My Genealogical Year in Review – 2017

My blog received the most significant amount of effort from me during the year. I wrote 143 posts during the year – A couple of months with 14 posts, a couple of months with nine posts, but the result was 2.75 posts per week. My goal is to post a minimum of once every three days, so I met my goal by posting an average of once every 2.5 days. My number one post was the same as post as in 2016, “Why I’ll never do business with MyHeritage Again.” I guess people like to read rants.

My second most popular blog posting concerned learning of a half-sister for my mother. In “OMG – Another Half-Sibling,” I write about learning that my mother has a half-sister that no one ever knew about. A woman, given up for adoption in the 1930s, through Ancestry DNA learned of her biological family, and I had the opportunity to be a part of the discovery. I had the enjoyable experience of traveling to Chicago and meeting her and her daughter. It was a great experience.

Number 3 on my blog posts was a surprise. Website Review: Lost Cousins didn’t provide much insight on their website. Instead, it pointed out to me some of the weaknesses in my data and research citations.
Search Military Records - Fold3

Number 4 was a posting about “Family Tree Maker for Mac 2.1.” I had become frustrated with Family Tree Maker when a previous version had corrupted my source citations. I returned to Family Tree Maker last year and have subsequently updated to Family Tree Maker for Mac 2017. I am pleased with the decision. It isn’t as robust as some other products, like Roots Magic, but has an actual Mac interface, which I prefer to Windows runtime emulators. If Roots Magic had a real Mac interface, I’d be hard-pressed to decide which I would use.

Number 5 is the main menu for my Brown family tree activities. When I am in communications with folks about my genealogical activities, I suggest they watch my four primary family pages, My mother’s line Brown-Montran, my biological father’s line Roberts-Barnes, my wife’s father’s line, Howell-Hobbs and my wife’s mother’s line, Darling-Huber.  I have done more research on my Brown-Montran tree, so as I might expect that tree had the highest number of visits.

I receive the most significant number of compliments and “that was interesting” statements from individuals regarding my Donna Montran vaudeville articles. For me, learning of Donna’s trunk and the photos and news clippings that it contained has provided insight into Donna’s life. My process of digitizing them, incorporating them into a much more extensive Donna Montran story is one of the most enjoyable activities in which I engage.

Scarborough Historical Society

My number two area of activities is with the Scarborough Historical Society. Certainly, I have become their “technology guru” and an important resource for people who come to the society and museum with genealogical questions. I am slowly beginning to know about the vast genealogical resources there. If you have ancestors in Scarborough, I can probably help you find resources. I also manage their Blog site, Scarborough Historical Society dot Org and serve on the society’s Board of Directors.

Genealogy Groups

Greater Portland Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society (MGS)

I am the Treasurer of the Greater Portland Chapter of MGS. I regularly attend meetings with them.  Additionally, the Chapter president has appointed me to be the “Officially Designated Representative” (ODR) to the Maine Genealogical Society. As the ODR I am a board member on the MGS and participate in their board meetings.

Maine Genealogical Society

Besides being the ODR to the MGS, I am also an assistant webmaster for their website – Maine Roots dot Org. I don’t do design activities; instead, I keep up with routine maintenance activities adding user accounts, changing prices on items for sale, etc.

Scarborough Public Library Genealogy Group

I organized and lead a Genealogy Group at my public library.


I am a regular participant at the Maine Genealogical DNA Interest Group and manage their website. I am a regular participant at the South Portland Library Genealogy Group.

Finally, add the MGS annual Fall Conference, the MGS Spring Workshop, and Summer Genealogical Fair and, somehow, I seem to keep busy. They say the key to a great retirement is to keep busy. I guess I am doing so and loving it.


I hope you enjoy my blog articles. I will try to do a few more reviews of services; they seem to be my most popular postings. If you don’t subscribe to my blog, please do so. Also, I intersperse affiliate advertising on my blog. I try not to make promotion the focus of my activities. As a matter of fact, I endeavor to keep them unobtrusive. However, they have the potential to help offset my costs (although they haven’t so far). Your use of my links will be much appreciated.

The most amazing thing about 2017’s significant discoveries was that they weren’t even thought of in 2016. So, I’m excited to learn what developments 2018 will bring. I expect them to be things I haven’t thought of yet. Hopefully, your new year will be as exciting as I anticipate mine will be.


Hypothesis: Lenora Busbee’s Parents

Howell/Vinson/Busbee Line
By Don Taylor

[Occasionally, I am asked about my process of solving difficult genealogical process and breaking through brick walls. The following describes one of my methods.] 

