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  • AGS Cemetery Database Beta Released

    Posted on October 18th, 2013 admin 1 comment

    The  Alberta Genealogical Society cemetery DB was recently opened to AGS member review.   The databse, reported to contain over 724,000 records, has been tested by the Master Surname Database committee (MSD) and was released Sept. 13, 2013 in its beta version.

    I got to take a test drive yesterday and this morning, and I’m impressed — this is already a useful resource for family historians researching Alberta deaths and burials.

    AGS Cemetery Database

    The beta search screen at the AGS Cemetery Database

    The full beta draft was released to AGS members.  Although public access is planned for the final release, only restricted information will be returned to the general public. The extra information, combined with all the other benefits of joining AGS, makes the $50 membership well worthwhile.

    AGS Cemetery DB public record

    Single record as seen by general public

    In my trial run, I was able to find twenty or so pertinent records for my family tree quickly and easily.  I found that the AGS Cemetery Database

    1. Was relatively easy to use, even in its present form
    2. Has a surprisingly fast search engine, even for vague searches such as a surname that returned 32,000 hits
    3. Returned large pages of fifty results per page; this made it easy to scroll and skim, or to use Find, to locate a record on the page.

    One pleasant surprise showed up.  I had been looking for a particular relative, Robert Monson Gray, on the recently-released 1921 Canadian census, and was puzzled that he and his family were not in the Lakesend area– with his father and siblings–where various local histories and family tradition had placed him.  I knew that he had moved to Oregon, as the 1930 US census places him there, but I hadn’t found any burial record in Oregon.

    AGS Cemetery DB

    Same record as seen by a member, showing additional information

    The AGS database found his grave (and his wife’s)  in Innisfail.  So I know that he moved back to Canada at some time, and I now have a hint to search the Innisfail area in the 1921 census.

    Future work, according to the member release from AGS president Les Campbell, will include database cleanup and additional options and features.

    Looking forward to it.

  • RV Bits & Pieces

    Posted on October 11th, 2013 admin No comments

    RV Windows Series

    If you’ve got leaky windows in the body of the rig, my post on RV Replacement Windows or one of the articles below might help.  Doesn’t apply to windows in the driving cab — for that, get thee to an automotive window place.

    Handle Repairs on Hybrid Bunk Doors

    The handles were getting loose on the bunk doors of our old Cub F-16 hybrid because the thin plywood in which they were mounted was bending.   Here’s how I fixed them:


    Thoughts on RV Tires

    A while ago there was some flap about defective RV Tires from China.  That, and a lot of news stories about defective products from China over the past few years, make people especially suspicious of Chinese RVs.

    Bid you know that tires from even top brands like Michelin are made in China?    So when I put new tires on my truck, did I check to see where they came from?   Um, no.

  • Family Reunion Proceeds Donated

    Posted on September 9th, 2013 admin No comments

    My cousin Judy reports on the financial outcome of our Gray family reunion held in August 2013:

    Well, Jo-Ann, Lynda and I finally got together and sorted out the final details from the reunion.  As promised, here is what we decided to do with the excess funds.

    There was very close to $1000.00 surplus so we just added the wee bit to make it an even thousand.

    We purchased 10 roses for the memorial rose garden and the names will be added in the spring.  The first of the list will be “John & Phoebe Gray” followed by the 9 names of their children.

    We also purchased a May Day tree that will be planted in the Leonard Gray park and have a plaque that says “Donated In Honour of the Descendants of John Kepford Gray and Phoebe Ellen Ellis.”

    Also, the final $400.00 went to the museum as a donation.

  • What’s in a Name? Robert Monson Gray

    Posted on August 15th, 2013 admin 2 comments

    Robert M. Gray was the fourth child of John Kepford Gray, an early settler to Millet, Alberta.  One local history book, Lockard’s The History of the Early Settlement of Norton County, Kansas (1894), p. 197, lists among the children of John K. and Phoebe Ellen Gray, “Robert Morrison, March 9,1884″.  In a way, this makes sense; his aunt Alice Lucinda Gray married Riley Delbert Morrison in 1884, and it is possible that Robert was named Morrison after his uncle Del.

