Archive for the ‘Geneablogging Memes’ Category

Tombstone Tuesday: Benjamin L. TRAFFORD and Cecelia Merritt INGERSOLL

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

trafford21Benjamin L. TRAFFORD was born on 05 August 1835 in New York City, NY. He was the son of Abraham Trafford and Basilea Harmer.

On 15 April 1857 he married Cecelia Merritt INGERSOLL in New York City, New York.

Cecelia was born 05 August 1837 in New York City, New York to Roswell R. Ingersoll and Caroline Merritt.

Benjamin died on 23 December 1883 and Cecelia died on 12 February 1915. They are both buried in the First Presbyterian Churchyard in Shrewsbury, Monmouth County New Jersey.

Surname Saturday: Richardson

Sunday, January 10th, 2010
Allen Chapman Richardson

Allen Chapman Richardson

Since this is my first Surname Saturday post, it seems appropriate to start with my own surname: Richardson. Here’s what I know (or think I do!) about my Richardson line:

1. Dean Richardson

2. David Richardson, born 17 Nov 1935 in Erie, Erie County, PA; died 16 Oct 1998 in Stanford, Santa Clara County, CA

3. Owen Richardson, born 02 Dec 1899 in Baltimore, Baltimore County, MD; died 05 Dec 1993 in Edinboro, Erie County, PA

4. Allen Chapman Richardson, born 18 Jun 1859 in Baltimore, Baltimore, MD; died 21 Dec 1908 in Erie, Erie County, PA

5. James Arnold Richardson, born 09 Dec 1830 in Baltimore, Baltimore, MD; died 12 August 1883 in Carroll County, MD

6. George Whatcoat Richardson, born 19 Mar 1805 in Baltimore County, MD; died 02 Oct 1846 in Baltimore County, MD

I’ve found several compiled genealogies that extend the line further to Arnold, Vincent, and Thomas Richardson, but I’m far from comfortable including them at this point.

If any Richardson cousins come across this, and if you think you might tie in to my line or if you have evidence contradicting the details I’ve given above, I’d love to hear from you.

Follow Friday: ThinkGenealogy

Friday, January 8th, 2010

mark_tucker_web_avatar_cartoonI subscribe to about 30 or so genealogy blogs via RSS. They range from folksy/funny to serious-news-focused to technique/strategy-oriented. One I consistently enjoy is Mark Tucker’s ThinkGenealogy. His posts frequently address some of my favorite genealogy topics:

  • The genealogy research process, and the ways in which beginners can increase the seriousness of their efforts
  • The “Genealogical Proof Standard” and practical ways to follow it
  • “Evidence Explained”-style source citations (in a way that motivates me rather than makes me feel looked-down-upon)
  • Genealogy software innovation (including original ideas of his own and suggestions for the major genealogy software vendors)

And we seem to share a number of interests beyond genealogy:

  • Scouting (Mark has blogged about being a genealogy merit badge counselor; I enjoy doing this too)
  • Web design and user experience
  • Quality presentations (Mark introduced me to Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology, a book that has totally changed the way I prepare talks and Powerpoint decks at work, Church, and elsewhere)

He’ll also be a speaker at the upcoming Family History Expo in Mesa, Arizona. I haven’t yet experienced one of Mark’s talks in person, but I suspect his presentations will be refreshingly clear, entertaining and actionable.

If you haven’t visited Mark’s blog, I encourage you to do so. You’ll learn a lot, and you’ll come away motivated to improve the quality (and quantity!) of your genealogical research.

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy: Week 1 — Wilmette Public Library

Thursday, January 7th, 2010


Amy Coffin (author of the WeTree blog and owner of the Texas-shaped waffle avatar on Twitter) has generated a series of genealogy exercises / blog prompts entitled 52 Weeks To Better Genealogy. I thought I’d give Amy’s challenges a try. Her first one is:

Go to your local public library branch. Make a note of the genealogy books in the collection that may help you gain research knowledge. Don’t forget to check the shelves in both the non-fiction section and the reference section. If you do not already have a library card, take the time to get one. If you have a genealogy blog, write about what you find in your library’s genealogy collection.

There weren’t any patrons tonight during our shift at the Wilmette FHC, and the director gave me permission to take a brief field trip. So I headed over to the Wilmette Public Library (WPL) to check out their genealogy collection.

Under Construction

The first thing I noticed was that the WPL is undergoing some serious renovation right now. As a result, two of their most unique and useful genealogy resources — the local history room and the historical newspaper collection on microfilm — aren’t directly accessible at the moment. So alas, no photos of them. The librarian did offer to retrieve microfilms for me, though.

