Tag Archives: genealogy

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 won’t ask THAT question again!

What follows are a few descriptions of discoveries I’ve made since I began my genealogical journey.

My father, Henry Dunn Robison (Find A Grave Memorial# 33567770), went into the Navy exactly 3 weeks after Pearl Harbor at the “insistence” of his maternal grandmother, Gilma Cecilia Robertson Dunn. She went so far as to have his birth record destroyed (there’s no record of his birth to this day!), falsify his age and ship him off at age 15!

My father and the previous 4 generations had lived in Alabama and Tennessee. As I discovered years later, my 4th great grandfather, Hezekiah Robertson/Robinson/Robison/Robrson (Find A Grave Memorial# 7048152), was a veteran or the War of 1812 having served with the East Tennessee Volunteers then settled in Limestone County, Alabama. There were a few Confederate ancestors who served in the “War of Northern  Aggression.” One of my 2nd great grandfathers died at the Rock Island Confederate POW camp in Rock Island, Illinois (Find A Grave Memorial# 5092694). During World War II,  while Henry was in the Caribbean, his mother divorced her husband and moved to Massachusetts.  As far as I can tell, this was the reason they wanted Henry out of the way. 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 knew my paternal my grandfather, Cecil Lee Robison (Find A Grave Memorial# 5092687), who remained and remarried in Alabama. I was only marginally aware of the fact that I even had a grandfather.  My father would make 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, Clement Alexis Dickson (Find A Grave Memorial# 11132523), 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 side of the dysfunctional Robison 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 NERGC, 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 to be filmed 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 (Find A Grave Memorial# 74484986) 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 already had nearly every document necessary. We used the documentation first for my daughter’s DAR application, then for my own SAR application. Success with both apps!

But wait! There’s more! In early 2016, I was giving a presentation on genealogy to the East Longmeadow (Massachusetts) Historical Society. It was a basic 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 walked our first guest. A delicate woman, a senior citizen, 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 don’t drive at night.” I offered her a ride home as I was sure there would be someone there 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 eye (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 her cousin asked if there was anything in the house she would want, she said she’d love to have the window from her bedroom but knew it was impossible. She had spent 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. The window is a real piece of art!

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 extensive 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 have a unique way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the 1620 Mayflower landing in 2020.

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

The City That William Pynchon Built

 

2017 NERGC Conference “Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past”

April 26th through 29th will be a busy one for 1,100 or so genealogists. Speakers, vendors, professionals, hobbyists and the curious will converge at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts! The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium’s  (NERGC) conference is a biennial event that is 2 years in the making and is produced in various cities throughout New England.

My role as a co-chair for this year’s event consists of a great many responsibilities including marketing. As a result, I’ve brought my retail experience to the table and helped as much as I could in getting the word out.  Some of the unusual opportunities included the MassMutual Center itself which, for example, sends an “events update” email to a 25,000 name database. That sounded like a pretty good audience to me so I signed up to have our event included with a special offer for those registering through that site. We offered a “coupon code” to those registrants to claim a small gift as a token of our appreciation.

We’ve been placing announcements on multiple Facebook pages, Google+ Communities, Twitter, Pinterest, press releases to newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, and announcements at a wide variety of genealogical societies around the country…wherever we thought we might find an audience who could be drawn to an event such as ours.

Since I participate in a number of genealogically oriented Google Hangouts every week, I always get a chance to talk about the conference to an audience that is literally worldwide. These short promotions are courtesy of the Hangout host who, most of the time, is Pat Richley-Erickson and her cousin, Russ Worthington who produce the “DearMYRTLE Hangout” series.

William Pynchon – Founder of the Agawam Plantation

Here’s my point….finally! Among other genealogical societies, the Central Massachusetts Genealogical Society asked me to assist them with 2 issues: First, get them started in the use of virtual meeting platforms to bring a wider variety of speakers to their membership; and second, give my presentation titled “The City That William Pynchon Built” at their April meeting in Gardner, Massachusett.  I broadcasted the presentation from home to a room full of CMGS members in Gardner.  This link will take you to the YouTube channel where you can hear a brief history of the City of Springfield where our NERGC conference will be held.

