Granddad Gus’ Birth Certificate Arrives Forty-Four Years Later

It would take an act of the Texas Legislature to legally establish my grandfather’s existence, including when, where and to whom he was born. There’s nothing normal about his birth certificate.

Gus Roberts was born August 24, 1898 on a farm in Lamar County, Texas eleven miles north of the community of Brookston.  That’s the kind of information you normally obtain from your parents sometime after you’re old enough to remember.  But less than a month after granddad’s third birthday, his father was dead and his mother was in jail!  It would take a County Judge named Eugene F. Harrell to establish the facts of Gus Roberts’ birth.  His decision was adjudged and decreed  two months shy of granddad’s’ forty-fifth birthday in 1943!

I imagine my grandfather needed a birth certificate long before 1943 and it was probably problematic and annoying not having one.  This is evidenced by the rapidity with which he obtained one when it became legally possible.

The Texas law, HB 197, passed and signed by Governor Coke R. Stevenson in March of 1943  allowed grandfather to take his case to a county court, prove who he was and obtain an official birth certificate and have that record registered with the State Health Department.  He obtained his legal hearing and his “official existence” in a Lamar County courthouse on the same day, Saturday, June 12, 1943.

This official Texas birth record contains a number of facts related to my grandfather.  Some of them are more certain than others and some are certainly incorrect.  Let’s look at the record and compare it to what we know or suspect.  You may click on the image to enlarge it.

The Official Record

  • His name – The full name of the child is “Gus Roberts” I believe this is correct and I’ll have more to say about it in a future post.
  • He was a male.  His birth was legitimate and occurred on August 24, 1898. – Due to some testimony around his father’s death, there was a question concerning his paternity.  His father and mother married two years before his birth in 1896.  And though my great-grandfather was over twice my great-grandmother’s age, I’m related to both of them by the wonder of DNA.  Legitimate.
  • His father’s full name is given as Jack A. Roberts.  This most certainly is incorrect.  I don’t mean he wasn’t called by this name or a variant of it and I don’t mean his son, who was only three when he died, didn’t know him through others as Jack A Roberts.  What do I mean?  There is a large body of evidence my great-grandfather’s name was John Anderson Roberts.  John Anderson’s father, my great-great grandfather’s name was John Rivers Roberts and there’s evidence he went by Johnny, John Rivers or John R.  This may have been to distinguish himself from his father who was also named John Roberts.  Perhaps John Anderson was known as “Jack” from his childhood.  I don’t know.  I do know his neighbors in Lamar County knew him as “Jack”, “Jack A.”, “Jackie” and/or“Uncle Jackie”.
  • His father is described as a white male, age 70 years at the time of Gus’ birth.  This is only half right.  He was white.  He was not 70.  He was born in March of 1830 in Williamson County, TN.  He would have been 68 years at the time of his son’s birth.  Impressive.
  • His mother’s full maiden name is given as Mary Lanningham.  When she married John Anderson in 1896, the name on the marriage license was Mrs. Mary Thompson.  I have been unable to uncover the details of Mary’s previous marriage.  I do know there were a number of Thompson men as candidates on or near the Emberson Prairie of Lamar County.  Based on my research, I believe her family name was originally Van Landingham.  Her Texas family spelled their surname without the double “n”, as in Laningham by the time her son Gus was born.  And though I do not know what the “L” represents, I believe her name could be more fully rendered Mary L. Laningham based on a census record from 1880.
  • Gus’ mother is described as white and age 35 years at the time of his birth.  I suspect this again is only half right.  Yes, she was white.  No, I don’t know how old she was for certain but suspect she was born in 1871 and would have therefore been closer to age 27.  I plan to do a post explaining my conclusion in the future.
  • The number of children born to this mother including this birth and the number of children living at the time of this birth is one.  If this is correct, it would mean Gus was Mary’s only child prior to her time in prison.

I’m not concluded my “reasonably exhaustive research”.  Before I can assess the reliability of this testimony, I need to research the probate records for this hearing and learn who testified or provided affidavits in 1943.   Sounds like another trip to the Lamar County courthouse.!

Thanks for reading the blog and feel free to share your “birth certificate stories”.

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Happy Backtracking,

Gary

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Understanding and Interpreting Birth Certificates

For fifty-eight years my father had no official given name.  He was simply “Roberts” on the birth record tucked away in Kerr County, Texas.

Genealogists love birth certificates!  They’re informative, sometimes puzzling and can even be intriguing. Like his father before him, Burton Lee Roberts had to go back many years later to the county of his birth and have his certificate amended.  

