Sunday, April 30, 2006

FHL digitization

Reporting on the Family History Seminar, Renee Zamora mentions:

6. The LDS Church is now working with Archives on digitize their records, they will create an index and if people want to view the original they will get charged a fee. That's they way they can still bring you these indexes for free. It's in the works.

Sounds good to me!


Revisiting a family story

A few years ago, I was first told a story about how one of our ancestors died while immigrating from Germany. The story goes that the woman died, was buried at sea and her body could be seen bobbing up and down while "following" the ship in its wake. The story was recently mentioned again, but this time it was said that the woman died during the trip on a river heading to the St. Louis area, after disembarking from the ship that brought the family to America. Additionally, this woman is said to have been an ancestor's first wife -- a detail I don't recall having heard the first time.

I was initially led to believe this related to the BENNE family since grandpa is who had told the story, but it doesn't seem like anyone died during that family's immigration and Johann Friedrich BENNE's first wife, who he married in Buer, Hannover, lived for 11 years in St. Charles County before dying in 1854.

So, if it apparently wasn't the BENNEs, what other families on grandpa's side could this story relate to? Beyond that, was this woman really one of our ancestors or was she married to one of our ancestors? Big difference.

Without going into lengthy descriptions, I feel confident the story does not relate to the SCHUMPE, UHLMANNSIEK, MEIER and VOSSIEK families on grandpa's side. The remaining possibilities are the BULL-SCHOKNECHT and HOLZ-DEPPERMANN families.

After discovering the details of the BULL-SCHOKNECHT immigration, I believed that the old family story actually described their travels in 1867. After all, grandpa's grandma was a little girl on that cholera-ridden ship and it's easy to see how the story might have been told and misunderstood. However, all of those deaths happened at sea, not on a river, and it doesn't appear that great-great-grandma's mother died. (It should be noted, though, that I haven't had much luck researching that particular 3rd great-grandmother and certain inconsistencies could possibly be explained by a death after immigrating but before arriving in St. Charles.)

The HOLZ-DEPPERMANN family is such a mystery to me that it's entirely possible that the story describes Anna Katharina Margaretha Ilsabein (DEPPERMANN) HOLZ's death. After all, I cannot find her in local records past the 1854 passenger list. But if the story makes reference to a "first wife," implying that there was a second wife, then I do not believe this is the correct family branch. There is inconclusive evidence that Ferdinand Friedrich HOLZ died within months of immigrating and a second marriage record for him has not been found.

There's no guarantee the story has remained accurate over the years, but at this point I still think the story actually describes the BULL-SCHOKNECHT immigration and 2nd great-grandmother's eyewitness account of over 70 people, some she may have known, dying from cholera while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. I'll always keep an eye out for new information which may help solve this, though.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Five misc. items

The Genealogue (Chris Dunham) explores how genealogists use God in their GEDCOMs with "Searching for God at" A quick search shows 291 WorldConnect entries with an individual whose surname is GOD (if it's a surname, it should be in all caps, right?). I don't have time to look at many of the entries, but it's interesting to see that Adam and Eve are listed as God's adopted children by one researcher. So, if they were adopted, who were their parents? And you thought modern adoptions were hard to trace...

George Lewis at Random Genealogy notes that "Google Maps Has Street Maps For Most/All of Europe." Sure enough, Buer is there, surrounded by fields.

Another post from The Genealogue, "Oh, Canada!," takes a not-so-serious look at the problem of "tombstoning."

"Online Family Genealogist" from Before You Are Gone touches on an issue many people probably don't think about: What happens to your online genealogy and will someone be able to continue with it?

The Genealogue (yes, again) lists the "Top Ten Signs Your Child Will Be a Genealogist."


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Problem at local cemetery

Post columnist Bill McClellan writes today about a problem down at Calvary Cemetery: Burial dispute forges family tie but also threatens to break it.

The family plot in question is in Section 18, Lot 222.


