Tag Archives: research

7 years in the making: Launching our new genealogy research services

7 years. Crickey, but it doesn’t seem like Genealogy Adventures has been going that long. You know I’ve loved every minute of sharing my journey with you.

This year is all about ‘doing what you love’ for me. So, with that in mind, I’ve been slowly wrapping up my marketing, copywriting, and branding business in order to focus on genealogy full-time. ‘Excited’ doesn’t quite cover it.  I’m also pleased that this is a family affair.  I’ll be working alongside my cousin Donya Williams. She’sbeen one of my most trusted genealogy research co-pilots.

So, with that in mind, I’m pleased to share our new genealogy research service website with you:

Genealogy Adventures: Genealogy and Family History Research Cent

http://genealogyadventures.vpweb.com

And no, we won’t be plugging these services every which way from Sunday on the blog. 🙂  I just wanted to take a few minutes to share some news that me, and the team, are really excited about.

So, with that in mind, I”m putting the finishing touches on a story that I hope you’ll find as funny  and as awesome as I do.

  • Brian

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Filed under AfAm Genealogy, ancestry, family history, genealogy

Obituaries matter when it comes to genealogy research

I am blessed to have a small army of genealogy foot soldiers when it comes to researching my Edgefield County, South Carolina ancestry. This army of researchers are all cousins spanning the melanin range. I’m grateful to have their enthusiasm and expertise. Edgefield is the Mount Everest of genealogy.  Hands down, it has given me the most challenges and barriers.  Oh yeah, it’s given me plenty of grey hairs and headaches over the years. It’s also made me grow and develop my working practice as a genealogist.

Edgefield is challenging for quite a few reasons. The first reason is everyone in Edgefield and the Old Ninety-Six region of South Carolina are related.  Cousins married cousins over and over again down the generations. The second reason is the use of family names. Pretty much every branch of these big, inter-connected families, had a fondness for the same handful of family names when it came to naming their children.  Take the name Willie, for example. It was (and is) widely used for both males and females in my Edgefield family. I’m not kidding when I say I can easily come across dozens of Willie Petersons or dozens of Willie Holloways when I’m trying to find details for a specific individual by that name.

When it comes to the African American branches of my Edgefield family, we can add 3 big pulses of migration out of Edgefield to the mix.  The first pulse came at the close of the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era.  The second pulse was the between 1920 and 1930 as the Jim Crow laws really bit down hard. The third was between the 1940s and 1950s – partly due to Jim Crow and partly due to new job opportunities in the northern states during, and immediately after, World War II

These migration pulses provide some of the most challenging barriers when it comes to researching the descendants of Edgefield.  For instance, if I’m researching a Willie Mae Peterson, born in Blocker, Edgefield, South Carolina in 1919…is this the same Willie Mae (Peterson) Gilchrist who was born around 1920 and living in Greenwood, South Carolina? Or is she the same Willie Mae (Peterson) Blocker who was born about 1917 and living in North Augusta, Georgia?  Or the same Willie Mae Peterson, born about 1919, living in Washington, DC. Or the same Willie Mae (Peterson) Settles, born around 1916, living in Baltimore, Maryland?  Or one of a dozen other Willie Mae Petersons living in Boston, Newark, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York City, Dayton, or a dozen other places where southern migrants settled?

Add to the mix that all of these women will more than likely be part of the same extended family.  However, in and amongst this myriad of Willie Mae Petersons, I’m trying to research a single individual.

Enter obituaries. Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that reading through hundreds of obituaries is more than a little morbid.  But hey, we’re researching people who are no longer among us.  So it’s part and parcel of the research that genealogists do. Believe it or not, obituaries are also a goldmine of information.

When it comes to my Edgefield ancestors and kin born after 1870, it’s become my practice to start researching and finding obituaries for the males in a family first.  I do this simply because their surname doesn’t change.  Well, not usually, at any rate. It’s easier for me to find obituaries for them.  From there, I can find crucial information – the names of parents, where they born and raised, details about their spouses and children….and details about their siblings. This leads me to other obituaries which plug further information gaps.

