Always Ready To Update Myself

This week I was so grateful to present “Genealogy Blogs:How They Can Help Your Research” to the Napa Valley Genealogical Society.  The members of the society were so welcoming and friendly.  It was such a wonderful experience!  If you are ever in the Napa, California area be sure to stop and check out their library!  They have over 8,000 books and maps.

My presentation covered what a blog is, how to find blogs to read, RSS readers, and a look at creating your own blog.  At the end of the presentation, one of the members of the society asked a very innocent question.  “Does your website have follow and share buttons?”  While pointing out the subscribe buttons at the top of my widget bar, I was stunned to realize I had never added share buttons.

It was a great suggestion to have a share button on my website.  Share buttons allow a reader to click and share the blog post on their own Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms.

For me, this is a chance to connect to someone who does not currently read my blog.  I just wrote a blog post about how amazing Facebook Friends can be.  What if a reader shares a blog post on their Facebook feed and that connects me to a distant cousin?! Jackpot!

So today I have officially installed social media share buttons to my website.  A huge “Thank You” to the woman with the question.  I think my website is a little more friendly today thanks to your keen eye.

Wedding Wednesday – Matteo Ciardionei and Adele Siletto

In my last post, I told my story of how social media led me to some important documents for my Italian line.  You can read about it here.  The first document is the marriage record of my great-grandparents, Matteo Ciardonei and Adele Siletto.

Ciardonei Siletto Marriage record

Using a couple of different sources, I was able to piece together a rough translation:

Act of Marriage

Number 14

Ciardonei and Siletto


The year one thousand nine hundred thirteen the 23 of December of three publications made in the church of St. Stefano, presented to the parish priests

Marriage was celebrated according to the rites of the Church between

Ciardonei Matteo, twenty-four, native of Cossano, living in Cossano, son of the deceased Pietro, who was son of the deceased Matteo, and son of the deceased Ciamporcero Antonia, daughter of the deceased Stefano.

And Siletto Adele, twenty, native of Cossano, living in Cossano, daughter of the living Guiseppe, who was the son of the deceased Stefano, and daughter of the living Maglione Anastasia, daughter of the deceased Giacinto.

Present as witnesses: Maglione Giovanni, son of deceased Lorenzo and Arsalice Pietro, son of deceased Pietro

With the consent of the present

Signed by Matteo Ciardonei, Adele Siletto, Pietro Arsalice, Giovanni Maglione and Guiseppe C?rieu (priest)

Facebook Friends

Last month my local genealogy society (Marin County Genealogical Society) held our annual workshop meeting.  One of the topics presented was Using Social Media To Further Your Genealogy Research.  I want to follow-up what our members learned by sharing a success story about how social media has aided my research.

Several years ago, while working on my father’s Italian line, I sent a message to a woman using the messaging service on  This woman (I will refer to her as Minnie for privacy) was the owner of a family tree which included a person who was listed above my family member on the passenger manifest for the trip from Italy.  What caught my eye and made me contact Minnie is both men were from the same very small town in Italy.

Minnie and I have not found a link to prove a relation between us but it is still possible since there are only about 12 surnames in this town.  Since our initial emails, we have helped each other with our research.  I found and sent digital copies of church records to Minnie.  When she visited Italy a couple of years ago, Minnie sent me a book about Cossano Canavese which includes a photo of my great-great-grandfather.  More importantly, Minnie and I became Facebook friends.

As part of her trip to Italy, Minnie became friends with several of the people she met in Cossano.  Minnie friended her Italian friends on Facebook as a way to stay in touch.  Minnie also suggested to me that I friend one of the women (I will refer to her as Lily for privacy) as she had a lot of knowledge of the town and its history.  At the time I friended Lily we exchanged a couple of messages about who we were related to and our interests.  I have enjoyed seeing the photos of Cossano that Lily posts to her Facebook account.

Last month, I was reviewing my research and realized that while I had supporting documents for my Italian line to 1899 (when the microfilm ended) I was missing a few critical items from 1900-1921.  I sent a message to Lily to ask her what was the best way to get the documents.  Who should I contact and what do I need to say? Does it have to be in Italian?  I included in my message that I was looking for the marriage of my great grandparents, baptism of my grandfather, and death records for both great grandparents.

Two days later, I had a message back from Lily.  She had walked down to the church in town and had taken photographs of all the documents!!  She also informed me that the current vice-mayor is one of my relatives who remembers my grandfather.  I have the contact email for her and Facebook information for her son.

If I had not reached out to other family history researchers and created relationships using social media I would not have these special documents right now.  I now have a copy of both of my grandparents signatures and more of the story of how my grandfather came to the U.S. has been filled in.  I also have started new relationships with distant cousins in Italy.

