A very personal mystery solved!

I’ve been working these last few months with a number of adoptees who are searching for their Biological Babb ancestors. Many of those stories are still in the discovery phase and I hope to share more about them over the week’s to come. My family has been touched numerous times by adoption, so I am going to start with my own path of discovery.

My mother was given up for adoption at birth and never knew her biological parents. She had a wonderful childhood and deeply loves her adoptive family, but has always had questions about the family she came from. Who does she look like and what were their lives like? We have a trait we nicknamed the Babb Chin, which all my siblings and their kids share. My sister-in-law was the first to coin the phrase, but we never knew exactly how and why this came to be.

We had her adoption records unsealed many years ago and had gotten in touch with her biological mother who unfortunately, wasn’t interested in meeting. The father’s name (Lawrence Gail Howell) listed on the birth certificate didn’t check out with any such person living in the city where my mom was born. I had decided it must have been made up and stopped searching for him.

I’ve found that DNA is a powerful engine to solve the mysteries that the courts won’t/can’t help with. Frustrated at the lack of progress in finding my biological grandparents, I turned to DNA testing to help solve the mystery. I got my mom to take the test and had no sooner mailed it off and then stumbled on the solution to my problems the very same day. The test results aren’t even back yet, but Family Tree Maker had a suggestion that I noticed on the biological father.

In the years since my search a number of events have occurred that changed my ability to get to the answers. The 1940 Census was released and Lawrence had passed away. The suggestion from Family Tree Maker was for a headstone marker for him in a cemetery in San Marcos, TX, which isn’t terribly far from where my mom was born. Now armed with his birth and death dates, I found him listed in the 1940 census living right next door to the biological mother. She had moved to another city between 1930 and 1940 and apparently only came home to give birth to my mom.

I then came across a Private Family Tree on Ancestry.com and contacted the owner, who promptly gave me access. In that I found not only information about my Lawrence, but also about his parents. But the most stunning thing happened when I found pictures of my Great Grandparents in this tree. Their chins just jumped off the photo and I was filled with glee! I finally was able to see someone I look like and understand where that family trait came from. Now this may not be a momentous thing for most of us, but it is an incredible thing to someone who has never had the opportunity to know their family.

So with that let me share the pictures I found along with several from my family photo album so you can see what I’m talking about.

Here is to a successful genealogical pursuit. It may have taken 15 years to pay off, but it was worth it. As for the test results, they aren’t even back yet, but I am so glad I did them, because I might never have stumbled across this if not for them.

Carol B. (Harrison) Schmitt (1925-2017)

Carol SchmittCarol B. (Harrison) Schmitt (1925-2017)

It is with great sadness that I must pass on the news of the passing of Carol B. Schmitt. Those who attended the 2015 Babb Reunion in Reedsburg, WI will remember Carol as the mother of our host and tour guide John Schmitt. Carol was the daughter of Aubrey Harrison & Ruth Babb and is, of course, a descendant of the legendary James Wilson Babb who helped found the city of Reedsburg.

She didn’t let age slow her down and was always on the move during the reunion. I send me condolences to her family and wish Carol Godspeed in her next journey. Her obituary and the funeral card are attached. Thanks to Marjorie A. Rhodes for forwarding this information.

My new Intern

Today is the first day in the office with my new Intern. This little gentleman isn’t wasting any time helping to get to the bottom of important matters at hand.

Sylvester 04

He is really good at helping me correct typos and at offering alternative spellings I hadn’t thought of.

Sylvester 02

He reminds me to take breaks and that playtime should be built into every hour of the day.

Sylvester 03

He has already made himself useful in helping to identify pictures (don’t worry, they are copies, not originals).

Sylvester 01

He is sure to become a valued member of my team, so please welcome him aboard.

ps. I haven’t figured out his name yet and am open to suggestions. Perhaps Phillip?

Autosomal DNA Test Transfers

It has just come to my attention that Family Tree DNA has added the ability for the first time to compare your Autosomal DNA tests, no matter where you tested initially. You can now transfer your AncestryDNA, 23andMe or MyHeritage autosomal DNA tests into FamilyTreeDNA and discover new matches for FREE!

