Websites/Resources

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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My Genealogy Software Workflow

Back in 2015, I started the Genealogy Do-Over process. It was an opportune time to revisit my research & documentation procedures as it had been about 10 years since I’d started doing genealogy. At this time, I used it as a way to begin ensuring that I recorded my family tree info in FamilySearch Family Tree. In that blog post, I describe how I would use a combination of TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Site-Building, RootsMagic, and FamilySearch Family Tree.

That process has gone well! About 18 months ago, I created a video update to share specifics of how I use the 3 platforms in tandem and to give insight into my process. And, it is a process I continue to use. But, I’ve recently made a change.

For years I had  trees on Ancestry but I did not spend time caring for them or updating them with any regularity. Now that RootsMagic has the ability to sync with Ancestry Member Trees, I will be updating those trees on a regular basis too. With the recent release of RootsMagic’s Ancestry Tree Share, I am now integrating Ancestry Member Trees into my documentation & sharing process and over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken some time to consider what processes to be most efficient.  It’s funny because last year while giving a presentation about online collaborative family trees, an audience member stopped me and asked: “So you do everything in triplicate?” To which I answered “Yes.”  – Wait ’til I tell him I now do everything in quadruplicate! 🙂  Because yes, now that RootsMagic has the sync with Ancestry, edits I make on my family tree are done 4 times over.

I thus decided to do this blog post to document what I do and why I do it, in the case that others find it helpful! So, here is a graphic representation of my genealogy software workflow.

Quick Overview:  My online TNG-based website is my primary software, then I also edit my RootsMagic database. Then I sync from RootsMagic to FamilySearch Family Tree and then sync to Ancestry Member Trees. This is now what I do for any person on which I am working. Here are some highlights of what I do with each/why I use each.

TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy SiteBuilding

  • This is my primary database. I make all edits here first.
  • TNG offers some unique features and the fact that it is online is advantageous for easy sharing with my family and for cousin bait.
  • My TNG records have links to the corresponding FamilySearch Family Tree profile.

RootsMagic

  • I use this primarily because I can sync to FamilySearch Family Tree
  • My RootsMagic databases are stored in my Google Drive account, which means I can update my databases from any computer on which I have RootsMagic installed
  • I usually tend not to link media to my RootsMagic databases as this is one part of the software that I find a bit cumbersome.

FamilySearch Family Tree

  • I use because I am a believer in the shared collaborative model for genealogy research, so the open edit model is one that I gladly welcome.
  • I use FamilySearch Tree formatting for sources; I enter my sources here then copy and paste the citation into my TNG database and sync that citation to my RootsMagic database
  • I love the apps!
  • I do not sync living people yet; I’m waiting for FamilySearch Family Tree to develop better collaborative tools for profiles of living people.

Ancestry Member Trees

  • Because of Ancestry’s market share, having my family tree here gives it lots of exposure and opportunities to establish connections with others
  • I do not sync sources & media from RootsMagic; I do it natively in Ancestry Member Trees
  • I sync both living and deceased people because living people do stay private.

So, you can see – even though I use all 4, my most “complete” record is my online TNG database as it has my facts, events, media, and sources. But, syncing with FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry Member Trees, allows me to get my research and findings more broadly disseminated. To make another note, because I do work in quadruplicate, I do not do genealogy “on the go.” I only work on my family tree when I have access to my laptop/desktop and can spend dedicated time and ensure I can make my updates in all 4 places. This means I can be purposeful and careful as I analyze what I am finding. I should plan another video update to show my process again 🙂

 

 

Let Me Tell You A Story About a Runaway Slave

Over a year ago, with the help of an Ancestry green shaky leaf, I was overwhelmed to make a connection to part of my family history that has been extremely heartwarming for me. It made such an impact, that I wanted to find a way to tell the story with more than just a regular blog post.

So, I invite you to watch this video I made describing a connection in the family of my mother’s maternal grandmother, Martha Jane “Mattie” Walker McNair – particularly with the family of, Mattie’s grandfather, Prince Walker. This part of my family is from Plymouth, Washington County, North Carolina.

 

My Ancestor on the NY Voter Registration List

It’s Election Day and I just had to do this post. This past weekend, the Reclaim the Records initiative announced their success in releasing the New York List of Registered Voters in 1924 – all of them now available online through the Internet Archive.  And, it is absolutely wonderful to have!

My own family has New York roots, so I was eager to look for them.  My maternal grandfather, Herman Robinson, was born in New York in 1926. His parents, Lewis (or Louis depending on the record) and Lucinda Robinson moved to New York sometime between 1918-1920. From the 1920 census record, I knew they lived on 63rd Street in Manhattan Assembly District 5.

1920 US Census - Louis & Lucinda Robinson and family. Manhattan, NY.

1920 US Census – Louis & Lucinda Robinson and family. Manhattan, NY. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MJYN-RYB)

Since the list of registered voters is organized by Assembly district within each of the 5 boroughs, getting to the Manhattan Assembly District Records was a snap. There are 24 districts in Manhattan, so I quickly navigated to the set for Assembly District 5. The document has optical character recognition, so I searched for the name Robinson and found my family on the very last page, on 63rd street, just where they should be.

Louis Robinson is listed at 230 W. 63rd street – along with others who share the same address, including neighbor Frank Seabrook (who also appears near him in the 1920 census).

