Yes, No, Maybe…

Genealogy research moves at a slow steady pace most of the time. Sometimes research can move in leaps and bounds and then come to a screeching halt. In those cases, I hope you were wearing your seat belt! The whiplash of excitement and frustration can leave you dazed.

Today is the perfect day to tell you what I have learned in the last week.  It was more of a seatbelt kind of week.  It all started with DNA test results.  All three DNA tests I ordered with the New Year’s sale had results posted last Monday, April 10th.  For each account, I quickly logged in to view matches and estimated origins.  I also created a gedcom file for each person to upload to their family tree.

I decided to take a quick look in Family Search and before uploading the gedcom files to ensure I had the most complete tree possible for DNA matches to view.  The first search was for the DNA profile for my husband’s grandfather.  The family tree I have for him is on the limited on the paternal side.   Grandpa John’s grandfather was the entryway ancestor on this line.  John Pope (Poppe) arrived in the United States from Germany in the early 1880’s.  By the late 1880’s he is living in San Francisco and owns a brewery with his partners.

To my surprise, there was a new hint for John Pope (1862-1917) at  It turns into a jackpot moment! The hint contains a passport application from 1909.

The passport application confirms John Pope was born 3 April 1862 in Sandbostel, Germany.  It also gives us new information that he immigrated to the United States about the 10th of April 1881 aboard the SS Salir from Bremen.  The application also states John Pope had been living in San Francisco since 1889.  The biggest jackpot was John Pope listed he had become a naturalized citizen in the Superior Court of San Francisco on 30 March 1904. YES!

After my celebration dance at the dining room table, I took the time to analyze each piece of information.  This is when my YES turned into a NO.  It also ties into why today is a good day to tell this story.  Today, April 18th, is the 111th anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake in San Francisco.  The 1906 earthquake killed approximately 3,000 people and left over 80% of the city in ruins after the fires broke out. Most genealogists who do research in this area divide their research into before and after 1906 due to the fires and the documents which were destroyed.

The naturalization papers filed in 1904 are most definitely gone.

I was still really excited to share this new document with Grandpa John this past weekend when we visited for Easter.  On Saturday, my husband spent some time with his grandfather assisting him with some computer issues. While they were occupied, I took the Pope binder off the shelf to browse. Grandma Shirley was a genealogist and did an incredible amount of research in the pre-internet days.  She left 3-ring binders for each family with all the research she had accomplished.  About 10 years ago I scanned everything in the binders to ensure the information is not lost in case of disaster.

I realized flipping through the binder this weekend, I had not done a complete job of scanning documents.  I had scanned all the certificates, newspaper clippings, photos, etc.  I did not scan the handwritten notes in the pockets of the divider pages.  This was a major mistake.

In the binder divider, I found this sheet:

These undated handwritten notes are in Grandma Shirley’s handwriting.  They clearly state the original filing of the naturalization paperwork.  They also state the papers were re-filed with the courts in San Francisco on 26 March 1908. MAYBE…

The rest of this week I already have planned but next Monday or Tuesday, I will be in San Francisco trying to get copies of the re-filed naturalization paperwork. It has been a fun ride in the last week.  I am glad I had my seatbelt on.  Hopefully we will continue this story by returning back to YES.

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.

Rest In Peace Grandma

This past Wednesday, January 31, 2014, my grandmother, Roberta Fleming passed away peacefully with her family around her.

She was known by many names including Mom, Grandma, Aunt Roberta, Birdie, and the Silver Fox.  A couple of years ago when my children, her great-grandchildren, were born we added another name, Gigi.  It was her short hand for Great Grandmother.  She wanted a fun grandma name.

Roberta Mitchell baby
Roberta Irene Mitchell


My grandmother was born Roberta Irene Mitchell to Dudley Moses Mitchell and Opal Blanche Strickler on January 10, 1931 in Topeka, Kansas.  She was the youngest of five children with one older sister, Loretta, and three older brothers, Raymond, Delbert, and Kenneth.

Her family moved to Hutchinson, Kansas during the Depression. Grandma stayed there until she attended X-Ray Technician school in Topeka, Kansas.  While at school, she met my grandfather, William Henry Lawbaugh.  They married in 1950.  The couple starting raising their family in Pratt, Kansas with their first three children.  They relocated to the Anaheim, California area in the late 1950’s.  There they added to the family a set of twins.  In 1964, Bill Lawbaugh passed away leaving his wife with 5 children.  Roberta went to work to provide for her family.

Roberta and Bill
Roberta and Bill Lawbaugh


In 1973, Roberta married James Fleming.  They joined their families Brady Bunch style, five from her side in addition to the four children Jim had. They lived in several cities in Los Angeles and Orange counties. I have many memories from my childhood of them being together.  In fact, I learned how to swim in their pool when they lived in Downey, California.  After their time in Downey, they moved to the desert, living in the Cochella Valley.