Social media lets you connect and collaborate with other researchers and distant family.  You never know how those connections may lead you to a piece of the missing genealogy puzzle!

Tombstone Tuesday – Moses McSpadden

In June of this year my Dad and I embarked on a cross county adventure.  The purpose of the trip was to deliver a large yellow truck full of items for my Mother to my parent’s house in Virginia.  About halfway across country, I was looking at the route we planned to travel and realized we would be passing through Washington County, Virginia.  As you pass from Tennessee into Virginia on Interstate 81, you enter Washington County.

About ten miles north of the state line sits Abindgon, Virginia.  I have identified several direct line families who settled just outside of town along the Holstein River.  These early settler families contain my 6th great grandparents.  Specifically, the family of Moses McSpadden lived across the river from the family of Hugh Berry.  One of Hugh’s sons would marry one of Moses’ daughters and the rest was history…

me to moses mcspadden

I have previously located the gravestone for Moses McSpadden on  Knowing he was buried in the graveyard of the Green Spring Presbyterian Church, I convinced my Dad to take a detour off the interstate to pay our respects.

I am so thankful for AliceP, James Archer, and Belle who all the way back in 2003 posted information of Moses McSpadden’s stone.  If I did not have the photo to use as a reference to locate Moses’ gravestone, we probably would have missed it.  I also would not have been able to read as much of the engraving as Belle did.

Moses’ gravestone is no longer standing.  It appears a tree used to stand nearby and the stone now lies on the soft ground of the decomposing roots.  The stone is now barely legible.  Here are a couple of photos of the gravestone as it is today.

Moses McSpadden stone is in the middle on the ground.

Moses McSpadden stone is in the middle on the ground.

Moses McsSpadden Gravestone 2015

Moses McsSpadden Gravestone 2015

It was a wonderful afternoon to reach out and touch some history.  My Dad, who was skeptical when we arrived, was just as excited as I was when we left the cemetery.

The next day, after a visit to the Historical Society of Washington County Virginia, I learned there was a reason why Moses was buried in the cemetery where we found him.  Stay tuned for my next blog post to get the story.

Summer Genealogy Happenings

This summer is easily ranked as one of my best summers ever!  Along with some incredible trips and quality family time, I snuck in some genealogy moments.

My first adventure was driving across country with my dad.  We took the Southern route from California to Virginia.  Highlights on this trip included the Grand Canyon, Petrified Natural Forest, adding three new states (I have only 1 more to visit before seeing all 50) and Bristol Motor Speedway.  The best moments occurred in the last 24 hours of our week-long trip.  We pulled off the freeway as we crossed the Tennessee border into Virginia and visited the grave of my 6th great-grandfather, Moses McSpadden.  The next morning I had an incredible visit to the Historical Society of Washington County, Virginia.  I cannot wait to make a trip back to do more research there.

My next adventure began when we arrived at my parents house.  My husband and kids flew in and joined to fun.  After a week of fun, hubby flew home.  The kids and I stayed to play another couple of weeks on the river.  My parents are the best and agreed to watch the kids one day so I could spend a day researching at the National Archives in Washington, DC.  I was a maniac and took almost 300 photos.  Each photo equals a page in a pension or land sale document.

My last great adventure was a trip to Europe.  We did a week of vacation in France with the family before heading to Switzerland for the hubby to work.  The work I have done on my Strickler line has led to Abraham Strickler who came to the United States in the late 1720’s.  Work I have found from other researchers points to my Abraham being related to the Stricklers who lived on the shore of Lake Zürich.  I have not had time to follow-up this research but I looks credible.  Several of our days were spent in Zürich, so one day the kids and I took a ferry ride down the lake to see what Horgen looks like.  Today, the whole lake is surrounded by towns with homes that crawl up the hillsides from lake level.  It was fun to watch and imagine what it must have looked like 300 years ago when it was all farm land.

I will write some follow-up blogs posts with more information about each genealogy adventure I had this summer!

Raymond Mitchell 1921 – 2015

A little over a week ago, my family lost another incredible person.  Uncle Raymond was my grandmother’s eldest brother and the last surviving child of Dudley Moses Mitchell and Opal Blanche Strickler.  He was 94 years old when he passed.

I remember a couple of visits with Uncle Raymond and Aunt Juanita as a child.  The most prominent is when we stayed with them on a trip across county when I was 7 years old.  I got my first milkshake at a true Malt shop and visited my first grain elevator with Raymond and Juanita.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have grown closer with this side of my family in the last five years.  On two different trips to Kansas in the last several years I got to visit with Uncle Raymond and get to know him.  I can’t help but smile when I think of the drive around Topeka where he pointed out houses, told stories, and paid respects to family gravestones. He was so generous with sharing all he could remember.  There was a lot of laughter and love that day.

