30 September 2011

Visiting the Lexington County Museum

     On our last day in South Carolina, we visited the Lexington County Museum. Lexington County is just south of Richland County where we'd been staying.  I have a distant cousin in Lexington who found me via my blog and whom I've yet to meet in person. Ironically, she was visiting her family near my home in Georgia the week I was in South Carolina.

   The Lexington Museum is located in the heart of Lexington, South Carolina but is surrounded by trees and almost feels like it's out in the country. For five dollars we were given a guided tour of most of the buildings, around which a history of the area unfolds. There were multiple houses, a school and a post office from the late 1700s through early and mid 1800s.

     One of the homes is the Leaphart Harmon House. My Great-Great grandmother was a Leaphart and they're all related. I'm not sure how she was related to these particular Leapharts, but they would have been some sort of cousins at least.

     The Museum was really great. The docents were very knowledgeable a well as friendly and for five dollars the hour long tour was well worth the money. I learned a lot about the area and the lives my ancestors would have lead.

Oak Grove School Leaphart Harmon House Laurance Corley House DSC_0012 John Fox House John Fox Kitchen

25 September 2011

Visiting Elmwood Cemetery / RestingSpot Review

     Mom and I left the South Carolina Archive around 3:30 pm and headed a few miles over to Elmwood Cemetery. We'd tried to get there the day before, but the office closes at 4:30 pm and we hadn't made it. My Great-Great Grandparents, John and Ida Hyler / Huyler are buried in Elmwood Cemetery. A volunteer had taken photos of the graves years ago, but I wanted to visit the actual location while we were in the area.

     Elmwood is a large cemetery, so we had called up the day before to ask for the locations of the graves. When we went into the office, we discovered that the staff had pulled up a listing of the burial and marked the location on a map. Then, the lady actually drove out to the location while we followed in our car. Talk about customer service!

Hyler Plot

     While we were there, we used my mom's Android to add the graves to two cemetery websites: BillionGraves and RestingSpot.  As usual, I had trouble getting and maintaining a GPS signal with the BillionGraves app and the new "linking photos" feature didn't work as it was supposed to. 

     This was the first time I used the RestingSpot app.  I'd previously signed up for a RestingSpot account and downloaded it to my mom's phone. I hadn't tried out the app or really knew how it worked. Well, here's how it works:
  1. Log in and click "Add RestingSpot"
  2. Create the listing by filling in names and dates and save the information
  3. Take a photo of the grave or add one from your camera
     That's pretty much it. The process does take a few minutes, mostly since you add the names and dates at each grave.  However, I was not held up by waiting for a GPS signal like I am with the BillionGraves app. But I can't see walking a large cemetery and having to constantly type in names. A small church cemetery though? That would be very feasible. Also a nice feature on resting spot is the listing on the website. Once you've added the grave you can go to the website and add more information about the person. Photos, biographies, your relationship to the person, etc. There's also a map of the grave and you can even get directions to the GPS location. 

     I only had a chance to play with the app for a few minutes, but I liked it. It was user intuitive and has a great website. However, as I mentioned, having to input the vital information at each grave does take time. Also, saving that information can take a while too. I'm not sure how long, but it was at least 30 seconds. Maybe there's already a way around this? If not, it would be nice to be able to log the information into the phone and have it upload later to save time. 

     Next up: Lexington County Museum

  Also in this series:

23 September 2011

Visiting the South Carolina Department of Archives and History

SC Archive
     This second stop on my recent genealogy trip with the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (aka the SC Archive). My mom and I woke up bright and early to get there just after they opened. The Archive is located in Columbia, just off of Highway 277. When we arrived it was raining a bit and there were only two other cars in the parking lot.

