Georgia Roots?

Today I had a chance to speak to one of my great-uncles and he shared a piece of family information that was new to me. He informs me that he’d heard that his grandfather, Samuel Lawhorn, came to NC from Georgia. Ancestry seems to be down right now, so I’m not able to do any searches, but perhaps this would explain why I’ve not been able to find any other Lawhorn families in NC in the 1870 census where he and his family reside.

The 1870 census record indicates they were born in NC, but perhaps that is inaccurate? Something new to explore!

Martha Jane "Mattie" Walker

Martha Jane “Mattie” Walker McNair
March 15, 1897 – September 24, 1991

Today is the birthday of my great-grandmother, Martha Walker McNair. She was born in North Carolina and lived most of her life in the Plymouth/Tarboro areas of Washington and Edgecombe County. Martha was the next to the youngest of 10 children that I know of, born to Anthony Walker and Martha Jane Baker.

Martha married Abraham Lincoln McNair and together they would have 10 children, 5 of whom died as young kids. Her only daughter to live to adulthood, Alice, is my grandmother.

I don’t know very much about Martha. I only have one memory of her, and that was when I was quite young and I remember her being in bed. My mother describes her as being quite stern and tough. I recently asked my mother is she could choose one word to describe her, what would it be – her answer, “Bossy.” Kalonji says that’s who I get it after :-)

Happy Birthday to my great-grandmother!

The USS Boxer

In looking at my grandfather Herman’s Report of Separation again over the weekend, I started to do some research on his service. He was enlisted in the US Navy from May 1944 to approximately June 1946. During this time, his records indicate he only served on one ship – the USS Boxer. He was a Stewards Mate 1st Class and I understand from my mother, that he had cooking responsibilities on the ship.

The USS Boxer was launched in December of 1944. It was the fifth ship to be named Boxer (CV-21) and it was an aircraft carrier. I found this wonderful picture of it’s launch on the US Naval Historical Center website of it being launched.


The ship’s first deployment was in September of 1945 and I don’t have any more specific details of my grandfather’s attachment date to the ship, but I would imagine he would have been on it by the time it went out to sea for the first time. Now, interestingly enough, I had always heard growing up that my grandfather had served in the Korean War, but now that I have his papers, I see that was not the case – he got out before the Korean War started (it started in 1950). I do know from the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships that from September 1945 – August 1946 the ship operated out of Guam and during this time went to Japan, Okinawa, the Phillipines and China. The ship returned home to the states to San Francisco in September 1946 and stayed there until deployed again in January of 1950.

We have this picture of Herman that was supposedly taken in Korea, however, I am trying to verify that the ship actually went to Korea during his service time.


Though my grandfather was off the ship by now, I love this 1950 picture of it in the bay of San Francisco with the crew members spelling out the ship’s name.


More information on the USS Boxer can be found at Wikipedia. My grandfather’s Report of Separation also indicates that he had four medals. I need to do some research on those – that will be a post for another day.

Obtaining Old Newspapers

In my last post, I had a comment that inquired how I obtained old newspapers. Thus far, I have ordered them from the North Carolina State Archives and State Library. They have a whole bunch of North Carolina Newspapers on microfilm as a result of the United States Newspaper Program. While they do offer interlibrary loan for the newspapers, I decided to take advantage of their microfilm duplication service – they charge $12 a reel. This is a much better option for me than interlibrary loan b/c I don’t have the time to go to the library and spend large chunks of time to look through them within a specific time frame and then return them, so it’s been easier for me to just own them and then I don’t have to return anything.

Even better, while I feel lucky to have the Nashville Public Library to be able to go to and do digital scans of the microfilm, I have recently found a service that will convert my microfilm to digital images for me. I plan to send them two reels this week and their turn around time is two days, so by the weekend, I should have enough digital newspaper images to keep me busy indexing for a couple of months. They are not cheap, but for the money I pay to the drop-in daycare that I use for Kaleya when I do go to the library, a reel costs me equivalent to two trips to the library. So, it will be WELL worth it!

Now that I know the library does microfilm duplication, they also do the same for all the county records they have on microfilm. So, next month, I plan to purchase some county records on microfim, namely, some from Jones County (see previous post).

