Facebook Genealogy

Train Station, Evergreen, ALIn nearly every class or lecture I conduct on genealogy research techniques and strategies, I ask the group, “Who here is on Facebook?” The reaction ranges from a raised hand to snickers to an adamant “NO” here and there. Then I explain that there’s more to Facebook than reporting the BLT you may have had for lunch or whatever mundane activity  you’re involved with.

And here’s why I encourage everyone with an interest in family history research to take a long hard look at Facebook (FB) and where it can take you. If you want to tell your friends that you just saw a great movie or your favorite TV show, I have no problem with that at all. All I’m pointing out here is that there’s more to on-line research than Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org.

I’m here to tell you that there are 10,029 genealogically and historically oriented FB pages in the United States listed on 288 pages with an index. That, according to Katherine R. Willson, is a list that grows constantly! Her website at SocialMediaGenealogy.com contains a link to a PDF file that you   are welcome to download and keep. The direct link to that file is here. But I urge you to take a look at her site and take in all of the information you can that she provides.

So that takes care of the US. But many of us do a significant amount of research in Canada. For that list, we turn to Gail Dever and her site, Genealogy à la Carte. This link will take you to the page where she talks about her work on the list. I encourage you to surf around her site, click on some of the links under “Archives.” The direct link to the PDF is here. She doesn’t list the FB links by number, but there are 17 pages of them.

In either of these files, just pick a subject, perhaps a surname or a hometown. Use CTL+F to open a box where you type in “Smith” without the quotation marks, for example. In the US list, “Smith” gets 48 hits. In other words, there are 48 FB pages that have something to do with Smith. Or just use Katherine’s index.

The same strategy of using CTL+F can be used in the Canadian document. For that matter, CTL+F works in just about any document or web page. Gail’s Canadian list has large groups of page sorted by Province. So you can scroll through or use the CTL+ strategy.

Double Helix - Red and Blue with BandsHere’s how FB has worked for me. I have relatives all over the country. My paternal ancestor arrived in the early 1700’s, a Scots-Irish immigrant. The Scots-Irish element is proven through Y-DNA matches with folks still in Europe. My maternal ancestors include at least one Mayflower ancestor (John Howland) and dozens of post-Mayflower arrivals. In 1621, William Bassett arrived and began the line that includes me, his 9th great grandson.  Many “Great Migration” ancestors arrived after that including Deacon Samuel Chapin, my 8th great grandfather, who first established himself in Roxbury, Massachusetts, then followed William Pynchon to help settle what would become Springfield, Massachusetts. I opened an FB page titled “Descendants of Deacon Samuel Chapin (1598-1675)” expecting a couple of dozen people asking to join. We now have a little over 125 descendants who have all contributed their specific line from the Deacon to themselves. This has provided me with enough data to complete, or nearly complete, a one-name study of the Chapin line. Since the information began to flow, I have confirmed my relationship to Amelia Earhart, President William Howard Taft, Johnny Appleseed, Harry Chapin, Marion Morrison a/k/a John Wayne and dozens of other individuals who have been in the public eye.

One of the other  FB pages is titled “Find-A-Grave Genealogy Discussion” for which I had moderate expectations. Today there are nearly 7,000 members who ask and answer questions, tell their Find-A-Grave stories and in general, provide a great deal of help to other researchers. On that site, I have 4 co-administrators to keep up with it all!

I have a few more pages, most involving genealogical or historical research. And I belong to about 40 others. Nearly all of these pages have proven helpful. They provide information I’m looking for and information I’d like to share while allowing me the opportunity to meet hundreds of like-minded people with whom I collaborate.

Facebook isn’t the only game in town. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others can be effective tools to assist you in your hunt for those elusive relatives.

So, are you on Facebook? Instagram? Pinterest? Twitter? If you are, that’s great but follow all the privacy and security recommendations. If you’re not, this could be a great time to get started.

Don’t forget to stop in at my Old Bones Genealogy of New England website. Background, services, lists of classes/lectures and a curious link called “Useful Documents.” Click it then scroll down a bit to the link that will take you to my DropBox folder where there are hundreds of forms, documents, and other useful things.

