Immigrants’ child

He was born, the record tells us, on the Fourth of July.

B_F_E_SchreinerHe was a first generation American, this little boy, born to immigrant parents in the Windy City of Chicago.1 His father, Herman Franz Schreiner, was born in Gera,2 Reuss Jüngere Linie, Germany,3 and his mother, Augusta Paula (Graumüller) Schreiner, in Köstritz,4 Reuss, Germany.

His father, called Frank, was 41 years of age and a locksmith — a “safe mechanic.” His mother was 37. And this was their first-born child.5 It was, perhaps, because of Augusta’s age that the birth was attended not by a midwife but by a doctor, Carl Krone.6

They had married, his parents had, in 18817 and had come to America in 1886,8 the first of The Legal Genealogist‘s father’s kin to travel to this new land.9

They had clearly come to appreciate their new country by the time their child was born.

It isn’t just that Frank had become a naturalized citizen in 1894.10

And it isn’t even the fact that they’d begun the pattern of chain migration that was to mark this family’s — my family’s — history. In 1890, they had brought my grandfather’s sister, Hattie, to America to live with them.11

It’s also the name he and Augusta gave this child.

That name, for that little boy, born on the Fourth of July?

Benjamin Franklin Ernest Schreiner.12

You can almost imagine the fireworks in that household that day, can’t you? After 14 years of marriage, finally, finally a child. A new citizen for their new land. What better name than Benjamin Franklin?

But there is another record that tells another part of this story. And it is not so happy. Because five years after Benjamin was born, there was a census taken in Chicago and elsewhere in the United States. And there is no hint of Benjamin in that census.

His parents were enumerated, his cousin Hattie living with them… but no Benjamin.13 And on the 1910 census, there isn’t even an indication that Augusta had ever had a child.14

There is no death record for little Benjamin. No record I have found yet as to where he was buried. Nothing to say how it came to be that he left this world so soon after entering it.

But he was born, we know, on the Fourth of July.

He and his name are part of our family history. And he, and that gloriously American name of his, bring a smile to this cousin’s face every time I think of it.


  1. Cook County, Illinois, Return of a Birth, No. 15466, Benjamin Franklin Ernest Schreiner, 4 July 1895; Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago.
  2. Wikipedia (, “Gera,” rev. 28 June 2014.
  3. Wikipedia (, “Principality of Reuss-Gera,” rev. 24 March 2014.
  4. Wikipedia (, “Bad Köstritz,” rev. 5 March 2014.
  5. Cook Co., Ill., Return of a Birth, No. 15466.
  6. Ibid.
  7. They were shown in 1910 as having been married 29 years. 1910 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago Ward 29, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 1272, p. 71A (penned), dwelling 144, family 346, Frank Schreiner household; digital image, ( : accessed 4 July 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 275.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Augusta (Graumüller) Schreiner’s sister, Emma (Graumüller) Geissler, was my great grandmother.
  10. Cook County, Illinois, Circuit Court, Naturalization vol. 49: 283, Frank Schreiner, 15 October 1894; Clerk’s Office, Chicago.
  11. Manifest, S.S. Rhein, August 1890, page 7 (penned), passenger 329, Hedwig Geisler; digital images, ( : accessed 8 March 2010); citing NARA microfilm publication M255, roll 48.
  12. Cook Co., Ill., Return of a Birth, No. 15466.
  13. 1900 U.S. census, Cook County, Chicago, Illinois, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 914, p. 71A (stamped), dwelling 210, family 528, Frank “Sweiner” household; digital image, ( : accessed 10 Feb 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 282.
  14. 1910 U.S. census, Cook Co., Ill., Chicago Ward 29, pop. sched., ED 1272, p. 71A (penned), dwell. 144, fam. 346, Augusta Schreiner.
Posted in My family | 8 Comments

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,

Original Declaration

WHEN in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

WE hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Broadside, read to troops 9 July 1776

HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

HE has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

HE has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

HE has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

1777 published version

HE has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

HE has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

HE has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

FOR Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

FOR cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

FOR depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

HE has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

HE is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

HE has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

HE has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

IN every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

1823 published version

NOR have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


In honor of Richard Baker, fourth great grand-uncle. Born 1753. Died at the Battle of Trenton, Christmas 1776. And with gratitude towards all the members of my family, including fourth great grandfather David Baker (Corporal, 3d Virginia), who fought to make us free.

Posted in General | 2 Comments

And for us too

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July. The 238th birthday of the United States.

So how about buying it a birthday present?


Pensions1812How about getting together with The Legal Genealogist and buying the whole darned country the best birthday gift imaginable?

How about we chip in and buy a War of 1812 pension?


