For a Limited Time: A Free Seminar to Get Unstuck in Your Research

I’ve got some good news for you but you’ll need to respond in the next few days to get it FREE.

Are you stuck in your family research?  Do you want some guidance on good practices for researching your family?  Do you understand genealogical proof standards?

lft-bcg-gps-webinar-1-300x221Legacy Family Tree Seminars brings us Shellee Morehead.  It’s an excellent online seminar and for a few days, it’s free.  Click here and then click “Watch” to view the video.  View it before the August 23, 2016.

Enjoy!

A Genealogy Gold Mine in North Texas

What kind of grandfather drags his grandchildren to multiple cemeteries and calls it fun?  What kind of family historian allows the fear of a little traffic congestion keep him from a genealogical gold mine?  What kind of person never stops interviewing his aged mother and gets rewarded with a story he’s never heard?  That would be me, guilty on all counts and hoping you benefit from my experiences.

Let’s answer that second question. Continue reading “A Genealogy Gold Mine in North Texas”

Paying Attention to Details in Your Family Research

“God is in the detail” or “The devil is in the details”.  Both expressions infer the same thing.  Details are important and those attentive to them are rewarded.  The details of our family history research are a rich source of information and clues to find additional gold. Continue reading “Paying Attention to Details in Your Family Research”

Where was Newton Roberts in the 1860s and 1870s? Or, When Census Records Wont’ Tell Us What We Want to Know

Are you trying to find an ancestor in the census but can’t find their record?  There is more than one way to resolve this issue and find your ancestor.  Interested? Continue reading “Where was Newton Roberts in the 1860s and 1870s? Or, When Census Records Wont’ Tell Us What We Want to Know”

Burton Lee Roberts – 1st Census 1920

Always check the census records first.

Burton Lee Roberts’ military records say he was born in 1917.  His amended birth record says 1919.  The 1920 census supports his birth record of 1919  as the correct date.  Here is part of the census record from Brownwood, Texas and what we learn about my father and his family in 1920.

1920 Burton Lee in US census

The household record actually begins on the previous page.  It is probably difficult for you to see this page (and you certainly can’t see the previous page because I haven’t included it), so I’ll try to accurately relate the information.  This information is available at Ancestry.com and the National Archives.

Edward and Grace Mohn
Edward and Grace Mohn

Gus and Emma L. Roberts are living at 1009 Booker St. in Brownwood City (Today called simply Brownwood), Texas.  They are living in the household of Edward  and Grace Mohn.  Gus is Edward’s brother-in-law.  We know from other sources that Grace is Emma’s sister.  The Mohn’s have two sons, Edward age 4 and John age 2 1/2.  Edward Sr. is working as a machinist in an auto shop.

Gus Roberts is a 21-year-old married white male.  He is able to read and write.  He was born in Texas.  He, or whoever spoke to the census taker that day, gives his father and mother’s birth place as the United States. (I don’t believe Gus, my grandfather, knew the birthplace of his father or mother.  Therefore he could not have told his wife or a census taker. He’s able to speak English, works as a machinist helper in an auto shop as a wage earner and is enumerated on the farm schedule at #620.

Emma L. Roberts is a 21-year-old married white female.  She is able to read and write. She was born in Texas.  She, or whoever spoke to the census taker that day, gives her father’s birthplace as California and her mother’s as Tennessee.  (I tend to believe she was the source of this information.  What’s interesting is she was wrong about her father and right about her mother.  Most “tree builders” online are usually right about her father and wrong about her mother.)  Her work is listed as “none” and that makes me laugh.

Burton L. Roberts is enumerated as the only child of Gus and Emma living in the household.  He is the nephew of Edward Mohn, the head of the household.  He is a ten month old white male who was born in Texas, as were his parents.  He could not read, write or speak English.  Awww, those were the days.  And while he did not work according to the census, I bet he kept his mother busy!

This census record supports Burton Lee Roberts’ birth year as 1919.  His amended birth certificate supports this.  His Social Security records support this.  He told me this was his correct birth year and that he had lied about his birth date to enlist in the Army.

After you interview all of your living relatives, begin your next research with the U.S. Census.  Happy backtracking!