Roberta and Jim
Jim and Roberta Fleming


After Jim Fleming passed away in 1994, Grandma moved back to the beach.  She loved the ocean and was at home in San Clemente, California.  This was during my college years in San Diego.  At least once a month I would make the 45 minute drive north to spend the weekend with her.  We had so much fun together!

All of the facts above do not capture the entire picture.  My grandma was fun and feisty.  She LOVED her children.  It would not be a complete day without a Crown Royal and cigarette, even her dog enjoyed cocktail hour with a piece of ice.  Her house was never quiet, either the news channel was on the TV or she was playing her beloved big band music.  She loved to dance.  Our family has the great memory of dancing the night away at my cousin’s wedding this past summer.  While she was not interested in researching her family herself, she was always willing to tell me stories of her childhood and what she remembered of others in her family. Grandma was a horrendous driver.  We were always offering to chauffeur her places.  She was an avid Bridge player.  The drawer of her coffee table has many sets of playing cards and bridge score sheets.  Grandma was very neat and clean.  You were always careful to make your bed and clean up after yourself at her home.  Most of all Grandma loved being with her family.  Holidays were always big affairs with lots of food and football.  Most Sundays were spent with family on the beach.  The beach was a slice of heaven for my grandma.

Roberta 80th

I could go on and on.  She is going to be so greatly missed.  I have to take comfort in how she taught us all to be a family.  I know that although she is no longer at the head of the family, we have each other.

I love you grandma!


Tombstone Tuesday – William Henry Lawbaugh

Last week my family took a second trip to Southern California this summer.  Since we had visited my paternal grandfather’s grave on the last trip, I made a point to stop at my maternal grandfather’s grave this time around.  Even though I have driven past the area many times, I had never been to the cemetery before.

I am so happy we took the time to stop and pay our respects.  Not only did I get the chance to tell my children stories about their great-grandfather, I also took a picture to post to

Lawbaugh william gravestone


When we arrived at my grandmother’s house and I told her we had visited Bill’s grave, the stories started.  I learned my grandparents met when my grandpa was at X-Ray Technician school in Wichita, Kansas.  One of her friends in the dorm, Dee Dee, was dating a man who worked for my grandfather.  Dee Dee set them up.

The night of their first date my grandmother was very sick but decided to go out anyways.  She walked to the lobby of the dorm to meet my grandfather for the very first time.  When she saw him, her heart jumped into her throat.  The next morning the school called my great-grandmother to the school because my grandmother was so sick.  When my grandma woke up and saw her mother she said, “I met the man I am going to marry!” My great-grandmother thought it was just the illness talking but sure enough a year later my grandparents married.  The rest is history!

Tombstone Tuesday – Visiting Grandpa

Our family recently took a trip to Southern California.  It was a mix of work and pleasure.  The first day, my husband had a business meeting in Corona, California.  While my husband was busy, I took the kids to the next town over to visit my Grandpa.  My paternal grandfather, Jay Capelli, was buried at the Riverside National Cemetery when he passed away in 2009.

The last time I was at the cemetery was the day my grandpa was buried.  When I arrived at the administration building, I was pleasantly surprised to find a computer kiosk outside.  I was able to quickly look up my grandfather’s information.  The computer printed a map of the cemetery with the location information on it.  Finding the headstone was very easy.

Celio "Jay" Capelli, Riverside National Cemetery, Section 58A, Site 2692
Celio “Jay” Capelli, Riverside National Cemetery, Section 58A, Site 2692

I had a lot of fun telling my girls stories about my grandfather.  My older daughter was especially interested in the story of Grandpa coming to the United States on a ship when he was 5.  My daughter is 5 and had so many questions.  The girls were very excited to find out that my grandpa enjoyed camping just like they do.  My younger daughter brought her prized Mickey Mouse doll with her.  She was mostly concerned that my grandpa knew who Mickey Mouse was.  She was thrilled that not only did my grandpa know who Mickey was, he had been to Disneyland (aka Mickey’s house).  We ended out time with the girls doing a crayon rubbing of the headstone.


Working on a crayon rubbing.
Working on a crayon rubbing.


A wonderful visit to my Grandpa's grave.
A wonderful visit to my Grandpa’s grave.

Follow Friday – Lost Marin

As many of you know, I am a member of the Marin County Genealogical Society.  Although I do not have an ancestors who come from my county, part of my husband’s family has lived in the area since the 1950’s.  There are many resources in our county to find old photos including the Marin County Genealogical Society, Anne T. Kent California Room at the Marin County Public Library, The Marin History Museum, and the Novato History Museum.

