40th Annual McNair Family Reunion

This Memorial Day Weekend, as it’s traditionally held, my McNair branch of the family is having their 40th Annual Reunion.  Started in 1972, I am amazed and proud of its longevity!  I’ve not yet been to one, but my maternal grandmother, Alice McNair Robinson, used to go often and has shared with me details about her family that helped inspire my love of genealogy.

In preparation for the reunion this year, at the request of a cousin, I compiled a booklet of the family tree information I currently have for the McNair family. The reunion is for the descendants of Rufus & Mariah McNair, so the booklet lists each of the branches of their children (10 who are known to have offspring).

This is the front cover I made.

For now, the booklet is purely a list of names. Next year, I hope to be able to include pictures of at least the generation of the grandkids of Rufus & Mariah. I am honored to have met at least one – my 2nd great-aunt Martha. Aunt Martha is doing well and is attending the reunion herself this year! 

I am looking forward to the feedback from this weekend and the chance to further update and make our family tree even better.  To my McNair Family – enjoy and if you aren’t going, please consider sharing what you know so that we can preserve these memories for our own descendants. 

My First Ancestry 1940 Census Hint

Last week, soon after the release of the index for Delaware on the Ancestry.com website, I received my first green shaky leaf hint from the 1940 census!

The hint was for a person in my McNair family tree, Ms. Carrie Lucille McNair Griffin (1919-2004).  Carrie was a granddaughter of our family patriarch, Rufus Tannahill McNair, and  from Plymouth, NC – the homebase of the McNair family.  Before I received this hint, I did know Carrie lived in Delaware as this is where she was living when she passed. 

As I reviewed my notes, I saw that I had Carrie in the 1920 census, but I don’t have her in 1930.  Well, now, I have her in 1940 so I’ll have to go back and look for her. 

In 1940, she is living in Wilmington, Delaware, with her mom Annie Registers McNair and siblings Ellen, Gertie May, Vance, Leon, Anna Mae, & Charles.  The 1935 residence columns indicate they’d lived in the area in 1935.  Ellen worked as a nursemaid and Carrie as a bookkeeper in an accounting office. 

Annie McNair and family. 1940 Census. Wilmington, Delaware.

Now it’s off to try and fill in more of Carrie’s branch!

Statistics and the 1940 Census US Community Project Society Dashboard

This morning I was quite happy to see that the US Community Project has shared information from societies participating in the indexing on their Society Dashboard.

I am pleased that the group I’ve coordinated – the TNGenWeb Project, has placed 10th in the list of “large” societies! Our group currently has 36 members and they are all doing an awesome job.  However, my pleasure is seriously hampered by what appears to be methodological problems in how these numbers were calculated and posted.

1) the first list on the page reports the Top 10 Societies for the number of records indexed “per capita.”  Later in the page, there is another table showing the top societies for the highest number of records indexed on average. Per capita, is a measure of the average; it is not necessary to have both tables. This also holds true for the arbitration tables on the page.

2) FamilySearch is categorizing societies into “small” (less than 16 members) and “large” (16 or more members).  Thus, their tables showing highest numbers of records indexed on average is presented as two tables – one for the small societies, and one for the large societies.  However, the table shown for highest numbers of records indexed for small societies is the exact same table as the per capita list (the 1st one on the page).  This does not make sense since the “per capita” at the top (even if they really meant to have a per capita list) should include all societies, not just the small ones.  Essentially, that first list, the per capita list -is not needed; not only is it repetitive of a later table, but it omits the large societies.

3) Reporting the “average” number of records indexed assumes that when you plot the data in a histogram it has a normal distribution (which means it looks like a bell-shaped curve).  Without getting too technical, to tell someone what the “average” of the group is assumes that most people in the group are working at about the same level within a specific range, and that range is around the  middle of the data set values. I would be willing to bet that of all the thousands of indexers participating in this effort, we are not all working at the same productivity level.  There are probably many indexers who are transcribing very high numbers of names, and many, many more who are indexing far fewer.  This could produce a data set that is skewed (therefore NOT on a bell-shape curve).

