Why I Love My Genealogy Software

Randy has posted about his desire to have the ability to generate date-specific lists in genealogy software. So far, he’d been unsuccessful in locating a software program that gave him the ability to generate a list of people who had events on a certain day. For example, generate a list of people in his database that all had birthdays on July 10th. After writing the post, he received a number of replies and learned of a few applications that can do what he desired.

But, then it occurred to me that the program I use seems to be an “underdog” among genealogists. I however, LOVE it and it is my preferred choice so far – I use a program called The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding that is developed by Darrin Lythgoe. My own family tree site using TNG is at http://www.taneya-kalonji.com/family/.

It was this program that got me really started in working on my genealogy as I was on a mission – I wanted to use a genealogy program that I could administrate SOLELY over the internet. TNG allows me to use the internet to manage my genealogy data. I do not need nor do I use a desktop application as my software, instead, I rely solely on TNG. This was important to me two years ago when I started and it remains important to me today. I do not like to be desktop dependent when I can help it. Believe me, I’m still looking for the perfect online hard-drive application so I no longer have to save all my files to my computer. One day… but, I digress.

So, being a database driven site, I can do just about anything. Fortunately, many things are built-in to the interface. When they are not enough however, I can create a custom report or even a custom database SQL query to get the info I need.

Need a list of people all born on July 9th (my birthday :-0) – I simply click on my “Dates & Anniversaries” tab, select the date I want, the tree I want to search, and hit “Enter”. Up comes not only those who were born on my birthday, but also who married, died and was buried on my birthday. That’s cool. I do wish though there was a way to sync this with Google Calendar. I’ve seen some solutions for that, but I’m not a programmer – need someone to make that process easier!

Here is my July 9th list.

TNG has so many other neat features and perhaps I’ll start a little blog series about it – help raise awareness! I think the largest barrier to using it is that it does have to be hosted online, but TNG makes recommendations on who to use if you don’t have your own domain as I already did. And, once it’s online, you really don’t need to know much more because the administration side is a set of well-done form-based web pages for entering data.

The TNG website has a lot of detail about the features that it offers at http://www.lythgoes.net/genealogy/software.php and there is also a link of some of the sites that use the application at http://www.lythgoes.net/genealogy/usersites.php. There are so many things I still have left to learn about this program, but Darrin makes updates often, so I’m sure I don’t have long to wait before things on my wish list show up in the program!

Even with all the upcoming online family tree programs, I still have yet to see anything that matches the flexibility and power of TNG. Go check out some of those User Sites. Prepared to be blown away!

A Brick Wall Shattered!

In my last post, I expressed overjoyed delight at having learned that Ancestry had a new database of original death certificates from North Carolina that covers 1909-1975; a huge deal for me because I guesstimate that at least 70% of my personal family tree research is NC based.  True to form for me, I spent hours last night playing around in the database and found all kinds of information – not only for my own tree, but some others I’m working on as well.

As I was getting ready to retire for the evening, I remembered that I also needed to do search that has proven elusive for me. However, I was too tired to pursue it, so put it off for today. Good thing! My excitement at what I found would have probably kept me from going to sleep!

In February last year, I posted about my experience in trying to determine who the parents are of my great-grandfather, Barfield Koonce.  I had a chain of information that led me to believe a Caroline Koonce was his mother.  So, since that time, I’ve had her as his mother in my gedcom, but I’ve never felt 100% certain I had it right.  Well, tonight I know that it is right and it is because of the new database of death certificates.

To recap what I knew about Barfield:

  • In census records, I never find him with parents. Only with grandparents James & Isariah Koonce (sp?) in 1880 when he was a teenager.
  • In search of more about Barfield, I spoke to my great-aunt, one of his daughters about him.  She did not know who his parents were, but knew that he had a brother named Richard. I also spoke to the wife of one of Barfield’s sons as far as names and details go, she was able to tell me that Barfield had a sister named Agnes. Who were this Richard & Agnes? They were not with Barfield in the 1900 census and by 1910 Barfield had started his own family.
  • I was then able to locate a death certificate for a Richard Koonce that was about the right age to be a brother to Barfield and I knew from hand-searching the census was the only black Richard Koonce in the two counties most likely (Craven & Lenoir counties). His death certificate said his mother’s name was Caroline Koonce and his father’s name was Mike Davis.
  • Because I knew from the 1880 census that James Koonce, Barfield’s grandfather, had a daughter named Caroline, I connected the dots and “placed” Barfield as her son in my gedcom. This would have to do for now until I had more information.

Every now and then, I’d try looking for Barfield’s sister Agnes, but did not get any results.  As I look back over things now, with more preserverance (like looking at the households of EVERY black Caroline or Agnes in the counties) I may have found it, but I just had not gotten around to doing that. With the death certificates,  I got excited b/c it turns out that searching the database also searches maiden names and parent names and includes them by default in your search results. So, if i were to type in Caroline Koonce, I would get her record and then the records of any death certificates she was named on. Sweet.