    Despite this, within the family, his name has always been taken as Robert Munson Gray, and it is possible that he is recorded under this name in one family Bible or another.  He is thought to have been named after his grandfather, Nathan Munson Gray.   I’ve never been able to find much about any Munson family from which this might have come.

    Perhaps because the name wasn’t Munson….

    In Robert’s homestead application, in the Millet area in 1908, his name is clearly written on the first line as “I, Robert Munson Gray”  However, on the same page, his  signature appears to read Monson.

    “Monson” would be pronounced “Munson”; the former appears to be a common Scottish  form, the latter more common in America.  An official, asking “What’s your full name?” would hear “Munson” and fill in the line accordingly.

    Typed name Robert Monson Gray

    Typed name on border document, 1942

    In a support document dated 3rd March 1913, “A statement of Robert Monson Gray” the reply to question 1 (“What is your name in full, age, occupation and post office address?”) is Robert Monson Gray, 28, Farmer, Lakes End.  He signs this form Robert Monson Gray.

    The final clue is a border crossing manifest from Eastport, Idaho dated Jun 10, 1942.  His name is clearly typed as GRAY, Robert Monson, and his signature again is Robert Monson Gray.

    The signature clearly reads "Monson"

    It will be hard to convince the family that the name was Monson, not Munson.   Not that anybody really cares.

    Except for the odd family historian.  Comments and further evidence, pro and con, are encouraged.

  • Skeletons in our family closet: The Suicide of Nathan Munson Gray

    Posted on July 31st, 2013 admin No comments

    What drives a man to seek his own end, to forsake home and family and life itself? What makes life so unbearable, so insufferable, that death seems the only solution?  With symptoms of fever and severe nasal hemorrhage, could illness be at root?

    Nathan Munson Gray was born around 1832 in Bloomfield Township, Knox County, Ohio, the fifth child of James Gray and Sarah Wallace. Somewhere around 1835, the family moved to Noble County, Indiana. When Nathan was about eight, his father died, and his mother married Jonathan Jewell. On 14 Apr 1864, twenty-five year old Nathan married Sarah Kathleen (Kepford) Gaff, a widow with a young son named James Aaron Gaff. Around 1858 the family, including Nathan and Sarah and their young son John Kepford, moved to Mason County, Illinois. Family life was interrupted in 1863 by Nathan’s service in the civil war (1 Jul 1863 to 7 Jun 1865). In 1873, the family moved again to Norton County, Kansas, where he became a prosperous dairy farmer and town milkman for the town of Norton.

    And it is there, in the autumn of 1888, that our story of the tragedy begins with a letter from Sarah Kathleen to John Kepford and Phoebe Ellen, reproduced with original spellings but with paragraphs for easier reading:.

    November 20, 1888

    Dearest childern

    I will now tell you what trubel we are in.

    Pap gott deranged when he parted with you. He has been trying to kill himself but we watch him awful close. I thot he was beter till this morning he took pills and drank a lot of linament that made him sick.  We had the gun hid under the bed but he found it and tried to shoot himself.

    I want to send him down there. I will take him out to the road Monday the 22*. I want you to bee thire to take care of him and if we cant get him to go you had beter come and get him.

    The feaver is broke but don’t think he feels too well. I am afraid haint going to last long. He haint bled at the nose since last friday morning hemerhed [hemorrhage]of the nose.

    Hain’t sold eny of your catel yet. Cary** goes to school every day. Etta** had a very bad coald. I am very near sick with bad coald and wore out.

    John, I think if pap could bee down thire he might get beter.

    No more for now. Hope this will find you all well. Come soon.