What can we learn from the birth certificate of B.L. Roberts?

  1. Some birth certificates are incomplete.
  2. Birth certificates provide facts and clues for the diligent family historian.
  3. Birth certificates are not always correct.
  4. Birth certificates are always specific to a person.  

Incomplete Birth Certificates

The blanks are not always filled in and when they’re not, the certificate is incomplete.  In the enhanced image of my dad’s certificate there are several blank spaces.  These include the specific address of his birth and his given name or names at the time of his birth.  On the space after “FULL NAME OF CHILD” there is simply the word “Roberts”.  This would remain so until it was amended in 1977.

On other certificates, I’ve seen the space for the father’s information left blank.  When it is, the blank under the term “Legitimate” is often left blank or filled in with the word “No”, but not always.

When you find a blank on a certificate, ask yourself, why it’s blank?  The answer may or may not be obvious.  The answer may or may not be that significant.

Birth certificates provide facts and clues

Some documents are better sources of information for specific needs.  Keep this in mind as you do research.  I like death certificates for the date of death better than a headstone and I like birth certificates to establish the date of birth better than a headstone.  Yes, I know, I wish we could always find one too!  Whatever you find that provides evidence for your work, remember, the information is only as good as it’s source.  If the mother is the source and she doesn’t know where her husband was born, the information will most likely be incorrect.

Birth Certificates provide facts.  On Dad’s certificate we learn he was a male child considered legitimate and born on February 24, 1919 at around 4:30 pm.  His father was Gus Roberts a white male living in San Antonio, TX aged 20 years on his last birthday and was born in Paris, Texas.  His mother was Emma Ingram a white female living in San Antonio, TX aged 20 years on her last birthday and born in Carrizo Springs, Texas.  Gus is a laborer and Emma is a housewife.  The attending physician was J.L. Fowler.  He lived in Ingram, TX.  The Kerr County Clerk at the time was Jno. R. Leavell.  Dad was the sixth birth registered in Kerr County!

Birth certificates may also provide clues.  Dad’s certificate states his parents’ residence at the time of his birth was San Antonio, but his place of birth is given as the city of Ingram in Kerr County.  What’s up with that?  Were they on a trip when she went into labor?  That’s possible.  We know they resided in San Antonio, Texas on or near the time of Dad’s birth.  His father worked for Otis Elevator and when he filled out a World War I draft card he and his wife Emma lived on Nebraska St. in San Antonio.  We know Emma’s mother lived in Ingram, TX. (If we hadn’t, Dad’s certificate would have been a good clue.).  That’s about 85 miles west of San Antonio.  We know other Ingram girls (Also Emma’s maiden name) delivered their babies while visiting their mother in the town of Ingram.  Here’s where another clue is presented to us.  Why was there no given name on Dad’s original birth certificate?  Perhaps his mother had traveled to Ingram from San Antonio weeks or even a month before Dad was due.  Perhaps his father was in San Antonio working and not in Ingram when his first child arrived.  This may explain the missing given names on the certificate.  Perhaps Dad’s mother wasn’t sure what her husband wanted to call his son.   

Birth Certificates Are Not Always Correct  

As previously stated, birth certificates are only as good as their source.  Therefore they’re not always 100% correct.  Be aware.  Having said that, they’re still our best source for an accurate birth date.

While my dad’s original certificate is incomplete, it appears to be accurate with the information it provides.  That’s not totally true about the side notes attached to the amended certificate.

I believe Dad and Mom must have decided to get an official birth certificate on the same trip to the Texas hill country, Dad’s from Kerr County and Mom’s from Bandera County.  They were both in for surprises.  Dad discovered he didn’t have a given or middle name.  Mom discovered she was a year younger than she thought she was.  I wish I could have seen their faces.  How does someone in their late fifties not need an official birth certificate before then?  How does someone in their middle thirties lose track of their age?  Dad would later obtain an affidavit from his father and return it to Kerr County in order to amend his birth certificate.  Here’s a photo image of the amendment.

The top part of the document is the clerk’s recording of what she sees in the original document.  The bottom part is the amendment to the original document.  Here’s  where I suppose Dad officially receives his full name Burton Lee Roberts.  Burton was after Burton Cheesman, the husband of his mother’s sister B.G. They were very close.  Lee was his mother’s middle name.  My dad would later name his firstborn David Lee Roberts.

