Saturday, June 30, 2018
I'm on the cusp of a decision. The fact that the deadline is tomorrow evening at five o'clock, Indiana time, for arriving at an answer—at least at the inexpensive, "early bird" price—doesn't help with creative problem solving.
Next August 22 through 25 is the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. And I just happen to now be president of a local genealogical society—a society which, incidentally, belongs to FGS. One would think it would be prudent of me, in my new role, to step up and show my face where such folk gather.
Besides, this year the FGS conference is being held in Fort Wayne. Remember that second largest genealogical library in the United States? Yep, the one in Allen County, Indiana, is, by default, in Fort Wayne. Like, across the street from the convention center. Talk about a magnet to pull in researchers. I certainly enjoy taking my genealogical problems to the Allen County Public Library's Genealogy Center—in person even better than online.
Something, however, is painting this entire opportunity a vague color of gray. Yes, the conference schedule is studded with superlative speakers—I know, because I've already heard so many of them—and great networking chances to connect with like-minded society board members. Could it be that I'm just getting weary of traveling so far to enjoy that scintillating learning environment?
The costs of attending a conference can spiral. It's not so bad when I just hop in the car and drive for a full day's work behind the wheel. But flying is another matter—an exhausting, expensive one. And face it: air fare is just one line item on the expenditure report. There are meals, hotel costs, even rental car expenses to contend with, as well. I might want to network on behalf of my newfound presidential role, but not that much.
On the other hand, I had the best time at the last conference I attended—the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree. I'm ripe for partaking of another event like that. Face it: a genealogical fanatic can thrive in such a milieu. And I'm always up for that. It's just the getting there that drags me down.
By the end of the day on Sunday, July 1—well, to be precise, at three in the afternoon, my time—I'll need to make a decision. If only I could teleport to Fort Wayne next August, I'd have my mind made up yesterday.
Friday, June 29, 2018
The note on the back of the abandoned photograph started out, "Henry + cousin" but then stopped. A second line continued, "John Reed" and then added the additional term, "Daughter." That was all I could find on that picture taken in Guelph, Ontario at a photography studio called Burgess and Son.
By style of photograph and by style of hair and clothing, all indicators pointed to a portrait taken in the 1890s. Especially considering the woman's hair with its frizzy bangs, it was likely a style from the 1890s, noted for short hair framing the face and treated to the heat of steel tongs "heated over an alcohol lamp or a gas jet" to "make the waves more lasting."
But a photo taken in the mid 1890s of a woman with such a hairstyle would not do for a target subject known to be born just a few years before in 1885. The daughter of the only John Reed I could find in the region surrounding Guelph would have been a mere child during that decade. And, just based on the fluffy hairstyles of the next decade with its Gibson Girl ideal, it is doubtful that the picture I found would have been taken in the early 1900s.
So, goodbye to the notion that the subject of the photograph I found in a northern California antique shop would have been Nellie Reed, wife of Kenneth Quarrie of Wellington County, Ontario. She was simply too young to be a likely candidate.
So who else was there in the region surrounding the city of Guelph who could have been a daughter of John "Reed"? This is where we need to get creative with our spelling. One obvious choice would be to search for the alternate—and common—spelling, Reid. However, no candidates from that time period offered themselves for consideration.
There was, however, a man by the name John Read. This resident of Guelph was listed in the 1881 census. Most promising was the fact that he did have a daughter, who at that point was twenty years of age. Since our mystery photograph was taken at the Burgess and Son studio some time between the mid 1880s and the 1890s, this daughter would have been just the right age to qualify as our subject.
That, unfortunately, was where the case begins to unravel itself. While this daughter—her name was given as Kate G. in the 1881 census—did happen to have a brother, his name was not Henry, as was mentioned in the inscription accompanying our photograph. Kate's brother's name was Clement.
Of course, the man in the picture with this daughter of "John Reed" could have been a husband, rather than a brother. But taking a look forward in time to reveal Kate's life story, we discover she remained single until the point of her death in 1935. No Henry awaiting us in any such possibility.
Stepping in the opposite direction, though, shows us another possibility. If we find the household of John Read in 1881 to include only two children—Kate and her brother Clement—what could we find if we took a step backwards in time?
It turns out that John Read and his wife Ann had two older children who had, by 1881, left their parents' household. And one of those older children was indeed another daughter. Her name was Emma, and while she was born in 1856, a youngish-looking thirty-something woman could still be a possibility for our photo subject.
Looking for the other telltale signs of a match, though, also brings disappointment. Emma's other brother was also not a Henry; John and Ann's oldest son was named Walter. And though it was encouraging to see that this daughter had gotten married, we discover it was not to someone named Henry. The man Emma married in 1876 was named Denis Cross.
Whoever Henry was in the photograph I found, I am not sure I will be able to identify—at least, not if I assume that the woman seated by his side was John Reed's daughter and either a sister or a wife. Perhaps the next step will be to take the label literally and assume that Henry was sitting next to his cousin, John Reed's daughter. That, of course, will require building these trees out yet another generation.
Above: The John Read family in Guelph, Ontario, in the 1871 Canadian census; image courtesy Ancestry.com.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Now that we have isolated a possible identity for our mystery woman in the photograph from a northern California antique shop, let's see what can be found about her story.
The hint on the back of the photograph had only identified her as John Reed's daughter. Since the picture was taken at a photography studio in Guelph, Ontario, our first step was to locate any possible resident in the area claiming that name—and then see if he had a daughter.
This we have already done for one John H. Reed who lived about a twenty mile drive from Guelph in a tiny hamlet in the township of Erin called Mimosa. Finding him in the 1891 Canadian census, we learned that he had a daughter named Nellie—and not only that, but a son called Henry, just like the name of the man in the photograph.
The only drawback to this scenario was that Nellie, at the time of the 1891 census, was only six years of age. For her to have been the young woman in the photograph, it would likely mean the picture was taken well into the early 1900s—possible, but not plausible.
Still, by the time I had researched this Nellie, I had become attached to her story, and couldn't dream of moving on to other possibilities without at least telling you something about who she was.
Nellie Reed was actually named Ellen at birth, back on April 6, 1885. On that date, she arrived complete with her very own playmate: a sister named Maggie May. The twins were listed as born to John Holmes Reed, a teacher, and Margaret Jane Grasley.
Nellie's next appearance on the paper trail was at the occurrence of her marriage to Kenneth Christopher Quarrie of Garafraxa. At the time, she was eighteen and he was ten years her senior.
