Category Archives: Genealogy

Missed RootsTech?

RootsTech is the largest genealogical conference in the world. In 2017, more than 30,000 genealogists of all stripes attended what has been described as a phenomenal event. Their website describes the event: “RootsTech is a global family history event where people of all ages learn to discover, share and celebrate their family connections across generations through technology. At RootsTech, there is something for everyone, no matter your experience in family history or your skill level in technology.”

But, of course, most of us missed it for a variety of reasons. Well, there’s good news!

RootsTech has put up most of the presentations that anyone can view. BUT!! It’s only for a limited time.  I’ve searched around the site and there’s no indication as to how they define “limited time” so my advice is to check out the website and view what you can while you can. You won’t regret it as the conference was chock full of presentations by the best in the business. As far as subjects are concerned…best to check out the website!

Click here RootTech to access the home page and read about the conference itself and plans for RootsTech 2018 and RootsTech 2019 in the FAQ’s section accessible from the menu in the upper right-hand corner. Or just click here: Frequently Asked Questions.

And since we’re talking about genealogy conferences, don’t forget about NERGC 2017 being held this year in Springfield, Massachusett from 26 April to 29 2017. Wednesday the 26th  is “Library and Teacher’s Day with a track on Technology. Thursday through Saturday is the main event with 130 presentations, workshops, lunches and banquets.  NERGC takes place in venues around New England on the odd numbered years. Organized by the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium, the event is quite a bit smaller than RootsTech with a usual attendance of approximately 1,000. However, with 70 speakers, there is no shortage of quality presenters and with 130 presentations, no shortage of subjects covered.

Interested? Early bird registration ends on 28 February 2017!

 

Family Tree Maker® – Goodbye Ancestry – Hello MacKiev

In 1998, I was wandering around Circuit City, a company that went out of business maybe 7 years ago or more. I really don’t remember what I was looking for. Stereos, cell phones, DVD’s, whatever. I had recently bought a desktop computer and eventually I walked down the software aisle.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had family history in mind. By “back of my mind” I mean a subconscious, little-explored avocation. It began in 1969 when I received a letter from someone who turned out to be a second cousin.

Now, by way of explanation, my maternal lines extend to the Mayflower and dozens of others who arrived during the Great Migration, settling in Plymouth Colony and, later, Massachusetts Bay Colony and finally, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I’ve since discovered some very surprising ancestors that I’ve written about over the years. It’s from this side, I researched one of my 18 or so Revolutionary War Patriot ancestors and was able to join the Sons of the American Revolution.

My paternal lines, on the other hand, had all settled in the American Southeast: Virginia/West Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. And that’s where the letter came from. The writer had typewritten what I know now is a descendant chart beginning with an ancestor of mine who was born in 1849. I was so impressed with this information that I now knew an ancestor who was born over 120 years before the letter was written. So impressed, that I put away and didn’t open it again until around 1998, a few months before my foray into the software department at Circuit City.

You should know that I was brought up in an environment of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” At the time, I wasn’t particularly interested in anything family related. Until the moment the Family Tree Maker practically jumped off the shelf. It was the spark that lit up my desire, or rather my need to find out if “what you don’t know” included family. Who were they? Who am I?  Exactly how did I connect with someone born so long ago in 1849? That was my father’s side. Obviously, there must be a few folks I never knew or heard of on my mother’s side. So, I was off to the races.

In 1998, I began what has become my profession. Speaking, teaching, consulting, family research and literally anything to do with genealogy. And now DNA has entered the equation. With FTM eventually becoming an Ancestry.com property, it became a convenience to me since I was already an Ancestry subscriber.

Having branched out into client work, I usually would use FTM as one of the tools to keep my research in order. And as far as my own family, my continuing genealogical discoveries created a tree that just became increasingly bigger as I continued.

