Saturday, 12 August 2017

Staying Active

No this post is not about exercise (not in the true sense of the word anyway). I might say it was about a different type of exercise, one that requires the use of the brain, writing blog posts.

This year has seen a dearth of posts on this blog. One can speculate as regards the reasons why this has happened. Basically though it is down to the simple fact that other things in life often have to take priority. For most of us genealogy is a hobby which we do in our "spare" time and the amount of time we can devote to pursuit of our family will depend on the circumstances of each individual and their passion for what they do. Professionals may have even less time to devote to activities which do not bring a financial reward (though many do participate as a way of getting themselves known to those who may require their services). That being said for many years the number of blogs about genealogy have been growing. Some months ago I read a post by Julie Cahill Tarr on this topic James Tanner wrote about this on his Genealogy Star blog and Amy Johnson Crow then did a nice follow on post . If you have not seen these take a look and check out the comments below each post.

So lack of posts is not specific to this blog. However this blog differs from most of the others in that it has posts from genealogists across the globe. 
As genealogists know with the growth of the internet it is becoming easier to do research for some records without having to travel but this can mean we are less familiar with the records or they need translating. Being able to approach others more familiar with those records or seeing them discussing that type of record can be extremely useful. This blog has the potential to be the place to come for collaboration from both a reader and writer perspective.

How can we get bloggers to contribute more?
Does this blog need support from Geneabloggers Tribe (Many of the contributors past and present are members of Geneabloggers Tribe and several are part of the admin team)?

I don't know the answer and ultimately it has got to be something that Julie Goucher who had both the idea and organised the set up of this blog is happy with since it is still her blog.

Please leave any constructive comments you might have as this blog is all about collaboration. I am sure that the other 4 bloggers that have posted this year will agree that we would love for more bloggers to be contributing.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Worldwide Genealogical Collaboration
Cousins Find Each Other Around the World

Today’s technology and DNA testing provide all kinds of exciting opportunities in genealogical research.  Many of us, and I am surely one, believe that each individual has the right to know exactly who she/he is and to know her or his ancestors. As my own genealogical research progressed, it helped strengthen my identity-- as I learned about the ancestors whose DNA coursed through my own veins as well as theirs, hundreds of years ago.  Lately, I’ve learned that nowhere is this “need to know” stronger than for adoptees. Many, probably most adoptees feel the need to know their own individual identities and heritage.

I have a cousin named Bradley who was adopted. We didn’t know each other until we both did our DNA tests on Ancestry, and discovered our match.  Bradley and I have worked together a lot over the last year or so.  We have used Ancestry, FTDNA-Family Tree DNA, 23 and Me, and as well as other genealogical research sites and have learned amazing things. 

Before Bradley contacted me about our DNA match, he had met another cousin named Courtney--DNA proved she was my cousin also!  I have to tell you, one of us is from California, one from North Carolina, and one from New York--we cover the whole of America, and we are cousins -- united by DNA and ancestors/genealogy.

Bradley is a force of nature, who makes things happen. He found two other cousins, Stella and Zoe, both of whom were also adopted, and who are also related to him, and to Courtney and to me by DNA! That is truly incredible!  In my experience, finding five people, unknown to each other, from all over the world, all of whom are related by DNA to each other--well, I would wager that it would be a zero probability that we would find each other!  However, the miracle continues, even more amazing to me is that Stella had met another DNA- matched cousin  named Eva and she was related by DNA to the rest of us as well!  That made six of us, three from across the United States, and three from Central Europe -- the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland.  We are three adoptees and three who know their parents, all 4th, 5th, or 6th cousins! 
Bradley then organized us into a group on Facebook, so that we could communicate more easily.  He invited one other DNA match of his to join the group hoping she might also match some of us. Laura did indeed match another one of us, another cherished cousin.  I asked my daughter Ali to join our group, as she speaks and reads German and French fluently, and was also a cousin of course! Eight of us, what a wonderful group of people, all dynamic and interesting to know!  Typically, the Europeans all speak and read English with different levels of experience, while we Americans only speak English, except for my daughter Ali, whose linguistic abilities did not come from her mother, but from other ancestors.

Eight people, eight cousins, three adoptees from all around the world-- united by a desire to know our common heritage -- awesome!  We truly engage in “Worldwide Genealogical Collaboration”!

We have been working together for a few months, but we may have just discovered our common line of ancestors, one of Netherlander origin.  We still have research to do to be sure.  As we identify our most recent common ancestor--possibly 4th, 5th, and 6th great grandparents depending on our cousinship and as the ancestral lines fall in place, birth parents are often-- usually identified.  It is a fact of research.  What happens next is a choice that adoptees and their birth parents, if living, have to make. Reunions can be fulfilling and joyful, or full of rejection. With DNA, technology, and our heritage research, identities can no longer be secret -- instead they can be stronger than ever.

