Posted in Genealogy

Slides and Template from San Diego Genealogy Day!

photo by J Paul Hawthorne
photo by J Paul Hawthorne

I had a great time with the San Diego Genealogy Society and San Diego Historical Society!

You can find the slides from my lectures How Do I Know I Am Right and Finding and Researching Women on my Slides and Presentations Page. (Note: I updated the How Do I Know I’m Right so it works!)

Also, I will be in Annadale, Virginia doing an all day presentation for the Fairfax Genealogy Society on October 29th.

Register today at Fairfax Genealogical Society 13th Annual Fair for:

  • Finding Forgotten Stories
  • Researching Your Southern Ancestors Online
  • Cousin Bait: Make Social Media Work For You
  • Putting Food on the Table & A Roof Over Their Heads



Posted in Genealogy, Methodology

Jumpstarting Your Genealogy Brain

Amy Johnson Crow wrote about Breaking Out of Your Genealogy Comfort Zone. Seemed like a good idea. I’ve felt a little bit uninspired in my genealogy research lately.  I needed a new approach.  Amy broke out of her comfort zone by taking a non genealogy class and improving her social media skills.

yale-courseSo this idea has been rolling around in my head: Where do I need to improve my skill set? As I wrote up my proposal for a Civil War class for NGS 2017, it occurred to me, that I focus on researching Civil War and the records, but what about the war itself?  The years leading up to it, the years after it?  And how did it change the lives of my ancestors? Context is everything.

I turned to The Google and found this gem: Hist 119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877  It’s a free college course taught by Yale Professor David W Blight.

Yes, please.🙂

Even if I never watched a single session, the required texts alone are worth it!  No discussion of records or the GPS, but lots of discussion about the mindset of the people on both sides.

And understanding our ancestors in the context of their time and place will make us better genealogists.

And I’ve gained some new inspiration to tackle old problems with some new ideas.  How do you break out of your comfort zone and learn new things?


Posted in Cluster Research, Genealogy

Well, Hello There. Talking To The Dead

bbchurch-googleOn my latest research trip I stopped by Buffalo Baptist Church Cemetery in Blacksburg, South Carolina.  Now I had seen the graves on Find A Grave. And I had looked on Google to see the cemetery.

I could see it was broken into two sets of graves.  But it is always so different when you pull up to a cemetery.  Each one has its own feeling, its own character.

Next to the road in the first graveyard, I found the older graves.  They were starting to turn black and many were unreadable.  The ones that caught my eye were the bright white ones.  They marked the Confederate graves and I believe they all came from the veterans administration.  It was mowed and kept up, but the graves had a forgotten by time feel to them.

The very first grave I saw that caught my eye was Lansford M Hopper.

I actually said out loud, “Well, hello there.”  Do any of you talk to your people when you find them?

Lansford was my 3rd great grandfather who survived the Civil War, but was murdered by his nephew when they were working on a road in 1870.


Looking at his grave marker, I realized he had been in the 18th SC Vol Infantry.  I have him down as being in the 28th North Carolina Infantry.  There is some work to do there.

sc-bb-hopper-lansford-m-1826-1870Most of the white stones that marked Confederate Graves stood in front of the original ones.  My 2nd great grandmother, Delila Parthenia Hopper was born in October of 1861.  Her father died when she was nine.  I can just imagine the family standing in front of the grave.  Susan, Lansford’s wife, was left alone with 7 children.  She was pregnant with number 8. She had raised them throughout the war without him and now she was his widow.

I continued walking through this section of the cemetery.  Maybe 200 stones at most.  And all the Confederates for the most part served in the 17th or 18th SC Infantry.  I haven’t really researched that bunch yet. But this group lived together, fought together, and eventually died in the same place.

I’ve proposed a new class for NGS 2017 in Raleigh, North Carolina titled: Researching the Civil War in the Southern Community.  A small community like this is a perfect example of what I am talking about.  Hopefully it gets accepted!

Posted in Genealogy, Organizational Tools

Tech Tip: TurboScan for copying important documents

document-turbo-scanA couple weekends ago I was traipsing through court houses collecting deeds and other documents for my ancestors.  And yes, it was as much fun as you imagine!

But how do you easily make copies?  And cut down on the expense?  Some court houses charge 0.50 cents a copy!  And that can add up quickly.  Also, the books that you find deeds and other documents in can be very difficult to photocopy.  Sometimes you have to take them apart which is very time consuming; sometimes you have to balance a heavy book on a photocopier.

Not all courthouses will allow you to take pictures of documents.  And you should always ask and follow the rules.  ALWAYS!

But if they do allow it, I recommend an app I use on my iPhone called TurboScan.  It’s available on both Apple ($4) and Android ($5). (And I have no connection to the company at all.)

gha2It takes 3 copies of the image and chooses the best one.  You can then crop it on your phone or use the full image.  You can also choose between black & white, color or photo.  I usually go with photo because I want the detail of how the document looked.  On this map, you would hate to lose the detail that the color provides.

Once I’ve scanned all the pages in the document, I can then save it or my preferences is to email to myself.  I label the document with the book and page numbers so I can source it correctly later, and then when I get home, I can go through my email and start processing the documents.

I think I probably made twice as many copies as I would have if I had gone with the photocopier method.  And save a lot of money.  I must have copied around 250 pages.  At 0.50 cents a page that is $125.  Money better spent elsewhere!

It’s an affordable app and I suspect you’ll be happy with the results.  And thanks to my friend Kathleen for introducing me to it.

