Author Archive: Taneya Koonce

My Genealogy Dance Card is Full

a dance card. photo credit: wikipedia

This summer has been one that has brought multiple opportunities for me to further engage within the genealogy community and I’m so delighted!  It has been a busy one for sure, but through these upcoming activities I will learn more and contribute at an even higher level to the genealogy community. I am pleased to share some of my more recent involvements!

  • Going In-Depth Magazine – I was honored to accept an invitation join the contributing authorship team of the digital genealogy magazine, Going In-Depth, published by the In-Depth Genealogist team. My column is called “African American Research Adventures” and my first article, Searching for Osburn: A Case Study in Seeking the Enslaved, was published in the September 15th issue. I will be contributing articles and blog posts on a regular basis, and have an author profile now posted on the site. Subscribe to the magazine and follow the blog if you are interested.
  • Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society – I presented to the society on July 16th about how to maximize the use of online collaborative family trees (e.g. WikiTree, Geni, FamilySearch Family Tree) for genealogy research. They also invited me to become one of the Society’s Board of Directors! My 2-year term started August 1st and I attended my first board meeting a week ago. We have an upcoming seminar this November, so if you are in the Nashville area, I’d love to see you there!
  • BlackProGen –  I’m now also a panel member for this “group of professional genealogists who research and document African American families” to quote organizer Nicka Smith’s site.  BlackProGen members host regular online sessions to share research strategies. Check the website for details of the upcoming online shows and the different ways you can connect with us.

This is all on top of my regular volunteer commitment to the USGenWeb Project for which I serve as State Coordinator for TNGenWeb, an Assistant State Coordinator for NCGenWeb & FLGenWeb, and coordinate counties for KYGenWeb, ILGenWeb, and UTGenWeb.  I also volunteer for the Nashville Chapter of the Afro-American Historical Genealogical Society.

Much to do! I believe I’m going to be busy dancing all year  🙂

Seeing Josephine

Thanks to my cousin Marissa, I have my first pictures of my father’s paternal grandmother, Josephine Holloway Koonce.  We believe the pictures to be from around 1940s. Here is one of them:

My great-grandmother, Josephine (Holloway) Koonce

Josephine passed away before I was born but I know that she had many of her grandchildren living her, including my aunts, as her own children moved to New York in search of better job opportunities. 

Until now, I had only seen one picture of Josephine and it is a casket picture. So, I am extremely grateful to Marissa for taking the time to send me these pictures. I am overjoyed!!! 

Using DNA for More than Genealogy

As genealogists and family historians, many of us are interested in the use of DNA to help us in our research quests and have had our DNA tested by one or more of the major testing companies.  Some of us have also been interested in what our DNA can inform us about our health. You know who else is interested? The National Institutes of Health!

Yesterday, the National Institutes of Health announced funding awards for the infrastructure that will support the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program. This program has a goal to enroll at least 1,000,0000 people (yes, 1 MILLION people!) who will agree to give DNA samples, and share all kinds of information about lifestyle and health practices/behaviors with them.  The NIH will then use all the information we share to study and understand how our INDIVIDUAL differences contribute to our health. Collectively, all the data we share will help healthcare providers improve the ability to prevent and treat disease based on our individual differences – and that is what precision medicine is all about.

This is a transformative and unprecedented moment in our country’s approach to healthcare. But one that will only happen if we enroll and agree to share, share, and share some more! It will be secure, your data will be shared back with you, you will also be able to see aggregate data from everyone in the cohort.

For years genetic genealogy has been a growing interest. I would love to see our genealogy community embrace the use of genetics to also better inform healthcare. Now – here is my disclaimer – I am employed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and we were one of the award recipients. VUMC will establish the Data and Research Support Center for the cohort program. In my professional role, our work unit will contribute to the work done for VUMC on this initiative – so yes, I am biased :-).  If you are interested though, I will send out more information once the launch happens later this year. You can sign-up here to be notified when I do.


 

Note: All opinions my own and not those of my employer.

 

 

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!  🙂