But not all of the information on this amended document is correct.  The clerk misread the original and put down the father’s name as “Geo.” rather than “Gus” in the information she recorded at the top the the page.  So, if you’re looking for a George Roberts living in Texas during the early part of the 1900s, here’s your “proof”.  (I type laughing.)  Add it to your family tree!

The next image is the photo of the back of the previous image and dates when the amended certificate was recorded in Kerr County.

Birth Certificates Are Specific to a Person

These are useful photos of two documents containing wonderful information about Burton Lee Roberts.  I’m grateful to have them and seek to collect birth certificates for all of my family research subjects when they’re available.  I’m sure you do as well.

One more reason these are so valuable to me, some people still question my dad’s birth date.  He did this to himself.  He joined the army when he was sixteen but lied about his age to do so.  He has a military birth date of February 24, 1917 and an actual birthday of February 24, 1919.  Confusing?  Sometimes.  But that’s why we do reasonably exhaustive research.  Happy backtracking!

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About Backtracking the Common

Genealogy with a Texas Accent

If you’ve caught the genealogy bug, can’t get enough of your family history or just curious about your ancestors’ past, welcome to Backtracking the Common.  I think we can encourage each other.

Researching famous or infamous people is not much of a challenge.  The internet provides most of what we need with just a few clicks.  Finding information about most of our ancestors may prove a bit more difficult.  It’s what we call “backtracking the common”.

The Backtracking the Common website and Facebook pages are here to encourage, assist and share with our followers.  It’s also a place for our followers to share with us.  We welcome your comments and insights.

Most of our posts will spin off our own research into four family lines:  Roberts, Ingram, Byrd and Burns.  These examples will often include secondary generation surnames such as Nichols, Laningham, Riggs, Price, Horn, Bullock, Neely, Giles, Latham, etc.  Much of our research is in Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Illinois, and California.

Please take whatever will benefit you.  Please share what may benefit us and/or our readers.

Welcome to Backtracking the Common!  This is Genealogy with a Texas Accent!

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Gary Roberts describes himself as a “want to be” follower of Jesus Christ and healthy church enthusiast.  He researches, writes, and teaches out of Austin, Texas where he lives with his wife of 42 plus years, Dee.  They have 7 grown children and 12 grandchildren – and counting.  He’s relatively new to the field of genealogy and hopes his family will enjoy their adventures into the past.  He enjoys history, baseball, fishing and travel.  He’s a life-long Texan with family roots that go back to the Republic.  In his more recent past he was the lead in a church plant, pastor of two traditional churches over a 22-year period, worked in campus and national ministries and led family seminars.  Today, he encourages others to follow Jesus Christ into their neighborhoods and share in tangible ways the good news of Jesus’ Kingdom.  He’s available to share with others and discuss their questions.

Become the Expert – Then, Collaborate

Burton Lee Roberts
Burton Lee Roberts

If anyone knows more about Burton Lee Roberts than me, it would be my mother – and I’ve told her things over the past five years she didn’t know about him.  He was my father for thirty-three years before his death in 1988.  While free with his opinions, he held his secrets close.  I peppered him with questions all my life about his family, growing up, military service and the medical profession.  He and I cleared land together, did electrical trim work over one summer and fished on a few occasions.  I got to know him better (understand) through my psychology and pastoral counseling studies.  He and I spoke of spiritual things on only a couple of occasions.  We later had our goodbye conversation when it became clear he would not live much longer.  I believed we were ready.  I was wrong.

My 2012 budding interest in genealogy, and Dad’s family in particular, brought multiple new facts and affirmations about his life to light.  And with those discoveries many more new questions I wish I could ask.  I peppered Mom and one surviving aunt with some of those questions.  I so wish I had become interested in genealogy earlier.  My dad’s sister would have been a gold mine of information.  She died in 2010.  Missed opportunity.

Now what?  I still know a great deal about him and continue to pursue missing information and historical tidbits.  I will tell his story – and stories.  As I’ve explained, I’m in the best position of perhaps anyone to do so.

What about you?  Whose life or family line do you know better than just about anyone else?  This makes you the closest thing to an “expert” on that line.  (Tread lightly here.  One definition of an expert is “a has been under pressure”.)  You have something significant you should consider giving it to the greater genealogical community.  How do you share it?

