Posts Tagged ‘ancestry’

I Must Confess

1.  I was a little disappointed when my DNA results said this.  No Asian, no African.*

2.  I’ve never identified with the Irish culture, gasp.*

3.  I’m so bored hearing about famous people’s colonial roots.  Megan Smolenyak has a whole chapter on this in her new book Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing.

4.  Since doing genealogy I’ve realized that my own K-12 history education was appalling.  To think of all those wasted hours learning of half-truths and sugar coated nonsense and all the great things we did not learn about…

5.  I have an indian princess in my family.  Her name was Rebecca and she was of the Seneca tribe.  Unfortunately, she died in childbirth and her husband remarried an evil woman who treated the step-child horribly.  It’s highly unlikely, actually 100% unlikely, but I’d love to find out how the story started in the first place.

6.  I haven’t found a single family member in the 1940 census.

*A 5% African and/or Asian would have been quite the mystery and pretty fun to solve. There was a brief “oh shucks” moment seeing there wouldn’t be any scandals in our DNA. Plus it squashed my indian princess rumor. Regarding Irish culture, what can I say, I feel more American, Austrian, English, Welsh, Dutch, and German than I feel Irish, *shrugs*.

Genealogical Research Exchange

Library of Congress - Washington, DC

I often find that if I step away from a brick wall or mystery for a couple days or weeks, and approach with a fresh mind later, things start to fall into place.  In addition, nearly all of my former brick walls were solved with the assistance of fellow genealogy hobbyists.

With that in mind, I’d like to propose a little genealogical research exchange.  Send me one of your mysteries, problems, or outstanding to-dos, and I will send you one of mine.  Let’s work on it, as time permits, for the next month or two and then return back our conclusions.

Living in the metro DC area, I have access to many genealogical resources. Some of the things I can help with are:

  • Pull records at the National Archives
  • Newspaper search at the Library of Congress
  • Obituary search in local newspapers
  • Headstone photographs
  • Research at the Daughters of American Revolution Library
  • Help preparing for a research trip to DC (most of the work should done before you even get here)
  • Check over your current theories and conclusions

Some examples of my research problems and to-do’s include (but are not limited to): handwriting analysis, newspaper & directory research at local library, missing census records from 1900-1930, and help navigating Civil War records.

My goals are to help out a fellow hobbyist and to learn something new.  Send me an email if you’re interested!

The White House Library contains over 2700 books relating to American life. The Federal furnishings were made in New York, 1800-1820. The room is used for teas, meetings, and press interviews.

District of Columbia Genealogy Research

Do you have ancestors that lived in the District of Columbia?  Here are some suggestions on getting started with local DC records.

Newspapers
Birth, Marriage, and Death Announcements

DC Public Library:
Baltimore Sun 1837-1985
The Washington Post 1877-1994
Washington Times 1990-Present

You may search in any of the 25 DC Library Branches or online at home, but you must have a DC Library card.

NewspaperARCHIVE.com:
Washington Daily Globe 1837-1855
The Washington Post 1904-1924

Requires paid subscription.

Birth and Death 

District of Columbia Department of Health Vital Records Division:
Birth and Death Certificates August 1874 to Present
Birth certificate is public 100+ years after birth: application $23
Death certificate is public 50+ years after death: application $18

You must have an exact date, they do not do searches and do not allow researchers access to the records. Use the Family Search index (below) to find your ancestors before you order.  DC Department of Heath Vital Records does not do online requests, but you can order DC birth and death records (if they are public) through www.vitalchek.com.  Here are the FAQ & Guidelines.

Family Search:
Deaths and Burials 1840-1964 (index)
Deaths 1874-1959 (images available)
Births and Christenings 1830-1955 (index)

Marriage and Divorce

Family Search:
Marriages 1811-1950 (images available)
Marriages 1830-1921

DC Superior Court Marriage Bureau
Marriage Records 1811-1980
Divorce Records September 16, 1956-Present

You may request by mail or in person with a money order $10 made out to “Clerk, D.C. Superior Court.” Include full names, maiden names, and the date of marriage/divorce and mail to:

DC Superior Court Marriage Bureau
H. Carl Moultrie I. Courthouse
Room #4485
500 Indiana Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

I highly recommend calling the court first before mailing in your request: (202) 879-4840

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:
Divorce Records prior to September 16, 1956
Call first!  (202) 354-3050

They may ask you send over a fax with all the known details and they will email you a response, either a copy of the divorce record or the location it is held in the National Archives.

