Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, November 30, 2020

Finding Your Ancestors in Legal Notices


The St. Johns Herald Thursday, August 28, 1919 Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors of Apache County, Arizona

Historically, many government and private entities were required to publish legal notices in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the event occurred. These notices included meetings of government agencies or committees, auctions, bankruptcies, convictions, court claims, divorces, forced sales, and probate matters. For example, the image above contains the minutes of the Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors for Apache County, Arizona on August 4th, 1919. The information in the notice includes payments made to various people for services to the county including payroll. As I look through this list, I can see the names of a number of my direct line ancestors and other relatives. 

While some of these notices do not give more than a name, they do supply a date and an exact place and are therefore extremely valuable. As with many other genealogically valuable records, these notices are not classified as genealogical records and are not segregated out or specifically indexed. The newspaper record shown above has been indexed by Optical Character Recognition or OCR and so all of the names are searchable but that is not the usual case. 

One interesting example of regularly maintained records is the town records of the early British American colonies. 

Records of the Hopkinton Town Council, 1751-1916 [Rhode Island]

The challenge of these records is that they are handwritten and unindexed so the researcher has to read through perhaps hundreds of pages to find one name. Probate records are particularly useful but have some of the same limitations however, there is usually some kind of index to court records. Almost all probate records contain some sort of accounting of the deceased person's assets. In some cases, there are also records of the sale of the deceased's property. The list of purchasers at the auction sale can be helpful in finding unknown relatives. 

Here is an image of a probate record showing the sale of the estate assets with the names of the purchasers.

"Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999," images, FamilySearch ( : 20 May 2014), Anne Arundel > Inventories 1818-1820 > image 35 of 250; Hall of Records, Annapolis.

Some of these records have been digitized and are indexed online but the lists of purchasers from the probate estate are seldom, if ever, listed. Some of these indexes will become available only after handwriting recognition is readily available and used by the record repositories. 

It may seem like a fishing trip in unknown waters to try and find some of these official notices but as you can see from my examples, two main sources are newspapers and court records. Unfortunately for research purposes, some of the notices appear only as postings on the property at the time of the sale. A casual researcher is only going to find this type of record by chance when the record finds its way online into an indexed collection. In the past, for example, I used to recommend "reading the newspapers" where an ancestor was located. Today, there are huge, indexed newspaper websites and I recommend searching for every ancestor in several of the websites. See the following:

Online Digital Newspaper Sources

Of course, when you are trying to search court records, you may end up traveling to court houses and local historical societies to see the records. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Thoughts on Libraries, Research, and the Future


I have recently been reading a book that is primarily about the fire that destroyed the Los Angeles, California Public Library in 1986. The book citation is as follows:

Orlean, Susan. 2019. The library book. London: Atlantic Books.

While reading the book, I began to remember all of the libraries I have visited and those that I worked in over the years. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had followed my real interest in libraries and research and become a librarian rather than a lawyer. Interestingly, because of the pandemic, I believe that these last few months have been the longest time in my life when I have not physically visited a library excluding the two years I lived in Argentina and the time when I was very young when I didn't have the means. I spent 24 years of my life so far working in libraries as either a bibliographer or a reference librarian or a volunteer/missionary. 

The one biggest change I have seen over the years is the impact of the internet and the digitization of millions of books. The effect of the current pandemic has not really impacted my reading habits. I have been reading books online on an iPad now for years. Actually, except for the books at home, it has been a long time since I read a physical book from a library. 

The idea of a library is that you do not have to buy a book (or other media item) to read or view it. Some of us have accumulated thousands of books but the cost of those books including the cost of moving and storing them is considerable. Notwithstanding my rather large collection of books, if I had to buy all the books that I have read, I would have no room in my home to live. 

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average public library has just over 80,000 books. This number is likely skewed because of the huge libraries. From the American Library Association website, here are the total number of books (volumes) in the ten largest physical public libraries in the United States.

I realize that many older people resist reading books online but as time passes, younger people who are used to reading on their phones and tablets will not see the utility of carrying a physical book around to read. 

The reality of online reading is that there is no real way to determine how many online books are now available for free and behind paywalls. Google has the largest online collection but current statistics are not easily found. The latest numbers claim 30 million books digitized. Here are some other ebook websites with the current number of ebooks available. 

