Sunday, January 25, 2015

My Research Week: 25 Jan 2015

Despite some Short Attention Span Theater – flitting from one family to another – in my research, I can call this a productive and interesting research week. 

Though I am not participating in the Geneabloggers’ “Do Over,” I did go back to revisit my research (hence the flitting) on closer generations (grandparents, aunts, and uncles) and found quite a few “new to me” things:

- One of my aunts by marriage committed suicide
- I finally learned the maiden name of the second wife of one of my uncles
- I learned more about the German background of an uncle’s wife
- Discovered that my paternal grandfather had filled out a World War II registration form.
- Found a picture of an aunt for whom I had no pictures showing her as an adult; the picture also included her second husband and two sons.
- Entered a lot of 1940 census information.

Although I am continuing to build up my 23andMe family tree on My Heritage, I have decided not to subscribe to My Heritage, since at this point it does not look like there is a lot I can get out of the documents they have.  I have to admit I was tempted when I saw that one item was a death notice for my paternal grandfather (I do not have an obituary or death notice for him), but I suspect it was just a brief notice.

Two of my favorite blog posts this week are:

“Does this couple in Missouri own your relatives on Find aGrave, too?” on the Young and Savvy Genealogists blog (it includes a hilarious and alarming story about David Tennant in the shower – knew that would get your attention!).

Also this one on the Personal Past Meditations blog on “link rot” and “citation rot”:  “Going,Going…Saved.”

And here is a new blog that I have been enjoying – this author definitely has some colorful ancestors! -  Leaves on my Family Tree.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


2014 was obviously not a banner year for me, either in terms of genealogy blogging (I wrote a total of one post) or in terms of genealogy research.  My main genealogical activity consisted of keeping up with my DNA results and matches on FamilyTree DNA, 23andMe, and Ancestry (whose adamant refusal to add a chromosome browser is frustrating and discouraging).  In May I attended the National Genealogical Society Conference in Richmond, Virginia, but my attendance at lectures was greatly reduced by ill health (which has improved a great deal since then).  In October I attended Fairfax Genealogical Society’s Fall Fair, featuring presentations by John Philip Colletta, and was inspired to get back to serious genealogical research.

Even in the area of reading genealogy blogs my activity was much reduced, especially since a number of my genealogy blogging friends had also cut down their posting activity.  I did manage to start following at least two (new to me) genealogy blogs that have provided fascinating reading:  Hoosier Daddy? and The Legal Genealogist.

2015 shows a bit more promise, however.

There was one enormous (sort of genealogy-related) development that happened in 2014:  my husband and I bought a second house in Greenville, South Carolina, the destination of a genealogy research trip we made in 2010 (described in several of my 2010 posts).  Not only did my husband and I fall in love with the place, our daughters became almost as obsessed as we are when we stopped in Greenville on our way back from the National Genealogical Society Conference in Charleston, South Carolina in May 2011.  Since I am still working, I can only make a few trips a year to Greenville, but eventually I plan to make it my “base” for Southeastern US (SC, NC, GA, TN, and KY) research.

My research has started to return to “almost normal” – it may be only a few minutes on weeknights, but I can usually shoehorn at least a few hours of research into my schedule on the weekends.  Which brings up some of my current research….

The “Ew” Factor

The current line I am researching involves a few pretty scuzzy characters (who shall remain nameless to protect … I’m not sure what); these are not direct ancestors (though there is plenty of scandal in my direct line as well), but part of my “all descendants of” research.  A number of the men show up in various prison and reform school lists.  One guy in particular inspires the “Ew” response.  He abandoned his wife and their nine children (and did not take responsibility for the children after her death in 1931), appears with two different women on the 1930 census, and eventually decided in the case of one of these two women that he preferred her 15-year-old daughter (his step-daughter), with whom he eventually had a number of children.  He is shown on the 1940 census living with this woman, the 18-year-old stepdaughter, and what I can only assume are two of his children with this stepdaughter (listed as his grandchildren).

Other research-related activities at this time are:  trying to get my genealogy materials and files better organized (not exactly a genealogy “do over,” but still pretty labor-intensive) and working on my family tree on MyHeritage, since 23andMe family trees will now be hosted there.

