Technology and the Search for Family

Today I spoke at the New Canaan library about the myriad of technologies that exist to make our lives easier as genealogists.  Technology has changed the way we do our research, how we organize, preserve, and share it.  Technology allows us to learn from home and collaborate with others easily -- and now, with DNA, it has brought an entirely new class of evidence into our tool box. It’s certainly an exciting time to be working on your family history!

Organizing your research

Researching more efficiently

Google is a powerful tool for genealogical research!  Use search operators to focus your online searches and increase the number of relevant hits.  See Google’s help page:

Here’s an article that explains it in more detail, from Family History Daily:

Set Google search alerts for subjects you are interested in:

Read digitized newspapers and books that contain details about your ancestors’ lives:









Google also helps you understand material published in other languages:


Images – search and management

Google image search can help you identify your old photos, especially if they include landmarks.  If you are lucky, you might be able to find out if your old family photos appear anywhere else on the web, possibly discovering other descendants.


Facial recognition




Age determination



Photo and document scanning apps






Image capture and annotation software

·       Screen capture (on a Mac): command+ shift +4

·       Snagit (purchase):

·       Jing (free):


Photo archives



Handwriting recognition

Once OCR technology can be used to search handwritten material, finding our ancestors in all the documents they appear in will be as easy as finding them in printed media.  ArgusSearch is a German company that is working on this problem, and was the second-place winner in the 2015 RootsTech innovator challenge.  Watch this space for future developments!

If you are interested in the evolution of OCR technology, here is an interesting 2004 article by Eugene Borovikov, entitled “A survey of modern optical character recognition techniques:”

Adding social and historical context













Crowdsourced data










YouTube videos


Find interesting blogs by Googling your area of interest + blog, or checking the blog lists published on:



Podcasts – check Cyndi’s list for updated show lists, and subscribe on Apple Itunes or Google Play.

Online courses





Specialized groups


· (hashtag #genchat)


Sharing your research

Create your own blog




Create an online family timeline/story





·  (family medical history)







You can find some great articles for learning about DNA and how it can be used for genealogy at the International Society for Genetic Genealogy’s wiki:'_guides_to_genetic_genealogy

Top DNA blogs

·      The Genetic Genealogist:

·      DNAeXplained –Genetic Genealogy

·       Your Genetic Genealogist

·      Segmentology:

·      Kitty Cooper’s Blog

·      List of genealogy blogs:

DNA testing companies





Revolutionary Relatives

Today I gave a talk on “Revolutionary Relatives” at the New Canaan Library.  It was an entry level exploration of the resources available to research Revolutionary War ancestors.  The emphasis was on free or nearly-free websites that are widely available to most researchers. 

The collections on Ancestry are the best place to start to look for your Revolutionary War ancestors.  Ancestry is a subscription site, but most people have access through their local library.  We reviewed how to access specific collections by using the Card Catalog and the keyword "Revolutionary War," as opposed to just entering a name in Ancestry's main search engine. 

Heritage Quest is another subscription site that offers Revolutionary War pension records (as well as census records and digital books), and it is free for use at home with a Connecticut library card (access via

The FamilySearch wiki ( is a great place to go to search for more detailed information on the subjects we covered today -- or any other genealogical question for that matter.


“U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783” – Muster rolls, payrolls, etc. for Continental forces (excludes militias unless they were under the control of the Continental army for some reason).  Data from War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Record Group 93; National Archives, Washington. D.C., microfilm publication M246.


U.S. Compiled Revolutionary War Military Service Records, 1775-1783” – Individual service records, data from the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, RG 93; National Archives, Washington, D.C., includes microfilm publication M880, Naval Personnel and Members of the Departments of Quartermaster General and the Commissary General of Military Stores, and M881, Soldiers who served in the Continental Army.


“U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900” – Some 80,000 disability, service, widow’s, and rejected pension application files from the records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15. National Archives, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M804.


“U.S. Revolutionary War Pensioners 1801-1815, 1818-1872” -- Treasury Department pension payment records. The original data comes from two different sources at the National Archives, Washington, D.C: Ledgers of Payments, 1818-1872, to U.S. Pensioners Under Acts of 1818 Through 1858 From Records of the Office of the Third Auditor of the Treasury, 1818-1872. NARA RG 217, Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, 1775-1978, microfilm publication T718, and Pension Payment Roll of Veterans of the Revolutionary War and the Regular Army and Navy, 3/1801 - 9/1815. NARA RG 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773–2007, microform publication M1786.


“U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970” – National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution membership applications approved between 1889 and 31 December 1970.  Each application contains multiple pages, so it is useful to scroll through the entire document.


2.      American Archives (Peter Force)


This collection was assembled in the early nineteenth century by Peter Force, an antiquarian and printer, who later became the mayor of Washington DC. (It is completely distinct from Internet Archive, which is a website that collects of out-of-copyright books on all subjects.)

Force’s collection includes proceedings of the colonial legislatures, as well as newspaper articles, documents, and broadsides from the Revolutionary era, much of which is not available any other place. The Northern Illinois University has transcribed the material and put it on their website, and it is every-word searchable. This is especially useful as a way to find your ancestor’s signature on a petition, or his service as a member of a patriotic committee.


3.      Digitized books


Books that were published before 1923 are in the public domain and many have been digitized.  The primary websites to use are Internet Archive, Hathi Trust, and Google Books.  (, This is where you go to put the flesh on the bones, and find the stories of your ancestor's lives.  The list below is just a sense of what is available:


·       Individual states’ published military archives (especially useful for information on militia service)

·       Genealogies and memoirs

·       Proceedings of fraternal or historical organizations

·       County and town histories

·       State laws

·       Law journals and historical periodicals

·       NARA microfilms

·       Vital Records indexes the group “Reclaim the Records” have won in FOIA lawsuits


4.    National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution  

The DAR’s genealogical research system database: ( includes the current list of approved patriots and their descendants, as well as a catalog of bible records and other data collected by DAR members.  Copies may be ordered from the DAR library.  Instructions on how to do this are on the website.  

5.  Digitized newspapers

These are freely available for many states from 1789 through 1922 at the Library of Congress' Chronicling America website (  Sometimes your area of interest may have a local digitization project that has not been included in the larger online collections.  In this case, check for the latest updates at the Ancestor Hunter blog, which focuses on tracking newspaper digitization projects around the country (  

Of course the subscription sites Genealogy Bank and Newspapers will also have useful information.  If you are thinking about subscribing, always check their coverage maps ahead of time, to be sure they offer newspapers in the locality you are researching. ( and



Getting Started--New York and New England Genealogy

New Canaan (CT) Public Library

Fall genealogy series, 8 October 2016

Today I spoke at the New Canaan library, focusing on easily accessible, mostly online, sources for discovering details about your New York and New England ancestors. As different as these two regions are both in their history and record-keeping practices, it is important to consider them together because their borders have always been fluid, and most of us living in the northeast have ancestors in both areas.  As promised, here are some of the most useful websites we discussed today. – free to use at the New Canaan library.  Access your state’s collections through the card catalog rather than the main search engine. – Heritage Quest, Census records, Hartford Courant (1764-1922)

(Free to use for holders of CT public library cards)


New York Collections on

Highlights include:

·      New York, various county marriages, 1847-1848; 1908-1936 (indexed)

·      NYC birth, marriage, death indexes; 1890 police census

·      New York, county probate records (not indexed)

·      New York, county land records (not indexed)


Connecticut Collections on

Highlights include:

·      CT marriages, 1640-1939 (index)

·      CT, district court naturalizations (index only)


Massachusetts Collections on

Highlights include:

·      MA, town birth, marriage, death records (indexed)

·      MA state census, 1855, 1865 (indexed)

·      MA, county land records (not indexed)

·      MA, probate files for Plymouth and Worcester county (not indexed)


Vermont Collections on

Highlights include:

·      VT state vital records (indexed)

·      VT, town records (indexed)

·      VT, land records, 1850-1900 (not indexed)

·      VT, probate files for limited number of probate districts (not indexed)


New Hampshire Collections on

Highlights include:

·      NH, town birth, marriage, death records (indexed; limited years)

·      NH, some county naturalization records (not indexed)

·      NH, county probate files (not indexed)


Maine Collections on

Highlights include:

·      ME, county births, marriages, deaths (indexed)

·      ME, cemetery transcriptions (indexed)

·      ME, probate records for a limited number of counties (not indexed)

·      ME, land records for a limited number of counties (not indexed)

·      ME, some county naturalization records (not indexed)


Rhode Island Collections on

Highlights include:

·      RI state census 1885, 1905, 1915, 1925, 1935 (indexed)

·      RI town clerk records (limited coverage; indexed)

·      RI some county naturalization records (not indexed)



Congregational Church archives --


Digitized Books -- consolidated Library catalog


Genealogical Societies -- New England Historic Genealogical Society -- New York Genealogical and Biographical Society


Maps -- The interactive version of the Newberry Library’s atlas of historical county boundaries is currently unavailable, but you can download a .kmz file for your state to use with Google Earth or Google maps.

www.digitalcollections.nypl -- Search on keyword “maps,” also “New York City Directories,” etc.