  • 27,707,831 texts but the website also has millions of digital copies of other media Free
  • 17,446,576 total volumes Free and only available to universities
  • Dp.LA Digital Public Library of America 41,598,372 images, texts, videos, and sounds Free
  • 1.4 million books free
You can see a long list online at Wikipedia: List of digital library projects

Will ebooks eventually replace paper books? At one time, some of us may have thought that might happen but as time goes on, the possibility seems very remote. Ebooks only make up about 20% of all book sales. See "The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came." Despite my preference to read books online, I still have piles of books around for reference. Despite my earlier feelings about libraries, I think that with their digital books and the other media available, they will be around for a very long time. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Finding Your Ancestors Using Land and Property Records


For genealogical research, there are two main components of land and property records: maps and documents. Using both, when they are available, is a great benefit to research. This is especially true because often the documents, especially in states using metes and bounds property descriptions, do not provide enough information to adequately physically locate the property. In most counties in the United States, Maps and documents are kept in different locations. Likewise, although there may be a digitized map of a digitized document, the digitized document and digitized map are seldom linked or indexed the same way. 

Online, you can find digital maps in a variety of formats for almost any location on the face of the earth. In the United States, most of the land has been mapped using the Geographic Information System Mapping or GIS. For example, the state of Utah has a Utah Mapping Portal that contains Most of the state-based Maps in the state of Utah. See

These GIS maps have been incorporated into local tax assessment and real estate identification maps. You should be able to find similar maps for every state in the United States. Some of the GIS-based maps, such as the assessment maps for Utah Valley incorporate the ownership chain of title for the parcels shown. 

The United States uses a fairly uniform system for recording land ownership. Based primarily on English common law with some exceptions based on Spanish law, a record of land ownership is maintained in the various counties across the country in a government agency usually called the "County Recorder." The laws of all the states provide that land ownership is in some way dependent on giving notice to the world of the claim of ownership. This is usually done by filing or recording a copy of all deeds and other documents affecting property ownership or property title. Titled property is therefore any property requiring some type of formal government document (usually called the "title") evidencing ownership. 

As real property is sold, the changes of ownership are referred to as the "chain of title." Genealogical research depends heavily on being able to identify the exact physical location of an event in ancestors' lives. The need to be as exact as possible in identifying physical locations extends across the entire world but not every country has the records to support that level of research. Fortunately, the United States does. Land ownership has been assiduously recorded since colonial times. Even if the original deeds or other documents are lost or destroyed, the chain of title is so legally important that a tremendous effort will always be made to reconstruct any lost records as much as possible. 

Here is a sample statement explaining the recording of title documents from the Washington County Recorder's Office in Rhode Island. 
A title search of real property is performed primarily to answer three questions :
  • Does the seller or grantor have an interest in the property being transferred?
  • Are there any restrictions pertaining to the use of the land (real covenants, easements, or other servitudes)?
  • Is the property encumbered (mortgages, back taxes, mechanic's liens, or other assessments)?
Anyone can do a title search. Recorded documents concerning conveyances of land are a matter of public record. These documents are maintained in hard copy format or scanned into image files by the recording office in the jurisdiction where the subject property is located. Each record is a document evidencing an event that occurred in the history of the property. When combined, these records create a chain of title for a specific piece of property. Performing a title search involves accessing the official land records provided by the county or jurisdiction.
Although the Recorder in this quote says that "Anyone can do a title search." I did a complex title search just this past week, and I can say that without some extensive experience or training doing an adequate title search is way beyond the skill of the average researcher. Fortunately, you can pay people to do the search for you. In the east, these people are usually referred to as abstractors. In the west, title searches are primarily done by "title companies" that generally insure the accuracy of a "title report." If they want to pay the price, genealogists can use these services to discover the "original" owner or owners of a real estate parcel. 

Land ownership in the states that were originally English colonies is based on the "State Land System" of property ownership and description. During colonial times, the main and almost only method of describing real property by metes and bounds. The metes part of the description is the measurement of the land. The bounds part of the description are the physical features defining the boundary. There are a number of online programs that can produce a map of the property from a metes and bounds description if the description has compass directions. 

