Genealogy At Heart is Reading . . .

Photo courtesy of Fordham Institute

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week that I think you may find interesting:

When is Day of the Dead? The HIstory Behind Dia de los Muertos by Claudia Preza. Reader’s Digest, 19 October 2021.

6 Misconceptions About the Vikings by Jake Rossen, Mental Floss, 20 October 2021.

When Truman is Your Grandpa: The Complicated Lives of Presidential Descendants by Roxanne Roberts, Washington Post, 26 October 2021.

Archaeologists Unearth ‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ Discovery of Complete Roman Statues in U.K. by Sammy Westfall, Washington Post, 29 October 2021.

Upcoming Genealogy Changes You Don’t Want to Miss

You might not want to miss the following:

Elizabeth Shown Mills lecture on Legacy Family Tree Webinars is offered FREE through October 31st. This is Elizabeth’s LAST LECTURE as she is retiring from lecturing. I will greatly miss her.

Special thanks to reader Tess who responded regarding my earlier blog mentioning problems I encountered with RootsMagic 8. She recommended posting on the RM Users Group on FaceBook so I’d like to pass that tip along if you are having difficulties. Before doing that, I viewed the FREE webinars that are available on YouTube and that solved my issue. More will be coming so here’s the link to register in advance.

The root of my problem was I was trying to reconnect to due to a pop up on RootsMagic 8. I did not need to do that as the webinar stated if you were already logged into on RM 7 you would automatically be connected in RM 8. That would explain why the program froze for me. My tree is very large which doesn’t help. I logged out and waited a day. When I logged back in I followed the directions provided on the video and have had no problems since. I absolutely LOVE version 8 – kudos to the RootsMagic staff for their hard work.

If you are doing French research, two changes are in the works. has been purchased by and has acquired 90% of I’m not sure when databases will roll from the old company to the new one or what you do if you were a member of the old company. I recommend contacting the company for details. MyHeritage did blog about the new content so check that out here. I had a free Geneanet membership and never subscribed to Filae.

RootsMagic 8

Pop Up from New RootsMagic 8

New Settings for Links on RootsMagic 8Kind of apropos that RootsMagic decided to unveil their new software during the magical month of October. There are a lot of changes and I have only begun to learn the new software. Here’s my experiences so far…

A week ago Sunday I tried to purchase the new version via a link in an email I received. The link didn’t work. Since I’ve been a long time user of the program and wasn’t a new subscriber, I could simply purchase an update instead of the new version’s software. The prices change beginning on 10/17 so I wanted to take advantage of the special offer.

Since the email link didn’t work I Googled for the product. I was entering my info but when I clicked to complete the transaction I got an error message that my card didn’t go through. I tried again. It still declined. I then got a bank alert that they had put the card on hold – did I really make that purchase? After informing the bank I had, I thought that the transaction would go through.

By the following day it still hadn’t; after checking my credit card and seeing that the bank did not process the payment I went back to the site and tried again. Got the same decline message. I pulled out a different card and it went through with no problem as minutes later I had an email with my confirmation of the order and another email with the download instructions. Don’t understand why the first card didn’t work as I used it before and since with no problem anywhere else.

I went back to the site and tried to download. So far – so good!

The program looks very different. I thought I would try to link with and download my Main Tree again as I had with the previous version. I knew I was signed out of my RootsMagic 7 link as I had tried that a week earlier and it would not allow me to sign back into Ancestry.

Every time I logged into Ancestry through Version 8 the program would freeze. Sometimes I got a runtime error, sometime I received a message that I was out of space. Other times it just stopped working and I had to shut the program down through Task Manager (control + alt + delete). Unbeknownst to me, Version 8 was moving everything from Version 7. Since my trees have a lot of data and images, this took time. I wish that information had been available because I wasted time over two days to try to get an Ancestry connection.

On the third day I discovered, while poking around the new software, that all of my trees from previous RootsMagic versions had been loaded into 8. I clicked on my largest tree to check to make sure everything had moved. It then asked me again if I wanted to link to which I wanted. I went to bed before the program finished.

The next day, the program was again frozen. Yes, the Disney musical Frozen is Magical but what I was experiencing was not! I again closed it out and reopened it. I could see photos, which was a plus. Before I started clicking into individuals to verify that stories and research had also been saved, I received the popup at the top of this blog.

So, I followed the instructions above and signed into FamilySearch. I’m not sure how that’s going to work because FamilySearch does not allow you to permanently be signed in unless you have a church membership, which I do not. Maybe there has been a deal cut with RootsMagic that I’m not aware of.

The Ancestry direction is interesting as I would have had to spend a lot of time looking around the site to discover where the update for that was located. I don’t know why it wasn’t under Settings where you’d find the other companies. I also don’t understand why I have to keep signing into Ancestry.

There are several online courses to help users and I intend to view them soon.

