Back when

Before this:


I drove two hours one way to get here to view census records:

National Archives in Laguna Niguel, California

National Archives in Laguna Niguel, California

Yep, genealogy was way different back then. It kinda reminds of me Tim McGraw’s song “Back When,” in which he reminisces about life in the good ‘ol days. In an era of immediate gratification, where we can download our favorite songs from iTunes and play them nearly anywhere, any time of the day, Tim laments:


I love my records
Black, shiny vinyl
Clicks and pops
And white noise
Man they sounded fine
I had my favorite stations
The ones that played them all
Country, soul and rock-and-roll
What happened to those times?

Like Tim, sometimes I miss the good ‘ol days too.  Nothing like the smell of a musty old book to bring me back to my years when I first began my search for my ancestors. Yes, things were quite different in the world of genealogy then.   So….do you remember when?


Before this:

Census record on

Census record on

All genealogists knew how to use this:

microfilm reader

microfilm reader

Before this:

One viewed the IGI like this:

IGI records copied from microfiche, viewed at my local Family History Center

IGI records copied from microfiche at my local Family History Center

Before this:

Genealogists used this to find cousins:

Before this:

Genealogists used this as one of their number one resources:
handy book

Before this:

RootsMagic database

RootsMagic database

Genealogists kept their records like this:


Before this:
evidence explained

Most genealogists sources looked like this:

Yep, our sources were pretty much non-existent.

Yep, our sources were pretty much non-existent.


Before this:

We waited every couple of months for this to find out what was new in genealogy:

Genealogical Helper

Before this:

We stood in line at libraries to use this:


Before this:

Google earth lets us visit lands far away

Google earth lets us visit lands far away

We did this to instead see where our ancestors lived:


We used to fly to do onsite research

Before this:

We visited this:

Salisbury Cove Cemetery in Bar Harbor, Maine

Salisbury Cove Cemetery in Bar Harbor, Maine

Before this:

You can order birth, death and marriage certificates online and receive them in just days

You can order birth, death and marriage certificates online and receive them in just days

We went here to get vital records:

Barnstable County Courthouse

Barnstable Courthouse

Before this:

Library of Congress's Chronicling America site

Library of Congress’s Chronicling America site

We viewed old newspapers like this:

Bound issue of the Farmington (Maine) Chronicle

Bound issue of the Farmington (Maine) Chronicle

Before this:

Kennebec County map, downloaded from Library of Congress

Kennebec County map, downloaded from Library of Congress

We purchased this:


Before this:

We did this:

Writing letter to a friend.

While I must admit to relishing the instant gratification the internet and computers have provided to us as we research our family history, in many ways I do miss the “olden days” of genealogy.  Those were the days when we actually took the time to write letter to collaborate with our cousins when researching family lines, when we studied the documents we copied off that day at the library, and actually read books on paper instead of in ebook format.  While we’ve gained a lot over the last thirty years or so (hasn’t the internet helped all of us break down a brick wall or two?), in many ways I miss the slower days of research.  Yup, taking time to really relish a find instead of fiendishly looking to solve the next big mystery, enjoying the anticipation of getting new documents in the daily mail, and just savoring the moment of getting to know an ancestor a bit better.

So, now’s your turn – what do you miss?

New England, slavery, and Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark

Anti-McClellan broadside gives impression the Union was always the friend of the slaves.

Anti-McClellan broadside gives impression the Union was always the friend of the slaves.

Growing up my mother spoke passionately against racism. She abhorred prejudice of all kinds. It surprised me as a child, as I never observed anything close to racism in the quiet little southern California town in which I grew up. However, my mom’s passion likely grew from the time she spent in the south, serving in the Army in the early 1960s. It was an era of horrendous discrimination and segregation, and it clearly affected her.

