GA Live S01 E06: Ancestral Naming Conventions & Smashing Genealogy Brick Walls

There are times when we only have an ancestor’s name to work with in the coyrse of our family research; especially if your ancestral history is filled with one name ancestors (e.g. enslaved ancestors).

Understanding your family’s naming conventions – among your different ancestral lines – can give you major clues to work with when it comes to pushing your family’s story back further.

For enslaved African-descended people in America, who were forbidden from reading and writing, the names they chose for their children were ladden with their family’s history…and clues you can work with.

Have you ever wondered how a person got their name? How about why there are so many Augustus, Carrie, Janie, and Alphonso in one family? With women in particular, if you only have a first name to go by, her first name can be a vital clue to her family connection.

Join Genealogy Adventures Live every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month @ 4pm EST via https://www.facebook.com/genealogyadventuresusa

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Genealogy Adventures’s Youtube channel wins “YouTube Top 25 Channel” Award

Genealogy Youtube Channels

Feedspot (https://wwe.feedspot.com), is one of the best online tech services that enables you to read all of your favorite website updates in one place (and discover new good ones!). Well, they just sent us some love. Yep, they named our YouTube channel as ‘one of the Top 25 genealogy YouTube channels to watch in 2018’.

A big thank you to all of you who have supported us through the years. You made this award possible in a very real and tangible way.

You can see the other 24 YouTube genealogy channels who also won this award by surfing off to:

https://blog.feedspot.coml/genealogy_youtube_channels

GA Live S01 E05: Endogamy: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Donya and Brian’s family research broke Ancestry! The reason why has everything to do with endogamy. When your great-grandparents are second cousins, their parents were first cousins, and when your 3x great-grandparents are also second cousins… Ancestry just can’t handle it. It’s not just a hot mess, it is a red hot mess!

Endogamy not only affects your paper trail research, it also heavily affects your DNA research.

GA Live S01 E04: First contact with DNA cousins of a different race/ethnicity

So you’ve taken a DNA test….and discovered you have cousins who don’t look like you or pray like you. This shouldn’t be seen as the end of the world. Nor should it feel like the worst thing to happen to you in the entirety of your life.

It’s an opportunity.

When it comes to Americans, it’s an opportunity to cross the rubicon and actually reach out to people you may not ordinarily speak to. As well as an opportunity to learn more about your family’s journey and history.

Here at Genealogy Adventures, we have tales about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to first contact with folks who do not look like us.

There are no etiquette guides for this tricky subject. Where’s Ms. Manners when you need her However, in this episode, Brian Sheffey and Donya Papoose Williams will share their thoughts and advice…especially where the unexpected family connection comes via slavery.

LINKS

Beyond Kin Project Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/beyondkin

Beyond Kin Project Website:
https://beyondkin.org

GA Live S01 E03: Freedmen’s Bureau Work Contracts

Freedmen Bureau records are a critical resource for African American genealogical research. It would have been impossible for the Genealogy Adventures team to reconstruct many of our enslaved family lines without this vital resource. These work contracts have opened door after door of discoveries in our African American research:

LINKS

Freedmen’s Bureau records main page on FamilySearch (FREE): 

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/African_American_Freedmen%27s_Bureau_Records

 Freedmen’s Bureau Work Contracts main page (FREE): 

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/United_States,_Freedmen%27s_Bureau_Labor_Contracts,_Indenture_and_Apprenticeship_Records_%28FamilySearch_Historical_Records 

Burrell Yeldell’s work contract:

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9ZG-Y3KL?cc=2127881&i=526

Martha Brooks’ contract:

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89ZG-Y9CX?cc=2127881&i=170

The Sheila Hightower-Allen DNA Memorial Fund:

https://www.youcaring.com/forfamiliestobetestedtofurthergenealogicalresearch-1087919

To submit your raw DNA file for Howard University to triangulate (part of the Sheila Hightower foundation’s DNA project), please email it to: 

dnamemorialfund (at) gmail (dot) com 

PLEASE NOTE: Please read the information provided on the The Sheila Hightower-Allen DNA Memorial Fund for eligibility

GA Live: S01 E02: Working with your DNA test results

In our second episode, co-hosts (and cousins!) Brian Sheffey and Donya Williams talk about:

* The difference between mtDNA, YDNA, and autosomal DNA;

* General ways you can work with the different types of DNA;

* What they learned about themselves through DNA testing;

* How DNA results and paper trail genealogy work together; and

* Some easy ways to start working on your 3rd and 4th cousin matches to figure out who your common ancestors were.

In the next show (Sunday, 8 April 2018 @ 4pm EST), Donya and Brian will discuss Freedmen’s Bureau work contacts…and the discoveries you can make using them. See you then!