If you are new to RootsMagic and this is turning you against buying it, that’s not my intention. I loved the past software and the tech support in the past. I expect it will continue but this new makeover is quite dramatic. This program does permit you to identify any changes you make to your tree and add to your RootsMagic tree. It was time consuming if you didn’t do it periodically but it was a nice way to save all of your information on your desktop, external hard drive or another cloud in case there is a problem with

For the old time users, I’m sure we’ll get the hang of the changes soon; I just wanted to let you know where you used to get linking info is not where it now resides. Patience in genealogy is important and with this change, even more so.

October Weirdness

Hurricane Sam courtesy of

I had a Freaky Thursday. I volunteer at my local historical society on Thursdays and when it’s quiet, I read from their library. I had just discovered a thin paperback, almost of pamphlet size, called The Oldtimers that looked interesting. It was written about 1996 (no publication date) when the group was founded and it contained unsourced responses to the following statement, “You know you’re an Oldtimer when you remember…” I had no idea my small city once had an airfield adjacent to what is now a county park. I didn’t know about the house of ill repute, either. It was a quick read and before I was finished a guest arrived. He was an elderly gentleman who after I greeted him, thanked me for volunteering (I wear a badge). He asked me what I was reading and when I told him he was startled. Evidently, his father had started the Oldtimer group and he didn’t know there had been a book written. He left the area nearly a half century ago and only came back recently to finish the estate of his brother who had recently died. I told him we had a copy in the gift shop but he declined as he was trying to make arrangements to donate and not acquire.

If that wasn’t odd enough, I finished the book and retrieved another one, Yesteryear I Lived in Paradise. I had seen excerpts from this book in a cookbook I looked at last month that had been written by the granddaughters of the Paradise author. The story takes place on an island in the Gulf of Mexico that is south of where I live. I had wanted to write a journal article about a family tragedy in 1921 that happened during a hurricane and thought I might be able to find some information in the book. The title page wasn’t helpful and there was no index (of course). No endnotes. Scanned and found no footnotes. I sighed. I randomly picked a page and Wow – my eyes landed right on the paragraph that named the family I was looking for! I could not believe it. I had to immediately share the news with the museum coordinator.

I first heard the story of this family in September 1995. My youngest was selling the typical junk for his school and we were going door-to-door in our neighborhood. It had been a busy hurricane season and although I don’t recall which hurricane was out there, I decided we needed to get the sales out of the way quickly just in case.

We had moved to our then house in the spring so hadn’t yet met all of the neighbors on our street, which was a long winding drive. About 10 homes from our own, we met an elderly woman who asked what school the fund raiser was for. When my child told her, she said, “The school was named for my family.” We both thought that was pretty neat and I asked her if she was interested in visiting and maybe speaking to the students about her own education in the area. She smiled but declined. Then she began to tell me of the family tragedy. The story haunted me for years.

As with most stories you hear, if you don’t hear them or re-read them again the details become fuzzy. I couldn’t remember if the family was a Garrison or a Jones. This was on my to-do list since it’s the 100th “anniversary” of that great storm but I wasn’t scheduled to submit the article until next spring so I hadn’t looked into it yet. To find it by chance in this large book was just strange.

I also discovered in this brief paragraph why the family was on the island. I’m not disclosing at this time but it was timely to things happening today which gave me even more eebie-jeebies. I am glad I found the information, even if it was rather spooky.

Train Tidbits

Two weeks ago, two visitors from New York visited my local genealogical society museum and asked me questions I couldn’t provide answers with certainty. I checked with the Coordinator and she said no one knows. I set out to solve the mysteries.

First question was how much was the train fare from New York to Florida? There was a “fast” train that left New York City’s Grand Central and arrived in Tarpon Springs, Florida in 36 hours with only one transfer. Sounds like it should be a simple look up but apparently, no information about ticket prices remains. When I couldn’t find it online I reached out to a Florida state archivist for help. He directed me to a blog by the New York Public Library. I took their advice and began searching old newspapers. I used the Library of Congress Chronicling America, Ancestry’s connection to, and

I found “special” prices, such as a half price for a round trip from Tampa to Jacksonville during winter holidays. Other reduced fares were given for various organizations, such as Boy Scouts going to camp and church groups going to conventions. There was also marketing gimmicks; the Tampa Merchants Association in November 1913 refunded tickets for a minimum of $1.00 per mile up to 20 miles for out of town shoppers from Plant City, Lakeland and Ft. Myers who had spent at least $20.00 shopping in Tampa. The day to day prices were no where to be found, however.

Train schedules for North America are posted in paperss but with the announcement at the bottom to contact the local ticket agent for prices. Schedules are also found in online books for several years in the late 1800’s through Hathi Trust. Nowhere are the prices listed.

I then turned my search around to read newspaper articles about transportation. I discovered in 1902 that the east coast of Florida rate for travel on the [Henry] Plant Lines was 3 cents per mile while the west coast, on the Atlantic Coast Lines, was 4 cents. The editorial department hoped that a reduced fare for the west coast would occur soon. Freight, as in your baggage or as produce being sent north, rose from 30 cents a box in 1889 to 40 cents a box in 1890. The price never dropped but rose consistently over the years. More editorials bemoaned the high prices farmers had to pay and railed (pun intented) against the 33 1/3% cost increase in one season.