Collaborate

I use online trees and DNA to find new cousins.  My online tree is bigger, more expansive and less documented than the one I’m building offline.  It’s only a tool to find those new cousins.  These cousins know more about a particular part of a family line than I do.  They have access to documents and therefore documentation I do not have.  They often have photos and family lore.  This is when I let them “straighten me out”.  I’m ready to consider their facts and hear their arguments.  Trust, but verify.  When I find a researcher (cousin) who will not turn and run the first time we disagree, I find a jewel.  I treasure these people in my genealogical research and my life.  I could not know what I know today without them.  May their tribe increase.

My appeal to you

  • Do diligent research.  Follow genealogical proof standards.
  • Write and post stories to your online trees.
  • Find other researchers interested in your family line through online trees and DNA results.
  • Be ready to collaborate.  Be generous with your research.  Be open to having your work questioned.  If you’re right, best genealogical research practices will confirm it.  If you’re wrong, you’ve found what you’ve wanted all along – a more accurate representative tree of your family lines.

TIP:  When you’re contacted by another researcher and told you may be wrong (or often just told you’re flat-out wrong!), receive it and let them know you welcome their input.  Consider them a research partner in this branch of your research.  Check out their documentation.  If they’re right, admit it.  Tell them how right they are and how much you appreciate their work.  Right or wrong, let them know you appreciate their effort to assist you.

A cousin once contacted me and told me I might need to check a part of my tree.  They believed I was wrong about who and how I had a branch configured.  They shared with me their understanding of that branch.  Here’s the first thing I thought.  It’s unlikely I would know more or be more accurate than this cousin about this part of our shared tree.  I listened.  I considered.  Of course, she was right –  and of course I wish I always thought this way!

A “new cousin” recently contacted me and said I might want to reconsider some children I had attributed to a couple in my tree.  He sent me transcriptions of two legal documents with source citations.  He was right.  I did want to reconsider it.  His information introduced me to a new person in my tree previously unknown and resolved some conflict in my research.  Collaboration.

Become the expert in your branches of the family tree and then freely, willing, joyfully collaborate with others.

 

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

big-prizeNeed some help with your genealogy?  Need direction? Need encouragement? Keep your eyes on the prize.

Alice Wine of Johns Island, South Carolina is credited with these words from the early days of the civil rights movement.  Various versions were sung in the battle for equal rights. Inspired by an earlier spiritual song entitled Gospel Plow, the words remind us that no matter how difficult things become, we must keep our eyes on the prize. Remember where you’re going, what you’re trying to accomplish. Refuse to allow problems to keep you from obtaining the prize.

I’m hesitant to use this phrase in the discussion of genealogy because of its origin. I don’t wish to lessen the struggle for civil rights in any way but I view the principle as almost universal in accomplishing anything with or without significance. If you want to get something done, obtain a goal, you must keep your eyes on the prize.

The family historian knows this struggle.

The Prize  

What’s the prize in your genealogy research? You tell me.  Why did you first get into genealogy? What are you trying to accomplish now?  Are your eyes fixed resolutely on your prize?

I was late to hunt. But I wanted to know about my father’s family because I knew so little. I needed to, as TV’s NCIS New Orleans character Dwayne Pride says, “learn things”. I now have a partial timeline for my Roberts family covering over 200 years. I have hundreds of pages of documents related to my direct line and have written several blogs about this family. I also have an equal amount of information, if not more, on my mother’s Byrd family. So, why has my research slowed to a crawl?

  • Life.  Like you, I’m busy, perhaps as busy as I’ve ever been. I’m near the end of my life’s journey and there are things I want to do, including but not limited to family research. There are, believe it or not, some things more important than genealogy.
  • Loss of focus. The reality is my family history research suffers more from a loss of focus than my busyness. I may not do as much when I’m busy with other things, but I can do some.  If I don’t, it’s probably a loss of focus.  I’ll explain more.
  • Laziness. I’m not typically a lazy person. Most of my life, however, I’ve worked more with my mind than with my hands. Watching others work so well and diligently with their hands often makes me feel lazy. In my research, I can see laziness creep in when I lose focus or things become difficult.  Laziness may also show itself in the constant clicking of internet links, chasing the “shiny objects” of genealogy, or building our family trees on the research of others without gaining the genealogical proof.

When I began

When I began, I wanted to know about my dad’s family. That was my prize. Having learned so many wonderful and at times fascinating things, I wanted to share these facts with my family and preserve their legacy for my children and grandchildren. This became my prize. It fueled the energy to begin this blog. It inspired me to take my grandchildren on family history trips. It’s the reason I may pause but can’t quit this “hobby” of family research.

