Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Original Records Are Always the Best

I finally came to the place in my tree while cleaning up, that made me acknowledged that for years I had let stand another person's research that was based on an abstracted record.  It was time to search for the records that the other person had abstracted.  This was not new to me.  I had done this with my Hero's line and discovered an abstracted record in respected published book had left out a child entirely.
The search in the probate records on FamilySearch was a bust.  The records did not go back far enough.  I then turned to the FamilySearch Wiki , search for my county and state, which helped me find there was a searchable database for the county. Had I gone there first, I might not have found it as it is not intuitive to discover... The area of records is under holdings... I did find the probate indices and searched. They were there, the two men who died within months of each other and the focus of my research.  They had come to Madison County, Mississippi Territory as Squatters apparently as one shows up in the 1809 Mississippi Territory Squatter's Census.  The hash marks with him indicate the other man and his family in the household.
I ordered the files, and lo and behold, the previous abstracts did have some relationships incorrect. Yep, the original is ALWAYS best!  My problem now is to try and figure out the relationships.  On the 1809 Squatter's Census the dates are not helpful as to if it would brother or father and son relationship as, it just lists 21 and up.  They died in late 1814 and early 1815.  I always love it when more information flows in, but wish some could have been definitive.
What I did learn was some of the life style and crops they must have grown.  They did not have slaves, so they must have done most of their work as a family.  Which is pretty much the way the Mississippi Territory Squatters were described.There was a Flax Spinning Wheel for sale, and cloth. I gather they grew the flax, spun it into cloth.
One of the women in the file had made a coat. It apparently was for the burial of the one who is thought to be the older of the two men. So they must have also made clothing for others. There were also, sheep, wool, and cotton mentioned. They purchased a 5 gal jug of whisky for use as  the property was being sold.
They apparently were not teetotalers and knew how to loosen people up, ;-)  or all were friends and it was a type of social.  Maybe someone has a better understanding of the people of that time.  I love reading Judy Russell's, The Legal Genealogist, blog posting.  They have broadened my look as I search through the files.  If you haven't subscribed to her posts, it is not too late.
I am now digging into Mississippi Territory and Georgia Territory records in the hopes to discover something to clarify the relationships.  Another researcher has found a family they think could be this one in South Carolina.  Deed Records, here I come.
This post has really served as a thinking ground for me as I am trying to sort out what I have found.  Maybe you have suggestions or it will help you in your journey too.
See you next month!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Reflections Returns to Home Base, Tidbits From My World


Man and I have returned to our home base, aka, the stick built.  We have been here almost two weeks.  The map above shows our 6 months away. I cannot say we stayed away from snow and cold this year, because we visited places that had mucho snow, sometimes 3 to 4 feet, and one of our last stops in Glenwood Springs Colorado was a bit longer than we envisioned as, well, we got snowed in. Not much snow at the campground, but, we could not get over the 11,000 foot pass to Denver for several days due to snow and ice.  We towed Tana about 5200 miles over the six months.  We put 9600 on the truck, Jolly.

Since our return, we have cut the acreage twice and felled two dead trees.  There are enough weeds to keep me, mmm, "entertained" for a while.  We have not finished moving out of Tana and back into the stick built.

I know I have been chattering all spring about "stepping" away from the computer.  I hear other bloggers/genealogists mentioning that as well.  Seems there are a number of us that are feeling "burnout".  For me, I am doing my best to walk away for several hours, here, there, but, every day, just walking away.  Of course, I usually have my iToys in tow.  I know, I know.  One device at a time.  First the computer, then, the iPad, next the iPhone.

And, I have been chattering about doing some serious catching up on input and organization.  To that effect, I have been tossing stuff in trash cans daily.  You know, stuff, like old shoes, old clothes, old stuff.  No, I cannot face doing this all in one massive tossing marathon, but, I can toss something every day.  I will admit, I am looking for the largest stuff possible to toss first, making a few holes.  Seeing that "holes" are the goal, tossing the large stuff first makes me feel like I have done something wonderful and urges me on to find more big stuff to toss.  (Why is it I hear Man's doubting snorts in the background?)

I am attempting to catch up on my travel blog posts over at Reflections From the Fence.  I am almost 2 years behind.  Isn't that sad?  As I blog I delete bad photos, and move the photos reviewed to a archival area on the hard drive.  Keeping up the daily backups and twice monthly backups to my external hard drives is paramount and something I do keep up to date. Organization, with a dose of madness tossed in to keep it real.

