Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Problem with Public Family Trees

Let us discuss Public Family Trees at

I have photos of my husband's great grandmother.  She died in 1961.  She shows up in 28 public trees on  I would love to share the photos I have of her with other people on Ancestry, but when I pull up those trees, they are either owned by people who have one source for her and haven't logged in for a year or more, or they are people who logged in yesterday and she is so far removed from them, there is no terminology to describe the relationship.

There is a publicly posted photo identified as her mother.  It looks like it was posted in some kind of newsletter or something, then photocopied and posted to Ancestry.  I have messaged the owner of the photo and asked for details of the source of the photo.  I received no response.  I am particularly interested because I have another unidentified photo that I believe could be her, but I would like to see if I could come up with a better quality photo before I jump to that conclusion.  No response.

I have a first cousin in my own family who I have offered to collaborate with.  I messaged her and offered to send her information, which I did.  I got no response and when I emailed and asked if she received it, I got no response.

I have a very large drawing of my husband's great-great-grandfather, who died in the Civil War.  I would be happy to share this with anyone who wanted it.  Same story as his great grandmother from his paternal side.  Nobody close enough to message.

It is all fine and dandy to spout off about how if you post a public tree on Ancestry that you will undoubtedly have distant cousins knocking on your door to get to you, but that has not been my experience so far.  Even with the people I have reached out to, I have gotten no response.  So frustrating.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Autograph Hound

Family Search has loads of good stuff, but sometimes you have to dig for it.  Recently, I was digging into the New York State probate records (a mere 14 million pages).  I spent a week clicking through the 1582 images in box 49 of the Cayuga County estate files.  Tonight, I hit pay dirt on image number 1035:
Citation: "New York, Probate Records, 1629-1971," images, FamilySearch (,215960602 : accessed 27 May 2014), Cayuga > Estate papers 1799-1905 box 49 > image 1035 of 1582.

At the bottom is the signature of my third great grandfather and above it is the "X" of my fourth great-grandmother.  This is a document from the probate file of his brother and her son, Robert Stivers, who died a prisoner of war at Andersonville Prison in Georgia at age 23, during the Civil War.  They signed this page 148 years ago.  Family Search microfilmed these records when I was only 5.  I found it today.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The other side.

My father-in-law passed away this morning from a long illness. It is sad, but at the same time, we are happy to see an end to his decline in health.

A funny genealogy thing happened to me, though.  My sister-in-law was filling out the paperwork for the death certificate and asked me where his parents were born.  I just sat there for a moment and thought about how someday that information will be a tiny crumb for someone other genealogist to follow.  I was glad I knew the answers!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Number 49 - Barry Bostwick

Yes, this Barry Bostwick:
Rocky Horror Picture Show Credits (Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors)
Ahh, Rocky Horror Picture Show...I won't tell how many times I have seen this movie.

A couple of weekends ago, had a free weekend of access.  I didn't have a lot of time to play with it, but I plugged in a few of my more bashful ancestors to see what it might come up with.  I plugged in my 4th great grandfather, Jacob Quackenbush (1769-1818) and one of the suggestions was "The Ancestry of John Howard Camp"  Now, this page is enormous, and hasn't been updated in at least three years, but there was an interesting tidbit on it:
Jacob Quackenbush, Jr. and Ann are my 4th great grandparents!  I am descended from Isaac's brother Abram, but that's my guy.  I did a bit of creeping around at and found enough public trees to get me from Barry back to Susan Quackenbush, who is in my tree already.  

I don't really care all that much about connecting to famous people, but it is very funny that if I should be related to a famous person, it would be someone like this.  By my calculations, this makes us third cousins, once removed, actually pretty close, for random people.

What I do find interesting is the fact that there are parents and grandparents listed for Jacob Jr.  He is a dead end on my tree and I'd love to find more information on him.  Here is a new name to try and find and connect to.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Number 50 - GG Uncle George W. Quackenbush

My next installment of "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" is GG Uncle George Willis Quackenbush. George was the elder brother of my great-grandfather, and he was quite the entrepreneur.  According to "Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens of Chenango County, N.Y." he was born February 24, 1876.   Much about the rest of the article is definitely fictitious, so I take that date with a grain of salt.  I think it is much more likely that he was born in 1878, but that would have made him pretty young for the biographical publication in 1898, so my guess is he fudged his age a bit and while he was at it, the rest of the article as well.

His upbringing was certainly tumultuous, at the age of six, his father was arrested for shooting his mother (a story for another week) and by the 1892 New York State Census, his parents no longer lived together.

