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 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 Genealogy, Methodology

Family Tree or Family Graph

Two weeks ago I presented 5 classes in the Swing through the South class of SLIG 2016. And I never attend a year of SLIG without new thoughts to mull and ponder!

Prepping 5 classes was challenging and enlightening.  And I kept noticing things that I either hadn’t noticed before or that I hadn’t actually formed into coherent thoughts.  Take the concept of family trees.  We all build them.  They show generation after generation of our ancestors and the parents of each ancestor.

And that is one of the primary goals of genealogy.  Kinship.  But kinship is not just parents.  Especially in southern families.  Here is the most basic family tree for Mary Jane Emma Snavely who lived a very short 11 years on this earth:

family graph01

And we can take both of her parents back a few generations:

family graph02

And because I suspect you are fairly observant, you noticed that Mary Jane Aker’s grandfather is her husband’s great grandfather.  Ah, those family ties. The tree actually can be better represented as:

family graph03


But the connectivity doesn’t end there.  Mary Jane’s father was Philip Aker, and Barbara was his second wife.  Guess who his first wife was?

family graph04



Philip Aker first married Christina Snavely and when died he married her sister Barbara.  And I’m leaving out all the other Aker children.  And more than a few of the Snavely family.  But another of John and Elizabeth Musser Snavely’s children was George Snavely.  And he and his brother Adam shared another connection.

family graph05

Adam and George who were the only two sons of John and Elizabeth Snavely, married sisters, daughters of Nicholas Wassum and Elizabeth DeLong.

To understand the short eleven year life of Mary Jane Emma Snavely don’t we need to examine all these people?  They  appear to be pretty interconnected when  we “graph” them out.  And no doubt the graph gets bigger and more complicated with everyone we continue to add.

Go search your trees.  See if you can find the interconnected families.  How do we represent these graphs that show these relationships in a way that will give us better understanding of who our ancestors were?

Starting with the classic family tree is a must.  You can’t understand the generations if you don’t have it.  But there are a lot of connections we don’t represent, or at least we don’t represent well.  How do we visually  do this so it adds to our understanding and help drive us to those delightful “ah-ha” moments?


Posted in Methodology, Research Plan

Tuesday’s Tip — Two New Links You Must Check Out

We all know that family histories, local histories, indexes of vital and the sort are awesome for finding nuggets of gold.  Check out FamilySearch’s Family History Books beta site:

Second link, courtesy of Mark Lowe: Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, which can be found in google books:

Notice the dates? These were the references that law clerks and the like used as reference in the 1800’s in the south.  Want to know about what a drove-road is and what it means? The information is there.

Remember, don’t look if you just have two minutes! Trust me!

Posted in Methodology, Sorting Saturday

Sorting Saturday — Making Sense out of the Mess or Sources Matter

I am trying to pull my grandfather and his ancestor’s lives into order and tell their story.  I find I have a mess of records.  One big old honking mess.  So I’m getting organized.  And not just thinking about it.  Or starting and stopping. (Yes,  I’ve done that multiple times.)  I’m doing it.

Prune the Tree. I use Family Tree Maker (yes, I’m a employee, but I was using long before I joined the company.)  I went to Export and selected my grandfather, his descendants.

I selected his ancestors and included all parents and all ancestor’s descendants for 1 generation.

Do I really need all of his 5th cousins 4 times removed husbands?  I think not.

This is a copy, nothing is lost if I need to go back.

Sources.  OK, it is time to clean up my sources.  And is where I am now.  I’m cleaning up duplicates.  And removing all those horrid sources that you collect over the years.  I opened my electronic of Evidence Explained (you must get yourself one!) and went to work.  I’m about 30% of the way done I’d guess.  Oh, and managed to delete about 50 1880 sources.  I will recover I’m sure.

My 1850 sources are looking awesome!

One document per family.  I’ve also have one document per family, and attach every one to that.  Boy does the cut down on the chaos.  AND when I make a mistake in  sourcing (gasp!) I only have to correct it and re-correct it once.

Images for Indexes.  You know when you merge in a Social Security Death Index, but you have no image.  Well I make one.  I have Snagit (I love it, but there are other reasonable solutions.)  So let’s say I add my Great Aunt Eva’s SSDI.  I go to the page, clip out the important stuff:

So if I’m working on someone and I don’t have access to the internet, I have everything I need.

I’m sort of excited to have a clean tree.  Sourced correctly.  And then the story telling will go much faster.  I’ve often found it takes me as long to source a blog post as it does write it.  This should really help.

I learned a lot when I took the Genealogy course at Boston University.  I took the class and I got an A.  Now I have to walk the walk. And one thing I believe with all my genealogy heart is that sources matter.  No more sloppy sourcing for me.  And I won’t have to feel guilty when I sit in Thomas Jones or Elissa Scalise Powell‘s classes at FGS!

Happy Sourcing!