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I Love Public Libraries

In my last post, I talked about my trip to the Evansville Public Library. This weekend, I visited my public library for my newest project 🙂

I received the first three rolls of microfilm that I ordered for the Roanoke Beacon. This is a newspaper for Washington County, NC where my maternal grandmother and her family/ancestors are from. On Sunday, I went to my public library to start looking at the microfilm and the information I’ve learned so far has been extremely interesting. I am creating an online index to the items in the paper that I think have the most local and genealogical import, so it will be a selective index. I created the database last month and have used another genealogist’s transcription to help finalize the fields. I have entered three issues worth of information and I already can tie certain individuals to the more prominent history makers in Plymouth. I have found news items on black people, marriage notices that were not listed in the county’s official records, and so many other cool things. Fascinating indeed!

A Day In the Library

Over Memorial Day Weekend, I was in Evansville and had a chance to visit the public library there! My husband has a lot of family from that area and I was able to find quite a bit of information about his various family members by using an online database that the library has that provides information/clippings from the local area newspapers from the last 50 years or so. My mission while there was to photocopy obituaries that I had located using this online database.

And, mission was successful! I got a photocopy of the original obituaries and they held a trove of wonderful information! The public library there is only a couple years old and is quite nice. The staff were very helpful and I found my information in no time at all. It was great! And now, since being back home, I’ve identified several more obits that I’ll go back and get next time we go back.

On my family – I have not been doing much these past few weeks. I continue to write off for birth/death certificates. One of the counties I have been writing too has really annoyed me. They told me that they don’t do genealogy work as they don’t have the time and that if I send requests in the future it may take them weeks and weeks to pull the certificates. Now, true I have requested approximately 40 certificates from them over the past four months or so, but I usually send one request for about 5-10 certificates at a time. I provide exact death dates and follow all the instructions on their site, send the appropriate fees and send SASEs. So all they have to do is pull the book and photocopy the page. They don’t have to do any verification of the information I send — so how is that “genealogy” work. Is it not their job to pull certificates and make copies? I’m just really annoyed by that. If they are going to provide a service, they need to provide a service. And, what is most frustrating is that this is the county where I have a LOT of relatives and extended family from, so there are many certificates that I’d like to request. Whereas in the past they’d been sending them back to me within a couple of weeks, my latest request they have held for a month now and that only requested 4 certificates. So frustrating.

I love finding information

Today we had a great discovery! My mother-in-law never knew the name of her paternal grandfather. Her father died when she was about 12 years old and her paternal grandmother never told her who fathered her son. However, today I got my mother-in-law’s father’s birth certificate in the mail and his father was listed on it! Furthermore, I found that his brother named a son after their father so Kalonji’s family tree has just grown by about 15 individuals! (using info from an obituary).

Organizing my Files

Over the past week, I have started to really organize all the papers, notes, etc I’ve been collecting into a workable system. My mother found a copy of Dollarhide’s “Managing A Genealogical Project” so I am using that system and I believe it is going to work out quite nicely for me. So, now, I have several three-ring binders set up by surname and over the next few weeks will start working on writing up family group sheets. Currently, I rely on my website and still will as a primary source, but want to have it on paper as well.

I have posted before about possibly “finding” a distant relative and over the past couple of weeks, we both agree that the preponderance of evidence leans towards us being related! So, I have a new family member – a fifth cousin!

I am from NC so let me give a shameless plug here – the UNC Chapel Hill North Carolina Collection has released a new database – the North Carolina Collection Biographical Index. It allows you to search and get a list of sources where the individual of interest is mentioned.

Great discovery

Over the weekend, I had a great confirmation and discovery! My mother’s paternal grandfather had been quite elusive for us in official records. With the help of a fellow researcher, we did think we found him in the 1900 census living a few doors away from the woman he would eventually marry, my great-grandmother Lucinda. If this was he, then we would finally have his parents names – William & Rebecca. Well, I was waiting to receive his death certificate from the state of NY and it came Saturday. Sure enough, his parents were William & Rebecca! My mother and I are quite thrilled about this! We have now added a new generation.

In other genealogy news, I have picked up a new genealogy book and my mother found two more over the weekend that she is sending to me. I’ll post more on them later. So far, I am learning quite a bit from the reading I have been doing on genealogical research.

My Famous Relative

I finally found him! Growing up, we’d always heard from my maternal grandmother that we were related to Charles Barkley. She would tell me how he would sometimes go to the family reunion too. I’ve never been clear about exactly how we were related until tonight though – but I got it! We share descent from Rufus McNair – my 3G Grandfather and his 2G grandfather. (Charles’ father was named Rufus Barkley). So, that makes me his third cousin once removed. Hey Charles – maybe I’ll see you at a family reunion!

In other genealogy news I have the following updates!