 

 

 

Genealogy Tip #9: Writing Family Stories and the Genealogical Proof Standards

“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”?[i]

Writing Our Family StoriesMany family storytellers aren’t interested in genealogical proof standards.  They’re simply telling stories to entertain.  That’s their goal.  I applaud the storyteller.  I love a good story.  But, the family historian can’t afford to adopt this attitude.  Their goal must first be accuracy and then entertainment.  Otherwise, it’s not history and they’re not a family historian.  So, let’s be clear, this post is not about family stories vs. genealogical proof standards.  It’s about family stories and genealogical proof standards.  It’s about how we take well researched family facts and use them to tell accurately entertaining stories – and if we can’t, we should make it clear we’re only repeating a family tale.

I visited a “family history” website this past week that illustrates the clash.  The writer warned me in the first few lines not to trust all of the things written about their family on the internet (Sites and trees other than theirs is what they had in mind.).  One page later they inform us their ancestors welcomed Davy Crockett into their home in Tennessee as he made his way to the Alamo.  They further claim their ancestors were neighbors to another Republic of Texas history legend, Edward Burleson.[ii]  This is done without any reference to one scintilla of evidence supporting such claims.  Is this a problem? Yes? No? Maybe?  Tell the story.  It’s not a “crime”.  It’s not the problem.  To repeat it as historical fact or as if it were historically accurate IS a problem.

Family stories are told in many forms all over the world.  This isn’t a problem.  If you’re telling family stories, you’re not in trouble – even if they’re speculative and knowingly or unknowingly inaccurate.  However, if you tell these unsubstantiated stories as if they’re historical facts and you expect other family trees to reflect your “notion of the truth”, this is a problem.  And if you’re reading and repeating these stories as “gospel truth”, you’re participating in and propagating a problem.

Family stories and genealogical proof standards are not incongruous.  You need not decide one or the other.  You can choose both.  Here are some suggestions.

First, Understand the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Genealogical Standards book cover“Proof is a fundamental concept in genealogy. In order to merit confidence, each conclusion about an ancestor must have sufficient credibility to be accepted as “proved.” Acceptable conclusions, therefore, meet the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). The GPS consists of five elements:

  • reasonably exhaustive research;
  • complete, accurate citations to the source or sources of each information item;
  • tests—through processes of analysis and correlation—of all sources, information items, and evidence;
  • resolution of conflicts among evidence items; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

Each element contributes to a conclusion’s credibility in a different way, described in the table below, but all the elements are necessary to establish proof.

Element of the GPS Contribution to Credibility
Reasonably exhaustive research
  • Assumes examination of a wide range of high quality sources
  • Minimizes the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion
Complete, accurate citations to the source or sources of each information item
  • Demonstrates the extent of the search and the quality of the sources
  • Allows others to replicate the steps taken to reach the conclusion. (Inability to replicate the research casts doubt on the conclusion.)
Tests—through processes of analysis and correlation—of all sources, information items, and evidence
  • Facilitates sound interpretation of the data contributed by each source
  • Ensures that the conclusion reflects all the evidence
Resolution of conflicts among evidence items
  • Substantiates the conclusion’s credibility. (If conflicting evidence is not resolved, a credible conclusion is not possible.)
Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.
  • Eliminates the possibility that the conclusion is based on bias, preconception, or inadequate appreciation of the evidence
  • Explains how the evidence led to the conclusion “

(The previous quote is taken from the Board for Certification of Genealogist blog[iii])

This should be the standard for our family history research.

Need more information?  Consider these excellent resources:

Next, Understand the Purpose(s) of Our Stories

Why do we tell our family stories?

  1. Inform and Encourage. Knowing our family’s history helps us find “our place”.  We gain a sense of belonging and find value in our family members’ accomplishments and place in history.
  2. Inspire. We tell our family stories to inspire family members and others to greatness.  “Common people” accomplishing uncommon things inspires us to rise to a greater finish.
  3. Warn. We share our family’s stories as a warning to ourselves and others.  We all have “black sheep” in our families.  (They’re some of my favorites.)  Telling their stories in our “tales” warns us about our present path or our possible future.  Someone will tell our story one day.  Will it inspire or warn off a future generation?
  4. Entertain. Our stories may inform, encourage, inspire or even warn.  They should also entertain.  Think about it.  If our goal is to inform and inspire, aren’t we more likely to accomplish this if we’re also entertaining?

