Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Hallowe'en!

It's still Hallowe'en on the West Coast as I write this. The following photo is of the very first time I celebrated the holiday...I was 4 1/2 years old and remember it being taken. I had a clown mask, too, but didn't wear it when our picture was taken. The little girl on my left was our neighbor girl and it was taken in their home at that time; an Airstream travel trailer parked across the street from our mobile home. A few years later, both our fathers build homes outside of the little village of Klawock, Alaska on adjoining properties.

Miriam Robbins and neighbor girl [name withheld for privacy,] 31 October 1971, Klawock, Alaska. Original in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington. 2009.

Surname Saturday: BARBER

The BARBER surname belongs to my maternal grandmother's biological mother. My grandmother was an adoptee, and I will be highlighting both her biological and her adoptive families' surnames in my Surname Saturday posts.

The BARBER name is an very old one. Barbers in the medieval times were not just haircutters; they were also surgeons and dentists. The root word "barb" means to cut. In the days before the common man was literate, barbers would place a red and white striped pole outside their establishment to mark their business. The colors were representative of white surgical cloths stained with blood. That ancient practice is now manifested in electronically revolving red and blue striped poles affixed near the doorways of modern barbershops.

My BARBER line cannot yet be traced back very far. As I said, it was the maiden name of my great-grandmother, and I can only go back two generations before I lose the family in Ontario, Canada with the knowledge that my 3rd-great-grandfather came from England (no more specific locations are available).

Stories and History:

Ahnentafel #44 - James W. BARBER (1839 - 1912) - The earliest record I can find on James is the 1871 Canadian Census, in which he resides in Amabel, Bruce Co., Ontario with his wife Elizabeth "Betsey" COLE and the first four of their 10 children. The family had two more children in Canada before removing to Lapeer, Lapeer Co., Michigan around 1876. There the remaining children were born. There are other BARBERs from Canada and England in the area and they are probably related; however, not being able to find earlier Canadian records nor having James's parents missing from his death certificate has presented challenges. A printed history of the COLE family has not yielded further clues. I do have one photo of James; a reprint of an original owned by a family cousin.

Ahnentafel #22 - Orlando BARBER (1868 - 1910) - I have often discovered that the most challenging family lines have poverty and a lack of education associated with them. This makes sense, because literate, middle-class families tend to keep and preserve family documents, photos, traditions and oral histories better. They are not in survival mode in the way that families in poverty are. Orlando seems to fall in to the former group. He is nearly always listed as a day laborer (once as a teamster) in census records as an adult. He also did not own a home, but rented instead. He and his wife, Mary Jane FREDENBURG, had eight children. The first three died very young, probably as stillborns or infants, since they do not even have birth records (the information came from census records where Mary Jane was asked how many children she had borne and how many were yet living). The youngest of his children was Mary Jane BARBER, my great-grandmother. Orlando died of smallpox just five days after Mary Jane's first birthday, and was laid to rest in an unmarked burial plot owned by a man that later became Orlando's widow's second husband (Fred SMITH, perhaps a family friend?). Although smallpox wasn't really eradicated from civilized countries until later in the twentieth century, I do find it unusual that Orlando died from it as late as 1910. I have no photographs of Orlando and do not know if any are in existence.

Ahnentafel #11 - Mary Jane BARBER (1909 - 1975) - read her AnceStory here

Ahnentafel #5 - my paternal grandmother (living)

Ahnentafel #2 - my father (living)

Ahnentafel #1 - myself

More about the BARBER family:

1. Online database (I update this at least once a month): BARBER ancestors and relatives (no info on living persons available)

2. Some BARBER obituaries

3. Posts about BARBER ancestors and relatives on this blog

4. Some scanned BARBER documents

5. My BARBER Virtual Cemetery on Find A Grave

My BARBER immigration trail:

England > Bruce Co., ONT > Lapeer Co., MI > Genesee Co., MI > Kent Co., MI > Ottawa Co., MI > AK > Stevens Co., WA > Spokane Co., WA

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Major Announcement from Footnote

ENTIRE U.S. CENSUS GOES INTERACTIVE WITH FOOTNOTE.COM to feature original documents from every publicly available
U.S. Federal Census from 1790 to 1930-

Lindon, UT – October 29, 2009 – Today ( announced it will digitize and create a searchable database for all publicly available U.S. Federal Censuses ranging from the first U.S. Census taken in 1790 to the most current public census from 1930.

Through its partnership with The National Archives, will add more than 9.5 million images featuring over a half a billion names to its extensive online record collection.

“The census is the most heavily used body of records from the National Archives,” explains Cynthia Fox, Deputy Director at the National Archives. “In addition to names and ages, they are used to obtain dates for naturalizations and the year of immigration. This information can then be used to locate additional records.”

With over 60 million historical records already online, will use the U.S. Census records to tie content together, creating a pathway to discover additional records that previously have been difficult to find.

“We see the census as a highway leading back to the 18th century,” explains Russ Wilding, CEO of “This Census Highway provides off-ramps leading to additional records on the site such as naturalization records, historical newspapers, military records and more. Going forward, will continue to add valuable and unique collections that will enhance the census collection.”

To date, has already completed census collections from two key decades: 1930 and 1860. As more census decades are added to the site, visitors to can view the status for each decade and sign up for an email notification when more records are added to the site for a particular year.

View the Census Progress Page on

In addition to making these records more accessible, is advancing the way people use the census by creating an interactive experience. Footnote Members can enrich the census records by adding their own contributions. For any person found in the census, users can:

• Add comments and insights about that person
• Upload and attach scanned photos or documents related to that person
• Generate a Footnote Page for any individual that features stories, a photo gallery, timeline and map
• Identify relatives found in the census by clicking the I’m Related button

See the 1930 Interactive Census record for Jimmy Stewart.

