How to Get on Genealogy Roadshow (Or Not)


Last night, PBS aired the 1st episode of their new series, “Genealogy Roadshow.”  The first episode is now online for viewing if you missed it. The first episode was filmed here in my hometown of Nashville, TN and my husband and I actually auditioned for the show, though we didn’t end up making it on. Throughout the favorable response I’ve seen online since the show aired, I thought I would share our experience as it may shed some light on the process. Of course, others may have insight too!

Being Approached

Back in April, I received an email from one of the show producers who found me through my blogging.  She introduced the premise of the show and asked if I would be interested in submitting a genealogical case for the show. I was flattered and thought it would be cool so contacted her for more info.

The Genealogical Mystery

From the very outset, the show casting calls made it clear that they were interested in solving genealogical mysteries – particularly ones that were compelling. I get it of course – it’s a television show after all! I don’t happen to have any big “mysteries” in my family tree that I felt would be particularly newsworthy, but there were a couple in Kalonji’s.  We presented two different stories – 1) seeking the father of Kalonji’s bi-racial great-grandfather Champ McClellan and 2) investigating the potential that one of Kalonji’s 2nd great-grandmothers was related to Meriweather Lewis of Lewis and Clark.  The producer asked me several questions about the family tree – wanting details, dates, and names for these people.  Easy enough to do since I keep all of our family tree data online on our website.

The Audition

Within a week or two, Kalonji and I were doing a video audition for the show via Skype! That was way cool. The producer recorded us telling our stories and why were were interested in seeking out the answers to these genealogical mysteries. With lots of prompting to be animated (remember, this is television) :-). I guess they wanted to make sure they had people who were interesting to see and not going to be deadpan throughout filming. Can’t blame them for that! Our video was then shared with show producers.

Genealogist Contact

A week or so after the audition, I was then contacted by a professional genealogist who was hired to investigate. By this point, it became quite apparent to me that Genealogy Roadshow was interested in pursuing the Meriweather Lewis connection as all her questions were about this story.  We spoke for about 20 minutes while she confirmed the details she’s received from the show and I sent her the link to our family tree website.  Great!

Filming

Belmont Mansion

The Nashville episode of the show was filmed here in town on June 30th at the Belmont Mansion.  Unfortunately, we were not selected for the show but I never received confirmation one way or another until I just never heard from them by the time filming started. I guess this was just miscommunication from the show producers, which honestly left me a bit disappointed, but I’ll chalk it up to the way things work in television. Social media was all abuzz the day of filming about them being in town.

After filming, the show producers confirmed that I should be getting a packet of what research they did compile – they explained that they were not able to find enough prior to the show. So, I am hopeful that in that research there may be things that even I didn’t know.  As for being on the show – “c’est la vie” – it wasn’t meant to be, However, in these past few weeks as the show has been nearing air date, I had become increasingly excited about it and seeing the stories of those that did make it onto the show. I was able to watch it online last night and thoroughly enjoyed it! I am very much looking forward to seeing the rest as well. I am truly excited for all those that did learn more about the mystery stories in their families. :-)

 

 

 

Blog Design for 2013

When I was growing up, we changed residences all the time. I went to a different school every year until the 11th grade. And nope, we were not military. My mom just liked variety. And, I have inherited that particular trait. So… I’ve updated my blog design again. I typically do this once a year.. this year, it just took me a little longer to get to it. :-)

I really liked my last design. I liked the social media options along the sidebar, and I liked the blank space on the screen. So, nothing against in in particular except that I was ready for something different. It used the DailyPost WordPress theme.

I have now switched to a new WordPress theme called Infosource. I chose a theme with a strong social media element, so you can find me all over the internet by using the icons on the right-hand side of the page. The colors are crisp, the lines are clean. And, my various pages are across the top navigation.

Hope you like!

 

Imagine the Possibilities

Over the weekend while catching up on some blog reading, I came across this post by Dave Evans on the Cisco Blog – How the Internet Will Change the World for the Better.  It is great reading. 

But, I was struck by this graphic – something I know conceptually to be true, but wow – imagine the day when this 90% is connected.  

Imagine the possibilities for genealogy! We are seeing more records come online but this is such a stark reminder of how much is not yet there. 

Mocavo’s New Yearbook Collection Not All Really Theirs?

Yesterday, Mocavo.com released a new collection of yearbooks.  I was so ecstatic to see this!  