Let’s take a look at this in practice with the obituary below.

susie-anna-holloway-obit

click for larger image

Susie is my second cousin, three times removed.  Her husband, A P Scott, is also my cousin. Her parents are my cousins.  Both of A P Holloway’s parents are also my cousins. That’s classic Edgefield.

I found Susie (Holloway) Scott’s obituary via an obituary for her father.  In his obituary, she appeared with her married name. Using Newspapers.com, and searching for her under her married name, I found her.

From there I could update my tree with information about her children and her surviving sibling.

Obituaries have some pretty basic information which is sometimes overlooked:

Death dates

An obituary provides a date of death – or at least a month and a year – and town and/or county of death. Plugging this information into Susie’s page on my Ancestry.com tree resulted in finding the correct death certificate for her, as well as relevant census, social security, and other records.

Last known place of residence

The places where her children were residing at the time of her death. I’d spent an age trying to research her son, Lawrence.  I’d been searching for him in Edgefield, Greenwood, Abbeville, and Newberry in South Carolina.  I couldn’t find him.  And there was a very simple reason why.  He wasn’t in South Carolina.  He was in the Bronx in New York City. When I added his residence as the Bronx in 2008, I found him and information about him (notably New York City directory listings).

Married names for daughters, sisters, and mothers

When it came to her daughters, I found their married names – enabling me to research them and their families.

It’s not unusual for me to discover that the women in the family married more than once due to the premature death of a husband. Which explains why I struggled to find them in additional records after a certain date. There was an additional  marriage to the one I already knew about.  I had no reason to suspect that she had re-married. This meant I was looking for these women under the wrong name. In just about every case, I found the additional records for them that I was seeking once I had a new married name.

Clearing up how people wanted their names spelt

Last, but by no means least, I can confirm how my kin preferred to spell their name. For instance, that Ocie Peterson used ‘Ocie’ and not Ossie or Osie. It may seem like a small, seemingly insignificant thing.  I like to honor the ancestors by using the form of their name they preferred and used.

Turning names into people

I can also learn a little something about them: what their interests or hobbies were or their various occupations and achievements. This lifts their story above the usual dates of residence, birth, marriage, or death. It makes them 3 dimension people. In Susie’s case, that she was a member of the Springfield Baptist Church, which is a church founded by the ancestors. I’ve heard quite a bit about this church and its community from various Edgefield cousins.  That she was a member of one of the committees of this church tells me a little something about her standing in the community.  And, of course, her picture is priceless. Her features reminds me of people from my immediate family with roots in Edgefield. It’s a connection to a person I’d never met nor heard of until I began researching the family.

Thankfully, I have 3 Edgefield cousins who are super sleuths when it comes to finding obituaries for our very extensive and complicated family.  If I ever become stuck, I know I can call on them to find an obituary when I struggle to do so.  They do so, and we all share them on Facebook when we find them, because we all know just how important they are in our research.

So if you’re not using obituaries as part of your own family research…I heartily recommend that you do. They are worth the effort it takes to find them.

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Filed under AfAm Genealogy, ancestry, Edgefield, family history, genealogy, South Carolina

New Year, New Project: Stronger Together – the Story of US

It’s a new year (Happy New Year too!) and this year Genealogy Adventures will be defined by a new focus on research. At this point, I have to give credit where credit is due. Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign slogan, Stronger Together, crystallized and galvanized the focus of a genealogy project that has been brewing for the past two years or so.

The central theme of the project focuses on how millions of Americans – regardless of melanin, religion, culture, or ethnicity – are related to one another. Even if you only have one ancestral colonial line, that’s enough to connect to millions of fellow countrymen and women.

05eurosettlement16th

Map of the early American colonies.  Image courtesy of www.trinityhistory.org

It’s not necessarily a project based on changing hearts and minds. It is designed to make Americans think, and learn about the earliest period of the American colonies.

