I realized quickly that I’d have to “think outside the box” to learn about my ancestors. I LOVE to interview people, and listen to stories about "the older days" when life seemed a little slower and simpler. I study USGS maps, plats, read chanceries, look for long forgotten cemeteries and try to help preserve memories people share with me. This blog is ad free, so it's easier to focus on sharing stories. Feel free to sign the guestbook, or join the FaceBook group. Even if we aren't related by DNA, I'd still love to hear about your research efforts and family stories. I am interested in posting (to this blog) stories relevant to the Mecklenburg-Brunswick families.

26 October 2015

Free Lance Star newspaper articles about family history

One of my favorite things to do is family history. I love volunteering at my local family history center. I teach classes on how to use FamilySearch. I also give people individualized help, trying to help them discover more about their ancestors. I really love FamilySearch, because there is a huge world wide focus.  World wide records accessible to the public, for free!! With huge amounts of records regularly added. I wish I had more hours in the day to help with indexing, and digitizing projects! I help with indexing when I can, and look forward to when I can volunteer to help with digitization-preservation projects. There's several premium subscription sites like Ancestry.com, Fold3, My Heritage, NewspaperArchive.com and FindMyPast that our center gets (free to patrons). I personally love and subscribe to most of these sites and also use them in addition to FamilySearch while helping visiting patrons. Here's an article printed today (26 Oct 2015) in my local paper. (Fredericksburg, VA) I'm pictured, showing what I love to do. I feel very rewarded volunteering time for family history. I also enjoy being a member of the Fredericksburg Genealogical Society.
newspaper article link

I also am really excited about the Freedmen's project that is a partnership between FamilySearch and the Smithsonian. Here's a link to more info about that project, including videos and pictures about the collections. http://www.discoverfreedmen.org/media

I helped with a local kick off for Freedmen's project and that was in this Friday's newspaper. (23 Oct 2015)
local Freedmen project in newspaper

07 October 2015

Are beds essential? A divorce chancery case

Awhile ago, I saw some names that looked familiar in the Virginia chancery index (on the LVA website). I went to the Library of Virginia and asked to see the file, because Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties are not digitized yet. The time period was about 1890. The chancery case ended up being a divorce file. In Virginia, divorces were part of chancery records. Back then, women had to "prove" there was adultery or abandonment to be given a divorce.  (My North Carolina divorce cases went before a jury.) Family members and neighbors gave depositions. The case I was reading, was talking about having a bed. It was part of the proof for adultery.  The woman was beat badly and kicked out of her house, so she ran to her father's house. Her husband then moved a mistress into the house. Her father was explaining he was very poor, and that he felt her husband should financially provide for her, because the husband had more money than him... because he could afford a bed. The father had 5 children at home and no bed. I hadn't really thought about life without beds before!

I looked up these family members on the Census, because the names weren't quite matching my family names, yet they were in the same location. It turns out the case was for an African American family, not mine. But I started asking people about beds. Many white families were also very poor in Virginia. After the Confederates lost, it was financially devastating for our state. The majority of people of all races were affected financially, for decades. I also learned that blacks could appeal to chancery courts, even if they were slaves, and they were treated fairly.

Some people told me their grandparents (white) didn't have a bed, with a frame. Maybe a cot by the fireplace. Or maybe like you think of Laura Ingalls Wilder family. You slept up in the loft on stuffed mattresses you made, using sewing material (like ticking) and filling it something like corn husks or straw. Farm hands sometimes slept in barns. People slept on bed rolls, like you might think of cowboys using. But before the Industrial Revolution, in a lot of places like the frontier, it appears beds were a luxury. I heard about one of my families traveling during their move (1920's) from the Chicago area to Winston Salem, NC. They travelled by wagon. They had a tent. They knocked on farmers doors, saying they were passing through. They asked if they could camp on their farm for the night, and maybe have a few ears of corn in exchange for doing farm chores? People respected where farmers planted their crops, and this was a way of hospitality and survival.

I love that there are amazing things technology can do, like keeping in touch with family and friends around the world. But sometimes life can feel so fast paced and just crazy-busy. I love reading and learning about when life was a little slower and simpler. What did people do for fun without electronics and TV? I love the story "Little Men" by Louisa Alcott for that reason. Sometimes we need to re-think what is really essential in our lives, to simplify life a bit. Or to feel gratitude instead of entitlement. I'm grateful I have the luxury of owning a bed for myself and my children!

