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  • 14 Jan 2021 9:05 PM | Anonymous

    The thought of your ancestors of 100 or 200 years ago traveling along a modern-day interstate highway may seem amusing as interstate highways didn’t exist until the 1950s. Yet, it is quite possible that your ancestors traveled along the same routes as today’s interstates, plus or minus a very few miles.

    Westward migration in the United States usually took place in the path of least resistance: on riverboats where practical or on pathways along rivers when boat travel was not available. In cases where there was no river to follow, overland travel generally went along the path of least resistance, too: through valleys, through mountain passes, and perhaps straight across the flatlands and prairies.

    When studying migration patterns throughout history in the United States, we can see hundreds of examples. In New England, the first inland areas to be settled were along the Merrimack River, the Connecticut River, the Penobscot River, and the others.

    When researching the origins of those who settled the mountainous areas of northern Vermont and New Hampshire, we find that most of them were from Connecticut and western Massachusetts. They traveled up the Connecticut River, not overland across the north-south mountain ranges that receding glaciers carved many thousands of years earlier. Today, Interstate 91 follows roughly the same route.

    In Massachusetts, the east-west migration generally followed the valleys through the central part of the state, often following the Boston Post Road (present-day U.S. Route 20). That path is more or less parallel to the present-day Massachusetts Turnpike, or Interstate 90.

    As we travel down the eastern seaboard, the migration pattern was repeated: the Hudson River, the Susquehanna River, the Potomac River, the Savannah River, and many others became “highways” of travel for our ancestors. As we move further west, we find the “super highways” of years past: the Mississippi River, the Ohio, and the Missouri.

    Of course, rivers didn’t always exist in convenient places. Many times the early settlers blazed overland routes through valleys where travel would be easier for wagons drawn by horses or oxen. Two major examples would the Cumberland Gap in Tennessee and the Wilderness Road in Virginia. These routes did follow rivers, where possible, but they also went overland through valleys, following paths that could be used by horses and oxen pulling wagons. Of course, there were dozens of other highways.

    If you follow the migration paths of your ancestors prior to 1850, you will see that they usually traveled along the same routes as did earlier travelers, routes that allowed for easier transport. These routes were generally on rivers, beside rivers, or through valleys.

    For a few years in the first half of the 19th century, canals looked like they would become the primary method of transportation. Indeed, that did happen in a few areas, such as the Erie Canal. The traffic on the canals moved at two or three miles an hour as the barges and boats were typically powered by work animals that walked along adjacent footpaths. However, canals were doomed almost from the start as a new, mechanized beast soon appeared that could move more goods, move them faster, and do so at less construction expense.

    By the mid 19th century, railroads started appearing in significant numbers. Railroad locomotives could perform the work of many horses or oxen, and the travel experience for passengers in railroad cars was much better than riding on a buckboard or a Conestoga wagon. These “iron horses” were very powerful but had one major shortcoming: they weren’t very good at climbing hills.

    The railroads were always built along the flattest land possible, often on or beside the routes that had already been established for overland travel. The railroads thrived best along riverbanks, which rarely had hills, or through valleys, including the Cumberland Gap and the Wilderness Road. More than a few railroads were built on the footpaths beside canals, replacing the “beasts of burdens” that had powered the canal boats of the previous generation. Of course, these new-fangled railroads transported immigrants, freight, and livestock alike.

    Let’s fast forward another century. In the 1950s, the federal government began its interstate highways project. The primary justification was to build a transportation system the Defense Department could use to move convoys in time of war. However, commercial and personal uses soon eclipsed defense purposes. Today we all travel along interstate highways without regard to the travel hardships of our ancestors.

    The interstate highways often follow the same paths as the earlier railroads and the still earlier ox-carts and covered wagons. While modern construction techniques have allowed a few exceptions, such as building highways in the mountains, the majority of today’s interstate highways are built along traditional trade routes and migration paths. In other words, today’s highways often follow rivers, old canals, and deep valleys.

    Are you mystified as to the origins of some family in your family tree? You know where they lived on a certain date but wonder where they came from? Get out a modern-day highway map, and find the town where those ancestors lived. Next, see where the major highways of that town go. Chances are that your ancestors traveled along one of those routes. They almost never traveled over a mountain range or through a swampy area.

    There’s a good chance that your ancestors followed the same approximate route as today’s super highways. Start by looking at the records of the state “up the highway” from their hometown. Sleuthing along today’s interstates may actually pay off.

