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My Friend is Also A Koonce Descendant

Last week, as a way to help a non-profit in which my sister is involved, I offered to do genealogy reports for two people if they donated $50 or more.  A deal I know! We created this wonderful ad to showcase the offer:

It then turned out that the 1st winner of one of my genealogy reports knows a good friend of mine. So, I’m talking to this friend of mine about it and he says “I should get you to do my family tree!!” Of course, I’m all over it.

Well, as I worked on his tree this weekend I discovered that he is also a Koonce descendant! It turns out he is the 5th great-grandson of a man named Killis Koonce. More details on my Koonce Surname Project blog. I just thought that was too cool.

 

My Family Treasure Boxes

A couple of years ago, I made the decision to ensure I had a robust method in place to ensure my genealogy research is preserved for future generations. I do have my own self-hosted family history website, but I decided to contribute as much as I can to FamilySearch Family Tree. Since making that decision for my digital stuff, I’ve reflected on what I can do for my physical collection. I started giving this much more thought at the beginning of the year after DearMyrtle announced her 2016 Get Organized Checklists series. 

Currently, I have many 3-ring binders of paper, plastic bins with even more papers that I use as a catch-all, and family mementos scattered here and there. When I need to find something, it can sometimes be a pain.

One of my boxes of family history stuff. This one has on top a letter my great-uncle wrote to my grandmother, Kalonji’s parent’s marriage certificate, and my high school graduation announcement. This is not the way to keep family history. #shameful

I knew I had to do better so I began devising a new plan. My goals for my new organization plan included the following:

  • when it comes to vital records I will keep the physical form only if it is not readily or easily available elsewhere (a somewhat subjective determination) or if I paid quite a bit to obtain it
  • keep the physical stuff to a minimum so that when I am no longer around (I’m thinking about the future here!), my family won’t have to worry about going through my things and trying to figure out what should be kept 
  • use a more “browsing-friendly” approach to what I keep, rather than numbering systems, surname binders, etc. By this, I mean that I want to keep the files and items organized, but in a way that makes it appealing just to look through, rather than keeping documents organized by a specific person or family.  My digital record-keeping is where info is tracked by each individual & family, so I don’t feel I need to replicate that for my physical collection. 

With these principles in mind, I decided to create what I will call my Family Treasure Boxes!

Setting Up the Family Treasure Box

Taking advantage of Michael’s sale today – 50% off all decorative boxes, I picked up 4 of them to start my Family Treasure Box collection. The box sizes vary, but the are between 15-17 inches wide, 11-14 inches deep, and 5-8 inches high. These 4 boxes will be used for 1) my maternal family, 2) my paternal family, 3) my husband’s family (both sides combined for now), and 4) for my husband and I.

Family Treasure Box for my maternal family

Family Treasure Box for my paternal family

Family Treasure Box for my husband’s family

Family Treasure Box for my Kalonji and I

For the documents that will go in each box, I’ll use file folders with labels such as “Birth Certificates,” “Marriage Certificates,” “Death Certificates,” “Obituaries,” “Funeral Programs,” etc.  The folders will then be placed in larger, expandable folders to keep them together.

file folders to organize documents like certificates and funeral programs

I will place mementos in envelopes or small bins. For now, my materials are not archival quality, but I once I get the boxes established, I will switch to archival quality materials.  My family pictures are stored elsewhere, in photo books, but I may put a select few in each box. It will take me awhile to move my stuff into their new box homes, as I will need to sort through all my current papers and make sure every item I decide to keep in physical form is digitized and digitally archived. But, once I do, I’ll share pics of the insides.

I think the concept of a “treasure box” will make our family history items much more interesting to look through than what I am currently doing. And besides, they just look so pretty on my shelf! 🙂   And, even my tween daughter will know that THESE are the important family history things – she’s already told me she wants her own treasure box.  What do you think?

Arlington National Cemetery

This week, I traveled to DC for business and on my way to the airport, took a quick visit to Arlington National Cemetery.  I went to the cemetery with one purpose truly, to go to the grave site of Henry A. Greene.  Henry, is the grandfather of a woman I met a few weeks ago who was looking for information about him.  She came to a presentation I gave last month as part of Black History Month programming for Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage and we sat for some time afterwards to work together on her family tree.

