The Perpetual Calendar

Perpetual Calendar - Danish Calendar example for March 5, 1716 is Thursday.In 1995, Toke Nørby of Denmark uploaded The Perpetual Calendar to the r.c.p-h newsgroup and changed the lives of genealogists everywhere. While it was created for his own stamp collecting hobby, it is useful not only to genealogists or anyone tracking time across international calendars. Today, it sits on its own web page, The Perpetual Calendar, with historical information and instructions on how to use it.

People studying material related to postal history often like to know on what weekday a dated or date postmarked letter (or any other item related to postal history) was cancelled. The need for this could be to find out what way a letter had been sent according to time and/or route tables for ships, trains or other mail carriers in regular service. In such cases this Perpetual Calendar, which covers the Julian and the Gregorian Calendar, can be a valuable tool as most of the postal history material we are concerned about originated from countries with Julian and/or Gregorian Calendars.

You know, of course, that in old days there were (and in some countries still are) other calendars (non-Julian and non-Gregorian) in use and my advice is: Do not collect postal history material from such countries! (I am just joking 😉

As far as I know you can find Perpetual Calendars published in different philatelic magazines. In 1985 I found that I did not quite understand on what calculations The Perpetual Calendar was based and I had some trouble finding out the right weekday for letters from Russia – but more about that later.

Another problem for me was that most of the Perpetual Calendars did not go as far back in time as I wanted, e.g. I had a Perpetual Calendar covering the years 1900-2200 and this was not satisfactory for me as most of my Danish inland ship letters are from the period 1836-1855. To solve this I sat down and worked out my own Perpetual Calendar.

Our modern calendar is based upon the Gregorian calendar created by Equinox Pope Gregorius XIII and astronomer Christoper Clavius in 1592. This calendar also established the 4 year leap year cycle that leaves those born on February 29 with fewer candles on their birthday cakes. Before the Gregorian calendar, Europe used the Julian Calendar named for Julius Caesar, not that he had much to do with it. It is believed to be developed by Dionysus Exiguus in 527 AD to count the years from the “birth of Jesus Christ” on December 25 753 AUC (Ab Urbe Condita or the founding of Rome), which also aligned with the vernal equinox.

Before the Julian Calendar, a calendars and time keeping was kept locally or regionally, as Toke explains in depth in his calendar studies and articles, including calendars from Israel, Germany, Hawaii, Lithuania, and more. And it hasn’t been a consistent calendar even since adoption of the Gregorian calendar.

As genealogists process documents across history to write the stories of our ancestors, we often forget that where they are dictates differences in how time was not just recorded but measured. An example in Toby’s article comes from trying to determine the date on Russian letters and postcards. He explains there was a difference of 11 days in the 18th century, and Russian Julian dates in the 1900s are 12 days before the Gregorian dates. Continue reading


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GenSmarts: Reminder to Not Assume

GenSmarts: Reminder to Not Assume

In a recent article on using Gensmarts to research a research facility more effectively, I began to look at GenSmarts Genealogy Software differently.

Part of my goal in researching my genealogy, and that of others, is to tell the story of these people. They aren’t just a bunch of names, dates, and places. They are people. People who lived vibrant lives. They didn’t just make children, and some of them didn’t. They contributed to society, be it as ditch diggers, cattle ranchers, farmers, truck drivers, politicians, religious leaders, or home makers. We wouldn’t be where we are without them, good and bad.

One of the features of GenSmarts is to guess where and what an ancestor might have done. These are labeled GSEST or GenSmarts Estimates.

This opened my mind to new possibilities.

While researching Walter E. West and Lula Bell Pinder attempting to find the conception and true birthplace of my grandfather, Howard W. West Sr., GenSmarts recommended some locations for events such as their marriage, Howard’s birthplace, and immigration records for Canada. Continue reading


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Gensmarts Saves Your Family History Research Life

GenSmarts - logo.Recently in Salt Lake City for RootsTech, I had only two days to explore and research my genealogy at the Family History Library.