“The most popular feature of our Interactive Census is the I’m Related button,” states Roger Bell, Senior Vice President of Product Development at “This provides an easy way for people to show relations and actually use the census records to make connections with others that may be related to the same person.” works with the National Archives and other organizations to add at least a million new documents and photos a month to the site. Since launching the site in January 2007, has digitized and added over 60 million original source records to the site, including records pertaining to the Holocaust, American Wars, Historical Newspapers and more.

“We will continue to move aggressively to add records to the site, specifically those that are requested by our members and others that are not otherwise available on the Internet,” said Wilding.

Visit to see how the census on can truly be an interactive experience.

Additional Resources
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About Footnote, Inc. is a subscription website that features searchable original documents, providing users with an unaltered view of the events, places and people that shaped the American nation and the world. At, all are invited to come share, discuss, and collaborate on their discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues. For more information, visit

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 2009 Scanfest

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Beginner's Guide to Scanning Postcards

I was honored when Evelyn

1. What equipment should I use when scanning postcards?
A flatbed scanner that can scan at a 300 dots per inch (dpi) or greater resolution and can scan to the tagged image file (.tif) format is a must. Your computer should have photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro, or the many free types you can download from the Internet (do a Google search). Cotton gloves such as those found at your local photography supply store or online at archival supply websites are also vital for keeping your postcards from being microscopically damaged from the oils in your skin when handling.

2. On what settings should I put my scanner?
As mentioned above, you'll want to scan at no less than 300 dots per inch resolution. Many experts agree that 600 dpi is even better. This will enable you to zoom in and see details that your naked eye can miss, which is especially helpful for those postally used postcards with difficult-to-read postmarks! Also, it is imperative that you scan to a tagged image file (.tif) format (more on this later). All scanning should be done in full color, even for those photo postcards that are printed in black and white. The color will bring out the highlights and shadows that scanning in black and white and greyscale cannot do, and will also digitally preserve your postcard as it truly is viewed by the human eye: in color.

3. How do I prepare for scanning?
The glass plate of your scanner should never be cleaned by commercial glass cleaning products such as Windex, which may leave a chemical residue that can damage your postcards. Instead, use a soft lint-free cloth that has been sprayed with water to clean the glass plate of dust, oil, and streaks. Make sure the plate is completely dried before placing any postcard on its surface. I also like to tape a large piece of black construction paper to the inside of the white lid of my scanner, so that the edges of the postcard can easily be seen in the scanned image. Otherwise, the white edges of the postcard can seem to merge into the image of the white lid and it is difficult to tell exactly where they are when cropping the image.

Meanwhile, your postcards should be set up in scanning order on a nearby clean surface, free from any food, beverages, or other items that could damage them. Take the time to figure out exactly what you want to scan and in which order they will be scanned.

4. How should the postcards be scanned?
I scan four postcards at a time with spaces between them, being very careful not to slide them around on the glass (pick them up to move them). I then carefully flip each one over in its place and scan the reverse of the four as another image. This saves me time in scanning and room on my hard drive.

5. How do I save and use my scanned images?
Every image should be saved as a .tif file, which does not deteriorate over time with every use like .jpg files do. Jpg files are common photo file formats used to transport photos from one location (your hard drive, for example) to another (an online photo album, or an e-mail, for example). The problem here is that .jpg files are compressed for that easy transportation, and every time you save or use that file (e-mail it, download it, etc.), it loses some of its quality. Also, if you've ever zoomed in on a .jpg file, you'll notice that it quickly becomes blurry, whereas a .tif file can be enlarged multiple times in a zooming action before the resolution blurs.

When I make presentations about scanning and preservation, I like to do a little demonstration. I take a piece of blank paper and show it to my audience, saying, "This is my digital photo as a .jpg file." I then crumple the paper and toss it to a member of the audience and explain that because I crumpled (compressed) it, it made it easier for me to transport to someone else. Then I have the person smooth out the paper the best they can to look at it. Of course, now it's wrinkled. Then I have them crumple it again and toss it back to me. Each time the paper is used, it is crumpled and then unfolded. The quality deteriorates. The same thing happens at a digital level; the quality of the photograph in a .jpg file deteriorates every time it is accessed.

So even if your postcards are not photo postcards, they should still be saved as .tif files. This will digitally preserve the image. Any enhancements, cropping, color changes (color to black and white or greyscale, etc.) should be done to copies of the original .tif file. If you wish to e-mail a postcard image or upload it to a blog, do a "Save As" action and save the image as a .jpg (retaining the original .tif file, of course) and then send it out.

Lastly, I "separate" the images of the four postcards by copying each one four times and cropping them. I tag the images with information that will help me easily find them in a desktop search. These final two steps, separating and tagging are done after I've finished all my scanning.

6. What do I need to do when I'm finished scanning my postcards?
I recommend placing the postcards in an acid- and lignin-free storage container or enclosed display frame. Both Archival Products and Archival Suppliers offer postcard preservation supplies.

Never place them in "magnetic" photo albums or cheap photo display books. Don't store them with newspaper clippings, which are made of acidic paper. Also, don't store them with photographs, as the postcards may be made of acidic materials themselves and destroy the photographs stored with them. Acidic paper creates a gas that eats away at photographic materials.

Be sure to back up the scanned images to a DVD, flash drive, external hard drive, or the Internet. Have two different kinds of backups and store them in two places, one away from your home.