Didn’t Take Long

Last month, I ordered microfilm of the newspaper from Kinston, NC (my father is from outside of Kinston). I ordered the microfilm b/c I have many, many relatives from the outskirts of Kinston, that while technically in a different county, still seem to be missing (well, obits anyway) from that county’s newspapers. So, I figured I’d look more closely at Kinston (Lenoir County).

Today, I went to the public library to scan some issues. Wouldn’t you know, the very first issue I scan has an obituary for a Koonce? (my name!). However, it is a white Koonce (of course, there are many white Koonce’s in the area) and to be honest, I have not really researched the white Koonce families in order to ascertain a connection to my Koonce family.

The lady in mention here is Carrie Heritage Koonce. She was 68 and her funeral was held on October 9, 1928. It does not mention when she died. She was the daughter of Dr. Heritage Blount. I did a search in Ancestry and find what appears to be her information – if it is correct, her husband was Bryan Koonce and her first name was Caroline. Unfortunately, there is no contact information for the person who submitted the gedcom. Hmm.. another search reveals a gedcom for Carrie’s father, but they do not have Carrie – but a brother listed. I think I’ll email them. I love the internet!

Here is Carrie and her family in the 1920 census. Her husband was still alive and it seems his first name started with an M, Bryan may have been his middle name? But they are listed with kids M.B., Lucille and John. Seems the family worked in a grocery store. The family also had two lodgers living with them.

I also see from searching the New Bern Obituary Index, that her obit also appeared in the Morning New Bernian newspaper as well. Cool.

UPDATE: It’s about 8 hours later and I think and am hopeful that I have some good leads. As a result of that email to the person I indicate above, I now know a lot more about Carrie’s family. Her husband appears to be from the Koonce’s of Jones’ County, NC. A search of the 1860 Slave Schedules shows that these Koonce’s owned a TON of slaves. And, they are clustered primarily in Jones County (one group in Onslow County).

Besides, I do know that there are also Black Koonce’s in Jones County today that we are supposedly related to somehow? So, I am hopeful. Over the next couple of months, I am making this my primary genealogy research goal. I plan to order Estate Records, Wills, etc and any original documents that I can get my hands on of the Koonce family of Jones county. Of note, (not that these names are uncommon), but the Carrie’s husband, Marrion – his father’s name was James and he had a sister named Caroline. My great-grandfather’s mother’s name was Caroline and her father’s name was James. Like I said – they are common names – but it gives me a little hope :-) I’m going to bed now – this search could keep me awake all night!

Newspaper Indexes

One day I will figure it out – I promise! I have decided yet again to switch up how I am doing my newspaper projects. I am optimistic that the third time’s a charm :-)

Trial #1 – My experience using the Browning Genealogy Database of Evansville, IN to research Kalonji’s family was so positive, that I decided I was going to build a newspaper database just like it! However, that one is so complex, that when I created my initial site, my structure was complex and I found it taking too long to enter information about each article. I quickly became discouraged.

Trial #2 – I then looked to the structure of a blog for transcribing content. I felt that since blogs get picked up by search engines, it would help keep the information readily available for a long time to come. Moving to a blog format meant losing some of the flexibility in searching that I’d ideally prefer, but I thought it would be an easier and quicker endeavor. I was wrong. Doing transcriptions of all the articles has proven to be very, very time consuming and more than I expected. So, I was getting discouraged again.

Trial #3 – So, I decided to go back to the database structure. However, this time, my philosophy is keep it simple. My “database” consists of one table with seven fields and information in it that is not “normalized” – i.e. follow convention database design principles. However, my goal is not to be exact in how I structure the data, but to get it in a format that can be searched in several ways and gets me to get the information out there quickly. Over the past couple of days, I’ve been doing this and so far I am sated. :-) In two nights, I have indexed content from 9 issues of the Roanoke Beacon. If I continue at this rate, I could feasibly do three-four months in a weekend’s worth of work and within a year, could have several years of data online. With this approach, I will continue to have the blogs specific to each newspaper, but I will use them instead as a means to post additional information that does not fit within the scope of the index. I think this will be best. I am deciding not to publicize the exact links for awhile until I build up some content, so you can expect that the transcription blogs will not see much activity for the next few months…..

