Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

My grandfather Matthews' creche in the 1950s.

To all those who celebrate, Merry Christmas! And a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous New Year to all!

(2) "The Creche". Digitized slide ca. 1952, privately held by Anna C. Matthews, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY, 2017. The original slide passed from the photographer, Stephen D. Matthews, to his daughter, Anna, via his second wife, Kathleen (Dwyer) Matthews in 2008.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Digitization of WWI Service Files at LAC Finally Reaches the Smiths!

Approximately three years ago I estimated, and hoped, that the project at Library and Archives Canada to digitize Canadian Expeditionary Force service files would reach my grandfather and his brother by the end of this year. Amazingly enough, I was right!

Between November 15 and December 15, the archivists at LAC digitized a little over 150 boxes of files which brought them to Box 9059, my grandfather's file was in Box 9049 and his brother's file was in Box 9058 - they just made it!

Reading through the WWII files of my grandfather and another granduncle had taught me that the contents of these WWI files could be anything from uninteresting administrative paperwork to interesting but disturbing details about their experiences in the war.

Before seeing his file, I knew that my grandfather's older brother, Herbert Austin Smith, spent time as a prisoner of war, but like so many before and after him, it seems that he did not speak much of his experiences. Certainly, my mother had never heard any details. I was hoping his file could tell me more and it did.

This (3) and other forms in Uncle Herb's file gave the place and date of his capture; the 2nd or 3rd of June, 1916 at Sanctuary Wood in Ypres, Belgium, the site of some well-known battles and now a very interesting looking museum.

The entry on the card above noting that a telegram had been sent to my great-grandfather, Hon. George R. Smith made me so sad for my great-grandparents and the rest of the family. I can only wonder exactly how much they knew during the two and a half long years of Uncle Herb's captivity and how much the stress of that time may have contributed to my great-grandfather's death in 1922 at only 62-years-old.

After his capture, Uncle Herb was taken from Belgium to a camp in Dulmen, Germany and then to another in Minden, Germany. I'll need to do more research to learn about these camps, but there was a website that said that the camp at Minden was among the worst.

I also found an interesting site for anyone who had a family member who spent time as a POW during WWI. The digital archives of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) Prisoners of the First World War. There I found scans from a book (4) that the Germans sent to the Red Cross containing names of prisoners who arrived at the camp between 10 August and 11 September 1916.

Sadly, some of the last forms contained in Uncle Herb's file are from his discharge in 1919 due to medical unfitness. It seems that the was suffering from what we would now call PTS. He may have been having symptoms before his capture at Ypres, but after two and a half years of forced labor under harsh conditions without enough to eat, he was almost certainly was.

In an upcoming post, I will share what I learned about my grandfather's service. For today, I will just sit with this new information about Uncle Herb and remember the sacrifice that he, like so many others, made for all of us.


(1) Smith, Herbert "Herbert Smith Joins The Colors." Undated clipping, ca. 1915, from unidentified newspaper; Smith Family Papers, Privately held by Anna C. Matthews, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY, 2017. Inherited in 1996 by Janet (Smith) Matthews from her mother Marjorie (Dean) Smith, sister-in-law of Herbert Smith. Janet gave the clipping to her daughter, Anna C. Matthews, in 2008.

(2) Smith, Herbert Austin. Photograph ca. 1915, privately held by Anna C. Matthews, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY, 2017. The original album passed from the photographer and subject's brother, George W. Smith, to his wife, then to his daughter and is now in the possession of his granddaughter, Anna C. Matthews. Captions throughout the album indicated that the photographs in it were taken between 1912 and 1917. There is no caption in the album for this photograph but Herbert Smith was identified in other photographs and by his niece, Janet (Smith) Matthews. He and George W. were the only Smiths to serve in WWI.

(3) Library and Archives Canada, "Personnel Records of the First World War," ( : viewed December 18, 2017) Online Research>Military heritage>First World War : 1914-1918>Canadian Expeditionary Force>Personnel Records of the First World War database>search for Smith, Herbert Austin; PDF, p. 57

(4) International Committee of the Red Cross, “Namentliche Liste der vom 10 August bis 11 September 1916 im hiesigen Lager eingetroffenen englischen Kriegsgefangenen [Name list of English prisoners of war arriving in the local camp from 10 August to 11 September 1916,]” ( viewed December 19, 2017) Search for…Smith, Herbert>Validate>SMITH F to SMITH R>SMITH H, CANADIANS>SMITH, H.A.>Image P.A. 6609, entry 317

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Citing WWI Service Files from Library and Archives Canada

Finally, the day has arrived! Library and Archives Canada's years-long project to digitize service files from WWI has finally reached my grandfather and granduncle, George Washington and Herbert Austin Smith!

Instead of writing a post about what I've found in those files, I'm writing about citations. Why? Because I would rather not publish uncited posts anymore.

In the seven chapters of Dr. Jones' Mastering Genealogical Documentation that I have read so far, he has cited examples of online images of materials not previously published, but he has not addressed them specifically, so I skipped ahead to Chapter 15 - Citing Online Images of Previously Unpublished Material(2).

