Category Archives: Other

Why We Came To The USA

The following is by Dick Eastman, find credits at the end. His ancestry is Northern European, so this is heavily biased in that direction. The New World is composed of immigrants from everywhere. But the conditions described are historically interesting.

I learned in school that our ancestors came to the New World in the 1600s in search of religious freedom. While I still believe that to be true, I now believe the full story is a bit more complex than the reasons given in grammar school textbooks.

Religious freedom was a motivation for Puritans, Pilgrims, Quakers, and others, but thousands of other immigrants were members of the established church in England and had no interest in other theologies. What motivated them?

Perhaps the simplest answer is that living in England was very difficult at the time. The upper classes lived comfortably, but the majority of citizens had difficulty eking out even a mere subsistence. Starvation was not unknown, and even those who did eat regularly had diets that most of us today would reject. Without refrigeration or modern canning techniques, even those with some financial security had monotonous diets in the winter and early spring. The thought of eating turnip soup three times a day for weeks on end seems appalling today but was common in the 1600s. The Irish more likely ate potato soup.

Fish and meat were available but often at prices that were beyond the reach of most city dwellers. Their country cousins perhaps had a slightly better diet of meats and vegetables that they produced themselves, but country dwellers typically lacked other comforts of life. In the winter, there was no available fresh produce, regardless of where you lived. The only vegetables that were available were the root crops that could be stored for months: potatoes, turnips, carrots, etc. Cabbage, while not a root crop, also stores well and was frequently available.

Perhaps today we do not appreciate the appalling conditions under which our ancestors lived. Imagine, if you will, a city on a warm summer day in which there were no sewers and no source of fresh water. The primary mode of transportation was by horse-drawn carriages and wagons, so horse manure was everywhere in the streets. Even so, the odor from human wastes must have been far stronger as chamber pots were typically dumped into the streets and alleyways. Most residents did not bathe regularly, did not wash their hair, and never brushed their teeth.

Of course, modern medical care was unknown, and medical ignorance was universal. These people did not know why they breathed air, how the digestive system worked, why brushing one’s teeth was important, or why clean water was desirable.

Most of England’s water was heavily polluted, and there was relatively little in the way of forests as they had been cut years earlier for timber and for firewood.

Without proper food preservation techniques, we can assume that most of the food our ancestors consumed had a high germ count. Without clean living quarters or clean water, we can also assume that most of our malnourished ancestors were ill a high percentage of the time. It’s a wonder that any of them survived and had descendants!

Speculators and adventurers of the time wildly advertised living conditions in the New World as a Utopian experience. While the claims were partially true, those with a financial interest in attracting new immigrants were quick to embellish the facts. After all, there were no “truth in advertising” laws at the time.

We now know that many of the early settlers starved to death or died of diseases linked to malnutrition. Yet the reports sent back to England spoke glowingly of fertile fields and forests that were full of game for the hunter. The seas were described as full of fish available to anyone.

William Wood in his 1634 book, New England Prospect, wrote:
Unlike England’s undrinkable water, New England’s is “so good many preferred it to ‘beer, whey, and buttermilk and those that drink it be as healthful, fresh and lusty as they that drink beer.'”

Winters, he claimed, were milder than in England, summers hotter but “tolerable because of the cooling effect of fresh winds.” Oh, and food was plentiful: “deer, available for the taking; raccoon, as good as lamb; grey squirrels, almost as big as an English rabbit; turkeys, up to 40 pounds.”
Hmmm, have you ever eaten raccoon? To the semi-starved residents of England, it must have sounded like a feast.

You can read the first few pages of a modern-day reprint of William Wood’s book, New England Prospect, on Google Books at:

I have focused on the people and the lifestyles of England simply for convenience; those records and books are easy to read for modern-day English speakers. However, the lifestyles and the motivations were similar in Ireland, Scotland, and all throughout Europe.

In fact, some of our ancestors made the difficult trip over the Atlantic for religious freedom. However, probably a much larger number made the trip for adventure and for greater financial opportunities. After all, life was none too pleasant in “the Old Country.” Many believed that life would be much better in the New World.

