7 Day Family Tree Genealogy & Ancestry Research
Finally! Here’s how to quickly and easily uncover the forgotten pieces of family history you probably thought had been lost forever…even if you haven’t stepped foot in a library since high school and don’t know the first thing about researching online.
7 Day Family Tree Genealogy & Ancestry Research

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tracking thedead:it's more than a hobby

He's a historian of sorts. But he spends no time reading dusty tomes in ancient libraries. Rather, he seeks answers in the sandy soil of Pasco County, to questions unimportant except to a few.
This explains his presence in an Elfers field on a hot afternoon that draws sweat to his brow. He pushes a waist-high metal rod into the grassy topsoil. The prodding continues as Cannon repeatedly drives the pole between his dirty white Reeboks.
"There's something down there," he announces, a grin forming on his face. He's just discovered Alma Louise Pinder Houston, last seen 40 years ago.
No mystery surrounds Houston's death from colon cancer in 1966. Her life rates not even a footnote, except in the memory of her grandson.
Sam Houston was 22 when Alma Houston died. His only memories of her are the smell of smoking fish - and a bush near her burial plot at West Elfers Cemetery.
"I remember going out to that cemetery as a child," Houston said. "That bush in the middle of the park has been there all my life. That plant has been there as long as I can remember."
Sundays after church, Houston and his family would visit the 6-foot tall widow and homemaker, who would cook at her rented duplex.
"I can remember as a child in Tarpon Springs that she lived two or three blocks from downtown," Houston said. "She had a big smoker where she smoked tarpon in the back yard."
His grandmother never had a headstone. But Houston, who'd made his own map of the cemetery's plots, e-mailed Cannon to see if the two men's records of the Pinder family plot's location were the same.
"I shared some pictures with him in 1965 of the flowers and the grave site that we'd taken," Houston said.
After Cannon located a vault near the bush Houston remembered from his childhood, the two men marked the corners of the family plot, which also is where Moses F. Houston, John and Virginia Brown Pinder and their children, Samuel Jessie and John Thomas Pinder are buried.
Turns out, Cannon didn't have record of the Pinder family plot, and has since added them to his cemetery map.
"I am real pleased that he's taking an interest in the cemeteries, whether it be Pasco or anywhere else," Houston said. "He's been helpful to me."
Cannon documents his findings on a Web site he started last year. Through the site, Cannon gets requests from Tampa to the Netherlands from people searching for relatives buried in Pasco's 62 cemeteries.
Cannon, of Hudson, helps people like Houston piece together the empty spaces in the family tree. But there's more to it than that. By providing a peek into their past, he helps complete the fabric of who they are.
Cannon, a lanky 27-year-old with glasses, reddish brown hair and a matching beard, has long sought the final resting place of his great-great -grandfather. Randall D. Rewis died in Bayport in 1856, when what is now Pasco was part of Hernando County.
"I see our history destroyed with the development of the county," Cannon said. "I am essentially seeing part of my family destroyed."
Jean Walker moved from Safety Harbor to Hudson in 1974. In her new front yard, near the driveway, was a headstone:
"In Memory Of My Dear Husband William Stanton Quertermous, May 24, 1829, May 25 1887, Gone But Not Forgotten."
"It didn't bother me," said Walker, a 71-year-old widow. "I said, 'let him rest in peace.' "
Thirty years went by. Quertermous lay in peace on Walker's land. But he seemed forgotten.
Then, last year, Jan Preiczer of Ojai, Calif., typed "Quertermous' into Google, the latest step in a five-year search for her great-uncle.
Preiczer, a registered nurse who does genealogy as a hobby, knew most of her family was buried in Dewitt, Ark.
Her Internet search found a Quertermous burial site in Florida.
"I thought, 'What?' And there was a picture," Preiczer said. "I was absolutely floored, because there was a picture of the grave site and a closeup of the headstone."
Preiczer e-mailed Cannon, and the two compared notes on the Quertermous family's history, which Cannon chronicles on his Web site. Preiczer learned William Stanton Quertermous was buried on his property surrounded by a low-lying fence on what is now Walker's 5 acres of land.
"I thought, 'No way, this just can't be,' " Preiczer said. "Now, I even have the name of the person who owns the property. It's just sitting in this woman's front yard. I sent it to my family, and I said, 'Look who's online?' They were like, 'I wondered where he is.' "
Working among the dead doesn't bother Cannon, who used to prepare bodies for funerals at both Dobies and Michels & Lundquist funeral homes.
In the evenings, he researches grave sites and updates undocumented history, spending about 40 hours a week on his cemetery work.