I want one. You should too.

And the Federation of Genealogical Societies is leading the charge to help us all get as many War of 1812 pensions as we can — as birthday presents for America, and as presents to ourselves and our families.

So, yesterday, it launched a new phase of its fundraising campaign to help pay for the massive effort, now underway, to digitize the War of 1812 pension records held by the National Archives. The records documenting more than 180,000 pension records for War of 1812 soldiers and their families are among the most heavily requested documents at the National Archives and, because of their use, their age and their fragile nature, they really need to be digitized to protect them forever.

The “Preserve The Pensions” campaign needs to keep raising funds — millions will be needed overall — to digitize all of the War of 1812 Pension Application Files at the National Archives and put them online where they can be accessed free. Every dollar contributed means two pages of a pension file can be digitized — and with matching funds from, that becomes four pages saved.

Here’s what yesterday’s announcement on the campaign website said:

uly is a month for celebration across the United States. As our families gather for picnic’s and parades, the Preserve the Pensions War of 1812 Committee is inviting you to celebrate the Second Revolution with us.

Americans across the country will celebrate our Independence and reflect on the Revolutionary War in the coming days. This month can and also be a time when we remember the “Second Revolution,” the War of 1812, and the soldiers and sailors who fought to ensure that our nation was secure.

Today we are launching a fundraising campaign with a lofty goal: we hope to raise $1812 every day during the month of July. Each day you will see updates and progress reports on our social media channels and weekly on this blog. We will be asking you to donate, to share our stories and information, to spread the word of our campaign. Next week, we will be raising up an army of virtual volunteers; all focused on that one goal. This entire project is likely the most significant crowd-sourcing campaign ever attempted in the world of family history, and we are more determined than ever to ensure its success.

Genealogists, family historians, educators, military historians, re-enactors, lineage societies, one place studies, one name studies, historians of all kinds… there are many categories of people who will utilize the digitized War of 1812 Pension files, which will remain FREE FOREVER on We need to reach them all. Spread the word by sharing on social media, using the hashtag #1812today.

Each day on our Facebook page, we will be sharing our progress, and that includes a renewed level of energy as we approach the 18:12 (7:12 pm Pacific / 11:12 pm Eastern) mark on the clock. You can watch as we count down the last 18 minutes and 12 seconds, giving you the final warning for your daily donation. Why not take it one step further? Donate $18.12 every day at 18:12!1

So far, the initiative has raised more than a third of the money needed, and more than 1.1 million images have been digitzed. But that leaves almost two thirds to go… and millions more records at risk.

So… every day … every single day of July … the project wants to raise at least $1812.

So… let’s do this.

We can find 1812 pennies in the cushions of the couch, can’t we? We can donate $18 at 12 noon. We can do 18 days at $12 a day. We can donate $180 on the 12th. Or even donate $18.12 every single day.

How about it?

I’m all in on this one.

Join me!

And tell your friends: #1812Today.


  1. Celebrate the Second Revolution!,” Preserve the Pensions ( : accessed 2 July 2014).
Posted in General | 10 Comments

A wagon for Democrats?

When the estate of Charles Cheever of Plyumouth County, Massachusetts, was inventories in 1916, his belongings included a lot of small deposits in different banks, shares in a couple of copper companies, some household furniture, a diamond ring, two pearl rings, some cows, some hens… and…

A Democrat wagon.1


Excuse me…?

A what?

In this polarized day of blue versus red, donkey versus elephant, left versus right, The Legal Genealogist couldn’t help but be startled by a name like that.

A wagon for Democrats?

A wagon pulled only by donkeys?

A wagon a Republican would refuse to ride in?

Nothing so divisive.

To the contrary, a Democrat wagon was “a light farm wagon or ranch wagon that has two or more seats and is usually drawn by two horses.”2 And it looked like this:


(Russell Lee, “A Democrat wagon on William Walling farm near Anthon, Iowa,” December 1936)3

It was so named, the story goes, because of “the availability of this inexpensive, easy to handle, wagon to a wide range of people. A Democrat Wagon was so light that if it got stuck a single individual could often lift it out by hand.”4

A Democrat wagon.

Who knew?5


  1. Plymouth County, Massachusetts, Probate Court, Estate of Charles S. Cheever, No. 23,904, Executor’s Inventory, Schedule of Personal Estate in Detail, filed 28 Feb 1917; ; digital images, “Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Estate Files, 1686-1915,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 July 2014).
  2. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ( : accessed 1 July 2014), “Democrat wagon.”
  3. Russell Lee, “A Democrat wagon on William Walling farm near Anthon, Iowa,” December 1936; Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection ( : accessed 1 July 2014).
  4. Bob Lemen, Cowboy Bob’s Dictionary ( : accessed 1 July 2014), “Democrat wagon.”
  5. Other than Mr. Cheever’s estate appraisers, of course…
Posted in General, Legal definitions | Leave a comment

Go and sin no more

On the 7th of February, 1856, the New Mexico Territorial Legislature took a stand.

moralityNo more living in sin.