“Real life” may sometimes interfere, but I will always find my way back to my ancestors.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Endless Loop

All I want to do is check the Collin County, Texas, Marriage Index, 1800-2010 results for the surname Brinlee.  So, while working in one of my Member Trees on Ancestry (more about Ancestry Member Trees and New Search later), I obtain results for Martha Jane Brinlee that include this database.  I then click on that database to do a search therein.  I enter the surname Brinlee and click the box for “Exact Search.”  This brings up a nice, juicy list of 102 results.  I click on one of the names in the list.  That brings me to the following page:

Not only is this not the page I want, I have to log back in!!!!

And this is the 17th time this has happened to me today (yes, I have been counting).  

So I log back in.  And get this page:

Um, now to get out of this promotional page I have to go up to “My Account” and then hit the Home page, because there is no other way to get out of this promotional.  Sorry, Ancestry, I’m just not that interested in “Jumping the Pond.”  This is the third time I have been put into this loop (the other 14 logins I have had to do happened right in the middle of searches - and this has not been an uncommon occurrence, especially since the transition to New Search).  I have even tried pulling up the Collin County, Texas, Marriage Index through the Card Catalog - same results.  So obviously I can forget doing “card catalog” type searches.  

Not that I’m paranoid or anything (well, actually, I am), but Ancestry takes every opportunity to log me out and offer me a World Membership, but what I’d really like is Ancestry Pro:

For Pros and Serious Amateurs:  Ancestry Pro

Tailor your own searches!

Get a Chromosome Browser with your AncestryDNA!

But Ancestry is not geared toward pros anymore.  It is geared toward the Tree People. the people who never get out of the public member trees, whose research consists of creating a tree, using the matches with other trees to attach to their trees (and sometimes the records suggestions).  I have to admit, it is easier to pull up good, relevant results that way than it is through New Search.  

And yes, I know how to tailor New Search in Advanced Search - but that is far more time-consuming than Old Search and does not visually present the results in the manner that works best for me.  The old, crisp, space-saving arrangement of search results by category let me know at a glance what the records situation for a particular ancestor might be.  Need to tweak? I’d add a couple more searches, this time with wildcards or common misspellings or (when possible) the Soundex option selected - that might add a few records. This would take a few minutes and let me know what things might be missing and need some special tweaking to find.

I could put up with New Search if it weren’t for these Endless Loops.  I just want the option of a decent records search, whether while I am inside an Ancestry Tree or working through the card catalog.

By the way, just now, as I was writing this post, I hit the “Home” button and got this screen:

Logout Number 18.

Instead of logging back in, I hit the back arrow to get back to some search results, and got the first screen above.

Perhaps this is a bug that has just hit the system this weekend.  But that paranoid voice in my head keeps telling me:  “This is Ancestry.  Do not leave the Tree.  Do NOT leave the Tree!!!”

Friday, August 9, 2013

Continuing a Tradition: Forgetting My Blogoversary

Almost.  If it hadn't been for Grant Davis of The Stephen Sherwood Letters, who was kind enough to leave a congratulatory comment on this blog, I would have forgotten my blogoversary.

My relative lack of blogging activity notwithstanding, I have not abandoned genealogy and it has not abandoned me.  As you can see from my previous post, I recently broke through a brick wall.  I am taking this as a sign not to let my research go dormant, and to keep plugging away, even if it is just a bit every night.

My husband and I have reserved hotel rooms in Richmond for NGS 2014.

We have a trip planned next month to my favorite ancestral stomping ground, the Greenville-Anderson area of South Carolina.  We are even discussing possible future research trips to Dallas, Texas and Greene County, Illinois.

And even when I am not doing much of anything, this blog (as well as my website, Greta's Genealogy) continue to work for me.  So while I miss the regular interaction with readers that accompanies regular posting, the blog is still doing what it was created to do.

Many thanks to those of you who have "stayed tuned."  There are a few posts in the planning....

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gen Zen

The best results often happen when you aren’t even trying....

There is no other way to describe it. It’s the Zen of genealogy. 

But I should back up and explain. During my one year plus of self-imposed exile from active genealogy research, I have become pathetic. My research has become pathetic, not to mention almost nonexistent. 

My research muscles are flabby. And I have come to passively accept the existence of my many brick walls. Not brick walls many generations back, but early brick walls, many at the great-great-grandparent level and even one at the great-grandparent level.

 But still, I flit around aimlessly some evenings. I check out blogs on Feedly. A couple of nights ago I checked my genealogy mail, found a Family Search newsletter that links to new databases on family Search. I saw some databases for Vermont, and thought about checking out the Floyds in these records. Hey, look at all the hits I got.

