Monday, March 30, 2015

Genealogy Story - Silas Russell descendants

Much of my ancestry research recently has been in trying to build out the descendant tree from my great*3 grandfather, Silas Russell (1803-1886).  He is the first in my Russell lineage to come to Connecticut (from just over the border in NY).  My initial research was just on his youngest son, Walter Russell, my great*2 grandfather, but recently I expanded to include all of Walter's siblings. Silas and Walter each had large families (8 and 10 children respectively).  While some of these lines did not contribute much to the Russell family (by dying young, or having no children or grandchildren), others were quite prolific.

Silas and his wife Hester had a total of 732 descendants (that I've discovered so far).  Some lines still require more research, particularly females from the late 1800's where I have not been able to find marriage records and so I do not know what happened to them.  Other lines have yielded many ancestors and distant cousins.  It is particularly gratifying when I am able to locate other living relatives who are able to help with my research - often because they have their own family trees in that I can draw information from.  In those cases I am often able to work jointly with them.  Below are listed the major family lines, in each case showing the number of descendants I have documented in that branch and the cousin(s) that I am working with to flesh out the total descendant list.

Silas (732)
  Eliza (237) Kim Iezzi
  Rebecca (97)
     Edwin (51) Judy Weir
     Catharine (42) Ellen Dunn, Lynn Evans
  Theodore (80) Raymond Abruzzi
  Walter (302)
     Louis (131) myself
     Martha (77) Pam Otomo
     George (42) George Russell

     James (43) Jessie Thompson etal

The only line from all of Silas' children that continues to produce descendants with the last name of Russell is via Walter.  All his other children either were female or only produced females at some point in the tree.  The following are the "living" branches with the Russell surname.

Through Louis Russell (above)
   Erskine -> Vernon -> Alan (me) -> Chris -> Aryon (b. 2004), Tiernan (b. 2006)
   William -> William -> Timothy -> Keith -> Logan (b. 2003)
   William -> William -> Donald -> Douglas -> Joseph (b. 2006)
Through George Russell (above)
   Andrew -> George -> George -> Ian (b. 2002)

So, while there are a few other older individuals who might possibly have children who will carry on the Russell surname, at this point these five are the only ones who can pass on the Russell name into the 21st century.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Scams and Hacks

Maybe it’s because I’m now “older,” or maybe it’s just because there are more of them.  But whatever the reason,   I’m now finding myself the target of different scams.  I’d like to list some of them here – maybe this will help someone else avoid being taken advantage of.

“Hello, I’m calling from Microsoft Windows about your Windows PC” – this is one that is really frustrating to me.  Not because I fall victim to it, but because I get this call at least once a month and it’s been going on for a couple of years now.  The call is always from a different phone number (or an “unidentified caller”), so I can’t screen them out based on the caller ID.  It’s always a voice from India and the message is always the same.  I’ve tried hanging up as soon as they start talking.  I’ve tried engaging in a long conversation to waste their time.  Nothing seems to work.  I know what they want – they want me to approve some new software they are going to send me – but one that is malware and will log my keystrokes or other such things.  It seems that no one can shut these folks down, even though they break the do-not-call list, because they really don’t care about it since they are not in the US.  It gives India a bad name.  See for further details.

“You’ve won a trip to the Bahamas” – this is another frequent one.  Same M.O.; same repeated calling from multiple faked caller IDs.  This one will eventually ask you to pay a “port tax,” which of course you never see again, nor will you ever see a ship.  But it’s at least the same robo-voice every time so I can hang up quickly.  See for more details.

“This is ___ from the IRS …” – just got this one for the first time this past week.  Caller gives details about the man from the IRS, fake badge number, phone to call – where they will tell you that you owe money to the IRS and need to send it immediately.  And of course they will be happy to take payment over the phone with your credit/debit card.  Interestingly, this one did not fake the caller ID – it was from a VoIP line in New York.  And the number they gave to call was another VoIP in Arkansas.  But that’s usually a clear sign of a scammer.  The numbers they give are just the exit point from the Internet – the real caller is somewhere else, often outside of the US.  Here’s further information --  One of the interesting things about my caller was that there were a couple of instances of improper English in the pre-recorded message.  For example, they ended by saying, “Have nice day,” not “Have a nice day.”

While I’m still talking about scammers, let me add in “Romance Scammers.”  I don’t get these calls myself, but I’ve been helping my sister-in-law deal with them.  Her husband passed away last year and she’s been looking for companionship – but doing so on a couple of dating websites.  After I helped her with the first one, she’s now pretty quick to give me details whenever she gets someone else interested in her and asking me to check him out.  I can usually ferret them out quickly.  The phone number they use is always a VoIP line.  The name they give never appears in the phone directory for that city.  The email address they give is nearly always something like (very unimaginative) that has never been used before.  Their occupation is often a contractor or an engineer (so they can later get “stranded” in a foreign country on a job and ask for money).  They usually had a wife and kids, but they were killed in an accident (so you both feel sorry for them and realize that they are a “family man”).  What’s the most funny is the messages that they send you which you can look up and find having been used hundreds of times before (including the same misspellings, same punctuation errors, etc.)  Here is a website that gives other ideas -

Finally, I’d like to discuss a hack that I got involved in.  You may have seen in the news the past few years about a couple of instances where someone hacked into a major bank/company and stole several million credit card numbers.  The Home Depot and Target instances come to mind with 53 million and 40 million card numbers stolen (see and  We had shopped at both those stores during the hacking period involved.  Most often we use a Discover card.  Their response in both instances was to issue a new card – with the same card number, but a different expiration date and a different CVV (the security code that’s printed on the back).  They did it automatically.  The benefit of that is that I didn’t have to memorize a new number – although I did have to give the new expiration date to all the places where I have auto-payments set up.  But even though I got a notice from my MasterCard issuer, I decided to not get a new card at the time because they always change the number when they reissue – and I don’t really use my MasterCard that often.  But that turned out to be a mistake.

