Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Researching Slaves in the Family" Presentation today

Margaret Lewis, the President of the San Diego African-American Genealogy Research Group, gave a wonderful presentation on "Researching Slaves in the Family" at the Chula Vista Genealogical Society meeting today at the Chula Vista Civic Center Branch Library. There were about 45 attendees, including at least 13 non-members.

Margaret's talk centered on two things - the resources that should be considered in a search for slave ancestors and their masters, and examples of some of the records found in her own search for three sets of slave ancestors. The resources included Bible, church, newspapers, court, census, narratives, homestead, Freedman's bureau, Southern claims, military and pension, etc. She told many stories about her ancestral search, some funny, some sad, and one very unique - a slave's recounting of the meeting between General Grant and General Lee under an apple tree the day before the formal surrender at Appomatox courthouse in 1865.

Margaret provided a six page handout that provided significant information content to her presentation.

Listening to her story of searching for records, stories and contacts, it struck me that:

1) Not all of these records are available on the Internet. The census records, southern Claims and Freedman's Bureau records are available, and many historical newspapers are online. However, many of the documents she showed were obtained through personal contacts, from repositories, or the National Archives.

2) Other than the specific slave records, the record types and repositories are essentially the same that most researchers of any American family would investigate for the 1850 to 1950 time period.

This was a fascinating hour, and it went by quickly due to Margaret's enthusiasm and knowledge about her subject. She answered many questions from the audience about records, social views, slave activities, etc. My impression was that the attendees came away from this talk knowing more about, and better appreciation of, the difficulties of researching slave ancestry, and admiration for the effort that Margaret has made to find her ancestry in the available documents and records.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

CVGS Program on Wednesday 2/27 - Margaret Lewis on "Researching Slaves in the Family"

The next General Meeting of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society will be on Wednesday, 27 February at 12 noon in the Chula Vista Civic Center Branch Library auditorium. There will be a short business meeting, with the 2007 Annual Report presented and discussed.

As many of you know, this is Black History Month, and CVGS has arranged for our program speaker to be Margaret Lewis - her topic will be "Researching Slaves in the Family."

The synopsis of the talk is:

"Due to the lack of written records, African-American families relied on oral tradition when researching the slaves in their family. While oral history cannot take the place of documented sources, it can provide invaluable clues to family histories, names, relationships, and locations. Slaves were prohibited from participating in any activities that generated records on which genealogical research is based.

"Therefore, oral history can be a curial start to your research. While some ancestral lines can be traced back several generations with relatively little effort, researching slaves in the family can only be discovered after painstaking research. The objective of this presentation is to share slave records, and documented sources to use in your research. I would also like to stress the importance of researching the slave-owners and their families. The information you obtain in researching the slave-owners can help provide invaluable information that will assist in helping research the slaves in your family. "

Margaret's CV includes:

"Margaret Lewis is the President, and a founding member of the San Diego African American Genealogy Research Group in San Diego, California. She started her “Ancestral Pursuit” in July of 1995 and her research quickly turned into an exciting journey that has taken her through an historical timeline of some of the most significant events in American History. What’s more important is that her ancestors participated in these events.

"Marti’s love for genealogy is expressed through her many published articles: “A Soldier’s Story”, “My Family Link”, “Time Will Tell” which was revised August 2005, to “He Touched Me”, and “Ancestral Roll Call” a poem summarizing her family heritage. She is also organizing her research materials to publish in a Family History Book to be titled, “Ancestral Pursuit.”

"Marti is currently working with the Daughters of the Union “Nancy Hanks Lincoln Tent #5” Editorial Committee to publish a Heritage Book which will feature their Civil War ancestors’ war stories. She has submitted a revised version, of “A Soldier’s Story” and has added a personal narrative which provides a vivid “on the scene” memoir of her great great grandfather’s life story from 1840 -1922.

"Marti is a compelling and influential voice in the genealogy community and she advocates for the study of Family History. She is known for her boundless enthusiasm, and has provided genealogical presentations, workshops and displays at many San Diego City Schools and conferences throughout the State of California, Nevada and Arizona."

