Thursday, February 29, 2024

New Info Thanks to Keyword Added to Newspaper Search

I'm preparing a photo book about hubby's paternal grandparents, Mary Slatter (1869-1925) and James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). In the process, I'm redoing my research to try to get more info about the work, interests, and family life of their siblings.

George Black (1850-1934) married hubby's great aunt, Jane Wood (1846-1936) about 1898 in Toledo, Ohio. It was her first marriage, his second, according to Census data. Another detail from the Census: George Black was blind. 

Looking for newspaper mentions, I searched on using his name, date range, and home town of Toledo, Ohio. Too many results for a common name. Adding his wife's name was not much help.

Then I tried something a little different, as shown at left: I used "blind" as a keyword in my search. (Great tip: Lisa Gorrell recommends trying an address--maybe a street name--as a keyword.)

Immediately I got a much smaller number of hits, including several news items that actually told me something fascinating about this man's life.

I learned that George helped organize blind people in his city and county, to advocate for legislative action and other actions to help the blind. In fact, he was elected as a trustee of the new organization in December, 1907. Happy to see that George was so active in his community!

Now I'm going to see if I can think up an appropriate keyword for each of the ancestors I'm researching, if their names are fairly common. Maybe a word like their occupation or another characteristic. This will hopefully narrow my search just enough to make the results more meaningful and manageable. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

Save RootsTech Handouts for Today and Tomorrow

I'll be #NotAtRootsTech this year--will be watching from home, and enjoying not just sessions but the social media posts of geneafriends (those in Salt Lake City and those at home).

Some speakers have already mentioned their handouts are available on the RootsTech site. Thank you to Elizabeth Swanay O'Neal for alerting her followers to go ahead and download syllabus materials in advance!

To find sessions with handouts, I started at the speaker page here.

Then I scrolled down past the keynoters to the alphabetical listing of speakers. One by one, I clicked to look at each speaker's sessions. 

For any session that looked interesting--especially if not being broadcast or recorded--I checked for a syllabus download. Above, Jen Baldwin's session on English Ag Lab ancestors...notice the download button below the presentation description. 

With a click, I downloaded, saved in a special folder, and now I'm ready to learn from Jen's expertise by reading and rereading her handout. 

Wash, rinse, repeat for Melissa Barker, Nick Barratt (more ag lab info!), John Boeren, Melanie McComb, and on and on. So many fabulous speakers, so many informative handouts to collect and consult at any time.

Blogger Lisa Gorrell also notes that if you make a schedule of sessions to watch, you can see and download handouts from the schedule.

RootsTech begins live on Leap Day, but downloadable handouts can begin whenever you're ready.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Book Review: Evidence Explained 4th Edition

Author Elizabeth Shown Mills has done a masterful job in revising Evidence Explained, 4th edition, because she's both streamlined and thoughtfully updated the content of this indispensable reference book.

Streamlined and robust

Since the first edition was published in 2007, this has been the gold standard for understanding and citing genealogical sources. 

Actually, it's the platinum standard because of the clear, robust explanations about the wide variety of resources we use to research and document our ancestry. Mills goes well beyond how to cite specific sources--she delves deep into source quality and what that means for the credibility of evidence and, ultimately, the credibility of our conclusions.

What's new?

Here's a look at the contents page:

Note the convenience of 14 citation templates!

Chapter 3 is new in this edition. Instead of printing dozens of sample templates for us to adapt in citing sources, Mills has simplified the examples into 14 templates that become the building blocks of citations. These templates range from basic book and website citation to citing books, magazines, newspapers, databases, authored manuscripts, and even gravestones viewed personally. Easier for readers to understand, easier for readers to implement. 

Mills knows how much information comes from online sources these days, and she carefully demonstrates how to cite such sources. In Chapter 13, p. 624 shows how to cite a video or webinar. In Chapter 15, p. 683 shows how to cite a blog, p. 689 shows how to cite a podcast, and p. 690 shows how to cite posts on social media such as Instagram. You'll even find a page on Generative AI (artificial intelligence) in Chapter 15.

