I don’t update this blog very much, mainly because I don’t have a lot of time to work on family history, but I have some found time today, and I plan to do some updating on the family tree on this site. I continue to enjoy the fact that far-flung cousins find old posts on this site and interact. This blog probably has way more comments than any other site I administer, which speaks to the power of family bringing us all together.
I have been thinking for a while that I should share some updates. A lot has happened over the last six months. We all lost my grandmother Doris Thurman Cunningham last November. I was personally devastated by her loss as we were very close. I wrote her obituary and delivered her eulogy. Perhaps some time I will share the eulogy here. I have struggled with whether or not to make her family tree page public since she has passed, but ultimately, I don’t think I am ready yet. If you are a family member and create a login, however, it is accessible.
We lost my father’s brother, my Uncle David “Buck” Swier, Jr. last week. Here is his obituary. I am thinking a great deal of my Aunt Sandy and cousins Misty, Krista, and Nicole, as well as their children. I was not close to Buck and hadn’t seen him in many years, but he and my dad spoke via Skype, and my dad enjoyed these conversations.
I had to move web hosts since the last time I updated. I had a truly awful experience with my former host, Bluehost. They basically shut down my site because they alleged it was not optimized and was slowing other sites on the same server down. They offered to fix the issue for several hundred dollars. I was a customer of theirs for over ten years, and I don’t feel I was treated fairly. I moved to DreamHost, and I have been very happy with them. Much less down time for my sites, and no issues at all so far. In the process of migrating, I had to fix a few issues, but it’s entirely possible that some photographs didn’t link up properly, so if you find broken links or images, I apologize. It will likely be summer before I have the kind of time I would need to fix those issues.
As always, I invite family members to connect, and I love to read comments from people who find the research here useful. The family tree on this site is a slow work in progress, but if you find information you wish to contribute, please let me know.
My husband and I ordered kits from 23 and Me to compare with what we learned via the DNA kits from Ancestry.com. There are some things that the 23 and Me data share that Ancestry.com data do not—fun things like the extent of your Neanderthal background, and interesting things like what seems to be a more precise breakdown of your ancestry composition.
The picture above shows how my European DNA breaks down. It’s important to note that this is somewhat speculative. 23 and Me customers can change confidence levels to see a more conservative estimate. If I choose the most conservative setting, my results differ from those above quite a bit.
Here is my entire ancestry composition at 50% (Speculative):
And here is my ancestry composition at 90% (Conservative):
I understand that some users find there is not much to see if they look at the conservative estimate, but mine seems pretty clear. I am very European, though what kind is harder to tell with a more conservative estimate. I assume that is because I’m an American, and I imagine I have a lot of European lineages in my tree. I am pretty certain about German, Irish, English, and French because of my genealogy research.
The big surprise in the speculative view is a tiny percentage of Ashkenazi heritage. I can’t imagine where it came from, and I wonder how 23 and Me determined it was a possibility. Obviously, it’s not certain because it vanishes with a more conservative view. However, so does French and German, Southern European, and Scandinavian, and I know about the French and German in my background. Going back several hundred years, there is potential evidence of an Italian ancestor, but the stories about him are so wild, it’s hard to know what to think. I had long speculated he was Jewish and hiding that part of his identity. I actually thought he might be Sephardic. As far as I know, however, there are no Ashkenazi Jews in my tree, so that tiny percentage is a bit of a mystery to me.
My Ancestry.com test indicated a small amount of African DNA, but it wasn’t very specific, and in any case, it indicated North Africa, not Western Africa or Sub-Saharan Africa.
As you can see, even with the conservative ancestry composition estimate, my African DNA is higher than Ancestry.com estimated it was. I don’t deny the results, but I wonder why they are different. It’s the same DNA that was tested. I am also curious how Ancestry.com separates out Irish DNA when 23 and Me puts it together with English/British.
Both companies put my European heritage at about 98% or 99%, which does not surprise me. I’m curious as to how trace regions in the Middle East show up in the Ancestry.com test and not in 23 and Me. I wondered if that might be the Ashkenazi background because Ashkenazi Jews moved into Europe from the Middle East some time during Holy Roman Empire. I honestly don’t know enough about any of this to make even an educated guess.