The Big One

An article in the Post today (Sitting on Shaky Ground) rehashes what St. Louis-area residents already know: When the next big earthquake happens in the New Madrid area, we may be in for a rough ride due to the makeup of our soil.

A map shows that many areas where ancestors lived starting in about 1830 (and where I currently live) have the potential for increased shaking. Ancestral locations in downtown St. Louis, along the Mississippi River in Madison County, Ill., and the bottoms in eastern St. Charles County, Mo., are all marked as having the most risk.

When the 1811-1812 quakes happened, none of my ancestors were this far west. They were still in Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Germany. I wonder if any of them -- other than the Germans -- felt the quakes.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Relatively Speaking

I haven't been able to listen to or record Relatively Speaking, Irene Johnson's genealogy radio show, much lately. There just always seems to be something going on during Sunday afternoons and early evenings. It turns out that I wasn't missing anything, because the show was cancelled.

A few days ago I noticed that Relatively Speaking was no longer mentioned on the AM820 schedule. I didn't recall any of the blogs I read mentioning what was going on, and Google turned up very little. The one site that did make note of the news was Genealogy Today, on their audio page. Illya D'Addezio confirmed by email the news that I hoped hadn't happened: Relatively Speaking was cancelled a few weeks ago.

I don't know what the odds are of Irene continuing her show in another form, but I hope she considers a podcast.


New obit database

Dick Eastman has mentioned that ProQuest hopes to launch a database for obituaries this summer. The project will be called ProQuest Obituaries.

The press release indicates that obituaries from major newspapers as far back as 1851 will be included. The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Constitution, The Boston Globe, and The Chicago Defender were listed. I think St. Louis was still a major city in 1851 -- Gateway to the West, hello? -- so I would hope that one of the area papers is considered. The Post didn't start until 1874, so I guess that would leave the Globe-Democrat (1853-1986) as the most likely candidate to be part of the database. Frankly, I'd like to see ProQuest do something bold and also make the Westliche Post (German, 1857-1938) part of the project considering the German influence in St. Louis.


MO Archives update

From the Missouri State Archives website:

Important Death Certificate Announcement
Optional Expedited Service

The Missouri Death Certificate Database has proven widely popular. Researchers conducted over half a million searches within the first days of the database’s release. This amount equals nearly five months of searches on all the Missouri State Archives’ other online databases combined. Within two weeks, we have received requests to copy 7,000 death certificates. At the same time, we have received 700 e-mail queries regarding the database. These numbers continue to grow. We are pleased that so many people are benefiting from this database. Unfortunately, this unprecedented response is overwhelming our staff, who must also complete their regular duties. As a result, staff response to copy requests is currently taking up to twelve weeks.

We are committed to reducing the wait for patrons. To help relieve demands on staff, we have accelerated the schedule for release of online images. Rather than releasing images by decade, we will release images as scanning for each year is completed. Already, we have added 1921-1922 and expect to add 1923 very soon. Images to 1925 will be released by the end of June 2006, and we anticipate having images up to 1930 available in September 2006. We have also hired temporary staff to help us meet the initial demand for copies.

Knowing the challenges we face in meeting this demand, the Friends of the Missouri State Archives has volunteered to provide expedited service for those patrons who need their copies sooner than we can provide them. The Friends of the Missouri State Archives – a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that supports the activities of the Missouri State Archives – has offered to hire and oversee additional workers to copy death certificates. To cover the cost of this program, an additional fee would be charged for each copy.

This expedited service is optional. Copies will still be available at the cost of $1 for anyone that prefers to have their request completed by the Missouri State Archives staff. For those who would like faster service from the Friends of the Missouri State Archives, copies will be available for $5 per name requested. There is also no limit to the number of requests that can be made through the Friends. Fees generated from this service will be dedicated exclusively to the death certificate project. As you search the database, you will find instructions on how to request copies from either the Missouri State Archives or the Friends.

We hope that these measures make an already successful project even better for our patrons. Our goal is to provide you with the fastest and most efficient service possible. We are grateful for your patience as we strive to meet that goal.

Time to run a new report for 1921 and 1922 deaths...