Ambitious Goal

Why am I plagued with huge, ambitious goals! It seems that for my hobbies, I tend to develop grand schemas for things I want to accomplish. With my stitching, it was to create a database of cross-stitch patterns that appear in magazines. I did start one, but now that my interests have varied, I find that I really just don’t have the time to dedicate to is as I used to. (well, that and having a 2 year old to run after!).

Now that I’m into genealogy, I am starting to develop grand ideas for this hobby as well. There are so many areas in which I see room for possible contributions that it just paralyzes me sometimes. For example, right now, I am into newspaper transcriptions. I currently have two actively going, and a third one that I have decided I will do, but just need to order additional microfilm. I have a fourth order for microfilm that should arrive to me within the next few weeks, and I’ll start a new transcription blog for that. I find my newspaper transcription to be slow going work, but that’s okay – I enjoy reading the history of the place and even in the short time I’ve been doing it, I find that it is already helping others.

But, just this weekend, I started envisioning another project – creating a community genealogy web site, set up in structure very similar to my own personal family history site. For example, Plymouth, Washington County, NC is where my maternal grandmother is from. I think it would be so cool to create a community genealogy site for the county – that would have gedcom’s and compilation of information from a variety of sources. But, this would be a tremendous undertaking! Of course there would be people who would want to contribute information but still, it would be a huge project. Wouldn’t it be ideal though to be able to get a broader sense of the community of a whole for an area in which you had roots? Genealogy 2.0 apps would be perfect for this.

Just me thinking…..

UPDATE: I think I may have found something for this. I just took a quick look at WeRelate, and I am already amazed by it! I didn’t talk about it in my previous post on technology apps, but I like it already and I see that it has much potential. I plan to spend the next few days testing it out. Stay tuned.

Online Genealogy Programs

Seems I have a lot to post about these days! Well, today I’ve been reading various posts on other genealogy blogs about online genealogy programs (Eastman has a post, Randy has a post, as does Jasia), so I thought I would contribute as well.

In January 2006, I found the best thing that ever happened to me for my genealogy hobby – Darrin Lythgoe’s web-based genealogy software, The Next Generation (TNG). For the past several months prior, I had been looking for the perfect program to host my genealogy information online. My personal philosophy to data management over the past couple of years has been to transition to web-based products as much as possible, so that I could reduce my dependency upon any one personal computer. Therefore, I was looking to do this with my genealogy data as well. TNG is a great program in my personal experience, and I use it for my own family tree (and I used RootsMagic to do reports, PDF files, etc.) It has so many features that I have found it hard to beat as far as my personal preferences go. The one thing that I would say is lacking is a calendar view to the dates in my files that could be sent to me automatically via email like Google Calendar does. Other than that, I could hardly ask for more!

Other programs I have looked into are:

Tribal Pages – I did actually create a site, but I felt the views to the trees were limited as not enough information could be displayed about an individual. I was looking for something that would allow me to link in documents, photos, and more and TNG provides that.

With the recent announcement of PHPGedView, I looked at it briefly, but honestly have not taken the time to truly investigate it. PHPGedView does have a calendar view to dates like I only wish TNG had. However, at this point, I don’t feel the need to switch, so I’m not likely to investigate it further.

Geni - I looked at this briefly too. I did not like the approach of having to enter data individually and that it was a “private” community. I like open access as much as possible, with restrictions on living individuals. While that may appeal to some, it does not appeal to me. Mabye b/c I’m a librarian :-)

Ancestry Family Tree – I love Ancestry Trees! However, there are features that I wish it had, but for the mere fact that Ancestry is one of the MAJOR resources for genealogy, and that the data entered into the Family Tree becomes searcheable in both Ancestry and RootsWeb within a matter of days, this is an ideal option for other varied genealogies I work on. For example, I use Ancestry Family Trees for the tree of a co-worker of mine so that she too can log in and edit and work on the tree; for my step-mother’s sister-in-law’s tree, for the tree of someone whom I suspect may be the slaveowner of one of my ancestors, and for a couple of African-American former slaves that I’ve come across in my transcription work – I do this to help increase the chances that someone from any of these lines may find the information I’ve posted to it.

