Monday, December 30, 2013

I'm Featured on a Podcast!

It always amazes me how from Halloween until the first week of January my life turns upside down. Why? I have two young children, the holidays to sort out, a business and a house to run. Self explanatory really. Anyway, sometime in that window Marian Pierre-Louis contacted me about an interview for her podcast series. I was extremely flattered and of course said yes.

The podcast aired today and is titled The Genealogy Professional, you can find the link here. People often ask me how I got started in genealogy and how does one become a professional genealogist. Those questions are addressed and more in the interview. So if you happen to have some spare time or need an excuse to break away from family activities for a bit, then have a listen. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tennessee Union Provost Marshal Records

A project I have been working on at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) for the past year or more has launched. I am so excited about this, I can barely contain myself. Why? Well since you ask (wink wink), I'll tell you.

The project is the Union Provost Marshal records of two or more civilians for Tennessee, and it has gone online with the link here. Now I do have to say, that it is partially completed and will be updated as more records are scanned and indexed. Right now we are about half way through the microfilm set. These are a wonderful set of records and have possibly become my favorite set to work with.

So you may be wondering, "What are the Union Provost Marshal records, and why should I look at them?" I'll try to explain this as clearly as I can. During the Civil War we were literally a country at war with itself. There were the the Union troops, a recognized and organized Federal army, and the Confederates an army not sanctioned by the Federal government and organized by the South. Between 1861 and 1867 Provost Marshal agencies were set up around the country to handle, among other things, complaints and military issues. They were basically military police during a time of military action in this country. Did your ancestors have a choice to participate in this program? No. Just like you don't have a choice about following the laws and rules of our country, they didn't either. Now, of course some people decide not to pay attention to said laws and rules, but usually they get caught and get in trouble.

When you have a country at war with itself, who do you go to with a complaint? Say your cows were stolen, know somebody who is a spy, you know about illegal activity in the area, or the wood you spent months gathering and chopping for winter has been stolen or confiscated. Who do you think will compensate you for stolen property? The Confederacy? No. In the eyes of the Federal government, they are not a legal organization, and they didn't have the means to compensate you either. You would go to the Union, or in this case a recognized Federal branch of the Union, the Union Provost Marshall.

These records are a treasure trove of information. It is better than any supermarket check out tabloid. Occasionally when indexing the records I come across a file that is just too interesting and juicy to not stop and read. To give you an idea of what topics are covered, I'll list some items I've come across: prison rolls both for men and women, travel pass requests (you couldn't leave the area without one), a list of approved camp followers (somebody had to do laundry, tailor clothes, sell goods to the soldiers), murder investigations, reports of bushwhackers, list of prostitutes, lists of Confederate sympathizers, lists of whole towns taking the oath of allegiance with their signatures, details of setting up a refuge for all of the displaced people (some of which are named), lists of nurses both black and white, names of reliable informers, and so many other wonderful documents that may contain information on your ancestors, their neighbors, or happenings in the area your ancestors lived.

The following is the press release about the project from Tre Hargett, the Tennessee Secretary of State:

It is a great project and I have been thrilled to be one of the people who have worked on it. I've decided to do a little blog series about some of the records I've come across. In the meantime, go to the site and check it out. I should add that FamilySearch and Missouri State Archives have all of the rolls scanned, just not indexed. So if you have ancestors in other states, you can scroll through their films or if you have Tennessee ancestors then take a look at TSLA's indexed database. Happy searching!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day 2013: Remembering the USS Indianapolis

Last Thursday night at a DAR meeting, I had the privilege of hearing Edgar Harrell speak about his WWII experience on the USS Indianapolis. This was an astounding tale, one full of nightmarish detail, horror, sadness, and bravery. All of these men aboard this ill fated ship are heroes.

Edgar Harrell, 7 November 2013

There were 1,196 men aboard the USS Indianapolis on the night of 30 July 1945 when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine. Approximately 300 men went down with the ship. One of the survivors who would live to tell the tale was Edgar Harrell, a farm boy from Kentucky. In 1943 at about the age of 19, Edgar signed up with the Marines. Upon seeing the USS Indianapolis, Edgar described it as a "floating city" and getting goose bumps when he saw the big guns.

After the USS Indianapolis delivered parts and uranium of Little Boy, the atomic bomb that would later be dropped on Hiroshima, the ship first made a stop in Guam and after proceeded toward the Phillippine islands. They would never make it. Somewhere over the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Pacific, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine commanded by Mochitsura Hashimoto. Within approximately 12 minutes it sunk. The men that didn't go down with the ship were surrounded by fires, oil, salt water, and the night sky.

There were few lifeboats and some of the men did not have time to put on their life jackets. Communications had been knocked out when the ship was hit, and the command to abandon ship was passed on from crew member to crew member verbally. Some of the men that survived were badly injured and would not make it through the night or the next day. All of the men were covered with oil from the ship, and some would struggle with the oil getting into their eyes. This oil combined with the salt water would irritate their eyes to blindness.

These men would spend the next 5 days and 4 nights trying to survive in the Pacific Ocean. To make matters worse there was little food if any, no drinking water, and sharks. The men huddled together in groups as best as they could. This did not prevent the sharks from attacking, although to stray from the group was an almost guarantee of being eaten by a shark. They also had life jackets that read "only good for 48 hours."

For the next 5 days the men would deal with hypothermia, shark attacks, dehydration, life jackets that no longer worked, few life boats, salt-water induced hallucinations, exhaustion from trying to stay afloat, and hunger. These men would watch their buddies become eaten by sharks, watch body parts of attacked buddies float to the surface, see other buddies drown, go crazy, succumb to wounds and exhaustion, or just generally give up.

Then on 2 August 1945, when they had realized that there were no rescue missions and were giving up hope, they were spotted. While on a routine patrol flight, co-pilot Lieutenant Wilbur "Chuck" Gwinn spotted Edgar and one other man that he was swimming with. This is a miracle in and of itself, that required so many details to line up exactly right. Just imagine for a moment flying high above the ocean and all you see for miles and miles is just water. You see the sun reflecting off of it here and there, little white caps breaking on the surface among the undulating motion of the sea. You are too high to see much in the way of specific little details, and besides you are only looking for enemy ships. Nothing else.