By following these tips, you can preserve, display, and share your wonderful postcard collection in a digital format. If you have further questions, leave them in the comments below. And be sure to join me and my family historian and family archivist friends for Scanfest, usually held the last Sunday of each month, here at AnceStories. There are a number of experts who would be glad to give scanning and preservation advice, and we have a lot of fun, too!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Clock, the Chart, and the Compass Rose

Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.
--William Butler Yeats

It all began in second period, where I assist some of my higher-functioning special needs students in a seventh-grade resource math class. The teacher had begun a lesson on coordinate graphs, explaining the x axis and the y axis and then showing the four quadrants of the graph. He labeled them I, II, III, and IV and explained what the Roman numerals meant and how they were numbered starting in the upper right-hand quadrant moving counterclockwise around.

All of a sudden, I was transported in time to a day somewhere between my fourth and sixth birthdays, to a hallway in our home in a small village in Southeast Alaska. While my mother had actually taught me how to tell time on a clock with Arabic numerals at age four, it was my dad that carried the lesson a little deeper. He showed me the clock hanging on the wall and pointed out the Roman numerals, explaining how they work: the ones, the fives, and the tens; how the positions of the numerals determine whether you add or subtract them; how when the clock reaches twelve, it starts all over again - twice a day; and how the clock had to be wound by pulling up the weights once a week.

It's not very likely that children today see many clocks with Roman numerals. In fact, other than in a school, it's not likely they see many analog clocks or watches at all. Thank heavens, analog clocks are still used in school! As it is, the terms clockwise and counterclockwise often have to be re-explained, not just to elementary school students, but even to some teens and twenty-somethings! To the students in yesterday's math class, understanding the four Roman numerals was new learning and remembering which way counterclockwise is was a review lesson. Once again I am reminded me of how fortunate I have been to have the parents I have: life-long learners who passed on their love of learning to me.

I can't tell you the times I've looked back at my childhood and remember experiences that prepared me for being a family historian and using genealogical research skills. Before age six, I knew how to read a map and a compass, and how to divide up a section of land! Oh, yes, indeed I did! And it was all done in simple, enjoyable little lessons, often before bedtime.

Also hanging on the hallway wall, opposite my bedroom door, was a chart of the waterways in our vicinity. I remember my dad showing me where our village was, located on the western side of the north half of Prince of Wales Island. I learned that all the numbers on the white part of the chart represented how many feet deep the water was in that area, and that all the squiggles with tiny numbers on the buff-colored parts were contour lines showing how high the many mountains and hills on the islands were. Many of the islands and straits had interesting names: there were Spanish names starting with San and Santa, Russian names ending with -of, and many British names with Prince, Princess, King and Queen at the beginning - all testament to the explorers who had sailed through over the previous centuries. Additionally, there were many little villages with difficult-to-pronounce names that had lots of Ks and Xs in them - native villages retaining their original Tlinget names.

And then there were the pajamas; the long sleeve, snap-up-the back shirt that snapped at the waist to the pink, footed leggings. On the front of the shirt was a design of a large compass rose. Well, that was a lesson in and of itself! I learned that N was for North and S for South. That NE was between North and East and stood for Northeast, while WSW was between W and SW and meant West Southwest!

Put the chart and the compass rose together and get another lesson! In Michigan, Dad told me, where he and Mom grew up, they didn't have all these islands and straits like we did in Alaska (well, not in Western Michigan, anyway; I learned more about the Great Lakes later). All the land, he said, was divided up into squares one mile long and one mile wide. Those were called square miles; easy enough for me to understand! Those square miles were also called sections and sometimes they were divided up in lots of different ways. If they were divided top to bottom, then you had a west half and an east half. If the west half was divided left to right, then you had the northwest quarter and the southwest quarter. Those could be divided up, too! Pretty soon, I knew what the south half of the northeast quarter of the southwest quarter of a section was. Boy, did that come in handy when 30-some years later I looked at land records!

Today's kids have X-boxes, iPhones, and netbooks. I had my parents who taught me the clock, the chart, and the compass rose. And from that, grew a genealogist. I'd take my childhood over anyone else's today!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Scanfest is Coming!

The October 2009 Scanfest will take place here at AnceStories next Sunday, October 25th, from 11 AM to 2 PM, Pacific Daylight Time.

Scanfest may be a new term for some of my new readers. What is Scanfest? It's a time when geneabloggers, family historians, and family archivists meet online here at this blog to chat while they scan their precious family document and photos. Why? Because, quite honestly, scanning is time-consuming and boring!

Scanfest is a great time to "meet" other genealogists, ask questions about scanning and preservation, and get the kick in the pants we all need on starting those massive scanning projects that just seem too overwhelming to begin.

To get started, you need to know the basics about scanning:

1. Don't use commercial glass cleaners (i.e. Windex) or paper towels to clean your scanner's glass plate. Use a soft, clean cloth. If you must use a liquid, use water sprayed directly onto the cloth (or for stubborn spots, use a little eyeglass cleaner, again, sprayed onto the cloth, not the glass), and make sure to let the plate dry thoroughly before placing photos or documents on it.

2. Wear cotton gloves (available at many art and/or photography supply shops) when handling photos and old documents.

3. Don't slide the photos around on the glass plate. Place them exactly where you want them. Photos should NEVER be scanned by a scanner that feeds the document through the machine, but ALWAYS on a flat-bed scanner.

4. Set your scanner to scan at no smaller than 300 dpi (dots per inch). Many experts recommend 600 dpi for photographs.

5. Photographs should ALWAYS be scanned and saved as .tif files. Use "Save As" to reformat the .tif file to a .jpg file for restoration and touchups, emailing, or uploading to an online photo album. ALWAYS retain the original scan as a .tif file.

6. Documents can be scanned as .pdf files or .tif files.

7. When you are done scanning your photos, don't put them back in those nasty "magnetic" photo albums. Place them in archival safe albums or boxes found at websites such as Archival Products or Archival Suppliers. Do NOT store any newsprint (articles, obituaries, etc.) with the photos. The acid from the newspaper will eventually destroy the photograph.