FTM was updated and upgraded over the years. I was always interested in having the “latest” whenever possible. Sometimes I’d jump in as early as possible and other times I’d wait a month or so as I had learned that getting the bugs out was an important part of software development. The integration with Ancestry that allowed full two-way synchronization was an amazing breakthrough for me as I had become accustomed to updated one and then, separately updating the other.  Wow, technology!

When MacKiev got into the picture, I read what some people were posting on Facebook and other social media. Some were in a state of sheer panic while others, like myself, took a wait and see attitude. It always seemed to me that FTM had so many adherents that it was hardly likely that it would just sail off over the horizon never to be seen again. Somebody was bound to take over the reins.

And so it happened. FTM didn’t dissolve at the end of 2016 as some had predicted. As a matter of fact, as 2016 was melting into 2017, rather than the whole thing falling apart, the news simply got better. I was reluctant to try to teach myself the ins and outs of Legacy or RootsMagic or any of the other programs that are on the market. Keeping my focus on FTM was a more acceptable way to go.

Now it gets interesting. When I received the link to the upgrade, I felt I was relatively safe. If a major defugalty came along, there certainly are alternatives. The download and installation processes were a smooth ride which allowed me to focus on some family research. There’s always an ancestor lurking that can be proven and added to the “big” file. That file now has 43,893 individuals and a proportionate amount of media. That’s a lot to lose!

Pedigree Chart of Abigail Chapin Wheelock. Her husband, Paul Wheelock is a half-first cousin of President John Adams. Note the number of individuals: 43,893. Click to enlarge.

In December of 2015, when Ancestry announced that they were going to discontinue FTM altogether, the leading family history software — just bury it in the backyard. Many were panicked. Two months later on February 2nd, Ancestry announced that they’d changed their minds and would instead sell this wonderful old brand to SoftwareMacKiev. And as the developer of the Mac versions of FTM for the six years before that, “MacKiev was absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to take the wheel,” said Jack Minsky, President of Software MacKiev. They stepped forward the very next day. ” Lots of articles were written on alternatives and there was lots of handwringing from FTM faithful on what to do,” said Minsky.

Now during the waning days of December 2016, I began to experience some difficulty booting up the laptop, a relatively new Dell Inspiron running Windows 10 with 1T hybrid hard drive, 8G of ram and no outrageous peripherals. It had always run flawlessly with all the data I have stored which takes up less than half of the capacity. That problem went away until the day after New Years Day. All I could get was the image that displays on startup. Without boring you with all the details of 5 marathon sessions with Premium Support, I can summarize it by simply saying that after a few stop-gap measures, I was forced to undertake a thorough, clean factory re-install. Fortunately, I’ve been running cloud backups for several years. I’ve used Carbonite® and more recently BackBlaze® on all our computers here. I also maintain a redundant backup on an external 1.5T Seagate hard drive. So other than the process of dragging myself through all of this, it should have been a simple although lengthy operation.

The next day, the download was complete, the restore was complete and all that was left was to put everything away where it belonged and reinstall some applications. That part of the process included FTM 2014.1 which had been running flawlessly. In the meantime, I was made aware of an update to the upgrade. Update? OK…I’m in. Before the big meltdown, I had done some work in the “big” file with the upgrade but not with the update. I thought nothing of it. I should mention here that I reinstalled FTM 2014.1 from the thumb drive that I purchased just in case what just happened, happened!

But when I tried to open the “big” file, I got an error message. I tried to open several of the other family trees and they opened with no problem. I communicated with technical support through their chat application and had 2 differing solutions, neither of which worked.  Wallowing in my frustration, I put this project aside and went to read and respond to emails and check for messages on Facebook. Facebook, by the way, with over 10,000 genealogically oriented pages, has become an important part of my on-line research efforts. I noticed that the Family Tree Maker® Users Facebook page had some folks discussing the pros and cons of the upgrade. I’ll admit, I was a bit frustrated as I fired off my problem offering it to anyone who happened to be paying attention to that page.