The first step in finding any genealogically significant documents in including those of land and property is to identify a specific location of at least one event in your ancestors' lives. If that is possible. The next step is to determine if the ancestors owned any land in the area. Then, the researcher needs to see if there are any deeds or other documents that identify the location. When you have the location, you can begin to search for a document such as a deed that will identify the exact land owned. Once you have a deed, you can go to any maps available to see if you can identify the exact location on a map. With the location as a starting point, you can then begin to look for other historical documents. 

This may sound complicated because it is complicated. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Topographical Collection of George III contains drawn and printed maps, views and atlases produced between 1500 and 1824

The Topographical Collection of George III produced between 1500 and 1824.

This huge collection of old maps, manuscripts, and drawings is free on The link is above. Take some time to explore this amazing new resource. There are 17.908 images. Here is an explanation of the collection from the British Library

The King’s Topographical collection, the map collection of George III, is one of the world’s most important historical resources. Donated to the nation by George IV in 1828, it comprises approximately 30–40,000 maps, plans and views, both printed and hand-drawn, of all parts of the world, particularly Great Britain and the then British Empire. The material ranges in date from about 1540 to 1824, and is extremely varied in terms of format and size.

The Maritime Collection of George III consists of hand-drawn and printed sea charts and atlases of the 16th to 19th centuries. It was donated by George IV to the Admiralty, and from there to the British Museum in 1844.
I believe the being involved in genealogical research requires a broad understanding of history, geography, and about every other subject from archeology to zoology.  

BYU Family History Library keeps making instructional videos during pandemic

In March of 2020, the Brigham Young University Family History Library closed down due to the worldwide pandemic of the COVID-19 virus. My wife and I were part of the about 140 Church Service missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were furloughed from physically serving in the Library. For the past 6 years or so, both my wife and I and many other missionaries have been contributing our time to producing webinars and instructional videos which are then posted to the BYU Family History Library Channel and to the BYU Family History Library's website

When the pandemic hit, it took the Library staff and missionaries some time to adapt to the new circumstances that involved no actual physical presence in the university's Harold B. Lee Library where the Family History Library is located. As time passed, Students and Faculty of the university were allowed back into the Library and we began the process of organizing online support for non-student patrons of the Family History Library. However, the production of webinars and instructional videos never skipped a beat. Since March, the Family History Library has posted, and as of the date of this post, 57 videos to the BYU Family History Library Channel. 

The only real change for those of us producing the videos except for those videos produced by the Library staff is that we are not physically inside of the Library. This has all been made possible by the combined efforts of the missionaries and the Library staff headed and directed by Joseph B. Everett MLS, AG, the Family History, Local History, and Microforms Librarian. You can also view the webinars produced by Joe Everett on the BYU Family History Library Channel. The missionary effort is coordinated by two pairs of full-time missionaries who have served faithfully through the difficulties imposed by the pandemic and kept all of us organized and in touch with the Library. 

Of course, I am thankful that I have been able to continue doing periodic webinars and other presentations for not only the BYU Family History Library but for other organizations such as and The Family History Guide. #GiveThanks I don't keep track of the number of videos I have done so far during the pandemic but between making videos for webinars, live class presentations, and the Show Me videos for The Family History Guide, I know there have been quite a few. 

The BYU Family History Library's first video posted to the YouTube Channel was uploaded on February 3, 2014. My first video was posted in September 2014 when we moved to Provo, Utah from Mesa, Arizona. Since that time, the list of subjects covered by the videos is more than impressive. If you are wondering if there is some organization to the videos, you need to go to the BYU Family History Library Website and look at the Webinar Recording Index. Here is a screenshot.

According to that list, I have posted 162 webinar videos since 2014 and 48 shorter instructional videos. You also need to look at the Instructional Video list.

My wife, Ann, has posted 24 instructional videos and one webinar. Many other people at the Library have also contributed a huge number of videos. For example, Kathryn Grant, a remarkable and hugely popular teacher, has posted 73 webinars and 10 instructional videos. Over the years, others have contributed fantastic educational videos. Numbers are not as important as quality and Kathryn Grant and others have produced some of the best educational videos you can find online today, not just for genealogy but as a model for educational videos of all kinds. 

Kathryn Grant has her own archive on the BYU Family History Website. Here is a screenshot.