In between moving, tossing, organizing, blogging, and stepping away from the computer, I have managed to find two new cousins, we all descend from 2 lines in early Pennsylvania and Virginia. We have been sharing.  While sharing, I discovered some, ok, a number more than just some, of missing files on my computer.  (Refer to last sentence of the paragraph above, "Organization, with a dose of madness tossed in to keep it real.")  Books I had scanned about 2 years ago, MIA.  No where to be found.  After some quiet wailing and whining to myself, I checked one of the backup external hard drives and there they all were.  See, backups saved me a serious and painful do-over.  Did you hear my sighs of relief??  They were long and loud sighs.

Above:  just one small corner of the office.  If I can manage to clean up this corner, before fall, I will be dancing joyfully.  In that pile I see genealogy, and taxes and filing and "cleanup in aisle 4 please".  I can guarantee that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Approaching like the "tossing stuff" project, do a little every day, or twice a day, or something.  Anything is better than nothing. (Again, I hear Man's snorting in the background.  Hmmmph.)

Last summer I spent considerable time arranging for markers to be placed on 3 graves of Man's ancestors.  I hope to personally visit two of these grave sites in the next month or so and obtain photos.  Descendants of two are so pleased that there are now new beautiful markers on their ancestor's graves.  Received a warm and loving thank you note from one of the descendants the other day.  She is thrilled.  Another descendant wrote when she saw mock-up photos that she was crying with joy.  Yes, all that work was worth it.  The money spent was worth it.  I feel closure, my heart is at peace.

What are your plans for the upcoming summer?  Research, organizing, tossing stuff, or just stepping away from the computer?  Whatever you plan, don't forget to include lots of visits and hugs with family, they are after all the basis of our research, why we do what we love so much. And, oh, take lots of photos!


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Comparison of Genealogy Conferences

Rootstech FGS 2015 and 

Who Do You Think You Are Live 

The comments in this post are from my own experience and others may have different perspective on the events.

There have been several posts on this blog discussing the big genealogy events this year. I was fortunate that I could attend the joint Rootstech and FGS conference in Salt Lake City in February and then last month I went to Who Do You Think You Are Live event on the last day at their new venue the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. 
Rather than post another review I will do a comparison of the 2 events.

Who Do You Think You Are Live is undoubtedly the largest genealogy event in the UK and since it started has always been held in London, this year it moved north to Birmingham and this new venue changed the layout of the exhibit hall. The previous venue in Olympia was smaller and spread across 2 floors this time it was all on one floor. This being said I am certain that the whole of this event would have fitted into the vendor hall at the Rootstech and FGS conference.

The british event had a mixture of the big genealogy companies, smaller vendors and some of the family history societies and other specialist groups.

The WDYTYA Live event always has a session each day when there is an interview with a celebrity who has appeared on the show, this year it was Reggie Yates who explored his Ghanaian roots, Alistair McGowan who discovered more about his father's Anglo - Indian heritage and the one I attended had Tamzin Outhwaite whose Italian immigrant ancestors had been interred in Palace Camp on the Isle of Man during WW2. These give the viewers more insight into how the celebrities felt when they uncovered the story of their family. 
This is part of the event that you do not get with the US conference which is very much run by the professionals and the LDS church. The celebrities at Rootstech gave talks to everyone whilst at WDYTYA it was only a proportion of the attendees who were there each day. 

Had I only attended the Rootstech part of the US conference I would have struggled to find enough presentations, of interest to me, to fill my day and would have spent more time at the Family History Library, that said there were times when I had to choose what session I wanted to attend. I decided to miss any that were being recorded as I could catch them later at home.

Three of the talks I attended at WDYTYA Live were included in the price of my VIP ticket and I had decided these before I booked.
I could have paid less for a ticket but would then have had to book any of the SOG (Society of Genealogists) talks once I arrived on the day. If you can get there early and are not fussed about attending any specific talks or attend more than one day this could be an option. I am considering attending all 3 days next year and doing more browsing, attending the free talks on some of the stands and possibly helping as a volunteer on one of the stands.

I would certainly say to anyone considering coming to the UK for the WDYTYA Live event to do their homework and come with questions for the experts. The ask the expert section at the show can be a godsend if you have a particular problem you are stuck with. I did not use this in Birmingham as I am in an organization phase at the moment rather than research, I used it in London previously and the person I spoke to offered a few new avenues for my research.

