Wednesday, January 27, 2016

8 Things Only a Fellow Genealogy Geek Will Understand

1) I have at least 500 ancestors in my tree who simply "appeared" where they died.  I believe this to be compelling evidence of an alien colonization.

2) When I meet a new person, see the credits on a show or hear a name on the news, I mentally light up when their surname is one that is in my tree and try to remember where that name appears.

3) Thou shalt not simply send us money and get a death certificate in return!  If the death was between this date and this date go this other website, click this specific link, enter your phone number and zip code and get redirected to this other website where they might decide you don't need to pay for a membership to see the record.  If the death was between this date and this date and you are not the child of the deceased (in the 1920s) ancestor, no death certificate for you!  If the date was between this date and this date and in this specific city, they are kept in a vault beneath the earth and you need to call this phone number and speak to the nice dwarven lady to get them.  And finally, if the death was between this date and this date, mail a money order for $15 and a blood sample from your second born to this address.  All alien descendants will be disqualified.

4) I can rattle off three generations of health history and cause of death to my doctor and I am not a hypochondriac.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Review : A Stranger and a Sojourner: Peter Caulder, Free Black Frontiersman in Antebellum Arkansas by Billy D. Higgins

A Stranger and a Sojourner: Peter Caulder, Free Black Frontiersman in Antebellum Arkansas

Oh.  My.  Gosh.  Ya'll.  This book.

There are really two parts to genealogy research to me.  One is the facts. When they were born, when they died, where they lived, who their people were, etc.  The other is their story... how did those facts line up to create a life and what was that life like?  How did the surrounding story of the area blend with their individual story to create a narrative of their lives?  It is often really, really tough to pull a story out of the facts.  John Turner and his wife Patience are one of those that are tougher than others.

John Turner was a person of color,  and further, he was a former slave so there are virtually no records of his existence prior to his sale to his wife.  Post sale, there are land records. He was a slave - and then he was a landowner, in the space of a few years.  Squaring that with what I know of history creates this absolutely fascinating tale of how a family of color lived in the contradictory antebellum south.

A Stranger and a Sojourner: Peter Caulder, Free Black Frontiersman in Antebellum Arkansas by Billy D. Higgins takes the facts that can be found about the Turners, the Caulders and other families of color in the area, combines them with historical fact and weaves a narrative about their lives, following the sons of Moses Caulder and John Turner into military service together and their lives beyond.

Genealogy Do-Over Year 2 or 3 and Some Lessons Learned

I'm participating in the Genealogy Do Over again this year.  This is my second year doing the actual event and my third year after starting over on my own personal data.  My method of participation is not by the book but I find that the event is helpful because I've got the encouragement and support of hundreds of other participants and I get lots of good ideas from it.

If the goal were to map my ancestry back to the dinosaurs, the do-over would put me "way behind.  It might "take me forever" to re-do "my 15 years of pain staking research".  But the object, for me, of genealogy, is discovery.  I love to learn new stuff about my ancestors.  I get a bounce in my step when I drop another tiny piece into the puzzle of me.  The do-over has just made that all the more enjoyable.

Outside of my own research skills, so much has changed in 15 years.  The first generation that I researched was my grandparents.  When I started this research, most of the information on them was still restricted because it was so soon after their deaths.  Going back to where I started 15 years later has resulted in a whole new wealth of public information about them.

15ish years ago, when I started my own research, it was the year 2000 (Y2k!).  I was hanging on to my Windows 97 install because Windows ME sucked so bad.  The world around me was just starting to get it's internet feet under it.  Banking was still completely paper based, you had to actually drive to the grocery store to get groceries and to do genealogy, you still had to travel to the location you wanted records on and like... actually... physically view them.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

John Turner Project - Genetic Genealogy Project for Descendants of John and Patience Turner and Thomas Weathersbee

The research of John and Patience Turner has been a pet project of mine for many years, in large part because their story as a couple, as a slave and as a person of color in the South is so compelling but probably also because I have yet to figure out where they came from before their known stories and so there is an element of a puzzle or mystery there.

Some time ago, I started digging into their genetics via myself and their other descendants.  I found evidence of John Turner's Sub Saharan African ancestry and I'd love to find more.  I'd love to be able to continue their family trees.  Perhaps I could find evidence that John's father was or was not his slave holder, Thomas Weathersbee or maybe evidence of Patience's family.  Pie in the sky, we could maybe even create a pretty comprehensive Lazarus kit for John Turner or Patience Turner!

To further the effort, I created a 'data collective'.  That's a fancy way of saying a spreadsheet of all of the data related to the genetic matches of related descendants (of John Turner and Thomas Weathersbee), accessible by all project participants.    The project is in it's wee bitty stages still but it's already looking promising!  So far, 13 kits and a couple of months in, we have identified two segments from two ancestors that are most likely from John Turner. (update : 21 kits and family lines identified!)

We need more descendants' data to work with though.  If you are descended from John and Patience Turner or Thomas Weathersbee, I would love to include you in the project.  Participation is easy.  You only need a gedmatch kit (free and easily created from your 23andme, ftdna or DNA) and a family tree (even a suspected one is fine) between you and John and Patience Turner.  If you have sources for your research, that is all the better - otherwise, I will research your tree to the extent that I can find evidence in support of your tree.  You send me your information, I send you a link to the spreadsheet and from there, you can do as much or as little as you'd like!

To join the project or to read more about the project, visit the John Turner project website

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mind the Fuzzy Gray Areas - Drawing Conclusions in Genetic Genealogy

I was inspired by an email from a cousin this morning to ponder the logic of genetic genealogy a bit.  Genetic genealogy is deceptively easy on some sites.  It's packaged and marketed by the big sites as an auto-magical way to find relatives you didn't know you had.  So, my experience is that folks get very excited by having these relatives show up and then make assumptions about their own heritage that I often find to be guesswork, at best.  The thing is, your relation to to a person and the conclusions you can draw from that connection are not nearly as clear cut as it can sometimes look on whatever website you're using.

I should also preface this by saying, that to the average person, I'm probably the most annoying genetic cousin ever.  When a cousin tells me a conclusion they have drawn, I will, without fail, ask them for enough information so that I can re-discover it on my own and very often tell them that it's not a for sure conclusion - or maybe even wrong.  Sorry, not sorry, cousins!  Here's why.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

How To Preserve and Store Family Papers

Hursey/ Kelly Family Papers
 My grandmother has been researching my mother's side of our family (Kelly, Hussey, Hursey, Ulrich, Turner, Jordan, Anderson, Gee, Heath) since September of 1956 - almost 60 years, give or take.  She kept notes of all of her research in spiral bound notebooks and on notebook paper.  She has folders of copies of book pages and vital documents. In among her own notes and copies, she has original handwritten letters from her parents and my grandfather's parents of their own personal knowledge and other such gems.  It's an incredible collection of family papers.

  She recently moved and I was gifted with two boxes of this research.  It's like a genealogist's dream - and also represents a slight preservation crisis.  Some of the pages were already fading away and disintegrating.   I felt a terror that only a genealogist geek could feel when I unearthed a yellowed page with a family tree that could no longer be clearly read.

This is my first paper preservation project but I do have a bit of experience storing vital docs for longevity so I had a wee bit of knowledge and boned up quickly on what else I needed to have.  Here's the basics.