Follow Friday – FamilySearch Indexing “5 Million Record” Day

I received an e-mail from entitled “Leave a Legacy: July 2nd Could Be the Day“:

Will July 2, 2012, Be Our First “5 Million Record” Day?

July 2, 2012, is going to be an amazing day! We can feel it! It could be the first day that we achieve “5 Million Name” fame. That’s right. July 2nd might be the day that we index and arbitrate 5 million names (or records) in just 24 hours! No other name transcription project that we know of has ever come close.

Together, we’ve achieved unbelievable success in the past three months. Our highest day for indexing & arbitrating combined—for the last three months and in the history of indexing—was April 30th. On that day, we reached 4.9 million records submitted. Amazing! We nearly made 5 million with just our everyday effort!

To make sure we reach the goal of 5 million records, we’ll need help from every indexer and arbitrator out there. Everyone will need to submit an extra batch or two (or more!) during the day. Remember, though, that our “day” starts at 00:00 Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT), which means 6pm MDT (Utah time), on Sunday, July 1st. Check the Facebook event page for your local start time.

Now, don’t think that we’re focusing completely on quantity and forgetting about quality. Next week, to prepare, we’ll provide ways to improve the quality of your work and suggestions for how to get ready for the big day.

Spread the word! Tell your friends and family about the opportunity to be a part of this history-making event. We may not have another chance like this for years, so plan now to get involved. We need you and everyone else out there to reach this goal!

Look for more details next week. For now, let’s keep on indexing (and arbitrating)! ——————————————————————————-

I have done quite a bit of indexing of the 1940 Census, recently helping to complete Missouri and get it to the searchable stage.  I like indexing the census, for the most part.  Of course, it can be frustrating, with terrible handwriting, enumerators who refused to follow the rules and images that strain the eyes.

For the most part, though, it is an enjoyable way to spend some time.  Knowing how valuable it is to the genealogy community is a motivator.  Knowing that others in that community are also working hard to complete these states–all of them volunteers–is also a great motivator.

What I like the most about indexing the census is the ability to daydream about the people on the pages.  It is different from looking at the census for my own families, where I am looking for clues and trying to fit the information into a cohesive picture of their lives.

With the census for other people’s families, I’m free to wonder—and to speculate.  Finding someone whose residence in 1935 was in California, for instance, but now he is back in Missouri with his family.  What happened to him?  Is he happy to be home?  Is his family happy to have him back?

And what about the family where three sons are home, all divorced, one with children?  What were the last few years like for that family?

Then there are the names, I love the names.  My favorite so far were twins, Hazel and Basil.  My husband said that with Basil he never knew whether to pronounce the name with a long or short “a.”  Well, with twin sister Hazel, I guess everyone would always know it was a long “a”!

When indexing, I don’t take the time to look at the other columns that aren’t included in the assignment.  They would undoubtedly provide even more grounds for speculation.  Looking at the number of weeks worked in 1939 might provide some insight, especially into those moves, where someone was living somewhere else in 1935…or maybe not.  That is the fun when you just speculate and don’t have to support any conclusions.

Of course, that’s not the way we genealogists are wired.  We want to do the research, search for the clues, and the data, that will provide us with the whole story.  Or as close to it as we can get with an imperfect set of “facts.”

So, this bit of more concentrated time that I have spent with other people’s families in the 1940 census has been great for letting me think about what their lives might have been like.  But it has also been a great tool for getting me excited to go back to my own family and put their information in order and write up some of their real stories.

Familysearch has declared July 2 “5 Million Record Day.”  Their goal is to index and arbitrate 5 million names in 24 hours.  That means that everyone needs to put in a little extra time.  I’m going to be there, with the community of genealogists, contributing in an important way, pushing the 1940 census closer to completion.  And I’m going to be daydreaming about those other families.

Then I’ll be ready to come back and attack my family history.  I hope you’ll join in.


Thriller Thursday – Confessed Killer Tells Police He Cut Her Throat

Victim and Confessed Killer

Husband Admits Killing Wife in Family Quarrel
Salvatore Patti Tells Police He Cut Her Throat in Lot at 11th and Howard Streets
Row Began Over Her Daughter
He Then Accused Woman of Associating With Other Men — He says she hit him with brick


Salvatore Patti, a railroad laborer, 1419 Blair avenue, confessed today he had killed his wife, Mrs. Lucille Patti, in a vacant lot at the southwest corner of Eleventh and Howard streets where her body was found shortly before last midnight.

Her throat had been cut, and she had been stabbed in several places. Patti said he killed her during a family quarrel with a curved bladed knife of a type usually used in trimming linoleum. He signed a statement at the Carr Street Police Station, relating the circumstances of the killing.

The quarrel began, Patti said, when Mrs. Patti accused him of causing her daughter by a previous marriage, Josephine Gahr, 21 years old, to leave their home last month. During the argument, Patti said, he accused his wife of associating with other men.