That sort of depraved conduct just wouldn’t be tolerated.

From that day forward, it said:

Any person or persons who shall after the approval of this act, be found living together publicly as if they were married, shall be considered as living in a state of concubinage, and shall be required immediately to contract and join in the bonds of matrimony, if there shall be no impediment to prevent their so doing ; and if they do not form such union on the first requirement of any judge, and persist in their accustomed mode of life, they shall, on accusation thereof before any of the said judges, be fined in any sum not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than eighty dollars, for every time they shall be so found…1

That provision was in the criminal laws section of the New Mexico laws, in an act that also made it illegal for folks to “establish their residence in any part of this Territory, … who shall have no visible honest means of living, corrupting and giving a bad example by their vices to public society.”2

And it made it illegal to “scandalously discover the faults of married persons, by interfering in private life, from which may result the disagreement of the parties, causing thereby a terrible evil, and injury to their family.”3

Legislating morality is nothing new. In colonial Massachusetts, early laws went so far as to impose Biblical standards of conduct. One 1646 law provided that “If any child or children, above 16 yeares old, … shall curse or smite their naturall fathr or mother, he or shee shalbe put to death…”4

But for a genealogist, this sort of law is just wonderful, because it helps on occasion to explain not just what our ancestors did — but why. And why a particular action was taken at a particular time.

That quickie marriage we find in the records may not have been the shotgun marriage we thought it was. Oh, there might have been some coercion involved in tying the knot, but in New Mexico at least it might have been from being caught in the sack by the law.

This particular “if we catch you, you have to get married” rule stayed the law in New Mexico for a long time. It was still on the books, in exactly the same form, in 1915:

Any person or persons who shall be found living together publicly as if they were married, shall be considered as living in a state of concubinage, and shall be required immediatly to contract and join in the bonds of matrimony, if there shall be no impediment to prevent their so doing; and if they do not form such union on the first requirement of any judge, and persist in their accustomed mode of life, they shall, on accusation thereof before any of the said judges, be fined in any sum not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than eighty dollars, for every time they shall be found so…5

And it was still the law in 1941.6

And in 1953.7

Oh, by the way… in case you’re wondering… or worried…

It’s not the law today.8



  1. §27, “An Act Requiring and Authorizing Judges of Probate and Justices of the Peace to Punish Depraved Persons in Cases Herein Prescribed,” in Revised Statutes and Laws of the Territory of New Mexico, … 1865 (St. Louis: p.p., 1865), 388; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 30 June 2014).
  2. Ibid., §28.
  3. Ibid., §29.
  4. Laws of 1646, in Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, ed., Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay of New England, vol. 2 (Boston: W. White, 1853), 179.
  5. §1776, “Unlawful Cohabitation,” Title 33, Offenses Against Public Morals, in New Mexico Statutes Annotated … in Effect June 11, 1915, Volume 1 (Denver, Colo. : Courtright Publishing Co., 1915), 565; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 30 June 2014).
  6. New Mexico Statutes, 1941 (Indianapolis : Bobbs-Merrill, 1942); snippet view, Google Books ( : accessed 30 June 2014).
  7. John W. Tranberg, editor, New Mexico Statutes Annotated, 1953 (Indianapolis : A. Smith Co., 1954); snippet view, Google Books ( : accessed 30 June 2014).
  8. A search of the New Mexico statutes at the New Mexico Compilation Commission website for concubinate returned “No Documents Found.”
Posted in Statutes | 12 Comments

Digitizing law dictionaries

The Legal Genealogist‘s absolute all-time favorite law-related blog is In Custodia Legis, the blog of the Law Library of Congress.

LawDictsIts content is an eclectic mix, with reports on upcoming legal presentations or conferences, a regular pictures of the week feature (the latest was about the King John seal), interviews with the many and varied people who use or work at the library, from former members of Congress to current interns, and more.

It’s so much my favorite law blog (and I am so much of a law geek) that I freely admit that one of the highpoints of my blogging career was having a post of mine cited in In Custodia Legis — it was a link to a 2012 post about Henry Campbell Black, editor and compiler of Black’s Law Dictionary.1

And when you combine my favorite law dictionaries with my favorite law blog?


