Monday, 30 March 2015

Update on March

You last heard from me in January when I told you to be watching for Ursula Kraus' blog coming in February....of course, I had forgotten that there was no 30th day in Feb.  So, here I am again, writing for the second time and supposedly updating you on my progress genealogically and otherwise.

Well, I lucked into professional researcher, Witold Wrzosinski, in Poland after seeing his name associated with some cemetery documentation in Warsaw.  He had already photographed my great great grandmothers grave there.  I was simply amazed that it still existed!  I thought all of the graves in Europe were "turned over" and re-used periodically but it seems that this is not true in Poland.  After some facebook messaging on the Polish Genealogy page, he and I came to an agreement and he is doing some research for me on one of my brick walls.....Leo Kerner.  If you have read my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog, you may recognize the name as the husband of my beloved great grandmother, Elsa.
Anyway, it is true that he was from Poland, his parents were Fievel and Doba Koerner and they were tavern keepers in Warsaw.  Now I have dates, and even town directories showing where they lived!
Interestingly enough, to me anyway, is that Fievel and Doba had been neighbors growing up and both of their fathers owned taverns....maybe competing taverns?  Anyway, I think back to the Broadway show "Fiddler on the Roof" and wonder if Fievel and Doba's union wasn't arranged by their parents? Currently, I am eagerly awaiting further research results from Poland.  I hope to add details on Leo to his own very special page in my work on 52 Ancestors.

My work on the Genealogy Do Over is continually bogged down my BSO's (Bright and Shiny Objects).  I have a devil of a time staying focused when I am researching or even organizing and get dragged off in all different directions.  I have post-it notes all over the place.  I did, however, arrange most of everything into stacks of ancestors and put everything applicable to that particular ancestor into its own file.  It has all been scanned and arranged on my computer.  I hope to go forward with the same efforts at organization.  I also designed a template with the documents I would need for every ancestor, places to record if or if I do not have them, where to look, etc.  I am also much better at keeping track of documents or information I have written for, when I wrote, who I wrote or where, and a place to check off when I get a response.  I keep this in a file called "Pending Information" and am using the "Correspondence Log" available free at Family Tree.  I have found it to be very helpful particularly when I have forgotten what I have written for, how much I paid and about when to expect to receive it.

Personally, I have been slowed down by some family emergencies.  I have had a daughter in law in the ICU for  over a week and while having been moved to a regular floor, she is still in the hospital.
My husband and I have been taking turns with her family members in staying with her.  It is a two and a half hour drive for us and we usually stay a few days.  Her genealogy may be in the present but one day soon it will be the past.  She is just as vital a part of our family as my ancestors.
So, without further ado, I will bid you all a good month!  I won't be back until May but you can read more on my blog at


Friday, 27 March 2015

How the American Civil War Affected This Southern Woman and Many of Us--150 Years Later!

-illustration shared on

At my current age of sixty-six years, it was mostly my 2nd Great Grandfathers, eight in number, who fought in the Civil War. That whole generation was affected--those born in the 1830’s and 1840’s and dying in the war or after 1880. I remember how surprised I was to look at my family tree and realize that. I had put a little picture beside all the folks who fought in the war, and when I looked at my pedigree, there they were, all lined up--my 2nd Great Grandfathers!  One young 1st Great Grandfather lied about his age and entered the war early, and a couple of elderly 3rd Great Grandparents served as well, but mostly this was a tragedy for my 2nd Great Grandparents, who, thank heavens, had children before the war, or after, so that here I am, a product of all eight of them.

“The Civil War” as we call it in America, was fought between April, 1861 and April 1865. Many issues entered into the conflict, but the overriding matter of the day was slavery, especially the expansion of slavery into the western areas of the growing United States. Altogether, eleven  Southern States of the United States seceded, decided they no longer wanted to be a part of the United States of America, but wanted to join together as the Confederate States of America, often called the Confederacy, the South, or the Rebels. The United States forces were called the Union, the Yankees, or the North! After four years of battles, burning, and destruction, Wikipedia reports that there were an “estimated 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. One estimate of the death toll is that ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40 died.” We genealogical researchers in America have all probably noticed the many, many widows and fatherless families on the 1870 and 1880 censuses due to this terrible war.

The Confederacy lost, the slaves were freed, and the South had to slowly rebuild and learn a new way of life.
After the war, almost everyone in the South was poor, their confederate money was no good.  Even the plantation owners were “land poor,” unable to afford to hire their former slaves or other workers to work their large fields!

This is the world in which I find my 2nd Great Grandparents living. For some reason, this was a shock to me. Until I started my genealogical research in 2012, I cared little for history, I am sorry to admit.  A person with a Master’s Degree, I did poorly in history classes, as they only meant dates and event names to memorize to me. Why didn’t someone ever explain to me that my family was there? It wasn’t just the movie “Gone With The Wind” that I should have modeled my scant knowledge of the Civil War upon--of all historical events. Did my parents really not know that their 1st Great Grandparents fought in the war, or was it that they were so busy surviving the depression and World War II, that history paled in comparison. Now that I am more aware, I am trying to correct that situation by writing stories of our ancestors and how they participated in and were affected by historical events. Now I know, that their participation in those events, affected me and my family’s choices in life, experiences in life...let me give you some examples:

Monument_Ave_Robert_E._Lee, public domain Wikicommons.jpg
Robert E. Lee, public domain, wikicommons

Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, the former Capital of the Confederacy, with statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and JEB Stuart adorning our major thoroughfare, Monument Avenue, one could not help but feel a sense of pride in being “Southern.” Stories were everywhere, and the pride of being Southern lay not in the reality of the war, but in little girls’ visions of verandas and sweet tea, white gloves and hoop skirts! It had nothing to do with slavery, especially since even in 1960, when I was eleven years old, blacks were pretty much completely segregated from whites.  As a white child, I didn’t know it should be different, I am sorry to say. By the time I was six, I knew the “Rebel Yell,” which we used to summon our playmates when we went outdoors to play. The South was highly glorified of course. As I grew up, I learned that there was so much more to the story, of course.  My genealogical research helped me truly understand.