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Naughty mailing lists

From time to time, mailing list and message board administrators decide to move on and offer the responsibilities to those that may be interested. Such an offer was made today for RootsWeb message boards that deal with surnames. The thing is, the surnames are apparently acceptable in the United Kingdom but potentially "dirty" in American English. The example offered was CRAPSTER.

I know it's juvenile, but I wish the whole list was posted. I don't think any of my surnames are as interesting.


St. Joseph's death records

One of the projects I intend to complete sooner rather than later is something I forgot to mention last week: transcribing St. Joseph's Catholic Church death records.

St. Joseph's (a.k.a. Shrine at St. Joseph's Catholic Church) was the primary church for the EBERT, HOLTERMANN and LODENKAMPER families between the mid-1840s and about 1900. The church's records are on microfilm and a few sections are indexed, but making these records more accessible has been the work of just one person. Since I've used these records several times and feel comfortable reading them (an English/Latin mix), I offered to help out.

I was assigned the task of working on death records in the 1860s. After my first transcribing session I realized it was going to take forever to complete my assignment. I then decided to take a digital camera so that I could transcribe the photos at home. It just isn't a good use of time to transcribe the records at a library I don't visit as much as I'd like. Most of the photos turned out well, so I've got a few years worth of records to work on. Had I transcribed the records from microfilm, it may have taken me a few hours to complete each year and I only go to that library about once a month.

Working on projects like this is good practice for researchers and I'd recommend it to anyone with a few hours to spare.

[, , , ]

Using Orb to share photos, videos

I've been messing around with Orb as a possible replacement for posting some photos on Blogger (the nephew's photo blog), and potentially all of my genealogy-related scans at RootsWeb, and hopefully for the few video files I've put on Ourmedia. An alternative is much needed because I don't look forward to using Blogger for multiple-photo posts and Ourmedia isn't very fast at times.

After installing Orb and specifying which folders to share, you can then notify people about what files you're sharing. It's a pretty simple process. The catch is that your computer needs to be running for others to see the files you're sharing. While that may not be a problem for many, finding enough time around here to remain continually online for users to browse at their leisure is a little tricky, what with severe weather occurring often in the Midwest. I also don't leave the computer running while I'm gone for more than a few hours. If I could find a way to overcome the connectivity issue, I'd use Orb exclusively to distribute photos and stop uploading to the nephew's blog in a heartbeat. It works that well.

Videos are a different story. Orb streams videos from the host system to the user and unless your ISP has a high upload cap it will be an extremely annoying visual experience.

I haven't tested how well audio streams, but will try that later this week. I'm falling behind on podcasts -- haven't listened to The Genealogy Guys in two or three weeks! -- and if I can do that elsewhere without taking files with me, that would be great.



The Genealogue has surpassed the 1000 post mark. If you are not keeping track of Chris' informative and humorous posts by visiting regularly or with the feed, you're really missing out on some great content.

A thousand posts is a lot of work, especially considering that many are about articles from all over the place. It can't be easy to always find something to say about all of the articles The Genealogue mentions. To put it in perspective, I'd have to write about 800 new posts about little research updates and complaints to catch up.



English versions of the Geogen maps have been added. Descriptions of the maps are still in German, but running the text through a translator can give you an idea of what it's all about.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The plan

Last night I finished off the latest batch of FHL microfilm, thirteen rolls ordered in January. Results were mixed and it has left me with an even stronger desire to take a break and regroup. Ideally, I won't set foot in the library for the whole summer except to fill in a few holes while finishing off some long overdue projects and new leads, unless extremely tantalizing (e.g., info about the origins of the EBERT or HEATON families), will have to wait until the fall. So, my immediate plans are to:
  • Finish cleaning up my notes for each family report, with WIEDEY, HALL, BENNE and BOSWELL (in that order) being first in line.
  • Clean off my desk by processing the stacks of papers that need to be scanned, transcribed or abstracted and then filed.
  • Do the same to the papers in a couple of boxes.
  • Attempt to work my scanner to death by scanning too many photos to count.


