Category Archives: Genealogy


I’ve been slogging through my genealogical source material – 400+ documents, transcripts, etc. – and reconstituting my database (using Reunion 9, on the MacBook). After several months of intermittent effort, I still have 240+ to go.

I’m hoping to finish sometime in 2013, and then get to work on extending my research.

When people think of their ancestry, they think of a single line: usually the male line, son to father to grandfather. But that’s too limiting (not to mention a bit dismissive of one’s female ancestors): everybody has an ever-widening fan of ancestors, spreading out into the past.

(That’s not entirely true. The graph of one’s ancestors is actually diamond-shaped. The number of slots in the family tree increases geometrically with each generation, but the overall population goes down. The number of duplicates – i.e., a single individual occupying multiple slots – goes up. I’m told the maximum number of simultaneous ancestors occurs around the 14th century, at least for Europeans.)

They’re all family, no single line more so than the others.

On the other hand, there is the notion of close vs. distant relatives: the ones we see all the time – grandparents, parents, children, aunts & uncles, cousins – as opposed to the ones we just hear about, second- or third-hand. Everybody draws a circle around their part of the family tree, and thinks: this is my family. But there’s always more beyond the edges.

It’s a bit mind-stretching to encounter a third or fourth cousin and realize that to them, you are the distant relative.

The Maurers of White County, Illinois

I have two pictures of Jacob Maurer and his family. Eight years ago, Uncle Ivan sent me this one:

Jacob Maurer & family (1890s?)

He told me it came from Richard Maurer, grandson of Harry Maurer (and thus my first cousin, once removed).

The other came from Todd Adams, who sent it to me earlier this year:

Jacob Maurer & family (1900s?)

This one is curious – it’s a (slightly off-center) copy of the original, which was scanned with annotations (written on the back of an envelope).

Clearly, these are two pictures of the same family, taken not too many years apart. It looks like they were taken in the same place, too. But there are mysteries.

There may be errors in the first photo’s caption. I think #9 is more likely to be Katherine (Ziegler) Maurer, rather than Mary Ann (aka ‘Mollie’) Maurer (who later married Everett Gillihan); and I think #6 is Katherine’s mother, Katherine (Gomer) Ziegler, who is recorded in the 1900 census as living with her daughter & son-in-law.

In the second photo – who’s that holding baby Helen?

And the children’s ages seem inconsistent between the two photos. Harry and Reuben look significantly older in photo #2 vs. photo #1, but Helen doesn’t. I wonder whether Jacob & Katherine’s last child was born between the two photos, and the girls in photo #2 are mislabeled. I have two newspaper accounts from September, 1898, announcing the death of Jacob Maurer’s daughter – but neither says which Jacob Maurer (Sr. or Jr.), nor gives the girl’s name.

But if photo #2 was taken prior to September, 1898, then why isn’t Katherine (Gomer) Ziegler in it?

Make up your mind, already

Contemplating on this windy Sunday morning a few distant ancestors: John Haffa, Jr.; his father, John Haffa, Sr.; his wife, Christina Bachman; and others.

Christina Bachman & John Haffa (Jr.)’s marriage license (filed September, 1883) says:

  • Age next birthday, 24
  • Place of birth, “Werttenberg, Germany”
  • Mother’s maiden name, “Klunz”

Meanwhile, a biographical sketch of John Haffa, Jr., appearing in History of White County, Illinois (published 1883), disagrees:

  • Date of birth: 17 January 1858
  • Place of birth, “the eastern part of Holland”
  • Mother’s maiden name, “Plune”

One must assume a number of errors for any of this to make sense. Either John made a subtraction error on his marriage license, or 1858 is a misprint. Either John wasn’t born in Wurttemberg, or the “eastern part of Holland” extends into southern Germany (where Wuerttemberg is). Either Klunz is a misspelling, or Plune is; or both; or – a remote possibility – Klunz and Plune refer to two different women.

It baffles me that both documents were created in 1883, presumably with Mr. Haffa himself as the source, yet they disagree.

The Deans of Crawford County, Indiana

Poking around the 1860 census for Crawford County, Indiana, I found this family:

James Dean, 65
Catherine Dean, 25
Harriet Dean, 19
William Dean, 16
Laban Dean, 15
Alonzo Dean, 13
Fannie M. Dean, 4
John Dean, 3
Elizabeth A. Dean, 1
Margaret Dean, 29

(That’s Jennings Township, page 31, lines 31-40.)

Of interest is young John Dean; he’s the right age to be the fella who later – much later – married my great-great-grandmother Jennie Bolerjack. But it’s not immediately obvious that he really is my great-great-grandfather.

The ages are interesting. My interpretation:

  • Harriet, William, Laban & Alonzo were from James’ first marriage;
  • James’s first wife (for now, a purely hypothetical woman) died, sometime after 1845;
  • Sometime before 1855, James & Catherine married;
  • Fannie M., John & Elizabeth were Catherine’s children with James.

But then, who’s Margaret? Catherine’s older sister?

Research continues.

In other Maurer news…

On February 27, 1952, one Kenneth Lee Maurer of Detroit made the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, for the hatchet murder of his mother & sister.

He was apprehended in Miami on January 8, 1953, and sent back to Detroit for trial.

I can’t find any record of the trial. Was he convicted? (Seems likely, given his confession.) Executed? (Also likely, given the crime & the era.)

