31 March 2009

Searching OCR? Be flexible

OCR (Optical character recognition) is technology that is used to scan printed words into a computer and then convert it into machine editable text. This technology is what is used to bring many newspapers and books to the internet on sites such as ancestry.com, footnote.com and more.

This technology is allowing family history researchers to access materials quickly, without having to wait for a person to transcribe books and newspapers page by page. However, this technology is prone to errors as it's automated and done by machines. In order to find good results, I've found that I have to be flexible and imaginative.

For example, I'm currently researching my brother-in-law's family tree on newspaperarchive.com. A particular family group consists of the surnames Finlan and Engstrom. I searched for "Engstrom" and found some great obituary results. Once I felt I'd run out of Engstrom results, I moved onto searching for "Finlan." One of my results:
Those present from a distance Harold strom from New York Merle strom of liia Wayne strom of Pasadena Miss Ruth Snowdon of and Mr and Mrs Geo Finlan of Pa
Warren Morning Mirror,Warren, Warren, PA, 26 Aug 1927, p12)

Ah-ha, more Engstrom results! Only, the OCR technology has recored the surname as "strom." Looking at the sentence, it looks like it was written by a near illiterate journalist. In reality, the sentence reads:
Those present from a distance were: Harold Engstrom from New York City, Merle Engstrom of Philadelphia, Wayne Engstrom, of Pasadina Calif., Miss Ruth Snowdon of Philidelphia, and Mr. and Mrs. Geo Finlan of Pittsburgh, Pa.

A big difference! If the Finlan family members hadn't of been listed, I wouldn't have found this article, due to the funny transcription. Another easy error that I've noticed is that "r" is often written as "i." This makes a big difference when searching for my Craft ancestors, who I've found listed as "Ciaft" more than once.

So, when searching for results that are transcribed using OCR, be sure to be flexible. Try cutting surnames in half, exchanging out similar looking letters (ie., o for e) or, when available, using wild-card characters. It'll make a big difference in results.

Tombstone Tuesday - Britt

Ledora Barfield Britt

My Great-Great Grandmother, Ledora Barfield Britt is buried in Hawhammock Baptist Church Cemetery near Swainsboro, Emanuel, Georgia. She was the daughter of William and S. Frances (Boatright) Barfield. She married Nathan Britt and their children were Ollie, Sarah, Helen and Evoid.

30 March 2009

Monday Memories - Easter memories

GA County records from Microfilm

As part of the Georgia Archive's Virtual Vault, County Records from Microfilm are available online.

This collection includes Marriage Books and Tax Digests from a few select counties (45 out of 159). Each record has an index, which is a digital scan of the record's index pages, and the record contents. What this means is that you have a digital copy of the microfilm records that you can view on your home computer. The records are not transcribed, so there is no way to search for a specific name - you can only browse. You can zoom and download the images, and not all of the images are legible. The site doesn't work well with Safari, so Mac users should try Firefox.

The only counties of interest to me are Elbert, Emanuel and Lincoln, none of which have tax info available. From those counties, however, I have half of my Georgia lines. I already know many of the marriage dates that I'm looking for, and am looking for the images to add to my files, as well as confirm my information.

Here are just some of my finds:

29 March 2009

A Weekend Link - Maps

I love maps, so I like this site. Reinhold Berg Antique maps is a site that sells antique maps. Their website has a large collection of maps from around the world. The maps are organized geographically and then chronologically, so it's easy to find a map of the time and place that you're looking for. You can also zoom in on each map, which is great and something you can't always do at other sites. And, if you've got lots of money, you can even buy the maps.

28 March 2009

it'll be ok, just breath

My laptop won't turn on.  I'm freaking out!  Apparently while I was at work today it got some water spilt on it.  It was working - and then it wasn't.  The battery is fully charged, but it just won't turn on.

I bought this one (MacBook) at the end August when my last laptop died.  That one was old and it was making funny noises, so I wasn't too surprised when it passed on.  But this one? Totally unexpected. It wasn't much water apparently and it didn't seem as if it got inside the computer, but maybe it did.  Why else would it just stop working?  I'll take my laptop in tomorrow to the Mac store and see what they say.