Over a decade of research has results in a rather large and extensive family tree. It’s a tree that enables me to apply all of my marketing analytics experience in order to identify and understand patterns and trends. It’s like applying the basics of ‘big data’ to genealogy. So what is ‘big data’? Boiled right down, it’s a collection of data from traditional and digital sources, usually for a company, which represents a resource for streams of discovery and analysis. Companies collect data about their customers in order for forecasting / trending, and issue-related purposes. Put another way, large data sets can be analyzed in order to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.

I started applying the same methodology to my genealogy about a year ago. It’s been a truly revelatory experience.

So what associations and patterns has my rather large family tree revealed?

Roughly 48% of my American ancestral African descended, European, and Native American lines converge in the Tidewater region of Virginia.

oldvamap

The Tidewater region of Virginia in the early colonial period. The project will initially focus on an area defined by Isle of Wight in the southeast, to Middlesex in the northeast, to Henrico (including Powhatan) to the northwest, down to Surry in the southwest. Image courtesy of virginiapioneers.net

It’s not surprising. The Tidewater region is one of the oldest parts of the Virginia colony. My lines converge there as early as 1607 with the founding of Jamestown. While I don’t have names, DNA test results for me and a myriad of distantly related cousins indicate there were people of Asian descent, Middle Eastern descent, and Jewish descent back in the mists of that early colonial period. These unnamed individuals DNA is part of our DNA. Virginia keeps cropping up as the most likely place this DNA entered into ours.

native-american-territories

Map showing different Native American territories in the eastern half of the United States in the colonial period.  My own genealogy includes the Powhatan, the Catawba, the Shawnee, and the Mahican people. Map courtesy of http://www.emersonkent.com Click for larger image

Another 48% of my American ancestral DNA converges in southern Pennsylvania: notably Chester, Berks, Delaware, and Lancaster Counties in southeast Maryland..

This 48% is roughly split evenly between three groups.  Two-thirds of these groups were European. The first third are Quakers from Scotland, Wales, and England.  The second is a mix of non-Quaker Scottish, Irish, and German ancestors. The final third of my early colonial period kin were Native American, African, and Jewish peoples. DNA tests strongly suggesting that relationships between these three colonial groups of people happened at a higher rate of frequency than even I could have imagined.  

The final 4% of my DNA in early colonial America can be found within the Puritans of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

Not unsurprisingly, as colonists moved from north to south, as well as westwards, they carried their DNA, connecting millions of Americans to one another. While I know that not all who carried their DNA into other parts of the US will have mixed DNA, I’d wager that a statistically significant number of these family lines carried an ethnically mixed ancestry. It’s something that I’m seeing in countless DNA results of my DNA matches. As I’ve already covered in 1667: The Year America was Divided by Race, colonial Americans who were not part of the governing elite didn’t attach importance to melanin levels. They worked, ate, and caroused together.  They also married and/or produced children together. Millions like me will be the children of those unions.

Let me not forget the Spanish and the African descended people who were in America along the southern part of the East Coast long before the arrival of the British. Exploring and occupying territory from Florida to Tennessee, they probably made a genetic contribution to the colonial DNA pool (see  Exploring North Carolina (the Spanish), The North Carolina History Project via http://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/exploration-in-north-carolina-spanish).  This came as a bit of a revelation.  I had no idea the Spanish had made it as far north as Tennessee in their exploration of the continent.

So 2017 already sees me in the midst of some serious fundraising. An initial US$ 250K to get the ball rolling with an eye towards US$ 3M overall. A small army of professional genealogists, genetic genealogists, researchers, anthropologists, historians, two American research universities, a technology university, and the British National Archives doesn’t come cheap. Nor does an estimated 5,000 DNA testing kits.

Why so many DNA kits? Quite a number of colonial records have been lost through uprisings (e.g. Bacon’s Rebellion), war (i.e. the American Revolution and the American Civil War), fire, etc. DNA testing and triangulating DNA results is one route to restoring lost and forgotten colonial family branches to an American family tree. Testing more than one person per line will be an important step.  It covers what I refer to as ‘non paternity events’; in other words, the off-chance that somewhere along a familial line a man who is believed to be an ancestor’s father turns out not to be.  Hey, it happens. We’re just being realistic.