On this particular routine flight an antennae had become loose. Lt. Gwinn decided to try and fix it. He opened the bottom hatch, glanced down at the ocean far below for a brief second, and saw a reflection. Thinking it was the enemy he sounded the alarm. What he saw was the ship's oil reflecting off of Edgar and the other man's bodies. This was truly a miracle.

The survivors, 321 of them, would eventually be rescued and taken to hospitals. Some of these men would end up succumbing to wounds or other ailments. Of the 1,196 original crew members of the USS Indianapolis, only 317 would survive.

The book written by David Harrell, as told by Edgar Harrell.

This was an extremely powerful talk last Thursday. It is one I keep thinking of and pondering over. It is amazing that these 317 men survived. They lived through a nightmare, somehow finding the courage and strength to do so. Edgar's son, David, wrote a book about it that gives more details than could be covered during the talk. I'm looking forward to reading it and finding out more of the story. So on this Veteran's Day, I've been thinking of the USS Indianapolis crew. True heroes. It is impossible to put into words the thanks for your sacrifice.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Weird Life

This morning after running a few errands, I decided to quickly run into the Genealogy Room at the Williamson County Library here in Franklin, Tennessee. I just needed to do a quick look up in an index for a reference to a marriage record. Then I noticed a couple books on Marshall and Lincoln counties. These two counties are adjacent to each other in Tennessee.

I have a Whitsett and Bigger/Biggar connection I've been trying to figure out. They created records in both counties, as most of my other ancestors in this area did. This is due to county boundary changes, families marrying into each other, business transactions, and just plain county line hopping.

Anyway, James Whitsett married Mary Bigger. Joseph Bigger is Mary's father. James dies and leaves behind a wife and minor children. Then Alexander Bigger becomes the guardian for said minor children. Makes sense right? Keep it all in the family. However, what I really want to know is, who are the parents of Joseph Bigger? So I'm perusing the book with court record abstracts. I'm finding all sorts of references to Joseph, his brothers, and Alexander. Then I find the will of Sarah Bigger.

Sarah Bigger's will was filed in Lincoln County or at least a copy of it was. The first line reads, "I, Sarah Bigger of Williamson County, Tennessee..." Wait. What?!? Williamson County? I live in Williamson County! I look up and around the room I'm sitting in. Is this a joke? Is there a hidden camera somewhere? I have to reread that line 3 times for it to sink in. Next I grab a marriage index book for Williamson County. Sure enough, Joseph and his brothers are listed. This is crazy. What are the odds of me living in the same county where I had ancestors living at one time?

Sometimes, even for me, my life is just too weird.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The British Institute

If you are looking for a genealogy education opportunity this October, then the British Institute might be just the thing you are looking for. Want some more information? You're in luck, one of the organizers of the institute asked if I could post the following announcement.

Don’t Miss Your Opportunity to Study With The Experts!

If you’re a last-minute Lilly (or Louie), there is still time to register for the few remaining open spots to attend the British Institute in Salt Lake City, 7-11 October 2013.

The International Society for British Genealogy and Family History will accept registrations until Monday, 30 September, for a week of lectures and mentoring by well-known British genealogists Graham Walter, Maggie Loughran and Paul Blake.

The registration fee is $495, and covers five days of instruction with morning lectures and afternoon research opportunities in the Family History Library, including one-on-one mentoring with your instructor.

All courses will be in the Radisson Hotel Downtown, a short walk to the Family History Library. Hotel rooms are still available at the Crystal Inn at $79.00 per night, including breakfast and shuttle bus service to and from the airport, and to the Radisson each day.

Full details and registration at <>

 Using the Cloud for British Family History Research
Graham Walter

Graham Walter combines his IT background with his expansive knowledge of British genealogy resources. This course will provide a guide as to what “The Cloud” is and how we can use it to our advantage in our research.

There are a number of Internet sites that provide some unique datasets for researching British ancestors. We will examine some of these sites and look at the varied search techniques that can be used to find those elusive ancestors hiding in the nooks and crannies of their databases.

The Cloud also provides us with a wealth of tools to enhance the way we collect, share and present our data. We will look at how these services allow us to choose a variety and combination of computing devices that best suits the collecting of our family history on any research trip. The Cloud will allow us to move that data to our other devices seamlessly and without complexity, as well as share it with our families and other researchers. Students in this course must provide their own WiFi-capable laptop computer.

 Course Outline:
  • ·      Introduction/Overview
  • ·     What do we mean when we say "The Cloud?"
  • ·      Notepads/Journals(Evernote/SpringPad/NoteSync/SimpleNote)
  • ·      Website of the Day -
  • ·      Research Journalling with Evernote

  • ·      Cloud File Storage(DropBox/SkyDrive/Google Drive/Amazon Cloud Drive)
  • ·      Cloud Backup (Carbonite/Mozy)
  • ·      Website of the Day -
  • ·      Research Data Storage and Family History Programs

  • ·      Office applications in the Cloud(Google Docs/MS Office Web Apps/Zoho Suite)
  • ·      Website of the Day -
  • ·      Data extraction and manipulation with web

  • ·      Task Management (Remember the Milk/Astrid/Toodledo)
  • ·      Websites of the Day - Online Newspapers,
  • ·      Welsh Newspapers Online
  • ·      Using Mobile devices in Research

  • ·      Collaboration in the Cloud
  • ·      Photo Storage and Sharing(Flickr/1000 Memories/Picasa)
  • ·      Cloud Mapping the Ancestors(Google Maps/Bing Maps)

 Sources For Tracing Pre-mid-nineteenth
Century English Ancestors
Maggie Loughran and Paul Blake

This course will concentrate on tracing pre-mid-nineteenth century English ancestors and will be of special interest to those whose ancestors emigrated to North America prior to the
commencement of English civil registration in 1837, or those who have already tracked their ancestors back to the early 1800s.
Paul and Maggie will focus on the actual records themselves, giving you an in-depth understanding of them. For each record category we will be looking at examples of the original documents and guide you through how to interpret, locate and, lastly, how to access them using the Internet and any other available resources.