22 September 2015

Books on FamilySearch

I wanted to share a link to a story on Eastman's blog: Arizona books-Eastman post
This talks about FamilySearch digitizing 5,000 books and making them available for free to the public. Family Search did not charge for this. A huge part of their purpose is preservation and accessibility to everyone, for free. I hope with a success like this, that other State Archives may join in this as well. Already many historical societies and smaller groups have partnered with FamilySearch for digitization and free accessibility to records.

There is one other thing I wanted to mention in this post, and that is how to find the books already in FamilySearch. The books in the Salt Lake Family History Library that are free from copyright, are all being digitized and made available. Normally when I do searches and the subject is "Mecklenburg, VA" I rarely get any results. But when I typed that here, under the books section, I got 3,780 results!! I figured they must be Mecklenburg, North Carolina or Meckleburg, Germany. But no, it meant Mecklenburg, VA! There were lots of small books written and submitted by families from Mecklenburg, Virginia, decades ago! Here's how you find and search for that:

 Go to FamilySearch.org
Click on the word search, and select "books"
This is the screen you'll see. Type in your surname, location etc. Results show which library and resource the books are in.
Happy Searching!!

21 July 2015

Project Ireland XO

I recently read something on Dick Eastman's blog I was really excited about, and wanted to share. Here's his write up about this amazing project!  http://blog.eogn.com/2015/06/29/ireland-reaching-out-creates-reverse-genealogy/

Here is a direct link to the project: http://www.irelandxo.com/

I registered and signed up for updates on the Seagoe parish in Armagh County. The site recommended posting a note about your immigrating ancestor on the parish message board, to increase chances of someone in Ireland being able to help you connect. So I posted a note about John Gray, his wife Ann Purdy, and that Nicholas Purdy and his family immigrated with John Gray. I stated the date they left and where they settled in the USA (Mecklenburg, VA). I also stated that John Gray was a weaver at Col Blacker's estate.

The part I think is really great is that even if you don't know where your family is from in Ireland , you can still sign up, and other researchers will help you make connections. I don't know anything further back than John Gray, and I can't quite figure out the connection between John Gray's wife Ann Purdy and his friend Nicholas Purdy, or confirm if there is a connection. Hoping this site will help me with that some day. I'm also looking forward to information they post about Armagh and Seagoe.

03 July 2015

Rehoboth Church, Mecklenburg, VA

Julie (me) at Rehoboth Methodist Church.
I did a short visit to Mecklenburg last week. I asked a few guys who were telling me stories if I could take a picture of them. They said only if they got to take a picture of me first. So here I am, on the front steps of Rehoboth Church! I have a copy of a typed transcript of some membership records, showing my great ...grandfather Granderson Glover and his wife Arimenta Kidd were attending Rehoboth Church in 1855. Another great....grandfather John Gray was attending in 1851. My Jones ancestors were attending in the 1840s.

We have an old family letter that said Alginon Gray died in a construction accident somewhere in Indiana. The letter said he fell off a rail road bridge while he was working on it, hit his head on a rock and died, in October 1912. The letter also said, "his body was shipped back to Lacrosse to be buried in the family church cemetery." The railroad company paid for that cost of being sent back home. The Grays and Jones attended Rehoboth and several family members are buried there. At the time of 1912, only Alginon's sister Nannie Gray Kidd was living in Mecklenburg. The rest of the siblings lived in Danville, VA. My best guess is he was buried close to his sister Nannie. There aren't records anymore, there was a fire several years back. There are some unmarked stones by Nannie, so it is possible he is there. I haven't found a death certificate yet, because he didn't die in Virginia, and I need to know the county for Indiana. Nannie's husband Jimmy had died the year before in Jan 1911. Below is a picture of Nannie's tombstone with her husband Jimmy, and the rocks at a nearby tree. Nannie's daughter Annie Kidd Poythress is the tombstone beside the little tree.
Tombstone of Nannie Gray & husband Jimmy Kidd

Possible place Alginon Gray could be buried.

Rehoboth Church -Jun 2015

Rehoboth Church -Jun 2015

26 May 2015

Library of Virginia, how I view chanceries

I cannot say how much I love to visit the Library of Virginia! LVA is the Virginia State Archives. Most of the research I do is right there on the second floor, in this picture, on the left. On the other side of the bookshelves is the microfilm readers were you can view and save images to a thumb drive. Also in the corner farthest from the steps, is where I go to the reading room to view old chanceries. Some counties are digitized and even online at LVA's site. Mecklenburg and Brunswick, you still need to view the original cases. When I first started going to LVA I loved going up the big staircase. Now I can't do stairs, so I take the elevator. This building is very handicap accessible. It's also really nice that there's a parking garage below the library, free for patrons. You get your ticket validated in the library at the information desk.