It was over a year later that someone tried to use my card (the numbers were stolen in late 2013 and I didn’t get involved until February 2015).  I got a call from the bank’s fraud unit, asking if I had been to the Walmart in Abington, PA earlier that day (which of course I had not).  They had detected six usages of my card within a couple of hours that morning – two purchases at different Walmarts (which had been denied), two $1 trial purchases online to see if the card was valid, and two purchases at different Target stores (which had not been denied!).  Once the person from the fraud unit had confirmed that the card number was stolen, she immediately inactivated it, and we began the process of getting me a new card, issuing credits for the Target charges that had gone through, etc.  A few extra hours of my time, but next time I’ll definitely get a new card number right away.  Little did I think that it could come back to bite me over a year later.

Unfortunately, the increased availability of technology for convenience (like VoIP and going cashless with credit cards) also means new ways for people to use these technologies for illicit purposes.  One can only hope to stay one step ahead of the “bad guys.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Genealogy Story – The Gap in the Levy Story

This is the story of five families and how they intersected in the early 20th century.  But there is a large gap right in the place in the story where much of the intersection took place.  However, I’d like to speculate on the only way that they could have intersected.

The Northrop Family

Lawrence Northrop, my great-great-grandfather, was born in New Milford, CT, in 1835.  He married Mary Lois Drake in 1870.  She had been born in Lee, MA, about 50 miles straight north up Route 7.  Although they continued to live in New Milford for most of their lives, their first two children, including my great-grandmother Caroline, were born in Lee.

The Levy Family

Alexander Levy, my great-great-grandfather, was born in England in 1840 and came to the US as a young boy.  The family initially lived in Brooklyn, NY.  There he met and married Phoebe Isaacs, also a recent immigrant.  My great-grandfather, Maurice Levy, was born in Brooklyn in 1870, but the family moved to New Milford, when he was just an infant – before his sister was born in 1873.  The family remained in New Milford.

Maurice married Caroline Northrop in 1893 and the couple moved to Brooklyn where worked as a printer.  It was there that they had two daughters, my grandmother Vera Levy in 1895, and her sister Irene Levy in 1899.  They also had two other children sometime between 1900 and 1910 as the 1900 census shows Caroline as having had two children, two living, but the 1910 census shows four children, two living.  Maurice died later that year and is buried in New Milford.

It is at this point that the gap occurs in the Levy family.  Caroline is missing in the 1920 census and she reappears in the 1930 census, living with Vera and her children in Bridgeport, CT.  She died in 1935 and is buried in New Milford – sharing a gravestone with her husband.

The Russell Family

Erskine Russell, my grandfather, was born in 1894 in Sherman, CT, a small town in Litchfield County.  Sometime before 1910 his family moved to New Milford.  He married Vera Levy in 1914 when they were each 19 years old. 

The couple moved to Bridgeport, CT, where their children, my Aunt Dot and my father, were born in 1916 and 1920 respectively.  My father’s nomadic existence is detailed in another blog entry, but to summarize, Erskine and Vera separated around 1924, she staying in Bridgeport and he moving to Waterbury, CT.  They reunited in 1926, but separated again and divorced in 1928 with Vera moving back to Bridgeport.  She remained there with her children until 1930.

The Hartwell Family

Joseph Hartwell, my great-uncle, was born in New Milford in 1900.  His family moved to Roxbury, CT, just a few miles away, sometime during his teenage years.  In 1922 he married Irene Levy.  They remained in Roxbury until their deaths in 1991 and 1981 respectively.

The Rogers Family

Charles Rogers, my step-grandfather, was born in Hartford, CT, but grew up in Danbury, CT.  In the 1890’s he was briefly in New Hampshire where he married Mary Keefe.  After her death, he moved back to Danbury again.

In early June of 1930, he married Vera [Levy] Russell (a second marriage for both).  They lived in Danbury with her two children for one year, then moved to New Milford where they remained until they both entered separate nursing/assisted living homes in the early 1950’s.

The Gap

All of the above families intersected sometime in the years between 1910 and 1930.  But there is a key missing census record for the Levy family from 1920 that could complete the story.  In the 1920 census, all parties are accounted for – except for Caroline Levy and her daughter Irene.  However, to my mind there is only one way that these intersections could have happened, and that is for Caroline and Irene to have been living in New Milford in 1920.  (You should have noticed that every one of the above families had a connection to New Milford.)  Here is what I believe happened.

My speculation

In 1910, following the death of Maurice sometime that fall (he was still living at the time of the 1910 census, but his gravestone shows that he died in 1910), Caroline could no longer afford to keep living in Brooklyn.  The logical place for her to move was back to New Milford, where both her parents and her husband’s parents were living.  They did so, and Maurice was buried in Center Cemetery in New Milford where all Caroline’s Northrop relatives are also buried.