State Archives -- Digital Collections

MA-- State Archives volumes (18) searchable index:

MA--Passenger Manifest indexes (1848-1891)

MA--vital records index search:

CT – colony of Connecticut public records

CT – State Library digital collections


Tombstones and Cemetery Research


Spears Bible Revealed

Some time ago, I wrote about finding pages from an original Bible that corroborates information floating on the internet about the Spears family of Hawkins County, Tennessee.  Now, two years later, my distant cousin James Spears -- the tireless researcher who tracked down the Bible in the first place -- has received permission from the owner of the Bible pages to publish them on my blog.  The original Bible itself is long gone, along with publication information that could help date the entries, but what remains are several pages torn from the family record section, and preserved in the family of Mrs. Helen Crigger.  

According to the story in Mrs. Crigger's family, the Bible originally belonged to Mary Elizabeth Amis, the second wife of Lazarus Spears.  The handwriting is consistent across the pages, with the exception of the last two entries on the "Deaths" page.  Although the handwriting is mostly the same, the fact that the ink shows little variation throughout the document suggests that Mary Elizabeth wrote most of these entries at one time from memory, and not as the events occurred.


I.  Births

Lazarus Spears was born September 27th 1781

Elizabeth M. Amis was born December 17th 1812

Sarah E. Spears Daughter of L. & E.M. Spears was born April 17th 1834

Nancy A. Spears Daughter of L. & E.M. Spears was born December 22nd 1837

Martha Jane Spears Daughter &c was born September 25th 1842

Lucy Alice Spears Daughter &c was born April 30th 1840

Mary Francis Spears Daughter &c was born July 25th 1844

Matilda A. Spears Daughter was born May 29th 1848

Samuel Spears son of Lazarus and E.M. Spears was born January 15th 1835

Decst December 15th 1836

Oscar Dewit Charles son of J.W. & L.A. Charles born April 10th 1859

births, continued

II.  Births

Mary E. Sensabaugh daughter of R. M. & S. E. Sensabaugh was born Jan     1854.

Theodore Christian Sensabaugh son of R.M. & S.E. Sensabaugh was born July 4th 1857.

Margaret Jane Sensabaugh daughter of R.M & S.E. Sensabaugh was born April 9th 1851 [date smudged]

Joann Alice Seabolt daughter of G.W. & N.A. Seabolt was born December 31st 1856.

Lucy Hagan Seabolt daughter of G.W. & N.A. Seabolt was born February     1859.


III. Deaths

Samuel Spears son of L. & E.M. Spears died December 15th 1836.

Lazarus Spears died March the 4th 1849.

Jesse Spears son of L. & N. Spears died March the 4th 1859.

Druery A. Spears son of L. & N. Spears died February 14th 1860.

Joann Alice Seabolt daughter of G.W. & N.A. Seabolt died May     1858.

Matilda A. Galbraith died May 29th 1886. [different handwriting]

Elizabeth M. Spears died Nov 4th 1873. [date smudged, and in a different handwriting]

Thanks again to James Spears, a descendant of Lazarus Spears and his first wife Nancy Haynes through their son Kendrick, whose hard work was key to bringing this original source to light, and for making sure that it is preserved in a digital format for all descendants to share.  Thanks, too, to Mrs. Helen Crigger, who descends from Lazarus and his second wife, Mary Elizabeth Amis through their daughter Mary Frances Spears and her husband Henry Amis.  And....since we are mentioning lines of descent, I will add that my line goes through Lazarus and Mary Elizabeth's daughter Nancy Amanda Spears and her husband George Washington Seabolt.

DNA breaks through a brick wall... and shakes things up!

 I have recently learned that my great-grandfather, John Joseph Hill, was not, in fact, deposited in Geneva, New York by aliens.

With a name like "John Hill," I knew I'd never find where he came from before he turned up in Geneva, listed as "laborer" in the city directory for 1894.1  There are any number of men with this name who came to America in the 1890s.  Without any identifying information distinguishing one from another, I had little hope that I would find my ancestor among all the anonymous, random Hills out there.  All I knew about his past came from his 1896 marriage record and his death certificate from 1916, both of which named his parents as "Thomas Hill and Elizabeth Scott."  In later years, his children variously identified their father's country of origin as either England or Ireland, and there were vague stories floating around that he or his father had been a "Bobby2" back in England, but that was literally all I had to go on.

All this changed a few months ago, shortly after Ancestry opened sales of their DNA kits to the UK.  I noticed that my father and my uncle had a new match at the 2nd-3rd cousin level, and I was intrigued by the fact that this match was from a person living in England.  Almost certainly, then, this was a match on my father's paternal side, since his mother's family has been in the U.S. since the earliest settlements.  So I looked at our match's tree, and saw the proverbial shaky leaf pointing straight back to.... Thomas Hill and Elizabeth Scott.

And what a story this has turned out to be!  Our Hill family was from Cork, Ireland, where Thomas Hill and Elizabeth Scott had a family of ten children:  eight girls and two boys.  One of these boys was my great-grandfather, John, and the other was named Robert Albert (John gave that name to one of his sons in America.)  Several of the girls emigrated to Australia and New Zealand.

Our DNA match knew about my great-grandfather's existence, but it was otherwise a blank spot on his family tree.  My cousin's family had preserved letters written by John's sisters in the early 1900s, and one in particular struck me as poignant.  It was written just after their mother's death in 1901, and lamented the fact that John had gone off to America and never looked back, causing her a great deal of sorrow in her final days.

Some of the information our new cousin shared will shake this American family's identity to the very core... and since they are from Ireland, naturally it has to do with religion.  My grandfather, George, and his four brothers, Earl, Warren, Robert, and Vincent, were raised as staunch Catholics by their mother, Julia Mary Flynn, who in 1896 married John Hill at St. Francis de Sales RC Church in Geneva.3  We always assumed that John was Catholic, too.  Not so!
John Joseph Hill, Julia Mary Flynn Hill, and son Vincent, in Geneva, NY, sometime before John's death in 1916
In fact, John's family belonged to the Church of Ireland.  Not only were they Protestant, but his father, Thomas, was a Sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary, the armed police force that was notorious as a symbol of British oppression. 

Well, at least we know that those vague rumors we have heard about the Hill family being in the police force were true.  As it turns out, quite a number of other family members were involved in police work, too:  spouses of some of the sisters, as well as an uncle.  And there are more undated news clipping of Elizabeth Scott's 1901 obituary (another bit of information sent by my new cousin), suggests that my great-grandfather John might also have joined the force before emigrating:  

"A Record:  -- On Friday, 18th inst., at her residence in Cork, and surrounded by her daughters, there passed away at the great age of 81 years, Mrs. Hill, widow of the late Sergeant Thomas Hill, R I C.  Sergeant Hill, in his young days, served in Scull under his father (who was one of the first R I C men).  He afterwards had charge of the station midway between Cork and Mallow, in the year of the famine, and on retiring in Donaghmore, some 37 years ago, obtained a lucrative position in the Steam Packet Company's office in Cork, which, at his demise in 18__ was filled by his son, who afterwards joined the R I C, so that the family was associated with the Force in one direct line from its origin to the present day, which is indeed a record."4

This last statement in the obituary is a little confusing, since Elizabeth probably only had two sons, neither of whom was working in Cork in 1901:  John was in the U.S. by at least 1894, and a cryptic comment in one of the letters my cousin shared suggests Robert was most likely dead that same year. Add to this the mangled, chronologically impossible story in our family that Grandpa John fought in the Boer War before coming to America  -- but you know those family stories!  

Genealogists are used to conflicting data, gives us something to work on. Next time, I will summarize the research I've done corroborating the information in the letters shared by my new cousin.

1Geneva Village Directory For the Year Beginning May 1, 1894, p. 86 (Geneva, NY:  W.F. Humphrey, Publisher, 1894); original volume consulted at the Geneva Historical Society, 543 S. Main St., Geneva, NY. 

2The term "Bobby" is slang for a policeman, from the British police force raised by Sir Robert Peel in 1829.  (see: )

3St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church, 130 Exchange St, Geneva, NY, Marriage certificate for Julia Flynn and John J. Hill, 23 Jan 1896.

4Transcript of undated, unattributed news clipping, shared by DNA cousin.

A Legal Education

Today was the last day of the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, a week-long opportunity to study one subject in great depth.  I was fortunate enough to study with Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, whose course was entitled: "Corpus Juris: Advanced Legal Concepts for Genealogists."  

From Federal and State statutes, to common law writs and prison records, we covered it all., not all -- I have a feeling we barely scratched the surface -- but certainly enough to introduce genealogists to the framework of legal research.

I had a chance to put some of this to use after class yesterday evening while researching at the Family History Library.  As I was scrolling through the chancery court minutes for Jefferson County, Tennessee, I found an entry for my 3rd-great grandfather, John Seabolt, dated 5 November 1868.  It was a bill for divorce, but what caught my eye was the term, "judgement pro confesso."  We had just spent the day going over many (many) common law writs, and this one hadn't come up.  

Jefferson County, Tennessee, Chancery Court Minutes, Vol. 4-5, 1865-1871,  filmed by the Tennessee State Library and Archives; FHL film #968283, citing Vol. 5, page 84.

The interesting part of the entry reads as follows:  " appears to the satisfaction of the Court that the petitioner is a man of good character and that at the time of the marriage of the parties, the defendant was pregnant by another without the knowledge of the petitioner and that about four months after the date of the marriage the deft. was delivered of a mulatto child, and it further appearing that both of the parties are white.  The Court is therefore pleased to order adjudge and decree that the bonds of matrimony are hereby dissolved..."