Use the QR code to the right to get to Old Bones Genealogy of New England:

Old Bones Genealogy of New England

Old Bones Genealogy of New England

The Sons of the American Revolution – Induction

After 15 plus years of working on and off on an application to join the SAR, I happened across a registrar from the DAR. We were at a taping of the PBS program “Genealogy Road Show” in Providence, Rhode Island. My true motivation in attending the taping was to meet with one of the hosts, Kenyatta Berry, and ask that she sign on as featured speaker for the New England Regional Genealogy Consortium’s 2017 conference in Springfield, Massachussetts.  The good news is I meet with her and she graciously accepted the invitation. Thank you Kenyatta!

The DAR member’s name is Kathy Kaldis and after speaking with her for a few minutes, she offered to complete the work that I had started and stopped so many times. But, I can’t join the DAR for obvious reasons so Kathy put together a successful application for my daughter’s induction into the DAR. If you know how a legacy society works, if my daughter is a proven descendant of a Revolutionary War Patriot, than I also qualify.

The problem for me initially is my family, believe it or not. I have at least 22 age appropriate direct ancestors who may have served. The problem is digging up (no pun intended) enough proof of the lineage and the patriot’s service. I had been able to partly prove 18 of the 22. Kathy and I found one, Timothy Blodgett (1740-1831), who is a direct ancestor and enough documentation was available to prove the relationship. Timothy answered the Lexington call, was a minuteman and participated in the battle at Lexington. Years later he had moved to Deerfield Massachusetts where he and his family are buried. You can find the memorial at Find-A-Grave and at Billion Graves.

The point of all this is to talk about the induction. I will be formally inducted on 22 October 2016 in Quincy Massachusetts at a day long event that will include a grave marking ceremony in the Hancock Cemetery marking the grave of Thomas Necomb. Then we’ll visit the crypts of 2 presidents, John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams. We’ll also be touring the Adams Mansion thanks to the National Park Service. Lunch at noon and finally the induction ceremony itself. Should be a great day and I have to admit that I’m proud to have been accepted into an organization that carries with it a heritage dating back to the Revolutionary War, almost 250 years ago!

Saved in El Salvador – A Brave Adoption Story – A Brave DNA Story

Double Helix - Red and Blue with BandsOne of the many people I’ve met while mentoring researchers at the Chicopee Library’s Genealogy Department is a 76 year old woman who has never married but has an adopted daughter. Taking on a 10 year old daughter while single is in and of itself a large challenge. But that’s just the surface of the story which I plan to write about over the next few weeks. About 35 years ago, this woman flew to El Salvador by herself to finalize the adoption and take her daughter home. Now, the daughter is interested in a DNA test to determine if any siblings or other family members got out safely. For historical perspective, just a few weeks after they came back to the States, several Catholic nuns were murdered and left by the roadside. Not a fun place to be. So the story will take a while to cover as she won’t be sending in her sample for a couple more weeks and then she’ll have to wait for results.

I mentioned to her that AncestryDNA might be the best place to start. This is not a case of research first then use DNA to verify the paperwork. This is starting from dead ZERO. We have no information to go by. Anything she can find will be a blessing to her. Hopefully, she’ll order this evening from www.dna.ancestry.com. I hope there’s a sale going  on!

I hope she has more patience than I do!

Stay tuned!

Ages of Males at Death

Sounds morbid, I know, but that’s what genealogists deal with all the time. We study more dead people than living. So thanks to Randy Seaver (author of Genea-Musings) for bringing this up, but he proposed charting the ages at death of 4 or 5 generations. I could go back quite a bit farther, but here’s a quick 5-generation chart. I might take the lost back a few more generations, but the “unknowns” will definitely outnumber the “knowns” by the 6th or 7th generation. I have a few of my ancestral lines (proven…not guessed or harvested from other public, online trees) back to the 12th and 13th great grandfathers. That’s 14 or 15 generations! Keep in mind that if you could identify ALL of your 13th great grandparents (15 generations) you’d have a list of 16,384 individuals just at that generation. That’s husbands and wives but no siblings! If you collected every name to your 16th great grandparents, the total number of individuals including you would be 524,287! And again, no siblings.

