28 June 2011

A Disappointing Day with BillionGraves.com

     Last week BillionGraves.com announced the availability of their app for Android phones. My mom had just gotten a Samsung Galaxy Epic G4, so I quickly downloaded the app (my phone is an un-supported generic smart phone). We planned to go out to my paternal grandparents graves today and try out the app - but we shouldn't have bothered.

     According to the email sent out by BillionGraves, the new Android app "has all the essentials." Their blog post boasted the same, as well as a list of phones the app would work on (mom's was included).

     Before going out to this cemetery, I checked the website to see if it was listed. It wasn't, but that's ok, because, according to the FAQs, I could add the cemetery from the app once I was there. Sounds great!

     Except it wasn't. We arrived at the cemetery with my mom's phone, ready to take some photos. I started by attempting to add the cemetery, but couldn't find the function. My mom and I spent at least 20 minutes trying to make the app work. I logged onto BillionGraves.com via my own phone, double checking the instructions for adding cemeteries. Well, there aren't actually any instructions, just a statement saying that it's possible to do so. At the same time, the FAQ also states that an Adroid app isn't available. Obviously, these haven't been updated in a while.

     I sent a tweet out about my problems and relatively quickly received this one in reply:
@ValerieC84 The functionality to add a new cemetery from an #Android device will be in the next update of the app. #genealogy
@ValerieC84 The Android can't add cemeteries yet, but you can take pics, then tell us where the cemetery is and we'll move them in manually.
     Um, what?! There had been no mention of this limitation in any of their online FAQs or announcements. Honestly at this point I was extremely angry.  I'd wasted a lot of time, as well as my mom's, trying to do something that it wasn't possible to do. Instead, they are recommending that I upload photos to the wrong cemetery, which they will adjust. How does that make sense?

     BillionGraves needs to immediately update their FAQs and possibly write a blog post announcing these restrictions. They should have included a notice in their app about the limitation as well. I'm just glad I only wasted an hour of my day and didn't decide to test out this new app on a road trip.

     UPDATE, 6/30/11 5PM: See a response from BillionGraves.com in the comments. They have now updated their FAQ to specify that cemeteries cannot be created via the Android app.

26 June 2011

DNA in Your Eyes

     One of the neat features available at gedmatch.com, a site to compare genealogical DNA tests between multiple companies, is an eye color prediction tool. This feature is designed to work with 23andMe's V3 test results. (If you haven't uploaded your ftDNA or 23andMe autosomal data to gedmatch.com, do so today). If you have your results uploaded, all you have to do is put in your kit number and gedmatch will generate an image of your eye, based on your DNA.

Here's their projection of my eye color:

Here's a photo of my eye:

     Pretty accurate, huh? They have more "amber" in the prediction than I actually have, but otherwise it's very close. The predictions aren't always so spot on though: my mom has fully brown eyes, but her predictions came up partly blue/grey as well as brown.

24 June 2011

National Archives at Atlanta

I've posted a few times about my recent visits to the Georgia State Archives, which I have now been to about five times. Right next door is the National Archives South East branch, which I have yet to visit. With the upcoming hours reduction at the GA Archive however, I'd already planned to switch my visits to the Nat'l Archive. Fittingly, the National Archives posted this video about the SE branch on their YouTube channel:

19 June 2011

I Can't Understand You!

     I was listening to a morning radio show on the way in to work today, in which the host was complaining that no one could get her name right. Her name was Jennifer, but she introduced herself as "Jen." However, everyone "here in the south" thought her name was "Jan" - and she couldn't understand why.  I wanted to call in and say, "They think you're saying Jan because it sounds like you're saying Jan." She was complaining about southern accents, but for me, it was her accent that was getting in the way. Discussing this conversation with co-workers (from New York), they thought I was saying "Gin" when I said "Jen" and I heard "Jan" when they said "Jen." No one could understand what anyone else was saying!

Hart County     This is a modern day example of issues concerning accents that genealogists must always keep in mind. Many times examples are found in the form of immigrants speaking foreign languages. However, I've run across instances of this in my research a few times, in which I can see where a southern accent has been miss-understood.