Cemeteries

Congressional Cemetery 
Founded in 1807 and contains many famous Washingtonians, including J. Edgar Hoover, John Philip Sousa, and Elbridge Gerry.  Walking tour guides and an internment index are available on their website. More information available at the National Park Service.

Oak Hill Cemetery, Georgetown

Oak Hill Cemetery
One of DC’s best kept secrets and by far the most beautiful cemetery I have ever been too.  Local Georgetown residents often take walks through the gardens.  Founded in 1849, the cemetery’s history is mostly of the 19th century with an emphasis on the Civil War.  Take a walk through and do a quick google search of any of the headstone names, like Paul J. Pelz or Philip Barton Key and you’ll find some wonderful historical gems! An index of internments is available on their website.

Holy Rood Cemetery (no official website)
Established in 1832 and contains about 7,000 graves, including 1,000 free and enslaved African Americans.  This historical cemetery has been neglected for years by it’s current owner, Georgetown University and very few headstones remain.  A list of interments can be found at the Georgetown University Special Collections Research Center, open M-F 9am-5pm.

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Rock Creek Cemetery

For a full list of cemeteries located in DC, try using the findagrave.com directory here.

Other

There are tons of other resources for researching ancestors in DC.  Ancestry.com has a list of DC specific sources and the Family Search library has lots of interesting books and microfilm available for ordering, such as District of Columbia free Negro registers, 1821-1861 and Who’s who in the nation’s capital.

Harry Murphy and the Photo Mystery

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the discovery of a brother to my 2nd great grandfather, the elusive James Joseph Murphy.  This brother, Harry Murphy, had immigrated a couple years after his parents and siblings to Sharon, Pennsylvania.  The only way I found out about him is because my great grand aunt had his obituary with a large pile of old photos which was then passed on to her niece who recently passed the photos on to me.  Many of the photos are of unknown people; my mom and relatives have gotten lots of  “who are these people?” emails.

There are 6 photos with nice little captions on the back, all written by the same person in a somewhat affectionate way.  One in particular stands out.

“Bob’s wife Barbara, taken only two months ago with their new car a Ford Victoria”

Stylish woman, new car, and a huge cat! I love it.  I must be related to her.

“This is the only picture I have of Jim. From right to left they are myself, Harry Luse, and Jim my brother. This was taken about three years ago.”

The caption of the three men below tells me that the recipient probably didn’t speak or visit those in the picture on a regular basis.  Maybe they are cousins of my great grand aunt’s husband?

In this big pile of old photos and obituaries is also an envelope from H. Letson in Huntington Beach, CA to Mr. Harry Murphy.  That’s Harry Letson, Harry Murphy’s son that lived in Huntington Beach. Nothing in the envelope though; I wonder why it was saved.

As I was scanning some photos today, I realized that the return address handwriting is strikingly similar to the handwriting on the back of these photos.

The “to” address is written in big block generic letters so it never stuck out, but the return address gives the clue.

Bingo!  Harry Letson was sending these photos to his (estranged?) father.

Another clue: the date on the stamp is June 13, 1956.  Harry Murphy died in 1956.  Was his son sending him photos because he knew his father was dying soon?  I can only wonder.  All the captions are very kindly written and I get a sense that they were selected specifically to let the recipient a view of the immediate family living in Huntington Beach.

“This is me the old man and my two gals the best in the world”

Luckily, I found a descendant of Harry’s brother Jim on ancestry.com.  Hopefully they can provide some context. Meanwhile, I need to find the exact date of Harry Murphy’s death.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Old Newspapers

How else would I know that my 4th great grandfather died at at 90 with all his teeth?

The Library of Congress Chronicling America is a great starting point for old newspapers.  Not all newspapers are digitized, but keep checking as more are added everyday.  You can search for an ancestor’s name or event; I got lucky a couple times with digitized copies of the Pittsburgh Dispatch.

