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Vermont Campaign Finance, Black Lives Matter Protests, Indie Game Festival, More: Wednesday Afternoon ResearchBuzz, July 29, 2020


VTDigger (Vermont): VTDigger launches campaign finance database. “Our campaign finance portal shows readers the top contributors to each campaign, how candidates rank over time and how they compare to each other, along with the raw data that powers the state’s database. This is only the beginning of the tool. Candidates must file new campaign reports on a monthly basis, and we’ll keep adding them along with new insights and features for our readers.”

Winston-Salem Journal: The Syllabus: UNCG’s new Black Lives Matter protests archive. “The latest addition to UNCG’s collections is an archive of materials from area Black Lives Matter protests. The university is now seeking photos, videos, flyers, posters, protest signs, clothing and anything else from the beginning of the BLM movement in 2013 or from the recent local protests over the death of George Floyd. These items will be part of the library’s new Triad Black Lives Matter Protest Collection.”


Google Blog: The Indie Game Festival announces its nine winners. “The talent of independent and small game developers shines this year at Google Play’s Indie Games Festival, a celebration of the creativity of game developers. We received hundreds of submissions for the three competitions in Europe, Japan and South Korea. This year’s winning games have something for everyone, from a food-themed puzzle game with cats to a Mars Survival Project.”

CNET: Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Google CEOs lay out their antitrust defenses in remarks to Congress . “The CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google on Tuesday evening released opening remarks that cast their companies as icons of American ingenuity as they gear up for a highly anticipated antitrust hearing with legislators on Wednesday.”


PCWorld: How to back up your Google Photos library and keep your metadata. “Google Photos is one of the best ways to sync and store the picture you take on your phone, but getting them out of your library is another story—especially if you want to keep your metadata (date, time, caption, etc.). Since Photos no longer includes an option to sync with Google Drive, keeping a rolling backup of your photos is going to take some work. Here and your options are for creating a backup that keeps your photos and metadata intact.”


The Guardian: Yaël Eisenstat: ‘Facebook is ripe for manipulation and viral misinformation’. “Yaël Eisenstat was a CIA officer for 13 years and a national security adviser to vice president Joe Biden. Between June and November 2018, she was Facebook’s global head of elections integrity operations, business integrity.”

San Diego Jewish World: Museum of the Hebrew Language planned in Jerusalem. “The museum will supplement the [Academy of the Hebrew Language]’s ongoing activities of writing a historical dictionary of Hebrew, covering the language’s development from approximately the 12th Century BCE, and also serving as an Internet resource for people who want to know how a word from a foreign language can be translated into Hebrew. Questions may be asked of the Academy’s volunteer experts via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.”


BetaNews: New Chrome extension provides security check on open source code. “Developers frequently make use of open source components in order to speed up projects and save them having to reinvent tasks. But this can lead to the introduction of hidden security risks. Now though open source marketplace xs:code is launching a new, free Chrome extension, xs:code Insights, which provides users with intuitive, in-depth analytics on open source repositories, including repository score, security analysis, maintenance and activity status, reviews, ratings and more.”

TechCrunch: New York legislature votes to halt facial recognition tech in schools for two years. “The state of New York voted this week to pause for two years any implementation of facial recognition technology in schools. The moratorium, approved by the New York Assembly and Senate Wednesday, comes after an upstate school district adopted the technology earlier this year, prompting a lawsuit in June from the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of parents. If New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the legislation into law, the moratorium would freeze the use of any facial recognition in school systems in the state until July 1, 2022.”


Engadget: DeepMind and Oxford University researchers on how to ‘decolonize’ AI. “In a moment where society is collectively reckoning with just how deep the roots of racism reach, a new paper from researchers at DeepMind — the AI lab and sister company to Google — and the University of Oxford presents a vision to ‘decolonize’ artificial intelligence. The aim is to keep society’s ugly prejudices from being reproduced and amplified by today’s powerful machine learning systems.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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Seavers in The News – Isaac S. Seaver Dies in Detroit in 1937

It’s time for another edition of “Seavers in the News” – a weekly feature from the historical newspapers about persons with the surname Seaver that are interesting, useful, mysterious, fun, macabre, or add information to my family tree database.