     For example: a (very) distant relative from Marietta, GA who moved up north. I found a record that listed his birthplace as Mayretta, GA.  Locally, Marietta (officially pronounced Mary-etta) might be pronounced as May-retta by someone with a strong southern or "country" accent.

     My paternal grandmother had such an accent. She pronounced the name 'Mary' as 'May-re' (long 'a'). I'm sure that some of the listing in census records for 'Mayre' are actually 'Mary'. Her own name was Sarah, which is often pronounced 'Say-ra' in the south. I've found a few of those in records as well. It's my sister's name too and she likes to say she knows when she's out in the country by how they pronounce her name.

     By the way, if you want to pronounce Valerie in a southern style, you can say 'Val-re' or even 'Vow-re.'

18 June 2011

Ceramics Lessons

     My Grandmother was an artist, working in many mediums (read/listen to my mom talk about it in detail here). What I remember the most is her skill in painting ceramics. Below are a few examples of her work:


     I remember going with her to a ceramics show once. She often entered her pieces into contests, taking home blue ribbons, as seen below. I'm not sure if it's this event that I remember or another one.

grandmama's awards

     I remember being very impressed by the competition and everyone's art. I wanted to be able to do that! After the show, Grandmama let us pick a few pieces from her vast collection of un-painted pieces. Here's what I ended up creating:


     Hey, I was kid. I'm not sure how old... somewhere around seven or eight I think. These pieces are now two very cherished possessions that allow me to feel a deeper connection with my grandmother. I might not have continued to paint, but I can look back fondly on these memories.

15 June 2011

Find Great-Grandfather's Burial Place

     My brother-in-law, Ryan, went to visit his grandparents in Pennsylvania this past weekend. His mother had previously supplied me with a compilation of their family history, which I had built upon with my research. I sent Ryan some questions to ask his grandparents who, my sister told me, loved to talk about the family. What I got back was a collection of short notes on the Heinlein and Thomas families of Allegheny County, PA. Mainly they confirmed what I already knew or had discovered.

Ryan and Grandpa Bernie Thomas
     There was one mystery that the family was curious about however: an ancestor's burial place. The details of this mystery were relayed to me third hand and got a little muddled. Then when I finally figured out what it was, I was a little surprised. The family wants to know where my brother-in-law's Great-Grandfather, Matthew B Thomas, is buried. What's strange about that? Well Matthew Thomas died in 1986, while his son Bernard (the grandfather in this story; still alive today) was living across the street.

     I couldn't understand how the burial place was not already known. However, it seems that the family was dealing with issues of religion, inheritance and general eccentricity. The family split, not speaking to each other. Also, the family knows where Matthew's wife, Christine, is buried, and Matthew's not there. On top of that, Matthew Thomas was cremated. As my sister pointed out, "he might not have been buried at all, but might in an urn on someone's mantle."

     So, how am I going to find out where Matthew is buried? This one should be pretty easy (if he was actually buried). I sent a request through Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness for an obituary lookup and am requesting a death certificate, which is only $9 in PA.  Hopefully we'll have answers soon.

12 June 2011

Survey: What Brings You To My Blog?

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10 June 2011

Georgia Archives Hours Changing

GA Archive     I went to the Georgia Archive today and made it in a record time of 45 minutes (yay!). I didn't find out anything amazing about my ancestors but did make one big discovery: The Georgia Archive's hours are changing - again.

     According to a sign in the lobby, staring July 1, 2011, the Georgia Archive will be open Friday and Saturday from 8:30am - 5pm. They will be closed Monday through Thursday. There is no mention of these changes on their website - with less than a month to go!

