The Power of an Index

My graduate project when I obtained my library and information science degree from UNC-Chapel Hill was to index a rap music magazine. I came up with controlled terminology, created a database, and indexed issues of The Source, one of my favorite rap music magazines at the time. I was an avid reader of the publication, had years worth of issues in my collection, and was frustrated that it was difficult to ever find any specific article I needed because no traditional indexing databases had comprehensive or detailed coverage. 
Fast forward 20 years and I still LOVE creating indexes! There are so many records whose use would be made easier of there was an index. Sure, digitization and the posting of full-text materials are great and I am so grateful for all of them, but an index adds value because it can make locating specific content easier and it is easier to represent knowledge across the whole document (or set of documents). 
Today, for example, I’ve been sharing online an update I’ve made to one of the indexes – an index of students graduating from Tennessee colleges & schools. In this update, I added about 300 students who graduated from Lane College, a historically black college in Jackson (Madison County), Tennessee. If you’d like to explore, you can visit it at
And this is just one of my projects. For the past 8-9 years I have created and/or facilitated several genealogy indexing projects and in 2019, my primary genealogy goal is to further develop them all. The others include:
2019 – My Year of Indexing. I look forward to sharing more about them all throughout the year. 

Recording the Church History

My father’s family is from Craven County, North Carolina, and one of the churches his family worships in is Alum Springs Church. Today, the church held a celebration and my great-aunt, who is a member there and heavily involved in church activities, asked if I could contribute to the program and research the history of the church graveyard. I was also interested in finding out if I might be able to uncover more information about the history of the church than what they knew.

Alum Springs Church

I was pleased to work on it and during my research, I learned that the Alum Springs Church had been given to local African American families after the civil war.

Robert Cox headstone

Originally a meeting house that belonged to Lane’s Chapel Methodist Church. Originally called Cox’s Meeting House, their church was burned during the Civil War and they built a structure to replace it but gave it to the local African American families once they decided to rebuild again.

As I researched the burials, the oldest one I could find documented was that of my 5th great-grandfather, Robert Cox. His headstone still stands and is still legible, showing he was born in 1823 and died in 1908. Robert’s daughter Cora, was the grandmother of my grandmother Cora. My cousin Cora is also named after the same daughter Cora, and many Cox descendants still worship in the church.

I was so delighted to have a chance to put together a short historical overview for the church! I contributed the write-up to the Craven County NCGenWeb site, so if you are interested, you can read it there.


I’m Running for USGenWeb National Coordinator

usgenweb logoWhenever I tell the story of how I got involved in doing family history research, an important element to that story is how much help I gained from the Washington County, North Carolina USGenWeb site. It was such a tremendously valuable resource as I was getting started with my family history that I knew I too had to become part of this project.  The USGenWeb Project is run by a dedicated group of volunteers who give their time to provide FREE genealogy resources for us all to use. The information you can find on each of the 3,000+ counties and parish websites (there is one site for each county/parish in the US) varies widely and you never know what tidbits of information you will find.

I’ve been a volunteer in the project for 11 years and currently hold a few leadership positions. This year, I decided to go for the top leadership position; I am running for the position of USGenWeb National Coordinator, and I would love your support! The USGenWeb National Coordinator (NC) manages the day-to-day happenings of the project and is the public representative. It is a 1-year appointment and the NC works collaboratively with the USGenWeb Advisory Board, along with continuous input from state and county coordinators, to move the project forward.

While only the volunteers within the project can vote, I would love your support if you’ve ever found a USGenWeb site helpful for your research. You can send an email to the coordinator(s) of the states/counties/parishes where you have research interests and see if they may be willing to vote for me.

Voting starts in July so keep your fingers crossed!


Featured at NEH Meeting

Okay, I wasn’t featured, but one of my projects was! I’ve just written a blog post for the TNGenWeb project describing how one of our Special Projects was included in a presentation at the National Newspaper Digitization Program’s annual meeting.  The NNDP is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and this past week, the Project Coordinator for the Tennessee digitization group, Louisa Trott Moore, shared information on how the digitized historical papers are used for genealogy & family history research, including our Historical News Portal site as an example. 

