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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 🙂

 

 

New On My Bookshelf: Williamson County, TN Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts

This past weekend I attended the monthly meeting of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society. The guest speaker was Williamson County Historian, Rick Wallace.  Mr. Wallace is a walking trove of history and it was immediately clear why he is indeed the county historian!  His presentation covered a series of books & publications that document the history of Williamson County, and even with as many as he described, he noted the need for more extensive historical work. I was personally quite excited to learn about a publication he authored of 1866 Freedmen Bureau contracts that pertain to Williamson County, titled “Freedom and Work in the Reconstruction Era: The Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts of Williamson County, Tennessee.

The book is an incredible work. Rick transcribed close to 500 contracts, peppering the book with photos and research notes along the way. The book contains a complete name index and as Rick notes in the introduction, these records “…provide valuable insight into the nature of freedom and work in post-Civil War in Middle Tennessee.” The contracts were overseen by a third party, the Freedmen’s Bureau (or, as officially named “The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands”).
 
Not only is this publication likely to be of great value for anyone who has African-American roots in Williamson County area, but it also serves as an example of the type of work that could be replicated in other areas. Books such as these make great complements to the growing number of Freedmen’s Bureau records being added online, digitized, and indexed (such as on discoverfreedmen.org).
 
I am thankful to have an example of an 1866 labor contract in my own family. In 1866, my 3rd great-grandfather, Rufus Tannahill McNair was contracted by Ed Macnair (whom I am fairly sure was his former slaveowner), to farm land, for which Rufus was to receive one-third of the produce made on the farm except in the garden, and $150. My McNair Family is having their 47th annual reunion this weekend and though I am not able to attend, I can’t wait to share this labor contract with my family on Facebook.

1866 labor contract excerpt for my 3rd great-grandfather Rufus Tannahill (later Rufus McNair)

Meanwhile, as I prepare to deliver a workshop in August to our local Nashville Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society on using Freedmen’s Bureau records, Rick’s book is definitely getting mentioned!  Thanks, Mr. Warwick. Your catalog of work is outstanding and I look forward to seeing what comes next!

And Now I Know Why

Props to the DigitalNC group for my discovery tonight!

As I was updating my family tree information for my relative Reverend Wright L. Lawhorn, I decided to do some more searching for him. Wright was a brother to my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Becton Lawhorn. When I started the evening, I did not have much information about Wright, but I did know that though he passed away in Charlotte, NC – his remains were sent by train to Sylva, NC.  Since finding his death certificate several years ago, I’d wondered why Sylva? We didn’t have family there to the best of my knowledge.

Tonight I learned why! Since I last looked for him, his burial information has been added to Find-A-Grave and I discovered he was buried in Webster, Jackson County, NC. Webster is right next to Sylva. I also saw his wife, Birdell Lawhorn, is buried in the same cemetery.  Some additional searching ensues and I discover that Birdell, a graduate of Winston-Salem State College, and later an employee, had the 1968 yearbook dedicated to her by her students! At the time, she was a dorm matron at one of the residence halls. How cool is that?

1968 yearbook dedication photo

newspaper article about the dedication

An article about her in the school newspaper states that she was from Cullowohee, NC — guess what county that is in? Jackson!

So, I guess that when her husband died, Birdell had him interred in her hometown.

Both the newspaper and the yearbook have been digitized and made available online by the DigitalNC group. Yet again – finding family history in these files that they have worked so diligently on and for that, I am so thankful!  I am also quite grateful to the Find-A-Grave volunteer who added their memorials!

My Genealogy Haiku

I found out that today is National Haiku Poetry Day – yes!!! I love haiku. Along with an iambic pentameter, I had so much fun writing them in middle school!

So, for National Haiku Poetry Day 2017, I present you with my genealogy haiku.

Share yours!

 

 

Caring for Photographs in Family History

Today I attended a meeting of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society and what a wonderful presentation we had! Our guest speaker was Carol Roberts of the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA). Carol heads up the Conservation Lab at TSLA and has many years of experience in preservation of many different material types.

Carol begins her presentation

Today, Carol led us through a history of photography, including descriptions of several different types of photos, when they were predominantly used, and how to tell the differences between them.  We learned about daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, carte de vistas, cabinet cards, crayon print portraits and more.  She even shared examples from the TSLA collection such as this tin type picture shown below in a frame (as we learned today – daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes are called “case images” because they often come encased)

an example of an ambrotype (these were made on glass)

Carol also took the time to outline best practices for storing your family photos – from what kind of materials to look out for (e.g. not falling for the “acid-free” designation that is all too commonplace – for example, even duct tape says acid-free!). There are several criteria for understanding what is archival quality and what is not so it was helpful to have that understanding. I especially appreciated the information Carol shared on what supplies to purchase for printing pictures at home (such as Permalife Archival Bond printer paper and archival printer ink).

Throughout her presentation, Carol also shared some great stories about photos in her own family history. and how clues in the photos led to discoveries. We had a great turnout and her talk was so interesting we ended up going over by an hour!

Here are some resources Carol shared:

Additionally, several books were mentioned:

After the talk, some attendees brought their materials up to Carol for her input. For example, one of the gentlemen who attended the January “Show and Tell” meeting with a photo of his ancestors learned that the picture he has was a crayon print and it was a charcoal reproduction from an original photo. Additionally, one pair of guests brought family documents they have from one of the oldest family lines in Brentwood for tips on how to best care for them.