To my initial surprise, one of the people paying attention was Jack Minsky, the president of Software MacKiev. He took the time to listen to the whole series of events and where I was at that point. Then, in no time, he nailed it! I had upgraded to 2014.1 then installed the update after which I worked on my personal file, the “big” one. Then the crash. Then the restore. Then I began re-installing software. My first re-install was the FTM 2014.1 program from the thumb drive. What could be easier? Then, to test it, I tried to open my own file. Nope! Wasn’t gonna happen. What Jack suspected that I had opened that file with the updated upgrade (does that make sense?) and the thumb drive installed the upgrade but not the update. He knew that the missing update was the problem. He sent me a link for the update as I couldn’t find it in any of the hundreds of emails I had collected by this time. I uninstalled the original thumb drive version (build 497?) then reinstalled it. The last step was to go to the update link (build 501?) and reinstall that.

Lo and behold! I’m very happy to report that everything is running as smooth as glass. I mentioned to Jack a few weeks ago, that someday we should get together in Boston the next time I’m out there or near there. This time I offered to buy the drinks!

Thank you, Jack Minsky! I don’t know when you sleep as I’ve communicated with you at all times of the day and night.  It’s encouraging to see that although we all have to get accustomed to a slightly different way to communicate with support technicians, in the end, it all seems to work out. When does the president of a company get that close to the little people and pitch in to help? Congratulations, Jack Minsky! You did good!  You’ve earned the trust of many in the FTM community with your pro-active approach. Now, what are you going to do for us next?

My message to any FTM user? Try it, you’ll like it!

 

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!

 

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

 

 

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.

Strawberry DNA

Here’s a neat article I found in my Feedly posts today. Click “Imagination Station” for a simple explanation of the DNA extraction process. They’re using strawberries in the video, but, as you’ll see, you could try it on just about any living matter…including yourself.

The problem, of course, is other than having a dish of cloudy material as in the video, actually seeing the DNA you extract is a completely different story!

Have you done any DNA testing? Three major companies are in the DNA business: FamilyTreeDNA,  23andMe and AncestryDNA. Which test you take will be driven by the purpose of taking the test in the first place.  The short story is this: The most popular test today is the Autosomal DNA test or atDNA test. All three companies do this test. Keep in mind that there are 23 chromosomes in every nucleus of every cell in your body. One of those chromosomes is the sex chromosome which is either X-X or X-Y. This chromosome determines whether your are female (X-X) or males (X-Y).DNA_animationThat leaves 22 that are made up of a recombination of the DNA from your father (roughly 50%) and your mother (roughly 50%). It’s the recombination process that determines which of your father’s traits you will inherit and which of your mother’s. That’s also why siblings can either vary a great deal in their appearance or, if their appearances seem quite similar, one may have red hair and the other brown.

Logically, if you’ve got 50% of your mother’s atDNA and she received 50% from each of her parents, you can only have 25% from each of her parents. The same holds true with your father’s atDNA and that what makes up the 50% you inherited from him, 25% of which is from his father and 25% from his mother. The farther back you go up your family tree while applying the fact that the 50% gets halved at each generation. You’ll have 12.5% from each of your 8 great-grandparents, 6.75% from each of your 16 2nd great-grandparents.  Then take into account the billions of possible ways that each recombination can produce, it gets a little tricky to go very far beyond 5 or 6 generations. We refer to it as a “cousin finder.” Ethnicity can be inferred to some degree and in broad generalities: Northern European, Sub-Saharan African,  Ashkenazi Jew and so forth.

The second and third types of tests will take you deep into the genetic histories of your direct maternal or paternal lines. Only men have and thus can pass along Y-DNA. A man gets his from his father who got his from his father and so on. So to trace a paternal line, the Y test is quite useful for 2 reasons. It’s biologically impossible to get a Y chromosome from a male ancestor other than from your direct line. And it mutates at a very slow rate meaning that it stays relatively intact for thousands of years, unlike atDNA which “melts” in each generation.