There is one more phenomenal situation that we have discovered with our genealogical work together.  Our common ancestors, the Vreeland family, came to America in the mid 1600’s from the Netherlands to New Amsterdam (New York) in Colonial America. They helped found New Jersey, buying land from the Indians, and fighting in the Revolutionary War. Now, 350 years later, eight of us are getting to know each other and one completes this circle of migration.  Zoe was born in America, in New Jersey.  After her adoption, as a very young child of 2, she was taken to the Netherlands to be raised by her adoptive family. She brings OUR family full circle--from the Netherlands to New Jersey and from New Jersey back to Europe!  Isn’t that amazing!

Worldwide Genealogical Collaboration-- aren’t we blessed to be a part of it! Enjoy finding your cousins all over the world. 

Until next time, Helen Holshouser
Map depicting migration of colonial settlers from Europe to America and back to Europe. --From DNA Genetic Communities,

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

There Is a Story Behind that picture...

My first inclination over the last month was to write a pet peeve of mine...well others too, but my daughter asked for some copies of her wedding pictures, and so many memories came flooding in.
Thus, you get to be treated to the story behind the pictures in her wedding photos.

Not everyone would have wedding pictures such as these, but we did not use a professional photographer. It was her grandmother would loved, loved to take pictures. The decorations for the reception were done as a newly joined family effort. The groom's parents and the bride's parents met in the cultural hall of the church (LDS terms) and combined their thoughts and work to make it a beautiful reception. It meant stringing twine back and forth across the room at about 10 feet and hanging individually blown balloons from it to drop the ceiling. It turned out wonderful.
The bride's aunt, the groom's sister and the ceiling of balloons. 

That is just one story behind the pictures.

I will start with her dress. She had sewed each pearl on to the lace, that I added to the dress I made for her according to her specifications. There wasn't a pattern for the dress...the mom created it. In fact I was sewing the covered buttons on the sleeves as we drove from Houston to Dallas the night before the Wedding. They were sealed at the Dallas Temple.
Here is her dress.

There was another dress story that still is brought to remind me I forget things. Her sister's dress I discovered when getting ready to go to the temple had not had all the covered buttons done in the back. I had to sew her into the dress ... yeah there was a lot of teasing around that. Yes, I also made all the bridesmaid dresses.
The back of the dress that was sewn on. The little sister had asked to see the big sister's shoes.

They were both jokers and it showed through out their reception. They had both been threatening each other with a food fight regarding the cake cutting. The picture shows the end results.

They decided it was their place to entertain the attendees of the reception... They sang a family favorite "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd" by Roger Miller. It was a funny event, and fitted both so well. 

I am waiting on the groom to tell me what the grandmother said to him... may not be able to share. 

This was a memory lane for me, I hope you enjoyed it. My point is when going through those pictures, write the memory down that goes with it if you have it. Don't just write the name of the people in the picture on the back. 
I love the stories.

Monday, 12 June 2017


I am writing this post as a follow on from one that I put up on my own blog earlier this month. 
This is also about my experience over the weekend whilst working on the Family Search Family Tree and I suspect I am not alone in having this experience.
I had looked at a new record set on Find My Past and was relating it back to an ancestor on the Family Search Family Tree which led to further research on this individual and his family.

Richard Carrot the son was attached to his parents but his siblings have been added today. 
There are others using the name Richard Carrot in this area so at the moment much of the family is speculative with sources attached but not proven relationships. I have accessed the parish registers to confirm christenings, marriages and burials. However Richard and Elizabeth are common first names and useful census records are rare before 1841. How do I know I have the right family?

So here is a map of the area courtesy of Google maps.
Richard Carrot and Elizabeth Hall married in Pickworth in 1777. Elizabeth was christened in Walcot 1778 and Richard in Folkingham 1783 but what about Matthew in Swaton 1785.
Another marriage can be found for a Richard and Elizabeth Aldridge in Horbling in 1761. 
Horbling is closer to Swaton so could they be the parents of Matthew?
First I need to look for likely children of Richard and Elizabeth nee Aldridge in Horbling or nearby. The only one I have found is for a Thomas in 1765. I have not found a burial for Elizabeth in Horbling but a Richard was buried in 1776.  These records do not record ages and relationships the only distinguishing information recorded was that the occupation of Richard prior to his death was Tollbar keeper.
A search of newspapers at this time did not reveal any useful information as family announcements cannot yet be found in the local newspaper.
So I stick by my current conclusion in the absence of anything to refute this or providing more information.

Matthew was used as a first name by Richard the son for one of his son's. Matthew senior married Mary Dewey in Edenham but the couple do not appear to have had any children. I can find no christenings and by 1841, the first census showing relationships, they are too old to have any living with them.
Looking at the parents, grandparents and siblings of Mary's father on the Family Search Family Tree I discovered several different transcriptions of the surname. The dates and place are the same and a look at the digital images at Find My Past will confirm they refer to the same individuals.

If we are to correctly identify individuals and attach all the relevant sources we need to be aware of these alternative transcriptions and identify them for what they are when reconstructing families.

