Doing Genealogical Research in North Texas: a surprise, the status quo and a gem

If you have family or research family history in North Texas, this blog post is for you.  These resources will make your research more productive.

Dee and I recently used the genealogical sections of three North Texas libraries.  One was a surprise, one was status quo in our experience and the third one was a gem.  Here’s our report with some basic information on these resources plus tips for researching any library in any place.

The Surprise

We were in McWright Cemetery in Hunt County, Texas looking for the final resting ground of my 2 x great grandfather William Henry Price.  Three of us were looking (including my sister Debbie from Collin County), but we could not find him.  It’s a large cemetery and has been in use since the 1800’s.  It’s possible his burial marker had been destroyed by time.   I wondered and then hoped someone had recorded the graves earlier before there was a Find A Grave.  That’s when a car pulled into the cemetery occupied by two elderly sisters.  They had lived near the cemetery all their lives, but they could not recall the Price name.  They did remember there was a book in the Greenville library with a listing of all of the graves in the cemetery at the time the book was published and suggested we look in that book for William Henry Price.

W. Walworth Harrison Public Library   

#1 Lou Finney LaneW. Walworth Harrison Library

Greenville, Texas 75401

Hunt County

903-457-2992

Hours:  Monday – Wednesday, 10am – 6pm, Thursdays, 12 pm – 8pm and closed Sundays.

I was surprised by such a large, modern facility in such a small place.  I was also surprised by the generous genealogical holdings secluded in their own room.  The library has a public break area with vending machines, very nice for long hours of research.  The staff on duty this day did not seem particularly knowledgeable in the field of genealogy and appeared to be pre-occupied with preparing to watch basketball on the computer. So, be prepared.  You may have to provide for yourself. (see below).   We found the book our good Samaritans told us about but did not find William Henry in it.  We did however find several other useful facts about other family members.  If you’re researching family in Hunt County, you’ll want to visit this facility.

The Status Quo

We were looking for old Collin County, Texas tax records.  When I say old, I mean from the beginning of the county (1846).  I was looking for evidence my 2 x great grand father Samuel Byrd made it to Texas before his death.   I was pleased to discover the microfilm of the earliest tax records was available in McKinney near my family’s residences.   It would not be necessary (as we had been told by the county officials) to travel to the library at the University of Texas at Arlington.  (BTW, I found no evidence that day or any other day that Samuel Byrd made it alive to Texas in spite of what someone posted on the Find A Grave website.)

Roy & Helen Hall Memorial Library

101 East Hunt St.

McKinney, Texas 75069

Collin County

972-547-7323

Hours:  Mon.-Thu: 10 am – 9 pm, Fri.-Sat.: 10 am – 6 pm, Sun.: 1 – 5 pm

This library is modern and spacious, pleasing to the eye.  The genealogical section is good on Collin County and fair on the surrounding counties.  There is, as there is in most Texas libraries’ genealogical sections, as smattering of books on the states from which Texas settlers came.  The second floor space is shared by an open computer room where it appears mostly young adults are checking Facebook and playing computer games.  There has been an attempt to tuck the research tables back into a corner away from distractions.  This provides a place for others to talk and text away from the crowd.  The staff from which we requested assistance did not come across as knowledgeable of their genealogical holdings or how to operate the microfilm viewers.  It was a fairly standard experience and thus the term “status quo”.

The Gem

And then you find that special place with special people.  I’m talking about the Haggard Library in Plano, Texas.  I speak specifically of the basement in this library and the people who work there.  The basement?  Sounds rather dark and damp.  I assure you it’s neither.

Haggard Center emblem
Click for more details

Haggard Library       

2501 Coit Rd.

Plano, Texas 75075

Collin County

972-769-4250

Hours:  Monday – Thursday, 9am – 9pm, Fri. 9am – 6pm, Sat. 10 am – 6 pm, Sun. 1pm – 5 pm

The genealogical section of the Haggard Library is in the basement.  It’s large, comfortable, well stocked and well staffed.  I could spend a long time here and I did spend most of a day and part of another.  You need to plan your visit or you’ll be going from “one shiny thing” to another.  There’s plenty here for the history hound and the family historian.  And then there’s the staff.  They are knowledgeable, courteous and considerate.  Considerate?  Yes.  When I’m researching I generally have goals and don’t have time for chit chat.  I need the staff to be knowledgeable, but share with me only the knowledge I request.  Otherwise I need them to simply give me space and solitude.  I’ve just described the five staff I met working the basement in my two days at the Haggard Library.  And the gem of this gem was Genealogical Librarian Cheryl Smith.  She is a wonderful and respectful resource for family historians and genealogist researching North Texas families.  She is especially knowledgeable of Collin County.  Thanks Cheryl!  I smile when I think of the staff — and that basement!