Live Broadcast Link:
https://m.facebook.com/genealogyadven…

MindSight Collective interview (UK)

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by the lovely Dionne Williams, host of the UK’s MindSight Collective.

Dionne asked: “Have you ever wonder “who am I?”, “where do I come from?”, and “where do I belong in Africa?”

The interview covered the ways you can discover how you can find those answers …and why genealogy is so important for the millions of people who are the children of the African diaspora:

The Sheila Hightower Allen DNA Memorial Fund

 

On January 30, 2018 family and friends were shocked with the devastating news of the passing of Sheila Hightower Allen. Sheila was an educator and loved her family fiercely. She loved them so much so that she began to research her family and share the knowledge that she found.

Although born in Texas, Sheila learned her family hailed from an area called Edgefield, South Carolina. As she researched the area, she quickly learned that everyone who came from that area was related. To prove what she was discovering about the area, Sheila began testing family members – and even friends – via DNA through services like Ancestry.com, Family Tree DNA, and 23andme. Using her own money Sheila tested at least 40 people spending close to $4,000 dollars. 

Her efforts brought thousands of family members together.

In honor of Sheila and to keep her spirit alive her fellow researchers who are also her family want to continue her legacy by setting up the Sheila Hightower-Allen DNA Memorial Fund. This fund will test anyone with roots in the Edgefield / Old Ninety-Six area that will help further the work that Sheila started. Our goal is to test as many people as Sheila did…if not more.

The Sheila Hightower Allen DNA Memorial Fund

https://www.youcaring.com/forfamiliestobetestedtofurthergenealogicalresearch-1087919 via 87919

Newspapers.com, Boolean search strings, and finding lost post Civil War ancestral lines

I always enjoy genealogy research conference calls with my Edgefield-connected cousins Donya, Sheila, and Loretta. They are always illuminating. Nine times out of ten, we can solve whatever thorny genealogical conundrum we’re faced with at the time. During a recent call with our cousin Donya, Loretta reminded me of a research strategy I had used to employ regularly…and had simply fallen out the the habit of doing.

The research strategy Loretta reminded me of was doing very broad searches using Newspapers.com.

As I mentioned in my previous post – Using military draft cards to find your kin during the post US Civil War migration periods via https://genealogyadventures.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/using-military-draft-cards-to-find-your-kin-during-the-post-us-civil-war-migration-periods/ – my Old Ninety-Six regional kinspeople rode out of their native South Carolina in three big pulses:

  1. The first pulse came quickly upon the heels of the Civil War, with groups of ancestral kin leaving South Carolina for Ohio (Elyria, Ohio in particular), North Carolina (Winston-Salem, Asheville, and Raleigh in particular, as well as Halifax, Wake, and Buncombe Counties in general), and Arkansas. Smaller groups rode out to Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee during the same time period.
  2. The second migratory pulse occurred during the WWI era, with large groups of kin heading north to Michigan (mostly Detroit), Illinois (Cook County), Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, as well as Chester County), Washington D.C., Maryland (Baltimore), Delaware, New York, and New Jersey. A second pulse into North Carolina also occurred during this period.
  3. The third great movement of family occurred during WWII and continued through the 1950’s. Their ports of call mirrored those in the second pulse, with the addition of Massachusetts, Georgia, and, to a lesser extent, California, as places for relocation.

Newspapers.com has been a key resource in picking up the threads for many of my ancestral lines which left South Carolina. Using broad boolean search strings (permission granted to nerd out on that term!) on Newspapers.com has enabled me to find these lines; and follow up on what happened to them once they left South Carolina. 

What is Boolean Search?

The SocialTalent.com website defines a Boolean Search as a way to organise your search parameters using a combination of keywords, and the 3 main Boolean operators (AND, OR and NOT), to produce more accurate and more relevant results for online searches.

The first important thing to appreciate about Boolean, is that there are only 5 elements of syntax to understand. These are:

AND  OR  NOT  ()  “”

By applying these appropriately, along with the keywords you wish to consider, you can create a huge range of search operations. There is no limit to how often you can use any of these elements in a search, so you can create very specific search strings, which will save you a lot of time in filtering the results.

Think of this as fine-tuning or refining online searches to achieve better, more accurate, or more relevant online search results. For more in-depth explanations of Boolean searches and how to use them, please visit

https://www.socialtalent.com/blog/recruitment/the-beginners-guide-to-boolean-search-operators to see how recruitment consultants use these search strings. The article has real world examples that are easily adaptable to online genealogical searches.