     That's right, the state's archive will only be open two days a week. How does Georgia compare to research hours at state archives throughout the South? Let's compare:

  • Alabama: Tue-Fri, 8:00-4:30; 2nd Saturdays
  • Florida: Mon-Fri, 9:00-4:30
  • Tennessee: Mon-Fri, 8:00-6:00
  • South Carolina: Tue-Sat, 8:30-5:00
  • North Carolina: Tue-Fri, 8:00-5:30; Sat 9:00-5:00
  • Mississippi: Mon, 9:00-5:00; Tue-Fri 8:00-5:00; Sat 8:00-1:00
  • Virginia: Mon-Sat 9:00-5:00

     So there's no other state in the South East that has cut back so dramatically (back in Oct '10 they were open Tues-Sat). What is Georgia doing? 

08 June 2011

Using Ancestry.com: Library Edition

     Being short on funds, I'm currently without a subscription to Ancestry.com. I've been making use of my other subscriptions to Footnote.com and Genealogy Bank, as well as free sites such as Internet Archive and Family Search and non-internet sources. However, there are just some records that I can only easily access online at Ancestry.com. Luckily, I don't need to pay for Ancestry.com to use it; my local library system has an account. Here's a recap of my library adventure.

     1. I had Wednesday off from work, so I got up early to go to the Library (hey, 9am is early when you work til midnight). But then I checked the Gwinnett County Public Library website and realized they open at 1pm on Wednesdays... Oops!

     2. I got to the Lawrenceville Branch at 1:40pm and the parking lot was packed. Oops again. I forgot that school was out for the summer. If I'd remembered that I'd have gone to another branch - any other branch! Too late now.

     3. The computers require you to sign up for a spot before you can use one. Being so busy, I had a 30 minute wait and then I would be signed up to use computer #11... for 30 minutes. Honestly, I almost went home. 30 minutes is nothing. However, I had one specific document that I knew I needed a higher resolution copy of than I had, so I stuck around.

     4. Browsed books... History, Science Fiction... check the time... Romance, History again... check the time... Young Adult, General Fiction...

     5. Finally, it was time to get on the computer. I was able to plug in my flash drive and save information to it, which was a plus (and if I'd forgotten mine, I could buy one for $9.99). Access to ancestry.com was easy and pre-assiged to the Gwinnett Library Account. I quickly realized that the Library Edition is very different from a paid subscription:

  • New Search Only, no Old Search :( 
  • US Records only
  • Not all records collections were available
  • No access to Public Member Trees, Photos or Documents
     6. The computer kept interrupting me (10 minutes have gone by! 10 minutes left! 5 minutes left!). Combined with the differences between the Library edition and what I'm used to, I wasted time trying to find databases that weren't available in this edition. I feel like I wasted a lot of time. This is also partly due to the 30 minute time limit.

     7. Though I was disappointed, this really should be a happy post. Through my local library, I have free access to an amazing website. I can access all of the census records, as well a numerous birth, marriage, death and military records. I'll likely visit the library again before I start paying for my own subscription again - I'll just plan better.

07 June 2011

Waters - Smith - Carson Connection

Edited 12 Jun 2011

     One of the earliest brick walls on my mom's side of the tree is the Waters family. I can't uncover details on J Waters and Mary, parents to Leverett, Millard and Queen Waters. To try and uncover the ancestry of this couple, I'm researching all of the children, not just my direct ancestor.

     Today, a search on Genealogy Bank turned up a result for "Mrs. Millard Waters." I know that Millard appeared in 1920 with a wife whose name looks to be Suzie. In 1930, their known children, Ben and Ida, as well as a new girl, Marie, show up with a mother, Bessie Edwards. Is Millard's wife Suzie or Bessie? Did she marry a Mr Edwards after Millard's death?

     I can't find any mention of Millard after 1920 and I didn't have information on his wife - until today. I found an obituary for Allen M Carson, who had a sister called Mrs. Millard Waters of Atlanta. This provided me with Suzie's parents: William and Ella Carson. And guess what? They were already in my tree, complete with two daughters named Susan and Betsey!

