Helpful Old Technology

I recently received a cassette tape of an interview done by a distant family member with one of my husband’s aunts in 2001.  Both of those ladies have passed away and the tape became the possession of the interviewer’s daughter.  She doesn’t have a tape recorder any longer and has a transcription so she was not interested in keeping the tape.

My husband’s Aunt Ruby was a sweetheart and with his Aunt Marge, always made me feel as I was part of their family.  We had made a quick visit with her about 8 months after the tape was made but it wasn’t a happy time as I was in the area to bury my mother’s cremains so it never occurred to me to tape what became our last visit with Aunt Ruby.

When the tape was offered to me I was happy to get it – I’d love to hear her voice again.  Problem was, who has a tape recorder anymore?

Evidently, I do.  When the tape arrived hubby emailed several friends and colleagues to see if anyone had one we could borrow.  No one did.  Then it hit me!  Several years ago, pre bluetooth, we used to use a boom box in the backyard on our deck.  Had to think hard what we did with it and then remembered it was outside in a pool storage bench.  Thank goodness it still worked!

Hubby transferred the tape to MP3 using the instructions from this site – How to Transfer Old Cassette Tapes to MP3 Files

The quality is not great – it was made in a nursing home greeting area and a restaurant so there is a lot of background noise.  I’m still glad we have it and updated it to the latest technology.

If you have tapes and would like to update it is not difficult to do.  I recommend putting that on your winter to do list and with the holidays around the corner, you might want to ask to borrow from family and friends if you don’t have a tape player.

It’s going to be a constant upgrade from one technology to another but I think the time expended is well worth it.  Your descendants will think it’s awesome when they will see a picture of their 5th great grandparents and hear their voices!

Obtaining US Ancestors Immigration Documentation – What You Need to Know

In May, I requested an index search request for $20.00 from the USCIS website.  I’ve always meant to do so but never got around to it.  I had read a blog on Judy Russell’s Legal Genealogist site that mentioned the price may be going up dramatically so I decided the time was now and quickly followed through with the request.

You must complete and index search request ($20.00) if you don’t know the Case ID number.  A Case ID number is needed to request Alien Registration Forms (AR-2) and Naturalization Certificates (C-File) which are an additional $20.00-35.00. I was requesting two index searches, one for each of my maternal grandparents.

In August, I received a letter in the US mail that provided me with a Case ID number for my grandmother.  The letter referred me to the Department of Homeland Security website so that I could obtain the AR-2 and C-File.  I tried to follow the directions but I was unable to gain access.  Frustrated, I decided to try from different computers as I wasn’t sure if cookie settings were the problem.  After making a number of attempts from my home’s laptop, desktop, Kindle, phone and my work computer I came to the conclusion it wasn’t me.

The only way to contact the agency is via email.  I was livid when I received a response stating they would respond by December.  Seriously?!

A survey popped up and I took the time to complete it;  I mentioned the poor customer service access, the long delay between the letter’s date (July 8) and receiving it (date stamped August 18), lack of a functional website and that my initial request was for two searches and I only had one returned. I also sent an email to the agency on August 22 because their phones don’t work.  Here’s the response:

“It is our goal to complete all requests within 90 days of receipt. 

Nevertheless, due to an increased volume of requests we are now answering:

  • Index Search Requests (Form G-1041) received in MARCH 2016.
  • Record Requests (Form G-1041A) received in FEBRUARY 2016. Please note that pending record requests submitted prior that date are waiting for files or privacy screenings.”

Clearly the response isn’t even accurate as I didn’t even request the documents until May and had half of my request returned in August.

The following day I received this email response:

“Your payment has been submitted to and the details are below. If you have any questions or you wish to cancel this payment, please contact the USCIS Genealogy Program at (866) 259-2349.”

I called the number but never could reach anyone.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from James Igoe on October 3rd that attached my grandmother’s C-File.  I responded with a thank you and then asked for an update on where my grandfather’s file was.  Here’s the response I received on October 3rd:

“It is our goal to complete all requests within 90 days of receipt. 

Nevertheless, due to an increased volume of requests we are now answering:

  • Index Search Requests (Form G-1041) received in MARCH 2016.
  • Record Requests (Form G-1041A) received in FEBRUARY 2016. Please note that pending record requests submitted prior that date are waiting for files or privacy screenings.”

Sound familiar?!  Between August 22nd and October 3rd the agency had made NO progress with their backlog.

My advice, if you need to request records, is to do so with out delay cause it’s going to be a long, long time before you receive them.

