29 December 2014

Christmas day ride

The above average temps this past Christmas made for a great day for a ride. My girls left a bit after noon so I got my camera ready and headed towards Frederick.

My first stop was Resthaven Memorial Gardens to drop some flowers off at my grandfather's grave. Resthaven is a fairly large cemetery and I occasionally have a bit of a problem finding the right spot. Luckily I had no problem finding the right place this time.

The next stop on my list was the Devilbiss family cemetery. I had an idea of where it was at, but had never stopped. Both Names in Stone and Find a Grave had good directions and the stones are visible from the road.

The owner of the house and land was quite friendly and talked a bit about the house and the few stones in the yard. He was also quite enthusiastic about my taking photos and such to document the old cemeteries of the county.

Devilbiss family cemetery

After cataloging the graves I rode through the Woodsboro area. After crossing the Legore bridge and at an intersection I saw a fox crossing the road. He was unable to figure out which way he wanted to go and seemed a bit scared of me. He finally made  his way across the field where I was able to get a nice shot of him.

While the rest of the ride of was not as exciting as spotting a fox, it was a beautiful day for a drive.

19 December 2014

More on the online Titus atlas

If you've seen the online atlas you've most likely noticed that each point is only given with a last name. The reason for that is because of the way I've set up the database.

This is what the columns of the database look like. The first three are for the GIS, the fourth is what is generally the first initial of the property owner. Sometimes it will say "Heir to" and occasionally even give the full first name. Then is a column for the surname, and finally one I've labeled "Source", which I'm thinking about changing to "District", which lets me know which map it came off of making it easier to find.

The reason I separated the first name and surname was to make it easier to search, and at a later date I hope to change all the known abbreviations to full names. However, this causes problems that I never would have thought of when trying to convert the file to something Google Maps can use. For whatever reason, even though when the file is converted to a .KML file all the columns remain, going to Google Maps the columns are not kept unless you specify one column. I have been looking for a way to combine the two, but so far have not had much luck.

If you look at number 1661, it says "Null" for the first name and is blank for the last name. What this is is a place holder. At times the maps will place a square but not have a name or leader attached to it making it hard or impossible to know who owns it. I've tried not to guess at who owns the property, but I wanted as many of the properties listed as possible; on Google Maps they're listed as "Untitled."

Below I'll point out some of the difficulties in reading the maps and how I've dealt with those difficulties.

Mechanicstown, District 15, page 37. Southern part.

Looking at 1 you'll notice there are a couple of "{" type leaders, this shows that person, in this case Dr. W. S. Pherson. However, the left symbol also connects it to one lower and closer to the road, but the "{" points to the Iron Ore as well. At first I thought that maybe Dr. Pherson owned three properties, two of which were Iron Ore deposits. However, the Iron Ore symbol is just above the I & O.

Another problem in this area is the "Aburn Farm", something I have no idea what it really means. Obviously there is a farm there, but the exact location is not given. In this case I have placed it on a different layer that has not been added to the Google Map yet.

Near 2 you'll notice the Catoctin Furnace, a grist mill and a saw mill. I used the symbol below the C for the location of the furnace. For the two mills however I didn't know which symbol was being referred to so I used the next closest ones. In the same general area there are a number of unlabeled symbols, all of which are labeled as "Null".

The 3 on the right side shows another problem in the area. Notice how the B.S + Rectory has a leader showing which building they are in? Directly below that it says "Epis. Ch." but there is no leader. Which building is it? Is it in the same as the B.S. and Rectory or one just to the south? What I've done is placed the church on its own layer in the same area. Zooming in on the area in Google Maps shows that Harriet Chapel is right there and has been in existence since 1833 and is most likely the church on the map. 

You might also notice in the same area the name J. B. Kunkel, he seems to own a lot of property in that general area.

Luckily these problems do not come up often, generally it's pretty easy to see who owns what property. The other times an educated guess is all I have to go on.

18 December 2014

Online version of 1873 Titus Atlas of Frederick County

For those that don't know I am a cartographer by training and trade. Currently I make aeronautical charts for the FAA. I've always had an interest in maps and have recently begun collecting maps of Frederick county and Maryland.