While the argument continued, Patti said, he and his wife walked to the home of Josephine Gahr at 2124 North Eleventh Street, but started to return to their own home when they found no one there.

Hit With Brick, He Says,

As they neared the vacant lot, Patti said, his wife struck him with a brick, and threatened to turn him over to the police.

“I pushed her and she fell down,” Patti statement continued, “I was half drunk and I used the knife to cut her, I had the knife in my pocket. I don’t know how many times I cut her.”

After returning to his home, Patti went out again, ostensibly to search for his wife. Her son-in-law, Nathan DiBello, and her 16 year old son, Joseph Gahr, who resides at DiBello’s home, 1321 North Fourteenth Street, were with him when Patti, passing the lot, called attention to his wife’s body.

Two Knives in Possession

Patti was arrested when police found two knives in his possession, an ordinary pocket knife and the linoleum knife. The linoleum knife was stained and after chemical tests a police department research officer reported the stain was caused by blood.

Miss Josephine Gahr told police she observed her mother and Patti quarreling as they walked by her home last night. Hoping they would not call at her home, she said, she turned out the lights and watched them through a screen door. Miss Gahr said she left her mother’s home last month because Patti had forced his attentions on her. Patti she said, had suggested that they marry, telling her “We can get rid of your mother easy enough.”

Neighbor Heard Quarrel

Patti at first told police he had been alone at his home from 7 o’clock last night until about 9:30 o’clock when he went to search for his wife, who had gone to visit her daughters. However, a neighbor told police he had heard the pair quarreling at their home until about 8:30 o’clock when they went out together.

Patti, 33 years old, told police he entered this country illegally in 1929, coming from Italy as a sailor. He and Mrs. Patti were married about five years ago after she had divorced her first husband. She was 38 years old.


Death Certificate of Lucille Gahr Russo AKA Lucille Patti

The principal cause of death:  “Stab wound of neck through larynx and jugular vein, suffered when stabbed with knife in the hands of one Salvatore Patti in lot 75 feet south of Howard Street, West of 11th Street, about 11:30 P.M., July 27, 1938.  Homicide.”  Died En route to City Hospital #1.


In one way this traumatic event was the culmination of a very unhappy time in the family; in another, the sadness never really ended.  Lucy was my paternal grandfather’s sister and her first husband was my grandmother’s brother.  Their move to St. Louis and subsequent divorce was very hard on everyone.  The relationship with Salvatore Patti, an illegal immigrant from Italy, was most undoubtedly a very tumultuous one for Lucy and very difficult for her children.  Supposedly, Patti was deported to Italy and was hanged there for another murder.

The story was written in one of the national magazines of the day; no one can remember which one, perhaps Life, perhaps True Confessions.  I have never been able to find it, but I have heard from different family members that the magazines were hidden away, and finally thrown out.

Workday Wednesday – Ship it on the Frisco!

My great grandfather worked for the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, known as the Frisco, for 52 years, retiring when he reached his 70th birthday, which was the age limit.  This was the card that he proudly carried with him after his retirement.

John Alonzo French began his Frisco career as a messenger boy in the Springfield, Missouri, dispatcher’s office, earning $15 a month.  He studied telegraphy and in 1879 became operator and station helper in Lebanon, Missouri, which paid $30 a month.  He progressed through various positions until moving to Saint James, Missouri, in 1907, as agent.  Upon retirement in September 1928, his pension was $63.75, based on continuous service of 52 years, 1 month.

I found this information, and much more, in the Springfield, Greene County, Missouri, Library’s digital Frisco collection.  This includes post cards, employee records and many of the Employe Magazines from 1902 to 1935.  If you had relatives who worked for the Frisco, or if you are just interested in railroads, I highly recommend this site:

An article in the September 1926 issue of The Frisco Employes’ Magazine describes the lives and careers of John A. French, Knoal Kinney and George Burney, the Frisco’s three oldest telegraphers, who had worked for the Frisco for 137 years!  Besides important details about my great grandfather’s early years, career milestones are included.  Six months later an article about George Burney’s death ends with “The death of Mr. Burney breaks the trio of the three oldest telegraphers….The three learned telegraphy at the same time and had been life long friends.”

The article “Tenth Reunion of Vets At Pensacola” in the July 1933 magazine goes into great detail about a trip the Frisco Veterans’ Association took for their 10th reunion.  The 450 Frisco retirees and their wives were taken by train from points in Missouri; “the groups were consolidated at Memphis, and the fourteen-car special Pullman train left Memphis for Pensacola…”  In Pensacola, the veterans enjoyed speed boats, sightseeing, Casinos and “picture shows.”  The next morning a thirty-minute meeting of the Veterans’ Association was followed by an equally succinct meeting of the Old Timers’ Club (40 years employment or more), where my great grandfather was elected vice-president.   Afterwards, buses took them to the Casino on Santa Rosa Island, where just about everyone enjoyed the beach.  My great grandfather is on the left, below.  Doesn’t he look like he’s ready to enjoy the sun and the sand?!