William Pynchon was an English businessman who invested in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and arrived here around 1630. He then struck out to explore the wilderness of what we know today as the Pioneer Valley and the area along the Connecticut River. Well, without going into too much detail, if you have any interest in NERGC or the host city, Springfield, take a look at the video and leave your comments.

And by the way, at the time of this blog, you can still register to attend the NERGC conference. There will be over 70 presenters from around the world with 135 programs and workshops. There will also be 75 vendors with an amazing array of genealogical products and services. There is no need to register to visit the Exhibitor Hall.

After the conference, I will be glad to post the highlights with pictures and stories.

A view of Springfield from across the Connecticut River in West Springfield.

 

 

 

Search to Failure

Wilbraham Public Library Session III

For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been providing guidance in family research, both on- and off-line. For quite a while, I’ve advocated particular strategies that I find effective. Last night I spontaneously described it as “search to failure.” It just rolled off my tongue. Here’s why I think it’s a good strategy and a good description.

Just a few years ago, most genealogical search engines offered dozens of fields to be filled in so that you could locate the records of your ancestors. Early in my own research, I felt it necessary to offer up as much information as possible. After all, the fields were there waiting to be filled, right? Just like a job application or a mortgage application, the questions were there for a reason. But what I soon learned…or maybe not to soon…was that less is more. And the websites seemed to finally agree with me. Today, you’re offered far fewer fields to fill which, in my opinion, is a good thing.Let me explain the strategy that I teach.

Linnie Otto Peace Robison (1880-1954)

First, Grandma may have said that her grandfather was born on such-and-such a date, always used the name “Thomas” (for example) and he always, as far as Grandma knew lived in a certain town. My response is this: Well, Grandma, we love you but we don’t necessarily believe you! New researchers will go to great lengths to use exactly that information without deviation. Contrary to the “job application” strategy, I demonstrate my “search to failure” strategy using the name “Smith.” That’s it, just “Smith.” And I never ask for an exact spelling. As a matter of fact, in Ancestry.com for example, I ask for “Sounds like,” “Similar,” and “Soundex” in order to get every possible permutation. That’s the only field I fill and I use “Smith” because I already know the dramatic results. Tonight, I got 146,696,564 results. That makes me happy. Why? Because I know I’m on the right track. Be patient, I’ll get the results down to a manageable number and in a very short amount of time.

Now, I’ll ask the audience to give me any first name. It doesn’t matter what they give me, but let’s say someone says “Michael.” My response is “Do you know if it’s really Michael? Or perhaps it’s Mike, or just M or what if Michael was his middle name because he didn’t like his first name. How can we be sure?” The answer, of course, is that we can’t be sure about anything at this stage. But let’s use Michael, making sure we also use “sounds like,” “similar,” and “initials.”

Now we’re down to “only” 4,102,786. That’s significant even at the volume of returns. It’s only about 3% of what our original search brought. I explain here, that “Michael” is a filter and the filter, in this example, worked. Or so we think at least! Now I add another filter and then another. In literally no time, our 146 million number can be reduced to 6 or 8 results. But I want to end up with NO results. “Search to failure.” Why? I want to make sure that I’m using the most efficient filters. That last filter that wiped out all my results is not the end of the search, it’s the first “failure” that will force me to eliminate that filter then go back and refine, refine, refine what I’ve done so far. The point is this: I’m starting out my fishing in a big pond. If my first search includes so many filters that my first at-bat gives me nothing, what have I gained. But if I start out with huge results then whittle them down with one filter at a time until there are no results, I can by-pass Grandma’s data (without telling her, of course!) and hopefully come up with enough results that through principle #1 of the GPS, a thoroughly exhaustive search, I can determine which of the results is the target ancestor.

My point is “search to failure,” then begin to massage the filters in order to “search to success.”

DNA Testing – But Which Test and Which Company?

Many people ask me about DNA testing. My first response is to try to determine why they want to test. Looking for cousins? Looking for medical information? Looking for ancestral origins? There’s actually a test for each a fact that surprises some people and may complicate the decision making process. Taking the wrong test can be a waste of time and money.  Some companies offer a wide variety of choices and others have a very simple offering.

So, where to start. The International Society of Genetic Genealogy has posted a highly informative grid of the 4 major testing companies, what each offers and how much their services cost.

