Laundry List  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I have been trying to write more, but it seems time is the most scarce and valuable commodity right now. So here are a few short notes (that hopefully I will turn into full posts in the near future):

1) Fulton County Court Records: My first trip in search of some real records was extremely fruitful. I found wills of my wife's grandfather, Lawrence William Brannon, and grand-aunt, Leila Elizabeth Brannon Pendergrass, as well as lots of supporting documents including a copy of a death certificate and names of several descendants. And this is just from looking into two estate records. There were several others that have been archived that I would need to order. And I haven't even touched the marriage records yet.

2) Fundraiser: My daughter's school held it's annual fundraiser, with my wife being one of the co-chairs for the second year in a row. It was a huge success and a lot of fun. Since the theme was the 'Tree of Life' I was able to get some very generous donations from a couple of 'Family Tree' companies. I will definitely write more about this.

3) Cousins, cousins, everywhere: People are popping up everywhere and joining our huge Geni tree. Distant Auth and Brannon family members have made contact and started updating their side of the family. One Brannon that went to school with Cynthia turned out to be a 5th cousin. While at school they were sure they were not related but I was quickly able to prove otherwise.

4) Newspaper clippings: I was able to find an obituary for my wife's grandmother, Emily Anne Brannon, from 2002 as well as an article detailing her wedding in 1931 to Lawrence J. Brannon. The wedding has a lot of details about guests and is full of useful information.

5) The Battle Book: While looking through HeritageQuest Online through my Cobb County Library subscription I ran across a 780-page book detailing the Battle family history. It was printed in 1930 and has hundreds of pages of information about the family. Here's a quick nugget:

It reads:

6. Jesse Battle — b. Hertford Co., N. C., July 8, 1738; d. Hancock Co., Ga., Aug. 25, 1805 (See will, Chap. V); reared by grandfather, William Battle, in Nansemond Co., Va.; Revolutionary soldier (See Chap. XII); removed 1777 to Swift Creek, Edgecombe Co., N. C., and thence, Feb. 20, 1787, to Greene (now Hancock) Co., Ga.; Baptist; m. Nansemond Co., Va., 1756, Susanna Faucette (b. France, Oct. 7, 17381; d. Hancock C0., Ga., May 8, 1819, a French Huguenot who escaped from France hidden in bales of silk). Children:

Jesse Battle and Susanna Faucette were my wife's 6th-great-grandparents. I love the part about the escape "from France hidden in bales of silk." With this book I have now been able to trace one of my daughter's lines back 13 generations, to her 10th-great-grandparents. Pretty incredible.

I really hope to post about all these topics in more detail. This is truly fascinating stuff!

More on the new MyHeritage Family Tree Builder 3  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , ,

Warning: This is a long post with lots of screenshots. Just thought you should know.

I was able to square away my account with MyHeritage and indeed, when you sign up for a Premium or PremiumPlus account you get access to the Premium features of the new FTB3. So let's go check them out together, shall we?

First off, the most important feature in my book, is SmartMatching. I will use Milton B. Tuggle, my wife's 2nd-Great-Grandfather for this example. When a SmartMatch is found for someone in your tree you will see a little green circle under their name. If you place your mouse over the green circle a little pop-up window will tell you how many matches were found. It says to double-click, but a single-click works too:

When you get the matches page you see your entry at the top and all matches below, sorted by order of quality of match (we'll get to that in a second). Hover over any detail on the screen and you will get a pop-up with more details:

You can also see whether or not you confirmed the match, the tree name and site owner where the match was found. When you hover over Quality you get a pop-up that shows details for the quality of the match, specifically names, dates, ancestors, siblings and descendants:

Not much is new so far, but when you go to the actual match you find the new 'Merge' button in the middle-left of the screen. But first you can see that there is a tree comparison between your tree on top and the other tree on the bottom. On the right hand side are the person's details and as you click through these partial trees (they only show three generations) the matching person in the other tree is automatically selected). So let's click on the 'Merge' button because this is where the fun begins:

So when you start merging you get a list of everyone related to the person in question and whether or not they have any new information to add. You can select to auto-merge the person, which means you don't have to do anything and the software will merge all information intelligently and automatically. Or you can go step-by-step which is what I recommend you do:

When you start the merging process you go one person at a time through the list and decide who you want to merge the information to or whether or not you want to skip that person altogether. You can also add new people, chose to do an auto-merge or just copy all the information. You get a summary of the details from both trees as well:

My biggest issue with this process is that you don't see whether or not this information is properly sourced and cited. But you will see later that any information you add from a SmartMatch merge is deemed secondary evidence in the citation confidence field.