     Making our way up to the building, the windows were dark and I was a bit worried that I'd gotten their hours wrong. Never fear! The automatic doors swung open we stepped up the the reception desk. Like visiting other archives, we were asked to fill out a form and agree to the rules (no bags, pens, etc). Unlike other archives, we didn't get a researcher card. Instead, our information was put into the computer and they would look us up during future visits. We put our bags into the free lockers and took our notebook, pencils, laptop and camera into the Research Room.

SC Archive Research Room     The first thing I did was approach the desk and ask about the room's layout and available records (I'd looked up available county records on their online index, but finding them at the location is a different thing) The very helpful archivist showed us the microfilm index drawer and explained about some of the available materials. Unfortunately, South Carolina records are very spotty, due to a lack of record creation and massive record destruction. For example, government marriage records aren't available until 1911.

     We grabbed some indexes for deeds in Lexington and Edgefield Counties and headed to the microfilm readers. There were perhaps as many as 40 of the older hand-cranked microfilm readers available and three of the more modern electronic readers with printers attached. Researchers are asked to take only one film at a time, which will prevent folks from hogging the printers.  Mom and I sat down at the manual readers and started hunting for ancestors. I used my laptop and genealogy software to keep track of names and the free wifi to tweet about my experience.

    Mom at the machines:

SC Archive SC Archive Print Capable Microfilm Readers

    After we had found a number of records in the indexes, I would pull the films with the actual documents and have mom print them. I was surprised to see that the print capable microfilm readers had coin slots on them that required you to pay 50¢ per copy in advance. We weren't prepared for this and had to get some change from the information desk. Due to this, I decided to only print copies of records for direct line ancestors and take photos of records for collateral line ancestors (I'd expected to save records to a flashdrive).

     Going back to pulling the microfim records: a list of all available microfilms were placed in binders. SC ArchiveI used the information I'd found in the index and look up the corresponding film in the binders. This wasn't hard, but it wasn't super easy either. The binders were a mess! There were also additional records that did not have a separate film index, so we used the binder to locate them as well.

     We took an hour break for lunch, but otherwise spent six hours researching at the archive. I didn't break down any walls or find any new relatives. Instead, I concentrated on finding supporting documents for the ancestors I already knew. Records included: marriage licenses, wills of three multi-great grandparents, deeds of two multi-great grandparents, mortgage of GG-granfather Witt and the knowledge of what records didn't exist. 

     Next stop: Elmwood Cemetery

  Also in this series:

22 September 2011

Visiting the OEDGS at the Tompkins Library

OEDGS at the Thompkins Memorial Library
     I started out at 8:30 am Monday morning, driving 200 miles with my mom to South Carolina. Our first stop was Edgefield, South Carolina and the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society (OEDGS).  The society is located in the Tompkins Memorial Library, which is next door to the Edgefield County Library.

     I have previously been an OEDGS, but neglected to renew my membership (a bad habit of mine). Regardless, the materials are available to all. I browsed their books and indexes, but what I really found helpful were the surname files. The Quattlebaum, Dorn and Ouzts families are pretty prolific in the area and each family had a good sized file.

     I was probably most excited to find photos of the homes of two of my ancestors. First, I found a newspaper clipping of the home of John Dorn Jr, my 5x Great Grandfather. The house was dated 1819 and the photo was dated c 1902.

     Next, I found a photo of my 6x Great Grandfather Peter Ouzts / Utz's family home. This one was built in 1873 and rebuilt in 1810 and the photo was from 1928.

     After leaving the OEDGS Library we headed to our next destination: Columbia, SC.

