Latest Posts

My New Koonce Surname Study Site

A couple of weeks ago I shared that I’d joined the Guild of One-Name Studies. This is Week 6 of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series and how apropos that this week’s prompt is “Favorite Name.”  Guess what name I choose? KOONCE! A perfectly timed prompt for launching my new site dedicated to the Koonce surname. My interest in my Koonce surname is, after all, what sparked my curiosity of those that came before me.  Thus, it is my favorite name.

I am very pleased with my new site.  The design is Template 15 of the TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Site-building software and I like the segmentation of the page. I have a link to my Mailchimp email distribution for updates I share with other Koonce researchers and family members.

The database has about 4,000 individuals and I’ve created sections for both white and black Koonce lineages along with indications to their regional areas. The Koonce to Koonce newsletters, published by my buddy John P. Koonce, are featured on the front page and I could not help but put a picture of myself browsing the newsletters as my “contact” picture.

My next step for the new site is to start re-attaching media files. I made a conscious decision not to transfer them in batch because I needed to do some cleanup. But the sources are all there so at least others will be able to see those.

I love working on my surname study. I enjoy connecting with other Koonces and researching Koonce families.  If you are a Koonce descendant, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

In the Census: I’m Ready for 1950

A view of my presentation

Yesterday, I was delighted to present a session on Researching African American Family History & Genealogy on behalf of the Nashville Chapter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society. This is our fourth year partnering with Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage to conduct part of their Black History Month programming and it went well! We had a turnout of more than 60 people and during our post-presentation consultation sessions, had a chance to interact individually to help answer research questions.

This week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series prompt is “In the Census.” Well, a standard part of my presentations on getting started in your research is that the first set of records to go to are the US Census records. It never ceases to amaze me just how much information can be gleaned when working backward consecutively through the years. During the presentation, I explained how the 1950 census will be released in 2022 and I thought to myself – wow- we are so close!  I did quite a bit of transcription for the 1940 census and I am looking forward to hopefully being able to do the same for 1950.

I am already beginning to think about who I’ll search for first in the 1950 census and it will definitely be my grandparents:

  • maternal grandmother: Alice McNair – in April 1950, my grandmother had given birth to my uncle Stanley. He was born in Brooklyn, NY so I expect to find her and him there; he was only 6 weeks old on census enumeration day. The address on his birth certificate is 44 MacDonough Street in Brooklyn, so I expect to find them there.
  • maternal grandfather: Herman Robinson – my grandfather discharged from the US Navy in 1946 and would marry my grandmother in September 1950. I expect he will be in New York somewhere, but I do not know where. I wonder if he will be near his own mother, Lucinda Lennon Robinson – she would be living on Harlem River Drive in Manhattan.
  • paternal grandmother: Cora Mae Lawhorn –  she married my grandfather in 1951, so I expect to find her still living at home with her parents in Craven County, NC.
  • paternal grandfather: William Koonce Sr. – I also expect to find him still living at home with his parents – also in Craven County, NC.

I will then search for my great-grandparents as 7 of the 8 were still alive in 1950. Until the 1950 census is transcribed, we will need to navigate them by knowing the enumeration districts, so check Steve Morse’s One-Step site for those details.

1950 Craven County, NC Enumeration Districts

And so that I don’t forget my plan, this blog entry is going into my calendar for the first week of April 2022. Are you prepared?

 

 

 

 

I’ve Joined the Guild of One-Name Studies

This weekend I joined the Guild of One-Name Studies and I am ecstatic! I’ve had my eye on the Guild for a few years because I do research on families with my Koonce surname – whether related to me or not. I have a research database full of Koonce families and I actively use FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry Member Trees to document the work. Many Koonce descendants have contacted me over the years and I enjoy every interaction.

A few months ago, I learned that the Guild offers members the opportunity to host our research sites on their servers. They offer to do this in several formats, including WordPress sites and through the use of TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Site-Building. With that, I was hooked because I am a WordPress fangal and ardent user and supporter of TNG; I’ve been using TNG for about 11 years and personally find it unparalleled as a genealogy software platform.

As a Guild member, I anticipate being able to take my research to the next step. I plan to move my project from my personal web server over to the Guild’s. The Koonce surname is now part of the registry and I know that even after I am gone, the research will live on as a legacy site for others to leverage for years to come. Members’ research files can also be submitted to FamilySearch as part of their “Genealogies” collection. The Guild has committed to maintaining members’ sites for the long-term; a move I find visionary and only wish more national/international societies would employ.

