Friday, May 31, 2013

Choice of Browsers Does Make a Difference

I have been using computers since the early 1980s and PCs all but two of those years.  As long as I can remember I have been using Internet Explorer (IE) as my browser.  I was comfortable with it and, since Microsoft also made the operating system, I figured it would be more compatible.  Over the past few months, however, I have run into a couple different computer problems.  When I either consulted with tech support, or went on-line with chat rooms or just googled for a solution, one of the answers was often "try another browser."  Having resisted this for years and beating my head against the wall trying to make IE work, I finally decided to give this option a try.  

I did a little reading up about the various browsers and decided Chrome was probably as good a choice as any.  I googled to find a Chrome download and proceeded to give it a try.  My mindset led me to believe this was a major decision, because once I switched it was all chrome or nothing!  Once I had downloaded Chrome,  I tackled the first problem I was having with ID--When using WorldCat, I couldn't search a find the libraries who carried the item of interest, such as a book (I hadn't had this problem prior to Windows 8). The little blue "search wheel" would just spin forever and never list the libraries that carried my book of interest.  When I used Chrome it immediately identified and listed the libraries.  A great WorldCat feature if you haven't used it before.  

Of interest, when I entered the title of the book I published in August 2011 into the WorldCat search, Alibris in Emeryville, California came up as the closest location.  Alibris isn't a library, it is a company that acts like a broker to provide books to libraries.  Since I donated a copy of the book to the Carlsbad  Dove Library, it should have been the closest; but they must not provide listings on WorldCat.  It is hard to believe that Alibris had a copy of my book. Since my book can be obtained "on demand" from my publisher, I am guessing that if Alibris gets an order, they in turn order it from the publisher.  Other than my immediate family, a few other close relatives and Libraries to whom I donated the book, Alibris must be one of the few people in the world that is marketing my book!  Good for them.  

 My second problem pertained to creating this blog.  Whenever I tried to insert photos or graphics into the blog using IE, I had all sorts of problems.  Since Google provides my Google Blogger app for the blog, it makes sense that Google Chrome would be more compatible.  This proved to be the case.  Now I create the blog in chrome and often conduct other searches on IE at the same time.

Because I am much more familiar with IE, I still use it for 95% of my work on the internet.  However, I have been pleasantly surprised how easy it is to switch browsers; or, as just noted,  even use them both almost simultaneously.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Choosing Lecture Sessions at Jamboree

As I mentioned in my 18 May blog, The Southern California Genealogical Society's annual Jamboree is coming up next week.  Prior to attending I always try and review the schedule of lectures and decide which presentations I want to attend.  I will sometimes change my mind once I get to the conference; but at least I have a foundation from which to operate. 

In reviewing the presentations by time slots, I will often find two presentations during the same time period that interest me.  I will mark them both and review them again later in an attempt to resolve the conflict.  The deciding factor is usually the lecturer.  I will read the short write up on the lecturers and that often helps me finalize my decision.  

The two "brick walls" that I am currently working on are in Ireland and Germany.  Interestingly, I only saw one lecture on each county; so will be attending both of them.  

I always like to keep up to date with new developments at, Family Tree Maker, and Family Search.  However, unless I make a change or they add it on Sunday as a "By Popular Demand Session" I won't be attending any Ancestry or FTM sessions--fewer offerings this year, I think.  

I noticed lots of sessions relating to the use of Google for genealogical research and several DNA presentation, in addition to Thursday being dedicated to DNA topics.   

I developed a habit at one of the first Jamborees I attended of keeping a "To Do" list as I attend the sessions.  Rather than taking lots of supplemental notes, I try to follow the syllabus. However, any time the speaker mentions something that triggers the thought, "I need to do that", I write it down. Hopefully, the list will be less than a page in length.  That list then takes priority once I return from the conference.  

I am really looking forward to attending Joe Mozingo's Saturday breakfast presentation.  Joe is an L.A. Times writer who wrote a series in the Times of researching his Mozingo heritage, which traced back to a black slave, Spencer Mozingo.  When I learned of this, I contacted Joe because my gggrandmother is a Mozingo, who also traces back to Spencer.  Joe subsequently wrote a book, which I read, about his adventures, within this country and Africa, tracing his ancestry. Should be an interesting session.  

If you have any interest at all in genealogy and have never attended Jamboree, you owe it to yourself to go!  Check out the details at: 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Family Tree Maker--Identifying and Correcting Errors

Two days ago we discussed the method for identifying errors and inconsistencies in Family Tree Maker.  Now that I have gone through the process of correcting a couple hundred of the errors, I have what I think are some helpful observations and some suggestions as to how FTM could improve the process.

I noticed right away that a HUGE majority of the corrections listed on the 173 pages of corrections were "This individual's children sort order may be incorrect".  In other words, in the family view which lists all of the children at the bottom of the window, the children aren't in chronological order of  birth.  

In the example above, my three children from top to bottom are Debora, b. 1960; Cheryl, b. 1961; and Linda, b. 1964.  Displayed correctly (below) Cheryl is moved up to the top ahead of Debora so that they are in correct chronological order.  

This is corrected simply by right clicking on any of the children and selecting "sort children by birth order".  It isn't really an error in your data; but is more an issue of proper form.  When I eliminated this as an error to include in my error list, the list went from 173 pages to 15.  That equates to about 3950 items to correct!  I have a couple suggestions how the FTM programmers could make this a more manageable problem.  First, would be create a global correction tool for your program that would correct all of these with a single action.  Currently, under the tools menu, are similar global functions such as: global spell check, convert names and resolve all place names.  Secondly, if there are two parents in the family and the children are out of order, it shows up as two separate errors--once with each parent's name.  This seems unnecessary, as it is corrected for both parents by clicking on the list of children once!

I know this might seem trivial to some; but I assure you that I am not the only user who has several hundred such errors in their FTM program.  Correcting all 158 pages of that sorting error isn't trivial either, even if I really only have to do half of them (one for each family vice each parent).  My blog isn't well enough known that FTM would read it; but I hope to bring this to their attention by some other means.  