Here is the curve for the 35 indexers from our group who have indexed records (one person has not) as of 4pm CST today:

What this graph shows is that there are many indexers who have transcribed less than about 1800 records and there are very few indexers who have transcribed more than 6,000 records.  The high point is off to the left, which means this data set is skewed.  Therefore, to better understand the “middle” of the data set (which is what an “average” is reporting) it is more accurate to report our median instead of our average.  Our group’s “average” is about 1,648 records indexed; our median is 1,016 indexed.  That is a big difference. I would love to know if the numbers of records done by all the indexers for the 1940 census are skewed or not. I would be willing to bet that it is just given the nature of the work we are doing.  If the data set is not following a bell-shaped curve, then FamilySearch should be reporting the medians.

4) FamilySearch is reporting these values as values for April 2012, but the month of April is not even over yet.  What was the cutoff date for this data set? They should have reported the dates covered by this report.

5) Do the “averages” reported also include the non-contributors in a group?  If the numbers reported do not include the non-contributors, then, I question the need to divide contests between small and large societies. Even with a median value reported, if the data set is limited only to those contributing,  then it could be entirely possible that a small society can be far more productive than a larger one – why make the division?

I would love to know more about how the data was analyzed and perhaps learn I am incorrect in some of my points, but from what I’ve seen today, I am can’t trust the data shown.  I understand that we are all in this to contribute to a worthwhile cause and I am thrilled to do so. However, if this is going to be contest, then FamilySearch should at the least report the data accurately.  Ideally, I would love to speak to whomever generated this posting so I can better understand the report was derived.

More to come as I learn it! :-)

I’ll be on FGS Radio to Discuss WordPress for Genealogy

Today I am appearing on an episode of FGS Radio to discuss how WordPress can be used for your genealogical society website (or, historical society, family society, USGenWeb site, etc.).  I am delighted to have this opportunity to share with anyone whose interested, my love of WordPress! The show starts at 2pm Eastern Time, and afterwards will be available for listening at your leisure.

I have used WordPress extensively for both genealogy and non-genealogy sites and I continue to be amazed at how much can be accomplished with it.  To date, I either run, help run, or offer support for about 70 WordPress sites; I gladly look forward to working with more.  WordPress offers many advantages and can truly help making your website maintenance a no-brainer while at the same time facilitating high engagement with your user base.

You can listen to the episode by clicking on the image below:

I hope you find it of use! In the future, I hope to offer more information on how to maximize its potential.

For now, here are some additional resources that may come in handy:

  • WordPress.org – access themes, plugins, documentation, and the WordPress forums
  • WordCamp – meetings that occur around the country by groups of people interested in WordPress
  • Lorelle on WordPress – she blogs and writes all about the software

Additionally, here are a few examples of genealogy websites that use the WordPress platform:

I welcome communication from anyone interested in using WordPress for their genealogy site.  Just send me an email to taneya@gmail.com.

You can also request access to the Facebook Group for Genealogical Society Webmasters where we share tips, suggestions, etc. – not only on WordPress, but much more.

A Caveat About Online Digital Newspapers

Over on the FamilySearch TechTips Blog, James Tanner has written a great article about the availability of newspapers that are becoming increasingly available online.   I absolutely love his opening statement 

Throughout the world, local and national organizations, including governments, are realizing that much of their national heritage, culture and history has been chronicled in newspapers.

This is certainly true and the reason why I absolutely love historical papers – so much history is embedded within them!  James then discusses a number of sources online where you can go and access digitized versions – including ChroniclingAmerica, Google News Archive, and more.  All those in the pursuit of family history should definitely read this article and become familiar with these online resources.  The links he embeds to online lists are particularly helpful. 