My first thought was that Sarah was guilty because of the rather obvious nature of the evidence, which might be considered the same as a direct confession of guilt.  I then Googled it, and Judy confirmed this in class, that "pro confesso" really means that the defendant was guilty simply because she didn't show up in court to dispute the case.  

Fascinating, right?

By the way, I am descended from John's first wife, Diana "X."  There are still family stories circulating about her inordinate pride at being an FFV (descended from the First Families of Virginia), so of course she is the one whose maiden name I can't find.

A source-centric alternative to FTM

Everyone seems to be up in arms about Ancestry's decision to stop supporting Family Tree Maker (FTM) after 2016.  We should have seen this coming -- it is a business decision, driven by the combined forces of cloud computing and Ancestry's corporate desire to be the home base for all your data.

This decision doesn't require anything more than a minor course correction.  I take full advantage of Ancestry's algorithms to uncover new data in my trees, but I don't use Ancestry or FTM for anything other than a convenient place to store relationships.  It won't bother me if FTM disappears tomorrow.

The reason for this is that all my research lives on my own computer.  We tend to forget that family tree software, whether it is FTM or any of the others, is designed to record relationships, and not the process you go through to determine those relationships!   In fact, it does a terrible job at tracking your research (there are no slots on the tree for all those 'potential' ancestors), and it is only moderately successful in recording facts.  Indirect evidence -- too often all we have -- doesn't fall neatly into the software's black and white categories, and there is no easy way to record a proof argument.  

Some years ago, I created templates to track my research using Bento, the simplified database system produced by FileMaker.  I wrote quite a lot about this on my blog (see these posts), and was terribly disappointed when FileMaker discontinued Bento.   The situation then was very similar to Ancestry's business decision to drop FTM:  with more and more custom apps being made available for free, there was no future in providing people with a DIY database.   Unfortunately for genealogists, there aren't an awful lot of custom apps for tracking research.

Fast forward to the present.  I have recently come across Tap Forms for Mac, which seems to be picking up where Bento left off.  It is not, perhaps, as pretty as Bento was, but is simple and intuitive to use, and it is only $35.  I have redesigned my old Bento templates to work in Tap Forms, and am thrilled to finally be up and running again with a research management system.  

My Tap databases are essentially a series of interconnected spreadsheets, centered around a main file containing all my sources.  Tap has several advantages over Numbers, the Mac spreadsheet program.  First, it allows you to enter data through a form view, which makes it easier to focus on one source at a time.  It is very easy to switch between the form view and the spreadsheet view: 

Second, you can add a direct link to a file on your computer, so all you have to do is click on the file name and your file opens in a new window.  This is not easily done in Numbers (see this thread on the Apple support page).  Most importantly, though, Tap allows you to link related spreadsheets together.  Like Bento, Tap is not a true relational database -- but it is close enough to satisfy me.

The key to making any research tracking system work is keeping up with data entry.  I have created fields to track quite a bit of information about my sources, but I use them according to need.  Not all sources are equally relevant to my current research, so some will get lavish attention and others just a simple citation.  Here is a quick look at my new genealogical research system:

This is a source-centric system, so the Documents database is the most important component.  I log my sources as soon as I obtain them, and add my formal citation first thing.  At the very least, I will include all the elements necessary to craft a perfect citation later.  Too much time spent looking up documents a second time has shown me that it is easier to just take the extra time and add the correct citation from the beginning.  

"Negative Searches"
I also keep track of sources I've examined that did not have information meeting my search criteria:

I have set up a file with basic information about the people in my family tree.  This allows me to link my sources to the individuals they relate to.   If I am religious about entering data when I first record a source, I will then have a complete file of all the documents I have found for every person I am researching. 

"FAN Club"

Another component is a database called "FAN club,"* which allows me to track unknown names mentioned in a source and link them both to the ancestor they are associated with and the particular document they are mentioned in.  Just being able to see the names grouped together in this database list is incredibly helpful -- I've gotten leads this way that I might not have found otherwise.
*This phrase was coined by Elizabeth Shown Mills, who uses it to describe the need to thoroughly research all the friends, associates, and neighbors of an ancestor in order to fully understand their intersecting lives.

I have also set up a database of photographs, which I link to the people who are in them.

There is a table listing all the repositories and libraries where I conduct research, which I link to a database of research logs.

"Research Log"
If I have been out researching, I spend some time at the end of the day entering data into a log, which in turn links to the documents retrieved at any given repository.  This way I have a running record of how I've spent my time, and more importantly, my sources have a date-stamp so I can easily tell when I accessed them.  If I uncover new information, I know at a glance which sources should be re-examined.

Tap has a user-contributed library of templates.   I plan on adding my research system as soon as I can (which probably won't be until after Christmas).  

Merry Christmas, everyone!

UPDATE (March 2016):  The templates are now available on the Tap Forms website, see:

Constitution Day Redux

Last year I celebrated Consitution Week with a post about how an injustice that happened to my ancestor, Thomas Amis, led to the creation of the United States Constitution.  In June of 1786, he was sailing down the Mississippi with a cargo of trade goods, when he inadvertently broke a new Spanish law limiting American trade.  With the utmost of courtesy, the Spanish commandant relieved him of his boat and cargo, and sent him back home on foot.  Of course he told his story to everyone he met on his journey home, which quickly inflamed the popular sentiment against the Spaniards.  You've never heard about the Flour War with Spain only because cooler heads prevailed in the end, but it was a close thing.   

So while my 5th great grandfather didn't have a direct hand in writing the Constitution, his experience embodied the frustrations experienced by Americans who had no recourse when confronting the arbitrary rulings of a foreign government.  His was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I'll refer you to my earlier post here, and will just add that I've recently found a portrait of Thomas, in a history of the North Carolina Society of the Cincinnati published in 1907:
Charles Lukens Davis, North Carolina Society of the Cincinnati (Boston: Riverside Press), 1907, p. 56; digital images, Hathitrust ( : accessed 14 Sep 2015).

Tag Sale

Everyone has heard that Evernote is the best thing since sliced bread, and is a must-have for the genealogist's toolbox....right?  A completely searchable database of whatever you choose to save, available on computer, phone and tablet -- what's not to like?  Despite all the hoopla, I keep hearing colleagues quietly scratching their heads, without a clue about how they can really use Evernote for their research.  

I admit up front that I have a tendency to adopt a new technology and embrace it as the definitive solution, only to drop it just as quickly when it doesn't quite work the way I had hoped (remember Zotero, anyone?)  So this time, I've waited before jumping to a conclusion.  It has now been more than a year since Evernote has been an integral part of my research procedures, and I am confident that I really use it...I might even add that I would be lost without it.  

Evernote has intuitive tools to capture data from a wide variety of sources: images and data from the internet, items you email directly to the program, as well as screen captures and data files from your computer.  You can upload 60 MB per month with a basic account, or 10 GB with a premium account.  Contrary to what you might think given this kind of capacity, I use Evernote primarily to manage my research, not as a place to store data.  

When I first started to use Evernote, it seemed logical to attach all the digital records I found, but then I started to see my data scattered in different locations.  Sometimes it was easy to add a document to Evernote, and other times it was just easier to file it on my computer.  I like consistency, and in the end I decided I am more comfortable storing my data in one place on my computer, in a single filing system that I set up a long time ago.  Evernote was designed to be a productivity tool, not a data storage or back-up system. 

The way I actually use Evernote evolved organically.  I was preparing for a visit to an out of town library and happened to have Evernote open, so I cut and pasted entries from the online catalog into a note.  Within Evernote, I saw that I could add checkboxes to each item, which made it simple to mark them off as I used them at the library.  I could also annotate the catalog entry with remarks about each item as I used it.  It wasn't until much later that I realized I had created a research log... and it required no advance set up or extra steps along the way.  It was easy.  

Another time, I was doing some background reading for a project,  collecting URLs relating to that subject, and decided to gather all the links into a single note.  Ta da! Instantly I had a portable set of completely searchable bookmarks.  Filing a bookmark on my computer is like sending it into the black hole -- it is lost forever.  In Evernote, I never forget why I bookmarked a page because you can annotate to your hearts content, bookmarks are never lost since every word is searchable, and as a result, I actually use them!

By this time, I started to get a sense of what I could do with Evernote.  I set up timelines for the major players in my family tree, with links to online data and citations to other relevant information documenting their lives.  I created tables detailing when my various database subscriptions and society memberships expire.  I added notes containing shared segments and contact information for all my known DNA matches -- just to name a few of the possibilities. Evernote also comes to my rescue when I'm tempted by a "Bright Shiny Object," or BSO(1)  -- just add it to a note and investigate it later.

So here's my secret to making this work:  use tags.  

Yes, Evernote is every-word searchable, but you will make life easier on yourself if you are able to quickly and easily retrieve like items.  Tags allow you to retrieve similar items in one easy search:   all your "to do" items, for example, or everything relating to "DNA."  I mentioned how I use Evernote to create a library catalog list:

  • I tag that note "to do," and add tags for the name of the repository and the relevant person or research question.  
  • When the search is completed, I delete the "to do" tag and replace it with a "research log" tag.  
  • By searching on a combination of tags, you have a flexible way to limit or expand the notes that are returned on any search.  For example: "to do" plus "New York" plus "Schoharie Co" = everything I have to do relating to Schoharie County, NY.  "Research plan" plus "family name" =  all the research plans I have created relating to one particular family, regardless of location...the possibilities for targeted searches are endless.