One of my four maternal 2nd Great Grandfathers  was Robert Kerse, an Irish emigrant arriving in America in  1850 at age 18.  He married and had three of his ten children by 1861, then fought in the Civil War as a Confederate, protecting his own city of Richmond, Virginia.  His one and only horse was shot out from under him! Right on Fold 3, a genealogical site for military research, I can find his muster roll sheets, and letters from his superiors attesting to the fact that his horse was shot out from under him in battle, and that his claim against the US government after the war, to get a new horse, should be honored.  Oh my gracious!

Robert Kerse-- in the U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865

Robert Kerse
Rank at enlistment:
State Served:
Service Record:
Enlisted in Company B, Virginia 2nd Infantry Regiment.
Index to Compiled Confederate Military Service Records

Another maternal 2nd great grandfather, James Steptoe Langhorne, called Steptoe, was blind, but owned a huge, 13,000 acre plantation in Patrick County, Virginia. His family stretches back to Jamestown. He did not fight in the war obviously, but he did have the experience of having the Yankee forces steal his horse! The story, involving Steptoe and his daughter Fannie  was originally told to me by my cousins. (cousins found through genealogical research) brothers, and Fannie’s grandsons: Harvey Langhorne Spangler and Dr. Daniel Patrick Spangler, PhD)     

“At the time Miss Fannie Langhorne was ten, and the Civil War was being fought, Stoneman brought his Yankee army from Tennessee down what is now the J.E.B. Stuart highway. In passing they annexed one of Mr. Langhorne’s horses which happened to be his favorite. He, though blind, accompanied by his small daughter Fanny, insisted on following the army to Stuart in search of his horse. There the captain agreed to allow him to retrieve his horse if he could recognize him. Mr. Langhorne set Fanny to hunt the animal. After walking down the long line of horses hitched to the racks along the road and back again, she was unable to find him. On her return, however at one side, away from the rest, she saw her father’s mount and immediately squealed in delight. Mr. Langhorne was led over to a tall roan mare, not his, but near the one Fanny had discovered, and told to see if that were his. Fanny squealed to the contrary, but Mr. Langhorne turned to her and said, “You don’t understand the joke”. Then his hand was placed on another, his own; this time he said, “This is my horse, but not my bridle”.   (If you’d like, you can find this story here: )  That took courage and audacity, on his and young Fannie’s part!   

My third maternal 2nd great grandfather, William W. Stoops also served in the Civil War. He served in Company G, 21st Regiment, Virginia Cavalry.  It was made up of older men who could not do the long marches so it was a cavalry that stayed close to home to protect railroads, bridges, and mines.

My fourth maternal 2nd Great Grandfather was an Italian Immigrant, Louis Botto. It looks like he arrived in America perhaps about 1844, and he and his wife, my grandmother, Catherine Revaro Botto, had their first child in Richmond, Virginia, in 1857. I believe he had a brother named Frank Botto, and we can clearly see Frank registered to fight in the Civil War. Unfortunately, although I can find Louis Botto in the 1860 census, I’ve yet to find him anywhere else, except that his wife is listed in the phone book as the widow of Louis Botto and by 1866, she has remarried.  I wonder if Louis was killed in the war? Did he get sick and die? Did he leave the family, as I find Louis Bottos in several other areas of the country? I still have a ways to go in my research to prove this.

While part of my mother’s family traces back to Jamestown, the founding colony of America, as you can see, my family is a melting pot of nationalities. So as I grew up “basking in the glory” of being a “Southern Belle” (not really, not from age 12 on), what about my paternal side?  I did realize, as I grew older,  that my father’s side of the family were Yankees.  Not only that, when I started doing my genealogical research, I discovered that my father's  Grandfather, my first great grandfather, Lewis Jacob Youngblood, 1846-1919, fought in the Battle of Petersburg,Virginia, as part of a New Jersey Cavalry Regiment!  After the war, he came back and lived in Petersburg where he had fought, because supposedly he “thought it was such a beautiful area.”  This past year, one of my cousins’ found Lewis’s discharge papers from the Civil War!  I got to see them as well as his sword, and his gun, all owned now by different cousins!  Kay Youngblood Fuller, my cousin, owns not only his discharge papers, but found his own journal which explains that he was an IRS tax collector for the Federal Government, and that he readily foreclosed on farms, and often bought them himself--farms in the Petersburg area-- when recovering Confederates were unable to pay! What a way to get revenge on your enemies! He was a carpetbagger! My own Great Grandfather was a carpetbagger! “In United States history, a carpetbagger was a Northerner (Yankee) who moved to the South after the American Civil War, especially during the Reconstruction era (1865–1877), in order to profit from the instability and power vacuum that existed at this time.”   -- the source for this illustration below:


