I’ve been working on a timeline of a potential relative, Anthony Graham. He’s not a direct ancestor, and he may or may not be a relative, but I’m hopeful that tracing him will help me learn more about my great-great grandmother, Jane Graham Ahern. (Long story about why I think he might be related. I’ll save that for another blog post.)
I’ve been trying for years to come up with a specific birthplace for Anthony. I have some census records that have a mix of “Ireland” and “Scotland” as a birthplace. I can find him on the 1850, 1860 and 1880 US Federal census and all of them show he hails from Ireland, but on the 1880, 1900 and 1910 censuses, most of his children report that their father was born in Scotland. And one daughter, Jennie, can’t seem to make up her mind – in 1880 her father is born in Scotland and her mother is born in Ireland, while in 1900 Da’s from Ireland and Ma’s the Scot. Anthony’s death notice in the San Francisco paper indicates he was a native of Scotland, but obviously he didn’t write that, and due to the 1906 earthquake and fire, no death certificate exists to provide additional information.
And then I found it! Another obituary, from the Los Angeles Herald. “Death of a Pioneer… Mr. Graham was a native of Glasgow, Scotland.”  A city! There were more details. He “… landed in New York when quite young. He afterward became engaged in the construction of the railroad across the Isthmus of Panama, and finally came to California in 1850.”
Now it was time for me to enter these items on his timeline. And that’s when the whole thing fell apart.
Anthony’s timeline shows four children born in New York - Francis in 1846, Ann Eliza on 23 November 1847, Jennie on 18 February 1850 and Anthony Daniel in 1853. The sentence construction in the obituary infers he was engaged in the construction of the Panama Railroad prior to his arrival in California in 1850. If that is true, it is unlikely that he could have fathered Jennie in 1850 and Anthony Daniel three years later if they were born in New York.
When I looked at the timeline of the Panama Railroad, even more inconsistencies arose. Construction of the railroad did not effectively begin until May 1850 and the railroad was not completed until 27 January 1855. It would have been difficult for Anthony to become engaged in the construction of this railroad if he were in California by 1850.
Integrating the Los Angeles Herald obituary details into the existing timeline I had for Anthony points out some problems with the information provided. Since the dates seem “off” I have to question the other details in the obituary. I don’t know who provided the details to the Herald, but it was likely his son Frank who is mentioned in the article. Based on his census records, Frank seems clear that his father was born in Scotland, but if Frank is wrong on the dates of Anthony’s movements, could he be wrong on the birth place as well?
Try using a timeline in your own research. It might help you to see some inconsistencies in your data for your own ancestors as well. How have timelines helped you? Please leave a comment below.
 1850 U.S. census, Orange County, New York, population schedule, Newburgh, p. 106 (stamped), dwelling 1402, family 1584, Anthony Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 573, page 106A, image 218.
 1860 U.S. census, San Francisco County, California, population schedule, San Francisco, p. 218 (penned), dwelling 1851, family 1876, Anthony Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 67, page 383, image 383.
 1880 U.S. census, Tulare County, California, population schedule, Visalia, p. 21 (penned), dwelling 226, family 230, Anthony Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 85, page 48A, ED 098, image 482.
 1880 U.S. census, Los Angeles County, California, population schedule, Los Angeles, p. 10 (penned), dwelling 92, family 95, Frank Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 67, page 224B, ED 025, image 151
 1880 U.S. census, Merced County, California, population schedule, Merced, p. 11 (penned), dwelling 110, family 113, Edward Tobin; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 68, page 345C, ED 043, image 711.
 1900 U.S. census, San Francisco County, California, population schedule, San Francisco, p. 5 (penned), dwelling 72, family 79, John O’Gara; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 105, page 5A, ED 0204.
 “Died (Graham),” (San Francisco.) Daily Alta California, 4 August 1888, p. 7, col. 6.
 “Death of a Pioneer,” Los Angeles (California) Herald, 4 August 1888, p. 2, col. 3.
 1850 U.S. census, Orange Co., New York, pop. sch., p. 106, dwell. 1482, fam. 1584, Anthony Graham; 1860 U.S. census, San Francisco Co., California, pop. sch., p. 218, dwell. 1851, fam. 1876, Anthony Graham
 Baptismal record for Ann Eliza Graham, St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Newburgh, Orange, New York
 Baptismal record for Jane Graham, St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Newburgh, Orange, New York
 1850 U.S. census, Orange Co., New York, pop. sch., p. 106, dwell. 1482, fam. 1584, Anthony Graham; 1860 U.S. census, San Francisco Co., California, pop. sch., p. 218, dwell. 1851, fam. 1876, Anthony Graham
 “Panama Canal Railway,” Wikipedia.org (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Canal_Railway : accessed 28 September 2016).