Carol looks over some Sneed family documents from meeting attendees

This was such a great meeting! Even as I continue to work on my photo project I’ve learned some tips I can put into practice. It is so nice to be able to attend in-perosn meetings such as this. Thanks Carol for the great information you shared today!

DNA Connections & A Newspaper Story

Oh what fun to be able to write this blog post! Back during the first season of Genealogy Roadshow, my husband and I interviewed with producers as we were hopeful one of the stories I submitted would be used. Unfortunately, it was not, but every now and then I revisit the research that prompted me to enter.

One of the mysteries I’d presented was to further investigate if my husband has biological connections to Meriwether Lewis of Lewis & Clark.  One of Kalonji’s 2nd great-grandmothers was named Margaret Meriwether and it is through her that this connection may lie. Margaret was from Clarksville, Montgomery County, Tennessee.

At the end of January, as I looked at Kalonji’s gedmatch matches, I saw a close result from another Meriwether and it turned out, this new DNA match also had family from Clarskville! Since then, we’ve been comparing family trees, doing research, and though we have not yet found the exact relationship between the two, we know we are close 🙂  With only approximately 4 generations back to their most common ancestor, we remain hopeful we can find the connection.

Kalonji’s Meriwether DNA match

Then, in sharing on Facebook that I was searching through an index of newspaper obituaries one day last month at the Tennessee State Library & Archives, I learned that one of my Facebook friends not only also had family from Clarksville, but he was a cousin of Kalonji’s DNA match. Exciting!

set of obituary indexes for the Clarksville, TN area – at the Tennessee State Library & Archives

Given this recent research, how cool then it was to find in the Tennessean this morning an article about a Meriwether Cemetery that is now owned by Google – in which, the reporter mentions both Kalonji’s DNA match and my Facebook friend! The story describes the cemetery, those interred there, and gives information about the background of Meriwether’s in Clarksville. In the article, there is mention of a white slave owner who had children with two of his slaves – one a Hillman, and the other a Meriwether.  Well, the Meriwether slave of mention is Kalonji’s 2nd great-grandmother- Margaret.  Margaret had children of this slaveowner – Buck Harris, but then she also had kids with another man, Dick Wisdom.  It is through one of Margaret & Dick’s children from whom Kalonji is descended. My discovery of Margaret’s Meriwether family came as a result of the 1940 census release.

Kaloniji’s Meriwether Family Descendancy Tree (what I have documented so far)

The news story can be seen online and it is definitely worth the read. I am pleased to know that Google is committed to maintaining the cemetery and has no plans to move it. Kudos to them! I would love to visit the cemetery one day – but not sure how that would work given that it is Google’s property. I must find out.  Meanwhile, the research into this DNA connection will definitely continue.

Let Me Tell You A Story About a Runaway Slave

Over a year ago, with the help of an Ancestry green shaky leaf, I was overwhelmed to make a connection to part of my family history that has been extremely heartwarming for me. It made such an impact, that I wanted to find a way to tell the story with more than just a regular blog post.

So, I invite you to watch this video I made describing a connection in the family of my mother’s maternal grandmother, Martha Jane “Mattie” Walker McNair – particularly with the family of, Mattie’s grandfather, Prince Walker. This part of my family is from Plymouth, Washington County, North Carolina.

 

A New Family Branch Genetically Tested

Yesterday brought great news from my cousin SL! She did a 23andMe test a few weeks ago and her test results have come in. I am particularly happy she did the test as I can now map parts of my father’s DNA sample specifically to his mother as cousin SL is a 1st cousin on his mom’s side.

I have another cousin (MS) who is related to me via my father’s mother – but – that cousin is also related to me through my father’s father. So, as a double cousin, I’ve not been able to pinpoint any of her DNA share with my father to one particular side of his family as no one else on my grandmother’s side of the family had tested.

The first thing I did with cousin SL’s DNA results is map out the segments we share. Using Kitty Cooper’s Chromosome Mapping Tool, I updated my father’s map. So now, my father’s chromosome map now has a “maternal” side reflected. Prior to yesterday, all the red parts were not there  🙂

my father’s chromosome map as of Jan 15, 2017

My cousin MS is also a cousin to SL. However, the two of them are not double cousins (to the best of my knowledge), so I next compared their DNA against my father and against each other. In doing this triangulation, I found that of the 11 segments my father shares with his double cousin MS, 5 of them triangulate to his cousin SL. This means I can mark these 5 segments my father and MS share as having come from my great-grandparents  William Lawhorn & Pearlie Mae Kilpatrick – common ancestors to all 3 (to my father, MS, and SL).

On top of this, I found that cousin SL shares several segments of DNA with my father’s nephew that she does not share with my father. These segments represent DNA that my uncle inherited from his parents and my father did not; my uncle then passed that DNA down to his son.

I am glad to have this updated chromosome map for my father, for as I get more matches in the future, if they have a segment that triangulates to my father and one of these cousins, I will able to pinpoint which part of my family tree to focus on as we seek connections.

So many intricacies to figure out for sure!