I certainly am glad that they made the trip!

The above article is from and is copyrighted by the Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter at Many thanks go to Dick Eastman for his continued support of the genealogy world.

The Chosen

By Darlen Denton

From the Cross Timbers Genealogical Society of Cooke County, TX

We are the chosen.  In each family, there is one who seems called to find the ancestors.  To put flesh on their bones and make them live again.  To tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.  Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before.  We are the story tellers of the tribe.  All tribes have one.  We have been called, as it were, by our genes.  Those who have gone before cry out to us:  “Tell our story.”   So, we do.

In finding them, we somehow find ourselves.  How many graves have I stood before now and cried?   I have lost count.  How many times have I told the ancestors, “You have a wonderful family; you would be proud of us.”   How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me?   I cannot say.   It goes beyond just documenting facts.   It goes to who I am, and why  I do the things I do.  It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying – I can’t let this happen.   The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh.  It goes to doing something about it.

It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish.   How they contributed to what we are today.   It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.  It goes to deep pride that the fathers fought and some died to make and keep us a nation.   It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us.  It is of equal pride and love, that our mothers struggled to give us birth, without them we could not exist, and so we love each one, as far back as we can reach.  That we might be born who we are.  That we might remember them.  So we do.  With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence,  because we are them and they are the sum of who we are.

So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family.  It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take my place in the long line of family storytellers.   That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and restore the memory or greet those who we had never known before.


A generation is defined as the average time between a mother’s first offspring and her daughter’s first offspring. The generation length is 25.2 years in the United States as of 2007 and 27.4 years in the United Kingdom as of 2004.

“Imagine a dinner table set for a thousand guests, in which each man is sitting between his own father and his own son.  At one end of the table might be a French Nobel laureate in a white tie and tails, and with the Legion of Honor on his breast, and at the other end a Cro-Magnon man dressed in animal skins and with a necklace of cave-bear teeth. Yet each one would be able to converse with his neighbors on his left and right, who would either be his father or his son.  So the distance from then to now is not really great.”  (From Bjorn Kurten, Singletusk: A Story of the Ice Age, 1986)

The above passage intrigues me — there are only a few generations in our family known to us.  Yet we are all somehow connected.  If we could only speak to each person on our left and right…. So what is the average length of a generation in your family?  

For the frugal genealogist who wants to do a DNA test

Have you ever been curious about whether you’re descended from kings and queens, lords and ladies, or perhaps somebody famous? The 23andMe DNA test kit is just the way to find out wherever you may have come from, as well as to get a better grip on your health. It’s on sale at Amazon right now for $99, a $100 discount from its regular price of $199. Dive into the adventures of ancestry and health by grabbing a 23andMe DNA test kit while this offer from Amazon lasts.

There is a $79 kit, but that is Ancestry + Traits only. Look for the $99 kit, which is the full Health + Ancestry package.

This post is for our wanna-be DNA Discussion friends.

Editing My Family Tree

A few days ago, I wrote about using LearnForeverLearn to edit a Gedcom downloaded from I have learned quite a bit since then about checking my own tree. For example, I had 84 people with unknown gender!

Ancestry does not have an edit report in their web site. At least I can’t find one. That amazed me. One would think that would be an easy program to write! Especially given that one of their main products is building trees!

MyHeritage does have a slick online editing routine called Consistency Checker. It is fun and easy to use. It even flagged a completely blank record. The problem was that that record was not attached to anything, so I couldn’t find it.

My master database is the Ancestry tree, I previously uploaded my Gedcom into MyHeritage, so I had to fix the data in Ancestry.

I finally found the blank record in Ancestry by running the List of All People found under the Tree Search when a tree is open. It had sorted to the top!

LearnForeverLearn and MyHeritage flag many of the same errors. But MyHeritage has a few unique nice ones, like multiple spaces between names in a name field.

If you are MyHeritage only, you are ok. Just run the Consistency Checker once in a while.

