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I have nothing worthwhile to say about Paris or ISIS.  I write this here mostly in case someone thinks they know what I think or can guess based on previous things I've written or said. 
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As the Facebook people know, tomorrow I am off to Copenhagen, Stockholm, and several other places in their countries.  I am 90% packed. My electronics are charging.  I've only minor things left to do like purchase a couple more ebooks to load up on my reader (I'm not sure my ebook stores will sell if my IP is not American) and get some emergency cash to bring with.

I'm bringing my laptop, so I will be updating Facebook and possibly here.  Photos may wait until I return to get posted, depending on down time and internet speeds.

Little known fact about me: traveling anywhere alone except the US and Canada scares the hell out of me.  I'm sure I'll be fine, but I am still filled with dread.

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I would like to know how I can go to California for a week, sweat my butt off, walk over an hour a day more than I do here, limit my meals to something much smaller than I do here, and come back weight a pound more than when I left.


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I finally saw Fury Road long after everyone else did.  Fun movie, but not ZOMG AMAZING.  Nice to see a movie with explosions and car chases and guns and whatnot actually make an effort to avoid horribly sexist tropes.  See Hollywood, it can be done, and it's not even that hard.

Also, Tom Hardy has really pretty lips.
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Earlier this year I let myself get talked into filling out the term on the condo association board of someone who bailed.  Tonight was the annual owners meeting, and now I'm on the board for another two years.  Afterward, the board decided I would be vice-president and head of the architecture review committee..  That means if anyone wants to do a remodel, I get to be the person who deals with them on behalf of the board.

In the mid-90s, I was the chair or vice-chair of several different committees for a non-profit.  I hope the experience is more enjoyable this time around.  I've got my what-have-I-done face on right now.


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Talked to a travel agent to get my first international trip since 2005 going. I'm going to visit Denmark and Sweden, including where my ancestors are from, Langelands and Piteå. Tentatively looking at August or September for 2-3 weeks.

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I was battered today for the first time since 2005.  First time from a stranger too.

A woman arrived at my bus stop about the same time as me, and at first I thought she was arguing with someone on the phone.  But you know where I'm going with that.  She was actually having an incoherent argument with an invisible person.  For 20 minutes or so.  I mostly ignored it, as this is the city.  Just looked up occasionally as I was texting back and forth with Erin.

Suddenly, she looked at me then threw her bottle of VitaminWater at me, hard.  It hit me in the knee pretty good and drenched my pants and shoes.  Then she glared at me for a few moments, never breaking conversational stride with whoever she was arguing with.  I dialed 911 but didn't hit send, held up the phone and told her to go find another bus stop or she'd have to deal with the cops.  She looked angry and walked about 20 feet away and then stopped. I yelled at her to continue on and then she did.

I had one flash of anger right after I was hit, but that dissipated really quickly.  I'm not really sure what the best course of action is for such situations, but I wanted to both be somewhat compassionate and be firm and safe at the same time.


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Citizen Petition No. 1 establishes a new city transportation authority to study another monorail proposal.

Disney Monorail Lime at MK Station
Photo by Joe Penniston (CC By-Nc-Nd)

I was all in favor of the previous monorail proposal that got started and then later shot down at the polls due to a concern over how much it would cost. I am not in favor of this. Here are my reasons.

  • We had a shot at a monorail, and this proposal doesn’t bring a new idea to the table. It focuses on West Seattle to Ballard, which is already being studied by Sound Transit, and it doesn’t include other possible corridors.
  • Sound Transit Light Rail is up and running, soI’d rather we focus on expanding light rail to new neighborhoods. Sound Transit itself is an organization with a track record of completing new segments early and under budget, though with a long time frame and large budget.
  • The proposition is the brainchild of Elizabeth Campbell, who has a history of half-baked activism. The organization that put this on the ballot couldn’t get it’s ballot statement submitted on time. Putting them in charge of a new transportation authority is a recipe for failure.
  • The folks at Seattle Transit Blog are public transportation wonks, and Seattle Transit Blog opposes the monorail measure. These are the most extreme pro-transit people with a platform in Seattle, with knowledge to back that up, not some conservative road-happy developers.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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The history of this one is a little convoluted. Labor unions ran an initiative to do a number of things regarding childcare, chief among them raise the childcare worker minimum wage to $15 per hour and require training and certification. They got enough signatures. The city council worked on a universal preschool pilot program. The propositions aren’t exactly one or the other like initiatives 591 and 594 are, but they both concern how to help preschool age children. So the city made it an either-or proposition.

My assumptive goal is to provide children with the resources to be functioning members of society.

