Websites/Resources

Black Book

Even though it’s many weeks later, I wanted to share what Kalonji got for me as one of my Christmas presents in December, for I think it is a beautiful thing indeed.  It is Toni Morrison’s The Black Book. It was first published in 1974, in 2009 they published a 35th anniversary ediiton. You can read more about the book at Amazon, but I know I am going to learn each time I pick it up to browse its pages. I would only have asked one thing of the publishers – an index please?  Though, I am pleased that it is searcheable in Google Books.

This excerpt from Bill Cosby’s original introduction describes it aptly.

Suppose a three-hundred-year-old black man had decided, oh say, when he was about ten, to keep a scrapbook – a record of what it was like for himself and his people in these United States. He would newspaper articles that interested him , old family photos, trading cards, advertisements, letters, handbills, dreambooks, and posters – all sorts of stuff.

He would remember things too, and put those in: stories he’d heard, rumors, dates. He’d remember the first March on Washington, how John Quincy Adams defended Joseph Cinque, the black slaveship rebel — and won; the Jewish Hospital that opened its doors to the wounded during the Civil War Draft Riots.

He would know about black goldminers, and pirates and factory owners and inventors. And, he would keep records of blacks who owned slaves, lyrics of songs he’d sung, voodoo recipes he’d tried — all of that he would put in his book.

And he would end up with a folk journey of Black America a book just like this one – beautiful, haunting, curious, informative, and human. — Bill Cosby, September 1973

Faces of America: Episode 1

Last night I eagerly watched the first episode in the new PBS Series, Faces of America, facilitated by Henry Louis Gates.   There’s been a lot of buzz in the genealogy community in anticipation of the show.  It comes at the heels of Gates’ popular African-American Lives & African-American Lives 2 series. After the show, I then participated in a fun post-show chat hosted over at Geneabloggers to talk about our perceptions and thoughts.

Thomas has put together a RSS feed to see the geneablogsphere reactions to the show that are all interesting to read.   Here are my thoughts:

  • Many have commented on the desire to have seen more of the research process explained in the show.  I understand the show producers may have wanted to focus more on the emotional connections for the show, but in the books that have been written to compliment the African American Lives series and the Finding Oprah’s Roots show, there is more detail and emphasis on the research process.  I have both books, In Search of Our Roots & Finding Oprah’s Roots and even learned a few tips and strategies while reading them.   The benefit of the show is that in can increase the awareness among the general population and I am hopeful that those that are more serious will take the time to read the books by either looking for them at their local public library or by purchasing outright.  I would like to see a companion book published for Faces of America as well.
  • I’m a big proponent of the social web.  I’ve posted before on this topic, but I’ll say it again – I do think there is a missed opportunity from the show producers to leverage the interest and use it for greater genealogical good. With African-American Lives 2, they did establish an online forum for users to share their personal stories and used tagging to help structure the stories that were being shared. But, can you imagine the database that could be built if they also asked people to fill in 3 or 4 generation ancestor charts?  They could have an online “facilitator” to help answer people’s questions and guide them to well-established resources, or host their own chat sessions for interested parties.  With 4 episodes to air, this could have been a several weeks long endeavor and really capitalize on the generated interest (the website pretty much crashed last night; there was interest!). Many of the stories presented on the older show sites have details, but much of it is unstructured. As a knowledge management and information professional I highly encourage structure.
  • After watching the show last night, I began to think about the upcoming Who Do You Think You Are series.  I’ve never seen the UK show, so off to YouTube I went in search of episodes.  I watched two last night – that of actor David Suchet and also that of Zoe Wannamaker.  They were excellent!  It was cool to see David Suchet b/c he’s known for playing the Agatha Christie character Hercule Poirot. I’ve not seen the British shows with him, but I have read many a Hercule Poirot mystery. I think I have found a new television series to watch and I posted part 1 of his episode as my Featured Video in the sidebar on the right. I am eager to see the NBC show even more now after watching these episodes.
  • Did you promote the show among your friends and family? I certainly did! I have some coworkers who I dabble in their family trees every now and then and so I told them all and sent them each a little extra piece of family history  — one of them is a descendant of long lineage associated with eastern tennessee whom I recently found a book in the Internet Archive with information about the emigrating ancestor that was written in the 1920s; another has ties to Hawaii and I shared with her a new website/blog focusing on Hawaiian genealogy that could be a useful resource moving forward; and the third I was able to send pictures of her ancestors headstones that were just added to FindAGrave within the past two months. Just a little bit to keep the motivation going :-)