Backtracking my family and leaving their stories for my children and grandchildren is still the prize on which I must keep my eyes in my genealogical research.

In my research, I discovered many stories to tell. It’s important to document these stories. What are the sources for the facts behind the story? Can others read my research and come to the same conclusions? What good is a legacy without proof? A tale? A myth?

Little Prizes

This brings me to the little prizes I must pursue to obtain my big prize. Think of it this way. If my big prize is well documented and written stories about my family left for my children and grandchildren, I need to pursue a series of smaller prizes along the way to obtain my big prize. Big prizes cannot be gained without taking many smaller steps. As I write these words, I’m reminded how many times I’ve read and heard versions of this same advice. Experienced genealogists and longtime family historians have written and shared these thoughts long before I began my sporadic research in 2012. I should apply their experience and pursue the little prizes which help me reach my big prize and document it all as I go.  Think about your own research.

  1. Have a goal. Have a goal before you boot up your computer or get in your car to go to a library or research facility. Discover and document ____________. What do you want to do? What are you trying to learn that will help you accomplish the “big prize”? the Familysearch Wiki page has an excellent article entitled “Principle of Family History Research”.  Click the title and give it a careful read. Learn more here and here.
  2. Develop a research plan to reach the goal you desire.  Amy Johnson Crow recently blogged on this subject. Other resources may be found here, here and here.
  3. Follow the Genealogical Proof Standards. If you don’t know what this is, please take time to click and read. This is the best way to create certainty about the stories we wish to pass to future generations.
  4. Write it all down.  Every fact I find will not make it into this blog but I need it recorded, documented, saved and backed up in at least two places for future generations to use

I may not always have something to say to the genealogical community at large but I’ll always have something to say to my grandchildren. I need to keep my eyes on this prize. One goal after another (small prizes) to reach one big prize. Perhaps as I do and write some of it down here, you’ll find something useful or entertaining in your own research.

Keep your eyes on your prize.

Free Help for Your Irish Research

jake-fletcherJake Fletcher is at it again.  This generous professional genealogist, educator and blogger from Massachusetts recently shared three dynamite FREE online Irish resources for researching our ancestors. He dispels the myth this is an impossible task for regular folks who can’t travel to Ireland. Check them out on his blog.

I also encourage your to follow his blog, especially if you have family lines traced through New England.

Thanks Jake!

Family Research + Found Cousins = Fun!

Research and Cousins

I love “new” cousins!  I especially love new cousins pursuing their family’s genealogy/history.  They’re like gold to me – and should be to you as well.

Gary with Bill Wright
Gary with Bill Wright

Last week my friend Bill Wright and I were in middle Tennessee attending a non-genealogical conference.  This small detail didn’t keep me from sneaking into Williamson County after the conference and spending last Saturday doing family research.  I planned half a day in the archives and half a day with cousins.  Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Plan Your Work

  • What do you need to further your research? Are any of these records available?
  • What records are housed in the county and where? Are they available on the day(s) you will be there?
  • What time will the records be available to view?
  • Does the repository have an online index? Search capabilities?
  • Are you allowed to take photos? Make copies?  What’s the cost?
  • Once you’ve decided to go, ask yourself IF you want to spend time with “new” cousins. If yes, contact them to check their availability and arrange times and places.
  • Pack your “research bag” with all your tools and don’t forget to take it!

The Williamson County, Tennessee Archives are a tremendous resource for families researching middle Tennessee ancestors.  It’s located in Franklin.  This was my second visit.  When my wife and I visited in 2013 I was only aware of my Roberts and Giles lines in the county.  I’ve since discovered my Neelly (Neely), Nichols, Sammons, Smithsons, Tatum, and possibly Rivers lines in the county.  Using the Archives online search capabilities, I was able to locate around ninety documents available on microfilm of interest to me.  There’s no way I would be able to view or collect them all in half a day.  I prioritized them, printed out a list and put it in my bag.

I contacted two of my cousins from two different family lines and asked about their availability to meet Saturday afternoon and evening.  These are two very busy women and of course they both had plans for the day.   But due to circumstances and their sheer determination, they graciously made a way for us to meet for the first time and share some family research.  The bonus?  I also met some of their wonderful family members and visited three family history sites!

Work Your Plan

Bill and I were at the Archives in Franklin when it opened at 8 am Saturday morning.  He began to enjoy the museum housed in the building and I headed for the microfilm files.   Bill would later slip away to visit the many Civil War sites in the city while I would stay focused on my list and pulling the microfilmed documents I wanted.