When you’re searching in online newspapers do you seek out alternate sites with the same newspaper? Maybe you should.
Different newspaper sites, for example Chronicling America (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) and the California Digital Newspaper Collection (CDNC) (http://cdnc.ucr.edu/) have some of the same newspapers, including the San Francisco Call. But they don’t necessarily use the same Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software so one paper may read a string of printed newspaper text as one set of characters and another site may read it differently. If you’ve searched for a word or a phrase, one search engine may find it, but another one may not. You’ve got better odds of finding what you’re searching for if you check out both sites.
But there’s an even more important reason than just the straight-up OCR software used. Some newspaper sites allow readers to correct the text. If you search for the phrase “Wife Wants a Divorce” in the San Francisco Call on 10 December 1904 using the California Digital Newspaper Collection you’ll find an article with the headline “Wife Wants A Divorce from Charles O. Huber.” But if you search for “Wife Wants a Divorce” on the same date in the same paper using Chronicling America, you’re out of luck.
Why? Because someone (me) edited the text on CNDC but not on Chronicling America. I’ve captured a series of images to explain what I’m talking about.
This first image is my search and the results of that search on CDNC. I got a hit!
The next image is my search for the correct spelling on Chronicling America and the following image shows the results. Zip. Nada. Zilch.
But the next two images show my search and results for an alternate spelling. "Aviite avants a divorce." Ah, that pesky OCR! To my ear, it reads a little like Zsa Zsa Gabor ending yet another marriage… “A vife a vants a divorce.” And when Zsa Zsa asks, Chronicling America listens! I got a hit for the article.
The final two images show the text now as it now appears on CDNC after my correction, along with the image of the article. And following that is the text as Chronicling America read it.
Admittedly, I set this example up. But can you be certain that the words you’re searching for in a newspaper appear the same way on two sites? What if someone corrected the text to show how your ancestor’s name was spelled in the article but you didn’t check that site? Instead, you searched in the one with the sketchy OCR mistakes. Are you willing to take that chance? I’m not.
On Saturday 24 September 2016, I'll be presenting "A Nose for the News" at the Kelowna and District Society Harvest Your Family Tree Conference. (http://kdgsconference2016.blogspot.ca/) I hope to see you there!
It’s great to be able to do a search in a database and input the results into a spreadsheet for further analysis. Once you have the data in your spreadsheet you can sort and filter it to your heart’s content to crack it open and find the patterns that will help you breakdown your brick walls.
Some websites such as FamilySearch will allow you to directly export from the website into a spreadsheet. I have written about this on my blog at http://www.mkrgenealogy.com/searching-for-stories-blog/the-importance-of-exportance. With other websites, such as Ancestry.com, you can use the “Get External Data from Web” feature on the data ribbon to import the data into Excel. I’ve explained how to do this on my blog at http://www.mkrgenealogy.com/searching-for-stories-blog/spreadsheet-magic-importing-data-from-ancestrycom
But some websites have a “captcha” which foils the import using the Get External Data from Web feature. Yes, you can copy the results from your database search into Excel, but it will drop everything into Column A, with parts of each individual record on separate lines. One name record might occupy 4 lines, cells A1, A2, A3, and A4. The next record occupies A5, A6, A7, and A8. So then you get to spend the next hour or more copying the contents for each record into separate columns. Definitely not fun!
I have discovered a magic way to separate those rows into separate columns. Fast. Super fast! Here’s how:
My example uses the website IrishGenealogy.ie. This same procedure will work with any search where the results get dropped into one column in an Excel spreadsheet. You can play along with my example.
Step 1: Perform your search on the website. Go to https://www.irishgenealogy.ie Select Church records. To play along type in First Name: James, Last name: Ahern, Location: Cork and Year range: 1830 – 1830, as shown in the illustration below, and click “Search.”