So, I’m excited at the prospects and do still look forward to the additional episodes.  It had its strenghts and weaknesses, but overall I am glad for this opportunity to promote the need for us all to more closely study and understand our family histories.   If you missed it, you can watch in online.

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.

What I Want From Footnote

I’m in the middle of working on a presentation that I have due tomorrow, but I had to take a break to do this post before I forget about it.

So, today I’m in the car on the way home listening to my first Genealogy Guys Podcast.  A few minutes into it, I learn from them that Footnote has released another virtual wall – this time it’s the USS Arizona Memorial in honor of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  I visited Pearl Harbor in May, so I perked up when I heard about it.  (the fact that I missed this announcement in the first place goes to show “out of it” I’ve been w/ my genealogy news of late).

In any case, I just visited the online, interactive memorial and I have to say I’m a little disappointed.  Why? Because to date, while I think Footnote has a great idea to create the ability to contribute to a Person’s Page, they seem to be creating so many duplicate Person Pages that it detracts from the appeal for me.  Is there a way to get Footnote to “merge” individual Person Pages rather than just “Link” two together?  Footnote now has it so that there are Person Pages for the individual collections of the 1930 census, the Vietnam Memorial, the Arizona Memorial, the Social Security Death Index, plus anyone can create a Person Page.

In my own family tree, there are two pages that exist for my great-grandmother, Josephine Holloway Koonce (page 1 and page 2).  I have added information to both of them because at first I didn’t realize there were two different pages.  I do know that one comes from the 1930 census but I don’t remember how the other was generated.  But, I would love to able to merge these two pages as one instead of having Footnote build up multiple copies of her “page” each time a collection came around that included her in it.  Understandably I recognize that there could be data control issues as people could be merged erroneously, but I’d love to see some approaches to how this could be enabled.  Kinda like how Ancestry does their member trees – a person looking can see a “compilation” record of an individual, as well as still see all the separate trees that include what the system thinks may be the same person.   Footnote could let actual people initiate the merge and possibly combine that with computer algorithms.

The “Link” option just does not take care of this concern for me, and until I’m able to initiate a merge, I doubt I’ll be an active user of Person Page Beta.

Another wish item for Footnote? Instead of just “linking” a relative as a Related page, actually create fields for relationships on that person’s page for parents, siblings, spouses, children etc.  The potential to build up a Footnote Family Tree is there, it just needs to be further developed.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like FootNote a lot! Last year, I found an extremely moving account of someone I’ve been researching in the Missing Air Crew Reports, But, I also have big dreams.  I believe Footnote is dreaming big too in order to even start such a large project.

Okay, back to my work. :-)

Update 12/10 — a Footnote representative responded to my comment on their blog post and explained how you can make a suggestion to merge two individuals.  They do plan to enable such a feature in the future, so submit your suggestions now and they will make sure to address them when they make further progress with the project. Thanks Peter!

RSS Feeds for Rootsweb/Ancestry Boards

It’s been quiet lately here on my blog. My schooling has been full force these past few weeks, so I don’t have a lot of spare time to blog. But, I did want to do a quick post to give a quick tip.