If you are interested in a newspaper that has not been digitized, the database gives a list of possible locations to search in person.  Click on the link for US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present and make your selections based on city, county, state and you will get a list of all the newspapers from that location.  Click on any of them for more information and then at the bottom of the page click on “view complete holdings information.”  You may find the newspaper in a more convenient location if you’re unable to make a long-distance research trip.  For example, I’m interested in looking through the Advance Argus of Greenville, PA 1887-1917 which happens to also be located in Harrisburg, PA (for me, four hours less of a drive).

Always check with the local library directly to see if they have indexed any local papers.  One of my favorite resources for old news articles and obituaries is the Butler County (PA) Public Library.  They have an excellent online index and the staff responds pretty quickly to paper copy requests.  Other great indexes I often use are the New Castle Public Library’s Marriage/Obituary Database and the Rutherford B Hayes Library Obituary Index.  If the local library does not have an index (most do not) you may try to find a librarian or local genealogist that doesn’t mind looking up a specific date for you.

I also use newspaperarchive.com, which is a paid service for access to an unbelievable amount of digitized newspapers.  When I first started using it, it was pretty costly, but since then the price has gone down.  It has definitely paid for itself many times over in saving me request/research fees and travel costs.

Old Photos

You don’t get any vital details out of an old photo, but they certainly provide some great context to your relatives and the time period. This photo is of my grandfather in the late 1930’s. I can make certain assumptions (and generate more questions) based on the instruments, clothing, and facial expressions.

I’ve created family photo albums on flickr so that everyone can view and comment. Old family photos are great conversation starters, especially to those relatives that “aren’t into genealogy.”

History Detectives 

“Just like watching the detectives…”  If you haven’t seen the show History Detectives on PBS, you are really missing out.  Each episode starts off with an artifact, story, or photo that very little is known about.  The History Detectives then investigate to find the real story behind the object.  Oftentimes, they will incorporate genealogy in their investigation.  From their website “History Detectives is devoted to exploring the complexities of historical mysteries, searching out the facts, myths and conundrums that connect local folklore, family legends and interesting objects.”  Every episode is fascinating and I always think “wow, I wish I had learned this in history class.”

Family History Books & Google Books

This is my favorite thing to just mess around with.  Just go to Google Books and type in a name or event you’re researching.  I’m currently doing research on my Updegraff lineage and by typing in Updegraff (or Op den Graeff) and then filtering for the 19th century, I get a list of interesting books that range from religion to historical accounts and biographies.  What is great, is that most of these books have been out of print for decades and the information and context you get is pretty unique.

Many Universities also contain old digitized books and lineages, including The University of Michigan Making of America Digital Library.  Each archive contains different books, so you should browse through various search engines.  FamilySearch.org has made it easy to sort through some of the collections here, which includes databases from Brigham Young University and the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research.  The lineage books contain lots of great clues and while it’s not recommended to copy other people’s trees, they may direct you to to the actual source.

Sunday’s Obituary – Margaret Davis-Updegraff

Margaret H. Davis was born 19 January 1861 in Johnstown,1 Pennsylvania to David H Davis and Catherine Annie Harris, both immigrants from Wales. She was the 5th child of 13 born to David and Catherine.

Margaret Davis married Henry Herman Updegraff in 1881.  Her siblings considered her “marrying well.”  The young couple moved to New Castle between 1885 and 18892 (just before the horrendous Johnstown Flood of 1889).  Margaret and Henry raised four children: Clarence David, Royer Howard, John William, and Alma Catherine.  Margaret’s younger sister, Rachel Davis also lived with Margaret and Henry until she was married to William G. Fischer in 1901.

Margaret hosted many social events for her children, especially her daughter Alma.3  They had a cottage at Brady’s Lake in Ohio and in one instance in 1904, Margaret and her sister Rachel Fischer took the two oldest children (Clarence and Royer) and their girlfriends (to whom they were later engaged) on a vacation there.  The family appeared in the “Society Section” of the New Castle News over 20 times between the year 1900 and 1920.