P.S. – I’ve been participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog series and for Week 4, I blogged on the Koonce site, rather than here on my genealogy blog. Go check it out!

The Longest Living Person in My Genealogy Database: Zeola L. Portis

It’s Week 3 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series and this week’s prompt is “Longevity.” For this prompt, I decided to check my genealogy database and find the longest-living person.

I use TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding for my primary software program and it is easy to run statistics and find the longest-living person. This calculation can only be done when there are definitive birth and death dates, so as it stands right now, the longest-living person is Ms. Zeola L. Portis. She was born January 6, 1902, and died September 19, 2008. She was 106 years old when she passed away.

Zeola L., age 8, in the 1910 Calvert, Robertson County, TX census as the youngest child of her mother Hattie.

I learned about Zeola from a fellow genealogist who contacted me after finding my information online about my ancestors from Edgecombe County, NC – specifically, relatives of my 3rd great-grandmother, Mariah Wimberly.  Zeola’s grandparents were Reddin Battle and Amanda Wimberly and we suspect Amanda and Mariah are related – possibly sisters. If Amanda and Mariah are sisters, then I would be Zeola’s 1st cousin three times removed.

Zeola and her family were from Calvert, Robertson County, Texas. And, upon being contacted by the other genealogist and doing research, I discovered that one of Mariah’s brothers moved from Edgecombe County, NC down to that area of Texas; I’ve been able to definitively source his move and his family; in addition to tracing several other Edgecombe County families to that same area.  It is through a conversation with Zeola that my geneabuddy was able to learn about the family’s migration from North Carolina, so Zeola’s oral account, and the documentation I’ve located so far converge.

My research on Zeola and her family is far from complete, but I should re-focus and consider what steps I can take next to seek out more evidence for Amanda’s relationship to my family. I will definitely have to put my thinking cap on.

 

 

Upending Google Photos: An Organizational Strategy for Digital Photos

Just a tad bit late, here is my second post up for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  The Week 2 prompt is “Favorite Photo,” but rather than sharing a specific photo from my family history, I want to share an organizational strategy I’m using as I continue my mission to get my photos (physical and digital), completely re-organized.

Since 2014, I’ve been using Google Photos as my primary location for all the digital photos I take. Prior to its release, I’d been manually storing all digital pictures into folders categorized by year and month. Then, when Googe Photos came out, I was pulled into its allure and the application of intelligent searching across my photos. However, I found over time that it made me less efficient in finding photos I needed.

As I’ve embarked on my re-organization project, I decided to change my approach to using it. I now use it more for the “camera roll” it is and on a regular basis, move my photos out of the specific folders allocated for “Google Photos” and into my manually constructed folders. Thus, my pictures are now going to be in “Google Photos” folder only temporarily.  Then, I finally turned on the function offered for Google Photos to include all pictures in Google Drive and this, in combination with my enhanced metadata, is now really making it easier for me to find the photos I need.

turning on Google Drive settings in Google Photos

So now, I have the best of both worlds – the magic search of Google Photos AND the efficient organization of my manual system.  If I need to search, I do it Google Photos. And, if I know exactly what I am looking for, I go directly to it in my folder hierarchy. Perfect!

 

 

 

Our Visual Address History

As Amy Johnson Crow begins her 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series this year, I finally decided to take the plunge and participate! The goal of the series is to do something with the genealogy research that I, and so many others, obsess about 🙂 ; to make it more interactive and dynamic than just names and dates in a genealogy program. I have been blogging about my genealogy for about 10 years, but have slacked off the past few years; it is my hope that participating in the series will help me pick that back up also.

This weeks prompt is “Start.” To that end, I’d like to share a project I’ve just started to document an aspect of my family history. Using Becky Higgins’ Project Life app, I started a scrapbook to document all the places my parents have lived, and all the places my siblings and I grew up.

The scrapbook starts with my maternal grandmother, Alice McNair Robinson, and where she lived when my mother’s oldest brother, Stanley, was born.  She lived on MacDonough Avenue in Bronx, NY and we even have family pictures taken outside the apartment.  I’ve put together some photos and stories from that time period to put the page together.

my scrapbook page

I recently shared an update on my photo organization project and I am reaping the benefits already! As I consider how to put these scrapbook pages together, I know what pictures I have to match the time frame and the location. It has been immensely helpful.