By the time of the 1921 census, she was listed as Ellen, wife of Kenneth Quarrie, a farmer in West Garafraxa Township in Wellington County. She was now mother of four: three sons and one ten year old daughter, the youngest of the family.
The next record I found of Nellie was not for many years after that point in her timeline. After her passing in 1965—nearly twenty years after her husband—a headstone was erected at the Johnson-Eramosa Union Cemetery in Wellington County, Ontario. Duly recorded at Find a Grave, a clearer photograph of the monument's inscription can be found at the Canada GenWeb Cemetery Project.
Though I looked for such a serendipity, no photograph of Nellie, herself, accompanied the entry at Find a Grave. In fact, the search prompted me to scour family trees posted at Ancestry.com in hopes that someone had included a photograph of Ellen Reed Quarrie. But no. Not one sign of what she might have looked like.
Still, the fact that this daughter of John Reed would have been so young at the time our mystery photograph would have been taken makes me doubt that Nellie was the right identity for the woman in the picture. Despite marrying a man ten years her senior—similar to the appearance of the couple in the photograph—we already know the photograph's other subject was supposed to be named Henry, not Kenneth. And yes, I even went back to look at the handwriting, in case the H was really a sloppy K.
Since this John Reed was the only one by that name I could find from that time period in the Guelph area, we probably need to go back and look for any possible suspects whose names would be phonetically the same. After all, spelling was not the forte of many people. The name could have been spelled any number of different ways—by census enumerators, by directory publishers, or even by the person writing that note on the back of the photograph. We'll need to revisit this puzzle to see if there were any men named John whose surname was spelled Reid or Read. Maybe that will be the key to unlock this mystery.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
I was quite excited, if you recall, to discover that the John Reed I had found in the Wellington County, Ontario, directory came with a middle initial H. Why? Because H, in my hopes, would equate to the given name Henry. And the hundred year old photograph I had found in an antique shop in northern California had a note indicating that the man in the photo was named Henry. I fervently hoped this man in that city directory preferred to go by his middle name.
However, when I found my possible John Reed in directories for the area indicated by the photography studio's location—the city of Guelph in Ontario, Canada—it turned out there were other details I needed to discover.
For one thing, in American city directories, it was common, during that era, to list the husband's name followed by the wife's given name in parentheses. An example would be this 1934 city directory for Tampa, Florida, where my great grandfather, a dentist, had his office:
Notice Rupert C. McClellan's wife's name (Sarah A.) in parentheses.
When it comes to reading directories north of the border, however, that rule doesn't stand. Take a look how John H. Reed's entry was printed.
My first assumption, from years of experience, would have been to understand Mr. Reed's wife's name to be Mimosa. An unusual name, to be sure, but not an entirely impossible choice for her doting parents' precious baby daughter.
As it turned out, a good look around at the page in the directory which included John Reed's name revealed that quite a few men of that era seemed to have chosen, as their life's companion, a woman with the same name: Mimosa.
Perhaps, if you found that discovery as unusual as I had, you would then be prompted to flip to the front of the book and see what could be found to orient you to the details of the abbreviated entries to follow. And there, as I had, you would learn not only what claimed its rightful place within those parentheses, but also to what details the "con 1, lot 27" entry referred.
Explanations to Directory:
Directory is arranged as follows;--1. Name of individual or firm. 2. Post
Office address in parenthesis. 3. Concession and lot on which the
party resides. 4. Occupation.
Figures placed after the occupation of farmers, indicate the number of
acres of land owned or leased by the parties.
John H. Reed, a resident listed in the section of the 1884 Wellington County directory for a place called the Township of Erin, actually lived in a tiny place called Mimosa. This hamlet, as it was called at the time, turned out to have an interesting history, one which was intertwined with the Reed family history as well.
Though originally settled by the British and, in particular, the Irish in the 1820s, Mimosa didn't appear as a separate geographic entity until residents of the area lobbied for their own post office in the late 1850s. When the request was granted by the postal authorities in 1860, the first postmaster named to the new Mimosa post office was a man by the name of Henry Reed. This Henry and his wife, Ann Holmes Reed, were the parents of twelve children, youngest of whom was named John Holmes Reed.
That John Holmes Reed—the very same John H. Reed we've spotted in the Erin Township directory from 1884—turned out, as the directory indicated, to have land labeled as concession 1 and lot number 27, located within that tiny hamlet known at the time as Mimosa.
Yes, the H turned out to represent the name Holmes, not Henry as we had hoped. His wife's name, rather than Mimosa, was actually a more pedestrian Margaret.
Above: Clipping from the Wellington County, Ontario, marriage records for John Holmes Reed and Margaret Jane Grassley dated 20 September 1871; image courtesy Ancestry.com.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Sometimes, hints given turn out to be much more enigmatic than hoped. When I found a cabinet card of a couple with an inscription on the reverse, at first I thought it provided enough information to allow me to return the photograph to descendants of the people featured in the portrait. The more I puzzled over the clue—"Henry + cousin John Reed Daughter"—the less I found to like about its helpfulness.
Fortunately, this photo I found in northern California did include an embossed studio name for the photographer: Burgess and Son. Their location was listed as Guelph, a city in Ontario, Canada. As we saw yesterday, the first time that studio used the name Burgess and Son was in 1886—although technically, the city directory identified the establishment as William Burgess and Son. By 1889, the first name had been dropped and the studio started going by the name Burgess and Son. This continued at least through 1900, the last city directory for Guelph I could locate online.
Meanwhile, the popularity of the cabinet card format for photography was waning. That design still continued to be produced in the 1890s, but after the early 1900s, was soon forsaken for other formats.
Equipped with that knowledge, I set out to find an entry for someone named John Reed in the Guelph city directory. I located one man by that name—at this point, I'm trying only for that specific spelling, but will eventually branch out to other possible spelling variants in this search—whose name happened to include a middle initial: John H. Reed.
Hmmm...that middle initial looked quite promising, but I reserved judgment on possibilities until I could locate this John Reed in a census record. After all, it wasn't John Reed who was in that photograph, but John Reed's daughter. The census record would reveal whether this John Reed could still be in the running as candidate for our subject's father.
Since the city directory in which I found this John H. Reed was for the year 1884, I looked for the next census enumeration to locate our possible John Reed's household. Sure enough, there was a John Reed in the 1891 Canadian census. A promising start: just as had the John Reed in the 1884 city directory, this John Reed lived in the township of Erin—now an entity swallowed up within the town of Erin. The best part? He did have a daughter.