Our ancestors did like to use the same first names from generation to generation and we must always consider that each record may refer to a different individual. When John died as a baby or young child it was often the case that the next boy would be called John. It can also be seen that the sons may both want to use the first name of their parent for their own children. In my own family I have found William Roberts used 3 times by the parents in the register of christenings but only one burial. Was the second child christened twice. The second christening was private which may have possibly been due to the child being sickly. There were only 2 births registered, consistent with the first two christenings, and only one death registration and burial.

I have added explanations to the tree in the discussion and merge fields so that it is clear what I have concluded here. Even with birth and death certificates I would be unable to be certain that I have made the correct conclusion.

In conclusion whatever we use we need to make a considered analysis of the information available. Even when we have access to original records we may only make assumptions regarding those who have proceeded us. However showing the source of the information upon which we base our conclusion will add weight to a well thought out proof.  

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Mapping My Genealogical Research

Mapping My Genealogical Research
by Helen Y. Holshouser

In honor of Mother's Day, May 2017, my daughter Annie gave me a world map, cork to post it on, and a large box of colorful push pins!  What a lovely gift to give a Mom who is totally "into" genealogy!  As we opened the gift, she explained that she thought we could post it on a wall and use the pins to mark some of my genealogical discoveries.  I was touched by such a thoughtful gift. 

We had so much fun not only posting the map, but placing the push pins according to  things we thought important.  We have just started this project, and already realize that we need a larger map!  How wonderful is that! 

The first thing we did, was place red pins where our immediate family lives. That is mainly in three places, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, USA.  Next. we looked at the family trees I had developed for both my side of the family, and for my husband's side. We also looked at the genetic ancestry, or ethnicity maps that Ancestry gave me based on my DNA testing.  It was exciting to see the details of our family represented on a map, and like my own genealogical work, the map evolved as we thought it through. It is still a work in progress, and I would welcome your suggestions for other things to add. 

From working on both family trees, I knew before doing my DNA, that I personally was a melting pot American.  On my mother's side I had inherited traits from Irish, English, French, and Italian ancestors mostly. Perhaps that is where  the  passionate, emotional side of my genetic makeup was nurtured.  On my father's side, I have the more practical traits of the German and Scottish. (Stereotypes, I know!)  My husband Max's ancestral make up is mainly English and German.  On our map, I used orange push pins to symbolize our ancestral heritage.  Notice how they are clustered in Western Europe-- well, that is 99% of my heritage according to my DNA results.  Look how ancestry breaks it down on this map: 

I keep thinking I need to make a list of all the cousins I have met through my research and on facebook where the many genealogical and family groups enhance our meeting  DNA matches as well as ones found in encouraging each other's research. For awhile I kept telling people I had met 100 new cousins through my research, then 200, now I have no doubt that it is  500  or more new cousins who have come into my life with a similar interest--genealogy and family  history!  How exciting and life enriching is that!  I used blue pins on the map to represent all the cousins I had met in the States and in Europe and Australia!  Obviously, I did not have a big enough map, nor enough blue pins, to represent all the wonderful cousins I have met. 

The yellow pins stand for the focus of my most recent genealogical research and DNA detective skills that improve with experience. One of the great joys of my life, has been the honor of joining an adoptee's search for their own ancestral and biological roots. I used the yellow pins to represent some of the adoptees whose journey's I have joined. Sharing these life experiences--life stories--has been intensely  rewarding---and intensely painful.  There have been the joys of reunions, the pain of rejection, death, lies, hiding, and even discovering horrors like the fact that your biological parent was a rapist or other criminal!  We must look for biological roots with wide open eyes--bracing for the worst that can shake our identities, and allowing joy for good news, which can still shake our identities. We must work to center ourselves before embarking on such a search, which should ultimately enhance, deepen, and expand our sense of self--not shake it to the core! You are not your parents, not your DNA traits, you are who you choose to be. 

This new ancestral map hangs in the hallway in the center of our home. How wonderful to pass by it many times a day and think of all the individuals and their unique stories and personalities--all the new family I've come to know and appreciate!  Still it's evolving.  

All of the authors of this blog engage in genealogical research, most of you  readers are interested as well. What a life enhancing experience doing genealogical work has been for me.  With my severe heart disease, I was told years ago that my time on earth was limited--the joy of this work, the joy of being involved with the people the work represents, well, that has brought an immense quality to my life.  Mapping a few of the projects is a wonderful representation of the joy I feel.

Until we meet again, I am wishing you the very best, and that you meet new cousins who add joy to your life as well!  Helen

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Where Do You Get Your Stories?