My one complaint about Haggard is the lack of a public break area.  Researchers may be in the stacks for long hours and need regular breaks to stay nourished and hydrated.  This would be a nice addition to the library and provide additional income.

Preparing to research a library:

  • Have research goals.  What do you hope to find or accomplish with you visit?
  • Know before you go.  What is available?  What is allowed?  What are the hours?  Where is it located?
  • Search the online catalog.  Have your titles and call numbers ready.  What questions do you have for the staff?  Prepare your research log in advance.
  • Don’t forget your equipment.  Notebooks, computers, cameras (know their policy) and money for the copier

When you’re there:

  • Be courteous to the staff and considerate of others.  Allow them to do their work.  Don’t distract others around you.
  • Follow the library’s protocols.  Don’t reshelf the books.  Place your used materials on the carts if they’re provided.  Know how to use the equipment and properly use it.  Ask for help if you don’t.

Happy Hunting!

 

The New Book on My Coffee Table

My new coffee Table bookDavid Lee Roberts did something many of us talk about – but most of us never get around to doing.  He wrote his life story.  He put it all down in a book.  And, he has a PDF version on disc.  (Available for my children)

David is a decorated Navy veteran.  He served 27 years active duty and 3 years reserve for a total of 30 years service to the United States.  He has now “retired” to serve as a patrol officer at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.  He and his wife Cheryl live in Keller, Texas and have three grown children with growing families of their own.  Daughter Amy and her husband Matt serve overseas in Dubai.   Son Bryan, now retired from the Air Force, is launching a second “tour of duty” in the ministry.  He and his wife Lori are presently in seminary in the St. Louis area.  Son Matthew also serves as a DFW patrol officer.  He, his wife Mandy and their children live in Keller, Texas.  David and Cheryl’s children and their children’s children will enjoy this book for generations to come.  It will be a family treasure.

David’s my older brother of whom I am rightfully proud.  God has been good to both of us and given us wives “way above our pay grades”.  I remember wondering when David went off to basic training in 1971 (Uncle Sam would finish raising him) what would happen to him.  He seemed so lost and adrift on life’s sea.  Well, God and Cheryl are what happened to him and I know for a fact he’s grateful.  He writes about it in his book!

Kingsville Air Station
Gary, Bob and David Roberts in David’s Kingsville Air Statiion quarters

David’s first duty station out of air traffic control school was the Naval Air Station in Kingsville, Texas.  My dad and I visited him there on my 16th birthday.  I enjoyed watching him work and hone his tower skills.  It wasn’t my first time in a control tower.  Our uncle Ralph Reed retired from the FAA.  He used to allow us in the control towers when we were just little squirts.  Watching David work in the same environment, I began to think of him as a “traffic cop” for pilots.  Much later in his career as Senior Chief on base at Meridian Air Station in Mississippi, he would serve as the traffic judge for the entire base.  I tell him now he’s just a cop.

The book is large.  270 8 ½ x 11 pages.  Lots of pictures.   A good look and a good read.  A PDF version is available.My Journey book cover

Thanks David for the treasure you have given our family.

Why Genealogy?

Why Genealogy?

If…

  • you enjoy a good mystery
  • solving difficult research problems
  • the thrill of the chase
  • history, or
  • unraveling puzzles

You’ll probably be a sucker for the hobby (obsession) of genealogy.  If you don’t want to be trapped, back away.  Leave now and don’t ever look back!

Genealogy is like filling in the blanks I didn’t know I had.

I wish I could remember who said that.  I would love to give them credit.

There are many reasons we enjoy genealogy and family history.  Each family historian or would be genealogist will have their own explanation or perhaps not be able to explain it at all.  I recently came across one person’s take on genealogy and I wanted to share it with you.

Kris Williams has loved history since her childhood.  She “blames” her father.  She was a sucker for genealogy and was hooked by a school class assignment when she was 11 Kris Williamsyears old.  Her love for family history and background in research helped her land a job as the historical researcher for Syfy’s Ghost Hunters.  She’s also served as a contributor to Ancestry.com for over a year.  You can follow Kris and gain from her knowledge at The Key to You Tree.  The link is in our blog favorites list to the right.