Ouzts House - Newspaper 1

Also in this series:
  1. Tweeting My Trip
  2. [this post]
  3. Visiting the South Carolina Department of Archives and History
  4. Visiting Elmwood Cemetery / RestingSpot Review
  5. Visiting the Lexington County Museum
  6. Visiting the Franklin Memorial Library (Emanuel County, GA)

21 September 2011

Tweeting My Trip

     I just got home from a three day (two night) trip to South Carolina for genealogy research. Most of my mom's family is from South Carolina and I wanted to go find original records. I plan to write a few posts about my trip. To start, here are my tweets from my journey:

 Day 1:
#Genealogy trip starts today: 1) Edgefield County Gen Soc Library, 2) GG-Grandparents' graves, 3) @SCArchives, 4) the zoo! 
No one else on this road knows how to drive #roadtrip

#wafflehouse in Augusta, Ga #roadtrip twitpic.com/6nerlr

Welcome to South Carolina! #roadtrip http://twitpic.com/6nfby1

Mom (@rubyacraft) doing #genealogy research at the Edgefield gen society http://twitpic.com/6ngt4t

At hotel now-Didn't really learn much new at Edgefield #genealogy soc library, but did get pic of 5x G-Grandad Dorn's house c1819 #roadtrip

As in, house was built in 1819 #genealogy

Day 2:
Things to remember: load the film rightside up! #genealogy #roadtrip http://twitpic.com/6nt01w

Did expext 2 pay4 copies on microfilm like they are bubblegum #genealogy http://twitpic.com/6ntpmj

@ACoffin Guess i didn't need to bring my flashdrive!

@Smitty327 I'm being overcharged! Didn't expect it, keep having to get change. Which is a good thing!

Found originals of docs I had info on (ie marriage licenses) & some records on index, time for lunch then back to @SCArchives #genealogy

Yay, #genealogy happy dance at the @SCArchives - finding lots of stuff, including my Grandparents' marriage license and wills

I'm supposed to use this to find microfilms @scarchives #genealogy #fail http://twitpic.com/6nx6cu
Day 3:
Went to the zoo, now at the Lexington Co History Museum #genealogy #roadtrip
  Also in this series:
  1. [This Post]
  2. Visiting the OEDGS at the Tompkins Library
  3. Visiting the South Carolina Department of Archives and History
  4. Visiting Elmwood Cemetery / RestingSpot Review
  5. Visiting the Lexington County Museum
  6. Visiting the Franklin Memorial Library (Emanuel County, GA)

17 September 2011

In the Mail

My Uncle Charlie's 23andMe DNA kit went into the mail today!

My DNA testing history is as follows:

Uncle Roy
Great-Aunt Ree
Uncle Lloyd
Uncle Charlie

     Why do I test with two different companies? They have their differences, but they offer very similar services. What one company doesn't do, the other does. Their results can be directly compared through the 3rd party site, Gedmatch.com. I usually pick a company based on prices during a sale.

13 September 2011

My Kind-of-Cousin, Rachel

     I met Rachel in 9th grade and still see her on occasion today. Recently, Rachel and I got to talking about genealogy. She'd started a family tree a while ago, but had come to a bit of a standstill. She wasn't having much luck researching her mom, a Cuban immigrant. She had been having more luck on her father's tree though, and I offered to take a look at it.

     Rachel had started a tree on Ancestry.com so I reviewed it and asked her questions. After a bit of unsuccessful searches on ancestry, I did a Google search for James Kelley Butler, her Great-Grandfather. The very first result I found was for a tree on Rootsweb, for her Great-Uncle, James Kelley Butler Jr. The tree didn't have her family line, so I was about to move on to another search until I saw a familiar name: Ouzts. Rachel's great-uncle was married to Mary Gertrude Ouzts. Happily, I saw that this was the "Ouzts Family In America" tree, which I was already familiar with. I had submitted my information to this tree a few months ago and knew that the owner double-checked sources and didn't add "junk trees" to his. 

     Knowing that I could trust the information I'd found, I turned to my friend and said, "Rachel, I think we're related." It turns out that Rachel's Great-Aunt "Gertie" was the 4th cousin to my Great-Grandmother, Auline Witt. We're related by marriage, not blood, but Rachel quickly started to call me "cousin." It's strange to find out that someone you've known for so long is actually related to you. 