Ultimately with any of these events you get out of them what you are prepared to put in. I met up with many individuals I knew online in the US but not so in the UK. Does this reflect the type of event or the different way they collaborate?

Maybe we need to embrace the US badge, ribbon and business card culture in the UK.
Here are a few of the photos I took at these events.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Keeping Family History Stories Alive through Fiction - Part H

Keeping Family History Stories Alive through Fiction
Part H
"Dr. Bill" Smith

Do you recognize the Abigail Adams quote, “Remember the Ladies”?

Abigail Adams, from a painting by Gilbert Stuart

As her husband, John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of the USA, was heading off to meet with the Continental Congress, Abigail Adams famously admonished him, “Remember the Ladies.” The men who served as Founding Fathers, and many of their male counterparts since, had made a habit of ignoring the ladies, as many of you will attest, I’m sure. I mention this for two reasons.

First, in doing our family history research, from our first days of getting serious about it, in the mid-1990s, my wife and I each pledged to ourselves and each other that we would faithfully research the female lines of ancestor couples as thoroughly, or more thoroughly, than the male surname line. At that time, many of the male lines had historically been done already in much more detail. It was harder to research the ladies’ side, by far, because marriage information was not always readily available. Often, only the given name of the female marriage partner was know, if that. Regardless, we were well rewarded for our efforts. Many a brick-wall on the male line, as perceived by others, was overcome by carefully examining the maternal line. Mothers, Grandmothers, and Aunts are crucial to family history research. How is that for stating the obvious!! ;-)

Second, when writing fiction to keep family history stories alive, not surprisingly, telling the ‘ladies’ stories’ is critical to being complete… as well as very interesting. So much so that many, if not most, of the stories I now write focus on the point of view of the women in the family saga, historical fiction series that is my creation.

My first novel, that began the family saga, “Back to the Homeplace,” was based on the concerns of a woman, a widow, of keeping her Century Farm, intact and in the family, on her passing. Her family had originally settled the land in 1833 while the story was taking place in 1987. She had strong feelings for her family and her land. She wanted to be sure her four children carried those same feelings forward to future generations as well. Her unorthodox ‘video will’ set that plan in motion. She was a strong-willed woman at the core of the story.

You may recall that last time, when we were talking about theme, I said the following:
In my “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga, historical fiction stories, the theme is: “it is critically important to retain the family farm, in one piece, in the family.” It was the theme of the original novel, and that theme runs through all four novels, two other books, and hundreds of short stories that have been written in the series of stories (see: <>).

As the family saga has developed, as I’ve mentioned previously, I went back and reconstructed (created, actually, of course) that 1833 to 1987 time period for the saga. The first part of that period, 1833 to 1876, including the Civil War period, was told in a series of short stories. These were collected into book form as: “The American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876).” From the original settlers to the reconstruction of the town and surrounding rural community following the war, the women played key roles as told in the stories collected there. These roles reflect the research my wife and I have discovered as we have done our family history research. The women served not only as mothers and wives, but took on just about every role that men had, but perhaps not as often then as many do now. These are reflected in my family saga stories. You can do the same with your family stories, to keep them alive.

[Each book mentioned is available at]

During the second half of the 1800s, in the stories, it first appeared that a man, William McDonald, the grandfather of the widow in 1987, was primarily responsible for gathering additional lands around the original homestead to create the Century Farm of 1987. However, on closer examination, the story really was that he was strongly influenced by, even guided by, his mother in the entire process. In fact, she had been ‘planning’ this from the time of his birth, along with her husband. But, she was the guiding force. How she did it, and why, represents the core theme of the current set of short stores being created for “The Homeplace Saga” as it is now continuing to develop.

[These short stories are available, at no charge, at:]

What will your family saga look like to keep alive your family history research?

See you next month! I love to read comments, so please leave one or more, including questions. 

Dr. Bill


"Dr. Bill" (Wm. L.) Smith can be found regularly at his genealogy blog, "Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories" <> or his family saga blog, "The Homeplace Saga," <>. He is an original contributor, as The Heritage Tourist, to the "In-DepthGenealogy" blog with a monthly column in the "Going In-Depth" digi-mag. He also writes a monthly post for the Worldwide Genealogy Blog.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Mother's Day - A celebration

Firstly I have to apologise for being a little tardy with my scheduled post! We are at present driving home, after spending the weekend with family, and celebrating Mother's Day with my mother. This morning, we braved a very chilly morning to take Mum out for Mothers's Day brunch. As she is quite elderly now it is a wonderful to have some time with her and see her delight when the huge plate of apple and cinnamon pancakes was popped in front of her. 