    Sarrah Kothn elen Gray

    We don’t know if John came to care for his father, but we do know the outcome.  Contemporary stories from three weekly newspapers in Norton, Kansas:

    1. From The Courier, dated Thursday, Feb. 21, 1889, p. 5, col. 2:


    As we go to press we learn that Nathan M. Gray, who lived about four miles southwest of the city, committed suicide on Wednesday afternoon by hanging . He was discovered by Rob. Richards, who brought the word to town, taking back with him the coroner. We have no particulars of the sad affair nor the cause, if any, which led to its perpetration. Mr. Gray was a substantial farmer, about 60 years old, and highly respected, but for some years past his mind has been considered unsound at times, and it is highly probably that his suicide is the result of mental aberration.

    2. From the Champion, Thursday, February 21, 1889, p. 3, col. 2:


    Nathan M. Gray committed suicide yesterday morning by hanging himself on a tree just a short distance from his home. No cause is known for taking his own life but supposed aberration of mind. He used to be city dairyman of Norton.

    3. From the New Era, a “reform” weekly, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 1889, p. 2 Col 4:


    An Aged Man Hangs Himself

    Word was broght [sic] to the city this afternoon that a man was found hanging by the neck—dead, at a place several miles west of the city.

    The body was that of Nathan Gray, an old man about 60 years of age. No reason for the self-murder, which this proves to be, is yet known, although the deceased has made two former attempts at suicide. The Coroner, Dr. Turner, went to the scene of the tragedy, and an inquest will be held.


    Nathan Munson Gray (c. 1832 – Feb 20, 1889)

    Taken c. 1870?


    * Although the letter is dated November 20,  a perpetual calendar reveals that the Nov. 22 was not a Monday.   Oct. 22, 1888 was a Monday.

    **Carrie and Etta were Jim Gaff’s children.

  • Skeletons in the Closet: The Land Shark

    Posted on July 28th, 2013 admin No comments

    Another skeleton lurking in the dark closets of the Gray family past.

    Meet Samuel Gray, a brother of my great-great-great grandfather, James Gray, in a story of shady land dealings as told by Weston Arthur Goodspeed in the book Counties of Whitley & Noble, Indiana:  historical and biographical, 1892.

    As nearly as can be learned, a man named Krewson was the first settler in Green [Township, Noble Country, Indiana]. He was a tall, strong man, and squatted in the southwestern part in 1833 or earlier. He built a small log cabin (probably assisted by the Indians), in which were domiciled his wife and two or more children. His wife was almost as gaunt and strong as her husband, possessing a stentorian voice that was utterly destitute of melody.  If reports are correct, it could be heard for miles through the woods,  thundering commands to her husband and the children, and interspersing all with a volley of oaths, without which language, in her case, was impossible.

    This cabin was situated about fifteen rods north of the present residence of Hiram Lindsey, and was occupied by Krewson until 1834, or perhaps 1835, when the land upon which he had located and made improvements was entered at Fort Wayne by Samuel Gray, who immediately came on to take possession. Krewson was obliged to leave, which he did, going no one knew whither.

    Gray took possession of his cabin and derived some little advantage from the improvements that had been made. Here Gray continued to reside until 1839, when he sold the property to Jacob Lindsey, who, with his family, took immediate possession. Mr. Lindsey also purchased of Gray a tract of land lying east of the Krewson property; but it afterward appeared that this transfer was unlawfully made, as Gray did not own the land, not having yet entered it at Fort Wayne. He had represented to Lindsey that he owned the land, and offered to part with it for an amount much greater than was necessary to enter it at the land office. The truth was unknown to Lindsey until the consideration had passed, and then it was too late to correct the fraud and Mr. Lindsey kept the land.

    It is stated that Mr. Gray was engaged in several transactions of this character, and thereby unlawfully made considerable money.

  • Skeletons in the family closet: The Demented Loiterer

    Posted on July 15th, 2013 admin 2 comments

    Every family probably has them.  Black sheep.  Disgraced cousins.  Uncles that nobody talks about.  Skeletons in the family closet.  Here’s one of ours:   Ova Surfus, the demented loiterer.

    Orva J. Surfus was born about 1847, son of Calphenus Surfus (what a wonderful name!) and Catherine Eliza Gray.  Catherine was eldest daughter of Thomas Gray and Sarah (Houser) Gray and grand-daughter of Gray patriarch William Penn Gray.  The family farmed in Noble Country, Indiana, where according to the 1880 US Census Calphenus worked for his father-in-law as a farm laborer.