So here's an example of merging options for Milton's father. As you can see the first name doesn't match because of a spelling discrepancy. I spell it Pinckney while the other site spells it Pinkney. I can chose to merge the names, which in this case would just keep my name but in other cases will actually add the other name as a middle name. I can keep my name or take the name from the other site:

The next fact is a little more interesting. I am unsure of the exact marriage date of Milton's parents, but since I have no idea what the source is for the date on the other site, I can add it to my data, but instead of replacing my data I can just choose to add it as a new marriage fact:

The next step is to confirm the match and add a citation for the new information. You can also reject the match or leave it as undetermined:

And finally, you get a summary of the planned merge. You can still cancel at this point if you like or go back and make changes:

So that was very straight forward and simple for anyone to follow. This is in line with FTB3 and MyHeritage's concept of easy-to-use tools.

I wanted to see what happened with that marriage fact that I added. So I went to Pinckney's family information page and checked the facts tab. You can see that there are two marriage facts - one is my original fact with a date range and the other is the alternate marriage fact I just added during the merge process:

You can also check out the details page for Pinckney and under citations you will find the source for this new information - Source, Page, Date as well as Confidence automatically entered as 'Secondary evidence' and a tect comment about this information 'Added by confirming a Smart Match'. All this was added without my intervention:

So to summarize this feature - I think it's great! I only wish there was some way to see the source details before merging new or potentially conflicting data. Hopefully this might be something that will be added in the future.

In future posts I will detail some of the other new features. Any requests?

Genealogy Rumor Mill (or E-mail)  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , ,

It's funny. Since I started this new genealogy hobby I seem to be getting more and more history related e-mail. You might remember the last one I wrote about: Prohibition Poster - Fact or Fiction?.

This time I got an oldie but a goodie: The Real Spin - Makes you wonder about your family tree:

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher here in southern California , was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that Harry Reid's great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Both Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor.

The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows in Montana territory:

On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription: 'Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.'

So Judy recently e-mailed Congressman Harry Reid for information about their great-great uncle.

Believe it or not, Harry Reid's staff sent back the following biographical sketch for her genealogy research:

'Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory . His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.'

NOW THAT is how it's done folks! That's real SPIN.

So the first thing you do when you get one of these is check and of course this story is false. It's been running around since 2000 and has been applied to whoever is a recent newsworthy politician: Remus Rodham, Gunther Gore, Robert Dion (for you canucks), Remus Stevens and finally Remus Reid.

According to Snopes:
This item is merely a very old bit of humor (dressed up with an accompanying photograph of train-robbing outlaw Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum) which has been adapted into a "one-size-fits-all" political jibe - all one need do is simply alter the text by changing the surname to match that of the disfavored politician du jour, then send it winging around the Internet yet again.

The Ketchum page linked in the Snopes article is very interesting and has several other photos.

By the way, does anyone know if Judy Wallman is an actual person and a professional genealogist?

Freepages @ Rootsweb  

Posted by Abba-Dad in

In an effort to extend my reach and get more visibility for those searching for people in my family tree I have created a public page on Rootsweb:

I privatized all "Living" people, but there are still a total of about 9700 people in this tree to search through.

Comments are welcome!

The Situation in Gaza - My Perspective  

Posted by Abba-Dad in

I don't usually get all political on this blog, but I guess I am frustrated enough to put together some rambling uber-post about the best place on earth... the Middle-God-Damned-East!

So after about eight years of having rockets fired on them daily, the Israelis have had enough and being the superior military power they are, decided to drop a few thousand pounds of armament on Gaza lately. Result: hundreds of dead and thousands wounded. Fair? Not really. Inevitable? Maybe. Sad and troubling? You Betcha!

There are so many people spewing vile, hateful verbiage in both directions and the propaganda machines are humming along wonderfully, so I am not about to join that mess. I will just give my views as I see them and add some points from what I've been hearing (that I like or dislike). Here goes:

1) Fact: There will never be peace in the Middle-East. Sorry. Face it, people. There has never been peace in that awful part of the planet and there never will be. Keep reading to find out why.

2) Fact: The goal of Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, Iran, Iraq and every other terrorist organization in the region is to destroy Israel and in the process try to kill all the people living there.

3) Fact: The Israelis don't want to kill anyone. Seriously. The only reason they do what they do is because they have no other choice.