Kathryn Grant is also a prolific writer. You can see a partial list of her publications on the website page, "Light for My Path." Here is a screenshot.

Some of the most popular videos about Family History Basics have been produced by Judy Sharp. You can see her Family History Basic Tutorials on the YouTube Channel. 

Will we run out of topics? Not likely. Right now, the BYU Family History Library has Sunday Live Classes, Thursday classes, and webinars planned through March of 2021. 

By the way, there are a lot of other genealogy resources on the BYU Family History Library website. #GiveThanks

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Learning New Digital Skills with free


Google Grow

Every so often, I see a new website or program that provides value for free. Grow with Google or is one of those programs. The website provides free training, tools, and resources to help you grow your skills, career, or business. It is essentially a sequenced set of video lessons that help you learn the basic skills of presentation software, word processing, and spreadsheets primarily using Google online products. If you are a teacher, a parent, or someone needing to improve your digital skills for a job or simply wanting to know more about computing, this is a great free opportunity to learn. 

Just click here to get started.

You Can Read Handwritten Documents! -- Looking at the 1920 US Census Post #6

"United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 9 September 2019), Arizona > Navajo > St Joseph > ED 91 > image 4 of 6; citing NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

 Note: This is not really a series although reading all the posts with this topic are useful. If you want to find additional topics, do a Google search for the first part of the post name and add the term "Genealogy's Star, like this "you can read handwritten documents! genealogy's star"]

As I go step-by-step back through the U.S. Federal Census records, I chose to highlight the census from a small town in Arizona where some of my ancestors lived. There are a total of six pages in this particular census enumeration district. Because the town is so small, I can see everyone who is related to me in a short review. In 1920, a fair percentage of the people living in the town were directly related to me. But of course, this post and the other related posts are about handwriting. 

In 1920, the handwriting was still predominantly following the Palmer Method. Here is a screenshot of the first example. 

For reference, here is an alphabet showing the ideal Palmer letter shapes. 

You can see some radical departures in the characters such as the "T" for Henry M. Tanner and Teresea Clossey and also the "F" in Lorana F Richards. You can also see that some of the single letters are not written completely such as the "M" in Henry M Tanner. You might also note that many of the lower case "e" letters are closed and look more like an "i." You need to look carefully for the cross strokes for "t" and the dots for "i" to help distinguish these letters from others that are similarly written. 

It is important to recognize these variations in letters and use a standard alphabet for comparison. Also, if you look down the list giving the head of household and other relationships, you will see a lot of variations from the same enumerator for the letter "H." 

All in all, this example of 1920 style handwriting is fairly accurate and easily readable. Perhaps it would be a good idea to give another example for the same year with handwriting that is not quite as easily read. 

"United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 13 September 2019), Rhode Island > Washington > South Kingstown > ED 356 > image 1 of 30; citing NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

This is from across the country in Rhode Island. Here is an example of some of the difficulties found in this census sheet. 

You can immediately see that there is a much greater variation in this example from the standard Palmer Method alphabet example. The name "Julian" would be harder to read if the dot over the "i" were not obvious. Coming down the page, the next name circled looks like "Geaber." This turns out to be probable. There is a name "Geaber" found in other census records and in Rhode Island. See "Where is the Geaber family from?" But the "b" could easily be mistaken for an "f." 

The last example on this page shows a problem with an entry that was written over for a correction. One advantage of digital images is that you can zoom in and look closely at a single name. 

The last name is likely Bannister but the first name is a real problem. This person is 60 years old and it is possible that he could be found in a previous or subsequent census record. Identifying this person's from just this record will take some research. If you look over in the census record, you will see that this person is reported to have been born in Ireland. This name was indexed as "Annie." The name is much easier to read in the 1930 census.

One reason to begin your handwriting study with the census records is this opportunity to verify your guesses and that of the indexer. 

See you next time.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Give the gift of family history: MyHeritage Gift Membership


Introducing the MyHeritage Gift Membership

Just in time for the holidays, MyHeritage has announced the launch of the new MyHeritage gift membership! You can now give someone special the MyHeritage Complete plan, the best plan for family history research. To celebrate the launch, gift memberships are now available with a 50% introductory discount.