 I enjoy looking through old yearbooks.  A couple of years ago I created a yearbook index for the NCGenWeb Project.  To date, I’ve indexed more than 30,000 names from close to 500 yearbooks.  And where did those yearbooks come from that I’ve indexed? Mostly, yearbooks digitized by the NC Digital Heritage Center (NCDHC).  The group has been very active in the past couple of years digitizing yearbooks from across the state.  The digitized yearbooks are hosted on the Internet Archive, and then also viewable on the DigitalNC website.  The 500 I’ve indexed are only a part of what they’ve done –  so, I am quite familiar with their collection.   

Thus, naturally, as I started to explore Mocavo’s yearbook collection, I began by looking to see what they had available from North Carolina (well, yesterday you could filter by state — that feature is interestingly enough missing today).

 

But then, my “inner librarian” started to get suspicious.

 

I quickly realized that many of the titles I was seeing were the same ones put on the Internet Archive by the NCDHC.  I also searched yearbooks from other states that I have listed on my Genealogy Digital Bookshelf website, and see the same – -many on that list (which are all from the Internet Archive) were also in Mocavo’s database. 

Here are the problems…

  • You wouldn’t know that the Internet Archive is the source of these yearbooks.  Mocavo’s statement on the front page of the collection is that they  (as in Mocavo) “put” the yearbooks online. There is no mention that the IA is the source for the material.
  • Each yearbook has a watermark imprint in the bottom left corner that reads “Hosted by Mocavo.”  Does this mean that Mocavo took the file and placed it on their servers? They may not have the right to do that.
  • Some of the yearbooks are still under copyright.  Their placement in the Internet Archive does not necessarily bypass that – the 1953 yearbook of Wake Forest University is just one such example.  The 1936 Kent State yearbook is another. Their copyright statements state that images and texts cannot be used without permission and/or proper citation and acknowledgement is requested.  Did Mocavo seek permission from all copyright holders before putting yearbook digital files on the Mocavo servers? 
I do not doubt that Mocavo has added their own original  yearbooks to this collection.  And, their solicitation for people to send in their yearbooks is great. However, to claim that they put all of these online, when they did not, and w/o any attribution to the Internet Archive or to the organizations/libraries that digitized the yearbooks, is something that needs to be corrected.  At the minimum, I would encourage the company to be more transparent as to the sources of the yearbooks from the Internet Archive.  Especially given the very recent post on copyright infringement on the Mocavo blog. 
I have tried to get in touch with a Mocavo reprsentative, but my contact request, email, and twitter messages have not been answered as of yet. 
I would love to hear from someone at the company about this.  I am hopeful someone can clear this up.  Perhaps they do have an agreement of sorts? I would love to know!  If not, then I hope they make some adjustments. 
Oh, and please bring back the ability to filter by state and city.  Location is paramount for genealogical research! 
Update 11/10/12 — I finally had the opportunity to exchange some emails with Mocavo about their collection.  They informed me that the yearbooks were purchased from a 3rd-party who has license agreements to provide the images.  I hope that this third party does indeed.  However,  I do still feel that the partnership with this company could have been made more transparent.  

A True Homecoming

As if my Memorial Day Weekend didn’t already get off to a good start, Day 2 was also incredible. 

Today the family and I spent time accompanied by 4 visitors from Spain.  One in particular, Carol, is on the search for her family here in Nashville.  

Carol is the daughter of an English woman and an African American man from Nashville.  While in the Army, Carol’s father, who I’ll call Mr. C, went overseas and had a relationship with Carol’s mom. Mr. C later returned to the states.  While he knew of Carol, as did his own mother, Mr. C.’s family contact with Carol was extremely limited and Carol never had the opportunity to know her father.  Mr. C. died in the 1970’s 

In February, I was contacted by Carol’s friend Barbara, who’d been working on Carol’s US family tree.  It so happened that Mr. C is from North Nashville, where I live, and grew up just a couple of blocks from Meharry.   Carol was planning to come to the states and wanted to see the area where her US family was from, so I agreed to help do some research before she arrived (e.g. pulling obits, cemetery photos, etc.) and then take her around when she visited.  Our visit was today. 

Herman Street is where Mr C. grew up

Since Mr. C.’s family had been in this community since the early 1900s, I wanted to give them a sense of the history of this area. I showed Carol and her friends the original Pearl High School, we walked some of the campus of Fisk University, drove through Meharry’s campus, went up and down Jefferson Street, and a few other things – all the while talking about what this area was like back “in the day.” After driving the neighborhood, we went back to Herman Street to see if it would be possible to find someone who may have known Carol’s family.  This is when the fun really began!

view down Herman Street

Our plan was to start knocking on doors and just asking if anyone knew of Mr. C’s family.  We did, but unfortunately, no one was home as most of the houses we checked.  Interestingly enough though, we did see a hub of activity further down the street.  This was probably why no one was home. 