1924 Manhattan Assembly District 5 Voters

1924 Manhattan Assembly District 5 Voters

Thank you Reclaimed Records for making these records freely available! I hope my great-grandfather voted. My great-grandmother is not on the registration list, so she probably didn’t, but I am glad my family recognized the importance.

I voted early for this year’s election and I hope everyone else has voted or is voting today!

 

 

 

 

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.

Genealogy Do-Over Update Video

Instead of doing a written blog post, I decided to do a video to give my update on the Genealogy Do-Over this past year. Read about it on my blog post from last year for the background.  My focus has been a bit different than most, as my goals are to use the Do-Over as an opportunity to help me as I ensure all of my research is on the FamilySearch Family Tree.  RootsMagic is an important part of the strategy so as I share the update, I’m also sharing my process.

There are a few technical glitches in the video, but I’m rolling with the flow! I hope you find it of interest!  🙂

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).

Finding A Cohabitation Record

Last month over the Memorial Day weekend, I attended the 45th annual reunion of my McNair family in Plymouth, Washington County, North Carolina. I was honored to be asked to speak to the family during the family church service on that Sunday.  It was such a great experience! I put together a presentation to distribute to family.

As I was preparing, I did additional clean-up on my family tree. Now, over the past several months, I’ve been adding info to FamilySearch Family Tree in my goal to ensure my research lives beyond me. Well, I was so pleased the week prior to the reunion to see an FamilySearch alert for my ancestor, Mariah Wimberly, in a collection of North Carolina marriage records.

So, I click to see the image and lo and behold, her cohabitation record to Rufus Tannahill pops up! I’d known about the existence of the cohabitation record for many years but had not seen the actual image.  In 1995, Dr. Barnetta McGhee White published a 3-volume index of the extant cohabitation records from across the state, and that is where I originally learned of the entry.  But, to actually see the record and be able to read it in it’s entirety is amazing!

It reads: “Before me, E.D. MacNair, Justice of the Peace for said county this 24th day of April AD 1866 appears Rufus Tannahill and Mariah Wimberly the said Rufus and Mariah having been lately slaves but now emancipating and acknowledge that they cohabitate together as man and wife and that such cohabitation commenced on the 11th day of Dec AD, 1859 given under my hand this day and year above written.” — E.D. MacNair (JP)

Rufus’ name in this record is Tannahill, but he would later change it to McNair. The Justice of the Peace is Edmund Duncan McNair Jr. and I suspect his father to have been Rufus’ slaveholder. This is a great record to have found indeed!  If you’re interested in searching for cohabitation records, they are part of the North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979 collection at FamilySearch.

Sneak Peek of New FamilySearch Pilot Tool

I have to share this cool news! For the TNGenWeb project I’ve done a blog post about a new beta version of a tool that FamilySearch is making available. The new tool (once it is out of beta) will make it easy to index their image-only collections “on-demand,” as well as creating an opportunity for online data collections to be indexed in FamilySearch.  You have to check out the blog post! I’ve also done a short video demo (using Google Hangouts on Air) to show how it’s used.

Learn more at http://tngenweb.org/blog/familysearch-pilot-indexing-extension/.

 

 

My Genealogy Do-Over

Late last year, Thomas MacEntee announced his new genealogy journey for the year, a genealogy do-over, and I loved the idea! The Genealogy Do-Over is an opportunity to re-visit your research processes and work diligently to improve upon the foundation you’ve created. So, as I enter my 10th year of serious genealogical research, I too think it’s time for a genealogy do-over. However, I’m taking a very decided focus to my do-over. 

What is that focus you ask? Well, in my do-over, I am specifically interested in making sure that my work is preserved in FamilySearch Family Tree (FSFT). I’m a huge FSFT fan. The model of having one profile for each person is one find extremely appealing given the amount of genealogy research I do for others and for people I encounter in my volunteer work with the USGenWeb project. I’ve blogged about my rationale for why I like FSFT before and my philosophy remains the same.  

Last year, I ensured a few generations of my direct ancestors were represented in FSFT, but as I want to broaden that to all of my researched individuals, I realized I needed a more efficient approach for comparing my research against FSFT. To do this, I’ll be using RootsMagic (RM) to work in tandem with FSFT and taking advantage of the fact that RM has great options for matching and syncing individuals in your genealogy database to FSFT. While I’ve used RM off-an-on since I started doing genealogy, I’ve not steadily used it, nor had I ever learned how to use it with FSFT. Now I know. 🙂

Now, my primary genealogy database is a web-hosted one for which I use TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Site-Building and I’ll continue to have that be my primary database. My RM database will be used solely for syncing with FSFT.

Thus, my route for my genealogy do-over will consist of the following:

  • download my gedcoms from my TNG site for import into RM
  • use RM’s “groups” to tag everyone as “not reconciled” with my website
  • as I match & sync with FSFT, ensure that photos & documents I have for each person are added to FSFT, and then use RM groups to tag person as “reconciled with my website”
  • from this date forward, any research will be noted in my TNG database and additionally added to my RM database for syncing with FSFT

Undoubtedly, this new process will take awhile to complete, but I feel this is necessary step for ensuring the research I do is shared with others and preserved for long-term access. Plus, along the way, I get the added benefit of reviewing my research and making updates and corrections as needed. 

Thanks Thomas for the inspiration!