By the way, Randy and I are distant cousins….very distant but related nonetheless.

Here’s what I offer so far:

Dave Robison’s Male Ancestors’ “Age at Death”: 

Father Henry Dunn Robison 78
     
Paternal Grandfather Cecil Lee Robison 61
Maternal Grandfather Clement Alexis Dickson 67
     
Paternal Great Grandfather Erskin Coleman Robison 63
Paternal Great Grandfather Henry Wright Dunn 45 (Car/Train Collision)
Maternal Great Grandfather Daniel Alexander Dickson 72
Maternal Great Grandfather Edward Harmon Bassett 83
     
Paternal 2nd Great Grandfather Samuel Coleman Robison 64
Paternal 2nd Great Grandfather James Pinkney Peace 74
Paternal 2nd Great Grandfather William Ira Dunn 72
Paternal 2nd Great Grandfather Samuel Joseph Robertson 73
Maternal 2nd Great Grandfather James Dickson/Dixon 75
Maternal 2nd Great Grandfather James Meagher Jr 72
Maternal 2nd Great Grandfather Ralph Harmon Bassett 37 (Diphtheria epidemic)
Maternal 2nd Great Grandfather Joseph Baber Tuggey Sr 76
     
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather Green Coleman Robinson 61
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather James Thomas Hardin 21 (Confederate POW Camp)
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather William Joshua Butcher Peace 66
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather James M B Temple Unknown
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather William T Dunn 63
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather John Wright Sr 63
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather Sampson Robertson 54
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather Elza Richard Donaldson 72
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Unknown Unknown
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Unknown Unknown
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather James Meagher Sr Unknown
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Alexander Donnelly Possibly 30
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Ephraim Lane Bassett 88
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Nelson Blodgett 77
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Thomas Tuggey 72
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Alfred Bailey 79
     
Average Excluding unknown 65.1
Average Excluding war, epidemic, accident 68.9
     

 Try your own list…it could be very interesting!

What do you do when you find hundreds of living relatives? Part 3

Cortland New York was transformed into Evergreen Alabama for 2 days last week. Aunt Cissy brought so many pictures, family artifacts and stories that she had me saying “ya’ll” like a pro way before lunch time!

Henry Dunn Robison ca1927 in Evergreen Alabama

Henry Dunn Robison ca1927 in Evergreen Alabama

But to me, the visit was far more than pictures and documents, all of which are in themselves treasures seeking a caretaker. So much is lost when their value is not recognized. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison” is an adage that comes to mind to underscore an important lesson. Their value increases exponentially when a family member who knows or knew the people in the photos, or the story behind the events perhaps because they were there at the time, or are able to pass along the story of family treasures left for subsequent generations can put “meat on the bones,” so to speak.

So what is there beyond the tangible? Let’s begin with the stitching together of bits and pieces of stories overheard in childhood when the background of those stories are met with “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!” Really? The reality is what you don’t know might drive you crazy! Or it may lead you to assumptions that are so far beyond the truth, a very warped picture of your own family emerges. What’s the real story behind the story?

For some, this family culture in which my sister and I grew up may be hard to imagine. We were denied access to a rich part of our family’s story, its history, its traditions, the real people who comprised where we came from. As a child, the things of children are enough to fill the days. But as we grew and matured, questions inevitably crept into our minds. Why did he or she do this or that? Why did they, collectively, act the way they did good or bad?

I would have to say that it is impossible to put it all together. It’s far too late to experience the past and be an active part of it. Compare it to reading about the Revolutionary War. It happened, we know that as a fact. But what was it like? What was the culture at the time? Who were the people involved and what were they like? All we can do is listen to the stories and try to be a part of it.

Now I’m learning about the lives of the characters I had only heard about, or more specifically “overheard” about if there is such a term.

I should point out that I’ve met with other members of my father’s long lost family. I’ve written about Aunt Sarah earlier. She had been my first contact and the source of nearly everything else I wanted to know. Or rather, everything else I didn’t know I wanted to know until I accidently found her. From there, I met another Sissy. Mary Elizabeth Robison Derr is a cousin, the daughter of Herbert “Uncle Hub” Robison my grandfather’s brother. Uncle Hub was a businessman in Evergreen Alabama and was once its Mayor. She was tremendously helpful with family stories about life in Evergreen where my father lived off and on before he enlisted in the US Navy.

