So The Legal Genealogist is on the road today…

Gone to Texas!

To the 2014 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in San Antonio, to be precise.

fgs2014-logoThe city where my great grandparents were married in 1896.

The state where I have roots back before it was a state.

The place where I have somehow gotten myself committed to be up-and-at-’em at oh-dark-thirty Saturday for the Preserve the Pensions walk.

(Um… You have donated to sponsor me, right? Right? C’mon… what are you waiting for???)

If you’ll be attending the FGS Conference in San Antonio, come join me in my presentations:

A Family for Isabella: Indirect Evidence from Texas back to Mississippi
Thursday, 4:30 p.m., T-238
With no birth, marriage or death record, only indirect evidence and the Genealogical Proof Standard can link Isabella of Texas to her Mississippi parents.

That Scoundrel George: Tracking a Black Sheep Texas Ancestor
Friday, 9:45 a.m., F-329
A romp through records of the Republic and State of Texas on the trail of a scoundrel from his marriage and bigamy charge in Colorado County to his death in Iowa Park.

Beyond X & Y: Using Autosomal DNA for Genealogy
Saturday, 3 p.m., S-437
A plain-English non-scientific introduction to the promise, and the pitfalls, of this newest addition to the genetic genealogy toolbox.

And, of course, Saturday at oh-dark-thirty — that’s 6:30 a.m. for you larks out there — this night owl will be walking with Josh Taylor, Kenyatta Berry and Ed Donakey as the sponsored walkers to raise money for the Preserve the Pensions effort.

You can sign up to sponsor one of us (me, that is; the others are on their own on this one!) at the online donation page (scroll down to where it says “Sponsor someone for the San Antonio Fun Walk”) or at the Exhibit Hall, Booths 506, 508.

Hope that you too are Gone to Texas and I’ll see you in San Antonio!

Posted in General | 6 Comments

98 years of National Parks

It is a most unprepossessing piece of legislation, the act that appears in volume 39 of the U.S. Statutes at Large.

NPSIt begins, mundanely, by noting that it was “enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there is hereby created in the Department of the Interior a service to be called the National Park Service, which shall be under the charge of a director, who shall be appointed by the Secretary…”1

It isn’t until the last sentence of that section that the lawmakers get around to explaining why they’re doing what they’re doing:

The service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations… by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose … to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.2

Known as the National Park Service Organic Act, the law was signed by President Woodrow Wilson 98 years ago today.

And what a wonderful gift it has been to the nation.

You can celebrate, if you happen to have today free, by going to any of the now 401 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands that are included in the National Park Service system; the usual entry fee is waived as part of the birthday celebrations.3

Or you can spend time on its website, the kind of website that — even with its technical glitches — warms the cockles of a genealogist’s heart.

Just turn to its history pages and read.

“Sometimes all you need to know is that there was a Homestead Act of 1862,” one web page begins. “Sometimes, you want to understand the life of a homesteader, someone like Adeline Hornbek. A single mother of four, Hornbek made her own way for her family and became the owner of a prosperous ranch in Colorado’s Florissant Valley.” The page continues:

Thomas Edison earned 1,093 United States patents, a record that still stands. He kept a cot in his New Jersey lab so he could work through the night when inventing.

In his autobiography, Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington wrote, “I had the feeling that to get into a schoolhouse and study would be about the same as getting into paradise.” He founded Tuskegee Institute in 1881.

Susan LaFlesche Picotte’s dream was a hospital to care for her people on the Omaha Indian Reservation. The first American Indian woman to practice medicine in the United States, she graduated from medical school in 1889 and realized her dream 14 years later with the first privately-funded reservation hospital.

People make history. Find them here.4

The NPS history website also has an entry page for stories:

Stories are the big picture…or a snapshot in time. They provide the basics – who, what, where, when, why, and how – and may offer context and analysis. Stories can evolve, expand, and change over time as more is learned through new technology or new scholarship.

Stories include the personal – memories of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island – and the impersonal recitation of data and dates. They can be thousands of years old – the petroglyphs of the Rio Grande Valley – and as fresh and raw as the events of 9/11.

Stories recount the challenges and opportunities faced by individuals, communities, and nations.

Stories are shared history. Read them here.5

And for places:

Some historic places are easy to find because they have national park signs out front or brass plaques on the wall. Others take a little digging – sometimes quite literally (like archeological sites). These authentic places of history offer opportunities to experience where real history really happened. To trace the steps of a Civil War soldier on the battlefield at Gettysburg. To climb a 32-foot ladder to Balcony House and watch the morning light glide across this prehistoric cliff dwelling. To glimpse the desolation faced by more than 10,000 Japanese Americans confined at Manzanar during World War II.