The problem begins when I realize the daughter's age. In 1891, she was listed as being six years of age—hardly the age of the woman in our antique photograph.
But could she have been sixteen years of age in our photograph? Perhaps this could have been a picture taken ten years later. She did look young in the photograph. I'm just not sure it was that young.
Another tidbit from the 1891 census: this daughter of John Reed had an older brother. He happened to be five years older than this John Reed's daughter, whose name was Nellie. And you'll love this discovery: her brother's name happened to be Henry.
Could this be the Henry listed in the photograph? Is this Henry seated next to his sister? And here I had been thinking the Henry in the picture was seated next to his wife.
Still, it seems to be somewhat of a push to make these details fit the scenario behind that label on the back of the photograph. I really need to look for alternative candidates.
Monday, June 25, 2018
It's time to tinker with the local city directories to see just how long the photography studio known as Burgess and Son was in business in the city of Guelph, Ontario. Our goal: determine a date range for the picture found in a northern California antique shop with the enigmatic label "Henry + cousin John Reed Daughter."
My thinking is that, once we determine that date range, we can estimate the date of birth of the woman in the photograph and, assuming she is John Reed's daughter, look for that family constellation in the Canadian census for the nearest decade.
Simple, right? Don't be too sure.
Let's look, today, at what can be found about the business establishment known as Burgess and Son. Thanks to a modest inclusion of Wellington County directories in the collection at Ancestry.com, I was able to find a listing for that specific photography enterprise as early as the year 1886. The entry reveals that the studio was located "over 21 Wyndham" in the city of Guelph. It also alerts us to the fact that the senior Burgess was named William.
Before that point, William Burgess was listed in the city directory at that same business location, but only under his own name. At least, that's how I found the listing for 1884 and 1883.
Of course, that could just be how that particular publisher printed out their directories. I couldn't find any different section with a classified directory, so that hampers our quest for isolating the dates the business was in operation specifically under that name, Burgess and Son.
On the other end of the spectrum, I was able to locate their listing in 1889, in 1891, in 1895, in 1896, and even in 1900. After that, despite that particular Ancestry collection stating it went up to 1906, I couldn't locate any directories specific to Guelph. For all I know, Burgess and Son could have been in operation for decades after that.
That open-ended scenario, at least for our purposes, may not hamper our search by much, as the type of photographic design—the cabinet card style—was not continued for long after that point. We may be safe in assuming the couple sat for their likeness any time between the establishment of the business name after 1884 and any time up through the turn of that century. Still, that's a span of over fifteen years.
Next on our research plan will be to find a family of someone in Guelph named John Reed—or, gasp, any one of several spelling permutations—which includes a daughter who would be at least approaching her twenties sometime between 1885 and 1900. Or beyond.
And then? Hope fervently that that daughter became the bride of a man named Henry.
With variables like that, what are my chances?
Above: Entry for Burgess & Son photography studio in the Guelph city directory in 1891; image courtesy Ancestry.com.
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Every now and then, I find it helpful to go back and review all my family trees.
Yes, that's plural—trees—as I've built separate trees for my mother's line, my father's line, my mother-in-law's line, my father-in-law's line, and then, as if that weren't enough, I've added some other trees that are tangentially related to me through others in my family.
Some of these trees I haven't worked on for years. Others, I've been working away on behind the scenes, while on A Family Tapestry I've talked about everything except the research progress I've made.
For those branches which haven't seen the (research) light of day in many months, I find it helpful to go back and check for newly-added resources. With record sets constantly being digitized and added to the resources at Ancestry, FamilySearch, and other go-to genealogy sites, it is well worth the effort to periodically review what else might become available to fill in the blanks for those ancestors already laid down in the database.
I go back and check my archived newspaper subscription sites for more entries on names in my databases. I do Google searches on the names in my trees, especially those family members from the last 150 years. I look for century-old county history books which have been digitized on sites like Internet Archive or HathiTrust to see if any of my ancestors have been mentioned in their pages.
Of course, the hints mechanism on Ancestry.com is constantly adding new material for me to check, as well. Many times, the details are repeats of material I already know about, but other times, new record sets are added with helpful explanations. I like to be able to paint a detailed picture about each ancestor's life. Obituaries, newspaper mentions, awards, school recognitions, and other minor treasures add to the story.
As I move through the constant stream of additional tidbits, each detail becomes something to add to my research to-do list. While it might seem that that list should be shrinking as I work through it, that is not the case—at least in genealogy. While I make progress by diligent and regular times of research, the additional discoveries always lead to more questions—and thus, more directions to be added to that list.
Now that my photo project is coming to a close with the picture of the couple from Guelph, Ontario—I'll get back to wrapping that one up on Monday—it's time to head back to the research stories I've found in the meantime. The research stories and their auxiliary to-do lists, that is.
There is, for instance, the story of the first Anglo-American baby girl born in San Antonio, who throughout her life held the unusual distinction, as a lifelong resident of that city, of being older than the state of Texas.
And then, thanks to a DNA match with a McClellan relative, I've renewed my efforts to push some of my brick wall ancestors' records another generation back in time. That has led to discovering that one branch in that line leads back to a Revolutionary War Patriot. Time for work on a D.A.R. supplemental application.
With items like that, the to-do list keeps growing, not shrinking. Despite all the work I do regularly on growing my family trees—and the review that demands, just in order to keep up with new resources—the more I do, the more is still left to tackle on the next research session.
Saturday, June 23, 2018
Some books, the pages just turn themselves. Other books...
Not that I mean to imply that reading Ryan Holiday's book is a chore. It's just that lately I've missed those opportunities best suited to reading a book. I need a transcontinental flight to get my reading done!
I've enjoyed so many details about reading The Obstacle is the Way—small details like how the book feels when I hold it in my hands. It's a comfortable book to hold and read, or carry to a favorite reading nook for enjoying in solitude.
The book has far more important virtues, though. Prime among them is the title, itself. In an age when it seems everyone is seeking a life free of difficulties, we are actually hampering our growth by hiding from challenges. The subtitle of the Ryan book reminds us of a better way: "the timeless art of turning trials into triumph." I need that.
Because the book is a collection of short chapters, it is just the right size for absorbing one major thought and then setting the book aside and reflecting on it. But not for too long—and that was my problem: I'd take too long to start up on the next chapter. I think that calls for a reread, which wouldn't hurt to do, anyhow.