What makes our stories entertaining? 

I would be the last person to tell you how to write.  I’m woefully inadequate.  I do, however, have a fair ability to recognize a good story and a good storyteller.  They can articulate or at least know intuitively their story needs three parts.  (Don’t think beginning, middle and end.)  Think instead of your favorite stories/movies.  What do they have in common?  Every good story has three ingredients:

  • Origination. The listener/reader needs to be drawn in and at the same time oriented to the main character and crisis in the story.  It grabs, excites, introduces, informs and compels the reader/listener forward into the story.  The first part of a good origination could be a sentence, paragraphs or chapters in length.  For example, “James Williams was short in stature but he was guaranteed another inch or two from the hangman’s noose.”  Conflict (inner or outer) in one form or another is always introduced in this first part.  To have a story, something has to go wrong.
  • The conflict escalates. Things may get better, but they eventually get worse.  There may be a series of improvements but if there is, things continue to get worse after each one.  It’s a roller-coaster of emotions as you learn more and care more about the main character and feel stronger angst toward his combatants.  Impending doom is approaching.  “…James’ attorney had located his third potential witness to alibi his client and save him from the gallows, but like the previous two, he too disappeared.”  The tension builds.
  • Resolution.  The story is brought to a conclusion when the initial conflict is brought to a resolution.  In the fictional stories I used to tell my children, the hero always won.  But, that’s not always possible when telling historically accurate stories.  Sometimes James Williams is hung.

There is a wealth of information on “what makes a good story”.  Google it.  Read a book about it.  Take a course.  Practice. Practice.  Practice.  But never stop learning or trying to make your stories entertaining.  Our improving ability to tell our stories will increase the likelihood our family histories will be known, cherished and repeated.

Use the comment section to share any “what makes a good story” material you know of to help family history writers.

Now, Combine the two disciplines.

Here’s how we transform our family research into entertaining, historical, uncompromised family stories.

  1. Use the Genealogical Proof Standards as a guideline in your family research. Have a story to tell based on historical facts demonstrated by historical, genealogical evidence.  Catalog and save your documentation.  Use endnotes to share your sources.
  2. Write or tell your story based on the facts you’ve uncovered and documented. Write your story using the guidelines on what makes a good story.  It will take time and practice but you can do it.  Make it a good story.  Make it a true story.  Use accurate, documented facts.
  3. If you feel you must tell your relative’s tall tale (or short tale) about your ancestor, or you just want to tell it, clearly identify it as a historically unsubstantiated tale.

Writing our family’s history is fun and entertaining.  To be history, it needs to be accurate.  We’re not creating fictional families.  We’re family historians.  We’re uncovering history.  We tell the rich story of our ancestors.  Knowing their true stories adds richness to our lives.  Telling their stories well adds richness to the lives of others.

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Thanks for sharing these posts with others.

Now, let’s go write those entertaining stories!

[i] According to Barry Popik this phrase or a form of it is often credited to Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie but it appeared in print as early as 1882 or six years before Dobie was born.

[ii] The website mentioned in this example is real but being withheld in order to…well, protect my possible cousin!

[iii] Board for Certification of Genealogist.

[iv] Available at Amazon.

[v] Available at Amazon.

[vi] Available at Amazon.

Is DNA a genealogical miracle?

DNA imageIs DNA a genealogical miracle?  Is DNA the answer to all your genealogical problems?  No. And no.  So, why send your DNA sample off and pay someone to work-up your profile?  Because DNA is solid science and fast becoming an invaluable option in the genealogist/family historian’s toolbox.

I sent my DNA samples off last January.  I did some research first.  I decided on an autosomal test and chose two companies.  One sample went to Ancestry.com.  The other went to Family Tree DNA.  The results reached my inbox about eight weeks later within a few days of one another.  Here are some benefits I experienced in the first week of having the results:

  • Confirmed the family identity of the male DNA contributor to my grandfather and therefore confirmed my suspicion of who did not contribute DNA to him.
  • Confirmed we have yet to identify a family surname in another line of our pedigree chart. (Some researchers think they know but the DNA says it isn’t so.)
  • Confronted (and for me settled) the family lore of having Cherokee descendants in our specific family lines.
  • Confirmed my connections to cousins I met in “the old fashion way” of doing genealogy AND connected me to new cousins across America.