One cousin told me that when Lewis moved to Petersburg, he joined the local Methodist Church, Gary’s Methodist Church.  They say he was so hated, that when he came into the church and sat down, the whole congregation stood up and moved to the other side of the church! My poor grandfather and his siblings had to grow up this way! How would Lewis Jacob  feel to think that 100 years later, he had a great granddaughter who prided herself in her Southern heritage!
Youngblood, Lewis Jacob, discharge papers from Civil War.jpg
-for pictures of Lewis Jacob Youngblood’s rifle and sword from the Civil War, see my blog post at Heart of a Southern Woman,

Hugh Jackson Hogue, 1825-1870, Pennsylvania is my 2nd great grandfather on my father's side, and is of Scottish descent. He, along with his son, my great grandfather, Robert Fulton Hogue, 1850-1924, also fought at the Battle of Petersburg, and Robert came back to settle there as well! Robert was underage, only 15,  when he joined his Dad in Petersburg, and served as a bugle boy, a water boy, and took care of the horses. In later  years,  Robert’s daughter, Helen Blanche Hogue married Edwin Spear Youngblood, son of Lewis Jacob Youngblood, both children of Yankees who relocated to Petersburg, Virginia, both families members of Gary’s Methodist Church.  Had the fathers met in the war, or did they meet in church when being shunned by others?  What would it have been like to grow up in a small southern town, a yankee revenue agent for a father, just after the Civil War? How is it that Edwin  and Helen’s son married a Southern girl from Richmond, Virginia? Of course, she was only partially a  “Southern girl”--she, my mother, was Irish and Italian also, and proud of those heritages.

My other two paternal great grandfathers did not participate in the Civil War, one, Edwin Speer whose ancestors hailed from the Netherlands and Germany,  was too old, with the next generation too young. The other was a German emigrant, Gustavus Voelkler who only arrived in America about the time the Civil War was ending. Lucky them.

Again, the melting pot is evident. Dad’s family includes Scots, Germans, and Netherlanders mostly. Mom’s English, Irish, and Italian mostly. It always amazes me! The Kerse’s of Ireland, were originally the DesCearsais family of France!

One hundred fifty years from now, 2015, will be the year 2165. It’s possible I will have a 2nd or 3rd great grandchild who is my age by then. What will I have done that they might discover that will affect the way they think of me, or the way they think period, the way they regard history? Wow, that’s a humbling thought, yet now I know that my ancestors affected history, they fought, they struggled, they were there. They have affected me by sharing their beliefs, their courage and strong wills, their desire to make a difference--traits I feel in myself today!  

Would I have been a Confederate or Yankee if I were alive during the Civil War?  If I were a child, of course, I’d have done whatever my family did, and possibly been a southern Confederate. However, after all these years of being proud of my Southern heritage, I could never support I suspect I would have been a Union sympathizer if not an outright flag waving Yankee! I see this same type of civil strife continuing everyday of my life. Our country in 2015 is about as polarized between the Democrats and Republicans as it was in 1861! Some even think we’re moving again towards a Civil War! While I feel very strongly about my political views, would I pick up a gun and shoot someone over it? I can’t imagine!  I might get angry at a neighbor or family member who believes so very differently from me-- that doesn’t mean I don’t respect their right to have those views, just not to force them on me. Having strong beliefs can lead to conflicts, broken families, even wars, I see it in my own family, and in our world.

What might your descendents think of you, of your lifetime? --our lifetime? It’s a lot to consider, but our genealogical research leads us to these questions.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Slave Name Roll Project

February is Black History Month in the United States. It seemed an appropriate time to write about DNA matches to two fourth cousins twice removed, who happened to be African-American. Here's how it all came about.

Dad had a fairly extensive tree built out with no sources. I spent a couple of years working backwards just sourcing his research, correcting the few mistakes I found, and extending his research when possible until I got to the period of time just after the Revolutionary War. It's about this time frame in the U.S.when you need to rely on different record sets with which I was then unfamiliar. So I started learning about the types of records I would need to use to learn about my family before and just after the Revolutionary War. These are primarily wills, property deeds, estate inventory lists, court records (it was a surprisingly litigious society) and old books about family genealogies. I learned my ancestors owned land and grew tobacco or cotton as cash crops. I suspected I would come face-to-face with slavery, which was known by many as the "peculiar institution." 

Image of a watercolor entitled "Old Plantation (Slaves Dancing on a South
Carolina Plantation) circa 1785-1795 attributed to John Rose; courtesy of
Wikimedia Commons

Just as I was sorting through my feelings about finding slave owners in my ancestry, I received a message through about DNA matches with two people, whose tests were administered by their cousin. He was the one who contacted me. He believed the unknown shared ancestor must be from Bedford County, Virginia. I looked at the DNA matches he referenced and agreed. The geographic "hotspot" was definitely Bedford County, which made it likely our shared ancestors were from my Beard or Mitchell lines. These lines intermarried frequently. I had researched my great grandmother's Beard line extensively. Her mother, my great great grandmother, was Barbara Ann Mitchell (1841-1890), and I had done no research on the Mitchell family.

Wood engraving entitled "The Inspection of a Negro" originally published
in Captain Canot circa 1854; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I gave myself a somewhat successful lecture about not judging my ancestors by today's moral code and began researching my great great grandmother. As I worked backward to Barbara Ann's great grandfather, Robert Mitchell (1714-1799), the shaky leafs on my DNA results went nuts. Turns out, I'm loaded with Mitchell DNA.