    Orva, youngest son of four little Surfuses, gained brief notoriety in 1921 at about age 47.  Old Ova was arrested for loitering… while carrying a package of 10 sticks of dynamite tucked casually under his arm!

    As described in The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel (Friday, Feb. 25, 1921, page 23, col. 2):

    Rode Around on Street Cars With Enough Explosive to Blow Them to Bits.

    Judge J. Frank Mungovan, in the city court this morning, Ordered Orva Surfus. giving Columbia City as his home, held until Monday morning for investigation. The man, who is believed to be demented, was picked up Thursday by Detective Donald Wood, of the Pennsylvania [Railroad Company] special police department, who found that a package which he carried under his arms contained 10 sticks of 40 percent dynamite, weighing five pounds.
    Many Fort Wayne people who calmly rode city street cars yesterday would have lost considerable of their complacency had they known that a man thought to be mentally unbalanced, was riding with them armed with enough dynamite to blow the car to atoms.
    The authorities learned that Surfus had ridden on many city street cars yesterday and that he had also spent considerable time hanging around the plants of the S. F. Bowser & Co., and the Western Gas Construction company, always carrying the mysterious package under his arm. Surfus, according to the police, was unable to explain where he had gotten the dynamite or what he intended to do with it.
    The state law makes it unlawful to carry dynamite on any conveyance which carries passengers.  The railroads even refuse to transport 60 percent dynamite, according to a member of the Pennsylvania special police department.

    Poor confused Orva, wandering around town with his package while back on the farm the home folks are grubbing stumps and wondering where he’s got to with that dynamite?

    Stop by the family tree to check out the Surfus family and find their relation to the Grays.  Anyone with further information about this incident, and about the family, is welcome to comment on this article.

  • Global warming – a phony monster

    Posted on July 14th, 2013 admin No comments

    Got an interesting rant attributed to Australian scientist Ian Plimer.  Some extracts are given below.

    Plimer’s generalizations have been challenged, but overall IMO the message is accurate — “Global Warming” with capital letters is a phony monster patched together by the media and given the breath of life by political opportunists.  Its cousin “Climate Change” is an actual critter, though poorly portrayed and badly misrepresented by the same quacks.

    “…This evil carbon dioxide that we are trying to suppress – it’s that vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow….

    “The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere in just four days – yes, FOUR DAYS – by that volcano in Iceland has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon….

    “I don’t really want to rain on your parade too much, but I should mention that when the volcano Mt Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in all its years on earth….

    “I …mention the effect of solar and cosmic activity and the well-recognized 800-year global heating and cooling cycle, which keeps happening despite our completely insignificant efforts to affect climate change….

    “And I do wish I had a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud, but the fact of the matter is that the bush fire season across the western USA and Australia this year alone will negate your efforts to reduce carbon in our world for the next two to three years. And it happens every year….

    “Hey, isn’t it interesting how they don’t mention ‘Global Warming’ anymore, but just ‘Climate Change’ – you know why?  It’s because the planet has COOLED by 0.7 degrees in the past century and these global warming BS artists (LIARS) got caught with their pants down….”

    However, Plimer’s conclusions (accusations?) have been challenged.  See for example Skeptical Science or this Guardian article for counter-claims.
  • Haunted by Tragedy

    Posted on December 28th, 2012 admin No comments

    If ever a family were haunted by tragedy, it is the family of “Elder” David Gray and Susan Ann Diffendarfer.

    They married on 9 Feb, 1843 in Allen, Indiana and set out to raise a family and make a living farming in Noble County, Indiana. He was 23, she 19.

    Indiana census, birth, death, and cemetery records tell a sad story. First, the census:

    • 1850 – Gray David 28, Susan 24, George 3, Mary 1, Elsey 65.
    • 1860 – Gray David 38, Susan 35, George 13, Mary 10, James 7, Louisa 5, Cecelia 6/12.
    • 1870 – Gray Susan 41, Owen 17. Silla 10 (Noble Twp).

