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.

Tarboro Newspaper Ceasing Publication

My thanks go to one of my blog readers, Janette, for sharing this news with me – that the Tarboro, NC newspaper, The Daily Southerner, is going to cease publication.  The blog of the National Genealogical Society has a post about it written by Diane Richard. If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you may have seen that I was recently in Tarboro as my maternal grandmother was born there and I have many relatives from the area.

In fact, while I was going through Tarboro, I passed the office of the paper and turned around so I could take a picture of it – I’m such a fan of newspapers, exactly for the many points that Diane Richard makes in her blog post about the paper’s demise – they capture so many life moments that can be goldmines for genealogical research!  This news make my picture even more poignant.

Daily Southerner office in Tarboro, NC

Fortunately, due to ongoing digitizing efforts, the full-text of more than 2,000 older issues are available online at the Library of Congress and, so I have the opportunity to search and browse them for tidbits on my family members.

But, Diane also makes a good point with regard to how will the type of news often reported in newspapers get captured and archived in our current digital & social media environment? I wonder if the State Library in North Carolina is pondering this issue? They’ve been so great at capturing our print news, I only hope they are working to capture the state’s electronic news as well. I will need to make it a point to look into this. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to comb through the older issues looking for material that will help me learn more about the community and my ancestors & relatives.



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 🙂

More Digitized Newspapers Coming

The National Endowment for the Humanities announced their latest round of funding today.  Included in the awards are several to institutions who participate in the National Digital Newspaper Program who will be contributing material to the Chronicling America website – yeah! more digital newspapers!

Papers included will have been published between 1836-1922 and will be added to the website beginning in mid-2012.

States that will have more papers:

  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
The full announcement is on the NEH website.  For a newspaper freak like me, this is great news!

A Paradise for Tennessee Researchers

…is on the way!  The University of Tennessee and  the Tennessee State Library & Archives have received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize historical newspapers for inclusion in the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America newspaper portal.

The goal of the project is to digitize 100,000 pages from 1836-1922 with representation from all three of the state’s grand divisions.  Last week, we, the members of the Advisory Board, received an update on titles that have been digitized and sent to the Library of Congress for quality review.  The first 4,000 pages are coming online soon so keep an eye out!

These are the papers that will be added arranged by county, along with the years to be digitized:

  • Bradley County — Weekly Herald (1876-1879)
  • Davidson County — Daily Nashville Patriot (1855-1861), Nashville Union & American (1853-1875)
  • Franklin County — Home Journal (1857-1880)
  • Giles County — Pulaski Citizen (1866-1880)
  • Gibson County — Milan Exchange (1874-1882)
  • Greene County — Union & American (1875-1877)
  • Hardeman County — Bolivar Bulletin (1865-1881)
  • Hamilton County – Chattanooga Daily Rebel (1862-1864), Daily Republican (1867-1869)
  • Knox County — Brownlow’s Knoxville Whig (1855-1869), Knoxville Weekly Chronicle (1870-1875)
  • Lincoln County – Fayetteville Observer (1850-1877)
  • Loudon County — Loudon Free Press (1852-1855)
  • Madison County – Whig & Tribune (1871-1876)
  • Maury County — Columbia Herald (1869-1873)
  • McMinn County — Athens Post (1857-1882)
  • Monroe County — Sweetwater Enterprise (1869-1871)
  • Montgomery County — Clarksville Weekly Chronicle (1855-1874)
  • Shelby County — Memphis Daily Appeal (1857-1876),  Public Ledger (1866-1883)
  • Sullivan County — Bristol News (1869-1882)
  • Washington County — Herald & Tribune (1871-1875)
Given title changes there may be slight alterations, and years may not always be entirely sequential, but still – this will be an incredible collection when all is said and done.  Stay tuned for more news as it develops!

My Genea-Wish List

This week Randy’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is one I could do quite easily without a second thought.  Here’s the task:

1)  Think of the genealogy related wishes you have – what education, database, or information would make your genealogy research dreams come true?  Be specific – as many wishes as you want to list!

2)  Tell us about some of your genea-wishes in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a status or comment on Facebook.

I have one wish:

that every issue of every extant newspaper was fully name-indexed and searchable at the county level

See how easy that was? 🙂

I hope genealogy database vendors are paying attention to this week’s topic – there are some excellent suggestions circulating the blogsphere!