Saturday Serendipity in Cycadia Cemetery

On a crisp sunny October morning, Hubby and I took a cemetery tour of Cycadia Cemetery in Tarpon Springs, Florida.  As one of the oldest cemeteries in the county, many figures of historical prominence in the area are buried there.  Eight historical re-enactors portrayed former residence who were important to the town’s development.

The first tour stop was for John C. “Greek” Maillis who had been born in Gary, Indiana in 1918. Hubby and I were, too and our grandparents lived there at the time.  I plan on researching Greek’s father as I’m guessing he worked for U.S. Steel as that was the big industry in town.  My grandfather, great grandfather and hubby’s grandfather were all employed there in 1918.  What a small world!

Although that was an interesting connection it was T the tour’s end that had the biggest chance encounter happened.

Our last stop was to learn about Irish born Captain Thomas Carey who came to Tarpon Springs with his family in the 1870’s and worked in the sponge industry.  His reenactor became misty eyed, lost character and said he had to step out of being Capt Carey for a moment to tell us what had happened in the previous tour group.  As the program entry by the Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society stated, Capt. Carey “…left a legacy of exceptional off-spring.”  Not only exceptional, they were numerous.  A woman in the group stated she was a descendant.  Then another group member stated she, too, was a descendant.   A few generations removed from Capt. Carey they shared which of his children they had descended from.  Most remarkable was that these cousins had never met before.  Nearly 75 years after the Captain’s death his descendants are reunited at his grave site.  There was a large turnout for the program and groups were formed by your arrival time.  What a coincidence that these individuals just happened to be placed in the same group.  Serendipity at its finest!

Photo courtesy of thefifthofnov on Find-a-Grave

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Last week I received an email via from the Research Manager with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).  The group will be having a candlelight vigil in Washington, DC in May 2017 and reached out to me as I have in my Main Tree an individual that was selected to be honored.

We are not closely related to the fallen officer; Robert Flenner was my husband’s 4th cousin, 3 times removed through marriage to the grand daughter of a Harbaugh.  Since I have updated all the Harbaugh/Herbach family in the U.S., Robert appears in my tree.

I had never heard of the organization and did a little research.  The NLEOMF was founded in 1984 for the purpose of honoring and remembering law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty.  I’m not sure how they select the officers to be honored; Robert Flenner died in 1908.

After receiving the email and checking out the group I went to my tree to remind myself who Robert Flenner was.  I have a large tree and I didn’t recall him.  The citations I had were the 1870, 1880 and 1900 US Federal census, a death certificate that didn’t mention he was a fallen officer (cause of death-cancer of intestines; occupation of deceased-house duties), Pennsylvania Probate, Find-A-Grave memorial and a Social Security record for one of his children.  I did find it interesting that the death certificate noted he was buried in Harbaugh Church Cemetery.  I had visited there on my July research trip looking for the grave of one of my husband’s several times great grandmother.  I must have walked past Robert’s resting place as I was all over that small cemetery on my unsuccessful hunt.  Passed him without giving him a thought!  None of  my found records provided me the event that occurred to warrant being honored.  I looked for an obituary and found the following provided by KimTisha on Find-A-Grave:

Robert Flenner

Ironically, the same day I was contacted by NLEOMF I received a copy of my paternal great grandparents’ divorce records.  I had always suspected the root cause of the divorce was alcoholism because I had found a newspaper article written shortly before the divorce mentioning that great grandpa had been fined for providing alcohol to a known alcoholic.  I was also very aware that NO FAMILY member on that line drank.  So I was not surprised when the divorce documents mentioned that my great grandfather had had a drinking problem for 25 years.  I was stunned, however, by the long term physical abuse my great grandmother had been subjected to when great grandpa was inebriated.  He was definitely a mean drunk!  The records mention the severity of the abuse and it made me sick.

Reading the obituary for Robert Flenner and knowing the arrest he made had prevented another woman from receiving further abuse I was determined to find a closer relative who could represent him at the DC event.

The problem was, I had been unsuccessful in finding any close family members for my husband’s line when I visited the area three months ago.  What to do?!

The internet is a wonderful way to connect so I thought I’d try to locate family by following the bread crumb trail of known records.  I updated Robert’s line and discovered one of his two children had married and had children.  I emailed every Find-A-Grave memorial creator through Robert’s great grandchild.  Most didn’t respond but several wrote back that they knew of closer descendants and would forward the information to them.  I’m hoping that someone is able to attend the Candlelight Vigil in which he will be honored.

Save Those Emails!