Record Categories
Locating, interpreting, and accessing pre-1858 English probate records
From the 13th century until the civil probate system was introduced in 1858, probate (the ratification of a will) was controlled by the church. Wills were recorded in the
ecclesiastical archives as were most matters to do with death, with over 300 church courts functioning at one time or another. These jurisdictions frequently overlapped each other and
boundaries may have changed from time to time making the use of early wills and other probate records challenging to say the least. This session will take you through the process of
discovering if your ancestor left a will and where to find it plus any other associated probate records including administrations, inventories and accounts.
plus much more…see the website for complete details

Friday, September 20, 2013

Discovery of a Group Migration of Convenanters

Ideally when setting out for a day of research you have one or two questions about a particular person to focus on and drive your research for the day. Maybe you will come across an item that will lead you to an unexpected source to investigate about that person. Generally it doesn't require that you bring a binder full of ancestors, or your genealogical software with all your kith and kin mapped out. For me, this is mostly true...unless it involves the adjacent Marshall and Lincoln counties in Tennessee.

A few weeks ago I went down to the local library in Lincoln County, Tennessee which you can read about here. For this research I have to bring my "cheat sheets." These are just pedigree charts with a few notations on them. Some of these notations include what dates/locations I have proof for, what I suspect or have a question about, brief military information, and possible connections. These are my working notes in short hand, if you will. I would never show anybody these, they are for my eyes only. I need these notes for researching in this area. This is a very rural community and I have a lot of ancestors here that criss crossed over county lines, married, and conducted business with each other. So while I may focus on one person, all of my other kin can't help showing up in the records that I'm looking at. I need my cheat sheets to keep track of them all.

So there I was sitting in the library looking at a couple of sources, making notes, checking my cheat sheets occasionally and I notice something. There were a lot of people that came from South Carolina to Lincoln County, Tennessee. Why? Why would all these people come here of all places? I mention this observation to the library volunteer. To which she says, "Oh, maybe they were Covenanters."

I don't know what a Covenanter is. She didn't really either, other than they had something to do with the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Hhmmm. So when I get home I Google it. I click on the Wikipedia site and discover that it has to do with a Scottish Presbyterian movement that started in the 1500's. In a nutshell, they were groups of people, or covenants, that were committed to upholding the ideals of the Presbyterian religion. After 150+ years of all sorts of political trouble, they flee to Ireland. Then around 1717 a group of Covenanters decide to leave Ireland and migrate to North America, settling in the Philadelphia area with one group forming the Reformed Presbyterian Church . Not surprisingly, Covenanters would become avid supporters for independence from Great Britain. They would also volunteer in large numbers to participate in the Revolutionary War. Later, around 1800, this group would oppose slavery and outlaw slave-holding for the people within the congregation.

This is all great, but what does it have to do with my people coming from somewhere in South Carolina? I Google some more and find Reverend William Martin. He came to Rocky Creek, Chester County, South Carolina with a huge congregation during 1772 in 5 ships. Over time it seems little groups would splinter off and migrate elsewhere in the U.S. One of these little groups would migrate to Lincoln County, Tennessee.

After I learn this I look back at my cheat sheets. There are several people who were born in Ireland and died in Chester County, SC, a couple more who were born there, and one with this note "Rocky Creek?, SC." All of these people were members of the same church. This was a group migration from Rocky Creek, Chester County, South Carolina that followed the preacher. I sit back to let this sink in.

These people knew each other in South Carolina. I look at the dates in my notes. Gasp! They probably knew each other in Ireland! This is immediately followed by the next thought of; I wonder if they knew each other in Scotland?? Whoa. I've just gone from researching this group in two counties of one state, to two states and three countries. It's a good day.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Charity, Breakfast, and a Hero

Last May my DAR chapter, Sarah Polk, held their annual silent auction. It helps raise money for our chapter and enables us to then be more philanthropic. One of the items up for auction were seats to the Operation Stand Down breakfast on September 6, 2013. The keynote speaker was scheduled to be Tony Mendez.

Operation Stand Down is an organization that provides assistance to veterans so that they can rejoin society productively. It is a really good cause and an important one. Our veterans deserve this help to readjust to the society we live in, after experiencing whatever horrors they have had to face. I was happy to bid on a seat. Plus there was breakfast and I like food so it had that going for it too.

Now the other attraction was Tony Mendez. Last year there was a film that came out called, "Argo." This was by far my favorite film of the year. It centers on the 1979 hostage crisis in Tehran. I vividly remember this crisis as a kid. I remember the news footage of hostages with hoods on their heads, the failed helicopter rescue, the start of tying yellow ribbons around trees, and just the absolute horror of American civilian hostages that went on and on and on. One group of hostages was held for over 400 days. Then there were the 6 that got away...with a little help.

Tony Mendez is the hero of this story. He devised a plan to extract the 6 Americans that escaped from the embassy. The film follows the crazy plan, the anxiety, the fear, and the danger. The very real, terrifying danger. Tony put his life in peril to save these people. In the U.S. Tony was a guy in charge. He could have sent somebody else to do it, but he didn't. In short Tony Mendez is a hero. That is one reason I was so excited to meet him. The other reason? To me, Tony also represents all the men and women who do things for this country that we will never know about unless a book is written, or a movie is made about them. Tony represents the unsung heroes of our country.

The keynote address at the breakfast was a strange mock interview set up with Tony and his wife, that was intercut with many clips from the movie. In short, it was a little odd. Tony really didn't say much and his wife did most of the talking. I felt like there was something else going on that the audience wasn't privy to. Based on my own observations, I wondered if perhaps Tony is a shadow of his former self. At times I wasn't sure how cognizant he was.

At any rate after the keynote address was over, Tony and his wife sat at a table to sign his book. Of course, I had to get one and see if I could get my photo with him.