This morning's celebration got me thinking! remembering past mother days and wondering how long we had been celebrating Mother's Day in Australia.  

It you go back in history there are numerous references of different festivals that celebrated Mothers.  Many historians proposed that the first Mother's Day celebrations were the ancient spring festivals dedicated to mother goddesses. In Rome, around 250 BC there was the celebration to Cybele, or  Magna Mater (Great Mother). This festival was celebrated for three days in March and was called Hilaria.  The Greek's had a similar celebration in spring in which they honoured Rhea the mother of gods and goddesses. 
Anna Jarvis

A similar celebration, called Mothering Sunday, has been practiced in England since the 1600's. This celebration is also called Mid-Lent Sunday. However, the celebration of the modern Mothers day is accredited to Anna Jarvis. In 1908 Anna sought to honour her mother by holding a memorial church service in Grafton, West Virginia. It was her desire to have a day put aside especially to remember and pay respect to mothers. Following this service Anna and her fellow supporters lobbied officials throughout America to have Mother's Day endorsed as an official holiday.

I hope and pray that someone, sometime will found a memorial mothers day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life.  She is entitled to it.  
- Ann Reeves Jarvis.

By 1911 Mother's Day was celebrated widely throughout the United States, and in 1914 the second Sunday in May was officially declared as "Mother's Day".  Her wishes were realised.  Interestingly, in later years, after the commercialisation of "Mother's Day" by florists, chocolate manufacturers, and greeting card companies, Anna regretted the move away from the true meaning of Mother's Day.

It seems Australia followed quickly in the steps of the United States and "Mother's Day" is reported to be celebrated in 1909, only a year after Anna's celebrated memorial service in West Virgina.

A number of reports can be found in TROVE, outlining the celebration of the new "Mother's Day" holiday.  The report here from 10 May 1909 points out that "the second Sunday in May is now generally set apart in the United States as a period for extolling of the virtues of mothers" it goes on to point out "The mothers of Australia are no less deserving of praise and gratitude than are those of the great Republic".

How did you celebrate mothers day, has your celebration changed over time?  I remember as a small child my sisters and I making cards and saving up for a small gift for Mum. Often this gift would be some talc and soap or a new cup, saucer and plate set for her tea set collection.  Mothers Day would start with four sisters bouncing on Mum and Dad's bed, bringing in our gifts and settling in for a cuddle and wrestle.

As we grew older, we took on the task of preparing a special Sunday lunch to celebrate mother's day.  The kitchen would be turned into something a little short of a war zone, as we put together a three course lunch and our Dad would be assigned to the kitchen sink, up to his elbows in soapy suds, washing the piles of discarded saucepans and pots. My mother must have observed these operations with great amusement and possibly a little trepidation. 

A few years passed and it became my turn to be the recipient of Mother's Day attention.  I recall a number of occasions, lying in bed, and listening to my eldest son, in our kitchen giving directions as my two boys prepared my Mother's Day breakfast.  After a short while, two smiling teenage boys would appear at our bedroom door, one bearing a cup of steaming hot tea and the other balancing a large tray of breakfast goodies.  The tray would be laden with an enormous bowl of rice bubbles, milk lapping the rim of the bowl and a large orange on a side dish.  My husband would smile, wink and whisper,  "Make sure you eat all that cereal".  

Today we celebrate Mothers Day with family gatherings, special lunches, flowers, cards and gifts. Yes, it has become highly commercialised, however it has also become a special time for family to reconnect and pay respects to mothers, grandmothers and aunts. 

I would like to dedicate this Mother's Day post to my special Mum and my grandmothers as these wonderful women have had such an incredible influence on who I am today. 
My Nannas - Happy Mother's Day

Thursday, 7 May 2015

A Suffragette Intervention, 1908

Local history features in my post of this month.  As Britain wakes up to the results of yesterday's  General Election, it seemed appropriate to look back to 1908 and  a visit  by Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to the village of Earlston in the  Scottish Borders.    The visit  features on several postcards in the  collection of "Auld Earlston", my local  heritage group,  with past  newspapers, held  at the Heritage Hub in Hawick,  giving  a colourful account of the event.   