And that happened last week, when In Custodia Legis reported a development that we as genealogists should welcome with open arms: an initiative by the Georgetown University Law Library in Washington, D.C., to digitize its law dictionaries collection, adding a wide variety of new resources to our digital bookshelves when we need more help understanding just what some pesky legal record really means.

The author of the post, Anne Guha, a summer intern at the Law Library, wrote:

Recently, while conducting research in the course of my studies, I learned of a project currently underway at the Georgetown Law Library to digitize their collection of early legal dictionaries. This will facilitate the entry of these rare editions into the public domain and make them virtually accessible.

The project is on-going, but the collection titled Digital Dictionaries: 1481-1891, already offers digitized copies of almost 40 early dictionaries. … Georgetown Law Library currently plans to scan a total of 87 titles, comprising over 120 volumes. Chronologically, the completed collection will begin with Georgetown Law Library’s 1481 Jodocus Vocabularius–held to be the first printed legal dictionary–and will run through 1891, the year of the first edition of Black’s Law Dictionary. The collection will primarily include English language dictionaries, along with a few non-English European titles. Each dictionary will be divided into a set of color PDFs, which can be downloaded or accessed online in an embedded document viewer.3

Heading over to the Georgetown Law Library site, you can find the Digital Dictionaries: 1481-1916 collection at this link. The Library says — in fancy language — what I keep saying: when we’re stumped by what something means, it helps to have a dictionary that was in use as close to the time when the record was created as possible.

Here’s a small sampling of what the collection includes now — and check back periodically, because there are many more to come:

1607: John Cowell, Interpreter, or Booke containing the signification of words : Wherein is set foorth the true meaning of all, or the most part of such words and termes, as are mentioned in the lawe writers, or statutes of this victorious and renowned kingdome, requiring any exposition or interpretation (Cambridge : Printed by John Legate, 1607).

1641: Sir John Skene, De verborum significatione : the exposition of the termes and difficill wordes, conteined in the foure buiks of Regiam Maiestatem, and uthers, in the acts of Parliament, infeftments, and used in practicque of this realme, and with divers rules, and common places, or principals of the lawes (London : Printed by E.G., 1641).

1779: Robert Kelham, Dictionary of the Norman or Old French language: collected from such Acts of Parliament, Parliament rolls, journals, Acts of state, records, law books, antient historians, and manuscripts as related to this nation… (London : Printed for Edward Brooke, 1779).

1824: John Henry Adlington, Cyclopaedia of law Or, the correct British lawyer (London : Thomas Kelly, 1824).

1879: Andrew Wright, (Glossary from) Court-hand restored : or, The student’s assistant in reading old deeds, charters, records, etc… (London : Reeves & Turner, 1879).

1916: James A. Ballentine, Law Dictionary of Words, Terms, Abbreviations and Phrases Which are Peculiar to the Law (San Francisco : Bancroft-Whitney Co., 1916).

So go ahead. Let your inner legal geek out … and geek out in the law dictionaries.


  1. Clare Feikert-Ahalt, “Legal Curiosities: What I Am,” In Custodia Legis, posted 2 May 2012 ( : accessed 29 June 2014), citing Judy G. Russell, “Henry Campbell Black (1860-1927),” The Legal Genealogist, posted 6 Jan 2012.
  2. I told you I’m a geek. What? You didn’t believe me? Geez
  3. Anne Guha, guest poster, “Georgetown Law Library’s Digital Dictionaries Collection,” In Custodia Legis, posted 2 May 2012 ( : accessed 29 June 2014).
Posted in Legal definitions, Resources | 4 Comments

Linking family trees and DNA

You might, if you were so inclined, call it the Holy Grail of genetic genealogy.

Putting your tree online with your genetic information, and having it link — automatically — to everyone else you’re related to.

WikiDNA2Imagine, for a moment, being able to quickly identify the man who has to be your direct paternal ancestor, just by entering your DNA data with your personal data. Or being able to quickly identify the woman who is the furthest back in your maternal line.

It’s exciting stuff, this tie between family trees and genetics.

It’s what AncestryDNA is trying hard to do with its tree-matching function and its autosomal DNA tests. There, it’s exceedingly problematic, because (a) autosomal DNA changes with every generation so you can start seeing gaps in the genetic data by the third cousin level, with as many as 10% of third cousins not having enough autosomal DNA in common to show up as a match1; and (b) autosomal results can be skewed by cousins marrying cousins as well as by the random nature of the way autosomal DNA is inherited.2

And it’s what WikiTree is trying now to do with its newly-announced DNA Ancestor Confirmation Aid, and in a much more useful way.

