Cemeteries

Our Very Own MTGS Genealogy Roadshow

This weekend, I was pleased to have the opportunity to present as part of a special programming event of the Middle Tennessee Genealogy Society. We had a session yesterday afternoon loosely based on the concept of a roadshow/roundtable. Our session featured 4 major concepts; presenters were at 4 tables covering the following subjects:

  • Computers in Genealogy
  • Beginning Genealogy
  • Reliable Research Records
  • DNA

Attendees then moved from station to station (30 minutes each) during our meeting time. I was asked to co-present on the Reliable Research Records topic. However, the evening before the event I was asked if I could do the Computers in Genealogy session due to the planned presenters’ illnesses. As I love technology, I was happy to do i!t Given the short notice, I pondered on what I’d present – I decided I would just share some of the ways I use not just computers, but technology in general, to further my genealogy workflows and research. I came up with a list of 10 examples to share. 

  1. Genealogy Software – talked about the use of programs like RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, and Family Tree Maker for electronic management of your family tree. I personally use RootsMagic as part of my genealogy workflow, but there are many, many other options out there! I am especially a fan of RootsMagic’s integration with both FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry Member Trees. 
  2. Genealogy File Organization – this year, I became serious about organizing my digital files. I set up what I like to refer to as my own “personal genealogy archive” and organize my material by format within three main divisions – my own family, my husband’s family, and our combined family. Again, there are multiple options. Anyone looking for tips and additional suggestions should check out The Organized Genealogist Facebook group. 
  3. Writing on Digital Photos – As part of my organization plan, I now regularly add descriptions/captions to each of my digital photos by editing the IPTC metadata. This allows my captions to stay with the digital photo even when shared with others. Alison Taylor has great information on her website about what this process can entail. I also personally use XnViewMP software to do my metadata editing (hat tip to Tony Hanson of the Dallas Genealogical Society for the software suggestion – see YouTube video). 
  4. Using the Cloud – I use Google Drive to store all of my files. The benefit of using cloud storage is that I’m not dependent upon any one particular device – I can access my files from any device with an internet connection. This flexibility has been important to me for many years now so I’m grateful for the software platforms that allow me to do it. I even save my RootsMagic database in Google Drive. There are other services of course, like Dropbox, but I’m a Google fangirl 🙂
  5. Push Notifications – you know those buttons you see on websites that say “sign up for email updates”? – I use those liberally! I love the idea of information coming directly to my inbox, rather than me having to remember to go to the site to see what’s new. I personally have a LOT of sites I monitor, so Feedly, with its aggregation service, is great for collecting this new info for me so that it is ready for me when I want it. 
  6. Genealogy Blogging – I’ve been blogging since 2008 and thoroughly enjoy it. It is a great way to document my research progress and to share my findings. With the way blog posts are readily picked up by search engines, posts also serve as great cousin bait. I’ve had many instances of relatives finding me via the information I’ve shared online here in my blog – from pictures to family stories, and more. I personally prefer WordPress as my platform of choice, but there are others, like Google’s Blogger
  7. Digital Notebooks – I’ve always been a copious note-taker and I love that I’m able to do so digitally through EverNote. Through EverNote, I can capture notes, pictures, and all kinds of other info electronically with 24/7 access to it across multiple devices. The hierarchy options are helpful for organizing information. The Evernote Genealogists Facebook group is a helpful resource for tips/suggestions. 
  8. Cemetery ResearchFind-A-Grave and BillionGraves are both sites I use often. I have their mobile apps installed on my phone so that I can take advantage of options such as adding pictures to memorials while in the cemetery (Find-A-Grave) or uploading all the pictures I take in a cemetery for automatic geomapping (BillionGraves). Love them both!
  9. Scanning Photos – from wand scanners, flatbed scanners, and mobile scanners such as the Flip-Pal, there are many ways to scan a photo to create a digital file. My favorite scanner? My cell phone. And with the availability of apps like Google’s PhotoScan, I maximize the quality of the images I take. 
  10. StoryTelling/Oral Histories – StoryCorps has established quite the legacy for the many stories they help people capture around the country. On my wishlist to try at my next family reunion is their mobile app which makes it easy to record stories of your family members. I’ll certainly share my experiences with it in a future blog post. 

Overall, the session went well and we had a great turnout! Many questions were asked by participants and I enjoyed speaking and learning from others also. Check out the Technology for Genealogy Facebook group for more discussion and information. 

My next speaking event is a local family reunion in October, so until then!


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And Now I Know Why

Props to the DigitalNC group for my discovery tonight!

As I was updating my family tree information for my relative Reverend Wright L. Lawhorn, I decided to do some more searching for him. Wright was a brother to my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Becton Lawhorn. When I started the evening, I did not have much information about Wright, but I did know that though he passed away in Charlotte, NC – his remains were sent by train to Sylva, NC.  Since finding his death certificate several years ago, I’d wondered why Sylva? We didn’t have family there to the best of my knowledge.