It was in New Milford that my grandmother, Vera, met Erskine.  They married there in 1914 and then moved to Bridgeport – a larger city with better job prospects.  It was also there that Vera’s sister, Irene, met and married Joseph Hartwell.  New Milford was where anyone from Roxbury would have done their shopping as Roxbury has no commercial establishments of any consequence.

After her divorce from Erskine in 1928, Vera lived in Bridgeport and her mother Caroline also lived with her.  They would have traveled frequently up the road from Bridgeport to New Milford where their Northrop and Levy relatives were still living.  Danbury is along that route which is where she would have met Charles Rogers.  Although Vera and Charles lived in Danbury for a year after their marriage in 1930 (with Charles’ mother and brother?), by 1931 they had moved to New Milford.  Caroline probably moved back to New Milford in 1930 when Vera and children went to Danbury, as she died a few years later and is also buried there.

This scenario is the only one that accounts for all the various intersections of the families.  So I suggest that the census taker for New Milford in 1920 somehow missed Caroline and her daughter Irene who were most certainly living there in close proximity to all their relatives.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The “Like Me” Syndrome

Rather than posting another one of my genealogy stories in my blog today, I’d like to discuss a very different type of topic.  I’m calling it the “Like Me” syndrome, although I’m sure that somewhere others have given it other names.  And I would like to propose that this syndrome is at the heart of many different types of issues that we face in the world today.

The basis for the “Like Me” syndrome is that as human beings we tend to feel most comfortable with we are with groups of people who are like us, and to feel uncomfortable when we are with groups of individuals who are not like us.  Note that I said “tend” – this is something that we can learn to overcome, although it often requires a certain amount of deliberateness.  While I’m sure there are many other examples, I’d like to focus on just a few of them.

Racial/Ethnic “Clumping”

Have you ever noticed that groups of individuals who are “like” each other tend to clump together?  I heard recently that the largest group of Somalian immigrants in the US live in and around Minneapolis (  Now Minneapolis, with its harsh winters, seems like one of the least likely places for people from Somalia to settle in the US.  So, why are they there?  Because when new immigrants come to the US from Somalia, they want to be where other people “like them” are already located.

The same is true for racial groups.  African-Americans account for about 13% of the US population (, but Ferguson, MO, which has recently been in the news, has over 65% African-American (  On the other extreme, the small town where I go to church, Emmaus, PA, has only 1.6% African-American (,4223584), so despite the fact that our church is very open to other races, we only have a few people with dark-hued skin – because so few of them are around.

Female/Male dominated professions

I’ve seen a number of articles recently about the lack of females in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professions.  Some are suggesting that the way to “fix” this is to have more female teachers in those subject areas in middle/high school (  But this report notes that we already have over 50% of the teachers being female.

In the years following WWII and the availability of grants to returning soldiers, men greatly outnumbered women on college/university campuses.  But through the next few decades the number of women increased and reached parity around 1979.  More recent figures show a 10% gap in favor of women in college entrance (  Yet even with this huge advantage in numbers, there are more men than women in the STEM majors.  I think it is because of the “like me” syndrome.  Men naturally want to be with others like them, and women want to be with others like them.  The STEM majors are one of the few remaining areas where the men can feel comfortable because they are still in the majority.  It’s the same reason why professions like nursing and pre-college education are much less attractive to men – they feel uncomfortable when they are surrounded by so many others who are not “like them”.

Solutions that don’t work

We continue to have a failed history of trying to “fix” this “like me” syndrome via legislative means.  The forced busing response to civil rights really couldn’t fix the problem – some of our cities and school districts are so heavily white/non-white that we would have to bus across district boundaries (for example, while the town my church is in is over 90% white/non-Hispanic, Allentown, right next door, is only 43% white/non-Hispanic, 43% Hispanic, and over 12% African-American).  But Emmaus and Allentown are in separate school districts.

Similarly, trying to “fix” the lack of females in the STEM majors by increasing the number of female teachers in middle/high school in those subjects isn’t going to work either – the female teachers are already a majority.  And since the STEM majors are one of the few where male students can feel comfortable with others like themselves, if we drive them out of those majors by forcing quotas, etc. we’ll only succeed in discouraging even more men from going to college where they have no places to feel comfortable.

Solutions that might work

I don’t believe that any forced legislation or quota system will ever fix the “like me” syndrome.  You can’t force people to feel comfortable by just putting them in the same room with a bunch of people who are not “like them”.  Rather, I believe that one can only feel comfortable if you develop the cultural sensitivity to recognize how others are “like” you so that the “like me” part of you can dominate the “not like me” part.  Let me give some examples from my own experience.

A few years ago my wife and I had the opportunity to attend a Sunday morning worship service at a church in the next county that was a nearly all “black” Baptist church.  But even though my skin color made me stand out in that large crowd, I felt comfortable – because despite the difference in skin color, we were all Christians and worshipping the same God.  They were all “like me” in the way that mattered the most.

I do a lot of volunteer work for AFS Intercultural Programs.  The volunteer body is heavily female.  But I feel comfortable working in this organization – because in spite of the gender imbalance, the volunteers are all focused on the same mission.  So, in that sense, they are all “like me”.

