Friday, January 22, 2016

Now Levi's Stadium, once Spanish Land Grant

Now it is an exciting venue for football, and for a great halftime show. This is now, and what was then?
Someone lived there before…..

West of the former Santa Clara Alms house, between Guadalupe and Coyote creeks, on land formerly the Ulistac Nature Area, and before that Rincon de los Esteros, is a small but recently culturally important location once situated on a land grant given to Ignacio Alviso in Alta California days. The land grant was claimed by several parties as was de rigueur for a large Spanish Rancho. Later the location in question was set pretty much on the former Santa Cruz Division Railroad track…Francisco Berryessa lived there in 1880 (see census record) on land he claimed in 1852.

This land is the location for Levis Stadium, the site of the 2016 Super Bowl in Santa Clara. Cleats will tread where early ranchers, farmers, and train passengers once worked and played.

Historical maps tell the whole geographical story:
Enter any location that interests you--for the stadium you can enter
4900 Marie P DeBartolo Way, Santa Clara, CA 95054.
Census image from 1880 U.S. Census record.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Oregon Trail first-hand

It was a hard day:

"The hardest day we have had The wind blew a perfect gale all day & the dust flew in clouds & no water to cook with or for the Horses"... 

so wrote Fleury Fayette Keith in longhand as he began his trek to cross the Plains in May of 1850... and yes it is a strange name--an that is another story!

a journey we readers can only imagine. After walking about 20 miles a day every day, he arrived in Weaverville, California on August 31st.

If you fly across the country you may well take the route that covers the Oregon Trail, and if you look closely, you can see the landmarks encountered by the travelers, including the important and long Platte River. The best and most interesting sources of information on the routes and the hardships and rewards can be found in original diaries.

Look to the following resources for the stories in the original, and sometimes in the original manuscript...these are really stories of the individual in the context of history in the happening...poignant and fascinating.

Recommended websites are:

American Memory Library of Congress: Trails to Utah and the Pacific: Diaries and Letters 1846-1869.

Trails of Hope, a digital collection of diaries of gold rush adventurers, is an excellent resource for understanding the physical and mental experiences of the Argonauts as they trekked westward. The digitized collection has the images of the original diaries scanned and also has transcriptions. The collection is held in the Harold B. Lee Library of Brigham Young University. There are also interactive maps and illustrations, so you can follow the diarists along their journey, and see just where they encountered buffalo, salt ponds, graves of fallen travelers, and all manner of difficulties. All of this can be found at It is inspiring and fascinating, even if you have no connection to anyone on the trails.

 There you will find the story of F.F. Keith who traveled from Jefferson County, New York to California in 1850, documenting the howling of the wolves, the treacherous crossings of rivers, the amazing geographical landmarks, crossing the Sierras having abandoned the wagons and seeing big trees for the first time.

Other good websites for Oregon Trail diaries:

Paper Trail (The Oregon-California Trails Association)

The Overland Trail


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

HIRsearch: tips on using this chromosome comparison utility

Update February 2016: I do not see the HIR website or its partner page on facebook.

Update April 18--HIR is back. This is a good website for all interested in autosomal DNA but is just great for novices trying out chromosome comparisons. The utility is very straightforward and fast.

But first of all, this post is really only useful to anyone who has had their autosomal DNA tested or who is considering doing so.

Although the results you see are directly applied to comparisons with other names on HIRsearch, the information on the segment can be used in research applied to comparisons on your testing company site (such as FTDNA). It can be especially useful in noting the probable nationality of the matches. If you see that all the matches have, say, Norwegian last names, that can help  you narrow down where that segment likely came from, and provides you with a heritage clue.

The initial comparison of your name or pseudonym to the list of "relatives" will only reveal the matches with, in order, the greatest number of matching segments. The matching segments could be very small, and thus not significant in locating a common ancestor with ease.

More useful is to FIRST, before you do anything else, click on "Detailed Reports." Choose your name or pseudonym from the drop-down box. Next, check off "cross-company," (to include matches from all testing companies), and then choose a chromosome from 1-22. Leave the thresholds as they are defaulted, or increase them slightly, and then click on "Show Hirs." Once the new screen of results appear, click on the column header, "HIR Start." This arranges the segments in numerical order from lowest to highest, so that when you look at your testing results, you can see where to compare yours to another person's results. As you look at the results in front of you, look across to "chromosome length." When the "chromosome length" (i.e. SNiP match length) is quite long, it indicates a strong match that may point to an ancestor in relatively recent history. You can also sort the chromosome length column to see which matches have the longer or shorter segments that match yours.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Who created the Thomas Brothers Maps?

The Thomas Brothers maps are very useful for finding directions, and in turn finding directions can be very useful in genealogy. To turn all of that around, what might be the genealogical background of George Coupland Thomas of the Thomas Brothers?

He and his brothers Gilbert and Leonard created the Thomas Brothers Maps and guides which were very popular in California before the internet began to help us out with directions. According to Susan Spano, Los Angeles Times travel writer, "They made old-fashioned folding maps obsolete by developing page-by-page gridded maps bound in a book." See her article of 2002 online at Spano describes how the Thomas Brothers maps went digital. But the company has been around a long time. Many California residents may remember consulting the handy hard-copy soft-cover books for detailed street map information.

According to my research, George Coupland Thomas, born in England, died in Alameda County in 1955. His father, Richard Coupland Fleming Thomas, was born in 1841 in Tintern, Wales, and died in 1924 in Alameda County, California. He was buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, Alameda.
George's mother was Hannah Louisa Thomas, born in 1850 in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, England. Her parents were George Dermott Thomas, born 1824 in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England, and Hannah Mollard, of Warwickshire, England. Richard Coupland Fleming Thomas's parents were William Heard Thomas and Mary Ann Georgiana Coupland (see the naming pattern?). Parents for William Heard Thomas and for George Demott Thomas were William Heard Thomas Sr. and Mary Georgiana Dermott. Result--cousins of some sort--you tell me what kind! William Heard Thomas was, predictably, son of William Thomas and Elizabeth Heard. Let no name be left uninherited. William Heard Thomas Jr. was born in Clifton, Gloucestershire, England. My initial interest in this family is through their connection to the Brodribb families, of whom actor Henry (John Brodribb) Irving is best known.
(Image above is family of George Dermott Thomas, as enumerated in the 1871 census in England. Image from Thomas was at that time an insurance agent in Bristol. But NOW I am interested in the fact that the brothers settled in Alameda County, California. Tracing their lives since their arrival in California has been fascinating. As noted in my hiking blog, one of the brothers, Gilbert, who owned a company called Blue Print, ventured with a buddy from East Oakland, probably his own neighborhood at the time up to the summit of Mt. Diablo and then back to East Oakland. Yes, that took a long time, but was completed in one full day.

How this family traveled! In a matter of decades, they covered the distance from England to Wales to Alameda County, California, where they produced useful maps for California residents. Next challenge: why did they choose the San Francisco Bay area as a place to settle?