31 August 2013

The Book of Me, Week One

     There's a new blog prompt series from the Anglers Rest blog, called Book of Me.  It will be a 15 month series of topics that encourage bloggers to write about themselves.  I'm pretty excited about this series and would encourage my family members to participate.  You don't need a blog to do this, just get a composition book and follow along.  You can follow the prompts at the Book of Me, Written By You Facebook page.

     Week One: Answer the question, "Who Are You," by answering that question 20 times.

  1. I am Valerie.  Of the 4,259 people in my family tree, I'm the only one.
  2. I am an identical twin.  Just like my Grandaddy.  No, I never traded places with my sister in school.
  3. I am a daughter.  My parents love me forever, love me for always, as long as they're living, their baby I'll be.
  4. I am a sister.  My older brother used to watch my sister and I in our crib, waiting for us to wake up so that he could play with us.
  5. I am an aunt.  It's a brand new thing, but it's pretty awesome.
  6. I am a genealogist.  I got started in 2001 thanks to a Geography project and my mom's encouragement.
  7. I am a 9th generation Georgian.  Sometimes I wish my tree was more exciting - but boy do I know how to do Georgia research!
  8. I am not as organized as I'd like to be.  I would totally buy everything they carry at Office Depot, but would never put it to it's proper use.
  9. I am an introvert if I don't know you and an extrovert if I do know you.  Which leads to:
  10. I am a homebody. I'm pretty happy sitting at home, doing genealogy, watching tv, spending time with family, etc.
  11. I am creative.  I've made lots of scrapbooks over the years, though I don't do as many now as I used to. I also crochet and paint the occasional ceramics.
  12. I am a photography enthusiast.  I know a bit more than the average person, but I have a lot to learn. 
  13. I am an animal lover.  I miss my Betsy and Trixie, but I'm grateful for Chisai (Chee-sigh)
  14. I am nervous in a thunder storm.  It's only developed over the last few years, but boy do those rumblings make me anxious. 
  15. I am an Atlanta Braves fan.  I was going to put Baseball fan, but I wanted to be specific />/>/>
  16. I am an avid reader.  I have a Kindle, but also read a lot on my iPhone.  I love Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult and light classics (Jane Eyre is my all time fave).
  17. I am not good at grammar.  I miss spelled grammar the first time I wrote that sentence.
  18. I am a Two-Year College Grad. By that I mean that I have an Associates Degree, and need to go back for my Bachelors. 
  19. I am a bearer of birthmarks.  I had a ton as a baby but now I have two.  I always feel like my left shoulder is wrong because it doesn't have the same birthmark as my right one does.
  20. I am recently skinny(er).  I've lot 71 pounds in the last 10 months and will be doing my first 5K run in about two months.

24 August 2013

DNA Testing My Nephew

     Yes, I did a DNA test on my one month old nephew.  I never claimed not to be obsessed.

     I purchased an autosomal DNA test from my favorite DNA company, Family Tree DNA, during their summer sale, for $99.  They promised that if test purchases during their sale were strong enough, they would permanently lower the price of their autosomal test, which they have now done.

     We did the two cheek swabs on Jasper a few days apart and just before feeding time.  Thus he was already crying (poor thing!), mouth wide open.  I swabbed from both cheeks on each swab to try and get as good a sample as possible.  I am still a little concerned that we weren't able to get a good sample though.  He has such tiny cheeks!  The test has arrived at the lab, but hasn't yet been added to a processing batch.

     I decided to test my nephew for a few reason. First off, why not?  Second, to see the amount of DNA I share with the little guy.  My nephew is the son of my identical twin sister (who I have not tested), so it should be more of a parent/child amount of DNA.  As a bonus, if it does come back parent/child, it will confirm that my sister and I are identical.  Third, it's a way to test my brother-in-law, who doesn't really care one way or the other about genealogy.

     Hopefully I'll get the results back in about 6 weeks and have some new DNA data to play with.

21 August 2013

Wait, Where Did You Say....?

     My Great-Great-Great Grandparents were born into a country ravaged by war.  When they were little more than a year old, their home town was invaded by a massive foreign army that destroyed everything in their path.   When they were still toddlers, their country's armies found themselves at a breaking point and surrendered to superior invaders.  My 3x Great Grandparents then found themselves living in the same place, but became citizens of an entirely different country.  The place: Emanuel County, Georgia, Confederate States of America / United States of America.

     It's all in how you think about it, isn't it?  Stephen Boatright and Mary Logue were born in the spring of 1863 in what was then the Confederate States of America.  Their families suffered devastation when Sherman's armies march directly through their home town.  Before they were even two years old, their fledgeling homeland's rebellion has been squashed and they were living in a different country.  Of course, it's one they would have been born in if they'd been born two years earlier... but I digress.

     I always think about this when I see blog posts about how to record place names in genealogy databases.  The most recent round of these post gives a great example of a location that has stayed the same, but which has gone through a number of different place names.  How do you record such a place?

     In my family tree I have this problem thanks to general name changes, county boundary changes, the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.  How on earth do I record the birth place of someone born on what is today United States soil, but in a time before there was a United States of America?

     I've given it some thought and have decided that in pretty much all cases I'm going to use the modern location name.  The way I figure it, it's the most important to be able to find the location today, and then do the research to uncover that place's history.  This solution will allow me to map my family tree using a number of genealogy tools, which all pretty much use modern place names anyway.