The surprise was discovering William Armstead Claytor, a son of Barbara Ann's second cousin, Harvey Claytor (1800-1871). William was African-American and the likely son Harvey Claytor and the family's slave cook, Letitia. After the Civil War, William moved to Floyd County, Virginia, bought land, and raised a family of 13 children who all went on to become teachers and doctors. I was so moved by the family's accomplishments during a period when many laws were enacted which legalized discrimination that I started thinking about what I could do to help my African-American genealogy colleagues.

William Armstead Claytor and his wife with 10 of their 13 children;
courtesy of member cclaytonarizona

At the same time I was thinking about how to help, Cather Meder-Dempsey, author of Opening Doors in Brick Walls, posted a story about her slave owning ancestor in three parts. Reading her story gave me a brainstorm (at least I think so). I would start a Slave Name Roll modeled on fellow Worldwide Genealogy blogger, Heather Wilkinson Rojo's Honor Roll Project. Heather graciously gave me permission to steal her format and we were off to the races.

The project was launched on the last day of February with links to named slaves of two people. I honestly had no idea how it would be received. I tweeted a link to the page and posted the link on my genealogy bloggers community Facebook page. As you can see by looking at the page nearly a month later, the response has been gratifying. And keeps me incredibly busy keeping up with the contributions. It's a good thing I'm retiring at the end of May! I hope you will contribute if you are able.

The success has started me thinking about the long-term future of the project. Am I the correct curator? Would another group or person be a more appropriate? What else should be done to the foster continuous collaboration between slave descendants and those with slave owners in our ancestry? I'd love your thoughts.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Time for Formal Genealogy Education?

Once bitten by the genealogy bug many people want to enhance their knowledge and skills.  Education comes in many forms, including guide books, webinars, podcasts, magazines, lectures, workshops, conferences, fairs, and informal and formal courses.  For those who want recognition of their achievement, academic credit or are preparing for a career in genealogical research, how do you compare educational opportunities?

I will restrict the comparison to a selection of current offerings in the UK and USA.  Education systems differ between countries, but I am going to assume that postgraduate courses are more advanced and intensive than undergraduate courses.  Academic awards of degree, diploma and certificate qualifications require an extended duration of study of a range of topics.  Component parts of academic qualifications are also offered as stand-alone courses or modules.  Courses with academic credit involve assessment of the knowledge and research skills gained.

It is harder to compare courses without academic credit.  Recognition of participation may be given in the form of an informal certificate.  Course descriptions such as beginners, intermediate and advanced give an indication of the level of study, but may not have been benchmarked against academic standards.  Typically non-credit courses are of short duration.  Continuing professional development (CPD) is a recognised method updating and acquiring skills in many professions.  Non-credit courses can be part of CPD.

The total number of hours of study can be compared between credit and non-credit courses.

Academic Qualifications

Two UK universities offer postgraduate programs culminating in Masters degrees.  The University of Strathclyde program in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies progresses through the postgraduate certificate and diploma and MSc.  The University of Dundee program in Family and Local History also progresses through postgraduate certificate and diploma to MLitt.  Each of the phases are rated at 600 hours of study, so a Masters degree totals 1800 hours.

Though not a university, the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies (IHGS) offers a Certificate, Higher Certificate, Diploma, and Licentiateship in Genealogy.  The Higher Certificate is at a similar level to the Strathclyde University Postgraduate Certificate, indicated by the two institution's reciprocal entrance requirements.

In the UK, there are no undergraduate (bachelor level) degrees in genealogy.  In contrast, in the USA there is an undergraduate degree, but no postgraduate qualifications in genealogy.  Brigham Young University offers Bachelor degrees with a major or minor in Genealogy-Family History, and an undergraduate Certificate.  By my calculation, the major equates to 1833-3080 hours of study, a little less than the 3600 hours of a typical UK Bachelors degree.  The minor equates to 792-960 hours and the certificate to 600-720 hours.  The degree hours include some non-genealogical courses required to meet the university's broader education remit.

Courses without Academic Credit

Universities are not the only institutions offering genealogical education, and some universities offer  courses without academic credit.

In the USA, 5 day residential institutes, Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP), and Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) offer mostly intermediate and advanced courses in methodology and specialist topics that equate to 40-50 hours of study.  The Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research offers shorter 2 day courses.  The residential institute format is well regarded, so this year it crosses the pond with the University of Strathclyde's introduction of the Summer Institute of Genealogical Studies (SIGS).  It is aimed at professional genealogists and intermediate to advanced level hobby level genealogists.

Family History Skills & Strategies, presented by Pharos tutors and the Society of Genealogists, may be taken with assessments earning the student a certificate, which is not currently recognised by other institutions. It is comprised of 10 courses, rated at UK  'A’ level or first-year undergraduate level, that total 168-210 study hours.

Non-academic credit courses include the Certificate in Genealogy and Family History from the University of Washington, which represents 90 hours of study, and  the Certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University, which I estimate represents 75 hours of study.

What education do you expect a professional genealogist to have?

What level of genealogy education do you, as a member of the public, expect a professional genealogist to have attained?  Where would you draw the line in this list:
  • Masters degree 
  • Postgraduate diploma
  • Postgraduate certificate
  • Bachelors degree
  • Non-credit certificate
  • no formal courses, but researched own family

Would you hire people with different levels of expertise for simple and complex work?

Is there a minimum number of study hours needed before a person can be considered a competent genealogist?