I was beyond thrilled. A charitable contribution to a wonderful cause, breakfast, an interesting (strange?) keynote address, a signed authored book by a hero, and a photo with said hero. It was a fantastic morning!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

More Adventure Than Anticipated

It's Labor Day weekend here in the U. S. There are lots of festivities, observances, and of course sales going on. So when my husband informed me yesterday that he was going to take our boys canoeing and camping today, I saw it as an opportunity. For a day filled with shopping you ask? Oh no no dear reader. I went down to Lincoln County, Tennessee in search of ancestors and answers.

Lincoln County sits right at the border of Alabama in Tennessee. It is very rural by today's standards. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like when my ancestors lived there. Fayetteville is a sleepy little town in Lincoln County where the cars still park on a diagonal around the town square. It isn't difficult to imagine how it must have looked 50 years ago. By the time I arrived it was a little before lunch time and I was slightly hungry. However, I was also eager to look at what I had come for so I decided to eat later. This would prove to be a mistake.

My first stop was in Fayetteville-Lincoln County Library. I was pleasantly surprised by the library. It has two floors with a genealogy room on the second floor. I walked into the Genealogy Room and was greeted by the volunteer, who asked what I was looking for.  She helped me locate the book I had come for (about the Jobe's), and then we got to talking. She gave me a bunch of oral history on the current Jobe's that live in the area, and showed me on a current map where the old Jobe place used to be and warned me about a speed trap in the area. I also got the numbers of "the two Jobe boys" who still live in the area. Based on census records and deeds I suspected my Jobe ancestors must have lived very near where Lincoln, Marshall, and Bedford counties meet. After looking at the map I discovered I was correct.

The unexpected find today was a book on the Luttrell's. My Luttrell line is out of Knoxville, so it wasn't on my radar to look for them in Fayetteville at all. Even better, this book was published in April 2013! The author had included her email, Facebook name, and her website on the back of the title page. Yes!! It even had a few interesting citations in it too. At this point I realize time is getting away from me. It's 4 o'clock and the Civic Center and Museum closes at 4:30. So I grab my copies and get to the Civic Center by 4:08. It's closed for the day. Grrr. I also realize that I never had lunch, I'm hungry, and there are no restaurants open. Maybe I'll find something on the way out of town.

Out of town turns into country just about immediately. I'm going a different way out than how I came in. I want to go to a cemetery and see that house the volunteer was telling me about. As I am traveling along this rural road I make a cool discovery:

I'm curious about what is down the road but I have a cemetery and a house to find. Plus I'm still hungry. After driving down a couple winding country roads and minding my speed for the warned speed trap, I find the Talley Cemetery.

You know you have done a lot of research in an area when you recognize surnames on mailboxes while you are driving along. Anyway, as I pull in there are a few things that occur to me at once. It has just rained lightly which will make for a wet tromp through the cemetery, and I could use a restroom. Classic. I'm also getting hungrier. These concerns are soon replaced by my concern over possible snakes, ticks, and chiggers. The cemetery is surrounded by pastures and I soon realize... cows.

At any rate, there are a few people I'm looking for at the cemetery. They are already on Find A Grave, but I want to see where they are in the cemetery, who they are placed with, and who else is around them. In particular I'm interested in Jane Jobe. Her gravestone on Find A Grave doesn't look old and I want to check it out in person. Then I find her.

Well, crud. Her stone looks newer than I thought it would. I start to think about how I can find the paperwork for this stone. I plead with her to help me find some answers to a particular problem. I realize I'm talking out loud. The cows ignore me. Meanwhile, I wander around the cemetery taking photos for Find A Grave requests and finding my ancestors. By the time I'm done, I'm dripping with sweat in the 90 degree humid heat. My legs feel itchy from the bugs. I'm ready to find the old home the volunteer told me about. So off I go and then suddenly there it is:

And it's for sale:

As I get out of my car to take these photos, some guy in a bright red pick up honks at me. Great. I vaguely wonder if he has a sandwich. I'm really hungry now. I haven't eaten since breakfast. As I tromp through the front yard I worry about snakes and ticks. This place appears abandoned. I turn to make my way back to the car and walk through a massive spider web. Now I'm doing that "I just walked through a spider web dance" on the front lawn of this 1858 Antebellum home. You know the dance..... it's where you're sort of jogging, turning in circles, and waving your arms all around over your head. My list of worries now includes; snakes, ticks, spiders, and an imminent arrival of the sherif to investigate the crazy woman on the front lawn of the old house for sale. For the next couple of hours I will be finding and picking off cob web from my person. Oh joy.

Time to find food. I'm driving.... and driving.... still driving. While driving I'm passing a lot of cafes and restaurants. So what's the problem? They are all abandoned and the properties are for sale. I pass a place called, Coon Den Lodge. What?? I'm too hungry to turn around and investigate, plus I still need a  ladies room. 

After what seems like forever, I get to the highway and to a restaurant. I'm too hungry to go home and make something. I must look a site. The whole drive I've been raking my hands through my hair to get off stray webs and I'm paranoid that every skin tickle is a spider, tick or chigger. When I sit down and order, I give a whole new meaning to inhaling food. I think I scared the waiter. I don't care, I'm just that hungry and I've had an ordeal. If I weren't so food deprived I'd order a drink, instead I order dessert to go. Now that I've eaten I just want a shower.

Overall I discovered quite a bit today. I still need to evaluate it all. Some things I learned? Next time pack boots and snacks.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

FGS 2013- A Recap

I admit it, I wasn't very diligent about blogging this trip. I'm sorry. The Allen County Public Library was a huge distraction and staying at a hotel farther away from the conference center was an added obstacle. By the time I made it back to my hotel in the late evening, after being gone since the early morning hours, I was exhausted. So I'll give you a rundown of the sessions I did attend.

Thursday marked the opening of the exhibit hall, which is always cause for a lot of excitement. I had a few things in mind to purchase this trip. My first purchase was a magazine from the publishers of Family Chronicle titled, Tracing Your War of 1812 Ancestors. It has a good overview of events and gives suggestions of others sources to read.

The first session I attended was Craig Scott's Records of Forts and Posts. This was a very good session. Craig as always is extremely knowledgable about military record groups at NARA. It's amazing he can keep track of them all! I learned that their were two kinds of people in forts; people who ran the fort and the regiment in the fort. I had never thought about it in this way, but it makes sense. Regiments move around, somebody has to stay at the fort and maintain it. Craig went on to discuss textual records, search strategies, finding a post, and information that would be found on various records.