At some point between 1892 and 1897, he left Cayuga County, New York and moved to Oxford, New York.  A distance of about 80 miles.  Why did he pick there?  There is no family connection that I am aware of in this part of the state.  Maybe he wanted it that way.  He is listed in "Oxford Historical Souvenir" of November 1897, as proprietor of the bakery and a member of the fire department.  The entire department is pictured, George is number 43, alphabetically:

George's younger sister, Grace is working at the bakery at this time as well.

George's bakery business is growing.  By 1908, it has become a bakery and a bookstore:
I believe the other two in the photo are my great-grandparents, Ella (Baird) and Alfred Quackenbush.

In 1909, scandal erupts around George.  A young female employee of the bakery attempts suicide by drinking carbolic acid!
This was taken from a half-page spread on the story in the Syracuse Herald, eighty miles away!  Newspaper accounts differ to the relationship between George and Julia, some say they were engaged, some say they were not.  I couldn't find any resolution to the story, although has an undocumented member tree that shows Julia married to a different person a year later.

Despite this setback, the bakery must be doing well, by the 1910 census, George is shown owning his own, unmortgaged home.  My great grandparents are not shown in Oxford in 1910, but they must have returned soon, there is another photo in front of the bakery and bookstore:
My grandmother's curly handwriting on the back says this is 1911 and she is three years old.  George is certainly dressed like a businessman in this photo.

At some point around this time, George takes up photography!  He takes many landscape and building photos in the Oxford area and has them made into postcards.  They are easily found on Ebay.  He also takes photos of the family!
This is my grandmother, date unknown, but George's mark is clearly visible in the bottom corner.  I do not know if all the photos I have were taken by George, or if his brother took up photography as well.  Many of them do not have George's mark like this.  An aside: my mother told me that when my great-grandfather died (1961), there were hundreds of glass plate negatives in his apartment, and a great deal of them were ladies "en deshabille" and my mother was instructed to break them and throw them away.  Argh!

George decided to expand his business holdings and either bought or opened a Nash dealership by 1918. (Amazing coincidence, since my husband's grandfather also owned a Nash dealership.)  Here is an ad from the Syracuse New York Daily Journal:
George's garage is listed in the right-hand column at the bottom.

Something happened between 1920 and 1925.  On the 1925 New York State Census, George has sold his home and moved into a rented place and has a new job, simply listed as "garage" with no mention of car dealer.  My great-grandparents have moved back to Cayuga county at that point.  In 1930 he is listed as a mechanic in "own garage", and in 1940 he is listed as proprietor of the garage.  

George died, unmarried, as far as I know.  He is listed as buried in the Weedsport (New York) Rural Cemetery.  This list says "his wife" is near him, but I can find no record of a wife.  His sister and brother are both buried there as well. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

51 Ancestors in 51 Weeks?

I wanted to do the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, but I didn't find out until the week one entries were already posted, so I offer 51 ancestors instead...

Since I am already a week behind, I will have to chose an easy one for this week, right?  Is it cheating to use someone from my husband's family?  I offer, Robert Henry Bledsoe, to you.

By the time I met "Mr. B" as he was known, he was already 90 years old and was having a lot of trouble remembering things.  What I know of his life comes from his descendants.  He was born in 1901 in Louisiana and worked as a depot agent for the Rock Island Railroad.  He married Alma Lois Avinger around 1921 and they had three daughters together.  I also know that at some point in the 1950s, he moved to Shreveport Louisiana and started a Nash dealership:

That's Mr. B on the left.  The gentleman on the right was a local radio personality at the time.  All that's left of the dealership is a clock that hung in it, a promotional item from Quaker State Motor Oil, which still runs great and hangs in our kitchen. Mr. B retired to Breckenridge, Texas with Alma and stayed there until he died in 1995.  They are both buried in Breckenridge Cemetery.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

An Amazing Software Find

Today, I went to a class at my local Family History Center. I don't usually go in for such things, but the topic was great free software programs for image manipulation and I couldn't resist.

If you care to scroll back through my piteously few postings, you'll see that there is an issue with the scans from the State Archives of Belgium.  That is, you have to save them as screen shots and paste them back together in an image manipulation program.

Until today.  Go and download Microsoft ICE.

I went to the archives and found the birth record for my Great-Grandfather, HonorĂ© DeClerck.  I had to scroll down to capture the entire image, it took two shots:

The first thing you have to do is to take them into an image manipulation program and crop off the borders, so all you have left is document...

Now, you open up Microsoft ICE and drag these two images into it.

It works really fast with only two to merge.  The class instructor merged 31 photographs into a huge panorama and it took just a minute or so.

Now, this is a little picture of this, and this was only two pictures, but it has seamlessly merged these two together to make one intact picture.  You can crop from this program to get rid of the jagged edges and save in a variety of formats.

Wow!  I am so excited about this now!!  I have been avoiding these records because of this.
H/T to instructor Mike Maddox, who turned us on to this great tool!