Sound like a miracle?  Maybe, but it’s not.

Here are some things DNA cannot do for you.

  • Build a family tree. (At least not yet!)  If you’re hoping to use DNA to breakdown your genealogical brick walls, you had better get to work on your tree!  Your DNA results may tell you you’re related by DNA to another contributor but good luck on knowing who, how, when and where without doing the hard work of genealogy.  I’m amazed at the number of people I match and they have no tree uploaded.  I can see some applications of DNA which would not need a tree but not if you’re doing genealogical/family history work.
  • Go to the library, research center or courthouse for you. Your DNA results can’t travel on your behalf and make the connections that help tell your story.  Where did the people with my DNA live?  Who were their neighbors?  When and where did these DNAs “marry”?  How did somebody with my DNA get where I am geographically?
  • Fill in the gaps and make your family history rich. Your DNA results cannot interview family members.  They cannot take you to a home place and fire your imagination.  They cannot show you a picture to put a face on that contributor.  They can’t tell you the stories of a 95-year-old great-aunt.
  • They can’t do the footwork of emailing, messaging or calling the other matches to compare notes. And if the two of you don’t have well-built trees, you may not accomplish much when you do visit.
  • They can’t interpret themselves. You or somebody else must interpret your results if you’re going to get the most out of them.  For me, this has been a steep learning curve.  I’m in my 8th month and some days feel as if I haven’t learned a thing!  DNA results 100.  Gary 0.  I like learning new things.  I like a challenge. But, honestly, I’ve got my hands full with this one.

And so you ask, would I do it all over again?  Would I spend about $100 per sample to have my DNA tested?  Absolutely!  As I write this post, I can’t wait for my sister’s mtDNA test results to come back!  It’ll be a wonderful addition to our research.  I just have to do the hard work of understanding and using the depth of knowledge and insight it provides to better tell our family’s full and fascinating story.

Here are some steps you can take if you are serious about using DNA.

  • Go online and do a search using the terms “Genealogy” AND “DNA”. Do it just like I typed it with the quotation marks.
  • Go to the YouTube site and plug in the same terms. Watch a couple of videos on the basics.  (BTW, if you’re not using YouTube in your genealogy “how to” learning, you’re missing a great tool.)
  • Now, spend some time. Do some research.  Don’t be discouraged by the complexity.  Visit with someone who loves the science and technology of it.
  • Find and read blogs specific to the subject of DNA testing. Most of the people on my Blogroll (to your right probably) have written on this subject.  Go to their blog and plug the letters “DNA” into their site search box.

Once you get your tree built, gedcom file ready to upload and DNA results available, use these two other wonderful free online tools:  Gedmatch and Genome Mate Pro.  The future is here.

Here’s how I could use your help.

  • If you have family with the surname “Roberts” who’s ancestors have lived in Lunenburg, Charlotte or Mecklenburg Counties, Virginia since the 1760s please put us in contact with one another. I’m laughing as I write this.  It sounds so crazy and presumptuous!
  • If you know a family with the surnames “Wray”, “Ray”, “Rhea”, “Whitson” or “Eagan” and they had relatives in or around Wilson County, Tennessee ca 1799 – 1840, please put us in contact with one another. (Use the comment section.)
  • And, if you have old family photos, please do not destroy them before some family member can identify them and get them up on the internet to bring joy and context to some future researcher. You may possess the only “bread crumbs” leading to your family’s past.  Treat them as treasure.

Happy Hunting!

Now, where is that Genome Mate Pro instructional video…?

Finding Jeremiah Horn…or Where did they put my 3rd great-grandfather?

Genealogists and family historians ask questions, lots of questions.  When and where were they born?  Who and when did they marry?  What were their names and when were their children born?  When did they die and where are they buried?  The answers to these questions outline a life once lived.  They tell a story.  That story is somehow incomplete if we can’t answer the last question.