AFS has helped me in other ways too.  The mission statement of AFS is “AFS-USA works toward a more just and peaceful world by providing international and intercultural learning experiences to individuals, families, schools, and communities through a global volunteer partnership.”  As I have had the opportunity to travel to other countries around the world, I feel comfortable – even if I am the only US American in sight.  By viewing each situation as an “intercultural learning experience,” I am learning about those around me just as they are learning about me.  So, since they are “like me” in that way that matters the most, I can feel at ease.

Think about your own experiences.  When you are with others who are “like you” do you feel more comfortable than when you are with others who are “not like you?”  What is it about the group that makes you “like” each other?  What other aspects of the group could you focus on so that the “like me” could dominate the “not like me?”  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Genealogy Story – Charles Rogers

Charles Rogers was my father’s step-father.  He was born on November 1, 1865, just a few months after the end of the US Civil War.  His parents, Orin and Sarah J [Hubbard] Rogers had married at the beginning of that year.  They would eventually have one more son, James Rogers, who was born in 1871.  Although Charles was born in Hartford, CT, he spent most of his life living in Danbury.  His father was a jeweler by trade, and Charles pursued the same profession.

In 1890, at the age of 25, he married a lady by the name of Mary Keefe.  Although she was from New York and he was from Connecticut, they married in New Hampshire.  It was only whispered about in later years, but she later committed suicide by putting her head in a gas oven which was not lit.  So shortly after the turn of the century, Charles found himself widowed.

He returned to his parent’s home in Danbury which is where his brother James still lived as well.  His father had also passed away about that time, so in 1910 the home consisted of his widowed mother, he, also widowed, and his 36-year old brother who was still single.  Things remained that way for the next several years.

In the mid-1920’s Sarah died, and James, then over 50 years of age, finally married.  Charles remained in the home, living with his brother and his new wife.  Then in 1930, Charles finally remarried – to a woman 30 years younger than he was (he was nearly 65 and she was only 35).  His new wife, Vera [Levvy] Russell, was my grandmother, and she had the care of her two children from her first marriage.  They lived in Danbury, which had been his home for nearly all of his life, then the following summer moved to New Milford, the next town of any size up Route 7 from Danbury.

It must have been pretty interesting for a man in his late 60’s having children for the first time.  My father was nine when his mother re-married and my aunt was just four years older.  The family stayed together for the next 4+ years, then my father and his sister moved to Waterbury to live with their paternal grandfather and his second wife.  My aunt had graduated from high school and may have been going there to work – my father went along and began attending the technical high school in Waterbury.

Charles and Vera remained in New Milford – he then in his early 70’s and she in her early 40’s.  They were still living there in 1948 when I was born.  Sometime in the early 1950’s, being in his late 80’s, Charles moved into an assisted living home in Woodbury.  He had a small room to himself on one of the upper floors.  My grandmother, Vera, who was beginning to have mental problems, went into a separate nursing home elsewhere around the same time. 

We used to visit him occasionally, generally on a Sunday afternoon.  My father and I would always go up first, to let him know that we were there.  He was generally wearing a vest, but would put on his dress jacket when we arrived.  Only then would my mother be allowed into his room – he did not consider himself to be “dressed” unless he had his dress jacket on.

One of the things I learned from him on these occasional visits was how to play cribbage.  He often had the cribbage board and a deck of cards out in his room. 

Charles passed away in May of 1959, at the ripe old age of 93.  He was lucid until the very end.  My grandmother, passed away only four years later.  I always considered myself so fortunate to have a grandfather who was born back in the 1860’s and who had experienced all the changes in this country throughout the latter part of the 1800’s.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My Father's Navy Service -- Part 4 -- Ship's Log

I was recently able to locate many of the monthly ship's logs for the ship my father was on in the Navy - the APC-101.  By marking all the places he went in Google Earth and matching them up to the places that the log said they were each day, I was able to reconstruct all his ship movements.

He joined the APC-101 on June 18 when they were docked at Espiritu Santo in what was then the New Hebrides (now called Vanuatu).  This was not the ship's home port, but was a facility that they sometimes visited.  Their home port was Noumea in New Caledonia.

For the next nearly four months the ship steamed between three locations: Noumea, New Caledonia; Fiji; and the New Hebrides.  In both the latter places they had two different islands in the group that they might visit.  The legs were: NH, F, NH, NC, NH, F, NC, F, NC, NH, F, NC, NH, F.  Each leg was between 2-3 days.  The cargo was only mentioned a few times, being cases of cigarettes on the way to Fiji and Bananas/Pineapple from Fiji.

After stopping at Fiji for the last time on the 11th of October (1945), their port assignment was changed and instead of steaming back west to Noumea, the steamed farther east to Pago Pago in American Samoa.  After a week off, they began a new set of routes. One route was toward the NW and consisted of British Samoa, Wallis Island, Ellice Island, and Nukafetau (a small atoll).  The other route was to the east to the Cook Islands, Bora Bora (Society Islands), and Penryhn.  They ran each of those routes a couple of times over the next three months.  The legs of these routes could be as much as 4 days, so a complete trip around was about two weeks.

Beginning around the first of December, there were rumors that their time in the South Pacific was coming to an end and they would be going home soon.  However, this was not a trip that the APC-101 could do on their own.  It was about a week to Palmyra, another week to Pearl Harbor, and nearly two weeks from there back to San Francisco.  So these longer trips needed to be done in company with other ships going the same way.  Not until the end of January did they finally start the trip back to the US. After a layover for several weeks in Palmyra, they were in Hawaii around the middle of February.  After another two week layover, the finally arrived in San Francisco around the 10th of March.