At the recent genealogical seminar I attended I met up with a colleague I had not seen since the National Genealogical Society conference in May. We were catching up and he mentioned he was still trying to recover about 13,000 emails that had been lost.  That’s a lot of emails!  Here’s how it happened:

In our area Verizon used to be one of our internet service providers.  In April, Frontier purchased Verizon’s customers.  The transition was not seamless; there was much service disruption but it appeared that most of the problems had been corrected.  Then, with no warning, my colleague woke up one morning a few weeks ago and discovered that he couldn’t access his Verizon email account.  He contacted Frontier who told him they had nothing to do with it and he needed to call Verizon.  Verizon told him he was no longer a customer so he no longer had access to his emails.

It’s always difficult changing addresses, whether it’s in the real world or virtually, but it is even more difficult when one is caught unexpectedly.  He had received no warning that the account would be terminated.  His contract with Verizon was for 2 years and everyone in our area had been informed that Frontier would honor and continue the Verizon contracts through their expiration.  I don’t even know how breaching the contract can be legal since he’s still under contract but that’s a whole different issue!

The colleague quickly made a gmail account and then began the arduous task of updating his email address all over the internet.  Been there, done that, not fun!

Although hubby and I had a Verizon email account we rarely used it and I don’t think I’ve checked it in the last few years.  In fact, I had forwarded the account to our gmail account at least five years ago. I completely missed that the account disappeared.

The wasted time in having to update to the new account, though, wasn’t the most upsetting situation. The loss of all the saved emails was the most devastating.  I can only imagine!

Back in the day, like most Americans, we had an AOL account.  We continued to use the account well into the 2000’s even though our children loved to poke fun at us old fogies still sticking with AOL.  I pointed out I was being a loyal customer.  So much for loyalty!  About 2010 our account got hacked.  We changed passwords.  It was hacked again.  AOL sent us a rather IMHO nasty email that warned us that our account would be cancelled if we continued to share our passwords with others. Huh?!  We hadn’t done that.  I was over them so I created a gmail account. Hubby wanted to continue with AOL so he once again changed the password.  I spent a weekend updating the new account info to our many online accounts.  Over the next few weeks I went through the saved emails and purged.  Many, though, were of genealogical significance – notification of a cousin’s marriage, the death of an aunt, graduation dates and connections with long lost relatives who had found postings I had placed on bulletin boards.  I forwarded those emails to gmail and placed them in a folder titled Genealogy.  A few weeks after I completed the transfers, the account was again hacked. We received the same letter and this time, hubby was through with them.  That account is still open and maybe once a year I go on it to see if any long lost relative has rediscovered my original tree on Rootsweb’s World Connect or one of those old bulletin board posts that I can no longer update to provide a newer email address.  It hasn’t happened yet but who knows?  Mostly I find a thousand junk emails that I delete en mass.

I now save emails that are of value to my computer and to a cloud.  This way, if I have to abandon gmail for another email account I haven’t lost anything important.  For emails that were of special importance, such as a photo or record attachment, I also attach to my tree, copy and paste the email contents into the citation.  I feel very fortunate that my transition was on my own terms.  Heed the warning!

Genealogy At Heart Website Update

I’ve been writing a lot about technology lately.  I do love it but it certainly is a pain when it glitches!  Last year I created a free website using Sidengo called  I linked my blog posts to it and featured genealogical special offers, photos of recent research trips I’d taken and information for clients who were interested in contacting me.  In July, I received an email from Sidengo that in less than 3 weeks my account was going to be closed unless I moved to a paid option.  I was leaving town for a two week research trip the next day, had a client deadline I had to finish before I left and was returning to my teaching job three days after the research trip ended so I felt rushed into making a decision.  Hubby thought I should just pay up to make my life easier but I didn’t want to do that as I thought it was poor customer service to pressure folks into paying.  During my evenings while I was on my research trip I searched for alternatives.  I settled on another company but wasn’t really happy with it – I was only able to get one page so the website was a long scroll AND I couldn’t link to my blog posts so I had to list them which was cumbersome for readers.

In September, the Association of Professional Genealogists had a webinar about WordPress. I had explored them in July but didn’t find the site intuitive enough for me to figure out how to quickly put together my webpages.  After watching the webinar I thought I’d give it another try and in just a few hours I had my webpages almost back to where it was from the beginning.  It’s officially live so I’ll continue to post my blogs on blogspot and then archive at  So, if you want to find an older post and you remember the month – you can look on blogger.  If you can’t remember when it was published but are looking for the topic – visit where I’ve tagged and archived by area.