It’s also why we’re including the British National Archives.  It has an impressive archive of American colonial era documents: everything from land grants, to tax rolls, to probate, and court records.

Of course, my inner academic is already thinking about educational outreach, and learning materials, for middle and senior schools as well as universities.

That’s the backdrop to Stronger Together – The Story of US. I’m psyched to have the opportunity to share it with you.

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Do You Come Across Themes in Your Genealogy?

Genealogy is a crazy experience. There’s just no getting around it. It’s the reason why I keep an open mind. You just never know what’s going to crop up. And if you’re genealogy experience is anything like mine, you get certain themes in your family research.

At the moment, Quakers are my theme du jour.

I’ll explain.

At first, all of the African-descended ancestors I found and researched in the US were enslaved. Which, to be honest, was to be expected. With the expectation of my maternal grandfather’s paternal line (which I just don’t know enough about), all known African descended lines had enslaved ancestors. Not a whiff of one free person, much less a whole free family, of colour. And then there were. And then that’s all I found – line after line of free families of colour stretching back to the 1690s. So that was one surprise.

On the European descended side, it was all solidly German, and then Franco-German. And then, with one shaky leaf hint on Ancestry…it was nothing but Scots-Irish. Everywhere I looked, there were new Scots-Irish ancestors where none had previously existed.

My European ancestors appeared to be solid burgers; that is, to say, part of the Tudor Era proto middle class. Then, out of the blue, it went from middle class to aristocratic to royal. That was crazy.

Each theme lasted for weeks. It’s like setting aside one set of lenses to view the world and using a new set of lenses.

There’s been no rhyme or reason to this experience. It is what it is. There’s absolutely no hint of something – and then, for quite a while, that new theme seems to be all that exists. Put simply, it’s everywhere you look.

I’ve been spending some time researching the female lines of my Scottish-American Josey family of Rich Square, Northampton, North Carolina. This was an old Church of Scotland family. Honestly. You couldn’t get more Church of Scotland than this lot. And then it happened: a marriage record for my 4th great grand aunt, Margaret Josey. A Quaker marriage record, if you will, documenting her marriage to Robert Peele. The antennae immediately went up. Would there be a connection to my Harlan ancestors, who I’ve only recently found out were English Quakers and not German Lutherans?

Well, it really didn’t come as a great surprise when I saw a Quaker marriage record for one of their daughters ,who married a Mendenhall. The Mendenhall family are my distant cousins through my Quaker Harlan ancestors. A quick check of this new Mendenhall had him quickly placed on the Mendenhall branch of my family tree.

Basically, two of my distant relations from two completely different parts of my family tree had just married one another. And both lines were now connected to a third family, the Harlans, from yet another separate part of the tree.

The descendants of Margaret Josey and Robert Peele would go on to marry further descendants from the Harlan-Mendenall-Bailey-White-Carpenter family with links to southwest England, Armagh (northern Ireland) and Chester County, Pennsylvania. To simply, I’m going to call this rather large family the Quaker Harlans.

Image showing hedge with interconnecting tree branches

This is a pretty good visual metaphor!  Photo Credit: “The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland” from PlusThings via http://www.plusthings.com/the-dark-hedges-northern-ireland

To put this discovery into an overall context, let’s look at the great-grand-parent level of my tree. I have eight family names at this level:

Maternal Grandmother:

Harling (Edgefield, South Carolina)
Matthews (Edgefield, South Carolina)

Maternal Grandfather:

Josey (Rich Square, Northampton, North Carolina)
Turner (Charles County, Maryland)

Paternal Grandmother:

Bates ( Henrico, Virginia)
Roane (King William & Henrico, Virginia)

Paternal Grandfather:

Clark (Smyth & Wythe, Virginia)
Sheffey (Smyth & Wythe, Virginia)

There were now old Quaker Harlan links to three of my great-grandparent level lines: Matthews, Josey and Sheffey (distant cousin Margaret White, a Harlan descendant through her father’s line, married my 4th great grand uncle, Maj. Henry Lawrence Sheffey of Cripple Creek, Wythe, VA).

