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. 

 

Ancestry.com Is Makin’ Moves in Genetic Genealogy

This morning I watched the online streaming video of the Ancestry.com panel at RootsTech.  The format of the panel was conversational between President & CEO Tim Sullivan and other leaders within the company.

We all learned of some exciting developments in the pipeline for features to come at Ancestry.com – all of which will be great assets.  I in particular was most intrigued by what I was hearing with regard to their plans for how to work with DNA in the future.  Though they did not explicitly outline details, from the overall conversation, it was easy to read in between the lines.

Specifically, Ancestry is looking at what is needed to leverage DNA as content.  What does this mean? It means that DNA will become part of the genealogical experience.  How might that happen? For that, I refer back to a blog post I made this past November as I discussed thoughts on how DNA content could be better leveraged by 23andMe.

In that blog post, I made several points, but overall, expressed a desire for DNA companies to use DNA data in smarter ways.  Those of us getting tested are able to pinpoint specific segments to specific ancestors, yet, our knowledge of this is not internally captured in the system, nor shareable with anyone else via the system.  If that were to change, and it was as easy to “tag” DNA segments to specific individuals in an online tree that also existed in the system, a whole new world could be opened up for us all.   I invite you to read the post for further information.

While I have done a lot of testing with 23andMe – I do anticipate that Ancestry may get into a lead position on this — as they demonstrated today at RootsTech for non-genealogical data, they already have infrastructure in place to make it possible for us to tag records, on the fly, and in very shareable ways.  

Let us tag our DNA. Then, let us attach it to specific individuals in our tree.  Doing so would then help realize an amazing transformation in how we now work with genetic information to move forward our genealogical cause. I am looking forward to see how their DNA testing service grows.

I’M INSPIRED! ARE YOU?

Update:  Blaine Bettinger has a stellar post further describing the session and the implications. It’s a must read article!

He’s Been to Florida Before

This is a photo of the envelope that my uncle Stanley (1950-2010) sent to my grandmother back in 1984.

This letter is notable because Stanley was a “wanderer.”  He would leave New York and go travel and the family would never really know where he was at.   His return address here is “On the Road” and interestingly, in Florida.  He would eventually settle in Florida,  living there near my mom.