    By 1850, within the first seven years of their marriage, David and Susan have lost four children (Henry, Harriet, Philander, and Wm. Benjamin), and were to lose John D that fall. Living with the family is David’s mom Alcy (Alse, Elsey), his father William Penn having died four years before the census.

    By 1860, the grave has taken Bertus, Sarah Jane, Luella, Celestia, and Warren. James, Louisa, and Cecelia are new names in the census (At this point, in the absence of confirmed death records, it’s conceivable some names overlap)

    In the 1870 census, we note the absence of David (d. 1865) and Cecelia. Owen James and Priscilla (Silla) remain with Susan. George at 23 might have moved away; we find him married in 1875. Mary at 20 would probably be married.

    Now some data from birth, death, cemetery, and marriage records as well as obituaries from the time. Children known or suspected to have died before age 16 are in bold.

    1. Henry, son of David & S. Gray, b. Sept. 1843, d. 1843, age 6 dys
    2. Harriet, dau of D. & S. Gray, b. Jun 19 1845, d. Jul 6 1845
    3. William Benjamin, b. Mar 10, 1846, no record of death but does not appear on 1850 census at which time he would be four.
    4. Philander, son of David & S. Gray, b. Mar 10 1847, d. Mar 12 1847.
    5. Phillip – some sources list a son with the same date of birth as Philander, so given the similarity in names I’m assuming this is the same child, though twins are possible. The similarity of dates for Wm B and Philander is also a bit suspicious. I can find no confirmation of the existence of this child.
    6. George Washington, b. Mar 1847 (?! Twin to Philander?) – Marriage record shows him son of David Gray & Sarah Diffendarfer, married Sarah Slusser on 23 Dec 1875
    7. Mary A. Gray, 1849 – 1928
    8. John D. Gray, son of David & S. Gray, d. 1850 age 6 dys
    9. Bertus GRAY, b. 1 Mar 1851, d. 1 Mar 1857
    10. James Owen, b. 8 Oct 1852, m. 1876 to Catherine Birch.
    11. Sarah Anne, dau of David & S. Gray, d. 1854 age 7 mos 14 dys
    12. Eliza Jane Louise, b. Dec 1854 (probably the Louisa on the 1860 census), apparently lived to marry a Charles Giggy, date unknown
    13. Celestia, dau of David & S. Gray, b. 14 Jul 1855, d. 7 Apr 1859
    14. Cecelia – I have this child only from the 1860 census; assuming that she is not the “Silla” of 1870, she lived less than 10 years.
    15. Warren, son of David & S. Gray, d. 1860 age 3 mos 17 dys
    16. Priscilla Ann, dau of S A & B J Gray [Obituary says daughter of Elder David Gray] d. Jun 8, 1875, age 14 yrs 8 mos 11 dys

    Of fifteen confirmed children, only four are known to have survived past adolescence.

    Today, infant/child mortality is relatively rare but David and Susan buried at least eleven small caskets.

    - – - – - – - – - – - -

    As facts are revealed, the information in this story may change.  For the latest updates, please check Grays Going Back.

  • Epson WorkForce 454 Printer Review

    Posted on December 24th, 2012 admin No comments

    Prints quickly and quietly with good quality so great for a home office but NOT a good general printer for the home.

    Why not? Although Epson boasts that the WorkForce 454 has  “all the tools you need to take on any project”, they’re exaggerating considerably.

    Since it lacks a straight-thru feed, the printer won’t print well on anything thicker than 20# copy paper.  This means it won’t do cardstock, labels, or business cards very well, and it has issues feeding envelopes.

    It scans beautifully but takes three minutes per page.  Oh, and it seems to be an ink hog; I’ve had it just over a week and haven’t done all that much with it (maybe 250 pages, one photo) but the black cartridge is empty and the three color cartridges are down by two thirds.

    In other words, it’s not as versatile or useful as the older, cheaper Lexmark X75 printer it replaced..

    However, if you do multi-page reports, and need a small office photocopier with document feed, this is a good printer for the price.


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