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RIP Jassmine McNair

On November 26, 2010, my 5th cousin, Jassmine McNair (b. 1990), was killed in an automobile accident.    I have never met her, but soon after learning the news from a family member,  I could not help but feel sadness and loss.  We share 3rd great-grandparents – Rufus McNair & Mariah Wimberly of Plymouth, Washington County, North Carolina.

Jassmine and daughter Kamerin

Jassmine will be missed sorely by her family and friends and my thoughts are with the family in this challenging time.   It is a tragedy that you were taken so young in life, but your memory will not be forgotten.  RIP with our ancestors.

McClellan Connections

Researching my husband’s potential McClellan slaveholding family has been an ongoing research process for me.   This week,  I have an exciting potential lead for our wish to do DNA comparisons.

On Wednesday I was contacted by a white McClellan descendant – turns out that she is a 2nd great-granddaughter of General William Blount McClellan (see previous posts here).   We exchanged several emails, on which she engaged her sisters as well, and I’ve added more on her branch to the overall family tree I’ve been working on.  What was particularly exciting is that she has male cousins that may be willing to take a DNA test for us!  I’ve been looking for male descendants of the general to compare DNA against Kalonji’s male McClellan DNA to check for matches.  I’m so glad that she found us and I do hope this works out in the end.

Then, prompted by this exchange, I decided to do some additional searching for the white Champ McClellan (grandson of the General) that I had some information about.  Given that Kalonji’s great-grandfather was also named Champ McClellan, I’ve been particularly interested in knowing more about the white Champ.   I found a new Ancestry Member Tree that included him, as well as information about his descendants, so I contacted them to learn more.  As another measure of checking, it would be great if we could get a DNA sample from a male descendant down this line too.

In summary – here’s the family lineage trail

a) General William Blount McClellan — father to Walter Groce McClellan — father to Malcolm Allen McClellan — the lady who emailed me is Malcolm’s granddaughter.

b) General William Blount McClellan — father to Augustus Roby McClellan – father to Champness McClellan — father to Harry Augustus McClellan — father to Mildred McClellan Colonna — the person I emailed is descended from Mildred.  I hope they can help me find a male to test.

So — that would be down the lineage of two of the Generals’ sons.

I remain hopeful that this works out.  Whether we can support the hypothesis that someone in the General’s family was the father of Kalonji’s great-grandfahter or not, I still would love to know!

Keep your fingers crossed for us! It will probably not happen for a few more months but I remain hopeful.

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving for tomorrow to those in the United States!  For Wordless Wednesday this week, I’ll share a photo of Bristol (Sullivan County), TN.

Bristol is has a sister city just across the state line, in Virginia.  For Thanksgiving one year in college, I went home with my friend SJE who has family roots there.  We visited her grandmother, who had lots of land around the house.  After lunch,  SJE and I went for a walk and came across big cows.  They were just resting and on the ground, but still intimidated me! I’m a city girl – had never been so close to a cow in my life.  So, to avoid walking past them, we decided to climb over the fence to head back to the house.  I was worried about the fence supporting my weight and SJE said to me, “Taneya – those fences are designed to keep those animals in.  I’m pretty sure they will support your weight!”  That was all I needed to hear.  Back to the house we headed.

I’m prompted to do this post because via Ancestry Recent Member Connect Activity, I made a connection with a 2nd cousin of SJE’s who’d been working on the family tree.  This then prompted several email exchanges between SJE’s family members talking about their ancestors along with a few pictures thrown in from yours truly.  I love spreading genealogical love!

Catching Up

Seems I have been remiss in posting here on my genealogy blog.   In the past month we have moved so I am busy with that, plus I took a little time away from genealogy to get some cross-stitching time in.

As for genealogy specifically, I did have another distant cousin find me on Facebook! I have also been making refinements and additions for a couple of projects I have for the NCGenWeb site.

Let me also mention something that I am particularly proud of – in the December 2010 issue, Family Tree Magazine includes NCGenWeb as one of their “75 Best State Websites.” I was particularly pleased to see a special mention made about our Digital Bookshelf section.   I developed this section as a way to broadly categorize digitized books by county and really hoped it would be useful to others.   I was glad to see it mentioned!

I’ll try to get back in the swing of things soon.   Meanwhile, I do continue to read other blogs which helps me stay motivated.

African Americans in Civil War Medicine

Today, while visiting the website of the National Library of Medicine for work purposes, I noticed an announcement of a new online exhibit titled, “Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries: African Americans in Civil War Medicine.”