Lenora Busbee is one of the brick walls I have on my wife’s Howell/Vinson line. Lenora seems to have been called by several names, Eleanor, Ella, Elnora, and Lenora. When I have a brick wall I try to take a logical approach to breaking down the wall. Sort of shake the tree and see what might fall out. My steps include:

  1. Determine what my genealogical question is.
  2. Define what I know.
  3. Define what I surmise and/or what my hypothesis is.
  4. Develop an approach to answer my genealogical questions.

My Question

The simple genealogical question is what are the names of the parents of Lenora Vincent (Née Busbee).

What I think I know:

Lenora went by several name, Elnora, Eleanor, Lenora, and Ella. She was born between 1817 and 1827 in North Carolina and she married John Vincent/Vinson about 1844. All records I have discovered indicate her maiden name was “Busbee.”

What I surmise or hypnotize:

Because she was born in North Carolina and was married in North Carolina, I assume she was in North Carolina during the 1840 Census and she will show in the 1840 Census as a child between 13 and 23.


My approach is to look at the 1840 Census for Busbee/Busby families and analyze which family she is likely to have been a part of and determine if her likely parentage. With some luck, I thought I might even be able to determine which family is hers.


For this type of search, I like to use Ancestry.Com. For search criteria, I used:

  •             Last Name: Busbee (Exact & Similar) and
  •             Location: North Carolina, USA (Exact to the Place)

The search yielded four results showing Busbee/Busby families in North Carolina during the 1840 Census.

Name              County             Females

Jas F Busby     Gates County 1 female under 5
1 female 20-29

James Busbee Wake               1 female 15-19
1 female 40-49

Mary Busbee – Wake              1 female 15-19
1 female 20 to 29
1 female 40-49

Johnson Busber – Wake          1 female 15-19
1 female 20 to 29
1 female 40-49.

(Note: The Mary Busbee household of 1840 also included one male 10 to 14 which I will use below.)


Start LookingJas F. Busby – Unlikely
The only male in the house from 30 to 39 years of age. The 1 female 20 to 29 is most likely his wife.

James Busbee – Possible
The female age 40-49 is likely James’ wife, but the female 15 to 19 might be Lenora.

Mary Busbee – Very possible
It is likely that Mary Busbee is the female 40 to 49. That leaves two females in the household, one 15-19 and one 20 to 29.

Johnson Busber – Possible, but unlikely.
The surname is similar but not the same sound; however, Johnson does have females living with him that could include Lenora.

So, I am going to assume that James Busbee or Mary Busbee is likely Lenora’s parent.

1850 Census

James Busbee shows in the 1850 Census with his apparent wife Elizabeth, and two boys. The female 15 to 19 could still be Lenora.

The only Mary Busbee in the 1850 Census in North Carolina is the 24-year-old Mary living with an apparent husband, Larking Busbee. No help there.

1830 Census – In 1830 I would expect Lenora to be identified as a female aged 3 to 13.

The Alford Busbee family consisted of two females one under 5 and one 20 to 29. Mary Busbee would have been 30 to 40 years old then so Alford is not likely the father.

The Polly Busbee family consisted of one male under 5, one female 5 to 9 and one female 30 to 39. This family has the exact same makeup as the Mary Busbee family of 1840.

The Ransome Busbee family consisted of one male under 5, and two females under 5 and one female 15 to 19.  Again, this could not be the Mary Busbee family of 1840.

Finally, there is a William Busby living in Northampton county, who has two females under 5, one, female 5 to 9 and one female 20 thru 29 living with him.  The female 20 to 29 is unlikely to be the Mary who would be from 30 to 39-years-old.


My look at the potential parents for Lenora are down to only two likely sets.

  1. James & Elizabeth Busbee of Wake County, North Carolina. A well-to-do family consisting of three boys, 2, ages 5-9 and one age 15-19 and one girl age 15 to 19.
  2. Unknown & Mary/Polly Busbee, née unknown of Wake County, North Carolina.
    A modest family consisting of a single mother, one boy, age 10 to 14, and two girls one 15 to 19 and one 20 to 29.

There is one more bit of information which may help. In the 1850 Census, there is an Eliza Beasley living in the John & Lenora Vinson household. I have long thought that she is probably related to either John or Lenora. Beasley is close enough in sound to Busbee that she could be a spinster sister of Lenora. If so, she would have been 5 to 8 years older and would fit the older girl profile in both the 1840 and 1830 census records for Mary/Polly Busbee. The 1840 Census indicates that living in John’s family was a girl who is presumed to be his sister Nancy, so this Eliza is unlikely a sibling of John.

