Latest Posts

I’m Honored

I’ve discovered that my genealogy blog was featured on’s Top 100 Genealogy Sites.  How very cool! They purposely sought to highlight lesser known blogs.  Their criteria were

1) high quality content

2) originality in topic choice, approach and design; and

3) frequently updated

I’m honored to be on the list and I look forward to exploring many of the others they highlight.  Thanks!

Browse papers in Google News Archive

I posted this on the NCGenWeb blog, but I wanted to do a quick mention here too.  I recently learned  that back in March, Google implemented a browse feature in Google News Archive that now makes it much easier to determine what issues of a specific paper have been digitized.

So far, I’ve made a list of 73 US Newspapers included in the Archive and the date ranges covered. More details over on the NCGenWeb blog, including a spreadsheet that lists them all.  Keep in mind, this may not be exhaustive of the US papers as finding out what’s there is not the easiest task.  I’m hopeful that Google continues to make improvements such as this!

Miriam, I fully expect to see these links added to your Online Historical Newspaper Website! :-)

Genealogical Societies and I

This afternoon,  one of my genea-buddies posted a blog post about the benefits of joining a genealogy society.  She notes that membership of gen societies are down and ponders how more genealogists can be recruited to join & she offers great examples of how mutually beneficial the relationship can be.

As I read her post, a lot of thoughts came to mind because this is a topic that I’ve been thinking about the past couple of years myself.   I have often been personally frustrated with the gen societies I’ve interacted with for various reasons.  Not that I don’t see the benefit, but I need to see more in light of what works for me.  As of today, I am a member of only one gen society.  Here are sample reasons why they have not worked out well for me…

a) Payment – this may seem a trivial point for most, but if I have to pull out my checkbook to pay for something, it’s not likely I’m going to do it.  I do not like the hassle of having to write a check, mail it and wait for my membership to be processed.  Signing up to accept money by services such as PayPal is easy enough to do and IMHO, not enough gen societies take advantage of online payments.  I was ecstatic when I learned that the North Carolina Genealogical Society accepted online payments and that made it very convenient for me to join – my membership was processed within a few days.

b) Community – I have joined four societies over the past few years. I appreciate the talent and expertise of people in the society, but I’ve found it difficult to get to know of each members’ expertise.  I have not felt as strong a sense of community as I think could be made possible.  Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by my extensive social networking experiences and the fabulous geneablogger community! I find that what I crave are the online conversations among members.  Here are examples:

Society A – I’ve been a member of this society the longest so I do feel I have a better awareness of who belongs to the group, but there is no member list made available anywhere.  I know a couple of the officers and a couple of other researchers who do not live in that area, but other than that, I can’t tell you any more about who is in the society besides the names I see in the newsletter.

Society B – I’m no longer a paying member of this society, but when I joined, I did learn there was an email list, which I thought was great! However, when I asked for the email list I was told I was not allowed to have access to it for member protection.  Well, how I am I supposed to get to know who the other members are, especially when I live in another state? What is the point of being a gen society member if you don’t want it known that you are a member? Again, I know a couple of the officers, but beyond that, I don’t know who the members are or how many members there are.  The newsletter of this society is quite well-done I must say and has won awards, but that in and of itself was not enough for me to sustain membership.  I do still contribute information to the newsletter though.

Society C – this society is local to me and I was a member for one year.  Though this society is local, I was not able to go to any of the meetings due to my own personal schedule.  They offer good programming at the meetings and there are some I’d like to go to this year now that my schedule is opening up, but again, I don’t know who the members are, nor how many there are.  That could change if I could attend meetings, but I’d like to see an online community too.

Society D – this is a larger society that I joined but when I asked at the beginning how people get to know each other, the response was through meetings & volunteering and through the newsletter.  Well, again, I don’t live in the state, so I can’t go to the meetings.  There is no strong online community presence, & no email list for members.  They do have a Facebook page, but it is not used much.  And honestly, I don’t find Facebook to be the best avenue for a “group” presence.  Messages, discussions, & wall posts for any particular group get lost among all your friends’ activity.  The newsletter and journals are well done but I would like to interact more with the membership.  I do plan to write an article for the next newsletter so maybe that will help.  I eventually wish to contribute to the journal.  This society blogs infrequently, but you can’t post comments on the posts.  This is a missed opportunity; especially for non-members checking the site who may be potential new members.