Well, it's under warranty, so at least I hope to not loose money.  But, second to money is, of course, data.  Did I loose data?!?  

Not too much I think.  I backed up my genealogy files at the beginning of March onto a flash drive.  The only thing - I think my gedcom file is from January.  Not too bad.  Also, some of the marriage records that I've been pulling from the GA Virtual Vault the last few days aren't saved.  But they're online so I can just find them again.   

Data Backup Day for the win!  Lesson learned: even practically brand new hardware is not safe so don't take chances.  

27 March 2009

found: a tornado

In February I posted a Monday Memory post about a tornado that hit my paternal grandparents house in Elbert County, Georgia. The story was from my Aunt June Partain and didn't include a date. I've been searching for more information about this tornado, but haven't had much luck.

Because of certain elements in the story, I was able to narrow the date down to 1943 - 1947. I was unable to find weather records of this period and without a specific date, it was very difficult to search newspapers.

Yesterday though, things fell together. I saw a tweet from geneabloggers about a website called GenDisasters. I searched their database for tornadoes in Georgia and this article caught my eye. The tornado discussed in the article was within the correct time frame and just a short distance away from the area I was looking at.

Now that I had a possible date, I went to newspaperarchive.com, where I have a subscription, and searched for "tornado" in April of 1944 in South Carolina (their GA newspaper collection is pathetic but luckily my ancestors lived on the border). Very quickly I found an article that correlated to the one from GenDisasters. But, was this the tornado I was looking for?

Yes, it was! The article listed the areas hit, which included Elberton, GA (!) and the people who were hospitalized in the aftermath. Included as 17 year old Augustus Seawright, who I assume is the 17 year-old Seawright boy from the story.

Success! Happy Dance ensues.

Here are the newspapers (click for larger image):

tornado news tornado news 2

26 March 2009

I want to go, but....

I'd love to go the the NGS Family History Conference in Raleigh this May, but: 1) it's 400 miles away, 2) I'd be by myself and 3) it's a good bit of money. So, it looks like a no go.

But, I decided to do go ahead and do something I'd been thinking about: I joined the NGS. It cost $60 for one year and comes with quite a few benefits.
  • Four issues a year/ browse old National Genealogical Society Quarterly
  • Four issues a year/ browse old NGS Magazine
  • Online Newsletter UpFront with NGS
  • The National Intelligencer Database, 1800–1850
  • NGS Bible Records Database
  • NGS Member Ancestry Charts (MACs) Database
  • Research Aids and Forms
  • Discount Prices from other retailers
The first thing I did once my membership went through was to search the Bible Records. Back in 2003 I submitted my Waters/Smith family Bible records, so I wanted to see if I could fine them. Sure enough, there they were! Now I'm off to look for some more information - something that I didn't submit myself.

Where Are You?

I cannot find Ruby Water (b. 1911) and Vary "Mack" Huyler (b. 1903) in the 1930 census and it's very frustrating!

Mack's parents are still at home in Lexington Co., SC and Ruby's are in place in Atlanta. But where are their children? In only a few months, Mack and Ruby will be married in Atlanta. But where are they in April of 1930?

There is a Ruby Waters (b. est 1912) listed as an inmate at in the Georgia State Penitentiary. I wonder....

mack ruby marriage

Lillie Ruth Belk

LILLIE RUTH BELK, 94, of Snellville died Tuesday. Graveside service, 2 p.m. Thursday, Hillandale Memorial Park; Tom M. Wages Snellville Chapel.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on 3/25/2009

My half-brother's grandmother passes away. The funeral is today.

25 March 2009

Footnote.com = Connections

I've been a subscriber to Footnote.com since last summer. At first, I found the site hard to use, as the search is different from most other genealogy websites. But, I adjusted and was glad that I'd signed up. Footnote regularly adds content and it always includes the digital image of the document.

One thing that I really like about Footnote is it's "Person Pages." These pages are created from SSDI and WWII enlistment records and establish a page for each person listed. Users can then add additional information (dates, stories, etc) and photos to the page. You can also connect one person page to another and note the relationship.

These pages can then be linked to other documents uploaded to footnote. For example, I filled in information on my Grandfather, Thomas S. Craft. Then, I searched the (new, not complete) interactive 1930 census. I quickly found him. When I clicked on his name of the census, I'm given the option of adding images, comments, stories or person pages. I'm able to create a link from his name on the census, to a biography of him.