Set aside as national or state parks, designated as National Historic Landmarks, listed in the National Register of Historic Places or state registers, or recorded in measured drawings, large-format photography, and written histories by HABS/HAER/HALS, this nation recognizes historic places of triumph and tragedy…and 75-foot long wooden elephants.

History happened. Find out where.6

And those are just the teasers. The actual resources of the National Park Service online are simply stunning.

It’s the National Park Service, for example, that maintains the Soldiers and Sailors Database, with information about the men who served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Overall, its Civil War resources are amazing, and include a timeline of the war, detailed information on key events and places and more. The main entry page for the Civil War material is here:

For other features, because of those technical glitches I mentioned (the link to a collection of more than two million photographic images times out on a regular basis, for example), the best access points into the genealogically-useful aspects of the website are the history links:

For Travelers
For Teachers

And there’s also a Virtual Museum with highlights of the millions of items held by the National Park Service, including exhibits from the Battle of Gettysburg, Alcatraz Prison, and the Revolutionary War Battle of Guilford Courthouse, just to name a few. The full listing of parks with online museum exhibits includes:

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site
Andersonville National Historic Site
Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site
Big Bend National Park
Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Castle Clinton National Monument
Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Clara Barton National Historic Site
Edison National Historical Park
Harry S Truman National Historic Site
Glacier National Park
Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
Museum and Archeology Resource Center including Vietnam Memorial
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site
Sitka National Historical Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Weir Farm National Historic Site

And, of course, since copyright does not apply to materials created by federal employees in their official functions for the government, “Information created or owned by the NPS and presented on (its) website, unless otherwise indicated, is considered in the public domain. It may be distributed or copied as permitted by applicable law.”7

Yes indeed… It’s the kind of website that warms the cockles of a genealogist’s heart.

Even if we have no clue what heart cockles or… or why we might want to warm them…


  1. “An Act To establish a National Park Service, and for other purposes,” 39 Stat. 535 (25 Aug. 1916); digital images, “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875,” Library of Congress, American Memory ( : accessed 24 Aug 2014).
  2. Ibid., §1.
  3. NPS Birthday,” National Park Service ( : accessed 24 Aug 2014).
  4. Discover History: People,” National Park Service ( : accessed 24 Aug 2014).
  5. Discover History: Stories,” National Park Service ( : accessed 24 Aug 2014).
  6. Discover History: Places,” National Park Service ( : accessed 24 Aug 2014).
  7. Disclaimer: Ownership,” National Park Service ( : accessed 24 Aug 2014).
Posted in Resources, Statutes | 7 Comments

Richard Ivan Moore, 1939-2014

“Am I a keeper?” he asked.

The question came unexpectedly at the end of the visit where The Legal Genealogist had gotten to know members of the extended family for the first time.

Dick.meIt came about when, after some effort, I finally located my mother’s cousin, Fred Gottlieb, the man who had walked her down the aisle at her marriage to my father. I wanted to meet him, and arranged to fly to Albuquerque.

But before that trip, 10 years ago, in April 2004, Fred put me in touch with his nephew, my second cousin Dick Moore and Dick’s wife, Julie. “They’re interested in that family history stuff,” Fred said.

And so they were.

Dick and Julie met me at the Albuquerque airport. Opened their home to me. Showed me around all the places within a wide driving radius of the city that played a role in the lives of that branch of the family.

They played chauffeur for me on daily visits with Fred, including the one on the day that the question of relatives as keepers first came up.

Fred just didn’t get it. Could not for the life of him wrap his head around the idea of wanting to get to know distant family members … or what he thought of as ancient family history.

I remember trying to explain. “Some people collect coins,” I remember telling him. “Others collect stamps. Me? I collect relatives.”

Everyone laughed.

Then Fred’s face grew serious. “What do you do,” he asked, “when you find one that … well … you’d rather not have?”

I remember smiling in return. “Throw him back,” I said, “and find another one who’s a keeper.”

Dick and Julie and I went together down to Lovington, in Lea County, where Dick’s and my great grandfather Martin Gilbert Cottrell was buried and where, for some reason neither of us could articulate at the time, we just had to be photographed — as you see here today — together behind the tombstone.

And we talked. We talked and talked and talked.

About life. About love. About family.

About difficult fathers. About struggles we had faced. About our successes. About our failures.

Even… when we lost Fred less than a year later … even about death.

But mostly about our common heritage. The ancestors we share. Cottrells. Bakers. Buchanans.

About the history we have in common. A Revolutionary War patriot. A preacher. A scoundrel or two.

About what we owe to the past.

About what we hoped for, for the future.

In all too short a time, I had to say goodbye, back at the Albuquerque airport.

And, as he gave me one last bear hug, he asked if he could ask me a question.

“Am I a keeper?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said then. “Oh yes.”

Gentle. Funny. Smart. Loving. Kind. An amazing husband, father, grandfather.