The most important key to making this work is to have a set of naming conventions and rigorously adhere to them.  Make sure your tags identify a note's "who, what, when, where, why"  qualities, as appropriate.  Here are mine:

1) Tag by name of the family or research project.
2) Tag by place.  I always include the state; including tags for the county or town level depends on usage.  
3) If including actual source material, tag it by type of record:  for example, cemetery, court document, correspondence, land, newspaper, probate/will, vital record, etc.   Also include such record types as finding aides and indexes; it is very useful to have this information handy when you are at the repository. 
4) If I am making a note from data that I have manipulated, I add a tag for what I have done to it, for example:  analysis, research log, research plan, timeline.
5) Tag by actions taken or to be taken: to do, fix this!, BSO. 
6) Tag by repository or location of action to be done.
7) Tag by purpose, for example for background reading, online coursework, etc.
8) Tag by status, for example: pending, complete, uncertain ID.  

Being consistent with your tagging is crucial:  choose a standardized way to spell your tags -- for example, don’t abbreviate some states and spell out others.  If you are working fast and don’t have time to figure out the best tag for a note, you can leave it blank (typing: -tag:* in the search field will bring up all untagged notes) OR just tag it “fix this!” and get back to it later.  I make it a plan to review and clean up my Evernote files once a week.

I don’t worry so much about using Evernote notebooks.  If you are really good at tagging, you don’t need them, and deciding which notebook to use can slow down data entry.

I'd love to hear how others use Evernote, so let me know what works for you!

(1)   "BSO:" I think Thomas MacEntee coined this phrase, which captures the lure of a new avenue of research when we should be focusing on whatever task is in front of us.  I used to call it the squirrel syndrome.  It's my biggest "time thief."

Simultaneous states of being....

About a year ago, I started a series of sketches about my own life for "future genealogy," so in that vein, here's another installment.

I had a great childhood.  My father was a Naval officer and we were constantly on the move. With all that upheaval, my description of a “great” childhood might seem a bit surprising.  The “great” part came from all the unique experiences we had as a family over the years, and I would say that living in Japan topped the list.  From 1968 to 1970, Dad was stationed at the Navy base in Yokosuka, about an hour and a half south of Tokyo.  It is one of those places that seems to hold special memories for anyone who has ever lived there.⁠1  I loved it because I had the freedom to roam around on my bike without parental supervision, and movies at the theater were free.  I think my mom most enjoyed the fact that there were 360 yen to the dollar.

My mother always likes to try new things —“it’s an adventure!” is a phrase we heard often growing up.  So when she saw an ad in the paper seeking westerners for photographic modeling jobs, she thought it would be a fun thing for us to do.  Before long, our headshots were on file at the Eddie Arab Modeling Agency (which, by the way, is still in business today!)⁠2, and we were making regular trips up to Tokyo to meet the agency handler who would take us to the photo shoot.

Our meeting point was always the dog statue at the Shibuya train station. The statue commemorates Hachiko the dog, who punctually waited for his master’s train every day.  Even after he died, the dog continued his daily ritual of meeting the train for nine more years, until he himself died.  His fidelity has come to symbolize the ultimate expression of loyalty.  Naturally enough, the statue, placed at the spot where Hachiko waited for his master all those years, has become famous as a place to meet.⁠3  
Nancy (left) and Kathleen (right) at Shibuya train station, circa 1969
And I suppose Mom was right… in retrospect, modeling was an adventure!

...I became the face of Suzy Homemaker products,

And some really modern, space-age TV sets:

My sister was on everyone’s breakfast table ….
We were in a few commercials, too… I mostly played board games, while my sister appeared in ads for cameras (below), and Datsun (now known as Nissan).

For some odd reason we did a radio commercial once, saying the Japanese words for “It’s new!” in our American accents.

Mostly, though, we were in ads for clothing:

The 1960s may have been “mod” and “groovy,” but it was also the decade of protests and riots — in 1966, my family experienced some of the drama ourselves, which I wrote about here.  Japan didn’t escape the overall mood of that era, and had its own trouble with violent student protests.  Students weren’t just against the war in Vietnam, they were also concerned about the nuclear weapons coming into Japan on U.S. warships. In 1968, the approaching re-negotiation of the U.S.-Japanese Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security4 brought this issue to the forefront.  Whenever a ship carrying nukes docked at the base in Yokosuka, we could be sure of a demonstration outside of the main gate, complete with rocks and tear gas.  (Here’s a link to a photo of the main gate as it looked in the '60s--without the rocks in the air).  

We generally had advance notice of the protests, and were warned to be inside the gates well before they started.  On one of these days, however, my mother, sister, and I were in Tokyo for a photo shoot.   

“No worries,” they told us, when we told them about our deadline. “You will be finished in plenty of time to make your train.”  

Famous last words….  We ran over our time limit, and had to race to catch the only train that might get us back in time.

I remember the trains from Tokyo to Yokosuka were always crowded. 
My mom was pinched countless times, but people were generally nice to little kids.  I was regularly invited onto the laps of strangers (wait, that sounds bad…), and nobody minded when my sister fell asleep on them.
On this day, the trains were crowded as usual, but instead of cute little boys, as in the photo below, the train was full of young men, wearing helmets, carrying shields, and holding signs saying “Yankee Go Home.” It wasn’t quite so cute; we got more than our usual stares on the train that day.  
I remember feeling just a little uneasy on the trip home, but my mother was calm and upbeat as usual.  As our train was arriving in Yokosuka, though, we knew we might not make it to the gate in time.  Even Mom started to get a little nervous; once the gates were closed, there was no entry, under any circumstances.

At the door of the train, we stood ready to spring out and run for it the minute they opened...but we could see the crowds already gathering on the platform as we arrived — a solid mass of angry humanity.  It wasn’t a long walk to the base from the station, but on that day it could have been a walk to Mars.  As the doors opened, Mom took our hands grimly and was about to step into the crowd, when a fellow passenger, all decked out for battle, grabbed her by the arm and said:

“Don’t worry, come with me, and I'll get you to the base!”  

Without another word he pulled us along, and maneuvered through the crowd like a man who knew what he was doing.  Before long we reached the gate, just as it was beginning to close.  Relieved, we flashed our ID cards at the guards, and made it back inside to safety.  From my vantage point inside the gate, I watched our guardian angel melt in to the mob, and transform back into the angry protester, shaking his fist and shouting “Yankee Go Home.”  

Somehow, a person could hate and love  simultaneously.  I’m still trying to figure that one out.

For Further Reading......

     Gibney, Frank, “Politics and Governance in Japan,” in Richard A. Maidment, David S. Goldblatt, Jeremy Mitchell, editors.  Governance in the Asia-Pacific, London:  Routledge Pub., 1998.  E-Library edition pub. By Taylor & Francis, 2005, pp. 70-75 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]

Hamaguchi, Takashi.  “Student Radicals, Japan 1968 – 69, website describing exhibit of photographs, Dec 4, 2014 – Jan 24, 2015, presented at the Taka Ishii Gallery Photography Paris [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]

Marotti, William.  "Japan 1968:  The Performance of Violence and the Theater of Protest," American Historical Review.  February 2009 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]
Oguma, Eiji.  Translated by Nick Kapur with Samuel Malissa and Stephen Poland, “Japan's 1968: A Collective Reaction to Rapid Economic Growth in an Age of Turmoil.”  The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 11, No. 1 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015].

Discussion Thread: “60s era Yokosuka demonstrations/riots against 'nukes’” 5 March 2009, [, accessed 30 Jul 2015].


(all photos from the collection of M.G.Hill; used with permission)
1 This is a very unscientific impression gleaned from postings on a closed Facebook Group “Yokosuka Naval Base Past and Present.” [ accessed 30 Jul 2015]
2 Kawaguchi, Judit, "Actor/Talent Agent Eido Sumiyoshi," The Japan Times 14 May 2009 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]
3ō, accessed 31 July 2015
4, accessed 30 Jul 2015

Found -- Rare Photo of John Wilkes Booth!

I love to watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS. (... and yes, I also admit to a secret addiction to the History Channel's American Pickers).  These programs showcase the amazing things people find in their attics:  antiques, collectibles, and ephemera from the past.  The part I like best is the big reveal at the end, when people discover that the dirty old vase they were going to throw away turns out to be a Tiffany original.

I had my "Antiques Roadshow" moment not too long ago.  I have written before about an old family photo album that belonged to my husband's 2nd-great-grandmother -- see "St. Louis Civil War Era Cartes de Visite" and "More Civil War Era Cartes de Visite from St. Louis."  This album contains about 90 photos, some of which are clearly family members, but most are completely unidentified; only two were labeled.  I Googled the two names and discovered they were famous actors of the 1860s.  

Some time after I wrote that blog post, I was looking over the remaining photos trying to put them in categories, when one of them struck me as being familiar.  At first I thought it might be a photo of Edgar Allen Poe (that dark hair and brooding look), but then it hit was John Wilkes Booth.  Of course!  There were other famous actors in this album, and Booth was one of the most famous of his day.  I did a Google image search for him, and my photo was clearly the same man.  The problem was, I couldn't find the exact photo from my album anywhere else online.