Now about the chatting part of Scanfest:

We will be using Cover It Live, a live blogging format that you access right here at AnceStories.

On Sunday at 11 AM, PDT, come right here to AnceStories and you'll see the CoverItLive live blog/forum in the top post. It's not really a "chat room," per se, it's more like a live forum and anyone visiting this site can read and see what is happening in the forum.

You will not need to download any software.

Up to 25 individuals can be invited to be Producers. Producers are participants who have the extra capability of sharing photos, links, and other media within the forum (great for sharing the photos you're scanning!). You must have Internet Explorer 6.0+ or Firefox 2.0+ to be a Producer.

We can also have up to 25 other Participants who can comment freely in our conversation, but will not be able to share media. You can have any kind of browser to be a Participant.

In addition, any other readers of this blog can drop on by and view/read what is happening at Scanfest. If the 25 Participant spaces are full, those readers will not be able to comment, unless someone else drops out.

Confused? Have questions? Go to CoverItLive and check out 6. Try It Now to see live blogs in action or 7. Demos to see videos demonstrating how to use CIT (especially the ones titled "How do my readers watch my Live Blog?" and "Adding Panelists and Producers").

If you would like to be a Producer, please e-mail me no later than Saturday, October 24th at 4 PM, PDT and I'll send you an invitation. Preference will given to previous Scanfesters. You must set up an account (free!) ahead of time to be a Producer. This account will be good for all future Scanfests. You can do some practices ahead of time by going to My Account and clicking on the link under Practice your live blogging. Again, you must have IE 6.0+ or Firefox 2.0+ to be a Panelist.

As a Producer, Participant or simply a reader, if you would like an e-mail reminder for Scanfest, fill out the form below and choose the time frame for which you would like to be reminded (if you're reading this through Google Reader, Bloglines, or some other RSS feed reader, you will need to go to my blog and view this post there to see and utilize the form).

It really is easier than it sounds, and I'm looking forward to seeing you all there and getting some scanning done!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Surname Saturday: TOLLIVER

My children's paternal grandfather's paternal grandmother was the last in their family to be born with the TOLLIVER surname. The surname was often spelled "Toliver" and occasionally "Taliaferro."

There is a very famous Southern family with the surname TALIAFERRO which is pronounced "Tolliver." I have recently learned that my children's Tollivers are not related to the Taliaferros (DNA has proved this out), although there are many other families out there with the surname Tolliver that turn out to actually be descended from the Taliaferro family.

The earliest roots that can be traced are to a Mr. TOL(L)IVER (first name is unknown) who with his unknown wife, parented five sons and two daughters: William, Moses, Jesse, John, Charles, Lucy and Sarah/Nancy.

Stories and History:

Ahnentafel #288 - [--?--] TOL(L)IVER (1730? - 1774?) - This man is believed to have the given name William or John, based on the names of tax payers in Surry (later Wilkes) County, North Carolina in 1771 and 1772, and may have died in 1774 in that location. It is know that the father of the five sons and two daughters lived along the Rappahanock River in Prince William (now Fauquier) County, Virginia as early as 1756. The family then moved to the James River area about 30 miles from Richmond. In 1770, they removed to Surry (later Wilkes) County, North Carolina. This Tolliver patriarch is believed to have died there in 1774.

Ahnentafel #144 - Jesse TOLIVER (1756 - 1838) - Jesse was born along the Rappahanock River in Virginia. He served with two of his brothers, John and Moses, in the American Revolution, enlisting at five different times as a private, all under Captain William Lenoir, in different companies for North Carolina. He married Martha Frances "Frankey" STAMPER in 1782 and they had eleven children. After the war, he moved over the Blue Ridge Mountains with his mother and brothers and their families to the western part of what was then Wilkes County, North Carolina; later this became Ashe County, and later yet, Allegheny County. Jesse is recorded as owning two slaves in the 1800 Federal Census, but not on the 1790, 1810 or subsequent censuses. Much about what is known of Jesse comes from his Revolutionary War Veteran's Pension and the Widow's Pension that Frankey applied for. Apparently, both Jesse and Frankey were illiterate, but whenever they had a visitor who could read and write, they would have him write down all the family members' names and birth dates in the family Bible. Pages from this Bible were submitted with Frankey's Widow's Pension application.

Ahnentafel #72 - Starling TOLIVER (1806 - aft 1870) - married Mildred Ann "Milly" SPURLIN and had nine children.

Ahnentafel #36 - Jacob F. TOLIVER (1831 - 1898) - a Confederate Veteran of the Civil War. I wrote about him here in my Civil War Soldiers and Sailors series.

Ahnentafel #18 - Clark Pleasant - or Pleasant Clark - TOLLIVER (1861 - 1918) - I have written about him here.

Ahnentafel #9 - Margie Ethel TOLLIVER (1889 - 1971) - born in Nebraska, she came west with her parents to Colorado, where she met and married a widower, John Franklin MIDKIFF, Sr. They lived all over the West: California, Idaho, and Washington.

Ahnentafel #4 - John Franklin MIDKIFF, Jr. (1910 - 1957) - see the Surname Saturday: MIDKIFF post for more information on him.