This week’s entry is from the Detroit [Mich.] Free Press newspaper dated 30 May 1937:

The transcription of the article is:

“Isaac S. Seaver

“Mr. Seaver, one-time merchant of Pompeii, Mich., and former judge and banker at Ithaca, Mich., died Saturday at Woman’s hospital after an illness of two weeks.

“Born in Clinton County 84 years ago, Mr. Seaver spent most of his life in Gratiot County.  For 50 years he was in business at Pompeii.  He was judge of probate for Gratiot County for 12 years and president of the Ithaca National Bank 25 years.  He moved to Detroit five years ago and lived at 1312 Seward Ave.  He was a member of the Metropolitan Methodist Church here.

“Surviving are five children, Mrs. Warren A. Stahl, Mrs. Loren Baylis, Bert, Elizabeth and Meryl Seaver.  Funeral services will be held in the M.E. Church in Ithaca at 3 p.m. Wednesday.”
The source citation is:

“Isaac S. Seaver,” Detroit [Mich.] Free Press newspaper, obituary, Sunday, 30 May 1937, page 7, column 1, Isaac S. Seaver obituary;   ( : accessed 23 July 2020).

This obituary provides a death date, a death place, an age, an anniversary date, and the name of five children, but not his wife’s name or the location of the children.

Isaac Shoemaker Seaver (1852-1937) was the son of Thomas Weisner and Elizabeth C. (Bushnell) Seaver.  He married (1) Mary Ann McReynolds (1857-1880) in 1878, and they had one daughter:

*  Ethel M. Seaver (1880-1904).

Isaac married (2) Jennie McReynolds (1861-1935) in 1881 (Jennie was Mary Ann’s sister) and they had five children:
*  Carrie Luella Seaver (1883-1975), married Warren Albert Stahl (1887-1962) in 1909.
*  Mattie Elizabeth Seaver (1884-1975), married Loren Monroe Baylis (1894-1971) in about 1920.
*  Milo Bert Seaver (1887-1978), married Gertrude Fannie Lewis (1888-1973) in 1909.
*  Elizabeth F. “Bessie” Seaver (1889-1970.
*  Lora Merle Seaver (1891-1976).

I am a 4th cousin 4 times removed to Isaac Shoemaker Seaver (1868-1945).  Our common Seaver ancestor is Joseph Seaver (1672-1754) of Sudbury, Massachusetts.

There are over 9,000 Seaver “stories” in my family tree – and this was one of them.   Life happens, accidentally and intentionally, and some people live a long time  and serve their community  I am glad that I can honor Isaac Shoemaker Seaver today.  

You never know when a descendant or relative will find this blog post and learn something about their ancestors, or will provide more information about them to me.


Disclosure:  I have a complimentary subscription to and have used it extensively to find articles about my ancestral and one-name families.

Copyright (c) 2020, Randall J. Seaver

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An Update from Ancestry’s CEO

To our community,  The last several weeks have been an emotional journey. As we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, I am continually inspired by all the communities, organizations and frontline heroes coming together to help those in need. We remain forever grateful to the healthcare workers fighting the pandemic and the essential workers Read More

The post An Update from Ancestry’s CEO appeared first on Ancestry Blog.

A Meeting to Protect the Town’s Reputation

Back in late March 1770, the Boston town meeting had commissioned Capt. Andrew Gardner to carry its official report on the Boston Massacre and other documents to London.

Gardner arrived in the imperial capital in early May. That was a couple of weeks after Londoners had read the first newspaper reports about the shooting on King Street.

Furthermore, the captain discovered, Customs Commissioner John Robinson had reached London before him, carrying documents that reflected poorly on Boston. That material included:

  • Capt. Thomas Preston’s “Case,” describing how hostile the town had been to the army, and how people had provoked his soldiers into firing.
  • Several depositions collected by Loyalist magistrate James Murray in mid-March backing up that picture of the shooting.
  • Province secretary Andrew Oliver’s description of the Council meetings after the Massacre, accusing members such as Royall Tyler of almost openly threatening unrest if acting governor Thomas Hutchinson didn’t withdraw troops from town.

