Monday, 30 November 2015

Holiday Fun and Games

Thanksgiving has come and gone here in the US.  I was blessed to have both of my sons, my youngest son's wife, my brother, his wife and daughter, her husband and their two children join my husband and I for a lovely meal and a wonderful weekend.
In an effort to engage the younger ones in genealogy and to add to their limited knowledge of family history, I created a genealogy quiz that we have fun with during the meal.  I really tried to include a question about everyone, sometimes having to google to get more up to date data such as who made the honor roll last semester, whose participated on a winning team, what school did a certain grandfather attend, etc.  Most of the time, however, it is a lot easier and can be drawn directly from family trees, etc.
This was our second year of trying this and I think it was successful.  I typed out each question, cut each into its own strip, folded them in half and put them into a bowl.  The bowl was passed around the table and each person, in turn, drew a question.  If they were able to answer, they received five points.  If they were unable to answer, the question was thrown out to the others and whoever answered correctly, received two points.  The winner received congratulations and a little reward but I am thinking of adding a sort of "trophy" for next year.

This little event created a lot of conversation, questions and stirred interest in learning more about family.  It was fun to see who knew what, who was "confused" about facts, and who wanted to learn more.
A side benefit was that there were no arguments over politics and/or religion.  As we were focused on family history, everyone at the table shared the experience and could learn something from the answers to the questions.
Interestingly enough, the following evening, minus a few earlier participants, some of the "mid-aged" diners expressed an interest in repeating the game and created their own version.  For this event, everyone had to think of their own question.  Again, going around the table, each person took a turn making up and asking their own question.  Each seemed to try to "stump" the others by asking questions that were more current and not necessarily "known" to the family genealogists.  I guess turn around is fair play and can be a lot of fun.
Next year, I might ask each participant to submit a question or two of their own in advance.   I can type them up and drop each question into a bowl.  That might make it even more inclusive for everyone and make them think a little deeper about their own history.

I hope all of you out there that celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday had a memorable day.  Next time you get together with family, you might want to try your own family genealogy quiz.  It's fun, educational and almost guarantees interaction amongst all.

And now, until next year....................

Friday, 27 November 2015

French Citizens and Ancestors On My Mind

As we all know, on November 13, 2015, Paris was attacked by terrorists of the Isis group and over one hundred innocent people were killed. The people of France have been in my thoughts and prayers constantly since this heinous attack!  I have prayed for your safety and for your peace.

Our American President, Barack Obama immediately offered promises of support to France, and reminded us that France was one of our oldest allies--of course--in the very beginning of our country, in the American Revolutionary War. We have remained close since the beginning, and I am pleased to be able to look at my family tree and find a great genealogical gift of French influence in my family.

In the very beginning of our country, my family’s ninth great

grandfather Nicholas Martiau, b. 1591 Ile-de-France, d. 1657 in Yorktown, Virginia, a French Huguenot, came to Virginia as an engineer to help build the forts to protect the settlers in Virginia. His expertise in building the palisade of the forts at Jamestown and Yorktown saved many lives. The land for his plantation which Martiau  was granted, was later given for the development of the city of Yorktown. Today there is a plaque dedicated to him in Yorktown, as well as a large black granite monument, and a statue in Ile de France. I am honored to be related to this great Frenchman. He became one of the earliest ancestors of George Washington, his third great grandson!

Pictures by Author's family

President George Washington (1732 – 1799)
is your 3rd great-grandson
father of President George Washington
mother of Augustine Washington Sr,
mother of Mildred Warner
mother of Mildred Reade
You are the father of Elizabeth Martiau  

My own relationship to Nicholas Martiau looks like this:
Nicholas Martiau (1591 – 1657)
is your 9th great-grandfather
daughter of Nicholas Martiau
son of Mary Jane Martiau
son of John Scarsbrook
daughter of Col. Henry Scarsbrook
son of Elizabeth Cary Scarsbrook
son of Maj. John Scarsbrook Langhorne
son of Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne
daughter of James Steptoe Langhorne
daughter of Evaline Langhorne
daughter of Katherine Steptoe Houchins
You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kerse

By the way, my mother’s family were the Kerse/Kearse family from Ireland when they first came to America in the mid 1800’s, but originally, they were the Des Cearsais family of France who fled religious persecution and settled in Ireland before coming to America.