I spent most of that day searching the web.  Even my husband got into the thrill of the hunt --this photo was handed down in his family, after all!  Eventually he was the one who tracked down a newsletter, The Rail Splitter,  published in 1999 by a company that deals in Lincoln memorabilia.  Scrolling down to page 32 of the newsletter, he found an article describing a previously unknown photo of John Wilkes Booth.

The photo was taken in 1861 or 1862, when Booth was performing in St. Louis and had a photo session there with some of his fellow actors.  The article described two new photos, which "represent the only known examples of cartes from the St. Louis session to remain extant."(1 ) Well, guess what.  I've got another one.  

Curious about how this photo came into the album, I started to look more carefully at the Wilcox family.   The album came to us through Hattie Jane Wilcox, my husband's 2nd-great-grandmother.  Hattie was born in 1837 in Quebec, Canada, daughter of Andrew Wilcox and his wife Mary Ann Matthews.  The family immigrated from Ireland, first settled in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1830s, lived in Canada for about ten years, and moved back to St. Louis by the late 1840s.  Hattie's brother James was identified as a "Daguerrian Assistant" in the 1870 census of St. Louis.(2)  
 The census taker transposed the names -- the head of household was Andrew Wilcox, and his son-in-law was Adam Hazzard.

At first, I suspected that many of the photos of elegant and formal people in this album, such as these, might have been obtained through James Wilcox's job as a photographic assistant.

After thinking about it, I concluded that, while possible, it is more likely that Hattie collected the photos herself.  James was only 20 in 1870, and revenue stamps and clothing date most of the photos to the early to mid-1860s.  He might have had access to the photos as a 12- to 15-year-old, if he was even working at that age, but more likely not.  Furthermore, the imprints on the reverse of the photos in this collection came from many different photographic studios in St. Louis, not just one, which might be the case if an employee collected them.  I engaged the expert on historic photographs, Maureen Taylor, for a consultation to help me understand more about this album.  She told me that just like we collect photos of movie stars today, people in that era collected CDV's of well-known figures,(3) so Hattie was likely a "fan."  

Don't you think that the hand hidden in Booth's pocket seems to portend the future?

I was one of those people who thought I didn't have anything that would ever make the cut on Antiques Roadshow... but I discovered that in the end, it is a lot more fun to figure out your own mysteries.

1. The Rail Splitter; A Journal For the Lincoln Collector, Vol. 5, No 1-2, July 1999, page 32, "Booth Exposed -- Once Again; The Discovery of Additional Unpublished Photographs." [  accessed 30 June 2015]
2.  1870 U.S. Census, St Louis Ward 7, St Louis, Missouri; NARA Microfilm Publication M593 Roll  817; Page: 540A; Image: 149.  [, accessed 30 June 2015]
3.  Maureen Taylor, Wilcox photo album consultation, 25 March 2015, MP3 file.  Privately held by client.  

Working the FAN* club

I have connected with an energetic group of DNA cousins -- we know our common geographic location in Ireland, but are trying to work out exactly how we are all related.  It's not easy, since cousins married cousins and there are not many extant records documenting the families.  Unlike many of the group members who are Irish through and through, I am only linked through my paternal grandfather's maternal line.  So although I can only contribute a limited amount of information to the group, what I do have is straightforward.  

Thanks to the website, I have examined the marriage and baptismal records for two generations of my family in County Cork, together with the names of the baptismal sponsors, who were likely friends or relatives of the parents...and we all know the importance of thoroughly investigating our ancestors' Friends, Associates, and Neighbors!  

All of these records were from the parish of Muintervara.  The family's place of residence was written in ten different ways, reflecting the care or lack thereof with which the priest recorded the information.  (I'm noting my direct ancestors with a double asterisk "**")

I'm hoping that members of our DNA group will find their ancestors among the baptismal sponsors or marriage witnesses so we can compare notes.

Family of Timothy Kelly & Julia/Judith Leary

29 April 1830 (Marriage) Timy Kelly to Julia Leary, residence: Bantry.
Witnesses: Edwd Leary and Morgan Donovan.

**22 May 1831 (Baptism) Margaret, of Timothy Kelly and Julia Leary, residence: Danour.
Sponsors: Simon Collins and Margaret Boohan.

30 Sep 1832 (Baptism) Mary, of Timothy Kelly and Julia Leary, residence: Danour.
Sponsors: Eugene McCarty and Catherine Leary.

9 Mar 1834 (Baptism) Patrick, of Timy Kelly and Julia Leary, residence: Dunrour.
Sponsors: Dennis Carty and Cathe Lynch.

14 Mar 1836 (Baptism) Timothy, of Timothy Kelly and Judith Leary, residence: Dienois.
Sponsors: Edward Mullins and Mary Murphy.

2 May 1837 (Baptism) William, of Tim Kelly and Jude Leary, residence: Dunure.
Sponsors: James Daly and Bridget Kelly.

5 Feb 1839 (Baptism) John, of Timothy Kelly and Judith Leary, residence: Dunure.
Sponsors: Edmund Murphy and Mary Gallagher.

22 Aug 1841 (Baptism) Edmd, of Tim Kelly and Judith Leary, residence: Danure.
Sponsors: Charles Regan and Margt. Arundel.

12 Aug 1843 (Baptism) Jude, of Tim Kelly and Jude Leary, no residence.
Sponsors: DS Donovan and Margt. Donovan.

10 Aug 1845 (Baptism) Bridget, of Tim Kelly and Jude Leary, residence: Donure.
Sponsors: Tim Lynch and Kate Croneen.

Judith Leary appears as baptismal sponsor

5 Sep 1842 (Baptism) Judith, of Denis Carthy and Johanna Sullivan, residence: Ballycommon.
Sponsors: Judith Leary and DL Hurly.

19 Feb 1844 (Baptism) DL, of Jery Leary and Johanna Duggan, residence: Dunaholla.
Sponsors: Judith Leary and John Sullivan.

20 Aug 1848 (Baptism) John, of John Sullivan and Kitty Donovan, residence: Gurtrall.
Sponsors: Jude Leary and Pat Houlihane.

Family of John Flynn and Margaret Kelly

18 Sep 1855 (Marriage -- Church of Ireland) John Flynn [b. ca 1815] and Margaret Kelly [b. ca 1829], both signed by mark, residence: Donoor.
Witnesses: William Coghlan and David Burleigh.

"Irish Marriage Returns," Durrus Kilcrohane, Cork, Ireland, 18 Sep 1855, p. 661. FHL film # 101363.

Children -- all baptized in RC church

28 Feb 1858 (Baptism) Patk, of John Flynn and Margt Kelly, residence: Dunour.
Sponsors:  Edward Flynn and Mary Kelly.

20 Oct 1861 (Baptism) James, of John O'Flynn and Margrett Kelly, residence: Dounour.
Sponsors: Edwd Kelly and Mary O'Driscoll.

**27 Jun 1864 (Baptism) Julia, of John Flynn and Margret Kelly, residence: Doonoor.
Sponsors:  James Flynn and Bridget Kelly.

2 Sep 1866 (Baptism) Anne, of John Flynn and Margt Kelly, residence: Dhunour.
Sponsors: Jno and Catherine Brien.

3 Jul 1870 (Baptism) Denis, of John Flynn and Margaret Kelly, residence: Doonoor.
Sponsors: Jerh Leyhane and Catherine Lynch.

14 Jul 1872 (Baptism) Margarita, of Joannes Flynn and Margarite Kelly, residence: Droamclough.
Sponsors: Thomas Kelly and Maria Kelly.

12 Jul 1874 (Baptism) Abby, of John Flynn and Margrett Kely, no residence.
Sponsors: Cors Flynn and Johanna Hourigan.

My great-grandmother was Julia Mary Flynn, who came to America sometime in the 1880s -- You can find my earlier posts about my search for her family here.

*Note:  The FAN club is Elizabeth Shown Mills' acronym for "Friends, Associates, and Neighbors."  Thorough research should always include the records of those people whose lives touched your ancestors!

Taming the Dragon

Last week, I broke my right arm .... and let me definitely confirm that this slows down the family history research process.

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?  So I've turned this setback to good use.  

Awhile back I was researching various options to help me transcribe the mountains of handwritten documents I've accumulated over the years and came across Dragon Dictate voice dictation software, but dismissed it as being too expensive.  

A day or two of hunting and pecking with my left hand quickly justified the expense.  I also have to admit that the idea of commanding my computer with my voice, a la Captain Kirk, had a certain appeal.

Dragon for Mac was extremely easy to install and set up.  I read a few stories to my computer to train the software to recognize my voice, and that was it!  Within minutes I was reading a document out loud, and the words magically appeared on my screen.   Think about how time-consuming it is to type a transcription while you're trying to decipher the handwriting.  With voice dictation software, all you have to do is focus on what you're reading.  Your transcription accuracy also improves since your eyes don't have to switch back and forth from one document to the other, and you are less likely to lose your place.

One caveat--you probably won't produce a literal transcription of your historical document with all its strange spellings, because Dragon transcribes what it hears into modern standard English.  I think that if you study the editing commands you can have more control over the vagaries of your ancestors' spelling and punctuation, but I wanted to jump right in....perfection can wait! 