Doing genealogy for money is unregulated, so anyone can set up a genealogical research  business.  The debate about what makes a professional genealogist is ongoing and at times heated, but few would deny that genealogical education is a significant component.  Following a symposium, The Future of Professional Genealogy? last August, a Register of Qualified Genealogists has been proposed.  Input on public expectations and preferences will help make the register more useful for those seeking professional help.  So, please contribute your answers to the questions above.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

A Little Irish Fun

Since it is March and I am posting close to St. Patrick’s Day, I will talk about the search for my Irish family ancestry.
My mother's father and grandmother had died by the time my mother was two months old.  Her mom, a mother of 13, had her hands full raising the six left at home, so there wasn't much sharing of family history. Because of the dire circumstances her mom had to contend with, she had never known any of her father’s family.
I started my research on her father’s mother with just the fact his mother's maiden name was Magill. I was intrigued.  I easily found the book Magill Family Record written by Robert Magill, but could not find a tangible connection to my Magill family.  A cousin of my mother, a Ralph Magill, let me know that Elizabeth Jane Magill was married to Joseph Lester Magill.  He also sent me a copy of a letter he had received from a Magill saying he was related.  I studied the Dear Caleb letter.  I believe every Magill in America has read it. I was sent in all directions to research from the letter, but Caleb was not directly related to my Joseph L Magill in Clark County, Illinois. By process of elimination and places, and times, I finally decided upon the parents for my ancestor Joseph Lester Magill who had died in the 1840's.  
1. I knew he was born in Tennessee from the census's that I found Elizabeth in.  I found a Charles Magill married an Elizabeth Lester in Oct 24 1796.  This became my logical focus. Then I began the search for proofs I needed to have to make it so.  
2. I went to Ancient Irish naming patterns. Irish Naming Patterns, gives a basic pattern as listed below, although depending on circumstances these would sometimes vary. 
Oldest son named after the Father's father
2nd son named after the Mother's father
3rd son named after the Father
4th son named after the Father's oldest brother
Oldest daughter named after the Mother's mother
2nd daughter named after the Father's mother
3rd daughter named after the Mother
4th daughter named after the Mother's oldest sister
3. Joseph Lester Magill's apparent oldest son who appeared on the 1850 census was named after him.  The Daughter Elizabeth Jane could be after either the mother of John or Sarah.  They were both Elizabeth.
The apparent second son was John Davidson Magill which was the  name of Sarah's oldest brother.  Joseph Lester was also the name of Elizabeth Lester Magill's oldest brother.    Still, to prove this, I needed a Charles and an Archibald. As Joseph’s father was thought to be Charles Magill and Sarah’s father was Archibald Davidson. If they were born before 1850 and died I was up a creek without a paddle unless I could find family evidence.  It was about this time my mother's cousin finally broke down and sent me copies of the family bible. 
Marriages Sheet from Joseph Lester Magill Jr's bible

Deaths Sheet from Joseph Lester Magill Jr.'s bible
There was a Charles Andrew Magill first born, and a William Archibald the second born.  I knew I had my family.  I had a probate of when Joseph died in 1844 that named a William Magill along with John Davidson as executors.  William turned out to be Joseph's older brother.  
Then a "distant" cousin researching Charles Magill in Sullivan, Indiana found the land records that involved the heirs of Charles Magill.  My great grandmother was named with her brothers as heirs of Joseph Lester Magill, son of Charles Magill. 
BLM-GLO Image of Charles Magill land patent

BLM-GLO summary

I still wonder what happened that the first two sons died as toddlers, and what happened to Joseph. That will be a different search.

Now you have the story of the method I used to pull my Irish family together… I know, I know, I have not really crossed the pond, but it is known that the father of Charles Magill goes back to William Magill who is spoken of the Chronicles of the Scots-Irish Settlement in Virginia.  So, I claim Irish heritage even if it was only for a 100 years between Scotland and America. J  
Happy Belated St Patrick’s Day!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Are You Doing Thorough Back Ups of ALL of Your Work?


So, you have a blog, you have web sites, and you back them up, right??  Well, good.

And, you have a data base for your family research, and you back it up.  And, you have your images and documents linked to your data base, you have those files backed up. Well good.

And, you have mega files and photos and scans on your hard drive waiting for work to be done, it’s heaven having all those files.  Really it is.  You have them backed up, right??  Well, good.

And, you are active in Social Media and you have backups of that as well, right??  Well, good.

And, you have some nice extensive biographies on some of your Find A Grave memorials, and you have those backed up too, right??  


Yea, really, you need to back up your Find A Grave Memorials, if you care about the work you did creating those memorials.

Here is how I know.

Last month, I got caught up in a mess with Find A Grave over old memorials transferred to me by a disgruntled “graver”.  The Find A Grave staff decided to restore thousands of memorials that had been deleted by this disgruntled “graver”.    Trouble is the “graver” had transferred just a very few of their memorials to me before they deleted those other thousands and left Find A Grave.

Now, the details really just don’t matter much, but, when Find A Grave restored those thousands of memorials, they over wrote and took over the few memorials I had received.

Trouble was, I had spent several days writing long biographic stories for those memorials.

Lots of time was spent, lots of energy.  I was happy with the work.

I did NOT save copies of the work, anywhere.  I mean, WHY??  They were on Find A Grave, I had care of the memorials, and all was well with the world.


Short of it, after much angst, the memorials were returned to my care.  Short of it, the biographical stories were gone.  Find A Grave, apologized but, could not restore the biographies.