This should be an excellent program. If you can attend this meeting, I'm sure that you will learn a lot about African-American research problems and successes.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

CVGS in the News - 02/16/08

I had a telephone interview with David Berlin of the San Diego Union-Tribune South County staff on Wednesday. We talked for about 30 minutes, and he published an article in Question and Answer format on Page 1 of the Our South County section of the paper on Saturday, 16 February 2008. They just started publishing a special section for South County news in the past month or so, and often have human interest stories about local people.

The article (it is online now here, I don't know for how long, without the picture) reads:



[Picture] Richard Seaver, 64, is the president of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society He is also a retired aerospace engineer who formerly worked for RohrIndustries and Goodrich Tires in Chula Vista. Like a good genealogist, Seaver has confirmed that he is a tenth cousin of Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. The Chula Vista Genealogical Society has several meetings each month and has its own blog:

QUESTION: What is genealogy?

ANSWER: The definition of genealogy is the names and dates and places of your ancestors births and marriages and deaths. Genea in Greek means family and ology means science. So it's the study of family. But most people want to go the next step and define the family history or what happened to the family. The names, dates and places are kind of like a tombstone. "1919-2002" is what my mother's tombstone says but the dash between the 1919 and the 2002 are what's really important.

QUESTION: What kinds of things does the society do?

ANSWER: The society promotes interest in genealogy and family history. We acquire research materials and organize them for the Chula Vista Public Library. We have a couple thousand books on the shelf down at the library in a family research area that we contribute to. We buy maybe 20 or 30 books a year.

QUESTION: When was the society founded?

ANSWER: It's about 20 years old and it started just in peoples living rooms. We have about 90 members and some of them have been with us from the very beginning and quite a few have joined it just in the last couple of years.

QUESTION: Are there any cultures that are harder than others to trace back?

ANSWER: They're all fairly difficult. Some are easier than others. Scandinavia is easier than Eastern Europe, for instance. England can be easy, although there are gaps in the records in the late 1700s. Germany is easy if you can get back into the church records before 1900 that are still available. Parts of Germany were destroyed in the wars and the records were destroyed. Many family lines you can trace back to the 1500s. Some you can't because the records just aren't there.

--David Berlin.


Other than the fact that the reporter got my name wrong [big grin, eh? I told people at church that it was my evil twin brother who was interviewed], and the aerospace company, Goodrich, is no longer "Goodrich Tires," I thought he fairly reported what I said in my typical "stream of consciousness" style. I much prefer to have email interviews where I can think logically and more completely, and edit my thoughts before they are published for all to see. I would answer every question a bit more succinctly and more completely. I thought he said "countries" and not "cultures" on the last question - I would have mentioned African American, Native American and Irish research as more difficult if I had the chance to do it over again.

The good news is that this double exposure of CVGS in the newspaper has already resulted in three phone calls from people interested in attending our meetings and perhaps joining CVGS. A little publicity always helps, and I appreciate the effort by David Berlin and his editor in publishing these two articles about CVGS.

Friday, February 15, 2008

CVGS in the News - 02/14/08

Did you see the article in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Thursday, 14 February, about the Chula Vista Genealogical Society meeting on 27 February? It was on Page 1 of the Our South County section (which appears three times a week). It was in the "Weekend Best Bets" column on the left-hand side of the page.

The article reads:




"The Chula Vista Genealogical Society presents "Researching the Slaves in Your Family," in honor of Black History Month, with speaker Margaret Lewis, preseident of the San Diego African-American Genealogy Research Group.

"Pictured above are Jacob Wilks and his daughters, Maggie and Mamie Sue. Wilks, who was born into slavery, is Lewis' great-great-grandfather, and his daughters are her great-aunts. The photo was taken circa 1901 in San Angelo, Texas.

"Lewis will speak at noon Feb. 27 at the Chula Vista Civic Center Library Auditorium, 365 F St., Chula Vista.

"The Chula Vista Genealogical Society was founded in 1987 and has about 90 South Bay members, president Randy Seaver said. It runs a blog at and regularly holds events on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Information (99) 999-8888."


It's great to get some publicity for CVGS occasionally. I will post more about the process later.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

CVGS Research Group Notes - 13 February 2008

The monthly CVGS Research Group meeting was held in the Library Conference Room today with 10 attendees. After Randy reviewed the monthly Genealogy News, we discussed research problems of three of the attendees.