There’s a possible fourth link on my Roane line through the Ball family. If I can confirm this potential new lead, that who mean there was a link to the Quaker Harlans for half of my great grandparents lines. That’s what I mean by ‘crazy’.

I raise my hand and admit I know next to nothing about the Quaker faith. Again, it’s not something that was really covered in school apart from the fact that Pennsylvania was settled by Quakers. However, through all this family research, I see there were established and thriving Quaker communities in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. Not just Pennsylvania. Compaired to the in-depth history lessons taught about the Pilgrims and their beliefs, I really do know precious little about the pioneering Quakers.

So not only am I seeing Quaker ancestors everywhere, at the moment, I see descendants from one Quaker family group in some pretty unexpected places.

A friend of mine says I should be surprised considering how small the colonial population was in Colonial America. There were only some 2,148,076+ spread across the thirteen colonies (European/African descended split of 79%/21% ++). In other words, if all of your family lines can be found in the American colonies before the 1770s, they were the base population of the country. It only makes sense that their lines would have the greatest number of descendants in the country’s population. And, through their descendants, would connect a staggering number of families together through marriages and through DNA. He laughed when he said that Americans should be nicer to one another: we just don’t know who we’re related to.

It’s not just family lines and religions either. I’m also finding themes with places. Why do Frederick County, Maryland and Port Tobacco, Charles County, Maryland link to so many of my great grandparent level lines between 1770 and 1850? This too is another theme at the moment. A crazy coincidence? Perhaps. Only time will tell.

Notes:

+ Springston, C. 2013. Population of the 13 Colonies 1610-1790, YT&T. http://www.yttwebzine.com/yesterday/2013/10/28/75757/population_13_colonies_chart

++ Lemon, J.T. Colonial America in the Eighteenth Century, Chapter 6, University of Toronto. p. 123 http://www.asdk12.org/staff/bivins_rick/HOMEWORK/230028_ColonialLife.pdf

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In search of: The British Roane family

Most of the time I share a completed family history story. You know, it has all the wrapping, bows ribbons and finishing touches. This isn’t one of those posts. It’s a good thing, really. It’s the perfect illustration for what we all have to go through when researching our ancestors.

Some background to this tale…

Right. So, in previous posts I’ve explained how two different Roane families arrived in the American colonies around the same time in the early 1700s. One Roane family is English and is connected to Charles ‘The Immigrant’ Roane from Surrey, England. Dear old Charles settled in Virginia. This is the chap I thought I was directly descended from. A DNA test has proven otherwise.

The second Roane family is Scots-Irish. This Roane family is connected to Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane, who lived in Argyllsire, Scotland. He was granted an estate in County Antrim due to his service to William III of England. His sons settled in Lebanon County, PA and Essex County, VA. It is from him that I am descended.

Too many trees mis-represent that Archibald Roane is the son of Robert Roane (Charles’s father) and/or Charles ‘The Immigrant’ Roane. He is the son of neither.

A Coat of Arms answers one question

Interestingly, the Scot-Irish Roane family and the English Roane family share the same coat of arms. So there is a link between them somewhere in the mist of Medieval British history. Their common ancestor remains elusive.

Roane Coat of Arms

There is a variation with eagle’s head online, however, I haven’t actually seen that variant associated with the Roane family.  In crypts and in the houses associated with the British Roanes, I have only ever seen the Coat of Arms given above.

At this point, I’m going to quash the fabled link to the ancient Norman noble house of Ruan. The clue that there isn’t a connection between these two families is in their coat of arms. The main de Rouen coat of arms is below:

de-rouen

The coat of arms for la Maison de Rouen (senior branch)

Typically, a ‘cousin branch’ or junior/minor branch of a noble house will share at least one element with the senior branch. There are no such common or shared elements between the two coat of arms. For instance, there is no doubt of the relationship between the senior house of de Rouen and the junior branches of the family in France through the motifs used in the families’ crests.