What does seem fairly certain is that I do have some African DNA, though whether it is North African, as Ancestry.com thinks, or West African and Sub-Saharan African as 23 and Me thinks, I don’t know how to determine. I actually am excited to learn this information, and as you can probably imagine, it raises a lot of questions for me about my family tree and especially about brick walls.
One thing I was really excited to learn from 23 and Me was my maternal haplogroup, or mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) group.
Of course, this got me curious because this particular haplogroup is more common in Eastern Europe and also is believed to have emerged from the Caucasus. If you are interested in that kind of thing, it’s the same maternal haplogroup as Dr. Mehmet Oz (Henry Louis Gates discusses Dr. Oz’s haplogroup in his book, Faces of America).
Haplogroup H is quite common in Europe, so given my large percentage of European heritage, it’s not a surprise. I would love to be able to learn more about mtDNA haplogroups. I’m not really sure what this information really tells me at the moment, but it was, for some reason, information I really wanted to have.
Because I am a woman, I have no paternal haplogroups to look at. I would be extremely curious to know that information, but the chances of getting my father to take a DNA test are probably in the negative numbers. My paternal grandfather passed away about fifteen years ago. It is possible male cousins descending from my father’s brothers would be interested enough to try, but I don’t feel close enough to that side of my family to ask something like that. It seems like a big request—excuse me, can I please have some of your DNA so I can find out about our fathers’ paternal haplogroup? For that matter, I’d be curious about my father’s maternal haplogroup, as I inherited mtDNA from my mother and not him, so it is probably different.
One last result that was really surprising:
My husband had a very good time with that result, which was much higher than his own. I don’t really know what this means, aside from the fact that 23 and Me says I inherited one Neanderthal variant that is associated with less back hair. So I have that going for me, which is good.
With my husband’s permission, I will share his results here, as I know a lot of Huffs stop by looking for information about their families as well. One last fairly surprising result I wasn’t expecting—23 and Me allows you to compare your DNA to connections, and as it turns out, my husband and I are absolutely unrelated. We have 0 DNA segments in common. I kind of expected we shared maybe some small connection far, far in the distant past. It wouldn’t be that weird, given our families both lived in the South for generations, and it wouldn’t be inconceivable that we shared an ancestor. We might, but not within the last couple of hundred years, anyway. I used to joke with him that it was my mission to figure out how he and I were related, but it looks like I probably won’t figure that out.
For many years, I have had a brick wall on my father’s side of the family. My great-grandmother, born Gertrude Nettie Perkins, told her daughter in a letter written April 6, 1940:
I am English on my fathers [sic] side. His folks settled in Virginia shortly after the Revolutionary War and were English Quakers.
I had been unable to trace her father’s side of the family back any further than the small bit of information I had about his name. I had no idea who his parents were, and I couldn’t really find them on the census. I’ve been on spring break, so I’ve had a little bit of time to conduct family history research, and on a hunch, I did some digging into her father’s family once again. Ancestry.com appears to have added quite a few databases I haven’t had the occasion to use, so it makes sense that this information was harder to find in the past. I don’t have the luxury of spending tons of money to order documents or hire researchers, never mind traveling all over the country to research in libraries.
I tried using Ancestry.com’s search feature on my great-grandmother’s father, John E. Perkins. I had a match. After I did some digging around, I was certain I had the right person. His father declined to fight in the Civil War because he was a Quaker, and I found the family mentioned, finally, in Hector, Renville County, Minnesota, where I know my great-grandmother was born according to her own information. Unfortunately, the Perkins name had been misspelled “Perkis” on a census, but other evidence I found from books on the history of the area available online through Google Books confirmed it is Perkins and that I had at last broken down a brick wall.
John E. Perkins’s father was John B. Perkins, and he was born in North Carolina, rather than Virginia, but that was fairly close and fairly typical of the ways family stories often are partly true. Actually, when I do some more digging, I may indeed discover the family came to Virginia first. Tracing John B. Perkins back to North Carolina proved fairly easy because of the scrupulous records kept by the Quakers.
Sure enough, the lead from my great-grandmother that her family were Quakers proved to be a solid one, and it helped me determine I had the right family.