For those that know the maps of Frederick county the Isaac Bond map is probably the most well known. Another is the 1873 Titus atlas of Frederick county.

Outline of Frederick county and election districts from Titus Atlas

Both of these maps gives the location of many of the land owners in the county making it a valuable resource for genealogists. There are problems though, especially if one doesn't know about where their ancestor owned land, or if they were even listed on the map at all. The link above for the Bond map does allow for searching for names, but even with that I've had a hard time.

About a year ago I created an index to the Titus atlas to help locate land owners. Even with an index it can be difficult to locate exactly where the property is located. After finding the location of the property it can be difficult to then know where the property would be today.

In order to help I have begun creating a digital version of the Titus atlas. To do this I have been using a Geographic Information System, (GIS), to plot the approximate locations of properties in the atlas. There are of course problems that arise with such a project, some of which have workarounds, while others cause headaches.

First a bit of background about these maps. Generally these maps and atlases were not surveyed by actual surveyors or cartographers, they were done by men trying to make money. What happened was something like this: a company would decide to make a map of an area, they would then hire people to canvas the area with a machine that looked a bit like a wheelbarrow that calculated distance. Along the way they would tell people they were making a map and would include the property owner on the map, for a price. Basically it was sort of a scam, you got to be on the map, but you paid for the privilege, sort of like the "Who's Who" books. [see footnote]

Because the maps were not surveyed by professionals, the maps are more distorted then they otherwise would be. This makes the task of overlaying an older map on a modern map difficult. However, using a GIS can help by warping the map to get a best fit model. Depending on how well the map was made the warps can come out to be quite good, or really bad. Because many roads have not changed much over the years I used intersections as points of reference. After using 4-5 points the map is warped, adding more points can help warp the map further, though it can make the distortion worse.

Below are some examples from the Titus atlas of warped pages. The red lines are modern roads, blue streams, the black lines are roads on the map.

As you can see, here in Wolfsville, the warp came out quite well, many of the roads are not far off. One can also see where roads used to be and where newer roads have been added.

This warp didn't come out as well. In the upper left corner the roads match well, but down the middle the roads are starting to drift further away. While on the right side the roads are well off. When this happens I simply shift the map a bit.

When I have gotten a warp as close as I feel I can I stop adding points. Giving too many points can create strange warps that are unusable. What I do is shift the map so the roads line up as best as possible and place my locations that way. When I go to a new area I shift the map as needed. What I try to do is keep the property locations on the proper side of the road and near any intersections. Because the creeks and such were not done very well I have tended to ignore placements based upon them.

While this is not going to give one an exact location of where the original property was, it should give a good starting point. After putting the map in to Google Earth I have found that the original placement of the Washington Monument is about 300 feet off from where it should be.

Difference in placement of Washington Monument

 Currently I have only been able to upload the points by last name, I am looking in to being able to label the locations by first and last name. I have also uploaded layers for businesses, mills and schools.  I have completed the Mechanicstown, Hauvers, Catoctin, Jackson, Middletown, Petersville and Jefferson districts.

The online map can be found on Google Maps. 

[I've been informed that one does not pay to be in the Who's Who books. One didn't actually pay to be in the atlas either, one just paid for the atlas and when you paid your name was placed in to the atlas.]

12 December 2014

First Brick Wall part 2

In my last post I talked about getting past my first brick wall, which for a budding genealogist was probably the best brick wall for me to start with. The information I needed was there and while it took some time it helped me understand the resources available to me.

In this post I will show you all the possible pitfalls of trusting one source for information. Anna's date of birth has been given as different dates and years in various documents. This is why one should note all known differences and cite your sources for all the information you collect, one so you know where you've obtained it, and two how credible that source is.

After finding Anna's death certificate I tried locating her grave. This proved to be somewhat difficult as Western Cemetery would not give out information on the phone, nor did they answer my letters I had sent, which included a SASE. So, off to Baltimore I went, taking with me a distant cousin that was interested in Anna's history as well. Western Cemetery is quite big, Find a Grave lists almost 9000 interments. Luckily, my cousin's husband was along and he found the grave quickly. What was written on the stone was quite surprising though.