Galilee Missionary Baptist Church

It was the Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, established in 1922. We were here at 12pm on a Sunday afternoon, so of course church services were in session! Being brave, we all decided to just go to the church and see if any of the members knew anything to help us.  When we arrived inside, services had pretty much just started so we attended the whole service.  

church in session

And, as soon as services were over, started asking some of the church elders. Lo and behold we were in the right place!

Several members of the church knew Mr. C and was able to share some details of the family with Carol.  Mr. C. had a brother named Mr. R.C. and we met R.C.’s stepdaughter-in-law and step-grandchildren.  They had all grown up right on this street and shared some of their memories of Mr. C’s family.  Then, amazingly enough,  the stepgrandson of Mr. R.C. went out to his car and got this picture for Carol. 

We don’t know who everyone is in this picture, but two of the girls are sisters of Mr. C – thus, are Carol’s aunts!  The picture was given to us by the grandchildren of the woman labelled as “sister-in-law.”  That family got the picture from the son of the woman labelled “family friend.”  Amazing! Carol noted some family resemblance, especially in her aunt that is standing. The guess was that this was a social club picture, but they were not sure.  

The dinner served at the church after services were over is primarily what allowed us to stay so long and meet and talk to Carol’s extended family members.  This weekend, just happened to be the church’s Homecoming weekend.  And, what a Homecoming indeed – for this is Carol’s family’s “home” church and she was able to be there today.

More time is needed to continue to look for additional family members, but the fact that we were able to experience this was incredible.  We will keep the research going, will try to stay in touch with the family Carol met today, and perhaps it will lead her to even more living family members.  Carol will be returning home back to Spain soon so may not have time to connect with them while here, but we hope this is only the beginning. 

It was a pleasure meeting Carol, her husband, and their friends and I’m glad we had this time together today!  

Taneya & Carol in middle, joined by Carol's husband (on the other side of me) and their friends

Meanwhile, if anyone happens across this post and is familiar with this neighborhood and church, please email me!

Happy Blogiversary To Me!

Today my genealogy blog is 5 years old.

Wow! My first post on the blog was not lengthy, but in it, I hypothesized that I’d use this blog to “document what I learn as I research my family’s genealogy.”  That has certainly turned out to be the case too.  While I initially was not sure I needed to start another blog,  since I’d already maintained a personal website for 6 years,  it was a wise decision.  Not everyone shares my obsession :-)

After that initial post, a few weeks went by before I posted again, but those early weeks had me absolutely hooked into genealogy.  I ordered many certificates, joined Ancestry, connected with family members, and also started reading other genealogy blogs.  One of the first bloggers I interacted with, Nita, is no longer blogging about her family genealogy it seems, but we shared the Koonce surname among our family trees.

In the past 5 years I have continued to blog about my family tree, but have expanded to trees of my friends and postings on various aspects in the geneasphere that capture my interest – namely, genealogy 2.0, technology, and in accordance with my information science background – information resources.

Here’s to many more years of geneablogging!

Finding Dwight Hillis Wilson

Last night while browsing through my RSS feeds I happened across a blog post on the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society News website requesting help in finding a photo of David Hillis Wilson.  David Hillis Wilson (1909-1962), a native of Raleigh,  NC , was a former archivist at Fisk University (here in my city of Nashville, Tennessee), a professor at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, and also worked as an archivist at the Allied Force Records Administration.

The librarian and genealogist that I am, I quickly started looking to see what information I could find.  Mr. Wilson’s obituary provides further details of his life, including that he attended Shaw University in Raleigh.   Noting this, I thought to perhaps look for Shaw University yearbooks.  I sent a couple of emails out, but then again, it was late Saturday night — I knew I’d not hear anything until Monday at the earliest.   My next thought then was to look for family members; that’s what genealogists do right?

15 minutes later I had a telephone number for Mr. Wilson’s son! I called him today and he says that he can indeed provide a photo of his father to the group! Is that not excellent or what!  I am looking forward to seeing how this develops!

The Husband Knows

Last night,  my husband and I were watching Roots: The Next Generations. We watch this periodically and each time I watch it, I do some online searching to add to the tree I’m building for Alex Haley’s family.  It’s just a curiosity I have.