So, if either of these measure does that, I’m going to vote yes on part 1. So on to checking both proposals:

Preschool Colors
Photo by Barnaby Wasson (CC By-Nc-Sa)

Proposition 1A

1A does a few things:

  • It sets the minimum wage for child care workers at $15 per hour with a phase-in of three years. The city council passed a $15 minimum wage that can phase in for up to 7 years. I see no reason to make that more complicated. It was a hard negotiated compromise, and I opposed businesses messing with it and I oppose labor messing with it.
  • 1A mandates that the city adopt goals, timelines and milestones to institute a policy that no family pay more than 10% of their income for early education and child care. While that’s a laudable goal, I think a hard limit of 10% is misguided as it doesn’t factor in number of children, their needs, or their families’ circumstances. I think a sliding scale based on family income and adjusted for other factors is a better target. That’s what 1B does.
  • 1A states that violent felons cannot provide child care in a licensed or unlicensed facility. This is perfectly reasonable, though I’d be surprised if the state doesn’t already prohibit violent felons from working in child care facilities.
  • 1A requires the city hire a Provider Organization to facilitate communication between childcare workers and the city. As far as I can tell from the requirements in the initiative, that organization would need to be one of the unions that is sponsoring the measure. I’m all for unionization, but this seems a bit like making the city talk to the union and pay for the privilege.
  • 1A would establish a training institute to be run by the Provider Organization from the last bullet point that would train and certify all childcare workers. Requiring training and licensing seems fine with me, but requiring the program to be run by a union seems a big loss of independence. I’d rather it be run by another organization, or the city itself.
  • 1A creates a Workforce Board to oversee the measure, including the training institute and standards. Half the board is nominated by the mayor, half by the Provider Organization. That seems like too large amount of influence to give to a union.
  • 1A creates a fund to assist small child care providers to meet city standards. That seems like a great idea.

One thing not listed in this is where the funding for it comes from. That isn’t a definitive reason to vote against it in my view, but it does mean I’m gonna look hard at it. The city would have one more priority to work into an existing budget and it’s not like we have a lot of extra money floating around. I’d prefer if we had an explicit ordered priority for our budget so new things like this could be slotted in at some spot in the priority. We don’t, and so the city is going to have to do it, and going to have to cut something or raise taxes for it (and we don’t have much room to raise with current legislative limits). We could raise property taxes similarly to how 1B does it, but will require another vote. I’d much rather it be included in this vote.

All in all, I’m leaning against this, primarily for the reason that it puts too much control into the hands of the industry to regulate and manage itself on the city’s dime. It seems like a way to restrain trade rather than improve education and child care.

Proposition 1B

Proposition 1B creates a four year pilot early learning (i.e., preschool) program with the goal of making it permanent and covering all preschool age children in the city. It will have free or sliding scale tuition based on income. The oversight board includes 12 members of the Families and Education Oversight Committee, which is (I believe) an existing committee that oversees a previous levy. 4 additional members would be part of the oversight board, and they would be Seattle residents with interest and experience with the growth and development of children. Only one of them can be from an organization that receives funding through the measure.

The proposition enacts a property tax that raises $14 million to fund the pilot program. The city won’t need to prioritize other programs out of the budget.

Proposition 1B seems to be a good faith attempt to provide education to young children, which is my goal, rather than provide a large amount of control to a union. I’m all for unions, and even giving them seats at the table. But they should not be in charge, as their interests are with their members, not with children. I don’t think they are opposed to children’s interests, but they aren’t synonymous.

Upshot is, I’ll be voting yes for part 1 of proposition 1, and for 1B for part 2.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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Due to the remnants of a Tim Eyman initiative, we have advisory votes on anything that can be construed as a tax increase that’s passed by the legislature. There are only two such this year.

Advisory Vote No. 8

Marijuana crop, better known as help over here.
Photo by Stephen McGrath (CC By-Nc-Nd)

After we legalized marijuana two years ago, marijuana growers qualified for standard preferences for agriculture. The legislature eliminated that preference for them, costing about $25 million a year. I am relishing the thought of conservatives having to vote for a tax increase or for marijuana. Since our state is undertaxed, there’s no way I’m voting against what’s essentially a sin tax. That was part of the argument for the marijuana legalization initiative. Legalize it and tax it. So here we are. I’m voting maintained.

Advisory Vote No. 9

The legislature added $1.3 million in excise taxes on leasehold interests in tribal properties. I have no idea what exactly that is, but this is exactly the sort of thing we elect the legislature for. Absent a compelling reason against it, I’m voting maintained.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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Initiative 594 would apply currently used criminal and background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.

Gun Show
Gun Show photo by Michael Glasgow (CC By)

While I tend to be a bleeding heart liberal, I’m generally less supportive of gun control measures than a lot of other folks. There’s essentially two things I want to see changed about guns in the United States. The first is that stupid people should not possess or own guns. Who should decide what and who is stupid? Me. Of course, that’s not going to happen. But that’s my ideal.

The second is I’d really like to see a change in culture away from a hard-core attachment to guns. That’s not a law thing; that’s a culture thing. Guns aren’t needed and aren’t useful in 99.9% of the cases people think they are. For example, open carry. To give an analogy, I think flip flops should not be worn except at the beach, pool, or locker room and yet people wear them everywhere. I do not, and would not, support any banning of flip flops. But that doesn’t mean I think people should wear them. Please, stop wearing flip flops. Similarly, leave your gun at home. I don’t think open carry should be encouraged, but I think it should be generally lawful.