As we sat together that afternoon, one of the things we learned was that Henry was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. There was even a picture already added to his Find-A-Grave entry. However, I thought it would still be meaningful for me to visit, and at the same time, I could learn more about the cemetery.

Arlington is a big cemetery! More than 600 acres. Fortunately, the cemetery makes it easy to find who you are looking for. At the front desk, if you provide the name, staff will give you the location and burial number.  You can also do this online using the cemetery’s Explorer site (also available as a smartphone app).  A grave site shuttle then takes you to the section. Henry is buried in Section 17. Section 17 is near the back of the cemetery and I’ve marked the approximate location of his grave site with a red X on the map

After the shuttle dropped me off, finding his grave was not difficult. Each headstone is clearly numbered and I found Henry exactly as the bells rang 12 pm.

approaching Henry’s grave from the back

Sgt. Henry A. Greene

You’ll notice Henry’s headstone is not the standard government-issued one, which means it was paid for privately, most likely his family. I am working with his granddaughter to try and find out more information about him – he was Cherokee, orphaned as a child, and adopted by European parents.  There is an obituary that exists for him which I still need to order, so we will see what we can learn about Sgt. Greene as time passes. It was very moving to be there to visit with him though.

Then, in my good genealogy citizen duty, I took a few pictures for BillionGraves and Find-A-Grave.  And, as I was there, I thought of looking for Koonces buried there and going to their grave sites, but ultimately decided that would take too long. However, as I was walking down Henry’s row taking pictures for BillionGraves and Find-A-Grave, lo and behold, I come across Earl L. Koontz! Different spelling, but I’ll research him any way for my Koonce Surname Project.

Earl L. Koontz

Once home, I did search and there are 11 Koonces and 30 Koontzs buried there. Looks like I have some researching to do! All in all, it was a good trip. I took a tour, which was quite educational, and I hope to get back again.

I’m A Guest Blogger!

Just a quick post to tell you all to go check my guest post over on Lisa Lisson’s blog – Are You My Cousin?.  My post talks about the use of the Slave Narratives for genealogy research.  Go check out your girl at http://lisalisson.com/2016/02/19/using-the-slave-narratives-for-african-american-research/.  🙂

Research Update: Ronald E. McNair

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Challenger explosion which killed Ronald Ervin McNair and six other astronauts. My maternal grandmother was a McNair and from time to time various family members ask if he is related to us. It’s been awhile since I searched, but I today I went back further on his paternal line.

Ron was the son of Columbus Carl McNair (1923- 1992) and Pearl Helena Montgomery (1926-1993). Using a combination of census, vital, and military records, I learned that Columbus Carl McNair was the son of Bishop Anderson M. McNair (1884-1956) and wife Lina (1882-1962). Bishop Anderson McNair was the son of a man also named Anderson McNair.

At this point, all I know about Anderson Sr. is that he was born about 1846 in South Carolina. I’ve located him in the 1880 census, but not yet in 1870. In 1880, Anderson, his wife Mary, and kids Frank, Joseph, Prett, Emanuel, and Fuller, were living in Adamsville, South Carolina.

1880 Census – Anderson & Mary McNair – Adamsville, SC

I know my McNair lineage back to Rufus Tannahill McNair (born about 1823) of Edgecombe and Washington counties in North Carolina and I cannot place Anderson in it with the information I have so far. In the 1880 census record above, Anderson’s state of birth is listed as NC, so that’s interesting. But, there were many McNair families spread out around the state of North Carolina.

In fact, Adamsville, which is in Marlboro County, SC, is near the state line with NC and on the other side of  that line are Scotland and Robeson counties.

I do know of some black McNair families from Robeson County that are seemingly unconnected to mine – though, the white McNair families in both areas were distantly related. It would not surprise me if I learned Anderson Sr. was from this NC bunch rather than my bunch. 🙂

I, of course, need to research Anderson McNair Sr. more thoroughly but I was excited to get back this far – it’s further than I was able to go a few years ago. It will be interesting to continue with the research and see if any connections can be made.  Ron accomplished much in the time he was granted and I want to help document his family lineage as fully as I can.