I am quite curious about John B. Perkins and his wife Deborah Outland. They had established a family in an old Quaker enclave in Wayne County, North Carolina. Based on the birthdates of their children, it’s possible to pinpoint their migration from North Carolina to Minnesota to 1852 or 1853. My ancestor, John E. Perkins is listed in census records as having been born in Minnesota in 1853, and his older brother William Samuel Perkins was born in Wayne County, North Carolina on 9 May 1852.
What made John B. Perkins and Deborah Outland pull up stakes and go to the Minnesota Territory? They clearly came from a close-knit community, and there would be no guarantee they would be able to continue to worship in the manner to which they were accustomed. What was the lure?
I discovered that John B. Perkins was something of a pioneer in the small town of Hector, Minnesota. He established a hotel there, and indeed, on the 1880 Census, he is listed as a hotel operator. The first school in Hector was taught in a room in the hotel above the kitchen, and the first church services were also held there. Reading about him in the various history books I could find online was absolutely like reading about characters from Little House on the Prairie.
Towards the end of his life, he headed west again to California, where he died in Brentwood in Contra Costa County. I am fairly certain he is the same John B. Perkins listed on several California Voter Registers I found because his name and birthplace match up. What made him decide to go clear across the country for a second time, this time, just about as far as he could go? I found him absolutely fascinating.
After I established the connection between John E. Perkins and his parents, using my great-grandmother’s clue to confirm what I had found, it was easy to fill in the rest going back fairly far. I have not yet input all of the information I’ve found to the family tree on this site, but look for it in the coming months.
On a related note, I have done quite a lot of updating to the family tree. Places are now geocoded so that you should see a map keyed up to events in the lives of individuals. I have also added sources to many of the facts—a time-consuming process that will take quite a long time to complete. However, it’s important to me to include verification for information. I have not added information I’m not sure about. There are a lot of errors in trees, especially when they go fairly far back. I want the tree on this site to reflect research, with accurate and reliable information.
I have done so many updates that it’s hard to list them all here, but in addition to adding sources, I have also added some portraits. Some of these portraits are from cousins on Ancestry. com, but Find a Grave has really exploded, and some users are quite generous in posting additional pictures they have of people on their Find a Grave memorials. A few years ago, it seemed I couldn’t find anyone, but now I can find most people in the last 200 years or so.
My husband and I have also both registered with and submitted DNA tests to 23 and Me. We had done Ancestry.com’s DNA test as well, but we had also grown frustrated by some of the limitations of that kit. Given how large and comprehensive 23 and Me is, I expect I’ll be posting here about results.
One other addition to the blog: I’ve made it easy for you to subscribe to updates via email. If you are family and don’t want to check for my sporadic (to put it generously) updates, please feel free to subscribe. The subscription area is in the sidebar to the right.
As I promised in my previous post, I will be sharing more about digital storytelling in a future post, but I wanted to share that I have found a family tree sitebuilder I’m excited about. My cousin Rick Zeutenhorst uses it on his site. I really liked the look of my cousin’s site, and based on his recommendation, I decided to get it for two reasons:
Having a site in the cloud will make it easier for me when I migrate. I know I can save gedcoms from software programs, and I have done so in the past, but I have also lost things in the transition, and I think this solution will work for me as well. I can back it up so that I always have a copy of my data, should losing data ever become a worry.
At this point, the only place I have my data is Ancestry.com, and there may come a day I don’t want to use the site anymore (right now, I’m happy with it, and I obtain tons of information quite easily that I would have to spend a great deal more money to obtain). It’s probably not a good idea to put all my genealogical eggs in one basket, though.
In addition to these two reasons, I also like the idea of having control. I have set living individuals to “private,” but collaborating family members can register for an account.
I opted to start building from scratch rather than using a gedcom because over time, I know errors have crept into my Ancestry tree, and untangling the errors seems to me to be a more daunting task, if you can believe it, than starting over. I also will be able to standardize conventions for dates and place names if I start over. Starting over allows me to be careful and cite sources for information as I work. I am a much more careful and thorough genealogist than I was when I started. I will admit it—I fell prey to the lure of looking for famous ancestors in my tree and often attached unproven connections that appeared uncited in other trees.
I know starting over is a lot of work, but it will prevent me from introducing errors and will allow me to go slowly. As such, the tree is a little spare at the moment. Rest assured I will be adding people, and if you have information to contribute, feel free to contact me.