While the Roanes more than likely did come from Normandy (as suggested by DNA test results), this is about all I can find that they share in common with the noble house of de Rouen.

Coats of Arms can answer important questions

Having a coat of arms opens up some interesting research opportunities. The fact that a Yeoman, or ‘gentleman’, was granted a coat of arms says something about his progress in English society (I’ll get to the Yeoman thing in a bit). When a coat of arms is granted, all manner of information is recorded with that grant. This information will be held at the College of Arms in England http://www.college-of-arms.gov.uk/ and perhaps the Heraldry Society of Sctland http://www.heraldry-scotland.co.uk/beginners.html

Please do not email either of these organization asking for information. You must make an appointment with them and visit in person. I can’t stress that enough. Really. It doesn’t matter that you don’t live in the UK or anywhere near their respective offices. You must, must make an appointment and visit them in person.

These organizations will have information about who the coat of arms was granted to, the date it was granted, where he was living – and perhaps why it was granted.

The Roanes of Northumberland and York – and being Yeomans

Now, as far as I can see, the oldest known British areas of residence for the Roanes are Northumberland and York. Which, given Norman English history, doesn’t come as a surprise. Land, probate and parish records show Roanes in these two counties as early as the mid-1300s. These Roanes, however, were of the Yeoman class. Yeomans were a kind of ancient prototype for the Middle Classes, without the power or prestige. Yeomans manoeuvred a kind of netherworld, they weren’t peasants owned by the local lord – but they weren’t knights or nobility either. They owned land and/or business and paid taxes which gave them a measure of respectability.

This isn’t to say that there wasn’t a minor noble in the family in the early Norman period of English history.  I just haven’t found one. What I’m finding may either be junior branches; descendants of a minor noble who became commoners. Or, Yeoman was all they ever were.

Tracking this family from Northumberland and Yorkshire, I can see where they branched out and came to reside in southern England, notably in Sussex and Surrey.

I haven’t found a trail that shows them going further north. That isn’t to say one doesn’t exist, I just haven’t found it. Scotland is, after all, really only a hop skip and a jump from both York and Northumberland. They are actually closer to Scotland than they are to London.

Roanes in Scotland

Now what is interesting are some factoids that I’ve found about the Scottish Roane family.

I came across the first snippet when I was searching the Scotland’s People website http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

Margaret Roane record on the Scotland’s People website

Margaret Roane record on the Scotland’s People website

So there was a definite Roane presence in Scotland as of 1583, approximately 2 generations previous to that of Archibald Gilbert Roane. Sadly, the Scotland’s Peoples website isn’t very generous with free previews, so I was unable to find out more about this Margaret Roane. Surprisingly, there are very few Roanes or Roans cited in its records. But this, at least, gave me something to go on.

The second snippet was this little gem I found on a site about Crogo and Holm of Dalquahairn in Scotland (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~alanmilliken/Research/ScottishRecords/Kirkcudbrightshire/CarsphairnParish/RecordsDocuments.html ):

[55] James Milligane in Nether Holm of Dalquhairn

April 14, 1698: Obligation by James and Roger McTurke in Upper Holm of Dalquhairn as principal and Robert Grierson, now in Glenshimmeroch, as cautioner, to pay to James Roane in Manquhill the sum of 300 merks and £50, with a terms annual rent, at Lammas 1698, with the ordinary annual rent and £50 of penalty. Dated at Glenshimmeroch and witnessed by James Milligane of Nether Holm of Dalquhairn and John McTurke in Little Auchrae, brother to the granters. Obligation registered Kirkcudbright August 16, 1698.

[Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds 1676-1700, no. 3132]

Naturally, I was curious about the correlation between Glencairn (for Margaret) and Moniaive (the closest place name Google Maps had for James Roane) – and generated the map below:

Scottish-Roanes

click for larger image

 As you can see, Margaret and James are within the same region of Scotland. So this, it would seem, is another area associated with the Roane family in Scotland. It gives me a specific casement area to do further research.