A cousin. And then a friend. How could he be anything but a keeper?

We managed to get together a few more times. We shared emails and research and even DNA results. We talked about how we’d like to get together more.

But life has a way of keeping us from the keepers.

Distance, schedules, commitments all conspire to deny us the time we would so like to have with the people we would most like to spend it with.

And now it is too late.

On Thursday, 21 August 2014, Richard Ivan “Dick” Moore lost his battle with cancer.

My life was richer, deeper, more joyful because I knew my cousin Dick.

But some of the light of my family has gone out.

And we are left behind to try to keep the keeper’s memory alive.

Rest in peace, cousin Dick. We loved you.

Posted in My family | 37 Comments

Only in our hearts

Thursday of this past week would have been her 116th birthday.

MamaClay2014bMy grandmother, Opal E. Robertson, oldest of the four children of Jasper and Eula (Baird) Robertson, was born 21 August 1898, in Eagle Lake, Colorado County, Texas.1

And we lost her 19 years ago, on the 15th of March 1995.2

A long life, for sure… yet one that seems all too short for those of us who loved her.

She was, her obituary said, “preceded in death by her husband, Clay Rex Cottrell; and three children, Ruth Marie, Donald Harris and Monte Boyd Cottrell.” It went on:

Mrs. Cottrell, fondly known as “Mama Clay,” was the matriarch of the Cottrell Family. She is survived by four sons, … five daughters, … thirty-seven grandchildren, twenty-two stepgrandchildren; forty-four great-grandchildren; and eleven step-great-grandchildren.3

We — her children, her grandchildren, and so many other descendants — pause to remember her this week. And — as we so often do — we will let her speak for herself.

Here are her own words, written around 1974, and more recently and lovingly transcribed by her granddaughter (my cousin) Paula — whose own birthday is today…

As I pass my 76th birthday, I find myself wanting our grandchildren to know something of the era in which their Grandfather, Clay, and I grew up. In retrospect we often remember the pleasant, but it was not always lovely & pleasant.

Thank goodness they won’t be dosed with calamine and castor oil. They won’t have to wear long underwear from Oct. to May – or wear long black stockings and high button shoes, read by oil lamps – (maybe!?), walk two miles to school, pick up corn-cobs for kindling, or wear a flannel cloth soaked with coal oil and lard on their chest until it blisters.

I am sorry, however, that they will never know the excitement of hog killing time, and the magic words “The thresher is coming,” taste delectable cold clabber with sugar sprinkled on top, feel the cleanliness of home-made lye soap, and they probably will never have the pleasure of opening a school lunch bucket and finding a slice of country ham fried in an iron skillet, buried between two soft buttermilk biscuits. Or two pickled eggs pickled in beet juice, or eat a big piece of hot homemade bread, spread with freshly churned butter. Too, they’ll never know the sweetness of homemade blackberry jam spooned from a crock jar. Or the excitement of finding a new hens nest in the lay in the barn loft. They will miss the snugness and secure feeling of sleeping in a cold upstairs room with a nightcap on their head and a hot wrapped brick at their feet.

But I can hear them say, “Poor Grandma and Grandpa, if only they could have traveled — at least to the Moon!”

Not yet, Mama Clay. Not quite yet.


  1. Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Md., Request for E/R Action, Opal E. Cottrell, 22 Feb 1966. The document notes that her original SS-5 form, her application for a Social Security number, was “sent to P/C with claim 4-6-66.”
  2. Virginia Department of Health, death certif. no. 95-011808, Opal Robertson Cottrell, 15 Mar 1995; Division of Vital Records, Richmond.
  3. “Cottrell,” obituary, Charlottesville (Va.) Daily Progress, 17 March 1995.
Posted in My family | 6 Comments

Pennsylvania’s colonial inmates

So earlier this week The Legal Genealogist set off to explore the use of the term “inmate” in U.S. census records.

The blog post began: “When is an inmate not an inmate? Or, more accurately, when is an inmate not the kind of inmate we might expect? Not, that is, a prisoner.” And the answer, of course, was “much of the time.”1

PaStatTurns out others had been thinking about the same thing at the same time! Reader Dana, who launched The Enthusiastic Genealogist blog earlier this year, had just posted about that just a bit more than a week earlier,2 and Harold Henderson, CG, had just published a short related piece related in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly that I finally had a chance to read yesterday.3

And no sooner had the blog post hit the website when a cousin, Mary Ann Thurmond4 responded that she was under the impression that the term had also been used, in a different way, in early Pennsylvania records.

And she’s absolutely right.