I’ve asked Kim’s permission to link to a recent blog post she wrote on the “why” of genealogy.  I like her “take”.  Check it out.  Genealogy:  What’s the Point?  Thanks Kris!

 

 

Tip #4 Interview your family

We think we know them.  We think we know them well.  That is, until we go to write their story.  Our families are often mysteries to us.  This is why we must ask questions…lots of questions.

The beginning genealogist/family historian begins with the interview.  I want the oldest family member to answer my questions as soon as possible, but I’ll begin with whomever I have at hand.

I need FACTS to fuel my research.

  • When and where were you born?
  • Who were your parents?  When and where were they born?
  • Who were your grandparents?  When and where were they born?
  • When did you marry?  Where?  What county?
  • In what states and counties have your lived?
  • Did you or anyone in our family serve in the military?  When?  What branch?  Where?
  • What are your siblings’ names and approximate ages?
  • If their parents, grandparents, siblings are deceased, when did they die?  (Approximate dates are better than no dates.)

I need STORIES to flesh out our history.

  • What was your best childhood memory?
  • What was your favorite holiday?
  • Who was your favorite relative, teacher, neighbor, etc.?
  • Tell me about your best friend growing up.
  • What were your mom and dad like?
  • What were your grandparents like?
  • What is the best place you ever lived and why?
  • Where was the best place you ever visited?

Capture the facts and their stories.

  • When possible, send your questions in advance of your visit and interview.
  • If possible, record the interview.
  • Take extensive notes and “flesh” them out while they’re fresh on your mind.

I cannot overstate the importance of family interviews.  You need this information to backtrack your family.  You need this information to tell their story.  You need it first.  When you begin their story, be prepared to reconnect and ask more questions.  And you will have questions.  Every good historian has more questions.

Recognizing one of our own: Congratulations Shelly Grace Williford!

I’m one of the world’s worst when it comes to bragging on my children.  I do it a lot, and I’m especially grateful when they make it easy.Shelly headshot

Four of our seven children work for the third largest property management company in America.  Lincoln Property Company manages residential,  commercial and international properties around the world.  The website Rainmaker describes the company.

Lincoln Property Company was founded in 1965 for the purpose of building and operating quality residential communities. Consistently listed as one of the largest apartment developers in the United States, Lincoln has developed more than 182,000 multifamily residential units. Lincoln is currently ranked, in terms of size, as the third largest property manager in the U.S., with more than 140,000 apartment units under management. In addition, approximately 70% of Lincoln’s apartment management portfolio is comprised of fee management accounts for third-party investors.”

All of our children working for Lincoln have won multiple performance awards.  Our youngest daughter Shelly Grace Roberts Williford becomes the second to win the Gold Medallion Award.  She follows her oldest sister Shannon in winning this prestigious award.  You can only win it once in a career and all of our children know it’s a big deal.  Congratulations Shelly!

I want to express to the middle and upper management of The Lincoln Property Company the appreciation of a grateful parent.  You invited four of our children to join your team.  You trained them and allowed them to advance at their own pace.  You recognize their achievements.  You pay them well.  Thanks!  To those in the company who have had the most “hands on” influence in our children’s professional development, you are the real champions here.  What they have achieved has been done on the shoulders of their managers and supervisors.  They could not have accomplished what they did without your unselfish contributions.  Thanks!

Here’s a copy of the letter read last Friday at the annual award ceremony.  It was held this year in San Antonio, Texas.  (Click on the link below the photo to read the actual letter.  If you know Shelly, you’ll enjoy the read!)

God Medallion Letter

Gold Medallion Letter

 

 

Getting MORE out of your field research…

How do you get the most out of your “on the ground” research time?Binoculars

I previously blogged about a trip Dee and I took to North Texas backtracking my Roberts, Byrd, Horn, Laningham and Ingram family lines.  This was an aggressive agenda of five counties in five days.  If you haven’t seen the post, you may want to read about the scope of our discoveries.

How does the genealogist/family historian get the most done in the least amount of time?  In a word, it takes PREPARATION.

I love being able to research our family in my pajamas.  The internet has made this possible.  There’s nothing like the comfort of my easy chair and laptop for making new discoveries.  But then, there’s nothing like walking the ground on which our ancestors walked.  The fact is it takes both for us to do our “due diligence” in documenting our family histories.  To do it right, you’ll have to get out of the house.

We’ll eventually have to (and want to) take to field in order to backtrack our family’s trail.  Here are some tips to make this time more productive.

