Category Archives: History

A “Found” Patriot

Heritage. As a youngster, I always wondered of the heritage that resulted in me.  The culture at home was a simple one when it came down to family stories and history. “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!” Well, I guess I shouldn’t ask THAT question again!

My father, Henry Dunn Robison, went into the Navy exactly 3 weeks after Pearl Harbor at the “insistence” of his father. He and the previous 4 generations had lived in Alabama and Tennessee. As I discovered years later, my 4th great grandfather, Hezekiah Robertson, was a veteran or the War of 1812 having served with the East Tennessee Volunteers. During World War II, Henry’s mother divorced her husband and moved to Massachusetts. The short version here is the “Granny” lived with us in Springfield for a while until she entered a nursing home in the mid-60s where she died in 1970.

I never saw my grandfather who remained in Alabama. I was only marginally aware of the fact that I even had a grandfather.  My father made a 5- or 10-minute call “down south” around Christmas-time every year. I never saw “Papa Lee” nor did I ever speak with him. He died in 1964.  My first view of him was his obituary on the front page of the Anniston (Alabama) Star. While I shouldn’t have been surprised, he looked exactly like my father and it was a little unsettling.

My maternal grandfather died when I was about 3 years old but my maternal grandmother lived until 1962. Of all of my grandparents, she’s the only one with whom I had ever had any semblance of a conversation.

The upshot is that my father didn’t care to talk about his dysfunctional side of the family and my mother thought it best to hold the same line with regard to her side.

Now, enter the genealogist! I wouldn’t say that I was desperately seeking anything necessarily. But the lack of information led me to feel that we were all dropped off on earth by an alien spaceship back in the early 50s! Then, as I began researching for details, I was able to interview some of the prior generations of relatives: 3 aunts, 1 great-grandaunt and a couple of second cousins. If I only knew then what I know now!

In 2001, I got the bug to join a lineage society. If successful, that would “install” a heritage that was there all along but of which I was totally unaware. Maternal family lore stated that we descended from Pilgrims. Okay, but who, what, where, why, and when? There was a box of spoons that were allegedly made from the silver buckles of their shoes. Spoiler: hardly any pilgrims had silver buckles on their shoes! More on that some other time.

Paternal lore stated, well, nothing! But after a comparatively short period of time, I began to suspect that there was some validity to the Pilgrim story, underscore “some.” At the same time, I uncovered real evidence that my paternal lines stretched back to at least the War of 1812, as I mentioned earlier, and possibly the Revolutionary War.

So, here we go! Let’s join the Sons of the American Revolution. I downloaded an application and worked on it sporadically for about 15 years. Yes, not 5 or 10, but for 15 years, the application languished in my desk. In my defense, I was certainly busy with dozens of projects, nearly all of which involved genealogy. Then, in 2016, I was a co-chair for a relatively large genealogy conference to be held in Springfield, Massachusetts in the spring of 2017. We normally brought in 2 featured speakers along with several dozen others. It was  my intent to solicit Kenyatta Berry, one of the very personable hosts of the PBS program “Genealogy Road Show.” It was filming in Providence, Rhode Island. So off I went to Providence, Rhode Island. Short version, Kenyatta Berry became the third and very welcomed featured speaker. Score 1 for Dave.

In the meantime, many of my fellow genealogists were at the filming representing various clubs and societies in the vendor area of the venue. A friend of mine introduced me to the Registrar for a chapter of the DAR. I told her my story of profound procrastination with my SAR application. She eagerly said, “I can help!” OK, that’s great but I can’t join the DAR, I would qualify! She asked if I had a daughter which I most certainly do. As a result, my daughter is now a member of the Lexington Chapter of the DAR. For my purposes, I merely had to finish my SAR application, exclude my daughter’s generation and I could qualify.

But here, finally, is the most interesting part of the story: I have identified at least 24 ancestors who are age-appropriate to have served in the War, all would have been between their late teens to their early 40s. The specific ancestor we picked was a Patriot who had only most recently been identified as such. Timothy Blodgett’s story involves mostly obscurity. He was a family man who, with his wife ran a small farm in Deerfield, Massachusetts while raising a small brood of 14 children. He was born in 1740 in Lexington, Massachusetts and was involved in the first battle of the War. The Lexington engagement occurred on 19 April 1775 then shortly thereafter came the battle at Concord. My ancestor was one of the registered Minute Men under Captain Charles PArker who confronted the British at Lexington, his hometown.