I also noted that in some date conflict errors,  the error really wasn't an issue.  Let me explain using the below graphic for George Brown Dean.  The Death and Burial facts in yellow are both marked

"preferred" and are in logical sequence: Death, 27 June 1920 and Burial, about 30 June 1920.  However, the Death fact marked in green has a date of 27 June 1921.  This generated an error "The burial date occurred before his/her death" even though it was not the preferred death date.

  I noticed this same problem with other date conflicts such as "mother or father not being 13 yet when child was born" or "burial coming prior to date of death".  You can see in all these cases where facts could be listed in the person window and generate an "error" item, yet not be selected as "preferred".  This could encourage us to delete facts even though they have a source and could prove to be helpful in later analysis, just because they conflict with other data. 

Have fun making those corrections.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Visiting the O'Malley Homeland in the Scranton Area

In June of 2012, I combined a couple projects to travel back East.  I had won a Mother's Day writing contest conducted by "Mocavo" and the prize was a consultation in Boston with Michael Leclerc, former chief genealogist at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and currently the same position with the genealogy web site, Mocavo.  I was also taking my grandson back to the Naval Academy for their summer Water Polo Camp.  Since the camp was five days I dropped Ryan off at Annapolis and headed for the Scranton, Pennsylvania area. My gggrandparents, Peter and Julia O'Malley/Malia/Mally, settled in Wayne County, immediately West of Scranton around 1848, remained there until about 1867 and then moved from Pennsylvania to Mason County, Illinois in 1880.  

I had never been to Scranton; but had performed a lot of research, both on-line and via correspondence with various sources in the area.  My primary goals were to visit the Wayne County Genealogical Society Library and to meet with two Catholic Church archivists in Scranton.    I was about 50% successful.  After dropping Ryan off around 9 a.m. in Annapolis, I drove as fast as safety permitted to try and get to Honesdale, PA prior to the closing of the Wayne County Genealogical Society's library.  It was on a Sunday and I had checked their hours on the internet.  I arrived about 3 p.m., which left me about 1.5 hours for research--I thought!  I hadn't read the fine print and on Sunday's the library isn't open--only the museum.  However, the trip wasn't a total loss as I got to see the Honesdale area and, enroute back to Scranton, passed through Salem Township, which was listed as Peter and Julia's residence during the 1860 census.  

Above is the main intersection of Salem Township.  It wasn't much more than a wide spot in the road as I traversed several miles of  heavily wooded area such as depicted in the photo below, I tried to imagine Peter and his family traveling these same roads, albeit dirt--not paved, over 160 years ago in a horse drawn wagon.  Gazing upon the heavily forested area, I speculated that their move to Scranton in 1867 might have been heavily influenced by the difficulty of trying to farm this hilly, heavily forested land.  Scranton was a booming mining and railroad area about that time, and I am sure Peter heard from his friends in Scranton about job opportunities in the mines.  The 1860 census listed Peter's occupation as "Farmer" and the 1870 census as "miner".  

The following day I had an appointment in Scranton with the archivist at St. Peter's Cathedral, which was the headquarters for the diocese.  I had been corresponding with Barbara, the archivist, for several months.  
St. Peter's Cathedral

Barbara had found a record of the baptism of Peter and Julia's oldest child, John.  According to the records, he was born in Scranton in March 1855 and baptized in May.  In correspondence a few weeks earlier, Barbara suggested I contact Holy Mary Mother of God (also known as Holy Rosery) Parish, because it was know as the "Irish Catholic Church" in the 1800s when Peter and Julia had lived in the area.  This proved to be a good tip because, just days prior to my trip, I received work back from their archivist, Carrie, that she had found baptismal records for Sara, Ellen and Michael.

When I met with Barbara she thought it very unusual that there was not a baptismal record for Walter, who was born between Sara and Ellen.  She told me I should tell Carrie to go back through the records again to find Walter's record.  Barbara was convinced that Carrie had missed it.  

Mary Mother of God Parish, Scranton, Pennsylvania

I went directly over to visit with Carrie after my meeting with Barbara.  Carrie was a relatively new archivist and, possibly because of a heavy workload, not nearly as friendly and accommodating as Barbara.  I decided that I was lucky to have gotten what I had, so didn't push her to look again to find Walter's records.  

 Above is the neighborhood area near Mary Mother of God Parish, showing housing typical of what might have been experienced by Peter and his family.

Steamtown Museum Scranton, Pennsylvania

Not only was Scranton a major mining area, it was also the headquarters for some of the more prominent railroads in the area.  The 1879-80 City Directory for Scranton listed Peter's occupation as "Railroad", so I decided a tour of the museum might be informative and helpful.  It is a wonderful museum and, transitioning from the mines to working for the railroad, was probably a very logical progression for Peter.  Since, Peter and his family moved to Illinois in 1880, where his occupation was also listed as "railroad", I surmise that the railroad might have been the means of transportation for the family from Scranton to Illinois.  Peter went back to farming when he got to Illinois, so his plan might have been to work for the railroad just long enough to make the move.

That evening as I checked my e-mails prior to departing for Boston the next morning, I noted that Barbara had sent an e-mail to Carrie suggesting that she look again at her records to see if she could find Walter.  She was convinced Carrie had missed the record and was like a bulldog in pursuing it!  

After spending most of the day driving from Scranton to Boston, I checked into my hotel near my meeting place with Michael the next day.  Having some time prior to dinner, I checked my laptop for e-mails.  It immediately caught my eye that there was a response from Carrie to Barbara.  She had looked again for Walter's baptismal record and found it!  Barbara and her intuition were correct.  

I think there are a couple lessons to be learned from this experience.  Whenever, we or others, conduct a record search and don't find anything, it doesn't necessarily mean the record wasn't there.  When you consider the millions of searches conducted almost every day throughout the genealogical community, it should be easy to recognize that they aren't all perfect and errors can be made.  

Secondly, don't underestimate the value of "the personal touch".  I had developed a great relationship with Barbara, both through e-mail/snail-mail correspondence and my visit with her.  Even thought she was a very dedicated archivist, I don't think she would have gotten as involved helping me with my search if it hadn't been for that good rapport.  I had been careful to include a check with any of my requests for assistance.  I also gave her a check for the diocese the day I met with her and always went out of my way to thank her for all her assistance.  

