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 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  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 -- 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 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.