Most of Preston’s “Case” was printed in London newspapers by the end of April. The depositions and Oliver’s account went into the pamphlet titled A Fair Account of the Late Unhappy Disturbance at Boston.

Those publications offset the effect of Boston’s Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre. In fact, the Fair Account was a direct response to the Short Narrative; its depositions were numbered starting with 97, where the first edition of the Short Narrative ended.

To be sure, London’s Whiggish printers quickly set about reprinting Boston’s report (as well as the Rev. John Lathrop’s sermon, Innocent Blood Crying to God from the Streets of Boston). But after all the Boston Whigs’ effort to present their town as innocently attacked, they had been scooped.

(My talk “Reporting the Battle of Lexington” discusses how Massachusetts Patriots were determined not to let that happen again in 1775. After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the Provincial Congress rushed to collect depositions and spared no expense sending them to London. There was none of the delay and debate we see in the town meetings of 1770.)

Capt. James Hall brought the first news of trouble in London back to Boston on 18 June, as I discussed here. Capt. Gardner returned with confirmation on the evening of 6 July.

Bostonians seem to have felt particularly betrayed by Capt. Preston’s “Case” since he’d sent a short note to the Boston Gazette back in March to say he was being treated fairly. At the very same time, people now knew, he’d written this long message to London, warning that he might be lynched. When Preston’s “Case” became public, people worried about that danger even more—at least according to officials and friends of the royal government.

The Boston Whigs therefore had to respond, but only in the most legal, least violent way. Which meant calling a town meeting. At 9:00 A.M. on 10 July 1770, 250 years ago today, qualified white men assembled in Faneuil Hall to discuss “Sundry Letters received by Capt. Gardner Master of the Packet taken up by the Town, in answer to those by him to our Friends in England.”

The meeting took action by, of course, forming a committee. It consisted of Thomas Cushing (also moderator of that meeting), Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Richard Dana, William Phillips, William Molineux, Dr. Joseph Warren, Ebenezer Storer, and William Greenleaf. They were delegated to “draw up a true state of the Town, and the conduct of the [Customs] Commissioners.”

The news from London prompted another agenda item as well: “A Motion made that the printed Narratives of the late horred Massacre, which has been retained by order of the Town in the hands of the Committee; may now be sold by the Printers.” Benjamin Edes and John Gill had gone to the trouble and expense of printing copies of the Short Narrative, but the town had forbidden them to sell any copies locally to avoid complaints about tainting the jury pool.

Now that the Short Narrative was being reprinted in London, Edes and Gill no doubt argued, copies of that edition were coming into Boston. So there was no longer any point in forbidding them to sell their stock, right?

The town meeting disagreed. Town clerk William Cooper wrote that the question “Passed in the Narrative”—a psychological slip for “in the negative.” Edes and Gill were told to keep sitting on their copies.

The meeting then adjourned until Friday the 13th, when they would hear from the new committee. In practical terms, that probably meant Samuel Adams got busy writing the town’s response, if he hadn’t already drafted it.

Family Business and Politics in Marlborough

Personal finance and politics intersected for the Speakman family and their neighbors in the summer of 1770.

As I started to discuss back here, Thomas Speakman acquired property in Marlborough before being killed on the Lake Champlain battlefront in 1757.

His widow Mary was living in that town in the late 1760s, and their son William (Billy) apparently moved out there after a health scare in late 1768.

By that time both mother and son had become attached to Whig politics, even though they were upper-class Anglicans, a group more likely to side with the Crown. That irked Mary Speakman’s Loyalist friend and neighbor Christian Barnes, who nonetheless concluded that the widow was not acting ”from any Self interested Motives.”

In those years the family’s second son, Gilbert Warner Speakman, was in Boston working for his uncle, merchant John Rowe. But that young man, called Gibby or Gib by his family, came of age in 1768 and needed to establish himself independently in some way.