Tips for Attending a Family History Day and What I Learned from Attendees

Originally published on on 9 Oct 2016.

October is Family History Month and if you’re a newbie planning on attending a local event to get some genealogical assistance, I’ve got some recommendations to make your experience a happy one:

  1. Bring what you know written down.  Even better – bring how you know what you know!  (Was it your parents who told you or did you find a record?  It’s important to record where you got the information as you build your tree because trust me, before you know it you’ll have a lot of info and won’t remember where you got most of it!)
  2. Have a specific question you’d like answered in mind.  Specific is not, “I want to know everything about my mom’s family.”  Specific is, “I’d like to find out when my great grandmother Elizabeth Smithson died.”
  3. You probably have a lot of questions but rank them in order of your interest; it’s only fair as other people have questions, too, and are patiently waiting!
  4. Prepare yourself for not immediately finding an answer – very little is online so it might take a phone call, email, letter or a visit to discover the answer you seek.  You might not ever find what your looking for, either.  Today an attendee demanded of one of my colleagues that he find an obituary from 1877 in a rural area of Pennsylvania.  Checked the largest town newspapers online but couldn’t find one.  He had checked several databases (Chronicling America,, GenealogyBank, Ancestry) so I recommended calling the local history center and asking what papers were in existence then.  The woman was not happy and demanded that someone find the obituary immediately.  We couldn’t give her what she wanted so she left in a huff.
  5. Remember to thank the researcher – they are volunteering their time and could be doing their own research instead of helping you with yours.

We had a nice turn out today at our county day and I met some incredibly wonderful folks with some very good questions and a few brick walls we were able to start tearing down.  My three most memorable of the day involved:

  1. A woman in her 70’s who’s parents in their 90’s were still alive and all of them decided it was time to write the family history.  They were having trouble starting because they wanted “to do it right.”  HINT:  There is no one way to do genealogy and that’s one of the major pluses for me!  I showed several formats – Case Studies, Proof Arguments, Kinship Determinations, and several lineage forms.  If you’re putting off writing because you don’t know where to begin just begin with whoever your favorite individual is.  You can ascend or descend from there.  I understand that footnotes/endnotes are a pain but citations are critical.  How is anyone going to know where you found that document unless you write it down?!  The lady today didn’t like the look of footnotes; I explained why they are often used over endnotes – people tend to not think the citation is important so they save paper by not copying them.  I recommended that she use page numbers that say 1 of X so if someone does make a copy in the future they’d know they might be missing the endnotes. I think the family just needed reassurance that their work was not going to be up for a Pulitzer Prize.  It’s okay if you aren’t an author; it’s not ok to let all that research go to waste by not communicating in the best way you are able to for the next generation.
  2. A lovely lady who wanted to know why her step-grandmother who she had never met was mean.  What I loved about this woman was her matter of factness; she wasn’t emotional about the situation.  Instead, she just wanted an explanation for why the older lady had been reportedly so miserable.  I thought this was extremely interesting as most people don’t even fully research their blood relatives and here was someone who wanted to know about a step relative.  I was able to find the woman’s death date in California and showed her the wiki so she can get further information about the many places out west the woman had lived.  I also recommended she check out GoogleBooks and Hathi Trust for more information about events that were occurring at the time the grandma was residing in an area – like the dust bowl, for instance. I think that would have made me miserable!  We were unable to find a marriage record or a death date for her grandfather but we did narrow down some cemeteries that she can contact to see if he is buried there. (Not on Find-a-grave, Billion Graves, etc.)
  3. A woman who brought in the earliest photoshopped photo I’ve ever seen!  Seriously, don’t know who or when it was done but some family member took a photo taken circa 1872 of a couple seated holding a baby and cut a photo of another baby out and pasted it over the woman’s lap.  It was done fairly well, too.  Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen!  The family was afraid to remove the glued on kid, understandably, so I recommended taking it to a professional photographic restorer.  For someone who just deleted all of her photos from her phone in error, I’m clearly the wrong person for the job!  But the photoshopping brings up lots of interesting questions – why did someone do this?  What’s underneath?  Who did that?  Who’s the baby?  I have a tentative hypothesis that the family will have to pursue but my theory is this:  Eleven months after the immigrant couple wed in Newark, New Jersey a male unnamed baby was born.  The baby died 2 weeks later; he had been named Henry in the death records.  The couple had another baby the following year.  I suspect they had the first picture taken holding the dead baby as they looked miserable.  Not having the money to sit for another photograph they had a picture of their second child taken and then wishing they had taken a photo when she was younger, cut it out and placed it over the original photo.  The couple had 5 children, one every year, and then the father died.  The mother died 2 years after him.  The youngest two children were raised in an orphanage.  Using GenWeb I was able to find where the orphanage records are housed.  There was a memorial on find-a-grave for the couple but not for the baby.  I recommended calling the cemetery to see if he was buried in plot 1 as the father was buried in plot 2 and the mom in plot 3.  Hmm…who else could have been in plot 1 but the baby with no stone because they couldn’t afford one?  Only way to find the answer is to make a call!