The singular reason that he was finally identified as a Patriot is that he lost his musket during the battle and petitioned for compensation at the Lexington Town Hall the following morning. The record of that petition was only discovered in 2012.

From www.wickedlocal.com:

     “Bill Poole, executive officer with the Minute Men, said he discovered Blodgett when he was researching local militia in the archives of Capt. Parker’s Company in Lexington. Blodgett had  moved to Shutesbury the year after the fateful morning on April 19, 1775 and his name was    never included on the official “muster roll.”

     But Poole said he found several documents confirming Blodgett’s post, noting he even           applied for a reimbursement from then selectmen for a firearm he lost on the Battle Green.     The young militia man lost the musket when he attempted to jump over a fence to while           fleeing from the Regulars, Poole said.”1

Here is the photo from the article clearly showing the addition of Timothy Blodgett’s name to the bottom of the second column:

Timothy Blodgett added to the Memorial at Lexington Green. Photo: http://bit.ly/Blodgett_Lexington

The proof of my ancestor came fairly easy as I had nearly every document necessary. We used the documentation first for my daughter’s DAR application, then for my own SAR application.

But wait! There’s more! In early 2016, I was giving a presentation to the East Longmeadow (Massachusetts) Historical Society. It was basically an introduction to family research that was scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm. Apparently, the members of the East Longmeadow Historical Society are in the habit of showing up just a little late for their meetings. So at 6:58, I was “concerned” but not showing it. Then in walks our first guest. A delicate, elderly woman who I greeted with a smile. Her name is Ruth Washburn, my first guest that night. I smiled because I had at least one person for the audience. She said, “I’m so glad I could make it. I usually can’t drive at night.” I offered her a ride home as I was sure there would be someone there who she knew but she turned me down, flat! As I walked her to the front of the room, I sat her in a seat that was directly in front of where I would be speaking. When I mentioned the SAR, I also mentioned that my Patriot Ancestor was Timothy Blodgett. At that moment Ruth gasped and covered her mouth. Naturally, I suspected that something was wrong. I stopped and asked if she was OK. With a tear in her I (really…she teared up!) she said that she, too, was a descendant of Timothy Blodgett.

As it turns out, Ruth Muriel Blodgett Fisher Washburn is a very energetic 91-year-old cousin who, in her own right, is a well-established family historian.  She’s pictured here in front of the window that was in one of her cousin’s family’s home. When asked if there was anything in the house she would want, she said she’d love to have that window but knew it was impossible. She would spend a great deal of time at this house during the summers of her youth and remembered the happiness that the sunlight brought her when it came streaming through the multicolored window.

Ruth Muriel Blodgett Fisher Washburn

I’ve spent time with Ruth to hear her stories and learn more about the Blodgett line. She has an extensive database which she has been more than willing to share with me.  But more important to me than a database, she has personal knowledge and a clear, sharp memory.

Now, if I ever have the time, I just might prove more Patriot ancestors from both my maternal and my paternal side.

And one more thing, I’ve found 4 direct Mayflower ancestors. All I need to do is prove those lines and I’ll be able to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing in 2020.

  1. “Lexington Minute Men add new name to monument,” website, (http://bit.ly/Blodgett_Lexington : accessed 18 July 2016).

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!

 

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!

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

 

 

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

Genealogy Research Tools

In response to an assignment arising from HOA “GenTools Study Group” I have to say that I have very little in the way of hardware to support my research efforts.

LENOVO T540p

LENOVO T540p

For online research, it’s my (not so) trusty Lenovo T540p laptop. I thought I had made a wise decision but it has been anything but! It’s nothing particularly exotic nor does it have any extraordinary features. As a matter of fact, just the process to get it working properly is in itself a long story.

I have a backup laptop. It’s an overworked DELL STUDIO XPS that overheats and shuts down. However, I can nurse it along with a cooling pad with a built in fan.  Standard equipment with this old machine!

HP Officejet Pro 8600

HP Officejet Pro 8600

Beyond that, there’s my trusty workhorse printer/scanner/fax machine, the HP Officejet Pro 8600. It’s probably the best printer/scanner/fax machine I’ve ever owned and since it was very reasonably priced, I considered it a bargain. I would recommend HP products without reservation. It has never failed to do what it was built to do. In the next several days or perhaps even several weeks, I’ll be putting this machine to task. I’m planning on scanning as many of the hundreds of documents, photos and whatever and shredding the originals in my attempt to make room here in my office for me to at least sit down at my own desk! (I might even get around to painting the walls ala Hillary Gadsby’s office!