Having been in Scranton and Wayne County and traversed through the areas where Peter and his family lived; I definitely have a much better appreciation for the social, terrain, distance and other physical challenges they faced.  The trip was well worth the time!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Identifying Errors in My Family Tree Maker Program

I have had a couple articles over the past week regarding features of Family Tree Builder (FTB) that will scan the total data base of tree member facts and list all of the inconsistencies.  Since I am just getting started with developing my family tree on FTB and my primary family history data base is on my Family Tree Maker (FTM) program, I thought I should focus on resolving all the conflicts on my primary data base, FTM, prior to spending a lot of time on FTB.  In fact, it would save a lot of time to only resolve the issues one time and then to use that data to populate other trees.  Thus, I will get my FTM tree cleaned up and then reload it on FTB.

The first place I looked in FTM to identify inconsistencies was the "Tools" tab on the Menu Bar.  It seemed logical because other aids like resolve all place names, relationship calculator, and convert names were all there.  After checking my manual, I learned that there is a report called "Data Errors Report".  You generate the report by selecting "Publish", "Person Reports" and then "Data Errors Report".  These selections are highlighted in yellow in the below page view. 

I still think it should be under tools; but at least I figured out where it was.  Once you click on "Generate Report" a window appears entitled "Data Errors Report Options".  It allows you three different scan options to generate the report: Immediate family, All individuals or Selected individuals.  I selected "all individuals" and immediately hit generate report.  The report was 148 pages long with about 25 errors per page--about 3700 errors.  OOps!  At first I thought I would print it out, then I decided that was a lot of printing and lots of errors.  I decided to see if there was some sort of filtering process such as FTB has. Notice the yellow highlighted icon in the upper left of the below window.  When you hover

your pointer over the icon it reads "Errors to include".  Clicking on it opens a window divided into two parts: Person errors and Date errors.  Within each of those two parts you can select those specific errors or omissions to include in the report.  Each individual will have different preferences; but I decided that I was primarily concerned with date errors.  Additionally, I noted that in the 148 page report, a large number of the errors were birth date or marriage date missing--most likely meaning--I didn't know the dates. So, I only checked three boxes in the person errors: Name contains title, wife's surname same as husband's and Children out of order.  

I left all 15 of the items checked in the date errors part (there are five more selections you can see by sliding down the tab on the right).  By doing this I reduced my report to 64 pages containing about 1600 errors.  This is still a large task; but certainly more manageable than 3700.

The report generated by FTM consists of three columns: Name, Birth Date, and Potential Error and is printed out in alphabetical order based on the individual's surname and given name. I believe I like the report generated by FTB better, as it broke the listing into groupings based on the type of error and then was alphabetical within each of those groupings.  

I know that this is a daunting task; but it must be done.  Otherwise, my family tree will be very suspect because of those errors and the errors will be transmitted to others whenever they import data from my tree.

No matter what genealogy software program you are using, I am certain it has the capability to scan the data base for errors.  If you haven't performed this function recently (or ever), you owe it to yourself to do so; and if your tree is being shared with others out there on the internet, you definitely owe it to those within that community to ensure your data is as accurate as possible.  

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Prioritizing Family Tree Builder Inconsistencies, Smart Matches, and Record Matches

You may recall from my blog of 22 May that I generated a lot of work for myself when I uploaded my Gedcom into Family Tree Builder (FTB).  First, there were 1145 "inconsistencies" detected within my Gedcom--such things as children being born after their parent's death dates, and people living to be over 150 years of age, etc.  Secondly, there were 3392 "Smart Matches"  between people in my Gedcom and people who were already in the FTB data base of family trees.  Finally, FTB generated 865 possible "Record Matches" between the people in my Gedcom and their extensive collection of genealogical records such as Newspaper Archives, Find a Grave, Social Security Death Index, Census Data, etc.

Rather than blindly plunging into the overwhelming task of resolving all those issues, it seems to make sense to somehow prioritize the task, thereby taking on the items with the biggest payoff potential. Otherwise, the task might seem so daunting  that I would just ignore it.  It is much more appealing to me psychologically to know that I am working on the resolutions with the highest likelihood of providing good results.  

As I looked at the three types of decision I had to make, the inconsistencies bothered me the most.  However, I first had to figure out how to replicate the listing of inconsistencies.  Scanning through the pull down tabs on the toolbar, it was soon apparent that by pulling down on "Tools" and clicking on "Tree Consistency Checker", the table of inconsistencies would be regenerated.  Those are errors in my tree that are out there on the net for others to view!  When I looked at many different types of inconsistencies, the easiest to resolve appeared to be "Alive but too old".  I assume almost all of these just require a decision to mark "Deceased".   

Tree Consistency Error Listing

When one clicks on "Fix" (marked in yellow) a profile box appears for the individual of interest.  Checking the "Deceased" box (in yellow) and then OK, resolves the problem. 

Once I have resolved all of these "Alive but too old" issues, I will pick the next grouping of issues that appeals to me and just continue until completed.  My plan is to spend about an hour a day until the inconsistencies are all resolved.  

I then plan to move to Record Matches and to set the filter at 4-stars or higher.  This reduces the items to review from 814 to 63.  Gaining access to "Record Matches" is accomplished by selecting the Family Site tab and then on the pull down, select Record Matches.  

I am going to defer discussing "Smart Matches" because in using it, I have developed several questions that I have not yet resolved.  When I selected "Matches" from the Toolbar and then selected "update", I got warning windows indicating that the smart matches for the entire project could not be completed.  I also noted that only 502 matches for 20 people were being displayed, whereas, when I originally executed the "Smart Matches" three days earlier, 3392 were generated. 

Hope you are all having a fun Memorial Day weekend.  Please remember to spend at least a few moments remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice protecting the freedoms we enjoy in this country, as well as those who have served their country in one of the military services.    

Friday, May 24, 2013

Searching Cemetery Records

With Memorial Day coming up and many people making their annual trek to the Cemetery to honor  loved ones, members of the military, ancestors or friends; I thought it might be appropriate to have a short discussion about Cemetery Research.  Unfortunately, most of us can't just hop into a car and drive to our cemetery of  interest, so we need a more convenient alternative.  A couple web sites come to mind--Find a Grave and Billion Graves.  Today we are going to focus on the former,, because I have used the site more often, have been very impressed with the results of my searches, and they claim to have over 99M records.