The online exhibit focuses on the specific contributions of African-Americans as nurses, surgeons and hospital workers.   There are 5 main sections to the site, each presented by a banner in physical form:

  • In Uniform
  • Catalyst for Change
  • Nursing the Wounded
  • Working for Freedom
  • Within these Walls

Banner display at the National Library of Medicine

The online exhibit includes brief biographies of several individuals and includes numerous pictures.  It’s not an in-depth treatment of the topic, but gives a solid overview.  In addition, there are Lesson Plans for K-12 educators and the exhibit will be travelling around the country.  The online exhibit can be found here.

Disclosure:  In my professional career, I’ve been funded by the National Library of Medicine twice for training fellowships.

Newly Funded Projects by the IMLS

On Monday, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced their funding to the tune of more than $17 million for their National Leadership Grants.   The funded projects represent a great diversity, but some are particularly relevant to those of us interested in genealogy & historical research.   Some of the projects funded include:

  • Denver Public Library – “Creating Your Community: Empowering Individuals and Safeguarding Communal Heritage Through Digital Community Archiving” — The Denver Public Library will collaborate with multiple partners including the Colorado Historical Society, Historic Denver, Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society and Beck Archives, Aurora History Museum, Four Mile Historic Park, Lakewood Heritage Center, Colorado Genealogy Society, Auraria Library and Center for Colorado & the West, Douglas County Libraries, and the Inscribe/Zion Baptist Church. This pilot project will create an online community archive and preservation education project for the public. Together, these efforts will provide both training and technical infrastructure to assist local communities in digitally preserving and sharing important personal artifacts. The developed digital archive will include Web-based upload capabilities, a social networking environment for community members to exchange information, and services to help ensure that community memory is preserved.
  • Center for Research Libraries — “ICON Global Newspaper Directory to enhance collection assessment” — The Center for Research Libraries will partner with the American Antiquarian Society to jointly assemble a comprehensive directory of newspapers published globally from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century. This directory will integrate information on newspapers published in the United States and abroad, supplemented with valuable details on where titles are held in print, microfilm, and digital format. The database will contain more than 200,000 bibliographic entries searchable through a single unified directory. The objective of this activity is to provide libraries and researchers with an authoritative tool that may be used for resource discovery, collection development and analysis, content verification and comparison, and preservation assessment.
  • Pennsylvania Heritage Society — “Pennsylvania Civil War Road Show: New Audiences Through Collaboration” — The Pennsylvania Heritage Society and its partners the State Library of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will produce innovative programming through a Pennsylvania Civil War Road Show. This project will use the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War as a catalyst to engage new and underserved public audiences, and to involve local communities in dialogue that links the historical context for issues of race, equality, and freedom with these issues today. A mobile traveling exhibition experience, the Road Show will reach its audiences throughout the state with a combination of exhibitions, dynamic community programming, a collaborative and interactive Web site, and a complementary project of collecting digital artifacts and brief oral history recordings from attendees. The project will also reap long-term benefits from new collaborative relationships, increased visibility, new and expanded audiences, and enhanced Web site and digital connections.
  • Clemson University – “The Open Parks Grid: the Gateway to Parks Information” — Clemson University will partner with Purdue University, the National Parks Service-Southeast Region, South Carolina State Parks, Georgia State Parks, and North Carolina State Parks to build an online research repository of park-related publications, including the National Parks Service directors’ papers, housed at Clemson University’s Special Collections and to be digitized as part of the project. The repository will be built using multiple open-source components, and will feature a collaborative workspace for park professionals, enthusiasts, and scholars. This repository and the shared workspace will virtually unite the highly distributed parks community of practitioners, academics, policy makers, and citizens with the highly distributed parks-related information created and collected by government agencies, research labs, universities, libraries, and other organizations.
  • Rhodes College — “Memphis Coalition for Cultural Heritage” — Rhodes College, the Memphis Public Library, the National Civil Rights Museum, and other community partners in Memphis will create the Memphis Coalition for Cultural Heritage (MCCH) and the Memphis Preservation Corps. MCCH will constitute an organizational framework that will address the need to build capacity for preservation and access to significant primary resources about the history of our community. While building capacity for cultural heritage organizations, the project will also engage communities in preserving and telling the stories of their neighborhoods, as part of a dialogue to address past and present social inequities and their impact on Memphis and the Mid-South. The project will also serve as a national model for cultural heritage organizations to work together to involve community members directly in preservation, access, and education activities.
  • George Mason University — “Omeka Commons: Preserving and Sharing Our Dispersed Digital Commonwealth” — Building on the success of its open source Omeka Web publishing software, the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University will pilot test a new Omeka Commons. This centralized repository service will be designed to meet the needs of smaller cultural heritage and scholarship organizations that often have difficulty creating, delivering, and sustaining online digital collections. In this two-year pilot, the Commons will offer hosting and content backup services for a small test group of organizations, as well as a framework for online users to discover, use, and link to hosted digital collections and objects. CHNM will work with legal and technical advisors to evaluate metadata and licensing schema for the repository, and will produce a white paper with recommendations to guide future work.