     Here's a chart of our relationship:

11 September 2011

DNA Comparisons - Why I'm Testing My Uncles

     I recently had a few family members take DNA tests, one at ftDNA and two at 23andMe.  I personally prefer to use ftDNA for their ease of use and great features, however 23andMe has lower prices and different types of test results.      My Uncle Lloyd took the Family Finder test with ftDNA and his results came in almost a month earlier than predicted.  Since siblings only share about 50% of their DNA, testing my uncle can provide me with results that my mom's test could not. (For more information on sibling DNA, check out this great post at Genetically Curious

     This chart shows my DNA compared to my uncle's. The orangeish-yellow is where we share DNA and the navy blue is where we don't. By testing my uncle I can find more cousins through the 50% of DNA that my mom does not share with her brother (again, read the blog post linked above).

     Specifically, my uncle has 105 matches. I share only 27 matches with my uncle. That means that by testing my uncle I found an additional 78 matches! Of those, 16 are in the "distant cousin" range of 4th cousin or closer, to my uncle. These are the matches with whom I would be most likely to find our most recent common ancestor.

     Another part of the Family Finder test is the Population Finder test. This test is still in beta, but does attempt to predict which populations make up your DNA. My Uncle shows up as 96.87% European, specifically French, Orcadian, and Spanish. Since I'm still trying to find the origins of the Albea family, I'm very interested in these types of tests. You can see the regions on this map:


      Just in time for my uncle's results to come in, another DNA site, Gedmatch.com, unveiled their new report, called Admixture Chromosome Painting. Here is only a small portion of Uncle Lloyd's results on top, followed by my mom's:


    Each color in the charts represent a regional population. For example, purple is West European, the pink is East European and the blue is Mediterranean. You can see that there are a lot of similarities between the two, especially on the left side. Further to the right however, you can see differences in the colors. Uncle Lloyd has more blue and teal where my mom is purple. Again, these changes are where I'm likely to find DNA matches through my uncle's test that I would not find by just testing my mom.

      Although DNA testing is expensive, it's worth it to test as many relatives as possible. Each relative will provide you with a mix of common results and new results. I can't wait to seeing what I uncover when I get back my other uncle and great-aunt's tests. 

05 September 2011

How Your Ancestors' Occupation Can Help Your Genealogy Research

     I always assumed that I had a social security number assigned at birth, just like a birth certificate was created when I was born. I was very surprised to learn, while exploring Decoding SSN in One Step, that I actually received a SSN when I was a young child. The law had changed and I needed one in order for my parent's to claim me on their taxes.  Today, babies usually do receive a SSN shortly after birth for just the same reason.

     It was different for my parents though. According to the above mentioned site, my dad got his SSN in 1971. This was his first job (outside of working for his dad), when he went to work for a gas station at age 16. This means that he went down and personally filled out his own social security application. He would have personally recorded his name, birthday, address, parents names, etc.  This is the same process that his parents and grandparents went through to get their social security numbers.

     The Social Security Act was signed in 1935, so your ancestors in the workforce at this time should have filled out an application form.  Some folks, like farmers or homemakers will not necessarily have done this. Search the Social Security Death Index for your ancestors. If they appear in this database, you should be able to request their application form. Even if they don't appear there, you might still find a form for them. The forms cost $27 when you know the SSN and can be requested here: Social Security Online.

     Case Study: Here's my Great-Grandfather Vary "Mack" Huyler's social security application. In 1937 Mack was AWOL from his family, having left to "find work" and neglecting to return for 14 years. Before requesting this document, none of his descendants knew the names of his parents. From requesting this document, I was able to begin tracing the Huyler line back to the 1600s. This application provides a wealth of information about him: address, job, birth day, parents names, etc, that have really helped in my research.

mack huyler ssa

04 September 2011

Start with the Census

     When I first started researching my family tree, I turned to my mom and asked her what she knew about our ancestors. In turn, she asked her parents what they knew. When was Grandmama born? Where? Who were her parents? The amount of information that can be obtained in this method is limited by what an individual knows, what questions are asked and which individuals are still here to ask. I can't ask questions of my Great-Grandparents who passed away long ago. But that's ok, because someone else already did, in the form of the US Census. 