Because the program is so intuitive, I am not going to spend a lot of time going through the details of a search; rather I am going to point out a couple ways to use the site in your genealogy research.  You can search in many ways: the total data base, by state. county or by cemetery.  One of the things I like to do is pick a cemetery of interest--one which you know is the burial site of many of your relatives.  Some of the smaller towns only have a single cemetery; but you will be surprised many times by the relative large number of cemeteries you might find for a town under 10,000 people.  If you aren't sure of the cemetery's name, the search feature allows you to walk your way, using "Search for a Cemetery" from country, to state, to county, to and then it will list all of the available cemeteries.   

Using this technique I located "Las Animas Cemetery" as one of thirteen cemeteries in Bent County.  The home page of the cemetery indicates their are 4897 interments and 97% of the headstones have been photographed.  

I could search by a specific name; but I want to just use the surname, so as to determine how many people with my maternal grandparents surname, Dean, are buried there.  The results show that there are 32 people

with the surname Dean buried there.  However, there are often duplicates, so you need to keep that in mind. The program doesn't seem to have a feature for identifying duplicates.  Interestingly, as I look closer there aren't really 32 Deans.  The list is divided in two parts which provide the results of the Find A Grave Search and then the Genealogy Bank search.  As I filtered through the listing, it appeared that there were about 19 different Deans.  It is important to note that Genealogy Bank listed about five people that weren't in the Find A Grave results.  This isn't surprising since they are two separate data bases, neither of which is complete.

Using this technique I looked at about three separate cemeteries where my ancestors were buried.  By checking carefully against my Family Tree Maker data base, I identified one person that I could add to FTM and a few birth and death dates that weren't included.  Therefore, cross checking between your genealogy software program and the Find A Grave surname search by cemetery; you are very likely to find information you didn't previously have.  Doing state searches by surname is also a good way to find relatives or additional facts that you don't have.  I did a state wide search for Colorado for Ritchhart and was amazed that La Junta, my father's home town adjacent to Las Animas, is the only town in the state that lists ANY Ritchharts.   On the negative side, my paternal grandparents and four or five other Ritchharts are buried in the La Junta Cemetery; but don't show up in the searches.  Because Find A Grave is a volunteer effort, I don't believe data is available for the percentage of all graves in each cemetery that are listed in their data base.  At some time that would be a nice feature.  

However, I have created some more work for myself--adding the Ritchharts from my FTM program to the Find A Grave listing for La Junta's Fairview Cemetery!  

While you are out at the cemetery this weekend, take along your camera and later you can enter the photos of the headstones in Find A Grave.  You will help out others and check-off your good deed for the day!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Weekend of 50,000 Memories

Summer usually marks the start of the reunion season.  I attended High School in a small southeastern Colorado farming community of about 3000 people.  Our graduating class was about 75.  Today's graduating classes are about half that.  Many years back the tradition was established that Memorial Day Weekend would be an “all-class” reunion at which the 50th Reunion Class would be recognized at a big pot luck dinner on Saturday night.  On Friday nights or Saturday mornings other individual classes might hold smaller gatherings; but everyone would attend the Saturday night event.  It is held at the largest gathering place in town—the high school gym, because there aren’t any other places in town that would accommodate approximately 250 attendees.  The alumni who live in the local area have to go to almost every church, school and social organization in town borrowing tables and chairs to accommodate all the attendees.   Participants are encouraged to bring salads, desserts, vegetables, casseroles, etc. or to donate money.  The main dish, usually beef, is either donated or paid for from the cash donations.  Every time I attend the pot luck, I am reminded of the story of Jesus at the edge of the Sea of Galilee feeding 5000 people with five barley loaves and two fish and then having 12 baskets left over.  It always appears to me that when all attendees have finished going through the long buffet line there is still enough food left to feed them all again.  This is good old "Middle America."

 I don’t have any facts to back up the assumptions I am going to make; but it might be an interesting study.  Assuming there are about 250 people wandering around Las Animas for a couple days during the Memorial Day reunion and that each person driving through the streets and interacting with others has about 200 nostalgic moments, flashbacks or memories—50,000 memories have been generated.  Were there some way to magically capture all of them and put them into print, the book would probably rival “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” (1245 pages) in size (and probably a more interesting story).  These include such thought while driving West from Bent Avenue along 6th Street as: I remember working at Safeway for John Wilburn for 35 cents an hour and feeling fortunate to have the job, what a great time we used to have at the City Pharmacy following football practice in late August using Tom’s peanut butter crackers as a scoop for the thick malt.   Trying to remember which girls were the “soda jerks” who made the great malts, milk shakes, banana splits and cherry cokes.  Cliff’s Market used to be on that corner.  One of my first jobs was working for Cliff at the age of 14 or 15.  Child labor laws were not a concern then, employers were doing us a favor by giving us a job and the community was so strong that concern over an employer taking advantage of a child was not an issue.

There is where that great little bakery cafĂ© used to be—next door to Tinker Tim’s.  Mrs. Onoretti (sp), I think, ran it with help from her girls.  My grandma and grandma used to live there next door and just a block down was the Post Office.  Looks the same today as it did 50 years ago.  Two houses down that street is where my mom, my brother, sister and I lived with my grandparents from the 8th through the 12th grade.

I remember those “folks” who used to live in that big house; but can’t recall their names.  There is the Presbyterian Church.  It was very popular with the city’s youth because of Reverend Wintermuth (sp).  Not sure how the town supported all the churches we had—must have been at least 10.  Even if 50% (which is high) of the population supported a church, that was only about 150 people (40 families) per church.  Today, many of those churches have had to combine in order to support a pastor.  There is the big house Richard Richards lived in.  His dad ran the biggest car dealership in town—Plymouth-Chrysler (or was it just GM?).  Who would name their child Richard Richards?  Don’t believe I have seen him since I graduated.  There is where the old Columbian School used to be.  I went to 6th through 8th grades there.  Our Junior High Football team played on the ball field, which was hard packed dirt.  Getting tackled and hitting the ground was almost like playing on concrete!  We loved to scrimmage the High School Freshmen because we played on grass.  Even though they were bigger than we were and hit a little harder, it was more than compensated for by the grass!  