I also discovered a bonus use for Dragon--its a great tool for taking research notes!  I was looking for several families in the NY land indexes on FamilySearch yesterday and noticed that if I read the index entry (and full citation) out loud, I automatically produced a neat "to do" list for this class of records.  No more stopping and starting each time I find an entry of interest so I can write it down.  I freely admit to being dazzled by the so-called BSOs (bright shiny objects), so anything that keeps me focused on one thing at a time is a worthwhile investment!

The only thing that confuses me is why the Mac edition of Dragon Dictate is nearly twice as expensive as the PC version -- but once I got over that, I've been extremely pleased with the software.  

PS--with some editing, this blogpost was entirely produced using Dragon!  I will note, however, that it works better when you know exactly what you are going to say, and not quite as well when you are still thinking.  Reminds me of the Berlitz commercial...

Go Fish!

I don't know about you, but until recently, the whole DNA thing has been pretty disappointing.  I feel like we are constantly playing our own version of the old "Go Fish" game when we contact our DNA matches:

"Do you have a William Green in your family?"

And the game goes on, because the likelihood that you and your genetic match have both identified your common ancestor is not terribly high.  Your actual DNA connection is probably two generations before your earliest known ancestor, or even more likely, hidden behind women who all have different surnames than their father.

Not only that, but getting information from your matches can be like pulling teeth.  FtDNA has the best tools for comparing DNA, but not many of their customers post family trees, so it is hard to have any sense of where in the world your potential match comes from.  While Ancestry is all about family trees, the company takes the paternal approach and tells you that you are related.  The lack of tools for users to compare and contrast the data for themselves just means you are relying on the accuracy of the posted family trees; you will miss the matches who either have it wrong or don't post at all!

I have been reading the DNA blogs for some time, and have been fascinated with the work of Roberta Estes, Blaine Bettinger, CeCe Moore and others.  This is an entirely new way of recording our ancestors -- even to the point of some day recreating ancestral DNA -- and it finally reached a critical mass for me just before I went to RootsTech.

I actually had a problem to solve.  A DNA cousin contacted me with new information and we needed to find other relatives so we could prove or disprove a hypothesis.  All you need to make it interesting is to have people who share a common segment of DNA and some kind of information about the potential ancestor.  By creating a spreadsheet with all the various permutations of who matches whom and on which chromosome, you can gradually begin to identify particular DNA segments as belonging to ancestral individuals.  

Kitty Cooper put it succinctly:  "The way to prove the common ancestor is to see if A and B match each other in the same place that they match you. This is what we call triangulation."1   In this particular case, it was no dice.  The problem that spurred me to tackle DNA research on a practical level fizzled out with no solution, since the third person did not match on the same segment where the second person matched my mother and uncle.  But now that I see the possibilities, I have been combing my match lists for people I know for a fact are cousins and recording their data on a spreadsheet.  

This is a section of the spreadsheet I created to show five different individuals who match my uncle on Chromosome 5.   My uncle, mother, and one of these matches are all known descendants of Reuben Hill, a Revolutionary War soldier from Rutherford Co, NC.  The others are matches on FtDNA who share roughly the same segment of DNA. Most importantly, all of these people also match each other.

Now of course I can't say (yet) that this area on Chromosome 5 belongs to Reuben Hill (or his wife Margaret Brien).  It's just that sharing this particular segment -- together with the traditional genealogical research I've done on this line -- really narrows down the field, and gives me something to talk about when I contact the other matches.  

I am no longer playing "Go Fish."
1. Cooper, Kitty. "Triangulation -- Proving a Common Ancestor." Web Blog Post, "Kitty Cooper's Blog.", 26 Feb 2015, accessed 27 Feb 2015.

Some great reading:

DNAeXplained -- Genetic Genealogy (Roberta Estes):

Triangulation for Autosomal DNA
Chromosome Mapping -- AKA Ancestor Mapping
Chromosome Browser War
Demystifying Autosomal DNA Matching
How Phasing Works and Determining IBD Versus IBS Matches
A Study Utilizing Small Segment Matching
Getting the Most Out of AncestryDNA

The Genetic Genealogist (Blaine Bettinger): 

Your Genetic Genealogist (CeCe Moore):

The Folly of Using Small Segments as Proof in Genealogical Research, Pt. 1

Kitty Cooper's blog:

Triangulation -- Proving a Common Ancestor

International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG)

More civil war-era cartes de visite from St. Louis

Happy New Year!

Apropos of nothing, here are more photos from the Wilcox photo album that I wrote about last year.  Two of these images are labeled, and a Google search identified the individuals as popular actors from the 1860s.  Perhaps members of the Wilcox family were fond of the theatre...

One rogue California photo is also in the mix, but otherwise all images are from St. Louis and unfortunately none of them are identified.  One photo includes a revenue stamp, indicating that it was taken between 1864 and 1866, the period in which this tax was in effect.  For more on the subject of photographic taxes, see this post in the GenealogyBank blog.  Several items are not actual photographs, but popular CDVs containing sentimental images of animals and children.

Lester Wallack -- American Actor

Maggie Mitchell -- American Actress

rogue California photo, sorry!

Doesn't this guy look a lot like the man just below?

Two Little Fraid Cats Currier & Ives, New York: 2nd Half 19th Century

This was a very popular image in the 1860s

See another image of this gentleman, a few photos below

This is a second shot of the gentleman seen above

The green stamp indicates that this image was valued between 26-50 cents, and paid a 3 cent tax

Samuel Spears was from Halifax County, NC

I have mentioned Samuel Spears before -- last year I posted a lament on how sources I entered for his son Lazarus were mangled on FamilySearch.  Samuel Spears is one of those ancestors who is linked to many family trees -- few seem to be sourced and there are many whose owners lack basic skills in mathematics -- but all of which have enough common information that you know there are sources somewhere.  Some of these trees indicate Samuel was from Halifax County, and others, Pasquotank County, North Carolina.  I wanted to understand the reason for this discrepancy, and determine if there was more than one man named Samuel Spears.

A pension for Samuel Spears of Hawkins County, Tennessee documents his Revolutionary War service as a private on the Continental Line residing in Halifax County, North Carolina.  A widow’s pension for a man named Lazarus Jones, who served in the Revolution from Pasquotank County, North Carolina, provides direct evidence proving the generational link between Lazarus Spears of Hawkins County, Tennessee, and his father, Samuel Spears.  While Halifax and Pasquotank counties are not far from one another, a red flag was raised by the fact that the source proving Samuel Spears’ service and the source proving his lineage apparently came from different counties.  By examining military pensions as well as tax, census, and land records, I will demonstrate that in fact, both the service and the lineage belong to the same individual.  

A — Revolutionary War Pension, Samuel Spears 
(S*39085,, Revolutionary War Pensions >North Carolina >Spears, Samuel)

This source establishes that the Revolutionary War soldier from Halifax County, NC was the same Samuel Spears who later resided in Hawkins County, TN.  Samuel Spears submitted an application, and was granted a pension, based on his service as a private soldier during the Revolutionary War.  Statements by the soldier and by credible witnesses provide direct evidence of his identity and the nature of his service:
  • (p 2) Samuel Spears was granted a pension based on his service as a private in the 3rd Regiment, NC Continental Line; [
  • (p.3) He died 27 May 1838; []
  • (p 5) Spears’ commanding officers were Capt. G. Bradley and Col. James Hogun.  He enlisted in May 1778 and was discharged in May 1779, for a total of 9 months service
  • (p 5) Spears was born between Sep 1760 and Aug 1761, calculated from his stated age on 1 Sep 1820; (
  • (p 6) Samuel Spears’ family on 1 Sep 1820 consisted of an unnamed wife b. ca 1782 and five children under the age of ten; []
  • (p 9) Spears was resident in Hawkins County, TN by 25 Aug 1818, when he first made an application for a Revolutionary War pension;
  • (p 9) Soldier enlisted at Halifax, North Carolina; []
  • (p 10) Affidavit of Christopher Haynes of Hawkins County, TN on 25 Aug 1818, attesting to acquaintance with soldier ”…ever since he was a boy, that he lived in Halifax County aforesaid at the time said Samuel enlisted for nine months in the service of his country which he served faithfully and honestly as he believes...”  []

B — Revolutionary War Widow’s Pension, Christopher Haynes (Frances) 
(W*4227, Revolutionary War Pensions >North Carolina >Haynes, Christopher)

This document provides evidence that links Samuel Spears to his son Jesse, and to associates in Halifax Co, NC, one of whom was also linked to proposed associates from Pasquotank Co, NC.  Frances Haynes, widow of Christopher Haynes, applied for a pension on 12 March 1853, which was granted after her death in 1855.  Her son-in-law, Jesse Spears, was administrator of her estate, and as such was the person who submitted further requests for settlement of Mrs. Haynes’ pension application.  Frances Haynes claimed a widow’s pension based on the service of her deceased husband, Christopher Haynes, who served from Halifax County, NC.  Information relevant to the Samuel Spears analysis is found here:
  • (pp 4-5) On 12 March 1853, Jesse Spears of Hawkins County, Tennessee made an affidavit supporting Frances Haynes' claims to a widow's pension. Spears stated that he was well acquainted with Christopher Haynes during his lifetime and had often heard his father, Samuel Spears, speak of their service together in the Revolution back in North Carolina. []
  • (p 13) On 7 April, 1856, Jesse Spears made a statement noting that Francis, widow of Christopher Haynes, died on 22 Jan 1855, before receiving her pension certificate.  He said: “… the children of the said Francis by the said Christopher now surviving are well known to this declarant, and that the following are their names and residences. To wit, Fereby Spears, wife of Declarant…” (other children named in the statement are omitted here) []