German surname distribution

Christoph Stöpel has a couple of cool webpages: Geogen and Lokator. English translations are forthcoming, but it's said that the Geogen maps are based on data from recent versions of German telephone directories.

Geogen is returning some interesting results for the surnames I've searched, namely that some of them no longer exist. I'm not sure if that means the names have died off, if the records need to be reexamined to validate the believed spelling or if the name evolved into an alternate spelling, but I did utter "uh oh" a couple of times the other day. Less shocking and rather pleasing were results that showed some of the names are still concentrated in districts where the families lived as far back as the 18th century.


Vacation time; You're sick and now you're dead!

Obviously it's in bad taste, but I didn't know -- never thought about it -- that having a fake obituary published could get someone charged with "tampering with records." The article makes no mention of attempting to obtain a death certificate or trying to collect life insurance.

KCCI (Des Moines): Boy's Fake Obit Published So Mom Could Skip Work.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Yet another post about MO death certificates

About 60 people -- not counting various library staff, Archives personnel and those I presume were media -- were at the announcement of the database today. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan was there for the announcement. There's nothing here to really comment on except that she said 27,000 volunteers were involved in this project. The figure didn't make sense at the time, but when it was later reported that 27,000+ searches have already been made, I think that's the number that slipped into her speech. According to an email from the State Archivist, there were 598 transcription volunteers. I believe there were also several other volunteers at the Archives in Jeff City helping with other aspects of the project. I bring this up only because the error was not corrected and I'm curious to see if any media reports quote the incorrect figure.

As already mentioned, over 27,000 searches have been made in less than a day. This popularity comes with a price: it is now extremely difficult to use the database. I noticed the slowness this morning before leaving, and now it's even worse. I'm even more appreciative of the advance notice now than I was on Tuesday!

The big news is that by Labor Day the Archives hopes to have the 1921-1930 certificates scanned. Additionally, when the Dept. of Health releases the 1956 records later this year, the Archives will make them available to volunteers for data entry.

I can't try it now to make certain, but I would suggest to those searching for records in St. Louis City and County to try both locations if you use that part of the search to narrow the number of results. It seemed like there was some overlap -- potentially due to how the records were written or transcribed -- yet each location would return a different number of results. (The City and County have been separate since 1876.)

Finally, sending a buck to the Archives for a photocopy is fine, but the records I've printed on a low-end printer look OK so far. At the announcement today, the Archivist said essentially the same thing.

[, ]

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Press release for Missouri death certificate project

The Missouri Secretary of State has issued a press release announcing the 1910-1955 index of state death certificates, and provided a link to the database. (I should also note that this morning the Archives emailed to let me know that they had fixed the bug I alluded to last night and now searching for records works exactly as intended.)

Carnahan Provides Access to Over Two Million Death Certificates

New, online database will include death records from 1910-1955

Jefferson City, Missouri -- Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announced that her office will unveil a new, online death certificate database tomorrow during an event at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters.

The database, which is the largest online project ever completed by the Missouri State Archives, contains over two million individual death certificates searchable by name, county, or month and year. In addition, the database contains digital images of certificates from 1910-1920, with subsequent years to follow.

"I'm pleased that our office can provide the public with unprecedented access to information about Missouri's history. This online database is an invaluable tool of genealogical and historical research that will enable us to learn more about the history of our families, as well as our common past," said Carnahan.

A death certificate can reveal information of great value to genealogists and historians about the life of the deceased, such as occupation, birthplace, parents, and marital status. A death certificate can also reveal important information about social history, such as recording the deadly influenza epidemic that struck Missouri and the nation in 1918, causing more deaths than any other year from 1910-1955.

Within the collection are the death certificates of the notorious James Gang outlaw Cole Younger; Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast; St. Louis Civil Rights Attorney Homer G. Phillips; and numerous Missouri governors.