Imagine a major city library and you have the Family History Library – physically. What you may not realize is that connected through their vast index files, microfilm, microfilche, and computer databases are records stored in a giant “cave” inside of a mountain as well as other buildings and parts of the Family History Library building not often accessed by the public. Okay, it is, in a word, VAST.

I didn’t have time to play, to wander around and figure it out as I went. I needed to jump in and use every minute, no breaks for food, to find every millimeter of information I could, and possibly break through some serious brick walls.

To prepare myself, I hooked into GenSmarts Genealogy Software through the integration with RootsMagic. I’ve been using GenSmarts for years but as of 2013, it is better than ever, and worth every penny of it’s $25 USD. I saved hours with this program, saved days, weeks, months with this program.

While the interface is a little 1999, it works brilliantly in Windows 10. Sorry, Mac users, though try with an emulator on the trial version.

The goal of GenSmarts is to make you reseach smarter and more efficient. The software program indexes your genealogy program file (RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker, Legacy, Brother’s Keeper, and many others) and generates a list of suggestions for your research. Continue reading


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Digging Through Historical Newspapers Online

As my research into the mysteries in and around the conception and birth of Howard W. West Sr., and confirmation of his parents, Walter Ellsworth West and Lula Bell Pinder, I’ve recently discovered that all of the major players, save Lula, came together in Perry, Michigan.

Pinder, West, Metcalf Family Google Map of Perry and Adrian Michigan.

I’ve exhausted the vital statistics for most of the parties involved in Perry, Michigan. Now it is time to find how they came together and connected within their community. It’s time to hit the newspapers.

Finding which newspapers were active during the 1880-1910 years in Perry, Michigan, was a little more challenging than a search engine search. I could only find current papers, and not all clearly stated where their archives were and how far back they went.

First stop was Data Visualization: Journalism’s Voyage West of the Standford Rural West Initiative, an Adobe Flash-powered map that traces the history and expansion of newspapers across the United States from 1690-2011. While not the most comprehensive listing, it gives the researcher some starting points. It also allows filtering of the publications by language and publishing frequency, allowing the user to restrict the results to a specific language or type of news media such as weeklies or dailies.

Stanford Rural West Initiative Growth of Newspapers Interactive Map - Adrian Michigan.

The circles on the map cover the estimated subscription and local news coverage area. The map lacks city names or geographic identifiers unless the user hovers over one of the bubbles, so you must know the general area you are researching.

I started with 1890 in Adrian, Michigan, where Perry Saville West and his wife and children lived before moving to Perry, Michigan. I thought there might be a mention of their move or why they moved from their long-time family farms and Quaker community north near Lansing.

A click on Adrian, Michigan, for 1890 turns up four newspapers: The Adrian Daily Times, Michigan Messanger, The Weekly Press, Blissfield Advance, The Petersburgh Sun, The Tecumseh News, The Tecumseh Herald, Dundee Reporter, Monroe Commercial, The Monroe Democrate, The Monroe Record, and Adrian Weekly Times and Expositor. Each of these ranged through the time period when I had family there.

A shift to 1900 and move to Lansing, Michigan, and around the east side of Lansing to include Perry and Fowlerville communities, I found The Lansing Journal, The State Republican, The Beacon, The Lansing, The Perry Journal, The Livingston Democrate, The Livingston Hearld, and Livingston Republic, not to mention all the newspapers in and around Detroit, not that far away, and part of the story of Walter and Lula.

Instead of finding nothing, I now have over a dozen newspapers to research through.

Click on the newspaper details at the bottom of the map and the link forces open a new tab to a wiki-style information page about the newspaper from the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America project. I started with the Blissfield Advanced, published in 1874 and continues today. It is a weekly paper in English and covers Blishfield Michigan and Lenawee County, long-time home of my West family ancestors.

