Photograph Showcase: Fixing the Sink

Grandpa Duval & Uncle Craig

Grandpa Duval & Uncle Craig

This is my great grandfather, Frank Duval and his grandson, my Uncle Craig.  My great grandfather was a hard worker and an excellent do-it-yourselfer.  I imagine there were lots of moments like this one with Grandpa Duval inviting his children or grandchildren to help him with a project.  His descendants include quite a few do-it-yourselfers – I don’t think that is a coincidence.

I wonder where this bathroom was…?


In Memorium

DUVAL, Francis Cyprien, headstone

Frank Duval is my 2nd great grandfather.

This photo of his headstone is quite old.  I imagine it was taken sometime between 1919 and 1921.

When Frank died, his wife was two months shy of turning 39.  His oldest child was 19 years old and his youngest child was just 2 1/2 – there were five of them in all.

That monument up there looks pretty expensive.  Especially for the widowed mother of five.

As the 2nd great granddaughter of Frank and Alice, I’m especially glad to see that chose to memorialize him as “My Loving Husband”.

I imagine it was hard for her to leave Canada after his death.

I wonder if his monument is still standing?  One day, I’d like to go pay my respects and find out.


My Quebec Resources – A Growing List

Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City.  Image found here and used under the Creative Commons License.

Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City. Image found here and used under the Creative Commons License.

For the past few years I have been researching my Quebec roots.  I have relied almost completely on the Drouin Collection found on  I have supplemented that resource with the Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1979 browse collection found on  These two collections contain baptism, marriage, and burial records.  They are in French, and often difficult to decipher because of poor quality scans.  It has been an awesome adventure to learn how to read French records and piece my family tree together using these collections.

I got to the point that I needed to understand the other relevant collections for this area and how to use them and so began a journey that is still going on.  Below is a list of my Quebec Resources so far.

The Drouin Collection on contains baptism, marriage and burial records.  Most of it is indexed but the index is terribly inaccurate.  Rather than spend time searching the index, I page through the parish books and search the handwritten indexes found at the back of each year.  When I find a hit in the handwritten index I click through to the record.  Some years don’t have this handwritten index and require a record by record search of the book.  My family tended to live in small parishes so the books are typically 13-30 pages long.  Occasionally I’ll find a year that is more like 60 pages long.  The tricky thing about working this way is that when my family moves to a different parish, I can’t always pick them up in the ancestry index and I have some families in my tree with obvious gaps between children.  The images in this collection are often poor quality and difficult to read.

The Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1979 browse collection found on is part of a larger collection that contains a small portion of indexed records.  The majority of the records are not indexed and can be browsed like a microfilm, one page at a time.  The images are different from the images on ancestry.  The familysearch images are the original parish records and the Drouin Collection are the civil copies created each year for the courts, read more about this here.  Because the two collections contain the same records but different copies of the records it’s important to know how to use both collections so if you come across a record that is not legible you can try the other collection.  The familysearch collection is broken into much larger groups of years and takes a lot longer to search through.  In my experience though the images are so much better that it’s worth the time spent.

The Census collections found on ancestry and familysearch are great.

The PRDH.  This website has so much available and I’m only just beginning to understand how much.  So far these items on their website have been helpful for me:

  • The map of parishes.
  • This article on names.  Which, among other things, helps explain the “dit” names found in so many records.
  • This search box to check for “dit” names.
  • The free record search.  I have not yet paid for any records but I have used this record search to help me identify potential records and then I’ve found those records in the Drouin collection or the familysearch collection.
  • The Pioneer Page.  I have not yet identified my pioneers – the ancestors who traveled from France to Quebec – but eventually I’ll get there.  When the time comes, I look forward to using this search page.

This “dit” name list found on rootsweb.

The Facebook group Genealogy Translations has been essential for help translating certain records.  For the most part I can do it with the help of google translate, my french speaking friends and family, and various other online helps, but some records are just so crucial that I seek a translation from someone with more experience.

I recently joined the Facebook group Quebec Genealogy.  It has already been a big help.  Among other things, I have begun going through a list of online resources that is posted on the files page.  I look forward to finding more record collections and websites from this list.  I’m also looking forward to the help that will come from a community of people researching in the same area.