When I first started blogging, I was blogging just to record my Hero's stories about his early years that he had shared for many years, but had never written down. As time has gone on, I had most of his stories written down, his siblings have added a few, and I turned to other members of the family for stories.
I have been blogging for 9 years now and have found I haven't stopped learning. The other day I was repeating something my son told me to a friend, and had to take a mental pause when I realized I had a story that bore writing down and sharing with future progeny.
I will share, for it is a funny...
My son was visiting with my 88 year old mother. She has dementia that is somewhat controlled by medication (meaning she still remembers things, but can't stay in the positive world long enough to act on what she remembers). The son likes to banter with her, so he asked her if she was going to live to be 90.  She looked at him quite manner of fact and said "of course".  He pushed it... "well will you live to be 100?"  She looked at him incredulously and said "why would anyone want to do that?" The laughter the response brought brightened the whole visit and those who were nearby in the common room of the assisted living my mom lives at. He came home chuckling and sharing what she said. This is a great story for recording.
My mom with my grandson and myself.
When this understanding sunk in, I realized I am missing many things I should be recording other than my personal  journal and the scouring for ancestor's stories. Okay, I hear you now... Duh, Fran you are the family historian. You should be recording even funnies. I know, I know, I need to keep my mind open to all possibilities. This has become so very important to me. I really don't want someone sitting and looking at my picture and saying I wish she could tell me about herself, like I have done over my grandmothers.

You might wonder why I would spend a blog post on my own ponderings. I suppose I have a feeling of grandeur that maybe my thoughts just might reach out to at least one person and they too will begin to write down even the small daily actions and funnies that might give a feeling of closeness and fun to those that follow. Joy in the ordinary.
See ya'all next month from your Texas genealogist. 😊

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Genie Trips

The Advantages of Visiting

Guild of One Name Studies Conference 2016

I have divide this post into 4 types of trips undertaken by genealogists. There may be some overlap but I will discuss the subtle differences between them.

  • Visits to Relatives 

The first rule of genealogy is to talk to the older relatives whilst you can, as they often know things that cannot be found in the official documents.
They also may have photographs that you have never seen or be able to identify people in any photographs you have inherited.
My latest visit uncovered unseen photographs and letters in the collections of an aunt and uncle and discovered by my sister when clearing my parents house. So even when you think you may have exhausted the family collections it pays to revisit.

  • Visits to Archives

We will never be short of records in our local archive our main challenge here will be access to them. The popular collections like parish registers are gradually being digitized by the big companies but there are many more records being preserved that may never make it to the internet.
During my latest visit to Hampshire I was fortunate to be able to view some Poor Law records. They did not answer my research question but do contain interesting information.
Catholic records have been difficult to access as, in the main, they have not been deposited with local archives. Find My Past have added some records to their collections but only a limited number. When I perused the shelves in the Hampshire Record Office whilst awaiting some documents I had ordered I came across 3 books of particular interest to me. These books contained transcriptions of Catholic registers for Southampton. These books had only been published in 2015. They have helped me with one of my research conflicts and helped to confirm an uncertain birthplace.
If you can possibly get to the archive, do visit, prepare well before you go, especially if you may not get back for another visit. Consider what to prioritise and make full use of catalogues and the staff knowledge so that you can maximise your research time. Check out what devices they allow for copying records as this can vary.

  • Genealogy Conferences

I will clarify what I would class as a conference as I wish to discuss different ways of imparting information.
In the UK we may have a day conference sometimes called a seminar where the participants attend for a single day of classes. The recent Guild of One Name Studies conference I attended was over a weekend starting on the Friday afternoon and finishing late afternoon on the Sunday. At this weekend conference most attendees were staying over although a few were day attendees as they lived nearby. 
Conferences are a way to educate oneself about particular topics which may be of interest but they are also a great way to network with individuals who share your interest. Face to face discussions outside of the formal classes can be as important as the classes themselves.
Tackling a new research challenge can be made easier by discussion with others who may have encountered a similar challenge.
I would say that, personally, I wonder if some of the local family history societies would attract new members, if they could organise an annual conference, for their members, with topics of local and general interest. Those living further afield might be attracted to visit the area for such an event and if interest was poor it could be opened up to the public. 
A cheaper alternative would be a video conference.This was discussed today in this Dear Myrtle Hangout.if you want to see all the comments view it by logging on to this page and go to the Hosting Virtual Meetings tutorials. 

  • Genealogy Shows

In the UK Who Do You Think You Are Live is held in April. It is billed as the world’s largest family history show. This show started life as the Society of Genealogists event and was rebranded when the television programme hit our screens. Many long term genealogists will tell you it has changed format over the years. Some of the changes may be due to the venue which moved from London to Birmingham a few years ago. 
However the audience for these events has also changed.  
The main thing to distinguish a show from a conference is that, at least here in the UK, much of the venue is occupied by vendors and genealogy related societies. There is also a section of related stands to assist with understanding records that we use such as military or photo or artefact dating. There also appears to have been a move to include other charities within the hall (some attendees have queried why they are there).
Like the US Rootstech event there are also educational talks on offer both free (usually sponsored) and paid for (mostly in advance). However the events in the US tend to span several days and attendees will stay over the same as conferences in the UK whereas shows attract, in the main, day visitors.
Vendors offers will attract visitors to shows and/or conferences as will educational talks.
However I get the impression that the family history societies are struggling to attract new members and the work that volunteers have put in to creating indexes over the years is now being superseded by the appearance of records in online datasets. Some are updating websites but many do not have the resources or expertise to do this.  
What can our local societies do to continue being relevant to both existing and new members? 
Is attendance at a national event worthwhile?
I enjoy catching up with friends at these events but why do others attend and are the costs involved worth it?