I was able to collect just over one-third of the documents on my list.  This would include over 150 printed pages and three pages of hand written notes primarily from tax documents.  I specifically targeted wills and specific deeds first.  Then moved on to tax records.  I didn’t spend time viewing and trying to analyze them.  I only viewed them long enough to know I had the right one – hit print – and kept moving.  Like long-lost friends, we’d spend time together in the days to come.

Family  

Gary with Pam and Gary Fisher
Gary with Pam and Gary Fisher

I packed up my bag as the noon hour approached and made a restroom stop.  As I came back into the main hall of the building I was approached by a soft-spoken southern lady and asked if I was Gary.  My cousin Pam Fisher and I were meeting in person for the first time in person.  She’s lived in Williamson County all her life.  I joke that she’s related to most of the families in the county.  If you have family from Williamson County, you may be kin to Pam.  We share 3rd great-grandparents William Cleaton and Lucy Standley Giles and met online through a DNA match in November of 2015.  She’s also related to my 2nd great-grandfather Roberts by his first wife who died as a young mother.  Pam introduced me to her husband Gary and over lunch we discovered that he and I also share a family surname.  Small world.

I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel to have family in the county of my ancestors.  I look forward to collaborating with them for the rest of our lives!  Imagine how fun it was to share a meal with Gary and Pam and a waitress they’ve known for over twenty years!  Now that’s what I call service – and great food.  Thanks guys for including me in your lives.

Gary and Pam lead tours to Israel.  If you’re interested in booking a tour, let me know and I’ll connect you with them.

John Ian Neely Home
John Ian Neely Home

The Fishers dropped me back at the Archives just in time to meet – again for the first time – my cousin Janice Mills.  She and some of her family had just wrapped up a yard/garage sale to clear out space for a classic car.  We met the rest of them at a wonderful New York style Italian eatery.  I really enjoyed meeting husband Denny, daughter Kelly and Kelly’s friend David.   Janice soon had me back in the car and headed south to see the house of our 5th great-grandfather John Ian Neely and his wife Suzanne Griffith Evans.  They built the Federal style home in 1813 on the Columbia Pike between Franklin and Columbia, TN.  I’ve blogged about it in the past.  It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Janice took a picture back then and sent it to me before I wrote about it, but this would be our first time to walk the property.  We were particularly interested in the rumor of a cemetery surrounded by a rock wall that no longer stood.  The owners were welcoming and informative.  They’d lived on property for forty-four years!  They were not aware of any cemetery surrounded by a rock wall but told us about a cemetery on the original property less than a mile from the house.  We found the cemetery (A funny story for another day).  We found grave stones with the family surnames of others who had lived in the Neely house but no stones with the name Neely clearly etched on them.  Janice plans to do further research to confirm if this is the original Neely cemetery.

I always enjoy walking the land of an ancestor.  Our footsteps meet for a moment in time with the hope we’ll spend eternity together someday.  Thank you Janice for taking time to carry me to this special place in Williamson County.

Gary between the headstones of Thomas and Elizabeth Gibson Blackwell in Franklin, TN
Gary between the headstones of Thomas and Elizabeth Gibson Blackwell in Franklin, TN

Like a flash Janice whisked me away to a subdivision near where she lives.  I had heard about this place and seen pictures of it online but this was my first visit.  Here among ranch-style houses on nice sized lots we parked in a driveway.  We weren’t here to visit the owner or his neighbors.  We were here to visit the cemetery in their back yards!  Tucked up under a tree in the back right corner was the final resting place of our 4th great-grandparents Thomas and Elizabeth Gibson Blackwell. The Blackwell’s son William, said to be one of the first physicians in Williamson County, is also buried here along with a few other family members and according to the property owner/caretaker about five beloved pets.  This land also once felt the fall of ancestors’ footsteps.  What a privilege for me to walk it as well.

Gary with the Mills
Gary with the Mills
Dennis Mills classic car and trophy from previous weekend.
Dennis Mills classic car and trophy from the previous weekend.

Janice and I actually met online this past March through Find a Grave.  She wasn’t raised in the county and isn’t kin to as many people as Pam, but I think she knows most of the people.  She met many of them serving for years as a school board member.  We share a rich heritage in the county through our Neely, Blackwell and Gibson families.  Now that Janice is retired, she has more time for genealogy.  She’s full of life and lives it to the fullest.  She and her family were fun and funny.  I enjoyed their hospitality.  I can’t wait to go back.