Maple Stars and Stripes is something I have just stumbled upon.  I can tell it is a gem of a website and have just signed up for their emails.

The last resource is not a Quebec resource but has helped me with my descendancy research on my Quebec lines.  This online collection of Ontario obituaries has been very helpful as several of my lines moved from Quebec to Ontario in the early 1900s.

I look forward to adding to this list.  I am fascinated by this part of my tree.  I actually have three different branches of my tree that go back to the early French settlers in Quebec.  I hope to eventually get back to France and understand why my family chose to come to Quebec.  In order to do that I want to make sure I know about the record collections and websites that might help me.

Do you have any Quebec ancestors?  What resources do you like?



My Great Grandmother the Genealogist

Estelle Maffit Duval

Estelle Duval, my great grandmother

I was born 14 months before my great grandmother lost her battle with cancer.  At the time of her death, I was her only great grandchild.  I have no memory her, and yet her impact on my life has been significant.  Among other things, she was a genealogist.

Long before the days of personal computers, genealogy programs, and the internet, my Grandma Duval worked to preserve her family history through her amazing photography and through several different typed records.

Grandma Duval had two children, my grandmother and a son.  For each of her children she created a lovely little book about their family history.  I say lovely, but the reality is that they are just a handful of typed sheets taped together at the top.  Each book is about 12 pages and includes information for just a few generations.  What makes them lovely is the information she included and the handwritten notes in various colors that she added over the years.

I ended up with both books in the collection of items my grandmother gave me.  The last few weeks I have been corresponding with my cousin, a child of my grandmother’s brother, and am about to mail her the book created for her dad.  Before sending it, I scanned each page.

As I scanned this sweet little book, I was once again overcome with emotion.  I felt so much gratitude and love for my Grandma Duval.  I am particularly grateful for her genealogical work.  It’s from her records that I have found so many clues that have helped me understand the additional records I find.  It’s from her notes and photos that I find that extra special something that helps me know my ancestors more personally.  It’s because of the records she left that I knew where to look at all when I got started.  I can’t wait to give her a big hug one day and say thank you for the treasures she left for me to find!


I have included just a few pages of the book my Grandma Duval made for her son.  I blurred or removed the personal details about my great uncle to protect his privacy as he is still living.

Francis Duane Duval Book Cover018

Francis Duane Duval Book, page one019 copy

Francis Duane Duval Book, page two020

Francis Duane Duval Book, page four022



Disappointing Death Record

MAFFIT, Seth Potter, 1904 Death Record

I recently wrote about the unusual death of my 3rd great grandfather.  I had hoped the death record might add some helpful information.  I was able to find it on microfilm at the BYU Family History Library last week.  Unfortunately, it was a bit of a let down.  I suppose this record confirms that his cause of death was a skull fracture, that he died in the hospital and that he was buried in Momence.  But, I already knew those details.  I wonder if a record of ANY kind exists that might shed some light on the unusual circumstances surrounding Seth’s death?  It looks like I have more stones to turn over!


About an Eagle Scout Project

My oldest - a self portraite on the day we photographed the cemetery.  Would someone take that boy in for a haircut already?  ;)

My oldest – a self portrait on the day we photographed the cemetery. Would someone take that boy in for a haircut already? ;)

In October, my oldest son started his Eagle Scout Project.  Guess what?!  He chose to photograph a local cemetery and upload the photos to findagrave.  Does that just make your genealogy-loving-heart swoon or what?

We chose a very close cemetery.  His plan was pretty simple.  Hold two separate events – one to photograph the cemetery and a second to work on uploading the photos to findagrave.  We knew there would be more photos left over so we made plans for those as well.

It was GREAT!

The day we started our project, the stats for the cemetery on findagrave were 10,568 memorials, 74% photographed.

The day we compiled our data, we could report:

We were able to take 6,173 photos.  We were able to go through 3,832 photos.
Of those photos:
1,090 were added to existing memorial pages.
175 new memorial pages were created and photos added.
132 duplicate photos were added because the photo on the page was hard to read and ours was better.
5 photos were needed but couldn’t be added because there were already five photos on that memorial page.
2,430 photos were not needed.