Ahnentafel #2 - my children's paternal grandfather (living)

Ahnentafel #1 - my children's father (living)

More about the TOLLIVER family:

1. Online database (I update this at least once a month): TOLLIVER ancestors and relatives (no info on living persons available)

2. Posts about TOLLIVER ancestors and relatives on this blog

3. Some scanned TOLLIVER documents

5. Some scanned TOLLIVER photos

6. My TOLLIVER Virtual Cemetery on Find A Grave

7. The TOLLVER Family Website


My children's TOLLIVER immigration trail:

Prince William (now Fauquier) Co., VA > Surry (now Wilkes) Co., NC > Wilkes (now Allegheny) Co., NC > Madison Co., NE > Delta Co., CO > Montrose Co., CO > Mesa Co., CO > Custer Co., ID > Los Angeles and/or Butte Co., CA > Yakima Co., WA > Thurston Co., WA > Clark Co., WA > Spokane Co., WA

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Favorite Genealogical Society

If you don't count my parents, I don't have Eastern Washington ancestors. Like many Americans in today's mobile society, I don't live anywhere near where my ancestors lived. My parents are from Western Michigan and a year after they wed in 1966, they moved to Alaska to do mission work with Native Alaskans. Twelve years later, we moved to Eastern Washington and have lived here ever since. The courthouse and cemeteries, archives and libraries for this area hold few records of our family. So why would I want to join my local genealogical society?

That's the unasked question that basically was at the back of my mind for many years after becoming actively involved in genealogy. I knew there was a local society here in town. For many years, our local newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, had a weekly genealogy column by Donna Potter Phillips. Donna always highlighted the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society in her column, but for some reason, I never thought about it enough to consider attending meetings, much less joining as a member. Little did I know that someday, Donna would become my mentor as well as my fellow team blogger for the EWGS blog!

I do regret that I didn't join EWGS sooner. How nice it would have been to get advice early on in my "hunt," especially in the days before it was common for people to have personal computers and Internet access to use as research tools! The society has dozens of experienced family historians and researchers who did genealogy the old-fashioned way and so a lack of online resources is never a challenge to them! They know where the hard-to-find documents are and how to access them. EWGS has always had fantastic yearly workshops and seminars, bringing in "big name" genealogists as speakers, and in attending these, I would have learned so much more at an earlier stage in my obsession passion to find those elusive ancestors.

My first interaction with the society was when I attended the October 2002 workshop on military records, presented by Craig Scott. I was not a member, but somehow I heard about the workshop and decided it would be a good experience for me, as up to that point, I had mainly researched vital and census records. The workshop was very informative and helpful since I have many ancestors who served in the military in our nation's history. I believe I attended one or two more October workshops over the next year or so and then at that point, became a member.

It wasn't long after that when I was asked to serve on the Ways and Means committee and to organize the society's next Rest Stop fundraiser. Most of the funds that are raised are used to purchase new books, CDs, and other resources for the society's genealogical collection, housed on the third floor of the downtown branch of Spokane Public Library. Eventually, I volunteered to head the Members Education committee, which plans and finds presenters for our computer education classes held every third Saturday of the month, free for our members. Many of my readers also know that I started a society blog, with assistance from fellow members Donna Potter Phillips and Charles Hansen. Recently, I served as Vendor Chairperson for the 2009 State Conference committee when our society hosted the Washington State Genealogical Society's annual state conference. My latest adventure involves accepting the nomination to serve on our board as 1st Vice President, whose responsibilities include planning programs for our regular meetings as well as finding presenters for our annual workshops and seminars.

All this is said not to pat myself on the back, but to show how joining and serving in your local society can be a worthwhile and enlightening experience. My society has taught me leadership skills and research techniques, offered networking techniques (you soon discover who within your society is the "expert" on certain research topics or locations!), and expanded my friendship circle, which includes members from age 11 to 88!

In addition to the benefits mentioned above (workshops, classes, etc.), our society offers the award-winning Bulletin published four times a year and a genealogical collection covering U.S. and international resources that rivals those of many societies in much larger cities. We have working partnerships with the Spokane Public Library, our four local Family History Centers, and the Eastern Washington Historical Society. Many of our members also belong to local heritage and lineage societies, so our resource network spreads wide over the area. We often collaborate with other local genealogical societies in Eastern Washington, notably the Tri-City Genealogical Society and the Northeast Washington Genealogical Society, as well as those in North Idaho.

As for other societies, I'm a past member of the Western Michigan Genealogical Society and the Potter County (Pennsylvania) Historical Society which has served me well for the purposes for which I joined at the time. But being active in my local society, even though my ancestors did not live here, has enriched my genealogical life much more than those societies located in my ancestral locations. The New England Historical and Genealogical Society was one I recently joined due to the wealth of data on its website which is available to members only. I'm also one of the founding members of the Geneabloggers "society," a loosely-knit organization of genealogy bloggers and their readers. As social networking and traditional societies and clubs evolve and as video streaming and other technologies improve and become more affordable, I believe we will see virtual groups becoming more popular, not just in genealogy, but in other types of groups as well.

If you are involved in the search for your ancestors but have not considered--or have discounted--your local genealogical society as a resource, I encourage you to take steps toward membership. And if the society somehow isn't what you'd expect, then volunteer and do the necessary work to make it exactly that. Don't be afraid to try new things. There'll always be naysayers. Sometimes those kind of people just need to see a plan take shape before they can let go of their fears and embrace it, especially when it comes to things like technology. Better to have tried out a society and have it disappoint than to find out later down the road that you could have saved a lot a time and energy in your research by being connected with a great group!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Miss Manners Sorts Out Ancestor's Marital Status

As I was reading the headlines of various articles from my local paper in Google Reader this morning, the following jumped out at me:

Bible may not indicate ancestor’s marital status

Miss Manners (a.k.a. Judith Martin) does an excellent and interesting job of explaining various women's titles and how they related (or not) to their marital status over time. Read the article here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Surname Saturday: LEWIS

The LEWIS family is my paternal grandfather's mother's line, and it is a name that is perpetuated into the present. It was my paternal grandfather's middle name, and is also my youngest nephew's middle name (he was born on my grandfather's birthday).

LEWIS can be a surname from multiple places in Europe; however, mine appears to be British. Like many of my New England lines, I am descended twice from the LEWIS family and am related to myself once again, an event that takes place when two LEWIS ancestors, first cousins, marry.

Stories and History:

The LEWIS Family History on my website.

