Category Archives: Genealogy

Between The Leaves: A Google Hangout from

We’ve start a new series on called Between the Leaves.  It’s a genealogy chat show for some of the genealogist who work at Myself, Juliana Szucs Smith, Amy Johnson Crow and Crista Cowan.  The first episode was a lot of fun to film and I can’t wait to do the next one!


2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Places I’ve Been, Places They’ve Been: Tuesday’s Tip

This map from Visited States Map Generator has popped up in my Facebook feed multiple times, so I had to make one.  It’s a map!  Who could resist?

where-i-beenColor codes:

  • Green — I’ve lived there
  • Blue — I’ve spent significant time there
  • Orange — I’ve spent at least a night there, most likely more
  • Red (or is that pink?) I’ve at least driven through and experienced the state
  • White — Never been.  Alaska should be there as well.  And I need to get to the Northeast corner of the country.  How have they not been on my travel schedule?

I thought it might be interesting to build the map from a genealogy point of view.  My ancestors once they arrived in this country, mostly in the 1700’s, were not very migratory. So my map is fairly blank.

ancestorsBut here are the color codes that I used:

  • Blue — My paternal ancestors
  • Green — My maternal ancestors
  • Orange – Both paternal and maternal ancestors
  • Red — Places where a lot of descendants of my ancestors migrated to, not including my director ancestors

From my research my maternal side came came into the country from South Carolina and migrated over time into North Carolina.  My paternal side seems to have come in through Pennsylvania and migrated down into Virginia and North Carolina.   I believe some of them came into Virginia ports as well.  But that is just a suspicion.

I would love to seem maps from people who have families who were wanderers.  Play around on Visited States Map Generator and see what you come up with.

Happy Mapping!

Revolutionary Voices: A Last Muster Film — Sorting Saturday

I believe Revolutionary Voices is going to be great project.  But they need a little bit of help still.

Revolutionary Voices

Go to Revolutionary Voices on Kickstarter and learn more.  And maybe kick in a couple of bucks.  Every little bit helps!

Fun with Rebel Mouse. Tuesday’s Tip.

The Ancestor Hunt has done a fun new thing with twitter hash tags on Rebel Mouse.

Try this one:

Rebel Mouse #genealogy tag
Rebel Mouse #genealogy tag

There is also one for #familyhistory:

It’s a really interesting presentation of twitter #hash tags.

Rockets in Flight! Women’s Rights! It’s Follow Friday!

What I’ve been reading this week:

A couple of new blogs for me:

From the The Legal Genealogist:


From my Ask Ancestry Anne column:

The Gift of Yearbook Pages. Treasure Chest Thursday.

When you write about your family, good things happen.  You find flaws in your logic.  You find those wonderful “ah-ha” moments.  And on occasion, you find a genealogy angel.   Or they find you.

Martha Spencer saw a post I made years ago on an message board and responded.  I missed her original response (!) but she found me again and it turns out she went to high school with my father.  She sent me some of his yearbook pages as well as some newspaper clippings that pertained to my biggest brickwall, my g-g-g-grandfather Charlton Wallace.

This past week she sent me the relevant pages from my grandfather’s yearbook!  Gilbert McClung Gillespie graduated from Lexington High School in 1934.  My father attended Lexington High School until 1956 when he was a sophomore.

Gilbert McClung Gillespie from the 1934 Crystal, the yearbook of Lexington High School.  Senior Picture.
Gilbert McClung Gillespie from the 1934 Crystal, the yearbook of Lexington High School. Senior Picture.

His ambition is “To beat Thompson out of his job.” Thompson was Kenneth Thompson, whom according to Martha was a “cranky” math teacher who was still teaching when she and my father attended Lexington High.

Faculty at Lexington High School 1934, Lexington, Virginia
Faculty at Lexington High School 1934, Lexington, Virginia

One has to believe that there is more to the story than that, but I don’t think the yearbook reveals any more.  Also, I know that my grandfather was chosen as the Most Dependable.  At least he wasn’t in the No Brains, but… category!

Hall of Fame 1934 in the Lexington High School Crystal
Hall of Fame 1934 in the Lexington High School Crystal

My dad’s mentions in his yearbooks are not that different.  His nickname was also Gilly.  I knew he was called that in High School, never knew my grandfather was.  My dad, was selected as the male with the Prettiest Eyes.  My dad and his brother and two sisters all had the same beautiful blue eyes.   I’m glad to know he wasn’t chosen as Most Gullible.

