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



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! 




My Ancestry DNA Results Are Back!

A few weeks ago, I took advantage of a promotional offer from AncestryDNA. I have been tested with 23andMe and have blogged a lot about that, but I have held off with Ancestry because of their lack of allowing chromosome browsing. However, the promotional offer was good so I went for it.  I am amazed that my results are already back in. They just received my sample July 28th! That was a far shorter turnaround period than I expected.

I’ve only had a few moments to take a look, but you know what? As I have been learning how to do Google Hangouts On Air (HOA), I did a short test tonight. I made a broadcast to go through my results so I could share it with my mother. I can’t believe I’m posting it (and keeping it public for all to see), but here goes!  I might as well kill two birds with one stone. 

In doing this HOA, I am using my wi-fi, which is not recommended, so the video is grainy. I’ll hook up with a wire next time.  And yes, I am sitting on my bed. It’s bedtime ya know…  😀

Many thanks to my partner in crime, Patrice for really getting me on a roll with doing Google Hangouts On Air! Not only am I looking forward to further exploring my DNA results but I am also going to be doing more with Google HOA.  Stay tuned….

A Night for FamilySearch Indexing

This evening, I’ve had the grandest time participating in FamilySearch’s Worldwide Indexing Event! Their goal was to have 50,000 indexers submit at least one batch of indexing during the 24-hour time period from 6pm MDT Sunday, July 20th – 6pm MDT Monday, July 21st.  As this event begins on a Sunday, my own time for participating is quite limited since I do have to go to work Monday morning.  Sunday night, I cleared my calendar to get all set to join in.

This is not my first time indexing for FamilySearch. I’ve been doing it for several years, and coordinated a group for TNGenWeb when the 1940 census was released, but I love these indexing events. They make the time go by so much more pleasantly:-)

Even more exciting is that DearMyrtle is hosting a GeneaSleepOver throughout the entire indexing event. The GeneaSleepOver – a 24 hours of non-stop Google Hangout full of genealogy news, information, interviews and demos. The lineup is excellent.

At 7pm my time, I settled on the computer to get started, only to be dismayed that the indexing system was moving so slowly. It’s hard to get too upset though because what it meant is that people were participating! So, I patiently waited and by around 10pm, the indexing system was working quite smoothly for me. 

So how was my indexing experience overall? Wonderful! I set a personal goal of 500 names and I was able to meet it by indexing 11 or 12 batches of obituaries from Tennessee and North Carolina. The obits ranged from the late 1980s – 2012. My NC batches have even already been arbitrated and I’m pleased to have a 94% agreement rate. I do know of some of my mishaps earlier on in the indexing process since I was not fully familiar with all the directions; I got better as I moved along.

By the time I stopped, FamilySearch announced that they had more than 17,000 indexers! Still short of the 50,000 goal, but this is only 6 hours into it. I can’t wait to see how many they report when I wake up in the morning.

And, as for DearMyrtle – that was an absolutely BRILLIANT idea! As stated during the hangout:

It was so nice to be able to hear/view the conversations and discussions while indexing. Spectacular Myrt and kudos to you and everyone joining you! It was wonderful and I’ll try to catch you all for a few minutes in the morning. Goodnight everyone!



Incorporating Genealogy in College Coursework

These past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to engage in a rather interesting experiment. The hubby teaches at a local HBCU and in his course, Introduction to Africana Studies, we had the students do a family tree assignment.  It was so interesting!

Specifically, it was the first time I’ve ever put together an “official” instruction on completing your family tree and getting started in genealogy research.  My goals for the classes were to keep it simple though. My outline was as follows:

  • Each student registered for a FamilySearch account (perfect platform b/c it’s free!)
  • I asked them to complete a basic 4-generation pedigree on paper first
  • then, document their family in FamilySearch Family Tree & submit a screenshot of the portrait view of their tree
  • and an important component of the process was for them to interview family members

One slide from my PPT presentation; shows where to go to build your tree on FamilySearch

Overall, many of the students reported the assignment was a rewarding experience. I can’t tell you how heartwarming it was to read their reports about the exercise and how it helped them appreciate their families more.  Many students reported how excited their parents, grandparents, etc. were that they were asking. It made me smile on the inside each time. :-)

Of course, there were students who had more difficult experiences, such as not being close enough on one side of their family to be privy to any information and that was heartbreaking at times. But, all in all, even they did what the could and chose to focus on the part of their tree where they could do more.