John is doing research for Norma, an email contact, who is searching for her Sandoval and Verdugo ancestry in northern Mexico. She has names, birth dates and birth places for three of her grandparents, and names for one set of great-grandparents, but can find no more information. They settled in Cochise County, Arizona in the 1890 to 1915 time frame. The problem statement was "how can Norma find records of these people in Mexico?" John searched the 1900 to 1930 census data, the World War I Draft Registrations, the US/Mexico Border Crossing Cards, and the LDS FamilySearch IGI, and found corroborative information, but could find no additional information about the families. The group suggested researching Arizona birth and death records online; if there is a Social Security number then obtain the SSA; check local newspapers for obituaries and articles; search the FHL Catalog for microfilms of the churches in Mexico where they were from, and order the films and read them; scan online databases, message boards and mailing lists for the surnames and the localities to find other researchers who might have more information; identify siblings (from the Arizona records) and obtain their records also - they may identify parents names or birth locations.

Ann brought an old Bible, which had been badly damaged by exposure to water, heat and dirt in an attic or basement. The Bible dates to the 1830's and is in poor condition. Pasted on the inside of the front cover is a poem written in 1839 to commemorate a 22 year old wife who died, one of Ann's ancestors. There are two obituaries pasted on the inside of the back cover, and there is some handwriting on the inside back cover. Ann wanted to know how to save the family information, and how to preserve the Bible itself. The group recommended taking digital pictures without a flash of the pages for which she wants to capture the information. We recommended that she consult with an archivist or book preservation company to preserve the Bible.

Phyllis told us an interesting story. Her father had three wives and families, but she didn't know that until her step-sister Kay contacted her several years ago. They have been trying to find information on Kay's mother, Rosa, and have found quite a bit. Rosa was adopted, married, had two children, and left the family when Kay was 8 years old. They think they know her birth date in 1916. There is a family rumor that she committed suicide in Nebraska in the early 1950's. They have reviewed the local newspapers for the death, and the county vital records, with no luck. They contacted the state adoption people, and they require a death certificate for Rosa before they will provide any information. The group suggested looking for death records in nearby counties in Nebraska and Kansas. It is possible that Rosa didn't die then but married again and left records somewhere else. If that happened, there should be a divorce record from her first husband that might provide more information. This is one of the most diffcult 20th century challenges - multiple wives, mysterious death, adoption, etc.

Dick noted that had excellent records of cemetery records - he's found quite a few of his relatives there. The group pointed out that and the USGenWeb County web sites have lots of cemetery records also.

Randy passed around examples of the California Voter Records for some of his ancestors to show the information provided. He also passed around the results of his search in the Oneida County NY will abstracts and grantor/grantee deed indexes. These were obtained from FHL microfilms of the records and saved to his flash drive at the FHC, then printed at home from the saved images.

This was a fun and informative meeting with lots of interaction among the attendees. Having more eyes reading and brains working on difficult research problems can yield good results.

Monthly Genealogy News - 13 February 2008

Here are the genealogy news items for the lastm onth that were reviewed at the Chula Vista Genealogical Society Research Group meeting today.


* Tennessee Library and State Archives has added 30,000 images to their online resources. See
* PBS series The Frontier House essays are online at
* Popular songs in American history at
* Find currently published newspapers at * Excellent United Kingdom genealogy links site at


a) at - now available for FREE at San Diego FHC. See new content at Highlights include:
* Largest collection of African-American records - updated
* Ohio cemeteries, marriages, and Ohio Valley genealogies
* Massachusetts and Maine Families - Walter Goodwin Davis genealogies - 3 volumes, 2000 pages.
* Plymouth Town and Colony records
* New York Colonial Muster Rolls, 1664-1775
* US Southern Claims Commission Records, 1871-1880
* California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968
* Missouri State Censuses - 1844-1881, fragments only available.
* Early Pennsylvania Land Records, Colonial and Revolutionary Families of PA, Emigrants to PA, Egles Notes Index
* Australia List of Convicts, 1788-1842

b) at - now available for FREE at the San Diego FHC. Over 5,000 databases. Recent content at New items FREE at WVR for 10 days.
* World Collection - lots of UK, Australia, Canada content - see list at (20% off $149.95 before 1 March includes US records)
* 50 databases from the Quintin Publications collection -
* Many out-of-copyright books for eastern states - county histories, state records, etc.