Step 2: My search gave me 10 results – 7 baptism and 3 marriage. For ease of illustrating my example, I filtered out the 3 marriage results, leaving only the 7 baptism results. (When you’re doing this on your own, feel free to grab all the data you want, but for my example I’m going to limit it so we won’t have an overwhelming amount of data to deal with.) Just click on the word “Baptism” on the left side of the screen. Now you should have 7 results of only baptisms. See the "Before filtering" and "After filtering" illustrations below:
Step 3: Highlight and select your results to copy them. I find it easiest to start from the bottom of the list, left mouse click and work my way up to the top of the list. Once you have your results highlighted click Ctrl + C to copy
Step 4: Now you are ready to paste into Excel. To do this, open up a worksheet, put your cursor in cell A1, click the little triangle below the word “Paste” and select "Paste Special – Text." Click OK
Your worksheet will now look like this: Note that everything is in Column A.
Step 5: Here’s where the magic happens! In cell C1, paste the following formula:
You can see how that has copied the contents of cell A1 into C1.
Step 6: Now copy that same formula from C1 and paste it into cells D1, E1 and F1. Widen each of those columns to fit all the data in them. See illustration below:
Step 7: Now copy cells C1-F1 and paste them into cells C2 to C10. After you click enter, your worksheet should look like this:
You can see that there are 0s in rows 8-10. This is because we only have 7 sets of records. (I really didn't need to copy all the way down to C10, but I did just to show you that you can paste more than you need and avoid having to mentally calculate exactly what you need.)
Step 8: Notice in the image above that the contents of the cells in the worksheet looks like text, but you can see in the function box that it is still a formula. You need to do one more step to turn these cells into true text. Click on the grey square in the upper left corner of the worksheet to highlight the entire worksheet. Click Ctrl + C to copy everything. In a new worksheet, (ie Sheet2) click on cell A1, click the triangle below the word “Paste” and select “Paste Special – Values.” This turns all the formulas into text.
You can see in the function box that cell C5 now contains text, not a formula. Perfect!
Then you can use “Text to columns” on the Data tab to split the data in Columns C through F to separate the various words into separate columns as you desire. If you need more instructions as to how to separate Text to Columns, check out my Legacy Family Tree Webinars on Spreadsheets at http://familytreewebinars.com/maryroddy (You'll find Text-to-Columns in my Spreadsheets 201 webinar.)
Now that you know how to import data from a website into Excel and NOT have it all dump into one column, how will you use it? Let me know in the comments below.
A note on the formula you pasted into Cell C1:
The 4 in this formula, indicates that 4 rows of data make one record set. If your data set is a different number of rows, you would need to adjust the formula.
According to the Microsoft support website:
"This formula can be interpreted as
f_row = row number of this offset formula
f_col = column number of this offset formula
rows_in_set = number of rows that make one record of data
col_in_set = number of columns of data"[i]
[i] Microsoft Support website at https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/214024
City directories are easy to search by name, but have you tried searching them by address? It might turn up other people living at the same address, perhaps even some unknown relatives. But there’s another reason to search by address – you just might turn up an unusual spelling variation for a given surname.
For my Lockren cousins I have a list of spelling variants: Lockren, Lockran, Lochren, Lochran, Loughren, Loughran and more. Frequently I find members of the same household listed under different spellings in the same directory for a given year.
Ancestry.com’s directories, many of which are available for free on HeritageQuest Online with a library card, allow searching by address. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to use the search box for “Keyword” and enter the house number and street name. Usually I leave off terms such street or avenue because I don’t know how it might have been abbreviated. I then check the “exact” box.
When I did this for the Oakland, Alameda, California directories in the 1890s I was surprised to see an unusual surname variant – Rockren! In 1894, Charles, John and Mary are all listed under Rockren, and John and Mary also show up with Lockren,[i] but Charles doesn’t.
So far I haven’t seen ROCKREN pop up for my relatives in any other context, but nice to know there is yet one more way I might consider spelling this surname.
Consider searching directories by address. You never know what you will find!
[i] OCR index show LOEKREN, but actual page in directory shows LOCKREN
For today’s blog post, I’ll transcribe a bit more of the tapes my father recorded about his memories. In this portion, he talks about St. Joseph’s Seminary, which he attended from about age 12 to age 15. This would have been about 1934-1937. He says that it had a Mountain View, California address, but it’s in an area now called Cupertino, because it was named after St. Joseph of Cupertino.
I guess there was somewhat of a step streak in my makeup, ad different times, and I’ll tell you some of the stories, perhaps, if I remember them. But down here at S. Joseph’s there was a very small creek that wandered through the campus, and virtually dried up in the summertime, but in the winter and the spring a little more water than that passed through. I surveyed it one time and decided that, gee whiz, I haven’t been swimming for a long time, maybe I could dam it up and make a little pond and go swimming. And so I got some logs and boards and various other things and by the time I was finished I think I had a backed-up reservoir about three-and-a-half or four feet deep, of 30 or 40 or 50 feet long or so, and so I jumped in and had a lot of fun. I don’t think that the management was very pleased when they discovered what I had done.