Happy Hunting!


Less Than 6 Degrees of Separation

Originally published on on 2 Oct 2016.

Yesterday I attended the Florida Genealogical Society’s sponsored seminar given by Judy Russell, CG.  Judy is always such a dynamic presenter!

Typically, when I attend a seminar, I somehow find a relation to another attendee and yesterday was no exception.  Judy had mentioned HIPPA  and there was a question from an audience member regarding the number of years that records are held privately.  I added that I had done some client work and discovered that I could obtain medically related records from a state facility and the court records regarding the medical issue were housed in the Florida State Library.  This was for an individual that had died in 1973, just 43 years ago.  The records I had received, though, were from a period over 50 years ago but the individual had continued to reside in the facility more recently than 50 years ago.

Shortly after there was a break and a woman sitting directly behind me introduced herself.  Her father had been the psychologist at the facility from which I had obtained the records during the time the individual I was researching was living there.  The attendee had just visited her father two weeks ago and had taken a trip to that area two weeks ago; she remarked that it looked the same.

It then hit me that I had once had a professor who also had been employed at the facility  I asked her if her father had ever become a professor at a local college in the 1970’s as my instructor had been the psychologist at the same facility in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  It appears that the seminar attendee’s father replaced the professor as her father had joined the facility in 1959 after an interim staff member was let go. So, I had connected with two of three psychologists that could have treated the client’s relative.

I live over 200 miles from the medical facility.  The professor had lived in my county but the individual I was researching, the woman I met yesterday and her father never lived here.  The father of the attendee lives over 300 miles away from me.  Yet our paths all crossed.  Definitely is a small world!

Saving Photos

Originally published on on 5 Oct 2016.

I’ve been on a technology kick lately and here’s why – I did something incredibly dumb and I don’t want you to do it!

We have a nice older digital camera that we rarely use.  I rely on my phone for pictures of events and when I research as I prefer the document to be digitally available instead of having to lug the book to the copy machine, pay, and come home with yet another piece of paper that I have to then scan to save.

Yes, the camera phone has made my life better but I had taken so many pictures in the past two years that it stopped uploading about 45 photos ago.  Now I knew this because I kept getting a warning that I was out of space but it was one of those things I put off correcting.  I decided I wasn’t going to buy more space because I really needed to get into the habit of cleaning out the photos shortly after I’d taken them.

We were going to have an event at my primary job that involved taking lots and lots of photos over a short period of time.  Charged the camera and put in a new SD card but I wanted a backup in case the old camera failed.  I started going through the phone photos and hitting delete one by one.  I guess I got a little over enthusiastic (actually, I got distracted by a phone call on the land line) and must have hit something wrong as I deleted everything at once.  Oops!

I know what I lost and most are thankfully, somewhere else.  I lost a picture of my son petting an armadillo he had rescued out of our hot tub last summer.  The armadillo was making eye contact with him and looked like he was eternally grateful for being saved.  I texted the pic to my daughter who promptly replied son better wash his hands as to not get a disease.  So I have that picture in my texts.

I lost a picture of a peregrine falcon that landed on my fence during the hurricane but that’s okay, too, as he now lives in my hood so if I want, I can retake his photo.

What I’m upset about is birthday photos of my husband for the last two years.  I don’t post to Facebook and I wouldn’t have texted them because everyone who cared was here.  I know I was the only one taking photos so they’re gone for good.  Hubby could care less but I’m kicking myself for being a goof.

Hard way to learn my lesson but I think I won’t be repeating this mistake.

Mexican War Soldiers – A Project You Can Help With

Originally published on on 29 Sep 2016.

Looking for a way to give back to the genealogical community?  An awesome preservation indexing project has begun that may be of interest to you.

The U.S. National Park Service’s Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park partnered last month with the Federation of Genealogical Societies for the purpose of developing a database of  individuals who served in the U.S.-Mexican War. The project will be ongoing – after the estimated 130,000 soldiers are entered to a searchable database, military unit information and related documents will be scanned and added.

You can help – just email Patricia Rand at