Another aspect that I’d like to mention are applications on the horizon in light of the Web 2.0 movement. Ben Crowder, a BYU student, has conceptualized a program he names Beyond. His ideas excite me and though he is a student and busy and may not get to develop this “soon”, I hope that he does continue to work on it and hopefully produce it one day. What excites me about his approach is that he is very well-tuned to the concepts of Web 2.0 and collaboration technologies and he hopes to build these into his program, while at the same time keeping it clean and simple. Also, he’s considering the idea of linking individuals with non-familial relationships (friend, co-worker, slave-owner, etc) – wouldn’t that be cool! Talk about community genealogy! Check him out.

One Word

Today I asked my mother how she would describe her grandmothers with one word:
– paternal grandmother, Lucinda — “sweet”
– maternal grandmother, Martha — “bossy”

Then, I asked Kalonji the same question:
– his paternal grandmother — “sage”
– his maternal grandmother — “gangsta”

So then, he asked me the same question:
-my paternal grandmother — “kind-hearted”
-my maternal grandmother — “adamant”

And then, I asked my father:
– his paternal grandmother – “mean”
– his maternal grandmother – he couldn’t say as she was bed-ridden most of his life and there was not much interaction.

Update: Today, Feb 16, 2007, I asked Kalonji’s grandmother, Frances the same questions. She described both of her grandmothers as “great grandmothers”, very loving, very caring and easy-going. Her grandmother Matilda was particularly so and she said she always wanted to go live with her b/c she would let the grandkids “get away with stuff”.

Lewis "Christopher Columbus" Robinson

Today while reading some information related to my job, I learned of a new resource that explains the environmental hazards of working/living near a major water port. That prompted me to do a blog post about my great-grandfather, Lewis Robinson. We don’t know much about Lewis, as he died when my grandfather was just three years old. He is described as being short (and my grandfather and many of his brothers were tall, so where did the height come from?) In fact, his WWI Draft Enlistment Card has his height as 5 feet, 5 inches tall – cool to see this fact confirmed by documentation! There is a whole story around his middle name being “Christopher Columbus,” but that is a post for another day. What I do want to post about right now is his job, apparently, he was a longshoreman for at least the last 8 years of his life.

Both the 1920 census and his death certificate from 1928 indicate that this was his occupation. As I know absolutely nothing about what it means to be a longshoreman, this is my opportunity to learn and a chance to get some of this in writing.

What is a longshoreman? According to a Wikipedia entry, a longshoreman is generally responsible for loading and unloading ships. Longshoremen should know the proper techniques for lifting and loading equipment and be physically strong. It seems that in the early days, most cargo was tied down with rope tied with Stevedore knots. This picture, from 1912, shows some longshoreman on the docks of the Hudson River in New York (very likely where Lewis worked given that he lived in Manhattan.)

His employer: Lewis worked for the Panama Lines, and while I plan to do more extensive research into the Panama Lines, I have done some quick looking online. Panama Lines was a steamship line operated by Panama Railroad Company. There is a 1991 article from the Journal of the Steamship Historical Society that talks about the history of the Panama Railroad Company and the steamships they operated. The Line was established as a connection between ports in US and the Panama Canal. I am interested in learning about the ships that Lewis may have loaded/unloaded and thus far, it seems that ones in operation while he was working may have included the ADVANCE, the PANAMA, the COLON, the CRISTOBAL, the ANCON, the ALLIANCA, LAKE FLATTERY, LAKE FANQUIER, the BUENVENTURA, and the GUAYAQUIL.

This image from one of the Lines’ 1949 brochures’ aims to showcase the experience.

The ship in the brochure appears to be the Cristobal, as best as I can tell from other pictures of the ship on that same website. These two flags were also used by the company.


How cool! I would love to find some books that can provide me with even more details about the longshoreman work habits and the history of the Panama Lines. Given Lewis’ work on the docks, I find it cool that his sons (at least 3 of them) would all go on to serve in the US Navy.