The Husband Knows

Last night,  my husband and I were watching Roots: The Next Generations. We watch this periodically and each time I watch it, I do some online searching to add to the tree I’m building for Alex Haley’s family.  It’s just a curiosity I have.

One storyline that fascinates my husband is that of the interracial couple portrayed in the mini-series.  In the show, Jim Warner, the son of an established Henning County, TN citizen, Colonel Warner, becomes interested in a black school teacher, Carrie.  Carrie is said to have been a member of the 2nd graduating class of Fisk University (here in my home city of Nashville) and Jim and she eventually marry.  Jim is subsequently outcast by his father, who declares him to be treated as a black man by all white citizens of the county.  Jim and Carrie have a child, who grows up to be a doctor.  My husband is particularly interested in knowing more about this doctor.

In my quest to learn more about Jim and Carrie and try to find them in the records, I was not sure where to start.  In the mini-series, many of the last names of the people were changed from the book, and the events in this follow-up mini-series were not even completely covered in the book Roots. I consulted our hard copy of Roots and also saw that Carrie is described as having graduated from Lane College, not Fisk.   With these type of alterations to the facts, I was unsure how to really search.  As I tried several strategies in vain,  my husband said, “what about searching for mulatto children? Does the database let you do that?”

At first, I didn’t think that would work. Surely there would be many mulatto children right? But I did search the 1880 census using that criteria and sure enough, there were only 5 results for Lauderdale County, TN.   The first three I quickly discounted given the age.  The fourth one I did go ahead and look at the original census record, but it was an indexing mistake; the person in question while indexed as mulatto was enumerated as black.  The 5th one was more interesting however.

Jas could be short for James; and Jim, the name used in the miniseries is also short for James. The wife here is named Carrie.  The surname Turner is also not too far off from Warner.  Is this the family? I go to look at the census record.  I open the page and before I get to the Turner family I see someone familiar.  Alex Haley’s 2nd-great grandfather, Chicken George! (George Lea was his name).

And soon after him on the page is the Turner couple. Jas. B. is enumerated as Mulatto, Carrie is black and is a Schoolteacher by occupation. They have two children, a son and a daughter, also enumerated as black.   Now, I am pretty sure this is the family in the mini-series!  Perhaps the Mulatto enumeration for Jas. stems from how his family outcast him?   I’ll be continuing my search to see if I can further verify if this is indeed the couple and to see if I can find out more information about this James’ parents.  I do know that there was a prominent white Hardin Turner in the county and James has named his son Hardin.

I am pretty sure it is them though. I located Jim & Carrie in the 1900 and 1910 census records of Lauderdale County.  In 1910, their son Hardin is listed as Hardin A. In 1910, I found Hardin Alexander Turner, born about the right time in Tennessee, living in Ouachita County, Arkansas and is a doctor! A check of the 1912 Catalog of Meharry Medical College (also here in Nashville) and I find he graduated from there in 1906.

I’m trying to locate more about this family and the search continues.  Just think, all this due to a search suggestion from the hubby.   He rocks  :-)

Saturday Night Wiki Fest

Over the past few months I have been contributing to FamilySearch’s Research Wiki.  In August I did a post describing my overall & positive impressions of the site.  Essentially, it could become the Wikipedia for Genealogy if enough of us contribute to it.  FamilySearch already has an impressive number of volunteers contributing to the Indexing initiative and it would be nice to see momentum gather around the Wiki.

The Wiki team has pursued collaborations with genealogy projects and societies as one method to increase contributions.  It is in these efforts that I’ve been involved,  for all three of the state USGenWeb projects in which I participate have “adopted” the corresponding wiki sites.   The TNGenWeb, NCGenWeb and FLGenWeb have all signed on to help add resources and information.

The Wiki is easy to add to – very much “what you see is what you get” with the option to add using wiki code if you’re comfortable with that syntax.  Tonight, I focused on adding links to the North Carolina counties I either host or am temporarily taking care of – Craven,  Jones, Lenoir,  Martin,  Onslow, Wake, and Washington.  A friend of mine sent me a template she uses for county sites and after viewing it, I created an outline for myself.  Though not as easy to use as a “template,” with my outline I can get a bare bones page up in less than 30 minutes.  The pages can always be enhanced, but at least if someone lands on them it won’t be blank :-).