In the same long letter from the summer of 1770 that I quoted about political disturbances in Marlborough, Christian Barnes wrote in late June:

Mrs. Speakman went to Boston last week and Mr. Rowe ask’d her what she intended to to [sic] do with Gibby for he had no longer any ocation for him and could not afford to pay him wages

She told him her last resort was New Boston [New Hampshire, where the family had invested in land] and if she could be put into business there she should like to take her whole family with her,

he made no reply to this and she return’d from Boston in very low Spirits but last Night she received a letter from Gibby informing her that his uncles Row & [Ralph] Inman had agree’d he should go to New Boston with goods and there make Pearl & Pott Ash

Christian Barnes’s husband Henry happened to own a potash manufactory in Marlborough. To be sure, that building had recently had its windows smashed, and a rumor was going around town that Billy Speakman was sparking such vandalism to get Henry to finally adhere to non-importation. But that didn’t stop Gibby from asking his mother’s neighbor for advice:

he sent to Mr. Barnes for an estimate of the Cost of the Works and desires to know if this is a proper Season to cut down Timber to build a House

you see these are all things at a distance and may possibly blow off in Air However it has given Mrs. Speakman new Spirits

That month, two effigies of her husband, a threatening letter, and news of attacks on other Loyalists made Christian Barnes increasingly anxious. And then came a small-town betrayal.

Christian Barnes’s 13 July letter reported that Mary Speakman was preparing for her son to go into business in competition with Henry Barnes. The people of Marlborough would no longer have to buy general goods from an importer or travel to another town. Political, commercial, and personal factors were intertwining as Christian Barnes wrote of the rift between the families:

even Mrs. Speakman has deserted me, and takeing the advantage of our distress’d situation has made aplication to Mr. Row and he has consented to send up Gibby and open a Store at her House and he is now actuly here makeing preparation for the reception of his goods[.] he has brought his Mistress with him and they have past a Week in the greatest Mirth and festivity.

The only excuse they have to make for this ungreatfull proceeding is that as Mr. Barnes has advertized his Estate for Sail but whatever Motive Mr. Barnes might have for advertizeing his Place Mrs. Speakman has told me more than twenty times that she was convinced he has no intention of leaving Marlborough, so you see what the New Boston Scheem is come to but it must end in that finily, or something worse for I am well assured that a Store of Good put into their hands and by Mr. Row must prove their distruction, and at the same time will be injuring us to such a degree as I think ought not to be forgiven.

By this point Christian Barnes had dropped all her skepticism about the Speakman brothers encouraging the attacks on her husband. “I know they have both been very active in all the riots in Boston and they may Posibly find some dareing Sons of Violence who may be willing to assist them in any interprize they shall propose.”

To get away from the local unrest, Barnes went to stay with friends. On 17 September she described developments she found on coming back home:

when I returned from Cambridge (after an absense of five Weeks) I found the Peoples Minds were more composed[.] a Party had apear’d in our favor and some of them had Publicly declared they would act in opposition to any one that should molest us

they remain’d quiet till the time approach’d for takeing out our licence [to sell liquor.] Mr. Barnes then waited on the Select Men for their approbation but was refused

Mrs. Speakman (who is still determin’d to circumvent us in our trade if possible) had no doubt but she should obtain it but she did not gain her Point and Mr. Barnes put in a Petition to the Court which was then siting at Concord and they very readily granted him a license tho there was great opposition made by some People in the Town who were at the expence of feeing a Lawyer upon the ocation

they now begin to make it a party affair among themselves and the Tory Party (as they are call’d) talk of erecting fire Works by way of triumph upon our gaining the licence

Soon, however, the non-importation controversy settled down. Gib Speakman opened a tannery instead of directly competing with Henry Barnes.

Of course, the larger political issues remained unresolved.

TOMORROW: When war came.

[The picture above is an eighteenth-century engraving of a potash kiln, courtesy of the Wellcome Collection.]

Monday Mailbox: Find A Grave

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Readers,

Many of you had strong feelings about Ancestry’s new design of Find A Grave. You can see it at

Here are some representative samples:

This new format sucks!!! … So disappointed! … I absolutely HATE IT. … Another website ruined by people who don’t use it. … Do.. Not.. Like.. It … New and improved??? It’s absolutely horrible, isn’t it??? …

From Irene Sheridan:

The new site would not take my email and password. Is it a separate registration to try the test site? I don’t want to mess with my “real” login info. 🙂

Dear Irene,

If I understand correctly, the account systems are currently separate. Your email address and real password won’t work on the staging site and vice versa. You have to register again to try some of the functionality of the staging site.