The Babb Family uses FamilyTreeDNA to host its Surname research project. Now that transferring your data is free, there is no reason why we can’t unite in one location all our tests, so we can better communicate with each other about matters of Genetic interest.

So, please add your test results to our list today!

You can transfer your results using this link:

I’ve also created two pages on my blog site to assist those with questions about which DNA test is right for you (Joining our DNA Group) and to promote an understanding of the structure of our family trees (The Family Trees).


Saving your Family Photos

Today I wanted to share a number of tips and tricks to help preserve the precious family photos in your own family, by discussing my photo preservation journey.

I’m back from my long European Vacation (I did not see Chevy Chase) and with my body aching from all the great fun I’d had, I decided to take on a project that has been slowly simmering over the last 2 years.

My uncle Ralph passed away in October 2015 and left behind a treasure trove of 1501 pictures from his 77 years on this planet. Also found amongst his belongings were a number of my Grandmother’s albums, which contain an additional 527 photos from her 85 years on this planet. He albums have been missing for about 10 years and we thought we had lost them forever. The only copies available were some early scanning I had done almost 15 years ago. Hard Drive space was so expensive then that I could only do 100 dots per inch (DPI) scans, which is grossly insufficient for modern printing standards.

He had done his best to preserve the photos but lacked some essential knowledge of the techniques involved in archiving the images. Time and mother nature hasn’t always been kind to the photos and how and where they are stored going forward will play a significant role in their longevity.

The task ahead was great and I had promised that if I was the one that was allowed to archive them that I would assure that everyone would have a copy, but I had no idea of how I would do that or when I could accomplish it. I’ve spent almost 2 years being overwhelmed by the scale of the project and just recently determined how I would move forward. As I did finally start moving forward I made my own mistakes along the way and now clearly see the path that must be taken, not only to digitize the photos in their current state, but to store them in such a way that they wouldn’t be able to be harmed by the elements, light, that toxic glue that many of them had from those terrible albums sold in the 60s and 70s, wood pulp and most importantly each other.

Let me take you through my process, but before I start I must confess that I am very meticulous and detail oriented. People have called me a few other things in my life, but let’s not get into that now. I also have a tendency to just jump in on a project and get started, even if that isn’t the most efficient way to do it. I know that I’ll determine a process as I move forward and am anxious to get started…and more importantly get finished! This time I took my time and tried to make sure I was doing it right. I still made mistakes along the way but this time they didn’t cause a loss of information and my early preparation paid off to get me back on track.

The process I used followed these steps:

  1. Before attempting anything, take pictures of everything! How the photos are organized, likely meant something to the person who assembled the album or clustered them together. Being able to define what came from where is essential in putting it all back together in the future. So, grab your camera phone, find a place with enough indirect lighting that doesn’t come from above. This way the Mylar on album pages won’t reflect the lights in your pictures. Move decidedly from the front of the album to the back taking a picture of the covers and every single page. This will give you a permanent record of how you found them and can come in handy when you drop a bunch of photos and need to put them back in a particular order (yep, it happened to me).
  2. Next, I tackled the loose photos, because they are easier to run through the scanner quickly. My uncle had never really put together an album from his photos, but had taken the unusual step of trying to document almost everything in his collection. His work provided me a great amount of information about the photos, but it also resulted in some damage to those same photos he was trying to protect. Take a good look at this photo, calculate the number of errors you can spot and then we can discuss it next.