I could not find hardly anything for my family in Mecklenburg, Virginia, until I started looking at chanceries which had copies of wills, plats etc. Those copies are often the only surviving documents now. I used to copy the chancery pages and pay 75 cents a copy, which went towards other projects and technology updates. I have several legal binders holding those cases. I signed a photo release, stating my reason for photographing. Now I photograph the whole chancery case and view it more at home. If I have friends wanting to see the case too, I put the file in my Google Drive and share the folder with them. It's pretty neat to see it in color, from pictures. It shows the different colors of ink, types of paper, seals (which I do close up pictures of), etc. You have to turn flash off to take pictures. I shoot in RAW format. My camera takes a RAW image and JPEG at the same time. The lighting is pretty good in the room, from the high ceiling and table lamps. Also, by taking pictures, I have a digitized copy, I can zoom in etc.

In Virginia, older divorce cases, which were circuit court, are now kept with chancery records. If one died without a will, the estate was settled in chancery case. If a plat is referenced, or the estate being divided and sold, a plat is often included. If the will was not being fulfilled, it was brought to chancery, with a copy of the will included. This happened a lot just after the civil war, because the estates lost all their money if run by slave income or backed by Confederate dollars. Those in charge of the estate who were being sued, often answer the chancery "complaint" by telling the court the heirs are correct, but heirs haven't been paid because there wasn't any money left. One of my favorite parts about chanceries is that relationships are explained and women are often referred to with their maiden name stated.

Below is an example from a chancery. It's a stamp, and on the inside is a seal imprint. I talked to the archivist about this and was told this is similar to, but not a postage stamp. It showed payment for copying the will and that it was official. In this case I viewed, Martha Gregg, who married Thomas Bracey had a brother named Samuel. When Samuel Gregg, the youngest, turned 21, they could all inherit their estate from their father William Gregg. This chancery case is listed as: Mecklenburg, VA chancery 1873:009-Bracey vs Bracey
Here's a link to LVA's chancery index page: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/

05 May 2015

New Irish record resource coming

Some Irish immigrants came to farm in Mecklenburg, and Brunswick, VA. The few people that I am aware of, like Gray and a few Purdy families, came from Armagh, Ireland, in Northern Ireland. I have two records for relatives, which were in Church of Ireland, not the Catholic church. (Even thought Armagh is famous for St. Patrick, and there is a church built where he originally dedicated a church.http://www.stpatricks-cathedral.org/cathedral-history/) Armagh is considered Northern Ireland, and Church of Ireland was predominant the time my family left (1838), with some Methodists' starting churches then. 

Eastman wrote an article I found of interest, which applies to Irish Catholics. I'm just so happy more Irish records are becoming accessible. Hoping more comes soon for Northern Ireland too. Here's a link to Eastman's news article with press release links, and information about the new records.


Irish Genealogy Resource with 400,000 Catholic Parish Records to go Online

· May 3, 2015  http://blog.eogn.com/2015/05/03/irish-genealogy-resource-with-400000-catholic-parish-records-to-go-online/

09 March 2015

Exciting FamilySearch explanations at Rootstech 2015

Note: This post was written for my Polish blog, more about international things. There are a a number of Virginia records on FamilySearch too. I just saw Danville City Cemetery records are going up. One collection I have found very helpful was Virginia deaths and burials 1853-1912. I have found several Mecklenburg relatives in there. Go to familysearch.org. Click on the word "search" in the top middle of the page. Then underneath the map click on the words "browse all published collections". Scroll down the page to the letter "v" and you can see the collections for Virginia. Or if you prefer, go to "N" for if they were more in North Carolina. Hope you find this post of interest. -Julie

This month I have been busy enjoying watching Rootstech videos and preparing for our local Family History Day conference, which will be this Saturday. I'm giving a presentation (locally) on how to get around in the FamilySearch Family Tree and how to do searching on FamilySearch. Like using the filters, FamilySearch wiki etc. I really loved watching Dear Myrtle's Ambush cams at Rootstech. They were so fun to watch, I felt like I got to meet people.

One of the first things I loved about FamilySearch is how it's really worldwide oriented. (Not just the United States.) And how we're all connected, the bigger picture. One of the early record collections on FamilySearch was the 1895 Argentina Census, where I saw some Cabitto relatives. Most databases before, were based on the English soundex systems. Which really doesn't help you if you have a Russian (or really any Non-English) surname. On FamilySearch.org, if you type in a residence or birth place outside the United States it searches similar spellings to the that ethnicity. For example, when I searched "Sanetra" and typed "born in Poland", it looked up spellings like Szanetra, Scanetra, and Zanetra.  I got a lot more search results that were real possibilities. Mazurkiwicz and Wandzel had a lot more variations which was very helpful because I never would have thought clerks or other record keepers would spell it those other ways. English soundex spellings and pronunciations would just not work for these types of names!!