My father's time with the APC-101 was not over however.  He remained with the ship, but with a skeleton crew as they went up the coast to Bremerton, WA.  He was finally granted leave to return to Connecticut on April 15th.  The ship was decommissioned two weeks later on the 26th.  By then my father had returned to Connecticut and proposed to my mother.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Father’s Navy Service – Part 3 – Log of Dates

The below are taken from both from a little 2”x3” book that my father carried with him and also extracts from letters he sent home.  Those with the dashes at the beginning of the line are from the letters


July 21 – Sworn into the U.S.N. at New Haven, Conn.
July 22 – Arrived at Boot Camp at Sampson, N.Y.
July 26 – Took classification tests
Oct 7 – Graduated from Sampson as S 2/C (Seaman Second Class)
Oct 25 – Transferred to basic engineering school at Gulfport, MS as F 2/C
Dec 23 – Transferred to diesel school at San Diego, Calif.


Feb 3 – Graduated from Class (A) Diesel School at San Diego, Calif.
Feb 7-15 – 5 days leave, 2 day travel time, Transferred to TADCEH, Shoemaker, Calif.
--- Mar 18 – will be shipping out on 20th, rumored New Hebrides
Mar 20 – Left Shoemaker in draft #3551 for Treasure Is.
Mar 23 – Left San Francisco for New Hebrides
Apr 4 – Arrived Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides
--- Apr 14 – sleeping in tents, waiting to be shipped out, mentioned the trip and crossing the date line
Apr 18 –Transferred to Temp Ships Co at N.A.D. Espiritu Santo
June 1 – Transferred back to R/S Espiritu Santo
--- June 6 – had spent 6 weeks at an ammunition depot, now back at receiving station, could say he was on Espiritu Santo (no censoring)
June 18 – Assigned to the USS APC-101 and boarded it at Pier #3, Espiritu
--- July 1 – described ship as an oversized rowboat.  If you could ride on a combination merry-go-round, roller coaster, whip and a few other rides tossed in, you’d know how it feels to ride this ship
Aug 1 – Raised to F 1/C (Fireman 1st Class)
Aug 15 – V-J Day
Sep 1 – Raised to MoMM 3/C (Motor Mechanic 3rd Class)
--- Oct 21 – mentioned being in Pago Pago, went to British Samoa, Wallis Is, and Ellice Is.
--- Nov 26 – going to Cook Is., Society Islands
--- Dec 13 – Penrhyn Is., going to Pearl Harbor on Jan 14 to head home, should be there about Mar 1


--- Feb 6 – in Palmyra waiting for a ship to accompany them to Pearl, arrived there Feb 12
--- Mar 10 – in San Francisco
--- Mar 20 – in Bremerton, WA
--- home on leave day before Easter (this is when he proposed to my mom)
--- May 22 – in Brooklyn Navy Yard

My Father’s Navy Service – Part 2 – the Ship

Vernon served on the APc-101, a small coastal transport.  Although he had always told everyone that the ship was a requisitioned fishing vessel, the below records indicate otherwise.  He served on this ship for about two years, and was discharged about the time the ship was decommissioned in April 1946.  The Apc-1 class vessels had an interesting, but short history (see

FY 1942. The procurement history of the APc-1 class begins with the AMc (coastal minesweeper) and ends with the LCIL (Large Infantry Landing Craft). Interwar mobilization plans called for two types of minesweepers, a large seagoing type (AM) and a smaller coastal type (AMc). Wartime needs for the former were to be satisfied by a combination of new construction and requisitioning of large commercial fishing vessels, while needs for the latter were expected to be fulfilled entirely by taking craft from the fishing fleet. By late 1940 it was clear that some new construction AMc's would also be needed, and twenty were ordered from shipbuilders in December 1940 and January 1941, followed by another 50 in April 1941. They were built to a design based on the commercial fishing boats then being requisitioned and had wood hulls, a length of 96 feet, and a speed of about 12 knots. On 19 Jan 42 CNO directed the construction of another batch of 50 of this type, AMc 150-199. However in December 1940 the Navy had also started building a new type of minesweeper for local defense, the Motor Mine Sweeper (YMS). This type turned out to be able to do anything the AMc could do but had greater length (136 feet) and, perhaps most important, the ability to sweep magnetic mines. By the end of January 1942 the construction of 489 of this well regarded type including 80 for the British, had been undertaken or directed.

In February 1942 the Bureau of Ships issued specifications for a modified design for AMc 150-199. It was to be slightly longer than its predecessor (103 feet overall) and was to incorporate a number of other detailed improvements. This process was interrupted on 13 Apr 42 when the CNO requested the construction of the 50 vessels as "raider transports, AP," probably for use in the South Pacific. The District Craft Development Board, in recommending the change on 20 Apr 42, suggested three possible uses for the craft, for which the category "Coastal transport (small), APc" was created on 22 April: (1) transportation of 2 officers and 74 men (possibly a raiding party) for a maximum voyage of 24 hours, (2) transportation of 2 officers, 50 men, and a cargo of 1,500 cu.ft. for 24 hours, and (3) carrying a cargo of 4,000 cu.ft. (17 tons) and no passengers on a voyage of 2,500 miles [this was the type of use of the APc-101]. To carry cargo, the vessels were to be equipped with a 2-ton capacity boom on the foremast serving an 8x7 foot hatch to the forward compartment, and to travel up to 2,500 miles their fuel and water capacity was to be increased. AMc 150-199 thus became APc 1-50, though not respectively. The British found the new type attractive and on 6 Jun 42 requisitioned 50 more, and on 25 Jul 42 the Assistant CNO for Maintenance (Adm. Farber) recommended adding 15 or more small APc's to the program in view of the long time it took to get construction of the ones already ordered underway. On 5 Aug 42 VCNO directed the addition of the 15 APc's, for a total of 115.

