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Best Mother’s Day Present Ever – A Family Reunion Trip!

My husband is giving me the BEST Mother’s Day present ever this year — he is sending me to Plymouth, NC so I can attend a family reunion that I’ve been wanting to attend for many years now.

Plymouth, located in Washington County, NC – is the hometown of my late maternal grandmother, Alice McNair Robinson. Her McNair family is pretty large, and this year marks their 44th Annual Reunion. In my genealogy journey these past 9 years, I’ve very much felt my interest in family history came in large part from Alice as she ALWAYS connected with her family wherever she went. I’ve been fortunate to connect with so many of my McNair relatives over the years that I am very much looking forward to meeting more in person.

My sister has a 1990 McNair Family Reunion t-shirt; maybe now I’ll get my own. :-)

I now have to start actively planning where I want to visit while I am in town. I want to make sure I see areas around town where my grandmother would have experienced, and also visit a couple neighboring towns. The reunion is held over Memorial Day Weekend and I should have at least one extra day to visit around.  I also want to make solid plans for capturing as much family history as I can from everyone attending.

Let the planning begin!!


Incorporating Genealogy in College Coursework

These past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to engage in a rather interesting experiment. The hubby teaches at a local HBCU and in his course, Introduction to Africana Studies, we had the students do a family tree assignment.  It was so interesting!

Specifically, it was the first time I’ve ever put together an “official” instruction on completing your family tree and getting started in genealogy research.  My goals for the classes were to keep it simple though. My outline was as follows:

  • Each student registered for a FamilySearch account (perfect platform b/c it’s free!)
  • I asked them to complete a basic 4-generation pedigree on paper first
  • then, document their family in FamilySearch Family Tree & submit a screenshot of the portrait view of their tree
  • and an important component of the process was for them to interview family members

One slide from my PPT presentation; shows where to go to build your tree on FamilySearch

Overall, many of the students reported the assignment was a rewarding experience. I can’t tell you how heartwarming it was to read their reports about the exercise and how it helped them appreciate their families more.  Many students reported how excited their parents, grandparents, etc. were that they were asking. It made me smile on the inside each time. :-)

Of course, there were students who had more difficult experiences, such as not being close enough on one side of their family to be privy to any information and that was heartbreaking at times. But, all in all, even they did what the could and chose to focus on the part of their tree where they could do more.

Now that we are at the end of this exercise, there are more families now documented in Family Tree now ready for others to find and build upon. And, most importantly, perhaps one of them will truly be inspired to continue what they started.  Just trying to do my part!

Getting Organized in FamilySearch Family Tree

Almost exactly one year ago, I posted about my initial excitement around being able to use FamilySearch’s Family Tree site. Here we are a year later and I am still very much a champion for the site and the model of collaborative genealogy that they are promoting. I’ve just finally gotten around to watching Ron Tanner’s 2014 RootsTech presentation about Family Tree and as usual I found it helpful and informative.  The past year has brought many changes to Family Tree and there are several upcoming features that I’m looking forward to seeing implemented.  James Tanner has a great recap on his site.  

I’m so happy with it that I’ve decided Family Tree will be a prominent part of my genealogical research preservation plan as I think about how my work and efforts will be available and shareable for others in the future.  I will actively use it to archive family photos, documents and other information. Whether it be my own family, or family of others even.  Earlier this week, my genea-colleague, George Geder, posted that he plans to use Family Tree himself moving forward to document his family history research. Kudos to him!  I do have my own website I use for documenting my family, and all the other trees I work on and I still plan to use it. However, now that Family Tree is available and it fulfills a desire I’ve had for so long for truly collaborative genealogy, I feel I must also leverage this platform.

So, this weekend, I decided to spend some time actively adding more info to my FamilySearch Family Tree profiles and make sure I had at least my direct line up to my 8 great-grandparents duly covered.  I made sure to “watch” all of their records so that I would receive notifications of any changes and I added pictures for everyone. 

My FamilySearch Family Tree Portrait Chart

Additionally, using my primary online genealogy tool, TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, I created a “source” record for Family Tree and will add it to every person for whom I have a corresponding profile. This will make it easier to track who’ve I’ve added and not added.  These are important first steps if I’m going to truly leverage Family Tree!