The 2003 Robinson/Robison Family Reunion was quite an event. About 300 or so members of my extended family attended. It was held near Elkmont, Limestone County, Alabama. It took me quite some time to sort out who everyone was and how we were all connected. After all, my 4th great grandfather, Hezekiah, had 12 children, 11 boys and 1 girl. At least 10 survived to adulthood and 9 of whom married and had families of their own. The long and the short of it is this: After nearly 16 years of researching both maternal and paternal ancestors, and with the help of Aunt Sarah, Sissy Derr, David Sanders (a second cousin who started all of this!), Tom Moore, and many others, I’ve managed to put together basic genealogical data on 978 descendants of my paternal great grandfather, Hezekiah, with details on roughly half of those.

Diane Robison Lillie - Cissy Robison Hunter - Dave Robison

Diane Robison Lillie – Cissy Robison Hunter – Dave Robison

The latest treasure trove has come from someone who was closer to my father than anyone I’ve ever met, Cissy Robison Hunter. I’d tell you her birth name but she would not appreciate it! Your welcome Aunt Cissy!

Finally, my sister and I do not have words to thank all of the family members who have contributed to the story of us. But most especially, Aunt Cissy who came north to visit, hug, discuss, share and enrich our lives that much more.

 

 

What do you do when you find hundreds of living relatives Part 2

It was Friday evening about 8:30 pm. Karen and I pulled into my sister’s driveway in Cortland, New York. She greeted us warmly with hugs and kisses, but I kept looking over her shoulder to get a look at the woman I came here to see. Apparently having nodded off after her long flight from Alabama, Aunt Cissy looked perfectly comfortable but not so much that I wasn’t willing to go over and wake her up!

By this time, my brother-in-law, Ray, had come out of the house to watch the big event. Karen and I walked slowly toward Aunt Cissy followed by Diane and Ray as he came down the steps to the back yard. Aunt Cissy wasn’t really sleeping.  She was hoping to give me a bit of a scare. It worked! She leaped up in a big “Surprise!” moment…

Diane Robison Lillie - Cissy Robison Hunter - Dave Robison

Diane Robison Lillie – Cissy Robison Hunter – Dave Robison

When I finally got my arms around her, I said to everyone that I felt as though I was hugging Aunt Cissy, my grandfather Cecil Lee Robison, his parents Erskin and Linnie Otto Peace Robison, their parents Samuel and Mary Hardin Robison, their parents Green Coleman and Eliza Ann Francis Rochelle Robinson and lastly, Green’s parents, Hezekiah and Tabitha Grantham Robinson. Hezekiah’s father might have been Jonathan Robertson a mid-1700’s Scots-Irish immigrant. But that, so far, has yet to be proven. What a crew!

 

My aunt is the daughter of my paternal grandfather and his second wife. That means she is my half-aunt. But that’s just a technicality. To Diane and me, she is a full-fledged aunt!

Cissy was no disappointment! She came loaded with stories, photographs and documents along with her excitement and genuine happiness over finally getting to meet Diane and me. She also brought 2 crocheted Christmas decorations, hand-made 5 X 12 wall hangings that have the word “NOEL” set crocheted into them.

Onto to Cissy’s story, blended with what I know based on the few stories I heard as a child or more recent genealogical research.

Cissy knew my father, Henry Dunn, but he was at least 15 years her senior. By the time she was born, Henry was living back in Evergreen with his mother, Mary Virginia, and his overbearing grandmother, Gilma Robertson Dunn. Gilma was widowed in 1918 when her highly successful businessman husband, Henry Wright Dunn, was driving out of town and heading up the hill on his way to pick up a nurse he had hired to work in his household. His car stalled on the hill and he rolled backwards and into the oncoming L&N train heading through town. He died 2 days later and his gravestone is marked, “Death Loves a Shining Star.” He had been a Ford and Buick dealer (a mega dealer in the early 20th century!), a hardware dealer and the owner of extensive rental properties in and around Evergreen. These stories I had learned through my own research, trips to Alabama, newspaper articles, cemetery visits, vital records and other family records that were made available to me. Henry Dunn had traveled up to Anniston from time to time to visit his father and step-mother. The visits were very short and long on antipathy.