     Every ten years, the national government sent out census takers to ask a set of questions of each family in the country - including your ancestors. Folks were asked their names, ages, ethnicity, marital status, place of birth, occupations, and more. What you'll learn is limited to what questions were asked in a particular year and how accurately your ancestor answered, as well as how accurately the census taker recorded the information. But to learn from this information, you first have to find it.

     The first census record I ever looked for was that of Vernon and Auline Albea, my Great-Grandparents, in the 1930 census. I was quite frustrated when I didn't find them right away. However, I did find them eventually, and it was a good learning experience. The problem was that many of the individuals in this family were recorded or transcribed incorrectly. The census taker had recorded Vernon as Verna. The transcriber who created the index turned (the slightly incorrectly recorded) Aulin into Antin.  On top of that, I was unaware that my Great-Aunt Tootsie was actually named Frances Ninola and was thus confused when she was recorded in the census as Ninola.  The only person in the household recorded both accurately and as I knew them was my grandfather, Roy - and he was the last person I searched for. 

     I learned a lot from this experience. First: that the census is not accurate. The information on the page is actually more likely to be wrong that right. The census taker had to record the information that he heard. Did he have good penmanship? Just how thick was your ancestor's accent? Could they spell their unusual names or did the census taker guess? Did you ancestor know, in a time devoid of vital records, how old he really was? Was the family away from home and a census taker took a neighbor's best guess?

     Second, I learned that you have to be flexible when searching. I knew that my ancestors lived in Greenwood County, SC. I also knew that Albea was an uncommon name. If I had only searched in that location for that surname, I would have turned up only 14 results, including this family, their parents and cousins. I also learned to search for partial words. If I'd have searched for Vern*, I would have turned up the listing for Verna. Placing an asterisk after at least three letters of a name is a Wildcard search. The asterisk takes the place of the rest of the name and allows for variation. If I had used these and other methods to find variations, I would have had my results faster. 

     Third, I learned that the census really was a valuable resource.  I learned a lot from this record about my family: their ages, their occupations, the fact that they rented their home and did not own a radio. From here, I was able to move forward in my research. I continued to search out census records to expand my family tree. I also added other resources, such as independent state census records, death certificates and military records. 

     So, how do you get started searching census records? There are tons of resources, and you best bet will be to use a few different ones. You never know when one transcriber might have recorded something wrong for one company, while someone transcribing for another got it right. Here's a list of a few places to find census records:

03 September 2011

2011 Georgia Family History Expo

     I received an email this morning, reminding me that early registration would soon be ending for the Georgia Family History Expo.  We have until September 20th to purchase a $75 ticket for the two day event in Gwinnett County on November 11th and 12th.  This is a deep discount compared to paying for each day at the door ($60 per day, $120 total).  If you're short on cash, the exhibit hall is free and open to the public, full of local and national vendors.

     So what are you getting for your money? You'll have the chance to attend 8 different class sessions, with titles such as "Researching in Atlanta, the Gate City of the South," "Tips and Tricks for Using FamilySearch," "The Power of DNA in Unlocking Family Relationships," "Finding your English/Welsh Ancestors," "How to Plan and Organize a Family History Book," and "Social Media Panel." As you can see, there will be a wide variety of classes available for any experience level or specific type of interest. There will be keynote addresses and door prizes, as well as the previously mentioned exhibit hall.

     The expo runs Friday, November 11th from 1pm to 9pm and November 12th from 9am to 4pm. (This is later than last year's 7am starts, which I'm very happy about!) The location is the Gwinnett Center, just off of I-85, about 30 minutes north of Atlanta. Parking is free and hotels are plentiful. Hope to see you there!

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