The Death Certificate Database was made possible by the work of over 600 volunteers and students from across the nation and other countries, who logged over 27,000 hours. Volunteers will continue to work on the project until digital images of all the certificates are available online, an accomplishment that will benefit genealogists and scholars throughout the country. The database will be available at

[, ]

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Census Bureau to go mobile in 2010

MSNBC: Census takers to trade pens for handheld PCs.


More about the Missouri 1910-1955 death index

While the entire index of old Missouri death certificates (1910-1955) will go public on Thursday, only the records from 1910 to 1920 have been imaged to date. This is understandable considering the number of records involved -- over two million. Plus, this is exactly what the Archives predicted last summer when they commented on the status of the project's progress. Images of the certificates after 1920 up until 1955 will follow chronologically, so in the meantime researchers can submit a request for a photocopy.

The Archives' request policy will allow up to five (5) requests at a time by mail. When you click on the link to request a copy, you will be taken to a page explaining this policy. Another link will then take you to a PDF of an order form that you can fill out online and print.

Images of the scanned certificates are also saved as PDFs, so those without that software will want to install it before Thursday. (A note to Firefox users: Do not try to open the images in a new tab. By doing so you'll only load another page of the search results. Instead, just click on the "view image" link and a new window with the PDF will pop up.)

I'm currently finding that the search tool has a little bug. It's still possible to find the names I want, but it's taking a little longer to do so. I've reported the issue and won't comment unless it persists.

[, ]

New genealogy blog

George Morgan, half of the Genealogy Guys podcast, has a new blog: Along Those Lines (feed: One of his firsts posts, "Get the Records While You Still Can!," is an interesting read about the nonsense taking root around the country regarding access to vital records.


Schuknecht, Wiegert and the Groß Methling records

Microfilm of the records from the Lutheran Church in Groß Methling did yield some useful clues about the SCHUKNECHT (SCHOKNECHT) and WIEGERT families, but due to the limited details on some records and quality issues the results were not ideal. For example, it is currently not clear who Katharina Maria WIEGERT's mother was because A) there were two baptism records for a girl named Katharina Maria WIEGERT and while one clearly names her father, Otto Michael, the other only mentions that the father's last name was WIEGERT, and B) a search for Katharina Maria's burial record -- to help determine when she was born -- was unsuccessful. Additionally, Otto Michael WIEGERT apparently had two wives, but only one marriage record was found and it is not very easy to read.

Otto Michael WIEGERT's burial record was found, but a baptism record was not. This may indicate that his parents did not live in the Groß Methling parish at the time, believed to have been around 1733.

Burial records for both Christian Michael SCHOKNECHT and his wife, Katharina Maria (WIEGERT), were not found, though their marriage record and a couple of their children's baptisms were. There was no indication that Christian Michael SCHOKNECHT was baptized in Groß Methling.

Those ordering this film in the future should note that the FHL's description -- Taufen, Heiraten Tote 1652-1875 Konfirmationen 1753-1875 -- is an overview of the records. What the researcher will find is actually:
  • 1652-1685 Marriages
  • 1694-1789 Marriages
  • 1704-1711 Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths
  • 1753-1799 Deaths
  • 1786-1799 Marriages
  • 1753-1799 Baptisms
  • 1783, 1786-1799 Confirmations
  • 1800-1870 Baptisms, Marriages
  • 1856-1870 Confirmations
  • 1800-1870 Deaths
  • 1800-1855 Confirmations
  • 1871-1875 Baptisms

Most of the records after about 1790 are easy to read and the amount of detail improves. Records prior to about 1790 are lacking some key details and don't always print that well. There was also a section of the records -- in the 1750s, as I recall -- which appear to have water damage.

Title: Kirchenbuch, Evangelische Kirche Groß Methling (AG. Dargun)
Film: 0069177
Quality: 6 (out of 10)

[, , , ]

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Fear the copyright

I know this is old news to most, but Wal-Mart no longer allows customers to make copies of photographs deemed to be made by a professional. I knew this, but the last time I needed photos quickly, a Wal-Mart employee let me make prints of a scanned studio photo from the late 1880s. When I recently tried to make prints of two other scans -- one from a photo taken before 1900, the other from about 1900 to 1910 -- I was told they couldn't sell me the prints.