In my naiveté, I was so proud of my mother’s New England heritage. Clearly my mother’s ancestors had no role in slavery. We were Yankees. My ancestors served on the Union side in the Civil War. However, as I studied more, I came to understand that New England has fought hard to rewrite history, trivializing their role during those critical years. Many of New England’s many ship captains earned their wealth transporting slaves to the U.S. New England’s farms supplied produce to those involved in the slave trade. During the colonial era, one in four New Englanders owned at least one slave. Okay, so my Yankee roots aren’t as great as I once thought.

However, my father’s southern roots pain me no end. My ancestry there is firmly planted in Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. In addition to the Yankees, I have Confederate soldiers in my family tree. I am afraid to know what role my southern forefathers played in the issues surrounding slavery, and how their descendants treated their dark-skinned neighbors after the end of the Civil War.

Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark, abolitionist and first president of the Freedman's Aid Society

Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark, abolitionist and first president of the Freedman’s Aid Society

So it was with great joy that I recently learned that my second cousin five times removed, Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark, a Methodist minister and renowned author, was a devoted abolitionist.  Born in 1812 on Mount Desert Island, Maine, Davis was the first president of the Freedman’s Aid Society, which provided education for freed slaves and their children. They were instrumental in raising the literacy rates of blacks immediately after the conclusion of the Civil War, a priority for slaves to be able to find profitable occupations. Clark College was named in his honor, and later merged with Atlanta University to become the Clark Atlanta University. More details can be found on the NAACP website at

Davis Wasgatt Clark was not the only outspoken person in his family. His grandfather and namesake, Davis Wasgatt, had alienated himself from friends and neighbors in Eden (now known as Bar Harbor), Maine, when he became a staunch Anabaptist. Davis was also a Revolutionary War soldier, a solid patriot, and one who felt that actions spoke louder than words.

While New England was far from innocent in the evolution of slavery in the U.S., and my ancestors likely did have some sort of role that I will eventually discover, right now I’m pretty proud of my Maine ancestors. Of course, my Wasgatt family stands out prominently among them.

The life expectancies of our ancestors

My grandmother never told her age. Ever. When I was a kid, she made it into a game but would never give me enough hints to guess. She said she’d be dead by the time I was 21, but that she would leave a note for me which I could open on my 21st birthday letting me know how old she was.  (She didn’t need to – I was nearly 40 by the time she died!)  Obviously, my grandmother clearly thought she would die young, and as her own mother was only 61 when she passed away from a heart attack.  I can understand – my own mother was only 63 when she died, and now that I’ve reached the half-century mark myself, my own mortality is even more real.   So….I decided to do a simple pedigree chart showing  my ancestors’ ages at death:

death genogram

Of course, while I’m pleased to see those who enjoyed extended golden years, like most families, I also have my fair share of ancestors who went to the pearly gates in their 50s and 60s.  Analyzing this a bit further, the life expectancy of my grand parents, great grandparents and great-great grandparents looks like this:

excel of ancestors deaths

The ages of my ancestors at death, sorted by generation and by year of death.

The average life expectancy of my ancestors by generation is as follows:

  • Grandparents – 75.25
  • Great grandparents – 70.12
  • Great great grandparents – 68.25

As expected, most of my ancestors enjoyed longer lives as medicine progressed near the end of the 20th century.  So how does that compare to the average life expectancies for their generations?

Given the wide range of ages by generation, some of my ancestors fared much better than others.  Some died while they still had young children in the house, while others lived well past the ages of their contemporaries.

While statistics are fun, and a family’s medical history is interesting to study, one thing is certain – knowing we each have an “expiration date,” it’s important to spend our days being thankful for the time we do have here on earth with our present day families, and appreciating the sacrifices made by the ancestors who went before us.

MacBridge for RootsMagic – two thumbs up


I’ve been a longstanding RootsMagic user.  Even after making the move to a Mac a year ago, I continued to use RootsMagic, a Windows-based program, by running it with Codeweaver’s CrossOver application.  It worked pretty well for the most part – except for one extremely annoying issue.  Despite setting up my default folders for my media files, RM didn’t remember the locations.  Consequently, each time I went to link to a picture or a document, I had to navigate to the correct folder on my hard drive.  It was a MAJOR inconvenience.  Aside from that, I really didn’t have any complaints.  So, when RootsMagic released the MacBridge program earlier this week, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth trying it out.  But I’m sure glad I did!  My folders are now retained in RootsMagic’s memory, and the program is operating as it should.