Posted in Conferences, Genealogy

Female Ancestors, Chancery Records and Deeds

Last weekend, I was in Wytheville, Virginia doing a little research and giving a couple of Lectures.

On Friday, I was lucky enough to spend time at the Wythe County Genealogical and Historical Association Regional Research Center:


This is their new home.  Wonderful building, with lots and lots of great material.  I spent time digging through notes and researching, including this map which has land owned by a John Snavely that I found in Joseph Cameron’s notes.  Not sure which John Snavely this is, but given that the land was sold to Joe Hounshell in 1833 and I have a John Snavely in my records who lived from 1760-1833, I suspect that it is him.  No known relationship, but it is likely it is related to my Snavelys some how.


Then I hopped over to the Wythe County Courthouse, where my cousin Bev Repass Hoch took me down to the basement and I was able to look through original chancery records, wills and deeds. Heaven! These particular deeds were from the early 1800s.   Didn’t find my ancestors in there, but such a joy to look through these records.


The next day, I was lucky enough to present two lectures.  I’ve included links to the PDFs for the slides below.

Posted in Genealogy

Where Were Your People From?

J Paul Hawthorne started this fun little exercise for all of us genealogists.  Map where your ancestors were born in a tree.  (Template here)

You can understand why my research focuses in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina:


To change it up a bit, I broke it down into counties as well:


It’s a fun little exercise!


Posted in Genealogy, Methodology

A Cautionary Tale: Reading Is Fundamental

This is a cautionary tale about reading what is there and not making assumptions.  Fortunately, in this case, I didn’t lose years of research or spend time randomly driving around York County, South Carolina.  Here is my confession:

My Martin’s are buried in Martin Cemetery in Cherokee County, South Carolina.


I like to pinpoint the cemeteries on a map.  When I start to map their property it gives me a starting place on where to look, especially with family cemeteries.  I found this list of York County Cemeteries on Rootsweb:

rootsweb york county

Now, you the observant reader, probably notice that Find A Grave said Cherokee not York.  But the probates are in York and I got it in my head that it was York.  And I looked and looked in various maps of York and couldn’t find Highways 97 & 80.  I found 97, but no cemetery.

But somewhere around here, I suspect is the cemetery:


I started pulling land records and found this tidbit:

state line

State line?  It’s on the state line? But if it is on the state line, it isn’t south of Smyrna.

Could I be wrong? Oh yes.  I turned to The Google and found this little tidbit: Martin’s Cemetery


Which had all sorts of my people recorded as being there:


And it was on the NC/SC line.  I did some more searching on Find A Grave and found the Little Bethel Methodist Martin Cemetery in Cleveland County, North Carolina.  The directions led me to Rippy Rd, about 0.3 miles from the southern end.

actual cemetery

This is right in the area where a lot of others in my tree lived.  It is all starting to make sense now.  So much more sense.

So the cemetery isn’t in York.  And it isn’t in Cherokee.  It appears not to be in South Carolina.  It’s in Cleveland County, North Carolina. Now I know a lot of my ancestors lived on county and state lines.  But this appears to be across the state line!

So, first, I hang my head in shame.  No rushing!  Second, read what is there, not what you think is there.  Third, verify what you find.  One source is simply not enough.

And finally, I will be in the area in early April.  I am going to find this one.  More to come……


Posted in Conferences, Genealogy

I’ll Be Speaking In Virginia on April 2nd!


Will you be in the southern Virginia area the weekend of April 2nd? The Family History Institute of Southwest Virginia will be held Saturday, April 2nd, 2016.

I’ll be presenting two sessions: Researching Women in the South and Proving Kinship with Land and Chancery Records.

You can register for the Family History Institute of Southwest Virginia on the Wythe County Genealogical and Historical Association site for $59.    I was there 2 years ago and it was a whole lot of fun!  Hope to see you there.

Posted in Genealogy

Can’t Make It To A Genealogy Conference? Attend RootsTech At Home

Thousands of genealogists will descend on Salt Lake City Feb 3rd-6th for RootsTech 2016.  It’s an interesting blend of technology and genealogy that covers the beginner to the advanced genealogist.

But what if you can’t make it?  You’ll miss the fun of being around so many like minded people and the wide array of classes that will give you new insights and ideas for your research.  But don’t despair if you can’t make it.  The powers that be at RootsTech 2016 have decided to livestream some classes on Thursday, Friday and Saturday so that you can get a taste of what is going on.

And I am delighted to have been chosen to present my class Become a Master Searcher on Ancestry on Saturday as a livestream class.

So clear your schedule.  Circle some classes that sound interesting.  Remember the times are Mountain time , so plan accordingly. Get ready to learn and be inspired!


Posted in Genealogy, search tips

A Google Search Technique To Add To Your Bag of Tricks

You probably know google is powerful search engine and you probably know that the rootsweb message boards are chock full of useful information about your ancestors and the locations they lived.

Did you know that you can combine them easily?

In the google search bar type site:<url of the site> like this:

google rootsweb01


Then add in your search query.  Let’s say I am looking for Adam Snavely in Wythe, Virginia. I can try something like

google rootsweb02


Notice that I put double quotes around adam snavely.  That tells google that if adam and snavely don’t appear right next to each other don’t show me the result.  But you’ve probably seen more than a few posts that use surname, first name so you might want to try

google rootsweb03

You’ll notice that I have 30 results instead of 14.

You can try this with any site that is indexed by google, which is a pretty lengthy list.  Give it a try — you never know what you might find with a new search technique!