Society E – this is a society to which I’ve never been a paid member, but I like what I see of their online presence.  They have a blog to which I’ve contributed content to many times.  I have met a couple of the members and they too have good programming.  They work extremely well in tandem with the local genealogy library and do great things.  I don’t live in the area but this is the society I’m most likely to join next.   If they offered online payment to join, I’d sign up tomorrow. :-)

With each of these societies though, if they blogged to  summarize what occurs at the meetings, as Randy does for the Chula Vista Genealogical Society, I’d feel at least like I had a clue.  If the member roster were made more accessible and I had a way to see online profiles of members and interact with them, I’d feel more like I belonged.   I of course understand that not everyone wants to have an online presence, but I would like to see more online interactivity; more of an online community established for members.   Facebook, GenealogyWise, BuddyPress — so many options exist and you can make a community private if people are concerned about their postings being public.

I’ve posted before my desires to see more video-conferencing technology enabled for those that aren’t able to attend here and here.  The combined expertise and know-how of the members of these groups are probably massive, but if I tonight had a research question and needed help, there is only one of the 5 mentioned above that I would feel like I had a good & fast way (sending it in to the newsletter is not suffice for me) to solicit input from the group members.  And, even in that case, it would have to be sent out for me; I’d not be able to send it out myself.  This really is not acceptable IMHO.  At the minimum a society could publicize the use of the Ancestry/Rootsweb county email groups?  Make a badge/widget for display on those members’ sites that do have an online presence to help with promotion.

c) Publishing — I’m not a fan of the current publishing model of most genealogical societies.

– Newsletters and journals should be done electronically – it would save money on publishing costs; or at the minimum, only send the print version to those who specifically request it.  Print versions could also be sent to libraries (I’m a librarian – so yes, we need preservation copies and for indexing in PERSI).  But, e-publishing needs to happen more consistently.

–  Only one of the gen societies I reference above publish electronically — and in that case, I just a couple of days ago received the journal in the mail when I’d much rather have just received it electronically.   Genealogy societies often do stellar jobs at publishing data and making it more accessible, but again – move towards e-publishing rather than mass book production.

d)  Services — ever since I first learned of the Genlighten service, I immediately thought of how genealogy societies could leverage it.  Join Genlighten and promote your ability to offer lookups of local county & state resources and earn income for it!  I recognize that many libraries do this as well, but again for me personally, I can’t order an obit online (remember my *issue* with writing checks?) from most of the libraries I’ve ever interacted with.  If a gen society connected with Genlighten, I know that I could order the obit and get it in my email and I’d love it! Yes, I can order vital records for less than a $1 from most of the counties in NC, but if the gen society were willing to photocopy the record from the courthouse and send it to me electronically, I’d gladly pay more for it rather than deal with the hassle of sending a written request to the courthouse and then wait a week or more to receive it in the mail if I knew I could get it electronically in a few days.  Best of all, I can pay w/ my credit card online.   Or, index the local newspaper, put the index online (maybe on a USGenWeb county site?), and then charge for the full-text of the obit.  Again, with something like Genlighten, I could make requests online.  It’s a win-win situation.

Okay, I’ve rambled quite a bit, but I honestly am not as willing to pay the annual fee for a gen society if I can’t get or be involved in these kinds of efforts.  You could argue that I should be more involved and try to change it and that is exactly what I plan to do.  I’ve been limited the past two years because I am in a degree program, but that is coming to an end and I’m strategizing on how to make more of a difference.  I am planning to attend FGS this August, so maybe I’ll see more of these types of issues discussed there.  I know I may be the atypical demographic for a gen society, but others have expressed similar thoughts (e.g. Elyse, Dick Eastman – here, here and here).