If you have knowledge to share about any genealogy resources, consider adding to the Wiki.  Registration is easy and you’ll be going in no time at all.  I am trying to condition myself to use it as my own personal research tool – adding links to resources as I come across them from the appropriate page. So far, there’s only one drawback — I can’t seem to login with Google Chrome and need to use Firefox instead.  Hopefully they’ll fix that issue soon!

Ronald E. McNair A Cousin?

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger Explosion, and upon that shuttle was astronaut Ronald Erwin McNair.

Ronald E. McNair - 1971 Senior Yearbook Photo - A&T University, North Carolina

Family lore has that he is related to us — my maternal grandmother is a McNair from Washington County, North Carolina.  As yet I’ve not further explored this potential connection.  On my ever-increasing to-do list is to further explore and find out if this is true.  R.I.P. Ronald.

Evansville Argus – Historical Black Newspaper

I love newspapers.  I truly do. Anything I can do to promote their accessibility is one of my passions.  I am pleased now to learn that an African-American newspaper of Evansville, Indiana (where my husband’s family is from), is now available in it’s online!

The Evansville Argus was published from June 25, 1938 – October 22, 1943.  The University of Southern Indiana’s David Rice library is one of the few places that holds the entire run of the paper.  I have been interested in the paper for awhile now because of the fact that my husband’s family is from there and from time to time I have visited Willard Library in Evansville and perused a few of them.  I contribute from time to time to the blog of the genealogy society in Evansville and for one post I transcribed a marriage I found in the paper.

Front page of the first issue of the Evansville Argus - June 25, 1938

The David Rice Library received grant funds to digitize this collection, and in doing so, provides us all with access to this treasure trove.  You may browse the issues online at the library’s website or choose “Advanced Search” at the top of the screen to search specific information.   For any specific issue, the archive team has implemented a feature that allows you to view the entire issue in PDF format — quite handy indeed! I especially like that feature since I find contentDM’s page navigation absolutely horrid and nowhere as easy to use as that used by Google for their newspapers and the Library of Congress for the Chronicling America website.

And, in keeping with my new practice of using the FamilySearch Research Wiki as my own personal research tool I have added a link to the collection to the Wiki page for Vanderburgh County, Indiana.

(Update:  I thought ALL the issues were available, but it looks like currently they have up through April 1942 online).

Internet Archive Instead of ContentDM?

Here is news that I like to hear! The Internet Archive (IA)  posted recently that the Montana State Library has made the decision to use IA as their institutional repository in lieu of the contentDM platform.  I’m a fan of the Internet Archive; the variety of their offerings is incredible.  ContentDM is a popular choice among libraries for hosting digital content, but I find their system much less user-friendly – particularly in the display & navigation options.  I could do a whole separate blog post on that!

The Montana State Library has placed 3,000 digital items there so far, and ultimately expects to have about 55,000 items.  I have no genealogical interests whatsover in Montana, but this type of news excites me since I believe there is a lot of potential yet untapped for IA.   And just as a note — Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, will be a keynote speaker at the RootsTech conference.  I’ll have my ears open for any other news that may come from them. :-)

2011 Blog Design

Happy New Year everyone!  If you read this in a feed reader – click through – my blog has a new look.

For my 1st post of the 2011,  I am sharing my new blog design.  In January 2010 I also updated the look of my blog.  At the time, I was aiming for a more structured & clean-cut look along a 3-column template so I could share more on the sidelines of the blog.  At that time I chose to use the WordPress theme “Parchment Theme” by wpthemedesigner.com.   My genealogy blog used to look more or less like this:

screenshot of my genealogy blog in 2010

However, as the year went on, I realized that the middle column was a bit too narrow for my tastes — I tended to write longer blog posts and I felt as they went down the page forever.  Also, I like to change so a few days ago I looked around for a new theme and found my current one.  This time,  I’ve chosen OneRoom 1.0 by Jeremie Tisseau.