Tonight, Randy did a blog post on Eastman’s new GenQueries site. In the comments, there were a couple of people who commented that to their knowledge, neither Rootsweb nor GenForum message boards offered RSS feeds, and Thomas stated that perhaps the RSS feeds are an advantage the GenQueries site offers. Well, you CAN do RSS feeds on Rootsweb/Ancestry mailing boards! Since discovering this last year, I’ve been a big fan – I’m all about content being pushed to me rather than me going to go get it.

The trick to Rootsweb though is that you have to be on the Ancestry.com side to access the feed. Remember, message boards on Ancestry are freely accessible! How do you find the RSS feed?

Let’s say you start off at Rootsweb and you find a board that you like. I’ll use the Koonce surname board as my example. The URL for this message board at Rootsweb is http://boards.rootsweb.com/surnames.koonce/mb.ashx. If you replace the word “rootsweb” with “ancestry” in the URL, you are then taken to the Ancestry side where the same message board exists. Remember, the message boards are FREE on Ancestry, so you don’t have to worry with a membership to view them if you’re not interested in joining.

The difference is that with Ancestry, there is a link to an RSS feed. Here is the same board in both views:

’tis a glorious thing! I love using the RSS feeds here. When I first discovered them, there was a programming error in how new messages displayed, but they finally got around to fixing that and they work very well now. Just grab the feed URL and stick it in your favorite feed aggregator.

You will likely need to change the name of the feed. I typically begin them with whether this is a feed for a County or Surname, and then list the specifics. As you can see, I have some reading I need to catch up on.

I still have not found a way to do this with GenForum boards. I’m sure I could try one of the many services out there to generate feeds for pages that don’t have them, but I have not yet gone through this additional step. Has anyone out there done so?

This is Why I Never Go To Bed

I knew it was a mistake to get back on the computer after I *said* I was going to bed.  But, I had to check the email and feed readers “one last time.”  Well, now it’s going to cause me to be up long enough to do this blog post, but I couldn’t wait because what I found was too exciting!

Last week I learned of a new resources, a new website of NC  Maps.  I only had an opportunity to briefly consult it, planning to investigate it more in-depth this week.  Well, a researcher today shared the link with the Edgecombe County mailing list and pointed out in her post that the maps allow you to see the locations of properties. She specifically shared the link to at 1905 map.

So, off I go to look at this map and was elated to see my two surnames of interest EXACTLY just like I figured they were — the Wimberly property right next to the McNair property, and those two properties just south of the Battle property! 

I’ve been posting with some frequency lately on my McNair, Wimberly, Battle connections and this is just too perfect.   My 3rd great-grandfather, Rufus Tannahill McNair was likely the slave of Dr. Augustus Harvey McNair.  Rufus married Mariah Wimberly, whose mother was the slave of Kemp Plummer Battle and whose father was probably the slave of Robert Diggs Wimberly.  

I knew from census records that the white McNair, Wimberley and Battle families lived in proximity, but to have this visual is wonderful! Admittedly, I’ve not delved into land records very much for my research – this type of discovery definitely picques my interest.  Thanks so much to the North Carolina State Archives, the Outer Banks History Center, and the University of NC @ Chapel Hill for this wonderful resource!   This is truly made my day. :-)

My FindAGrave Request List

I am an avid user of Find-A-Grave.  It makes it so easy to share internment information in a way that is very widely accessible.  Whenever possible, I try to add to the site by photographing tombstones here in Nashville and adding records for people in my family trees and research projects based on death certificate or obituary information.  I have been a member of Find-A-Grave since I really started getting into genealogy in February 2006.  To date, I have added 902 memorials.  I have also added 734 photos.  Wow.  That’s a lot of pictures! And, I easily have another few hundred sitting on the computer in queue.

However, I do have a couple of requests for enhancements for FindAGrave that would make research slightly easier.  I have emailed them with my suggestions, but let me share them here in case some of this functionality is available and I am just missing it.

1)  On each cemetery page, there is an option to search for a surname.  Recently, the site added a distinct field for maiden name.  However, on each cemetery page search, when you put in a name, it only searches that name as surname, not maiden name.  Search would be more comprehensive if this were not the case and the default search included surname.

