Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hidden Treasures: Identifying People in Old Photos

**Update**  I have just added a webinar for this presentation.  Register

Unlabeled and mislabeled old photographs ask a thousand questions.

Join us Saturday, February 18 at 10:30am at the Pearl L Crawford Library in Dudley (40 Schofield Ave) as we look at the tips and techniques of three case studies to answer those questions. 

Here are the topics I will be discussing-
  • Collecting and preserving
  • Creating a research plan
  • Being a photo detective
  • Determining the age of the photo
  • Comparing faces across photos
  • Determining the location of the photo
  • and more...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mastering Search: Finding Genealogy Records

This presentation will be at the Southborough Public Library - 25 Main St.  

*Just added*  There will also be a live webinar.  Please follow this link to Register.

Join me Thursday, January 26 at 7pm in Southboro when I present-

Mastering Search
  • Genealogy records are growing by the millions each day
  • Understanding the records you are seeking
  • Tricks and Techniques for finding records on:
    • Google
    • Ancestry
    • FamilySearch
    • Mocavo
    • Dozens more
  • Being tenacious
  • What not to do
  • Saving your results

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Recommended: 20 Must Read Genealogy Books

It’s a new year and I wanted to share some of the great genealogy books that I have been reading.

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Addicted People:  Handling Your Genealogy Addiction
  • The Art of the Blog View:  Blogging for the Future in an Uncertain World
  • The Blank Tree:  Coming to Terms with Illegitimacy
  • Creating Better Descendants: Offspring Planning as a Tool for a Better Genealogy
  • Digital Genealogist:  Hiring an Artificial Family Historian
  • Eye Wide Open:  Myths, Legends and Your Relation to the Royal Family
  • Genghis to Great:  Creating a Fantastic Family Tree
  • Group Consciousness Explained:  Why Thinking as One Brain Hurts Your Research
  • History Shock:  Coping With the Torrid Pace of Historical Discoveries
  • Inevitable Evils:  Researching the Dark Side of Family History
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Census Record:  And Other Cynical Genealogy Tales
  • Our Social Network, Ourself:  Looking for Records in All the Wrong Places
  • Overcoming Y-DNA Problems:  Understanding and Living with Untested DNA
  • The Pinch Point:  Why Your Family Trees Doesn’t Branch
  • The Social Life of Your Information:  Under Control or Loose in the Wild Wild Web
  • Sync or Sink:  Managing Your Family Tree Across Dozens of Devices
  • Ten Degrees:  How Kevin Bacon is Related to You Within Ten Generations
  • The Translucent Society:  Digitized Genealogical Records at What Cost?
  • Unlinked:  Pruning the Family Tree
  • Unweaving the Malarkey:   $#@%! Your Grandmother Told You

These books can be purchased at A-Squared, the new joint venture between Amazon and Ancestry.  If you buy the e-books they will send you the complimentary dust jacket that can double as a screen protector for your tablet.

Happy reading!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Contrived Coincidence: James Alexander Dewar & Peter Bent Brigham

   James Alexander Dewar invented the Twinkie in 1931.  The Twinkie and similar products were loaded with trans-fats and hydrogenated oils for years prior to the government stepping in to try to improve the nation’s health.  Trans-fat is a leading cause of heart disease.

   Peter Bent Brigham endowed $5.3 million in 1877 for the construction of a hospital in his name.  The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital was established in 1913 and would become a leading hospital for the treatment of heart disease.

   These men are cousins.

John Bent (1596-1672) & Martha (1600-1679)
Joseph Bent & Elizabeth Bourne
Peter Bent & Elizabeth
Joseph Bent & Rachel Fuller
Hopestill Bent & Elizabeth Brown
John Bent & Elizabeth Badcock
Peter Bent & Mary Parris
Jesse Bent & Hannah Vose
Mary Bent & Josiah Fay
Jesse Bent & Dorothy Freeman
Elizabeth Fay & Uriah Brigham
William Freeman Bent & Abigail Chapman
Peter Bent Brigham (1807-1877)
Eliza Bent & Alexander Dewar

Allen Dewar & Louisa Gray

James Alexander Dewar (1897-1985)

   Is it a coincidence that these two men are related?