Who Do You Think You Are Live 2917 Celebrity 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Watching April and Other Distractions

April the Giraffe
Youtube Live Feed

All over the world people are watching a giraffe named April as we wait for her to give birth to her 4th calf.
It was supposed to be in March they said, don't tune out you will miss it they it is the beginning of April and we (read that ME) are still watching!
I have her next to me as I research, well, as I try to research.
Then something catches my eye...oh, what's she doing now? Is that a contraction? Why is someone in her pen?
Oh, look, they are feeding her carrots!

 We all get distracted and go down rabbit holes or chase after that darn squirrel every once in a while!
It happens when we get an email with a new DNA match or a message from a cousin who has information we need to take a brick out of a wall.
 It can be a Bright Shiney Object (BSO) in the form of a new DNA tool, an update to your genealogy computer program with new features to play with, or a new app to learn.
Some days things just don't get done as we fall in those holes, chase those clues and are blinded by the sparkly.
Our to-do lists don't get to-done.

There are a few things that have helped me stay focused and on track.

First, I set up a schedule for the day. What and when I am going to work on certain tasks. It is a flexible plan that can be tweaked as the day moves forward. The schedule may show two hours to work on a particular project, but sometimes, ideas flow, and there's a need to extend a little instead of stopping to work on something else.

Second,  I looked for tools that help me stay on track with my day and my projects. I use Evernote, Trello and Google Calendar.
These hold my schedules, notes and to- do lists and checklists. They each can be used on my computer and on my tablet and smartphone to be consulted where ever I am.
Trello boards are a great project management tool and help me to plan step by step in order to complete assignments and tasks.
I review them before getting to work to help me know what to do with my allotted time.

Have you ever decided to use a time management program or app, put all your info in it and then never open it?
A system and a routine for when I check my tools and what action to take helps me to use them to get the full benefit and be productive throughout the day.
In the morning my Google calendar events and Evernote to do lists and help me remember what I have to do.
In the evenings, it's nice to go over my schedule for the day and see the things that I have worked on and perhaps completed before planning the next day.

To all of this, I have added a Bullet Journal. Writing down my daily, weekly and monthly tasks has helped to process what I need to do and the best way to get it done. These items are then placed on my web based tools for easy access everywhere.

I have been trying harder to not go off the path after those BSOs and slide down deep rabbit holes. The goal is to add them to my to-do lists and project schedules.

I said I have been TRYING-but some days, you get this

April Saying Hello!

and it's so hard to look away! "Giraffe, Giraffe"!!

What helps you stay on track and focus on finding your family?

Helping you climb your family tree,

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

My Own Multicultural Family-- New Chapter in Life

Living in the United States right now sometimes seems threatening and scary. If you are in a different political party from the leadership of our country, well, its difficult. I think I might understand how a country breaks into Civil War. My own family is strongly divided regarding political issues, and it is easy to lose hope for our country.  Then you pick your head up, look around, and see that many good things are still going on.  Grassroot movements from like-minded folks can provide hope for the future.  Recently I joined a “movement”  in a nonpolitical way, --a "movement" that brings people of different races together in a very personal way that changed my perspective for the better--I found some new family members, or they found me --and it opened all kinds of new doors and windows for my heart and soul.

I now have African American cousins, proved by DNA!  My DNA ethnicity report said I had no African genes, so how is this possible?  Shame producing for me, I discovered that my ancestors who were enslavers in the first two hundred years of our country, had also produced slaves themselves at times, therefore  giving me cousins who are African American  descendants of slaves! To be clear, I am not shamed or embarrassed, but proud of having African American cousins. I am shamed by the actions of some of my ancestors!  Amazingly, some of these folks and I match DNA with common ancestors from the 1700’s that we can identify!  A multicultural family--how wonderful-- I already had a multinational one as a melting pot American.

Previously, I had helped do research for some slave recognition projects, so I was somewhat aware of how difficult it is to do genealogical research if your ancestors were enslaved.  They lost their own names, and were not listed on censuses until 1870.  They were listed on property tax lists, but then often only in numbers, like “20 males under  age 30”. When names were listed, it was often only first names.  What I was not aware of, is what a national movement had grown and was growing, to identify slaves and their families!  The cousins who contacted me were lightyears ahead of me in their research, and in knowing how to go about researching their ancestors. It is interesting, because I knew other African American genealogists, and counted them among my friends. But suddenly, this was my family-- my family, and I wanted to know who they were and how we were related as well!  DNA and genealogical research to the rescue. My learning curve has been sharp and sudden, but interesting !  The wealthy, Southern plantation owners I’d always admired were suddenly tarnished.  Tarnished because not only did the people they “owned” become real to me, they were my own flesh and blood--and they were the flesh and blood of my ancestors who bred them for slaves! Disgusting. But it is true, and it is history, and now we are dealing with it.  How wonderful to have the opportunity to “deal with it” by meeting new family members whose skin might be a different color, but who are smart, kind, and interested in some of the same things I am, family!