Next, I attended Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens session on Finding a Needle in the Haystack of Territorial Papers. I learned a little about the Territorial Papers at IGHR at Samford this past summer in the Understanding Land Records class. As you might imagine this record set deals with territorial land purchases. It is an interesting group of records, but there is no guarantee that your ancestor is mentioned in them. However, that doesn't mean that their neighbor, brother, or cousin isn't in them so it doesn't hurt to check it out. Elizabeth also mentioned Record Group 28 that has the Records of the Post Office Department. Somebody had to deliver your ancestor's mail, or maybe it was your ancestor!

The last session I attended for the day was Huguenots in New Amsterdam and Early New York presented by Karen Mauer Green. If ever you want to learn about Huguenots then Karen's lecture would be an excellent choice. Although my Huguenot ancestors did not settle in New York it doesn't matter. The background history is the same and the research methodology can still be applied. Karen gave historical background information and told us that there were two waves of French Huguenots to New York. She also showed us examples of how many variations there could be to one surname in the records. It seemed that this was the result not only of the ancestor but of the person/institution who was creating the record. The possibilities were mind boggling.

Friday and Saturday morning I ended up in the library researching. I had planned to attend a couple of sessions during that time, but I was lucky enough to find a truckload of information about my ancestors. Although I didn't win any prizes or giveaways, I still felt like I won the information jackpot. Saturday afternoon I attended two sessions. The first was, Obtaining the 20th Century Military Records From the National Records Center by Patricia Wall Stamm. I have a WWI veteran and I would like to order his file from the Records Center. Patricia did a good job of explaining the history of it, the fire that consumed the old location, the procedures of the new location, and what records are available. I always hear people complain about the length of time it takes to get records from this repository, and I was aware that they get a lot of requests. However, I didn't realize that the Records Center receives somewhere between 5,000-6,000 requests per day. Per day. How crazy is that? Now wonder it takes them a while. Not only that, priority is given to urgent requests that come in. For example, a veteran who is still living and needs his records for hospice assistance, etc.

The very last session I attended was another of Craig Scott's on The Indian Wars. He told us there were four periods of Native American conflict, and reviewed the conflicts that fell into those time periods. Again, many record groups were discussed and what you would find in them. He referred us to the Mitchell Map on Google. I love maps so I was pretty excited about that mention. There are so many records for this particular subject it is dizzying. Needless to say, if your ancestor took part in any Indian War, then you have a lot to work with even if your ancestor is not mentioned directly.

Other conference news that you have probably heard about by now is that a new version of Family Tree Maker will be released in September, the next FGS conference will be held in San Antonio, and the one after that will be held with RootsTech in Salt Lake City. During the conference there was a big push to raise money for Preserve the Pensions of 1812. The money raised will be used to scan these documents and put them online at Fold3. There were a few companies that pledged to match the money raised at the conference and this all added up close to 1 million dollars in all, with the matches included. Pretty impressive.

I had a great time and met some interesting people. It is always fun to see your friends, talk shop, get ideas, ask for advice, and hash out a problem or two. For a week you get to live in a genealogy bubble, and it's pretty amazing.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

FGS 2013- The Kick Off

I arrived here in Ft. Wayne on Tuesday and I've been slightly remiss in not filling you in. I'm staying at a hotel that is about 5 miles from the conference center, but it feels more like 10. The shuttle times that the hotel is providing are slightly strange and somewhat constricting. Note to self: Don't stay this far away from the main conference action again, unless I have my car.

On Tuesday night I attended the blogger dinner hosted by FamilySearch. They announced that Diane L. Loosle is the new Director of the Family History Library. After dinner we were shown an example of a new feature to some of their libraries throughout the world, which are the Family History Discovery Centers. These are places that you can conduct oral interviews, say with granny, and it will be recorded on video. This video will be saved on a thumb drive which you get to walk away with. The cost is only $8.00 US. I think this is a pretty neat concept. For attending the dinner FamilySearch also gave us these cool solar chargers that have a flashlight feature.

Wednesday I was going to catch a little extra sleep in the morning, but then realized that I needed to catch the last morning shuttle at 7:30. So I was up bright and early. I sat in on Cyndi Howell's (from Cyndi's List) opening session. She discussed society websites and made some really good points. Your society should take a really good look at their website and determine if the information on it is; current, informative, linking to other useful sites for research in the area, and visually pleasing. She went on to discuss examples of sites she has seen that haven't been updated since 1998, or that are so visually busy that it is difficult to take in what the society is about.

After Cyndi's session I headed over to the Allen County Public Library. It is chock full of genealogists. I have a list of research items that is near absurd so I got busy. Overall it was a strange research day for me. The people I was searching out remained illusive, while other ancestors elbowed their way forward. How did this happen? I would turn to pages in any given book looking for a particular person, and out would pop another ancestor I hadn't planned on looking for on this trip. It is always strange when this happens, but I roll with it. Instead of standing in the ever growing line for the copiers I used the Genius Scan app on my iPhone. I can scan an image, save it as a PDF or JPEG, and then save into DropBox. It does a pretty good job and it saves me time.

Last night I also attended a social at the Botanical Gardens. It was very pretty but slightly warm. The line for food was surprisingly slow moving. They had music there and three raffles. I didn't win, but was happy for the people who did. They were excited and that's always fun to see. I was able to catch up with friends, meet new people, and talk genealogy. A perfect evening.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sometimes It's All About Timing

There are times that certain ancestors grab my attention out of the blue. I can't explain how this happens or why... it just does. A couple weeks ago I started thinking about Ann M (Berryman) Fry. She was married to George Fry whom I blogged about here. They were only married a few years when Ann died, leaving behind two sons one of which was Tyree Curtis Fry, my gg grandfather. I always wondered how Tyree got his name and where it came from. I also wondered about Ann. Where did she come from? Why haven't I looked into this sooner, and what is making me think of it now? So I suddenly decided to do a little digging on Ann.