   Yes, because I forced the coincidence.  There is no such thing as coincidence.  When two things occur at the same time, we can’t help but look for a connection.  Humans are hard wired that way.   Coincidence is an illusion.

   I started researching James Alexander Dewar because the Hostess Company is in the news with headlines of a potential bankruptcy.  An equal number of headlines predicted the end of the Twinkie.  I thought the ancestry of the inventor of the Twinkie would make an interesting blog post.  I always look for a connection to my own family first.  I didn’t find one.

   The surname Bent kept jumping out at me along with the name Peter Bent Brigham.  Don’t ask me why but the name Peter Bent Brigham has always been lodged in the back of my gray matter.  With a middle name of Bent, it indicated a probable maternal maiden name and a link to Dewar’s family.  With that link, I could connect a heart-clogging snack with a heart-fixing hospital.

   Family trees are a network of connections.  With any network of connections, there are a statistically large number of optional pathways.  If I didn’t find a Brigham link then I would have contrived something equally amusing.  Also with a network of connections, someday network analysis techniques will be a common place method for breaking through brick walls and proving family history mathematically.

   Next I should find the connection from the Twinkie to Dewar’s Scotch.  Tasty.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday’s Tip: 15 Tips for Geneology

   I’ve been researching geneology for over 25 years and I’ve seen a lot of family trees.  Some of those trees could use some pruning if you know what I mean.  I hope you will find these tips helpful.  I live by them.  Remember, don’t let details get in the way of a fantastic family history.

1. Don’t forget – the correct spelling is Geneology
> We all know that –ology means the study of.  What the heck is an –alogy.

2. Get started by freeing your inner child
> A cluttered desk is the sign of free spirit. Organization is highly overrated.

3. Avoid source documents
> If you see those pesky reference numbers you know you are in the wrong place.

4. If they have the same name then you found the right record
> So what if the record says Kalamazoo and greatgramps has lived in Sheboygan all his life.  The name is the same and that’s all that matters.

5. It’s OK if the parents were born after the children
> There is a common misconception that parents have to be born before their children.

6. Save time - borrow other folks research unquestioned
> They must be experts.  Look at all those great names and dates.  Why do the work twice?

7. Don’t share what you have learned
> Other people just want to steal your hard work.

8. What is on the Internet is accurate
> They wouldn’t let people publish bad information on the web. Would they?  Please enter your password here  ________

9. You only need one copy of your data – backups are for losers
> This is just a way for the man to make you spend more money.

10. Don’t trust DNA companies
> You’ll never be able to buy insurance and the FBI will incorrectly finger you as a serial killer.  Beware!

11. Place names are not important.  But if you do record them:
> Don’t worry about getting the county correct – they change all the time
> You’ll never find the place on Google maps – verifying is waste of energy

12. Cemeteries are just plain creepy – stay away!
> Enough said.

13. Every story that Grandma told is 100% accurate
> Why would Grandma lie?

14. Just look for the good stuff, ignore all that boring stuff
> Look for war stories and if they searched for gold in California.  Everything else will just slow you down.

15. Caution, don’t talk to older relatives.  They smell like potpourri.
> They probably won’t remember anything good anyway.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Kissing Cousins: Kevin Bacon & Kyra Sedgwick

   Coming up in March of this year PBS and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will be presenting another genealogical series entitled Finding Your Roots. If you missed Faces of America in 2010 you can still catch some episodes online.   I highly recommend the series.

   Who Do You Think You Are will also be back for its third season in the US starting in February.  If you can find the UK version online, there are some “absolutely brilliant” episodes that are worth searching for.

   When I watch these shows, I usually have my laptop and I’m researching along trying to find the next clue before they reveal it on the program.  My curiosity is insatiable.  How am I related?  What else aren’t they showing on the program?  It is safe to say you shouldn’t leave me alone with the Christmas presents before the big day.

   I first heard about the new PBS series from Dick Eastman’s site.  The post there says – “The new series will feature two people in each one-hour episode, including husband-and-wife actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, who jokes she's afraid they might turn out to be cousins. ‘They are indeed distant cousins,’ revealed Gates.”