There are several societies who do some of these and do it well, so I don’t mean to indicate no one is;  I simply crave more.  :-)  I’m not trying to be harsh, but I’m trying to offer my perspective.  As mentioned by Miriam in comment to Elyse’s blog post I just mentioned, I may have to start offering to trade my skills for free membership!

This is actually a blog post I’ve been wanting to write for a long time now, so I thank Brenda for the prompt. :-)   In the words of Madonna in Evita “Have I said too much? There’s nothing more I can think of to say to you.” (shout out to the recent Glee Madonna episode!)

Anyone have thoughts to share?

Rufus McNair Cemetery

Thanks to the generosity of another researcher with family ties to Washington County, NC, I now have pictures of one of the most important cemeteries in my family research.  The cemetery is the Rufus McNair Cemetery of Plymouth, North Carolina.  I first learned of this cemetery in 2006 and was thrilled then to know of it.   Rufus Tannahill McNair is my 3rd great-grandfather and I’ve posted about him several times.

I received the pictures this evening after getting home and I cried.  I cried because I’ve been looking at the names of those buried here on a piece of paper for 4 years (the local gen society county cemetery transcription book).  From that record, I knew that almost everyone in the cemetery is related to me.  But, it was a moving experience to now see their headstones.

Rufus McNair & Mariah Wimberly McNair monument

While I was happy to see the headstone for my ancestor, Rufus & Mariah,  the one that made me cry the most was that of John Lee Boone.  He is a cousin of mine who passed away in January and I do regret that I was not able to meet him before he passed.  I did have an at-length phone conversation with him once about the McNair family history.  He was the last of the five McNair family members who started the annual McNair Family Reunion that is held during Memorial Day Weekend.

This year is the 40th year of the reunion, dedicated to John Lee’s memory,  and I am planning to attend.  I’ve been to Plymouth one time, I was 9 months old, and a visit to my grandmother’s hometown is long overdue.  Especially after getting these photos; I need to physically visit these grounds.  And, I’m eager to meet my extended McNair Family.

You can view all the cemetery photos in the NCGenWeb Cemetery Gallery.

Internet Archive RSS Feeds

Today on her AnceStories blog, Miriam gave me a shout-out in reference to sharing directories added to the Internet Archive (IA).   Thanks Miriam for the mention.  It prompted me to write this post to share the fact that I’ve been subscribing to IA feeds for several months now and I find it an easy way to keep track of new items.  The IA is such a vast repository of information (they recently hit the 2 million book mark), that every family history researcher should explore it.

Let me share with you some of the feeds I follow (each header is a link to their feed)

And there are so many more!  If you don’t subscribe, you will definitely want to pick at least a couple to follow.  Who knows what you’ll stumble across?

Family Stories Result in Healthier Kids

While browsing the news feed from my alma mater, Emory University,  I happened upon a blog post about recent research from their  Dept. of Psychology.

The news release describes research demonstrating that youth who know stories about their relatives show higher levels of emotional well-being. The study was conducted with  66 14-16 year olds who completed the “Do You Know” scale,  a 20-item yes/no survey in which kids were asked example questions of how their parents met, or where they grew up and went to school.  Higher DYK scale scores were related to more internal locus of control, higher self-esteem, higher reported family functioning, higher reported family traditions, lower child anxiety and lower internalizing and externalizing behaviors.

“Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world,”

The full research article is here.

Of course there’s the usual caveat that more research needs to be done, but how cool is that?   :-)

NARA Records: Eastern Cherokee Applications Going Online

The Allen County Public Genealogy Center crew is doing it up! They’ve started adding another collection of NARA microfilm to the Internet Archive.  I’ve already posted about the following two collections

The latest collection is that of the Eastern Cherokee Applications of the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906—1909 (M1104). This record set is a collection of 348 rolls of microfilm of applications submitted for by Cherokee tribe members for money appropriated for them by Congress on June 30, 1906.  Applicants had to prove they were members of the Eastern Cherokee tribe during 1835, 1836 & 1845 treaties.  More information about them can be found on the NARA website.  The Eastern Cherokee Reservation consists of approximately 56,668 acres in five counties in North Carolina: Cherokee, Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Swain Counties.