So that brings me to I-594. I-594 is not a litmus test for me. I think people can vote in good conscious for this measure without earning my ire. There are two questions that determine my answer to this initiative. The first is, will this do any good? The second is, is it worth the loss of freedom to transfer or sell a gun without a check?

I’m going to delve into the second question first. The answer is, I don’t think so. The burden on a person selling a gun is not substantial. TA quick search says the cost for this is generally less than $100 currently. The wait will be between 0 and 10 days, depending on the results. Generally the check happens instantly if a person doesn’t have issues that need to be dealt with. After 10 days, the sale/transfer can go through even if the background check hasn’t come back.

For the sellers, the burden is the cost. If the cost to purchase a gun goes up, people will buy fewer guns. Licensed gun dealers already factor this in, and they are doing just fine. Unlicensed gun dealers are basically free riding. Truly private sales/transfers between known people will be more inconvenient. I don’t see much more burden for doing this than registering a car though, and that is a pain in the ass, but it’s something we live with and accept. For purchasers, guns will be more expensive and there will be less reason to purchase privately and more reason to just use a licensed gun dealer in the first place. The only real burden is that people who are ineligible to purchase a gun will not have as large of a loophole to get one.

So, the first question: will this do any good? That’s much harder to answer. Few jurisdictions have had background check measures for long enough to have good data. And any changes aren’t going to be easy to measure given that people can and do work around them. If effective, background checks will be more effective when people can’t go to the next state over to purchase a gun without a check. Residents of Spokane can easily evade this because they are 30 minutes away from Idaho which doesn’t have background checks. All this makes it hard to know.

Additionally, if there’s any effect, it’s hard to see it because so many other things affect gun violence. Something might reduce gun violence by 5% but the economy goes south so crime in general goes up by 10%, which obscures the effect of the first. You can’t just look at the fact that gun violence in Colorado went up after they passed background checks in 1999. There are so many causes that extracting that information requires university-level studies.

The pro I-594 web site gives out some statistics, such as 39% fewer law enforcement officers murdered with a handgun in states with background check laws. The web site does not give the source for that. It also doesn’t say fewer than what, what the time frame is, how this was measured, what the confidence is, etc. The Officer Down Memorial page gives the stat that 39 police officers have died in 2014 due to gunfire. That tells me any measurement of law enforcement deaths in background check states is going to have a low sample size. Other measurements might not have that issue, but it’s really hard to tell given what the pro I-594 group posts.

I looked on JSTOR to see if I could find anything. Unfortunately, the only study I could find using background check as the key term wasn’t looking at background check efficiency. It looked used measures of background checks as a proxy for determining gun ownership and effects of that on suicide rates.

At the risk of falling into the trap of something must be done. this is something. therefore this must be done. I’m planning on voting for the measure. My gut feeling is that it will help reduce incidence of bad people having guns, but only slightly, given that people can work around it. I don’t have anything except gut feeling at this point, because actual numbers are so hard to come by. Sorry, pro-gun people, but keeping the government from funding these studies means I have to go with my gut. I hope a local university will actually study the effect and we can revisit the policy in 5 or 10 years. If it’s not working at that point, I’ll support dumping the law.

The argument that it’s a burden or infringing on rights doesn’t hold water with me. California has done this for decades and it’s not a gun free zone.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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I’m finally upgrading to Gramps 4.1, which changes how it handles places. It now builds a hierarchy of places.

Which means I now have some issues:

  • Do I make overseas colonies children of the controlling country? I’m thinking so, but in most cases they weren’t considered part of that country the way that Iowa is considered part of the US. What do I make the contained in relationship to mean?
  • Particularly if I don’t make them contained in a parent, what type do I assign to those territories? Colony? Possession?
  • The hierarchy also has a concept of time, in that a division can be part of different containing places over time (e.g., Deadwood part of Dakota Territory until it became part of South Dakota). But it doesn’t seem to have a way to specify that a place is independent for a time and not independent (e.g., Bavaria was an independent kingdom until German unification). I’m not sure how to handle that.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.


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Kicking off my 2014 General Election ballot is Initiative 591, which prohibits government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms without due process, and prohibits requiring background checks unless there’s a national requirement to do so.

This initiative is an easy no. We already can’t confiscate guns without due process. A person’s guns have more protection than their houses.

The real goal of the initiative is the second part. The proponents want to prevent background checks. Basically, they want people to be able to sell guns to felons and the mentally ill. Those are the people that background checks catch. Not that background checks catch everyone forbidden to have guns. But it doesn’t make sense to prohibit the checking completely.

Jesse James, half-length portrait, facing front, holding handgun in left hand at his waist
Jesse James, half-length portrait, facing front, holding handgun in left hand at his waist

We have another initiative on the ballot on background checks. I’ll post about that one next. In the meantime, remember that these people want to sell guns to known criminals, like Jesse James.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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Because posting makes a bit of accountability, but I don't want to deal with Facebook level/style commentary.