Ahnentafel #2304 and 2308 - John LEWIS the Immigrant (1631 - 1690) - John was probably born in Greenwich, England, and was first located in 1661 Westerly, Kings Co., Rhode Island records, one of the first settlers. Here his family lived for many generations. He and his wife (unknown) had one daughter and seven sons, two of whom I descend from.

Ahnentafel #1152 - Israel LEWIS (1669 - 1719) - little is known about this ancestor as well, other than he was the brother of Daniel and son of John the Immigrant

Ahnentafel #1154 - Daniel LEWIS (1668 - 1717) - son of John the Immigrant, and brother of Israel

Ahnentafel #576 - Nathaniel LEWIS (1706 - 1763) - son of Israel, grandson of John the Immigrant; married his first cousin, Mary LEWIS

Ahnentafel #577 - Mary LEWIS (1711 - 1791) - daughter of Daniel, granddaughter of John; married her first cousin, Nathaniel LEWIS; after her husband's death, she removed to Hopkinton, Washington Co., Rhode Island to be with her grown children

Ahnentafel #288 - Captain Israel LEWIS (1745 - 1806) - son of Nathaniel and Mary; served in the Revolutionary War; removed to Hopkinton, Washington Co., Rhode Island

Ahnentafel #144 - Nathaniel LEWIS (1778 - 1857) - removed to Morris, Otsego Co., New York

Ahnentafel #72 - George Washington LEWIS (1800 - 1879) - removed to West Amboy, Oswego Co., New York

Ahnentafel #36 - John Wallace LEWIS, Sr. (1839 - 1908) - I uncovered lots of unknown (to the present generations) facts about this man in my research: he was married before he married my ancestor and had two children; his first wife apparently died and he left his children with his parents when he came to Washtenaw Co., Michigan; his son from his first marriage eventually settled in Western Michigan when he did. John and his second wife, my ancestor Elenor "Nellie" L. VREELAND, had two more children than our family records show. They appear on the 1880 Federal Census and then disappear, probably dying young, and missing all the death and burial records at that time. The third unknown fact that I uncovered was that he was a Civil War veteran, but I can't find further details to confirm it, other than the 1890 Veterans Census.

Ahnentafel #18 - George Emmett LEWIS (1868 - 1964) - read his AnceStory here

Ahnentafel #9 - Marie LEWIS (1902 - 1986) - my great-grandmother; read her AnceStory here

Ahnentafel #4 - Robert Lewis ROBBINS (1920 - 2003) - my paternal grandfather; read his AnceStory here

Ahnentafel #2 - my father (living)

Ahnentafel #1 - myself

More about the LEWIS family:

1. Online database: LEWIS ancestors and relatives (I update this at least once a month; no info on living persons available)

2. Some LEWIS obituaries

3. Posts about LEWIS ancestors and relatives on this blog

4. Some scanned LEWIS documents

5. Some scanned LEWIS photos

6. My LEWIS Virtual Cemetery on Find A Grave

My LEWIS immigration trail:

Greenwich, England > Kings Co., RI > Washington Co., RI > Otsego Co., NY > Oswego Co., NY > Washtenaw Co., MI > Clinton Co., MI > Muskegon Co., MI > Manistee Co., MI > Muskegon Co., MI > Ottawa Co., MI > AK > Stevens Co., WA > Spokane Co., WA

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Martin Family and the Great Fire of 1910

In the summer of 1910, nearly all of Northeast Washington, North Idaho, and Western Montana was burning.

After a long hard winter with a heavy snow pack, the citizens were looking forward to warm weather, although a wet summer was predicted. However, April, May, and June were unusually dry. By July, three million acres had been burned by hundreds of wildfires. Newspapers to the east in Spokane, Washington reported a constant haze in the air that hung over the city for weeks, causing eye and lung problems; this despite the prevailing winds tend to blow from the southeast to the northwest, from the Spokane area into North Idaho. In some places, the sun could not be seen at noon and people were lighting lamps by four o'clock in the afternoon. An article from Wikipedia quotes, "Smoke from the fire was said to have been seen as far east as Watertown, New York and as far south as Denver, Colorado. It was reported that at night, 500 miles out into the Pacific Ocean, ships could not navigate by the stars because the sky was cloudy with smoke."

Spokane employment agencies printed ads seeking firefighters for the U.S. Forest Service, but at 25 cents an hour doing filthy, hard, dangerous, and grim work (including recovering burned bodies), many of the unemployed preferred the regular, safer labor jobs offered at the same rate in town. Immigrants were the main recruits, untrained men from Czechoslovakia, Italy, and other Southern European counties, who spoke little English; hard workers who were so inexperienced that they were often of little help to the cause and a danger to themselves. Finally, President Taft ordered thirty companies of Federal troops to the Coeur d'Alene Mountains; troops who had been stationed at Fort Sherman in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, American Lake and Missoula, Montana, and a contingent of African-American soldiers from Fort George Wright in Spokane. Although at one point there were at least 10,000 firefighters on hand, many sections were losing the battle, which had spread into Western Montana.

In many places, farmers, ranchers, and citizens of small communities refused to leave their homes. The wildfires randomly and miraculously spared some of the diehards, while just as randomly and destructively consumed others. Of the stories that remain, irony seems to be the theme: people burying their precious items in locations thought to be safe from fire, sites that ended up being destroyed while their homes remained safe. Some also perished in these attempts, again while their houses sustained little or no damage. Accounts of residents who bravely fought off fires and survived to share their tales paralleled tragedies of homes, fortunes, and lives lost. Those who have read or watched documentaries about wildfires know that they will create their own wind and jump from tree to tree, traveling faster than a man can run, or even a modern automobile can travel. Wind will carry burning branches several miles to land and start further infernos.