Now the other area of Scotland is Argyllshire for Archibald Roane. I plotted the distance from Moniaive to Argyll, and, as you’ll see below, there is a bit of distance between the two.

argyll

click for larger image

It gives a rather large search area to investigate.

I’ve begun concentrating on the Argyllshire area. Now whether it has to do with the scarcity of Roanes in the county, or from Archibald’s family’s status, I haven’t found anything about the family through the records for this county. Posterity was definitely the preserve of the Upper Classes.  However, I am surprised that I haven’t been able to find any mention of King William III’s warrant granting Archibald 1) the title of Sir (which is typically associated with a knighthood and garter of some sort) or 2) the landed estate King William III provided Archibald. It’s not unheard of – not finding a digitized record for either…but it is unusual. There’s no question that both of these things happened, I’ve seen it referenced in a Northern Irish account.  However, what I’m after is the holy grail – the actual records.

I feel tempted to apologize for the random snippets of information, But I’m not going to. It’s on honest reflection of an active family history research project. Sometimes all we have to go on are seemingly random threads which may or may not have anything to do with each other. It’s what I love about the process – the quiet little thrill of the chase…and the victory dance (yes, I do have one) when everything finally falls into place.

If you’re going to research this family…

My thoughts on research both the English and the Scots-Irish Roanes are this:

If you’re planning to research the Scots-Irish Roanes, there are a few places to physically go to for research:

  1. Glasgow’s Central Records Office. This should have records and documents pertaining to the family in the area.
  2. Visit Edinburgh: National Records of Scotland
  3. Visit Argyll:  with luck, this will have information about Archibald Gilbert Roane.
  4. Visit Belfast: The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland
  5. Visit Antrim, NI: The records office will definitely have information about Archibald Roane, his estate and, hopefully, his daughters and their descendants as well as any extended family members.
  6. Parish records in the towns and villages where they lived will have records of baptisms, marriages and deaths.

Truly, with the staggering amount of misinformation for this family, physically going through the original records is what’s required to stitch together the history of this family.

If you’re planning on researching the English Roanes:

My thoughts are along the same line as the Scots-Irish Roanes – physically going through the original records. .

  1. London: National records Office and the College of Arms
  2. Visit York: Central Records Office
  3. Visit Ashington, Northumberland: Northumberland Archives Office
  4. The above, in turn, will provide information about the towns and villages the Roanes of Northumberland and York lived in and/or owned property in. The local parish church will have records covering baptisms, marriages and deaths.

I’ve been thinking about using one of those online fundraising services to raise funds to spend a month ding all that I’ve outlined above. Having lived in England for nearly 30 years, I more than understand the British bureaucratic system. And it’s something I would love to do. Who knows!

With this family, I have the feeling that the truth will be far better, and more interesting, than the fiction.

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‘Turn your family history into a compelling story or book’ course (UK)

I’ve come across a 5-day course that looks absolutely brilliant.  For those of you who live in the UK, it’s based in Cornwall.

This intensive writing short course taps into a strong interest in life writing, stemming partly from the success of various memoirs and autobiographically based non-fiction titles in recent years. It is led by the award-winning writer and producer Paul Dodgson, who has successfully taught several short courses at Falmouth.

Here’s a link: http://www.falmouth.ac.uk/201/courses-7/professional-development-short-courses-454/life-writing-summer-school-913-july-2012-4354.html

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Throwing the gates open: marriages between the Roane & Holmes families

Following on from the previous post, here’s an example of the frequency of marriages between the Roane and Holmes families in Virginia and their descendants in Maryland, Delaware, Arkansas and Pennsylvania.

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Filed under ancestry, family history, genealogy, Roane family

Throwing the gates open: Doing a broad family name search on ancestry websites

Most of my family research activity is quite specific. I tend to spend a great deal of time tracking down specifics about an individual or a particular family group. My time is usually spent tracking down individual dates and county of birth, dates and county of deaths, marriage dates, maiden names of mothers, etc. However, just to shake things up from time to time, I’ll do a general search using the broadest search terms available.