I love this! If others are searching for the same person, they will see the documents that I've added - including the fact that I can link my profile to his listing as a granddaughter. This will help to speed up research, as you won't have to search out for these documents. This connection of documents will also help to make connections between researchers.

Though one thing that I think could be improve for the person pages: the ability to combine them. There are listing for SSDI and for WWII army enlistments. My grandfather has a page in both areas. I'd love to be able to combine them. (page 1, page 2)

Also, it looks like footnote.com has updated their search engine. It's not incredibly different, but it seems more organized and runs just a bit faster.

24 March 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - Waters

My Great-Great Uncle, Milton Waters. He's buried at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta, Fulton, GA.

He was born 28 May 1916 in Georgia and died on 29 Dec 1966 in Merritt Island, Florida. He was a Navy and Marine Vet and served in WWII. He married Lola Mae Echols in 1934 and Katherine McGahee in 1945. He had no children.

War Veteran

22 March 2009

A Weekend Link - About Scrapbooking & Genealogy

There are a lot of genealogists and a lot of scrapbookers out there. Alissia Crowee of The New Homemaker has written a great article about why the two hobbies should be combined together. She points out that both hobbies are about collecting memories. As many genealogists know, we need to collect and protect these memories while we can. Scrapbooking is a great way to collect, preserve, protect and present the results of our research efforts. I really recommend checking out this article.

21 March 2009

Saturday Meme

From Genea-Musings. This week's challenge is:

Provide a list of your paternal grandmother's patrilineal line. Answer these questions:

* What was your father's mother's maiden name?
Britt (Sarah Britt, 1925 Emanuel Co, GA - 23 Feb 2008, Stone Mountain, Gwinnett, GA)

* What was your father's mother's father's name?
Nathan(iel) Britt (1901, Emanuel Co, GA - 1965, Fulton Co, GA)

* What is your father's mother's father's patrilineal line? That is, his father's father's father's ... back to the most distant male ancestor in that line?
I can just go back one more generation to William Britt (1818, Edgefield Co, SC - aft 1901, Emanuel OR Burke Co, GA)

* Can you identify male sibling(s) of your father's mother, and any living male descendants from those male sibling(s)? If so, you have a candidate to do a Y-DNA test on that patrilineal line. If not, you may have to find male siblings, and their descendants, of the next generation back, or even further.
My father's mother had one brother, James Evoid Britt. He had a son, J.E.B. Jr. I know he married, but I'm not sure if he has children.

20 March 2009

William Albea - A Brick Wall Ancestor

William Albea is my Great-Great Grandfather and one of my younger brick walls. The information I have for him is:

  • Born: 15 Apr 1872 in Georgia (death certificate)
  • Died: 3 Aug 1936 in Greenwood, Greenwood, SC; Cardio Vascular Disease (death certificate)
  • Buried: Edgwood Cemetery, Greenwood, ", SC (cemetery walk)
  • Parents: Thomas Albea and Sarah Corley (death certificate)
  • Married: 26 Dec 1895 to Nina Frances Sprouse in Lincoln County, GA (Marriage records of Lincoln County, 1806-1955)
  • Children: Everlena Sara, Johnny M., Melvin Anderson, Charles Vernon, Martha Louise "Mattie," Henry Paul, Coleman (Interview, Roy V. Sr. & Betty Albea; Photo Album)
  • 1900 Census, District 76, Bradley, Greenwood, SC
  • 1910 Census, District 39, Sybert, Lincoln, Georgia
  • 1920 Census, Sheet No. 5A, District 80, Greenwood, Greenwood
  • 1930 Census, Sheet No. 16A, District 13, Greenwood, Greenwood, South Carolina
My main problem is that I cannot find William as a boy. I have a likely record of a Willie of the right age in the right place, but he's listed as a grandson, not a son. I need to look for his parents, but they're playing hard to get. I'd like to send off for his marriage certificate as well. I should also interview my Great-Aunt to see what she knows.

17 March 2009

Georgia Vital Records

One fantastic resource for genealogists are state and county Vital Records offices. I've been a frequent requester of records from the GA and SC Vital Records.