Their African American research was far ahead of mine, but I had done my own ancestral work, so we were able to connect, at least by family pretty quickly.  Before I met this group, I did not even know the name Hairston for instance.  But they were one of the largest slave owning families of the Southern United States.  Several branches of my family married into theirs.  I quickly learned about the book titled The Hairstons, An American Family in Black and White.  By Henry Wiencek. The book discusses the national and regional reunions of the amazing descendants of the Hairstons, both black and white.

Henry Wiencek says in this book,

“For the Hairstons, family is serious business -- so serious, they're incorporated. The annual reunion of the national Hairston Clan, Inc. looks more like a convention than a typical family gathering. There are ministers and musicians, doctors and lawyers, big city bankers and small town barbers. And there are flag-waving patriots like World War II veteran Joe Henry Hairston.

Says Joe Henry: "When you meet all these Hairstons, you got nuts, you got saints, you got beautiful people, you got ugly people. But they're all family."

Not all of these Hairstons are connected by blood, but they are all connected by sweat and tears. They are named Hairston primarily because their ancestors worked on plantations owned by one of the biggest names in slavery.

When American history writer Henry Wiencek was researching a book on plantations, he was invited to a Hairston reunion.

"There were nearly 1,000 people," says Wiencek. "I was just amazed at the strength of family feeling that could bring so many people together from so many distant places, and I wondered where did that family strength come from, and where were the roots of that gathering. Did it go back all the way to slavery? And that's where it did go."

The Hairstons so intrigued him that he spent the next eight years delving into its history. The result is his book: The Hairstons: An American Family In Black and White."

In 1999, CBS Television did a feature regarding the Hairston family.  They told the stories of several descendants of slaves of the Hairstons and their white cousins.  You can see a video of this feature on youtube at:

They said some things I have thought, like this:

“The black and white Hairstons are connected by the worst evil in America's history, but they have not turned their backs on each other. Because like it or not, they are family. They share a name, and a place, and a history.”

“In an amazing bit of detective work, Henry Wiencek traced Joe Henry's roots back to a slave named Sal, purchased in 1785 for a barrel of tobacco. From a family will, he figured out that the Peter Hairston, who died in 1832, had children by this slave named Sal, which means that the great great great grandfather of the judge is also the great great great grandfather of Joe Henry. "Well, we were property and so masters used their property," says Joe Henry.

The two men have not discussed this subject. "I consider Judge Peter a friend, a very good friend, and a very fine person," says Joe Henry. "But these are things you don't talk about in polite society in the South."

At first, the judge believed that there wasn't enough evidence to prove that he was related to Joe Henry Hairston. Joe Henry, who is also an attorney, was also skeptical.

Recently, though, the Judge changed his mind. "I have learned from my brother that he had had a conversation with an ancient cousin of ours that indeed it was probably true." So now the Judge has a new cousin. "I'm prouder to be kin to Joe Henry than to anybody else I know," he says.

And Joe Henry has no hard feelings. "I am the product of my ancestors, whoever they were," he says. "My basic philosophy is not to hate. Hate is destructive."

One of my new cousins ended up  being a superb genealogical researcher, who also writes for this very blog--Yvette Porter Moore. Isn’t that amazing!  Along with others, she encouraged me to research the Hairstons, and other families we had in common, the Tates, Callaways, Stovalls, Kimbrough, Turner, and Graves to name just a few! Except for the Hiarstons, I had the others already in my family tree.

I learned that Ruth Stovall, 1730-1808, my 5th Great Aunt, daughter of my 5th great grandfather, George Stovall, Sr. 1695 Henrico, Virginia - 1786, Campbell County, Virginia. USA; married Robert Hairston, b. In Ireland, d in Virginia, 1719-1791.  Their son, my first cousin George Hairston, 1750-1827, built a mansion plantation house  in Henry County, Virginia.  More accurately, slaves built this beautiful house, slaves whose descendants I now know as cousins!  Incredible!  Wikipedia says this about George Hairston and his plantation “Beaver Creek”.  

“Beaver Creek Plantation, under the ownership of George Hairston, was a large slave-holding tobacco plantation and the center of an empire in tobacco-growing and slave-trading built by the Hairston family, Scottish emigrants to Pennsylvania in the early 18th century. Located just outside today’s Martinsville, Virginia, the plantation thrived in tobacco production and textile manufacturing, as well as producing household goods and raising livestock. At one point the enslaved blacks of Beaver Creek were tending a thousand yam plants; in one day they made 660 candles.

Beaver Creek was built in 1776 by George Hairston, son of Robert Hairston and Ruth Stovall Hairston, on a 30,000-plus acre royal land grant initially purchased from Col. Abram Penn. The original house was destroyed by fire in 1837 and was rebuilt by George Hairston's son Marshall.

Builders of Beaver Creek, the Hairston family eventually came to control tens of thousands of acres of land in Virginia, North Carolina and elsewhere across the South. Initially planters of tobacco, the family eventually became the largest slaveholders in the South: the engine of their extraordinary wealth (they were said to be one of the wealthiest families in America) was the propagation of slaves for export to the Deep South. The family married into other prominent local families, including several intermarriages with the descendants of General Joseph Martin, for whom Martinsville is named. George Hairston, who married his cousin Matilda Martin, daughter of Col. William Martin and Susan (Hairston) Martin, represented the district in Congress .