My Source list for Family Tree

And now that I have this done, I have a model in place as I help others add their information. For example, over the next few weeks, I am aiding Kalonji with his Intro to Africana Studies class he teaches for a local university and we’ve incorporated a family history assignment.  As I put the assignment together, I am planning to have the students register for the FamilySearch website and build a basic family tree as they work towards writing a biographical profile of one of their great-grandparents.  That’s well over 60 students to begin to engage in learning more about their past. I’m terribly excited and will post more about that experience at a later time.  

My next step is to get all of my 2nd-great grandparents similarly documented.

Have you done your chart in Family Tree yet? I’d love to hear about your experiences!


Come Listen to Me on AAGSAR You Got Roots?

African-American Genealogy + Technology — a formula after my own heart! Over the past several months, fellow geneablogger Luckie Daniels, has been engaged in helping others really push forward with their slave-based genealogical research through the group African-American Genealogy and Slave Ancestor Research.  One very important aspect of the groups efforts are to fully engage technology in the process — thus, participants are either blogging already, or become bloggers as a way to communicate their processes and document their family stories.  You may know by now that I am very much into using technology and I just LOVE the groups’ goals!

One more recent initiatives of the group is the creation of a new BlogTalkRadio show. Called “You Got Roots?” the radio show will help inspire and move forward the conversations around this very important work. I am so pleased to share that this Sunday, March 16th, at 6pm EST, yours truly will be a guest on the show, along with Cornell University Historian Edward E. Baptist.

Won’t you listen in and check us out? More details at



New Photo of 3rd Great-Grandmother’s Sister

I just love making connections! Earlier this week, I received an email from another newly-found cousin.  Her great-grandmother, Mary Donald Allen (1858-1916) was a sister to my 3rd great-grandmother, Violetta Donald Kilpatrick (1860-1933).  My cousin Rose and I have had a chance to speak and learn more about each others families and I am so thrilled to start learning more about her branch of my family. As we exchanged information, Rose shared with me a picture her family has and I am so thrilled! This is understood to be a photo of Mary Donald Allen  – my ancestor’s sister!

There is no inscription on the back to document it is Mary, but Mary’s daughter Florence has always told the family it was a picture of her own mother. How beautiful!

Mary and Violetta’s parents – Stephen Donald and Susan Bryant Donald, are suspected to have Native-American heritage. So far, I’ve not fully-researched this potential, but it certainly is an area that could be further investigated. I am just tickled to have a copy of this picture! My own ancestor, Violetta, also had long hair like Mary and Mary’s family. So, to see this picture is just mind-blowing. 

How did Rose find me? Internet searching. Again, another testament to the importance of sharing your family trees online and for researching collateral families. 

Thank you so much Rose for this outstanding picture. 

I’m Featured in Jet Magazine!

Jet Magazine has such a long and established history in African-American culture. I’ve been reading it since I was young.  So, imagine how tickled I was when invited to be interviewed by Deanna Martin -Osuagwu for a piece she wrote about African-American genelaogy bloggers.  After answering a few questions for her, she crafted mine, and the others’, responses together into an interesting article about each of us and our motivations for blogging and sharing our family history. How cool!

Thus, I’m pleased to share a link to my synopsis in the online article. Click on the image below.

I am among some great company too! I already knew of Melvin Collier and Tim Pinnick. I have been following their work in the genealogy community for awhile now. The other person featured is Adrienne Abiodun – a children’s book author and family historian. I’ve not been familiar with her work, but I will definitely be following her now!

Thanks again Deanna! Your article has made my day. :-)


Cousin Connection: Lennon Family

Earlier this month I had another cousin connection that I’ve not been able to blog about until now. Gotta love the internet!

My cousin, CM, found me and contacted me through this blog. One of his great-grandfathers is named Grant Lennon. Grant was from Columbus County, North Carolina and a son of Council Lennon. One of my 2nd great-grandmothers was named Etta (short for Annette?) Lennon and she too was a daughter of a Council Lennon. I’ve not been able to “prove” it conclusively but I do believe Grant and Etta to be siblings, thus making CM a 3rd cousin to my mother. 

I will be speaking to CM more later today, but he has sent me an awesome picture – a picture of Grant with Grant’s second wife, Allie. 

Grant & Allie Lennon

This is great news and I’m looking forward to further exploring our shared connections. 



