I'm still trying to draw a genealogical connection to Albert Clewell, a Civil War veteran to whom I might or might not be related, although I think the chances of us sharing a branch somewhere on the family tree are pretty decent.
There are two other Civil War Clewells, great uncles William and Sylvester, to whom I can draw direct family ties. Both served in Company A of the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, along with Albert. The mysterious Albert, however, still remains problematical.
Anyway, I've been trying to find this family connection to Albert for free and consequently, I've done most of my research on the Internet, sitting on my butt in air-conditioned comfort with the knowledge that most of Albert's paper trail has been blazed 500 miles away through the stacks, piles and reams of bureaucratic Pennsylvania.
But it seems I can only get so far.
Yes, yes, I've considered joining Ancestry.com, but a year's membership is close to $150. A few weeks ago, Ancestry.com offered a Fourth of July promotion where you could do some research — for free — going through a descendant's Revolutionary War era documents. I tried to take advantage of the free part of the promotion, so I typed in Albert's name and got one or two documents I'd never seen before, including a military death card that simply told me when Albert died (January 10, 1932) and where he is buried (Easton Heights Cemetery in Easton, PA).
But nothing about his family. I still don't know who Albert's parents were, which remains a stumbling block in my research.
There was a menu for U.S. Census information, but a click on that brought up a page where I had to register with Ancestry.com. Sigh. Everything, it seems, goes through to Ancestry.com. And, apparently — eventually — for a price.
Now Ancestry.com does offer a 14-day free trial, which is very tempting and may be the route I eventually take once I decide to shake off my cheapskate status. But even for the free trial, I have to submit my credit card information.
Uh-oh. This is where I get nervous: putting my credit card information on the Internet. This idea is the true source of my hesitation.
My wife, Kim, pointed out to me that our credit card information probably is already on the Internet. She may be right. We often make purchases with L.L. Bean and other catalogue retailers that require giving credit card information over the phone. So you have to assume that this info is no doubt eventually filed online somewhere.
The reason I'm a little edgy about all of this is because a couple of years ago, I got a phone call from the megabank that handles my credit card account. The nice man with the east Indian accent told me that my card appeared to have been compromised, but to make sure, let's go through my most recent purchases to see if I had really made them:
"Did you make a $50 purchase with Land's End on so-and-so date?"
"Did you make a $200 purchase with Crown Volvo in Greensboro on so-and-so date?"
So far, so good. We did this for another item or two until he asked:
"Did your wife purchase a $2,000 one-way airline ticket to Nepal on so-and-so date?"
"Umm. I don't think so. Let me ask. Kiiii-m?"
I guess that's where the red flag went up. Clearly, we were hacked. I will always appreciate my credit card vendor for keeping a sharp eye on my account. There were other apparent purchases on my card that were just as unlikely, so we promptly cancelled the card and had a new one issued.
So you can see why I'm a little antsy about joining Ancestry.com. It would be my luck that the day I join Ancestry.com I'd see a news item on CNN crawling along the bottom of the screen telling me that the files of Ancestry.com were hacked and six million credit card accounts were compromised.
Or not. I don't know. I guess it all depends on how frustrated I get with the research before I decide to take the online credit-card plunge.
Meanwhile, the idea of Kim taking a trip to Nepal really didn't bother me all that much. Except for the part about going one-way. What's that all about? Kiiii-m?