1930 0r 1931.

Walter H. Packard's father was Oscar Merry Packard (ca. 1848-ca. 1930) who is enumerated in the 1930 U.S. census living with Walter H. Packard's family.

Oscar Packard's father was Matthew Hale Packard (1822-1881), with whom Oscar is enumerated in the 1850 U.S. Census and the 1855 New York census living in Chautauqua County, New York.

Matthew Packard's father was John Allen Packard, shown in Canadian records with his family, including Matthew, in Stanstead County, Quebec, Canada.

John Packard's father was Richards Packard, who served in a Massachusetts regiment, and whose cousin, though the line of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, was John Adams.

Though I cannot be absolutely sure that Richards Packard ever met his cousin John face-to-face, it is possible. And there was some familial resemblance -- both men were short in stature!

The Delinquent Blogger

I regret that I have neglected my blog of late, but it is the last month of the term at university. I have one paper done, another monster of a paper due in rough draft next week, a take-home exam in Spanish, and my ongoing St. Augustine project.

It is also time to do taxes, which I should have done before this, but there it is. Ah, well.

I've even been so wrapped up in my academic pursuits that I've missed the last three episodes of "Who Do You Think You Are?" But I can catch up with that on Hulu.

After the term is over, I'll still be fairly busy. I have two speaking engagements lined up for the month of May, and another in July. I've even had an inquiry about a gig next year! Also, fairly soon now, our genealogical society will be offering a many-part course for beginning family historians -- though the education chair isn't sure about HOW many parts there will be yet. I'll be teaching some of the classes in that series.

So I may not be here on the blog as much as I would like for the month of April, but I'll be back in May, much more often.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ambivalent in the 21st Century

Just recently, my book, Non-Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945: A Guide to Sources, came out in a Kindle edition from Amazon.com (through an arrangement my publisher, McFarland, has with Amazon). I am ambivalent about this.

On the one hand, it is the current trend and, I suppose, the wave of the future. E-books are here to stay, I know. And I am getting the same royalty rate on Kindle sales, just not the same amount, of course, because the Kindle edition costs less than the print edition. Of course, the Kindle reader itself is not exactly inexpensive, which has an effect on the dissemination of the electronic texts made for it. As the technology develops, as with other electronic innovations we have seen over the past few decades, the price will come down as they become both more common and more sophisticated. E-books do have the advantage of not requiring bookshelf space.

On the other, I am an old-school sort of person who prefers the feel and versatility of a print book. I would not read a Kindle or any other e-book in the bathtub, for instance (though I rarely read in the tub because I prefer showers). I cannot really mark in an e-book (though there are, I know, provisions for making some sort of notes and comments in them) like I can in a print book. As a historian, I read a lot of histories and related works, and I like to argue with my texts by making marginal comments. Print books are not at the whim of ever-changing technology and the problem of "platform creep." And print books are easier on my old eyes.

I also remain unconvinced that e-books are piracy-proof (though, come down to it, print ones are not completely piracy-proof, either). I suppose it is a toss-up, and I have to say I am in favor of whatever method will result in sales of my works, of course!