New Headstone for Calvin

On this day in 1994, my mother’s youngest brother, Calvin Earl Robinson passed away. The last post I made about Calvin, in 2008, was to share the news that we finally had a picture of his headstone thanks to the graciousness of a Find-A-Grave volunteer.

Now, I’m pleased to show off his NEW headstone which my mother and uncle purchased for him a few months ago.

Next week, January 18, would have been Calvin’s 58th birthday. I guess you could say the headstone was his birthday present. 🙂  We love you and miss you Calvin!

Genealogy Do-Over Update Video

Instead of doing a written blog post, I decided to do a video to give my update on the Genealogy Do-Over this past year. Read about it on my blog post from last year for the background.  My focus has been a bit different than most, as my goals are to use the Do-Over as an opportunity to help me as I ensure all of my research is on the FamilySearch Family Tree.  RootsMagic is an important part of the strategy so as I share the update, I’m also sharing my process.

There are a few technical glitches in the video, but I’m rolling with the flow! I hope you find it of interest!  🙂

A Possible Brick Wall Buster via the Digital Library on American Slavery?

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Lisa Louise Cooke for the Family Tree Magazine monthly podcast! The theme of November’s episode is about busting through brick walls and Lisa interviewed me for a segment covering resources from the magazine’s 101 Best Websites list. Listen to Lisa, myself, and her other guests in the November 2015 episode to learn more about busting brick walls.

One resource I covered was the Digital Library on American Slavery. Covering the database was easy for me. As I stated during the podcast, it is one that is “near and dear to my heart” as it is a project out of UNC-Greensboro. I was raised in Greensboro so the city has a fond place in my heart. When this database first came out, I’d back then, found a record in it for whom I believe to be my family, but didn’t follow-up on obtaining the full petition until Sunday as I prepared for the podcast interview. I’m so happy I did follow-up too!

This image is excerpted from a North Carolina legislative petition (#21284706) addressed in the Jones County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in November 1847. Six white slaveholders, John S. Koonce and wife Susan, Isiah Wood and wife Elizabeth, Benjamin Brown, Asa Brown, Zachius Brown, Mary Brown, Orne Brown, and Isaac Brown (the last five being children in the care of Zachius Brown) appeared to request division of ownership of six slaves – they were requesting 1/8th share each. Obtaining that 1/8th share could have meant selling them and splitting the proceeds. The Digital Library on American Slavery provided the index, but through information on their page on “Obtaining Copies of Petitions,” I was able to get the full petition.

Well, the six slaves at hand here are James, Jonas, Mariah, Allen, Hannah, & Sarah (sometimes called Harriett).  I highlight three of these slaves’ names because they match names found among my own family!.  The reasons being as follows:

  • Independent of this record, I’d traced my Koonce line back to a former slave, James Koonce of Jones County.  From census records, I know James had two partners, Susan and then Isariah (sometimes appearing as Mariah in documents I’ve already located).
  • James’ mother was named Hannah.
  • From oral family history shared by a cousin of mine, Isariah/Mariah was probably just a Koonce by marriage, and may have been the offspring of a white Wood male family member. Given that this petition has both Koonce & Wood family members, it makes this an intriguing possibility for being tied into my family tree 
  • The name “Caff” appears next to Jonas’ name, and MY James’ first wife Susan was a “Craff” in documentation I have in my files. Could Caff/Craff be one and the same name?

I think I have already identified who John S. Koonce is (I’m thinking it is John Speight Koonce) and I found Isaiah & Elizabeth Wood in records as well. This is definitely something I need to research further! Perhaps this clue can lead me to busting my own brick wall! Research in action. 🙂

So, thanks to Lisa for the impetus I needed to finally request this record! And for my readers, be sure to check FamilyTree Magazine’s podcast page over the next few days to look for the November 2015 episode and hear the show!

Featured at NEH Meeting

Okay, I wasn’t featured, but one of my projects was! I’ve just written a blog post for the TNGenWeb project describing how one of our Special Projects was included in a presentation at the National Newspaper Digitization Program’s annual meeting.  The NNDP is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and this past week, the Project Coordinator for the Tennessee digitization group, Louisa Trott Moore, shared information on how the digitized historical papers are used for genealogy & family history research, including our Historical News Portal site as an example. 