4) Conclusion: There will never be peace. Based on the above facts you just have to realize that there are no other options. Let's try to simplify things a bit. Here's the scenario: There are only two people in the world (literally). One is Israeli and one is Palestinian. The world is covered by water and they are both on a tiny Island, just big enough for the both of them. The Palestinian wants to kill the Israeli and accepts no other option. What should the Israeli do? He's tried everything already. He tried to live in peace - didn't work. He tried to negotiate - didn't work. He tried to carve up the island - didn't work. He moved all his stuff to one side of the island and put up a fence - didn't work. The Palestinian just keeps trying to kill him no matter what. What other choices does the Israeli have? Think about that one and see if you can come up with an answer that doesn't involve trying to kill the Palestinian or allowing him to kill the Israeli.

5) Ehud Barak makes an interesting point. He says that the US would not allow one rocket to fly out of Tijuana into San Diego. That's obviously quite extreme. South Israel is no San Diego. So let's try to find a better comparison. Let's say rockets where being fired from Monterrey, Mexico on San Diego, Texas? That's much better, right? I bet you didn't even know there was a San Diego, Texas. Here you go. Here's a map:

Hey, how about this one: What would the US do if Cuba fired a missile at Florida? Oh wait, that almost happened? Really. Jeez, I wonder what happened back then. I hope there wasn't some big global crisis because of those silly Cubans.

6) Some people are saying the Israeli response is not proportional to what the Hamas has done. Well, that may be true. But then these people actually think that some sort of response is warranted. Right? Let's try to break it down for ya'. During the war in Lebanon (was it really two years ago? Sheesh!) some US general asked on CNN what a proportional response should be to the rocket fire. Should Israel just randomly fire the same number of rockets back into Gaza? Would that be the right response? Well, Gaza is way more populated (the Jabalya refugee camp in North Gaza is the most densely populated hole on this planet) so I guess we need to factor that in somehow. So let's say for every 10 rockets fired out of Gaza, Israel fires one back in? 50-to-1? How about for every day that rockets are fired out, Israel fires a single random rocket back in? Still not good enough? Well what is the right response then?

7) I love all the maps explaining how the Israelis "robbed" the Palestinians of their land. Face it, folks. There was never an independent Palestinian state until Israel gave back the West Bank and Gaza. What people are talking about was a British controlled area that included the Kingdom of Jordan. And anyway, that was 60-freaking-years ago! And before that it was the Turks. And before that the Greeks. And before that the Romans, Babylonians, Assyrians and on and on and on. But guess what? Arabs living in Jaffa (right next door to Tel-Aviv) were not asked to leave when the UN voted to give the remaining Jewish holocaust survivors a scrap of land in Israel when they asked the Brits to skedaddle. Ask the Jaffa Arabas how their lives are these days. They are probably the most advanced Arabs living in the Middle-East today! Arabs in Haifa are the same. Arabs in Acre too. Every Israeli Arab has a pretty terrific life. They have a right to vote. They have members of parliament that they voted for looking after their rights and needs. Because they accepted the fact that they can live in peace with the Israelis and don't try to kill them every single day. Boy, it's so easy!

8) Golda Meir had a great saying about 30 years ago: There will only be peace when the Arabs learn to love their children more than they hate the Israelis. Think about it for a second. I don't know of a better way to say it.

9) I love how the rest of the Arab world is standing up for their Palestinian brothers these days (well maybe except for Egypt who has shut down the border so they can't escape from Gaza). But ask those supporters to accept them into their own countries and you will get some wonderful results. The Jordanians massacred them. The Egyptians, who had the opportunity to take back Gaza along with the rest of the Sinai desert during the Egypt-Israel peace process, said HELL NO! Nobody wants them except for the Libyans who allowed the PLO to get out of Lebanon when they had no other choice. Yeah, the Libyans. Model world-class citizens. On the other hand, the Israelis have no place to go. Where will they go if Hamas wins? I think it was Golda (again, was she a smart woman or what?) who said that the Arabs can fight many times but Israel can only lose once.

OK, enough of this.

So now for some full disclosure. Maybe I should have put this at the top of the post, but hey, this is my blog, so the disclosure comes right here:

20 years ago I had the displeasure of visiting Gaza and the West Bank. In uniform. With a loaded automatic rifle in my hand (which I never actually used, phew). AND ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAS CHANGED SINCE THEN! We walked the disgusting streets of Gaza and I had no idea what we were doing there to begin with. I always said we don't belong there. So three years ago, Israel finally yanked out all the dumb Israelis living there and put up a fence border. Not good enough for Hamas. They want it all back. And they want everyone dead. They have been firing rockets at Israel for the past EIGHT YEARS almost on a daily basis. I read somewhere that the total rocket count over these eight years is over TEN THOUSAND. Would your country allow a single rocket to be fired at it? That's what I thought.