Angela and others found that the information is messed up:

I just looked at my great grandfather’s memorial on the new site. It doesn’t have his wife, children and parents attached to him like it does on the old site. It says there are no family members currently associated with this memorial. So that is not right and did not flow over to the new site like it should have. I also now manage his memorial as the lady who originally made his memorial transferred him over to me. It does not list me as being the person managing his memorial. The new site also says that there is no bio information on him but I added his obituary to the old site so it is not on the new site. I also left a flower on his memorial for the old site but he does not have any flowers on the new site. I don’t like the new site at all.

I forgot to warn you that the data isn’t always real. Don’t worry about that. It is just test data. A corollary is that any changes you make on this staging site is thrown away! Don’t do any real work on it.

Diane Gould Hall commented that the layout is a step backward:

Everything should still be nicely located on one page, as it is now. Now made so you have to click, click, click to find things. The photos are put into that little box, just like on the new and horrible Ancestry site. I understand updating code. I don’t understand a complete new format that makes this beloved website more difficult to navigate and ugly to look at.

Toot echoed that theme:

Just from what I see here, the grey with white text is difficult to read, hard on the eyes. The pleasant colors on the “old” site with black text was very easy on the eyes, and pleasant to look at (why the ugly colors of death needed?). Understand the need for new code, but don’t understand the need to change to ugly colors, hard to read text, and reformat of the page. Hopefully, the attached spouse, children, Bio, etc., will flow over in the “new.” And hopefully, the name and date will continue to be on the photo’s contributed, as well as Flowers contributed. Photo size needs to be large enough to see the text on the Headstones (as it is now,) not some little Thumbnail you can barely see. Name of person (with link) who manages the Memorial is important, unless FaG is going to “manage” all Memorials, which I don’t forsee. The current page format is easy to use, easy on the eyes, and does NOT need to be changed. As someone else stated in their comment, it is obvious that the persons coding, and changing the platform/format, are NOT users of FaG!

As did Anna:

The new site is not a pleasant one to use, at least in this beta version. Too much wasted space, too much scrolling, the photos look funny, and too much clicking around to see what used to be one tidy page with everything instantly visible.

It has caused me great wonder that design experts mess up websites when they get involved. Designers think that poorly utilizing screen space and decreasing contract is somehow a good thing. (Do a Google search for [graphic design white space] and [design “never use black”] . After the designers have been paid and move on, websites and relent to user demand and switch back to black text on white. Unfortunately, they never seem to fix the “whitespace is good” problem that results in so many extra clicks scrolling or switching tabs.

Michael Dorsey Iams stole my thunder and preached my usual sermon:

I work in the software industry although not for any of the genealogy companies. I thought it would be useful to talk about how users can most effectively provide actionable feedback to software developers.

First of all, I applaud the Find A Grave team for publishing a public beta site. Developers are reluctant to show work they know is not complete, but it is in everyone’s best interest to get direct user feedback early and often during the development process. Second, we all need to acknowledge that user interfaces need to change over time although the benefits of those changes are not often immediately apparent. And finally, recognize their job is to make money. On a free site, that means they need to increase traffic. Concepts such as internationalization and mobile support are significant to them.

1) Generally, don’t focus on colors and fonts. Everyone has difficulty accepting the unfamiliar, and everyone adjusts with time. Although Google is an extreme example (, major companies employ experts and detailed processes for deciding these things.

2) One exception to this I believe is handicapped people. Although there are tools and guidelines for accessibility, real-world feedback is still encouraged in this area.

3) Mobile support is about providing a good user experience a variety of resolutions. Try this experiment. Pick up a corner of your browser displaying the Gravestage site. Adjust it bigger and smaller. The elements change to accommodate. A good design finds ways to continue to show the most important information as the screen size drops. This is called responsive design and it takes a lot of effort to do it well. Pick a resolution that matches your mobile screen resolution and provide feedback in this context.