Gilma Robertson Dunn  (1873-1954)

Gilma Robertson Dunn (1873-1954)

Back in Evergreen, Gilma had long ago managed to have my father’s birth records destroyed as she was no fan of the man her daughter had married and it seemed as though she didn’t want Cecil’s name to be associated with her grandson, Henry Dunn. Perhaps she was hoping to marry off her daughter to another man and have that man adopt Henry. Whatever the motivation, this turned out to have been a convenient decision on her part for her own nefarious purposes. Not only was Henry Dunn sent from one aunt and uncle to another, he was sent off to a boarding school in Mississippi, back to his father in Anniston and wherever else they could put him. Amazingly, the 1930 US Population Schedule shows 5-year-old

Henry’s parents, Cecil Lee and Mary Virginia, living on one side of town while Henry was in the household of 3 single African-American domestics on the other side of town. Fast forward to December 7th 1941. My grandparents were divorced with Cecil remarried and Mary living in Evergreen either alone or with my father whenever that was convenient for the family. But what were they to do with 15-year-old Henry? To Gilma, that was easy. She had a son who was a Lieutenant Commander in the Army Air Corps. Gilma had the connections to obtain an affidavit claiming the Henry was 2 years older than he really was. Voila, “17-year-old” Henry Dunn Robison joined the US Navy, enlisting in early January of 1942, 4 weeks after the Japanese attack.

 

Aunt Cissy knew my father. She was frightened by him given his age and height. He was over 6 feet tall, even as a teenager. He was also a much different person than Cissy’s 4 brothers. The dynamic in that household was far different than anything that my father ever experienced. So I can only imagine how “pleasant” Henry Dunn’s infrequent visits to his father and step-mother would have been.

 

My grandfather, Cecil Lee Robison, and his 7 siblings. Cecil Lee is in the upper right  hand corner.

My grandfather, Cecil Lee Robison, and his 7 siblings. Cecil Lee is in the upper right hand corner.

Henry Dunn’s father, Cecil Lee Robison, was also a tall man. He was a successful businessman in Evergreen working as an accountant and had been a deacon of his church. In other words, a well-respected citizen of his community. However, his home life was less than the typical 1940’s or 1950’s home life. His relationship with his family was not particularly warm and cozy. However, he was a loyal and faithful father and husband who, along with Hilda Mae, his wife, raised 5 children who were respected in their own right: a mayor, a teacher, a State Fire Marshall,

an independent business owner, an early DNA researcher… All quite successful.

There are quite a few more details I’d like to share. I’m sure you’ll want to hear about Uncle Michael, the early 1960’s DNA researcher at Duke University.

So as much as I’ve tried to put this whole amazing story into 2 parts, I’ve got to stretch it out with at least one more installment and maybe two.

Stay tuned!

 

What do you do when you find hundreds of living relatives? Part 1

Now I don’t want to be misunderstood. That is, I don’t want you to think my parents and each of their families were a bit dysfunctional. I’m here to confirm that “dysfunctional” is not only an appropriate characterization but also quite accurate. However, I would like you to keep in mind that my sister and I are thoroughly, absolutely and convincingly normal. Of course we are!

I’ll be writing a few posts to explain a few things and bring everyone up to date. This will be the first in a series of who knows how many posts, at least until I feel that I’ve bored everyone to tears…

Henry Dunn Robison WW II in Puerto Rico, 1944

Henry Dunn Robison World War II in Puerto Rico

Let me start by saying that both Henry Dunn Robison, my father, and Beatrice Agatha (Dickson) Robison, my mother, took the position that “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!” In hindsight, I can understand why they would have that attitude. I don’t agree with how they handled this aspect of raising my sister and I, I just understand it.

 

Cecil Lee Robison

Cecil Lee Robison

I’d like to first talk about my paternal grandfather, Cecil Lee Robison. That’s about all I knew about him. His name, that is. Well, to be honest, I also knew that he lived in Alabama and was a CPA. This picture was cropped out of a group picture that included all of his siblings. My father would call him every Christmas but was only on the phone for a couple of minutes. It was an annual ritual. It was also a bizarre ritual!  Cecil had divorced my grandmother in the early 30’s and remarried. I suppose I should talk about that a bit.