But, I caution the reader in becoming too persuaded by the notion as James states that

Today, most of the online newspaper archives are completely searchable by any word in the newspaper. Searching for an ancestor’s name is no more difficult than it is searching in Google or any other online search engine.

Lo and behold, it is not that easy! Sure, many papers do offer some level of keyword searching but results can be spotty in many cases because the technology used to create the indexes being searched relies on Optical Character Recognition (e.g. computers trying to determine what is on the page). In other situations,  Captcha technologies are used to enhance the knowledge of what is on the page.  But so much more goes missing when you rely upon a keyword search because these processes are far from perfect.

Here is an example – on the ChroniclingAmerica website the Columbia Herald’s May 6, 1866  issue has a notice on page 2 (column 6) of several suicides/attempted suicides by people in the community – one of those being a Mr. Fountain Cleveland.

I found this notice by browsing – the page-by-page method that to which James refers. Yet, now that I know this, will this article come up if I search his name using the Chronicling America search interface? They even offer the ability to limit by state, year, and to do phrase searching.

And, what are the results?

Nope!  The reason this search does not work is because the word “Cleveland” is split with a hyphen — OCR has not put the whole word together.  This is just one of many ways that a keyword search can fail.  If you spend some time comparing known information against what you can access via a search, you will quickly see other types of discrepancies also.

These type of searching challenges are inherent in many other repositories as well – it happens with Google News Archive, it happens with the Internet Archive, it happens with smaller collections of newspapers that are maintained by universities and/or other interest groups; it happens in the Australian TROVE collection, it happens in all digital collections.  This is the reason I dedicate time indexing from online newspapers – to help make the content even more useful for all of us looking.  Not that human intervention is 100% accurate either, but it can certainly enhance the digital access.

Access to these collections are indeed wonderful and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.  But, it is important that we are all acutely aware of their limitations.  Thank you James for the inspiration – this is actually a blog post I’ve been working on off and on for awhile :-)

My First 1940 Census Find

Yesterday I posted about my experiences with the first day of the census and I mentioned that I had no plans to seek out my family members while the images are still unindexed.  Yeah – that didn’t hold out very long. 

Last night I downloaded a few ED sets from the NARA website around the Craven & Lenoir counties in North Carolina.  My father’s family is from there so I was curious to see who I would see.  I didn’t plan to search for anyone specifically, but rather to browse.

To my delight, I quickly found my paternal grandmother, Cora Mae (Lawhorn) Koonce!

She is living in ED 25-10, Craven County, sheet 8A.  She is 7 years old, and thus, this is the first time she appears in the census.  Her father William is 28, her mom Pearlie Mae is 27.  Interestingly enough the family is enumerated as McLawhorn instead of their true name, Lawhorn.  Cora is accompanied by brother William (age 9), brother John Wright (age 5) and brother Randolph (age 1).  This is the first census for all the children, as William & Pearlie were married  in 1931. 

Enumerated below William & Pearlie are Randolph & Mary Kilpatrick. These are Pearlie Mae’s parents.

Enumerated above William & Pearlie is another interesting family.  George & Roberta Tew.  George was the brother of a man named Oscar Spears Tew.  Oscar was the great-grandfather of someone I work with here at Vanderbilt.  Last year, while doing some research on his family tree, I discovered this connection to my ancestral home area and based on other records had speculated that my family must have known the Tews.  I had no idea they lived next to each other!  

 

My Census Day

This has been a fun day! With the release of the 1940 census there has been a lot of excitement among many to see the records.  Technical glitches abounded online as unexpected demand crashed the NARA website but there was still plenty to do.

What did I do?  I made a half-hearted attempt to locate my paternal grandfather in Manhattan by browsing the New York records on Ancestry.com but gave that up after an hour.  That was enough for me to realize I don’t even want to attempt to go through the census until it’s indexed; my family moved around too much. :-)

I am coordinating a group of indexers for FamilySearch for the TNGenWeb, so several of us spent the evening indexing.  Currently, we have 30 members and as of this writing we have indexed over 3500 records (about 1,000 of them are census records).  I myself only indexed two batches tonight so plan to do more tomorrow – I worked on Colorado.  My favorite name of the evening was Perfecto Chavis - he and his family lived in Pueblo County.