Marquis De Lafayette, Wikimedia commons, Public Domain
We have many French ancestors to be proud of and thankful for, but no story would be complete without mentioning that our fifth great grandfather, William Langhorne, 1721-1797, served as the Aide-de-Camp to Marquis De Lafayette in the American Revolutionary War! (for sure, one of our oldest allies!)  Perhaps it is no accident that Lafayette chose to honor William with this post, as he himself served as Aide-de-Camp to George Washington, a descendant of Nicholas Martiau and destined to become the first President of the United States of America.  As Lafayette was promoted, his own Aide-de-Camp William Langhorne, was the husband of  Elizabeth Cary Scarsbrook,  a cousin of George Washington who shared a grandfather with him -- Nicholas Martiau!  It was a small world in Colonial times! (For more information see among others: :// )

Although I am a typical “melting pot” American, and am proud of being  related to many nationalities, right now I am focused on my French ancestors and their influences. Please join me in praying for peace and safety for the people of Paris and all of France especially at this tragic time.  --Helen Y. Holshouser,

Maj. William Langhorne (1721 - 1797)
husband of 2nd great granddaughter of Nicholas Martiau
wife of Maj. William Langhorne and 2nd great granddaughter of Nicholas Martiau
father of Elizabeth Cary Scarsbrook, Great Grandson of Nicholas Martiau
father of Col. Henry Scarsbrook, grandson of Nicholas Martiau
mother of John Scarsbrook, daughter of Nicholas Martiau
You are the father of Mary Jane Martiau

Elizabeth Cary Scarsbrook (1721 - 1802)
is your 5th great grandmother
son of Elizabeth Cary Scarsbrook
son of Maj. John Scarsbrook Langhorne
son of Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne
daughter of James Steptoe (blind) Langhorne
daughter of Evelyn LeRoy (LeRouix) Langhorne
daughter of Katherine Steptoe Houchins
You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kerse

Maj. William Langhorne (1721 - 1797)
is your 5th great grandfather
son of Maj. William Langhorne
son of Maj. John Scarsbrook Langhorne
son of Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne
daughter of James Steptoe (blind) Langhorne
daughter of Evelyn LeRoy (LeRouix) Langhorne
daughter of Katherine Steptoe Houchins

You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kerse

Nicholas Martiau (1591 - 1657)
is your 3rd great grandfather
daughter of Nicholas Martiau
daughter of Elizabeth Martiau
daughter of Mildred Reade
son of Mildred Warner

You are the son of Augustine Washington Sr,

Elizabeth Cary Scarsbrook (1721 - 1802)
is your 3rd cousin 1x removed
father of Elizabeth Cary Scarsbrook
father of Col. Henry Scarsbrook
mother of John Scarsbrook
father of Mary Jane Martiau
daughter of Nicholas Martiau
daughter of Elizabeth Martiau
daughter of Mildred Reade
son of Mildred Warner

You are the son of Augustine Washington Sr,

President George Washington, (1732-1799)
is your 4th cousin, 6x removed
Augustine Washington Sr, (1694 - 1743)
is your 3rd cousin 7x removed
mother of Augustine Washington Sr,
mother of Mildred Warner
mother of Mildred Reade
father of Elizabeth Martiau
daughter of Nicholas Martiau
son of Mary Jane Martiau
son of John Scarsbrook
daughter of Col. Henry Scarsbrook
son of Elizabeth Cary Scarsbrook
son of Maj. John Scarsbrook Langhorne
son of Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne
daughter of James Steptoe (blind) Langhorne
daughter of Evelyn LeRoy (LeRouix) Langhorne
daughter of Katherine Steptoe Houchins
You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kerse

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Mapping Wars...Or Other Events

Military service and wars, police actions, and other armed conflicts, were a big part of many of our ancestors lives. In the U.S. we ran into conflict with Native Americans several times as citizens pushed west. We rose up in revolution against Great Britain and fought them again in 1812. Fifty years later, we fought a bloody civil war. The 20th century brought the Great War, later known as World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War. Other countries have different wars but similar stories.

I spend a lot of time telling my ancestors' stories about war and military service. In my last post I shared how I researched my Scottish soldiers and wrote about their experiences. As I was researching my Jennings line from Virginia, I realized that five young Jennings men, brothers and first cousins, served with the same regiment during the Civil War. Virginia seceded from the United States two days after Union forces fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina and President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to join the Union Army. Four Jennings men enlisted in the Confederate States of America's army the same day. My great grandfather, at age 19, joined them a year later on 1 March 1862. They all joined the 19th Virginia Infantry regiment.

With five ancestors in one unit, it made sense to tell the story of the regiment, highlighting along the way when something specific happened to an ancestor. I quickly discovered I needed a timeline to keep all the marches, battles, camps, disease, wounds, and so forth straight. And I needed a map so I knew where they were in order to describe terrain and weather conditions. There are some seriously well-done battle maps on Wikipedia, but none of them show how a regiment moved from place to place between battles. And those are the times a soldier got seriously foot sore!

Today, I'd like to share how I map the movements of a military unit. I'm not technical so I had to find a way that was easy yet produced nice maps and was informative. I think I have found such a method using Google Maps and any slideshow software.