167.25 total hours

After we turned in his completed paperwork, many individual volunteers have continued to go through the photos.  Many more photos have been added and memorials created.  We still have a few hundred photos to go, but those are being cared for by volunteers.

The day his project was approved, the cemetery stats on findagrave were 10,755 interments, 81% photographed.  We are so happy to have helped bump up both of those numbers.

Shortly before Christmas, my son went before the Eagle Scout Board and his project and application to be an Eagle Scout were approved.  So exciting!

It was a great project and one very close to my own heart.



For those who may come across this and want more details to help other future Eagle Scouters, I will elaborate on each phase of the project and share a few tips.


  • We selected our cemetery by proximity, it was the closest to our home.  We could see that much of it was photographed but we chose it anyway knowing that adding more photos and memorial pages would still be valuable and that a cemetery close by would be easier for us to manage.
  • We chose a “photograph everything possible” approach for the photographing day as there is no simple way to determine what needs to be photographed.  I would definitely do it this way again.
  • My son wrote his project proposal and it was approved.  He didn’t specify any numbers except for a total number of hours.  Unfortunately, he typo-ed or something and the number that was approved was 150 hours!  Holy cow.  Somehow I missed that until we were about to type up the final project workbook.  Thankfully we were almost there anyway and got some volunteers to do some more uploading to push us over the 150 mark.  My advice here?  Don’t commit to a number of hours, photos, or uploads because they hold you to what you propose.  Do commit to a number of events – i.e. one session of photographing, one session of uploading or something like that.
  • My son drove through the cemetery and familiarized himself with the different sections, roughly how many rows per section and headstones per row.  He noticed which sections had mostly flat stones etc.
  • We planned one day for photographing and a second day for uploading.
  • We made a flyer for our photographing day.
  • We scheduled our church building for our uploading day and arranged for adult volunteer helpers who could bring laptops.
  • We tried MANY times to contact the sexton of the cemetery to ask permission to complete our project.  We were unsuccessful.  It wasn’t a problem for us, but each area is different so be sure to get approval if you can.  The sexton was actually working in the cemetery that day and asked us how it was going and was delighted we were working on it.