4) Developers aren’t genealogists so it is all too easy for them to make false assumptions. Help them understand with specific, actionable insights into what you want to accomplish and how you go about it. If there are enough people like you, they will surely try to accommodate.

5) It is generally accepted that reducing number of clicks is important, and I think this is a very fair criticism.

6) Provide your feedback with context describing what type of user you are and how you use the site. Even a specialized site such as Find A Grave has dozens of different types of users that use the site in different ways. They need to be able to all these constituencies.

7) It is safe to assume they are familiar with similar sites in the industry, but the internet is a very big place and I find it helpful when someone says “I like to do X with the site, and I find that Y site does this particular function very well”.

As they finish the site, they will fix all the bugs like photo cropping and stuff. But, they need help with understanding the many diverse use cases that ultimately affect the broad structure and design of the site.

Mander asked:

Is there a link we can use to send our feedback and suggestions to Find a Grave?

Lisa replied:

Yes, when you are on the page, there is a feedback link in the bottom right corner of the page.

So, good readers, go use it!

2020 National Genealogical Society Family History Conference Now Virtual

Ancestry® is a family and a community, even when we’re not together – which is why we are continuing to share resources and new ways for people to make family history discoveries from home. As a long-term partner of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and a sponsor of the annual NGS Family History Conference, we Read More

The post 2020 National Genealogical Society Family History Conference Now Virtual appeared first on Ancestry Blog.

Where Are the "Holes" In My Pedigree Chart? Can DNA Help?

While wading through my Genetic Affairs AutoCluster results for AncestryDNA (seMy Last AncestryDNA AutoCluster AutoTree Analysis From Genetic Affairs – Post 1), I noted that I have many DNA match clusters that don’t have a known common ancestor, based on my Notes for each DNA Match.  For instance cluster #1 has 26 entries, but no known common ancestor.  I’m pretty sure that the common ancestor for that cluster is on my father’s Seaver side of the family, but none of those matches has an Ancestry Member Tree that includes one of my Seaver line ancestors back up to the 5th great-grandparents.

I have about 400 AncestryDNA ThruLines that define Common Ancestors for me based on my tree, DNA match trees, and the Ancestry Big Tree.  These are very helpful, but are not always accurate (my estimate is that about 5% of my ThruLines are incorrect).  

There are more Common Ancestors identified with ThruLines than by Genetic Affairs because of the methodology used by each analysis (Genetic Affairs uses only my tree and a DNA Match’s tree, not the Ancestry Big Tree).

How can I figure out who might be the Common Ancestor for more of my DNA Matches, especially in clusters?  The first step should be to define what I think I know and what I don’t know about my ancestry.  Here is a 7-generation chart from the FamilySearch Family Tree (out to 4th great-grandparents).  I wish I could make an 8-generation chart to get to 5th great-grandparents!

My unknown ancestors on this chart are:

*  4th great-grandparents, parents of John Richman (1789-1867).

*  4th great-grandparents, parents of Ann Marshman (1784-1856).  The chart shows parents that I think are incorrect.

*  4th great-grandparents, parents of John Rich (1790-1868).  The chart shows parents that I think are incorrect.

*  4th great-grandmother, mother of Sarah Feather and wife of Cornelius Feather.  The chart above calls her Mrs. Cornelius Feather.

*  3rd great-grandparent, a parent of Devier J. Lamphier Smith (1839-1894).  Devier was adopted as an infant, and I’m pretty sure one set of his grandparents are Isaac and Rosanna (Laun) Lanfear (based on DNA matches), but the other parent (male? female?) is a mystery.

*  4th great-grandparents, parents of William Knapp (1775-1856).  Ancestry offers potential ancestors that I am sure are incorrect.

*  4th great-grandparents, parents of Sarah Fletcher (1802-1850).  

I have other “holes” in the 5th great-grandparents not shown on the chart above that may be the Common Ancestors of some of the Genetic Affairs clusters.  

My next step in this analysis process is to identify my AncestryDNA Common Ancestors on the fan chart to see which of my known ancestors don’t have any matches, and which clusters might account for one or more of my “holes” in my fan chart.


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Copyright (c) 2020, Randall J. Seaver

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