I began my search using a simple, broad search string:

I wanted to focus on former Edgefieldians who lived and/or died in Pennsylvania with this search. I wanted to exclude any newspaper articles that mentioned Strom Thurman. The revelation that Strom had a natural born daughter with a black family servant was big news at the time. This wasn’t what I wanted to research. Using this boolean filter excluded some 100 or so articles from my Newspaper.com search. Which still left me with just over 3,000 articles to work through in Pennsylvania. In all, I found around 30 Pennsylvania newspaper articles, mostly obituaries and marriage\engagement announcements, that were very useful.

I repeated the same for Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and the District of Columbia. These were the main places I know my kinsmen removed to during the three migration pulses I outlined above. 

I will rinse and repeat this process for the following terms:

  • Of Abbeville
  • Of Aiken
  • Of Barnwell
  • Of Greenwood
  • Of Greenville
  • Of McCormick
  • Of Newberry
  • Of Richland
  • Of Saluda

These were significant places of origin connected to my South Carolina kinspeople. It only makes sense to use the same strategy to find kinspeople from these South Carolina areas in the various states I’ve listed above.

I will warn you in advance: this is a lengthy and time consuming research strategy. It casts the widest possible net. The rewards though outweigh the effort of sifting through each and every result.

So let’s take another look at the image I used above:

Take a look at the map image in column on the left side of the image. Anything jump out at you? It’s no surprise that South Carolina appears in a dark shade of the colour red. Edgefield is an old county in South Carolina. It stands to reason that there will be thousands of articles in South Carolina newspapers. So this isn’t significant in and of itself. You’d expect this to be the case.

No, what piqued my interest was why Tennessee appeared as a dark pink. I knew Edgefieldians had removed themselves to Tennessee. However, I thought these family groups were outliers. Newspapers.com was telling me there was far more going on than a handful of families moving from South Carolina to Tennessee. Something significant was happening.

I then found an important and very straightforward indication of what was going on:

Indeed, many of the early articles that formed the search results for Tennessee, that mentioned Edgefield, were dated between 1868 and 1890. This timeframe aligns with the first post Civil War pulse of migration I mentioned earlier. There was an interesting link between Nashville and Edgefield  which requires far more in-depth research. Something was going on for this relationship between these two places to have happened. At the moment, I have no idea what that the underlying force was nor when this relationship between these two areas began.

If the relationship between Nashville and Edgefield  was established earlier, in the slavery era, this will have implications for my research. The explanation could be, and probably is, that I will have enslaved kinspeople who were taken to Tennessee from Edgefield. Some of my  missing  Nineteen Century black ancestral lines will likely to be found in Tennessee, something I hadn’t considered in any great depth. Now, I have to consider this likelihood. Settle(s) / Suttle  is one Edgefield surname I’ve seen in some of the Tennessee articles from the 1870’s time period. That is one of the significant surnames from my direct line. I’m looking forward to investigating this further.

I do have one caveat. I have exclusively referenced Newspapers.com. There are other online Newspaper repositories, such as Chronicling America https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. I understand Newspapers.com simply because I have used it for years, and I understand how it works with a deeper understanding than I do with other similar newspaper repositories. It’s a personal preference. You might find another divital newspaper archive service better suited to how your research needs. 

I will also use African American newspaper repositories to further locate family lines that were lost due to migration via https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/newspapers/?state=ðnicity=African+American&language#tab=tab_search

This research strategy is a lengthy one. However, it can reveal pure nuggets of gold.

Using military draft cards to find your kin during the post US Civil War migration periods

My Old Ninety-Six, South Carolina family was significantly impacted by three pulses of post 1865 migrations out of the South.

The first pulse came quickly upon the heels of the Civil War, with groups of ancestral kin leaving South Carolina for Ohio (Elyria, Ohio in particular), North Carolina (Winston-Salem, Asheville, and Raleigh in particular, as well as Halifax, Wake, and Buncombe Counties in general), and Arkansas. Smaller groups rode out to Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee during the same time period.

The second migratory pulse occurred during the WWI era, with large groups of kin heading north to Michigan (mostly Detroit), Illinois (Cook County), Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, as well as Chester County), Washington D.C., Maryland (Baltimore), Delaware, New York, and New Jersey. A second pulse into North Carolina also occurred during this period.

The third great movement of family occurred during WWII and continued through the 1950’s. Their ports of call mirrored those in the second pulse, with the addition of Massachusetts, Georgia, and, to a lesser extent, California, as places for relocation.

Military draft cards were essential to unlocking the mystery of which family lines moved elsewhere in the US – and when they moved there.

One clue to the extent of these migrations within my family is the sheer number of entire family groups who seemingly fell off the face of the earth after the 1870 Federal Census, and accompanying state census records for the same time period. They had to have gone somewhere. The question was: where? I bounced a few ideas around about how to find these missing families. Then it hit me: WWI and WWII draft cards.