27 September 1945 - Youngstown Vindicator

Margaret was certainly the matriarch of the Davis and Updegraff family.  Not only did she host many family and social gatherings but she also cared for many.  In addition to caring for her younger sister Rachel, she also took in her niece, after her sister-in-law (widow of Margaret’s brother Luther John Davis) passed away unexpectedly.  When her niece, Irene married, the couple continued to live with the Updegraffs until they could afford a place of their own.

In 1923, Margaret’s husband, Henry Herman Updegraff passed away.  She moved to Youngstown, Ohio to live with her son John William and became the primary caregiver for her two grandsons Robert Lee (my grandfather) and John Leroy.  Margaret was a very important person in my grandfather’s life and according to my mother “she could do no wrong in his eyes.”

Margaret passed away on 26 September 1945 of heart failure.  She is buried with her husbad in Graceland Cemetery in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

1 The obituaries posted in the Youngstown Vindicator and New Castle News have conflicting birth dates: 23 January 1861 and 19 January 1861, respectively. Margaret’s death certificate lists the birth date as 19 January 1861.
2 Royer Howard was born in 1885 in Johnstown and the next child, John William, was born March 1889 in New Castle, indicating the family moved sometime between 1885 and March 1889.
3 To read more about the events and gatherings Margaret hosted with her daughter Alma, click here.

Click here for a list of sources used.

1790-1840 Census – More Than You Think!

I had the pleasure of attending a class yesterday at the National Archives in Washington, DC titled: Beyond the Basics: Census, 1790–1840.  The Archives offers various genealogy classes each week and I thought this would be a great topic.  I hadn’t given the 1790-1840 Censuses much attention before now.

Well, I learned a lot!

1840 Census School Data
At the end (or sometimes beginning) of each township census, there is a page that lists data on schools in the area.  Data includes how many universities or colleges, number of students, academies and grammar schools, number of scholars, primary and common schools, number of scholars at public charge, and number of white persons over 20 years of age to each family who cannot read and write.  Was there someone in the family household that was attending school?  Compare them with the total students in that township.  Did your ancestors grow up in a town with many schools, but did not attend themselves, or vise versa?

1820 Census Age Overlap
The 1820 Census lists males that are ages 16-18 and also 16-25.  If you have 2 males ages 16-18 and 4 males 16-25, then you probably have 2 males ages 19-25.  The government wanted a category that listed the total number of males of “military age.”  I had completely overlooked this before.

Helpful Tip  – List the names associated with each age group
For example, the 1820 Census has Fergus Hutchinson (4th great grandfather) listed as the head of the household in Donegal Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.  He was 21 years old, not yet married, but many people living in the house.  I didn’t take the time to investigate this until yesterday. An easy way to sort through these earlier records is write out the names of each number.  I realized that both parents had passed away already, so Fergus being the oldest was the head of the household with his 8 younger siblings.

Males < 10 years old  (1) = William Moorhead
Males 16-18 years old (2) = George and John
Males 16-25 years old (4) = Fergus (head of the household) and an unknown male – remember the overlap with the 16-18 year category.
Females < 10 years old (2) = Matilda and Ann
Females 10-15 years old (2) = Maria and Euphemia
Females 16-25 years old (1) = Sarah Jane
Number of Persons Engaged in Agriculture (6)

After mapping it out, I’m pretty confident that this is “my” Fergus Hutchinson.  Everyone is accounted for except that unknown male, and no one is missing.  I actually didn’t know Euphemia’s birthday, but through process of elimination, I now know it’s between 1810 and 1815.

Writing out the names for each is very helpful, especially if you have a common first and last name that shows up multiple times in one county.

Records of the 1820 Census of Manufacturers
The 1820 Census asks how many people in the household engaged in either agriculture, commerce, or manufacturing.  A separate census was taken if someone was engaged in manufacturing.  The information gathered was the name of the manufacturer, the type of manufacturing, location of manufacturer, and information on the kind of raw materials, persons employed, machinery, expenditures, and production.

The idea of collecting data from manufacturers had actually started with the 1810 census, but because enumerators were not given any guidelines, the amount of information and quality was very inconsistent.

The Records of the 1820 Census of Manufacturing cannot be found on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.com.  As far as I know, you must go to the National Archives in DC or order the microfilm.  Do you have any ancestors that were manufacturers?  I’m interested to see what the records actually look like!  