In this chapter, Dr. Jones lays out four options for citing these images; two that he does not recommend because they do not meet genealogy standard 5(3), one that does meet the standard but would be unnecessarily long except in limited circumstances, and one that he recommends in most cases, which I will try to use here.

Library and Archives Canada, "Personnel Records of the First World War," ( : viewed December 18, 2017) Online Research>Military heritage>First World War : 1914-1918>Canadian Expeditionary Force>Personnel Records of the First World War database>search for Smith, Herbert Austin; PDF, p. 57

I'm sure, especially with the addition of the waypoints, that any reader would be able to find Uncle Herb's file, but does this citation aid the reader in evaluating the record? Because it does not address the creation of the underlying original documents, I think that it doesn't.

There is another arrangement of citation elements that Dr. Jones suggests that contains more information about the original record.

Who - The Ministry of the Overseas Forces of Canada

What - Personnel File of Herbert Austin Smith

When - The file has entries from 1915 to 1964

Wherein - PDF, 57

The online publication information is used to answer Wherein - Library and Archives Canada ( : Online Research>Military heritage>First World War: 1914-1918>Canadian Expeditionary Force>Personnel Records of the First World War database: 18 December 2917).

The Ministry of the Overseas Forces of Canada, World War I Personnel File of Herbert Austin Smith (1915-1964):PDF, 57 "Personnel Files of the First World War," Library and Archives Canada ( : Online Research>Military heritage>First World War : 1914-1918>Canadian Expeditionary Force>Personnel Records of the First World War database : 18 December 2017).

I like that this citation lets the reader know who created the original record but some of the other elements feel awkward to me. I think I'll use the first one for now and revisit it as I work through Mastering Genealogical Documentation.

Again, if you have any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, etc. please let me know.

(1) Troopship photograph ca. WWI, privately held by Anna C. Matthews, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY, 2017. The original album passed from the photographer, George W. Smith to his wife, then to his daughter and is now in the possession of his granddaughter, Anna C. Matthews. The photographs in the album were taken between 1912 and 1917. There is no caption in the album for this photograph.

(2) Jones, Thomas W. "Citing Online Images of Previously Published Material." In Mastering Genealogical Documentation, 155-162. Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 2017.

(3) Board for Certification of Genealogists [BCG], Genealogy Standards, Kindle edition (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry, 2014), location 291 of 1013, for standard 5, "Citation elements."

Friday, December 8, 2017

Gen Doc Study Group 6 - Determining a Source's Publication Status

Jones, Thomas W. "Determining a Source's Publication Status." In Mastering Genealogical Documentation, 63-70. Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 2017.

"Researchers determine a source's publication status because citations to published and unpublished sources differ greatly. Citing a publication as if it were unpublished, or vice versa, would mislead readers. The citation would fail to communicate." (1)

Publication status as it pertains to genealogical sources really has to do with current availability. Something that was not originally published may now be widely available online, like census records and something that was widely published originally may now be difficult to find with only rare copies available. A book may be self-published and even have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), but if it was not made available for sale or other distribution, it is not considered published for our purposes.

Two things that I found interesting in the reading were the topics of online sources and hybrid sources.

Most online sources would be considered published, but some would not and it has nothing to do with the cost of access or paywalls as I originally thought. Anyone willing to spend the money can access the Quebec church records of the Drouin collection from the comfort of their own computer, but no amount of money will get you home access to some records on Family Search because they must be accessed from the Family History Library, a partner library or Family History Center. Published vs. unpublished.

The example of a hybrid source that spoke to me was the family Bible with handwritten birth, marriage, and death records. The Bible was published but the genealogical data inside was not. Both must be addressed, both sources are necessary to properly evaluate the information inside. The records of a family beginning in the 1800s contained in a Bible not published until the 1900s would be considered differently from records beginning in 1850 contained in a Bible that was published the same year or earlier. I have scans and copies of records from a Bible in my family, but I cannot properly evaluate them according to the Genealogical Proof Standard because I have only seen the Bible in person once and have never seen the publication information.

Here are a couple of other tricky examples from my own research:

The three-volume set of blue binders pictured above are a genealogy of one of my Swedish lines. It starts with Helje Larsson and Maria Ericsdotter, my supposed 5th great-grandparents and, on my line, comes down to my father and mother since it was finished shortly before my birth. There is nothing to indicate that this work was published.

The entire three volumes are typed as you see above (click the image for a larger view), there is no publication information. Still, I did some searching online before making a determination. Bertil Freidlitz, one of the authors, does have another genealogy that appears on WorldCat, but even that is only available through Family Search at the FHL, an affiliate or an FHC.  I have to imagine that this work made it to several families descending from my 5th great-grandparents, but even that wouldn't necessarily make it published. I consider this work to be UNPUBLISHED and would cite it as follows:

(Thanks to Marceline Beem who reminded me in her post for this chapter to break the information down to answer these five questions and to Marceline and other panelists who had the idea of color-coding the citation elements for greater visual clarity.)