The Hairston family descends from Peter Hairston, who left Scotland for America, initially locating in Pennsylvania and eventually moving south to Virginia in the 1740s."

Hordsville, built 1836 by George Hairston, Henry County, Virginia

Ultimately, the fallout from the Civil War, chiefly the emancipation of slaves, put an end to the Hairston's booming business and the family's fortunes dwindled. At the center of the Plantation is the Hairston’s classical revival mansion. Although the plantation was founded in 1776, the present house was not built until 1837, to replace the original home destroyed in a fire. Today, the house is owned by Bank Services of Virginia, and the home and gardens are usually open to the public during the Historic Garden Week in Virginia.”

Some of the living descendants of Hairston slaves are Jester and Jerry Hairston. “Jester Hairston was the first African-American to conduct the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. For most of this century he has been teaching white folks and black folks to sing spirituals the way his grandmother sang them as a slave on a Hairston plantation in North Carolina.”

“When Jerry Hairston stepped up to the plate last season, the Hairstons stepped into the history books as the first black family to play major league baseball for three generations. His father and grandfather also played in the majors.”

Among the many other things I’ve learned in my most recent new journey, I’ve learned about an organization I’d like to join. It is called “Coming to the Table” . I learned about this group from a blog titled Bitter Sweet, Linked Through Slavery. I want to tell you a bit about it, and about the blog which you can find at this link:

“Coming to the Table (CTTT) was founded by descendants of enslavers and enslaved people, in partnership with the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. CTTT was inspired by the vision of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “I Have a Dream” speech made during the 1963 March on Washington, that one day “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” CTTT values the sharing of personal, family and community stories as a powerful vehicle for uncovering history, building relationships, healing and inspiring action.

CTTT provides leadership, resources and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from a racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.

The organization was launched in January 2006 at Eastern Mennonite University. The idea for the inaugural gathering came from Will Hairston and Susan Hutchison, both European American descendants of historic American enslaving families. CTTT was nurtured by Amy Potter Czajkowski, on the staff of The Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, who obtained the initial grant funding. Amy and David Anderson Hooker, a faculty member in the Summer Peace Building Institute, took the lead in developing the Coming to the Table approach and model for addressing historically-based racism. Free copies of the manual can be downloaded from CTTT Resources.

Besides its website, CTTT hosts a Facebook page, a Twitter account [@] and has a presence on YouTube. There are several local gathering groups where members of Coming to the Table meet in person; in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Northeast, San Francisco/Bay Area, Seattle and Washington, DC.”

“BitterSweet: Linked Through Slavery is a working group of bloggers who are members of the non-profit group Coming to the Table (CTTT). We call ourselves “linked descendants,” people who have a joint history in slavery–a pairing of a descendant of an enslaved person with a descendant of his or her slaveholder, who have found each other and who are in communication.

We bring a passionate commitment to looking deeply at the truth of the history of enslavement at the heart of the founding of the United States, facing the pains and schisms embedded in that history and its present day legacy, seeking reconciliation, if possible, and supporting action to open eyes and hearts and to dismantle institutionalized racism.

While the BitterSweet group consists of people who know about their personal and family historical connections to enslavement, as descendants of enslaved people and of slaveholders, we welcome those who are looking for their connection to slavery, those who are curious about the legacy of slavery whether they feel a personal connection or not, and those who have stories to share.”

“Crawford Plantation, Lowndes County, Mississippi, home of George W. Hairston, c. 1909. Part of the empire of Hairston homes and plantations scattered about the South.”

In our own little group of multicultural cousins on facebook, we have amazing people ! We have several authors and genealogists, teachers, a Chief Warrant Officer, a Chief Marketing Advisor and Design Strategist from Harvard, and many more talented people, keeping up the tradition of amazing descendants regardless of race. How blessed I feel to be counted in their family, our family.

Have a great week,
Helen Y. Holshouser, writing at and on facebook.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Ireland Research Hopes Revisited

My turn to blog is a wee bit after St Patrick's Day but the thought of researching the Irish ancestors is not bound by time.