But I needed to have a better idea of specific locations in Vermont to search. I decided to get that list of the names of the siblings of my great-great grandfather George Floyd, one of those brick walls that I just accept as a permanent part of my family history landscape. I thought I’d try to find a sibling who stayed in Vermont, and start with those locations.

So I looked around in Ancestry, starting with George Floyd’s two sisters. No luck with Harriet - she ended up in Wisconsin. But for Rachel, who married a Wilkins, I had better luck. Searching under both Rachel Floyd and Rachel Wilkins, I turned up a bunch of documents in the Vermont Vital Records database: a record of Rachel’s marriage to Nehemiah Wilkins, death records for a couple of young children, and ... a death record for Rachel.


I was not looking for this. But I found it, or more accurately, I found them: Rachel’s parents. My great-great grandfather George’s parents: William Floyd and Betsey Wilson. And even a place of birth for Rachel: Monkton (there’s the location!).

 A brick wall came tumbling down, and I wasn’t even trying.

 [One of my favorite Geneabloggers, Cynthia Shenette, has a blog named Heritage Zen. Wise lady.]

[I must also give a huge amount of credit in this endeavor to two very generous Floyd researchers, Rich and Randy, who a couple of years ago got in touch with me and provided some wonderful old Floyd family letters, including that list of George Floyd’s siblings. Those materials and specifically that list made this discovery possible.]

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Checking In

Long time, no write.  Thank you to readers and followers who have stuck with me during an online absence that has lasted longer than I thought - my last post was in 2012!

I’m still doing genealogy (just not as much) and still following other blogs.

My research:  Still plugging away on the last family in my “all descendants” research for all of my known great-great grandparents.  Still entering information, one person at a time, in my family trees on Ancestry.  This approach has turned up some interesting information that I hope to write about eventually.  Doing a little bit of transcribing of documents from my 2010 Greenville research trip and hope to write about that as well. Still trying to tabulate and analyze my DNA results from FamilyTree DNA, 23andMe, and Ancestry DNA (see whine #1, below).  

I attended the Fairfax Genealogical Society’s Spring Conference and had a great time.  Continued my “winning streak”:  this time a free book from Arphax Publishers.  Judy Russell, and Dear Myrtle and daughter Carrie were some of the speakers - wonderful presentations!

We are starting to plan a fall vacation in Greenville, South Carolina.  I will do some more research in Greenville and also plan to go over to Anderson County for research.  Not that I have absorbed all of the research I did last time, but I just needed an excuse to get back to the Greenville area.  I also plan to attend the NGS conference in Richmond in 2014.

Some disappointments:

1.  “Tweaking” done by the various DNA companies that results in ... results dropping out, as in, “Oh, this person matched me on the Smith line, but now the Company (Ancestry/FamilyTreeDNA/23andMe) has rejiggered the results and they have disappeared from my list of matches.”  Perhaps the intention really is to fine-tune the matches, but it is pretty difficult to map, calculate, and do statistical studies/spreadsheet comparisons, etc. when the results keep changing.

2.  The disappearance of Google Reader.   I’m sure that plenty of whining has been done on this subject, so I won’t add anything.  Thanks to all who forged ahead, found alternatives and wrote about them.  I have already migrated to Feedly.

I have noticed that I am not alone in my “involuntary” exile, and hope that my fellow bloggers who have also been smacked up side the head by the demands of real life will also be able to return to the blogosphere.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Why I’m Creating a Junk Tree on Ancestry

No, it’s not revenge for all of the poorly documented trees I’ve had to wade through on Ancestry.

Nor is it a psychological experiment to see just what kind of ridiculous garbage people will copy into their own trees (grandmothers born after their grandchildren, etc.).

Nor is it a post-modern statement on the futility of associating ourselves with long-dead people.

It’s not even a decision to go over to The Dark Side of Sloppy Research because I’m just too darned busy and tired to bother with the Genealogical Proof Standard.

It has to do with DNA.

Specifically, the sets of DNA matches that I have been able to (tentatively) tie to specific lines.

Because some of my DNA matches appear to be in those “fuzzy” parts of my ancestral lines.

And some of the matches I am getting are interesting - no, make that very interesting.  And some of those tentative matches appear to be supported by other matches, some of which go even farther back along the same lines.    

So, here’s the deal.  I am not including any information that I know to be false.  I am, however, going back a generation or two farther than the documentary evidence with which I am familiar would cover, i.e., some of these are “reputed” parents (or parents of parents) that are commonly encountered in online trees or claimed in a family history, online post, etc., without citation of sufficiently thorough supporting evidence.   