At first I thought I could illustrate the entire experiences of the 19th Virginia Regiment on one map. But that quickly turned out not to be the case. Military units make many movements -- small and large -- and different scaled maps are appropriate for different situations. Here's an example of how small and large movements look together on one map:

Movements of the 19th Virginia Infantry after the Seven Days Battles to
Northern Virginia where they fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run or
Second Manassas; map created by Google Maps and PowerPoint

The above map illustrates a train ride from Richmond, Virginia, to Gordonsville and a 15-day march north to northern Virginia. Short marches and a battle are depicted by the pines labeled 1 through 3. The distance between Richmond and Pin 3 on modern roads is 95 miles. Only with a map can you quickly see the 19th Virginia Infantry traveled much further. Simply, listing the towns they marched through in text would not have conveyed the same information so quickly.

The following map illustrates a larger scale describing two battles which took place over a short period of time in the same general vicinity:

Movements of the 19th Virginia Infantry during the Seven Days Battles
illustrating two battles, the aftermath and where and when Daniel Rose and
Leroy Powhatan Jennings were wounded

To make these maps, I first research each battle thoroughly using online reference sources and offline sources such as muster rolls, unit diaries, and letters home. I wrote down each time a place and date are mentioned and, if included, the method of travel -- train, boat, or marching.

Then I go to Google Maps and click the menu icon:

Google Maps Menu Icon

Select the My Maps option from the dropdown.  A list of customized maps you have previously created will display or you can create a new map:

Creating a new map using Google Maps

Your customized maps are stored in Google Drive so you likely need a Google account.

Give your new map a title.

Titling your customized Google map

You can import text and images into your map, using the import link but I don't like that as I don't have total control of how it looks.

Now that I have my base map, I go back to the list of dates and places I created from my research. Type a place name in the text box at the top of the map and click the magnifying glass icon to the right of the text box.

Google Maps zooms you to the location. But you are plotting historical movements on a modern map, so you might need to look around to find exactly where you want to place your pin. For example, I know that the 19th Virginia Infantry was stationed in a swamp between the Warwick River and Yorktown, Virginia, on 26 April 1862. I zoom around until I find the Warwick River and look around for a suitable swamp between the river and Yorktown -- that's where I place my pin.

To add a pin, click the Pin icon and click the location on the map where you want to place your pin:

Adding a pin to identify location using Google Maps

You can edit the name of the Pin once you have placed it. I also usually delete the default location information provided by Google and add the date the regiment was at that location.

Once I have completed mapping movements during a specific period of time, I am ready to add further customization and descriptors to it in a way in which I can control the appearance. So I take a screenshot of my Google Map. How you do that depends on the type of computer you use.

Then I open Powerpoint (or another slide/presentation application) and open a new file. I reset the defaults to a blank slide and import the screenshot onto the slide. Again how to do that varies by application. All you need to know is where your computer stored your screenshot.

Once the screenshot is on the slide, you can use the features of the presentation application to add text, lines, etc. All this an be done using Google Maps but there are limits on the appearance of that information.

Once you have finished adding embellishments to your customized Google map. Click on Slideshow to get a full-screen presentation of that map. Take another screenshot. Save it. And voila! You have a map you can use to illustrate blog posts, upload to your family tree, or add to your website.

I use these maps not only for posts about military service, but also family migrations. It's totally up to you!

My latest maps are now appearing in a month-long series about the 19th Virginia Regiment on my blog, Tangled Roots and Trees.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

From the Top - Explore Archives

This week the annual Explore Your Archives campaign launched here in the UK. Remember only a tiny fraction of historical materials have been digitised and made available online, so archives still hold many treasures genealogists need.  Learning to use an archive is really important.

I am prepared to bet that most of us were taught how to use a library sometime in childhood, but we learn to use archives as adults by trial and error. Libraries organise their books and other materials and have catalogues to help you find what you want. Archives also organise and catalogue their holdings, but do so differently.

Archives are organised using a hierarchy with several levels. Cataloguing archives, in four very easy steps illustrates the four main levels with rather natty photos. The levels are:
  • Fonds or Collection
  • Series
  • File
  • Item
Genealogists often focus on the single item, and forget the context in which it was created, used and preserved. Much valuable information about an item is in the higher catalogue levels, so explore them all.

Archivists start at the top level and don't always have the resources to fully describe lower levels.  The best way of discovering what an archive holds is to look at the fonds level. The National Archives (TNA, the UK one) has over 400 fonds, which is somewhat overwhelming. According to the published guide 'Tracing your Ancestors in the National Archives' these are the fonds most commonly used by family historians:

I would like to see a summary like this one posted on every archive's website and displayed prominently in every search room.  I am sure UK researchers are familiar with some of the contents of the fonds HO, RG and WO. Have you looked at other fonds, and other series within fonds?  Take a close look at RG 101.