2) Tonight while adding a burial record to a cemetery in North Carolina, I happened to look at the list again and for two names I’d entered in April 2008, I saw that pictures had been added! These pictures were added in April of 2009.   I would love to have the ability to receive an email notification whenever a picture has been added to a memorial I’ve created.  Currently, you can make a photo request and when it is filled an email is sent, however, it is much too cumbersome to submit photo requests for so many memorials.  If Find-A-Grave users could establish this as a general preference setting, it would be easier to track your memorials.

3) FindAGrave gets many submissions each day. Wouldn’t it be neat to be able to set up an RSS feed for any surname of interest so you would know when a new record was added where your surname was part of the record?   There is currently a New Listings page, but it is only for famous and somewhat famous individuals.  I’d love an easier way to keep up.  Right now, I just have to contine to do repeated searching.   I have tried a few sites that create RSS feeds from any URL, but so far, none of them have configured the feed from a surname search exactly as I’d like it.

4) Linking Relatives — recently, FindAGrave added a nice feature that allows a person’s memorial to be linked to other family members, such as parents, spouses and children. This is great since when looking at any one person’s memorial, it can lead you to other family members, no matter which cemetery in which they are buried. However,  currently this capability is only extended to the person who created the memorial.  I would love it though if any FindAGrave member could be allowed to do this.  It would remove one step in the process since the memorial creator would not have to be notified and then there is a wait until they do it.  In the spirit of further collaboration, I think it would be important to expand this feature.

Until then, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that they get around to adding these features.  As I stated earlier, I am an ardent fan of the site and I greatly appreciate all that FindAGrave does. I hope to see some of these features coming up sometime soon in the future. :-)

Addition (June 28, 2009) — when I am on the page for any specific cemetery and click on the link to “Add a Name to This Cemetery,”  I should not have to search for the cemetery after I add the individual’s information. It would prefer the system automatically add the individual to the cemetery I was looking at before I clicked “Add a Name to this Cemetery.”

True Inspiration!

A couple of days ago, I discovered a new genealogy blog – Robyn’s blog, Reclaiming Kin.  I found her through Randy’s “Best Of the Genea-Blogs” post from Sunday.  Well, yesterday she posted on using court records for research and her experience of looking at records in Edgecomebe County, NC inspired my Tombstone Tuesday post of the gravesite of Kemp Plummer Battle, a resident of Edgecombe County whom owned some of my ancestors.

Well, last night Robyn emailed me stating that she had information to share regarding Kemp.  We spoke on the phone last night and it turned out that she had a great discovery!  The name Kemp P. Battle sounded familiar to her, so she went through some of her files and sent me a wonderful document.

Last year, while visiting the North Carolina State Archives, she’d transcribed some labor contract records from the Freedmen’s Bureau (M1909, Roll #56) which included some records of former slaves of Kemp’s.  The labor contracts were for work in the two years following the Civil War and Robyn explained that some were very formal, others were very casual.  In some cases, family clusters were maintained.

Among the transcription was my 4th great-grandfather, Allen Wimberly! Here is the list she provided:

Joe Battle, Henderson Dorsey, Jason Spicer, Jim Lawrence, York Lawrence, Jim McNear, Allan Wimberly, Alfred Wimberly, Joe Wimberly, Haywood Battle, Lewis Battle, Redding Battle, Norfolk Battle, Isabella Battle, Hardy Battle, Orph Battle, Jason Battle, Sarah Battle, Jerry Battle, Norfleet Dancy, & Illiad Dancey.

In addition to my own Allen Wimberly, some of these names I have seen previously in census records and county cohabitation records. I am not sure how they may connect with my own family, but I certainly need to continue to put these pieces together.  I also note the name “Jim McNear” which may be a variant of my McNair surname — Allen’s daughter Mariah married Rufus McNair; and Rufus I suspect to be a slave of Dr. Augustus Harvey McNair.