This is not boring politics! So do read on - the description of the suffragette incident is particularly entertaining, not least for the journalistic style. 

"The Jedburgh Advertiser" of October 3rd described the plans  for the visit.  These included  the erection of a tent, measuring 220 feet by 60 feet  with seating accommodation for about 4000 people - this when the population  of Earlston in the 1911 census was only 1677!   How many political meetings in the Borders attract that kind of number today?  

Special trains were laid on from Jedburgh, Kelso and Edinburgh;  a large number of Members of Parliament  had intimated  their intentions to be present, and it was noted that presiding over the event would be Mr H. J. Tennant, M.P. for Berwickshire.   

 Bunting out on Earlston High Street for the Prime Minister's visit. 

The visit  proved to be a notable  occasion,  disrupted by the late arrival of reporters and M.Ps on a delayed Edinburgh train which took three hours to cover the 35 miles to  Earlston; crowds spilling out of from the congested,  hot marquee, the intervention of a woman suffragette,  and noise from the "shunt, snort and whistles" of a railway engine threatening  to drown out the speakers.  

The newspaper report gave a vivid picture of the crowds and the conditions in the marquee:
 "The special train that had started at Jedburgh Railway Station seemed to provide more than ample accommodation for the passengers, but so many persons joined it at Jedfoot, Nisbet, Kirkbank and Roxburgh, it was evident miscalculations had been made.   All the passengers from Kelso joined it at Roxburgh and when it had received additions at other stations where it stopped, the carriages were full. 
The marquee could not contain all who wished to be present.  The side canvas was raised and hundreds of people had to be content with standing room beyond the lines of the tent........Many who were in places distant from the platform did not hear the speeches distinctly.   Lighted lamps were suspended from lines and were affected by pressure on the canvas and cords were bobbing most of the time and presented a somewhat fantastic appearance that was slightly distracting.  The heat was very great and the people were so densely crowded that there was some discomfort".    

The arrival of the official party at Earlston Station
Leaving the station for the marquee

"The Jedburgh Advertiser" of October 9th noted that "When the Prime Minister appeared there was nothing of the enthusiasm that was displayed when Mr Gladstone entered a great meeting....... The reception given to the chairman cannot be described as cordial and it was apparent that the rupture between Mr Tennant, MP for Berwickshire. and his constituents had not been altogether healed".   

When Mr Asquith stood to speak "He got  a warm greeting.  Mary of the people rose to their feet and waved hats and handkerchiefs and cheered with great cordiality".  

However he had only said a few words when,  at the remark  "My primary purpose in coming here this afternoon is...., a woman startled her neighbours by exclaiming " Give votes to women!".  The interrupter was a young woman of graceful figure and pleasant features.  Stewards made their way to the fair  suffragette  and quickly bore the woman out,  calm and unresisting but with her sailor hat somewhat awry". 

By his description, the newspaper reporter clearly found this incident far more interesting than Mr Asquith's speech which he described as "Unimpassioned with no striking phrases.    The Scottish Small Landholders Bill was his main theme.  He had great command of language  and discussed  the subject with much detail". 

The vote  of thanks was given by Sir John Jardine, M.P. for Roxburghshire.    "His speech was " a striking contrast to that of Mr Asquith.  He spoke with great fluency  to stir the majority of his hearers.".

The Lord Advocate Mr Shaw brought the meeting  to a close commenting "There are four great institutions in this little land of ours - public houses, the school, the workhouse and the land.  We are in favour of fewer people in the public house and more people in the school;  fewer people in the workhouse and more on the land".  This of course was very loudly cheered".     


But what had prompted this meeting to be held in a small Berwickshire village in the rural Scottish Borders?   Mr Asquith was M.P. for East Fife and had Border connections.  His second wife was socialite Margot  Tennant, daughter of the prominent Tennant family  of the Glen, Innerleithen, whilst his brother-in-law  Mr H. J. Tennant was the local Berwickshire Member of Parliament.

No general election was looming.  For Mr Asquith had assumed office  only a few months before, on the resignation of Mr Campbell Bannerman due to illness.  A turbulent political situation faced him, with issues of House of Lords reform,  home rule for Ireland, industrial strife, an increasingly militant women suffragette movement and worsening international relations with Germany, culminating in the First World War.  

But on a brief Saturday afternoon in October, Earlston was on the national stage politically.

Official photograph taken by Walter Swanston, an Earlston-born photographer
 who set up a studio on Leith Walk, Edinburgh.