Tonight I learned why! Since I last looked for him, his burial information has been added to Find-A-Grave and I discovered he was buried in Webster, Jackson County, NC. Webster is right next to Sylva. I also saw his wife, Birdell Lawhorn, is buried in the same cemetery.  Some additional searching ensues and I discover that Birdell, a graduate of Winston-Salem State College, and later an employee, had the 1968 yearbook dedicated to her by her students! At the time, she was a dorm matron at one of the residence halls. How cool is that?

1968 yearbook dedication photo

newspaper article about the dedication

An article about her in the school newspaper states that she was from Cullowohee, NC — guess what county that is in? Jackson!

So, I guess that when her husband died, Birdell had him interred in her hometown.

Both the newspaper and the yearbook have been digitized and made available online by the DigitalNC group. Yet again – finding family history in these files that they have worked so diligently on and for that, I am so thankful!  I am also quite grateful to the Find-A-Grave volunteer who added their memorials!

DNA Connections & A Newspaper Story

Oh what fun to be able to write this blog post! Back during the first season of Genealogy Roadshow, my husband and I interviewed with producers as we were hopeful one of the stories I submitted would be used. Unfortunately, it was not, but every now and then I revisit the research that prompted me to enter.

One of the mysteries I’d presented was to further investigate if my husband has biological connections to Meriwether Lewis of Lewis & Clark.  One of Kalonji’s 2nd great-grandmothers was named Margaret Meriwether and it is through her that this connection may lie. Margaret was from Clarksville, Montgomery County, Tennessee.

At the end of January, as I looked at Kalonji’s gedmatch matches, I saw a close result from another Meriwether and it turned out, this new DNA match also had family from Clarskville! Since then, we’ve been comparing family trees, doing research, and though we have not yet found the exact relationship between the two, we know we are close 🙂  With only approximately 4 generations back to their most common ancestor, we remain hopeful we can find the connection.

Kalonji’s Meriwether DNA match

Then, in sharing on Facebook that I was searching through an index of newspaper obituaries one day last month at the Tennessee State Library & Archives, I learned that one of my Facebook friends not only also had family from Clarksville, but he was a cousin of Kalonji’s DNA match. Exciting!

set of obituary indexes for the Clarksville, TN area – at the Tennessee State Library & Archives

Given this recent research, how cool then it was to find in the Tennessean this morning an article about a Meriwether Cemetery that is now owned by Google – in which, the reporter mentions both Kalonji’s DNA match and my Facebook friend! The story describes the cemetery, those interred there, and gives information about the background of Meriwether’s in Clarksville. In the article, there is mention of a white slave owner who had children with two of his slaves – one a Hillman, and the other a Meriwether.  Well, the Meriwether slave of mention is Kalonji’s 2nd great-grandmother- Margaret.  Margaret had children of this slaveowner – Buck Harris, but then she also had kids with another man, Dick Wisdom.  It is through one of Margaret & Dick’s children from whom Kalonji is descended. My discovery of Margaret’s Meriwether family came as a result of the 1940 census release.

Kaloniji’s Meriwether Family Descendancy Tree (what I have documented so far)

The news story can be seen online and it is definitely worth the read. I am pleased to know that Google is committed to maintaining the cemetery and has no plans to move it. Kudos to them! I would love to visit the cemetery one day – but not sure how that would work given that it is Google’s property. I must find out.  Meanwhile, the research into this DNA connection will definitely continue.

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.

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!

Koonce & Koonce Expedition – Part II

Back in 2009, I wrote about a day of Koonce-hunting in Lincoln County, TN with my buddy John P. Koonce. Yesterday, we were able to continue the adventure and an adventure it was indeed!!!

John was joined by his nephew Dan and the primary purpose of our trip was to look for the Grills-Koonce cemetery in Fayetteville. John has made several trips to look for it with no success.  We had it’s location based on a map produced by the Lincoln County Genealogical Society, but the cemetery is not visible from the road and would require some investigation. As we traveled down to Fayetteville, I looked the cemetery up in Find-A-Grave and was able to find GPS coordinates.  

satellite map

 

We traveled down Koonce Lane again (we did last time). However, because we had GPS coordinates and now have the great technology of Google Maps, I could see there was a side lane we could travel down in order to try and get closer to the cemetery, Stable Lane. We’d not done this back in 2009. But alas, we went down the lane and fencing creates a barrier to going on the property. Plus, there was so much growth, we couldn’t see much and even try and visually see a cemetery.

view down Stable Lane

And while there was a house at the end of the road, the gate was closed so that was a bummer. So, we turned around and decided to ask some of the neighbors if they knew anything about the cemetery. The first lady we spoke to had not been living on the street for long, but she gave us a recommendation for a family to go speak to. As were were back in the car heading to this family, we saw someone pulling onto Stable Lane – we were so excited! We thought it was perhaps the people who lived in the house.