And, several days worth of work, gone, zap, poof.  Yes, days, as in 10 hour days.

Lesson: back up everything you do.  Back up your data bases, your images, your documents, your scanned photos, your stories, even the ones on Find A Grave.

Back it all up.  And, oh, ya, more than one backup.  You probably have that routine down, you have files in the “cloud” and additional backups on other media.  External hard drives are inexpensive these days and are small too.  Many of us have more than one external hard drive, and many of us store at least one of those hard drives off site. Translated that means, you have a full set of data backups stored in a safety deposit box, or one of your children stores a hard drive at their home, or maybe you take a backup drive to your place of employment.  (Oh, and make sure you update that off site hard drive at regular intervals.  Once a decade is not considered a regular interval in my book.)

I personally have 3 external hard drives, one is used for a full set of data backups made on the 1st of the month, the second is used for a full set of data backups made on the 15th.  The third hard drive is used for overwriting files on a daily basis.  If I change a file during the day, I overwrite it on that hard drive.  I take that hard drive with me everywhere.  Yes, everywhere.  It goes into a small case and into my back pack and when I leave the stick built or Tana, it goes with me.  That hard drive has been on a uncounted number of shopping trips and even a hike or two through some of our beautiful National Parks.

So, are you doing thorough back ups of your work?  Of ALL your work?

* Both photos on this post are of my every day backup hard drive.   First one is in the little travel case I found for it, actually a case for a GPS unit.  The second photo shows the hard drive, cord in the "travel" mode.

** Yours truly and hubby have been traveling steady for several weeks now.  I was woefully behind in many things genealogical, including reading this blog.  After I wrote this and posted and scheduled, I took a few minutes to read the posts from the last several weeks.  It seems that several of your contributors are thinking about similar subjects.  I just found that quite interesting, and thought I would share.

Now, carry on, and preserve your work.  Good luck.


Friday, 13 March 2015

Heritage Books in your Personal Genealogy Research

What other Tools do you have in your Genealogy Backpack? 

One for me! Is my Heritage Book Volumn 3 for Bullock County, Alabama

My True Roots
Heritage Book of Bullock County, Alabama. 2011

It helps me so much in learning about the County my Family of Slaves and where Generations stayed put. Even through Migration and moving back. Why some left? Why some stayed

It's gives a Biographical Insight from the when Bullock County, Alabama was established in December of 1855 until 2004. It has so many pictures and family histories and each little community within the towns and county. 

My family is from the area known as Antioch and Mt. Coney

This Heritage Book was bought back a few years ago for me. Through Heritage Publishing. At the time in 2011 when I ordered it was on sale for 35.00, it was originally 65.00. I called that a bargain!  I could keep it, own and have readily available to me any given moment. It's a Source for me to back up other Sources. 

  I had no where to turn Online for my town of Midway within Bullock County, Alabama.

Most of the genealogical records have been ordered by someone picking them up for me. Ordering through ADAH. Alabama Department of Archives and History. Or going through my Mentor the President of the Bullock County Historical Society, Mr. Dean Spratlin.
I take 2 trips a year. In October and the Summer. Sometimes it's on a whim because of a funeral or family gathering. Even on those sad occasions, I bring something back from the Courthouse or a new Cemetery headstone. 

I'm still playing catchup and I think I'm doing pretty good for my Ancestral Hometown being able to do location research. 

Europe is another story which I'll mention below.

Midway, Bullock County, Alabama is very Important to my research. It's where my Slave family started. A lot of those records are in this Courthouse and you must do on site research. I can't stress that enough. I have gathered much information from there whereas otherwise I wouldn't of got from Ordering or doing Online research. This County was formed in 1855 and they are just getting up to par on digital technology for most of their records. There are still those gems you won't find, anywhere unless you are there. 

Midway, Alabama is a small close nit Community. It's a sleepy town. It's in Bullock County, the county seat is in Union Springs. It's Population was over 200,000 people in it's heyday. On June 27, 2001 census recorded from this book, the Population was 11,714. The land area is about 625 square miles. 

My True Roots
Map of Bullock County, 2004.

You can see a bit of Bullock County, Midway, Alabama in my Documentary here: Granddaddy Ike's Story to True! 

This was never done before in my Family. I went on a 3 day trip with my Filmmaker Susan Soble of Family Line Video. To record all the Important and catalyst icons of my Family History. Plus I got a bonus and got my family to do some Oral History Interviews. That is how I got started in Genealogy. My Oral History Interviews turned into Research which in turn led me to what we know as Genealogy

 Most of it's records are what I like to call Onsite Research. I haven't even counted all the hours of research I've had to spend there in Union Springs Courthouse. It's been with a lot of Joy and I look forward to always returning with a pair of new eyes. 

I would check the site out you might be able to find a Heritage Book that is very detailed on a location you just might be researching. 

Now Im Off to Cuckney, Nottinghamshire England!!. 

I have to learn and concentrate and find all I can on my 6th Great Grandmother Sarah Hinde.

Born in 1702. She died 1770 in St. Mary's Maryland. She is married to William Watson where my Irish comes in!
My Irish Eyes are Showing

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Best Regards, True!  🍀 

Thursday, 12 March 2015


Why we should all be concerned about preservation?

Yesterday (Tuesday 10th March) there was a fatal road traffic collision on the road that I use everyday to get to and from my place of work. Although, I was not an eyewitness, I saw the immediate aftermath from the other carriageway, whilst on my way to work and was shaken and saddened to think that someone was going to be hearing bad news later that day. 