Jesse Spears' statements are relevant because they establish that his father, Samuel Spears, the Revolutionary Soldier from Halifax County, NC, was a close associate of Christopher Haynes of Halifax County, NC, and that both individuals later lived in Hawkins County, TN.  This association is strengthened by the fact that Samuel's son, Jesse married Haynes' daughter Fereby.
  • (pp 30-32) The affidavit of James Charles of Hawkins Co, TN on 28 Dec 1854 describes his acquaintance with Christopher and Frances Haynes.  He stated that he knew the fact of their marriage from seeing them live together as man and wife when he first met them in 1795 until Christopher’s death in 1829, and also "...from talk I had with one Ogburn Hale who lived formerly in said Halifax County and who came to this country and settled near to said Haynes, but the said Hale has been dead several years.  I heard Hale speak of their marriage and from the best recollection I now have I heard Hale say that he Hale was at the marriage and that it was about the time stated to wit about the year 1790.” [

James Charles mentions that he heard Ogburn Hale, a resident of Halifax Co NC and later Hawkins Co TN, state that he had been acquainted with Christopher Haynes back in Halifax Co.  While Charles' assertion is secondary evidence of any such statement by Hale, is still relevant because it demonstrates that Ogburn Hale was part of a circle of acquaintances living in Tennessee, but extending from the North Carolina counties of Halifax to Pasquotank.  As we will see below, the Keziah Jones pension file (Doc C) provides evidence that Ogburn Hale of Hawkins Co, TN was also present at the marriage of Samuel Spears’ sister Keziah in Pasquotank Co NC.

C — Revolutionary War Widow’s Pension, Lazarus Jones (Keziah)
(W*26796, Revolutionary War Pensions >North Carolina >Jones, Lazarus)

This source provides direct and indirect evidence linking Lazarus Spears of Hawkins Co TN to his father, Samuel Spears, and documents the associations among individuals living in Tennessee and elsewhere who formerly lived in both Pasquotank and Halifax counties, NC.  

The Jones pension file contains the application of James Jones of Morgan Co, TN on behalf of his mother, Keziah Jones, widow of Lazarus Jones, and includes 147 pages of documents.  This case is particularly interesting because the son applied for his mother’s pension without her knowledge, and this became apparent when she applied for the pension in her own right from her residence in Macon Co, IL.  Like many other pension applicants at the time, James Jones had difficulty proving that his parents’ marriage occurred before the 1794 date specified in the pension law, so the resulting statements that he gathered from friends and relations to support his application are a rich source of family data.  When it was discovered that he was fraudulently applying for his mother’s pension, additional data was submitted, much of it relevant to the present analysis of Samuel Spears:
  • (p 61) Affidavit of Lazarus Spears of Hawkins Co TN, 4 July 1842, aged 56, “born in the year 1785 on the 29th day of September.”  He stated further that he “is the nephew of Lazarus Jones, formerly of Pasquotank County North Carolina… said Lazarus Jones married affiant’s aunt who was affiant’s fathers sister, to wit Keziah Spears.”  []

This statement introduces the element of confusion that prompted this analysis.  Lazarus Spears of Hawkins Co TN states that his aunt's husband was from Pasquotank Co NC.  Every supporting statement in the pension file notes that the marriage of Keziah Spears and Lazarus Jones took place in Pasquotank Co.  Pasquotank Co is roughly 100 miles distant from Halifax Co, measuring from their respective county seats.  If, as we are asserting, Samuel Spears of Halifax Co was the father of Lazarus (and therefore the brother of Keziah Spears), does it make sense that a woman whose brother was from Halifax Co would marry a man living two counties away in Pasquotank Co?  
  • (p 64) Affidavit of Loviney Hale of Hawkins Co, TN, 19 Oct 1839, stating that she was “…well acquainted with Lazarus Jones (and his wife Kesiah Jones whose maiden name was Kesiah Spers) before and at the time they were married and that they were married in Paspotank [sic] County North Carolina…” []
  • (p 65) Affidavit of Ogburn Hale of Hawkins Co, TN, 19 Oct 1839, stating that he was “…well acquainted with Lazarus Jones (and his wife Kesiah Jones whose maiden name was Kesiah Spers) before and at the time they were married…” []

Ogburn and Loviney Hale assert that they were well acquainted with Lazarus Jones and Keziah Spears before and at the time of their marriage.  We have seen from the testimony of James Charles in support of Frances Haynes' pension application (Doc B pp 30-32), that Ogburn Hale was a former resident of Halifax Co NC -- not Pasquotank Co.  As we will see below, Ogburn Hale paid taxes in Halifax Co and was not found on Pasquotank Co tax lists.  Given his documented residence in Halifax Co, Ogburn Hale’s testimony in the Jones pension case supports the premise that there existed ties of friendship, and possibly relationship, among people living two counties distance from one another in North Carolina.
  • (pp 75-77) Affidavit of Thomas Ives of Roan Co, TN, 1 Sep 1840, stating the circumstances of his acquaintance with Lazarus Jones in Pasquotank Co.  He noted that only later did he discover that Jones’ wife was a Spears before her marriage and that he was intimately acquainted with the Spears family “…to wit the mother of Lazarus Jones’ wife and with her Brothers Samuel Spears, Arthur Spears and William Spears.”  Ives describes his own family, noting that he had married the widow Rhoda Everton, and that some years after the war he enlisted in the army at Halifax, NC and fought in the Ohio with St. Clair. [ ]

The statement of Thomas Ives is relevant because he introduces additional evidence about the family of Keziah Spears -- particularly the names of her brothers:  Samuel, Arthur, and William.  His statement that he married the widow Rhoda Everton was reflected in Pasquotank Co tax records, which included one person with the Everton surname, William, for several years before being replaced by a Rodah Everton in 1786. Interestingly, the Everton’s were listed on the same tax lists as other potential Spears associates John Richardson, William Spears, and Lazarus Jones. Additionally, Ives’ statement that he enlisted in the Army at Halifax Co some seven or eight years after meeting Lazarus Jones suggests at least the possibility that there were ties of friendship drawing him to that place from Pasquotank Co.
  • (pp 95-96) Affidavit of Jacob Cress of Morgan Co TN, 15 Jan 1842: “Lazarus Spears, the nephew of Lazarus and Kesiah Jones, being the son of Samuel Spears, the brother of Kesiah…” []

Jacob Cress' statement directly answers the question of Lazarus Spears' parentage.  He was the son of Samuel Spears.  The question remains whether Samuel, the brother of Keziah Spears who married in Pasquotank Co NC, was the same person as Samuel Spears of Hawkins Co TN, formerly Halifax Co NC.
  • (p 105) Affidavit of Charles Prewett of Roan Co TN, 14 Feb 1839, stating that his wife is Nancy Ann Prewett, “… the niece of Lazarus Jones and that said Lazarus married her aunt.”  [ ]
  • (p 106) Affidavit of Nancy Ann Prewett, Roan Co TN, 14 Feb 1839, stating that “…she is the niece of Lazarus Jones deceased, and of his widow Kissiah Jones, that she understood from said Lazarus and Kissiah that they were married in Pasquotank County North Carolina at the house of a certain John Richardson, who was married to said Kissiahs sister to wit Ferryby whose maiden name was Spears…". [

The statements by the Prewetts are relevant because they establish that an additional Spears sibling was married and living in Pasquotank County.  Tax records, as we will see, show that a John Richardson was a close neighbor of Lazarus Jones in Pasquotank County. 
  • (pp 146-147) Letter from Lazarus Spears dated at Hawkins County, 28 July 1842 [conveying information via a third party to his aunt, Keziah Jones, in Macon Co Illinois]: “…I can say to ant Jones that her brother Samuel Spears is dead died about three years ago Jessey Spears is well and family Ogburn Hale and family…” []

While Lazarus Spears does not directly state that his father was Samuel, it is clear that he is sending his aunt news of their family.  He also mentions Jesse Spears, a documented son of Samuel Spears from Halifax Co (Doc B pp 4-5), as well as Ogburn Hale, who was identified in the Haynes pension file (Doc B p 31) as being from Halifax Co NC, and in the Jones pension file (Doc C pp 64-65) as being associated with people from Pasquotank Co.  Clearly, there are ties of association among Keziah Spears Jones, formerly of Pasquotank Co NC, and the Spears men, formerly of Halifax Co NC, as well as with Ogburn Hale, who had ties to both counties.

D — Halifax County, North Carolina Tax Lists,1783-1800 
(Gammon, David B. Halifax County, North Carolina Tax Lists, Volumes I-IV.  FHL Microfilm # 795995)

This four-volume transcription of the original tax rolls provides a readily-available list of men residing in Halifax County, NC who paid taxes during the specified years.  Several individuals with the Spears surname appear in these lists, but only those identified as potential associates of Samuel are noted here.  Samuel Spears appears in every list from 1782 through 1786; he is absent from the 1787 list, appears once more in 1790, and does not reappear thereafter, suggesting he moved or was deceased after that date.  See Table 1.