My Ancestry Painting – African Percentages Updated

Last month, 23andMe announced improvements to their Ancestry features, and I can now get a more specific breakdown of my Sub-Saharan African ancestry than I was previously able.

With this update, I can see that 83.4% of my DNA is mapping to West African ancestry, with another .7% Central African and 1.4% coming up as non-specific Sub-Saharan African.  Thus, my total Sub-Saharan African ancestry is 85.6%.  This is a tad bit higher than the 84% shown in my update from February 2013. My European percentage is 12% (mostly Northern European) and my East-Asian/Native American is at 1%.

Nothing remarkable about the new map, but I do certainly appreciate the finer granularity in my Sub-Saharan African DNA.  23andMe has also begun a project to try and have more participants who are from Africa so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that their data will help them refine this even more!

My Chromosome Map is also updated and the same breakdown colors are shown. The refined breakdown may also be of potential help in cousin matches.

I’m glad to see 23andMe continue to work on providing us with more information.  The more, the better. :-)

A Whiteboard Animation for the TNGenWeb Project

I’m a huge fan of the work that is done by the CommonCraft team – Lee and Sachi.  For several years now, they’ve blessed the internetz with fabulous explanation videos. As their tagline says – their product is “explanation.”  Their whiteboard animation process really sparked a movement and we now see these types of videos popping up all over the place.

For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to learn how to do videos like they do, and I’ve finally had a chance to learn as yesterday I started reading their book, The Art of Explanation. In the book, they describe their approach, provide concrete examples of how they develop their videos, and I found it all quite interesting.  So, I decided to give it a try. :-)

Using VideoScribe, I was able to put together my first attempt at an explainer video today – this one is for the Who’s Who in TN website I created for the TNGenWeb Project.  The site has had fabulous coverage in the genealogy community and I continue to try and think of ways to further express how it can help a family researcher.  I may be biased, but I think the video helps get the point across. :-)

There are a couple of minor things in the video I wish I could have figured out how to correct, but, overall, I’m pleased with how it’s turned out and I have decided to let it be.

Take a look and let me know what you think. I just may have to upgrade to the Pro version of VideoScribe so I can refine the video and create more of them.  How fun!  Wouldn’t it be great to see more of these types of videos used to promote genealogy resources! Make it even more interesting for all?

Photo credit:

Place Pinning My Genealogy Books

Genealogy is all about location right? Well, what better way to map out the coverage of my genealogy book collection than to try and use Pinterest’s new Place Pins feature announced earlier this week. While, I could of course, use Google Maps to do this, Pinterest has a strong visual component that I believe makes it more appealing than creating a custom Google Map.

The Place Pins feature allows you to assign a specific geographic location to any of your Pinterest pins. For my 1st test case, I knew right away what I would use for my experiment. You see, I have a fascination with the books published by Arcadia Publishing – especially their Images of America and Black America Series. The books in the series emphasize pictures to help tell the stories of many locales around the country.  In the past few months I’ve decided to start collecting them and have been planning to make a more concerted effort to keep better track of the ones I have.  Since the books are location-specific, a map makes perfect sense.

This afternoon I created a new board and began pinning my books. Here is my new map! Click on the picture to visit the live version. 

As my collection continues to grow, I will keep adding pins. And, I also have plans for additional boards that could make good use of map, including a series of blog posts I’ll be doing focused on places I’ve lived throughout my childhood.

Let me tell you what I like about the new feature:

  • I appreciate that the map automatically includes the full geographic region covered by my pins.
  • The pinning process is easy — though it did take me a couple of tries to realize that I’m supposed to enter the pin description before I actually upload the pin
  • as you rollover a number on the map, the corresponding pin is highlighted; and vice-versa

What could be improved?

  • when more than one pin is in the same city, the overall map you doesn’t show multiple numbers if zoomed out to far, only one number
  • it would be nice if the map zoom function would work by mouse scroll (like Google Maps)
  • The feature leverages FourSquare maps, so locations have to be in the FourSquare database; that could potentially be limiting. Perhaps there could be some integration of Google Maps

I’m going to have fun with this. Thanks to the Pinterest team for adding the ability to do this!  Interested in other ways genealogists are using the new feature? Here are just a few other examples I’ve seen in the geneasphere so far:

I would enjoy seeing other’s pin maps, so if you have one, let me know!