I made my choice a long time ago. I didn't want my kids (before I even had or thought or planned on having kids) growing up in a place where they were in constant danger. Hell, I myself didn't want to live in constant danger. So I left. I gave up. I'm not embarrassed to admit it. Life's too short to spend it fighting over anything. But that's not how others see it. I don't think it's going to work out for anybody. Good luck to both sides. I mourn the deaths of everyone involved. I know there will be many more in the coming days and weeks. What a waste.

Tombstone Thursday  

Posted by Abba-Dad in

I don't really have a tombstone post. I think I have about 2 tombstones in all right now. But I had to share this ad with everyone:

And then you wonder why nothing on the tombstone matches your records and research...

The Proximidade Award  

Posted by Abba-Dad in ,

Wow - I am late to the party. I've already been tagged twice for this award by Judith of Genealogy Traces as well as by Msteri of Heritage Happens... - Thank you both!

The blogs who receive the Proximidade Award invest and believe in PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers, who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

Now as I said I think I am a little late to the party and almost everyone has been tagged, but I am still going to try. Here goes:

1) kinnexions by Becky
2) Tracing the Tribe by Schelly
3) Genealogy Reviews Online by Tim
4) Geneablogie by Craig
5) The Genealogue by Chris
6) Genea-Musings by Randy
7) footnoteMaven by The footnoteMaven
8) Ancestories by Miriam

As you can see I am on a first name basis with all these fine bloggers :-)
Hey now that I have this great list I can add a blogroll to this site!

Great! Now What?  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , , , , , , , ,

I got Salena (Selena) Brannon's (my wife's great-grandmother) death certificate from the State Office of Vital Records, Georgia Department of Human Resources. I frantically searched for her parents names and this is what I found:

(Unknown) Bishop


You've got to be kidding me! I was sure this will unlock the mystery of Margret Bishop/McElrath, her mother, who's maiden name and husband's name I have yet to verify or even learn. Well, this being my first ever encounter with actual vital records I guess I may have been a tad naive. I just assumed all the information would be there. I'm not sure how I reached this delusional state.

There is a whole lot of new information that I have now, though:

1) I know that Selena's middle name is Victoria. Before I laid my eyes on this document she has always had a middle initial L, not V. I am going to go over everything else I have about her to see if this has been the case all along. I can understand an error if they just had her middle initial as V but they actually spell out her entire middle name. Not only that but it looks like originally her first name was given as Victoria and then it was scratched out with a pen and Salena was typed in its place. Very strange.

2) I have her actual date of birth which is Oct. I2 I877. Until now I thought it was Nov. 1876 for some reason. But I can't even find the source for that right now. I think I may have calculated it based on some other source. This is very troubling to me and I am planning to go over all my sources and verify important dates and places. The other interesting thing is that throughout the entire certificate whenever the number 1 was supposed to be used an 'I' or 'l' were used in its place. Oct. I2 I877 - Did anyone notice that in the first line of this paragraph? Sneaky, sneaky. I wonder why that happened. Was the typewriter broken? Again, very strange.

3) I now know that she lived at the "Lusk Nursing Home" and it's address. I did a preliminary check and it doesn't look like it exists today. I will have to dig deeper and see if there any records left from this home that I can get a look at.

4) I can now verify that she was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, that she was indeed married to William T. Brannon and that her maiden name was Bishop. But the biggest find is that the informant listed in the certificate is Mrs. E. B. Pendergras, her daughter. This would be her oldest daughter who I know as Leila E. Brannon. I found her living with her second husband Styles A. Pendergrass as renters at Selena's house in the 1930 census. So that is a big confirmation that she was indeed her daughter and was married to Styles. This opens up a new avenue of research. If I can locate her descendants on that branch I might learn something new.

5) I also know the Leila's address in 1964. She lived 2.5 miles from the nursing home where her mother lived. That's another clue.

6) I now know where Selena is buried. I will go to the cemetery and search for her grave site and honor her memory at some point in the near future. There might also be more information on the tombstone as well.

7) I now know that she died of ASHD w/ CHF, which I found out was atherosclerotic heart disease with congestive heart failure and she had previous hypertension (high blood pressure) for years. This was not typed in but added in handwriting.

Salena Victoria (Bishop) Brannon died at the ripe old age of 86 in Atlanta, Georgia. May she rest in peace.

Family Tree Builder 3 - Review & Opinion  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , , , ,

As you may have read on other blogs, MyHeritage came out with a new version of Family Tree Builder today. I downloaded it and tried it out. There are a lot of things I like and a few I am a bit confused about.