  • 14 Jan 2021 8:55 PM | Anonymous

    The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

    Roots for Kids
    A Genealogy Guide for Young People

    By Susan Provost Beller. Published by Genealogical Publishing Co. 2020. 104 pages.

    This could be a useful guide and topic for stay-at-home teachers/parents who may have exhausted the list of topics to keep the kids engaged in these at-home learning days.

    Ms. Beller has updated this third edition of her books. It contains brief, but plentiful descriptions and examples of records to be found, worksheets, drawings apropos to family research (I especially like the drawing of a triumphant young genealogist discovering his family tombstone), and offerings of ideas in the logical progression of starting to look for sources at home to eventually traveling abroad to visit a home village.

    The first few chapters explain how genealogy is like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces around the home and family that give no clue to the big picture until a person starts to connect the pieces together. The family chapters offer ideas for recording family stories and reading old documents, then gathering the information together and discovering how all the parts fit together.

    Following chapters explain the kinds of records found locally, such as vital records, wills, and court records, manuscripts, and newspapers. “Finding Local Records on the Internet” might be especially attractive for digital-savvy kids.

    State and national records are the next topics covered, including a section on finding such records on the internet. Moving on, the following chapters cover “Research Around the World on Your Computer.” Winding up, the final chapter features the author’s description of her own trip to her ancestral Ireland, introducing the idea that maybe the reader too, can someday visit a place of mystery and family.

    Ms. Beller includes a chapter explaining the need for critical evaluation of the sources, always a good topic for consideration.

    This could be a guidebook for beginner adult researchers as well as for kids. The ideas and research steps could invite a family adventure staying within the pandemic guidelines: an outdoor trip to a cemetery, reading newspaper articles online, or viewing the census records online, many available for free.

    This could be the beginning of whole new aspects of history and family.

    Roots for Kids is available from the publisher, Genealogical Publishing Co., at as well as from Amazon.

  • 13 Jan 2021 7:45 PM | Anonymous

    Talk about an old film! It’s from 1917, and it’s an up-close and personal look at the most legendary combat pilot who ever lived, the infamous Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen. It shows the Baron preparing for a mission, as well as film of him putting on a flying suit prior to a flight in cold weather. (It is always cold at higher altitudes.) If you look closely you will also see a brief glimpse of Hermann Goering.

    The Baron was shot down on 21 April 1918 by Roy Brown of the Royal Navy Air Services, long before it was called the R.A.F.

    You can view the film on YouTube at

  • 13 Jan 2021 7:28 PM | Anonymous

    I have written often about the need to make frequent backups of your genealogy data and anything else that is important to you. While not the only backup method available, one method is by copying files to flash drives. Traditionally, flash drives have been capable of storing a few megabytes or perhaps a few gigabytes of data although the exact number keeps increasing every few months as the manufacturers constantly release new, higher-capacity devices.

    Today, several manufacturers offer flash drives capable of storing up to two-terabytes. That's more storage space than what is found in most home computers. Today, it is possible to back up your entire computer to a flash drive! 

    So see a selection of a dozen or more 2-terabyte flash drives, look at Amazon at: Prices vary from $25.99 to $49.99, only a fraction of the prices one year ago. (Prices are quoted in U.S. dollars.) Similar prices are available from any other vendors as well.

    WARNING #1: Beware of the mislabeled flash drives that claim to have high storage capacity. 

    WARNING #2: I would never use this or any other flash drive as my only backup. Flash drives are too easily lost or misplaced. Also, the flash drive manufacturers don’t seem to be willing to publish numbers about the expected lifetime of these devices. I will suggest that a flash drive can be a PART of a backup regimen, along with other backup media.

    Never store all your data in any single device, not in a single flash drive, not in a single CD-ROM disk, and not in a single file storage service in the cloud. The wise computer user always makes multiple backup copies onto different media and stores them in different places to protect against hardware failures, natural disasters, loss or theft, or anything else that can result in the loss of a single backup copy.

    One more thing to keep in mind: L.O.C.K.S.S. – Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe

  • 13 Jan 2021 11:42 AM | Anonymous

    The following announcement was written by FamilySearch:

    Search new United States records added this week on FamilySearch for Indiana WWII Draft Registrations 1940–1947, Iowa Marriages 1941–1951, Indiana Marriages 1811–2007, and Montana County Voting Records 1884–1992, plus Germany, Bavaria City Records 1700–1940, Prussia Census Lists 1770–1934, Peru Piura Civil Registrations 1874–1996 and expanded collections for Austria, Brazil, England, Peru, S. Africa, Spain, Sweden and the US (CA, MD, MS, MT, SD, WA, and WI). 