Anna's DOB is listed as April 9, 1909, not only the wrong day, but also the wrong year. I know this DOB can't be true as her first daughter, my great aunt, was born it 1922, which would make Anna 13 at the time. This would be one of my first major lessons in sources, they can be really wrong.

About a year later I was able to find and contact one of my great half uncles, one of Anna's children from her second marriage. He had some paperwork that shed some light on what had most likely happened with the tombstone.
This is the receipt for her tombstone, while not a great scan, one can make out where it mos likely says April 4, 1904, but the way the 4s are written make it look more like a 9. Plus the fact that the tombstone has been redone/edited twice shows how easy it is for errors to perpetuate.

The other way I got an approximate DOB was through the census records. After finding her maiden name I was able to find her in the 1910 and 1920 censuses living with her parents.

 The top image is from the 1910 census, enumerated in late April, the bottom image is from the 1920 census and enumerated in early March. Assuming that the person who gave the information was correct, that puts Anna's birthday in March or April of 1904.

In 1930 we can find Anna living by herself in Baltimore.

 This census was enumerated on the 5th of April, but notice how she's listed as being 25, which if correct that puts her birthday after the 5th of April. There is the possibility that she didn't really think about how old she was, or the enumerator put the wrong date down. There are two more important clues in this census, she still lists herself as being married, and her age at first marriage is 16. This will help later when looking for her marriage license.

 In the 1940 census, the most current one and the last she will be counted in, we find her living with her second husband and children. The 'X' by her name says she supplied the information. Notice now how she's lost a couple of years of her age by stating she's only 34. Since the census was enumerated in late April she would have been 36, one has to wonder if she did so to not look too much older then her husband.

Without a known birth certificate, while Maryland did require them in the late 1890s not everyone applied for them, we're left with only a couple of more records to find her DOB. The first would be some sort of baptismal record and another would be her marriage record. I have not been able to determine which, if any, church Anna's family attended so I have no records of her birth.

This is Anna and Earl's marriage license, from July 1920, her listed age, 18. This puts her at being born in 1902, though no other records bear this out.

With as much of the normal information I have gathered there is a wide range of dates for Anna, ranging from 1902-1909. The dates of 1902 and 1909 are wrong, if she was the one giving the information to obtain her marriage license she probably couldn't say she was 16 without parental consent, while the 1909 is wrong due to bad penmanship. With the exception of one census record, all dates point to her year of birth as 1904 and birth month as April. The best date that I have come across is April 4, 1904, which is the date I've gone with in my database.

10 December 2014

My first brick wall

Any genealogist knows brick walls can be frustrating, but in some ways, they are the most fun to try and figure out. My first brick wall came with enough of a crack in it to help bring it down.

My family knew little about my grandmother's mother. Not only did she leave her family in the late 1920s/early 1930s, she also died young. When I started looking at my family history my grandmother had already died and both of her sisters would say little about their mother. All I had to go on was a name, Anna Laura.

The stories that I had heard about was that my great grandmother had  left one day and moved to Baltimore. I was also told that her children had no contact with her after she left and no one knew what had happened to her. The family did know she had gotten remarried and had a second. The only other piece of information I knew was that one of her children had died while in the military. Other than that, nothing:  no birth date, no date or place of death, just a blank.

Since this was back in 2008 a lot of things were not online yet. Add that to the fact I didn't know exactly what I was looking for or where to start and it was hard to know how to approach my brick wall. In hindsight I should have gone to the most obvious place, the Frederick courthouse, to find her marriage certificate.  However, at the time I didn't know they kept such records.

My first break came when I asked my aunt if she might know anything. She didn't, but she did give me my grandmother's bible which provided  me with my first clue: I was able to obtain Anna's date of death.


And there it was, my first break, not only a date of death, but her last name of Florey. This was at least a starting point, now I could go look up an obituary. The only problem was that she had died in Baltimore, and the closest and easiest place for me to see the microfilm was the University of Maryland. I was at least able to get this:

There is however, one problem with this short death notice, she's been given the maiden name of Castle, which is wrong. But, at least I've gotten an approximate age, 43, meaning she was born around 1904. I also have a place of interment, Western Cemetery.