The cost of fare was so near and dear to the west coast community that in 1907, the St. Petersburg Times newspaper refused to endorse R. Hudson Burr, the Florida Railroad Commissioner for Governor, as he had promised six years earlier to reduce fare prices. That hadn’t happened and Burr never won.

Back in my youth, Florida had a high and low season for tourists. That meant prices rose during the high season (fall and winter) and dropped in the low season (spring and summer). Think about it, no one in their right mind would visit the high humidity bug infested state during hurricane season. With air conditioning and insect repellent, people now come all year round. I thought maybe the train fares fluctuated with the season. There did seem to be more “excursions” in the summer months, like the $3.50 from Tampa to Jacksonville in June 1903. It’s about 199 miles and at 4 cents a mile, that would cost $7.96. But Tampa is on the west coast and Jacksonville on the east. The Plant line did go to Tampa and ended at his famous Plant Hotel, now the University of Tampa. If his fare rate was used the cost would have been $5.97 for the trip.

That got me thinking that I needed to check other state fares. The Allentown, Pennsylvania Leader announced the governor had signed a bill for fares of 2 cents per mile in Pennsylvania in April 1907. Fare rates noted in the Buffalo, New York Evening News in 1906 mentioned a bill that reduced rates to 2 cents a mile in the state. I don’t know if the fare rates ended at the state border and then the next state’s rates applied. This was much more complicated than I had initially thought it would be.

It appears that originally the railroad companies set the prices which is logical, as they were trying to recoup their initial investment. It would have taken a lot more work to install lines through swampy Florida than in upstate New York. New York also had alternatives to trains. Their roads were in far better condition than the trails through the west coast of Florida that only could be manuevered by ox cart and when it hadn’t rained, which wasn’t often. Going upriver from New York City to Albany was also not a long and dangerous trip. The other alternative in Florida was taking a ship from a large port, like Tampa, Key West or New Orleans and trying to reach your destination either by foot or steamboat from there. Eventually, though, the state legislatures set prices.

Interestingly, I discovered several newspaper accounts beginning in 1900 that mentioned the special fare offers were “Open to Blacks and Whites.” This led to the next question that the visitors from New York asked – Did people of color ride in the back of the train car (ala Rosa Parks) or did they have a separate car (as in Plessy vs. Ferguson). This answer was quickly available thanks to the laws of the state. Chapter 3743 [No. 63] Sections 1-5 of Florida State Statutes 1887 made it clear “That all railroad companies doing business in this State shall sell to all respectable persons of color first-class tickets, on application, at the same rates that white persons are charged; and shall furnish and set apart for the use of persons of color who purchased such first-class tickets a car or cars in each passenger train as may be necessary to convey passengers equally as good, and provided with the same facilities for comfort, as shall or may be provided for white persons using and traveling as passengers on first-class tickets.” The law goes on to state the conductor or other train staff make sure to enforce the law and could be liable for a fine of between $25-500.00 for failing to abide by it. The staff was also to prevent whites from insulting or annoying people of color. The only exception was female “colored” nurses being able to sit in the white car if they were caring for a sick person or children.

Separate but equal, not! The train station in my town, built in 1907, had a wall that separated whites from everyone else. The white area was larger, had two restrooms, one for each gender, and a larger ticket window. The black section had less space, a smaller ticket window and only one bathroom to be shared. That certainly in not equal, however, the law didn’t state the stations had to be equal, just the train car. I was unable to find a picture of a passenger car for Blacks in Florida but a visitor this week said he had seen an actual car in Savannah, Georgia, and the car was not equal. There was little leg room and he equated it to the difference between flying first class vs. economy. I haven’t reached out yet to the Georgia State Railroad Museum but plan to.

The third question the New York visitors asked was when did the train segregation end? Although the law changed, the practices of seperate but equal did not end immediately. Although my personal experience does not relate to trains, in my youth in the mid-1970’s, the St. Petersburg city hall had two separate water fountains labeled Blacks and Whites. You could use either, however, I noticed that older Blacks continued to use the one they always had. Into the mid-1960’s there was also a very racist mural on the wall of the building that pictured minstrels. The story of how it was removed is interesting and the whereabouts of the painting remain a mystery. You can read about it here.

Analyzing the information discovered does shed light on why fares weren’t recorded. Those wealthy enough to afford to travel didn’t need to worry about the cost. Those without disposable income had to wait for a bargain or find an alternative way. I can’t prove the railroad’s lack of price transparency hurt anyone who was not wealthy but who knows for sure that all ticket agents were ethical. I suspect the fares changed if an agent did not deem someone “respectable” as per the law. Check out eBay – tickets from most lines DID NOT have a price. Dear Readers, if you have an old train receipt with a fare listed I’d appreciate you providing me a photo. Send to Much Appreciated!