My father’s mother was Mary Virginia (Dunn) Robison. We knew her pretty well because although she was born and raised in Alabama, married Cecil in Alabama and gave birth to my father in Alabama, after the divorce

Mary Virginia Dunn Robison

Mary Virginia Dunn Robison

she found her way to Massachusetts as a Practical Nurse” and lived with us in the mid to late 50’s until she was hospitalized.  Based on interviews I’ve since had with a few of my “new” relatives, it seems that Mary Virginia’s mother, Gilma (Robertson) Dunn, didn’t approve of her daughter’s marriage and went about sabotaging it. At least that’s my current thinking. First, the family story was that Miss Gilma, an upper middle class widow, had my father’s birth record destroyed. Even today, all I can get from the Alabama Department of Health is a letter stating that they have no record of the birth of Henry Dunn Robison. So, Gilma claimed that my father was actually 2 years older than he really was in the weeks following Pearl Harbor. That put 15- or 16- or 17-year old Henry Dunn in the Navy in January of 1942. His uncle, another of Miss Gilma’s sons, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Air Corps. I would speculate that his influence at some level may have kept my father in the Caribbean for the duration. Antigua and Puerto Rico are 2 locations I’m aware of. He was honorably discharged in 1945 and made his way to Massachusetts where his mother was working at Framingham Prison in Framingham, Massachusetts in her capacity as a nurse. Framingham was a women’s prison that had become somewhat famous due to the warden who ran it, but that’s another story.

When I was very young, the paucity of relatives and the seemingly rare spelling of our family name (Robison versus Robinson or Robertson or many others) made me believe that my sister and I were members of a family that was virtually non-existent. I would be quick to correct anyone who made the horrible mistake of calling me David Robinson. I even took to pronouncing it ROW-bi-son rather than RAH-bi-son, the way my father pronounced it. This caused quite a problem when I began a serious search for my “Robison” family. I became a genealogist.

Genealogy crept in about 1969. A person whom I’d never met sent me a letter out of the blue. It was a descendant chart of some of my paternal ancestors beginning with a guy who was born in 1849. 1849!! And it went all the way down to my sister and me. There was at least one other line there, but I couldn’t get over the fact that I now knew that name of an ancestor born 120 years ago! 1849!! I couldn’t get over it; I was so impressed, I folded it and put it away for about 25 years.

Scroll ahead to the mid-90’s. I’m know obsessed with family history. I had many successes with my maternal line relatively speaking. My mother’s sister was a great deal more forthcoming with information, some of which I now know to be true. Aunt Gert was willing to talk about anything and make it up as she went along if necessary! The truth? Well….  But I certainly knew my father was born in Evergreen, Alabama. So common sense sent me to find the Conecuh County Historical Society in Evergreen, Alabama. The archivist there told me that if I wanted any family history on the folks in Evergreen, I should write a letter to Mrs. Sarah R Coker who lived right there in town.

I wrote the letter and waited.

About 2 weeks later, I received and envelope properly addressed in a hand that was obviously of a very old person. But written well enough that it found it destination.  With a great deal of enthusiasm, I opened the letter and stared at her words: “Why hello sweety-pie! I’m your Grand Aunt Sarah. I’m your Daddy’s aunt and your grandpa’s baby sister.” I should pause here to try and give you the overwhelming sense of excitement and a bit of anger I was feeling. I loved finding Aunt Sarah. It was a thrill beyond explanation! But I was… I was… I don’t know what I was! Angry, indignant… There are no words for the how I felt at that very moment! But let’s move on.

Sarah Elizabeth Robison Coker (1919 - 2009)

Sarah Elizabeth Robison Coker (1919 – 2009)

Sarah Elizabeth Robison Coker (that’s the “R” in her name…Robison!)  had been researching for decades. And researching without a computer. No computer for two reasons: 1) She had done a mountain of work prior to the electronic age. She actually wrote letters. She actually got responses; and 2) She had macular degeneration in her old age and wouldn’t have been able to see the screen even if she had one. Naturally I wrote back with an incredible amount of enthusiasm. I don’t remember if I called my sister that very second or if I waited until later that day. But I wanted her to share in the excitement. We had relatives!!!