Rest in Peace.

Raymond and Roberta Mitchell at Raymond's 92nd birthday.

Raymond Mitchell and Roberta Mitchell Fleming at Raymond’s 92nd birthday.

This is the obituary for Uncle Raymond. (reprinted with permission)

In Memory of
1921 – 2015

Raymond A. Mitchell, 94, of Topeka, passed away on Friday, May 29, 2015 at Aldersgate Village in Topeka. He was born February 20, 1921 in Topeka, KS, the son of Dudley M. and Opal B. Strickler Mitchell.

Raymond attended Hutchinson High School. He was an Army Veteran of WWII. He resided in Topeka since 1991. Raymond was employed as a manager for the Farmland Cooperatives for 30 years prior to retiring in 1985. In 1983, he was appointed by Governor John Carlin to the Kansas State Grain Advisory Commission. He was a member of Grace United Methodist Church and the Gideons International.

Raymond married Juanita Burleson on May 3, 1942 in Hutchinson. She preceded him in death on November 15, 2001. He was also preceded in death by two brothers and two sisters.

Survivors include three children, Judith Dene (Melvin) Farris of Paola,KS, Jalayn Rae (John) Love of Berryton, KS, Rev. Victor A. (Ellen) Mitchell of Highland, IL, six grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, June 3, 2015 at Grace United Methodist Church. Burial will follow in Penwell-Gabel Cemetery. Raymond will lie in state and the family will receive friends from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at Penwell-Gabel Mid Town Chapel.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to Gideons International, P.O. Box 140800, Nashville, TN 37214-0800.

Dempsey Family In A City Directory

My paternal grandmother’s maiden name is Dempsey.  She grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I recently began using a technique to mine hints from by dataset (read more here).  I applied this same technique to the city directory database at  One of the hints was for Charles F Dempsey.  He is my grandmother’s father and my great-grandfather.

I was not surprised to find the family living at 1415 Brookline Boulevard.  This is an address I have found time and again for the family.

Dempsey, Charles F (Amelia J) entry, Polk's Pittsburgh City Directory 1937.  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: R.L. Polk & Co., Publishers, 1937. Page 343. Accessed 9 June 2015 at, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database online].

Dempsey, Charles F (Amelia J) entry, Polk’s Pittsburgh City Directory 1937. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: R.L. Polk & Co., Publishers, 1937. Page 343. Accessed 9 June 2015 at, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database online].

 What I love is the entire family is listed in the directory.  James and Mary Dempsey arrived in the United States from Scotland in 1883 or 1884.  They had five children: Catherine, Charles, Edward, James Leo, and John (alpha order). You can easily see each child listed in the city directory.  The entire family, except for James Leo and his wife Clara, lived just a few houses away from each other.  James and Clara were living only 5 blocks away on the same street as Clara’s parents.

1403 Brookline Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA

1403 Brookline Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA

1415 Brookline Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA

1415 Brookline Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA


Mining a Dataset

On Monday, Memorial Day, I got lucky and had a few hours of quiet time as the kids played down the street.  I took the time to watch a webinar Dear Myrtle did with her Cousin Russ a couple of weeks ago titled “Information Overload.”  The webinar was about how Cousin Russ is approaching the huge job of looking at all of his shaky leaf hints on  He found that if he looked at the records for each person it was a slow process.

He took a new approach and started tackling the hints by dataset.  With this method, he researches what each dataset is and then creates a template citation for the dataset.  This way when he looks at the hints he only has to change certain parts of the template not write a new citation each time.  A flow is created and things move faster.

I decided to try the concept out.  I remembered that Randy Seaver had written a blogpost about how to look at record hints by dataset.  I did a quick search and found the blogpost here.  Each ancestry tree has its own number and each dataset has its own number.  Randy has a URL you can put in your web browser that will use both of the numbers and magic happens to create a list of hints for a specific dataset.

I decided to look at all of my FindAGrave shaky leaf hints.  I created a citation template in notepad and went to work.  Some of the hints were gravestone’s I had already identified so they were quickly confirmed.  I was able to update death dates for about 75 people Monday night.  Each gravestone photo was downloaded to my computer, metadata added to the photo, information and citation added to Family Tree Maker, and hint confirmed.  It was great to clean up a bunch of missing information in my database.