What I did today:

  1. I began by searching the death certificates for “carol* koonce” and no other limits.  I got 8 results. A couple of them were white Koonce’s that I know of as I’ve been tracking the white Koonce families as well.  The last result was for a black man named Solomon West (1906-1960).  I decided to take a look.
  2. Solomon’s death certificate lists his mother as Caroline Koonce and father as George West. The excitement begins..
  3. Since Solomon was born in 1906, I look for him in 1910.  I find him with parents George C. & Caroline West along with three siblings — an older sister named AGNES, an older sister named Luvenia and a younger sister named Jannie. The excitement continues — here is an Agnes who had a mother named Caroline Koonce, same as I’d suspected for Barfield!  Also, from census mortality schedules, I knew that James Koonce had a daughter named Jane that died at 8 years of age. So, it would make sense for Caroline to name a daughter after her deceased sister.
  4. I tracked George & Caroline through the 1920 and 1930 census and see that by 1930 George is a widow; Caroline was there in 1920, so she died between 1920 and 1930.
  5. Now that I was looking for a Caroline West, I decided to check my staple NC death database first – the database that Ancestry has based on an index of death records only.  Found a Caroline West that died in 1928, but according to the index, she was born in 1890.  This does not match what I knew of Solomon’s mother from the census records, which place her closer to the birth year of when James’ daughter Caroline was born.  It is worth noting that Craven County, NC, where Caroline West died, has their index of births, deaths & marriages online going back to the early 1900s, but Caroline West was not present in that index.
  6. Back to the death certificates database I go. Two seconds later, I found her – Caroline West died August 12, 1928.  Her husband is listed as George West. Her age is listed as 38. But, this obviously is not right given census records so I can discount the age. Parents of Caroline are – JAMES & ISARIAH KOONCE! The same couple where Barfield in enumerated as grandson in 1900.

I tell you, I could hardly be any happier than to finally know that I’ve documented Barfield’s mother.  Think this meets the genealogy proof standard?

I’m still not sure about his father – whether or not Mike Davis (Richard’s father) is his or not. This opens all kind of new research avenues for me now — Caroline had several other children so there are many more people to research.  If I’m lucky enough, maybe I’ll find someone who remembers more.

Thank you Ancestry for this database! Now, you need to get to work on Tennessee’s :-)

Am I Allowed to Curse?

Holy [EXPLETIVE DELTED]! :-)

Why am I four days late to seeing that Ancestry has added this database – NC Death Certificates 1909-1975! Original death certificates! The Ancestry blog says this is an update, so I wonder how long it’s been there?? Apparently long enough for Joe to have it added on his page. Oh, where have I been?

Oh my. We are taking Kaleya to go see Kung Fu Panda tonight, but guess who will be up half the night playing around with this one? A majority of my family research is in NC.

Ancestry Profiles

Last week Ancestry made changes to their member profiles pages – see announcement on their blog.  I’ve taken a few minutes to update my profile and after doing so, I think this is a good move. The comments on that blog post are filled with a lot of negative comments, but I’m pleased by what I see. Do I think it’s ideal? No. But I like!

The profile now has

  • the ability to add you surnames of interest and the counties they are linked to. Though, it seems you can only have one county per surname and I’d appreciate being able to attach multiple counties to one surname
  • links to all of your posts on the Ancestry message boards
  • can add you picture! Though, the picture box is way to big
  • shows the images and docs you’ve recently added
  • shows all of your public family trees and how many people, photos, and sources are attached to them
  • links to your favorite message boards
  • profile shows date of last login – i like that – lets me know if someone is active or not
  • you can also state how you can help others (looking up items at local repositories, take pictures at cemeteries, offer research assistance, etc.)

Here’s a screenshot of my profile page.

Ancestry states that by beefing up the profiles they will be better able to offer connection suggestions – to do so, you have to go to their Main Community Page once you are logged in.  I did so and based on the names and locations I put in, it showed me how many Ancestry members lived in that area, how many Ancestry members were also researching my surnames, and even of those, how many were researching that surname in the area that I am also researching. Very cool.

I did notice a discrepancy though in the connections.  The location field is not restricted to the county, state, country format I’m used to seeing. You can enter either a city or you can enter either a county.  Therefore, this can create issues when matching connections. A few of the surnames I entered are for Washington County, NC, but the connections page shows me people living in Washington City, North Carolina which is in a different county.  Methinks they should standardize this field better.

I wonder if Ancestry will continue to add to the profiles – like having “friends” and being able to send out messages to all either in your city, or all your friends, etc; in short – become more like Facebook.  You can find my profile here.

I have also explored FamilyLink in the past and while I was initially excited, everytime I go there I get frustrated because I don’t quite fill it lives up to my expectations. Hmm.. I’ll keep exploring though.  For now, you can find my Ancestry profile here.  I also have my Footnote profile here about which I’ve blogged about before.

Genealogy Social Networking – i love it!