Convenient QuickStart

Don't skip over the grey pages at the front of the book. First is "The Evidence Analysis Process Map," with sources (original or derivative records or authored narrative) that provide information (from an informant who has first-hand, second-hand or unknown level of knowledge) used as evidence for an analysis leading to the genealogical proof of our conclusion. 

Page 1 is a handy QuickStart guide to diving into Evidence Explained, followed by two pages summarizing the basics of source citations, at a glance.

For more about Elizabeth Shown Mills and Evidence Explained, plus tutorials and other bonus material, see her website.

DISCLOSURE: I received a free review copy of this book from, but the opinions in this review are entirely my own.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Another Twin Birthday!


Which twin, me or Sis, is standing on the bench (wearing an adorable bonnet) with our Mom in this Bronx playground? 

Who knows?! 

In the photo below, we're lounging in our double baby buggy, waiting to be wheeled through the park and into the playground. 

Celebrating another trip around the sun with my Sis.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Bequeath the Story with the Heirloom!


What do you see--maybe an ashtray? Actually, this is an heirloom, and it comes with a story.

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) was a cracker-jack piano player who was proud to be a long-time member of the Hermit Club in Cleveland. Whereas most members had to apply and hope they were accepted, he said (in an oral history interview) he was recruited to join when the former piano player retired.

This was during the the early 1930s, when Ed was dating his future wife (Marian McClure, 1909-1983). Some of the Hermit Club members were also involved in "The Troop," more formally known as the First Cleveland Cavalry, later Troop A, 107th Cavalry, of the Ohio National Guard. 

So Ed joined, too--even though he had never, to that time, ever been on a horse. The Troop assumed its members had no riding experience and geared their training to beginners. Still, Ed and his girlfriend Marian went to a nearby riding academy now and then to get exercise and experience. Ed's Troop commitment lasted about three years, and by that time, Ed and Marian were married and had started a family.

Over the years, Ed remained interested in the Troop, and when it celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 1952, he purchased this commemorative ashtray, which was used only for loose coins. 

From a family history perspective, this is an heirloom with a backstory about a man who was most at home in the city, not on a horse! Without the story, it would be just an ashtray. 

Heirloom is the genealogy prompt for this week's #52Ancestors challenge by Amy Johnson Crow. 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Happy Presidents' Day 2024


In the days when President Lincoln and President Washington were honored with separate Federal holidays on their birthdays, my husband's uncle in Cleveland received these colorful penny postcards from his aunt and uncle in Chicago.

Both of these postcards were sent more than a century ago, part of the Wood family's ongoing plan to stay in touch even when they lived hours away from each other. 

Presidential birthdays were two of many occasions for aunts and uncles to write a line or two to young nieces and nephews!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Happy Valentine's Day 1912

My husband's young uncle in Cleveland, Ohio received this delightful penny postal greeting one hundred twelve years ago today. 

It was sent by Rachel Ellen Wood Lewis Kirby(1864-1954), who lived in Chicago.

Nellie signed it "from Aunt Nellie and Uncle Arthur." Actually, her husband was Samuel Arthur Kirby (1860-1939), a barber. Second marriage for both: Nellie had been widowed, Arthur was divorced.

By 1912, the date of this Valentine, Nellie had one child living, a son who sadly died at age 26 exactly three years after his mother sent this card to her nephew. 

Nellie had a great fondness for all her younger relatives and stayed in touch by letter, post card, and visits. Happily, many of her postcards remain in the Wood family today.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Me: 4 Immigrant Grands - Hubby: 1 Immigrant Grand

All four of my grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe:

  • Hermina Farkas - b. Berehove, Hungary - arrived with siblings at Ellis Island, as a teenager, joining her parents who had arrived earlier
  • Theodore Schwartz - b. Ungvar, Hungary - arrived at Ellis Island alone, as a teenager
  • Henrietta Mahler - b. Riga, Latvia - arrived at Castle Garden with family, as a teenager
  • Isaac Burk - b. Gargzdai, Lithuania - sailed alone to Canada, later crossed to NY state, in his early 20s
Only one of hubby's grandparents was an immigrant:

  • Mary Slatter - b. Whitechapel, London, England - sailed to Canada alone before crossing into the US, in her mid-20s
Currently, I'm preparing a family history photo book about Mary Slatter and her husband, James Edgar Wood, my hubby's paternal grandparents. Their family backgrounds could not have been more different. Where James's Wood family in America descended from Mayflower passengers and seagoing British ancestors, Mary's Slatter family in England barely survived grinding poverty--and her mother died in a notorious insane asylum. My book will reflect the ups and downs of their lives, the happy times as well as the periods of despair.

It's a privilege to chronicle the perseverance and spirit of these immigrant ancestors, who left their home lands to start a new life in a new country. Without them, and those who came before, we wouldn't be here today.

"Immigration" is the genealogy prompt for week 7 of Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Donating the Hermit Club Book

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) was a long-time member of the Hermit Club in Cleveland, Ohio, a cultural center for music. 

As a young man with a flair for playing the piano, Ed aspired to be a member of this well-known and rather exclusive club, which regularly sponsored musical plays and concerts.

In fact, he had his first date with his future wife at an informal musical evening hosted by a Hermit Club member. He discussed that date in an oral history recording made decades ago, and the member's name is shown in this book.

The Hermit Club's history was written by William H. Thomas, and Ed's copy was inscribed with a dedication by the author (see below).

Now our family is going to donate this specially-inscribed book to give it a safe home in a repository that collects artifacts about Cleveland. Not only will the book be part of the archival collection, so will Ed's connection to the Hermit Club and how it led to romance with Marian Jane McClure (1909-1983).

After approaching two repositories that already had copies of this book, I found a new home for it in the library of Ohio History Connection in Columbus, Ohio.

If you have items in your family history collection that relatives don't want, I urge you to make arrangements to keep them safe before you join your ancestors! For more detail on how and why to donate items, please see my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Comparing Bite-Sized Family History Photo Books

Above, two of the bite-sized (6 inch by 6 inch) photo books I made to focus on very specific aspects of family history. I'm quite happy with both of them! Quality is good, color reproduction very nice, lots of customizable options for covers and interior layouts. One is from Shutterfly, which I've used for years, and one is from Mixbook, my first try. 

These bite-sized photo books have been a hit with the younger generation, so I'm sure I'll make more later in the year. One recipient appreciated the pocket-sized book because it was "adorable and informative." Win! 


At left, the Shutterfly photo book about the WWII military ancestors in my Schwartz and Burk family trees. The six inch square size is measured on the outside covers, from spine to tip. Inside, the pages are 5 5/8 inches wide and tall. This is called an "instant book" on Shutterfly, with 20 pages included in the price of $23.98 with standard hard cover (today's price). Promotions are frequent, so wait for a discount! Professional and long-lasting, I crammed a lot of photos and a bit of text into one little book, and my audience was both pleased and fascinated, rereading and asking questions!

I love Shutterfly's nearly infinite options for customizing every aspect of a photo book, including lots of embellishments like frames for photos and fancy wording like "family." The pages are slightly thicker and have a slight sheen, very easy to read at a glance. It takes time to learn Shutterfly's customizing features, but the results are well worth the learning curve, whether you're making a photo book or some other project (family calendar, etc.). 


At right, the Mixbook photo book about the Mayflower ancestors in my husband's Wood family tree. The outside size is 6 1/4 by 6 1/4 measured from spine to tip of cover. Inside, the pages are 6 inches high and nearly 6 inches wide. This is a "blank canvas" square book, with 21 pages included in the price of $26.18 with standard hard cover (today's price). Definitely watch for a discount! I didn't cram too much into this book, because I was only writing about 5 Mayflower ancestors plus some historical context and naming famous descendants of these ancestors, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Very attractive, a quick read and a mini-reference for the younger generation.