You can choose to give either a 1-year or 6-month gift membership. Gift memberships are one-time and do not renew.

The gift membership includes the following benefits of the Complete plan:

  •       Unlimited family tree size and unlimited photo storage 
  •       Access to MyHeritage’s 12.7 billion historical records
  •       Automatic Record Matches for the family tree 
  •       Automatic Smart Matches™ to millions of family trees
  •       Instant Discoveries™ consisting of Person Discoveries and Photo Discoveries
  •       Tree Consistency Checker that identifies mistakes and inconsistencies in the family tree
  •       Unlimited use of MyHeritage In Color™ and the MyHeritage Photo Enhancer
For more information see the following video and the linked blog post.

Here is the link to the blog post: Introducing the MyHeritage Gift Membership

Here is some additional important information from the blog post.

At the end of the gift membership period, the recipient will retain access to their MyHeritage account and all family tree data and nothing will be deleted. If they wish to continue enjoying the full benefits of a membership, it will be up to them to extend their plan (or you can decide to be kind to them and give them another gift membership — it’s up to you).

If you gifted someone and they don’t want the gift, don’t worry! You can ask our customer support to transfer it to someone else. If you gifted someone and it turns out they already have a paid account on MyHeritage, you can also transfer it to someone else. Until a gift is activated by the recipient, the membership period doesn’t begin so no time is lost. The gift needs to be activated within 6 months of its delivery to the recipient, and then it will start.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Free Virtual Family History Classes, Webinars, and Videos from the BYU Family History Library

Although the Brigham Young University Family History Library is closed to both volunteer/missionaries and patrons, we are hosting a broad offering of free online classes, webinars, and videos. All of the present offerings are outlined on our "Classes and Webinars" webpage.

The classes and webinars include:

In addition, for the students and faculty who still have access to the Library, we have a virtual consultant video station in the Library with live, online missionary volunteers every weekday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The students and faculty simply have to walk up to the video monitor and start asking questions. 

We have nearly 500 videos online on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. Here is a screenshot of the Channel.

If you have a question or a suggestion for a new video, please let us know. The contact information for the Library is on our webpage. Here is the link:

Thursday, November 19, 2020

You Can Read Handwritten Documents! -- Looking at the 1930 US Census Post #5


"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 8 December 2015), Arizona > Navajo > Holbrook > ED 7 > image 13 of 20; citing NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002).

Note: This is not really a series although reading all the posts with this topic are useful. If you want to find additional topics, do a Google search for the first part of the post name and add the term "Genealogy's Star, like this "you can read handwritten documents! genealogy's star"]

I am working backward in time looking at the handwriting of each year of the U.S. Federal Census. Handwriting is one of the major challenges in reading old documents. Although the first mechanical writing machines were first used in the 1500s, typewriters did not become common until the 1900s. As genealogists, this means that research back just a few generations will depend almost entirely on handwritten documents. See the following for the history of typewriters.

Weller, Charles Edward. 1918. The early history of the typewriter. La Porte, Ind: Chase & Shepard, printers. Ebook

Vrooman, J. W., Herkimer County Historical Society. (1923). The Story of the typewriter, 1873-1923. Herkimer, N.Y.: Herkimer County Historical Society. Ebook

Handwriting in the 1930s is not much of a change from the 1940s. The major difficulty is usually the handwriting skill of the enumerator. The example above from Joseph City, Arizona is quite readable but if you compare the style to the predominately used Palmer Method of Handwriting, you will see some significant differences. Here is a chart of the Palmer Method characters. 

The Palmer Method of Business Writing. A.N. Palmer Published New York, etc., 1901. Page 29

Here are some of the major departures on the census record.

In this example, the letter variations do not interfere much with the readability. Although some of the other letters, especially letter pairs may cause indexing problems. Here are some of the letter pairs that could cause confusion.

The first example, starting at the top, is "Tanner." In some indexes the name has been indexed as "Tamer." The next example is "Beulah." If the indexer was not familiar with this name, the writing could cause some difficulty. This is the same problem caused by "Reed" and the last example, "Henry." 

The way to avoid problems with these names is to spend the time reading the census and if in doubt about a name, take the time to do some quick research about the person while making the assumption that you can read what has been written. For example, the first name circled above is most likely Clifford Tanner. A search on brought up the name of the individual in the Family Tree. 