Pennsylvania first used the term in its 1724-1725 tax law, which required the constables to return lists of:

all and every the persons dwelling or residing within the limits of those townships or places with which they shall be charged, and the names of all freemen, inmates, hired servants and all other persons residing or sojourning in every of the said townships, together with an account of what tracts and parcels of land and tenements they respectively hold in such township…5

The term was new in that act; it hadn’t appeared in the earlier statute passed 22 February 1717-18.6 And the term meant “persons who lived in the house of someone else, sometimes in exchange for payment. They were not family members of the houseowner, nor were they guests or servants.”7

Lodgers would be inmates; boarders would be inmates;8 so too inmates were “heads of families who occupied cottages on the lands of landowners in return for their seasonal labor.”9

The term was gone from Pennsylvania’s law by 1795: it doesn’t appear in the statute passed that year or in any law thereafter.10

But it continued to be used in some tax lists even after 1795, so don’t be surprised to come across it later.

And be aware that even earlier, in England, the term was used to apply only to the poor. Inmates were:

Persons who are admitted to dwell with and in the house of another, and not able to maintain themselves. These inmates are generally idle persons harboured in cottages; wherein it hath been common for several families to inhabit, by which the poor of parishes have been increased; but suffering this was made an offence by statute… 11

There, at least, it did not apply to those who simply rented quarters: “If a person take another to table with him; or let certain rooms to one to dwell in, if he be of ability, and not poor, he is no inmate.”12

Inmates of all different stripes!

Who’d have thunk it?


  1. Judy G. Russell, “Of inmates and families,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 19 Aug 2014 ( : accessed 21 Aug 2014).
  2. Dana, “When is an Inmate Not a Prisoner?,” The Enthusiastic Genealogist, posted 11 Aug 2014 ( : accessed 21 Aug 2014).
  3. Harold Henderson, “Who’s In the Jailhouse Now?,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 102 (June 2014): 110.
  4. A real “we can identify the common ancestor” cousin. Honest-to-goodness no-foolin’ second cousin once removed, fellow descendant of our common ancestors Gustavus Boone Robertson and Isabella (Gentry) Robertson.
  5. Section IV, “An Act for Raising of County Rates and Levies,” 4 Pa. Statutes at Large 10, 13 (Harrisburg, Pa. : State Printer, 1897); digital images, Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau ( : accessed 21 Aug 2014). Emphasis added.
  6. See “An Act for the More Effectual Raising (of) County Rates and Levies,” 3 Pa. Statutes at Large 175 et seq. (Harrisburg, Pa. : State Printer, 1896); digital images, Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau ( : accessed 21 Aug 2014).
  7. Kenneth W. Keller and Lee Soltow, “Rural Pennsylvania in 1800: A Portrait From the Septennial Census,” 49 Pennsylvania History (Jan. 1982), 25-47; PDF, Pennsylvania History Archives ( : accessed 21 Aug 2014).
  8. See Karin Wulf, “Assessing Gender: Taxation and the Evaluation of Economic Viability in Late Colonial Philadelphia,” 64 Pennsylvania History (July 1997), 201-235; PDF, Pennsylvania History Archives ( : accessed 21 Aug 2014).
  9. Jack Marietta, “The Distribution of Wealth in Eighteenth-Century America: Nine Chester County Tax Lists, 1693-1799,” 62 Pennsylvania History (Oct. 1995), 532-545; PDF, Pennsylvania History Archives ( : accessed 21 Aug 2014).
  10. See “An Act to Regulate the Mode of Assessing and Collecting County Rates and Levies,” 15 Pa. Statutes at Large 322 et seq. (Harrisburg, Pa. : State Printer, 1911); digital images, Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau ( : accessed 21 Aug 2014).
  11. T. E. Tomlins, editor, The Law-Dictionary : Explaining the Rise, Progress, and Present State, of the English Law… (London, England : p.p., 1729), vol. III, pp. 449-450, “Inmate”; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 21 Aug 2014).
  12. Ibid.
Posted in Legal definitions, Statutes | 2 Comments

The self-inflicted wound…

Okay, The Legal Genealogist has really done it this time.

There was this blog post last week, see, about a fun walk the Federation of Genealogical Societies was doing to support the Preserve the Pensions effort.

Pensions1812For those genealogists who have lived in a cave (or tied to a microfilm reader) for the last two years, that’s the truly wonderful initiative now underway to digitize millions of pages of fragile documents in grave danger of deterioration: records of War of 1812 pension records held by the National Archives.

These particular 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 and keep them available forever.

The effort to get these wonderful records digitized is being led by the Federation of Genealogical Societies, with matching funds support from Ancestry.

It’s a cause that’s near and dear to my heart, so when FGS said it was going to do a Fun Walk at the FGS Conference next week in San Antonio to help raise funds for the cause, I cast caution and good sense to the winds and said I’d do it if folks would sponsor me.


The original “the only time I see the sun rise is if I haven’t been to bed yet” night owl.

I agreed to be awake, out of bed and even dressed.

By six freakin’ thirty in the morning.