Experiences such as these can bring home the uncertainties of life.
We all like to believe we will live in to old age but even the youngest of us should be aware that we only have a limited time in which to do things.
Geoff Rasmussen who hosts the Legacy Family Tree Webinars usually finishes with the saying "Life is short, do genealogy first". Would that we could all do this. 
If there is one resolution we should all have made this year it is this, I will endeavour to get my genealogy organized so that anyone can pick up where I left off.
Those who have taken up the challenge of Thomas MacEntee and embarked on the Genealogy Do Over are to be commended as are those who have not been in a position to need to take up the challenge. Many (including me) will have started with good intentions and other commitments have somehow got in the way.
Have we set ourselves unrealistic goals? Maybe
We all need to work at our own pace and the most important thing we can do is to leave something that our families will value rather than a jumbled mass of documents and unlabeled old photographs.

How do I know that what I have will be of use to others?

We have records and photographs that we have inherited (unless we are very unlucky) and those that we have found or created in our lifetime. 
We need to make it clear how these are important to our family and each of us will have our own way of doing this.
Computers and the associated technology can help us in storing and collecting our sources of information but we need to consider how easy it will be for others to access these in the future. 
So keeping up to date or finding ways to future-proof our sources is important however we store the information.
Family history programs can help us pull together the information we have found and display it in a format which shows our connections to our ancestors but they may not be supported indefinitely.
Whilst we may want to become paperless we must all consider how we back up what we have. 
Disasters can occur and we may lose what we have collected if we only have one copy or everything is in one place.

  • Label things clearly
  • Back things up
  • Think about who will need access to your information
What legacy do you want to leave?
How are you going to pass your work on to the future generations?
Who gets your records? 

Can't I just leave my records to the relevant archive?

When Did You Last Visit an Archive ?

Much is made of the reduction of hours or closure of an archive and with a worldwide recession there has been great pressure on public services to reduce the cost of their services. On the back of this the paymasters will be looking at the footfall for these places.

National Archives will usually be safe as they have such large collections of interest to various researchers. However smaller regional or city/town repositories may not appeal to such a wide audience and the staffing costs will be an area where they will see reducing costs as a possibility.

So if you thought you could leave your work to the local archive you may have to think again.
Unless you have something unique which can stand the test of time such as a printed book you may find that much of the results of your hard work will become unusable or inaccessible.

Move with the technology and present your findings to the younger generations in your family. 
Consider how you store those unique items.
Make sure that somebody knows what you want to happen to your research.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

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

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


Is it possible to use a fiction story to get to know an ancestor better?

Yes, I believe it is. As a fiction writer of family saga-type stories, let me share a few thoughts on this. See what you think. I recently shared with my writing colleagues an experience with trying to write another novel in my series. One of the key elements of that discussion was that I had one ‘over-arching theme’ story I wanted to tell in that novel. When I actually started writing the novel, I realized that my characters were essentially “refusing to go along with that story.”

What does this have to do with our question? Some of you are asking…

Let’s take one step back, and I think I can explain. When I write, I first create characters, in a setting, and write backgrounds on each of them, including how they think, what their motivations are, how they relate to others around them, and so forth. I think this is critical to good storytelling. Much of this material never appears in published works, of course, but it is very useful to me to get to know each character, each family member, in my case, so I know how they will react to meeting new people and approaching new subjects. And, how they will act when faced with totally unexpected situations, of course.

When I started to write about how my main characters would respond to this new set of circumstance in the ‘over-arching theme’ I had chosen for the novel, I quickly became aware that they were taking my story in different directions than what I had ‘intended.’ What to do? This took some time for me to figure out, but I did come up with a solution.

My respond was to scrap the novel concept and get back to writing short stories about my characters, in their natural settings, and let them tell my/their stories.

Are you still with me?

When you research a family, in your ancestral line, you generally will gather more information than simply vital statistics (I hope, at least!). You may have an obituary. You may have news clippings about a wedding, an organizational honor, or family gatherings. Each of these tidbits of information can, and do, provide you with a little more/better understanding about how each family member reacted to certain situations in their actual lives. [We understand, of course, that these are not necessarily accurate portrayals of their behavior - but that is another story for another time!]

You can use these (understandings) like I use the ‘background’ materials I create for each of my characters. The more of this you have, the better your chances are of ‘getting to know’ that ancestor, as an individual. Agree?

Therefore, what I am suggesting, then, is that you can now, possibly, use fiction techniques to help you determine how that person would react to a situation you may know that they actually faced… but, you do not actually know how they handled it. My suggestion is that if you learn how to think like that person thought, you have a pretty good chance of writing a story about them in that new situation that would have a high probability of being pretty close to how they would actually have responded.

Let me use an example, from one of my favorite Revolutionary War ancestors. He went off and served in the Continental army at age 56, leaving behind a young nephew/son-in-law with new children (his grandchildren) to farm rather than go to war. The older man went so the younger man could stay with his family. This explanation fits the known circumstance and also seems to fit well with the kind of person he was (based on other things we knew about him). He was abandoned by his own parents as a child, and in later life, always sacrificed himself rather than placing burdens on his other, younger, family members. This may not be the best example, but I hope it helps you see my perspective.

You do need to remember it is fiction, of course, and not record it anywhere as actual fact. We must keep the two separate, no doubt. But, I hope you can see that this is my answer, one answer, to the question we began with ‘up above!’