The Georgia Department of Human Resources hosts the Georgia Vital Records office. They have a great website (http://health.state.ga.us/programs/vitalrecords) with information on how to request the records they provide.
  • Birth - $15; state; 1919 to present; certificate provided
  • Death - $15; state or county; 1919 to present; certificate provided
  • Marriage - $10; state, 1952 to 1996; county, pre-1952 & post-1996; license (not application) provided
  • Divorce - $10; state, search & confirmation only, no records provided; county, contact superior court provides record
For each record, the website provides detailed information on what information will be provided, who can request it and what information is required to complete your request. For birth and death marriages, there is an online form that requesters can fill out and print in order to ensure that the correct information has been provided.

Requests can be placed via mail or in person at the Vital Records office in Atlanta. Payment methods include money orders or certified checks for mail requests, or cash for in person requests. Response times for requests vary, with records being received as quickly as two weeks and as slowly as a month and a half.

Today, I mailed off for the marriage license of my GG-Grandparents, Leveret Waters and Louise Smith. I'm eagerly awaiting it's delivery.

Tombstone Tuesday - Witt

Thanks to a volunteer at FindaGrave.com this week, I have a new tombstone to share. It's the grave of my GG-Aunt, Velma Witt Cromer.

Velma & Edward Cromer

Velma was the daughter of William David Witt and Frances Iola Quattlebaum. She was born on 29 Jan 1905, most likely in Greenwood County, SC. She married Edward Cromer and died on 9 Sep 1981 in Clayton County, GA.

16 March 2009

Monday Memories

Around the end of elementary school, I'd collected a few documents and pieces of memorabilia that I thought were important enough to save. I put these things into a shoebox and stored it under my bed. In the years since then, the box has moved around a bit, but it remained intact. At this point, it's something of a time capsule. I opened it today and here are somethings that I found. (click to view a larger image in a new window)

This is a ticket from an NHRA Drag-race that our family went to in 1996. My Dad likes to attend the Friday trials because they were less crowded.

swim1 swim2
After almost drowning during a daycare trip to the pool, our mom enrolled my sister and me in a swim class. I remember attending with another girl from the daycare. We were 8 years old and learning to swim along with babies.

postcard1 postcard2
A postcard from my mom when she went to Puerto Rico. This was the first time she'd left the continental US and flown on a plane.

This is a luggage tag from a 5th grade field trip to Hunstville Space Camp in Alabama. As far as I know, this was the first time I'd left Georgia.

In 5th grade, Sarah and I participated in 4-H. We both did presentations on computers in their competition. We decided we wanted to do it the day before it was scheduled and, needless to say, didn't win. We participated a second time at their Rock Eagle location.

program1 program2 program3
I think this was 5th grade too. I participated in a puppet play for art class. I played and endangered sea turtle. My sister was enlisted at the last moment to play "the net." It was a play about endangered animals and pollution.

Other items in my "time capsule" include: My braces, a Field Day t-shirt, the last published Calvin & Hobbs comic, a Six Flags over GA map, a Valentines Day card from my Dad, and an Atlanta Braves Keychain.

Names and Numbers

I love names - there's so much history and personality involved. I thought I'd look through my data and see what some naming themes are in my family.

1. Main locations of family members:
Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Germany

2. Most popular surname:
Craft (120), White (80), Belk (54), Quattlebaum (52), Farr (48), Powell (48), Smith (48), Albea (47),

3. Most popular male f/m names:
John (94), William (81), James (75), George (49), Charles (31), Robert (28), David (25)

4. Most popular female f/m names:
Mary (79), Ann(a/ie) (59), Elizabeth (43), Sara(h) (40), Frances (35), Martha (31), Nancy (25)

5. Most unique male f/m name:

6. Most unique female f/m name:

15 March 2009

The Animals of the Family

I've been away this past week, pet sitting at my sister's house while she was on vacation. It reminds me of my pets, and those of my family. Here are a few:

Beagle tippy
Beagle (the failed hunting dog) and Tippy

craft: john, greg, red (dog) - 3 jul 1971
Red, my Dad's favorite pet

Mom's family fish tank
(you can see mom through the tank)


And our dogs now:

Betsy & Trixie

We got Betsy when I was in sixth grade. We got her from a friend of mom's, who had found her as a puppy in her flower bed. We got Trixie the following year. She was born to Sarah's friend's dog and we convinced our parents to let us get another puppy.

