Welcome to Michelle Ganus Taggart of A Southern Sleuth! I am so excited to have Michelle as a guest blogger today. I know you will enjoy her post as much as I did.
I can picture her now, Grandma sitting in her big comfy rocker beside the old black stove. Framed pictures of our ancestors lined the walls above the nearby dining room table. Grandma loved genealogy and we all knew it. A master storyteller, she eagerly shared the stories of our ancestors and we learned to love them.
Years later I began my own genealogical research and, as I did, I found myself seeing stories of my ancestors’ lives unfold through the research. Like Grandma, I research, fill in the pedigree charts, and then go one step further and write the stories. I then share them with my kids, grandkids and extended family in a way that hopefully helps them relate to and know their ancestors.
As I have written my ancestor’s stories, I have learned a lot, including the following:
SOCIAL HISTORY MATTERS
An important element in writing the stories is learning about the time period and location of our ancestors. Only then can we begin to understand them and some of the whys of what they did. Frequently as I learn about the social history of the area, I learn about additional records to search and am able to extend what I know. Where to find social histories is a subject requiring more space than I have here, but a good place to start is Google Books , Family History Books on FamilySearch and I love using the search engine Genealogy Gophers ,which searches online genealogy books.
BRANCH OUT WITH YOUR RESEARCH
We know everything is not online, but even with the vast amount of online options, it is easy to become so accustomed to searching the “big boys,” such as Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast etc., that we neglect other lesser known websites. But often those smaller sites have unique finds worth looking for.
Most recently I have found great additions to my ancestors’ stories through “other” online sources. The Chattanooga Public Library for instance has an online obituary index and for a small fee they will mail a copy of the obitutary. On Demand Court Records in Oklahoma has an index for public court records for events such as divorces, marriages, and estates, some as early as the 1890′s. Gateway to Oklahoma History has a variety of collections in addition to newspapers from pre-statehood to 1923, much of which is not found elsewhere. Georgia’s Virtual Vault has some wonderful, unique online records. Searching out these gems is worth the effort!
REACH OUT TO THE LIVING
As much as we want blogs to serve as “cousin bait,” sometimes we have to go looking for cousins. Facebook groups, Ancestry Trees and message boards are good places to start. Surname Facebook groups have been a great source for family photos and stories. One of my most successful groups began with the 5 extended family members I was aware of and has quickly grown to over forty. And lest you think Facebook is only for the young, one group is comprised of several 80 year olds whose knowledge of the family has been a huge asset. If there isn’t a group for your family, then create one!
Ancestry trees and message boards can also be a good way to gather additional information about ancestors, especially when we take the time to contact individuals and ask if they know more or know who does.
SEEK OUT THE OLDER GENERATION
Although there are many avenues for finding living on the internet, it’s important to remember not everyone is on the internet and often those are the exact people we need to contact. Many of the older generation are not online and must be contacted through the old fashioned methods of snail mail or phone calls. In response to letters I have written, I received a three ring binder full of stories, recipes and photos, individual stories and pictures, scans of bible records and more.
GIVE BEFORE TAKE
With the increase in identity theft, I prefer to contact people by email or snail mail for the first time. In that initial contact, I always express my sincere happiness in connecting with an extended family member. I like to send them information so they see that I am willing to share. For online finds, I send a link to a story on my blog pertaining to a common ancestor. If they are not online, I print off a few stories to send and, in either case, I include a pedigree chart showing how we are related. I have had a lot of success doing this and received priceless photos and information that has helped me to write my ancestors’ stories.
Story telling touches hearts, attracts unknown cousins and strengthens family relationships. As I find stories of courage, strength and determination, I remind myself that I am from “hearty stock” and that I too can face difficult situations. In addition, writing the stories has helped me to be a better researcher by exposing any holes in my research, where inconsistencies exist and where further research is needed.
Although I have loved many of my ancestors from the time my Grandma introduced them to me long ago, finding additional ancestors and writing their stories has served to further draw my heart to family, has taught me fundamental lessons about life and provided yet one more connection to my Grandma.