WikiTree, you may know, is a free crowdsourced effort “to grow a single worldwide family tree that will make genealogy free and accessible for everyone.” Members “privately collaborate with … close family members on profiles of modern people” and since “all the profiles are connected on the same system the process is creating a single family tree that will eventually connect us all and thereby make it free and easy for anyone to discover their roots.”3

This new DNA Ancestor Confirmation Aid lets every WikiTree contributor indicate whether he or she has taken a YDNA test (showing the direct paternal line and requiring a male descendant to test4) or a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test (showing the direct maternal line of the test-taker, who can be male or female5).

It then provides a neat way to determine who else may be on WikiTree who might share your YDNA or mtDNA. It shows you five generations of your ancestors, back to your third great grandparents, and lets you quickly and easily see who else is on WikiTree who descends from your ancestors. If any one of those people has tested, there’s a tool that lets you compare the results and to indicate whether there’s a match as you expect.

And if nobody has tested, well, you now know who to go after for a sample, don’t you?

It’s a very nice addition to the genetic genealogy toolbox, especially — as noted by Roberta Estes of DNAeXplained, for folks who have mtDNA tested for whom there is no other real connection system.6 Melding and blending genealogical data and genetic data can be terrific.

But even with the WikiTree system, it’s necessary to add one cautionary note:

Yes, it’s where we all want to go.

And it is oh so very easy to be dead wrong.

Here’s the hitch. Let’s say John Doe, a WikiTree member, has YDNA tested and he enters his information into his profile. What WikiTree then does with that information is this: “If a male WikiTree member has taken a yDNA test we go up the male line, father-to-father, to find the member’s earliest-known paternal grandfather. Then, starting with this earliest-known paternal grandfather, we go down the various direct male lines. The system includes all sons and skips all daughters and profiles without a specified gender.”7

If John has mtDNA tested, it does the same thing for the direct female line: “If a WikiTree member (male or female) has taken a mitochondrial DNA test we will go up the direct maternal line and then back down all appropriate lines and attach the test information to their profiles.”8

Once John enters his information, this is the statement that appears on the page for every single person to whom his DNA result is attached by this automatic system: “It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Ancestor by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother’s mitochondrial DNA.” That’s good. And then it says that there are either “Y-chromosome DNA test-takers in his direct paternal line on WikiTree” or “Mitochondrial DNA test-takers in the direct maternal line”.

And that’s not quite so good.

Because John Doe could be wrong.

If John’s tree is wrong, if there’s a gap in his documentation, the people he identifies as being in “his direct paternal line” or “direct maternal line” may not be his ancestors at all. And yet every single one of those people, starting with the very earliest ancestor John identifies as being his ancestor (Charlemagne, for example…), is going to have John’s DNA information attached to his or her profile.

Only when someone else who identifies himself or herself as a descendant of one of those people also DNA tests and takes the time to compare results and determines that there is a mismatch is there going to be so much as a hint that John’s DNA linkage information is wrong. And even then it requires member action to figure out where the error is and correct it, in the trees and not in the DNA linkage. WikiTree explains:

It’s important that non-matching tests don’t appear on an ACA and an ancestor’s profile indefinitely.

They remain there for as long as the incorrect relationship(s) that connected them remain on WikiTree. That is, we don’t edit DNA test connections directly. We edit WikiTree relationships. Test connections are automatically rebuilt at night based on those relationships.

It might seem easier just to remove the tests. However, it’s part of our community ethos that we are all striving for an accurate single family tree. Wiki Genealogists want to remove inaccurate relationships from WikiTree. DNA testing is a powerful tool for identifying these inaccuracies.9

WikiTree acknowledges that — even at its best — its system involves something less than proof: “Confirmation is not absolute proof. There are always caveats. For example, a man can be an exact yDNA match with the man who raised him, yet his real father could be the man’s uncle or the man’s grandfather, etc. Scientifically speaking, absolute proof of a theory is always impossible. A theory can be tested — a genealogical theory can be DNA tested — and the test can confirm or disprove the theory. A test can definitively disprove something. But a test cannot definitively prove anything, strictly speaking.”10

So while this is a good tool, and it’s a good step forward, we need to recognize its limits.

The fact is, on WikiTree, on AncestryDNA, on any system where we’re trying to blend genealogy and genetics, we need to understand the risks of what’s called GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

And, if we join in this crowdsourced work, we need to make sure our own work isn’t garbage.