Below the title is a list of the “Libraries That Have It.” It was fascinating to see that the historical archives are not kept in Michigan but found in the Boston Public Library in Boston, Massachusetts, The American Antiquiarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the Chicago Historial Society Library in Chicago, Illinois. And I thought I’d have to make a try back to Michigan to access the newspapers.

I started with the Chicago Historical Society, which is now the Chicago History Museum. They do not have the newspapers digitized, and the range of newspapers dates is unclear as it is called “Kellogg Vol. 1, #142.” It does, however, include the Raisin River Advocate, a newspaper not on my list likely covering Raisin, Michigan, the West family farmland area.

The American Antiquarian Society Newspaper Collection is vast, covering newspapers from across the United States. According to the description:

The American Antiquarian Society is this nation’s chief repository for early American newspapers, and a significant portion of research done at the Society draws upon the Society’s collection. The primary goal for the collection is to acquire, preserve, and make available for research newspapers published in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the United States, Canada, and the West Indies. To this end, the Society adds, through gift and purchase, an average of 15,000 issues a year to its holdings. Building on Isaiah Thomas’s gift in 1812 of 382 titles in 551 volumes, the Society has accumulated over 18,000 newspaper titles. Today, AAS has more than two million issues on five miles of shelving.

A partnership with Readex is a huge digitization project and some of their collection maybe found through Newsbank, available only through specific local libraries.

Another interactive newspaper map is Newspaper Map. This ties into Google Maps with all the Google Maps features including geographic landmarks, highways, etc. Newspaper Map maybe filtered by language, newspaper name, and location.

I found this map not as helpful as I couldn’t determine the time period, and it shows the printing office location not the coverage area, which may or may not be the same. In and around Perry, Michigan, I found Williamston Enterprise, State News, Towne Courier, Lansing State Journal, Livingston Daily, and Argus Press in Owosso, Michigan. Down near Adrian, Palmyra, Blissfield, and Raisin, Michigan areas in the south, I found the Daily Telegram in Adrian and not much else. Still, for currently active newspapers, this could be helpful.

Let’s see where this research leads.


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RootsMagic and Ancestry: Perfect Marriage

I was thrilled to get the news in my RootsMagic genealogy software program that RootsMagic has partnered with Ancestry to finally connect with their API. What does this mean? Oh, get excited.

Currently, RootsMagic connects with two APIs, MyHeritage and FamilySearch. With the FamilySearch API, RootsMagic links with the FamilySearch site and database connect ancestors. Make changes through the FamilySearch interface of RootsMagic and you can quickly and fairly easily update your FamilySearch tree and history data. While there is definitely room for improvement, such as linking sources with matched data instead of forcing the user to reconnect the source dots after linking the data, causing more errors and mismatched sources in RootsMagic than there should be, this connection opens up a vast range of data from other FamilySearch members and research.

RootsMagic taps into the MyHeritage API to bring hints only, as it does with FamilySearch data. The information must be added manually, but it does help you easily find those wonderful hints.

The news is new and there isn’t an update available yet for this new partnership with Ancestry, but expect something soon. Ancestry has been protective and cautious about their API and it is well past time when they needed to see the big picture and link beyond their gates.

This comes not long after the announcement of Ancestry going on the auction block in May 2015. Permira Advisers LLD bought it in 2012 and last year’s subscriptions grew to $553.8 million in 2014 over $334.6 million in 2012, and Permira issued a $215 million special dividend from Ancestry in August, indicating that the service is still viable and in demand. According to general news, Ancestry is still on the auction block with Permira currently owning 50%, but there is little concrete news.

The sale of Ancestry made many nervous, even more so when Ancestry announced last month that they were terminating their Family Tree Maker software, recommending RootsMagic as an alternative, and RootsMagic jumped to provide Family Tree Maker (FTM) users step-by-step help to get on board their program with a special discount for FTM users.

Today it was announced that The Software MacKiev Company has bought the popular Family Tree Maker program. With FTM staying on the market with fresh new developers, the competition could benefit genealogy and family historians as these two leaders in the field battle it out in the genealogy research industry.