Now that we are at the end of this exercise, there are more families now documented in Family Tree now ready for others to find and build upon. And, most importantly, perhaps one of them will truly be inspired to continue what they started.  Just trying to do my part!

Getting Organized in FamilySearch Family Tree

Almost exactly one year ago, I posted about my initial excitement around being able to use FamilySearch’s Family Tree site. Here we are a year later and I am still very much a champion for the site and the model of collaborative genealogy that they are promoting. I’ve just finally gotten around to watching Ron Tanner’s 2014 RootsTech presentation about Family Tree and as usual I found it helpful and informative.  The past year has brought many changes to Family Tree and there are several upcoming features that I’m looking forward to seeing implemented.  James Tanner has a great recap on his site.  

I’m so happy with it that I’ve decided Family Tree will be a prominent part of my genealogical research preservation plan as I think about how my work and efforts will be available and shareable for others in the future.  I will actively use it to archive family photos, documents and other information. Whether it be my own family, or family of others even.  Earlier this week, my genea-colleague, George Geder, posted that he plans to use Family Tree himself moving forward to document his family history research. Kudos to him!  I do have my own website I use for documenting my family, and all the other trees I work on and I still plan to use it. However, now that Family Tree is available and it fulfills a desire I’ve had for so long for truly collaborative genealogy, I feel I must also leverage this platform.

So, this weekend, I decided to spend some time actively adding more info to my FamilySearch Family Tree profiles and make sure I had at least my direct line up to my 8 great-grandparents duly covered.  I made sure to “watch” all of their records so that I would receive notifications of any changes and I added pictures for everyone. 

My FamilySearch Family Tree Portrait Chart

Additionally, using my primary online genealogy tool, TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, I created a “source” record for Family Tree and will add it to every person for whom I have a corresponding profile. This will make it easier to track who’ve I’ve added and not added.  These are important first steps if I’m going to truly leverage Family Tree!

My Source list for Family Tree

And now that I have this done, I have a model in place as I help others add their information. For example, over the next few weeks, I am aiding Kalonji with his Intro to Africana Studies class he teaches for a local university and we’ve incorporated a family history assignment.  As I put the assignment together, I am planning to have the students register for the FamilySearch website and build a basic family tree as they work towards writing a biographical profile of one of their great-grandparents.  That’s well over 60 students to begin to engage in learning more about their past. I’m terribly excited and will post more about that experience at a later time.  

My next step is to get all of my 2nd-great grandparents similarly documented.

Have you done your chart in Family Tree yet? I’d love to hear about your experiences!


I’m Featured in A Major Genealogical Magazine

This is so cool – I’m featured in the cover article of a national genealogy magazine – FGS Forum!  FORUM is a publication of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and in their latest issue one of my projects for the TNGenWeb is highlighted. The article is based on an interview I did with Thomas MacEntee for Hack Genealogy where I discuss how I’ve used WordPress to build an site that houses hundreds of biographical profiles of individuals with Tennessee connections. Learn more over on the TNGenWeb blog.

Then, on top of that, as I continued to read through the rest of the issue, I saw that in her article “Blogging Tutorials and Resources,” Amy Coffin includes a nice summary of my WordPress webinar series I did last year with DearMyrtle and mentions my Using WordPress page (which has links to the webinar series). Thanks Amy for the inclusion!

I am really pleased to be able to share this project, and that Amy has shared my WordPress learning resources. I love using technology for my hobbies, and hopefully, others can learn from some of what I’m doing and sharing. I’m tickled pink about being all in this issue :-)

Another Successful Family Connection Thanks to

Just last month I shared a successful connection story to a cousin of mine due to those Ancestry shaky leaves. Well, I’ve had another connection thanks to Ancestry and I’m so grateful!

One day when I logged online, I saw that someone had been working on my first stepfather’s family tree, Donald Garner, and the she too shared the last name. I contacted her and was pleased to know that she was indeed part of his family – a cousin.  Donald and my mother were not married long – not quite two years, but I do remember him. He also had a daughter whom would come and spend time with us from time to time.

the 4 of us in Charlotte, NC circa 1990

After Donald died, we lost connection with his family but after making contact with Donald’s cousin, who informed my stepsister that I was hoping to find her, today we became Facebook friends and had some time to catch up by phone – yeah!

picture of Donald

I am looking forward to getting to know her again and getting to know her family. :-)