From what I’m told, the local history room contains a number of records that would be particularly useful for a patron trying to research their Wilmette ancestors, including Wilmette telephone books back to the early part of the twentieth century and vertical files with information about early Wilmette residents. I plan to check back in the Spring when the contents have settled into their new home.

Reference Area

img_03071After apologizing for the impact of the renovations, the helpful reference librarians printed out a spiffy-looking brochure for me called “Genealogy: Getting Started” and pointed me downstairs to the 929.1 books in their reference collection.

Here I found about four shelves worth of books including the two-volume Cyndi’s List compilation, the Handy Book, and Tom Kemp’s Vital Records Handbook. Several Illinois-specific census abstracts and military histories were also located here.

Main 929.1 Area

The more popular and modern titles were located on the other side of the library in the usual 929.1 area. Here I found an excellent selection of books for beginners and intermediates alike, including Google Your Family Tree, The Source, and 500 Brickwall Solutions, along with a sizeable group of ethnicity-specific books such as Tracing Your Irish Ancestors and the Avotnayu Guide To Jewish Genealogy. I was pleasantly surprised to see two volumes from Elizabeth Shown Mills: a hardly-touched copy of ProGen and and older version of Evidence!

Local Titles

Since we’re located in Cook County, Illinois just north of Chicago, it was nice to see that the WPL also has Finding Your Chicago Ancestors by Grace Dumelle, and Chicago and Cook County: A Guide to Research by Loretto Dennis Szucs.

Online Resources

In addition to Ancestry Library Version and Heritage Quest Online, the WPL also offers access to databases of local interest including ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1986). Particularly cool is the library’s index to Wilmette newspapers which is updated regularly. As I write this, the index contains 215,031 entries for the Wilmette Life spanning 18 Sep 1847 to 31 Dec 2009 and nearly 10,000 entries for Lake Shore News covering 1912 to 1923.

Thanks, Amy!

This was a fun challenge and I definitely learned some stuff about the WPL that I didn’t know before. Now when patrons visit our FHC and ask for something we don’t have, I’ll have a better feel for local alternatives to offer them. I also plan to go back soon to check out Google Your Family Tree and several other books that looked interesting.

My Best Genealogy Moment of 2009

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010
The Harman Continuing Education Building on the BYU campus (photo by swilsonmc on Flickr)

The Harman Building (photo by swilsonmc on Flickr)

I’m a day late with my response to Randy Seaver’s weekly “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun” challenge. But when I saw that Thomas McEntee was too, I figured I’d go ahead and still be in good company.

My best genealogy moment of 2009 occurred as I sat at Genlighten’s exhibit booth at the BYU Conference on Computerized Family History and Genealogy back in March. It dawned on me suddenly that I had come full circle as a genealogy software vendor.

Twenty-six years before, I had attended one of the first versions of that same conference in the very same Caroline Hemenway Harman building on the BYU campus. Back then, as a newlywed sophomore majoring in Physics, I hoped to offer my first-generation Apple IIe-compatible Family Tree software (tentative title: “N-Gen”) for sale at the conference. But when I took one look at the competition, I knew I was completely out of my league. It was obvious to me that I didn’t know the first thing about marketing a useful product to the genealogy community. [Do I know any more now? I sure hope so!]

Now fast-forward to March of 2009: I’ve long since graduated from BYU, and I’m back at that same conference, once again surrounded by intimidating competitors, but this time as a reasonably legitimate vendor of a fledgling genealogy software product. Heady stuff. Scary, too. But I allowed myself to luxuriate in a rare moment of unabashed self-confidence. This time I would not go so quietly into the night of startup failure, I vowed softly.

The two times in my life I’ve launched entrepreneurial ventures, once as a twenty-something, and now again as a late forty-something, they’ve both had genealogy research at their core. It’s obviously got a powerful hold on me!

What’s Your Genealogical Superpower?

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Genealogy Superhero

At some point in our genealogical endeavors, we’ve probably all wished for some sort of superhuman enhancement to our research skills. If not the ability to leap brick walls in a single bound, than perhaps we’ve longed simply for x-ray vision so we can figure out what occupation the census-taker had in mind for our great-great grandfather.

While preparing for a series of posts in which I’ll interview some of our lookup providers, I brainstormed some questions to ask them. One question on my list got me particularly excited:

Do you have a genealogical “superpower”? (i.e., a unique research ability or technique that helps you track down records or assemble conclusions that others can’t?) If so, what is it?

I’ve pondered how I’d answer the question myself. My research skills are hardly superlative, but I think I possess a few qualities that help me succeed (and have fun!) where others struggle and get frustrated:

Seeing My Ancestors as Real People

Though I’ve stared forlornly at my share of empty slots on pedigree charts, I’ve never had a problem thinking of genealogy merely as a process of checking off boxes. I’ve always been blessed to approach it from the perspective of getting to know my ancestors — and their stories — a little better. That way, when a newly-discovered document provides helpful background info, but neglects to mention parents’ names, I’m seldom disappointed.