Some things I really like about the sitebuilding software, which is called TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, are the ways in which photographs are handled and the “Most Wanted” feature. I have really only just begun to explore the possibilities. The site is easy to manage after a small learning curve. The most difficulty I had with it was my original upload didn’t work, so I had to re-upload it to my site. I happen to feel comfortable with managing the back-end of my site, but others’ mileage may vary on that score.
You can view the family tree by clicking this link or by clicking the permanent link in the menu at the top of the page.
Genealogists long ago adapted family stories and photographs as a means of sharing their family history, but I have not seen a great deal of digital storytelling in family history yet. Digital storytelling is a relatively new mode of storytelling. Depending on your level of expertise, you might want to take a class to learn how to do it. If you do, I can’t recommend the Center for Digital Storytelling more highly. I took one of their three-day courses for educators last summer in Denver. However, they offer workshops for people from all walks of life.
Because my grandparents are still living and actually live in the Denver area, I took the opportunity to interview them. I had most success capturing their voices with my computer, but if you have a good camera for taking video, you may choose to capture video instead. Even if you are not able to interview family members, you can still tell a digital story about them. Take a look at this guideline for writing good digital stories:
This presentation was created by Joe Lambert and follows the Center for Digital Storytelling’s elements of creating a good digital story.
The first step, Owning Your Insight, involves finding your story and deciding what story to tell. One important thing I learned is that somehow, even if you are telling someone else’s story, the story also needs to be about you. You need to bring insight and connection to the story you tell. It is easy to fall into the trap of telling an ancestor of family member’s story and taking yourself out of the equation, but your story will offer more to connect to if it is also about you. The facilitator in my workshop recognized this problem in my own digital story idea, and she challenged me to figure out “how is this story about you?” That is not to say you can’t tell the story of a family member or ancestor, but you want to identify why you want to tell their story. What do you connect to in their own story? Are you proud? Embarrassed? Consider your own insight and what it will bring to telling the story of your family. This video is a good example of what I’m talking about:
Holly McClelland was one of the facilitators in my workshop, and what she does in this story is really turn the focus on herself and her own feelings about her relationship with her father rather than discuss her father, whose story she can’t truly tell. You might not feel comfortable sharing these types of stories with an audience. It’s up to you to decide how personal to be.
Next, CDS recommends Owning Your Emotions. This part is tough. Family stories can sometimes be very personal, and you should only share what you feel comfortable sharing. Your feelings should come through in the story. Sometimes I find that I discover how I feel in the process of creating the story itself. Here is a video that I think is a great example of owning your emotions:
Daniel Weinshenker is the Rocky Mountain/Midwest Region Director at CDS.
Step three involves Finding the Moment. This is the part of the story you want to tell. It’s best to keep stories fairly short. In fact, my CDS workshop facilitator recommended five minutes or less. So you need to get to the essence right away. What is the moment of change? What is the turning point? That moment will determine what story you decide to tell. I like the way this story zeroes in on one moment:
The moment in this film, as I see it, is discovering that what was lost was found again in a discovery of old film.
Seeing Your Story involves selecting the images and video you want to use. Don’t necessarily put this step first, but it is okay to begin selecting images as you are thinking about the story you want to tell. You might find that the images suggest a story you want to tell. Images do not have to be your own, but you will want to use images that are either in the public domain or licensed by Creative Commons unless you want to pay to license copyrighted images. Here is an example of a video made with only a handful of images. The rest is public domain footage from Archive.org.
As Johnson explains, “95% of the images and footage is from archive.org. I have about 5 shots of my grandfather in there that are mine.” He adds, “I was experimenting with telling a personal story using footage that was ‘public’ and that was about the ‘larger, American immigrant’ story that seems part of our collective identity (or at least for many of us).”
Hearing Your Story is your opportunity to either use interviews or your own recorded narration to tell the story. As I said, we were advised to keep the story to five minutes or less. That’s between 300-500 words, and really should be on the lower end. Once you draft your script or storyboard, you will quickly discover it’s not very long. It will be important to zero in on one story. Remember, you can always make other digital stories to tell other parts of the story. The best digital stories clock in from two to five minutes or so. Five minutes is really on the longer end. They are snapshots of a moment in time rather than a full documentary. Some video-making software comes with sound effects and music, but you will probably find that you want to explore options for music. It’s important to be careful of copyright concerns when using music. I look for music that is Creative Commons licensed. The perfect piece of music will really pull your whole video together.