Mixbook has somewhat fewer options but also different options, including the ability to quickly and conveniently line up text or photos at top across two-page spreads. It took me less time to learn Mixbook's more intuitive customizing features because of my prior experience with Shutterfly, so the book came together fairly quickly. The pages are slightly thinner and glossier, adding to the polished look. NOTE: Be aware that if you change a Mixbook project within 30 min of ordering, that change will be in your book! 

My preferences

I'm going to go with Mixbook in the future when I make more of these small square books, because its book has a definite size edge over Shutterfly. 

On the other hand, I'm going to stay with Shutterfly for my longer family history books, because I know its customizable features so well.

Which is right for you?

Both are excellent choices for any photo book project, not just a family history project. Both have apps if you prefer to work that way--I use my desktop Mac so I can see every detail without squinting. Really, I like both Mixbook and Shutterfly for photo-heavy family history.

If you've never made a photo book before, I think Mixbook seems a little easier to pick up on your own, with awesome opportunities to customize your project. If you want nearly endless possibilities for colors of page backgrounds, covers, fonts, embellishments, I suggest you consider Shutterfly. Remember that extras cost extra on either site.

Let me encourage you to check out both sites on your own, note the prices of different sizes/types of photo books, and try a book about a favorite ancestor or some other particular element of your family tree--military ancestors, musical ancestors, a black sheep, an extra-special grandma. 

No matter which site you choose, I think you'll be impressed with the quality of the photo book. Just remember to wait for a sale or coupon before you press the "buy" button ;)

Saturday, February 3, 2024

RootsTech Begins on Leap Day

RootsTech kicks off on Leap Day!

Although I won't be at RootsTech in person, I'll be watching presentations from home (maybe in my bunny slippers). So much great online content at no cost!

If you haven't already registered for free, you can do so here.

Then read through the jam-packed listing of events and save sessions to your personal schedule. Above, some of the excellent sessions I'll be attending from home.

I expect to watch some of these sessions live, and the others after RootsTech is over. Maybe I'll watch a few (like DNA sessions) a second time to brush up on specifics. So I'll see you #NotAtRootsTech but on social media, posting about favorite sessions/speakers/handouts. If you're going to be at RootsTech in SLC, I'm looking forward to seeing your photos and posts!

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Newspaper Research Adds Nuance to Family History

As I prepare a new family history photo book about my husband's paternal line, I'm freshening up my research to uncover any new info. 

The last time I wrote a booklet about the family trees of James Edgar Wood (1871-1939) and Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925) was five years ago. Lots of genealogical content has been digitized since then, especially newspapers being added to databases.

Sure enough, I discovered there's a little more to the story of Mary's Slatter family. I already knew that her sister, Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter (1868-1947), married James Sills Baker on Aug. 23, 1896 in Cleveland, Ohio, as shown in marriage record at top. What I didn't know was exactly where and who was present.

When I searched GenealogyBank for news coverage of Adelaide, I discovered two social items that mentioned Adelaide's father (hubby's great-grandfather) John Slatter (1838-1901). The items are quite similar, so I'll quote from the Cleveland Leader, Aug. 25, 1896, p. 4:

On Thursday evening, a score or more of invited guests assembled at the home of Mr. John Slatter, 433 St. Clair Street, to witness the marriage of his youngest daughter, Miss Adelaide M. Slatter, to Mr. John Sills Baker of Toledo. Mr. Thomas Lees officiated in tying the legal knot. Hearty congratulations were extended to Mr. & Mrs. Baker by their many friends. Supper was served, and the remainder of the evening was devoted to music and a social time. Many choice flowers and presents adorned the parlors. The young couple leave for Toledo, their future home, Saturday morning.

Well, the father hosted the wedding ceremony and supper for his daughter! John had been widowed for the second time the previous year, and worked as a paper hanger. My impression was that his financial situation was rather tenuous. Perhaps the married couple actually paid for their own wedding supper but the father offered his home for the ceremony? I'll never know for sure, of course.

But I'll hold onto the image of a father happily watching his daughter get married. And of course this nuance about great-grandpa John Slatter will be in the new photo book.