Communication: Motorola Droid Turbo from Verizon Wireless. There are better phones, but in

Motorola Droid Turbo

Motorola Droid Turbo

my opinion, not many. I have a ridiculous number of apps installed including Find-A-Grave, Billion Graves, Ancestry.com, FamilySearch and a few other genealogy related apps. The camera is excellent and I have plenty of storage. It syncs with my laptop so whatever photos I take whether grave stones or documents, it’s no problem at all to name and store them, upload them to the newly condemned Family Tree Maker then sync’d with Ancestry.com,

My Logitech headset and webcam are essential for participation in Hangouts and broadcasting/watching various webinars. Both of these items came highly recommended by DearMYRTLE and Cousin Russ and have proven reliable.

Logitech HD Pro c920 Webcam

Logitech HD Pro c920 Webcam

Logitech USB Headset

Logitech USB Headset

Without a doubt, I’d really like to invest in a good portable scanning tool, a tripod that will hold my Droid horizontally and a few other items. But as you may not have realized, I have precious little room in my office for anything else…until I get “organized!”

Technology and the Ever Changing World of Genealogical Research Tools

It is easily said that I can sometimes be too quick while other times be very slow to adapt to new technologies, hardware, software, peripherals or other genealogical research tools. Tonight, of course, the old workhorse software program that I’ve “grown up with” is going away. Family Tree Maker®  is currently in its last iteration and support will only be available until 1 January 2017.

OK, that gives me plenty of time to to do one of three things:

Since I’ve already been unsuccessful trying to accustom myself to RootsMagic or Legacy…mostly due to a lack of perseverance…my choices are substantially limited. But, I’ve been here before.

Right now, I’m leaning toward abandoning all PC based software in favor of Ancestry. I’ve used Ancestry and FTM since the late 90’s and have become very comfortable of the simplicity of syncing one with the other. So I’m sorry to see that aspect go away.  The downside is reports, tables, pedigree charts and all the various data organizing products that are currently available in FTM.

Other than reports, using Ancestry.com exclusively isn’t such a bad thing. But then there’s the issue of worrying about Ancestry itself folding. This approach puts all the data I collect automatically “in the cloud.” After all, what is the cloud other than a remote server (not in the clouds!) that is a repository of data, all stored in 0’s and 1’s.

Pedigree Chart of Erskin Coleman Robison (1878-1942)

Speaking of reports, I’m not aware of any means to create any type of reports strictly out of Ancestry.com family trees. If I’m wrong, I’d happily be willing to find a way to produce the same type of reports that are currently available in FTM under “Publishing.” So that brings me back to Legacy or RootsMagic.

 

 

Now I, along with thousands of others, have some decisions to make. But as of yet, I don’t think we have enough data to even begin the process.

UPDATE: After posting this blog, I checked my email and found this link to RootsMagic. They certainly didn’t waste any time and I suspect they may have had this “in the wings” and ready to post at the appropriate time.

 

Is a Utah Mormon the Real King of England?

There’s an interesting DNA case that has been developing in Britain. There is a dispute involving

Stitchill, Roxburghshire, Scotland

Stichill, Roxburghshire, Scotland

the 13th century Pringle of Stichill, with Stichill being a town and civil parish in the county of Roxburghshire in Scotland. Described in the article as a “bitter dispute,” 2 lines of Pringle men are battling out the true and rightful heir to the title.  Both have spent a great deal of money in the courts to sort it all out. And it all started with a simple family tree project!

Invoking DNA evidence, the case is now to be decided by the highest courts in Great Britain. The Queen herself had to make the decision to send the case to the 7 judges of the Supreme Court based on a little used law called the “Judicial Act 1833.”

Here in the Daily Mail article, you can read the details of that case and also the potential case of Mormon lawyer James Ord. He “joked” that if  DNA evidence is ruled to be admissible evidence, he may be able to make a claim to the throne. It seems that George IV sired a bevy of illegitimate children (I’ll pause for the collective gasp) and Mr. Ord may be a distant cousin of one of those offspring, an American seaman.

The Royal Family has only been subjected to DNA testing once. The case of Richard III and the DNA results from that test could prove catastrophic to the current Royal line inasmuch as it would call into doubt the lineage of Henry VII who seized the throne from Richard.

Genealogists may want to subscribe to the Daily Mail to follow these stories.