In the meantime, construction of 350 landing craft of a new type, the LCIL, had been directed on 20 May 42, and on 1 Oct 42 COMINCH wrote that LCILs were more suitable than APc's as troop carriers. He may have had in mind the raiding mission mentioned above, although the troop capacity, size, and speed of the new type were all far greater than those of the APc's. On 3 Oct 42 VCNO cancelled the 15 APc's in his August directive. This action terminated the APc program and also resulted in the scrambling of both the hull numbers and the directives associated with the various hulls. During the process of contracting for the additional 15 ships, the units numbered APc 75-89 were renumbered APc 100-15. The 15 cancellations were spread out throughout the contracts placed in late August and early September, and the official accounting ascribed the 15 cancelled hulls to the 5 Aug 42 directive and ascribed to the British requisition all of the units between APc-51 and APc-115 that were actually built.

The APc-101 had the following history:
  • 17 Aug 1942 – ordered as the APc-75
  • 25 Aug 1942 – renumbered as the APc-101
  • 14 Sep 1942 – keel laid
  • 14 Jan 1943 – launched
  • 2 Apr 1943 – delivered
  • Apr 1943-14 Aug 1945 (V-J day) – service in the South Pacific
  • 26 Apr 1946 – decommissioned
  • 8 May 1946 – colors struck
  • 20 Jan 1947 – disposed, renamed as the Klehowa for civilian use, reoutfitted as a small freighter for use along the Pacific coast.  Run by a captain and crew of 3-4.
  • 1966 – owned by the Seattle Outport Transportation Association, capsized and sank 50 miles south of Prince Rupert while southbound with a cargo of halibut and crab from Alaska.

  • Length 103’
  • Beam 21’3”
  • Draft 9’3”
  • Speed 10 knots
  • Displacement 100 tons (empty), 234 tons (fully loaded)
  • Complement of 3 officers and 22 enlisted men
  • Armament was supposed to be 4 single 20mm AA gun mounts, although according to my father and supported by the below picture, there was only one gun actually mounted (it is the covered item looking like a furled umbrella on the foredeck).  The other mounts would have been a pair of them on the top of the bridge and one on the aft deck which instead has a canopy in the picture.
  • Propulsion 400 hp diesel engine

The ship was made of wood and was used for hauling supplies to islands where big ships couldn’t go.  During the war it traveled through the Fiji Islands, Caroline Islands, Samoan Islands, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, New Hebrides Islands, and Hawaiian Islands (on the way back to the US).

Note that at 10 knots (11 mph) it would take 10 days at full speed to go from Honolulu to Samoa (2600 miles, about the limit of the fuel and water on board)

My Father’s Navy Service – Part 1 – Overview

Over the past few days the country of Vanuatu has been in the news as they have experienced what some are calling the worst cyclone in the history of the South Pacific.  I have a connection to Vanuatu as that is one of the places my father served during WWII.  Back then it was known as the New Hebrides.  Here is the story of my father’s service.

My father, Vernon Harold Russell, served in the United States Navy during World War II.  His assignment those years was aboard the APc-101, a small “coastal freighter”.  Only 103 feet long, the ship ferried supplies to many of the smaller islands which could not be serviced by the larger transport ships, either because the island had no port at all or the port was very shallow.

After coming home from the war, he never talked a great deal about it, although he had a number of souvenirs of the various islands (a musical instrument made from a coconut shell, a tapa cloth, etc.) and he had a scrap book with black and white pictures of the various islands he had visited (the South Pacific islands were not tourist destinations in those days so the inhabitants were still half-clothed “natives”).

Nearly all the pictures in this album were purchased by him when the ship was docked at the various islands.  A few of them are postcards, some have labels, a number of them have a copyright symbol or a picture number scratched on the negative that shows as a white number in the corner of the print.  From my research, it appears that most of the pictures were taken during the 1930’s or early 1940’s, although some of them are known to be copies of earlier photographs that were being recirculated at the time. 

Here are a few links to copies of some of these pictures:

When he returned from the service he mounted them in a small picture album which he could only half fill.  The album had heavy black paper and he labeled them in gold ink in his fancy script writing.

He never talked much about his war years and so the album was mostly unseen by others during the remainder of his life.  Over time, the paper in the album began to deteriorate and most of the gold ink faded to only indentations or scratches on the paper.  After his death as my mother began cleaning and clearing out the house, she gave these to me for safe keeping.  In order to preserve this record of his Navy service, I scanned them into a computer and have attempted to decipher what his labels were for each picture.  With much effort I have been able to discover most of what he wrote, but some of them will remain undecipherable.

