Fake Coin

Yesterday Eric sent me a picture and said “What is this gigantic coin?” I saw the date of 1871 on it and looked up 1871 coins. I soon found a similar looking coin: the seated liberty dollar coin. In excellent condition it can be worth thousands of dollars, but even in average condition it can still be worth $200. Today he gave me the coin to look at and I quickly found out it was fake. The real coin should weigh 26.7 grams. I have a small digital scale and it said the coin only weighed 17.7 grams. I also measured the diameter, which seemed to be correct. As another test, I held a magnet up to it and it stuck. Silver dollars were made from 90% silver and 10% copper, neither of which will stick to a magnet. So it is definitely fake. I looked up fake seated liberty dollars on the internet and found a post by a guy who got one and he noticed that if you look at the coin and flip it vertically, the other side should also be right side up, but his fake was upside down. He said he called the mint and they said the reverse of all US coins should flip right side up. Eric’s coin was made the wrong way too. So it was pretty easy to figure out a fake. Really all it took was a magnet.



In October I was nearing the end of my AT&T U-verse contract. I had upgraded my internet from DSL with them, getting bundling discounts by combining a horrible TV package that they basically paid me $5 per month to accept (non HD, not much more than local channels), but the deal also included HBO (including HBO Go online) and a year of Amazon Prime, which Eric has made good use of. The total cost was about $50 per month for 18 Mbps internet service (that was really in the low 20’s, so better than expected). When it came time to renew, I hoped to get internet only and hopefully get the price down a little, maybe to $40. But when I called them, they had no interest in giving me any kind of reasonable deal, and said internet only at that speed would be $60 per month. I told them to let my service stop at the end of the term. And they were fine with that.
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William J. Blythe, III

One of the neat things about FamilySearch.org, where I work on the family tree and look up records, is that it is collaborative, like Wikipedia, so people can work on their family trees and eventually maybe everyone will hook up into one giant tree.

William J. Blythe, III, 1950

William J. Blythe, III, 1950

You can select people to follow and see a list of all the changes being made to them. For the most part I only follow direct ancestors, even though I have worked on a lot of brothers, sisters, cousins, and spouses of those direct ancestors. Going back about 5 to 7 generations in all directions, I’m following about 100 people, and I see changes to one or two of them every couple of weeks, usually the most distant ones since they have the most descendants that might be interested. Recently I saw a change made way, way back on my direct maternal line, which got me looking at that branch of the family.

If I follow my maternal line back I run into my great, great grandmother, who was born Emma Ann Farr and who married Rufus Chapman McCord (I’ve written about the McCords before). Rufus McCord died pretty young, but had a lot of kids for Emma to raise. There is a great picture of Emma and her children and grandchildren, taken in Birmingham on Easter 1922 (shown below, she is in the middle with the lace collar). The picture includes a big chunk of that part of the family, including 3 generations of my ancestors, down to my grandmother, Helen Brunson, who was just 15, born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1907 (second from the right on the back row). She got married the year after this picture was taken, at age 16, but her marriage license said she was 18. Helen’s mother is Velma McCord Brunson, on the left side of the picture in the white blouse and directly above her is her husband, Roy Brunson.
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Computer Problems

Right now I have a silly number of computers at home that I use. I have my new Dell Inspiron (2014) and the laptop that it replaced, the Dell Vostro, which still works fine (2008). Also I bought an Asus Transformer in 2014 which I don’t use that much because it is too small to use as a laptop and instead of design the interface for a 10″ screen, they just shrunk it, so it’s too tiny to read. Also I have my very old Dell Dimension 4700 desktop (2005) which I still use a lot when I want to do serious work since it has two monitors available and a full size clicky keyboard. That’s 4 Windows computers plus I still have the Nexus 7 tablet (2012) and the iPod (2015). The thing I don’t like about the desktop is that it is still running Windows XP, which is becoming a bigger problem (iTunes won’t run on it) and it uses a lot of energy, maybe about 200 watts if you include the monitor. Since I leave it on when I’m home, I can share its files and access them from anywhere in the house with the other computers though.
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iPod Not Recognized