Wordless Wednesday June 4, 2008 Follow-Up

This picture is one my mother recently sent me of her uncle Fred and Curtis – both brothers of my grandmother. This was taken in the 1940s-early 50s most likely. The reason I posted this picture is because of the tanks in the background. My mother was always telling me how close their building in Cooper Park Projects in Brooklyn, New York was to these tanks and this picture really shows that. Here is another picture that shows it too – my mother’s brother Calvin behind their building.

These tanks were a very vital part of my mother’s childhood landscape. She told me that the first time she ever experienced the feeling of nostalgia was when these tanks were destroyed. They were demolished in July 2001. They were the largest gas holders in the world at 400ft high and an ever-present part of the landscape for decades. They were apparently visible from all 5 boroughs.

Here is an article from the New York Times about them.

Ancestry Boards RSS Feeds

For the past several months, I’d noticed that all the boards on Ancestry.com offered RSS feeds, but I have just recently started using them. It is way cool!

So far, I have subscribed to about 10 feeds for various counties and surnames and I am finding it to be a very convenient way to keep track of new posts. I much prefer to get them through my blog reader rather than having to visit each board. Honestly, RSS feeds are like the blessing of my internet life!

I think I’m the only one using them though :-) – well, at least for the boards I subscribe too. According to Bloglines & Google Reader, there is only 1 subscriber! I really do hope others take advantage of these feeds as it is a cool feature. Now, if only GenForum would do this…

In other news, this weekend I had a chance to do some cemetery walking. I went to one of the black cemeteries here in town to search for a particular grave site. Doing so was quite an experience. As I have been working on my Black Nashville Blog, I have been learning about the history of blacks in Nashville. So, as I was walking through the cemetery it was like a who’s who of Nashville! I’ll post more about it later, but it was quite a fulfilling experience for me at a very personal level.

Then, I also came up with a blogging schedule for myself too. With so many blogs, I want to make sure they get regular attention from me, so I started a schedule. As I begin to implement that schedule, I will share that here as well.

Wordless Wednesday – May 28th, 2008 Follow-up

Back in early April, the topic of the Carnival of Genealogy was http://creativegene.blogspot.com/2008/04/carnival-of-genealogy-45th-edition.html”>Cars as the Stars of Our Family History. At the time it was going, I was not able to get a post together in order to participate, but I did find the topic interesting and it prompted me to ask my parents about their first car. It was a very entertaining process!

So, this is a picture of what my father’s first car looked like – he had a Volvo 164 that was from the 1960s. The color was as shown in the picture and my mother informs me that her friend and my father used to argue about it – he used to say that it was silver and she used to say that it was funeral grey. :-)

My father got the car from his father and had it when he lived in NY. My father tells me that people were interested in the car because it was foreign and they never could remember what kind of car it was as there were not many foreign cars. The car was decked out too – had a cassette player (which at the time, 8 tracks were most common), had air conditioning, leather seats. With a 6 cylinder engine, it was very good on gas too – also, apparently not so common at the time when everyone had big cars. Then came the gas crisis in the 70s and people started downsizing. Sound familiar?

My father would eventually sell this car to his cousin who took it back to North Carolina. Before talking to my father about it, you know what I knew about this car? That he used it as a pick-up line on my mother when they met. He told her, “I have a car.” She said – “So what. In NYC you don’t need a car.” Well, the pick-up line worked anyway. :-)

Mommy’s First Car


My mother would get her first car after my parents moved us all to North Carolina. Hers was a blue Pontiac Lemans. Not sure what year, but perhaps it looked something like the above. She remembers that she paid less than $100 for it and when she was looking, her co-workers at Ciba-Geigy where she worked would joke with her about what to look for in the car – like a steering wheel, tires, etc.! The car had been in an accident so the front bumper was turned to the side. After keeping the car for a few weeks, they sold it and bought another big car that they called “Big Blue Marble.”

Moses Wright (1889 – 1966)

In my last post about my uncle’s wedding, towards the end I mentioned that his wife’s uncle, Moses Wright was part of a very tragic event. That event was the abduction of Emmett Till.

Emmett Till, which if you are not aware of the history you can read the details on Wikipedia, was taken from the home of Moses and his family. Moses was Emmett’s great-uncle and from what I have been able to tell so far in my research, most likely the nephew of Moses’ wife. I will need to go back to my family to clarify exactly how.

I first learned of this a couple of years ago as I began to get more into the family genealogy. My great-uncle’s daughter shared this with me. A few months ago, Kalonji & I watched the documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Till, which was an extremely heartwrenching story to watch. The strength that Emmett’s mother had to persevere through such a hardship is amazing to me.

Moses died in 1966, just four years after giving my great-aunt away at the wedding. This picture was one I took of a picture she had of him when I was in Chicago last weekend. A couple of Moses’ sons were at my great-uncle’s funeral last weekend – including those that had been in the room with Emmett when Bryant & Milam came to take him away. Moses faced a tough situation as a black man testifying against two white men in deep south Mississippi in 1955 and for it he had to leave Mississippi for Chicago. I cannot imagine what life must have been like for the whole family during this horrific ordeal. My familial connection with Moses, with Emmett, certainly makes history a living, breathing entity.