When the large mining town of Wallace, Idaho was threatened, relief trains were sent eastward from Spokane and westward from Missoula to rescue women and children. The trains were packed, with men and older boys clinging to the roofs and sides. Families were accidentally separated in the chaos.

Twelve miles to the southeast of Wallace, as the crow flies, is the community of Kyle, accessible through the steep Bitteroot Mountains by a winding 21-mile road. Here 55-year-old John Franklin "Frank" MARTIN, was stationed with the railroad, which quite possibly was the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, a.k.a. the Milwaukee Road. Frank and his wife, Angelia Rebecca LUKE, were the parents of 12 children, the youngest of whom was my husband's maternal grandmother, Leona, who would have been only 20 months old at the time. One of Leona's older sisters, Maude, gave an account of the family's adventures, which was published posthumously in an article ("Idaho's Red Monster") by Grace Roffey Pratt in the February-March 1978 edition of Frontier Times:
On or about the 19th of August, Frank Martin was working with a crew and a steam shovel on the railroad at Kyles [sic], a small settlement a few miles from Avery. That evening the men could see the black smoke and red flames in the distance but were not greatly worried for they knew the fire to be several miles away. They had worked hard, they were tired, and after supper and a bit of tongue wagging, they went to bed as usual.

But Martin's [20-year-old] daughter Maud [sic] could not sleep. The wind had risen and it had an ominous sound. About 10 p.m. she noticed the fire had come closer and she rightly guessed that it was no more than half a mile from a powder magazine which held thirty tons of dynamite. She ran to waken her father, who rushed a crew to move the dynamite. They got it out of the magazine and into a safe place just in time.

A few minutes later an engine came through Kyles, and Maud flagged it down and held it there until an order from the dispacher [sic] could be obtained to use it for a relief train.

In the next half-hour the wind rose again and the fire could be seen coming nearer. The roar of the wind and flame was terrifying. Men and women were frightened. Children were crying. The relief train from the west was held back because the telegraph and the telephone poles had burned down and there was no way of communication. Finally Maud Martin got word that a relief train was coming from the east. "We waited," she said, "until the fire was within a few yards of the buildings, scorching our flesh, then we ran for the tunnel that was about half a mile away. We almost suffocated from the smoke." The train did not come for another hour and a half and when it did it had to stay in the tunnel five hours before it was safe to leave. But it did come, and they could get into the cars that shut out some of the smoke and gas. It was a great relief.

At Wallace, one man speaking of it afterwards said, "the sky turned a ghastly yellow shade; by four o-clock it was dark ahead of the advancing flames. the air was filled with electricity as if the whole word was about to blow up in spontaneous combustion."

At the end of August, rain finally came to the forests and snow to the mountains. Residents either returned to their homes--if they remained, began to rebuild their houses and lives, or moved away to start over. Eighty-five souls officially lost their lives, but privately many thought the death count was higher. Numerous immigrants were believed to not have registered when they were hired to fight fires, and with no families in the area to report them missing, surely some would have been overlooked, especially since it could not be certain that all bodies were recovered. Three billion board feet of timber went up in smoke; in some places the earth was so deeply scorched that by 1978 no seedlings had yet come up. Countless elk, deer, bear, cougar, and other wildlife perished. Crops and livestock were destroyed. The Great Fire of 1910 is believed to be the largest fire reported in America, and perhaps the world.

It greatly impacted my husband's family and lingers on in their history. At his grandmother's funeral in 1993, one of his cousins, the daughter of his grandmother's twin brother, brought up the story, which was when I first heard it. Recently, another cousin mentioned how fearful their grandmother had always been of fire. It is not impossible to believe that even at 20 months of age, the incident could have been imprinted on Leona's memory; at the age of two I witnessed the village school burning down in Metlakatla, Alaska and remember the absolute terror I felt even though I was watching from the safety of my mother's arms in our home several blocks away. To have endured such a close encounter with a holocaust as the Martin family did would definitely cause strong emotional reactions in the future to the possibility of the threat of conflagration.



Google Earth. June 16, 2004 - March 5, 2005. Europa Technologies, (accessed October 9, 2009).

Pratt, Grace Roffey, "Idaho's Red Monster." Frontier Times (February-March 1978): 6-9, 50-53.

Wikipedia contributors, "Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,,_Milwaukee,_St._Paul_and_Pacific_Railroad&oldid=316074069 (accessed October 9, 2009).

Wikipedia contributors, "Great Fire of 1910," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed October 9, 2009).


Idaho Forest Fire Stories - The Great Fire of 1910:

Historic Photos - go to Google Images and run the following searches: "great fire of 1910" idaho and "great fire of 1910" wallace

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Maybe, Just Maybe, They're Hooked

Within our own families, genealogists tend to be lonely.

For the most part, we are usually the odd man out, the only one within our family group to be truly passionate about the lives of those who have gone before us. We're treated with a certain mix of tolerance and patronizing smiles if we start talking about great-grandma at any length at the family holiday dinners or if we appear to be doing an "interview" of Aunt Maude under the guise of a pleasant conversation. And while we enjoy the title of family historian when it comes to receiving boxes and envelopes of "stuff" nobody else in the family wants or appreciates, we yearn to have someone come alongside us and share the joy of discovery of our mutual ancestors.


This week, I had a glimmer of hope when, not just one, but TWO relatives showed interest in the family tree.

The first occurred when I received an email on Facebook from one of my maternal second cousins who lives here in the county. He had found some indexed information on his grandfather (a line which we do not share) on Ancestry, but not having a subscription, asked if I could look up the details for him with my own subscription. During a followup chat session, I happily obliged and sent a message with his email address to the contributor of that information. He then told me he had recently gotten married (of course I asked for the name of his bride, her birth date and place, and their marriage date and place!) and that they as a couple were interested in tracing their family tree. As a newlyweds buying their first home, their budget is rather tight, so I said I would notify them the next time the county library district asked me to teach my free-to-the-public genealogy class, and I gave him the addresses of several free genealogy websites that I knew would be helpful.