The TNGenWeb Historical News Portal is a site I developed and now coordinate on behalf of TNGenWeb in our ongoing quest to provide free resources for genealogy & family history. With volunteer help, we transcribe and index articles from old newspaper issues to make the information within them more accessible and easier to find. The site is definitely a work-in-progress, but we all enjoy working on it. The NEH Chairman was even present and heard about our work – I think that is just cool. 🙂

This was great exposure for the TNGenWeb project, so I greatly thank Louisa for including us!

Check out the blog post to learn more!


Had Fun at the TNGenWeb Meetup

This weekend has been a busy one! I volunteer with the TNGenWeb Project as the State Coordinator, and this weekend we had a meetup of some of our county coordinators (along with a new volunteer).

I wrote about it on the TNGenWeb blog so I invite you to read the post! We had a lot of fun and we are going to try to get together again in the Spring – maybe this time in Knoxville. Also, we are contemplating ways to do virtual meetups too!


A Whiteboard Animation for the TNGenWeb Project

I’m a huge fan of the work that is done by the CommonCraft team – Lee and Sachi.  For several years now, they’ve blessed the internetz with fabulous explanation videos. As their tagline says – their product is “explanation.”  Their whiteboard animation process really sparked a movement and we now see these types of videos popping up all over the place.

For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to learn how to do videos like they do, and I’ve finally had a chance to learn as yesterday I started reading their book, The Art of Explanation. In the book, they describe their approach, provide concrete examples of how they develop their videos, and I found it all quite interesting.  So, I decided to give it a try. 🙂

Using VideoScribe, I was able to put together my first attempt at an explainer video today – this one is for the Who’s Who in TN website I created for the TNGenWeb Project.  The site has had fabulous coverage in the genealogy community and I continue to try and think of ways to further express how it can help a family researcher.  I may be biased, but I think the video helps get the point across. 🙂

There are a couple of minor things in the video I wish I could have figured out how to correct, but, overall, I’m pleased with how it’s turned out and I have decided to let it be.

Take a look and let me know what you think. I just may have to upgrade to the Pro version of VideoScribe so I can refine the video and create more of them.  How fun!  Wouldn’t it be great to see more of these types of videos used to promote genealogy resources! Make it even more interesting for all?

Photo credit:

Are Negroes Mules?

Of course we are familiar with many biases that occurred with census taking throughout history, but this is still hard to see, especially in print.  I found this today while indexing the Roanoke Beacon newspaper for my Washington County, NCGenWeb site

From the July 13, 1900 issue of the Roanoke Beacon newspaper.

Lossie Attended Winston-Salem State University

While indexing some old issues of Winston-Salem State University’s yearbooks tonight for the NCGenWeb Yearbook Index, I found another relative!

Lossie’s 1946 graduation photo

This time, I found Lossie Viola McNair (1923-2008).  Lossie is a member of the 1946 graduating class and the yearbook shows that her nickname was “Mae.”    Later on in the yearbook, in the “Who’s Who” section, it’s noted that she aids a Kindergarten classroom.  And, as it turns out, she did indeed become a teacher.  🙂  

How is Lossie related to me? She is the half-sister of my 2nd-great grandfather, Abraham McNair.   She was the daughter of Andrew D.  McNair & Bennie Slade.   Bennie was Andrew’s 2nd wife; I’m descended from Andrew and his first wife, Gracy Bullock. 

I love finding these little nuggets of info! 

Coordinating a 1940 Census Indexing Group

When the 1940 US Community Census Project was announced, I wondered if I’d even take the time to participate.  However, I quickly realized this would be a great opportunity to become more familiar with the FamilySearch Indexing software and give back at the same time.  Soon after signing up, I decided to go ahead and coordinate an indexing group on behalf of the TNGenWeb

I wondered if people would sign up, and sure enough they did! While I would have been happy with just a handful, we had more than 50 people sign up to index and arbitrate for the TNGenWeb. Wow. 

I’ve blogged about our group’s efforts on the TNGenWeb blog and am hopeful we can keep the volunteers engaged as we move on to additional indexing projects, both with FamilySearch and internal to the TNGenWeb. I am so happy to have been part of this effort :-).