My next step was to head to the Maryland State Archives to find a death certificate. Such a confusing place, especially for someone who's never been there before. After finally getting through all the strange hoops they seem to have, I was able to get a printed copy of her death certificate from the microfilm. Finally the wall begins to fall.
Finally, I get a date of birth, maiden name and parents names, if all the information given is correct. Notice the nee from the death notice is Castle, which is her mother's Maiden name.

So now, I have a good amount of information, date of birth, given as April 4, 1904, date of death, November 22, 1947, maiden name of Kessler, and parent's names, William Kessler and Alberta Castle.

In my next post I will cover finding other information about her, and why her date of birth may not be correct and why it was so difficult to figure out what the truth might be.

19 November 2014

Mistakes, how easy to make

but at least most can be fixed.

A couple of months ago, when I was first trying to locate the cemeteries of Frederick county, I would take the motorcycle, my notebook, my handheld GPS and a copy of the first few pages of Names in Stone. I would go and get the coordinates of the cemeteries I knew about and provide updates to Find a Grave. One such cemetery, the Harbaugh Family cemetery near Sabillasville had a photo of what it looked like. Names in Stone described the cemetery as 1/2 mile from Sabillasville between the road and the railroad.

It turns out, that the cemetery that I thought was the Harbaugh cemetery was in fact the United Brethren Cemetery. Imagine my surprise when I went back last weekend, took some photos, went home and tried to upload them to find out that none of the graves matched. After looking through both Names in Stone and Find a Grave I figured out my mistake. Who would have known that two cemeteries of about the same size would be very close to one another. Now I'll have to figure out exactly where the Harbaugh family cemetery is.

I did however find two stones that were not listed in either Names in Stone or Find a Grave, Jacob Harbaugh and his wife Rebecca Harbaugh. All in all a good thing I figured out my mistake and found what might have been lost information.

13 November 2014

Old Documents and eBay

I peruse eBay quite a bit for things relating to Frederick. I've gotten lucky to once stumble upon some life insurance payouts from one of my great-great-grandparents to one of his daughters. I also occasionally bought something in the hopes that I might get lucky again. Below are two recent purchases.

Here is one such document, it's a loan paper from 1853. I bought 20 or so of such documents, most of them are from the Frederick county area, though I did get one that was from Frederick county Virginia. None of them deal with direct family members so I will most likely donate them to the Frederick County Historical Society at some point in the future.

This is a page from a ledger, I'm not fully sure what this ledger deals with as it was called the R.R. #4 ledger, but it deals mostly with flower, butter and other such things. There were originally some 250 pages, but the first 50 pages or so are missing. Some of the pages look like this, torn and bent, but 200 or so pages are in good condition. In this case I have gotten lucky, one of my great-great grandfathers is listed and has two pages of entries, it might not be much, but it does flesh out his life a bit.

Also note men are still named "of", as in this case, John Flook of H. The dates are from around 1905 so these were probably some of the last people named as such. Again, after copying the needed pages, this will most likely going to be donated to the historical society. 

11 November 2014

Veteran's Day

Very few of my direct ancestors served in the armed forces. My father served in Vietnam, his father in WWII. Prior to that I have one or two that served in the American Revolution. I have yet to find a direct ancestor that served in the Civil War, WWI or the Korean War.

My grandfather, pictured here, was an MP during at least part of WWII. I really haven't researched what he did. Notice how on the photo on the left there are black marks, this was done on the original photos before it was sent home, the blackouts were done to keep the enemy from knowing where he was at. Even his company patches were blocked out.

 Here's a photo of my grandfather and a motorcycle, I'm guessing it's his since he is holding it. I didn't know him well, he died when I was 9, so I never talked to him about riding. I never really talked to him at all which is a shame. I have some memories of my father riding a motorcycle, but that was when I was quite young. It seems riding motorcycles is in the genes. 

Have a good Veteran's Day and remember those that served.  

10 November 2014

Busy few weeks

The last few weeks have been busy around here. Every other weekend I have my two girls, which keeps me from the motorcycle and usually looking things around Frederick. I also took a vacation to the Outer Banks for a weekend, which again took away from finding interesting things in the county. I have found some interesting things though, and gotten some nice things from eBay that at some point will be donated to the historical society.