  1. See e.g. Judy G. Russell, “Another darned mismatch!,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 21 July 2013 ( : accessed 28 June 2014).
  2. See ibid., “Endogamy and you. Really.,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 11 Mar 2012.
  3. About WikiTree,” ( : accessed 28 June 2014).
  4. See ISOGG Wiki (, “Y chromosome DNA test,” rev. 5 Mar 2014.
  5. See ISOGG Wiki (, “Mitochondrial DNA test,” rev. 30 Mar 2014.
  6. Roberta was quoted in the WikiTree press release on this new tool, since reposted on her blog. See Roberta Estes, “WikiTree Announces DNA Ancestor Confirmation Aid,” DNAeXplained, posted 26 June 2014 ( : accessed 28 June 2014).
  7. Automatic attachment of your test to WikiTree profiles,” DNA Features, ( : accessed 28 June 2014).
  8. Automatic attachment of your test to WikiTree profiles,” DNA Features, ( : accessed 28 June 2014).
  9. Removing relationships on WikiTree,” DNA Confirmations, ( : accessed 28 June 2014).
  10. Ibid., “Confirmation vs. Proof.”
Posted in DNA | 9 Comments

One word in the census

Over and over and over again, in that census record, the word appears in that “Profession, Occupation or Trade” column.

Enlist2.cropIt’s there by the name of 30-year-old Andrew Dean.1 By the name of 52-year-old Jacob Puttorf.2 By the name of 25-year-old William J. Griffith.3 And by the name of a 21-year-old farmboy, born in North Carolina, Martin A. Baker.4

The Legal Genealogist has no doubt that, at some times, in some years, that word in the “Profession, Occupation or Trade” column might have been there with pride. Had that census been taken just a year earlier, even just a few months earlier, it might have been there with dread.

But that census was taken on the 27th of June 1865.

And by the 27th of June 1865, we can hope that it was there with relief and with deep and abiding gratitude.

Because the word in the “Profession, Occupation or Trade” column that summer day in 1865 was “soldier.”

And the families who reported that “Profession, Occupation or Trade” to the census takers there in Leavenworth County, Kansas, had had more than two months to get used to the idea that their soldier sons and fathers and husbands and brothers were no longer at war.

That they might in fact be coming home.


And as well as they might be after years of brutal civil war.

David Davenport Baker and his wife (and cousin) Mary (Baker) Baker5 had had three sons of age to be at risk in that terrible conflagration.6 There’s no record that William, born in 1841, served in the Civil War. John, born in 1842, was recorded in that 1865 census at home with his family.7

But Martin… born in 1843 and named for his grandfather, another Martin A. Baker, Martin had gone for a soldier.

He was eighteen years old, a blue-eyed, light-haired, fair-complected farmboy standing all of five feet four inches in height when he signed on the dotted line in Easton, Kansas, on the 22nd of August 1862.8

His unit: Company A, 11th Kansas Volunteers. Originally organized as the 11th Kansas Infantry when it was organized in 1862, it was mounted and converted to the 11th Kansas Cavalry in 1863.9 Its infantry engagements included the Battle of Old Fort Wayne, in what is now Oklahoma and the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.10

Company A was the first to be mustered into service, and the entire regiment filled by the middle of September 1862. So quick was the unit’s dispatch into that first engagement that the men of the 11th Kansas couldn’t wait to be issued modern Enfield rifles, but had to draw weapons more than 40 years old: “The only infantry arms at Fort Leavenworth were a lot of Fremont’s Prussian Muskets, manufactured in 1818, of antique pattern, extra large calibre, and one-fourth heavier than either the Enfield or Springfield musket. These were hastily drawn and issued, and on the 4th of October, twenty days after its organization, the Eleventh Regiment, with eager steps, started on its first campaign.”11

As a cavalry unit, the 11th Kansas was involved in the battles at Lexington, Little Blue River, Independence, Byram’s Ford, and Westport, all in Missouri; Mine Creek in Kansas; and Platte Bridge Station in what is now Wyoming.12

And then came the peace.

And for the first time in three years families in Kansas could begin to breathe again.

Martin would not be home for another three months. Company A of the 11th Kansas Regiment was mustered out of service on the 26th of September 1865.13

But can you imagine the feeling David Davenport Baker must have had there, that summer day in 1865, when the census taker came to call?

He himself was just two days shy of his 46th birthday.14

And his son — Martin — the soldier — would go to war no more.