Ability to Switch Gears Easily

When a seemingly promising line of inquiry on one ancestor repeatedly fails to pan out, I find myself effortlessly transitioning to a new approach on a different ancestor without any lengthy period of soul-searching or annoyance. As a result, when Thomas McEntee asks me to post about an ancestor that drives me mad for Madness Monday, I honestly can’t think of any — I just never get to that point.

Batman and Robin

OK, so maybe my “superpowers” aren’t so super. I’m probably more qualified to be a superhero sidekick than wear the cape myself. My wife Cynthia, by comparison, is the real deal. Her superpower is her divergent thinking skills. When a patron at our Family History Center brings in a Chicago-area research problem, my wife can list five or six possible lines of attack within a few seconds. Once the patron chooses one, she can rapidly iterate and generate new ideas based on the results found. If the death certificate the patron needs doesn’t show up in the online index, she’s off to the appropriate cemetery record film or old newspaper obituary website to track the death info down there. Faster than a speeding bullet. You get the idea.

Your Turn

What about you — what’s your genealogical superpower? Encyclopedic recall of FHL film numbers covering your county? Mad Ancestry/Footnote search box wildcard skillz? Brain-embedded co-processor containing source citation templates from Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained? Consider sharing your superpower with us in a post on your blog. Or just let us know in the comments below. Thanks!

Benjamin Swetland, Fife Major

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

I’m a little late on the Memorial Day “blog about your ancestor who served in the military” meme. But my wife happened to search Google Books this morning for my 4th great-Grandfather Benjamin Swetland, and she came across a nice find. The Connecticut DAR published a book entitled “Chapter Sketches: Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution; Patriots’ Daughters” in 1904.


Beginning on page 250, there’s an article highlighting Benjamin Swetland’s life and military career. Among some of the highlights:

  • Benjamin served as a fife major in the Third Massachusetts Regiment during the revolutionary war
  • He claims to have been an “Eye Witness” to “the Surrender of Gen. Burgoin at Saratoga in the year 1777″
  • He copied a tune for the fife entitled “God Save The Congress” — a patriotic version of “God Save the King” into his roster book.
  • He later composed “A New Song”, which implored the government to “shake off your slothfulness” and give the “brave boys” the support they needed.
  • A musket he carried during the war and warming pan belonging to him were in the possession of a Mrs. William G. Mayer of Waterville, NY as of 1904.
  • Benjamin’s Roster Book, from which some of the images in this post originated, was evidently presented to the Chicago Historical Society at some point.


We’d encountered a number of sources discussing Benjamin and his descendants before, but this one provided details we’d not been aware of previously. Sounds like a visit to the Chicago Historical Society should be on our agenda soon!

Bibliographic details from Google Books:
Chapter Sketches: Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution; Patriots' Daughters
By Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution,  Mary Philotheta Root,  Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution
Published by Connecticut chapters, Daughters of the American revolution, 1904
Original from the New York Public Library
Digitized Feb 26, 2008
390 pages

My First Geneablogger Meme Post

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Carol Wilkerson at iPentimento tagged me for a meme started by Randy Seaver of Geneamusings.  Here goes:

**Ten years ago I:

  • Served as Director of the Photonics Program at the SUNY Institute of Technology
  • Was proud of having built our program’s website using the latest version of Netscape Navigator.
  • Co-led our church congregation’s youth group (our young men were excited about an upcoming snowboarding trip at the time )
  • Lived in an old farmhouse in Holland Patent, NY (someone else grew and harvested the corn in the back each year, paying us $100 for the privilege.)
  • Never remotely imagined that ten years later I’d be running a web-based genealogy startup

**Five things on today’s to-do list:

  • Respond to this Tag meme with a blog post.
  • Finish preparing a training presentation on Scouting for a group of youth leaders in our church congregation.
  • Rake leaves and water the backyard
  • Learn the latest on our daughter’s efforts to find a safe, affordable apartment in New Jersey with a short commute to NYC.
  • Write a post on Genlighten’s strategy for surviving the current economic downturn.

**Five snacks I enjoy:

  • Chocolate mint frozen yogurt with hot fudge (tough to find)
  • Chex mix
  • Tortilla chips and guacamole
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • Pretty much any edible leftovers in the fridge

**Five places I have lived:

  • Beaverton, OR
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Aspen Hill, MD
  • Holland Patent, NY
  • Northbrook, IL

**Five jobs I have had:

  • Optics Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Arizona
  • College Professor at SUNY Institute of Technology
  • Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Army Research Laboratory
  • Senior Research Scientist at Nanovation Technologies
  • Founder & CEO at