I've already mentioned that I'm finding the book helpful for encouraging myself to tackle some projects that seem to be particularly challenging to me. They are things I'd like to accomplish, but can't seem to rev up the confidence to actually try. Beyond that chapter I already mentioned, though, is a section on the discipline of the will. Not a particularly choice topic, in my current opinion, but I need this. Hopefully it will whip me into shape so that I can take on more challenging projects. If nothing else, it will provide some thoughts to meditate on, encouraging my own mind to find a way to make these concepts my own.
Some people prefer fiction to nonfiction. Of those in the nonfiction camp, perhaps how-to books claim the biggest number of adherents. But I find those small books that fit in one's hand like a prayer book, and come with thoughts that are small enough to crawl around in one's mind until they find a suitable nesting place, are the best ones to mull over on a quiet afternoon.
Friday, June 22, 2018
It is usually a given that, once having received an old family photograph with an actual name entered on the reverse, one should be grateful for having that detail provided. In our cross hairs at the moment, though, we do have a labeled family photo—at least of someone's family, though we don't quite yet know whose—and despite the label, we can't really say much about what it means.
We've been told, thanks to that nameless, well-intentioned family member who provided the information, that the photo of a couple from, perhaps, the turn of the previous century might have been
Henry + cousin
John Reed Daughter
The trouble with that label is that it can be interpreted a number of ways. It could have meant that the couple featured in the photograph were cousins: Henry and an unnamed female cousin, whose father's name was John Reed—thus, making John Reed Henry's uncle. It might also have meant that Henry was seated next to the daughter of his cousin John Reed, making her Henry's first cousin, once removed. On the other hand, it might have signified that the cousin was related to the person inscribing the photograph, rather than that she was cousin to Henry: Henry and my cousin, who was John Reed's daughter. Or the daughter of my cousin John Reed.
Is this enough to make your head spin? Wait. There's more.
What else was unclear was the relationship between Henry and the woman in the picture. Could they have simply been cousins? Or were they married?
Of course, we'll have to leave ourselves open for researching all these nuances to that enigmatic label.
In the meantime, one thing we know for sure: the only full name we have is of someone who was not even featured in the picture: John Reed, whoever he was. And the only thing we know about that John Reed is that his daughter lived close enough to the city of Guelph to travel to the photography studio of Burgess and Son for her picture to be taken.
With such a wide open possibility as what we've been presented with in this uncertain research scenario, we find ourselves opting once again for a sure thing: the dates the photography studio was in operation in Guelph under the business name, Burgess and Son. That way, at least the date range will give us an idea of possible candidates for a man named John Reed who had a grown daughter by the time the picture was likely taken.
Thankfully, several editions of the city directory for Guelph are available from that time period. We'll see, next week, how well we can narrow the date range so we can proceed to look for John Reed's daughter. At that point, if we can find a Reed family daughter from Guelph, Ontario, who married someone named Henry, we can consider ourselves doubly lucky.
Above: Inscription from the reverse of a cabinet card found in a northern California antique shop; original photograph currently in possession of author until a descendant of the subjects can be located.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
Over the years, in reviewing what people included on the reverse of their family photographs, I've been able to imagine the scenario surrounding the decision about what to write. In some cases, I can envision an elderly woman, desperately trying to pass along the details of her family history memories before she, herself, passes from the scene.
Sometimes, the subject's name might have been written, then crossed out and re-entered as something else. Other times, memory failed entirely and all that resulted on paper would be a description of a relationship, sans any names at all. Those descriptions could get convoluted by the time the task was completed.
For the photograph we are currently examining—that of a couple from Guelph, Ontario, which I found in an antique shop in northern California—I suspect we will be witnessing a re-enactment of such a scenario as described above. There isn't much to go by, as far as hints as to who our subjects might have been. I'm quite sure, in the midst of labeling the photograph, that someone forgot a name.
See for yourself what hints we have been provided. Here, in its entirety, is the reverse of the photograph. We'll see what can be found from all of this, tomorrow.
Henry + Cousin
John Reed Daughter
Above: Reverse of photograph from Burgess & Son studio in Guelph, Ontario. Photograph found in antique store in Jackson, California; currently in possession of author until claimed by a descendant of this family.
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Sometimes, when details are not readily noticed by the unaided eye, there are devices which can enable us to see the very plain in a much better light. As it turns out, simply scanning a photograph and then blowing it up to view in greater detail can bring out valuable hints.
In this last of the mystery photos rescued from abandonment in a northern California antique store, that very technique allowed me to notice something I hadn't seen before: the imprint designating the photographer's identity and the location of the studio for the picture I shared yesterday.
Face it: my eyes aren't the best set on the block, so it might be understandable that I missed something like this. After all, the photograph is likely over one hundred years old, and it isn't in the best condition. The embossed lettering is the same color as the entire background for this cabinet card. And my mind was so taken with the enigmatic inscription on the back of the photo that I really wasn't paying attention to all the detail on the front.
Once scanned, though, there it was: the name of the studio and where it was located. What had looked to me to be an ornate flourish to the right side of the couple's portrait turned out to contain, in the midst of all those swirls, the name "Burgess & Son" and the word "Guelph."
Now, anyone who is Canadian will realize there is only one Guelph in the world, and that is in the province of Ontario, a nice commute-sized drive to the west of Toronto. In fact, if you had been fortunate to attend the Ontario Genealogical Society's conference this year, you would have been treated to a venue at the University of Guelph, the host facility for the 2018 conference.
More to our purposes for this mystery couple, though, is the fact that, at the turn of the last century, the city of Guelph claimed a population of only eleven thousand people. Would it be possible to identify who our mystery subjects were, say, from the 1901 census?
The reverse of the photograph does include some name information. It depends on just how common those names might have been in Guelph at the time that photograph was taken at the studio of Burgess and Son. We'll take a look tomorrow at what hints we've been given to help figure out who those two people were.
Above: Border of a cabinet card found in an antique shop in Jackson, California, bearing the inscription of the photography studio of Burgess & Son in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Photograph currently in possession of the author until a family member can be found to claim the picture.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Well, I took another look at the stack of photos from that expedition, half a year ago, to the antique shops of northern California's Gold Country. It appears there is only one photograph left to share. Once I introduce you to our last subjects, you'll see why I saved this one until the end: there isn't much of a hint to go by in determining just who these people are.