10 March 2009

(belated) Monday Memory - Albea Birthdays

Transcription to be updated later. This is a memory from my mom about how birthdays were celebrated when she was a child.

06 March 2009


March 1-7 is Celebrate Your Name Week!

Honestly, I've never felt any particular fondness for my first name: Valerie. I don't necessarily dislike it, but I'm not crazy about it either. My family has never abbreviated it to Val or called me by a nickname. The closest I've come to that is the Southern Pronunciation: Val'rie.

I prefer my middle name a bit more: Reneé. Who doesn't love an accent (even if I've never seen it over that particular e in anyone else's name). But it never felt like "my" name and, aside from about a month in late elementary school, I never made an effort to go by it.

I was named for my mother's High School art teacher and a friend's sister. My sister was named for our Grandmother's and I always thought that there was more substance to her name.

According to the Baby Name Wizard, Valerie is "borrowed from the French, Valerie is from the Latin Valerius, an old Roman family name derived from valere (to be strong, healthy)." Reneé is the "feminine form of the French Rene, from the Late Latin Renātus, which is a direct derivative of renātus (reborn, born again)."

Some other facts:

03 March 2009


Did you have any family superstitions?


Yes and No. Like, we had the bread and butter thing. And um, bread & butter is where you're walking with someone and something comes between you you say bread and butter. Like you walk between a pole or something. I asked my mom [Betty Huyler Albea] one time she did that and she said that you've let something come between you symbolically and you could have an argument by the end of the day. but by saying that you've sorta smoothed it over.

The other one that I knew we weren't supposed to do - and it was a superstition - was we weren't supposed to open an umbrella in the house. Grandmama didn't really believe that, but it was a superstition. She also said you don't put a hat on the bed or break a mirror. She didn't really believe that you would have seven years bad luck, but she didn't want to break a mirror.

I never remember your Grandaddy [Roy Albea] saying anything about superstitions. I think Grandmama - his mom - was superstitious, but I don't think he was.

I'm not a died-in-the-wool supersitius person, but I do believe in avoiding certain things. It's like, don't press your luck. Your Grandmama would say, "The best insurance is to have insurance."


02 March 2009

Monday Memories - Uncle Roy & Vietnam

Last monday I helped plan a going away party for my friend, Ashley, who's an Alabama National Guard Sergeant who's being deployed to Afghanistan. It reminded me of some photos of my Uncle Roy's welcome home party when he returned from Vietnam.


I asked mom about these photos and the party.

Uh, Roy served in the Vietnam War. He joined the army with, um, my cousin Bobby and Gary Anderson from up the... Anderson? Yeah - from up the street. And, uh, the three of 'em enlisted together and went through boot camp together, but then they got split up.

Uh, and your Uncle Roy went to Vietnam and was over there. And while he was over there, of course it was hard on Mama and Daddy. I think I told you before about the map that Grandaddy had up in the living room. And when he'd watch the news at night he'd put the little push pins on the map where the bombing would go on. And he'd have a different color push pin for where Roy was supposed to be.

So, um, we were looking through the pictures and I was tellin' Valerie - I was tellin' you - about the - when he came home we had a welcome home party. And we had it out on the carport, out on your Grandmama's house. So we've got some pictures of it. And uh, Mama had cooked - baked cupcakes and she put the little flags on there. And she had a cake and we had punch and just, you know, stuff and just welcomed him home. We had balloons and streamers up and, uh, we'd made a big banner to put across the front of the carport when he came home, so it'd say "welcome home roy" so that he'd see that when he came home.

And uh, all the - all the families in the neighborhood came down and - and uh, my Aunt Ree and Uncle Bill, my Grandmama was there and all of us kids. And we were just really happy that Roy was home safe and sound and uh, home from Vietnam.

And then after he was in Vietnam he went and served a year in Germany. And then from Germany he came back home. So, it was - it was a hard time for the family and we were just glad that he was home. He was just so young and uh, he made it home safe.


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