 

  1. Goals, Goals, Goals
    • Have goals for your research trip. Review your work and know what information you’re missing.
    • Know what you want to do on your trip. Be specific.
    • Write it down. Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time.
  2. Plan, Plan, Plan
    • Now that you know what you want to do, how will you accomplish these goals?
    • What will be done and when will it be done in order to reach your goals?
    • Where, at what physical location, can you complete each goal?
    • What has to be done before I leave?
    • If you’re not a planner, please invite someone to help you plan. Tell them what you want to accomplish in your research and let them help you.
  3. Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
    • Research the resources. What family members need to be contacted?  What interview questions do I want to ask?  What courthouses will be visited?  Cemeteries?  Libraries?  Research Centers?  Have I made my appointments?  Have I checked the open and closed hours?  Will they be closed during lunch?
    • If I’m going to a library, why? Do I know what’s available?  Have I searched the online catalogs?  What about their microfilm holdings?  Have I written down the titles and call numbers of those resources?
    • Have I planned my schedule? Do I know when I’m going where?  Prepared my maps or GPS coordinates?
    • Do I have my notebooks, maps, and cameras, contact information, etc? (I once prepared my camera equipment, had all of my batteries charged, extra memory cards and then left it all!  Dee bailed me out with her IPhone.)
    • Do I know what I want to accomplish at each stop? If I have a research partner, do we know what each other will do at each venue?
  4. Be flexible.
    • Things rarely go exactly as you plan them. This is not a reason not to plan.  It’s simply a realistic expectation.
    • Plan and prepare. Work hard at making the things happen that you want to happen.  When it doesn’t, go with it.  It helps to have a partner to remind you of this outlook.
    • Enjoy your time and space and especially the people in that space!

You can go on a trip and enjoy it without doing all of these things.  But if you want to have a great family research trip, have goals, plan and prepare.

Happy trails!

William Brumley Price 1819 – 1901

William Brumley PriceWilliam Brumley Price was my great great great grandfather.  I only uncovered his name in early February and was able to visit his burial site with my mother, sister and wife this past week.

Here’s how we’re connected.  My mother’s name is Bertha Mae Byrd Roberts (Mamaw to some of you.)  She was born a Byrd.  Her mother was Willie Mae Burns Byrd.  She was born a Burns.  Her mother was Annie Elizabeth Price.  She went by “Bettie” and was born a Price.  Her father’s name was William Henry Price.  His father is the focus of this post.

William Brumley Price was born in Tennessee on March 27, 1819.  He moved with his Grounds Cemetery Historical Sign in Collin Countyfamily to Missouri in 1834 and married Rhoda Brixie in 1843.  They named their first child Francis M. “Frank” Price.  Rhoda may have died giving birth to him or shortly thereafter.  William married Rebecca Eggman in 1846.  They migrated with their 7 children to Texas sometime after 1856 where they settle in Collin County and would go on to have 11 children.together.  He served as a member of a cavalry regiment during the Civil War.  It may have been the same unit in which Pleasant Wesley Byrd served. (researching) There is one piece of evidence that indicates he may have been a lawyer. (researching)

William Brumley Price died July 3, 1901 in the Blue Ridge Community in northeast Collin County.  He is buried in the historic old Grounds Cemetery north of this community.  He and Rebecca’s grave is surrounded by a chain link fence.  Their beautiful engraved stone has been knocked off of its base and was too heavy for our crew to upright.  (We need some big Roberts or Collins boys to make a trip to Collin County.)  There appears to have been a storm through the cemetery.  The engraving on the stone reads:

W. B. husband of Rebecca Price, Born Mar 27, 1819 Died July 8, 1901                                Father let thy grace be much that we may meet in heaven                                                    Rebecca wife of W.B. Price Died Feb. 27, 1906 Aged 82 years old                                        We trust our loss will be her gain,                                                                                             And that with Christ She’s gone to reign

I hope one day to meet the direct descendants of those responsible for erecting the marker and fence.  Thank you…and please contact me.Bertha Mae Byrd Roberts at the burial site of her 2 x great grandfather William and Rebecca Price burial site in Grounds Cemetery, Collin County, TX

Bertha Mae Byrd Roberts visits the grave site of her great great grandparents in March of 2015.  Looks pretty good for 82!

 

 

 

 

Chasing Ghosts in North Texas

One reward for the family historian is discovering and walking the ground of their ancestors.  I did this last week with my best friend.  My wife is an incredible person.   I’ve spent the last 40 plus years getting to know her.  In the past three years she’s revealed her hidden talents as a research assistant and photographer.  Dee’s my best help when chasing family “ghosts”.Gary and Dee in Terminal E

Below is a recap of what we did and how we accomplished so much in a limited time, valuable tips for genealogists everywhere.