I found Ann listed in the 1860 Platte, Clay County, Missouri census with her father Charles Berryman as head of the house. There were a couple children listed, Ann is 14, but no mother. Next I checked the 1850 Gallatin, Clay County, Missouri census, where the mother, Manerva Berryman, is listed. My hypothesis is that Manerva died sometime between the two census years. What made me gasp though, was the name of Ann's brother listed in the same census, Tyre C Berryman. Apparently Ann named her second son after her brother. In my search I discovered this same brother would also move (follow Ann and her husband?) to Colorado. I was unexpectedly touched by this. As far as I can tell this is the only sibling that moved to Colorado. What makes this especially powerful is that Ann became ill in Denver and died in 1873 before any of them settled onto the land there. Her brother easily could have gone back to Missouri where the rest of the family stayed, instead he remained.

After this nugget of information was found I turned to Find A Grave. Sadly I couldn't locate a grave on the site for Manerva/Minerva. It either hasn't been posted yet, or it has been lost to time. I did however find the grave for Charles Berryman. He died in 1864 and appears to be buried in an obscure family cemetery, Eberts Cemetery, located on somebody's farm in Clinton County, Missouri.

Find A Grave, Find A Grave Index, 1836-2011, digital images ( accessed 25 July 2013), photograph, gravestone for Charles H. Berryman (died 1864), Clinton County, Missouri.

The photo was posted just 1 month ago on Find A Grave! How is that for timing? Some may say it was luck, coincidence, or just diligent researching. A Roman philosopher, Seneca, said "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." While I do agree with this to a point, sometimes it's all about the timing too.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Instead of Going to GRIP I....

I have to admit that during the week I became a little more than envious of the GRIP attendees. They seemed to be having a great time and of course learning a lot. Instead I spent my week chauffeuring my kids around and holding down the fort with my husband out of town. I also crafted my own educational experience.

This past spring Tom Jones released Mastering Genealogical Proof. Currently I'm participating in a study group for this book, and we are on chapter 4. This week I read ahead through chapter 7 and did the exercises for each chapter. I've attended enough of Tom Jones' lectures, classes, etc. that I always hear his voice when I read the book. So in a small way I felt like I was in his class. I also read Genealogical Proof Standard by Christine Rose. It is a short book, and can be read in about an hour. It seemed like a good time to finally read it and that it would be a good compliment to Tom's book. Like Tom's book it discusses the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) and how to apply it to your research. I was pleased to realize that while reading Christine's book the concepts seemed elementary to me, and that I fully understood them. This was a relief. It is these types of realizations that clue me in to where I am at in my level understanding, education, and learning.

I also completed an application for recognition of one of my Civil War Missouri ancestors. An element of the application is to include a brief biography of the ancestor. Of course I included citations. The great thing about applying for lineage groups is that you really need to pay attention to how each generation links to the next, and the connection of the relationships in between. This is good practice for a kinship determination project.

Some other activities this week included working on an indexing project for the DAR, clearing my desk in the office (amazing!), working on some items for my business, reading up a little on DNA since I got some results back, and making some great discoveries in my own family research. The last two are independent of each other and will have their own blog posts.

Overall, a busy week. I do miss the camaraderie of being with like minded folks, i.e. other genealogists. However, I suppose that is what Facebook is for, and it makes me really appreciate those times I get to spend with my genea-friends.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Pressure of Finding a Specialty

For the past month I've either been asked what my genealogy specialty is, or had conversations with people about trying to find a specialty. At this time I call myself a generalist. Not a very exciting title is it? It just doesn't have that punch that giving a specialty does. I feel slightly panicked and pressured about this.

How does one figure out their specialty or niche? Part of the problem is that I find everything interesting. There are a few topics that I seem drawn to, but I can name a specialist or two immediately off the top of my head for those topics. Shouldn't I find something more unique and not so already done? As you can imagine becoming a specialist in any area takes time and a lot of study. I feel the clock ticking.

So I'm curious... for those reading, do you have a specialty/niche? How did you figure it out? What advice do you have? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Tract Book Happy Dance

Last summer I was in Washington D.C. at the National Archives pulling every possible land record for my ancestors that I could think of. At that time, to order these records it would have been $40 per record (now it's $50). Considering the amount of records I came home with, my trip paid for itself.

However, there was one record that eluded me and the staff at NARA. This was the land record for George Fry, my ggg grandfather. I knew that George had moved to Colorado from Missouri and so did his father. There were Homestead records for George's father, son, and brother. George was listed in the Colorado census records, has a death record in the state, and is buried there. I also knew he had gone to Denver, Colorado in the 1870's. I know this because his wife died there, my ggg grandmother. These people were farmers back in Missouri, so it made sense that they would continue to be farmers in Colorado. So where was George's land? Where was his Homestead land record?

Apparently there were a few George Fry's living in Colorado. I discovered this because I looked at their land records filled with all sorts of great documentation about family and where they came from. One record even had immigration papers in it. None of these George's were my George. I was frustrated. Would I have to go to Colorado and dig through deed books?

A couple weeks ago at IGHR in the land records class, Angela McGhie gave a lecture on Using Tract Books. I discovered that FamilySearch has digitized the tract books for every state, except Missouri and  Alaska, and put them online. Angela also gave us some tips on how to use them. This can require using a few sources to figure out which book to look in.

Last night I realized I was finally caught up from being away for a week, and sat down to search through the online collection at FamilySearch.  I decided to look first in the area where George's father had land. This is the earliest record I have for a land purchase in Colorado. Within 10 minutes I found George.

Colorado tract book, vol. 1 (Denver land office), p. 94, Township 8 South, Range 65 West; "United States, Bureau of Land Management Tract Books, 1820-1908," digital images, FamilySearch ( 
accessed 25 June 2013).

George is at the bottom of this image, which is about the middle of the page in the book. Also listed are his father, Jefferson, and two brothers on the same page. All applied for Homestead land. However, George commuted his application to a cash sale. That was one of the reasons I couldn't find him. The other two reasons are: the BLM site has transcribed his middle initial as H, it is supposed to be W. I can  understand how it could have been transcribed incorrectly, since the writing is not all that clear. The larger problem is that all records I have for George are him living in Delta County, Colorado not Douglas County where he and his family applied for land. So I was looking in the wrong county.