I particularly liked the colors in this theme and that I still have 3 columns but the middle column is a little wider.  Also, I feel like I didn’t really need as much info in the sidebars as I had so I reduced that as well.  Within 30 minutes of choosing the theme I had it up and running.  This is due to the flexibility of WordPress.  I couldn’t be happier.

I also updated a couple of aspects of the blog:

  • I expanded my ABOUT page — wanted it to look more *professional* and give a better picture of the scope of my genealogy activities.
  • Added a SURNAMES page – still need to add to it, but it should be helpful to anyone who visits
  • I kept my  “Connect w/ Me” icons and my cartoon avatar. I love those so much.
  • I also kept the feed of my posts from all the other blogs I have – all so you can enjoy more of me

I still need to make a few tweaks here and there but overall, I hope you like the new look!  Now, if I could update my home as quickly as I can update the blog…..

Insufficient Customer Service

Fellow genealogy blogger Tony Masiello recently posted about a less than satisfactory experience with Ancestry.com’s customer service.  Reading his blog post prompted me to also share a less-than-satisfactory customer service experience I had with a genealogy library.

I asked a question about a NARA microfilm set that is freely available in its entirety online.  Let’s just call it Record Set ABC.  I identified this library as one that had a high likelihood of  knowing the answer to my question.  My specific question was:

Has [Record Set ABC] been indexed in any print resource?

Their 1st response:

Not in print, but Footnote has some (not all as yet) at their (subscription) website.

That’s all.  Hmm… so, I have one answer, that it is not indexed in *print,* but to mention that Footnote has it on their subscription resource without providing any indication of where on their site I can find it is decidedly lacking.  What if I want to follow-up on Footnote? From this response I still don’t know if the Record Set I asked about is there.  I fortunately know my way around the Footnote site well, but would the average person know how to navigate to the descriptions of their collections? Some guidance on where to look on the Footnote site would have been preferable.  So, I wrote back:

Thanks for the reply. Do you have a URL to the collection online? I did think of Footnote, but I was not able to find it listed on their site as part of their collections.  [Record Set ABC] also does not appear on NARA’s Digitized Records page at http://www.archives.gov/digitization/digitized-by-partners.html. Thanks.

Here was the response:

http://www.footnote.com/browse.php#31|27436 but I don’t know if you can actually get there.

Now I have a link, but what does it mean “I don’t know if you can actually get there?”  Does that mean because it’s a subscription site so I’d need to have a paid membership to see it? If so, then they should have stated that.  Does it mean that the person responding thinks the link may not take me deep enough into the site?  This was a mystery to me.  But, I followed the link anyway and it takes me to the wrong Record Set.   I quickly realized this b/c Record Set ABC is not organized by state levels and that is the first categorization option you see when you follow the link to Footnote.  Just to double-check, I clicked on the “i” icon for more info about the collection for which I was given a link to view.  Quite prominently it is clear that the years of this record set do not match the years of the record set I asked for (the years are part of the title of the record set I asked about) and Footnote provides source information for all their collections.  This was not what I was looking for so I wrote back:

Thank you again, but this is not the right record collection.  The link you provided is for the “Civil War Pensions Index” and the Footnote page about this collection at http://www.footnote.com/page/75_civil_war_pensions_index/ states that it is from NARA Record Group T289.  The record group I’m inquiring about is [Record Set ABC] and is described at [link removed].  Perhaps you meant another link? Thanks for checking again.

At this point though I was frustrated that the responses I was getting were not exactly helpful. As you can see, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they sent the wrong URL?  Here was the last reply

We have [Record Set ABC]  on film, but I have never seen it in any other format.

Now I have given up.  I have been a librarian for more than 10 years and I provide electronic reference in my current position.  The quality of the email exchange I have shared is far below standards we set in our library and I am quite disappointed.  What was wrong and what was I expecting?