  1. Rubber Bands were used to group the photos together. This is great, except that the rubber band is a petroleum based product which will degrade over time. After several years, they are no longer flexible and often will discolor the item they are there to secure.
  2. Paper Clips often leave their indention on photos and cause them to warp. In humid climates, such as the Gulf Coast, where my family is from, paper clips are known to rust as well.
  3. Post-it Notes have glue and while it isn’t especially sticky imagine how they might deteriorate over the course of several decades in this condition. The glue would interact with the face of the photo below it and discolor or strip off the top layer of part of the image below. Instead of Post-its I made notes on blank 4×6 photo paper  that had come with my printer so that I didn’t have to touch the originals.
  4. The Post-its are two errors in one. What isn’t apparent from the picture is that he wrote his notes on the Post-it Notes while they were on top of the photo. This left an indention with the words he had written on the photo below. While I’m on the topic, lots of well meaning people will circle someone’s face in a photo with a large group of people, or write other information somewhere on the photo on the front, back or in the margins. This is something else you will want to avoid. It is very easy to damage the image this way and the ink also has a long term impact on the photos longevity. Instead of ink, use only a light pencil and better yet, do that on a secondary image that accompanies the original, so you don’t impact your source photo.
  5. Ziploc Bags are also a Petroleum based product and the chemicals used in the creation aren’t of Archival Quality.
  6. Paper Envelopes contain wood pulp and glue, which aren’t of Archival quality. While the paper decomposes at a different rate than the photos themselves, it can disfigure the items which you hold so dearly. The same is true of most Cardboard products and you will want to take precautions to only use Archival Quality boxes with no Wood Pulp.

As I scanned the photos, I removed and discarded all the 6 items listed above and transferred that information into the tags (aka Metadata that accompanies every file). Once scanned I maintained the organization using the blank photo paper as dividers in a modern Archival photo box and place them on a high shelf inside the house in an area that receives little light.

Fire and Floods can have a devastating effect and although it may be tempting to store these photos in a Fire Proof Safe, please do NOT! Temperature and humidity control is very important and the safe tends to hold in moisture which damaged the items I was trying to preserve by leaving them with Mold. If you live in a flood prone area, seek a location on higher ground, but not in an Attic or Garage. They must be stored in a climate controlled environment.

scansnapTo scan the photos, I used my handy Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500, which isn’t cheap, but can be found on Amazon for about $400. It is about the size of a football and is also a fantastic tool to digitize your entire office and remove all those old file cabinets. I have already scanned over 10,000 pages with this scanner in the year I have owned it and it is a joy to work with. Depending on the size of your project you may not need such a beefy scanner, but for the work I do with the Babb Family Association, it is essential.

When working with photos that have been in contact with those “Toxic” photo albums from the 60s and 70s, make sure to clean the scanner lens regularly and check quality of the scanned image constantly. At times, I had to stop and clean the lens after every 5-10 photos.

I’ll come back to these so called “Toxic Albums”, other types of albums and how to digitally recreate them in future posts. I will also cover how to share those photos once you have them digitized? The last step in this process is about how to share them with your loved ones and perhaps your family too!

Shoals Marine Laboratory (Library/Shirts)

Thanks to one of our members, I’m ordering some new replacement t-shirts for the Shoals Marine Laboratory (SML) on Appledore Island. As anyone who has been on a Reunion with me knows, I buy a T-shirt everywhere I go! I’ve got a shirt that I’ve worn out after all these year and am in need of several sturdy replacements. I wanted to share the information so that others who were interested could purchase their own.

Additionally, I am donating copies of the first 5 volumes of Babb Unabridged book series to their library so that those who brave the journey to his island and have questions about Phillip Babb are able to have them answered. These are the volumes that pertain to Phillip and his descendants.



You can review the key shirts available for sale here.

The items pictured on the site are as follows:

  • Navy blue 50th anniversary t-shirt, front and back pictures included
  • Bright blue v-neck t-shirt with squids and the SML logo on the sleeve
  • Grey t-shirt with SML logo with darker hems at the neck and sleeves
  • Light grey JB Heiser t-shirt, front and back pictures included
  • Blue t-shirt with a map of Appledore on the back
  • Light grey long-sleeved shirt with a whale, front and back pictures included
  • Blue long-sleeved 50th anniversary shirt, front and back pictures included


Not pictured on the website, but available is a heather-grey hoodie with the SML logo on the chest—the same one that is on the Appledore map shirt. The hoodie is a one-piece sweatshirt (no zipper) with pockets in the front and a very soft interior lining. The hoodie is $45, the long-sleeved shirts are $28, and the t-shirts are $22, with $5 for shipping. Please contact Samantha Claussen via email to confirm availability of the sizes you need before sending money. 

Samantha Claussen (Samantha.claussen@unh.edu)
School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering
Shoals Marine Laboratory
Morse Hall, Suite 113
8 College Road
Durham, NH 03824

Phone: 603.862.2959