Here's some impressive things I learned watching Rootstech videos this week. I watched these sections of the videos a few times to make sure I wrote the numbers down correctly: FamilySearch CEO Dennis Brimhall talked about the benefits of the partnerships with FamilySearch (Thurs keynote). Currently FamilySearch is partnering with: Ancestry.com, Find My Past, My Heritage,  American Ancestors (New England Historical Genealogical Society), family me, and Global Family Reunion. Brimhall told about a project he was excited about, saying this was a great example of benefits to the partnerships and he thanked the CEO of Ancestry.com. FamilySearch did a project of filming 80 million church and civil records for Mexico in 1952. He explained there are not enough Spanish speaking indexers for this project. It would take 40 years for FamilySearch volunteers to complete this project. But Ancestry.com has asked to help do the indexing for this project and they said it will be done and available by the end of this year! FamilySearch and Ancestry.com also made 545 million records available and visible on both sites this year. FamilySearch will always keep their site free, even with their partnerships.

Ron Tanner, a lead developer for FamilySearch gave these amazing numbers in his presentation called: FamilySearch FamilyTree 2014 and Beyond:
  • They do updates 3 times a day.
  • approximately 2.5 million new persons added to the tree every month
  • approximately 2.6 million conclusions that are changed/written every month
  • 4.5 million sources added to the tree each month
  • 1.1 billion persons in the tree with 89 million sources
  • In a year FamilySearch went from 12 million to 89 million sources!
In Feb 2011, a pilot version of FamilySearch was released. I'm happy to say that I was one of the beta testers! In March 2013 it was released to the public. It's really exciting to see all the record collections continuously added from around the world. On 27 Feb 2015, 19.2 million record were added from Canada, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the United States. Dennis Brimhall said during the Thursday Keynote address that FamilySearch partnered with Genealogy Bank to do over 100 million names from obituaries last year. 319,000 volunteers worked on these obituaries last year. That was 1.3 million names every day going into Family Search. Pretty amazing things are happening! One thing I liked though, with all this cool hi-tech stuff I was seeing, Joshua Taylor (at RootsTech) talked about the tech things he couldn't live without, yet he said he still needed his library card. A good balance I think. One last partnership with FamilySearch that I'm personally excited about, wasn't actually part of Rootstech. It's a partnership with the country of Italy. Familysearch is indexing and making accessible the Italian civil records. Below is today's status on the familysearch indexing page. (9 March 2015) Also below is 1 of 3 indexing collections our Italian Cabittos need and are looking forward to. No matter your ethnicity or nationality, if it's not there yet, it's coming!

25 January 2015

Old year book pictures? Have you seen your grandparents' year book?

How long have year books been around? Where can you find old year books? Do you have a year book? Have you seen your parents and grandparents year books?

Fern & Olive Dortch yearbook picture
I've been thinking about teenagers and graduation type things in my personal life. I was telling my kids the other day the story about when I graduated from high school. Our school was on a hill, facing the ocean. We all usually wore sunglasses because the California sun was so bright. A few students asked the principal if we could keep our sunglasses on during the ceremony, because it was so bright, facing the ocean. It had never been done before, (wearing sunglasses during the whole graduation ceremony), but the principal agreed and he and the vice principal wore sunglasses too, to show their support.

A friend copied a picture of Fern and Olive Dortch's year book page for me. (click icon to view full page) They were born and raised in Kankakee, IL. Their father Jasper Dortch was born in Mecklenburg, VA.

On Ancestry.com, I see that there are schools and churches grouped together under yearbooks. A lot of churches publish centennial events that are listed as year books. There are at least 262 listed under schools and churches on Ancestry.com. One is a Presbyterian church in New Jersey in 1894. Some yearbook listings are outside the USA. Sometimes the churches taught schools and had a year book. Here's a site I found interesting with many USA year books, information, and old pictures. You can browse by state: http://www.old-yearbooks.com/

I have always thought my grandpa Sanetra was cool. But when I show other people (including family) his picture now and then pictures of him as a  cool football player, his prom picture, his motorcycle, and that he had acne as a teenager too, then he becomes more real, and you want to learn more about that person. Do you know if your grandparents played sports, liked science, played chess, played a musical instrument or liked to dance? If you haven't seen their year book or asked them if they had one, give them a call. Or ask your parents about it. What was their graduation day like? How much school did they complete? (Previous rural farming generations often did not complete high school, but rather 5th or 8th grade completion was considered sufficient). Have you told your children what your graduation day was like?