Sometimes, his father, Dan, joins him, and the duo crisscross the county hunting for a slice of Pasco's past.
"It's like field day," Dan Cannon said. "We get in the pickup truck and go to sites. There's quite a few cemeteries in Pasco County that have met their fate or been razed. We sometimes spend all day doing it. If you run across one of these places, it's kind of exciting to walk out looking into the woods and find a headstone."
Jeff Cannon doesn't think spending hours in cemeteries is odd.
"This is what I do. I collect historical documents," he said. "I guess you can call it a hobby."
In April, Natascha Toonstra of the Netherlands e-mailed Cannon about locating relatives she thought were buried in Ehren Cemetery.
Cannon took pictures of Toonstra's relatives and sent them to her. He also told her something she didn't know: she had a relative Cannon thinks it's a grandmother living in Tampa. The two women have since contacted each other.
Inside his dark blue F-150 pickup, Cannon carries a miniarsenal of tools:
A yellow tape measure to estimate the length of a grave site after he hits a vault with his metal rod.
A map of cemetery plots he updates if he comes across an unmarked grave.
Locating someone's relative sometimes takes Cannon all over the county. To trace a dead person's steps, he checks land records, newspaper clippings, genealogy Web sites and whether they served a political position.
If the individual's family contacts him, Cannon encourages them to buy a headstone and adds the relative's name to his working list of Pasco's dead.
A dead man in the woods near U.S. 19 and Sea Pines Drive, homeless people and abandoned vehicles are among elements Jeff and his father have encountered while scouring Pasco's wooded areas armed with maps of the county's cemeteries, some of which are unmarked.
"There are places where people are buried on top of people," Cannon said. "Some early headstones are concrete slabs the families made and put names on."
On a recent overcast afternoon, Jeff and Dan visit Ehren, near Land O'Lakes. Two cemeteries are within a few miles of each other. The well-kept Ehren Cemetery sits on what was once the white side of town, Dan says. The other, the dilapidated Mount Carmel Cemetery, sits on what was the black side of town, behind what used to be Mount Carmel Church.
During their visit to Mount Carmel, Jeff and Dan stumble across the headstone of a young boy. His headstone reads "Eddie, son of R.M. & M.V. Lewis, born March 17 1892, died Nov. 8 1906."
"Can you take a picture of this?" Jeff yells to his father. "Somebody's cleaned it up."
Jeff finds an infant grave he hadn't seen on a previous trip, which he hopes to add to his list of the cemetery's dead. The small headstone rests against a tree, and reads "Infant daughter of T.M. Horton born Dec. 28 1933."
A few minutes later, Dan disappears farther into the woods and announces another discovery.
Jeff quickly replies, "That's W.G. Gibbs you're standing over."
Cannon's interest in cemetery history began two years ago, when he started researching his own family, who have lived in Pasco County since 1878.
Cannon's great-great-grandfather, Elijah Rewis, is buried in West Elfers Cemetery. Elijah Rewis was a county commissioner in Hernando.
Hudson Avenue and Hayes Road, now home to Word of Life Conference Center, is where his missing relative, Randall D. Rewis, owned 160 acres of land.
"I never found the location where he's buried. I have reason to believe he's buried like Quertermous, on his property," Cannon said.
"Once I started digging into my family history, I discovered cemeteries with headstones that weren't accounted for or surveyed, or people didn't know about them," Cannon said. "I got a list of cemeteries online. Through my research, I discovered sites that were destroyed."
"Our cemeteries are filled with early history," he said. "A lot of people buried here started our county. My family has been here since 1878, so essentially, it's my history, too."
In the past year, Cannon has become somewhat of an activist, contacting County Commission members and attending meetings to lobby for the historic preservation of cemeteries. He's organizing cemetery associations for people whose family members are buried in neglected cemeteries like West Elfers.
In his spare time, he's writing a book about Pasco's cemetery history. He's also assisting with research on a Pasco history book with officials from the Pioneer Florida Museum in Dade City, called Pasco County, Its History and Its People.
"Anybody who is in contact with him for one reason or another can't believe that he can find the things as easy as he can," said Carolyn D. Falls, a member of the history committee at Pioneer Florida Museum. "He's just got a knack for it. The cemeteries are scattered all over the county. It's uncanny."
What drives Cannon is uncovering the lives of Pasco's dead and connecting the dots for families seeking a window into their pasts.
"That's what keeps me going," Cannon said. "Finding information no one else knows."