My Irish quest has been begging to start for years. Recently due to a DNA find, I have been sent on a new Irish quest when an O'Toole turned up as an ancient DNA match for our Langley DNA project.
I have felt intimidated by the challenge of delving into the films on FamilySearch or Ireland, and just trying to sort out all the Michaels, Williams, and Margrets that I see when I go to FindMyPast or other Irish sites...words escape me. One thing I do know and follow is...the obvious search for our ancestors begins with a name, and, if you have it, a place. On the Hero's and my mom's side of the family there are many Irish names to look for.
There are some blogs and websites that specialize in Ireland research
Smallest Leaf is one of those. She has so much Irish information and many books listed on her blog. It is wonderful to stop by and browse. Click here to see her blog.
Another site I really like it Irish Genealogy Tool Kit.
I like these because I need someone to give me direction. I am so ingrained in United States research it will take some shift in my paradigms to hopefully finds some success in venturing into Ireland research.
What I have done so far...
I started making a note of all the names I was looking for, variants of the names, and places the names were found.  An example for the is : A Rootsweb site for Researching Irish Names. I searched for Magill from my mom's ancestors. They were adamant in the 1830's per a letter written by John Magill that their family was the only ones who spelled it that way.
"...I have been particular so that you may know if you meet with any person of the name of Magill you can tell whether they are your relation. I have seen several from Ireland that are no kin of mine. They spell their name McGill. They are generally native Irish and Roman Catholic. I recollect to have seen my grandfather's certificate from Ireland dated 1725. It was spelled Magill and all his descendants spell their names the same way. Any who do not are not of our kindred..."  Click here to read the rest of the transcribed letter.
My finding:
MacGiolla ancient of Magill,
Turning to my Hero's Irish ancestors, I was able to glean the following for his known surnames.
Death certificates helped with clues as to where the places were correct.

FURLONG              Wexford
FURLONG              Wicklow
O'AHERN,               Cork
O'DWYER              Tipperary
Dwyer                      Lemerick
Dyer                         Sligo

I have toyed with learning Gaelic, but I haven't gotten that far yet.
Besides knowing the surname, I discovered that the old Irish had a naming pattern. Most but not all used it. The Irish Tool Kit website points out that in the 1700s and 1800s those that immigrated to America did use this...making it hard to sort out the descendants when 5 brother, in the same area named their sons in the same pattern (true experience). I have posted on the naming patterns before click here to read the post then click back to return.

I have ascribed to the method of looking to others who have already done research reading how to find records in Ireland, talking to people who have UK experience in searching, and utilizing the free course on I take the time to watch videos by those who have done the walk such as David Rencher's videos Tips for Researching your Irish Ancestors. I HAVE to mention the's Irish Collection which includes images... Ireland Historical Records.

There is something so exciting in searching for families that have been apart for years and reuniting them. I love genealogy research and have been excited to share how to research and source with the upcoming generation to get them involved in their history to know their ancestors. So Far, it has been a positive experience for both generations. 😉

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Rootstech 2017 from across the pond

This year I am writing my review from the perspective of a UK family historian watching from afar and wishing she had made the journey across the pond.

When I first started to write this post I started to discuss what was happening in Salt Lake City. But I am not in Salt Lake City this year I am at home in Wales.
How can I write about a conference when I am not one of the attendees.
The Rootstech conference did not get underway until the Thursday but for me the excitement builds from the Monday.
In keeping with the tradition at 10am MST (SLC time) 5pm GMT the Rootstech week starts with Mondays with Myrt from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The usual panel (including me) has little to say as Pat Richley-Erickson aka DearMYRTLE interviews a variety of folks from across the globe who have made the journey to Utah arriving early enough to get some research time in the Family History Library. 
Later on Monday early attendees from the Commonwealth countries enjoyed another tradition the Commonwealth dinner. This year they went to the Blue Lemon and afterwards photographs appeared on the Geniaus blog. I must say that when I went in 2015 this was a great way to meet others prior to the conference.

Going to an event like a genealogy conference is a great way to network with other genealogists/family historians. I know that for many attending classes is low priority. We all love to find connections with others (especially someone who may have photographs) and with such a large group many do find a link. This year a cousin of someone I met in 2015 made a connection with Judy G Russell The Legal Genealogist after watching her talk on the live stream. I knew about this via facebook before she wrote her post but she illustrates my point so well (better than I could).

I managed to catch all the RootsTech General Sessions on the live streaming and some of the classes that were streamed. Now that the recordings are up, those I missed I can catch up with later, there are more than those that livestreamed. Some are US centric but may hold useful suggestions most are general and the keynotes, in particular, inspirational and passionate.

If watching or attending RootsTech does nothing more than provide inspiration to feed your passion for your family then it has done its job. But we need innovators to provide us with the means to record, communicate and preserve. 
Some of the technology advances have brought about the success of this conference in getting to folks across the world. In the early years you could lose the video if anyone else was online. This year those at home could vote using the RootsTech app on their phone. 

We need new ideas rather than more of the same. I wonder what the innovators in the industry will bring us next year.

Before I go here courtesy of Lilian Magill (in the lilac sweater) is a photograph of many of the Geneabloggers at RootsTech 2017, noticeably absent were Russ Worthington (aka Cousin Russ) and Thomas MacEntee (Geneabloggers).

The final event for many of those in the photograph was an evening to wind down with friends courtesy of DearMyrtle who has some of her friends visit her house for an after party.

I love seeing the photographs from the other get togethers which are not part of the main RootsTech event. These are as much about why we should attend as the conference and you cannot get what I call "the buzz" unless you are actually there. 
There will be lots of tired, enthusiastic people headed home today or in the coming week (some stay on to do research) but for many it is so good you want to come back again.
Maybe next year I can write a first hand report. (fingers crossed)