I’m fairly sure Mr. Maurer is no kin of mine – only a few Maurers left White County, and (so far as I know) none of them went as far as Detroit.

Anderson, Indiana

Poking around this morning, I found the following news item from the Anderson Daily Bulletin for Wednesday, May 31, 1967:

Seaman Drowned

Gary, Ind. (UPI) – Seaman Keith Allen Maurer, 18, drowned last week while his ship, USS Lowe, was docked for repairs at Guam, relatives near here learned Tuesday.

I am somewhat puzzled as to which relatives might have been living in or near Anderson, Indiana (midway between Indianapolis and Muncie) in 1967. Most of the family were living in Gary at the time. Possibly Uncle Ivan, who moved around a bit in the 1960s / 1970s.

P.S. To Uncle Ivan – Sam says thank you for the birthday present.


The genealogy sources data-entry project continues, in fits & starts, when there’s nothing more important (and/or distracting) to do.

So far, I have logged 267 source records: birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, newspaper articles. A quick count suggests I have about 125 left to go.

Apart from the source list, my Reunion database remains quite empty: as yet, I have entered no people. I think that will wait until I’ve finished the source list.

Phase one: complete

The big genealogy source-record data entry project has reached a milestone: just now I finished the last of the vital records (Catherine Ziegler & Jacob Maurer’s marriage license). I have 121 of them, according to Reunion.

(I suppose I’m not completely finished with the vital records – I have birth certificates for Jake, Sam & myself, plus a marriage license for Jennifer & me. I never scanned those, so I’ll have to fish them out of the closet sometime.)

Next up: obituaries & newspaper articles. I have a lot of these, probably two or three times as many items as vital records.

I need to figure out what fields to have in my Newspaper source record. Or maybe I need several different Newspaper source records, for the various kinds of newspaper articles: obituaries, death notices, news items, etc.. Must contemplate this further.

Local – Vital Records

Some notes on a source template for local vital records:

Local – Produced by a city- or county-level agency (as opposed to a state or federal agency);

Vital Records – Birth, marriage & death.

Source fields:

Title – A descriptive title for the source, e.g., “Felty, Sylvanus – Certificate of Death”.

Agency – The government agency that created the record. Do not include place names here: e.g., prefer “Board of Health” to “Lake County, Indiana Board of Health”.

Agency Jurisdiction – The place for which the Agency keeps records; typically, a county, e.g., “Lake County, Indiana”.

Certificate Type – “Birth”, “Marriage”, “Death”, etc.

Certificate Number – The (Agency-assigned) record number, serial number, etc.

Date Created – When this specific artifact (i.e., certificate) was created. This can be many years after the event. Enter as yyyy-mm-dd, e.g., 2012-05-28.

Date Filed – When the record was filed (with the Agency). This will usually be a few days or weeks after the event. Enter as yyyy-mm-dd.

Person ID – The (Reunion-assigned) record number of the person(s) to whom this record applies. If more than one, separate with spaces or commas.

Repository – Where the record was obtained: courthouse, library, etc. Do not include place names here: e.g., prefer “Courthouse” to “White County Courthouse”. This will often be different from the Agency.

Repository Address – A street address, e.g., “301 E. Main St.”.

Repository Location – A place name; typically, a city / county / state, e.g., “Carmi, White County, Illinois”.

Media Type – Original document, photocopy from original, printout from microfilm, etc.

Date Accessed – When the record was collected, i.e., when I got my hands on it. Enter as yyyy-mm-dd.

That’s the list, so far. I may add more.

Source code

I’ve been reading Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills, which I ordered last weekend (and which arrived last Thursday, a day earlier than predicted by Amazon’s order tracker). It’s a small book, only 124 pages; I get the feeling it’s the pamphlet version of Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (2nd Edition), by the same author. As that book costs $50, I doubt I’ll be acquiring it any time soon.

The book is divided into three parts:

  • Fundamentals of citation
  • Fundamentals of analysis
  • Citation formats

The first two make a good refresher course on why source citations matter, but part three is really why I bought the book. It turned out to be something of a disappointment.

It’s all sample citations, with minimal annotation or explanations. I was hoping for a discussion of which fields to include, and the appropriate contents for each field. (Some hints as to how all of it might map to GEDCOM tags would’ve been helpful, too.) Alas, there is none.

A fella named John H. Yates has a page, Using Mills Inspired Source Styles in Mac Reunion (, that looks promising. Mr. Yates created a huge set of Reunion source templates, following guidelines in (I assume) Evidence Explained. However, there are two problems:

There are (almost) no GEDCOM tags specified in Yates’ templates, which means exporting data is impossible. Then again, it’s probably unfair to hold this against Mr. Yates: the GEDCOM ‘standard’ is so primitive, and so universally extended (incompatibly) and/or ignored, as to be almost useless. (Is somebody working on a replacement? Please?)

Reunion has some serious usability issues with source templates. They’re listed under Preferences -> Sources, even though they reside in (and apply only to) the currently-open data file. I don’t know of any way to import source templates into an existing data file, but I don’t want to manually re-enter all of Yates’ work. (I’d probably get half of it wrong, anyway.)

So it’s unclear how best to proceed. Investigation continues.

Update: Reunion 9 can import one data file into another, so that problem at least has been solved.