Author Archive: Taneya Koonce

Ancestry Boards RSS Feeds

For the past several months, I’d noticed that all the boards on offered RSS feeds, but I have just recently started using them. It is way cool!

So far, I have subscribed to about 10 feeds for various counties and surnames and I am finding it to be a very convenient way to keep track of new posts. I much prefer to get them through my blog reader rather than having to visit each board. Honestly, RSS feeds are like the blessing of my internet life!

I think I’m the only one using them though 🙂 – well, at least for the boards I subscribe too. According to Bloglines & Google Reader, there is only 1 subscriber! I really do hope others take advantage of these feeds as it is a cool feature. Now, if only GenForum would do this…

In other news, this weekend I had a chance to do some cemetery walking. I went to one of the black cemeteries here in town to search for a particular grave site. Doing so was quite an experience. As I have been working on my Black Nashville Blog, I have been learning about the history of blacks in Nashville. So, as I was walking through the cemetery it was like a who’s who of Nashville! I’ll post more about it later, but it was quite a fulfilling experience for me at a very personal level.

Then, I also came up with a blogging schedule for myself too. With so many blogs, I want to make sure they get regular attention from me, so I started a schedule. As I begin to implement that schedule, I will share that here as well.

Wordless Wednesday – May 28th, 2008 Follow-up

Back in early April, the topic of the Carnival of Genealogy was”>Cars as the Stars of Our Family History. At the time it was going, I was not able to get a post together in order to participate, but I did find the topic interesting and it prompted me to ask my parents about their first car. It was a very entertaining process!

So, this is a picture of what my father’s first car looked like – he had a Volvo 164 that was from the 1960s. The color was as shown in the picture and my mother informs me that her friend and my father used to argue about it – he used to say that it was silver and she used to say that it was funeral grey. 🙂

My father got the car from his father and had it when he lived in NY. My father tells me that people were interested in the car because it was foreign and they never could remember what kind of car it was as there were not many foreign cars. The car was decked out too – had a cassette player (which at the time, 8 tracks were most common), had air conditioning, leather seats. With a 6 cylinder engine, it was very good on gas too – also, apparently not so common at the time when everyone had big cars. Then came the gas crisis in the 70s and people started downsizing. Sound familiar?

My father would eventually sell this car to his cousin who took it back to North Carolina. Before talking to my father about it, you know what I knew about this car? That he used it as a pick-up line on my mother when they met. He told her, “I have a car.” She said – “So what. In NYC you don’t need a car.” Well, the pick-up line worked anyway. 🙂

Mommy’s First Car

My mother would get her first car after my parents moved us all to North Carolina. Hers was a blue Pontiac Lemans. Not sure what year, but perhaps it looked something like the above. She remembers that she paid less than $100 for it and when she was looking, her co-workers at Ciba-Geigy where she worked would joke with her about what to look for in the car – like a steering wheel, tires, etc.! The car had been in an accident so the front bumper was turned to the side. After keeping the car for a few weeks, they sold it and bought another big car that they called “Big Blue Marble.”

Moses Wright (1889 – 1966)

In my last post about my uncle’s wedding, towards the end I mentioned that his wife’s uncle, Moses Wright was part of a very tragic event. That event was the abduction of Emmett Till.

Emmett Till, which if you are not aware of the history you can read the details on Wikipedia, was taken from the home of Moses and his family. Moses was Emmett’s great-uncle and from what I have been able to tell so far in my research, most likely the nephew of Moses’ wife. I will need to go back to my family to clarify exactly how.

I first learned of this a couple of years ago as I began to get more into the family genealogy. My great-uncle’s daughter shared this with me. A few months ago, Kalonji & I watched the documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Till, which was an extremely heartwrenching story to watch. The strength that Emmett’s mother had to persevere through such a hardship is amazing to me.

Moses died in 1966, just four years after giving my great-aunt away at the wedding. This picture was one I took of a picture she had of him when I was in Chicago last weekend. A couple of Moses’ sons were at my great-uncle’s funeral last weekend – including those that had been in the room with Emmett when Bryant & Milam came to take him away. Moses faced a tough situation as a black man testifying against two white men in deep south Mississippi in 1955 and for it he had to leave Mississippi for Chicago. I cannot imagine what life must have been like for the whole family during this horrific ordeal. My familial connection with Moses, with Emmett, certainly makes history a living, breathing entity.

Back From Chicago

I’m back from my very quick trip to Chicago, but it was a very worthwhile trip. On my last post, I blogged about the death of my great-uncle. Fred was my maternal grandmother’s youngest and last surviving brother. On Saturday, I was able to spend some time with the family whom I’d never met. It was great. I learned more about his life things he had accomplished. For example, I did not know that he was an electrician by trade and the reason he moved to Chicago in the first place was b/c of a trade school he attended there. It was in Chicago that he met his wife and they have lived there ever since – some 46 years.