Here are a list of the countries where these pictures were taken:

Bora Bora
Espiritu Santos (New Hebrides)
New Caledonia – Noume’a


Genealogy Story - William Merchant Russell

William Merchant Russell was born on December 6, 1899, in Cornwall, CT to Louis Russell and Annie Merchant Russell.  He was the fourth of six children, with older siblings Erskine (my grandfather), Linus, and Loretta.  He was later joined by younger brother Allen and younger sister [Martha] Pauline.  In November 1903, when Martha was just four months old and William was almost four years old, Anna died at the age of only 32.

Louis was unable to care for all six children.  He kept the older three siblings (then ages 9, 7, and 5), but gave the three younger children into the care of relatives who lived in New Milford, a somewhat larger town a few miles to the south.  William and his brother Allen went to live with Samuel and Lillie Waldron (who were childless), and Martha went to live with Helen Waldron, her mother, and Helen's young daughters.

But the tragedy in young William's life were not yet over.  Only a little over a year later, his younger brother, Allen, also died - a few months shy of his fourth birthday.

In 1910, Louis re-married - to Helen Waldron - thus bringing Martha Pauline back into the family.  However, William, then ten years old, decided to remain with his adoptive parents, Samuel and Lillie.  When Louis, Helen, and the rest of the family moved from New Milford to Waterbury, CT, William remained in New Milford.

As William got older, he was able to find work on a larger farm nearby, working for the Osborne family (note that Lanesville Rd., where Samuel Waldron lived, meets Danbury Rd. right where the Osborne farm was at the time.  Although the Osborne farm is now gone, Osborne Rd. is only 150 feet from Lanesville Rd. so it would have been less than a half-mile between the two homes.)

The Osbornes, Wallace and Susan, had four children - Mildred (b. 1894), Ethel (b. 1897), Harold (b. 1899), and Charles (b. 1905), so these children were likely good friends of William as well as the offspring of his new employer.  In 1923, at the age of 23, William married Mildred, who was then 28.  William and Mildred took over running the Osborne farm.  This seemed to be a common practice in the family - Harold had married in 1921 and was living with his wife on her parent's farm, and Charles married in 1924 and also went to live with his wife on her parent's farm.

In 1935, Wallace passed away and William and Mildred inherited her father's farm.  Meanwhile, they had had two children - William Jr (b. 1925), and Allen (b. 1927), named after William's younger brother.  However, like his namesake, Allen passed as an infant in 1929.  So, like William (Sr.) who lost a younger brother, Allen, and was raised by the Waldron family as an only child, his son, William (Jr), also lost a younger brother, Allen, and so he was raised as an only child.

William (Jr.) did not follow this pattern, as he eventually married and had five children (none named William or Allen, although Allen has been passed on as a middle name to one of his sons, and then to one of his grandsons).

The farm was eventually sold and is now a large group of buildings in an industrial park.

Even though William (Sr.) was my father's uncle and William (Jr.) was my father's cousin, I only met them once in my life.  They had lived in a different part of Connecticut that we did and had had little contact with William's siblings over the years since the family was broken up when William was only a young child.

In the late 1950's my father and I visited the family who were still living on the farm outside of New Milford.  It was my recollections of this visit that enabled me to later construct a family tree that included them and to make contact with a second cousin who I met on that visit (Jane [Russell] Young, one of the children of William (Jr.)).

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Genealogy Research – Researching Descendants

Another type of research involves starting with a past ancestor, say a great-great-grandfather, and trying to find all the living descendants of that individual.  Since this type of research is often involved as in going “up” the family tree, there are similar problem.  The 1850 “Wall” is usually not an issue however, since one is either starting more recently than that, or you are approaching the wall from the wrong direction.  The missing 1890 census is still a problem as the 20-year “leap” is still in play.

Married names – instead of having problems determining maiden names of ancestors, you have the parallel problem of finding the married name of the female children.  Again, you do know the person’s approximate age and where they and their parents were born, so these are clues.  There are some states that records marriages and these can be helpful.  (For example, there is a Connecticut Marriage Index that covers the years 1959-2012.  I was able to use this to my advantage to locate a second cousin of mine.  But other states may or may not have similar records available online.) Resources – For recent individuals, there may be information in newspapers ( or just Internet research).  That is a good source for obituaries which often list family members, maiden names, etc.  But many newspapers do not have available any obituaries   beyond the last few years.

A good technique is that when you are stuck to consider researching for people related to the person you are looking for.  Perhaps a sibling, or an aunt/uncle died recently and you can find information in their obituary. 

I’m not going to try and list all the various types of searches I have done in my various quests at this type of research.  But a key is to not give up.  Sometimes you even need to just set the problem aside for a while and come back to it later when you may suddenly get a new idea of how to complete your quest.

I’m currently working on trying to find all the living descendants of my great-great-grandfather, Silas Russell, who lived from 1803-1886.  I have resolved most of the family lines.  The remaining ones include (a) four females from the mid-1800’s for whom I do not know a married name, and (b) several related individuals who would have died in the last several decades – these I expect to resolve when I contact a living relative who should have more information about them.

Genealogy Research – Researching Ancestors

Much of ancestry research is spent going “back” or “up” in a family tree, looking for more and more distant ancestors.  In addition to the problems with finding and interpreting census records and other information, there are some particular problems that one often has to deal with.