Personally and professionally, while I was nervous about Ancestry’s auction, the demand for genealogical and family history research is higher than ever. Ancestry has a vast investment in data, valuable data, and they are buying and digitizing more and more every minute of every day, adding to the wealth of historical information for genealogists and family historians.

After switching from The Master Genealogist to RootsMagic over a year ago, I’ve found it easier than ever to do my research from the comfort of my desktop computer. This doesn’t mean I won’t be on the ground digging through papers and maps stuck in dusty file cabinets in the back of old crumbling city office buildings somewhere in the world, but it does make the process of uncovering the basics much easier, and my tree is growing daily. With the inclusion of Ancestry, and hopefully MyHeritage and other genealogy services expanding their APIs, it could be an exiting next few years!


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Choosing Between RootsMagic and Personal Historian

When the news came that The Master Genealogist was being discontinued, I waited with the rest of the fans of one of the world’s best genealogy research and tracking programs to see what would happen. While there is noise of an open source version and suggestions that it be purchased or taken over by others, I haven’t found any compelling activity. I have to continue with my genealogy research, so I did a ton of genealogy software research and narrowed my choices to two:

Both have won plenty of awards and honors, some years top notch, others down a few pegs but bouncing back up over many years. I wanted a program with history itself, longevity, and a community base of fans and support.

Years ago, my father didn’t realize I was using TMG and bought me the full Legacy Family Tree package with like a dozen CDs, books, and all packed into a big hard case. I experimented with it and others, but kept coming back to TMG. I say this because I’m familiar with several different programs, but TMG won hands down. Finding something that compared to its power with even more features was the goal.

What finally pushed me over the edge were the following things that might help you with your decision.

Easy Importing from TMG

While both now have import tools for The Master Genealogist (TMG), RootsMagic went out of their way with step-by-step instructions (PDF) including highlighting the downsides and problems with importing, and how to prepare TMG for export to RootsMagic.

This saved me a ton of work and worry.

What was more amazing is that RootsMagic offers the ability to search your hard drives for TMG project files. With all the hard drive crashes, massive backups, and other computer woes over the many years of genealogy research with TMG, it found over 47 files, mostly duplicates, helping me to find all the missing pieces of my family history research. I copied them all into a single folder for processing and management, cleaning up my hard drive at the same time. I did a single zipped backup to the cloud and another to a portable backup drive, and felt better about protecting the old research while working on the new. Continue reading


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Sharon Knapp Lee 1944-2014

It is with great sadness that I share the news of the death of my dear cousin, Sharon Knapp Lee. The following is her obituary from the Skagit Valley Herald.

Sharon Mae Lee of Mount Vernon, born, Sharon Mae Knapp, March 6, 1944, died peacefully on September 12, 2014 of acute leukemia. Her son, Dr. Kelly McCullough, was instrumental in coordinating the care she received from her doctors during this illness. Her beloved husband, Don Lee, was with her constantly throughout her struggle and was holding her as she passed.

Sharon was the only child of Wayne P. and Letha Myrtle Knapp. She grew up in Seattle, attended Franklin High School, and taught first grade after graduating from Seattle Pacific College. It was at SPC where she met her first husband, Robert J. McCullough, with whom she had, and raised, her three children, Mary E. Kudenchuk (Peter), Kelly D. McCullough (Kristin), and Robert W. McCullough (Michelle Arab).

Sharon met Don in 1997. They made their home in Shelter Bay on Swinomish Channel. Sharon loved their waterfront beach property, a great place for gardening and entertaining the grandkids. They moved to Mount Vernon in 2012.

Sharon was born to nurture, and one of her great contributions was caring for the children of others through her daycare in Woodinville, WA. She loved reading and always had great book recommendations. She was masterful in the kitchen, making meals seem effortless. Flower gardening and her pets gave her much joy. She especially treasured her five grandchildren, Elizabeth H. Kudenchuk, David A. Kudenchuk, Ava G. McCullough, Ronan R. McCullough, and Oscar M. McCullough. She loved her cousin Ramona Fletcher and her dear friend Delwin Rimbey.