Once the photograph was scanned, however, some details popped out. Scanning photographs can help immensely, especially when dealing with a faint or sloppy hand; the ability to "blow up" a picture to take in minute details can be quite revealing. In this case, the photo had left me starved for any viable hints, and at least I could, with this assistance, glean a location to couple with the first names provided by the label on the reverse of the picture.
So here, once again, we'll start the process. Tomorrow, we'll see how far we can get in this guessing game. I'm afraid we won't make much progress. Still, one clue can build upon another, so here's hoping that chain reaction of discovery will yield us something to go by.
Meet our mystery couple for this week:
Monday, June 18, 2018
If I had to hold my breath in anticipation of a stranger responding to my cold-calling email message, don't think I'm frozen in position, blue-faced, this far into the process. Though I sent a message to the possible granddaughter of our mystery Hazel from Aberdeen, Washington, last Thursday evening, I have yet to hear anything back. Not via Facebook Messenger. And not even through the Ancestry messaging system I used, a week ago, in trying to contact another Ancestry subscriber researching the Dawson line.
Nobody, it seems, is interested in talking back, at least about genealogy.
When I don't seem to make any progress contacting possible relatives for one of the hundred year old photographs I've found, my only option is to set the picture aside and hope someone shows up in the future to claim the family treasure.
In the meantime, I'm down to only a couple more photographs, if even that, in my stash rescued from the antique store in Jackson, California, that place deep in the midst of California Gold Country. I met with my co-conspirator last week, and we are planning another rescue mission.
This time, we'll start at the other end of the corridor formed by the foothills highway that passes through Jackson. Sonora will be our starting location for the next expedition. We don't have a date yet, but it will likely be some time before the end of the month. Hopefully, we'll find another stash as full of labeled hundred year old photographs as we found in our last trip to Jackson. We've already seen how the Gold Country managed to draw people from all over the world. Surely we'll meet new genealogy friends on this second expedition, just like we discovered on our first trip up to the foothills. Places full of history are good for that sort of discovery.
Sunday, June 17, 2018
You would think that with the 13,635 individuals listed in my mother's tree, I would soon be pulling in to the station after this genealogical expedition. Likewise, when you take a look at my mother-in-law's tree (the count is up to 15,441 there). So what if I only have 512 in my father's tree. Or 1,490 in my father-in-law's tree. In the aggregate, to the uninitiated, numbers like those seem like overkill.
I am far from done, in case you are wondering. I have specific goals I'm chasing. Mainly, I want to trace all the descendants of my ancestors down to current times and to about fifth to sixth cousin level. I'm doing this specifically to help sort out all those mystery matches on my DNA tests from AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, and—soon to join the biweekly count—Living DNA.
However, in the past week or so, a few changes have taken place. For one thing, 23andMe announced that, as of June 15, they were removing any records marked as anonymous from the matches provided to their customers. In a matter of days, my matches slipped by thirty four to give me a final count of 984 matches. My husband's drop was even steeper: sixty two lost, resulting in a new tally of 966 matches.
Meanwhile, over at MyHeritage, a recently-discovered security breach, involving access to customers' passwords, caused that company to require password updates and to offer two-step authentication to those choosing the extra layer of security. As for our DNA matches, though, the numbers keep zooming ahead. I now have 4,781 matches at MyHeritage, and my husband has 3,330.
It's business as usual at the other testing sites. At Ancestry, my husband's numbers edged up ten to reach 591, and though Ancestry caps their count at 1,000 (which I've exceeded for weeks now) keeping me from knowing my true amount of matches, I'm sure my count has gone up as well.
Family Tree DNA also is advancing—albeit at a modest rate now, making me look forward to a match spike following their Father's Day sale. I now show 3,128 matches (up thirty one) and my husband has 1,986 (up sixteen).
Considering I added 108 names to my mother-in-law's tree and 293 to my own mom's tree—not to mention managing to find another thirteen to add to my father-in-law's slow-growing tree—you'd think this was a race to the finish. But no—it's barely the start. With all the branches of these family lines, there are still plenty of ancestors from the 1700s awaiting the completion of their lines of descent to connect them with our present day. I may feel good about keeping up a pace of adding two or three hundred for each report, but that is only chipping away at an enormous boulder of a task.
Still, there's no other way to go about it than to keep up a manageable, moderate pace. It's the steady pace in moderation that will enable me to get this job done—eventually.
Saturday, June 16, 2018
Watching in horror the newsreels of the Aberdeen fire, just one week ago, which caused one hundred years of local history to go up in flames reminded me of one thing: at least Aberdeen had an archives of historic material to lose. Some counties don't even have the luxury—or the foresight—to lose such a collection. Count my hometown among those without a county archives.
The first time I turned green over such a dilemma wasn't last week, of course. It was when two of my genealogy friends returned from a road trip up to the foothills to check into some family history in Calaveras County. If you are not familiar with California territory, Calaveras was the place made famous by Mark Twain and his yarn about a "celebrated jumping frog." It's considered part of Gold Country, though it is a tiny county which even now has less than forty six thousand residents.
When my friends arrived in Calaveras County, they had already arranged for an appointment to view some documents at the county archives. Note, incidentally, that a county of forty six thousand residents can actually get their act together to preserve their county's history through an archival collection. I can hardly say that for my own county, though the city I live nearest boasts a population of three hundred thousand—far more than the entire county of Calaveras.
Their visit came complete with exactly the documentation they were seeking. What more could a researcher ask? Besides, as tiny as the county may have been, their archivist was thoroughly professional and was a great support in the process of obtaining the required documents.
Perhaps, you may be thinking, this is an aberration. Not all small counties will necessarily have such a will to preserve their historic local documentation, you may be thinking.
Not so, if we take a look at another neighboring county archives. This time, let's look to Amador County, just north of Calaveras in northern California. Amador County happens to be even smaller than Calaveras County, having a population less than forty thousand. And yet they, too, manage to provide an archives—though admittedly, theirs is staffed by volunteers.
Amador, in case you are not from around here, is the county in the heart of Gold Country, and its county seat is Jackson, the place where I found the photograph of Hazel, the mystery girl from Aberdeen, which got this whole thing started about checking into resources for the local scoop on county history up there.
But both of these counties in Gold Country are admittedly small places. What about midsized counties in our state? Yolo County, to the west of our state's capital, has a population above two hundred fifteen thousand, and they have an archives. Perhaps their facility is made possible by the formation of the Friends of the Yolo County Archives, a nonprofit group founded in 1987 to support the services and the facility.