    Search these new records and images by clicking on the collection links below, or go to FamilySearch to search over 8 billion free names and record images.

    The rest of this announcement is very long, too long to publish here. However, you may read the full announcement at:

  • 12 Jan 2021 6:28 PM | Anonymous

    I wrote twice recently about a search for the identity of a deceased man, known as "Mostly Harmless."

    An online search for clues involved hundreds of Internet users, law enforcement personnel, and others. The story involved genealogy searches and DNA analysis similar to what many thousands of genealogists have used.  The articles are available at and at

    In the first of two articles, author Nicholas Thompson first described the unknown man and then provided his name and a bit of the background information about him in the second article. The "hit counter" in this web site shows that those were two of the most popular articles on this site.

    Now Nicholas Thompson has written a third article, one that provides a lot of background information about the man that has been learned only after Thompson's second article was published.

    If you were interested in the first two articles by Nicholas Thompson, you will want to read the third installment in the Wired web site at:

    Warning: If you are looking for a happy ending to all stories, you will be disappointed in this one. Yet I found it to be a fascinating story.

  • 12 Jan 2021 1:03 PM | Anonymous

    “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” ― Susan B. Anthony

    Here is a bit of history you might not know about. It is surprisingly important to many of us. It may be the reason why you are alive today. It may have have been the reason your great-grandparents met and eventually married.

    We all know about popular fads: the hula hoops of the fifties, the pet rocks of the sixties, and body-piercing jewelry of the present time. The young people generally embrace fads with open arms while older generations wring their hands and wonder what the younger generation is coming to. However, we generally do not think about fads in the times of our ancestors. A quick bit of historical study shows that our ancestors were just as enthusiastic about new ideas and fashions as are any of their descendants. Some of these fads had far-reaching effects on future generations. In fact, some of us might not be here today had it not been for one of these fads.

    One item that we take for granted today is the bicycle. Yet this two-wheeled device was all the rage when first introduced in the late 1870s. To be sure, two-wheel conveyances had been invented much earlier but were rarely seen.

    In 1790, Frenchman Chevalier de Sivrac conceived the idea of a crude form of a bicycle, consisting of a wooden beam with wheels attached below each end. It had no pedals; the rider pushed along the ground with his feet. It had no steering capability. Even worse, it had no seat. The rider simply sat on the beam. Apparently de Sivrac built only one of these, and it was soon relegated to a storage shed. Later models improved on the earlier design with a cushioned seat of some sort. In 1813, Baron Charles de Drais of Saurbrun, Germany, introduced a bicycle that was similar to Sivrac's model but with a swivel head to aid steering.

    At the end of 1818 or early in 1819, Baron Drais introduced an improved model, called "The Draisene". These "Draisenes" were very expensive, and only the very rich could buy them. During these years riding was in full swing in New York, where the machines were called "Dandy Horses." There was even a riding rink on "Bowling Green," where adventurous souls could rent machines and take riding lessons. The sidewalks of City Hall Park and the Bowery provided favorite courses for the riders. The "Dandy Horse" fad also spread to Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities on the North American continent. Even so, these machines existed in miniscule numbers. They were known by a variety of names, but the word "bicycle" had not yet been invented.

    Development of two-wheeled conveyances continued, mostly in England, Scotland, Germany, and France. In 1862, Pierre Lallement first coined the word "bicycle" to describe his new invention. It was the first to have cranks and pedals attached to the front wheel, the forerunner of today's design. The front wheel was much larger that the rear one, and the device had thick iron tires and a saddle resting on a heavy iron backbone. It shook terribly on the rough roads and cobbled streets of Paris, causing people to call it "the boneshaker." Lallement's employer, a Frenchman named M. Michaux, bought Lallement's patent and opened a bicycle shop.

    In 1865 or 1866 Lallement moved to the United Sates, taking with him a number of partly finished pieces of a much-improved bicycle over his "boneshaker" model of 1862. He settled in Ansonia, Connecticut. In 1866 he rode his latest bicycle on the green, or public square, of nearby New Haven. On May 4, 1866, his specifications and drawings were filed in the U.S. Patent Office. This was the first bicycle patent ever issued in the United States. Lallement was unable to find financial backing, however, and he soon returned to France.

    Calvin Witty, a New York manufacturer, purchased the patent from Lallement for $10,000 and set up production. Later American makers were forced to pay Witty a royalty of $20.00 per machine, a significant amount of money at the time. In 1870 Lallement returned to America to seek his fortune. He worked as a mechanic for a while but eventually disappeared from sight.