What strikes me most about this particular video is that the music is perfect and perfectly timed to go with the pictures and narrative. I find it to be a great example of the power of a simple but perfect piece of music to create a digital story.
When you begin Assembling Your Story, economy and pacing are important. You want the images and video clips to line up well with the narrative and music. You shouldn’t feel the need to fill up the entire space with words. Sometimes you can allow images and music to fill in and speak. “Lost and Found” by Susan Becker above is a well-paced story.
Your last consideration is Sharing Your Story. Who is the audience? How do you want to share it? There are lots of online video sites, such as YouTube and Vimeo. You can also create DVD’s and share the videos with loved ones who might want a copy.
I created these two videos based on interviews I did with my grandparents.
I used some images footage of the Seabees in World War II and some images taken of the Army’s 7th Division on Attu as well as censored letters, but aside from those pieces, the images all belong to my family.
I liked how this came out, but I wish I had done more with the music and practiced a bit more economy in the storytelling. My video with my grandmother integrated these two elements a little better.
I am very happy with how the music works, and I like the pacing. I found this story, even though it is my grandmother’s story, really has the personal connection, the “moment,” when my grandmother reveals she hasn’t been able to sew. She had just recovered from a serious illness, and she has since been able to sew a little bit. It’s sad to me to enjoy something so much and not be able to do it.
In my next post, I’ll discuss some of the more technical aspects, such as where to find images and music and how to record yourself. Because all software is different, I won’t post a tutorial as such, but should you decide to create a video, either taking a class or finding online tutorials for your specific video editing software will help.
I have not written in this blog for nearly three years, a time period that coincides precisely with my move from Georgia to Massachusetts to accept a new teaching position. It’s been busy, and I have had little time to devote to family research, but I am glad to be back, and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with family, fellow genealogists, and other readers. In the time that I myself have been fairly absent, the comments sections on individual blog posts have been quite active.
You might also notice things look a little different around here. I changed the look of the site. As such, some items might be in different places, and if you can’t find something you used to be able to find, please just let me know. I think everything is in place, but it’s entirely possible I missed something.
I’ve been working on indexing the 1940 Census a little bit in my free time, and I even managed to find my great-grandparents, my grandfather, and the rest of their family in Lockney, TX—mainly because I knew exactly where the family would be in the 1940 Census. I don’t know where the rest of my family was (for certain, anyway) in 1940. The project needs volunteers willing to transcribe certain information on the census images so that a searchable database can be created to help us all find our relatives in 1940, even if we aren’t sure where they were.
I was really interested to discover the education level attained by my family members, and I was really intrigued to see my great-grandfather was still working for the WPA in 1940 and that my great-uncle Alvin was a shoe shine boy and shop cleaner at a barber shop. No one mentioned that job before to me, so likely the family didn’t consider it significant.
By this time tomorrow, the 1940 Census will have been released. This is exciting news for genealogists who need data from that census to get past brick walls. Personally, I’m hopeful the 1940 Census will help me answer some of the following burning questions I have:
Do I have the right Frank Chatman or Chapman as my great-grandfather? I think I found him, but I’m not certain, and a later census with a bit more information could help.
What happened to my great-grandmother Gertrude Nettie Perkins? She is missing from the 1930 Census, or at least, I can’t find her, but I know she lived until 1971. The 1930 Census was taken during a time of turmoil in her life when many of her children were adopted into different families. I also want to find all of them.
What do my mother’s parents’ families look like in 1940?
I’m also intrigued to find out more about my husband’s families on the 1940 Census.
What are you looking forward to learning? By the way, until it’s indexed, you might find this infographic for how to search the census helpful.
My younger daughter is named Margaret for her grandmother, my husband’s mother. We call her Maggie. Her name means “pearl,” and there is a version of the name in almost any European culture you can think of. Right off the top of my head, I can name the French Marguerite, the Italian Margherita, the Spanish Margarita, the Welsh Marared, and the Scottish Marjorie. It is an old name, too, and may even have its origin in Sanskrit. At one time, it was a very popular name: It was the second most popular girls’ name in the early 1900’s. It is less common today, but if you look at the name’s statistics in Wolfram-Alpha, you notice it enjoyed a tiny uptick in popularity in the years prior to my daughter’s birth (around the time of the new millennium), which could explain why my daughter has encountered at least two other Maggies at school when we were sure she would likely be the only one.