You can match the name and his wife's name and the chldren's names. This illustrates an important point, you need to be familiar with the possible names of your ancestors and relatives. If I go a short way down the page, I will find another Tanner, this time, it is my Great-grandfather and his wife. 

The name is written the same way. You may also need to look at more than one census year for the specific location to get alternative spellings of the names. I must admit that years ago when I started looking at the census records, I could not find some of my Tanner relatives in some of the census years because they had been wrongly indexed and it wasn't until I learned to read the entire town's records that I was able to sort out my ancestors from the indexing mistakes

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Geni’s World Family Tree now connects over 150 million profiles


News from the Family Tree blog post:

We’re excited to announce that Geni’s World Family Tree now connects over 150 million profiles! 

This milestone was possible thanks to the collaboration of over 13 million users and over 200 volunteer Curators from all over the world. The World Family Tree has grown faster than ever with over 11 million profiles added in the last year. 

The definitive family tree for the entire world, Geni’s World Family Tree allows millions of people to work together to research and preserve their shared ancestry for future generations. By combining research into a single shared family tree, users are able to concentrate on pursuing new leads instead of repeating the same research over and over again. Over time, the quality and accuracy of the tree continues to improve as new information is discovered, errors are corrected, and new connections are found. 

With more and more profiles added every day and overlapping branches merged, Geni has become one of the premier go-to reference sites for global genealogy. 

Quoting from the website,

Geni is solving the problem of genealogy by inviting the world to build the definitive online family tree. Using the basic free service at, users add and invite their close relatives to join their family tree. All Geni users can share photos, videos, and documents with their families. Geni’s Pro subscription service allows users to find matching trees and merge those into the single world family tree, which currently contains over 100 million living users and their ancestors. Additional pay services include enhanced research tools and premium support. Geni welcomes casual genealogists and experts who wish to discover new relatives and stay in touch with family. Geni is privately held and based in Los Angeles, California.

In November 2012, Geni was acquired by MyHeritage Ltd. and is now a MyHeritage company. 

Join the RootsTech Songwriting Contest

 Quoting from the blog post, "Join the RootsTech Songwriting Contest,"

RootsTech Connect is all about what binds us together. Music has long been one of the most powerful ways for people to connect with one another, and that is why RootsTech is hosting a songwriting contest centered on connections. What connections mean the most to you? How do you connect with others? How do you connect with the world? All musical styles are encouraged, whether it be rap, classical, pop, country, rock and roll, or any other mix or genre. Entering also gives you the chance to win a Kawai piano!

Continuing from the blog post:

There are three easy steps to enter the RootsTech songwriting contest:

Write and Record—Share with us a song that shows what it means to connect. Be sure to write down your lyrics for your submission!

Submit Your Entry—Fill out the entry form, and upload your song (as an MP3 file), lyric sheet, and album image before the entry deadline on 31 December 2020.

Vote and Share—All semifinalists will be notified and given a unique link to share with friends and families. Encourage everyone you know to vote for your song, as well as for other songs that they enjoy. 

Click here for more information about RootsTech Connect 2021. This is a FREE online Conference experience.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Mixtiles and MyHeritage Photos Opening has recently entered into a partnership with, the photo wall-art company. You can order prints directly from Mixtiles from your photos on your family tree on the MyHeritage website. We decided to order seven copies of the same photo to send to our children. Ordering the photos was easy but choosing the photo to send was not so easy. Since I am a professional photographer and carry a camera almost everywhere I go, See, I have hundreds of thousands of photos. We finally decided on a photo and sent off the order. 

We received confirmation of the order almost immediately and were impressed with both the speed of the order and the customer service. A few days later, the order arrived on our doorstep. You can see the box above.

I had watched the Mixtiles videos so I knew what to expect but the packaging was perfect and here is what I saw when the box was opened. 

The box was just exactly what was needed to protect the photos. The photos came in two levels.

The reproduction of the photos was excellent. 

If you have the wall space, you can arrange photos in an infinite number of ways. The photo come mounted in different styles. We chose the borderless prints. 

Here is a screenshot of the Mixtiles website showing how the photos can be mounted.