You can learn more about RootsMagic’s new release, MacBridge, here.


My grandmother’s parents, Ernest Simpson and Susan Stanwood

Ernest L. "Bob" Simpson

Ernest L. “Bob” Simpson

Susan (Stanwood) Clark and daughter Beatrice, about 1906

Susan (Stanwood) Clark and daughter Beatrice Clark, about 1906

In 1917, on a rainy night in Lakefield, Minnesota, my great grandfather, Ernest “Bob” Simpson, penned the poem below:

Continue reading

Charles M. and Julia C. (Veland) Uphouse

My great grandparents, Charles Madison Uphouse and Julia Christine Veland, have always been somewhat of a mystery. So few stories have been passed down about them, and so little is known of their lives. Here are some photos and documents recently sent to me by my wonderful aunt.

Charles M. Uphouse, in uniform

Charlie was born 4 March 1889 in Davenport, Thayer County, Nebraska.  The couple had one child, Charles W. Uphouse, who was killed in an automobile accident on his way to California in 1949.   Sometime after his marriage to Mary Belle, Charlie enlisted in  Company H, 5th Nebraska Infantry:

Charlie's military service in co. H, 5th Nebraska Infantry.

Charlie’s military service in co. H, 5th Nebraska Infantry.

Additional statement of service below:

Charles M. Uphouse Statement of Military Service

Charles M. Uphouse Statement of Military Service


Charlie Uphouse

Charlie Uphouse

About 1918 or 1919, probably in Minnesota, Charlie married Julia C. Veland.

Julia (Veland) Uphouse

Julia (Veland) Uphouse

Below is Julia’s wedding ring, which my mother gave to me.  I had it resized and wear often:

Julia's wedding ring

Julia’s wedding ring

The details of Julia and Charlie’s marriage were lost with those who have passed; however, we do know that while they separated, they never legally divorced.  According to Goldie (Simpson) Uphouse, wife of Julia and Charlie’s son, Harold, Charlie was a sweet, kind man of whom she was quite fond.

Charles M. Uphouse, funeral card

Charles M. Uphouse, funeral card


Finding family treasures – better than the lotto!

I received a box of pictures of and documents from my aunt on Thursday. It was like winning the lotto, but 1000% better.   My grandmother had given to me all of her family pictures and documents before she died, so I didn’t think there was much else left to find. WRONG! My aunt sent me photos of my grandfather, Harold T. Uphouse, as a child that I’d never seen. There were photos of my grandmother, Goldie (Simpson) Uphouse Edwards as a toddler. Pictures of Harold’s mother, Julia (Veland) Uphouse as a child and young woman. And pictures of Julia’s parents, grandparents, and one of her great grandparent. There were letters written in Norwegian that I need to have translated. I am beyond thrilled.

Julia (Veland) Uphouse

My great grandmother, Julia (Veland) Uphouse.

Elizabeth "Lizbett" (Gravdahl) Veland

My great-great grandmother, Elizabeth “Lizbett” (Gravdahl) Veland

John Veland

My great-great grandfather, John Veland

John and Elizabeth (Gravdahl) Veland

John and Elizabeth (Gravdahl) Veland

Haldor Gravdahl

My third great grandfather, Haldor Gravdahl

Gunhild (Laude) Gravdahl

My third great grandmother, Gunhild (Laude) Gravdahl

Front: Haldor, Gunhild, Elizabeth and Anna.  Back: Gabriel, Margret, Lars, Ole, Martha, Cecilia, and Harry.

Front: Haldor, Gunhild, Elizabeth and Anna.
Back: Gabriel, Margret, Lars, Ole, Martha, Cecilia, and Harry.

Johanna Elizabeth (______) Gravdahl

My fourth great grandmother, Johanna Elizabeth (Haldorsdatter) Gravdahl


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