Consider this from the San Diego Union-Tribune:

"Also adding to the confusion is the change to copyright law Jan. 1, 1978. Photos taken before that date are subject to different copyright rules from photos taken afterward."

"The law allows customers to copy professional photos commissioned before 1978, unless the photographer and the customer had an agreement to the contrary, Moilanen said."

Sorry, but I'm not exactly inclined to track down the descendants of a specific photographer to see if they have any of his old business records, with the goal being to see whether he and my 3rd great-grandparents had some sort of contract regarding reprints. And that's if the photo is even labeled by a studio.

To me, the bottom line is obvious: Wal-Mart doesn't think much of and/or trust their employees and they've created a blanket policy to avoid being sued. The issue of date isn't up for debate; the photo center workers will not print the photo. Period. I may test this policy soon by taking in other old photos to see what happens.

More recently, according to one listener of CNET's Buzz Out Loud podcast, at least one Staples (or one overzealous employee) has a similar view regarding photocopies. If you download the March 31st podcast (feed), skip ahead to about 28:07 to hear the story of how obituaries from the 1880s weren't allowed to be copied. (You can also go to Podzinger and look for the time stamp of this discussion -- they show 28:17, but the story begins slightly before the terms I used for the search. This is a stream, so there's no need to download the entire MP3.)


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Missouri 1910-1955 death index online soon

In August of 2004, legislation went into effect stating that the Missouri Department of Health was to transfer death certificates at least 50 years old to the State Archives. The Archives then announced that they would make the information on those records more accessible by creating an online index linked to scans of the certificates. This was called the Missouri Post-1910 Death Records Project. It was recently announced to volunteers that the index is scheduled to go online soon.

Researchers can also benefit from this project by obtaining photocopies for just $1, saving $12 per copy -- the Dept. of Health's fee had risen from $10 to $13 in recent years. The Archives makes getting copies very easy; just email them a name, date of death and the county in which the person died. You will then receive an emailed response with ordering instructions. (Only submit one name at a time by email, and don't request another record until you have received a copy in the mail. Be patient. It may take a few weeks to complete the ordering cycle. If need to get several different copies, you'll have to visit the Archives in person, where you can request ten at a time.)

Volunteers were sent a packet of pages from the old printed index and then set about entering the details into a spreadsheet. Each entry had up to fourteen different details, though most had just nine or ten: page number, last name, first name, middle initial, file number, month, day, year, county and sometimes the city. Prefix, suffix and alias name were fields rarely used. Transcribers could also enter notes in the last field. My packet was approximately 70 pages with 3687 entries. In all, 598 volunteers transcribed over two million names covering 1910 to 1955.

It remains to be seen how many of the certificates have been scanned so far, but a searchable index will be more than enough to help Missouri researchers. And a less obvious benefit to the database may be that some entries in the index, which were previously listed out of order, will now easily be found. While working on my packet of papers, I noticed a few entries that were one or two pages out of place alphabetically. I know that the Dept. of Health would search a five-year span for a record, but would they also check multiple pages of the printed index, too? If that didn't happen, then this may help in some cases. I have one test case in mind: James HEATON's 1919 certificate was not found.

I could go on and on describing how useful this index will be once it goes online. I have used the Illinois State Archives' death and marriage indexes too many times to count and Illinois is my second state in terms of ancestors and collateral lines. Missouri is where the bulk of my research takes place, so I'm going to be using this site a lot to track down leads that the Social Security Death Index, published cemetery indexes, and the few obituaries that have been indexed don't cover. My primary benefit will be searching for collateral individuals. Finding out when those people died will then open up numerous other research opportunities.

An event at the St. Louis County Library's Main Branch (1640 South Lindbergh Blvd., just south of Clayton Road and across from Plaza Frontenac) is scheduled for April 6th, the day the project opens to the public. A reception and brunch is scheduled the next day in Jefferson City.

[, ]