  • Find the employer ID for mom's estate and give it to the lawyers
  • Deal with the bonds in mom's name.
  • Take flowers to mom's grave this week.
  • Schedule time with Rachel
  • Schedule time with Mike
  • Book vacation for Vancouver Island
  • Schedule trip to haunted forest with Kim and whoever else wants to join
  • Look up and schedule link posting for Empower Mentoring
  • Follow up with HR on IM matching funds for donations
  • Enroll in health care plan for next year before deadline
  • Collect two year's tax returns, two pay stubs, and a brokerage statement for loan
  • Reschedule dentists appointment.

What did I forget? Things to be added as I remember.

Commentary is actually welcome. Facebook just seems to encourage people to crack wise in a completely unfunny manner.

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I’ve found a couple of intriguing entries in the indexes to the land records of Grant County. Both of these clipped images are from the grantee index. The first name is the person who purchased property. The second is the person who sold it:

Land index - Peter Weiss to Anton Weiss
Peter Weiss to Anton Weiss
Land index record - Paul Weiss to Anton Weiss
Paul Weiss to Anton Weiss

The first is a sale from 25 Feb 1863 from Peter Weiss to Anton Weiss, my second great grandfather. The second is a sale from 14 Jun 1864 from Paul Weiss to Anton Weiss.

What do you think the chances are that these men are related to Anton? I’ve no idea actually, but it’s the only connection I’ve found between Anton and any other person named Weiss, save for the names of his parents in Germany. Are they cousins? Siblings? Completely unrelated? I don’t know. Time to do more research.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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Or is this ElloSpace?
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The following picture is in a photo album of images from my great grandparents travels.

Sister M. Genevieve Parker
Sister M. Genevieve Parker

I didn’t know how Sister Genevieve Parker fit into my family tree. None of my branches contained anyone by that name, but nuns sometimes adopt new names when they take their vows. Last fall, after I tracked down my third great uncle James Parker in California and some of his family, I suspected Genevieve belonged in that branch of the tree. But where?

I still don’t know exactly who she is, but I know where she fits. To kill some time while I was in California last week, I was doing some unfocused searching for a daughter of James Parker, Mary. I’d suspected she was the Mary Parker who married a Thomas Lyons. I found an index death record that could be her then a copy of the death certificate, and those indeed indicated she was a daughter of James Parker. And today I found a copy of her obituary:

Mary A Lyons obituary
Mary A Lyons obituary

Look in there! Her sister is the Very Reverend Mother Genevieve Parker! And a little bit of Google searching brings up an item on Genevieve Parker from the web site of the Immaculate Heart Community:

Mother Genevieve was elected the first Mother General of the newly established California Institute of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She guided the Community for nine years. Mother Genevieve was instrumental in securing the separation of the California IHMs from the Spanish Community. The negotiations for independence of the California group went on for several decades. With the help of Bishop John J. Cantwell the separation was completed in 1924. … She guided the Community as an able administrator until her resignation in 1933. She died in July of that year.

Their web page has this image of Mother Genevieve Parker:

Mother Genevieve Parker
Mother Genevieve Parker

Pretty much the same person! And now I have a date of death and a pretty good starting point on digging up the rest of her life.

Interestingly, I still don’t know exactly who she is. In the 1870 U.S. Census, James Parker has 4 daughters: Catherine, Mary, Ella, and Frances. In 1880, his daughters are Kate, Ella, Fanny and Theresa. Mary is Mary Lyons. Ella is Ellen Parker Murphy. I suspect Theresa married a Frederick Donaldson, though I haven’t proven that. That leaves Catherine or Frances. At this point, I just don’t know which of the daughters she is.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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After 3 years of researching Patrick Parker and his wife Mary Murphy, I have found when they died. The marker for Patrick Parker that I previously found in Saint Mary’s church cemetery, east of Ackley Iowa, is indeed my third great grandfather. His wife Mary died on 13 Aug 1887 and was buried in the church cemetery. Her name no longer appears on a marker in the cemetery. I suspect that it once was on the same headstone as Patrick’s, but the top portion was damaged and removed.

This morning I found her obituary by serendipity. I have been working my way through scans of the baptismal register for Saint Mary’s (a project I will write about soon) and came upon an entry for Stephen Patrick Parker, son of Thomas Parker and Ellen Clinton. It had a date for the baptism, but not for his birth. The baptism was in 1885, and there’s a possible match for this Stephen Parker who was said to have been born in 1888. I decided to do a quick search of the keyword Parker in the Ackley Enterprise on NewspaperArchive.com for the years 1885 to 1888, to see if I could find his birth. I have not found it yet, because I found something else.

That was a brief mention that Julia Parker Kenefick had attended the funeral of her mother. It was third in my results list and was published on 19 Aug 1887 on page 5 column 3.