Also along the creek bed there, in a little glen, there was a little clearing and one of our students earned some of his expenses by being the school barber. Victor D’Arcangelo would take his clippers and his cape and a stool and, about once a month or every five or six weeks each of the kids would go down there and he’d cut is hair for, I don’t know whether it was 25 cents or 50 cents, but it helped him out and it was a necessary job for somebody.
On Thursdays that we got to leave the campus, we could go for a walk. Thursday was our day off and about half the student body, each Thursday could go for a walk from one o’clock until 4:40, right after lunch. And wed walk out a country road, right in the back of the campus toward the foothills And out on that road, about two, two-and-a-half miles there was a… oh…. What would be the equivalent now of a mini-mart. And that’s where most of the young boys at the seminary got their first tasted of tobacco. They’d buy a package of cigarettes for whatever the price was, all 20 of them, and probably by the time they got back to the campus in two or three hours they had smoked all 18 or 20 of them.
But not far from that mini-mart, there was also a side road and country saloon. And our president one day made the announcement to everyone that he was aware that students had been going to that saloon and he’s saying right now it is off limits to everyone. Do not go there anymore. And I think this was about May, and by golly, that afternoon two of the graduating rhetoricians went down there and before that evening was over their parents had been called on the phone, saying come and get your son, he’s expelled. It made it quite a shock to all of us, but I think it was probably the proper thing to do.
Each evening, we’d assemble after refectory for the rosary and recite five decades, and then Father Fenny, Lyman Fenn was the president of the school, and he would give a 15- or 20-minute homily about how to… about various subjects. He had a lot of subjects over this entire school year, but his major theme… he seemed always to come back to the words “fraternal charity” – that’s what you’re in business for, that what everybody is in business for and we have to be considerate of our neighbor, our fellow man, and this other fraternal charity is the theme of your education. I think that kind of stuck with me, at least I… a lot of it became part of… part of my thinking. Of all the people in my life, those years from 12 until 15, the most influential person that I had, other than my parents was Father Fenn. He was an admirable man, and I think a lot of the seminarians would tell you that, too.
As I begin a new year as volunteer treasurer for an organization in Seattle, I appreciate the example of someone like Father Fenn who was an example for my father. Pay it forward.
City directories are a great resource for solving all sorts of genealogical problems. Here’s one way you can use them to narrow down a marriage date – and even find the husband! – when a woman marries.
My great-great uncle, Henry Ahern, was married to Rebecca Calkins sometime in the early 1890s. I haven’t been able to find the marriage record, but their boys, William Henry and James Bernard were born in 1894 and 1896. A few years later, Henry passed away.
Rebecca Ahern, widow, appears in the 1900 San Francisco City Directory residing at 2770 21st, the same address mentioned in Henry’s obituary. In 1901, she appears in the San Francisco directory residing at 1790 Folsom, and she continues to live at the same address in 1902, 1903 and 1904, where she is listed as working in a bakery. Also living at the same address in 1901-1905 is Rebecca’s widowed mother, Nora Calkins.
No listing Rebecca Ahern appears in the 1905 San Francisco directory. But a search using the address, 1790 Folsom, turns up a Mrs. Rebecca Macy, working in a bakery. At the same address is Orlando Macy, a blacksmith.
With the information from the directories, I was able to narrow down the time frame in which Rebecca Ahern remarried and the name of her husband. A newspaper announcement in August of 1904 shows a marriage license issued for Orlando Macy, 1716 Folsom street, age 36, and Rebecca Ahern, 1719 Folsom street, age 32.
Try searching city directories by address as well as by name. You might just solve one of your vexing genealogical questions!
"California Death Index, 1940-1997," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPNJ-CJD : 26 November 2014), William H Ahern, 19 Sep 1977; Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento.
"California Death Index, 1940-1997," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPCW-G3P : 26 November 2014), James B Ahern, 08 Jul 1957; Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento.
 “Deaths: Ahern,” San Francisco Chronicle, 16 February 1900, p. 10, col. 4.
