Wordless Wednesday: Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving for tomorrow to those in the United States!  For Wordless Wednesday this week, I’ll share a photo of Bristol (Sullivan County), TN.

Bristol is has a sister city just across the state line, in Virginia.  For Thanksgiving one year in college, I went home with my friend SJE who has family roots there.  We visited her grandmother, who had lots of land around the house.  After lunch,  SJE and I went for a walk and came across big cows.  They were just resting and on the ground, but still intimidated me! I’m a city girl – had never been so close to a cow in my life.  So, to avoid walking past them, we decided to climb over the fence to head back to the house.  I was worried about the fence supporting my weight and SJE said to me, “Taneya – those fences are designed to keep those animals in.  I’m pretty sure they will support your weight!”  That was all I needed to hear.  Back to the house we headed.

I’m prompted to do this post because via Ancestry Recent Member Connect Activity, I made a connection with a 2nd cousin of SJE’s who’d been working on the family tree.  This then prompted several email exchanges between SJE’s family members talking about their ancestors along with a few pictures thrown in from yours truly.  I love spreading genealogical love!

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

How can you can resist reading a fiction mystery book that begins with a family tree?  Last week on a trip to Target I was browsing the paperbacks for a book to read and saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I’ve been keeping my eye on the run of the movie ever since reading Eastman’s blog post about the movie back in March.   In his post, Eastman mentions that there is a genealogy subtext to the book – a fact very much evident from the first few pages -specifically with the fact that a family tree is displayed.

As Eastman mentions, to solve the mystery the main characters do much research — including spending time researching the ancestors, researching photo & newspaper archives, analyzing old photos, and interviewing the Vanger family members and friends.  For us genealogists, this is sure to be a book you’ll enjoy.

The book is the first in a trilogy; the second book is The Girl Who Played With Fire, and the third, soon-to-be-released book is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  I plan on reading both of the remaining books.   The movie is playing at one of our local theaters so I hope I can get to it soon.

I put a video of the trailer on my blog right sidebar.

I’m Honored

I’ve discovered that my genealogy blog was featured on MyHeritage.com’s Top 100 Genealogy Sites.  How very cool! They purposely sought to highlight lesser known blogs.  Their criteria were

1) high quality content

2) originality in topic choice, approach and design; and

3) frequently updated

I’m honored to be on the list and I look forward to exploring many of the others they highlight.  Thanks MyHeritage.com!

New Updates Icons

Taking a tip from a blog I follow for professional purposes, I’ve added a new series of icons to the right sidebar of my blog.  If you read this through a feed reader,  here is an image of it just for you.

Through the icons you can follow my RSS feed, get email updates, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Google Buzz, or find me on Facebook.  Isn’t this cool? :-)  I’ve been wanting to do something like this for awhile now, so finding this setup was perfect.   Now I just need to add this on all my other blogs!

Welcome to my new blog!

Welcome to the new blog location!

I decided to move my blog to my own web server so please update your links and bookmarks accordingly. Why the move?

  • I needed additional flexibility in the look of my blog. When hosted on WordPress’s site, I am limited to small selection of themes. Now, I have hundreds to choose from!
  • I also wanted to use my own web server. Since I am paying for the space, I might as well use it
  • Now that I’m self-hosted, I can incorporate all kinds of neat functions that I couldn’t do on wordpress.com

Apparently, I chose a perfect time to do this too.  WordPress just released a new version of the software, and they unveiled a directory to select themes. The installation was also very easy. I still have some work to do in updating links, but I plan to move some of my other blogs first and then do that.

Roots and Truth in Genealogy

This past week, I’ve had all of my stepsons visiting.  We had a very busy week. Part of our activities this week was to get them watching Roots. I love this series and the book.

But, I also have some great disappointment today that I am pondering over.  Yesterday, I went to the state archives and while there, I photocopied two articles by Gary B. Mills and Elizabeth Shown Mills about their work to assess the genealogy behind the Roots story.  The two articles were

  • Mills, Gary B. and Elizabeth Shown Mills. “Roots and the New ‘Faction’: A Legitimate Tool for CLIO?”, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, January, 1981
  • Mills, Gary B. and Elizabeth Shown Mills. “The Genealogist’s Assessment of Alex Haley’s Roots“, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, March, 1984

After reading about their work to trace Haley’s genealogy compared to what is reported in the book, I feel  disappointed in Roots as a book.  I completely understand the great cultural significance of the story of Roots and what is symbolizes – what it *could* look like if we could trace our ancestry back to Africa as in the story of Kunta Kinte.  Roots was an important and needed phenomenon that jump started a lot of people’s interest in understanding where they came from. I don’t believe that could ever be taken away from it.