There’s a great deal more to tell you: I flew down to meet with her; I met the author of the 1969 letter, a second cousin named David Sanders; I was told many fabulous family stories; I was treated like “royalty!” You’ll love the part about the pictures. And a few racy stories Aunt Sarah was almost embarrassed to tell! She wanted me to turn off the digital recorder I brought with me. I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of her story about eloping to Defuniak Springs, Florida from her home in Evergreen. Then in 2003, a family reunion with over 300 relatives in attendance.

Again, lots more to tell….stay tuned!

 

The Pioneer Valley History Network – Western Massachusetts

I’m promoting this event here on my blog to announce that there will be many interesting presentations from a wide variety of historians and genealogists from around Western Massachusetts and beyond. One of those presenters will be me! I’ll be highlighting the history of Springfield Massachusetts from its founding as a colonial plantation in 1636 to the third largest city in Massachusetts. I’ll feature William Pynchon, a successful businessman, pioneer, diplomat, civic and religious leader who ultimately turned over his New World fortunes to his son, John. My own great grandfather, Deacon Samuel Chapin, was also a high profile figure in this story and worked closely with Pynchon and other figures who caused Springfield to remain an important factor in the growth of the city. More about him in future posts. 

Deacon Samuel Chapin

Deacon Samuel Chapin (1598 – 1675)

Here’s the announcement:

The Pioneer Valley History Network (Western Massachusetts) proudly announces History Camp Pioneer Valley to be held on Saturday, July 30, 2016 at the Kittredge Center at Holyoke Community College. Click for a map.

This will be a gathering of history enthusiasts, high school age and up, for a day of learning and sharing.

Based on the “un-conference” model developed by History Camp Boston, this will be the first event of this kind in the western part of Massachusetts. What is an “un-conference”? In short, it’s a self-organizing conference. People who share a common interest get together and create the framework for the event.

  • The topics that are presented are the ones of interest to the presenters.

  • No committee will “screen” the topics and requesting a time-slot is easy.

  • The sessions that are well-attended are the ones that are of interest to the attendees. Anyone can present.

It’s an incredibly democratic way to gather and share information.

To encourage participation by everyone, this first

“History Camp Pioneer Valley” will have no Conference Fee!

However, participants will be encouraged at the event to make a voluntary contribution to cover the cost of the conference. The goal is to break even – there are no paid staff, no paid speakers, and no one will profit. We anticipate the “break even” point to be $15 – $30 per person, depending upon turnout.

There will also be plenty of opportunity for networking and an exhibit area for selling books and other history-related products. There is no specific theme, but please, no political diatribes or sales pitches for a commercial product or service. Other than that, the sky is the limit.

For more information and register to attend or present, go to:

History Camp – Pioneer Valley

or

Click here to read about the Pioneer Valley History Network

 

 

Mocavo (a great resource) is moving to FindMyPast…soon!

Below is the body of an email I received today regarding my Mocavo account. I also have an account at FindMyPast. That part of the merger will be interesting! And the merger is taking place TODAY, 23 MARCH 2016!!

Mocavo is moving to Findmypast

We’re contacting you to let you know that the Mocavo website will be closing at midnight today (Wednesday 23rd March) and that your account will be moving over to Findmypast in the next few days. Plus, over the coming weeks, all of Mocavo’s records and much, much more will soon be available on Findmypast.

Find out more

 

What do I need to do?

Your Mocavo account details will automatically transfer to Findmypast, where we’ll give you a 30 day trial, completely free. You’ll receive further instructions on setting up your account in a follow-up email.

We have all sorts of help content to get you started here on our blog.

 

What’s great about Findmypast?

Findmypast is the perfect place to dig further back into your family’s history and here’s why.