I am still documenting cemeteries in the Frederick county area and on a day off last week I decided to find a few more. Most of these I knew right where they were and they were mapped out in the ADC map of Frederick county. Unfortunately I left my tripod at home and wasn't able to take many photos. I did however, verify where five or six cemeteries were at. Slowly but surely I'm getting the locations of all of the cemeteries in the county and can map them all out.

Here I am learning to hang glide, it was an interesting experience.  I've always wanted to try so I went for it.

There is some air between me and the ground, not much, but some. The wind was not cooperating as much as it could have. The next time I will have to do a tandem flight and get some real air. 

 Near the "Lost Colony" national park is the Elizabethan gardens. One rose bush was still in bloom.

Found this little guy when I was trying to photograph a spider, I think I scared off his dinner.

19 October 2014

Shockingly new finds

Last Sunday I went cemetery hunting with my friend Bob. Bob is a local professional genealogist and knows where a fair amount of family cemeteries are located. Since I've been trying to locate as many of the cemeteries as I can in Frederick county he's a great asset.

Our first stop was the Clemson Family cemetery just north of Frederick. Somehow I totally missed this one when compiling my directions to all the cemeteries in the area as someone had already given directions on Find a Grave. Still, I confirmed where the cemetery was and was able to get some photos. The cemetery is in need of some serious upkeep as many of the stones have fallen over or are buried.

Our next stop was the Cronice Fundenburg cemetery. Bob knew about this cemetery as it's visible from US-15, but he'd never stopped there before. The stones are in the middle of a field, but fenced off. We next stopped at Mount Prospect Methodist where the Morningstar cemetery was transferred to. There are only two stones, one tombstone and one that's probably a foot stone. If not for Bob I never would have known where it was moved to.

A few weeks ago Bob had talked to someone he knew who used to mow lawns and was told where the Shiloh Methodist Protestant Church cemetery was located. Holdcraft said that the stones were piled in the rear, and now they are laying down and leaning against a fence. Most of the stones are at least in decent shape, though a few are broken.

Shiloh Cemetery

We next went to find the Cock-Grahame cemetery that Bob knew how to find.  This one is located near the Monocacy north of MD 26. We needed to walk through a cow field, which was interesting just to see the cows look at us probably wondering why we're walking through their field.

When we got to the fence which we needed to get over, it turned out it was electrified. Climbing over Bob got shocked but didn't say much about it. When I went to go over I got shocked, and it hurt like hell. I'm not sure if it was because I hit the fence with my keys or I'm just not used to getting shocked like Bob, but it took me a minute to try and get over the fence again, which I did without getting shocked.

The Cock-Grahame cemetery is small, only two stones currently remain, but it does have something I've never seen or even heard about in other places in Frederick county, a vault.

Cock-Grahame Vault
It was empty when I was there, and when Holdcraft wrote his description he was told kids used to take bones from it. I felt like Indiana Jones slipping in to the vault to take a look, notice the 'vines' hanging over the front. I do wonder what the opening above the entrance is for.

Leaving the cemetery I didn't get shocked, though I think Bob might have caught a small jolt. Unfortunately, after tracking through the cow field two ways, ten feet before I  stepped in a cow patty, I guess I'll need to pay attention the whole way and not just 99% of the walk.

After dropping off Bob, he had football to watch it seems, I stopped by two more family cemeteries. The first one was the Stull family along Bethel Road. This cemetery is in a front yard along the road, based upon some photos one stone has been moved, though it is still there. My last cemetery of the day was the Miller family which is also along  the road. Not having seen any photos of the cemetery I can't say for sure, but there is at least one stone missing since Holdcraft did his survey and there is a cement block there to hold a stone.

All in all it was a great day to go looking for cemeteries.

11 October 2014

The things you can learn...

...by actually going out and exploring. Wednesday night I went looking for another family cemetery, this time near Sugarloaf Mountain. Since it was such a nice evening I of course took the bike. The GPS always wants me to take I-270, of course at 5p.m. 270 is packed so I took the back roads.

After getting turned around a time or two, note to self, double check the address, I found the long, gravel driveway I was looking for. Getting to the top of the driveway I was met by two large, friendly dogs, who alerted the owner I was there. She was quite helpful in telling me a bit about the stones, which were overgrown and had been hit by some farm equipment.