Future Action

  • Determine the names of the children of James and Elizabeth Busbee of Wake County, North Carolina.
  • Determine the names of the children of Mary/Polly Busbee née unknown of Wake County, North Carolina. Mary/Polly appears to have died or remarried before 1850.

I’ll look closely at these families as my next step the next time I research the Howell/Vinson/Busbee line.

————- Disclaimer ————-


Maine Marriage Records

By Don Taylor

photo of hole in a brick wall
Hole in Brick Wall – Photo by counterclockwise via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I recently had the opportunity to be a Genealogy “brick wall buster,” which is a person who helps someone break through their genealogical brick walls. They say teaching a subject helps the teacher learn the topic even more. Likewise, helping others with their “brick walls” is an amazing process wherein I learn so much more. Anyway, one of my querists wanted to know, How to find marriage records in Maine.

As I thought about how I would approach the question I thought of several Wikis and ask the person if they used the Family Search wiki. She said, “No.” As I went through the day, I realized how few people knew about the two best genealogy wiki sites on the Internet. Everyone I spoke to during the day used Family Search and Ancestry.Com, but none of them ever used either of the two wikis.

I prefer the Family Search wiki.  It seems to always provide the answer to my research questions.  For example, a search for Maine Marriage Records brings me to a page about the differences in records before 1892, between 1892 and 1922, and since 1922.

The Ancestry Wiki: is also a hidden gem – a fountain of information. Many people have subscriptions to Ancestry and many others access Ancestry through their local libraries, but I found few use the Ancestry Wiki. The results received from searching the Ancestry Wiki for “Maine Marriage Records,” was not quite as clear as Family Search but did quickly lead me to a Maine Vital Records page, which also told me all I needed to know.

The Maine Genealogy Network is one of my favorite sites for specifically Maine research. They have many Maine Specific databases, see for a list of them. There is also a great article about “Finding Maine County Marriage Returns”, which explains methods to access some of the early Maine marriage records that may exist.

Scarborough Records

For Scarborough Records, the Cumberland County Marriages from 1786 thru 1886 may be browsed on the Family Search site at Look for the camera icon at the bottom right to see the images.

Image of Book Cover - Vital Records of Scarborough Maine.

There is a great book, Vital Records of Scarborough, Maine by James H. Wick published by the Maine Genealogical Society (MGS). The book is currently out of print and unavailable from the MGS, however, Minerva indicates it is available at several libraries in the area, (See including the Scarborough Public Library. We also have a copy of it at the Scarborough Museum which may be viewed at the museum.

Also at the museum, we have several boxes of microfilm.  As an example, one of the boxes, Number 225, is a reel of “Town Records Births prior to 1891 with some dates to 1908, deaths ca. 1819-1891, intentions of marriage and marriage records 1816-1879.  I need to find a way to get these digitized and available or, better yet, find where someone else has already digitized these records.

Do you know of additional Maine Marriage Record sources available?  If so, please let me know through the comment form below.

Digitize those Photos!

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I advocate digitizing everything that can be digitized, particularly photographs. I was recently speaking with a person at the museum about a photo that she had of the Cunningham family. She showed me the old, faded photo and I asked immediately if it was digitized. I learned it was not. “Oh my,” I said, “we need to fix that.“ I explained the importance of digitizing photos as I went to get the light set for photographing.

Besides the importance of having a backup copy of the photo, electronic versions are easy to share. You can easily send a copy to cousins that may not have the photo. You can also post the photos on-line at many sites including Flickr, Google, Picasa, blogs, and other places to act as “cousin bait.” Finally, electronic versions of a photo may be cleaned up and made much more viewable quite simply and easily.  That is what I suggested to my museum visitor.

I photographed a couple of the larger photos with my camera then scanned a few of the smaller photos with a Flip-Pal.  It does a nice job of scanning photos without needing a computer.

To me, it is important to rename files immediately.  Filenames like DSCN1234 or Scan567 are useless. I know many folks like to use meta data, but I find having key information in the file name is much better. I use the form of, Subject, Context/Action, Place, Source, Date, and Status. I leave out the Place and Source if they aren’t important. That is the date of the image, not the date of the scan.  But, sometimes an image’s date might be something like “c. 1930s.”

Original scan of Charle & Carrie Cunningham & Family (in PNG Format)

In the case of the first photo, I knew that it was a Charles and Carrie Cunningham Family group photo. My guess is that the context might be something like 50th wedding anniversary of them; if so, it would be from 1928. Alternately, the clothes look to be from the early 1930s. So, I’m going to hazard a guess of c. 1930. So, I used the filename Charles & Carrie Cumming with Family – c. 1930.