There's a new Premium version of FTB3 that costs. Now this might be a little confusing, so try to follow along. When I first saw the word Premium, I immediately thought it had to do with the naming of the account types on the MyHeritage website. They have Basic, Premium and PremiumPlus site accounts. You might think that someone with a Premium or PremiumPlus account will automatically gain access to all the new features, but it doesn't look like it right now. I am still trying to figure that one out.

So what are these premium features? Here's a screenshot of what they are:

The most important one in my opinion is the ability to merge SmartMatches:

Now the free version has basic SmartMatching, but the real power is the ability to grab information from another tree and merge into your own. This poses a few issues and I have yet to try out this feature fully, but my biggest concern is whether or not you can see if the new information you are about to merge is sourced properly and what is the quality of that source.

My previous issue with SmartMatches was that they were unmanageable. What I mean by that is that in my tree of almost 10K people I had no way to filter out the important people I wanted to find matches for. You can navigate through the tree and look for the little green circle, but when you're at the SmartMatch page you are basically faced with a long list that gets truncated at some point.

I know MyHeritage has been working on improving this functionality and indeed I was able to find some people who had a single match, which I couldn't see before. I really want to get my hands on the full functionality and see what else has been enhanced. Currently I'm waiting for the site to process my tree and give me the basic results. So I'll need to give an update later.

The next big deal is the SmartResearch feature:

What are these 100 most important genealogy site on the internet? I tried to find more info in FAQs and on the site but I couldn't. I am very curious to see what the results are. I already love the regular research engine they have with about 1400 sites, so this could be a great improvement.

I'm not so sure what the next one is though. Is this just a big chart of everyone related to me? It's called the All-In-One Chart:

I'm not sure what the big deal is here. I can get that in several ways from other sources (I think). If you look at your family tree on the MyHeritage website you see a very limited view, so this might be the expansion of this limited view.

And the last one is a nice-to-have in my book:

I have rarely seen people loading videos or documents before. And documents usually come in some sort of scanned format. So does this allow loading PDF files instead of JPG files? I guess I'll have to try it out and see.

This might sound like I am critical of MyHeritage or the functionality that FTB3 offers. I am not. I am extremely excited about these new developments and some of these features are fantastic. Let me tell you about a few other fantastic features you may not know about:

1) Photo Tagging. This has been one of my favorite tools so far. Not just because I can load an entire photo and say who's who (you can do that in many other sites including Facebook and Geni). The real beauty is that the software identifies faces in the photo and then tries to match them to other faces you already have in your albums. This has allowed me to figure out who some obscure people were that I had no way to identify before! It even gives you a percentage for the match. An identical picture of the person is 100% and you can determine how good or bad of a match you want the filter to be. I found photos of my grandmother that were decades apart and where at around 65%. I found a picture of my grandmother's sister that had a 75% match to my grandmother! This is truly a fantastic tool.

2) Name Translations. There's a feature hiding inside FTB that lets you translate all the names in your database to another language. This might not be important to some people, but when your ancestors came from Eastern Europe and had Hebrew/Polish/Yiddish names - this can be the difference between no clue and an amazing discovery.

3) I really love how sleek the site is. You can see these guys have put a lot of thought and hard work into making this a truly easy experience for the users. One of my biggest gripes with Geni is that it is horribly slow. Just loading the homepage takes forever and a lot of times it just freezes on you. Another thing that drives me nuts is how slow it is to update when something happens. MyHeritage has great response times and looks great.

4) FTB and the site are both very easy to use to build a family tree. The reason I downloaded it in the first place was that it looked easy to use and offered a lot of features and functionality.

The only thing is - I haven't found anyone from my side of the family on MyHeritage. I originally found one of my father's second cousins, but he didn't really have a tree. I also found my wife's niece, but she only had herself and her parents. I know MyHeritage boasts 27M users and 300M people, but I am not sure how active these users are and how big their tress are. I mean, simple math will tell us that each user has 11 people in the tree. That's siblings, parents and grandparents.

The other problem is switching your family network to a different site. I have a lot of people in my tree on Geni. How do I make them all switch after trying hard to make them join Geni in the first place.

One of the reasons I have so many people in my Geni tree is that they have the excellent tree-merge feature. You find family members and invite them to your tree and voila, your trees are merged (with some merge issue resolution here and there). That's hard to beat.

I am glad that there is competition out there because in the end, we the consumers and end-users benefit from the resulting innovation. If you are new to genealogy and are just starting out with your research I would definitely recommend that you download FTB3 and start building you tree there. And publish it to a Basic MyHeritage website account which allows you to have up to 500 people in your tree for free. A Premium account allows up to 2500 and is only $1.95 per month right now (50% off deal). I think that's a great deal.