When I was done taking my photos and mapping things out I went to say thanks. When I asked if we were in Montgomery or Frederick county she told me both as the line was right on their property. Then she asked me if I would like to see some more history and told me that there was a marker for the county line a few hundred feet away. It seems that when they did the original survey to split Montgomery county from Frederick, every two miles they placed a rather large stone with the distance and F and M carved on it. Fittingly enough as this was the 6 mile marker and the farm was called 6 Mile Farm.

The owner also told me there was another stone not far away near Sugarloaf mountain in a cow pasture. I will need to ride by and check it out. Upon look further there is little information on any other stones, at least on Google. The only other photos I could find was the one in Parr's Spring, which is the corner for the counties of Howard, Carroll, Frederick and Montgomery. There is also speculation that there are markers in the Monocacy river, which is odd since the mouth of the Monocacy is fully in Frederick county.

The 'F' and 'M' are readable, the '6' in the upper left is difficult to read.

The stone stands about 3-4 feet tall.

10 October 2014

A better way to photograph tombstones

Have you ever come across a tombstone that's really hard to read? Ever tried to take a photo of it and tried to play with the contrast and such to try and make it better? Well, there is a better way. If you own a dSLR and a slave flash you can take far better photos as shown in this blog.

Since he's already shown you how to do it I'm going to give some examples of my photos with the different settings and show you some of the problems I've come across and how to hopefully fix them.

I normally carry with me a Nikon D40X to photograph tombstones. Recently, after reading the blog article, I bought a Sunpak flash and a Cowboy Studio flash trigger. I now carry around a tripod to hold the flash.

Here is the same stone with and without the flash. Notice how parts are readable, but with the flash it's far easier to read.

Here are some of the more common problems I've come across and how I've solved them.

Too much sun, sometimes there's just too much sun which keeps the flash from really filling in the stone. Usually that's because the sun is at my back so I also get part of my shadow in the photo as well. My solution, a large golf umbrella. The biggest problem I've had with this so far is the wind blowing the umbrella around forcing me to hold it and take the photo. The other problem is figuring out if I can carry it on the motorcycle or not. I may have to buy a light reflector instead of an umbrella.

Here's the difference:
Without the umbrella, you can see my shadow on the stone. With the umbrella, the stone isn't very readable, but still far more readable then before. Both shot at f/8 1/200.

Another problem I get is having the f-stop closed too much, or not letting in enough light. This is easy enough to spot as the photo will be very dark. Alternatively, if the photo is too bright then the f-stop is open to far. I tend to start my f-stop around 10 and go from there, since it's digital photography you'll know right away if the photo came out and make any needed changes.

On the photo on the left was done at f/4, the one one on the right at f/10.

The hardest problem to figure out is the correct distance and/or angle for the flash. If the flash is too close you will cut the corners off of the stone. If the angle is bad you will get one side of the memorial cut off. Usually pulling the flash back a foot or so will fix the problem. Other times just rotating the head of the flash will help.

Example of flash too close and of flash angled bad. The upper left side of the stone is where all the light went. Notice how much easier it is to read when the light hits at the proper angle, the light also filled in the bottom left side of the stone. Both photos taken at f/7.1 and shutter speed of 1/200.

Another problem is too fast of a shutter speed, at least if the flash can not keep up. The f-stop wasn't changed for these photos, just the shutter speed, from 1/250 to 1/200. Notice the black line on the first photo, the shutter speed was faster then the flash. Both photos taken at f/10. The one on the right was used above as well.


Remember, because digital photos are "free" take as many as you need. I will take 10+ of a stone playing around with different settings until I get one I like, sometimes it's best to not use the flash at all. Sometimes though the stone it so badly worn not all of the original markings will show up and you can only hope that at some point in time someone else will have transcribed the stone. Happy stone hunting.

02 October 2014

Coordinate conversions

Knowing where you want to go is a good thing, but what happens when you're not given a street address but a set of coordinates like this: 39.4511 -077.4981? Most GPS units should have a way that allows you to drive to that set of coordinates, but what if you're given a set of coordinates like this: 39°27'03.96"N 077°29'53.16"W? I believe that most GPS units would be able to handle that as well though I don't use mine this way.