Also known as oh-dark-thirty.

To walk a mile or so to the Alamo. And, presumably, a mile or so back.

All in the name of raising money to Preserve the Pensions.

Well, a lot of people chimed in, and now I’m stuck. Really stuck.

You see, FGS decided to make this a contest on who could raise the most money. And, to comply with some pesky little legal requirements, they’re limiting this to four walkers.

Me, and three other people who are a lot — and I mean a lot — younger than I am: D. Joshua Taylor, Kenyatta Berry and Ed Donakey.

Now think about that for a minute. I could have lollygaggled around the back of the pack with a lot of walkers. There’s nothing in the rules that says I have to get there and back in any particular amount of time.

Except now there will only be three other walkers.

Who, given their ages compared to mine, will undoubtedly end up leaving me in the dust.

So to at least avoid embarrassing myself completely, I need to come in somewhere other than dead last in the fundraising department.

So sponsor me, willya?

Look, Josh Taylor has the whole FindMyPast organization behind him, Ed Donakey has all of FamilySearch, Kenyatta Berry has the Association of Professional Genealogists, and they’re all younger and cuter than I am. So I need all the help I can get here!

Besides, it’s for a good cause — and every dollar raised in support of the walkers goes directly to the Preserve The Pensions fund. Every dollar is matched first by FGS, then again by Ancestry. Every $25.00 sponsorship becomes a $100.00 contribution to the preservation of this incredibly important collection of War of 1812 pensions.

You can read more in the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ conference blog at as well as in the Preserve the Pensions web site at

And to sponsor me (or… sigh… one of the youngsters…), if you’re attending the FGS Conference, you can do it in person by stopping by the Preserve The Pensions booth (booth 506, 508) in the Exhibit Hall. And if you want to do it from home, visit the donate page at

You’ll see a section marked “Honor and Tribute” where you can select the walker you’d like to sponsor.

And thank you.

I think.

As long as I survive…

Posted in General | 11 Comments

Next in an occasional series on terms of use

So… once more into the breach, dear friends.

This is the fourth time The Legal Genealogist has visited the terms of use area of Find A Grave, the huge and hugely-popular website with burial information and photos so widely used by genealogists.1

FAG.TOS2Why? Because the terms of use have changed again here in 2014, and despite an effort to clear up any questions it’s clear that folks still have questions about the Find A Grave terms of use.

Terms of use, remember, are “the limits somebody who owns something you want to see or copy or use puts on whether or not he’ll let you see or copy or use it. These are limits that are different from copyright protection, since the law says what is and isn’t copyrighted and you can own a thing without owning the copyright. So this isn’t copyright law; it’s contract law — you and whoever owns the thing you want to see or copy or use reach a deal.”2

And in the case of Find A Grave, it’s these terms of use that govern not just what we as part of the general web-using public can do with all the content — the words and photos and more — that Find A Grave members upload to the site but also what rights Find A Grave has to that content created or contributed by members.

The easy part is Find A Grave’s rights.

When you take a tombstone photo and upload it to Find A Grave, you’re not giving up your ownership of the image or of your copyright (if any) in the image. What you’re giving Find A Grave is “a non-exclusive, transferable, sublicensable, royalty-free, world-wide license for the maximum amount of time permitted by applicable law to host, store, copy, publish, distribute, provide access to and otherwise use such material, including, hosting and access on co-branded services of that material, and to use the data contained in that material as search results and to integrate that data into the Service or other services as Find A Grave or the Group Companies deem appropriate.”3

Let’s break that down.

• A license is a fancy legal word for permission.

Non-exclusive means you can use your images or content elsewhere for your own purposes; your permission isn’t limited to Find A Grave so it doesn’t mean Find A Grave is the only place the photos and content can be used.

• The fact that it’s transferable and sublicensable means that Find A Grave, and its owners at, can sell the service or give it to somebody else or give permission to someone else to use all of parts of the content. In other words, you’re giving them permission to give permission to someone else.

Royalty-free means they’re not going to pay you. Ever.

And all the other terms in that paragraph let Find A Grave work together with Ancestry and the whole Ancestry family of companies to use the information throughout Ancestry. And, of course, the rest of the terms of use require that we only upload materials we have the right to upload: we can’t violate someone else’s copyright by uploading photos or text we didn’t take or write (unless we have permission to upload).

There’s been no change in Find A Grave’s promise to keep its content free; the FAQs still read that its “stated goal has always been to remain a free site for everyone. We have no plans on changing that. Additionally, we claim no copyright or ‘ownership’ of any photos that are posted to Find A Grave. They remain your property. If we were to turn evil and start charging people to view YOUR photos against your wishes, you would have every legal right to demand that we remove them. But we’re not planning on turning evil, so it shouldn’t be an issue.”4

But Find A Grave does claim what’s called a compilation copyright, and it does limit what people can do with content, and that’s what seems to have folks confused.