My reasoning was pretty straightforward. The women in the family who were caught up in these mass migrations out of the South would be nigh on impossible to find first due to name changes via marriage. This is especially true for my South Carolina ladies, who came from an enormous interconnected family that used the same dozen or so names for their daughters. Sure, I might get lucky and find the right Janie Gilchrist in Buncombe, North Carolina straight away. The reality, however, is that I would need to research at least a half dozen or so Janie Gilchrist’s born in the Old Ninety-Six region who popped up in Buncombe County. Add the complexity that some of these Janie Gilchrists will have parents who haed similar names, well, trying to separate each Janie from all the others becomes a hurculean task.

It was easier to track the males in the family for the simple reason that their names rarely changed. I began with my Mat(t)hews / Mathis / Mathes lines, and rolled this approach out to my Holloway and Peterson lines. Each of these three family lines were huge. No, seriously, these were among the largest families in Old Ninety-Six. Tackling these three lines first would answer questions about where cousins and other members from their extended families also moved to.

The image below shows how I began my search using military draft cards.

I did a very general search on the surnames Matthews Mathews Mathis Mathes (I am going to collectively refer to them as Matthews). And yes, Ancestry returned an enormous list of men. Which makes sense. This was an enormous family. Faced with a breathtaking list of men – many with the same or similar names – I concentrated first on those I either immediately recognized, or those I could relatively easily figure out in relation to my family tree. I needed to do these first in order to reduce the number of men I was faced with. I looked for a few fundamental things to attach the right record to the right man. These cards also answered a basic question: the Matthews surname variation each man chose, which was also adopted by his descendants. I have men who born a Matthews yet died a Mathis. Knowing the preferred spelling enabled me to find them in various records.

Draft cards told me:

  • They often told me what part of the Old Ninety-Six region, and adjacent counties, they came from (e.g. Edgefield, Greenwood, McCormick, Abbeville, Greenville, Newberry, Barnwell, Aiken, etc. Knowing where they were born enabled me to zero in on specific Matthews family groups;
  • Middle names or initials as unique identifiers. When you’re faced with dozens of William, Willie, Wiley, Bill, Billy, and Bill Matthews, anything that distinguishes one from the dozens of others with the same, or similar, name is crucial; and
  • If they were residing with a relative, did I already know who that relation was? A parent, sibling, cousin, or aunt or uncle, can make the correct identification of an individual a much easier process. The name of a spouse can help. This isn’t necessarily the case for Old Ninety-Six. I recall looking at eight WWII draft cards for men by the name of William Matthews (or a name variation) married to a Lula, who was born in Edgefield, SC – and all of them were living in Philadelphia.


Once I had reduced the list of Matthews men as per the above bullet items, I began to slowly, methodically, chip away at the remaining Matthews men who were left in my draft card search. This is where things became time consuming. You really have to love genealogy to go this route.

One by one, I did a research workup on all the remaining Matthews men in the draft card list. The critical pieces of information were dates of birth. Be advised that the year of birth given on draft cards can vary from 1 to 5 years from the actual year of birth. The important thing to note is that the day and month don’t change.

Armed with specific birth dates, I could usually find a Social Security Application record for these men. From there, I could usually find a death record with the name of one or both parents, if their names where known, as well as their respective places of birth. Next, I looked for obituaries, which tended to give the names of parents and siblings; including the places where that person’s surviving family members were living at the time of that person’s death.

Death certificates also offered further information via the informant, if the informant was a family member. If the informant was a sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, or in-law, you now know where that family member was living at that time.

Then, and only then, did I hit the Federal Census returns. This is genealogy retrofit style. You work from the known, add as much information as you can, then work backwards until you find the family line of the person you are researching, and carry that line back to an established line in your tree. Thankfully, in my case, that backwards journey takes between 1 to 3 generations to make that connection. Again, this is the blessing of having a large tree. And yes, there are times I hit a brick wall when I work with a research line in this way. However, sooner or later, the crucial missing puzzle piece is found. Or someone who knows that line inside and out, usually a descendant, will reach out with the missing information I need. So I don’t sweat these temporary brick walls too much.

This research approach worked around 6 out of 10 times. This is where having a large family tree (nearly 100,000 individuals) has come into its own.

I know my Old Ninety-Six family. I understand the various themes that run through my family’s history. It was rare for an ancestor or kinsperson from South Carolina to ride out on their own. No, my people moved in groups. More often than not, entire extended families just upped sticks and moved together. Draft cards began to demonstrate this. If I had one or two family members removing themselves from Greenwood, SC to Philadelphia, the chances were high other family members did too. I was able to pick up the thread for a person’s parents, siblings, cousins, etc. I could find them in Philadelphia too. More often than not, they were living in close proximity to the person I was researching.

In my next post, I’ll share how using military cards and obituaries in tandem can yield some stunning results – and smash through some brick walls.