There is the old Bent County High School, lots of great memories there, including multiple trophies in the trophy case that had my mother, her sister and her brother’s names on them.

I recall once having the opening of school delayed in the morning while the janitors scraped the hard putty out of a door lock so they could unlock the door.  One of our more enterprising students had filled all the outside door locks with putty the night before.  When it hardened it provided a bit of a challenge for the janitors (I should probably be politically correct and identify them as  some sort of engineer). 

Well, those thoughts are just a small percentage of those I experienced in a short six block ride that took about 3 minutes. Multiply that by several more hours and my estimate of 200 for the weekend is probably very low.   Maybe my title should be “Weekend of a Million Memories”.

Most of the townspeople and reunion attendees will probably go out to the cemetery on either Sunday or Monday to take flowers and spend some time in thought about their family and ancestors interred there.  My mother, sister, paternal grandmother and grandfather and my grandfather’s parents are there.  Additionally, buried there are two aunts, two uncles, a niece and several more distant relatives.

My Maternal Grandparents

In the cemetery of the town just 18 miles up the road are my father, his parents and several others from the Ritchhart and Bush families.  Not only does viewing of those grave sites bring back a lot of memories about family, but as one sees the names of the parents of classmates and other people from the community, additional memories are evoked.  

As we gather together at individual class functions or at the Saturday night dinner, we will reminisce with many classmates—perhaps embellishing a little on some of those past memories!  We will glance across the room at classmates and say to ourselves “I can’t believe I look that old—life hasn’t been very good to them!”  Meanwhile, they are looking back at you thinking the same thing.  You will spot a couple classmates across the room you haven't seen in many years and would like to talk with.  However, you are currently being engaged by someone three classes behind you whom you hardly know; but you don’t want to be impolite and leave them standing alone.  Some of the conversations at these events will probably mention the state basketball championships in 1955, 1958 and another year I can’t recall.  

State Champs--Years Ago!

Others will mention that the town seem to have lost a lot of the vitality that it had in the 50s and 60s; however, local alumni, as they well should, will be quick to point out the many recent positive developments.

This blog is supposed to be about genealogy and some of you may be saying (if you even make it this far) “What does all of this have to do with genealogy?”  It has everything in the world to do with genealogy.  Genealogy isn’t just dates of birth, marriage, and death; lists of occupations and residences and other facts; it is about stories of our past, memories of our family and ancestors, and recollections of growing up in your home town.  Reunions such as my classmates are experiencing this weekend epitomize all of this.  I am sorry I can’t make it this year—hopefully next year.

As the weekend comes to a close and you head out of town, you will invariably have regrets about a few classmates you saw; but didn’t get a chance to talk with, about not getting over to the Courthouse to explore some land records or not having gotten out to Boggsville to see what has been accomplished there.  Well, one will always have the opportunity next reunion—hopefully!              

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Don't Take Your Existing Family Trees for Granted

Today's blog reminds me of a term from my Navy days called "putting yourself on report".  The phrase means one is voluntarily admitting to committing a serious offence.  In my Ritchhart/Ritschard family line I have know for many years that for three successive generations starting about 1602, Ritschards were the Bailiffs at Oberhofen Castle on Lake Thun.  I learned it from the Family History book "Richhart Ritchhart Ritschard: A Swiss-German Family From 1500 Until 1993" published by Bettye Anderson Richhart in 1993.  It occurred to me, however, that I had not entered that fact into my Family Tree Makes software program which is my master file for all my genealogical research.  So,  I located within the book the details of the three individuals who had held this position and began to enter the details as an "Occupation" fact in the program. 

To my great surprise I discovered that the second of the three men was not listed in my tree.  I had skipped a generation!  I first entered this information into my program and as a tree on around 1994, so this flawed information has been out there on the web for almost 20 years!

Had I taken the time, anytime within those many years to look generation by generation at the birth dates of the successive Ritschards in my family line, it should have triggered me to take another look, as the birthdates went from 1563 to 1605.  That is a forty-two year gap between generations.  When I entered Melcher Ritschard b. 1584, that narrowed the gap to a much more acceptable twenty-one years.

The big question is: How many people throughout the world have imported this information into their data bases without catching that error?  I am afraid the number is huge.  My excuse is that for four generations the names run Melchior, Melchior, Melchior, Melcher, Michel and Michael.  However, it is an excuse and not a very valid reason for the omission.  So the moral of the story is: don't take for granted the data in your family tree--especially on your major family lines!  It is worth taking a few minutes to scan through your major family lines and make sure the generation gaps make sense. 


Corrections and More Details regarding DearMyrtle's Weekly "Hangouts"

Not sure where he finds the time; but I received an e-mail from Randy Seaver last night indicating he had read my blog and offering some corrections and amplifying information. Apparently, the normal time for the weekly session is 9 a.m. PDT, vice noon; although I noticed at least one at 6 p.m., so checking her schedule is the wise thing to do.   Additionally, the Hangout that I discussed was held on April 17, not yesterday as I thought.  Rather than duplicate and create extra work for myself, I recommend you read Randy's blog on the subject at:  He provides a very detailed discussion of how the Hangouts work and how to log in to them.  Randy also noted that he is now a regular panel member on Dear Myrtle's Hangouts.   

I continue to be amazed at the technology available to us today!

Monday, May 20, 2013

"New" Family Search Disscussion on Dear Myrtle's "Hangout"

I decided to use the notes from last Saturday's San Diego Computer Genealogy Society presentation to explore the Family Search Research Wiki.  Somehow, as I was playing video's explaining how to use the Wiki, I was watching Dear Myrtle's weekly "Hangout".  Not sure what wrong button I pushed; but it turned out to be very beneficial mistake.  It may have been today's broadcast.  For those of you not familiar with the event, it is held each Monday at noon PDT.  It is similar to a Webinar; but all the viewers are connected via Google+ and can submit questions and comments, which are monitored and filtered by Myrtle's cousin, Russ.  I believe the video is actually through a tie-in with U Tube.  Additionally, as in today's session, Myrt usually includes other panelists who can comment and provide supplemental short presentations.  For instance, Randy Seaver, was a panelist today and discussed adding pictures and stories to select individuals on the Family Search Family Tree. 