I am very excited about this and during the course of our conversation, Robyn stressed the need to take advantage of local Family History Centers for access to records. While I’ve known I need to do this, I have not managed to follow-through with actually ordering any records.  There are two locations in my county and they both are about 45 minutes away from me, but I’m going to have to just go!  So, one of them is open the 3rd Saturday of each month, so I hereby resolve to take a field trip this Saturday to go and place an order for at least two films.

Here is my 1st list of film to work through.  It may take me several months since I will probably order only two at a time, but at least I have some identified right?

Wills, 1663-1978; estate papers, 1748-1917 (Edgecombe County): Original wills Ausley, Joseph – Bryan, Thoma Film #1548856
Wills, 1663-1978; estate papers, 1748-1917 (Edgecombe County): Original wills Killibrew, John I. – Middleton, S. O. Film #1571217
Wills, 1663-1978; estate papers, 1748-1917 (Edgecombe County): Estate records 1748-1917 Barnes, Archelaus – Battle, Joe Film #2069673
Wills, 1663-1978; estate papers, 1748-1917 (Edgecombe County):  Estate records 1748-1917 Battle, John – Bell, Bythel Film #2069674
Wills, 1663-1978; estate papers, 1748-1917 (Edgecombe County): Estate records 1748-1917 Law, William – Mayberry, Charles Film #2070395
Wills, 1663-1978; estate papers, 1748-1917 (Edgecombe County):  Estate records 1748-1917 Williams, Henry – Winstead, Richard Film #2070963
Will records and index, 1760-1964, with a few marriages (Jones County, NC): Index to wills 1779-1964 Film #386902
Will records and index, 1760-1964, with a few marriages (Jones County, NC): Wills 1760-1842 Film #19228
Will records and index, 1760-1964, with a few marriages (Jones County, NC): Wills 1778-1868 Film #19238 Items 1-3
Pre-1914 cemetery inscription survey, Columbus Co. (NC) Film #882937 Item 11
Pre-1914 cemetery inscription survey, Martin Co. (NC) Film #882938 Item 25
Civil actions concerning slaves and free persons of color (Craven County, North Carolina), 1775-1885 No Film # in record
Craven County, North Carolina, pre-Civil War slave related papers, including petitions for freedom, 1775-1861 Film 2299351 Item 2

This will be quite intersting. Thank you Robyn for an exciting discovery and for inspiration!

Tombstone Tuesday: Kemp Plummer Battle Sr.

This is my first Tombstone Tuesday post and since I had the perfect opportunity to do one, I thought I would.  This is the tombstone of Kemp Plummer Battle Sr.   Kemp was what you would call a “prominent” North Carolinian; he was highly active and involved in many matters of the state, including serving as President of my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kemp is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina next to his wife and other family members.  Last month I created his FindAGrave entry, which was surprising to me that he did not already have one given his social position, and two days ago, my picture request was fulfilled by a FindAGrave volunteer!

Now, why would I interested in Kemp?  I am interested in him and his family because he was the last slaveowner of a branch of my family.   My third great-grandmother, Mariah Wimberly McNair was the daughter of Della Battle and Allen Wimberly.   Della and at least one of her children, were slaves of Kemp’s plantation in Edgecomebe County, North Carolina, that he inherited from his father-in-law,  James S. Battle.  I know that Della was his slave from the wonderful resource of Dr. Barnetta McGhee -White on cohabitation records from North Carolina, Somebody Knows My Name.

I have not yet gotten to the point where I’ve begun to examine family estate and court records (which Robyn describes a perfect example to do so in her recent blog post), but when I do have that opportunity, I want to be clear on all the family members.  Creating a Battle family tree, allows me to do so in order that I am adequately prepared.

Hmmm… would you call it ironic that I went to the University of the man who enslaved my ancestors?  I personally don’t have any misfeelings about this – history was what it was, but at the same time, I do feel connected in a way, to this family.