His wife, Priscilla, is my kind of person – she had tons of pictures! It was cool going through them and really getting to know some of the history of the family through the pictures. I took pictures of some of them, namely, their wedding pictures. What struck me most about looking through the family pictures is how different Fred looked at different stages in his life – really looking like a completely different person!

Here they are from one of the wedding pictures.

And, here is Priscilla going down the aisle. She was given away by her uncle, Moses Wright.

It was a very enjoyable experience. I really look forward to visiting with them again.

Now, Priscilla’s uncle, Moses, is affiliated with a very tragic event in the past. More on that in the next post.

Fred Louis McNair 1934-2008

On Monday, May 12th, my maternal grandmother’s youngest brother, Fred Louis McNair passed away. This is a picture of him from the 70s I believe, though it could be from the 80s.
Fred was born in January 1934 to Abraham Lincoln McNair Sr. and Martha “Mattie” Jane Walker.

Just like my grandmother, there is some discrepancy of his birth day. According to his daughter, he used to celebrate his birthday on January 18th, but changed it to the celebrating it on January 22nd like his birth certificate said. He has two birthdays! 🙂

I never knew Fred, but in the course of doing the family tree, have corresponded regularly with his daughter. Fred was a preacher at a church in Chicago and my mother has all kinds of stories about him. He was very much like my grandmother in approach to living – very straightforward and proper 🙂

His funeral is being held tomorrow in Chicago. Coincidentally enough, I am flying into Chicago tomorrow for a business trip, so while I will not be able to attend the funeral, I will get to spend some time with the family tomorrow evening.
My grandmother is now the last of the set of kids. She grew up with four brothers, Curtis who died in 1997, Lorenza who died in 2005, Abraham Jr. who died in 2006 and now Fred. Her parents did have five other children that all died as infants/toddlers. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and does not know that she has no more siblings alive. She knows of Curtis’ death since that happened before the Alzheimer’s, but not of the others. We are hoping to keep it that way.

Rest in peace uncle Fred.

My Battle With FootNote

Since I first learned about FootNote a couple of years ago, I have been excited about the possibility of the site’s Genealogy 2.0 potential. However, I have found that for me personally, it has not been as useful as it ideally could be. Perhaps this is due to my lack of understanding the structure and content of the types of records they provide? Admittedly, I’m not very familiar with the NARA resources and some of the others they’ve added and I have not yet found much in the site that have provided a beneficial return on investment of my time and my money. However, that may soon change.

A recent blog post from Eastman about FootNote’s latest collection has intrigued me. He posted their announcement of an interactive 1860 census. Knowing the capabilities FootNote offers, I had to go look right away. This may be the point that gets me subscribing to FootNote’s content! Why? Because by adding census records, this may address a feature I only wish was available in Ancestry.

Consider this – wouldn’t it be cool to know what other researchers/family members may be associated with a specific person /familyin the census? You could look at the census record and see who had established themselves in some way to be “connected” with that particular family? From my limited experience thus far, there are a couple of ways that I know this can be done:

  • Ancestry — allows you to add comments to a particular person’s index entry for the census. However, when there are comments, it seems the only way to know this is to click on the “Comments and Corrections” link and then see if there is a link to “View Comments.” Thus, you do not know before you take action, if there is indeed a comment on a particular person’s record. Then, from there you can connect to the person that made the comment, and see their profile, but I find the ways to connect to be a bit removed from the overall interface of the site. Also, comments are not displayed right away when you make them.
  • Lost Cousins — allows you to indicate that person in the census is your ancestor. From my few trial runs of the site, I am rather put off by the fact that you have to go over to use the FamilySearch site to get the person’s info and then come back to Lost Cousins. This is too cumbersome for me personally. Then, when it’s time for me to mark my connection to that person in the census, you have to specify a specific relationship. Well, what if you are not related? What if you are just researching this person, have information about them, and others could benefit from knowing that? Their new features for Upstairs/Downstairs, and Neighbors offers some expansion, but I’m still not convinced.

So, I’ve just spent some time playing around in Footnote and like what I see so far. While not all of the 1860 census is there, I was able to play around with the site some and I like what I see so far.

  • I can browse to specific locations to find the person of interest, then I can contribute to the record once I find them – add images, notes, details, etc. Can also search by name. This is much better than having to input specific microfilm information like Lost Cousins requires.
  • I can connect to the person who made the comment, and the connection process is more integrated than at Ancestry.
  • Anything added to a record is easily displayed on the right side of the screen, so you know right away whether people have touched this record and made contributions
  • When I do add contributions, I get featured briefly on the front page as a recent contributor


  • cannot do annotations at this point – it looks like FootNote does not yet have these turned on
  • cannot attach a note to a family cluster -that would be cool
  • user profiles do not have as many fields as Ancestry – but, it is easy to see the history of that person’s contributions and the images, etc. they have
  • Would be even cooler to have feeds to track favorite users so you can keep an eye on what they are doing – think Facebook!