Here’s the link: https://isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA_testing_comparison_chart

The information you find there should help just about anyone who is considering testing. It’s very easy to order the wrong test and ultimately cause frustration. Decide what your goals are first and then select an appropriate test from an appropriate company.

Good luck! Feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like more details. Use dave@oldbones.info. to reach me directly.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the upcoming New England Regional Genealogical Conference taking place in Springfield, Massachusetts starting April 26th and running until April 29th, 2017. Over 70 highly respected genealogists delivering 135 presentations, workshops, Ancestor Road Show, and an Exhibit Hall with approximately 75 vendors. The public is free to explore the Exhibit Hall while attendance to any of the programs requires registration.  Click here for dates, times, featured speakers, luncheons, banquets, historical tour of Springfield founded in 1636, a tour of the Museum of Springfield  History and Archives and about 1,000 fellow genealogists to rub elbows with. Featured speakers include Warren Bittner, a nationally acclaimed genealogist specializing in German research; Thomas MacEntee, another highly respected expert in multiple genealogical pursuits; and Kenyatta D Berry, co-host of the PBS program “Genealogy Road Show.”

NERGC? What’s a NERGC?

Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past

“Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past”

The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium produces a conference every other year. Each NERGC conference is held in a city somewhere in New England. Past conferences have been in Hartford, Connecticut, Manchester, New Hampshire, Providence, Rhode Island, and this year, Springfield, Massachusetts. The event will kick off on 26 April 2017 with a specialty day devoted to Librarians, Professionals, Genealogical Society Management and Technology. During the following three days, you’ll have a chance to hear and learn from 70 genealogists of every level and in every aspect of genealogy and genealogical research. NERGC organizers have devoted quite a bit of time and space to DNA, a “hot topic” in today’s genealogy world.

The MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield is the venue. Hotel accommodations are available within a block. Other than presentations, this year’s conference includes several workshops, banquets and a “private” tour of the archives at the Museum of Springfield History.

Our opening speaker is Mary Tedesco, a co-host of the PBS program, Genealogy Road Show. Speaking several times during the conference are 3 featured speakers, Thomas MacEntee, Warren Bittner and a third, another co-host of Genealogy Road Show, Kenyatta D Berry.

NERGC is supported by 23 genealogical from societies around New England, all of whom will be represented at the event. Volunteers from each will be busy making sure your experience is optimal. Stop and visit each of them in the Exhibit Hall and perhaps you can meet with a society near where you live.

Also in the Exhibit Hall, you’ll see a wide variety of vendors of genealogy products: Books, CD’s, old maps, clothing, and other genealogy-oriented products. Scheduled are genealogy companies such as Ancestry.com, Evidentia Software, FindMyPast and Geni.com to name a few.NERGC is worth a look! If you can’t make Springfield this year, the 2019 conference is scheduled for a return trip to Manchester, New Hampshire.

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!

 

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 page with the PDF is here. Scroll down a bit to find the link to the “Facebook for Canadian Genealogy which was last updated June 2016. She doesn’t list the FB links by number, but there are 26 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

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 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!

 

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
 
  100 Million Travel Records: Trace your English, Irish and Australian ancestors in our migration records and passenger lists.
 
  3 Million England & Wales Crime Records: The largest online collection of UK crime & punishment records (1779-1936)
 
  13 Million British & Irish Newspapers: The largest online collection of searchable historic British and Irish newspapers
 
  65 Million World Military Records: The most comprehensive online Naval collection, Royal Air Force collection and British Army service records

 

What about my Mocavo family tree?

If you have a tree, we’ll be migrating it over to Findmypast and sending you a link for where you can access it shortly. But, if you can’t wait, you can always export your GEDCOM file now. Just read the instructions below to find out how.

  Click on the “Family Trees” tab at the top of the Mocavo homepage and select “My Trees” from the dropdown list.
 
  On the page called “Settings & Preferences“, click “Export” next to the tree(s) you wish to back up.
 
  Click the “EXPORT GEDCOM” button to download your tree. This will be emailed to you – keep it safe and we’ll be in touch with instructions on how to import it to FMP once your account has been migrated.

 

Export tree

 

 

 

 

  Get in touch

You can contact our customer service team with any questions by email at support@findmypast.com

From,
The Mocavo & Findmypast team