What my husband and I didn’t realize when we gave our daughter this name was that it would connect her to a family tradition that dates back at least 300 years, possibly longer. The name is a thread that has run through my husband’s family since at least the early eighteenth century. After I learned this information, my daughter’s name became even more meaningful to me, and I am so glad we chose it.
My husband’s mother, the Margaret we named our daughter for, was likely named for her mother, Margaret Emma Ledbetter (1916-1995). Margaret Emma Ledbetter was the daughter of Clarence Ledbetter (1868-1935) and Rosanna Belle Beasley (1881-1946). The family was from Hickman County, Tennessee. Rosanna Beasley’s paternal grandmother was Margaret Etta Pugh Beasley (1827-1898). Here is a picture of her with her husband, Littleberry Beasley (1817-1895):
I also found a photograph of her headstone:
She is buried in Lyles, Hickman County, Tennessee. Her mother was Prudence Jane Nicks (1794-1887). Prudence was born in Guilford County, North Carolina and died in Hickman County, Tennessee. Her paternal grandmother, Margaret Doaks Nicks (1752-1798) is likely the inspiration for her daughter’s name, but Margaret Doaks Nicks’s mother-in-law was Margaret Edwards Nicks (1717-ca. 1756). She is the earliest Margaret I can find, but I have a hunch that if I could trace the line further back, I would find more Margarets. I like the idea of passing this name along. I hope that we will have more Margarets in the family, but this name has (unfortunately) fallen in popularity, and it may be that our Margaret and any descendants she might have might not feel as strongly about passing it on as I might wish.
Susanna Kearsley’s novel The Winter Sea is the story of writer Carolyn McClelland, who relocates to Cruden Bay in Scotland in order to get the feel of the location for the novel she is currently writing about the 1708 Jacobite uprising—one of the lesser known skirmishes of the Jacobite Rebellion. Carrie takes a cottage in the village near Slains Castle and becomes friendly with a local family, Jimmy Keith and his two sons Stuart and Graham. After her agent suggests she try telling her story from the point of view of a female character, since Carrie can’t seem to find a male character’s voice, Carrie decides on a whim to write one of her ancestors, Sophia Paterson McClelland, into the story. Suddenly she is writing faster than she’s ever written before, and when she discovers that many of the things she’s writing actually happened, even though she hadn’t consulted history books before she wrote, she begins to wonder if she is remembering her ancestor’s life. Meanwhile, both Keith brothers begin to show an interest in more than Carrie’s writing, but Carrie finds herself drawn to the one with eyes like the winter sea and begins modeling her hero, John Moray, after Graham, a history lecturer at the university in Aberdeen.
One of the reasons I liked this book was the genealogy thread that ran through it. Genealogy happens to be one of my own interests, and I can always sympathize with characters who find it interesting, too. Carrie’s discoveries about the lives of her ancestors fascinate her father, who is able to trace the family tree back one more generation due to Carrie’s insights as she writes. I expected to find myself more interested in Carrie’s novel, the part of the book that takes place in the past, because I have an absolute fascination for Scottish history. However, I found myself more drawn to the characters in the present—Jimmy, Graham, Stuart, Carrie’s agent Jane, and even Carrie herself. This book covers a topic that I myself have wondered about: is it even possible that memories can be passed down genetically? It seems far-fetched, but it works well in this novel. It’s a fun idea, anyway, and a nice alternative to some of the other paranormal tropes that have gained traction in recent years.
Kearsley is able to capture the past vividly in the sections of Carrie’s novel intertwined with the present-day story. She has included a historical note, and explained her painstaking attention to historical events as much as possible. I was surprised to discover that few of her characters were invented. It can sometimes be hard to make real historical people do what you want them to do when you’re writing about them, which is why, I think, that some writers of historical fiction prefer to use fictional characters.
The ending of the novel satisfies both the requirements of history and the requirements of historical romance. It’s a solid novel, and I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in Scotland or genealogy.