Michelle Ganus Taggart has been actively researching her Southern ancestry for over 20 years and loves sharing her research and stories on her blog, A Southern Sleuth. Michelle provides one-on-one instruction to those wanting to learn how to research, is a member of numerous Genealogical Societies and interviews other bloggers as part of the “May I Introduce to You” Team at GeneaBloggers.
You may notice Tuesday’s Genealogy Tips looks a little different today. There is no video today, but don’t worry, the videos will return next week!
On with today’s tip…..
You can increase your genealogy knowledge and research skills by watching genealogy videos on Youtube and other sources.
Time and money do not allow me to attend all the conferences I would like. That does not mean I cannot continue to learn from others in the genealogy field. I have listed out some of the great online sources for genealogy videos. Explore the list start learning!
Slavery was a difficult time period in history and continues to evoke strong feelings. Tracing African American genealogy can be difficult both in the research itself and the emotions it evokes. Still, their stories are important. UNCG’s Digital Library of American Slavery is a great resource for African American researchers.
Let’s take a look at the types of information you can find in a runaway slave advertisement.
Was your ancestor a professional sports player? Whether at the minor or major level, sports capture our hearts. For the genealogist, sports provide opportunities to document our ancestors as well as opportunities to find images of our ancestors. Baseball cards, anyone?
Owen Elliott was the son of Elie Elliott and Nora King. Born in 1913 in Mecklenburg Count, VA, Owen played professional baseball from 1935-1938. For most of that time, he was a pitcher for the Richmond Colts. Known as Ace, Owen played for William and Mary before moving up to the Richmond team in 1935. The Richmond Colts were affiliated with the Philadelphia A’s and later the New York Giants.
So how does this help you as a genealogist?
Your ancestor becomes more easily found in the a variety of new-to-you records.
The most common question I receive regarding old family photographs is how to date them. I’ve asked this in the past as well. After all, dating a photograph is the first step in being able to identify the individual(s).
These are some of my favorite and “go-to” resources for dating photographs.
Top 10 Resources to Help Date Your Old Photographs
Are you trying to get more photographs in your collection identified? I found getting those unidentified photos in front of family as often as possible to be helpful! Photographs are memory joggers. It can take more than one look to recognize or remember a photograph. Continue reading →
Join me for an exciting 7 Day Challenge to identify those unidentified ancestors in those photographs we inherited!
7 Days……1 Focus
Do you have a photograph(s) of a “family member” you cannot identify? Are you unsure of how to start the process of putting a name to the face?
I certainly do! I inherited boxes (literally) of family photographs many of which are unidentified. The older photos from the 1800′s and early 1900′s almost all were not identified. What’s more, no one living could identify the individuals in the photographs.
One of my goals became to identify all of the unknown photographs in our family’s collection. I felt a little overwhelmed and completely unqualified to even attempt identifying these individuals. But….I’m a researcher!
I spent many hours researching and pouring over my family’s unknown photographs. I learned strategies and a system that worked for me. Ultimately, I was successful in identifying many of my photographs. I continue to work on the still unknown photographs in my collection.
Meet Edward (top) and Cam (bottom) Barnett of Halifax County, VA
Let’s work on identifying our photographs together. I’ll take the challenge right along with you! Even if we do not conclusively identify a photograph, we will learn more about it, increasing our chances in the future to identify it.
Overview of the Challenge
The goal of our challenge is to positively identify the individual(s) in your photograph. Of course, success is not guaranteed, but you will learn more about your photograph and the individuals in it, increasing your chances.
A daily email with instruction on an effective strategy for dating and identifying your photo.
A daily task related to that day’s strategy.
Worksheets for each day’s activity.
Exclusive Facebook group to chat and share with other challenge participants.
Just for you – An Exclusive Facebook Group
Come chat with other challenge participants in the exclusive Facebook Group just for you! This is a great place to ask your questions and share you successes!