Commence the tract book happy dance! I found George and I had the satisfaction of knowing I was right. George had bought land in Colorado.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Goals for 2013-2014

It's that time for me to set my goals for 2013-2014. Instead of setting goals at the New Year, I set them when I have my birthday in June. For me this is a more natural way of measuring my progression than by the calendar year. You can read last year's post here.

A quick review of last years goals and how I did. The first goal on my list was create a website for my business. Well, I didn't do it and it remains on my list for this year. My problem with this goal is procrastination. I keep thinking I need to get this or that thing together or lined up and so it doesn't happen. However, two weeks ago I had a revelation that I can always change the site and it is not "written in stone" as they say.

My other two goals were a combination of research and write. I did fairly well with these two goals. I've done lots of research towards a case study and a kinship determination project. There is a particular genealogical problem I have come across, that if I can solve it (in a timely manner) would make a great case study. I have other candidates for a case study, but this other one is more interesting/challenging and I love a good challenge.

I have done lots of writing too! The down side is that it has been for other people. I want to focus a little more on writing for myself. In fact, this year I want to complete at least a rough draft (at minimum) of my case study and kinship determination project for certification. I'll also put in my goals to complete the transcription element for my portfolio too.

So here are my goals for the next year:

  1. Create website for my business (DO IT!!!)
  2. Research- pay particular attention to solving above challenge mentioned
  3. Writing- make a focused effort on writing for myself, whether it is articles or portfolio work, etc.
  4. Write a rough draft of case study and kinship determination project
  5. Complete transcription element for BCG portfolio
There you have it. I have made my goals a bit more specific this year to give some added focus for myself. Of course I have a lot of other projects I want to work on and ideas to pursue. This list is to remind me where I would like the emphasis to be.

Friday, June 14, 2013

IGHR 2013 - Day 5

Today was the last day of IGHR. However, this morning we had two presentations. Our first lecture was given by Lloyd deWitt Bockstruck on Colonial and State Bounty Land. This covered land received for participating in the various wars and skirmishes before the Revolutionary War. It was a fascinating overview of history that was just the tip of the iceberg. Lloyd is clearly an expert in this field and is a wealth of information.

Our second and last lecture was given by Christine Rose on Bounty Land Records. This covered the land awarded to people who participated in wars and skirmishes after the Revolutionary War and before the Civil War. Christine stressed many times the importance of being familiar with U.S. Statutes. The Statutes determined who could get land and when, ie. soldiers, widows, other heirs, and turning in a land warrant for script. Christine paid particular attention to Ohio and Virginia, as those two states have some issues that are unique to dealing with land and the Revolutionary War soldiers.

After the lecture we were awarded our certificates of completion, traded business cards, and said our good-byes. I finished packing up my car and headed to our last lunch on campus. This was such a great week and I am sad to see it end. Not only is it a great learning experience, but I get to catch up with my friends and colleagues many of whom I only see at IGHR.

On the drive home I reflected on my week. I realized how much I have grown as a genealogist in the past year. I measured this based on how much I was able to understand in lectures and social discussions on the topic. I was also seeking out sources in the libraries while on campus, with an understanding that I hadn't fully grasped in previous years. Having said that there is a lot more to learn. I have many new sources to study and seek out. I'm already looking forward to next year and the new learning experience that will bring.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

IGHR 2013 - Day 4

Today we spent the entire day of our land class with J. Mark Lowe learning about Land Platting. This was a treat. Mark is entertaining and has a way of explaining things that involve the class which helps illustrate a topic for understanding. For example; when explaining what metes are, he had a few of us stand up, to represent the metes. The lines connecting us would be the bounds. Metes and bounds land surveys are for the most part are found in state land (colonial) states, with some exceptions.

Mark also went through a few steps of drawing a tract map based on the "calls" (compass directions) that are found in a deed or elsewhere. We got some tips on how to determine the scale, how to mark North on the paper, and what else to include with our plat. Altogether we platted 4 deeds. To some it may not sound like much fun, but it happens to be an activity that I enjoy. I love working with land. Land is concrete. I find this oddly comforting. Land doesn't pick up and move around the country dodging the census taker, the tax man, or go into some strange void.

Our class let out a little early, so I decided to once again look at the BCG portfolio materials. Why am I torturing myself with this? Well the day before I had been pressed for time, and didn't get to view one of the portfolios I was really interested in viewing. I also hadn't been able to fully view a small binder of judge's comments on various portfolios. First I just looked at the comments. I think this is a great idea on the part of BCG to have gathered these for viewing. The binder contained examples of "approved" and "disapproved" for certification portfolio reviews. These sheets do not accompany the portfolio, so I was only able to view the critiques. I was relieved to discover not all of the "approved for certification" critique sheets had passing marks for every rubric. There were some areas (very few) that an applicant "did not meet standard." However, the judge took into consideration the entire portfolio, and the level of skill demonstrated throughout all of the assignments. The portfolio I viewed had a really good example of the Kinship Determination Project (KDP). I enjoyed the direct approach this portfolio displayed and felt like it was a less complicated style than some other examples I have seen.

Our dinner tonight was the banquet that is always held on the last evening of IGHR. It tends to be a fairly jovial affair, as attendees have a general feeling of accomplishment for the week. The keynote speaker tonight was Julie Hedgepeth Williams who has written A Rare Titanic Family, which was the subject of the presentation. Julie narrated an incredible tale of her great-uncle, his wife, and their child that survived the Titanic disaster. It involved some interesting research on her part and was a wonderful story.