I have plenty to do as I build the scrapbook; growing up, we lived in a lot of places and my siblings and I went to many different schools. I will continue to move through the years and document various aspects of our lives. I am having regular conversations with my parents to gather information for the scrapbook and I am already learning so much family history that I did not know. I plan to include family memories and stories along the way so I know that doing this is going to be a wonderful experience! And, as a final outcome, I’ll have a book that I can gift to my parents and siblings; definitely will make the history tangible.

If you have done a family history scrapbook I would love to hear about it; I’m always on the lookout for inspiration.

Tech Tuesday: My Digital Photo Organization

A couple of days ago, I posted an update on my 2017 New Year’s resolutions; particularly, my work to organize my physical photo collection. Throughout this year, I’ve also been working on my digital photo organization as I liked what I was doing with my physical items and transferred the concept to my digital photos.

Just like my physical photos, I have 3 groupings:

  • Taneya’s Family (pictures of my side of the family and my childhood)
  • Kalonji’s Family (pictures of his side of the family and his childhood)
  • Our Family (photos from the time I met Kalonji and of our nuclear family with our 5 kids).

Also like my physical photo organization system, I have some groupings by decade and then as we move closer to present time, yearly divisions. Example folder directories may include:

  • Kalonji Family 2017
  • Kalonji Family 2018
  • Our Family 2017
  • Our Family 2018
  • Taneya Family 2017
  • Taneya Family 2018

If you were to look inside my “Our Family – 2018” directory, I have subfolders for each month. I start each folder name with the year followed by the two digit number for the month, then followed by the month name. The reason I use numbers at the beginning of the file name is so that the folders will easily sort by date. Example file directory names may include:

  • 2017-01 January
  • 2017-02 February
  • 2017-03 March
  • 2017-04 April

Here is the inside of the “Our Family – 2018 / 2017-02 February” folder. My individual file names also start with the year, two digits for the month and if I know it, the exact date. I try to put descriptive text for the rest of the file name, but when I take multiple pictures for one event, I give them all the same name and use two digits to number them at the end (e.g., 01,02,03). The reason to use two digits is for proper sorting once the number goes into two digits.

  • 2017-02-01 Dinner at Rainforest Cafe 01.tif
  • 2017-02-01 Dinner at Rainforest Cafe 02.tif
  • 2017-02-01 Dinner at Rainforest Cafe 03.tif
  • 2017-02-02 Taneya playing solitaire with the kids.tif
  • 2017-02-05 Parthenon at Centennial Park.tif

For each photo, I add IPTC metadata information for a handful of specific fields. Check Alison Taylor’s RootsTech 2017 presentation for more information about editing photo metadata. Using metadata, specifically IPTC metadata, is key for capturing the details of each picture. The reason to use IPTC metadata is that it is an industry standard; it can be read by many different photo management/editing programs.

 

Other things to know:

  • I currently use ACDSee as my primary photo management software. At about $40 it is cheaper than Adobe’s’ products and it has been around for more than 20 years. I used to use it before Google’s Picasa came out and went back to it once Picasa was retired.
  • I save all my images in TIFF format (or, if I have only a jpg; convert it to TIFF) as TIFF is the recommended standard for archival quality images. Anytime I need to share a photo I make a jpg from the TIFF file.
  • When I take pictures, my phone automatically backs up to Google Photos. Google Photos has its own subdirectory in my Google Drive account. This means I periodically need to go through the Google Photos subdirectory and move pictures to my their proper directory.
  • I save ALL of my stuff in Google Drive – which is great because I have access to it across multiple devices. I use SpinBackup to backup my Google Drive account.

With this organization plan, not only do I feel much more equipped for finding and locating pictures when I need them; it also greatly helps my digital scrapbooking hobby too as my scrapbooking is largely chronologically-oriented.

This is all part of my master plan to be ultra-organized with my genealogy files. I have so much more to do but I enjoy seeing it come together over time. I’m sure I’ll have more posts with updates in the future!