My quest began with my mother saying something like, “I don’t know.  He was a Byrd and some say a prominent Methodist minister in Wise County.  He’s in a book there in the library.”

We were talking about her grandfather, my great-grandfather, whom she did not know.  He died 18 years before her arrival on the planet and for whatever reason(s) the family knew little about one another.  I did not grow up spending much time with extended family.  Part of my interest in family history is to connect my children and grandchildren to their roots.

I entered and exited childhood in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex.  Born in Ft. Worth, I lived in Arlington and Euless before moving to Denton to attend 2nd grade and eventually graduate High School.  We saw my dad’s parents and sister’s family the most, though that was not very often.  We saw my mom’s brothers Charles and Loal Byrd and their families a few times.  My dad did not know the name of his dad’s dad until I told him three years before his death in 1988.  We weren’t very connected and from my point of view, not very curious as a family.

Imagine my surprise 40 years after high school to discover I had dozens of relatives buried within easy driving distance of Denton.  Some of them had been in North Texas since Texas was a Republic.  Some had fought in the War of 1812, some in the Mexican-American War and some in the Civil War.  Two of my 3rd great-grandfathers had original Texas land grants with the Peters Colony.  One was in Denton County (!) and the other one was next door in Collin County!  One of my 3rd great-grandmothers had an original land grant located mostly in Dallas County with about a fourth of it in Denton County.  And, my 3rd great uncle, James Byrd, owned over 1800 acres in today’s north Dallas.  640 acres of that was an original Peters’ land grant.  He died in California during the gold rush but his wife and many family members are buried in north Dallas within a 35 minute drive of where I played baseball as a child.  I drove across one of their grants playing football in Carrollton.  I drove across another one of these original land grants every time I drove from Denton to Dallas on Interstate 35.  I drove by a third one every time I took Hwy 380 east to or through McKinney, Texas.  And I’ll tell you I followed that “trail” many times.  Stop today at the new Taco Bueno across from the new Walmart on Hwy 380 East and you’re there.  You’re on part of Jeremiah Horn’s original land grant!  Who knew?

It was a natural progression and gradual revelation.  Find my grandfather Byrd’s father.  Pleasant Wesley Byrd was in fact a well-known Methodist minister in Wise County, Texas.  Hwy 380 West traverses this county traveling west out of Denton.  He was in fact in a book in the library.  Got him.  Find his father.  Samuel Byrd was a bit more elusive and remains so.  But, I found him.  His wife, my 2nd great-grandmother Elizabeth Horn, “introduced” me to her father JeremiahHis story is not so common.  Now, where did they put him?

As stated, you’d like to tie up all your genealogical quests with a nice bow.  Have a birth date and place, etc. and put a period on it with a “spot”.  You want to know.  Where is the victim, I mean loved one, buried?  Where did they put him/her?  (It dawns on me that the growing popularity of cremation in our culture is going to drive future family historians crazy!)

I began my online search for Jeremiah Horn’s burial place in 2012.  I was so pleased 1867 Horn Family Cemetery Gateand pleasantly surprised to rather quickly find the Horn Family Cemetery just west of McKinney.  As you can see in the picture, it even had the year of Jeremiah’s death on the gate.  He must have been the “first in”.  However, it wouldn’t be THAT easy.  Jeremiah Horn’s body is not planted in this place.  In fact, the two well-known Horn families in Collin County have not been able to genealogically connect their families.  This in spite of the fact they both had family in Wilson County, Tennessee prior to their arrival in Texas and before that, in North Carolina.  How could they not be connected?  But, that’s another quest for another year.  Now, where was I?  Oh yeah, where did they put Jeremiah?

Jeremiah Horn was said by some online seekers to be buried in the Hunt Cemetery.  And somebody, somewhere wrote or said the Horns and Byrds first came to Hunt County, Texas near the Collin County line and then on to Collin.  I was surprised again.   The Hunt Cemetery of Collin County is on the opposite side of the county and south of the community of Rheas Mill making it closer to the Denton County line than the Hunt County line.