During the banquet tonight a rather heavy storm front moved through. This seems to be an annual part of the IGHR experience. Fortunately it was over by the time the banquet was. Once I got back to the dorm I did a little packing in preparation for leaving tomorrow. This week has passed quickly and I'm sad to see it end. However, tomorrow morning we still have two more lectures before receiving our certificates of completion. When it comes to genealogy research there is always more to learn!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

IGHR 2013- Day 3

Today was packed full of information. We started out the morning with a lecture by Angela McGhie on Using Tract Books. These are books that recorded first purchases or attempts at purchasing land in the Federal states. Angela showed us the formula of how to figure out where to look in these books for our ancestors. It can be slightly complicated and tedious if you don't know exactly where your ancestor settled. However, this is a great resource and I was so excited to learn about it. Even better, Angela told us that Family Search has digitized all of the books, with the exception for those in Missouri and Alaska. Our next morning session was spent in the computer lab with Rick Sayre. He walked us through the Bureau of Land Management site along with a few other sites. This session was very interesting and easily could have been longer.

After lunch, we had another session with Rick on Land Records in the Serial Set, American State Papers, and Territorial Papers and other Government Documents. This was a wonderful session. We saw examples of why all of these sources can be valuable in our genealogical research. Rick showed us various ways to access these sources online. It was interesting that different sites can give you varying results for a search term. Go figure. Now I have to say I searched a little bit tonight for my ancestors and had okay results. I will have to search more at a later date, when I'm not so tired.

Next, Christine Rose presented Inheritance. This was guessed it...the law of inheritance. Christine covered terms such as; entail, primogeniture, dower and curtesy. She explained the loopholes around the law of inheritance in the Colonial era and some laws that were specific to Virginia.

Before dinner tonight I briefly viewed a BCG portfolio. This portfolio was outstanding and I felt totally intimidated. The portfolios that the BCG usually display are the best of the best. The cream of the crop if you will. However, I have to admit to a curiosity of being able to view a portfolio that passed and was more of a norm. Not that I am aiming low by any means, but I also don't want to think I will never be capable of producing a passing portfolio.

I decided to attend an evening session tonight before doing some of my own research again. The session I chose was presented by Judy Russell entitled, The ABCs of DNA. She covered yDNA, mtDNA, and Autosomal DNA. I'm very familiar with the first two and feel more than comfortable explaining the meaning of them to people. I'm familiar with Autosomal testing, although going into the session I couldn't have explained it very well. However, the way Judy explained Autosomal DNA with the accompanying visual aides, made it extremely clear and it was a "light bulb" moment for me. Judy also covered a few of the DNA testing companies and how they differ. It has given me some thoughts about testing and I probably need to figure out a budget now.

Tomorrow we spend the entire day with J. Mark Lowe and land platting. This promises to be an entertaining day and probably some moments of confusion. If you have ever platted a metes and bounds piece of property then you know what I'm talking about. I suspect we may be a bit cross-eyed by lunch time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

IGHR 2013-Day 2

Today my morning was spent with Lloyd de Witt Bockstruck and his presentation on Colonial Land Records in America. Lloyd is a wealth of information on this topic. However, even with the microphone it was difficult to hear him at times.

Lloyd started out with land resources in New England and explaining how land was allocated and where to find records. He illustrated that New Jersey was divided into two sections of East Jersey and West Jersey. For some reason the boundary goes diagonally across the state, making East Jersey north and West Jersey south during the colonial period. Lloyd continued to discuss the other colonial states and the various idiosyncrasies of obtaining and keeping one's land.

After lunch we spent the afternoon with Rick Sayre who presented Federal Land Records at the National Archives, Part 1 and Part 2. Rick discussed the various laws that led to migration and the settlement of land, and how to work the Bureau of Land Management website. He will go into more detail with the website tomorrow. We also practiced finding specific sections or subdivisions within a township diagram. One item that I was particularly excited to learn about were the Cancelled Homestead files housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Rick showed us photos of one very thick file full of genealogical information. Unfortunately, these files are not indexed and take a little bit of know-how to find a specific one.

When class was over, I went to the library and did a little research of my own. Afterwards I met up with some friends for dinner. The cafeteria was not nearly as chaotic as it had been the night before thankfully. My friends had homework to tackle, so I head to the campus Law Library to continue with some of my own research. This is the first year I have been able to do this and it is quite a luxury! Tomorrow is a full day of learning about tract books, going to the computer lab for hands on experience, and an afternoon full of lectures.

Monday, June 10, 2013

IGHR 2013- Day 1

Today was the first official day of classes at IGHR at Samford University in Birmingham. This year I am taking Understanding Land Records, and I've been pretty excited about it. Why? When it comes to doing genealogy work, land records are invaluable. Often they can be the key to understanding relationships and making connections. Land was important to our ancestors.

After the introduction this morning, Christine Rose, the course coordinator, presented 2 sessions on County Land Records. She discussed the types of records you could find at the Recorder's office, and what the various terms used meant ie., Warranty Deed, Trust Deed, Crop Lien, Dower Release, etc. Christine also went through how to find records at the Courthouse, and how to make sense of the Russell Index and the Graves Index. One index Christine discussed that I found really interesting was the Devisor/Devisee index. It is an index of real property, not household items, given to individuals. I was very excited to learn about this. I've often wondered how I could find an ancestor listed in a deed of an unfamiliar or unknown person. Now I know where to look.

The two afternoon sessions were spent with J. Mark Lowe, who presented The Carolinas and Tennessee. He discussed the history of land ownership in this area from the colonial period through the 1920's. Mark then walked us through (literally) the process of how to obtain and own land, how individuals might deal with a land grant transfer, and how to navigate the North Carolina Archives website. He showed us lots of maps dealing with different time periods, how the districts were created, modern maps compared to historical maps, topographic maps, and geographic regions maps.

Then it was time for dinner. This was a chaotic affair. While our institute is going on the university is also conducting orientation for the incoming freshman, and various sports camps. There were several teams of teenage baseball players. The cliche of teenage boys' appetites was demonstrated as they walked through individually with a couple plates of food each. This made for incredibly long lines to get dinner. I was more than ready to leave for the evening lecture.

The lecture I attended tonight was given by Judy Russell titled, The Ethical Genealogist. She discussed the code of ethics from various genealogical organizations and how they fall into basically 3 rules. Judy showed examples to illustrate her points, and told of her mistakes to learn from. As always, Judy is an engaging speaker and if you ever get the opportunity to listen to her lecture, on any topic, go!

Tomorrow it's more land lectures, and I couldn't be happier!