 Crocker-Langley San Francisco Directory for the Year Commencing May 1900, (San Francisco, California: H.S. Crocker Company, 1900), 170. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
 Crocker-Langley San Francisco Directory for the Year Commencing May 1901, (San Francisco, California: H.S. Crocker Company, 1901), 170. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011
 Crocker-Langley San Francisco Directory for the Year Commencing May 1902, (San Francisco, California: H.S. Crocker Company, 1902), 170. From Fold3.com.
 Crocker-Langley San Francisco Directory for the Year Commencing May 1903, (San Francisco, California: H.S. Crocker Company, 1903), 170. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011
 Crocker-Langley San Francisco Directory for the Year Commencing May 1904, (San Francisco, California: H.S. Crocker Company, 1904), 171. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011
 Crocker-Langley San Francisco Directory for the Year Commencing May 1905, (San Francisco, California: H.S. Crocker Company, 1905), 1180. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011
 “Marriages Licenses,” San Francisco Chronicle, 21 August 1904, p. 47, col. 6. Note, although the newspaper shows Rebecca’s address as 1719 Folsom, this may be a “sound-alike” error and should likely be 1790 Folsom per the city directory information.
I might need to add a subtitle to my Searching for Stories blog. I’m thinking “Journeys Down the Rabbit Hole.”
Searching city directories for examples of what information can be found in them in preparation for an upcoming presentation, I discovered that Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936 contained something I hadn’t seen in other directories – a two-and-a-half page “Chronology of Local Events, January 1, 1935 to April 1, 1936.”
I was fascinated with the detail. “May 2, 1935 – Three killed by lightning – storm causes $80,000 damage to city.” “May 15 – Fire causes $25,000 damage at St. Joseph’s Orphan’s Home; 208 children led to safety.” “June 18 – Federal Government announces plans to build vault at Camp Knox for safe-keeping of substantial part of its gold supply.” “Aug. 29 – Stone lifted from Mammoth Cave mummy; ancient man in poor condition.” Story after story to investigate.
And then I saw this – “Oct 11 – Mrs. Ella Rogers held legally dead.” I had to know. In a coma? Removed from life support? Who was she? What happened to her? My subscription to GenealogyBank.com called to me. My 90-minute trip down the rabbit hole led to nearly 25 articles in newspapers from Lexington, Kentucky to Portland, Oregon, about the mystery disappearance of a pretty young widow.
After a trip to Chicago, she returned to her swanky Louisville apartment. She didn’t even unpack her suitcases, but had friend, Hal Harned, to dinner on October 7, 1928. Just as he was leaving, a taxi waiting for him in the street, the lights in her apartment went out. Harned offered to help, but she insisted she could take care of it herself. Ella was never seen again.
Harned tried to reach her the next day and made repeated telephone calls on the days following. Not hearing back, he contacted her father-in-law.  When the police investigated they found no trace of the woman. The dishes from her dinner with Harned were still on the table. Her suitcases still unpacked. Only her purse and the key to her apartment were missing.
The janitor of her building was investigated but eventually released due to lack of evidence. Police dragged a nearby pond but found nothing. Dead ends abounded – suspicious ash found in the building furnace was determined to be not from bones, but from coal. The “blood spots” on a wrench turned out to be rust. Theories of suicide, kidnapping and even death at the hands of hired thugs were floated, but nothing panned out.
Eventually, after seven years with no trace, no contact, no activity in her bank account, Ella McDowell Rogers was declared legally dead.  To this day the case remains unsolved.
I’m not sure why I like to chase rabbits like Ella Rogers down the hole. But It sure beats anything I can find on TV. How about you – any of you get sucked into an afternoon of research on a complete stranger? Feel free to share what you find in the comments section.
 Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936, (Louisville, Kentucky: Caron Directory Company, 1936), 11. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, accessed 4 September 2016
 Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936, (Louisville, Kentucky: Caron Directory Company, 1936), 12. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, accessed 4 September 2016
 “Mystery Cloaks Missing Widow,” New Orleans States, 17 November 1928, p. 2, col. 6.
 “Believe Young Widow Victim of Foul Play,” Omaha [Nebraska] World Herald, 28 December 1928, p. 2, col. 4
 “Suicide Hinted Now in Case of Missing Widow,” Lexington [Kentucky] Leader, 24 November 1928, p. 1, col. 8.
 “The Mystery of the Vanishing Lady,” The [Portland] Oregonian, 28 October, 1945, page 109
 “Court Rules Woman Dead,” Lexington [Kentucky] Leader, 11 October 1935, p. 27, col. 7
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.