It is obvious from today's session that Myrt is not happy with all the changes that have been made to Family Search.  She pointed out several instances where several mouse "clicks" are required to perform a function that should be achievable with only one or two clicks. 

She also took exception with the fact that the preset records search is oriented toward a name search, even though some research she quoted shows that less than 12% of name data bases are indexed.  If I had been on line I would have commented that I am sure that is because the Family Search designers are hoping users, especially newer ones, will experience that joy of an instant discovery.  More experienced genealogists will be more content to methodically plod through a more structured search; but the great majority of people today are of the "instant gratification" generation. 

I thought perhaps my first frustrations with the "New" Family Search might have been the exception compared to experiences users; but I would conclude following the session I saw today that I might have a lot of company.  To Family Search's credit, however, they are constantly trying to provide a better product and I am sure that six months from now the "new" Family Search will have morphed into a much more user friendly and efficient system, both through changes and we users becoming more familiar with the interface. 

I plan to check in more regularly on Dear Myrtle's Monday "Hangouts" and I encourage readers to do the same.  You can join by clicking the following hyperlink:  Remember to click on "Feed" once you are logged on.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Southern California Genealogical Society jamboree--Don't Miss It!

One of the premier genealogical conferences in the United States is held right here in San Diego's back yard every year.  The main portion of the event runs from Friday, June 7 through Sunday, June 9.  However, for those who would like to explore DNA opportunities  to a greater extent, "Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2013" will be conducted from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 6.  There is an extra fee for the Thursday program. 

I think those of us who live in Southern California, within easy driving distance of Jamboree, often take the event for granted because it is so convenient.  During the time frame starting Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. until Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. there are thirteen one hour lecture periods.  In each of those lecture periods are offered 8 or 9 separate lectures by a collection of some of the best genealogists assembled at any conference in the country.  Thus, one has the opportunity to choose from a menu of about 110 lectures during that two and a half days!  Additionally, during the 30 minute breaks between lectures you can wander through the Exhibit Hall and speak personally with the top genealogy vendors in the world and view and experience their products.  In 2012 there were over 70 vendors displaying and demonstrating their products in the Exhibit Hall. 

For those of you living in San Diego, the San Diego Genealogical Society has a package deal which includes train transportation to and from San Diego and the Burbank Airport stop, which is within a couple blocks of the Marriott Convention Center, where the event is held.  Additionally, the Marriott shuttle provides transportation to and from the train stop.  Also included is a room at the Marriott. 

One of the best features of "jamboree" is that everyone from beginners to the most experienced genealogist will find the event educational, entertaining and a lot of fun.  Finally, probably the best feature of all; will be the opportunity to enjoy this experience with others who share your interest/passion/obsession/addiction (choose one) for genealogy. 

If you haven't signed up yet, you missed the Early Bird registration period; but if you sign up by May 24 you will still save $20 to $40, depending on whether or not you are a member of the Southern California Genealogical Society. 

If you haven't ever attended "jamboree"--SIGN UP NOW!  If you have attended--I am sure I will see you there again in a couple weeks.

Back in Battery

I tried to post yesterday from the hospital using my smart phone; but kept running into problems with the password for some reason.  I wasn't up to any rigorous efforts to solve technical problems, so just gave up.  Am worried that I won't sleep very well tonight as I took two big naps today--one this morning and another this afternoon.  However, I am good at rationalizing that my body needs the rest and Joanne reinforces that, so will just hope for the best tonight. 

Thought I would just show some of the photos I took while racing all over Mason County doing research, visiting cemeteries, and other sites that my ancestors would also have known during their lives there. 

The signs announcing Mason County and the City of Havana are typical signs you see at the edge of town as you enter.

The next photo is of downtown Havana, Illinois; a prototypical Midwestern small town.
The photo below is of the house where my ggaunt, Sarah O'Malley
McCabe, and her family; who raised my grandmother, lived in Havana.  My grandmother moved to Denver around 1905, so she never lived in this house.  They lived on a farm near Forest City prior to moving to Havana. 

Just a block away from the above house was St. Patrick's Catholic church, where I assume Sarah McCabe and her family attended mass weekly.  I noted on a cornerstone of the church that it had been renovated, so this wasn't as the church would have appeared in the early 1900s.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

More O'Malley Research in Mason County, Illinois

As this is being posted I am in Sharp Memorial Hospital recovering from Tuesday's surgery for replacement of my left hip.  One of the nice things about Blogger is the ability to schedule when you want your blogs to be released.  So I am composing this on Monday and will release it on Wednesday evening.

 In my previous blog, I recounted my experience doing land research at the Mason County Clerk's office in the courthouse.  However, I covered a lot of Mason County that day doing O'Malley research. 

Since Manito is in the northern portion of Mason County and I had spent the previous night at Peoria, Illinois, NE of Manito; my first stop the following morning was St. Frederic's Catholic Cemetery in Manito.  I knew that my maternal ggrandfather, Peter O'Malley, his wife, and a daughter were all buried in Manito.


My GPS took me right to the back entrance of the cemetery.  As I crossed into the cemetery, the first headstone on my left was that of Peter and Julia O'Malley.  When I got to the headstone and glanced to the adjacent grave, it was that of their daughter, Sarah, her husband, Tom, and one of their children who had died in infancy.  So much for having to wander around going up and down looking at row after row of graves searching for their headstones! 
Adjacent Graves of Peter & Julia and their Daughter

I was hoping to be real lucky and find some helpful information on the gravestones others than dates; but it wasn't to be.  I did wander around a bit in case there were other relatives buried there that weren't contained in the cemetery list I had reviewed; but also struck out there. 
Peter and Julia O'Malley
Previous to my visit I had searched diligently to find any cemetery or church records that might provide any additional information about Peter or Julia.  I did find that the Church in Manito had closed and records had been forwarded to the diocese.  When I first contacted the diocese they had lost their archivist and didn't know when they would get another.  About two years later, with a lot of perseverance, I finally received a response that there was a two line entry in their records regarding the death of Julia; but nothing about Peter.
In earlier correspondence with a member of the Mason County Genealogical Society helping me with my research, she commented the headstone looked reasonably new and more modern than headstones of others for people of the same vintage.  I felt the same way when I examined the headstone.  It is possible later descendants placed the headstone, possibly replacing a smaller one.   Unfortunately, there are no records to verify this.  I also checked for records of the funeral home that handled the burial(s).  To the best of the knowledge of the current funeral home, what records that existed had been given to the Havana library.  A search of those records came up empty, however.
I also searched all of the newspaper archives at the Library for the 1880 (Peter and Julia moved to Mason County) to 1906 (Julia's death) period without finding a single mention of them.  Why does it seem that they were keeping below the radar?  Were they really trying to make my life more difficult?  It sometimes seems so to me! 
Hopefully, I will be back "in battery" by Friday.