Just as I’ve done with the other collections, I’ve started a spreadsheet for tracking updates (at the time of this writing, there was only one reel, but ACPL should be adding more).

Similar to the Compiled Service Records, these too are also on   There are indexes to Volume 1 & 2 of the collection to make it easier to locate persons of interest. The index is in abc order by surname and provides name, state & application number.  The applications are rich with genealogical data; often providing details of 4 generations.  They are definitely worth taking a look.  Here is a direct link to the first reel they’ve added.

Open Library Just Made My Week!

This is just one of those totally geeky librarian moments you’re about to read about.

Two days ago, the Open Library project announced a soft-launch of their new interface. The Open Library is an initiative of the Internet Archive with a goal to have one page for every book.

I am a fan of the Internet Archive; you may have noticed several blog posts of mine the past few weeks announcing resources I’ve located through IA.   It is a fantastic resource.  However, the navigability of books at the IA leave much to be desired.  The Open Library project helps overcome some of the limitations and is actively seeking to encourage collaboration.

Why does the new Open Library project make me so happy?  For awhile now I’ve longed for a way to contribute information so that we can all as researchers

  • be aware when a book exists in digital format online
  • contribute to lacking information about a book if we have additional data to add (e.g.  a PDF to the index, or list the Table of Contents)

I’ve sought this out via other means:

  • FamilyLink’s GenSeek (it’s current iteration as a Facebook App) did not meet my expectations.  Though I could link to the electronic location of the book online the record did not update to reflect it’s electronic status.
  • has great potential and I’ve shared feedback with the development team there.  They think it’s a great idea; already partner with Google Books, and have explored how they can further work with the Internet Archive.  It’s just later on in their development cycle.

But, Open Library let’s me do it!  Check it out (pun intended, ha!).

Step 1: I do a search for a book that was recently added to the Internet Archive yesterday,  The Ingersolls of Hampshire: a genealogical history of the family from their settlement in America, in the line of John Ingersoll of Westfield, Mass. The book was added to the IA February 18th, 2010, but the Open Library record does not have it marked an e-book.  Nor does it indicate it can be borrowed from any library.  Well, guess what?  We can change it for Open Library is a wiki!!

Step 2: To edit the record to change it’s status as not an ebook and not able to borrowed,  you go in and edit the ID Numbers section.  Clicking on Edit brings up all the data about the book and on the tab labeled What’s It About? you can edit the ID Numbers section.  There is  a drop down list of options to choose from including “Internet Archive”  & “OCLC”.     Grab the ID number from the IA URL (the portion of the URL that comes after the /details/) and get the OCLC number from the WorldCat entry and add them to the information already there:

Step 3: Go to the bottom of the page and click Save and guess what happens?

The record is immediately changed and others will now know of it’s availability as an ebook and link to the record to find it at a library.

Their new site logo says “Ever Wanted to Play Librarian? It’s Okay. We All Do.”  Well, I am a librarian and I naturally want to play librarian for genealogy resources.  Open Library just helped me accomplish that.   You may still be wondering why this means so much to mean, but believe me, this has implications and stirs up many ideas and potential uses.  Expect another blog post pretty soon from me outlining some of them.    This is Librarianship 2.0  and/or Genealogy 2.o at some of it’s finest if you ask me.   :-)

Scribd Joins the Genealogy Bandwagon

Well now!  Here’s  another example of how much penetration genealogy is getting.   As I was uploading a document to, I saw that they have now added a designation under their Research category for genealogy!  That was not there a few weeks ago when I last uploaded a document and needless to say I am quite pleased to see it there.  I was getting tired of having to use History as the category of choice.   Of course it would help if they spelled genealogy correctly, but it’s a start right??  :-)

To explore all documents assigned to the Genealogy category – visit their browsing interface.   The browse page also suggests that this category is new as there are only 2 pages of documents so far; other categories such as History have over 200 pages to browse.  Check it out.  Upload your documents.  Help their Genealogy collection grow!

P.S. — What was I uploading? An index to a 1960s book of gravestone records for the Duplin County, NCGenWeb project.  I’m helping the new county coordinator rebuild the site and thought this would be of help for county researchers.