Maybe, just maybe, Carl's hooked.


The next happy event took place Monday evening, when I babysat my three young nephews. My daughter usually does this several evenings a week while my sister works as a nurse at a local hospital. However, my daughter was ill (possibly with swine flu), so I volunteered to take her place. As I made dinner, my eldest nephew, who is in fifth grade, did his homework at the kitchen table. He had to read a short story and then write definitions for several vocabulary words based on their context. The selection was about Thomas Jefferson and the Cheshire Mammoth Cheese, and as my nephew read aloud about the background of Jefferson's life, I interjected some trivia that I thought he might find interesting: "Did you know that Thomas Jefferson, who was our third president, and John Adams, who was our second president, were very good friends? They used to write letters back and forth because their homes were far away from each other, but then had a big argument and didn't speak to the other for years. Eventually, they made up...and get this: they both died on the same day, the Fourth of July, on America's 50th birthday!"

Later that evening while we were eating dinner, we got to talking about the family members. I asked my nephew if he remembered meeting his great-grandfather, Robert Lewis Robbins. He wasn't sure. I told him that his great-grandpa had fought in World War Two, and that his great-grandpa fought in the Civil War. "So," I informed him, "you have talked with someone who has talked with someone who was in the Civil War!"

My nephew's eyes got very big. "Cool!" he exclaimed. And then the words that will always be imprinted on my heart: "Aunt Miriam, how do you know so much about our family and all those things that happened a long time ago?"

"Well," I responded. "That's what I do for fun. I learn about all the family members that lived in history and I find out everything I can about them. It's called genealogy."

Maybe, just maybe, Cody's hooked.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Vote for Your Favorite Genealogy Blog

Hmm...this is hard for me.

It's hard to write this post and it was hard to vote.

Family Tree Magazine last month requested nominations for their upcoming Best Genealogy Blogs article for their May 2010 issue. I didn't mention on my blog before because a) I've been extremely busy since the school year started which has prevented me from blogging much; b) I've had on-and-off computer issues that have only recently been resolved; and c) I really don't like mentioning contests in which I could possibly be a's just not my style. However I did nominate several of my favorites. The nominations are now in (131 blogs!) and readers can vote here until November 5. There are ten categories in which to pick 40 blogs. I'm honored that AnceStories made the All-Around category:
These bloggers give you a little (or a lot) of everything: news, research advice, their own family stories, photos, opinions and more...

Congratulations to all the others who were nominated. Every one is well-deserving of this award, and I can attest it was very difficult for me to choose only the 40!

Friday, October 02, 2009

October 2009 Calendar of Events

Fresh October brings the pheasant;

Then to gather nuts is pleasant.

--from "The Garden Year" by Sara Coleridge

Holidays, History, and Heritage

Family History Month (various U.S. states)

Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15)

Czech Heritage Month

Polish American Heritage Month

Italian American Heritage Month

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Month

October 1: National Day (People's Republic of China)
Independence Day (Cyprus)
Independence Day (Nigeria)

October 3: German Unity Day (Germany)

October 6: German American Day

October 8: Independence Day (Croatia)

October 12: Thanksgiving (Canada)

October 13: Columbus Day (United States)

October 19: Constitution Day (Niue)

October 20: National Multicultural Diversity Day
Birth of the Báb (Bá'hai)

October 23: Revolution of 1956 Remembrance Day (Hungary)

October 27: Independence Day (St. Vincent & the Grenadines)
Independence Day (Turkmenistan)

October 28: Independence Day (Greece)

October 29: Republic Day (Turkey)

October 31: All Hallows Eve (Christianity)

Do any of the above events feature in or affect your heritage, culture, or family history?

Deadlines for Carnivals and Other Events:

Need help? Read my post, "How to Submit a Post to a Carnival", here.

Posted October 1 - the October 2009 Edition of the Graveyard Rabbits Carnival - Funeral Cards

October 1 - the 81st Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy - Write Your Blog's Obituary

October 15 - the 82nd Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy - Weddings!

October 20 - the 5th Edition of the Festival of Postcards - Quadrupeds (four-legged animals)

October 25 - the November 2009 Edition of the Graveyard Rabbits Carnival - Write Your Own Epitaph

Heads Up!
Submissions for the 16th Edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture (theme: Irish Portraits) will be due November 1.

The 24th Edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy (Tips, Tricks, Websites for Researching Central and Eastern European Genealogy) will accept submissions through November 8th.

Submissions for the 18th Edition of the "I Smile for the Camera" Carnival (theme: Travel) will be due November 10.

The 7th Edition of the Canadian Genealogy Carnival (theme: Carousel [choose your own]) will accept submissions through November 29.

October 1 - Data Backup Day

Read the latest Data Backup Day post by Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers.

Scanfest: Sunday, October 25th, 11 AM - 2 PM, Pacific Standard Time

Go here to learn how to join Scanfest and our group of chatting, scanning family archivists, historians, and bloggers!

Go here to add the above deadlines and dates to your Google Calendar,
courtesy of Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers.

The month is amber,
Gold and brown.
Blue ghosts of smoke
Float through the town,

Great V's of geese
Honk overhead,
And maples turn
A fiery red.

Frost bites the lawn.
The stars are slits
In a black cat's eye
Before she spits.

At last, small witches,
Goblins, hags,
And pirates armed
With paper bags,

Their costumes hinged
On safety pins,
Go haunt a night
Of pumpkin grins.

--"October," by John Updike

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Calendar of Events Delayed

The October 2009 Calendar of Events has been delayed due to technological difficulties. Please stay tuned!