I have over 10,000 family photos on so I have lot of possible prints to choose from. With the holiday season coming up, this is a perfect way to mix genealogy with gift giving. 

You Can Read Handwritten Documents! -- Looking at the 1940 US Census Post #4

Note: This is not really a series although reading all the posts on this topic are useful. If you want to find additional topics, do a Google search for the first part of the post name and add the term "Genealogy's Star, like this "you can read handwritten documents! genealogy's star"

One of the best places to start learning handwriting recognition skills is by reading and in some cases, transcribing, the United States Federal Census records from 1790 to 1940. Later Census records as they become available will not be as helpful because of a transition to different forms that require fewer manual handwritten entries. You should also start with the 1940 U.S. Federal Census because deciphering the handwriting becomes more difficult as you go back in time to 1790. 

It is important when doing research for people who lived in the United States between the years 1790 and 1940 that you search for census records for each member of the family for all the years they could have been included in the census. Some children who are born and die within the ten years between censuses will not appear. You may also have a few people who were not recorded in one or more census years for a variety of reasons but searching the records and adding each census record as a source provides a good basic set of documents about the ancestor or relative's life. 

Here I go looking at the handwriting in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census records. 

"United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch ( accessed 14 November 2020), Arizona > Apache > Supervisorial District 1 > 1-3 Supervisorial District 1 bounded by (N) Little Colorado River, Carrizo Wash; (E) Highway 61, Temple, Highway 81; (S) supervisorial district line; (W) county line; also Concho, St. John's (part) > image 9 of 46; citing Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012.

This is really the entire citation to this page of the Census. I got this citation from Information about this image on Whenever you attach a census record as a source to or any other program or website, please take the time to add a complete citation to the source (where you found) the record. 

Census records were handwritten by the Census Enumerator. Here is the explanation of the process from the National Archives' article, entitled, "About the 1940 Census."

Unlike more recent censuses, the 1940 census was taken entirely by census enumerators going door to door and collecting information. If a person wasn't home when the census taker came, the census taker would make a return visit. People who were counted on return visits are listed at the end of the regular pages for the enumeration district on pages that begin with number 61.

You can tell by the handwriting when there was a change in the enumerator. The type of handwriting most commonly used was the Palmer Method. Here is a description of the method from Wikipedia: Palmer Method.

The method developed around 1888 and was introduced in the book Palmer's Guide to Business Writing (1894). Palmer's method involved "muscle motion" in which the more proximal muscles of the arm were used for movement, rather than allowing the fingers to move in writing. In spite of opposition from the major publishers, this textbook enjoyed great success: in 1912, one million copies were sold throughout the United States. The method won awards, including the Gold Medal at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, in 1915, and the Gold Medal at the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia, in 1926.

Proponents of the Palmer Method emphasized its plainness and speed, that it was much faster than the laborious Spencerian Method, and that it allowed the writer to compete effectively with the typewriter. To educators, the method's advocates emphasized regimentation, and that the method would thus be useful in schools to increase discipline and character, and could even reform delinquents.

The Palmer Method began to fall out of popularity in the 1950s and was eventually supplanted by the Zaner-Bloser method, which sought to teach children manuscript before teaching them cursive, in order to provide them with a means of written expression as soon as possible, and thus develop writing skills. The D'Nealian method, introduced in 1978, sought to address problems raised by the Zaner-Bloser method, returning to a more cursive style. The Palmer company stopped publishing in the 1980s.

Alphabet and numerals from The Palmer Method of Business Writing

If you look closely at the handwriting on the census record above, you will see that the individual's style of handwriting is only vaguely similar to the ideal represented by the Alphabet above. But closer inspection reveals that the Palmer Method is the basic style. 

Look at the "S", "D", and "L" and other capital letters. You will immediately see the similarities. Because we have an example of the style from an "official" alphabet, we can use that style sheet as a guide to deciphering any letters we cannot read. Obviously, when there are letters or words crossed-out there will be a difficulty caused by the way the document was written not just the handwriting. In addition, there are some marks on the record that are not letters but marks made by the enumerator for his or her own purposes. 