More information about the grants can be found in the official IMLS press release.    These are all interesting projects – how great for our collective history. 🙂

Kaleya In the Cemetery

Over the holiday weekend,  I made DH take me to two local cemeteries so I could take a few pictures for Find-A-Grave.  We didn’t stay long – about an hour combined, but during that time I got many pictures for uploading.  Perhaps my favorite part of the whole experience was how involved Kaleya (who will soon be 6) got in the process!  She and/or Jihad have been to the cemetery with me before, but this was the first time she declared that she was going to take pictures too.   It was by chance because I asked her to hold my phone while I got my digital camera ready and off she went with the phone while I used the camera!

She had a ball.  From getting in close to take good pictures….

to brushing leaves off the headstones so that the names could be “read” (or in her case since she’s still learning to read.. “seen”)

she was such a great helper and enjoyed it.

Now, of course she still has a thing or two to learn about taking pictures 🙂  Comments heard in the cemetery,

“Mommy — my shadow got in that one!”

or – “Ha, ha! my fingers were in the way!”

But, she did quite often get pictures that were excellent.

She’s definitely going back with me next time I go 🙂  I was truly amazed.

Where to Share?

During the past few years I’ve begun several indexing projects – newspapers, yearbooks, etc.  As I do the indexing, I sometimes become interested in researching the names I come across.  Naturally, I want to share this information as broadly as possible.   Yet, I feel limited in my options to do so.

So, here is a theoretical question.  If you had a yearbook photo of a graduate that you wanted to get into the hands of potential family or researchers that may be interested, how would you do it?   Pretend you had 100 photos that you wanted to do this with.  What would be your strategy for sharing if you had to limit yourself to a few minutes to do it?  Where would you feel you got the most “bang for your buck?”

In my next post, I’ll discuss my view of the advantages/disadvantages of various options but I’m eager to hear from you.

FGS & Genealogy Publishing 2.0

Though I’m unable to attend the FGS Annual Conference in nearby Knoxville, I plan to follow along as much as I can via blog posts, Twitter feeds & Facebook status updates.  However, I started thinking about what I’d hoped to have gained from attending FGS and much of it centers on what I perceive as an overall need for genealogy societies to better leverage technology and increase their engagement in online media (e.g. social media & social networking).   I have a lot of thoughts about this but in this post I’ll address the traditional publishing models I see in many genealogy societies and why some changes would be more likely to engage me as a member.

Many genealogy societies produce a journal and/or newsletter in print format. In order to be more accessible, some offer the journal/newsletter online as an electronic download, usually in the form of a PDF document.  I’ve seen one society, the Durham-Orange Genealogical Society, who put their newsletter in an online HTML format and provide the quarterly publication via PDF online using Scribd.  This is a great set-up and the members of the D-OGS have a great person in Ginger to figure out some of the technical underpinnings.  However, I’d love to see the entire genealogical society network incorporate similar practices in a more systematic and robust manner and take this even further.

For example, in the medical academic publishing community most journals are published electronically.  Journal websites frequently provide the following:

  • RSS feeds for newly published articles
  • the ability to “comment” at the article level
  • ability to “share” via social networking sites
  • free abstracts with full access restricted to subscribers
  • HTML & PDF versions of articles
  • free access to articles older than a specified time period (e.g. 12, 18, or 24 months)
  • articles organized by subject categories with those specific categories available as RSS feeds for easy browsing and/or searching

Furthermore, individual journals are often part of a larger collaborative/network of journals (e.g. Highwire at Stanford University) and at the aggregate level users have the ability to search across journals, across subjects/disciplines and across article type.  Membership/subscription management is facilitated at the level of the individual journal.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to have an online publishing network for genealogy societies that provided similar functionality for their publications?

Below is a screenshot of PLOSGenetics – if you visit the site at to get a sense of the interactivity & dynamic presentation of their articles and other journals part of the PLOS network.

PLOS Genetics – visit their website to see their interactive and dynamic handling of journal articles.