Genealogy Trip Tip   

When my wife Dee and I visited the Williamson County Archives in 2013, I found a deed abstract for some land on McCrory Creek between my 3rd great-grandfather John Roberts and Jesse Weathers in the year 1811.  Names were mentioned but like many genealogical abstracts, specific points and measurements were not given.  When I searched for a copy of the original I was disappointed to find it missing from the records.  I learned through others that this land was part of a land grant given to James Moore.  He was a Major General in the Revolutionary War and granted for his service 12,000 acres of land in today’s Williamson County.  That’s a lot of land in which to find my ancestors small parcel.  Why was it so important to me?  I believe this is the most likely burial site for my 3 x great-grandparents John and Rebecca Sammons Roberts.

While in the Archives last week I located and obtained a copy of an original deed which until then I had only had an abstract.  This was one of my top “targets” for this most recent trip to the Archives.  It was a deed gift from John Roberts Sr. to his son John Roberts Jr. in 1823.  It was made not long before Senior died.  He also gave a deed gift to his daughter Frances “Fanny” Roberts who would marry Alfred G. Tatum in 1824 within three months following her father’s death.  Based on later records, I believe these two children would assume the principle care of their mother and the original property.  These two deeds together described the property owned by John and Rebecca Roberts on the “headwaters of McCrory Creek”.  I found more records of James Moore, while living in Washington County, TN, assigning land to many people in Williamson County.  One of those men was Samuel Jackson, a distant cousin of General Andrew Jackson.  The cousins would later have a dispute over land and Andrew would run Samuel through with a cane sword.  (Another story for another time) I was then able to find a copy of an original deed between Samuel Jackson and Jesse Weathers from 1806.  Does that name sound familiar?  Based on the physical description of the land from the two gift deeds to the Roberts children and the description of the 1806 deed between Jackson and Weathers, I believe these two properties are the same property.  I do love it when a plan comes together.

I’m prepared now to work my way forward through the deed records with the hopes of finding the exact location of this parcel of land in today’s records.

A Small Sample                 

These few deeds represent a small sampling of the documents I collected from my half day in the Archives.  I left feeling thoroughly blessed.  Plan your work.  Work your plan.

This post represents a very small expression of my appreciation for “new” cousins and the fun I had with the Fishers and Mills.  I’ve told you only a small part of it.  Some because of time and space and some because my cousin Janice said, “Remember Gary, what happens in Franklin stays in Franklin!”  I can’t wait to get back.

Janice Mills and Denny's other ride.
Janice Mills with Denny’s other classic.

Dealing with Discouragement in Your Genealogy

Photo credit: www.quotesnpictures.com
Photo credit: http://www.quotesnpictures.com

Discouragement is the companion of the family historian.  You either learn to face it or you get out of genealogy.

Genealogists and family historians come in all flavors.  They’re as different as snowflakes.  The one constant?  They all must learn to deal with discouragement.  If you’re going to stay in “the hunt” and continue your “backtracking”, you’ll need to overcome discouragement.  Believe me.  It will be worth it!

Let me frame it for us.  What are some common discouragements in genealogy?

  • The learning curve – We can’t learn fast enough to prevent mistakes costing us time and money.
  • The Cost of the hobby – Everywhere you turn, someone appears to be trying to “make a buck” off your interest in your ancestry.
  • Disinterested family members – Our families may show little or no interest and may even be antagonistic toward our research.
  • Missing courthouse documents – You put in the time and effort to go to the courthouse only to discover someone has either removed or displaced the record.
  • Burnt courthouses – Not only is one document missing but all the documents burned up in a fire over 100 years ago!
  • Online trees that propagate misinformation.
  • Online tree owners who will not reconsider their tree’s information.
  • DNA test results without trees attached to them.
  • DNA test owners who will not respond to your messages or emails.
  • Lost or corrupted files which are not backed up.
  • Allowing the undocumented work of others to waste our time going up the wrong tree – an unforced error.

Okay, that’s enough negativity.  Most of us have experienced plenty of discouragement.  It’s part of the hobby.  How do we deal with our discouragements in genealogy?