One storyline that fascinates my husband is that of the interracial couple portrayed in the mini-series.  In the show, Jim Warner, the son of an established Henning County, TN citizen, Colonel Warner, becomes interested in a black school teacher, Carrie.  Carrie is said to have been a member of the 2nd graduating class of Fisk University (here in my home city of Nashville) and Jim and she eventually marry.  Jim is subsequently outcast by his father, who declares him to be treated as a black man by all white citizens of the county.  Jim and Carrie have a child, who grows up to be a doctor.  My husband is particularly interested in knowing more about this doctor.

In my quest to learn more about Jim and Carrie and try to find them in the records, I was not sure where to start.  In the mini-series, many of the last names of the people were changed from the book, and the events in this follow-up mini-series were not even completely covered in the book Roots. I consulted our hard copy of Roots and also saw that Carrie is described as having graduated from Lane College, not Fisk.   With these type of alterations to the facts, I was unsure how to really search.  As I tried several strategies in vain,  my husband said, “what about searching for mulatto children? Does the database let you do that?”

At first, I didn’t think that would work. Surely there would be many mulatto children right? But I did search the 1880 census using that criteria and sure enough, there were only 5 results for Lauderdale County, TN.   The first three I quickly discounted given the age.  The fourth one I did go ahead and look at the original census record, but it was an indexing mistake; the person in question while indexed as mulatto was enumerated as black.  The 5th one was more interesting however.

Jas could be short for James; and Jim, the name used in the miniseries is also short for James. The wife here is named Carrie.  The surname Turner is also not too far off from Warner.  Is this the family? I go to look at the census record.  I open the page and before I get to the Turner family I see someone familiar.  Alex Haley’s 2nd-great grandfather, Chicken George! (George Lea was his name).

And soon after him on the page is the Turner couple. Jas. B. is enumerated as Mulatto, Carrie is black and is a Schoolteacher by occupation. They have two children, a son and a daughter, also enumerated as black.   Now, I am pretty sure this is the family in the mini-series!  Perhaps the Mulatto enumeration for Jas. stems from how his family outcast him?   I’ll be continuing my search to see if I can further verify if this is indeed the couple and to see if I can find out more information about this James’ parents.  I do know that there was a prominent white Hardin Turner in the county and James has named his son Hardin.

I am pretty sure it is them though. I located Jim & Carrie in the 1900 and 1910 census records of Lauderdale County.  In 1910, their son Hardin is listed as Hardin A. In 1910, I found Hardin Alexander Turner, born about the right time in Tennessee, living in Ouachita County, Arkansas and is a doctor! A check of the 1912 Catalog of Meharry Medical College (also here in Nashville) and I find he graduated from there in 1906.

I’m trying to locate more about this family and the search continues.  Just think, all this due to a search suggestion from the hubby.   He rocks  :-)

2011 Blog Design

Happy New Year everyone!  If you read this in a feed reader – click through – my blog has a new look.

For my 1st post of the 2011,  I am sharing my new blog design.  In January 2010 I also updated the look of my blog.  At the time, I was aiming for a more structured & clean-cut look along a 3-column template so I could share more on the sidelines of the blog.  At that time I chose to use the WordPress theme “Parchment Theme” by wpthemedesigner.com.   My genealogy blog used to look more or less like this:

screenshot of my genealogy blog in 2010

However, as the year went on, I realized that the middle column was a bit too narrow for my tastes — I tended to write longer blog posts and I felt as they went down the page forever.  Also, I like to change so a few days ago I looked around for a new theme and found my current one.  This time,  I’ve chosen OneRoom 1.0 by Jeremie Tisseau.

I particularly liked the colors in this theme and that I still have 3 columns but the middle column is a little wider.  Also, I feel like I didn’t really need as much info in the sidebars as I had so I reduced that as well.  Within 30 minutes of choosing the theme I had it up and running.  This is due to the flexibility of WordPress.  I couldn’t be happier.

I also updated a couple of aspects of the blog:

  • I expanded my ABOUT page — wanted it to look more *professional* and give a better picture of the scope of my genealogy activities.
  • Added a SURNAMES page – still need to add to it, but it should be helpful to anyone who visits
  • I kept my  “Connect w/ Me” icons and my cartoon avatar. I love those so much.
  • I also kept the feed of my posts from all the other blogs I have – all so you can enjoy more of me

I still need to make a few tweaks here and there but overall, I hope you like the new look!  Now, if I could update my home as quickly as I can update the blog…..

Insufficient Customer Service

Fellow genealogy blogger Tony Masiello recently posted about a less than satisfactory experience with Ancestry.com’s customer service.  Reading his blog post prompted me to also share a less-than-satisfactory customer service experience I had with a genealogy library.