Apple released iOS 9 this week, so I was thinking I would need to sync with my computer to get the update. I don’t sync that often, so I hadn’t done it since I got the iPod back in July. Since then, I’ve upgraded that computer to Windows 10. Also there was a new version of iTunes to download, as always. The iPod upgraded to iOS 9 on its own, so that wasn’t a problem, but I still thought it would be good to do a sync. Kiwix (the Wikipedia app) was updated as well and now it crashed as soon as I opened it. Sometimes you can uninstall an app and then download it again to avoid crashes like that, but in this case, I would also need to download the 16 GB data file, which I didn’t really want to do.
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The Renshaw House Sisters

I was looking again at the giant book of genealogy that George put together for Mom and found that he knew when and who Paw Paw’s brother, Joseph John Grant, Jr., married. I don’t know much about Mom’s uncle Joe, but he was a salesman for Maxwell Motors in Salina, Kansas in 1917. He married a very cute girl he met there and she died the next year, not sure why. He married again in 1958 in Las Vegas, and died in Los Angeles in 1970.

This got me looking a little closer at George’s book for clues to things I didn’t have records of at FamilySearch.org. In his book, I was reading through the childhood recollections of Eunice Thompson Geiger (about 60 pages typed), who was Paw Paw’s first cousin. She lived in Pensacola growing up and, during a Yellow Fever quarantine, left the city quickly (maybe in 1905) with her mother to visit “Cousin Fannie” in Knoxville. She was quite well off, lived in a grand house named “Melrose,” and was well versed in family history, which she imparted to young Eunice.

The Melrose Estate house in Knoxville, Tennessee where Aunt Fannie lived.

The Melrose Estate house in Knoxville, Tennessee where Cousin Fannie lived.

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William Straker

Yesterday I wrote about my great, great, great, great aunt Harriet Straker Budden and her husband, Benjamin Bostock. I mentioned that Harriet’s middle name came from her father’s (James Budden) business partner, William Straker, of Barbados, who was also her uncle by marriage to her aunt Susannah Budden. These people lived in 1700’s, so records aren’t that great, but church records can preserve christenings, marriages, and burials, and become a very good source of information. The census only recorded male heads of household up until about 1850, so those are of limited use until 1860. Still you can Google these names and see what turns up, and sometimes you will find a newspaper article (James Budden and William Straker would post about indentured servants they were hiring for their shop). It gets complicated by the lack of standardized spelling (a constant problem in the census as well) so William Straker’s last name was sometimes Stricker, Striker, or Streaker.

But one place I found William Straker’s name pop up several times was in a book recording the proceedings of the Pennsylvania government in 1778, not long after the American Revolution, while the United States was fighting against the British. The United States worked very hard to get France involved in the war and they finally had sent over a fleet of ships and 4,000 soldiers under the admiral Charles Hector, comte d’Estaing. d’Estaing also carried the new French ambassador Conrad Alexandre Gerard de Rayneval. His fleet was sufficiently powerful to blockade the British fleet in New York harbor. During this blockade, a British ship was captured and one of the passengers was William Straker. He was originally from Barbados, but had moved to Philadelphia previously. However in 1775 he went back to Barbados to sell his holdings, and while he was there the war broke out. Since Barbados was held by the British, he figured he could get a ship to Britsh-held New York and then once in New York, get around the battle lines and back to Philadelphia. However the French fleet intercepted the ship he was on, taking him prisoner, and now the new ambassador asked Pennsylvania to award him Straker’s five slaves he had with him. Straker was able to explain what happened and the Budden family vouched for him, so that eventually he was released and able to keep his slaves (these were his household staff and had been with him for years, so it was probably best for everyone for them to stay with Straker). All of this is told in a number of different entries in the proceedings of Pennsylvania’s government, starting with a letter from the ambassador and ending with Straker signing an allegiance to the United States and an order freeing him and returning his property to him. Now here are the French coming to the rescue of the United States and their ambassador (who was also instrumental in France’s decision to support the United States) has asked for something, so this was probably a pretty delicate issue.

Budden Family Tree

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The Bostocks of Barbados

One of Mom’s ancestors is Commander Francis Bostick Renshaw, who was a naval officer in Pensacola before the Civil War and then switched sides when war broke out. His daughter, Isabella, married Joseph John Grant, Mom’s grandfather.