This type of coordinate, 39.4511, is called a decimal degree (DD) of latitude. Because it's positive it's known to be in the northern hemisphere, a negative number would be in the south. A negative longitude means west of the prime meridian. For the most part, unless you're in some parts of Alaska, all coordinates will have a positive latitude and a negative longitude.

This way of writing coordinates, 39°27'03.96"N, is called degree, minutes and seconds (DMS) of latitude. Some people use decimal degrees and others use degree, minutes and seconds. It's easier in the long run to keep to one system.

So, how does one convert between the two? It's actually quite a simple calculation. First we'll go between DMS and DD, then DD and DMS. I'll use 39°27'03.96"N for this example.

Step 1:
Take your seconds, in this case it's 3.96 and divide by 60.

Step 2:
Take the minutes and add the number from the last calcualtion.

Step 3:
Take the last number and divide by 60 again.

Step 4:
Take the degree and add the last number to it and you're done.

To go the other way is the same basic steps just backwards, I'll use -077.4981 in this example.

Step 1:
Take the decimal part of the number, here .4981, and multiply by 60.
Here you've already found your minutes and it's 29, the remaining decimal points are your seconds.

Step 2:
Take the decimal part of the previous number, .886, and multiply by 60 again.

Put those together and you have 77°29'53.16"W, remember the negative means west. This can be done in a spreadsheet, but it's also possible to do with a hand calculator, or you're head if you really want.

Now you can go back and forth between the two systems on the go if need be. This can be useful if you're looking for a cemetery that doesn't have an address, such as smaller family cemeteries. You can also plug either type of coordinates in to Google Maps and it will drop a marker to see where that point is. The coordinates I used in my example is for the High Knob/Main family cemetery just west of Frederick.

30 September 2014

Motorcyling tip

Being that this is supposed to be a blog about motorcycles as well as genealogy I'd thought I'd give a quick tip, especially for this time of year.

This time of year, at least for me in these middle latitudes, the sun can be at some really bad angles, even with sunglasses the glare can get to you and make seeing the road a real pain. A very quick, and cheap, way of combating this is to place a strip of black electric tape along the very bottom of your face shield. Then, when the sun starts hitting that wrong spot simply lift the shield to put the tape in front of the sun.

Granted, this is an old school way of taking care of the problem, but it does work. My Nolan helmet has a sun visor, but even that doesn't cut the glare down enough. Don't forget to have some sort of eye protection as well if the face shield is up.

29 September 2014

This past weekend I made an incredible find, the Ambrose Leatherman cemetery located near Ellerton. Names in Stone said the cemetery was located along Bittle Road and MD 17. Having grown up near there I knew where to start looking. I went to the intersection and started looking and not seeing anything. I figured that someone would probably know where it was so I started going up the driveways looking for anything that resembled a graveyard. Not finding anything, nor anyone to ask, I left and made my way to Saint John's cemetery to take some photos. Luckily for me church was letting out and the one person I ran in to knew exactly where it was located.

Back I went to the proper place. I knocked on the door and the man who answered showed me right were the cemetery was. He told me that it wasn't really on his property, but no one would mind if I took some photos. He and a few others take care of the spot and it's not over grown, though I did have to remove some weeds to get nice photos.

What I found was a nice family cemetery with some interesting stones. A few types I had never seen before. Out of the 15 stones I found, at least 5 had writing on both sides, all in German. One had a flower on one side.

This is, what I'm guessing, is the back side of Peter Ambros' stone. Note the intricate flower on the bottom.

I also saw foot stones  with the initials and year of death carved on them.

This is Danial Swigart's foot stone. Upon first seeing the stone I thought it was another tombstone.

I'm still trying to compare what I have found to what Holdcraft found in 1958. I do seem to have a photo of a stone not transcribed by Holdcraft. I think there also maybe a stone or two missing. Unfortunately two of the stones were broken and I was unable to find the entire stone.

28 September 2014

Lessons in trusting secondary sources

Secondary sources are sometimes all we have to go on. Sometimes things might even be a "third" source, such as transcriptions of tombstones. I would guess that most people who have done research in Frederick county knows about Jacob Holdcraft's book Names in Stone. For those that don't know, Holdcraft went around Frederick county in the 1950s and 60s transcribing all the tombstones he could find, he found some 75,000 stones in about 300 cemeteries. However, before he wrote his book, he published a series of booklets done by cemetery.