Gil Gillespie in Lexington Crystal
Gil Gillespie in Lexington Crystal

And here are both Martha Spencer and my father who served on the Honor Court in 1954.  Both are in the back row.

Honor Court, Lexington High School 1954, Martha Spencer and Gil Gillespie, in the back row
Honor Court, Lexington High School 1954, Martha Spencer and Gil Gillespie, in the back row

These photos and the rest that were sent to me, mean so very much.  If you keep your family private and hidden away, you may miss out on some amazing stuff.

And to Martha, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Every time I look at these I get a little misty. :-)

What Dog Shows Can Teach Us About Searching For Our Ancestors. Wisdom Wednesday.

Dog shows?  I know you are thinking that I’ve lost it.  Or maybe I’m looking for an excuse to post a picture of my dog. (Guilty!)

But I was watching the Westminster Dog Show a week or so back and it hit me.  The way a dog show is judged is pretty smart and efficient.  And it’s not a bad methodology for what we are trying to do when we hunt for records when we search.

Stay with me.

Let me introduce you to Coco.  This picture was taken when she was about 3 months old.  She is a beautiful little chocolate lab.

Coco, a 3 month old chocolate lab
Coco, a 3 month old chocolate lab

OK, now here is Frankie.  (He’s not mine.)  He’s a Leonberger puppy, about 4 months old.

Frankie, 4 month old leonburger and Augusta and adult in the background.
Frankie, 4 month old Leonberger and Augusta an adult in the background.

Raise your hand if you had a brief moment where you wanted a puppy.

Frankie and Coco are similar.  They are both crazy puppies.  And they both are going to grow up to be big dogs, although the Leonberger is twice as big as a Lab.  One has a fluffy coat, one has a double coat.  They have similarities and differences.

But what does this have to do with genealogy?

On to the Dog Show!

So the purpose of a Dog Show is to find the best dog.   But they don’t take the hundreds, thousands of dogs and throw them all into the ring and walk around and pick one, do they?  They do not.

First, they start with each individual breed, and find the best of breed.  So they throw all the Labs into the ring with a judge who knows Labs.  And this judge in his infinite wisdom says, this is the best Lab.  And he picks the winner based on the characteristics a perfect Lab should have.

Same thing in genealogy.  Let’s your ancestor, John Labrador, lived from 1837 to 1911 and that he served in the Civil War.  You know he should be in the US 1850 through 1910 censuses. And various Civil War records. And Vital Records.  Now you can do a big old massive search and hope you pull everything out of it that you need.  What could possibly go wrong with that?

But you are the expert on John Labrador.  Doesn’t it make more sense to methodically go through the known record types.  And because you are the expert, you can pick out the best record in each record type.  So you’ve got the best “Lab” for each record type, whether it be census, military pension, local history or whatever.  And because you’ve gone through each record type one at a time, you know you’ve looked at everything.

Now what question are we trying to answer?

Back to the dog show.  The next round pulls dogs of similar breeds together. Our Lab would be in the Sporting Group.  And the judge for this group, knows she has the best of each breed, so she can start comparing the dogs to each other and pick the one she thinks is the best.  She answers the question which dog is the best sporting dog.

Once you have all of your records together, you can then start to ask and answer questions.  When was John born?  Who were his parents? You know, the questions we always ask.  You look at your records, and you select the documents and other records that are going to help you find the answer.  You find more records if you need to.  But you aren’t looking for the best 1880 census.  You have it.  Now you can focus on finding the answer.

And the winner is….

Now all the best of groups gather.  And the judge puts them through their paces.  He pokes and prods and watches.  And then he picks!  He has the answer!  The best dog.

And that is where you are in your research.  You’ve found the best documents and records.  You’ve selected the ones that help you answer a question.  And then you start to pull them all together and you have the answer.

So what did we learn?

I really like dogs. :-)  Also, it’s probably not a good idea to do everything at once.  Find a record, find the right record.  Ask a question and select the right records for that question.  Then you can spend your time on careful analysis and find the right answer.  One step at a time.

Is it just me, or does anyone want to go watch Best in Show right now?