Imagine being able to log onto one central site where I could access the full-text of the publications of the genealogy societies that I subscribe to, search for articles by state, county, subject categories (e.g. cemetery research, African-American research), browsing the articles of societies that I’m not a member of, but possibly pay for per-article basis, have access to older issues for free, and being able to comment upon and “tweet” about the articles with the online genealogy community.  The integration of Facebook via their Open Graph protocol could help me learn what my friends and fellow geneabloggers are also finding of value. I could download PDF files of specific issues if I’m a subscribing member for local storage.  To me, this seems a much more valuable membership perk than receiving a print version or static PDF file throughout the year.   Electronic publishing is cheaper and funds could be directed to other projects in the society.The Federation of Genealogical Societies, an organization that aims to serve the needs of, provide services & products for, and marshal the resources of it’s gen society members would be an ideal organization to bring about such a portal.  A partnership with ACPL Genealogy Center may add more benefits given their work with the PERSI database for indexing genealogy & local history literature.  I believe that overall, genealogical literature can become more accessible, discoverable and shareable via this model.
Late last night, I went ahead and created a small prototype site at to flesh out my thoughts a little further using the latest issue of the journal of the North Carolina Genealogical Society.   This prototype site is far from where I could see this going, but is at least a beginning.  Had I been able to attend I’d loved to have discussed this with FGS Board members and gen society officers.  There are so many interesting-looking presentations that I’d loved to have attended. Perhaps someone will be talking about this kind of potential? Any takers for making this happen? 🙂

Wiki Thoughts

Today while reading a blog post on the FamilySearch blog, a phrase they used with regard to their Research Wiki caught my eye — the blog post mentions that anyone using the wiki “need look no further” than their Research Wiki.  The Research Wiki, while a great resource, is far from needing to be the last place to look.

But, after reading the post, I did take another look at the site; for I do use it from time to time.   Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about use of Wikis in genealogy and how I’d love to see a site as comprehensive for genealogy as Wikipedia is for general use.  I think the Research Wiki has this kind of potential.

What I Like

  • interface – clean layout,  easy to navigate, easy to browse or search. given the importance of locality searching in genealogy, having an option to browse by country as they do on the front page is important.  also, on any subpage, there is a clear option in the top right corner to either browse by country or browse by topic. very handy indeed.  of course, the search box is always present.  Breadcrumbs are used throughout most of the site so you know where you are.  The icon at the top of the page needs to change though — it should go to the front page of the wiki, not the main FamilySearch page.  Branding the site as one of FamilySearch’s can be done differently.
  • editing – uses a “what you see is what you get” editor — much like using a word processing program.  This feature encourages broad participation since most users will be familiar with how to do edits if they’ve ever used a word processing program..
  • LDS records – the wiki is especially helpful in that they link to available LDS records and we know there is a lot of those! who else to do that better?
  • formatting – each county page, as an example, has a standard format; makes it easy to orient yourself when you move from county to county.  Topic pages are not standardized, but this would be harder to do given their variety.
  • social — each page has links to send a page to your Facebook or Twitter profile.  None of the other genealogy wikis have this feature.
  • registration – is easy. one-step process. see something you want to edit? register and you can start editing immediately.  and of course, anyone can edit.

The competition?

  • Ancestry Wiki – the newest broad-topic genealogy wiki. I like it’s interface too.  Registration capitalizes upon your account so there is no need to learn a new password.   I like the overall interface of Ancestry Wiki, but without the use of breadcrumbs it is easy to get lost in the site; there is no constant navigation feature to keep you oriented.  Editing also is not truly WYSIWYG — you have to use Wiki syntax which means a steeper learning curve and is a barrier to participation that could be eliminated.  And, the logo on the site does not link back to the homepage – instead it takes you to  At this point, I don’t see it as viable yet for being “the Wikipedia” of genealogy.
  • Encyclopedia of Genealogy – this was started by Dick Eastman and is the oldest genealogy wiki of which I’m aware.   Eastman was forward-thinking to create the wiki and offer it as a way to capture the collective’s genealogy knowledge, but the site so far has less content than the Research Wiki and is not as comprehensive.   This is understandable though so I can’t complain too loudly 🙂
  • National Archives Wiki – this is new as well, just announced a few weeks ago.  I applaud NARA’s efforts to incorporate more web 2.0 technologies and will keep my eye on this one.  The scope of the site is too narrow to be “the Wikipedia” of genealogy, but could grow to be a great resource.  I don’t find this wiki very easily navigated.   The link to browse by Record Group blends too easily on the right sidebar and should be made more prominent since most researchers will be familiar with the Record Group structure for NARA records.  The front page of the wiki also tries to squeeze in too much content in the space.   Their page editing is WYSIWG and that’s a positive! However, the registration process is cumbersome – it is not a one-step process like the Research Wiki and/or Wikipedia.  When I “create an account” b/c I’m ready to edit something,  I need to be able to edit right away – if I have to wait and come back I may not come back.

Overall, I’m excited by the potential the FamilySearch Research Wiki offers.  Given the long-standing history of LDS and their efforts to promote genealogy research, including their massive indexing project,  the Research Wiki has potential to become a great resource indeed.  The site has come a long way, but still needs work, so I’m going to do my small part this weekend and edit more pages so I can get an even more comprehensive understanding of its strengths and weaknesses.