The 1850 “Wall” – the available census records from 1850 through 1940 (the most recent available – by law census records are not released until 72 years after they were collected) – are similar in structure, although the questions vary from census to census.  However, prior to 1850 the format was quite different.  There was only a single line for each household, with the name of the primary person recorded.  All members of the household were recorded as a series of tick marks by age-range and gender (i.e. males under 5, males 5-10, etc.).  So the husband, wife, children, and any others in the house such as a mother-in-law were just a bunch of tick marks.  The age ranges also varied from time to time.  This makes it very difficult to trace family members.

The missing 1890 census – the results from the 1890 census were lost in a fire in 1921 (the story is actually quite a bit more complex than that, but the fact remains that they are no longer available).  Since census data is one of the main sources of ancestry information, it’s bad enough to have to make ten-year leaps to trace an ancestor.  But a twenty-year leap is much too far as it’s nearly a full generation.  The only “saving grace” is that since it is only a little over 100 years ago there are enough other records that one can often manage to make that leap by bridging with the other available records.

Maiden names – One of the difficulties in ancestor research is finding out the maiden name of a married woman.  You may know that your great-great-grandparents were John and Sarah Jones, and you may know what state they were born in, but what was Sarah’s maiden name.  If they were each 22 years old in the 1880 census, where can you find them in the 1870 census?  John can be found by looking for a 12-year old John Jones, but it’s much more difficult to locate a 12-year old Sara [unknown].  Unless you have some other source of data, such as a marriage certificate, it’s very difficult.  One resource you may have is that some census records list the state that the person and their parents were born in, so you need to be sure that any potential individual you find has the same characteristics.

Family trees – it’s tempting to rely on family trees that have been built by others – saving all the difficult research of repeating what someone else has done.  However, one should still always check out the work, to see if you can replicate their research results.  People are often taking short cuts and just adding any likely information to their tree.  As a result these trees may contain inconsistent results (a parent who died before their children were born, multiple spouses due to two individuals with the same or similar names getting combined, etc.).  Always check your sources.

Genealogy Research – Census Issues

The US Census is taken every ten years.  While the census results are a rich source of information for doing genealogy research, there are a number of ways that incorrect/misleading information can make it more difficult that one might think.  Unlike the past few times that the census has been taken where forms are mailed to each home for completion, the census forms used to be filled in by hand by a census taker.  Consider the following micro-steps that are involved in capturing this information:

1)      The census form, which is different every time it is given, consists of a large number of columns of information that must be captured for each individual.
2)      The wording of each column must be converted to a full sentence question by the individual who is responsible for filling in the questionnaire, i.e. the census taker.
3)      The census taker knocks on the door and asks the person who answers the door the questions for all members of the household.
4)      The questions are asked in English.
5)      The resident hears the question and has to determine exactly what is being asked.
6)      The resident has to know the answer for each household member.
7)      The resident answers each question.
8)      The census writes down what he/she believed they heard.

Every one of these small steps is prone to a certain amount of error.  Consider the following examples:

A)    If the column is labeled “Age,” the question might be “How old is the person?”  If you have a child who has a birthday in just a few days and is almost 10, you might answer, “10”.  But if the question is “How old were they at their last birthday?”, then you would answer “9”.
B)    If the column is “Number of children” and you had three living children and had had two miscarriages, then you might answer initially “3”, but if the next column is “How many living”, then you would have to answer “3” and correct your previous answer to “5”.
C)    The resident might not have very good English skills, or not very good pronunciation, so the census taker might not record the proper spelling.  (One of my ancestors was Hester Russell and in one census it was recorded “Ester Russel”.  An ancestor with the last name of Kowalski was recorded with four different spelling.
D)    If you give the names of your children, unless you indicate otherwise, the census taker will assume that the last names were the same as yours, but they might not be.  (One of my wife’s ancestors had some children from a prior marriage, but she was widowed and had re-married.  Those children, who had not been officially adopted, were recorded under the last name of their step-father instead of noting their legal last name.)
E)     As time goes by, you might not remember exact dates (one of my wife’s ancestors recorded three different years for her immigration to the US on three consecutive census records.  Another recorded different birth years for her husband on different census records.)
F)     People sometimes go by their nicknames or middle names (especially if they share a first name with a parent).  So the child of Wilhelmina is recorded in the census as “Mina” and Catharine Elizabeth Russell is listed in some census records as “Catharine” and in others as “Elizabeth”.
G)    The census taker might make improper assumptions.  When one of my Russell ancestors had their granddaughter staying with them for the summer (which was the time of the year when the census taker paid a visit), her name was given as “Catharine Simmons”, but the census taker assumed that Simmons was a middle name and so indented the recording, improperly causing her to be listed as “Russell, Catharine Simmons”.
H)    Sometimes the resident being asked the questions might not know the answer, or might assume something that is not correct.  So they might incorrectly indicate that their spouse’s parents were born in the same state as their spouse, but that might not be correct.

All the above are real examples of some of the incorrect recording that I have encountered just in researching my and my wife’s relatives.  In searching for census records sometimes you have to use “fuzzy logic” since exact, correct answers might not have been recorded.

Other Information Issues

There are a host of other information sources beyond the census records.  While some of the same issues such as misheard information exist in these other sources, there are other problems as well.

Inconsistency between states – some states, like Massachusetts, had a fairly rigorous recording for births, marriages, deaths, etc.  But just across the border in upstate New York the methods were less rigorous and so finding information about individuals is much harder.

In-state census – New York actually took a census every five years, so for years like 1865, there is a New York census, but surrounding states only participated in the federal census.