Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation

I took some time this Martin Luther King weekend to read  The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation,  a book about a family's life in slavery and as they moved to freedom.  I was particularly interested in this book because the plantation was located in Robertson County, Tennessee. My mother-in-law (Grandma Ginger) was born not far from this plantation.  Other family members lived in close proximity during and after the slavery period.

As a genealogist and a historian, I found myself turning to the end notes to check the author's sources.  I was very interested in his research style and source analysis.  The author was fortunate to have wonderful plantation records to work with. The Washington family records are housed at the Tennessee State Archives in Nashville.  One outstanding piece of research was his discovery that the slave schedule pages of the 1860 census were jumbled.  When he corrected the paging, the Washington family slaves were enumerated as he expected to find them. Slave schedules only list numbers and ages of slaves--no names. And, most slave schedules list slaves by owner and then chronological ages. This schedule grouped the slaves into families.  Only ages were listed, but the author knew the family groups and their ages and could reconstruct the families. I have found this same problem of missing pages with other families on the general population schedules.  One McBride child went unnoticed until Uncle Richard found "Dorky" was separated from the family when the pages were digitized.

Again, as a historian, I have to see slavery as a part of a troubled Southern history.  These are my people, not by birth, but by love and appreciation as I research and tell their stories.  The slaves, the masters, the freemen and women of color, the poor whites--they are all my people, literally and figuratively.  I cannot tell one story without the other.

Georgia Ann Collins ( A Hatfield cousin. Her parents and all four grandparents were listed as black, mulatto and white in different census records)

So, I see a white 2nd great aunt who married a mulatto man. She became mulatto along with him after the marriage.  Most of the family eventually passed to the "white side" after 30 years of moving and race changes in nearly every census.  I see a 4th great-grandfather selling little black children.  It was a  hard moment finding that record among all the wonderful heroic things he did in his life. Perhaps if my sins were written so clearly in black and white my posterity would find my story difficult to tell.  I see poor white great-grandparents living side-by-side with their black neighbors.  I have a feeling they knew how to get along and be neighbors.

This Martin Luther King Day has caused me a lot of reflection.  Because I believe that people continue to grow and change even after their death, my hope is that we can all sit down together in heaven--families of many colors united in love, appreciation and forgiveness.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Drury Puckett(1733): What Would He Think of Social Media?

Another segment in my learning about libraries and my web experience:

Although I have not read the book, Dave Weinberger's Everything is Miscellaneous I can comment on Weinberger's interview done about the time his book was released in 2007. His thoughts were that the web is more liberated and community oriented because of the new ways technology allows users to participate in the web. Since this interview, Facebook, Twitter and other social media have proven this idea to be true. The Web allows users to talk in their own voice; and, using that voice is becoming easier and easier as technology improves. Also users have a sense of ownership which is not allowed in the real world. They can write, publish and develop in their own world of "leaders" and "followers" without the restraints of the real world (meaning money, advertising, publishers, etc).

We now have a huge miscellaneous pile of information which can be used by web users in the ways they uniquely find best. According to Weinberger, instead of telling users how to use information, libraries need to find ways to help the user find their information and use it in their own way. And, as Web material continues to grow exponentially, information will be be best categorized by the social group which defines it-meaning, who are the followers? why is it important to them?

I see this as the premise of FamilySearch's Family Tree. The goal is to help the user source the Tree with the documents which they find and tag (or define). The FamilySearch Wiki aids the user in finding the documents. FamilySearch provides the technology which allows the user to build their own Family Tree, to collaborate with their own relatives, and work together sourcing that Tree with the documents they feel are most pertinent to their own Tree.

I experienced this as I used WeRelate for the first time this past week. WeRelate is a wiki-type family tree. I found an ancestor I have research extensively, Drury Puckett, on WeRelate. This site had some court information which I had never seen, and which I hope can lead to information about Drury's wife. In turn, I had marriage information which was not found on the tree. I added my marriage information but did not source it. Within a couple of hours, I heard from someone who requested that I add a source for the marriage. What great monitoring of the site! My small piece of information in the huge pile was categorized and defined as integral to Drury Puckett's life story. Social media helped me to take the extra step to see that it was carefully and completely defined with a strong source statement. It works!



The picture is of the Clinch River in Washington County Virginia near where Drury's property was located in 1790. Drury is Jim's 5th Great-Grandfather.

Friday, February 10, 2012

LibraryThing: Albion's Seed

Today is a busy blogging day. I learned about LibraryThing and GoodReads. I chose to subscribe to LibraryThing. I've shared a few of my favorite books. In the future, I will add some of my "wish list" books. I like that LibraryThing can help me set some reading goals and also help me find some good books to look for.

Among the books I listed, my favorite is Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer. It took me about 2 years to completely read it. Albion is the ancient name for Great Britain. The seed are the many emigrants who left Great Britain and settled the world. The author's premise is that the emigrants had very specific cultural differences which they brought with them. These cultural differences explain many of our regional differences in the United States. He goes so far as to claim that the seeds of the U.S. Civil War were planted before the American Revolution ever began.