So, we followed the truck down the lane. They saw us and stopped and upon talking to them, we discovered they were not the owners, but were there to look for the Grills-Koonce Cemetery also. Not only that, they were Grills themselves and had ancestors buried in the cemetery! How funny! A set of Koonces and a set of Grills looking for the Grills-Koonce cemetery at the exact same time! It was too much! 

Well, the homeowner at the end of the lane saw us there and came down. Her family has lived on the property for 70 years and she knew of the cemetery; had seen it herself before. She pointed in the general direction of it, but advised us to go speak to the person who owns the land on which the cemetery is situated, for permission to enter. Fortunately, the cemetery land owner lived down the street. 

going over the map for the cemetery

So, off our caravan went to go knock on the door of the cemetery land owner. Fortunately for us, she was home and even better, she offered to drive us right to the cemetery. And let me tell you, even with her directions for where to drive once we would have entered the land, there was NO WAY we’d have ever found it on our own. The picture below shows the height of the foliage as we drove through to the cemetery. 

the foliage we drove through to reach the cemetery

I approach the cemetery. See how high those plants are!

Once we arrived at the cemetery, we could definitely see how it has been left untended. Many graves were just about completely overgrown, and only a few were above ground enough to read. While we found headstones for Grills family members, we didn’t see any with Koonce, but we know at least two Koonces are buried there – Napoleon Polk Koonce and wife Elizabeth Brown Koonce – exact relationship to John & Dan still unknown. This means we have research to do.

But our new buddies, the Grills, found headstones for their family!

Grills family members

Afterwards, we had to take a group photo. Note – cemetery hunting is hard, sweaty work 🙂

Grills & Koonces after visiting the Grills-Koonce cemetery

We were all excited to finally get to this cemetery.  The owner told us that the last time someone asked about it was about 15 years ago, but we have now been there! The Grills plan to come back and do some work to help get it cleared up and hopefully find some of the headstones currently covered. What a great time!

John, Dan and I also stopped at two other cemeteries while in town.  We visited the Kelso-Koonce-McCartney-McGee Cemetery again and Stewarts Cemetery. Lots of pictures were taken of Koonce headstones and I’ll be working on adding them to the Surname Project files. I’ve already added the interments we know about to Find-A-Grave (I tried to post pics to BillionGraves also, but the GPS signal was too weak).

Veteran’s Weekend Trip to the Nashville National Cemetery

This Veteran’s day I did not have a chance to blog about any veterans in my family, so I decided to honor the holiday differently.  I visited the Nashville National Cemetery yesterday and took pictures using the BillionGraves app.

In two hours I was able to take more than 800 photos – amazing.  Now, my work is done – the images are uploaded to the site and others are already transcribing them.  This is why I love BillionGraves – it is just too easy to be a contributor.  I even had the kids helping again 🙂

Kaleya clears leaves in preparation for Jihad's photo-taking

Kaleya takes a picture

I wish I could share the map of the cemetery too and where I took pictures, but I had to add it to the BillionGraves database and it has not yet been added to the website.  However, here is a snapshot of my dashboard as of the end of the day today.  My next goal will be to hit 2000 pictures before the year is out.

My BillionGraves Dashboard as of 11/13/11

 

It Starts Young

While at Walgreens the other night, my six-year old sees cameras and says

Mommy, can I get my own camera so I can use it when we go to the cemetery?

Well, she definitely gets engaged when we go to the cemetery,  often asking to be in at least one picture and demanding me to take pictures of any headstone with flowers because they are “pretty.”

Just last weekend we were at the Nashville National Cemetery and asked me to take a picture of her with a headstone.

Kaleya at the cemetery - she specifically asked to take a picture.

Love it! She is a budding genealogist!  Some of my other posts with the kids w/ me at the cemetery:

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Holidays Stanley

Yesterday, my mom visited her brother’s grave in Sarasota National Cemetery.   The cemetery had decorated all the headstones and she says it was a gorgeous view.  What do you think?

Sarasota National Veteran's Cemetery. December 2010.

Stanley Hines Robinson (1950-2010)

And, here is Stanley’s headstone

Kaleya In the Cemetery

Over the holiday weekend,  I made DH take me to two local cemeteries so I could take a few pictures for Find-A-Grave.  We didn’t stay long – about an hour combined, but during that time I got many pictures for uploading.  Perhaps my favorite part of the whole experience was how involved Kaleya (who will soon be 6) got in the process!  She and/or Jihad have been to the cemetery with me before, but this was the first time she declared that she was going to take pictures too.   It was by chance because I asked her to hold my phone while I got my digital camera ready and off she went with the phone while I used the camera!

She had a ball.  From getting in close to take good pictures….

to brushing leaves off the headstones so that the names could be “read” (or in her case since she’s still learning to read.. “seen”)

she was such a great helper and enjoyed it.

Now, of course she still has a thing or two to learn about taking pictures 🙂  Comments heard in the cemetery,

“Mommy — my shadow got in that one!”

or – “Ha, ha! my fingers were in the way!”

But, she did quite often get pictures that were excellent.

She’s definitely going back with me next time I go 🙂  I was truly amazed.