Photo by Will and Shelly about 2005
Photo by Will and Shelly about 2005

I found the Hunt Cemetery on MapQuest.  I found it on Find A Grave.  I found a record of the deed for the cemetery land.  On a trip to North Texas I looked for the cemetery.  I could not find it.  I showed the location to my sister.  When she and her family had moved back to North Texas from Arizona they bought a home within a few miles of the cemetery!  Incredible.  Jeremiah Horn’s resting place was there all the time.  Using her phone’s GPS she located the cemetery in a grove of trees on private property (on the original Horn land grant).  When she asked the family’s permission to visit the cemetery, they did not even know it was there!  It was overgrown and a storm had blown down many trees sometime after these first photos were taken.  But she found it!

Photo on Find A Grave
Photo on Find A Grave

I visited the site the next winter.  Boy Scout Troop 289 and the Prosper Historical Society had taken on the cemetery as a project.   They cleaned, cleared the area and reset the stones that were down.  It was beautiful.  They are to be commended.

The children of Bertha Mae Byrd Roberts: David Roberts, Debbie Scroggin and Gary Roberts
The children of Bertha Mae Byrd Roberts: David Roberts, Debbie Scroggin and Gary Roberts at the grave of their 3rd Great-grandfather Jeremiah Horn in 2014

Here are the GPS coordinates, latitude: 33.22940, longitude: -96.73310. Please ask permission before driving across the land owner’s pasture to get to the cemetery.

Find a Grave says there are fourteen graves identified in the cemetery.  I count sixteen.  One of them is my 3 x great-grandfather Jeremiah Horn.  I found his burial site.  I can “put a period” on his story. But of course, Jeremiah Horn has many more tales to tell.

Happy hunting!

Methodists Among the Cherokee

Jeremiah Horn was a Methodist or should I write, “a methodist”.  In the beginning he was not a Methodist by denomination, but by conversion.  He was a methodist by personal experience.  Those who followed the Wesley brothers methods of holiness and devotion, and who brought the gospel into the American wilds, made an impact on his life.  Some of these men were part of other groups but all were “methodists” in their practices.  He named one of his sons Charles Wesley Horn after the famous preacher. He named another son after the influential Methodist minister mentioned below, James J. Trott.  Jeremiah became driven by his own call to preach Christ and did so vigorously.  To our knowledge he had little formal education.  He worked with his hands to provide for himself and family and preached when he wasn’t working (and sometimes when he was!)

Jeremiah Horn ministered in Cherokee Nation East as early as 1818.  He voluntarily moved to Indian Territory in the west  in 1834 as part of the early removal of the Cherokee.  He would be named in that year by the Methodist Conference (now you can read “denomination”) as their missionary to the Cherokee.  By 1846 he was in Collin County, Texas as part of the Peters Colony.  He went on to establish churches and “ride the circuit” while running a farm, blacksmithing and hauling freight with his sons.  He died in 1867.

Below is a quote concerning Methodist missions among the Cherokee people in the early days.

Methodist Missions

With their uneducated but caring circuit riders and their “four-day” or protracted camp meetings that resembled Cherokee all-night dances and extended camping, Methodists converted more Cherokees than all the other denominations combined. Their Arminian approach minimized atonement and the recognition of saints. Salvation was an open door, and sinners had free wills. In 1823 the first circuit riders were appointed in Tennessee near the site of John Ross‘s home, south of Chattanooga. Their emphasis was not on model farms and boarding schools but rather on itinerant and emotional ministry.
However, the Methodists, yielding to Cherokee wishes, did open six-month day schools at Oothcaloga and Pinelog, along with semipermanent churches: barely literate but enthusiastic, the main ministers were Richard Neely, Nicholas D. Scales, Dickson C. McLeod, and James J. Trott, all of whom married Cherokee women. Within four years Methodists accepted Cherokees as licensed preachers and traveling exhorters, among whom were Young Wolf, Turtle Fields, John Spears, William McIntosh, and John Fletcher Boot. In 1829 Methodism achieved a milestone when the church admitted the Ross brothers, John and Lewis, as members; the former had a home at New Echota. By 1830 Methodists had claimed more than 1,000 members.

(From New Georgia Encyclopedia Online)

Jeremiah Horn would have known all of the men mentioned in this article.  He may have been related by marriage to more than one of them.  Keep following the clues…