  1.5 million UK BMD Records: The largest online collection of UK parish records anywhere
 
  100 Million US marriage Records: The only place you’ll find 360 years of marriage records that include more than 450 million names
 
  110 million Irish Parish Records: The largest collection of Irish records available anywhere online (over 300 million names)
 
  1939 register – 41 million records: The only place you can access this Wartime Domesday Book
 
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From,
The Mocavo & Findmypast team

Quick Lesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof

Dave Robison – QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof [1]

As with any genealogical research question, establishing the accuracy of an item as simple as a date of birth can prove elusive and, at times, frustrating. In the case of one of my own direct ancestors, the search has taken me to many sources, with two, rather than one definitive answer. Although the search has been exhaustive, neither date has been proved.

This is the case of my 4th great grandfather, Hezekiah Robison. He was also the subject last week’s assignment regarding the number of wives. The very first record I had on his age or date of birth came from an on-line family tree, a source I was unfortunate enough to use 15 years ago, when I was so enthusiastic about my own family’s genealogy, I was hungry for every tidbit I could find. Unfortunately, it was one of the first conflicts I ran into. There were 2 schools of “thought” based on other people’s enthusiasm. First, his year of birth was alleged to be 1777 and later, in other trees, 1784. My solution at the time was extraordinarily amateur. I simply picked one!

Hezekiah RobertsonRobison

Hezekiah ROBRSON

At a family reunion in 2001, I visited the Robinson Cemetery, off of Robinson Road in Robinson Hollow near Elkmont, Limestone County, Alabama. There could be as many as 30 ancestors here but only about 16 stones remain. Other markers may have been wooden or disintegrated and sunken into the ground.  Now I would have thought that with all the “Robinson” designations, that there’d be little doubt as to spelling. This stone provided a new entry into the various spellings: “ROBRSON.” And as you can see in the photo[2], “Died June the 19th 1852 Aged 75 years” suggests a birth year 1777. Other records would disagree. (FOR THE RECORD: I did not chalk this stone. As a matter of fact, I’ve never chalked a stone. It’s not a good idea!)

1850 United States Federal Census-30A few years later, I was able to find him in a few census records. The first source mentioning an age was the entry for Hezekiah in the 1850 US Census[3]. Here he or the informant stated his age as 66 suggesting a birth year of 1784. Just with these two sources, the information they contain 2 glaring inconsistencies. The 1850 census taken just 2 years prior to his death states his age as 66 while the gravestone which was likely carved just after his death states his age as 75. Obviously, there’s more work to be dome to resolve this conflict.

To recap what I have so far, there are 2 sources: the 1850 US census and a gravestone. Both I would consider original. But keep in mind that the information each contains could fall into either primary or secondary status. As Elizabeth Shown Mills describes in her article “QuickLesson 2,”[4]  information should not be confused as “fact.” It is merely the content found in a source.

Since ether are so far only 2 sources, we can hardly say that so far, the research has been exhaustive. As a result, the hunt was on to prove or disprove one or the other. Since Hezekiah was a veteran of the War of 1812, the records at Fold3.com, a source, may have contained information to clear up the discrepancy. However, his military record including enlistment data, muster rolls or any other mention of a “Hezekiah Rob*son” make it difficult to ascertain as to which Hezekiah is which.  His widow’s subsequent pension application file found during a visit to the NARA in Washington DC contains a number of documents none of which make any reference as to his age. The search at Fold3 has been ongoing as more and more records are digitized and uploaded. Therefore, this source should be reviewed from time to time.

Finally, any document that references Hezekiah’s place of birth states Virginia. I have searched on line and in person in a variety of sources in Virginia to no avail. Since I’m far from knowing exactly where in Virginia, he may well have been born in what is now West Virginia.

For now, at least, the sources and the information they contain do not hold enough evidence to reasonably come to any conflict resolution. And now, the search for a date or even a year of birth together with a location, has been put on hold for a variety of reasons. But stay tuned! Someday I’ll have a better answer.

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-2-sources-vs-information-vs-evidence-vs-proof : accessed 19 March 2016).

[2] Photo taken by the author and remains in the author’s collection.

[3] 1850 US Census, Population Schedule, Alabama, Limestone County, District Four, household of Hezekiah Robinson; digital media, Ancestry.com, (www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 September2012) NARA roll M432_8, p 4A.

[4] Ibid.