If the population of Yolo County is around two hundred fifteen thousand, that is about the same count as the population for my own city—back in the 1990s. Now, the population of our entire county is pushing toward seven hundred fifty thousand, a far cry from tiny Amador or Calaveras. And yet, where is our county archives? I'm afraid much of the material that could benefit from archival standards is tucked away in boxes in basements of county offices and other repositories, inaccessible to the public other than through great forbearance.
If the mission of local genealogical societies is to be an advocate—or perhaps even a catalyst—for the preservation of material aiding historical research, how can we as societies be an advocate in support of proper archiving of the stuff of local history? In our case, we may have to start with a fresh inventory of who the players are—those individuals with a keen desire to make these treasures of history accessible to all. It may not be an easy quest, but it sure needs to be a process that is started, not merely talked about. While history may not seem an important budget item for some, it is a foundational pursuit for the benefit of our future.
Friday, June 15, 2018
Well, I did it. I got to the part that always makes me hesitate. And I didn't let it stop me.
The hardest part about wanting to rescue abandoned photos and send them home to family members is the barrier that stands between researching the dead and researching the living. Researching history is easy: just look at all the documents generated in any given lifetime and you can find details about almost anyone. Not rich details in every case, mind you—some people leave more of a paper trail than others—but at least enough of a smattering to follow any given individual's timeline from start to finish (or, in a researcher's case, usually backwards in time, from finish to start).
But researching those who are still among us is a different matter. It doesn't matter that the instigating reason is that we are still tracing someone's long-gone grandmother. When it comes to reaching out and touching a sheer stranger, there's always that element of doubt—at least in our current age of fakes, scams and other feats of fraudulent means. And I can't blame someone else for thinking that about me.
Just think about it: how would you feel if someone contacted you—personally—out of the blue and acted like they knew enough of your life's story to almost border on the side of stalking? I know I'd have questions.
Yes, I know there are media which almost invite people to connect, even with strangers. Facebook is a prime example. You can ask to "friend" almost anyone. That "anyone" has the right to either reciprocate or ignore friend requests. And that is the one tool I've taken to using in my quest to reunite family with abandoned photographs of their aunts, uncles, great-grandmothers and other assorted relatives.
Yet I still feel creepy when I do it. Maybe creepy enough to not want to continue doing this project. Researching the dead is easy; they offer no objections. Researching the living? It's a matter of personal choice and individual privacy. You never know when you are going to cross the line...until you have already crossed it.
Perhaps I'm not thick-skinned enough. I agonize over this too much. The folks who have received their relative's photo, long-lost for nearly a century, have for the most part been incredibly grateful. I have received wonderful thank you notes from many of them (which, since they are from living people with rights to remain anonymous, I seldom mention in such a public forum as this blog). But I still wonder if someone will not take as kindly to this project as I hope.
On the other hand, I have to remind myself of the original reason for beginning this quest: I'd be overjoyed if someone contacted me and told me they had found a photograph of any of my ancestors. I have little to nothing, when it comes to family memorabilia.
So, with these thoughts staging a knock-down-drag-out fight in my mind, I opened up my Facebook account yesterday to send yet another private message. This time, it was sent to the possible granddaughter of a possible Hazel from Aberdeen. The multiplied levels of doubt don't help in this matter. But if I don't take a first step, I'll never know whether I can send Hazel back home to be with family.
If I can't find a way to send Hazel home to the right descendants, who knows? Perhaps, in the wake of Aberdeen's horrific loss of "a hundred years of history" in last weekend's fire, instead of restoring the lost records of Aberdeen's fathers (and mothers), I can donate Hazel's picture to that city's rebuilding of their collective memory with this initiating token of Aberdeen's children.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
It may seem a taboo subject, in genealogy circles, to discuss using material from someone else's family tree. Do I copy other people's trees? Of course not. But I'm not afraid to take a peek.
Normally, when I'm in search of a potential candidate to receive a photograph I've rescued from an antique shop, one of the places I consult is the very one rich with other people's family trees: Ancestry.com. So, now that we're wondering just who that Hazel from Aberdeen, Washington, might have been, I've been trawling through all the family trees of parents who had five year olds in the 1900 census.
For this search, there is one requirement: that five year old needed to be a girl named Hazel. And she had to live close enough to Aberdeen to have her picture taken at the Finch studio in town.
Once I narrowed the search down to just a few possibilities, the next task is to take a long, hard look at just one of the candidates. That's the hypothesis-testing phase.
For that, I chose to focus on a little girl born in 1894 named Hazel Dawson. As we've already seen, her parents were fairly well situated, as her father, William, served as "city street commissioner." Her mother's Canadian heritage may have given her just the right dose of a sense of "proper" decorum.
Once I made that choice, I was off to see what could be found in the family trees posted on Ancestry. Unfortunately, in this instance there weren't that many choices. I found one well-sourced tree, but learned almost instantly that I couldn't pursue that resource; it was a private tree. Though I sent a carefully worded request, I haven't heard back from the researcher. Yet.
The other trees—believe me, there were very few of them—were either unsourced or had other signs indicating the researcher may not have been as careful as I would like to see.
Unless I hear back from the researcher of the private tree, it is likely this route will not provide any answers. With that realization, I needed to head in a different direction. My choice, at that point, was to consult the various newspaper collections I subscribe to.
I went first to GenealogyBank, unsure whether that would be a resource for newspapers from a town as tiny as Aberdeen in the early 1900s. Fortunately, in the manner of newspapers of that era, the larger city papers often carried news from the towns in the vicinity, in columns under subheadings bearing the name of each town. Thus, the Holquiam local news made its way into the Tacoma Daily Ledger, including an entry from Hazel Dawson's hometown on a social event in its January 12, 1908, edition. (If you are a GenealogyBank subscriber, you can view the entry here.)
The Girls' Swastika club of Holquiam, comprising the members of Mrs. McDonnel's Sunday school class, were entertained at her home on Karr avenue Saturday afternoon. After a short business meeting the afternoon was pleasantly spent in playing games, after which refreshments were served.
That small entry was followed by a list naming the ten girls in attendance that day, with Hazel Dawson's name the last entry.
Hazel not only spent her childhood in Holquiam, that city right next to Aberdeen, but she had been married in Holquiam, as well. I had hoped to at least find some articles on her engagement or wedding, but nothing further showed up searching in that newspaper collection.