I will continue to play around with the site and see what I find. So much more transparent for this sort of activity than other sites I’m familiar with. But, perhaps I am missing other key resources. If you think I am, please let me know! Hmm.. I’ve just found something suitable for my Black Nashville History & Genealogy Blog. Will update again later! Here’s a link to my FootNote profile.

Update: I found something very moving on FootNote. You can read it here.

Where does the time go?

Over the past several days, I’ve not been online quite as much to work on genealogy. My sister graduated college this weekend from the University of Florida (see my main blog), so that obviously kept me offline.  🙂  In addition, I began a course on research ethics and now I’ve got plenty of reading to keep me busy at night for the next month. But, I sneak in a little genealogy here and there.

I have just sent off an article that will be published in a Alabama genealogy newsletter. More details to come once that is published. I’m quite excited about it!  Then, last week I received an email from Nita, one of my original blogging inspirations, about her Koonce ancestry.  She has an offhand feeling she may have connections to North Carolina where my Koonce’s are from, so we will see what happens there.  It would be so cool to have another connection with a geneablogger as I do with Jennifer.

Last night, I had about 45 minutes to play around with a new Ancestry database. I read over on Craig’s blog about the Tennessee State Marriages, 1765-2002 database.  I was glad to see this for two reasons:

  • one of the genealogies I work on is that of a friend of mine who has deep roots in east Tennessee.  I found many marriage certificate/bonds for people on her tree, including her parent’s marriage certificate. That was cool.  Also, by the information on the marriage detail, I was able to find the maiden name of one of her 2nd great-grandmothers, a Cordelia Fellers who married Henry V. Bolinger on January 18, 1898 in Campbell County, TN. Then, by working through census records, I was able to find her grandfather even and I think I have a suspicion of his father! Ooh the joy!
  • as county coordinator for Blount County, TN, I can now add this to marriage information resources.

Interestingly enough, Kalonji and I were married here in Davidson County in 2001 but we are not in the database.  The Davidson county records only go up to 1860 consistently, then after that, coverage is very sporadic.  Would have been cool to see me in there…

James McBride – Color of Water

One of the family trees I occasionally work on is that of my stepmother’s. Her family has a family reunion every two years and at the last reunion, I talked at length with a cousin of hers who also has a strong interest in the family tree. After the reunion, I also began helping him with the side of his tree that is not related to my stepmother (his maternal tree) and have been emailing him back and forth for a few months. Back in Feburary, he emailed me with a question.

So far, on his maternal line, one of the branches he has goes back to a Charles & Ellen McRae Townsend. Both born around 1845, they were former slaves in the Richmond County, NC area. Charles & Ellen had 4 children that we know of – Jennie, Adam, Mary & Tillman. Adam is said cousin’s (we will call him W) grandfather. A few months ago, W informed me that his aunt had told him that through one of Adam’s sisters, they were related to James McBride, author of the book, The Color of Water: a Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother. I was somewhat familiar with this book too – when I was in college, shortly after it came out, I worked at the reserve desk at my campus library and I remember this book being on reserve for one of the courses. I’ve never read it though.

So, W’s question to me was to see if I could help trace the connection. In the book apparently, the author’s paternal ancestry is stated back to his paternal grandmother, Etta McBride. She and husband Nash had one son, Andrew Dennis McBride, who is James’ father.

Adam Townsend as stated earlier had two sisters, Jennie & Mary. Up to this point, I had Jennie identified in the 1870, 1880, and 1900 census. None of her children were named Etta according to the enumeration. But, I had no data for sister Mary, so we thought she may have been Etta’s mother. After some searching, I was able to find out when Etta died – she died 2 Jan 1962 in Guilford County, North Carolina. Fortunately, NC vital records are considered public records, so I was able to order an uncertified copy for $1. That certificate arrived yesterday and you know who her mother was? Jennie Townsend!

This puzzled me because as mentioned earlier, Jennie’s children’s names in the 1910 census did not show an Etta (who would have been 15), but upon re-examination, the oldest child shown in the census is a 15 year old girl, but the name is very hard to discern and I had written it as Dollie. Given what I learned, I figured this Dollie had to be Etta. So, for now, that is who we will say it is. The search for more documentation about Etta is still ongoing. I would love next to search for an obituary. But at least now we know that James McBride is indeed part of his family tree!

The descendants of Charles Townsend as I currently have it is available here.