Monday, May 13, 2013

An O'Malley Research Trip to Mason County, Illinois

I knew that my maternal grandmother, Mary O'Malley Dean, had inherited some land in Mason County, Illinois; but I didn't know any details about the land.  In April 2009 I made a trip to the mid-West where I combined a visit to the Allen County Public Library with some research in Mason County, Illinois and Indianapolis, Indiana.  My grandmother was born in 1886 in Mason County and remained there until she was about 20 years old.  She and her brother inherited some land from their maternal grandmother when she died in 1933; but that is all I knew. 
Mason County Courthouse in background of Military Memorial

Havana Library

After visiting the Havana Public Library for some research of the newspaper archives (unrelated to this land search), I confirmed the existence of land records at the courthouse with the librarian and proceeded there for my first experience researching courthouse records.  The clerk was extremely helpful and directed me to the proper books to identify the property and the chronicle of its history.  After looking in the Deed of Record books; I was able to find the deed with the names of my grandmother and her brother as grantors.  That information provided the property legal description.  Then with the legal description we were able to go to the Abstract Record book containing the chronological history on that specific piece of property.

Abstract Record File
Once I had made copies of the information I had found, the clerk gave me a county map showing the location of the land and I was able to drive out and take a look at it.

Some courthouses have indexes of the information; but Mason County didn't.  Knowing the approximate date that my Grandmother sold the property, I was able to scan through the Deed of Record book and find the Warrantee Deed for the sale of 180 acres by my grandmother and her brother.

The Abstract Record revealed that the property was originally owned by Mason County in 1867.  My  gggrandfather purchased the land in 1876; but died in 1879.  The Abstract Record shows no record of the land then passing to his wife; but the clerk said that is normal.  My gggrandmother then passed away in 1933 and my grandmother and her brother inherited the land.  But, once again, the Abstract Record doesn't show inheritance transactions--only sales.  The next transaction recorded was the sale of the land in 1946 by my grandmother and her brother.  So, even though you would think the abstract record would show a complete chronological record of the owners of the land; it does not reflect inheritance of land.  I believe that is through the probate courts; but have to do a little more research on that. 

I must say that my first experience doing courthouse land record research was very productive and pleasant--due in great part to the very helpful clerk. 


Saturday, May 11, 2013

San Diego Genealogical Society's May Speaker--Daniel Libby

I attended this morning's SDGS meeting and the presentation by Daniel Libby.  Daniel is a 24 year Navy veteran, having served in the Navy Security Group and with the National Security Agency.  Upon retiring from the Navy he attended the Information System Forensic program at UCSD and in 2001 formed Digital Forensics, Inc.  In addition to performing information security services for business clients, Daniel also serves as an expert witness for government, corporate and legal clients.  The title of the presentation was "Trans-National Organized Crime Human Exploitation Through Information Systems"; which in short, addresses the increasing role of organized crime in cyber crime and cyber warfare. 

The major point of his very entertaining presentation was that most cyber criminals exploit the human element in the digital world, not necessarily the electronic security barriers.  They prey on eight weaknesses of their human targets: sex, greed, vanity, trust, compassion, sloth, urgency and convenience.  His anecdotal experiences provided good  examples of how this is accomplished by the "bad guys."  He then explained how they use Phishing (broad audience), Spear Phishing (specific targets) , Whaling (phishing for senior officials in the target organization), Pharming (an attack aiming to redirect a website's traffic to a bogus site) and Credit/Debit card skimming to gain access to digital information.    He wasn't shy about pointing fingers at the Russians and Chinese for much of this cybercrime. 

Daniel answered a lot of questions from the audience throughout his presentation, most dealing with ways to avoid being a victim of these crimes or instances attendees had experienced Phishing or other techniques.  Although his talk did not deal directly with genealogy, most of the attendee evaluations thanked us for having him speak because the information was so valuable and relevant to everyday life in today's electronic world. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Little Research at the Family History Center

In attempting to trace Joanne's great grandfather, Frederic Schmidt, back to his home in Wurttemberg, Germany; I had ordered a microfilm for the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  I received notification a couple days ago that it had arrived at the San Diego Family History Center.  I have good evidence that he arrived in New York City aboard the Probus on January 18, 1848 sailing from La Havre, France.  I discovered that information by searching the Castle Garden Immigration Index.  There were a lot of Frederick Schmidt's (the second most common German surname); but I was fortunate in that they listed his occupation--butcher.  There obviously could have been more than one Frederic Schmidt butcher; but the time frame and departure port all fit very nicely with the information I have.  However, I am trying to identify the village or city he came from and/or his parents names.  The Castle Garden (which was the New York immigration processing facility prior to Ellis Island) records also indicated he came from Wurttemberg; but that is equivalent to one of our states and I need a more specific location. 

In researching La Havre, I learned that the records of emigrants from that port via passenger ships do not cover 1848; but that there were some records of 1848 for passengers who traveled via cargo ships during the 1846-1852 time frame.  That was the microfilm I ordered.  Unfortunately, I didn't find any information about Joanne's great grandfather.  It appeared to me that most of the people listed had French sounding names.  When one finishes reviewing some microfilm, however, there is often a feeling that you aren't totally sure you didn't miss something.  For starters, the records were handwritten except for the column headings (of which there were at least 15), then the column headings were in French (quite naturally), and thirdly the microfilm wasn't real easy to read, even on the most magnified and brightest settings. 

I didn't think there was a very high probability of finding Frederic in the records; but in trying to "leave no stone unturned", I needed to try. 