In politics, some ties are by blood

The President and Vice President are in fact distant relatives, according to a new analysis of genealogical data following the online digitization of the entire U.S. Federal Census collection. Bush, it appears, is also kin to legendary gunfighter "Wild Bill" Hickock.
Researchers for Ancestry.com finished the arduous task late last week. The data is now available to paid subscribers and for free at 1,200 Mormon LDS family history centers and U.S. public libraries.
"It took 1,500 paleographers six years to read the census manually and to decipher the often unclear 18th and 19th century handwriting," said Tim Sullivan, CEO of Ancestry.com. "The process was not all that sophisticated, but the database search engine that is now in place is."
Before the project, most of the data was on microfilm, organized by year, date, county and district. Now over five billion names within the Ancestry.com database are searchable too.
During the input process, researchers took note of prominent family histories and determined that family links exist between many such individuals, particularly U.S. politicians.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's ancestors, who were miners, came from Durham, England, according to Sullivan. George Washington was the descendant of a family who lived in a village, now a town, of the same name 10 miles away. The Bishop of Durham once owned the land.
"It is possible that Clinton and Washington are related, because this was a relatively small area and families did not move from place to place as much then as they do now," said Mike Ward, also of Ancestry.com.
Ward added that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are connected through an early New England settler by the name of William Fletcher.
Fletcher, incidentally, was also involved in politics. He served as Commissioner of Chelmsford, Mass., in 1673.
Bush is also a cousin of James "Wild Bill" Hickock, Ward told Discovery News. Both men are related to Benjamin Butler and Susanna Whiting, who had at least two sons: James and Samuel Herrick Butler. The Bush family comes from Samuel's side, while Hickock descended from James.
The researchers also found that presidents George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were related to each other.
In modern times, an intriguing number of connections exist between politicians and famous actors.
Tom Hanks and Abraham Lincoln can both trace their family tree back to the same William Hanks, who was born in 1650.
Lee Marvin, who starred in "The Dirty Dozen," appears to be related to Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Robert E. Lee.
Johnny Depp, who displayed his sword fighting abilities in "The Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, had a distant ancestor who fought for the Virginia Militia with the Revolutionary War hero Captain Thomas Harris.
The census covers the years 1790 to 1930, with 1890s information missing because much of it burned in a fire. The 1940 census will not become available until 2012, due to privacy laws that prohibit census data from being released until 72 years later.
"A few years ago, the idea that the census would be digitized and indexed online seemed beyond the realm of possibility," said Ruth Carr, a genealogy expert at The New York Public Library.
She added, "Researchers had to work with thousands of reels of microfilm in order to find a specific person or family they wanted to learn about. With the digitization of the census, it is now possible for someone to type a name in the search box, and within seconds view the image of the actual census page."

Web site includes census records

Ancestry.com, based in Provo, was expected to announce Thursday that it copied complete U.S. Census records from 1790 to 1930 - an effort that took workers a combined 6.6 million hours of labor.
The U.S. government waits 72 years before releasing original census documents containing such personal information as an individual's occupation - actor Tom Hanks' grandfather, Clarence Frager, made a living as a rodent inspector, a 1930 census record reveals.
Workers for Ancestry.com spent so much time compiling these records because they had to decipher the handwriting on millions of census forms. They had to index and catalog every name, and scan images of the census documents, which were to be on the Web site starting Thursday.
In all, workers made 22 billion keystrokes to organize all the information, the company said.
Ancestry.com, which claims more than 725,000 paid subscribers, says it now has the only online repository with the complete historic U.S. Census records that are searchable.
To do it, the company had to make a "vast investment in technology, people, research and tools," Tim Sullivan, Ancestry.com's chief executive, said in a statement.
"We are just beginning to scratch the surface in terms of the amount of content we can offer and the millions of people all over the globe we can connect," he said.
The company planned a media tour of its operations Thursday, where it keeps dusty paper records and a data center with 3,000 computer servers.
The latest project added 540 million names, increasing the company's genealogical database to 600 terabytes of data. A terabyte equals a thousand billion bytes.
It includes 13 million original census images scanned and transcribed from 15,000 rolls of microfilm.
The information details more than just names or population numbers. It includes people's moves across the country, their race, marital status, assets, residence, schooling and other personal information.
It was a big accomplishment to put 140 years of full census documents into a single computer database, said Ruth Carr, department chief of local history and genealogy at New York Public Library.
Until now, "researchers had to work with thousands of reels of microfilm in order to find a specific person or family they wanted to learn about," Carr said. "With the digitization of the census, it is now possible for someone to type a name in the search box, and within seconds view the image of the actual census page."
The historical records revealed some quirks. For instance, Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary, reported growing only seven years older between the 1850 and the 1860 census.
In 1930, Harry Truman was living at his mother-in-law's house, just 15 years before he became president.
Ancestry.com is part of a network of Web sites owned by MyFamily.com Inc. It charges annual fees of $155.40 for U.S. records and $347.40 for world records. Monthly fees start at $29.95.

Computer assisted genealogists of southern wisconsin

State Historical Society reference archivist, Dee Anna Grimsrud, discusses new Wisconsin online resources (open to all interested)
Computer Assisted Genealogsts of Southern Wisconsin (CAGSW)
Sharing of problems and solutions among users of software programs who seek to develop quality genealogical information
Church of Latter-day Saints, 4505 Regent St. at Segoe Rd., Madison
"New Wisconsin Resources Online" will be topic of Dee Anna Grimsrud, MLIS, reference archivist at the State Historical Society, at a meeting of Computer Assisted Genealogists of Southern Wisconsin Thursday (July 6) at 7 p.m. They convene in West Side Church of Latter-day Saints, 4505 Regent St. at Segoe Rd., Madison.
Grimsrud, whose duties include answering genealogy queries from the public, will emphasize recently-added digital collections at both WHS Library and the UW-Madison Library, including a new search portal.