But, once you start to look at the work of the MIlls’ and the work of others that have also done research in to Haley’s ancestry and work, it becomes fairly obvious rather quickly that there are historical inaccuracies and misinformation in Roots and that there are major limitations in some of Haley’s genealogy processes.

I hypothetically wonder if I were a Haley family member truly interested in applying the highest standards to genealogy research of the family tree, how would I reconcile the historical documentation w/ the book in a way that does not come across as disrespectful of Alex’s work? Even the Alex Haley Foundation’s website has the tree up as presented in Roots, but surely they have to know that this is not entirely supported by the genealogical evidence?  What do you do about misinformation that gets represented to others that may be part of the tree?

A couple of years ago when we were living outside of Memphis we took the kids to the Alex Haley home in Henning, TN where he is buried. At that time, I learned of the controversy around Roots, but did not pursue learning too much more.  However, I remain fascinated, so do plan to continue reading.

Here is a picture of his home and grave that I took when we visited in 2006.

Moses Wright (1889 – 1966)

In my last post about my uncle’s wedding, towards the end I mentioned that his wife’s uncle, Moses Wright was part of a very tragic event. That event was the abduction of Emmett Till.

Emmett Till, which if you are not aware of the history you can read the details on Wikipedia, was taken from the home of Moses and his family. Moses was Emmett’s great-uncle and from what I have been able to tell so far in my research, most likely the nephew of Moses’ wife. I will need to go back to my family to clarify exactly how.

I first learned of this a couple of years ago as I began to get more into the family genealogy. My great-uncle’s daughter shared this with me. A few months ago, Kalonji & I watched the documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Till, which was an extremely heartwrenching story to watch. The strength that Emmett’s mother had to persevere through such a hardship is amazing to me.

Moses died in 1966, just four years after giving my great-aunt away at the wedding. This picture was one I took of a picture she had of him when I was in Chicago last weekend. A couple of Moses’ sons were at my great-uncle’s funeral last weekend – including those that had been in the room with Emmett when Bryant & Milam came to take him away. Moses faced a tough situation as a black man testifying against two white men in deep south Mississippi in 1955 and for it he had to leave Mississippi for Chicago. I cannot imagine what life must have been like for the whole family during this horrific ordeal. My familial connection with Moses, with Emmett, certainly makes history a living, breathing entity.

Statistics and Genealogy

Made a post over on my blog for the USGENWEB county site I coordinate.  If anyone is interested in seeing what kind of data I get from Google Analytics, you might find it interesting.  I don’t see very many blogs discuss use data – it can be a very important source for tracking how your site is used.  Besides, with graphs and charts, it is also just neat to look at :-)

This does remind me though to share one of my dreams for my blogs. Over the past few weeks, I have been contacted by several researchers with shared connections either to my family, or to families I’m researching and posted information about.  These experiences embody for me exactly why I have these blogs in the first place; to post information so that others may find it useful and to establish connections.

With WordPress, I have the ability to see what search terms people are entering to land on my blog and everytime I look at the keywords I certainly feel that there are missed opportunities for connecting.  In my professional world, one of the blogs I read is that of John Battelle, an expert in the implications of “search.”  In one of his prior posts (which I cannot find right now…), he discusses a mechanism to reach out to visitors to your blog by presenting them with a custom pop-up box based on what keywords landed them there in order to help them locate relevant content on your site more effectively.  This is something I would love to do on my blogs in order to try and engage even further.

For example, on my main genealogy blog, in the past 30 days some of the searches that have brought people to my blog include:

  • sons of the confederacy” — probably b/c of my post describing the DNA testing approach I’m taking for Kalonji’s ancestry.
  • william blount mcclellan”  — again, Kalonji related. I believe someone in WB’s family was the father of Kalonji’s great-grandfather — could a possible descendant be one of these searchers? I may need a male descendant for comparative DNA testing — was this person the one?
  • browning genealogy” — this is a database of newspaper and obit information out of Evansville Indiana that I have blogged about as it is WONDERFUL resource.  Are these other genealogists interested in Evansville too?
  • the battle plantation” – my recent post of my ancestors connection with this family. I actually had someone contact me who may also have connections to this plantation – but is he the only one who searched it? I doubt it.
  • family tree of honus wagner” — I have a friend who’s ancestors have connections to him that I’ve blogged about before. Is the person who searched and visited me a descendant? how cool would it be to provide more context to Honus’ upbringing that my friend’s grandfather could share?

All missed opportunities for connections in my mind. Of course you could argue that all the person searching has to do is leave a comment, but actively engaging them would be cool.  One day I’ll get to it and let you know how it turns out.