I use different file extensions for different purposes. I use TIFF format for all my original scans and photographs. I then use JPEG format for all working and shared images. Finally, I use PDF for any images with text after I have run optical character recognition (OCR) on the image. The file types immediately tell me if the image is an original or if it has been edited. Occasionally, I use PNG for original files, particularly if I need to share an original. PNG files use compression to be smaller than TIFF files in size. I use them on images that are particularly large, typically more than 50MB as a TIFF. To give an idea of the various sizes, the following table shows the file sizes for the Charles & Carrie Cumming with Family – c. 1930 file.

Uncompressed Lossless Compression Lossy Compression
30.2MB 11.1MB 5.6 MB (Edited)

Next, I open the original file. I use Preview on a Mac.  It is really quick and it is easy to do almost everything I’d like to do. Windows computers have many other photo and/or image products which work very well also. After the file is opened, I immediately export it to JPG format. I then close my TIFF file and open the JPG file. I only ever manipulate or edit the JPG file.

I like to rotate the file and crop the file as appropriate.  If I can leave a ½ in border on the bottom during the cropping process, I do so.

For scanned black and white photos I set the saturation to 0; that eliminates any greens, or other weird colors from the image.  Next, I adjust the image exposure and contrast to provide the best possible image for the faces of the people.  Once I am happy with that image, I raise the sepia to a level that is easier on the eyes than a stark black and white.  Then I save the photo again. Just these few steps only take me about a minute and provides a much higher quality image to use and share, yet maintains the original in an untouched state so the process may be duplicated if desired.

Charles & Carrie Cumming with Family edited.
Charles & Carrie Cumming with Family edited.

I mentioned earlier about leaving a ½ inch border on the bottom of the photo.  That is to add a caption if possible.  In the case of a photo of Thomas Burdwood, the original was smallish and had aged pinkish over the years. Once again, I duplicated the photo, cropped it, set color saturation to 0, adjusted the exposure and contrast and sepia level.  Once I was done with that, I added text to the image of the individual’s name (based upon what was on the back of the photo) and saved it.

Thomas Burdwood Original Scan

Drawing of Thomas Burdwood
Thomas Burdwood edited

Of course, once a photo has had its initial edit, you can use many other image enhancement tools to remove creases, spots, or otherwise improve the photo.

Scanning photos greatly increase the likelihood that they won’t be lost. Keeping your original scan pristine means you can always return to the original and manipulate the image again. Finally, the manipulated and compressed version not only make the photo nicer to view it makes the image more shareable.

Five Steps to Genealogical Success

Complete genealogical foundations help answer family questions 

A Case Study: D’Amico

By Don Taylor

A friend was telling me that his wife knew her ancestors, the D’Amico side, were Italian, but didn’t know where in Italy they were from. He also told me he didn’t have any idea where to start. He said they had poked around Ellis Island records but found nothing. He provided me very little information, just the parents names, grandmother’s name.  He mentioned they settled in New England (Mass. & Maine) and one key bit of information, her father died in 1959 at the age of 43.
As a former Project Manager, I really believe in the process. My process is to always enter what I think I know into a family tree program.  I currently use Heredis 2015 World (Mac) [By the way, Heredis is running a 50% off sale which ends today.]  as my preferred genealogy organization software, but I could as easily other software or even paper. The process is the same either way.
1.  Enter what you think you know.
a.     Enter the known relationships and any known vital facts. In this case, there wasn’t much to begin with, but entered it and started.
Starting point for D’Amico Project.
2.  My next goal is to find the family unit in at least two censuses and make sure that I have a family unit understood.  I typically use Family Search for my initial start.  I like Family Search particularly because I like their “copy” feature. It provides an easy way to copy all of the data of the record plus the source citation in a single click so I can easily paste it into a source record in my software. I also like to confirm any of the seed facts from step 1.

a.     I then created a source entry and pasted the information into it. I saved that and then created the facts I wish, and drag and drop my source to the fact I’ve entered. In this case the month and place of death as well as the birthdate. 

b.     1940 Census, 23 year-old Michael with wife and daughter living in Maine.[i] 

c.     (1935 Living at Same Place)[ii] 

d.     1930 Census, 13 year-old Michael living with his widowed mother, Margaret, and four siblings in Franklin, Norfolk Co., MA. It also indicated her grandmother was born in Italy immigrated in 1900, and was naturalized.[iii]

I was fairly certain that this 1930 Census record was the correct family but wanted to be absolutely certain. I contacted my friend to have him ask his wife if her father grew up in Franklin, MA, and did she have an aunt Elinora and uncles, Frank, Joseph, and Victor. She responded that she did, so I knew I was with the right family.