Mrs. M. Kenefick
Mr. and Mrs. M. Kenefick, of Belmond, attended the funeral of Mrs. Kenefick’s mother, Mrs. Parker, last Monday.

It did not come up in the search, but in column 6 on the same page appeared a notice of Mary Parker’s death.

Mrs. Mary Parker died last Saturday
Mrs. Mary Parker died last Saturday morning at the residence of her son Mr. Patrick Parker, in Washington township, Butler county. She was eighty-three years of age and has [for] the last three years been quite feeble. Mrs. Parker was the mother of ten children, nine of whom are living. She was one of the oldest settlers having located at Ackley in 1870. The funeral took place last Monday morning and was lagely attended, Rev. Father Burns officiating. The remains were laid peacefully to rest in the Catholic cemetery.

Mary Parker died 13 August 1887 at the home of her son in Washington township, Butler County, Iowa. She was buried in the church cemetery with Reverend Father Burns officiating. L.H. Burns was the parish priest of Saint Mary’s in Ackley, meaning Mary Parker was buried in their cemetery. And meaning that I have enough evidence that I will consider the Patrick Parker buried there to be my third great grandfather.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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Last month I requested a copy of the pension application for my second great grand uncle, Stephen Parker, from the National Archives. I got the first 100 pages on CD today. Much of it I already know. But there are some great pieces of evidence in the file that solidify and confirm important details about Stephen and his family. One item was very new information though, and stood out.

Below is the deposition of Mary Morkin née Parker. She was the daughter of Leonard Parker, who lived near my third great grandfather Patrick Parker in Blanshard township in western Ontario. Leonard and Patrick also have records that put them together in County Westmeath and in Lanark County of Ontario. Other family researchers had written that they were brothers, and I’d tended to go with that assumption as well. Mary Morkin gives the most direct evidence so far that they were in fact related. She testifies that Stephen Parker’s father (Patrick) and her father (Leonard) were first cousins.

page 1

page 2

page 3

Eliminating the possibility they are brothers is going to make looking at any possible records a better process. For instance, I won’t reject families with a Patrick Parker as incorrect matches if there’s no sign of a Leonard in the family. Or if descendants of Leonard Parker take DNA tests, we’ll expect them to be much more distant genetically.

There are more things to glean from this file, but that’s the biggest in the first batch.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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The aforementioned Stephen Parker married a Margaret Burk in 1873 in Webster County, Iowa, most likely at the Catholic Church. I’ve also previously noted that their daughters became teachers in the Seattle Public Schools. I’d really like to find out more about his family, so the last week or so I’ve spent looking for records on Maggie.

Margaret and Mary Parker in 1909 Seattle Directory
Margaret and Mary Parker in 1909 Seattle Directory

Ancestry has a good collection of Polks city directories for Seattle, so I looked for her and found her in most of them from 1910 to 1924. Where she was missing, Ancestry was missing pages. One of those was 1909, and Margaret wasn’t to be found in 1908. So I hopped on the bus and went to the Seattle Public Library to look at their collection of directories. Margaret was in 1909. So that puts her arrival in Seattle in 1908 or early 1909. Her daughter Agnes was listed as a teacher at the Ross School in the 1906 directory. As best I can tell, Margaret and Mary arrived together and then the three of them rented an apartment at 1321 E Union where they lived until Margaret’s death in 1924.

1321 E Union Seattle in Sep 2011
1321 E Union Seattle in Sep 2011

The image above is the location in 2011. I haven’t researched the property properly, but the apartment in the background is 1319 E Union and there is no 1321. Either the apartment was renumbered, 1321 was located in the parking lot in the image, or I have the wrong location. The apartment building shown was built in 1909.

I also finally ordered the death certificate for Margaret, which arrived today. Most of it I knew because the folks from the Family History Library indexed a lot of the fields, including the names of her parents. The death certificate did give an exact date of birth for Margaret, if it can be believed. It also has a cause (pneumonia) and exact place (Columbus Sanitarium) of death, which are also new to me. The date of birth may be helpful in finding out who she is.

There are some additional queries I’ve sent, which I haven’t yet received returns for. I wrote to the Archives of the Archdiocese of Seattle seeking information on her funeral, if they have it. They replied via email that I’ll need to query Saint James Cathedral. I sent a letter to Calvary Cemetery, hoping they have some records on her that will reveal something about her. And finally I sent a letter to the Webster County Genealogical Association asking if they’ve got anything on Margaret or her marriage. The Family History Library says it has a book listing marriages compiled by the W.C.G.S., so I figured I would go straight to the source before getting a copy of the book. Hopefully they’ve got Margaret in an index somewhere with a connection to Webster County.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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Since I last wrote about Stephen Parker, I’ve learned a bit more about how to do genealogy and have gained some confidence in pursuing leads.

I mentioned it only in passing on this post about my 2nd great grandmother Mary Parker, but that search turned up the baptismal record for her brother Stephen as well. Most of the records about Stephen Parker give only an approximate age for him, and it usually worked out to be around 1837. But the baptismal record for him puts his date of birth as 2 Jun 1835. I’d thought I wouldn’t ever find a real date of birth for him.