I asked a question about a NARA microfilm set that is freely available in its entirety online.  Let’s just call it Record Set ABC.  I identified this library as one that had a high likelihood of  knowing the answer to my question.  My specific question was:

Has [Record Set ABC] been indexed in any print resource?

Their 1st response:

Not in print, but Footnote has some (not all as yet) at their (subscription) website.

That’s all.  Hmm… so, I have one answer, that it is not indexed in *print,* but to mention that Footnote has it on their subscription resource without providing any indication of where on their site I can find it is decidedly lacking.  What if I want to follow-up on Footnote? From this response I still don’t know if the Record Set I asked about is there.  I fortunately know my way around the Footnote site well, but would the average person know how to navigate to the descriptions of their collections? Some guidance on where to look on the Footnote site would have been preferable.  So, I wrote back:

Thanks for the reply. Do you have a URL to the collection online? I did think of Footnote, but I was not able to find it listed on their site as part of their collections.  [Record Set ABC] also does not appear on NARA’s Digitized Records page at http://www.archives.gov/digitization/digitized-by-partners.html. Thanks.

Here was the response:

http://www.footnote.com/browse.php#31|27436 but I don’t know if you can actually get there.

Now I have a link, but what does it mean “I don’t know if you can actually get there?”  Does that mean because it’s a subscription site so I’d need to have a paid membership to see it? If so, then they should have stated that.  Does it mean that the person responding thinks the link may not take me deep enough into the site?  This was a mystery to me.  But, I followed the link anyway and it takes me to the wrong Record Set.   I quickly realized this b/c Record Set ABC is not organized by state levels and that is the first categorization option you see when you follow the link to Footnote.  Just to double-check, I clicked on the “i” icon for more info about the collection for which I was given a link to view.  Quite prominently it is clear that the years of this record set do not match the years of the record set I asked for (the years are part of the title of the record set I asked about) and Footnote provides source information for all their collections.  This was not what I was looking for so I wrote back:

Thank you again, but this is not the right record collection.  The link you provided is for the “Civil War Pensions Index” and the Footnote page about this collection at http://www.footnote.com/page/75_civil_war_pensions_index/ states that it is from NARA Record Group T289.  The record group I’m inquiring about is [Record Set ABC] and is described at [link removed].  Perhaps you meant another link? Thanks for checking again.

At this point though I was frustrated that the responses I was getting were not exactly helpful. As you can see, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they sent the wrong URL?  Here was the last reply

We have [Record Set ABC]  on film, but I have never seen it in any other format.

Now I have given up.  I have been a librarian for more than 10 years and I provide electronic reference in my current position.  The quality of the email exchange I have shared is far below standards we set in our library and I am quite disappointed.  What was wrong and what was I expecting?

  • Rule of thumb for customer service – do not give a “No” answer — we try to be as helpful as we can so instead of just telling someone “No” and leaving them empty-handed, we always offer further suggestions.  In this exchange,  it would not be inconceivable for this library to have suggested I follow up with NARA directly since it is NARA microfilm I’m asking about.  Or, perhaps share with me resources they may have consulted in order to determine that it has not been indexed.  Or, perhaps suggest I follow-up with Footnote to find out if they plan to include this record set in their database.
  • Tone — tone is very difficult to express in email; I understand that.  However, these answers were very short and thus come across as clipped to me.  For email communication I would expect a much more gracious tone to come across and use more terminology that indicates *helpfulness.*
  • Personalizing – what about addressing me by name and starting off the email with “Hello Taneya….”  Doing this would help with the tone – make me feel less like a number in the queue.
  • Incomplete information — try to give as complete answers as possible. To tell me that Footnote has digitized *some* of the NARA microfilm without addressing the set I asked about is not complete.  What if  I did not know what Footnote was?   Some explanation of what Footnote is and how they operate would have been helpful.  We do not give a recommendation to visit a particular database/website without some explanation of what it is and what the person can expect to find there.
  • Wrong information — giving me the URL to the wrong collection? Take the time to look at what you’re sending me.  If you give a patron the wrong information, it makes it less likely they will believe you the next time around – if there even is a next time around – they may not come to you anymore.

I’ll share this post with management at the library in hopes they can use it as a training experience for whomever it was that interacted with me yesterday and today.  To top it all off, I still don’t have the answer to my question.  Telling me they have not seen it in any other format does not tell me that it’s not available.   Their “seeing it” is not a credible enough source for me at this point and I’m not sure I can trust the original answer that it is not indexed in print given the exchanges that came afterwards.  Now I will be following up with NARA & Footnote on my own accord but not because this library was actually any help to me.  How disappointing.