3.  My next process is to follow the individual through all the censuses of his or her life. I found him in the 1920 Census with his father, Michael (new name) his mother, and his four siblings. The census reported that the father, Michael, was born in Italy, immigrated in 1890, and was naturalized in 1900.[iv] That finished all of the census records for the Michael the son. 
Next, a quick check found Michael’s birth registration which yielded the maiden name for his mother, Marguerita Melano.[v]
Now on to follow Michael the father through more census records; he should be listed in 1910 and 1900. 
The 1910 Census finds Michael in Franklin, MA with his wife and three children. His oldest child, Donato is 4 years old doesn’t show up in the 1920 census, so I suspect something happened to him. It also indicated that he immigrated in 1886 and is naturalized. This broadens his immigration date to between 1886 and 1890 for future searches. It also indicates that Marguerita immigrated in 1904.[vi]

1920 Census
1910 Census
Michael Immigration
Michael Naturalization
Marguerita Immigration
Marguerita Naturalization
* Note: Before the 19th Amendment women took the citizenship of their husbands upon marriage.
I wasn’t successful in quickly finding Michael D’Amico nor Marguerita Melano in the 1900 Census but I decided to continue on anyway and see if I could answer the questions.
Switching to I searched Immigration & Travel for Margherita Melano arriving in 1904.
Searched Immigration & Travel for Margherita Melano.
There she was in the New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 arriving on 23 Jul 1904 aboard the Citta Di Torino sailing from Napoli (Naples). Her “race or peoples” is listed at So Italian and her last Residence was Caserta.  We don’t know for certain if that is Caserta the city or Caserta the province. Caserta (the city) is only about 15 miles north of Naples, so it makes sense that she would take a ship out of Naples to America.[vii] 
Using the information, I had regarding Michael, I didn’t find anything in Immigration & Travel that seemed to fit him. Then I searched the Birth, Marriage & Death records for Michael D’Amico born in Italy 1864. Up came an index record for Michele D’Amico, Baptized 1 May 1864 in Civile, Casalvecchio Di Puglia, Foggia, Italy.  Father Donato D’ Amico and Mother Eleonora Rossacci.[viii]  That must be him. Michael’s first son was named Donato and his first daughter was named Elenora clearly after his parents. The age was right. Casalvecchio Di Puglia is about 100 miles northeast of Naples.
I know that it is a leap to ascribe the Baptism record of Michele D’Amico of Casalvecchio Di Puglia to Michael D’Amico, the grandfather of my subject individual, but because of the expected birth date and the parents’ names (as they relate to the grandfather’s children’s names) I believe it is a good fit. So tentatively, I have him with that baptism and birth location.
According to The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. website, there was a Michele D’Amico who arrived in 1899 aboard the SS EMS whose last address was Cercemaggiore, which is about 35 miles from Casalvecchio Di Puglia. That is his likely immigration, however, I can’t prove it and it will take a bunch more research to prove it.
But going back to the process:
1.     Start a tree. Fill in what you think you know.
2.     Confirm what you think you know with evidence.
3.     Find the individual in every census.
4.     Find the individual’s vital (birth, marriage, death) information.
5.     Seek answers to specific questions in appropriate locations.
Move on to another ancestor.
In this case, I believe that Michael D’Amico was born in Casalvecchio De Puglia and possibly lived in Cercemaggiore.  I also believe that Marguerita Melano was from Caserta. Both were from southern Italy within 100 miles of Naples.


[i] 1940 Census; Michael A D’Amico – Ward 9, Portland, Portland City, Cumberland, Maine, United States; Family Search.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] 1930 Census; Margaret Damico – Franklin, Norfolk, Massachusetts, District ED 52, Sheet 15A, Household 351, Line 27; Family Search
[iv] 1920 Census; Michael D’Amico – Franklin, Norfolk, Massachusetts; Sheet 5A, Household 82, Line 44; Family Search
[v] Massachusetts State Vital Records, 1841-1920; Michele Archangelo D’Amico – 1916 – Record #115; Family Search
[vi] 1910 Census; Michael D’Amico – Franklin, Norfolk, Massachusetts; Sheet 26A, Household 525; Family Search.
[vii] New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957; Margherita Melano – 1904 Arrival, New York, New York;
[viii] Italy, Select Births and Baptisms, 1806-1900; Michele D’Amico – Baptism Index;

———- DISCLAIMER ———-