Great read. Just be patient. I had to put it down several times and pick it up again before I finished it.

Keep the Social Security Death Index Open

Utah State Archives and Records Service; Salt Lake City, Utah; Military Service Cards, ca. 1898-1975; Creating Agency: Department of Administrative Services, Division of Archives and Records Service; Series: 85268; Reel: 111.




Everyone is concerned about privacy laws. Some new legislation looks to restrict public access to the Social Security Death Index. This index is a great help to genealogists. I especially use it to locate deceased family members who have moved to an unknown location.

A petition is available through the White House website where you can electronically sign and request that the current index remain open to the public. The petition asks that the Social Security info be blocked in a safer and different way than restricting public access to the index. It takes just a few minutes to set up an account and sign the petition. Pass this on and help keep this important tool open to everyone. We need about 20,000 signatures before the end of February 2012.

Just this last week I found two Wammack cousins through the Social Security Death Index. I knew from the 1930 census that Charles Roy and James Troy were twins, born in early 1930. The family was in Dickens County, Texas. Some of our Wammack family is unusual in that the name is spelled Wammack, not Womack. There in the Social Security Death Index was Charles R. Wammack born 28 Jan 1930, and who died in 1992 in Central Point, Jackson, Oregon. I also learned that Charles had lived in Nevada at one point, and that he was a U.S. Veteran. He served in Korea and is now buried at the Eagle Point National Cemetery in Oregon. Without the Social Security Death Index, I probably could not have linked Charles to these other records.

Because I knew James was Charles' twin, I looked for another person born on that date and I found a James T. Wammack living in Georgia and Alabama who was born 28 Jan 1930. He is not showing on the SS Death Index, so he is possibly still living. A surprise is that a James Troy Wammack served in the Army in 1948 and his mother was living in Brigham City, Utah (not far from my home, see the image above). This family which was formerly lost after the 1930 Census, is beginning to take shape. All of this family's story is built on the foundation the Social Security Death Index built.

Please take a moment to sign the petition. Please pass this link on to anyone you think might take the time to sign also. http://wh.gov/khE

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Library Learners Pay It Forward

Well...Lots of reasons why I haven't been posting, but I found new reasons why I want to post.

First, I've been taking from 2.0 technology for a long time. It's time I do some giving back. In 2011 I was hired full time by the Family History Library in Salt Lake. Its been great for my personal growth to focus full-time on a field I once followed only as a hobby. As a professional, and just as user, its time that I give back others. This blog seems like good place to start.

Second, I read on Steven's Lighthouse that libraries don't hire the learned, they hire "learners". For a long time I looked at the genealogists here at the FHL as the "learned experts", and they really are. But, what I have come to realize is that they are great "learners". Whenever an opportunity presents itself, the staff is right there ready to learn whatever they can to improve their own research or teaching skills. They thrive on passing this learning on to the library patrons wherever they are found--here in the library, at conferences, and online in the FamilySearch Wiki.

So, I'm ready to do the same. I'll pass on the things I learn in my day-to-day work. I'll pass on the skills I learn as I do my own research. These things are important to me as I progress as a library "learner". Here's to those in the genealogical world who are willing to do the same.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Lowe Cemetery, Rutherford, Tennessee Calvin C. Lowe and Lucinda

For a slightly better look at this tombstone see FindaGrave. There is an error on FindaGrave. Lucy was not a Jacobs. Calvin Lowe married first Elizabeth Kelton who died in 1863. He then married Elizabeth Jacobs who died about 1890. He married Lucinda (Lucy) Elizabeth Pearcy Elam the 20 May 1891 in Rutherford County. She is pictured with him and found with him in the 1900 Census, Rutherford, Tennessee. This tombstone (1903)could not be Elizabeth Jacobs because of the documented marriage date for Calvin and Lucinda in 1891.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A New Beginning

This is my first attempt at blogging. I hope to keep a log of my "aha" moments in family history research to share with my colleagues and family. The reality is that I need this journal so that I can remember my own "aha" moments!



Just a week ago, I revisted a letter I received from a possible distant cousin on our Elam line. He stated that his great aunt Neva Elam named her grandmother as "...Mary Lue or Lucindia...grandma Elam was a Piercey. She married a Low or Lowe after grandpa Elam died."



I located a Lucy Lowe in 1900 in Rutherford County Tennessee. A Lowe family history in the Rutherford County, Tennessee: History and Families (Paducah Kentucky, 2002), states that C.C. Lowe married Lucy Elam, a widow with three children. This profile perfectly fits our grandmother Lucinda E. Piercy Elam.

When I located Lucy and C. C. Lowe's headstones on findagrave.com, and the birth year on the tombstone was the same year we found in the 1850 census for our granmother Lucinda, I felt we had finally found what happened our Lucinda after Eli Elam died.