Switching search terms to locate Hazel by her married name, Giles, led to only one result: an obituary for Hazel and Harold Giles' daughter. The couple had had two children, a son and a daughter, but they had lost their son during the massive casualties inflicted during the Battle of the Bulge.
It was somewhat eerie reading the details in Hazel's daughter's recent obituary, especially with the thought heavy on my mind about last weekend's devastating loss of local history back in the county of Hazel's birth. The obituary was careful to mention the woman's grandfather, William Dawson, as "an early Washington State pioneer who settled in Axford Prairie near the Humptulips River in 1883." (Yes, there really is a river called by that name.)
The obituary also mentioned that this granddaughter had "many interests" including genealogy. It particularly struck me—thinking again of the recent loss of Aberdeen's many historic artifacts and documents—that she worked for a "library for local history" in Boulder, Colorado, where she and her family had settled, and that one of her projects there was "archiving photographs from Boulder's early days." How ironic if that woman turns out to have been the daughter of the child in the photograph I have from Aberdeen's "early days."
If only I could have asked her about it. Given her interest in such subjects, surely she would have known—or at least tried to find the answer for me.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
I had just sent off an email following up on my original inquiry to the local public library in Aberdeen, Washington, when it occurred to me that another avenue in researching just who our mystery Hazel of that hundred year old photograph might have been could be to access online resources for their genealogical society. After all, despite the decreased usage of genealogy forums, in their place we now have groups and pages for societies on Facebook.
Sure enough, there is a Facebook page for the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society in Washington. Encouraged to find that resource, I clicked over to that page to take a look. After all, some well-meaning societies are energetic about setting up social media outlets, but the enthusiasm sometimes falls by the wayside over the long haul.
What I saw when I landed on their page took all thoughts about Hazel out of my mind. In fact, what I saw was enough to take my breath away: in one day, a devastating fire wiped out the facility housing several nonprofit organizational offices, including that of the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society, as well as the Aberdeen Museum of History, which, in addition to other local history artifacts, housed a collection dedicated to Aberdeen native Kurt Cobain and his band, Nirvana.
While news of this event likely didn't make national headlines, thanks to the Internet, those of us not in the area can still see what this event means to those who are concerned with preserving local history. You can see reports here. And here. And here. Sobering.
In that one event, over one hundred years of local history was incinerated, a devastating thought. And here I was, coincidentally just trying to locate any photographs that could match up with the one token of Aberdeen history I hold in my own hands: the hundred year old photograph of a young girl named Hazel.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Remember how the popularity of the name Hazel leaped from the decade of the 1880s to that of the 1890s? Now that we're circling the possibility of a Hazel born in the 1890s, we're talking about a young girl who had at least twenty thousand fellow cherubs born in that decade bearing the same name. Yep. Twenty thousand Hazels in the United States born in the 1890s.
That does not make our task any easier, in seeking to return to her family the abandoned photograph of Hazel from the Finch photography studio in Aberdeen, Washington.
Furthermore, despite finding a potential candidate for our Hazel yesterday, that result came to us, provided we limited our search only to residents of Aberdeen, itself, in the 1900 census. What if Hazel's family didn't live in the city, but traveled into town from a more rural part of the county to have her picture taken?
The trouble with searching for Hazels outside the city limits of Aberdeen is that, at that time, the county name was Chehalis, not Grays Harbor as it is today. Despite that fact, it is not possible to simply do a search on Ancestry for Hazels living in 1900 within the county of Chehalis. For some reason, that fact does not resonate with Ancestry's search engine. So, for instance, while I can call up a manageable number of results if I isolate the terms to Aberdeen specifically, if I broaden the search to include all of Chehalis county, the search mechanism somehow is stymied, giving me everything from a few Chehalis residents peppered in with thousands of others from all parts of Washington state and other states, too.
I eyeballed my way through fifteen pages of search results, and the end result was that it confirmed my hunch that there could be a lot more candidates for our Hazel. Even if we narrowed the margin of dates for her birth to, say, 1892 through 1896.
Beside the Hazel we found with the Owen family from Oregon, there were, for instance, the Hazels living in nearby Elma, Washington. Never mind that, at the turn of the century, Elma was a bustling metropolis of just under nine hundred people—it still managed to have not one, but three Hazels within our targeted age range: Hazel Preston, Hazel Thayer, and Hazel Clark.
But Elma wasn't the only town in the show. Take nearby Porter, Washington, home of five year old Hazel McPherson. Or seven year old Hazel Coghlan in Montesano. Or even three year old Hazel Dailey in Satsop. Besides, in rival Cosmopolis, we had Hazel Cole.
With the exception of Hazel Clark, who was an only child until the arrival of her baby sister in 1899, all the other Hazels had multiple siblings. Somehow, I just don't see a three year old in such a carefully-kept outfit surviving a rough and tumble ride into town with a mother who was distracted with the task of keeping multiple children's appearances pristine for the photographer.
However, there was one other possibility. In Hoquiam, the town which was situated cheek-and-jowl with Aberdeen, there was another Hazel. This Hazel was, by 1900, aged six, and was the only child of her parents, William and Mollie Dawson. Mollie had come from Canada as a child, and her husband, William, was originally from Ohio.
What makes this couple doubly interesting is that William Dawson served as "city street commissioner," according to the 1900 census, an occupation setting him apart from the loggers, mill wrights and railroad workers who were the dads of the other Hazels. Other than for Hazel Coghlan, whose father was editor of a local newspaper, in the more rural settings in Chehalis County, it seems less plausible that any other young girl's perfect attire would have presented as well as our Hazel's, if only by reason of both the distance required to travel to the Aberdeen studio and social status of the families enabling them to dress their child in such a beautiful, well-kept outfit.
Above: Excerpt from the 1900 U.S. Census for Holquiam in Chehalis County, Washington, showing the household of William and Mollie Dawson; courtesy Ancestry.com.
Monday, June 11, 2018
Some tasks require a researcher to step back from that computer database and venture out into the real world to get answers. That, as it's turning out, is apparently going to be the case for our darling little Hazel from Aberdeen, Washington. All we have to go on, at this point, is her first name—and really, I'm not entirely sure the "compliments of Hazel" note on the reverse of that abandoned photograph refers to the subject of the portrait—and the studio where the picture was taken.
I was hoping I'd have access to the city directories for Aberdeen from prior years, but face it: directories for a city the size of tiny Aberdeen in 1900 wouldn't be the type of collection you'd find in most libraries. Except, maybe, Aberdeen.