If you are Ancestry only, you should use the LearnForeverLearn/ancestors web site. Or use a copy of RootsMagic at our local FHC. The report you need is under Tools called Problem Search.

If you are Ancestry and MyHeritage like me, then use all 4! And slow down when adding new records. And be super careful when copying data from other trees! Edit and source as you go. (My problem lately has been adding DNA matches discovered in Thrulines to my tree. Lots of those people have not yet read these posts!) 🙂

Saving your family tree

More thoughts in the rain.  Suppose you are one of the lucky ones who has researched and created a rather large family tree.  You want to preserve the data and share it with others, but there are many reasons why you can’t. Not everyone wants to use FamilySearch, especially when living people are involved.

The funny thing is, no one ever talks about this kind of a puzzle during the meetings here at MoCoGenSo.  We act like everyone in genealogy is just out to search or source. Trust me, I am not about to create a “talk” here about various ideas to help with this issue.  Following is just a couple of ideas that might lead someone to think outside the box. 

If just preserving the data is more important than retaining a database, I suggest that HTML will continue to exist for at least as long as other options.  Thus I would consider using GedSite to create HTML files of the entire project a very good preservation alternative.  While this does not save the project as a database, it does preserve all the data in a very readable format. 

GedSite, developed by John Cardinale, creates web pages from a GEDCOM file. It generates either narrative or grid style person pages, a master index, a surname index, source pages, and any other pages you wish to add. You can review the site on your own PC before you share it with anyone. You can publish it on the web, or distribute it via a DVD or flash drive. 

Find out more here:

There is also an archive hosting plan from Family History Hosting LLC operated by John Cardinal which ensures your genealogy files will stay online for 10 years from your last payment. Frankly, this method may be easier than trying to create a blog yourself and then building the HTML reading system yourself. You can have your own family tree web site! 

Find out more here:

I am not trying to “push” these products. In fact, I don’t use them myself. But they have a good reputation, and I am putting this information out to help folks who might have a need. Creating an HTML dump of my family tree is on my long todo list! 

GSSCC and the Santa Cruz Public Library present Lecture Series

Tuesday, November 2, 2021 7:00 PM

Guest Speaker: Terry Jackson — How It Has Helped Me in My Research

Terry Jackson’s family has been submitting family histories to what is now called FamilySearch for many, many years. As that information has come online, it has provided lots of interesting stories and has helped to clear up some family mysteries. Using some examples from his own research, Terry will demonstrate how FamilySearch can help us with our own research. We will also look at some fun things that come with a free FamilySearch account.

Terry Jackson is a retired Social Worker who now spends his time fishing, or finding more questions than answers in his genealogical research. He also enjoys what has become a rare opportunity to spend time with his grandkids! Terry is the descendant of Mormon immigrant families. His paternal grandmother’s parents arrived in the 1890s; his paternal grandfather’s forebears came in the 1850s. Terry’s maternal line stretches back to the early 1600s in Virginia and New England. His maternal ancestors were early converts to Mormonism and were among the first Mormon settlers in what became Utah and Idaho. All the family lines that Terry has traced from the U.S. have gone back to English, Scottish, and Irish roots. Terry is a 35-year resident of Seaside.

NOTE:  You MUST register at this address in order to attend.

Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County DNA SIG

Today at the MoCoGenSo DNA Discussion Group meeting it was announced that the Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County has started a DNA Special Interest Group (SIG)!

They are meeting in person (not video) in the Santa Cruz Public Library, Downtown Branch, located at 224 Church St, Santa Cruz, CA, 95060.  See map below.  It was recommended that you park in the “Locust Garage.”  The library is at number 16 on the 2nd map.  

This new group is meeting on the first Tuesday of the month in the upstairs meeting room.  For the next 2 months, they will meet at 1:00 PM.  Starting in January 2022, they switch to 10:00 AM. 

See for information about the Society. There is nothing about the new SIG on the web site yet. This information came directly from the organizers!

Don’t forget to wear a mask! 🙂

(In the picture below, drag the < > icon back and forth.)