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 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 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.

Facebook Frenzy

Facebook is now allowing users to grab a vanity URL.  Thanks to watching my Twitter stream and seeing a couple of fellow genealogists tweet about getting theirs, I was able to go over and snag my name. You can now catch me at

This past week I’ve been exploring Jing further for screen capture, so I decided to take a video of the frequency of Twitter updates on the hashtag #facebook – very interesting!

Looking for Medical Images?

Here’s some information from my professional life as a medical librarian — today I read on the Reference Shelf blog about the National Library of Medicine’s revised Image search from their History of Medicine Division. I did a fellowship at the National Library of Medicine in 2001 and am also again currently funded by them while I pursue my MPH degree. I try to keep up with their latest goingson, a feat that becomes increasingly more difficult with everything I have going on, but I was delighted to come across this news.

The Images collection of the National Library of Medicine (more than 70,000 images) can be found here. Their previous search used to be fairly simple and did not offer many options. The new version however is full of great features including

– the ability to embed images
– create collections of images
– compile images & create a presentation
– a “share” link to email to others
– download hi-resolution images
– easy image zoom-in
– ability to drag images around (like you can drag a Google Map around)
– sidebar options to refine results that shows “who”, “what” and “where” details
– printer friendly formatting
-selection of a variety of page display options

and more that I am sure I am not capturing. If you have any medical connections in any of your genealogy work, I recommend spending some time on the site.

I myself did a search on my own university and came across photos of people who’s names I certainly recognize. Now, I bet you anything I could just go upstairs to our Historical Collections and see some of these same pictures (and others), but it’s cool to see them online like this! What would make this an even better resource would be to have the ability to add comments and additional information to the images posted.

As an example, below is the picture of Elliott Voss Newman (1914-1973). He was a cardiologist, biomedical informatics pioneer, and founder/director of Vanderbilt’s Clinical Research Center from 1952 to 1973. My library has his papers collection in our holdings and many of my classmates in my MPH program are members of the university’s Elliott V. Newman Society which supports the research growth of clinicians on campus. It’s nice to put a face to the name. However, none of this information about Mr. Newman is apparent from the NLM entry. This is why I would find it beneficial to allow input from users.

Thanks NLM for an enhanced site!

My Dream Citation Tool – EasyBib + Genealogy

Some may know that I use EasyBib to format some of the citations I use in my genealogy work.  I posted about EasyBib last year (see post) and last night I had a thought — why not ask EasyBib to put their templates to use for genealogy work?

So, I sent them a tweet asking offering the suggestion and I’ve followed up with a more detailed email.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to use a web-based form to format your genealogy citations in the formats suggested by Elizabeth Shown Mills? Everything from Birth/Death Certificates to FHL Microfilm?  Mark posted on his ThinkGenealogy blog that Legacy 7 does this, but not everyone uses Legacy 7.   I myself am more of a cloud computer and the advantages inherent with that (see Eastman’s blog post) so I think this would be cool.    I think Thomas would agree with me too.

New Book about Wessyngton Plantation

A couple of weeks ago, when I bought In Search of Our Roots, I’d also seen a book by John F. Baker Jr. called The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation.  Tonight, I went ahead and purchased this book too.  I will probably not be able to start reading it right away, but I’m glad to own it now.   The Wessyngton Plantation was here in Tennessee and the author used their papers held on file at the Tennessee State Library & Archives for some of his research, so this is very close to home for me.   You can read more about the plantation in the online version of Profiles of African-Americans in Tennessee

In the book, the author accounts his family’s background, as well as information about other slave family descendants as he discovered them through his research. Again, this is another example of my previously expressed wish that books of this nature also do accompanying online family trees to faciliate later discovery by others and possible extended family members.  One of the main ancestors of the author is Granville Washington 1831-1898) of which I find no information in Ancestry Trees in a quick and dirty search.  

Biographies + Online gedcoms/family trees are my desire. Who will be the first author to do it?  I am encouraged though to see that on his website, Mr. Baker does have a few representative documents and some newspaper articles about his research.  He is on Facebook, on MySpace, and has a blog too where he continues to share his research.   This looks like a great start to my dream 🙂

And, unlike Gates’ book, his is searcheable over at Google Books.  Mr. Baker will be here in Nashville for a book signing in a week, I must try to go!

See below for a two mintue overview of the book

Latest Addition to my Genealogy Bookshelf

Last weekend, I picked up the new book from Henry Louis Gates, In Search of Our Roots. This is the companion book to the African-American Lives 2 special from last year.

I just started reading the book yesterday and I am enjoying it  There are profiles in the book for the highlights of the research Gates and his collaborators did to learn more about each person’s family tree.  Some of the people featured are Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle, Quincy Jones and Maya Angelou.

As I began to read the book, I wondered how much of their tree information was available online?  Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a supplemental online tree to go along with the book where a reader could interactively navigate?  Also, it would be useful to have the information online to faciliate discovery by other researchers (perhaps distant cousins) to connect to the research conducted.

On the African-American Lives site, there is an interactive timeline that includes major milestones in black history as well as major milestones in each of the participants history, but it is an image based representation, thus not indexable or searcheable.

I’ve been thinking about this concept lately as I read another book, The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White. This book details the family history of white and black Hairstons of Virginia & North Carolina and is full of genealogical details.  One thing that was quite noticeable for me is that the author has a tree structure for the white Hairstons, but so far, I’ve not seen a tree structure for the black Hairston’s he discusses.  I have searched online for tree information for some of those families and not been able to find anything online in a consistent manner.

Here is my wish and desire — for both these books, and any others that chroncile family history having an companion online tree (perhaps at Ancestry Family Trees, WeRelate, or FamilyHistoryLink would be an interesting way to share some of the work online in a way that is more easily discovered by others.  Alternatively, at the site they could use my favorite genealogy software, TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding to provide an online view to the trees.  At the minimum, the Gates book could have been made searcheable at Google Books (update 8/15/09 – it is now searcheable);  the Hairstons book is searcheable.  In the age of web 2.0/ Genealogy 2.0, this would be a wonderful means for establishing more connections!