In five days we traversed five counties.  (The other three days were spent visiting family, porch sitting with Debbie and Jim and antiquing with David and Cheryl.  Family should be fun!)  Here are some of our unearthed treasures:

  • Located in Collin County and took my mother to visit the grave of her two x great grandfather. Before last week, she didn’t know his name. (William Brumley Price)
  • Located in Wise County and visited the grove of trees where my great grandfather pastored a Methodist church for 16 years. (Pleasant Grove) In the adjacent cemetery we visited the graves of my great grand aunt and her family. (Narcissus Byrd Curtner)
  • Located in Wise County and visited the graves of my two time great grandmother’s family. (Elizabeth Norman Ashlock Byrd)
  • Took Dee to see the grave of my great grandparents Pleasant Wesley and Rachel Marinda Byrd, in Wise County.
  • Located in Collin County and visited the graves of my great grand aunt Malissa Jane Byrd Spradley, her husband James Reed Spradley and her first husband Charles H. Gough.
  • Narrowed the date of my great grandfather John Anderson Roberts’ arrival in Texas by the use of microfilmed tax records from Red River County.
  • Located and visited the grave of my great grand uncle Samuel Zedock Byrd and his second wife Martha Josephine Vicars in Collin County.
  • Located in Hunt County and visited the grave of Samuel Z. Byrd’s first wife my great grand aunt Sina Canzada Burke Byrd. (Does anyone know the origin of “Sina” and if it is short for something else?  Her marker reads “S. C. Wife of Samuel Z. Byrd”.  No help here.)  This also gave me previously unknown birth and death dates!
  • Located in Lamar County and visited the grave of my 3 x great grandfather Wiley Laningham. I only learned his name doing research last month!  (We also enjoyed lunch with my cousin Glen Gambill and his precious wife Sarah!  I’ll write more about Glen in a later post or two,)
  • Documented my great grandfather John Charles Wesley Ingram’s first land purchases in Kerr County further confirming the errors on several historical markers and online historical accounts of Ingram, Texas.
  • Further documented the correct arrival date of my 3 x great grandfather Jeremiah Horn to Texas and when he and others actually began the Swayback Methodist Church and school in western Collin County.
  • Documented my 2 x great grand Uncle John Horn’s 1846 Collin County enlistment to fight in the Mexican – American War. (We had located and visited his grave in Stillwell, Oklahoma this past December.  While looking for his grave we also met and visited with his g-great grandson!)
  • Meeting Genealogy Librarian Cheryl Smith of the Haggard Library in Plano, Texas. (I’ll write more about this wonderful resource in a later post.)
  • Finding the surprise resource of the genealogy room in the Walworth Harrison Library in Greenville, Texas.

While this is only part of what we learned, I think it’s the best part!

My post has run a little longer than I intended.  Let’s finish it later.  Come back for those tips on getting more genealogy done in a short amount of time.

Consider pressing the Follow button and registering to be contacted by email when we post here.  Happy ghost hunting!

Tip #3: Wealth Generates Paperwork

Wealth generates paperwork.  Deeds, lawsuits, contracts, account books, purchase records, education, etc. all produce records of our past.  The wealthier you are, the more paperwork is produced.  The more paperwork produced makes it easier to find and follow our relatives and their past.  We follow their extensive paper trail.

Backtracking the common is the challenge.  Finding and following those who have left little to follow is the task of many family historians.  You’ll need determination and tenaciousness.  You may have to get creative.  You will need the help of others.  Reach out.  Ask.  Collaborate.  Be open.  Be grateful.

Consider joining an online community like Backtracking the Common.

Tip #2: No Truth Without Proof

As you’re finding your family’s facts, keep in mind this saying among professional genealogists.

There is no truth without proof.

I know that statement could be debated on several levels but I want us to keep in mind its main point.  People who read your genealogy, your family history records, should be able to go to the same sources you went to and find the same set of facts.

Here’s how the Board for Certification of Genealogists puts it.  Don’t let it scare you.

  • a reasonably exhaustive search;

  • complete and accurate source citations;

  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;

  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and

  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

http://www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standard.html

Here’s my simple explanation for beginning genealogist/family historians.  When you find facts about your family, record with those facts the where, how and when your found them.  Always “leave the bread crumbs” for those who come after you.  Doing this and how to do it is an on going discussion on this blog.  Some of you may wish to use the comments section to share how you do it.

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