     This strategy does mean that the full history of my ancestor's locations is not evident at first glance.  But here's the thing: I'm not limited to simply listing locations in dry bullet points.  I can add notes and explanations to flesh out the very basic facts.  And in my mind that's when Genealogy becomes Family History: when it moves beyond a list of facts and becomes a story.

     So remember: it's all in how you think about it.

16 August 2013

Directionally Challenged

     As I was adding information to my genealogy database on a 4x Great Uncle's descendants, it struck me that collateral research has been my main form genealogy research lately.  I don't know when the last time was that I was able to add a direct ancestor to my tree, but I've certainly added tons of aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws.  That realization got me thinking and asking myself a few questions: why is this happening, and it it worth the effort?

     I think there are a number of answers to why I've been doing collateral line research as opposed to trying to discover a new direct ancestor.  First off, it's easier.  The line I'm working on right now, the McCurley family of Elbert County and Hart County, Georgia, goes back to William McCurley, born around 1774 somewhere in South Carolina.  Today I added information on some of William's Great-Grandkids, who were born in the 1850s.  Obviously, it's much easier to research someone born in the 1850s than someone born in the 1770s.  

     Secondly, I sorta feel like I'm not going to be able to go back any further than I've already gone.   This is was depressing thought, and also not true.  Yes, researching in the 1700s is harder than in the mid 1800s and beyond.  But it's not impossible.  For example, I recently went to the Lincoln County, Georgia, courthouse to do some research.  I was looking for the parents of my 5x Great Grandmother, Mary Glaze, or really any information I could find out.  I didn't actually find any new information about her, but I was able to determine that some other Glaze folks in the records were not her parents.  So, I didn't find a new generation, but I did find some information to direct further research.  This is hard work!

     This leads to the third reason: without any recent breakthrough's I've lost some enthusiasm.  Making genealogical discoveries is something of a high.  You feel elated to uncover a new ancestor, which gives you energy to keep going.  Without making these discoveries, I've sort of lost some enthusiasm.

     This brings me to my other question: is collateral line research worth it.  To me, this is an obvious yes, also for a number of reasons.  First, collateral lines help you connect with other researchers and find new, living, cousins, especially when considering DNA research.  Going back to my McCurley Family, I added a 4x Great Uncle, Richard, and his family.   Say that there's a descendant of Richard out there, who has not yet uncovered Richard's parents.  If they are looking at family trees, they'll see Richard in mine and make the connection.  If I didn't have Richard, they wouldn't find me until they uncovered Richards parents.  It only makes sense to add, at bare minimum, the children and spouses of all of the aunts and uncles in my tree.  And I often add a few more generations than that.

     Second, researching these aunts and uncles, might help me break down brick walls regarding older ancestors.  With my Waters family, I was able to gather and add together bits and pieces of information on my 3x Great Grandfather by finding records from all of his children, until I had a full picture.  If I had only looked at my direct line, I'd have never broken through that line, because there were gaps in my 2x Great Grandfather's records.

     One final reason for collateral line research is that it keep my hand in the game.  No, I don't get the same high researching aunts and uncles as I would uncovering a new many-times-great grandparent, but it's still genealogy.   Heck, I have fun doing family trees for friends and co-workers; adding a new 2nd cousin 4x removed is a lot more personally beneficial than that.

     But after thinking about the why and the worth of collateral line research, I do still have to wonder if it's enough.  The answer is No.  Though I enjoy collateral line research and find it valuable, I would be  overall more pleased to find a new direct ancestor.  And that's really the main goal isn't it?  To extend you family tree (if you'll excuse the expression) back to Adam and Eve.  I really do want to go back as far as I can with all of my lines, even if it's slow going.

     So I think I need to find some new inspiration.  Maybe I need to just pick a line and go for it: plan a research trip or mail off a records request, track down some family trees and send off some emails, try and find a DNA match on a brick wall line.  I'm not sure what exactly I'm going to do, but I do know that the next time I log into Ancestry, GenealogyBank, Georgia Archives, etc, the goal will be to go backwards, not sideways.

01 August 2013

Favorite Records: Vertical Files

     There's one set of records that will likely be one of the last to end up online: Vertical Files.  These records are located at libraries, archives, courthouses, and genealogical societies. They are made up of random collections of documents, covering a variety of topics, including locations, events, and surnames (often specifically referred to as Family Files). The records and documents are often a collection of random papers submitted by individual researchers.  Records could include copies of family group sheets, bible records, maps, photos, newspaper clippings, obituary indexes, and more.  They are usually organized in manilla envelopes in file cabinets.  Depending on how well these files are kept up, these records can get extremely disorganize.  In my experience, these files are often kept out of sight, so make sure to ask about them if you don't see them.

     The scope of information in the records often depends on the type of repository they're kept at.  Local libraries or courthouses usually contain information specific to that location.  So if you are researching a Smith family, the vertical files at the library in their home county are a great place to look.  Repositories that serve larger areas, such as state archives, keep files covering more diverse topics.  For example, the files at the Georgia Archive have an individual folder for churches and cemeteries for each county in the state.

     One document I recently found at the Lincoln County Library, is a document written by a distant cousin, detailing his memories of my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Thomas Albea.  He wrote about where is his "Uncle Thomas Tillman" lived and his marriage to his second wife.  It's a personal recollection of my 3x Great Grandfather that helps to present him as a real person.

     Ultimately, the great thing about Verticle Files is that they are alive and interactive.  You can contribute to them!  If you are going to a repository with vertical files, print out copies of some of your records to add to the files; perhaps a family group sheet or scans of photo.  Attach your business card or just your email address and you never know, the next researcher who comes along might be a new cousin!


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