Then, after that, I did some indexing for another project – the NCGenWeb Yearbook Database.  I started this about two years ago and tonight crossed the 30,000 threshold for the number of names indexed.  Whoo hoo!

It’s been a good day.

 

Wearing my 1940 Census Ambassador Badge

I added a new icon to my sidebar this evening — the 1940 Census Ambassador Badge.  I joined last week as I am going to be contributing to the creation of the index.

So much has been made available online about the upcoming census that I will not rehash here.  In short, when the census images are released on April 2nd, there will not be an index.  The only way to find people will be to really have a good sense of where they were living.  An index would be far more useful so there is a multi-partner initiative that is encouraging us all to volunteer and help create the index.

More excitingly for me is that I created a group for the TNGenWeb Project so that we can work as individual indexers, but contribute “points” towards our group.  More information about that is on the TNGenWeb site, so if you would like to be on our team, just let me know. 

 

McClellan DNA Mystery Step 1

In my ongoing mission to seek the paternal lineage of Kalonji’s great-grandfather, Champ McClellan, I am another step closer tonight.  My suspicion is that Champ is descended from a white slaveholder of his family - William Blount McClellan (1798-1881) - I like to call him “WB.” 

Thanks to the generosity of one of WB’s direct-male descendants, I now know WB’s yDNA STR markers and haplogroup.  WB’s descendant tested as part of the FamilyTree DNA McClellan Project.

I don’t have a yDNA sample from the right person in Kalonji’s family yet for comparison, but the DNA testing has yielded some insight into the lineage of WB. Until today, all I knew is that WB was a grandson of Capt. William McClellan of Loundon County, Virginia and I had no other information about the Captain’s parents, but that the family came from Ireland or Scotland.  With the matches to others in the McClellan project, we now have more relatives for WB. 

WB’s markers match in 36 out of 37 locations to 4 other individuals in the project so far:

  • Kit #129602 - descends from John McClellan and his wife Jane Lynch who were both born about 1798 in Ireland and immigrated to New York about 1820.
  • Kit #N72978 - descends from Samuel McClelland who was born about 1806 in Ireland and his wife Margaret.  This family lived in Canada in 1871.
  • Kit #183073 – descended from Archelaus D McLeland who was born about 1799 in SC and relocated to Adams Co, MS by 1818 and then to Simpson Co, MS. His wife was Nancy Pratt and they relocated to LA before 1843 and to TX in the 1850’s.
  • Kit #193494 - descends from Samuel McClellan, most likely a brother of ArchelausD McLeland. This kit is a 37/37 marker match for Kit #183073.

Not having known anything else about the Captain’s family lineage, this is interesting as all these matches trace back to Ireland or Scotland at some point.  I found an article that indicates WB’s ancestors came from Scotland, so I’ll have to verify if I can. I have no familiarity with working with Irish records, but if Kalonji’s cousin’s yDNA turns out to match these individuals, I may very quickly gain some experience! More to come in a few more months.

 

 

Made the Newspaper Today

In light of the volunteer work I do with the TNGenWeb Project. A reporter in nearby Clarksville called me earlier this week and wanted to know more about our group.  It was a great opportunity to further explain the project and our mission and I’m happy to have aided in some PR for us.  You can read more on the TNGenWeb blog

Jihad holds the article

Meanwhile, the paper’s timing was perfect! Clarksville is about 45 minutes away from me and as it happens, I travelled through there today as we took my youngest stepson back to his mom after a weekend visit. So… I stopped on the way home and found the paper in print! I don’t have to rely on just having it online – yeah!  My name, however, is spelled incorrectly. Ah well.