Use HeritageQuest to Find Census Records
“If you rely on one source, you will not find everything you need” said the NARA instructor.  According to her, Ancestry.com outsourced their earlier indexing to people that did not speak English very well.  Those that indexed at HeritageQuest were genealogists and English speakers.  I have no proof of this and can’t find any data online, but through her many years of experience, she has found less transcription errors on HeritageQuest.  We should use both and form our own opinion.  I see pros and cons to both: HeritageQuest groups your search results in a less cluttered manner while Ancestry.com accounts for name misspellings giving you a larger search results range.  I’ll definitely start using them simultaneously.  Examples of HeritageQuest:

Keywords: Updegraff, 1790 Census, Pennsylvania
Results: There were 11 households with the name Updegraff in Pennsylvania in 1790, all in York County (There are probably more if you take into account spelling variations- you can use Ancestry.com to cross reference).

These are the 11 Updegraff households (Harman is my 5th great grandfather):

Foreigners Not Naturalized
The 1820 and 1830 Censuses reported the number of people in the household that were not naturalized.  This may give some direction in looking for naturalization records.  In 1802, the residency requirement for naturalization was changed from 14 to 5 years.  The 14 year rule was part of John Adam’s Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.  An alien was required to file a declaration of intent (usually the first 3 years of residency) and then may petition the court for admission to citizenship (2-7 years after declaration) a total of 5 years after being a resident.  If your ancestor was an alien in 1820, you may want to search for naturalization records for 1821-1826.   These documents could be filed at any court office – local, state, or federal, wherever it was convenient.  Unfortunately, many of these courts did not hold on to the records, but  it’s worth making a couple calls to these various locations to check if they have them still.

Sources for Census Records

I will definitely be attending more classes at the National Archives!  It’s just amazing how many resources are out there.

Genealogy in the News

Two interesting articles I’ve read recently that relate to genealogy.  Thought I’d share.

DNA links 1991 killing to Colonial-era family
“DNA may help Seattle-area sheriff’s deputies find a suspect in a 20-year-old killing after a comparison with genealogy records connected a crime-scene sample to a 17th-century Massachusetts family.”  Basically, they ran the killer’s DNA sample that was obtained at the crime scene against the massively growing database of genealogy DNA testing.  There was a connection with an earlier colonial family named “Fuller.”  Because the type of DNA test they did tracks only the male line, you could assume that the killer’s last name is Fuller.  That is a pretty significant clue!  I definitely think detectives and genealogists have a lot in common.

Don Lemon: Legacy of ‘one drop’ rule inspires search for family history
CNN Newsroom Anchor Don Lemon reflects on his own ancestry, which up until a couple weeks ago he assumed was impossible given his African American roots.  A news assignment prompted him to ask his mother some questions about his lineage, and he got some pretty unexpected answers.  As a result, Don Lemon has decided to enlist the help of Henry Louis Gates to help him trace his ancestry.  Henry Louis Gates is really fascinating (Faces of America is a must see).  I hope this story turns into a PBS special.

Sunday’s Obituary – Harry M. Murphy

I had seen a photo of “Uncle Harry,” as my mom identified him, but she didn’t know exactly who he was.  His name was Harry Murphy and he appeared in a couple photos with other Murphy family members.  I actually assumed that he was a neighbor that shared the same last name.

While visiting family in Youngstown a couple months ago, we were sitting around looking at old photos and obituaries, when I came across Harry’s obituary.

Surprise!  This mysterious Harry Murphy is the brother of my 2nd great grandfather.  The obituary states his parents were John Murphy and Catherine Asberrie (all of my records use the spelling Katherine Aspery).  I believe there are 8 siblings total and 6 have now been identified: William, Harry M, John, James Joseph, May, and Sarah T.

It also gives the location of where the family came from: Mayo County, Ireland.  That’s interesting because while the Murphy family always associated themselves to be of Irish descent, on nearly all records I have they put their birthplace as either England or natural born citizen.

Another intriguing detail is that Harry left two sons that happened to have different last names and lived in another state.

I love it when one clue leads to more mystery!

Harry Murphy appears in the 1900 Census in Sharon, Mercer County, Pennsylvania with Celia Murphy and sons Harry and James Murphy.  He is living with his wife’s parents and brother-in-law, but Celia indicates her status as divorced.