The third test is for mitochondrial DNA, the mother’s unique contribution to the equation. Unlike the Y, mitochondrial or mtDNA is in everyone’s cells. For the lack of a more scientific answer, it is what powers the cells, allowing them to live, divide and recombine so that life can go on.  But, only the mother passes the mtDNA even though both she and the father have it.

Here’s the reason. Mom has her Mom’s mtDNA and Dad has his Mom’s mtDNA. At the point of conception, the ovum contains mom’s mtDNA as she supplied the ovum containing it. Dad supplied the sperm but the mtDNA is in the tail. Picture your science books where the sperm wiggles its way to its destination. At the moment of conception, the tail falls off and thus the mtDNA from the father is no longer a factor. It’s a lot like a space rocket. Once the rocket clears earth’s atmosphere, the boosters fall away. They’ve done their job!

The mtDNA will take you backwards to your mother, her  mother and her mother’s mother and so on.

Both Y and mtDNA can give you reasonably accurate description of your genetic background. But it is important to say that as far as family research is concerned, DNA tests do not replace standard research practices. It will only help to prove or disprove what you’ve discovered.

For a more detailed explanation of DNA and the various types and tests, there are some excellent bloggers whose backgrounds in the science is much deeper than my own:

That should be more than enough to get you started! Good luck!

Visit Old Bones Genealogy of New England at www.oldbones.info

Say “Hello” to My Little Friend! Flip-Pal

Flip-Pal

Flip-Pal

Here’s  a device that I should have bought years ago. I’ve heard about it from colleagues. I’ve seen it in the exhibit halls at genealogy conferences. I’ve read about it in the ubiquitous advertising at Facebook and other social media. How could it be that helpful.

Here’s how: Flip-Pal. It’s compact, fits in your backpack or computer bag, it’s incredibly easy to use, scans large documents a section at a time and stitches the sections together and will actually send the scans wirelessly to your smartphone, tablet or laptop! What else could a research genealogist want?

I’m being completely serious when I say that it’s worth every penny and more, but don’t tell the folks at Flip-Pal….

The URL for this post is http://oldbonessearch.com/?p=4219

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AncestryDNA versus “AncestrybyDNA”

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally between the two spiraling strands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hard to notice the difference in the name, isn’t it. Considering that one of the services is selling their test for $69, our eyes seem to glaze over when it comes to the name. AncestryDNA has certainly had its ups and downs, but for the last several months or even a couple of years, they’ve improved their testing techniques, modified the “algorithms” that produce the results and can now be highly recommended. And to be sure, I’m not talking about “AncestrybyDNA.” Be careful to notice the differences in the name!

As a matter of fact, AncestryDNA tests over 700,000 markers to arrive at their results. That fact, combined with the extraordinarily large database of family trees, they are able to make some dramatic “cousin matches.” They are not without their faults as none of the companies are. But their batting average has improved exponentially

AncestrybyDNA, on the other hand is a horse of a different color. In case you didn’t notice, the name is ANCESTRY BY DNA. Where did that “by” come from? It seems that AncestrybyDNA feels that the hidden “by” is enough to distinguish it from the vastly more effective tool for genealogists, AncestryDNA, the one with no “by” in their name.

Groupon is a company that sells products and services such as restaurant deals, clothing deals, vacation deals and lately, DNA testing deals. Keep you eye on the by!

AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe are the 3 companies that should be at the top of your list. Check them out. AncestryDNA tests ONLY autosomal DNA, often referred to as the “cousin finder.” FamilyTreeDNA offers a whole spectrum of tests with a variety of packages and prices. Very reputable. Then there’s 23andMe which has also had it’s ups and downs, but that’s another story. Let’s just say that there’s nothing to worry about with the legitimacy  or integrity of 23andMe or any of these three.

To read a bit more about this from someone who is vastly more experienced than I am, check out Judy G. Russell’s incredibly informative blog,  The Legal Genealogist. You may even consider following her. It’ll be worth it!

FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)