Land Record for Christian Richards
Fortunately, my other task while at the library proved more fruitful.  In my previous research I had run across a notation that there was a record of Christian Richards having sold land in Virginia in 1782.  He and his family had arrived in the Shenandoah Valley about 1768 from Pennsylvania.  When Christian and his family came to Pennsylvania from Switzerland in 1750, the surname was variously spelled Ritschard/Ritschhart(d).  After arriving here the spelling evolved primarily into Ritchhart and Richhart.  There is some speculation the family used the Anglicized spelling "Richard" in Virginia, because the locals were know to be somewhat anti-German.  Christian fought for the Virginia Militia in the Revolutionary War and the spelling in those records is the same--Richard.  Sure enough the library had a copy of The Annals of Southwest Virginia by Lewis Preston Summers and on page 496 I found that on Dec 3, 1782 Christian Richards was the Grantee of 138 acres on Terry's Creek.  By using Google Maps, I discovered that Terry's Creek is about 20 miles south of Clifton Forge, east of I-81 in Botetourt County, Virginia.  Interestingly, the book had an index; but didn't list Christian.  Fortunately, in my notes from the other source, I had included the page number.  Now all I have to do is make a couple entries in my Family Tree Maker Program to document my findings.
I was looking for a couple more books; but the library didn't have them.  Will have to check in World Cat and find the closest library that has them.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"New" Family Search Family Tree--Problem Solved

I mentioned a couple days back that I had entered a Gedcom on Family Search which included 11 generations of the Ritchhart line (it was actually 14); but it terminated at 5 generations.  One of the tech support people said the problem was because I had not resolved all the "merge" selections.  Well, I resolved all the merge choices and still had the problem.  I did an on line chat with another tech support person and we solved the problem.  Actually, I should have thought of the solution on my own.  We went to the 5th and last generation, Andrew Ritchhart, and then did a search for his father.  I was given several choices, one of which was John; and when I selected John up came all of the remaining Ritchhart line.  Apparently. when I uploaded the Gedcom file, for some reason, there was a break in the connection between Andrew and John, even though all of the 1250 individuals in the Gedcom were uploaded.  We simply had to reestablish the connection between Andrew and John and the integrity of the Gedcom file was reestablished. 

Getting Ready for Saturday's Monthly Meeting
I was busy this morning getting all the last minute things done for this Saturday's monthly San Diego Genealogical Society meeting.  I had to get 80 copies made up of the Handout for our speaker's presentation and 80 copies of the Evaluation Form we have attendees submit.  This month's speaker is Daniel Libby and he is speaking on the subject of Computer Security and Identity Theft.  Daniel was a Warrant Officer in the Navy serving in the Navy Security Group.  He is since retired and is a nationally recognized expert on forensic processing of digital evidence; computers, video, and audio.  His company serves government, corporate and legal clientele.  I have heard Daniel before and his presentations are packed with helpful tips on how to avoid on line scams,  and how to protect your identity and your computer.

I also had to finalize the slide presentation that we show during the hour or so prior to the meeting while members are arriving and mingling.  It shows upcoming classes and events that the Society is providing, as well as scheduled trips and outings.  This comes with the territory of being the Program Director.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Our Swiss Ritchhart Heritage

My Ritchhart family line originates with Christian Ritschhard/Ritschard who came to America from the Swiss villages of Oberhofen/Hilterfingen in 1750 with his wife, Magdalena, five children and Magdalena's eighty year old mother.  They first settled in Reading, Pennsylvania where a couple other Ritschhard families already resided. 

I first got interested in my family history when I received a letter in the mail in 1993 with the salutation "Dear Cousin".  It was an offer to sell me a book for $50 written by Bette Richhart which traced the history of the Richhart, Ritchhart, Ritschard families.  After confirming such a book existed in the Library of Congress database, I purchased the book and was forever hooked on family history research. 

Joanne and I had the pleasure in 1999 of meeting Bette and her husband, Jim, and spending the night with them in their home outside Fort Worth.  Bette and Jim had made two trips to Switzerland in the process of researching the book.  She gave me the name of Alfred Ritschard as a point of contact in Oberhofen.  When Joanne and I were planning a European trip, including Switzerland, in 2003; I wrote Alfred in anticipation of meeting with him and other Ritschards during our visit to the Oberhofen area. 

Map showing Oberhofen and Hilterfingen near Interlaken
The reply letter was from Beatrice Frey, Alfred's granddaughter.  Alfred had passed away and his wife, who didn't speak English, passed the letter to Beatrice, who worked in a University in nearby Bern and spoke English.  Beatrice agreed to meet us at the pier in Oberhofen when we took the passenger ferry from Interlaken, where we were staying, to Oberhofen.


In the background and below is the beautiful Oberhofen Castle, where Ritschharts were the Bailiffs for three generations in the early 1600s. 

One of the sights I was most interested in seeing during our visit was the Church at Hilterfingen.  I had learned from Bette's book that there was a large plaque inside the church that had been donated to the church in 1731 by distinguished families in the area.  

The colorful plaque depicts Moses holding the two tablets with the Ten Commandments.  Bordering the plaque are twenty-eight crests, similar to a coat of arms.  Eight of the crests bear the names of Ritschhart families who were donars of the plaque. 
 One of the Eight Ritschhart Crests
Ironically, when we asked Beatrice to take us inside the Church to see the plaque, she didn't know the plaque existed; despite the fact her grandfather was buried in the church cemetery!

The following day I went by train and bus to visit the Church at Amsoldingen, where Christian and Magdalena were married in 1733.  I knew of the church because of reading about it in Bette's book.

It struck me as I was standing in a pasture taking a photo of the church that, in some ways, little had changed in the immediate vicinity of the church in the 270 years since Christian and Magdalena were married.  The streets were paved now; but probably no wider; there were still goats, sheep and cows in the pastures, and many of the homes were about the same age as the beautiful church. 

Church at Amsoldingen
The church interior was very basic with minimal change.  Plain benches had been replaced with chairs and the choir loft and organ had been added; but few other changes were evident.
It was a wonderful trip, thanks in large part to the research and work of Bette Richhart.  Unfortunately,  Bette passed away a couple years back.  I am so thankful we had the opportunity to meet her.  Her work will carry on and enrich the lives of many others like myself.