    While bicycles were being manufactured in America, their numbers were small until 1877, when Augustus Pope opened a factory in Hartford, Connecticut, and started manufacturing the Columbia bicycle, a brand name that still exists today. Pope's creation was called the penny-farthing because of its large front wheel and tiny back wheel (similar to the very large and small English coins).

    Within months bicycling became a fad in America, spreading like wildfire. Pope and his newly-formed competitors built tens of thousands of bicycles, perhaps even hundreds of thousands. Within a year the new devices were appearing in cities and rural areas alike. The bicycle immediately became a common summertime sight everywhere in America as well as throughout much of Europe and the United Kingdom.

    The younger generation found a mobility that had previously been unknown: men and women alike could jump on a bicycle and easily travel five or ten miles within an hour or two. Such a trip previously required the better part of a day with a horse and carriage. Dating patterns changed. Young men were able to go further and further from home in search of romance. Marriage patterns changed and, yes, it is probable that some of us alive today are here because of the invention of the bicycle.

    Can you picture your great-grandfather in his Sunday best with bowler hat, riding across the countryside on a high-wheeled penny-farthing bicycle to visit the young lady who was to become your great-grandmother? I wonder what her parents, your great-great-grandparents, thought of the young man riding that foolish contraption.


    The world has changed. Here is a picture of my (new) bicycle:

    It has a 1,000-watt electric motor and you can see the huge battery just above and to the left of the pedals.

  • 12 Jan 2021 12:30 PM | Anonymous

    The following announcement was written by the folks at WikiTree:

    12 January 2021 : The WikiTree community has debuted its headline event of 2021: The WikiTree Challenge. Each week this year, a team of volunteers is collaborating on the tree of a special genealogy guest star. The challenge is to make the guest star’s ancestry on WikiTree more accurate and complete than it is anywhere else.

    Can crowd-sourced amateur genealogy find mistakes and break through brick walls for the leading personalities of the genealogy industry? The WikiTree community says, “Take the WikiTree Challenge -- and let the sources decide!”

    The first guest star to take the challenge is New York Times bestselling author AJ Jacobs. The second week features genetic genealogist CeCe Moore. Third is Jonny Perl of DNA Painter. Fourth is Jen Baldwin of Findmypast. February, Black History Month in the US, kicks off with African-American scholar and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Then comes “Legal Genealogist” Judy Russell, Kirsty Gray of Family Wise Ltd, and Thomas MacEntee of High-Definition Genealogy.

    Every week’s event begins and ends with a live video chat. Watch and chat live with AJ Jacobs and WikiTree community members on Wednesday, January 13, at 8pm EST via YouTube or Facebook.

    About WikiTree

    WikiTree is a 100% free community-based website that has been growing since 2008. Community members privately collaborate with close family members on modern family history and publicly collaborate with other genealogists on deep ancestry. Since all the private and public profiles are connected on the same system this collaboration grows one tree that connects us all and makes it free and easy for anyone to discover their roots. See January 2021 : The WikiTree community has debuted its headline event of 2021: The WikiTree Challenge. Each week this year, a team of volunteers is collaborating on the tree of a special genealogy guest star. The challenge is to make the guest star’s ancestry on WikiTree more accurate and complete than it is anywhere else.

  • 12 Jan 2021 12:12 PM | Anonymous

    Here is your chance to own a bit of history. Unpleasant history, perhaps, but it certainly is still historical. The Fall River, Massachusetts home where Lizzie Borden’s father and step-mother were murdered with an ax has been listed for sale.

    The three-story clapboard house has been converted into a museum and bed and breakfast. It is now listed for sale online at an asking price of $2 million.

    The listing agent and part-time tour guide at the museum, Suzanne St. John, said the owners are retiring after 15 years and that the sale is a “turnkey” opportunity.

    The potential buyer would own the home, the bed and breakfast website, intellectual property, and merchandise sold at the museum.

    You can learn more in dozens of web sites describing the sale by starting at:

  • 11 Jan 2021 10:40 AM | Anonymous

    There is a phrase in Hawaiian, “I malama ia ka ike, hua mai ka ike,” which means, “when knowledge is protected, knowledge emerges.”

    That is the motto that is lived-by at a great resource for Hawaii’s public to use — the Hawaii State Archives.

    It is great to know that the Archive is in the works to digitize what is physically in the building so everyone can access the files online from home. 

    Click here to view the new digital platform website.   

    State Archivist Adam Jansen wants to let everyone know that the platform is still in construction and will hopefully completed by the middle of 2021.

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