I do not do this with my other, “main” Ancestry trees; additions are only made to these trees when I can document the connection.  However, for several reasons, these trees have not been useful to me with Ancestry DNA connections.  For one thing, I have three personal trees, divided up into my father’s ancestors, my maternal grandmother’s ancestors, and my maternal grandfather’s ancestors. So if I connected any single tree, it would leave out large chunks of my ancestors. If I elected not to choose a particular tree to connect, Ancestry would give a person viewing my DNA connection the option to choose among my trees - but I am fairly certain when some people saw my name in the list with “No family tree” indicated, they would think that I had no tree to connect and would not even click on my name.  Or, they might click on my trees and see my husband’s trees listed as well, which might be confusing.  Better to have something which covers all of my lines, if not necessarily in extensive, documented detail.

So, I created a pedigree tree.  During my first couple of years of research, I looked into what kind of research had been done previously on various lines, took notes, and could reconstruct a pedigree based on this research and some original discoveries of my own.  There were roughly four different categories of research in terms of quality of the material that was online:

  1. Some connections were obviously bogus and I rejected them outright.  
  2. In other cases, there was well documented research online, sometimes including extensive databases that were regularly updated and even discussions among different researchers who hammered out various arguments for and against making specific connections. Many of the supporting documents had been put online. I did not deem it necessary to duplicate these efforts and instead focused on family lines that had not really been researched to a significant extent. 
  3. For other lines, the material that was online was not comprehensive or conclusive, but did seem to point in a particular direction.  
  4. And in the last category, the connections were plausible enough, but I could not find compelling arguments or evidence to nail down the connection.

So now it is true confession time:  my pedigree tree on Ancestry includes some connections from these last two categories.  Before I connected this tree to my DNA results, for the most part I had to search out connections on my own, trying to remember in my head established and tentative family connections.  

[Side note on why I am focusing on Ancestry DNA:  right now it is the major source of my DNA “matches”; I also participate in Family Tree DNA, but so far only have three matches (out of a total of 437 so far) where I can definitely identify a connection, though I hope this will increase as I contact more people. I just received my kit from 23 and Me, but from what I have heard it also has a low rate of responses to inquiries.  From Ancestry, however, I already have a list of 43 connections of interest (for 39 of which I can directly connect family lines) plus a few additional “maybes,” and of course Ancestry is just getting into the game - so far it appears that new matches are added every week, compared to something like twice a month for Family Tree DNA.  Ancestry itself will show the connection if it can, but it’s often possible to figure it out yourself.]

There is, of course, a major fly in the ointment:  at this point Ancestry is not including the actual genetic information, i.e., the precise chromosomal location of the matches.  And this eliminates the main tool for verifying and correlating matches.  My message to Ancestry:  Ancestry, your autosomal matching would be the most useful in the field if you included this information.

The other people I would send a message to would be Ancestry subscribers who are participating in the DNA testing:  if you do not have a tree on Ancestry, create one.  If your tree is private, either make it public or create a separate pedigree tree as I have for connection to match results. If there is “sketchy” information in your connected tree, by all means make that clear when you correspond with your matches.

Below are some of the findings I have from Ancestry DNA (for readers not related to me, you can skip straight to the end past these specifics, but just a glance will tell you that there is some substantial evidence here).  What is interesting (and persuasive) are the consistency of many of the matches:  I can already see trends - multiple matches along certain lines - which confirms the fact that we do not inherit genetic material equally from all ancestors, and may not share genetic material, or at least significant genetic material, with many of our distant ancestors.  Obviously, it is easier to make connections for well-researched lines than for those that are not as well researched, and this makes me wonder about the family lines where I have significant brick walls:  if I could correlate the family lines of my matches, would I turn up some major, multiple overlaps that would give me a hint as to where some of my connections actually are?  (Another idea for Ancestry:  Could you make such a tool available for Ancestry DNA participants?  Just a thought.)

1.  Norman-Monk:  One connection through my great-great grandparents Joseph Madison Carroll Norman and Rebecca Monk.  This is exciting because JMC Norman had three wives, and I am mostly in touch with descendants of his other two wives, so to get an actual connection to one of Rebecca’s descendants is wonderful.  Furthermore, both the Norman and Monk lines get confirmation:

Norman-Read:  This is a 6g-level connection and is significant to me because it goes beyond the 5g-level where, for me at least, the documentary trail seemed a little bit lacking - the will of 5g-grandfather James Norman mentions son Joseph Norman, but I was not sure how he was identified as Joseph Madison Carroll Norman (the older - my 4g-grandfather, the grandfather of my 2g-grandfather with the same name).