  • Rule of thumb for customer service – do not give a “No” answer — we try to be as helpful as we can so instead of just telling someone “No” and leaving them empty-handed, we always offer further suggestions.  In this exchange,  it would not be inconceivable for this library to have suggested I follow up with NARA directly since it is NARA microfilm I’m asking about.  Or, perhaps share with me resources they may have consulted in order to determine that it has not been indexed.  Or, perhaps suggest I follow-up with Footnote to find out if they plan to include this record set in their database.
  • Tone — tone is very difficult to express in email; I understand that.  However, these answers were very short and thus come across as clipped to me.  For email communication I would expect a much more gracious tone to come across and use more terminology that indicates *helpfulness.*
  • Personalizing – what about addressing me by name and starting off the email with “Hello Taneya….”  Doing this would help with the tone – make me feel less like a number in the queue.
  • Incomplete information — try to give as complete answers as possible. To tell me that Footnote has digitized *some* of the NARA microfilm without addressing the set I asked about is not complete.  What if  I did not know what Footnote was?   Some explanation of what Footnote is and how they operate would have been helpful.  We do not give a recommendation to visit a particular database/website without some explanation of what it is and what the person can expect to find there.
  • Wrong information — giving me the URL to the wrong collection? Take the time to look at what you’re sending me.  If you give a patron the wrong information, it makes it less likely they will believe you the next time around – if there even is a next time around – they may not come to you anymore.

I’ll share this post with management at the library in hopes they can use it as a training experience for whomever it was that interacted with me yesterday and today.  To top it all off, I still don’t have the answer to my question.  Telling me they have not seen it in any other format does not tell me that it’s not available.   Their “seeing it” is not a credible enough source for me at this point and I’m not sure I can trust the original answer that it is not indexed in print given the exchanges that came afterwards.  Now I will be following up with NARA & Footnote on my own accord but not because this library was actually any help to me.  How disappointing.

Our McNair Family History is on the Books

A few weeks ago I had a chance to see in person the book,  Edgecombe County Heritage, North Carolina, 1735-2009.  I was thrilled to see in print my contribution to the book that I submitted in 2008.

I contributed an article on my McNair ancestry, going back to my 3rd-great grandfather Rufus Tannahill McNair and his wife, Mariah Wimberly McNair.
I did not photocopy the pages; instead I took a digital picture, but I do want to go back later and get the physical copy.

I am very glad I contributed this information for 50, 75, 100 years from now, hopefully additional descendants will come across the information I share.  I do see that the publishing company messed up my 4th great-grandfather’s name the first time it is mentioned (Allen Wimberly), but as I mention him again a couple of lines down, hopefully a smart reader will figure it out.  I also included a picture of my great-grandfather, Abraham Lincoln McNair, with my submission and several references.

I am ecstatic! :-)  And though I didn’t submit this one, there is also a brief bio of Mariah’s brother, Dred Wimberly in the book too.

At least I know that some of my research will continue on in print format.

What the Hashtag?! RootsTech Version

The upcoming RootsTech conference is beginning to get blogged & tweeted about quite a bit.  Official RootsTech bloggers have been announced and I’m looking forward to following along in the conversation.   However, what do I do when I have to work all day and can’t follow along the Twitter feed like I hope? I use WhattheHashTag?!.

The site is nice because it allows you to visualize the Twitter activity around the use of any hashtag.

You can follow along in several ways:

  • visit the page to see the tweets and those that tweet most often about it (UPDATE — the official hashtag was announced on 1/7/11 and is #rootstech11 — therefore, see http://wthashtag.com/Rootstech11 instead)
  • subscribe to the RSS feed (updated subscribe link here)
  • write your own tweet directly from the page
  • generate a day & time-stamped transcript of the twitter activity (example here)
  • the page is a wiki page, so anyone can edit and refine it

Tonight, I went to the site to see if one had been set-up for RootsTech and it had not.   Anyone can create a hashtag archive so after logging in, I created one.  Very easy to accomplish.  Here is some data from the past few days already: you can see the top contributors and which days have more tweets than others.

What makes this site unique is that it creates an archive.  Twitter itself does not allow you to search for hashtags older than a set time period, but with WhatTheHashTag?! you can go back and see the history.  For example, my professional organization – the Medical Library Association, had a conference in May.  The history of our #mla2010 hashtag is not available anymore on Twitter, but an archived transcript can be generated at WhatTheHashTag?!.