Frank Renshaw’s middle name, Bostick, comes from Benjamin Bostock, who married Frank’s aunt, Harriet Straker Budden (actually it isn’t 100% clear what the B in his middle name stood for; it could also be Budden; typically he wrote his name as Francis B. Renshaw or Frank B. Renshaw). Harriet was the daughter of James Budden and the granddaughter of Richard Budden who may have brought the liberty bell to the United States. James Budden fought in the Revolutionary War and corresponded with General George Washington during the war. He married Frances Bispham who was from Barbados, a British colony in the Caribbean. So they are my great, great, great, great grandparents. Their daughter, Harriet Straker Budden, whose middle name came from James Budden’s brother-in-law and business partner, William Straker (who moved to Philadelphia from Barbados; more on him some other time), married Benjamin Bostock, also from Barbados. So maybe Harriett’s mother used her Barbados connections to set that up somehow. In fact, shortly after his marriage to Frances, Benjamin gave his mother-in-law a Barbados sugar plantation which she was to use as a sort of trust to take care of her daughter, son-in-law, and their children.

Bostock Family Tree
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Frequent Flyer Miles

I usually fly on Delta, so I have built up some frequent flyer miles over the years. It takes a long time because I don’t fly that often (I think the last free flight I earned was in 1991), but I went to Ireland a few years ago, then got a bunch of miles for switching natural gas companies one time, plus a few trips out west over the years.

In November I will fly out to San Francisco, so I thought I should see if I have enough miles. The fares aren’t that bad, so the flight was maybe $320 round trip. I could get a free ($11.20, almost free) flight for 25,000 miles. I wondered if this was a good deal though. What are 25,000 miles really worth? So I looked it up and found that a mile is worth anywhere from about a half cent to about 5 cents. The article said that if you wanted to maximize the value of your miles, you should never get an economy class cross-country ticket, because that was the lowest value you could earn. Instead they recommended purchasing an upgradeable cross-country ticket (for about $600) and then using your miles to upgrade to business class ($2700). Then instead of spending 25,000 miles on a $320 flight, you were spending 25,000 miles adding $2100 in value to your flight. But on my flight, the first class ticket is more like $1300 (I don’t know how much an upgradeable ticket would cost). I’m sure business class is worth something, but for me it isn’t worth a whole lot since I’m only spending a few hours on the plane and it goes to the same place as economy class. I’d much rather get a free flight every 25 years.

Grinding Coffee

A few years ago I did some research on coffee and wound up buying an Aeropress coffee maker. I would make coffee on the weekends, but eventually I would have headaches on the weekends, so I stopped drinking coffee. By collecting Kellogg’s box tops on line, I eventually earned a free bag of Gevalia coffee. So I started drinking coffee again and Gevalia is certainly better than Publix store brand. I was running low and thought it was time to actually buy a bag of coffee. Consumer Reports generally rates Eight o’ Clock coffee as the best of normally priced, widely available coffee, so I got some of that when Publix had it on sale.

This morning I opened up my new bag of coffee. Beans. I didn’t realize I had gotten a bag of whole beans. Unfortunately, I don’t have a grinder and my last experience with grinding coffee at a store did not go well. I knew David had a burr grinder which he doesn’t use for coffee anymore, but I didn’t think he would care (he had left the house to go hang out with Eric). I found his grinder, but it had chocolate in it, so I didn’t want to mess with that. I thought maybe I could buy one online, but even the hand-cranked ones are about $20. I also saw an electric one that uses a blade and is their most popular grinder. That made me think of my Magic Bullet blender that Mom gave me the Christmas after David stayed with me the first time (he told her I needed one). So I ground up a spoonful of beans in the Magic Bullet. It worked, but it was still pretty coarse even after grinding for a while. As I drank my coffee (which was okay, maybe a little weak), I read up on using a Magic Bullet for coffee. It turned out that the 4-blade attachment isn’t as good for grinding as the 2-blade attachment. And the blade grinders in general tend to produce very uneven size grounds, with some coarse and some very fine, which doesn’t matter that much with the Aeropress since it uses a paper filter anyway. You probably get less coffee flavor out of the coarse chunks. But otherwise everyone says you definitely need to grind your own beans and make coffee immediately to get the best coffee. So maybe this mistake will turn out okay. Later on I made a second cup of coffee using the 2-blade grinder and I think it worked better but there was still a lot of coarsely ground coffee in the mix. The experts say electric grinders heat up the grounds and make them lose flavor whereas the hand and even electric burr grinders give a more uniform particle size that is needed for making espresso.