Stephen Parker baptismal record
Stephen Parker baptismal record

At the Iowa Historical Society a couple of years ago, I couldn’t find any record of his death in the county microfilm holdings. The only things I found were obituaries in their newspaper holdings. The Historical Society also did not have any records from the Hospital for the Insane where Stephen had been committed.

Recently, I wrote to both the Independence Mental Health Institute (M.H.I.) (the successor agency to the Iowa Hospital for the Insane) and to the Buchanan County Genealogical Society looking for how I might find information on Stephen Parker. The fellow who answers email for the genealogical society went above and beyond what I’d hoped, which was contact information at the M.H.I. beyond what I could find on the web site. He looked in the society’s records and after finding nothing, made a trip to the courthouse on my behalf. Unfortunately, he found that no deaths had been recorded at the county from 1889 to 1897, or that those records had been lost. Then he also provided me with instructions on how to request information from M.H.I.

At the same time, I received a response from M.H.I. with the formal version of the same instructions. Having information from the genealogical society on how to navigate the complicated forms was very helpful. I sent those in. M.H.I. didn’t have much information on Stephen Parker, but they did provide the specific date he’d arrived and date and time of death, which turned out to be a day earlier than indicated in his obituaries.

I also requested Stephen Parker’s civil war record from the National Archives. That wasn’t too interesting, but it did provide a physical description for him that came with his oath when he enlisted. He’s described as 5 foot 10 inches, hazel eyes, brown hair and dark complexion on 18 May 1863 when he enlisted.

Stephen Parker - Enlistment Oath
Stephen Parker – Enlistment Oath

He didn’t last long in the military, being discharged on 6 Aug 1862 at Fort Hamilton New York fir disability, not even three months later. The only information on that comes from the one line notation in the register of enlistments for him.

I’ve also looked for Stephen Parker in the census. He appears with his parents’ family in 1852 in Canada and in 1860 in Wisconsin. In 1870 and 1880, he’s recorded living in Clarion Iowa as a farmer. In 1870 on his own, and in 1880 with a wife and two young daughters. But he was already marked as insane by then, and in fact I believe was not even living with the family despite being recorded there. He’s also recorded on the supplemental schedules for the insane in the 1880 US Census. The records from M.H.I. indicate he’d entered the hospital on 14 Feb 1878. In 1878, there are several entries in the Wright County court docket on a guardianship being established for Stephen’s financial affairs, including this petition from May 1878 saying he’d been committed:

Petition for Appointment of a Guardian - Stephen Parker
Petition for Appointment of a Guardian – Stephen Parker

The next census where Stephen Parker appears is in the 1895 Iowa census, where he’s still listed living in the hospital. Where I haven’t found him is in the 1885 Iowa census. He doesn’t show up in the indexes for that year, and there are 124 pages for Independence. I haven’t yet had the patience to read through those pages one by one to see if he shows up in some fashion.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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In my last post, I wrote about the estimates that Ancestry.com made regarding my ethnicity based on my DNA results. That wasn’t why I took the test though. I wanted to see which family lines I matched. By that, I mean I wanted to find other people who have enough matching genetic markers to indicate that we are related.

Ancestry classified the matches into three categories for me.

  • 3rd cousins, with 98% confidence
    While there may be some statistical variation in our prediction, it’s likely to be a third cousin type of relationship—which are separated by seven degrees or seven people. However, the relationship could range from six to ten degrees of separation.
  • 4th cousins, with 95% confidence
    For relationships this distant from you, there is greater statistical variation in our prediction. It’s most likely to be a fourth cousin type of relationship (which are separated by ten degrees or ten people), but the relationship could range from six to twelve degrees of separation.
  • distant cousins, with 50% confidence
    As far as DNA goes, you do have a fair amount of shared DNA with this match, however the relationship is distant if it exists at all.

Ancestry found one third cousin match, eight fourth cousin matches, and 101 pages of distant cousin matches. I’ve looked through the online family trees for many of them to see if matching ancestors can be found.

The family tree for the predicted third cousin only goes back to their great grand-parents. To match at 3rd cousins, they’d need to go back to their 2nd great grandparents. However, I’ve done descendancy research on all my 2nd great grandparents, and none of the people in that research match people in her tree. There’s enough holes in my descendancy research from 3rd great grandparents that it’s possible she could fit in there, particularly in the Solle/Hein line, where I haven’t found my 3rd great grandparents yet. I think it’s also important to note that Ancestry gives the confidence at 98%, which means there’s a 2% chance their prediction is wrong.

Of the fourth cousin category, I was able to find common ancestors for four of the eight predicted matches. Three are third cousins, once removed. One is a sixth cousin, once removed.

Of the distant cousin matches, I was able to find three other people with common ancestors. One is a fourth cousin, once removed. One is a 5th cousin. And one is a third cousin, once removed. Third cousins, once removed, are popular in my results.