The TNGenWeb Historical News Portal is a site I developed and now coordinate on behalf of TNGenWeb in our ongoing quest to provide free resources for genealogy & family history. With volunteer help, we transcribe and index articles from old newspaper issues to make the information within them more accessible and easier to find. The site is definitely a work-in-progress, but we all enjoy working on it. The NEH Chairman was even present and heard about our work – I think that is just cool. 🙂

This was great exposure for the TNGenWeb project, so I greatly thank Louisa for including us!

Check out the blog post to learn more!

 

Koonce & Koonce Expedition – Part II

Back in 2009, I wrote about a day of Koonce-hunting in Lincoln County, TN with my buddy John P. Koonce. Yesterday, we were able to continue the adventure and an adventure it was indeed!!!

John was joined by his nephew Dan and the primary purpose of our trip was to look for the Grills-Koonce cemetery in Fayetteville. John has made several trips to look for it with no success.  We had it’s location based on a map produced by the Lincoln County Genealogical Society, but the cemetery is not visible from the road and would require some investigation. As we traveled down to Fayetteville, I looked the cemetery up in Find-A-Grave and was able to find GPS coordinates.  

satellite map

 

We traveled down Koonce Lane again (we did last time). However, because we had GPS coordinates and now have the great technology of Google Maps, I could see there was a side lane we could travel down in order to try and get closer to the cemetery, Stable Lane. We’d not done this back in 2009. But alas, we went down the lane and fencing creates a barrier to going on the property. Plus, there was so much growth, we couldn’t see much and even try and visually see a cemetery.

view down Stable Lane

And while there was a house at the end of the road, the gate was closed so that was a bummer. So, we turned around and decided to ask some of the neighbors if they knew anything about the cemetery. The first lady we spoke to had not been living on the street for long, but she gave us a recommendation for a family to go speak to. As were were back in the car heading to this family, we saw someone pulling onto Stable Lane – we were so excited! We thought it was perhaps the people who lived in the house.

So, we followed the truck down the lane. They saw us and stopped and upon talking to them, we discovered they were not the owners, but were there to look for the Grills-Koonce Cemetery also. Not only that, they were Grills themselves and had ancestors buried in the cemetery! How funny! A set of Koonces and a set of Grills looking for the Grills-Koonce cemetery at the exact same time! It was too much! 

Well, the homeowner at the end of the lane saw us there and came down. Her family has lived on the property for 70 years and she knew of the cemetery; had seen it herself before. She pointed in the general direction of it, but advised us to go speak to the person who owns the land on which the cemetery is situated, for permission to enter. Fortunately, the cemetery land owner lived down the street. 

going over the map for the cemetery

So, off our caravan went to go knock on the door of the cemetery land owner. Fortunately for us, she was home and even better, she offered to drive us right to the cemetery. And let me tell you, even with her directions for where to drive once we would have entered the land, there was NO WAY we’d have ever found it on our own. The picture below shows the height of the foliage as we drove through to the cemetery. 

the foliage we drove through to reach the cemetery

I approach the cemetery. See how high those plants are!

Once we arrived at the cemetery, we could definitely see how it has been left untended. Many graves were just about completely overgrown, and only a few were above ground enough to read. While we found headstones for Grills family members, we didn’t see any with Koonce, but we know at least two Koonces are buried there – Napoleon Polk Koonce and wife Elizabeth Brown Koonce – exact relationship to John & Dan still unknown. This means we have research to do.

But our new buddies, the Grills, found headstones for their family!

Grills family members

Afterwards, we had to take a group photo. Note – cemetery hunting is hard, sweaty work 🙂

Grills & Koonces after visiting the Grills-Koonce cemetery

We were all excited to finally get to this cemetery.  The owner told us that the last time someone asked about it was about 15 years ago, but we have now been there! The Grills plan to come back and do some work to help get it cleared up and hopefully find some of the headstones currently covered. What a great time!

John, Dan and I also stopped at two other cemeteries while in town.  We visited the Kelso-Koonce-McCartney-McGee Cemetery again and Stewarts Cemetery. Lots of pictures were taken of Koonce headstones and I’ll be working on adding them to the Surname Project files. I’ve already added the interments we know about to Find-A-Grave (I tried to post pics to BillionGraves also, but the GPS signal was too weak).