Sharon’s faith in Jesus Christ gave her a secure future. We grieve her passing and profoundly miss her. She will always be a part of the fabric of our lives. We wish to thank Puget Sound Blood Center for making these past months possible.

Donations in her memory can be made to Puget Sound Blood Center.

Published in Skagit Valley Herald Publishing Company on Sept. 16, 2014

Legacy Obituaries


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When Family Gets in the Way of Family History

Family gets in the way, even for a family history researcher.

Recent family events have taken the heart out of my family history blogging efforts, and I’m slowly struggling to put the emotional aspects of living family aside and get concentrated back on blogging about my dead family.

Family interferes by protecting or preventing access to family history in many ways. We dig and dig, but road blocks from the living prevents us from learning more about the other living and recently deceased for reasons often not provided.

Uncooperative family is also a road block. While they want to help, they just don’t see the value nor interest in what you are doing, dragging you down with them. Honestly, why bother?

Family gets in the way by providing too much information sometimes, though I’ve found this is rare among many researchers. Their enthusiasm distracts as well as overwhelms, consuming more time and information processing than you may have originally anticipated.

For the most part, some family members are very cooperative and supportive. Others are completely disinterested.

How do you handle it when the struggle to document your family’s history is more work that its worth?


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Library of Congress Railroad Maps Collection

The Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, has put together the Railroad Maps Collection, an amazing collection of more than 600 maps of railroads across the United States.

Compiled by Andrew M. Modelski in 1975, these maps go back through history to showcase the growth of rail travel and settlement across the country, as well as the development of industry and agriculture.

My family on all sides were influenced by the rail lines, traveling by rail for work, travel, migration, and business. On my maternal side, my grandparents’ families united in Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, the end of a rail line that served the logging industry, hauling fresh cut logs out to the rest of Wisconsin and the world for use in buildings and paper products. One of my family members in the DesRochers family just retired from the railroad system in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, carrying on the family railroad tradition of ties to the rails.

Here are some other historical map collections worth investigating in the United States.


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Flickr and Library of Congress Open Archives

Kevin’s Meandering Mind reported om 2008 that the US Library of Congress has joined with Flickr to put thousands of photos from its archives up on Flickr for viewing and use by us, the people. And oh, how lucky we the people are!

I may jest, but it’s been a few years since Flickr started hosting the images and I wanted to take a look at how many had been added since then. The quantity and quality is impressive.

The Flickr stream is identified as Library of Congress and feature images of people throughout history, going back through wars, lifestyles, all of American and world history.

I look through the faces of “unidentified soldiers” and wonder if one or more of these is related directly to me, their images preserved forever but their identity not.

[Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with bayoneted musket, knife, revolver, canteen, and knapsack]  (LOC)[Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with three unidentified women in bonnets and one unidentified man]  (LOC)

Were any of my female (or male) family members in the protests for women’s right and suffrage?

[Hedwig Reicher as Columbia] in Suffrage Pageant  (LOC)

My family history is full of soldiers, loggers, nation-builders, and nation-destroyers. We’ve got them all in my family tree, so I wonder if a family member was a part of this war-time destruction of a bridge in a stereoscope image.

Destruction of a railroad bridge (LOC)

I know that many family members joined up in Michigan to fight in World War I, so maybe they passed through Camp Custer in Michigan, captured with this unusual panoramic portrait with the camera elevated 500 feet into the air. I’d like to see the picture of the camera setup!

Camp Custer, Michigan, photographed from kites, camera elevated 500 feet (LOC)

Who knows what you may find as you dig through the sets on Flickr. It’s a wonderful visual tour through history, especially our own history.

I look forward to more images being added to the set as I know the Library of Congress must have millions of photographs to share with the world.


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