The Big Tree fan chart with DNA matches marked
The Big Tree fan chart with DNA matches marked

The chart above (click to make large) shows the family lines where matching people were found. Three of the third cousins once removed matched Parker/Murphy, Ryan/Sheedy, and Voigt/Thuernich, which are all lines from my paternal grandfather and where I’ve focused a lot of my research energy. One third cousin once removed matched Samms/Cornell, and the remainder matched either at James Washington Annis or his grandfather Ezra Annis. All of these are my maternal grandfather’s family and I’ve barely scratched the research surface in that branch.

The short conclusion I take from that is my research on my paternal grandfather’s family has some genetic support for being correct. There’s still some room for error, but it’s pretty good evidence.

I should also mention there’s one predicted match where I don’t have a common ancestor at this point, but that person’s family tree comes heavily from the area of Piteå, Sweden. That’s where my maternal grandmother’s family is from, so I suspect a match will be found there as well.

And for the benefit of people searching for names on Google, here are the ancestors with matches.

  • Patrick Parker and Mary Murphy
  • John Ryan and Deborah Sheedy
  • Johann Voigt and Mary Agnes Thuernich
  • Edgar Marion Samms and Ella Orinda Cornell
  • James Washington Annis and Elizabeth Davis (2 matches)
  • Ezra Annis

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.


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With the new job, I decided to splurge on a genetic test from Ancestry.com, hoping to see if it matched me up with anyone. As a bonus, they guess what your ethnic ancestry is from the results.

I don’t actually trust those ethic results much, but they still didn’t surprise me to any great degree:

Region Approximate amount
North Africa< 1%
Europe West24%
Europe East4%
Great Britain3%
Iberian Peninsula2%
European Jewish2%
Finland/Northwest Russia2%
Italy/Greece< 1%
Caucasus< 1%

In map form:

Ancestry Ethnicity Estimate Map

I’m not surprised at all that it predicts my ethnicity is from Scandinavia, Western Europe and Ireland. That’s pretty much what my genealogy says. However, it has a higher percentage of Irish and lower percentage of Western European than my genealogy indicates.

Now, either my genealogy work is wrong, their estimates are imprecise, or the genetic mix of a large portion of my Irish and Western European ancestors is too diverse to accurately classify. Barring an instance of the milkman being my ancestor instead of a documented parent or an unknown adoption, I’m reasonably certain of my tree out to my third great grandparents’ generation. There’s always a possibility of someone schtupping someone they weren’t married to though. I suspect the discrepancy is a combination of items 2 and 3. The 25% of my ancestry that is Swedish can be traced back hundreds of years, and it’s all Swedish. But the Irish, German, and Danish? Well, that could easily be pretty mixed ethnically.

But this analysis isn’t why I took the test. I’ll write about genetically matching people in my family tree in another post. That was far more useful.

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It’s been years since I got to participate in a 401(k) retirement plan. Last time was when I worked at Expedia. I put the amount in that would maximize the employer contribution and didn’t pay much more attention. The first thing I looked at this time was which investment options were index funds. There’s one index fund option for large-cap funds and one for small-cap funds. Out of 24 options, only two are index funds. That’s deplorable. To illustrate why, I dug around to find the expense ratios for the fund options. It wasn’t as easy to find as I would like, but when I did Fidelity showed it quite nicely.
Name Category Gross Expense Ratio Shareholder Fees
COMPANY STOCK Company Stock Commission on stock trades: $0.029 per share
MAINSTAY LGCP GR R1 (MLRRX) Large Cap 0.87% No additional fees apply.
MFS VALUE R4 (MEIJX) Large Cap 0.68% No additional fees apply.
SPTN 500 INDEX INST (FXSIX) Large Cap 0.05% No additional fees apply.
ARTISAN MID CAP INST (APHMX) Mid-Cap 1.03% No additional fees apply.
ARTISAN SM CAP VALUE (ARTVX) Small Cap 1.24% No additional fees apply.
VANG SM GR IDX INST (VSGIX) Small Cap 0.08% No additional fees apply.
FID DIVERSIFD INTL K (FDIKX) International 0.81% Short term trading fees of 1% for shares held less than 30 days.
DODGE & COX BALANCED (DODBX) Blended Fund 0.53% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2005 (FFKVX) Blended Fund 0.50% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2010 (FFKCX) Blended Fund 0.54% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2015 (FKVFX) Blended Fund 0.57% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2020 (FFKDX) Blended Fund 0.59% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2025 (FKTWX) Blended Fund 0.62% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2030 (FFKEX) Blended Fund 0.67% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2035 (FKTHX) Blended Fund 0.68% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2040 (FFKFX) Blended Fund 0.68% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2045 (FFKGX) Blended Fund 0.69% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2050 (FFKHX) Blended Fund 0.69% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2055 (FDENX) Blended Fund 0.69% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K INCOME (FFKAX) Blended Fund 0.45% No additional fees apply.
MIP II CL 1 Bond Investments 0.56% No additional fees apply.
PIM TOTAL RT INST (PTTRX) Bond Investments 0.46% No additional fees apply.