So I reached out to the Aberdeen public library system and asked what their policy was on lookup requests from out of the area. I'm waiting for a reference librarian to get back to me with an answer on when the Finch photography studio was in business in their community.
But who needs to wait, when we have expert opinions offered right here on this blog by reliable sources? Just this weekend, my mentor "Far Side" from the blog, Forgotten Old Photos, chimed in the detail that Hazel had her picture taken at a studio which was in existence from sometime in the 1890s through about 1910. Far Side estimated that the style of Hazel's clothing seemed to be mid-1890s, and that she looked to be around three years of age, which means she might have been born around 1892.
Meanwhile, I'm puzzling over whether I'll need to search through census records in Aberdeen alone, or extend that search to the surrounding area. Apparently, in the early years, Aberdeen was not the only city in what was then Chehalis County. There were also two other towns which competed with Aberdeen for business: Hoquiam and Cosmopolis.
Hoquiam was not even incorporated until 1890, so it might be possible that a family could have lived in that area and made the short trip to Aberdeen for family pictures in the mid 1890s, for instance. And Cosmopolis, notwithstanding its grand name, was a "city" of barely one thousand people at the turn of the century. Chances may have been good that Hazel's family could have come from anywhere in Chehalis County, not just from Aberdeen, itself.
Still, taking a quick glance at the 1900 census, there was only one family in Aberdeen, itself, with a daughter of the possible age to have been young enough to match the look of the girl in the picture taken in the mid-1890s. That was the middle child in the family of F. M. and Ella Owen. That Hazel was about six years of age by the time of the census, and had been born in Oregon.
Since the family had just moved from Oregon to Washington within the past year, it would make sense that the Owen family would want to send photos of their little ones back to family in Oregon. However, that would mean that the photograph would have had to be taken around 1900, not earlier. But why wouldn't the Owen family have taken one picture with all the children, not just the middle child?
Something tells me I need to delve further into the possibilities here. Hazel Owen of Aberdeen, Washington, may not be my gal.
Sunday, June 10, 2018
June is traditionally the month for dads and grads, but it is also the time when folks turn their minds to vacation plans. School's out and the weather's fine, so the start of summer is a natural time to take a trip.
For people like you and me, when our minds turn to vacation travel, we are likely to find a way to wangle a side trip to a cemetery or an archival collection—or at least a detour to drive by the home where our second great grandparents once lived. Call that nosy family history, but we just want to see the sights that were once important to our ancestors.
Traveling for genealogical purposes is getting to be a thing. I've taught a class at nearby libraries on taking that genealogical research on the road—I used to teach it right about now through mid-June, but then I had to move it back a month because I wanted to go traveling, too.
More than just how-to-pack-for-a-research-trip, though, genealogical travel is reaching far beyond that. I ran across an article recently, talking about "heritage tourism." While that was mainly a blurb promoting one particular cruise line, it did provide a handy label for the trend. While we've seen genealogy as a hobby climb in popularity over the past decade, we've also seen a widespread fascination with travel. Couple those two interests into one package and you've got a stellar seller.
I've already taken the opportunity to do some of my own "heritage tourism." I'm not talking about trips to the Fort Wayne or Salt Lake City genealogical libraries here, but actual travel packages coordinated by a genealogist for research in a specific destination. That's one part of our family's trip to Ireland a few years ago, when I participated in Donna Moughty's Dublin research tour.
There are so many different researching travel opportunities now—so many, in fact, that Cyndi's List includes a separate category, "Travel & Research." Admittedly, some of the links are old, but there are still enough to fill four pages in her website.
Those aren't the only resources for travel-and-genealogy combos. Many genealogical societies include tours among their offerings. The California Genealogical Society, for instance, just returned from a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City this past May. The New England Historic Genealogical Society offers guided research tours to locations not only in the United States, but also in Canada and the British Isles—plus hosting tours at their own facilities in Boston.
For those researching their foreign origins, a first trip to the homeland might be more profitable under the direction of someone who has already been there, knows the best locations for research and has prepared the way with arrangements for housing and meals so the researcher can focus on the primary reason for the trip: find those ancestors. That's how I felt about Donna Moughty's program in Dublin. If I could find a similarly well-recommended program so I could get started with hands-on research in my family's home region in Poland, that would be a great way to approach the challenge.
There are a lot of how-to posts to read on what to do when taking your genealogical research on the road. For the most part, those tips—know the hours of operation for the archive, pack coins for photocopy machines, and other such mundane details—are useful for domestic forays. When you combine all the angst of having to pack a laundry list of research goals into a time-limited visit with the overarching challenges of doing it all in a foreign country (and maybe a foreign language, too), it sometimes is better to heed that old travel slogan and "leave the driving to us."
Saturday, June 9, 2018
Quick batches: bet ya can't just do one!
For my monthly indexing project, this time I grabbed the record set called "Iowa Birth Records 1921 - 1942." The way the online indexing projects now work at FamilySearch.org, I can't seem to find what I'm looking for quickly. The lists are arranged differently, for some reason. So rather than scroll through endless lists to try and find one focusing on a geographic area of my own research interest, I just grabbed one. I told myself helping out with the Iowa birth records would at least tangentially relate to my own family circles: my mother was born in Iowa. Who knows? I might even index her own record.
What I failed to notice was the additional tag for this record set: "Quick batch." I had no idea how quick a quick batch could be! I picked my set, opened it up, read the instructions and set to work. I indexed just one birth certificate when the next instruction said I had finished the "set" and would I like to submit the "batch" now.
Talk about quick! I like to repeat the same record set in one session because that way I only have to go through the tedious process of reading all the instructions once. This time, I could rinse and repeat to my heart's content: each "batch" of work was only one birth certificate. I could do something as easy as that all day long.
When the web indexing system was revised several months ago, I had noticed that it is possible to set up groups to work on indexing projects. I'm not sure exactly how that works, but I'm game to experiment on it.
I would love to see our local genealogical society adopt a project to index at FamilySearch. There are all sorts of records scanned and available in browse-only mode; I'd love to see those things changed to searchable status. If there is anything we can do to get our pet projects online in that accessible status, that would be great. I'll have to test the system out and see if we can put together a group of volunteers who can rally behind our cause. That "many hands" approach has done wonders for volunteer projects in the past; this certainly is a worthy cause for giving back to the genealogical community.