Sadly, online archive catalogues do not make examining fonds level entries as easy as it should be. To display all fonds in Discovery, TNA's catalogue, use the Advanced Search. A search term must be entered so I used the wildcard *, meaning everything.  Then I scrolled down the page and selected 'The National Archives' under Held by, which brought up further options. I scrolled a long way further and selected 'Department' under Catalogue Levels.  TNA confusingly uses the terms Department for Fonds and Piece for File. Once you have identified a Fond of interest, you can search using the reference.

Now it is your turn. Have fun exploring an archive!

Bevan, Amanda. 2006. Tracing your Ancestors in the National Archives. The National Archives: Richmond. pp 4-7.

Friday, 20 November 2015

A Family Story

So...This is what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket to create a blog post.  You start researching and one rabbit hole leads you down a path that you find yourself at the crossroads of the Cheshire Cat resting place. "Where do you want to go?" A thousand thoughts go through your mind and the next google search points you down another path.  Then the nurse comes in and distracts you from your direction by riling up your mother from her sleep and creating minutes of chaos.  Things quieten down and you try to collect your fractionated thoughts, but you are back a square one. The collected basket of information so far collected is examined and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there isn't any cohesive points.  A big sigh is breathed, and the process begins again.
Finally 4 days later and many repetitious moments of the previous sentences, the Doctor releases your mother to return to her assisted living facility. All is well again. You figure, Yes! now I can concentrate.
You return home, open your computer to organize and write what you have.  Still, the information appears like a kaleidoscope of ideas.  The phone rings, and you hear..."GrandmomE, come down and play with me, please, Please, Please..." In the sweetest of of pleading voices. "Come play with me."

It is not hard to admit, one looks at the computer, then at the phone...and the sweet voice wins.
The story is not written, but the ground work is planned and the collection has begun. So, here is a preview and see if you can figure out what road we will be traveling next month.
 Normandy Invasion, June 1944
Battle of the Bulge September 1944

Right now an angel face is patiently waiting for grandmomE to put the computer down and snuggle her to sleep.
And that is how the plans of a genealogy blogger can be waylaid by present day family.  Do you identify?  See you next month with a well organized post. In the mean time snuggle and love your sweeties and make memories for them to write about. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

November, a Month of Thanksgiving and Gratefulness

Today, Man and I are sitting out a significant rain event in Pinnacle North Carolina.  Sweet newer small campground in the shadow of Pilot Mountain.  We have been traveling and working rather hard for several weeks, so this rain event/rest is more than welcomed.

In the US, we celebrate Thanksgiving in late November.  They say this year, that you will not find a “large” turkey, there has been a avian bird flu that has reduced the availability of turkeys.  For many this will be traumatic, as family traditions are so deeply rooted in our souls.  I look at this as a possibility to change or make our own family traditions. Tradition is wonderful, but, it can change. Many years ago, when we had two sons (number three was not even a twinkle in his daddies’s eye yet), we changed our Christmas meal menu.  I set out guidelines that all food had to be prepared in the days leading up to Christmas and served cold.  Sound sad??  Not one bit. We prepared smoked turkeys, deviled eggs, potato salad, cheese and bread trays, fresh vegie trays, deserts to die for, usually what we have called the “Bowen cheesecake”.  We purchased fantastic honey spiral cut ham.  There was so much food we had left overs for days.  The “cold” meal could be set out and enjoyed during the day (yes, the potato salad would be put back in the frig, food poisoning was not part of the menu).  And, enjoyed it was.  So, yes, you can change up the family traditional meals, it is after all, all about the family anyway, the meal is just the accompaniment.

Now, all of that explained, do you record these sort of family “memories” in your family history?? Maybe even a photo of the “spread” or your lovely table settings.  I would give anything to see a representation of the table of my ancestors.

November is also a month of gratefulness that is played out on social media like Facebook with a daily meme of stating what you are thankful for.  Some of the entries are truly amazing and heartwarming. It is also a challenge to come up with a post every day. I did this several years ago, and ended up reproducing the month of posts on Reflections, Thankful November.

It is fun to go back and remember.  And, again, I shall ask, have you recorded memories and thankfulness on your blog or in your family history?

Man and I have no idea where we will spend the Thanksgiving day, somewhere on the road between North Carolina and Florida.  We are taking our time and visiting a few friends along the way.  No research stops are currently planned, but, hey, Man and I live for the day and our plans are written in dust and sea mist.  The wheels roll and we try to enjoy the trip(s) for what is offered.  Visits with family and friends are highly valued.  Even short family visits may produce some wonderful foder for your research.  Maybe a digital sound recording of your visit and the story telling that always happens.  I don’t have many interviews in my family history, but the ones I do have are, simply, amazing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, eat well, and enjoy the family times. (Then go post some of the great memories to your data base.)