Here’s what the terms of use say:

You may access the Websites only personally with an individual browser or mobile device (bots, crawlers, spiders, scraping and other automatic access tools are prohibited), use graphics, information, data, editorial and any other content displayed on or accessible through the Websites (“Content”) only for personal research or scholarly historical research, and download Content only as search results relevant to that research. For example, the download of the whole or material parts of any work or database is prohibited. Resale of a work or database or portion thereof is prohibited. Online or other republication of Content is prohibited except as unique data elements that are part of a unique family history or genealogy. Violation of this limited use license may result in immediate termination of your membership and may result in legal action against you. You may use the software provided on the Service only while online and may not download, copy, reuse or distribute that software. Find A Grave and its licensors retain title, ownership and all other rights and interests in and to all Content, except as expressly set forth in these Terms. This limited license is non-exclusive, not transferable, revocable at all times, royalty-free, global, and limited to the term, purpose and content of this Terms and Conditions. The Websites are protected by copyright as a collective work and/or compilation, pursuant to U.S. copyright laws, international conventions, and other copyright laws.5

Okay. Let’s break that down too.

The first three sentences are aimed at copycats and content scrapers. They’re there to make it crystal clear that you can’t go to Find A Grave with an automated system, download everything that’s there, and package it up and put it on your own website or sell it. You can’t grab a whole cemetery database and copy it. You can’t grab all the entries from a county or a state.

So what does the next sentence mean? “Online or other republication of Content is prohibited except as unique data elements that are part of a unique family history or genealogy.”

It means we can go right ahead and use the information that’s on the website — consistent with any individual copyrights in the images or text — as long as we’re using it for our own personal research or as part of a broader scholarly research project (including work done for a client) and we use it in the context of that research.

Let’s look at two examples.

Say I want to use information from Find A Grave as part of writing the history of my Battles family from Cherokee County, Alabama. There are 32 members of the Battles family whose burial information in Cherokee County is recorded at Find A Grave. Can I abstract that information and use it to help in a proof argument about someone being (or not being) a member of my Battles family? Yes. That’s well within the limits suggested by the license paragraph. And, as long as I don’t violate a contributor’s copyright, I can republish any of that information in a blog post or magazine article or book.

But now let’s say I want to publish a cemetery listing of everyone buried in Cherokee County. There are 158 cemeteries from that one county included in the database. Can I download and copy all that data? No. It has nothing to do with my own unique family history, with my own genealogy. I’m not doing research; I’m just copying.

One more example: now let’s say I want to do a family history of the Battles Family of Alabama. There are 510 entries in the Find A Grave database today of people with the surname Battles who were buried in Alabama.

If all I’m going to do in my family history is copy and paste data from Find A Grave into my history, I’m sailing awfully close to the edge. But if I were assembling the data to show, say, how many Battles men and women were buried in what counties, or how many children in the family died before the age of 5, or how many of the Battles men fought on which side of which wars, it’d be just fine. Those are all “unique data elements that are part of a unique family history or genealogy.”

Bottom line: When we provide content, we need to avoid violating anyone else’s copyright and understand that we’re giving Find A Grave permission to use what we upload. When we use Find A Grave content, we need to again avoid violating anyone else’s copyright and understand that we’ve agreed to use it only in our research projects.


  1. See Judy G. Russell, “Grave terms of use,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 20 June 2012 ( : accessed 19 Aug 2014). See also ibid., “Find A Grave revisited,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 16 Sep 2013. Also, ibid., “The Find A Grave sale,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 4 Oct 2013.
  2. Judy G. Russell, “A terms of use intro,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 27 Apr 2012 ( : accessed 19 Aug 2014).
  3. “User Provided Content,” Find A Grave Terms of Service, 23 May 2014, Find A Grave ( : accessed 19 Aug 2014).
  4. Submitting Information / Creating Memorials,” FAQ 71, Frequently Asked Questions, Find A Grave ( : accessed 19 Aug 2014).
  5. “Limited Use License,” Find A Grave Terms of Service, 23 May 2014, Find A Grave ( : accessed 19 Aug 2014).
Posted in Terms of use | 29 Comments

A matter of definition

When is an inmate not an inmate?

Or, more accurately, when is an inmate not the kind of inmate we might expect? Not, that is, a prisoner.

And the answer is: much of the time.

gauthierIn modern usage, the word inmate calls to mind prison cells and barred jail windows. Do a Google search for “definition inmate” and what you see is what we 21st century types expect: “a person confined to an institution such as a prison or hospital” with the synonyms “prisoner, convict, captive, detainee, internee.”1

But that’s not what the term used to mean, and not the way it was always used, particularly in one set of records we as genealogists use all the time: the U.S. census.