Image credits: file folders

Our Very Own MTGS Genealogy Roadshow

This weekend, I was pleased to have the opportunity to present as part of a special programming event of the Middle Tennessee Genealogy Society. We had a session yesterday afternoon loosely based on the concept of a roadshow/roundtable. Our session featured 4 major concepts; presenters were at 4 tables covering the following subjects:

  • Computers in Genealogy
  • Beginning Genealogy
  • Reliable Research Records
  • DNA

Attendees then moved from station to station (30 minutes each) during our meeting time. I was asked to co-present on the Reliable Research Records topic. However, the evening before the event I was asked if I could do the Computers in Genealogy session due to the planned presenters’ illnesses. As I love technology, I was happy to do i!t Given the short notice, I pondered on what I’d present – I decided I would just share some of the ways I use not just computers, but technology in general, to further my genealogy workflows and research. I came up with a list of 10 examples to share. 

  1. Genealogy Software – talked about the use of programs like RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, and Family Tree Maker for electronic management of your family tree. I personally use RootsMagic as part of my genealogy workflow, but there are many, many other options out there! I am especially a fan of RootsMagic’s integration with both FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry Member Trees. 
  2. Genealogy File Organization – this year, I became serious about organizing my digital files. I set up what I like to refer to as my own “personal genealogy archive” and organize my material by format within three main divisions – my own family, my husband’s family, and our combined family. Again, there are multiple options. Anyone looking for tips and additional suggestions should check out The Organized Genealogist Facebook group. 
  3. Writing on Digital Photos – As part of my organization plan, I now regularly add descriptions/captions to each of my digital photos by editing the IPTC metadata. This allows my captions to stay with the digital photo even when shared with others. Alison Taylor has great information on her website about what this process can entail. I also personally use XnViewMP software to do my metadata editing (hat tip to Tony Hanson of the Dallas Genealogical Society for the software suggestion – see YouTube video). 
  4. Using the Cloud – I use Google Drive to store all of my files. The benefit of using cloud storage is that I’m not dependent upon any one particular device – I can access my files from any device with an internet connection. This flexibility has been important to me for many years now so I’m grateful for the software platforms that allow me to do it. I even save my RootsMagic database in Google Drive. There are other services of course, like Dropbox, but I’m a Google fangirl 🙂
  5. Push Notifications – you know those buttons you see on websites that say “sign up for email updates”? – I use those liberally! I love the idea of information coming directly to my inbox, rather than me having to remember to go to the site to see what’s new. I personally have a LOT of sites I monitor, so Feedly, with its aggregation service, is great for collecting this new info for me so that it is ready for me when I want it. 
  6. Genealogy Blogging – I’ve been blogging since 2008 and thoroughly enjoy it. It is a great way to document my research progress and to share my findings. With the way blog posts are readily picked up by search engines, posts also serve as great cousin bait. I’ve had many instances of relatives finding me via the information I’ve shared online here in my blog – from pictures to family stories, and more. I personally prefer WordPress as my platform of choice, but there are others, like Google’s Blogger
  7. Digital Notebooks – I’ve always been a copious note-taker and I love that I’m able to do so digitally through EverNote. Through EverNote, I can capture notes, pictures, and all kinds of other info electronically with 24/7 access to it across multiple devices. The hierarchy options are helpful for organizing information. The Evernote Genealogists Facebook group is a helpful resource for tips/suggestions. 
  8. Cemetery ResearchFind-A-Grave and BillionGraves are both sites I use often. I have their mobile apps installed on my phone so that I can take advantage of options such as adding pictures to memorials while in the cemetery (Find-A-Grave) or uploading all the pictures I take in a cemetery for automatic geomapping (BillionGraves). Love them both!
  9. Scanning Photos – from wand scanners, flatbed scanners, and mobile scanners such as the Flip-Pal, there are many ways to scan a photo to create a digital file. My favorite scanner? My cell phone. And with the availability of apps like Google’s PhotoScan, I maximize the quality of the images I take. 
  10. StoryTelling/Oral Histories – StoryCorps has established quite the legacy for the many stories they help people capture around the country. On my wishlist to try at my next family reunion is their mobile app which makes it easy to record stories of your family members. I’ll certainly share my experiences with it in a future blog post. 

Overall, the session went well and we had a great turnout! Many questions were asked by participants and I enjoyed speaking and learning from others also. Check out the Technology for Genealogy Facebook group for more discussion and information. 

My next speaking event is a local family reunion in October, so until then!


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You Are NOT the Father!

Except when you are…

Yesterday, via a 23andMe DNA match, I was able to confirm the identity of my stepfather’s paternal grandfather! When I started doing genealogy in 2005, we thought his grandfather’s name was Rowland McGill. I constructed Rowland’s family tree and then put the research aside for awhile. Several years later, Ron’s father told us that Rowland was not his father after all – that he found some documentation that another man was his father. We do not know what this documentation was, but given the statement, I accordingly changed the name in the family tree with the thought of following-up.