Talk about a birthday to remember…


  1. 1865 Kansas State Census, Leavenworth County, Leavenworth Ward 3, p. 80 (penned), dwelling 554, family 585, Andrew Dean; digital image, ( : accessed 27 June 2014); citing Kansas State Census microfilm reel K-5, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka.
  2. Ibid., p. 81 (penned), dwell. 561, fam. 593, Jacob Puttorf.
  3. Ibid., p. 83 (penned), dwell. 570, fam. 602, Wm J Griffith.
  4. Ibid., p. 89 (penned), dwell. 607, fam. 641, Martin A. Baker.
  5. See Macon County, North Carolina, Marriage Bond, 1839, David D. Baker and Mary Baker; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.
  6. Their first born son, Thomas, born in 1839, died as a child. Elma W. Baker, The Rugged Trail, Vol. II (Dallas, TX: p.p., 1973), 73, citing family Bible records and individuals who reported information to him.
  7. 1865 Kansas State Census, Leavenworth Co., Leavenworth Ward 3, p. 89 (penned), dwell. 607, fam. 641, John F. Baker.
  8. Volunteer Enlistment, 11th Regiment of Kansas Volunteers, Company A, Martin A. Baker; digital image, ( : accessed 27 June 2014); citing Kansas Volunteer Regiments and Batteries (1862-1868), Record Group 034, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office of the State of Kansas, 1856-1993; Wartime Records (1861-1947); Enlistment Papers (1862-1869, 1917-1918); Kansas Historical Society, Topeka.
  9. Wikipedia (, “11th Regiment Kansas Volunteer Infantry,” rev. 28 May 2014.
  10. Ibid.
  11. W.S. Burke, Official Military History of Kansas Regiments During the War for the Suppression of the Great Rebellion (Leavenworth, Kansas: p.p. 1870), 323-325; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 27 June 2014).
  12. Wikipedia (, “11th Regiment Kansas Volunteer Cavalry,” rev. 11 May 2014.
  13. See “11th Regiment Kansas Volunteers–Cavalry,” Kansas GenWeb ( : accessed 27 June 20; citing Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, Vol. 1. – 1861-1865. Leavenworth, Kansas: Bulletin Co-operative Printing Company, Chicago. 1867.
  14. David Davenport Baker, oldest son of Martin and Elizabeth (Buchanan) Baker, was born 29 June 1819. Baker, The Rugged Trail, 73.
Posted in My family | 5 Comments

Come early!

It’s going to be a full house this afternoon for The Legal Genealogist‘s Legacy Family Tree webinar, Copyright Mythconceptions.

Copy.webinarIt seems that a lot of folks have questions about copyright — what’s allowed, what isn’t, and what we all think we know about copyright law that, well, just isn’t so.

So today’s webinar is going to be packed — and that means, seriously, some folks who’ve registered may not be able to get into the webinar if they don’t get there early.

If this happens to you, please don’t worry: you will be able to hear the whole presentation. Remember, the great thing about Legacy Family Tree webinars is that each one is available, free, for seven days after the webinar, and the webinar host, Geoff Rasmussen, does a terrific job of getting the full recording of each webinar online within hours. Right now, Angela Walton-Raji’s great webinar on Documenting Native American Families in 19th and 20th Century Records can be viewed for free.

And even after the free period, each recording is then available for purchase so you can review it more slowly, in more depth, at your own pace. Or you can just subscribe to the entire Legacy Family Tree webinar service, and get on-demand access to the entire archived set — some 250-plus hours of instruction already and new materials added every week. The cost right now is $49.95 for a year, and $9.95 for a month.

I know I often can’t sit in on daytime webinars, but I’ve been able to take in terrific presentations anyway and they’re available for viewing now through the subscription service or by purchasing a CD: Linda Woodward Geiger Using Tax Lists to Solve Genealogical Problems; James M. Beidler on German Internet Research: A Launching Place for Your Research; and Lisa Alzo on 10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Family History Narrative, just to name a few.

And if you do have time during the day to listen in live, the line-up of upcoming webinars for the rest of the summer and fall is terrific. Take a gander at the offerings at the Upcoming Webinars page and make sure your register in advance for any presentation that you want to hear.

Oh… and come early.

Things can get crowded, even online…

Posted in Copyright | Leave a comment

The soldier scholar

So The Legal Genealogist was back poking around the statute books yesterday and came across a Joint Resolution of the United States Congress, passed in January 1912.

AlienNow many joint resolutions are things like allowing the Grand Army of the Republic to borrow tents for its encampment in Pullman, Washington, in June 1912,1 or thanking the captain of the Carpathia for that ship’s efforts to save the lives of passengers from the Titanic.2

This one, though, was a little different:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of War be, and he is hereby, authorized to permit Mr. José Pasos Diaz, of Nicaragua, to receive instruction at the United States Military Academy, at West Point : Provided That no expense shall be caused to the United States thereby, and that the said José Pasos Diaz shall agree to comply with all regulations for the police and discipline of the academy, to be studious, and to give his utmost efforts to accomplish the courses in the various departments of instruction : And provided further, That in the case of said José Pasos Diaz the provisions of sections thirteen hundred and twenty and thirteen hundred and twenty-one of the Revised Statutes shall be suspended.3

Reading through it, you can’t help but ask… who in the world was José Pasos Diaz of Nicaragua, and why did it take an act of Congress to get him into West Point?