I recently came across another great place that is crowd sourcing old photos of Marin.  It is the Lost Marin page on Facebook.

Lost Marin Facebook Page Photo
Lost Marin Facebook Page Photo

There are just under 2,000 members in this group.  The page encourages you to post photos from your own collection or ones you find that are in the public domain.  I was surprised how active the page is.  It is also kind of addictive.  I am always curious what is going to get posted next. One thing is for sure- it is an amazing view into the past!

If you have any ancestors from Marin or just want to look at some great photos, you should check out this page and join the group!

Tuesday’s Tip – An Obituary Is Only A Clue

Finding obituaries in newspapers is one of the many tools researchers use on a regular basis.  In my experience, obituaries are a valuable tool as they are usually full of information about a person and their family.

When I find an obituary, I will do my usual document “intake.”  I scan the article to my computer, add source citation to the digital document, transcribe the obituary to a word document, add any information to my genealogy software, again add source citations to each fact, file the digital document in the correct folder, and then add any to-do items to my research log.

I think the last step is the most important (besides citing my sources of course).  An obituary is only as accurate as the person who supplies the information.  I have found several obituaries with incorrect or biased information.  I say biased because the informant wanted to paint a “better” picture than reality.  Some people just don’t know information and some purposely misinform.

I use an obituary as a clue for each piece of information contained in the article.  Every piece of information needs to be checked and verified against other sources.

I recently found an obituary in the Hutchinson Daily New, Hutchinson, Kansas for my maternal grandfather.  He passed away in California.  The obituary probably ran in the local Kansas paper since my grandmother’s family lived in this town.  The obituary had many incorrect facts relating to my grandfather including his age, cause of death, and the names of his two youngest  children.

I am lucky because I have several other sources that confirm the correct information for the mistakes made in the obituary.  It is an important lesson to be aware that sources with secondary information are not always accurate.

I use my research log to not only list my research “finds” but also my “need to find.”  As I analyze a document, I list each source that I need to get my hands on to confirm each fact that I have identified.  Having two small children has done a number on my memory.  The research log allows me to always remember to follow up and deal with any conflicting information.

Happy Hunting!

Tombstone Tuesday – Pope Family Grave

Last month I took the kids on an adventure to Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California.  This is the cemetery where many of my husband’s Pope ancestors are buried.  There are many people buried in the family grave so I will present a couple of them to you at a time.  This week is the head of the family, John and Catherine Pope.


John Pope is the family patriarch.  He immigrated to the United States from Germany in the late 1800’s.  He married Catherine Offerman after arriving in San Francisco.  They had 4 children together.  John was the president of Northstar Brewing Company in San Francisco.  He is my husband’s great-great-grandfather.

 Catherine Offerman was also born in Germany.  She is listed as the beloved wife of John Pope in her obituary. Catherine died a horrible death after the house caught on fire while cleaning the floor with gasoline.  Her obituary lists many women and german groups that she belonged to.  Catherine is my husband’s great-great-grandmother.

A View Of The Ocean

I took a trip with the kids out to the beach to make some sand castles this week.  While the kids were playing in the sand, I took a moment to feel the ocean.  There is something about the ocean that I just can’t get enough of.  The smell of the salt water, the calming sound of the waves lapping up on the shore, the wind on your face, and the feel of the sand between your toes is like heaven to me.  I feel connected when at the beach.  It is a kind of faith knowing that there is something bigger out there.

My father being in the Coast Guard during my childhood probably had a huge influence in how I feel about the water.  I grew up living on both coasts.  When we lived in Huntington Beach, California you could ride you bike to the beach.  We lived on Aquidneck Island in Rhode Island.  This is the “island” in Rhode Island (it is the largest island in the state and where Newport is located).  While living in Rhode Island, we saw water everyday.  We also lived outside of Washington, DC during my middle school years.  The ocean is about 3-4 hours from our Northern Virginia house but we would camp at Assateague Island each summer on the sand dunes. Summers during high school in Northern California always included beach days at Stinson Beach.  And life was a beach while attending University of California San Diego.

While enjoying the beach last week, it occurred to me that most of my ancestors never lived near the ocean.  I come from Middle America farmers.  Most likely, the only ancestors who saw the ocean where those who traveled across it to reach the United States.

It was a WOW moment for me as I thought about the journeys they endured to get to the U.S.  I wonder how they viewed the ocean?  Was it just an obstacle for them to cross or was it an opportunity?  Did they feel the same way about the water that I do?  Did they get to spend much time outdoors when crossing the Atlantic or were they confined inside?  How long was the trip from Europe to the United States?  Time to do some more research!