Ruminations on Genealogy

I actually started writing an essay about genealogy in a notebook. Something I’ve not done in a long time.

Rather than do everything online, it is an interesting experience to do things the “old-school” way. The essay I’m working on is still quite short, only 4 pages so far, and I’m not sure where it will end up. Hmmm.

I’m also working on a few more items for the Seattle Genealogical Society, which publishes still, on paper. Volunteering for a writing project with a society is a good way to broaden your skill-set and learn a few things about putting together a good genealogy case study, review, how-to article, or whatnot.

The great thing is that if you have just about anything written in a good, recognized style, a genealogy society might be able to use it. Talk to your local society editor and see what they need for their next bulletin or newsletter or journal.

Have fun, and Happy Monday!


Sunday’s Obituary: Mrs. Helen Bisel, Anchorage, Alaska Territory

Mrs. Bisel Laid To Rest by OES

Funeral services for Helen Bisel were conducted Saturday afternoon by members of the Eastern Star.

The chapel of the Carlquist and Company mortuary was crowded as friends gathered to pay final tribute to Mrs. Bisel.

Soloists were Mrs. Moritz Andresen, who sang Rose of Charon” and “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” and Miss Elda Howard, who presented the selection “Gentle Jesus” from “The Crusaders.”

Pallbearers were Bert Wennerstrom, Ray Rasmussen, Charles Carlson, Norman Lange, Winfield Ervin, Jr., and Ben Fischer.

Interment followed in the Masonic plot of the local cemetery.

Anchorage Daily Times, Anchorage, Alaska Territory, 2 January 1940, page 1, column 3.


Anchorage Daily Times, Anchorage, Alaska Territory 2 January 1940, p. 1, c. 3

Anchorage Daily Times, Anchorage, Alaska Territory, 2 January 1940, p. 1, c. 3

An Extra Page From “Quaint Epitaphs,” by Safford


Image by wgdavis via Flickr

The following epitaphs are from Susan Darling Safford’s Quaint Epitaphs, Fourth Edition (Boston: DeWolfe, Fiske & Co. 1902). This volume was originally copyright 1898 by S.D Safford. The book the included image is from is part of a private family collection. The handwriting is unknown to me, and due to the presence of the Woolwich entry, may not be from a family member. The first five lines are printed, and the remainder of the page is handwritten.

Additional Epitaphs.

These blank leaves are inserted

for the convenience of

collectors of


“On a Cook.”

Ah, Bridget, here is our revenge,

We have no doubt ‘twould make you grieve;

Beneath this monument you dwell —

The only place you cannot leave.

Churchyard — Woolwich, Kent, England:

“Sacred to the memory of Major James Brush,

Royal Artillery, who was killed by the ac-

cidental discharge of a pistol by his orderly,

14th April 1831. Well done, good and faithful


– Christian Science –

Here lies our wife, Samantha Proctor,

Who ketched a cold and wouldn’t doctor.

She could not stay. She had to go —

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.


Quaint Epitaphs extra page


© 2011 N. P. Maling

T4G: Type and Fonts

Since Patricia Law Hatcher’s Producing a Quality Family History was published in 1996, there have been some major changes in the way typography and publishing affect genealogists. Some of the changes are style matters and others are publishing-oriented. In this article, I’d like to survey some of the changes and improvements available to us.

One major change is the improvement of the fonts and typefaces we use to produce and publish our books and reports. In the early days (1990s), we were limited to, at most 256 characters in any one font. Now we have at most a possible 65,536 characters in each font. The largest font I’m aware of at the moment is Quivira, which has 10,000 characters in it.

Most of the additional characters are additions of support for non-Latin languages, such as Cherokee, Canadian Aboriginal Syllables, Greek, Hebrew, and Thai. For the Latin languages, features such as an improved set of Latin characters, diacritics, true Small Caps, true super- and sub-scripts, Old Style numbers, and ligatures are available. Not all modern fonts have these features, however, so I’ll demonstrate some and at the end of the article, give you a list of fonts that you can use.

The difference between the common word-processor version of Small Caps and true Small Caps is that the characters are specially designed to match the rest of the text instead of being scaled-down by some percentage. The same is true for true super- and sub-scripts.

Illustration of True versus Fake Small Caps

Illustration of True versus Fake Small Caps


Illustration of True versus Fake Superscripts

Illustration of True versus Fake Superscripts

Old Style numbers are the style traditionally used in professionally printed, or fine typesetting. The difference is that the numbers have descenders, instead of standing upright on the base-line, like in the following illustration.

Old Style (or Lining) Numbers

Old Style (or Lining) Numbers

Ligatures are those characters which close up space between certain letters to make a better looking line of type. A few examples are found in commonly used genealogical materials, like the “ae” combination “æ”. Others, like the “fi”, combination aren’t readily noticeable. The first line in the illustration is regularly typed characters, and the second is the ligature version of the paired characters.

Illustration of English Language Ligatures

Illustration of English Language Ligatures

Which is nicer looking? The dots on the i and j are specially combined with the top of the f and the collision of the l with the top of the f, is also an improvement. Other ligatures such as in the Germanic languages are possible, too.

The “thorn,” a combination letter representing the word “the,” has almost always been impossible to create in type. A common mistake is to call the character a “thorn” character but it is actually a “wynn” character. A couple of fonts offer alternatives. One such iss Cardo, a scholarly font, and another is Quivira, a general-purpose technical font.

Illustration of Ye (or Wynn) Characters

Illustration of Ye (or Wynn) Characters

There is a larger repertoire, or number of characters, available today, some of which are below, including other symbols not commonly seen today such as: typographers quotes (“ 66 / ” 99) and primes (feet: ′ inch: ″ or minute / second).

Several other fonts are good for presenting transcriptions or quotes: The typefaces below are from the I. M. Fell collection.

Illustration of I.M. Fell English Pro typeface

Illustration of I.M. Fell English Pro typeface

The following illustation shows two typefaces designed specifically to be fleurons, also known as dingbats. These fleurons can be used as section dividers or other marginal decorations in reports and books.

Illustration of I.M. Fell Flowers Typefaces 1 & 2

Illustration of I.M. Fell Flowers Typefaces 1 & 2

This post is the second in a series of “Typography for Genealogists” or “T4G” posts. I’ll continue with more on a weekly basis, and/or as time allows, over the rest of the year.


© 2012 N. P. Maling

Sunday’s Obituary: James Manning, Anchorage, Alaska Territory

James Manning, A.R.R. Veteran, Passes Away

Funeral Service To Be Held Tomorrow From Anchorage Funeral Parlors

James Manning, dean of telegraph operators on the Alaska Railroad, deied at 4:15 o’clock yesterday afternoon at the Anchorage hospital, following a lingering illness.

Mr. Manning was admitted to the hospital last Monday. He had been ill for 13 years.

Funeral services will be held at 2 o’clock tomorrow afternoon at the Anchorage Funeral Parlors with Rev. Fr. Dermott O’Flanagan officiating. Interment will be in the Anchorage cemetery.

Mr. Manning came to Alaska in 1917 and had been employed by the railroad since. He had a half century of service as a telegraph operator in Alaska and in the states. He was widely known on the rail belt and for 15 years was agent at Tunnel.

Surviving are his widow and a daughter, Mr. Raymar Brown, in Anchorage, and a brother, John, in Cleveland, O.

Anchorage Daily Times, Anchorage, Alaska Territory. 3 February 1940, page 1, column 5.

Anchorage Daily Times, Anchorage, Alaska Territory. 3 February 1940, page 1, column 5.

Anchorage Daily Times, Anchorage, Alaska Territory. 3 February 1940, page 1, column 5.