Who - Annie & Bertil Freidlitz

What - Kyrkebo-Släkten Släktbok for Ättlingar Till Helje Larsson och Maria Ericsdotter I Kyrkebo, N. Hestra [Kyrkebo Family Book for Descendants of Helje Larsson and Maria Ericsdotter from Kyrkebo, N. Hestra]

When - 1968

Where (in the source) - I: Andra grenen [Second branch] VI : 5-1

Where (is the source) - private collection of Anna C. Matthews

Annie & Bertil FreidlitzKyrkebo-Släkten Släktbok for Ättlingar Till Helje Larsson och Maria Ericsdotter I Kyrkebo, N. Hestra [Kyrkebo Family Book for Descendants of Helje Larsson and Maria Ericsdotter from Kyrkebo, N. Hestra], 1968; I: Andra grenen [Second branch] VI: 5-1. Privately held by Anna C Matthews [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY, This book offers only a generic list of materials used, with no specific documentation for any piece of data.

Because this source is unpublished, we need to let the reader know where it was found. And also because of its unpublished status, the Wherein comes before the Whereis in the order of the elements in the citation as we learned in chapter four.

Another example from my bookshelf is The Vine and The Branches, a history of Minton, Quebec that includes local genealogies, among them a branch of my own family.

The narrow focus of the work and the publication year of 1989 made me question its current availability but a search of WorldCat brought surprising results.

While certainly not widely available, you can find this work at some well-known archives like Library and Archives Canada and even the Allen County Public Library here in the States, well known for its extensive genealogy department. So I would consider this to be a PUBLISHED work and cite it as follows:

Reg Conner, The Vine and the Branches (North Hatley, Quebec, 1989), 241

I did not include the publisher's name in the parentheses because I consider this book to be self-published and Reg Conner's information is already included.

If you feel so inclined, please let me know what you think of my classifications and citations. I need all the help I can get.

I would like to send thanks to Randy Seaver who included my last Gen Doc Study Group post in his "Best of the Geneablogs" post for November 19-25th and to DearMYRTLE who mentioned it during last week's study group.

Just remember, if you compare this to a workout video, I'm the one over to the side doing the low-impact version. The panel participants and of course, Dr. Jones and Elizabeth Shown Mills, have so much more experience and are doing the advanced workouts. You can find the hard-copy of Dr. Jones' book at NGS and the Kindle version at And you can register to watch the replay of the Chapter 6 study group here and continue the conversation in the Google+ community here.

(1) Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Documentation (Arlington, VA, 2017), 63.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

My Grandfather's Connection to the Beginning of the Atomic Age

Seventy-five years ago today, December 2, 1942, at 3:25 p.m. under the stands of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, the atomic age began with the first self-sustaining chain reaction.

My grandfather, Howard Bierly Matthews, was not a nuclear physicist, not even a scientist. He was an accountant. How boring. Or was it? Here is an excerpt from his autobiography:

"At the same time, the Physical Science Departments of the University were involved in the research called the Manhattan Project, which resulted, on December 2, 1942, in the first successful chain operation of an atomic "pile", located under the West Stands of Stagg Field, one block from my office. Involved in this project were such men as Nobel Prize winners Arthur Compton, Enrico Fermi and James Franck. Everything was highly secret; some of these men didn't even use their own name on campus; they were renamed, like in this telegram which Fermi sent to Conant at Harvard to announce the successful pile reaction: "The Italian navigator has just landed in the New World."

My connection with the aforesaid was in providing space for what was going on and seeing that these areas were restored to their former condition when the project ended. (This included determining that the buildings were free of contamination. For this purpose, I had a team of scientists, headed by Professor Walter Bartky, on whose advise I relied.) Whole buildings had to be vacated [for the Manhattan Project], - Ryerson Physical Laboratory, the Mathematics Building, etc. and additional space had to be acquired in the Museum of Science & Industry, and the entire Armory on the edge of Washington Park was rented and altered for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The end/purpose of this was so secret that until the day of the first atomic reaction under the West Stands I did not know what that was, although I had been "cleared" of course and was issued the necessary ID badge. And when we rode the night train to Washington on matters of a secret nature we were not permitted to be in the same sleeper with Fermi and others for fear a slip of the tongue might identify him."

I can't remember how long ago I first read my grandfather's story. It evolved from the speeches he was sometimes asked to give because people found his story inspiring; he had gone from high school dropout, after the death of his father when he was 15, to university vice president at the age of 48.

Oh, how I wish I had know these stories and had the chance to ask him questions when he was alive!

A few years ago when the stash was uncovered in my step-mother's basement I found a cookbook put together by the ladies of the University of Chicago Settlement League. My grandmother was a member and apparently so was Mrs. Laura Fermi, wife of physicist Enrico Fermi. My eagle-eyed mother found four of Mrs. Fermi's recipes in the cookbook.

An obscure little piece of history to commemorate the beginnings of the nuclear age and my family's connection to it.