These books are an invaluable  resource for researchers. However, because of the number of times the names were written and re-written, there can be problems. These problems can compound, when 50-60 years later someone tries to find an older cemetery. One such error is the Miller family cemetery, Holdcraft number 22, in Highland, which is between Myersville and Wolfsville. In Names in Stone, he gives the location of the cemetery as being near Harmony-Ellerton road and Wistman Lane, however, in pamphlet number 5 the location is given as the intersection of Harmony-Ellerton Road and Fishers Hollow Road. These roads are only about a half mile apart, but when looking for 6 stones in the over growth it's almost impossible to find.

Twice now I have been out looking for this cemetery, but now don't know exactly where to look. On a Sunday morning there are not a lot of people out to ask, and I have been unable to find the cemetery and will have to research further.

Another error, that also made it's way to Find a Grave is the Summers family cemetery. Holdcraft gives the location as being on Church Hill Road and Ward Cline Road. The person who originally submitted the cemetery to Find a Grave did the same but also added the latitude and longitude of the intersection. When I went to take photos of the cemetery I originally thought the cemetery was gone as I was in the wrong area. Luckily I saw someone mowing their lawn nearby and it turned out that she owned the property that the cemetery was located on.

So what does this say? It says that, if at all possible to find and use original sources as much as possible. It's not to say that secondary sources are bad, quite the opposite, sometimes it's the only thing we have left, we just can not rely upon them entirely.

25 September 2014

Current projects

Everyone has multiple projects going on at once. Here are some of mine, at least how they relate to genealogy.

For a few years I've been working on the descendants of George Dinterman, born in 1800. As one of those descendants I hit one of the typical problems genealogists have, finding two people with the same name and same basic age. In this case it turned out to be two men named Jacob Dinterman. Though one was ten years older then the other, they both died in 1907 and both had married women named Sarah.

In trying to solve the problem of which Jacob was my ancestor I started tracing all of the descendants of both men. Luckily, the majority of those descendants lived in and around Frederick. After awhile I found that I had found almost all of the descendants, named Dinterman, of both men. Only having to step back  a generation or two meant being able to get back to the George Dinterman. I've finished most of the work, I now need to transcribe a few wills and try and find out what happened to a handful of people before I can finish up on a one name study of the Dinterman name.

My second project I've been working on is locating and documenting the cemeteries of Frederick county. Two resources I've been using is Jacob Holdcraft's Names in Stone book and the Find a Grave web site to help locate the cemeteries. While Holdcraft's book is a great resource, he lists the names of the farms and other out of date place and road names. And while Find a Grave is another great resource, there are mistakes in locations or no location at all.

So, what I've been doing is taking the Wee-Strom out and trying to locate these cemeteries. I take a handheld GPS and record the location. With smaller cemeteries I've been also taking photos and if I can, making hand drawn plots of the stones. Those photos I put up on Find a Grave if they aren't already there, and I add or correct the cemetery's location if need be. When I finish I hope to be able to find the majority of the cemeteries that Holdcraft found, though I know a few at least have been destroyed or moved.

24 September 2014

More about me

As a first post it's probably a good idea to give you a bit about who I am. I was born and raised in Frederick county Maryland, I currently live in Montgomery county to be closer to work. I have worked for the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, for the past 14 years making aeronautical charts.

Around 1998 I began riding motorcycles. Since that time I've been lucky enough to travel through all of the lower 48 states and was able to do a month long trip through Europe. The amount of time riding went down when I had children. I currently ride a Suzuki V-Strom 650.

 When my mother died in 2005 I realized how little I knew of my family history, which really meant none. I found an older, hand-drawn family tree and a few older photos and it piqued an interest in my family. Since then I have been tracing my family history. For the past 3-4 years I have been a volunteer at the Frederick Historical Society a couple of Saturdays a month in the library. I also run the Main/Mehn/Mayne Family website.

 Recently I've been combining my two hobbies and that's what this blog is about, and to hopefully give you some tips and tricks for motorcycling and genealogy.