Bringing Black Nashville to Life

Marriages from a 1906 issue of the Nashville Globe

One of my favorite local sources for genealogy information is the former black-owned and operated newspaper, The Nashville Globe.  It was founded in 1906 and ran until 1960.  Over the past several years I’ve extracted data from the paper and posted it on my blog, Black Nashville.

Soon after starting that blog, I learned that the Nashville Public Library had an index of sorts available on one if their in-house computers.  Local professor and lawyer Lewis Lasker, created this massive project where he extracted names and full articles from the paper.  It truly is an amazing feat.

Me being me though, I’m not content with it living on a local computer in the public library and I emailed Mr. Lasker asking if I could have his permission to turn it into an online database.  I spoke to him today and he agreed; I’m now ecstatic!  We are planning to meet soon to work out the details, but I’m hoping that we’ll have an initial version of the site up an running sometime this summer.

More to come later….

Evansville Argus – Historical Black Newspaper

I love newspapers.  I truly do. Anything I can do to promote their accessibility is one of my passions.  I am pleased now to learn that an African-American newspaper of Evansville, Indiana (where my husband’s family is from), is now available in it’s online!

The Evansville Argus was published from June 25, 1938 – October 22, 1943.  The University of Southern Indiana’s David Rice library is one of the few places that holds the entire run of the paper.  I have been interested in the paper for awhile now because of the fact that my husband’s family is from there and from time to time I have visited Willard Library in Evansville and perused a few of them.  I contribute from time to time to the blog of the genealogy society in Evansville and for one post I transcribed a marriage I found in the paper.

Front page of the first issue of the Evansville Argus - June 25, 1938

The David Rice Library received grant funds to digitize this collection, and in doing so, provides us all with access to this treasure trove.  You may browse the issues online at the library’s website or choose “Advanced Search” at the top of the screen to search specific information.   For any specific issue, the archive team has implemented a feature that allows you to view the entire issue in PDF format — quite handy indeed! I especially like that feature since I find contentDM’s page navigation absolutely horrid and nowhere as easy to use as that used by Google for their newspapers and the Library of Congress for the Chronicling America website.

And, in keeping with my new practice of using the FamilySearch Research Wiki as my own personal research tool I have added a link to the collection to the Wiki page for Vanderburgh County, Indiana.

(Update:  I thought ALL the issues were available, but it looks like currently they have up through April 1942 online).

Historic Tennessee Newspapers Going Digital & Online!

One of my favorite historical newspaper resources is the Chronicling America site by the National Digital Newspaper Program partnership between the Library of Congress & the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The site contains digital images of  newspapers from 16 states covering 188-1922 and is a valuable source of information in our genealogical research.

The goal of the project is to have representation from all states and in the latest round of grant awards, more states have received funding to come aboard – Tennessee included.  I personally am thrilled to have a chance to be involved in the project as I will be a member of the Advisory Board in the role of an interested recreational genealogist/end user of the project results.  Newspaper research is a high priority for me so I’m ecstatic!

More about the TN Project

  • Coordinated by joint collaboration between the University of Tennessee Knoxville & the Tennesse State Library & Archives
  • Goal is to digitize 100,000 pages of historical TN newspapers from 1836-1922.  There will be representation from all three of the grand divisions of the state
  • Selection of the papers to digitize is part of the project, but there are over 1,000,000 pages to choose from!

The grant involves an experienced body of individuals; coordinated by JoAnne Deeken @ UTK.  I look forward to getting to know others on the team and helping to assist in the recommendations for titles to digitize.  High on my personal wish list for inclusion is the Nashville Globe, a black newspaper published in Nashville from 1907-1960.    I have been indexing parts of it over the past three years and access to the full run during this time frame would be of benefit for African-American genealogical research.

Other states awarded funds to add newspapers (some already have contributed) to the Chronicling America site are:

  • Arizona
  • Hawaii
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Washington

How exciting!

New on My Genealogy Bookshelf

Last week I learned that the NC Office of Archives & History was having a sale on some of their publications so I ordered a couple of books.

Onslow County: A Brief History by Alan D. Watson —  as the county coordinator for Onslow County, NCGenWeb project, I thought it was a good idea to have this book for reference to help me learn more about the county.

An Index to North Carolina Newspapers, 1784-1789 by Alan D. Watson – my general interest in newspapers led me to order this one.

I’m looking forward to perusing these more in-depth over the next few weeks.