      I'll need to do a little more research to sort out Susan and Betsey, but this information didn't actually add anyone to the tree, it just connected people. In fact, it created something of a circle. This family connection gets pretty confusing, so instead of explaining everything, I drew a family tree:

carson waters smith connection

05 June 2011

This Is The Face of Genealogy

This Is The Face of Genealogy

Betty Dolores Huyler, cir 1937

Betty Dolores Huyler Albea

The Albea Family at Lake Allatoona

     Yesterday, my mom's side of the family got together at Lake Allatoona's Red Top Mountain State Park. This included the children of Roy and Betty Albea and about half of the grandchildren.  It was great to get together and see everyone, which hasn't been a common occurrence since Roy and Betty passed away in 2005. Here are some photos from the day:


The Albea Siblings   /   The Kids

03 June 2011

RSS Feed Strangeness

    If you subscribe to this blog via a RSS Feed, such as Google Reader, you may have had a large number of strange posts come up. It looks like someone hacked the feed and is linking "blank" posts to another blog. I strongly encourage you NOT to click on these posts - I don't know what they'll lead you to. My blog itself is fine, but the feed has been taken over. I'm looking into having the problem fixed and apologize for the problem.

     Update: From reading Good Help Forums, I'm not the only one this happened to. It looks like some wires might have gotten crossed. It looks like the problem might be fixed, as my RSS feed is once again showing my own posts.

     2nd Update: Blogger has acknowledged the problem and reports that the issue should be resolved:

02 June 2011

Civil War Profile: Richard T Smith

     The following is a profile of one of my Civil War ancestors. What was their life like before, during and after the war? Where did their sympathies lie? How did they feel about the war?
    Richard T Smith was my Great-Great-Great Grandfather. He was born in Georgia on 2 Jan 1829, in the area that is present day Cobb, Cherokee, Fulton or Forsyth County, Georgia. According to his death certificate, his parents were George and Mary Smith, though I've yet to find further evidence of them. Some records indicate they were born in Georgia, while others indicate Virginia.

     The earliest record I have for Richard is the 1860 census of Shady Grove Post Office, Milton County, GA [recorded as R L Smith]. He appeared there with his wife, Eliza, and four children. Richard was a farmer, with a personal estate valued at $125 and no property listed. The family did not own any slaves at this time and I don't believe they ever owned any.

     The only real evidence that I have of Richard's Civil War service comes from the 1910 census. Question #30 asks about civil war service. Richard answered "CA" for Confederate Army.

     I thought that I had found Richard's Pension record, but when I compared them to city directory records (which list his wife) I started to doubt it. Some facts match, but others weren't quite right. With such a common name, it's been very difficult to confirm any muster roll records as well. Richard might be listed in the 1864 Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia. This Richard is a shoemaker, an occupation my Richard is attributed with in a city directory.

     Without records it's difficult to determine Richard's position on the events unfolding around him. He did not own slaves, but he seems to have come from a southern background. Many men signed up with a sense of patriotism toward their new country. But did he enlist or was he conscripted? With four small children at home in 1861, I doubt Richard was running out to enlist. Also, his fifth child, Richard Jr, was born in 1863, which indicates that Richard likely didn't sign up until at least around this time (although I have found that men who were "away; sick at home" at some point in the war tended to find a larger family when they next came home).

     In the 1870 census, Richard is still living in Milton County and is still farming. One major change has occurred however: his wife, Eliza, is not listed. It seems that Richard is now a widower, raising six children between the ages of 16 and 2. He's not doing it alone though - Rachel Garman is there as well. She's listed last, after the children, so she's probably some sort of servant, nurse or distant relative. Only weeks after this census was taken, Rachel and Richard were married. My Great-Great Grandmother Louise was a child of this union.

     In 1870, Richard's land is valued at $200 while his personal assets are valued at $900. Richard didn't appear to own land in 1860 and his personal assets were much lower. It looks like Richard might have achieved some success after the war. Perhaps he took advantage of the economic upheaval of the time period? I know that during the war nearby Atlanta was evacuated of all citizens, many who chose not to return. Perhaps he was able to purchase land at a good price using money he made from the service. 

     Hopefully I'll be able to uncover more about Richard T Smith's time during the war soon and discover details on what his Civil War service was like.


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