c) at - now available for FREE at San Diego FHC. 186 Titles now. Information added:
* Small Town Newspapers collection
* Free access to African-American records through February - original historical records from the Amistad case, the program for the 1963 March on Washington and the Southern Claims Commission records from the Civil War.

d) at LDS FamilySearch Record Search site has more databases online at
* Cheshire (England) Church Marriage and Christening Records, 1538-1907 (search capability)
* World War II Draft Registrations, 1942 (browse only, some states)

* Clearfield Company, an affiliate of Genealogical Publishing Company (, has just released Companions of Champlain: Founding Families of Quebec, 1608-1635.
* A good "Tracing Immigrant Origins" tutorial is at
* 20,000 volumes from the National Genealogical Society library are now at St. Louis (MO) County Library - the catalog is at Many of them can be obtained via Inter-Library Loan at CVPL.
* African American Lives 2, a new four-part PBS series, explores roots, race and identity through the ancestry of remarkable individuals. Premiering February 6th and 13th.

* The SD Regional Family History Center has the World Deluxe Edition of available on their computers, plus, and HeritageQuestOnline.
* Scotland Online ( announced that it has acquired, the leading independent UK-based family history website.
* World Vital Records, Inc. has changed its name to, Inc., a name which better reflects the company's mission of connecting families to one another through innovative online tools.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

CVGS Seminar on Saturday, April 5

Seminar on Saturday, April 5th in Chula Vista

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society will host a free seminar on Saturday, April 5th in the Chula Vista Civic Center Branch Library auditorium (365 F Street in Chula Vista) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

After registration and program introduction, Randy Seaver will present the methods and resources for "Finding Your Elusive Ancestors." At noon time, refreshments (sandwiches, veggies, fruit, drinks) will be served in the Conference Room.

At 1 p.m., there will be a panel discussion on "Solving Your Brickwall Problems" with Shirley Becker, John Finch and Susi Pentico on the panel and Randy Seaver as the moderator. CVGS Members will be asked to submit their difficult research problems and the panel will suggest research opportunities to solve the problems. Lastly, there will be time for questions from the audience on genealogy research topics and problems - and the panel will try to answer them.

You will need to make a reservation for this seminar so that we can plan the food - please contact Virginia Taylor at 619-425-7922 or email for information and reservations.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Genealogy Days in Chula Vista for February 2008

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society events for February 2008 include:

** Wednesday, February 13, 12 noon, Chula Vista Civic Center Library -- CVGS Research Group meets in the Library Conference Room. We will review the latest genealogy news, share success stories and information, and discuss members research problems, and potential solutions, based on the collective knowledge and wisdom of the group.

** Wednesday, February 20, 12 noon, Chula Vista Civic Center Library -- CVGS Computer Group meets in the Library Computer Lab. We will visit some new genealogy web sites and/or Ancestry Library Edition (ALE) databases. This is an opportunity for those members who haven't used computers for genealogy research to practice with a mentor to guide them. It is also an opportunity for members who don't have an Ancestry subscription to dig into the ALE databases.

** Wednesday, February 27, 12 noon, Chula Vista Civic Center Library -- the monthly Society Meeting is held in the Auditorium. This meeting has a short business meeting with announcements of meetings and activities, followed by a presentation on a topic of genealogy and family history interest. At this meeting, Margaret Lewis, President of the San Diego African-American Genealgy Research Group, will present "Researching Slaves in the Family."

** Saturday, March 1, 9:30 AM, Research Trip to the San Diego Family History Center. We will carpool from the Chula Vista parking garage, on the 2nd floor midway between the Fuddruckers (3rd Avenue) and Marie Callender (F Street) entrances by 9:30. The SD FHC now has access to the World Deluxe edition of,,, and several more databases on their computers.

On Monday afternoons (12 noon to 2 PM) - February 4, 11, and 25 - Dearl Glenn (and probably John Finch and randy Seaver) will be at the table in the Family Research section of the Chula Vista Civic Center Library, ready to help people with their research, discuss a problem or success, or just tell stories.

The Chula Vista Civic Center Library is located at 365 "F" Street in Chula vista - between Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue, midway between I-5 and I-805 (take the "E" Street exit from the freeways.

We welcome guests and visitors to our CVGS programs and events - if you are in the Chula Vista area and want to attend our events - please come and introduce yourselves. If you have questions, please email Randy at rjseaver(at) or phone 619-422-3397.