Tombstone Tuesday – Valentin Gahr & Christof Gahr

Valentin Gahr
Peace Lutheran Cemetery, Phelps County, Missouri

Valentin Gahr is a brother of my gg grandfather, Christof Gahr.  The information on Valentin’s gravestone led to finding the family’s church records at the Family History Library in Salt Lake.  This is the record of Valentin’s christening.

I only have the translation for Christof.  Important information is that he was the 5th child, 4th son of the 2nd marriage, of George Jahr, Hatter in Spora and Mrs Rosina, born Bachmann from Hirschfeld.

This project is definitely on my to-do list.  I’m sure there is a great deal of information in these records.  Unfortunately, I think it will have to wait until there is a little money in the genealogy budget for translations!  In the meantime, I am very glad that someone decided to put Valentin’s birthplace on his gravestone.  If we had had to rely on Christof’s stone, we’d still be searching.

Military Monday – Researching your Ancestors

Following up on last Monday’s post on The War of 1812, I want to expand a little on some of the things I learned in Peggy Clemens Lauritzen’s webinar The War of 1812 – America’s “Forgotten” War.  I also want to give you a list of some of my favorite sites for military information.  All of these sources are free, of course.

Peggy gave a great overview of the major battles of the war, and she pointed out many places to look for records.  She especially encouraged us to look at County Histories to find military lists and other local information about our ancestors. wiki was another source she highly recommended, U.S. Military Records.

Another research aid that Peggy uses is a great idea:  a spreadsheet of ancestors who served in the military.  She has all military events as columns, across the top (French & Indian War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, etc). She lists ancestors/family members down the left side, as rows.  She fills in all the information she knows for each person, such as the name of the Battle, the Regiment, the pension file, and if the person died.  Here is a rough first draft for some of my ancestors (click on the spreadsheet to see it enlarged):

This is a great way to keep track of the data that you have collected, and to see any holes that you have, research that still needs to be done.  As you can see, I have also listed research I want to do.  For example, I know that David Stewart had a land warrant for 902 ½ acres recorded on 21 Oct 1783.  He served in the 1st Light Dragoons 1777-1778 and I need to find out if this warrant is a bounty for that service.

You can go through your list of family members and identify which ones were of an age to have served in which wars.  Or, if you’re not quite ready for that level of investigation, you can simply add a person to the list as you find information for them.  I am creating a spreadsheet for my direct line ancestors which shows their ages during each war.  It shows their age at the beginning and end of each war if they were over 10.  By color coding it, I can easily see who I need to investigate.

Here are some sites that I especially like:
Southern Campaign Revolutionary War Pension Statements
Jacob Martin, my 4th great grandfather, served from North Carolina and his pension application is found here.  The amount of information that it gives not only on his service and his residences but also on his siblings is invaluable.  Ideally, I would like to see the original, but for now, I can use this free source.

Civil War Diaries & Letters Transcription Project
Take some time to read these first-hand accounts of soldiers’ lives in the Civil War.  Wendell Dorn Wiltsie wrote three diaries which are in this collection.  His entries describing the battle injury and subsequent death of his brother, captain of the company, are heartbreaking in their simplicity.  The change in tone of his writing throughout the war, the dirt on the pages, his pride in voting for Abraham Lincoln, all of these entries transport us to another world. My own connection to Wendell makes these diaries that much more special:  Wendell’s mother, Rachel Dorn Wiltsie, was the second cousin of my 3rd great grandmother, Rachel Dorn French.

US Dept of Veterans’ Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator
Enter a name and find out where your ancestor is buried as well as information about his service.  See a map of the cemetery.  Spouses may be buried there as well.

National Park Service
Explore these links to find out great details about the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War.  Be sure to click on “Stories,” “People” and “Places.”  For example in the Civil War under Stories, there is a section called “The Ordeal of the Border States.”  This includes information about the Springfield, Missouri, area, including the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, which was so important in the lives of my gg grandfather Jay Lansing French and his brother J Schuyler French [if you missed it, see Schuyler’s letter in the newspaper.]  Also be sure to take your time with the “Soldiers and Sailors Database” found in the Civil War section; it has 6.3 million records.

Don’t forget that War of 1812 records are free on until the end of the month.  Only about 3% of the pension files are online at this time, however.  Other publications include Letters Received By The Adjutant General, 1805-181; War of 1812 Prize Cases, Southern District Court, NY; and War of 1812 Service Records for Lake Erie and for Mississippi.

All of this should keep you busy for quite some time, and all within your recessionary budget!