In the 1910 Census, Celia is remarried to a LaVerne Letson with sons Harry and James last name changed to Letson.  In 1920 the Letson family is living in Huntington Beach, California.

Harry Murphy moved to Youngstown in 1909.  He was a self-employed handyman, just like his brothers.  He occasionally lived with his sister-in-law, Margaret Richards-Murphy.  I don’t believe he ever remarried, but I also haven’t been able to find Harry in the 1910-1930 censuses.  I look forward to finding out more about Harry Murphy!

Thanksgiving Traditions

My mom grew up in a large family. She always talked about the big traditional family gatherings where everyone traveled to one house and celebrated together. Growing up we still had a traditional dinner, but it usually was a small group. I never quite understood the big production of Thanksgiving, but I knew my mom was continuing a tradition thst was very special to her.

My grandparents have both passed and my mom’s four siblings live very far from each other. We won’t be spending these holidays together, we won’t be sitting around the table reminiscing, but I thought it still to be a great opportunity to find out more about those big traditional Updegraff family dinners.

Thank you to my mom, Uncle Rusty, and Aunt Betty for taking the time to answer my questions. I combined them together below:

1950’s Ohio
When the family lived in Youngstown, Thanksgiving was held at Nana’s (Elizabeth Murphy) house at 554 Ridge Avenue. Nana’s dining room had a crystal chandelier with a china closet in the corner and the tablecloth was Quaker lace. There was always a beautiful tablecloth. My mom recalls opening the china closet and smelling the wood.

Nana baked homemade pies and rolls that would melt in your mouth. On the table would be turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, cranberry, candied yams, stuffed celery, and chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles.

Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and friends would come over. Uncle Eddy and Aunt Mill would eat dinner at their house earlier in the day and then would come over afterwards to visit with the family.

There was so much food and everyone would be stuffed. Some of the men would comment, “I’m so full, I need to roll into the living room.” The men would watch football, while the women cleaned up.

1960’s California
After Grandma Kate and Pop Pop (Katherine Murphy & Robert Updegraff) and the six kids moved to Cudahy, California in the spring of 1963, the Thanksgiving tradition continued. The house was small already with 8 people, but there were always many visitors.  Nana would come out from Ohio a week before so that she could bake the pies and rolls. Grandma Kate would add tables to extend and make one big table.

Food on the table included the chicken soup with homemade noodles, a pickle and olive plate, stuffed celery with pimento /pineapple cream cheese, salad, two kinds of cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with oranges, mashed potatoes, french green beans with tomatoes and sautéed onions, yellow wax beans with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, turkey, stuffing, rolls, and gravy.

Nana and Grandma Kate did all the cooking with Aunt Betty and my mom helping.  The boys were not allowed in the kitchen. Washing all the dishes afterwards was a lot of work, even after they bought a dishwasher it still took 3-4 loads!  But they would sing in the kitchen all their favorite Patsy Cline songs and others like Dean Martin’s ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’ and Jeanne Pruett’s ‘Satin Sheets’. When all the work was done, they would join the men in the living room and watch Lawrence Welk or another holiday special show.

1970’s California
As the six kids got older and  moved out, they still gathered for the holidays.   Usually Nana, Grandma Kate, Pop Pop, Uncle Bobby, Aunt Betty and her husband Dan, my mom, Uncle Danny and his girlfriend Susan, Uncle Richy and his wife Debbie, Uncle Rusty, and the grand kids Jamie, Chad, Michelle, and Christy would all be in attendance.   Sometimes Uncle Dick and Aunt Arlene would come out from Ohio with their kids Mark, Dawn, Dirk, and Marla.

Aunt Betty moved to Alaska when her husband Dan took a job in 1978 and it was hard to get together for Thanksgiving.  Grandma Kate passed away unexpectedly in 1980 and after that it seems like the family all started to celebrate on their own.  My mom and Aunt Betty have continued the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with their families.  Uncle Rusty has started his own tradition of a modern Thanksgiving with close friends.  They are all thankful for the hard work Nana and Grandma Kate did and will always remember those big traditional dinners.

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