  • You might allow them to overwhelm you and force you out of the hobby. But because you’re still reading this post, I assume you want to overcome them and continue your research.
  • Cut through the clutter by choosing to focus on one family line and one goal at a time. Such as, “When did great-grandfather Ingram first arrive in the county?”  Learn, if you don’t know, how you could discover and prove this one thing and set about doing and documenting it.  You’ll soon be piling up encouragements.
  • Spend wisely.  Ask others.  Listen.  Don’t be afraid to drop a subscription for a time.  You can pick it up later.  I once bought a year’s subscription to a newspaper service.  I should have tried the free month and then stopped it when I realized it wouldn’t help me with my current family line.  It costs me but I also learned from it.  I let my Ancestry.com subscription expire at times and use those times to catch up on what I’ve gathered from their databases.
  • Don’t trust undocumented family history information. It’s a choice.  Use it as a clue but don’t trust it as a fact – until it has been proven.
  • Take some time to be grateful for the documents you’ve discovered, the history you’ve uncovered, the family you’ve met, the cousins you’ve found and the mistakes not yet made.  Gratefulness may be the greatest antidote to discouragement.

Here are some things I’m grateful for today in my genealogy research.

  • A wonderful glut of online free information to make me a better family researcher and save me time and money.
  • Incredible library and research facilities within my reach.
  • The ability to choose where, how and when I spend my resources on genealogy.
  • Family members who listen, discuss, collaborate and cheer me on in my research.
  • Hundreds of documents I’ve uncovered and retained in my research that add color and flavor to my family’s story.
  • Online tree owners who have allowed me to view their private trees and been open to answer my questions.
  • DNA tests and the wonderful cousins I’ve met (some literally) because of them.
  • The ability to back up all the files that really matter to me on an external hard drive and/or in a cloud.

So many reasons to be grateful.  So little time.  Encouragement is a choice.  Choose wisely.

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Happy backtracking!

Too Busy to Read Blogs and Newsletters? Please Think Again…

time-saverI’m too busy NOT to read blogs and newsletters.  It’s counter-intuitive.  Taking time to read the writings of others saves me both time and money in my genealogy/family history research.  You too will benefit from this fun discipline.  Here’s how.

“Time is money”, the saying goes.  Most genealogists and family researchers have significant limits of both.  How we spend our limited time and money will often determine the measure of our success.  Our success in family research is measured by uncovering our family’s story and documenting it for future generations.  If we’re going to spend the time and money discovering our family’s past, we need to spend the time to do it right.

Books, genealogy site subscriptions, seminars, conferences, research guides, genealogy software, supplies, etc. all cost us money and time.  How does reading free blogs and newsletters save us on both?

question-marks

What Can Blogs and Newsletters Do for You?

  • Provide you with time and money saving tips and tricks – for free!
  • Instruct you in a specific area of your genealogical research.
  • Inform you of other great places to find time and money saving help.
  • Connect you with others researching your family lines.
  • Show you the best use of technology in your research.
  • Alert you to upcoming events in your areas of interests.
  • Bring to your attention money saving discounts.
  • Introduce you to someone with whom you can converse about genealogy.
  • Provide genealogical case studies and models in writing family history.
  • Entertain you. That’s right, relax and enjoy the stories and foibles of others.  Laugh a little.

How to Find the Right Blogs and Newsletters

With hundreds of genealogical blogs and newsletters, how do you decide which ones to follow for their updates?

  • Think free! My paid ancestry research sites and software often come with a blog included.  I use them, but I don’t consider them free.  There are many good free sites.  They often offer products or services but you need not purchase them.
  • Use the Google search terms “genealogy blog” in your search engine. You’ll find all you need to get started.  Don’t overdo it.  Take your time, over time.  Be willing to “upgrade” and “kick one to curb” if you find others who do a better job providing you with your research needs or interests.
  • Listen for a blog in your voice. All blogs are not equal for many different reasons.  One characteristic seldom mentioned is “voice”.  Certain writers “speak” to me.  They write in a way I can “see, hear and understand”.  These aren’t the only blogs ending up in my inbox but they’re the primary ones.
  • Select blog writers who encourage you to use “best use” genealogical practices.
  • Once you find a blog that meets your criteria, see if they recommend other blogs and check those out.
  • Your favorite blogs list will always be in flux. Never be afraid to discard one blog for another that better meets your needs.

Blogs and newsletters arrive in my inbox throughout the week.  I’ve selected these for all of the reasons previously listed.  I always “peek” at these before I discard them for the day.  I want to see what they contain but I don’t always read them or all their content.  Part of my research time is set aside to determine if these particular blogs or newsletters will help make me successful.  Will they save me time or money?  The ones that make it into my inbox, by my invitation, will more often than not do both.

Be choosy.  Yes.  Save yourself some time and money.  Select the right blogs and newsletters for you.

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