I’ve highlighted the index fund for large-cap and the option with the next lowest expense ratio, and the same for the small-cap index fund. Those percentages indicate the amount the fund managers skim off the top every year. As a retirement saver, you never even see it because they don’t list this percentage in how much you make. They could do this (examples use a 1% expense ratio for arithmetic convenience):

Investment  $10,000

Instead, they do this:

Investment  $10,000

Notice in my example, the fee is a percentage of the total, not of the increase. An average fund manager might make the investor $500. An extraordinary fund manager might make $700. The average fund manager charges $105. The extra-ordinary one charges $107. Now, you might think you are getting a steal of $200 for only $2 more, but the real travesty is that the average manager gets $100 for very little work. To see that, look at an index fund.

The small-cap index fund I highlighted uses CRSP US Small Cap Growth Index to benchmark. Compared against their own benchmark, they lose over the last three months but just barely: return of 1.58% vs. the benchmark return of 1.6%. They compare very closely because all an index fund does is buy exactly what’s in the index.

For comparison, the actively managed fund uses Russell 2000 Value as it’s benchmark index. Compared against that, the managers lost 0.28% vs. the index’s gain of 1.78%. These managers are trying to beat the index by picking better investments than the index, charging for their “expertise”, and losing.

Now, that’s a short period of time and perhaps at other times the actively managed fund does better. But over time, index funds have better returns than actively managed funds. There are exceptions, but those options aren’t pertinent to the broad market investments that are available in a 401(k).

So basically, those investment options I have? I’m giving away $60 (for the large cap fund) to $115 (on the small cap fund) every year for nothing (on a baseline portfolio of $10,000). If I’m saving money every year for retirement, that amount grows every year, and cuts into the compounded interest every year.

All of this stuff is pretty well written about all over, but regular people don’t pay attention for a variety of reasons. I’m not naming my employer here, but they really should be doing better by their employees.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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One of the questions I have about Patrick Parker and Mary Murphy is when they emigrated from Canada to the United States. Their family appears in the Canadian census in Blanshard township, Perth county, Canada West on 11 Jan 1852. The next recorded place I have for them is in Glen Haven township, Grant county, Wisconsin on 1 Jun 1860.

I can narrow the time of emigration by looking at his son James Parker. James requested his first papers in January 1859 in the Grant County District Court. James married Ellen Neagle in Jun 1857 in Middlesex county, Canada West, just across the county line from Blanshard township. James has two sons in the 1860 US Census, John Patrick and Napolean. John Patrick’s birth was likely in July 1858 in Wisconsin. If correct, James emigrated to the United States between Jun 1857 and Jul 1858. More likely than not, Patrick emigrated with his son.

One record series I thought might confirm that is the series at the Family History Library, Blanshard township property tax assessment rolls, 1851-1899, specifically the film covering 1851 to 1866. I ordered it back in December, but a new job and other life issues kept me from reviewing it until this past week. Luckily, I remembered to renew the rental before it expired in February.

This is what I found. In 1851, Patrick Parker appears paying taxes on lot 16 in concession 9. This is the same lot and concession where he was recorded in the 1848 Canadian Census.

Blanshard Tax Roll 1851 - Patrick Parker
Blanshard Tax Roll 1851 – Patrick Parker

The microfilm is missing the years 1852 through 1854, but luckily Patrick shows up in 1855, 1856, and 1857, all for the same lot and concession. (Images below don’t include the second page which shows the concession/lot.)

Blanshard Tax Roll 1855 - Patrick Parker
Blanshard Tax Roll 1855 – Patrick Parker
Blanshard Tax Roll 1856 - Patrick Parker
Blanshard Tax Roll 1856 – Patrick Parker
Blanshard Tax Roll 1857 - Patrick Parker
Blanshard Tax Roll 1857 – Patrick Parker

In 1858, Patrick Parker is not to be found on the tax roll. Instead, a James McDonald owns lot 16 on concession 9. And the roll for 1857 has the name J. McDonald to the right of Patrick Parker in a column headed, Owner. I believe this means the land had been sold to James McDonald prior to the time of the assessment, or possibly it was a notation put in after the fact when James McDonald did purchase it. This narrows the sale of the property to late 1856 or 1857. The tax rolls appear to be filed in the spring of each year.

Blanshard Tax Roll 1858 - James McDonald
Blanshard Tax Roll 1858 – James McDonald

The sale of his property matches the dates of emigration for his son James, making it even more likely he emigrated about the same time. The next place to look is to see if any records show him purchasing land in Grant county Wisconsin about that time.

Lastly, based on plat maps of Blanshard township, here’s the location of the farm today:

Location of Patrick Parker&quot;s farm in Blanshard on satellite
Location of Patrick Parker’s farm in Blanshard on satellite

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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