Photographing Day

  • This day was announced in church, with my son’s scout group, and at the local family history center.  We had volunteers from each of these efforts.
  • We planned for a 3 hour window and explained on the flyer that volunteers could arrive anytime during that window.  The back of the flyer had a map of the cemetery.  The front explained the project, the date and time and included this information:
    • Arrive anytime during those hours and help out for any length of time that works for your schedule.
      Find (my kiddo’s name here) in the center of the cemetery (see map on back) to sign in and receive instructions.
      Please bring something to take pictures with.
      If you bring a camera with an SD card, we will download the photos to our computer before you leave the cemetery.
      If you bring another type of device to take pictures, it needs to have the ability to email the photos to (my kiddo’s name here) at (my son’s just-for-this-project email address).
      If you would like to help but don’t have a camera or device that will work, let (my kiddo’s name here) know ahead of time and he will have a device for you to use that day.
      All helpers welcome & appreciated!
  • My son and I arrived 40 minutes early.  We drove the cemetery and looked for signs of a funeral and saw none.  We set up a table in the center of the cemetery with four chairs.  We had a clipboard for volunteers to sign-in, sign-out, record their total time spent, number of photos taken, email address and camera type.  We had pens, extra maps, water bottles, snacks, and a first aid kit.  My son selected the first four sections of the cemetery we would photograph and placed sprinkler flags at the end of each row in those sections.  The flags were laying on their side to be posted when the row was photographed.  This turned out to be such a great help throughout the day.  It made communication and completion a snap.  We bought 100 flags from a local sprinkler company for about $11 – worth every penny.
  • When volunteers arrived, my son had them sign in and gave the following instructions:
    • He thanked them for supporting his project.  He directed them to the area of the cemetery in which we were currently working.  He asked them to photograph all sides of every memorial.  He explained that photos should be close up with minimal white space.  He asked that volunteers be respectful of any items placed on or near headstones.  If they needed to be moved to take the photo to be sure to then put them back just as they were.  He explained that gently brushing off grass clippings or other yard waste was fine, but please use your hands.  Volunteers were asked to start at the south end of a row that hadn’t yet been photographed, photograph everything in that row including any headstones in between rows (better twice than not at all) and then when they reached the north end of the row they would post the sprinkler flag that was laying there.  The flags indicated to volunteers that the row was completely photographed.  He also explained that when an entire section was complete, a boy scout would remove the flags from the ends of the rows and post a group of three flags in the northwest corner indicating the entire section was complete.  His last request was that the volunteer return and sign out when they were finished.
  • I was tech support that day.  I had my laptop and downloaded photos from SD cards and idevices before volunteers left the cemetery.  We had a scout leader donate 7 iphone 5s for use that day.  He is the VP at a local company and had access to the phones because the company had just replaced them for iphone 6s with a handful of employees.  The phones were charged and empty.  We checked them out to volunteers who didn’t have a device or camera.  If I were to repeat this project in the future, I would do this again and try to round up even more devices.  This made downloading so much easier as I was able to take them home and do it later that day.  We had three volunteers who chose to share their photos after the event; three volunteers who used devices I could not download from and we had to work that out later; the remaining volunteers were easy to work with and we got the photos that day before they left.  The best photos came from actual digital cameras but they were often too big and had to be cropped during the uploading portion of our project.  The idevice photos would often turn the wrong direction and had to be manipulated before uploading so neither was perfect.
  • My son had one additional job that morning that he shared with his younger boy scout brother.  They used their long-boards to travel the cemetery quickly to check on volunteers, track progress, and move flags from a completed section to the next section we would be photographing.  I was not at all comfortable with their idea of traveling this way as I felt it wasn’t very respectful.  But we talked through their idea and I reminded them to ride very respectfully – straight line, no wild tricks or antics, no loudness, this was all about quick travel, not fun.  I’m so glad I supported their idea, it made the day much better that they could travel around so quickly.  They were able to get back to the center and communicate, check on volunteers, get answers to questions, provide needed supplies, all in a very timely manner.  It made the day better for everyone.
  • We had a nice stream of volunteers throughout our 3 hour window.  I would definitely recommend this method.  Some volunteers had only 40 minutes to give, others had up to 3 hours.  In all he had 51.3 hours and 29 volunteers arriving and leaving at times that worked for them and 6,173 photos taken.
  • My son and I took turns being at the table.  One of us was there at all times while the other was photographing a row within sight of the table, moving flags, helping volunteers and so on.

Uploading/Downloading/Preparing Photos

  • My son asked me to tackle this aspect of his project.  It was definitely the most challenging.  I downloaded everything to my computer and then backed it up on my external hard drive.  I had one main folder and then sub folders that I named based on who took the photos.  This wasn’t to give them credit but to help me and the way I think.  I also created a folder on flickr as a second back up.  Then I broke the photos into groups of 100 or 200 to be burned to CDs or DVDs for the uploading activity.  I also created about 10 digital groups of photos on a thumb drive.  That turned out to be really important as many volunteers brought smaller chromebooks that don’t take a disc.

One More Thing

  • My son does not like making announcements, speaking in front of large groups, giving directions or anything like that.  We knew it was important that he provide the instructions at our Uploading night so we created a video with all the instructions our volunteers would need.