   I couldn’t wait until their episode airs to find out how Kevin and Kyra were related.  Kyra Sedgwick has an amazing family history full of names like Bradstreet, Endicott, Peabody, Cabot and Lathrop.  Since this year is the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, they might discuss Kyra’s connection to Col. Robert Gould Shaw.  Or, because it is an election year they might talk about her connection to former Presidential Candidate Senator John Kerry from Massachusetts.

   What they probably won’t talk about is that in Kyra’s ancestry there are at least five first cousin marriages.  These were not some backwoods marriages.  These were all Massachusetts marriages with prominent members of society.  More than likely it was an arrangement to keep money in the family.

   Since there was a teaser about Kevin and Kyra being related, they will probably show that relationship.  I’m not going to post a spoiler here.  You can find the answers here if you are as curious as I am.  Coincidentally, my wife is connected to Kevin and Kyra through the same ancestor and shares 20 common ancestors with Kyra.   Are you one of the million that they can call cousin?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Down to the Sea in Ships

Cousins in our midst.

We are all related.  Friends and acquaintances we have known for years turn out, with a little research, to be cousins.  Some cousins will never meet, but their connections come and go with the tides.


William Pierce Stubbs was born in 1842 in Bucksport, Maine. He was the son of a Shipmaster, and a Master Mariner himself from 1863-73. By 1871, he painted his first ship portrait, and by 1876 he was listed as a marine painter in the Boston city directory.

Stubbs produced a large body of work and worked throughout the Eastern seaboard, creating a number of ship paintings. His paintings are in the collections at the Mariner's Museum, the Mystic Seaport Museum, the Cape Ann Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution.

After the death of his wife and daughter, Stubbs sank into depression. He was committed in 1894 to Worcester State Hospital, and then to the Medfield State Hospital in 1899.  He died at Medfield State in 1909.


Orris Creamer Hathorn was born in 1849 in St. George, Maine.  He was a fourth generation Shipmaster and Master Mariner of five schooners and a brig from 1874 until just before his death in 1907.  He was Master of the Washington Freeman, the John Farnum, the Maggie Rivers and the James Elwell.

Capt. Orris C. Hathorn

Family lore states that Orris died from the effects of sulfur fumes carried in the cargo hold of his schooner.  His Maine Death Records lists cause of death as tuberculosis.  He left a wife and five children ages 13 to 28.


What ties these two mariners is the schooner Jennie Lockwood.  The Jennie Lockwood was a three-masted schooner built in Thomaston, Maine in 1882 by S. S. Gerry & Co.

William Pierce Stubbs painted two portraits of the Jennie Lockwood between 1882 and 1894.

Jennie Lockwood in calm waters

Jennie Lockwood in heavy seas

Orris Creamer Hathorn was partial owner and Captain of the Jennie Lockwood from 1898 until 1906.

13 Feb 1906 - “During the severe storm last night a three-masted schooner, the Jennie Lockwood of Thomaston, ME., was driven ashore at Pea Island Life-Saving Station.”  “Captain Hawthorne and his crew of six men were rescued by the life-savers in the breeches bouy after great difficulty.  The schooner is reported high and dry on the beach, but is in fairly good condition.”

What also connects these two men is the fact that they are 4th cousins once removed.

Richard Stubbs (1661-1710) and Rebecca Lobdell (1670-1743)
Luke Stubbs & Mary Newcomb
James Stubbs & Sarah Cahoon
Reuben Stubbs & Mary ‘Polly’ Sparrow
Capt. Reuben Stubbs & Joanna Pierce
William P. Stubbs (1842-1909)

Richard Stubbs (1661-1710) and Rebecca Lobdell (1670-1743)
Experience Stubbs & John Bartlett
Mercy Bartlett & Alexander Hathorn
Capt. Alexander Hathorn & Abigail Blackington
Capt. Alexander Hathorn & Keturah Watts
Capt. Alexander Hathorn & Julia Robinson
Capt. Orris C. Hathorn (1849-1907)

Capt. Orris was also my wife’s great-grandfather.