Start by reviewing what the law dictionaries tell us that the word means: a “person who lodges or dwells in the same house with another, occupying different rooms, but using the same door for passing in and out of the house”2 or “one who dwells in a part of another’s house, the latter dwelling, at the same time, in the said house.”3

That’s more the way it was used in the census: lots of places where people were perfectly free to come and go — like hotels and boarding houses and hospitals and convents — would have the residents listed as inmates:

• The Catholic sisters of Newburyport City, Massachusetts, were all identified as inmates on the 1900 census, with occupations listed as teacher.4

• The Catholic sisters of St. Vincent’s Hospital and Asylum of Santa Fe, New Mexico, were listed as inmates on the 1880 census; their charges were identified as patients.5

And it was used to denote residents of institutions like hospitals, orphanages and poorhouses as well:

• In 1880, seven elderly women residents of the Protestant Home for Aged Women in Nashua, New Hampshire, were identified as inmates on the census.6

• In 1880, the residents of the Rutherford County, Tennessee, Asylum for the Poor were all recorded as inmates as well.7

• In 1940, children living in the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin orphanage in Staten Island, New York, were all enumerated as inmates.8

• In 1940, adults living in the Waltham City Home in Waltham, Massachusetts, were also all recorded as inmates.9

That’s not to say the word “inmate” wasn’t used for folks in jail or prison: it was used that way, for sure. Take a wander through the pages of the 1850 census and the enumeration of the Auburn State Prison in Cayuga County, New York, for example: page after page of inmates serving time for crimes ranging from burglary to rape to manslaughter.10

So… why? Why one word for all these different folks?

Because those were the instructions given to the census takers.

In 1850, the enumerators were told that “The resident inmates of a hotel, jail, garrison, hospital, an asylum, or other similar institution, should be reckoned as one family.”11

The 1860 instructions were the same,12 but the concept was explained further in 1870:

By “family” (column 2) is meant one or more persons living together and provided for in common. A single person, living alone in a distinct part of a house, may constitute a family; while, on the other hand, all the inmates of a boarding house or a hotel will constitute but a single family, though there may be among them many husbands with wives and children. Under whatever circumstances, and in whatever numbers, people live together under one roof, and are provided for at a common table, there is a family in the meaning of the law.13

So too for 1880: “The word family, for the purposes of the census, includes persons living alone, … equally with families in the ordinary sense of that term, and also all larger aggregations of people having only the tie of a common roof and table. A hotel, with all its inmates, constitutes but one family within the meaning of this term. A hospital, prison, an asylum is equally a family for the purposes of the census.”14
By 1910, the census instructions were using the term “institutional families” to describe these groups.15

So when is an inmate not a prisoner?

Most of the time…


  1. Google search, search term “definition inmate,” ( : accessed 18 Aug 2014).
  2. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 625, “inmate.”
  3. John Bouvier, A Law Dictionary Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America and of the Several States of the American Union, rev. 6th ed. (1856); HTML reprint, The Constitution Society ( : accessed 18 Aug 2014), “inmate.”
  4. 1900 U.S. census, Essex County, Massachusetts, Newburyport, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 421, p. 122B (stamped), dwelling 185, family 205; digital image, ( : accessed 18 Aug 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 646.
  5. 1880 U.S. census, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, Santa Fe city, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 40, p. 25A (stamped), dwelling 170, family 214; digital image, ( : accessed 18 Aug 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 804.
  6. 1880 U.S. census, Hillsborough Co., N.H., Nashua, pop. sched., ED 148, p. 321A (stamped), dwell. 24, fam. 30; digital image, ( : accessed 18 Aug 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 764.
  7. Ibid., Rutherford Co., Tenn., pop. sched., ED 204, p. 321A-B (stamped), dwell. 312, fam. 314; digital image, ( : accessed 18 Aug 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 764.
  8. See 1940 U.S. census, Richmond County, New York, Richmond Borough, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 43-263, sheets 1A-12B; digital images, ( : accessed 18 Aug 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 2764.
  9. See ibid., Middlesex County, Mass., Waltham City, ED 9-554, sheets 5A-5B; digital images, ( : accessed 18 Aug 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 1619.
  10. 1850 U.S. census, Cayuga County, New York, population schedule, pp. 315B-323B (stamped), dwelling 1211, family 1051; digital images, ( : accessed 18 Aug 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 482.
  11. Jason Gauthier, Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses from 1790 to 2000 (Washington, D.C. : U.S. Census Bureau, 2000), PDF at 9.
  12. Ibid. at 13.
  13. Ibid. at 14.
  14. Ibid. at 19.
  15. Ibid. at 47.
Posted in Legal definitions, Resources | 8 Comments



That’s all The Legal Genealogist can say.