I was surprised how well this work process worked.  It was very efficient.  I do not plan on tackling all of my ancestry hints at this time.  I may take a look at a specific database every now and then though.  As always, there is already a long to-do list to work on and paperwork to catch up on.

A Day at the DAR Library

During Spring Break this year my family traveled back East to visit with my family.  One day my family hopped on the Metro into Washington,DC.  We split up as we came into the city.  My husband and kids played tourist for the day enjoying the beautiful cherry blossom festival.  I walked a couple of blocks off of Constitution Avenue to spend the day researching at the Daughters of the American Revolution Library.

I had spent a good deal of time before my visit combing the Genealogical Research System (GRS) database.  Most of my direct ancestors were either too young or too old for service in the Revolutionary War. I was not looking at the GRS for direct ancestors but rather any men who could be brothers, cousins, or uncles of my known ancestors.  My hope was to find information in the supporting documents that would connect my ancestor to the family.

In the Seimes Technology Center, researchers can access the applications and supporting documents for the people found in the GRS.  I tackled my to-do list and began checking each candidate.  A few of the possible contenders were quickly crossed off the list since none of the information matched location or known dates.

I hit my first Jackpot with Lt. John Berry.  As soon as I saw his applications and supporting documents I started hitting the ‘print’ button.  The digitized documents tied right into the information I had found in the DAR Library in a book called A Berry History: an Account of John and Jane Campbell Berry of Washington County, Virginia compiled by John Berry Nolan.  I have evidence that Jane Berry is my 4th great-grandmother.  The book and DAR supporting documents show that she is the granddaughter of Lt. John Berry.  This makes John Berry my 6th great-grandfather.

I then hit a triple Jackpot for my ancestor Mary Frances Coffey.  I have documentation proving her parents are Willis Coffey and Violetta “Lotty” Haynes.  First up is the find on Mary’s maternal line.  My first jackpot hit was to connect Lotty as the daughter of James Haynes who served in the Revolutionary War.

Mary Frances Coffey’s paternal line had two additional surprises.  The first surprise was to tie Willis Coffey into the family of Eli and Mary Coffey by looking at the application for Nathan Coffey. The probate records attached to the application show Willis as the executor of his father’s estate.  It also names his mother as Mary ‘Polly’ Coffey, and the names of some of his siblings in the guardianship paperwork.  It was also exciting to see John Haynes (father in-law of Willis) named in one of the documents.

The third surprise was how Nathan Coffey tied into the family.  When I looked at the application, I was hoping he was an uncle.  Turns out he was Willis’ great uncle and grandfather.  Bible records were attached to the application which showed Eli Coffey married his first cousin, Mary Coffey on 22 March 1801.  Nathan is the uncle of Eli and the father of Mary.  Nathan Coffey (1760-1823) is supposedly the great-great grandson of John Coffey.  John Coffey is alleged to have come to the United States about 1637 from Ireland.  Once again a discovery has added many to-do items to my list to now prove prior research.

My last discovery was to confirm that Johannes Klinger is the father of Maria Clinger.  Maria married into my Lawbaugh line.

The day was super successful.  I know can prove a connection to five Revolutionary War ancestors. A great day ended on an even higher note.  After leaving the DAR Library, I met my family at the Lincoln Memorial where we each enjoyed a lemonade popsicle before commuting home together.

Another Present To Myself

If you read my blog, you know that I am a big believer in buying presents for myself for Christmas and my birthday.  This year for my birthday I gave myself a day of genealogy education.  This past Saturday I attended the San Mateo County Genealogical Society‘s Spring Seminar featuring Warren Bittner, CG.

2015-05-02 14.22.27

It was a great day which started by carpooling with friends from my own genealogy society.  We were so busy talking, we ended up taking the scenic route because I got off at the wrong exit.  Oops!  We got to see some beautiful homes in Woodside and Menlo Park!

We heard four lectures from Warren Bittner about complex evidence, immigrant ancestors, historical context, and illegitimacy.  Warren Bittner is an excellent speaker.  I was impressed how he easily wove together many complex documents into easy concepts.

The most important concept I learned this weekend is to ANALYZE and COMPARE all documents relating to your research question.  Warren Bittner’s case study about complex evidence used over twenty different documents.  It was only when you compared the documents side by side that the many connections began to appear.

We also learned how important it is to research the FAN Club (Friends and Neighbors) of your ancestor.  I was impressed to see Warren Bittner use the FAN principle on the people buried in the same cemetery plot as his ancestor.  It eventually led him to his ancestors in Germany.

Overall it was a great day!  I left with a sense of excitement to go re-evaluate some of my more difficult ancestors.  I will start by getting out copies of all documents to analyze and compare them together to see what type of web of information I can create.