What do you think? Does this make any sense to you? Will you try it, and see how it works, for you? Let me know. I love to get feedback on my articles, here, and to all my written stories and comments.
If you totally disagree, or find this ludicrous, I’d also like to hear that. I learn from both positive and negative feedback. I hope you do, as well.

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-Depth Genealogy" blog with a monthly column in the "Going In-Depth" digi-mag. He also writes a monthly post for the Worldwide Genealogy Blog.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Can what your 3 X grandparents did predict what you do?  That was the question asked by Rebel Hand several weeks ago. Because the majority of my 2X great grandparents were born into slavery, and I do not know anything about their parents except that they were enslaved,  I used my 2 X great grandparents for this exercise.

My mother's side.
Eliza Allen
Dock Allen

Dock Allen was born in Georgia about 1839 and ended up in the Montgomery, Alabama area when he was freed.  He was a carpenter. His wife, Eliza Williams Allen, born in Alabama in 1839, was a seamstress.  They were freed in the 1860s, before the end of the Civil War. In 1870, they had real estate worth $500.  Living in the household with the couple were 6 children and Eliza's mother. By 1900, they owned their home, free of mortgage.  In the home with them were 3 of their grown daughters and 4 grandchildren. Another daughter and her family lived next door.  Everybody except Dock and Eliza was literate. All children old enough to attend school were attending.

Joe Turner was born in Alabama about 1841.  His wife, Emma Jones Turner was born in 1842 in South Carolina. They were freed at the end of the Civil War.  In 1870 they were farming in Lowndes County. They owned no real estate but had personal property worth $300.  Their 5 young children shared the home.  Neither Joe or Emma were literate.

In 1900 they owned their farm, with a mortgage. The children were all grown and living on their own or had died.  There were 2 grandchildren with them. Joe was still illiterate. Emma could read and write.  Emma died later that year.  The next year Joe married Luella Freeman and they had 9 children before he died in 1919.

I do not have much information about my Graham and Jackson 2X great grandparents.  I am not sure which families they are yet.  As I prepared to write this post, I realized how I had short changed my research for this branch and started off on research.  I had to draw back in order to get this written in a semi-timely fashion.  I do know the Jacksons were from Autauga County (later Elmore) Alabama and that they were farmers.  I do not know more because I know my great grandmother's name was Mary Jackson and there were 2 Mary Jackson's about the same age and in the same area and I don't know which family she belongs to. 

I haven't even found William Graham with his family yet and I'm not sure if he was from the same county or one of the surrounding ones. My great grandparents disappear after 1880 and so far their family continues to remain a mystery.

My Father's Side

Frank Cleage was born into slavery in North Carolina about 1816.  His wife Judi Cleage was born into slavery in Tennessee about 1814. They were freed by the Civil War. In 1870 they were living in Athens.  He was a laborer and she kept house.  They had 5 children at home. They owned no real estate and had $300 worth of personal property.  No one in the household could read or write.  I have not yet found them after 1870.

Celia Rice's parents are not known at this time beyond that her father was a member of the slave owning family and her mother was a slave.  I'm hoping that when her death certificate arrives I will be able to fill that in a bit more.

John Averitt was white, born free in Washington County, Tennessee in 1810. His wife, Elizabeth Marshall Tucker Averitt, was born in 1814 in the same county.  They were farmers.  In 1840 they owned 1 slave, a girl under 10. I don't find them in any later slave censuses.   

In 1870 the Averitt's were farming with land worth $14,75 and personal property worth $4,110.  There are 6 children living at home. Several have their own personal property worth $700 to $300.  The 4 children ages 20 to 12 were attending school.  An 82 year old infirm relative of Elizabeth was living there.  He owned $8,000 worth of real estate and $2,000 worth of personal property.  All of the above were literate.  There were also 3 black children, ages 8, 10 and 13 and 1 black man, age 30, living on the farm.  None were literate and none were in school.  The 10 and 30 year old work on the farm, the 13 year old girl is listed as a servant and the 8 year old has no work listed.

Clara Hoskins Green (b. 1829 in Kentucky) had no work listed in 1870.  Her husband, James Green (b. 1824 in Virginia) was a carpenter.  I'm assuming they were enslaved before the Civil War because I cannot find them anywhere before 1870.  They owned no real estate and had no personal property. Also living in the house was their 10 year old son and 5 year old granddaughter.  They were both illiterate.  In 1880 they were in similar circumstances. Their daughter and her children were living next door. All of them were illiterate.  I cannot find Clara or James after 1880.
So, how does all this reflect my life?  I have worked at a sewing factory for a year after college.  Later I made and sold dolls for some years. For 8 years I lived with my husband and children on 5 acres in Mississippi, milking goats and raising a large garden.  Later, I continued the large garden when we lived in rural Michigan. I raised 6 children and they have often shared often shared our home since they grew up.  Off and on, different ones this year and that.  Other family members have sometimes lived with us too.  Since 1976 we have owned our homes, with and without a mortgage. 

Education for myself and my children has always been important to me, as it was to many of my ancestors who didn't have the opportunity to learn to read and write themselves.  I have done paid work in the clerical/secretarial field and as a teacher and sewing.  I have never had a paying job I couldn't leave without looking back.  Being in charge of my life has always been important to me.  It has been more important than having things or money.  I have been able to live on little and make it work. Maybe that's something that comes down to me from my ancestors.