Uploading Night

  • This was planned for the Wednesday night following our Saturday morning photographing day.  We scheduled our local church building and it was the activity for the Young Men aged 12-18 that week.  We provided pizza and skittles.  The activity started at 6:30.  Once enough boys had arrived, we served pizza and played the video.  They ate and watched.  The timing was pretty perfect.  We met in a large room very close to the restrooms so the boys could wash their hands before starting.
  • A few things to note:
    • We once again had sign-in sheets to track our volunteers and the time they spent.  This is needed for the finalized workbook.
    • We had pens and half-sheet forms for our volunteers to tally the number of photos they went through and if they were: 1- not needed, 2- added to an existing memorial page, 3- a memorial page was created and the photo was added, 4- a duplicate photo added because ours was significantly better.
    • Not all volunteers produce alike.  Some catch on quickly and get a lot done, others barely accomplish anything.  However, their hours count exactly the same and it’s a good experience for everyone.  Just don’t expect a lot and be grateful for what you get.  :)
    • Having CDs, DVDs, and digital files on a thumb drive met every computer need we had.
    • We had a few more boys than computers and many boys handled this well and worked in teams, a few did not and were a bit of a distraction.  We had a much larger turn-out than we anticipated.  We had 30 volunteers who spent 47.6 hours going through photos.  I can’t find the tally sheets from that night but I remember thinking that I was able to go through more photos in 2 hours than all 30 volunteers combined were able to go through in 2 hours.

The Remaining Photos

  • The remaining photos have been worked on by myself and several other genealogist volunteers from our local family history center.  We are still working through the last few hundred photos.  My son was still demonstrating leadership in this part of the project because he included his instructional video on each disc, communicated with these volunteers and delivered/picked up the discs.

A Few Last Thoughts

  • Project approval in each phase went well.  I have heard that where we live, any project that supports Family History or Genealogy seems to be pretty easily approved.
  • The trickiest part of planning was figuring out who to have sign as the beneficiary.  The true beneficiary is whomever comes across the photos and needs them in their genealogical research.  We tried to get the signature of the sexton of the cemetery but couldn’t ever track him down.  We settled on getting the signature of a local LDS Bishop as the project benefits genealogy researchers and the LDS church encourages it’s members to learn about their ancestors and work on their family history.  This worked for us.
  • We didn’t have volunteers sign any kind of release to use their photos.  This should probably be done but since we were very clear on our intent to post all needed photos to findagrave we didn’t worry about having a release form.  You may want to consider using one.
  • If one of my younger sons were to choose this project in the future, I would make one big change.  I would seek out a local historical society or family history center that was willing to deal with going through the photos and uploading them.  I would have my son plan to photograph the cemetery and organize the photos afterward onto whatever media item the next group of volunteers preferred and then call it good.  The scouts helped on the uploading night.  We got through some photos.  They had a good experience.  I think any time spent on Family History is great for our youth.  However, it was a lot of continuing work to keep getting photos to volunteers and track their work.  Far beyond what is required for an Eagle Project.  Plus, it’s a bit outside of the skill set of most young men of this age and more of the end parts fell to me to support more heavily than I would have liked.  The photographing portion is very boy scout friendly.  They can understand, explain, direct, and help with every part of that.  The photo organization and tracking of which photos are complete, who has discs, what is left and so on, is a bit beyond most boys scouts way of thinking.


Ancestor Story – An Unusal Death – 52 Ancestors

MAFFIT SETH KDR 6 AUG 1904 P1_cropSeveral years ago my sister mentioned that she had come across this newspaper article about our 3rd great grandfather Seth Potter Maffit.  I recently acquired a digital image of the article which reads:


Old Resident of County Dies of Injuries.

Seth Maffit died at Emergency hospital Friday morning from injuries received on the railroad last Tuesday.  Deceased was asleep on the C. & E. I. tracks from Papineau to St. Anne, when he was struck by a train which reported at St. Anne as having killed a man.  A party sent back found Mr. Maffit lying on the right of way with one foot cut off, his skull fractured and covered with cuts and bruises.  He was removed to Kankakee, but never regained consciousness.  Deceased leaves six grown children.  His sister, Mrs. John Plummer, resides on Maple street, this city, and a brother, Charles, is a farmer in Aroma township.  He was 69 years old and well known in the eastern end of the county, where he resided many years.  One of his sons is a physician, practicing in Chicago.  He came to Kankakee on notification of his father’s case and had charge of the injured man.”

Hmmmm…  Who sleeps on railroad tracks and why?

No matter the reason, what a terrible, painful way to die.

I am interested in the line that states he has six grown children.  I only know of five.  Newspaper mistake?  Another child?

So far, this is one of the more unusual deaths I have found in my research.  Anyone else have ‘death by train while sleeping on tracks’?  ;)


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