  • While attending my grandmother’s funeral, I was able to take pictures of several of my relatives’ headstones in the cemetery. I hope to go back this fall and take more.
  • With the help of a woman who has been researching her family ancestry for more than twelve years, I may have found my first evidence of an ancestor being sold as a slave. I have been corresponding with her to try and follow her same logic in understanding all the clues, so I expect to post more about that later.
  • My mother and stepfather were visiting family this week (I’m helping him do his family genealogy too) and I received a shipment of pictures today. Including a picture of my mother’s paternal grandmother whom I had no idea what she looked like until today!
  • I am on a quest for the perfect program to create good quality lineage charts! I just purchased RootsMagic and so far I like their charting options a lot. I bought it in combination with GenSmarts to see if that helps me assess different avenues for my research.
  • I am starting the process of really cleaning my online site and standardizing the way I collect data. I’ve been so gung-ho on collecting information that I have just kind of thrown it all up! Well, the librarian in me is starting to bring me to my senses and I must get it all cleaned up.

Happy hunting!

Speaking of….

While I was in Craven County, NC to attend my grandmother’s funeral, I had an opportunity to do gather more information about her side of the family. I have to get it all recorded still! While there I was able to take pictures of my relatives’ headstones at one of the family cemetery. There are around 40+ people buried there and I got at least half of them. I also got a few headstones at the church cemetery (where my grandmother’s services were held and we have a lot of family there), but only about 3 or 4. I have a cousin who will help get the ones I missed.

While there, I also was able to talk to my grandmother’s brother. I only remember him vaguely before now, but he showed me something that absolutely wowed me! I was telling him how I had finally elucidated the accurate name of his grandfather and he said, “Speaking of Samuel Becton Lawhorn…” and pulled out a 16 x 20 picture of his grandfather. So, with this picture, this is now the oldest picture of an ancestor that I have. This man, Samuel Becton Lawhorn was born in 1871 and died in 1916.

Furthermore, at his house, he has a picture of his parents, and while I had pictures of his father, I had no pictures of his mother and didn’t know what she looked like. He explained to me that this picture of them was created as an oil painting based on pictures of the two of them taken independently and at separate times — they were not originally posed together in the picture. Neat isn’t it?

My Grandmother Cora

Last week, I lost another member of my family. My grandmother Cora passed away and her funeral was Sunday. It was a beautiful service. She was 73 years old and had been getting progressively sicker over the past few months after having a stroke. Her funeral service was beautiful and I was so fortunate to be able to see family that I have not seen in years. She grew up in Craven County, NC, so while there I was able to revisit family homes, sites, etc and learn more about my family from relatives. I’ll blog more later, but after being there, I am ever more committed to maintaining/developing relationships with my family and learning more about the family history.

Social Security Administration

Today I got back some information from Social Security. I sent away for my great-grandmother’s SS-5 form. Prior to today, we did not know her parents’ names. We had a suspicion based on census records, but it turned out our suspicion was incorrect. So, we now know their names for certainty! This was very encouraging and I am definitely going to order more SS-5 forms in the future. They are expensive though at $27 a piece, so I’ll have to ration it out.

Over the past few weeks I have continued to receive more death and birth certificates that I wrote away for. Over the past couple of months I have accumulated approximately 100 of them! Each one continues to add new information that I can add to the website. If only all states were as easy as NC though — for example, in AL, you can only request certified copies of them, so the cost is much more than NC’s uncertified copies. Also, Alabama has restrictions on what years can be ordered (no death certificates younger than 25 years and no birth certificates younger than 100 years). That sucks.

Over the next few weeks I plan to start seriously drafting a plan for indexing the newspaper of a county in NC where my maternal grandmother is from. At first, I was all gung-ho and thought I would index the whole paper. But then I realized, it would probably be more beneficial to genealogists if I first did the obituaries, and then went back and did other parts of the paper. My model for this is the online index of Evansville, IN area deaths. I love this site and I found quite a bit of information on my husband’s family by using it.

In Memorium

to my uncle “June” – 1932-2006

My family found out today that we have lost a family member – one of my grandmother’s brothers – Abraham Lincoln McNair, Jr. Uncle June had been out of touch with the family for years. We knew that he was living in the New York area but had not been able to find him. In part inspired by my recent activities in researching the family, my mother began to look for him again in earnest. Well, we found out we were about a month weeks too late. The police department in the area that we had a last known address for him informed us that he died on February 9th.

I have only one memory of Uncle June from when I was about 8 years old or so and we were visiting my grandmother. He was prone to seizures and while we were visiting her, he had a seizure in the living room. My mother was particularly close to Uncle June and has told me many stories about him. We are devastated to think that he died alone in the hospital with no family around, but I understand that is how he lived his life. My grandmother does not know and we probably will not tell her. She has Alzheimer’s and is in a home and this is now her third brother to pass (of four). This is why it is so important to know about family. If we had not continued to search for him, we may have never known what happened.