Take a Free Trip — Courtesy of Your Ancestors

It is hot in New England!  As many of you know, the beginning of summer brought with it temperatures well into the 90s and an unwelcome heat index above 100, with very little relief at night.  And we don’t have air conditioning!

As I was closing all the blinds and trying to find a cool spot, I began to remember stories that I had heard about how my ancestors had handled the heat in times past.

Most of our ancestors made preparations for the summertime heat.  I guess this is partially where Spring Cleaning came from.  I remember liking to hear how my great grandmother had had slipcovers made for the furniture and every spring out they would come.  She also had all the rugs taken up.  In the summertime, it was important to know how to close the drapes in the rooms where the sun would be strongest and how to keep a cross breeze going in the house.  Meals changed to much lighter fare and many times were eaten on the porch.

My parents talked about the Dust Bowl days in the 1930s when the heat never let up.  When it was too hot to sleep upstairs, they slept on the porch.  My mother played marathon monopoly games to pass the time, but said that by August they were so tired from the heat.   They could go to the show, the movie theater, to get some relief, as it was about the only place in town that had air conditioning.  My father loved coming in from the farm on Saturday to see the serials that played.

The everyday occurrences in our own lives often have parallels to our ancestors’ lives.  Take this time, while you are “unplugged” from subscription sites, trips, etc. to write down some of these stories.

I’m going to make a concerted effort to write.  I’m having fun with this blog and it is helping me take the time to think about the information that I already have, the stories I have heard, and to dream about what life would have been like in those days.

Take a free trip:  live vicariously through your ancestors.  I’d love to hear some of your stories and how you are using this time to do things other than collect more information.  Please comment here or e-mail me at

1940 Census, and why I miss the Earlier Questions

Yesterday’s blog post addressed a question Geneamusings’ Randy Seaver asked in his blog  What is the Value of the 1940 U.S. Census?    I wrote about why it is valuable to me.    I am excited about the the 1940 census, but I can also understand feeling a little let down by the information it provides.

I was disappointed when I saw the categories of the 1940 census.  Sure, there are some good additions to the data collected, including residence five years earlier, income and education, and the return of the question about real estate.  One of the most valuable additions may be the notation of which household member answered the questions.  In studying data in a past census, I always wonder about who supplied that information.

The questions I wish had been continued are those concerning parents, marriage and children.  Having the parents’ birthplace is often a great clue as to whether this John Smith is “your” John Smith.  How long a couple has been married narrows your search for their marriage records.  The number of children born and the number still living is one of my favorite questions.  I have learned so much from this.  Unfortunately, it was only asked in 1900 and 1910.   I feel that I understand much more about a family’s lives when I know that they have lost many children – or that all of their 17 children are living!

One of my own marriage mysteries concerns my gg grandparents Louise Johnson and Jay Lansing French.  In the 1850 census, Luiza is living in the town of Neosho, Missouri, while her widowed mother and siblings are in a more rural area of Newton County.  She appears to be boarding, although no occupation is listed; two others living with the merchant and his family work for the county court.   Her uncle Robert Brock, who is Clerk of the County Court, is listed three households later.

I wonder why Luiza was living in town.  Luiza’s mother and siblings left for California in the spring of 1852, but she didn’t go with them.   I always thought that her mother would not have left her unless she was married, but there is no indication when the marriage took place.  No marriage records survive for this area; they were all destroyed during the Civil War.  We don’t have any family information handed down.  And, Luiza’s first child was born in 1856 so this offers no support for an early marriage.

The 1900 census might, however.  Here was a small detail that could easily be overlooked:  Maria L, 3 of 6 children living.   No one had ever mentioned this.  My mother knew nothing about it.   As far as we knew, Luiza and Lansing only had three children:  Martha, born 1856; John, born 1858; and Mary, born during the Civil War.  Adding three more children certainly makes stronger the probability of a marriage sometime after the 1850 census and before her mother and siblings left for California.

A cousin descended from one of the siblings who went west sent me a most precious document:  his great grandmother’s memoirs of the trip from Missouri to California, with a few details of her early life.  In it she had written:  “The eldest girl married a man by the name of Lancing French and remained in Missouri. He had been a farmer in Cherokee Nation.”

So the pieces fell into place.  Luiza and Lansing had married before the Spring of 1852.  Some or all of the three children discovered because of the 1900 census were probably born before Martha.  We may never know more about these children — but at least we know that they did live, if even for a very short time.  We can imagine Luiza and Lansing’s early married life in Newton County, Missouri, a little more clearly, and continue to look for clues.

Unfortunately, the 1940 Census won’t give me answers to these questions for most of the people that I am researching.  However, supplementary questions were asked of two people on each page and this did include some of the information from previous censuses.  Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to find someone on one of those special lines.  And hopefully, over time, I will find that the new information is just as valuable.