Let’s look at the second question first, because there’s a big fat clue right in the language of the resolution itself.

See it? I’m sure you do. It’s that part that says that “in the case of said José Pasos Diaz the provisions of sections thirteen hundred and twenty and thirteen hundred and twenty-one of the Revised Statutes shall be suspended.”4

So… what were the Revised Statutes? They were the end result of the first official codification of federal law, codification being lawyer-speak for the “process of collecting and arranging the laws of a country or state into a code, i.e., into a complete system of positive law, scientifically ordered, and promulgated by legislative authority.”5 In 1870, Congress passed a law authorizing the President to hire three commissioners to put the code together.6

You’ll find the Revised Statutes online at the Library of Congress Century of Lawmaking website, as Volume 18, Part I, of the Statutes at Large, and that’s where you’ll find out what “sections thirteen hundred and twenty and thirteen hundred and twenty-one of the Revised Statutes” were.

Section 1320 required that each cadet admitted to West Point “take and subscribe an oath or affirmation” to “support the Constitutipon of the United States and bear true allegiance to the National Government,” to “maintain and defend the sovereignty of the United States, paramount to any and all allegiance, sovereignty, or fealty” owed “to any State, county, or country whatsoever.”7

And section 1321 required each cadet to agree to serve eight years in the U.S. military.

A bit of a problem for a young man described as “of Nicaragua.”

As in the Central American country, tucked between Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south.8

Where his father was then serving as the American-supported President of Nicaragua. As explained by the U.S. State Department:

In the years leading up to the First World War, the United States and Mexican governments competed for political influence in Central America. As a result, the U.S. Government intervened more directly in Nicaraguan affairs in two separate, but related, incidents in 1911 and 1912, with the objective of ensuring the rule of a government friendly to U.S. political and commercial interests and preserving political stability in Central America. …

Nicaraguan President José Zelaya… had come to power in a military coup in 1893. … In the fall of 1909, a revolt broke out against Zelaya in Nicaragua, and … when two U.S. citizens who were serving as officers in the rebel army had been captured and executed by Zelaya’s forces(,) U.S. Marines landed on the Caribbean coast… Thereafter, the Nicaraguan government agreed to a U.S. loan, a new constitution, the abolishment of monopolies, and conceded to the previous demands that the United States had placed on the new government in exchange for recognition (and a new President’s) political rivals succeeded in replacing him with his vice president, Adolfo Diaz.

…In July 1912, Diaz’s political rival, the Minister of War, Luis Mena, began a revolt to seize power. Although he had already won election to succeed to the presidency in 1913, Mena was uncertain of securing U.S. backing. Diaz asked the U.S. Government to intervene in order to secure the property of U.S. citizens. With U.S. support, Diaz maintained his hold on power, and Mena left the country. Concerned about preserving stability in Nicaragua, the U.S. kept a small detachment of 100 marines in Nicaragua until 1925.9

Which pretty much answers the first question. The kid was connected.

He wasn’t the only non-citizen admitted to West Point with a waiver of these two sections of the law. In that same year, Humberto Mencia and Juan Dawson of Salvador10 and Manuel Aguero y Junqué of Cuba11 were also the beneficiaries of special resolutions that would have allowed them to enroll.

Only Diaz appears to have actually entered West Point, however, and he didn’t graduate. His name is on the roster of the class of 1916 with an x before the year — designating a non-graduate.12

And you thought only U.S. history — and U.S. genealogy — would be found in U.S. laws…


  1. 37 Stat. 633 (22 Apr 1912).
  2. 37 Stat. 639 (6 July 1912).
  3. “Joint Resolution Authorizing the Secretary of War to receive for instruction at the United States Military Academy, at West Point, Mr. Jose Pasos Diaz, of Nicaragua,” 37 Stat. 628 (26 Jan 1912).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 216, “codification.”
  6. “An Act to provide for the Revision and Consolidation of the Statutes of the United States,” 16 Stat. 96 (4 May 1870).
  7. Rev. Stat. §1320.
  8. See “Nicaragua,” The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency ( : accessed 25 June 2014).
  9. U.S. Intervention in Nicaragua, 1911/1912,” U.S. Department of State, Archive 2000-2009 ( : accessed 25 June 2014).
  10. S.J. Res. 87, 37 Stat. 632 (19 Apr 1912).
  11. Ibid., S.J. Res. 91 (19 Apr 1912).
  12. Alphabetical Locator of Graduates and Former Cadets,” West Point Association of Graduates ( : accessed 25 June 2014).
Posted in Legal definitions, Statutes | Leave a comment