Armed with an increasing list of mothers’ maiden names, I’ve started to do broad searches on marriages between two family groups. So how does this work? Page 1 in the document below is an example.

While Ancestry.com is an amazing resource for intricate and detailed searches, I find (for me) that Familysearch.org is an amazing resource for broad searches.

The surname Byrd/Bird was a name which cropped up in connection with the Sheffeys in Wythe and Smyth Counties in Virginia. I had spotted a few marriages between the two families from the 1870s through to the turn of the 20th Century. So I was naturally curious to see how many marriages occurred between the two families.

I decided to search for all the individuals born in Virginia with the surname Sheffey (no first names are used in this kind of search) who had a spouse with the surname Byrd (again, no first names used). The record shown above gives a glimpse (death certificates and baptism records provided more). You’ll also see that alternate spellings for each surname are returned in the search results (Sheffy, Bird, etc). Each record that this search returned also gave details about parents – Page 2 in the document above shows the mother of Dennis Byrd (Josephine Sheffey’s husband) was a Sheffey.

I could (and have) made the search even broader at times by omitting the state of birth. And the results were no less illuminating…showing direct marriages between the Sheffeys and Byrds between 1920 and 1935 occurring in Delware, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland. And, as to be expected, there were also marriages between both families via their shared Richardson, Hill and Carpenter cousins.

It’s a brilliant family history exercise to do – but definitely one where you have quite a bit of time to process the results! The results from this search kept me busy updating the family tree for the best part of a week!

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Filed under AfAm Genealogy, ancestry, family history, genealogy, Sheffey family

Getting to grips with the 1850 & 1860 Slave Schedule census – Part 1

If you’re an African American, the chances are you will come up against Slave Schedule census records for 1850 and 1860.  Precious few African Americans can avoid them.  While these census records offer some challenges, it needn’t mean your ancestral search has to end with them.  If you can trace your ancestors to 1870, depending on their age, there is a very strong likelihood that you can find them in one or both of these Slave Schedules.

For instance, let’s say that your ancestor Joe Bloggs appears on the 1870 census (let’s use census returns for Wythe County, Virginia  as an example) as a 43 year old black male. There are some good clues here for you to work with:

  1. Year of birth:  If Joe Bloggs is 33 in 1870, that would make his birth year around 1837/36.  Age and birth years aren’t always recorded accurately in census records, but they do give you a ball park.  If you have to choose two people with the same name in the same county, Joe Bloggs with a birth year of 1820 won’t be the person you’re looking for.
  2. His age:  he would be 33 years old in 1860 and 23 years old in 1850
  3. His race: he is cited as ‘black’ and not ‘mulatto’.  While this factor isn’t always consistent across census years, it’s still a good clue to keep in mind.  You will come across people sharing the same name.  Any difference between them will help you eliminate people in your search.
  4. The county: If you find that your ancestors were living in the same country between 1920 back through to 1870, then that county is more than likely where your earlier ancestors came from too.  While there were those in the South who left their birth counties after the Civil War, many stayed.  And oftentimes, they stayed in the area where they were born.

So let’s say your Blogg ancestors lived in Whythe County, Virginia from 1920 through to 1870.  So given a choice between two Joe Blogs with similar ages but one lives in Wythe Country and the other one lives in King William County –  the chances are the one in King William County is not the person you’re looking for.

So these are clues worth bearing in mind when we reach the year 1860. The census for 1860 was the last of its kind.  Your ancestor will appear in what’s called a Slave Schedule.   Slave censuses listed slave owners by name – and slaves by gender, colour (Black or Mulatto are the only two signifiers) and age. Slave name very, very rarely appear.

Here’s an example of a Slave Schedule: http://c.mfcreative.com/pdf/trees/charts/1860Slave.pdf

If the names of slaves aren’t given on the census, then how do you find your ancestor?  You use the four clues given above, some simple math to calculate ages, and a bit of detective work.

More on the detective work bit in the next post!

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Filed under AfAm Genealogy, Black History, slave census