Try reading through a few pages of the 1940 Census and see what you find. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Finding Your Ancestors Using Employment Records


You may never have thought of using employment records to find an ancestor or relative but there is a huge untapped reservoir of records out there around the world. The challenge is that employment records are only rarely classified as "genealogically significant" and they are largely ignored by the larger genealogical database/family tree websites. It is also unlikely that you will find these records online in digital format available to the public although there are exceptions. 

Let me use, for example, railroad records. There are about 700 different railroads that operate common carrier freight services in the United States. See Wikipedia: "List of common carrier freight railroads in the United States." Every state in the United States has at least one railroad including Hawaii. See Wikipedia: "List of Hawaii Railroads." Although the number of railroad employees has been declining over the years, some railroad records go back to the early 1800s. On February 28, 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad became the first U.S. railway chartered for commercial transport of passengers and freight. You might be interested to know about this collection of the B&O's records: Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Online Virtual Archive: "Preliminary Guide to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Records."

You can start becoming aware of your ancestors' occupations and employment by using the U.S. Federal Census. The 1850 census (column 7), 1860 census (column 7), 1870 census (column 7), and 1880 census (column 13) all indicate the person's occupation. Some of the censuses in England, Scotland, and Wales also show occupation. Another place to go for occupations is the vast collection of City Directories that are just now beginning to be generally available online. Here is an example from the collection on showing the occupation of one of my uncles, Rollin C Tanner. 

Here is a screenshot of the entry.

It turns out that there is extensive historical information available about this company. For example, there is a book entitled "The Tanner Companies" by L. Morris Richards and Carl C. Jacobson. This is full of history, biographies, and photographs and is 884 pages long. When you begin your search for your ancestors' occupation and continue with research into that occupation and the companies and entities that employed your ancestors, you may be amazed at the huge amount of information available. 

This is an area that requires real research skills. Using the example above from the City Directory, we have the name of the company and a search online turned up not only the history of the company but the location of the documents about the company in the Arizona Historical Foundation

The best way to find these records is to keep looking. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

RootsTech Connect 2021 Announces First of Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speakers

RootsTech Connect 2021
—the world’s largest family celebration event—announced its first wave of keynote speakers hailing from Australia, Italy, Mexico, and the United States. Speakers include New York Times bestselling author and international motivational speaker, Nick Vujicic; Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, a retired top female world golfer; Francesco Lotoro of Italy, musician, composer, and collector of music composed in captivity during the Holocaust; and Sharon Leslie Morgan, author, and genealogist dedicated to promoting healing by providing resources for African American genealogical research.

RootsTech Connect, February 25–27, 2021, is a free online conference to discover, share, and celebrate family and heritage connections.

Please see the RootsTech 2021 website for more information about the keynote speakers. Here is the link:

Keynote Speakers

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

You Can Read Handwritten Documents! -- It's not all about handwriting Post #3


"United States Census, 1790," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 14 May 2015), Massachusetts > Barnstable > Barnstable > image 2 of 7; citing NARA microfilm publication M637, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

The image above illustrates some of the problems associated with trying to read handwritten documents. Although deciphering the script itself can be a challenge, often the real problems include damage to the original document, faded ink, improper conservation and preservation efforts, and physical deterioration of the document. This 1790 U.S. Federal Census Schedule from Barnstable, Massachusetts illustrates all of these problems. Here is an analysis of each problem.

This part of the image seems to show some sort of tape, possibly cellophane tape used to reinforce or repair the document. Most of these early efforts were misguided. The tape would discolor with age and as here, the image would be obscured and impossible to read. When the information in the document is completely missing, as in this and some of the additional examples I will show below, the information is just lost and usually unrecoverable. 

This part of the document shows physical damage with parts of the document missing. Again, this is not an issue that can be resolved. The information has been completely lost. The discolorization of the edges of the larger missing piece could be from a fire. 

This part of the document shows "bleed-through" from the following page. Because ink is a liquid, when you write on one side of the page and when the paper is porous, you will see the reverse image on the preceding page. The discoloration of this part of the page also appears to be from some kind of tape used to mend a tear caused by folding the paper. 

The bold number was added to the document at a later time. It is likely a page number in some compilation of the original documents. 

It is a given that the physical condition of the document and the preservation efforts or lack thereof will dramatically affect the researcher's ability to obtain information. This is something, like the passage of time, we can do nothing about now but it should be an incentive to adequately preserve and care for genealogically important documents.