It’s all any of us who were fortunate enough to attend the first Institute for Genetic Genealogy, held this past weekend in the Washington, D.C., area, can say.


I4GGFrom rank “what is this DNA stuff” beginner through to high level “I can (and do) teach this stuff” expert, this was truly a conference with something for everybody — and it ran as smoothly and as well as any first-time conference could possibly hope to run.

The Institute for Genetic Genealogy — brainchild of Tim Janzen and CeCe Moore — opened Friday with registration and three overview sessions on the testing companies. Attendees got a chance to take a look at information from AncestryDNA, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA in general, with some good general background information being offered.

There weren’t any surprises in that general info — except perhaps the depth of the genetic genealogy community’s unhappiness with AncestryDNA and its decisions (a) not to provide segment data to its customers and (b) to discontinue YDNA and mitochondrial DNA testing and to discontinue even providing links to results of those tests taken at Ancestry. Let’s just say that the unhappiness was abundantly clear during AncestryDNA’s presentation.1

The real meat of the conference began on Saturday morning, and — with the exception of the keynote by Dr. Spencer Wells of National Geographic’s Genographic Project — every single time slot presented a major crisis of conscience: do I attend this session or that session?2

Fortunately, the conference organizers did their best to videotape every session and, the technical glitches that are inevitable in a conference of this size notwithstanding, most of us will be able to catch at least some or all of the sessions down the road.

So here are my personal takeaways from the conference3:

1. DNA has to be considered as mainstream in genealogy now. There were almost as many Board-certified genealogists in attendance at this conference as there were Ph.D. scientists, including four members of the Board of Trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists (Board President Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL; Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL; Michael Grant Hait, Jr., CG, and somebody named Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL). Both co-editors of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly were there, along with at least one NGS board member. The head of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society was there. I could go on and on… but the bottom line is: DNA has arrived, completely.

2. DNA has the capacity to bring a younger tech-savvy crowd to the genealogical table. While there were the usual greybeards in attendance (yours truly having to count herself among them), there was also a large contingent of younger folks — and that includes the conference organizers. This is a Very Good Thing for genealogy.

3. There is a real need for education in the tools and techniques of integrating DNA into our genealogical research, starting from the beginner level and going through to the advanced level.

4. Having said that, we still have many many more beginners than we do advanced folks. And we need to carefully distinguish the very advanced presentations to ensure that we don’t scare the pants off those who aren’t working at that level.4

5. Having many chances to hear about DNA tools and techniques from many different people is a real help. It may be that the way one person explains something works for me better than the way another person explains it.

Bottom line: wow.

Great job by the organizers and the presenters… and boy do we need more of this…


  1. When the audience applauds a question, rather than the answer, you know you’re in trouble…
  2. The one that really got to me was that I wanted to attend Dr. David Pike’s presentation about his phasing tools. It was, however, scheduled at the same time as mine…
  3. Your mileage may vary, and I’m sure other attendees would have different overall impressions
  4. I sat in on at least two sessions where, I am quite certain, the presenter and I do not speak a common language.
Posted in DNA | 51 Comments

Don’t wait…

Hundreds of genealogists are gathering this weekend in Chevy Chase, Maryland, talking and learning about using genetics and DNA to help understand our family history.

And that hurts.

Because there’s a member if my family who would have loved learning about her own ancestry using DNA… and it’s too late to do anything about it.

Bobbi, 2004

Bobbi, 2004

My oldest first cousin — called Bobbi — was born Michaela Bobette Staples.1 I can tell you a lot about her mother’s side of the family; her mother was my mother’s oldest surviving sister, my Aunt Cladyne.2 And our DNA on that side? Boring. Essentially 100% boring European.

But I can’t tell you about her father’s side. Her father was my aunt’s first husband, who had come and gone from our family before I was even born. What I do know, though, is that his DNA would not have been boring.

His ancestry included all kinds of neat things like a big percentage of Native American. And as much as I would have loved looking at that cool DNA, Bobbi would have adored seeing the evidence of her heritage in her genes.

But we had plenty of time to get that test done, right? Our family is long-lived, and there would be lots of chances to do the testing, no?


We lost her three years ago today. The cancers that have stolen so many years from our family took her from us far too young.

Bobbi had no children. So because I thought we had plenty of time, I hadn’t yet gotten her tested. So her genetic heritage died with her.

And that hurts.

So… today… I can grieve my cousin… but I can’t say a thing about her unique genetic history.

Let this remind us all that time is NOT on our side when it comes to DNA testing.

Don’t wait to get those important tests done.


  1. See Bobette Staples Barrett Richardson, obituary, Charlottesville (Virginia) Daily Progress, 18 Aug 2011; online at ( : accessed 6 Apr 2012).
  2. One older sister, Ruth, did not survive infancy.
Posted in DNA, My family | 8 Comments