Fast-forward to yesterday when one of Ron’s matches, to whom I sent a sharing invitation via 23andMe, accepted. The new match (whom I’ll refer to as MS) was predicted to be a 2nd cousin to Ron. After a few email exchanges, I learn that MS is a grandchild of one of Rowland McGill’s siblings! Not only that, Ron also matches another descendant of that same sibling.

Ron shares 3% of his DNA with his new cousin – a total of 223cm across 11 segments. This amount is just slightly below the average amount of DNA 2nd cousins share according to the data Blaine Bettinger’s collected for the Shared cM Project.

There are other pieces of evidence that I won’t go into here for sake of privacy, but it turns out Rowland that you ARE the father!

Gotta love how DNA can help untangle these mysteries. 🙂

My Genealogy Software Workflow

Back in 2015, I started the Genealogy Do-Over process. It was an opportune time to revisit my research & documentation procedures as it had been about 10 years since I’d started doing genealogy. At this time, I used it as a way to begin ensuring that I recorded my family tree info in FamilySearch Family Tree. In that blog post, I describe how I would use a combination of TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Site-Building, RootsMagic, and FamilySearch Family Tree.

That process has gone well! About 18 months ago, I created a video update to share specifics of how I use the 3 platforms in tandem and to give insight into my process. And, it is a process I continue to use. But, I’ve recently made a change.

For years I had  trees on Ancestry but I did not spend time caring for them or updating them with any regularity. Now that RootsMagic has the ability to sync with Ancestry Member Trees, I will be updating those trees on a regular basis too. With the recent release of RootsMagic’s Ancestry Tree Share, I am now integrating Ancestry Member Trees into my documentation & sharing process and over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken some time to consider what processes to be most efficient.  It’s funny because last year while giving a presentation about online collaborative family trees, an audience member stopped me and asked: “So you do everything in triplicate?” To which I answered “Yes.”  – Wait ’til I tell him I now do everything in quadruplicate! 🙂  Because yes, now that RootsMagic has the sync with Ancestry, edits I make on my family tree are done 4 times over.

I thus decided to do this blog post to document what I do and why I do it, in the case that others find it helpful! So, here is a graphic representation of my genealogy software workflow.

Quick Overview:  My online TNG-based website is my primary software, then I also edit my RootsMagic database. Then I sync from RootsMagic to FamilySearch Family Tree and then sync to Ancestry Member Trees. This is now what I do for any person on which I am working. Here are some highlights of what I do with each/why I use each.

TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy SiteBuilding

  • This is my primary database. I make all edits here first.
  • TNG offers some unique features and the fact that it is online is advantageous for easy sharing with my family and for cousin bait.
  • My TNG records have links to the corresponding FamilySearch Family Tree profile.

RootsMagic

  • I use this primarily because I can sync to FamilySearch Family Tree
  • My RootsMagic databases are stored in my Google Drive account, which means I can update my databases from any computer on which I have RootsMagic installed
  • I usually tend not to link media to my RootsMagic databases as this is one part of the software that I find a bit cumbersome.

FamilySearch Family Tree

  • I use because I am a believer in the shared collaborative model for genealogy research, so the open edit model is one that I gladly welcome.
  • I use FamilySearch Tree formatting for sources; I enter my sources here then copy and paste the citation into my TNG database and sync that citation to my RootsMagic database
  • I love the apps!
  • I do not sync living people yet; I’m waiting for FamilySearch Family Tree to develop better collaborative tools for profiles of living people.

Ancestry Member Trees

  • Because of Ancestry’s market share, having my family tree here gives it lots of exposure and opportunities to establish connections with others
  • I do not sync sources & media from RootsMagic; I do it natively in Ancestry Member Trees
  • I sync both living and deceased people because living people do stay private.

So, you can see – even though I use all 4, my most “complete” record is my online TNG database as it has my facts, events, media, and sources. But, syncing with FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry Member Trees, allows me to get my research and findings more broadly disseminated. To make another note, because I do work in quadruplicate, I do not do genealogy “on the go.” I only work on my family tree when I have access to my laptop/desktop and can spend dedicated time and ensure I can make my updates in all 4 places. This means I can be purposeful and careful as I analyze what I am finding. I should plan another video update to show my process again 🙂