Norman-Courtney:  This, at the level of my 7g-grandparents, is a big payoff, and I not only have three connections at this level (plus another possible, but not established connection), I have an independent connection at the next level up for Courtneys (Courtney-Jenkins, the parents of my 7g-grandmother, Frances Courtney).

Monk-unknown:  There are two purely Monk connections, because I do not know or am not sure of the maternal side in each case:  one for my 3g-grandfather Silas Monk, whose wife may have been a Nancy Dunn, and one for my 6g-grandfather Willis Monk, whose wife is not known.  

And from there it gets more interesting and goes into some of those uncharted (for me) waters:

Monk-Hodges:  This one goes to the 7g level.

(Monk-Pool-)Bullock-Hood:  This is an independent connection to my 6g-grandparents, David Bullock and Elizabeth Hood (my Bullock connection comes through a Monk-Pool connection, but the match has no Monk connection), and there is another possible separate Bullock connection.

2.  Brinlee-McKinney:  Two connections at the 2g-level (my great-great-grandparents Hiram Brinlee Senior and Elizabeth Ann McKinney).

McKinney-McClure:  An independent McKinney connection at the 3g level (Daniel McKinney and Margaret McClure) and one at the 4g-level (McKinney-Blatchley) (I also have a McKinney connection at this same level through Family Tree DNA), plus an independent Blatchley connection (at the 8g level - definitely some of that “iffy” territory for me).

3.  Poole-Manning:  one connection at the 4g level (I also have a match at this level on FTDNA).  Next along this line:

(Poole-Manning-)Mabry-Bradley:  One connection (and another possible) at the 6g level. 

4.  Johnson-Moorman and Johnson-Massie:  These would be at the 6g and 7g level.  There are a number of connections here, plus other possibles.  Not surprising that this line, while distant, has a strong showing - these families, plus the Clarks (for whom I have a 7g and possibly an 8g connection) intermarried with incredible (and confusing) frequency.  I always know when I see a man named Moorman Johnson (or Clark Johnson or a family full of Micajahs and Bollings) that there is a family connection.  One of my contacts has a Benjamin Johnson who married a Margery Massie; this Benjamin Johnson was originally posited as a relative of my Johnsons (I think he may be a brother of my 6g-grandfather) and subsequent DNA testing has shown that this is so, plus his Massie wife is almost certain to be related to my Massies.  One of my matches has so many Clarks, Johnsons, Massies, and Clarks in his line that I cannot even figure out all of our connections.

5.  Hamilton line:  One connection at the 6g (Hamilton-Kincaid) level and two at the 7g level (Hamilton-Adams).

6.  The Tarrant line:  I am almost 100% certain that my great-great grandmother Emily Tarrant came from the Tarrants of Greenville, South Carolina, all of whom were descended from a Leonard Tarrant (and one of my matches is descended from this Leonard Tarrant), but I do not know precisely who her parents were.  However, I have been pulling up matches (three so far) with people who have connections to the Dalton families that married into these Tarrants - specifically, Leonard Tarrant’s son Benjamin married a Mary Dalton, and their sons Robert and Wyatt also married a pair of Dalton sisters (apparently cousins).  There is also a Tankersley connection (which may not the actual point of connection with this particular DNA match, as it points to a different son of Leonard Tarrant) and one or two tentative Terry connections (which might point to Emily’s father being one of the two sons of Benjamin Tarrant who married Dalton girls, since their father, Solomon Dalton, married a Terry - yes, I know, this is making my head hurt, too.)   

Obviously, the absence of information on the chromosomal location of my matches, as well as the big gaps in my family lines left by some major brickwalls (two great-grandparents are missing and 16 great-great-great grandparents are missing) means that I may be misidentifying connections.  However, I believe that the information above indicates some real trends, and will be checking all my new connections as well as contacting matches without Ancestry trees (or with private trees) to try to support these findings.

I will be amending and extending this pedigree tree as I turn up genetic and documentary evidence for and against the various connections that it indicates, and I hope that one day it will rise above the level of a “junk” tree, but in the meantime, I am definitely finding that it is a useful (not to say absolutely reliable) tool.