Of interest in light of Thomas Ives' testimony (Doc C pp 75-77), a William, Arthur, and Samuel Spears appear in nearly every list consulted, suggesting that these might be the brothers of Keziah Spears identified by Ives.  Samuel and Arthur Spears, as well as Arthur’s apparent widow, Ann, resided in District 11, as did Christopher Haynes, who was later associated with the Spears family in Hawkins Co TN (in 1782, Samuel appears on the list for District 10, but the transcriber included a note to the effect that districts appeared to be mislabeled for that year).  One William Spears consistently appeared on the tax lists in the third district from 1782-1788, and there were two men of this name living in that district in 1790.  As we will see below in the discussion of the Pasquotank Co tax lists, a William Spears also paid taxes in Pasquotank Co during some of those years, so no conclusions, even tentative ones, can be drawn about William at this time.  The purpose of this analysis is not to identify the various men of this name, but rather to place Samuel Spears firmly in Halifax County, and document his associations with individuals living in Pasquotank County.

E — Pasquotank County, North Carolina Tax Lists,1735-1795 
(North Carolina. County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Pasquotank County, Tax lists, 1735-1904, FHL film # 2436404)

All original tax lists for the years 1735 through 1795 microfilmed by the LDS Church were examined, page by page.  These lists do not represent a complete set; occasional years were missing, and in some years, not all districts returned a list.  With that caveat in mind, no extant records included a return for anyone named Samuel Spears during this period.  However, some individuals associated with him did appear in those lists. See Table 2.
  • No entries were made for anyone named Spears, with the single exception of a William Spears, who appeared in 1785-1787, and again in 1792-1793.  While there is no evidence directly linking him to the family of Samuel Spears of Halifax County, the testimony of Thomas Ives (Doc C pp 75-77) identified Keziah Spears’ brothers: William, Arthur, and Samuel.  Halifax County tax records show a Samuel and an Arthur residing in District 11, but no William.  It is possible that the brother moved to Pasquotank County, as did two of their sisters. The William Spears in Pasquotank Co is consistent with a young man just starting out in life, as he had no land and was taxed only on one white poll. 
  • A John Richardson paid taxes in Pasquotank County in 1774, and in 1777 there were apparently two men of this name who paid taxes there, although one man may have paid taxes on more than one estate.  In 1778, both John Richardsons disappeared, and a Feribee Richardson appeared.  It is possible that this is the sister of Keziah Spears who was married to a John Richardson in Pasquotank Co, according to the testimony of Charles and Nancy Prewitt (Doc C, pp 104-107).  However such a conclusion would be premature because later tax rolls in 1787, 1790-1792, and 1795 also include a John Richardson, and more research would be necessary to identify all individuals of this name.  The point is to establish that individuals with this name resided in Pasquotank County and not in Halifax County, and they were neighbors of individuals who associated with the Spears family. 
  • While there were many Jones families listed on the rolls in every year examined, Lazarus Jones appeared only one time — in the list for 1792.  He was a close neighbor of John Richardson, lending credence to the stated sibling relationship between Feribee Richardson and Keziah Jones. He was also a neighbor of William Spears.
  • A William Everton appeared on the tax lists in 1774 and 1777, in the same district as John Richardson, and again in 1784 and 1785, as a neighbor of William Spears; this was the only Everton appearing on the all the Pasquotank tax lists examined for this study.  In 1786, William’s apparent widow, Rodah Everton, took his place on the tax list; no person with the Everton surname appears after 1786. This nicely corresponds to the testimony of Thomas Ives in the Lazarus Jones pension file, placing Rodah Everton’s subsequent marriage to Thomas Ives sometime after 1786.  

F — North Carolina state census, 1786  
(, “North Carolina, State Census, 1784-1787” >Halifax County, entries for Spears surnames and Christopher Haynes; no entries were found for Ogburn Hale, John Richardson, or Lazarus Jones in any county)

Most of the individuals whose testimonies were critical to this analysis were recalling events that had occurred between 1780 and 1790, so the 1786 NC census and the 1790 U.S. census were examined in order to locate them within this time frame.
  • (image 9/15) District 11, enumerated 9 Feb 1786. Samuel Speir is listed with 1 white male 21-60, 2 white males under 21 and over 60, 4 white females all ages, no black household members.  
  • (image 9/15) District 11, enumerated 9 Feb 1786, Arthur Speer is listed with 1 white male 21-60, 4 white males under 21 and over 60, 2 white females all ages, 1 black person 12-50, and 2 blacks under 12 & above 50.
  • (image 10/15) District 11, enumerated 9 Feb 1786, Xfer Haynes is listed with 1 white male 21-60, no white males under 21 and over 60, 1 white female all ages, 3 blacks 12-50, 4 blacks under 12 and above 50.
  • (image 2/15) District 3, enumerated 1 Feb 1786, William Spear is listed with 1 white male 21-60, 2 white males under 21 and over 60, 3 white females all ages, no black household members.

G — 1790 US federal census, Halifax County, NC 
(, “1790 U.S. Federal Census,” North Carolina, various counties)

Included in the North Carolina >Halifax County >Edgecombe District were entries for two men named William Spear, Ogbourne Hale, Samuel Spiers, and Christopher Haynes. Lazarus Jones was found in Edgecombe County, NC, and there were entries for a John Richardson and Rhoda Ives in Pasquotank County.

Samuel Spears’ household in the 1790 census included three free white males under the age of 16, one free white male 16 and over, two free white females, and one slave.  Samuel Spears/Spiers was not found in the 1800, 1810, or 1820 federal census in North Carolina, and those years are missing for Hawkins Co TN.  Similarly, Christopher Haynes and Ogburn Hale were found in Halifax Co in 1790, but in no subsequent North Carolina census records.

H — 1830 US federal census, Hawkins County, TN  
(, “1830 U.S. Federal Census,” Tennessee>Hawkins County, entries for Samuel Spears, Christopher Haynes, Jesse Spears, Lazarus Spears, Ogburn Hale)

The 1800 and 1810 census records are missing for Tennessee; additionally, the 1820 census for Hawkins Co TN is also missing.  The 1830 census is the earliest one placing Samuel Spears in the county. 

I — Hawkins County, TN Land Records 
(Liber 6, p. 484, Robert Brown to Samuel Spears, 22 Feb 1808.  FHL film # 972801

An 1808 deed is the earliest documented record of Samuel Spears in Hawkins County, Tennessee.  Although Samuel Spears does not appear in North Carolina records after 1790, we cannot provide an exact date for his subsequent move to Hawkins Co TN from the documents examined in this study.


Pension records demonstrate clearly that Samuel Spears of Hawkins Co TN, formerly of Halifax Co NC, served as a private soldier in the 3rd Regiment of the Continental Line from North Carolina for a period of 9 months.  

The documents examined in this study defined Samuel Spears' family ties and associations. Information in the Lazarus Jones pension file (Doc C) includes direct and indirect evidence that Samuel Spears was the father of Lazarus Spears.  This source also includes testimony from several individuals associated with the Spears family that collectively portray strong ties among people who lived in both Halifax and Pasquotank counties in North Carolina before migrating to Tennessee.  

Frances Haynes’ widow’s pension (Doc B) establishes that Jesse Spears was the son of the soldier Samuel Spears, who was closely associated with Christopher Haynes in Halifax Co NC.  In a letter to his aunt’s lawyer, (Doc C p 146) Lazarus Spears asks the latter to convey news of James Jones, Jesse Spears and Ogburn Hale to his aunt, suggesting that all three are close relations.  

An additional conclusion regarding Lazarus Spears’ birthplace can be drawn from this study.  We can state that he was likely born in Halifax Co NC, since he was born in 1785 and his father, Samuel Spears, was a resident of Halifax Co at least through 1790 and possibly as late as 1808.

Samuel Spears of Hawkins Co TN identifies Halifax Co NC as his residence during the Revolutionary War.  This is supported by statements made by his son, Jesse Spears, in the pension file of Christopher Haynes’ widow, Frances (Doc B pp 4-5), as well as in Halifax Co tax and census records, which record both Samuel Spears and Christopher Haynes as residents.  

Ogburn Hale of Hawkins Co stated that he witnessed the marriage of Lazarus Jones and Keziah Spears in Pasquotank Co NC in 1782 or 1783 (Doc C p 64).  He was also mentioned in the testimony of James Charles in Frances Haynes' widows pension (Doc B pp 30-32) as attending the marriage of Christopher Haynes and Frances Turner in Halifax Co NC ca 1790.  Hale was documented as a resident of Halifax Co by the tax and census records, and was not found on any Pasquotank Co tax or census lists.  As a resident of Halifax Co, Hale had ties to members of the Spears family in both Halifax and Pasquotank Counties.  Clearly the distance separating them did not prevent friends and families from meeting upon occasion.

Thomas Ives’ testimony identifies the brothers of Keziah Spears as William, Arthur, and Samuel.  We find men of that name in Halifax Co, but not in Pasquotank Co, with the exception of a William Spears, who was the only person with the Spears surname appearing on the Pasquotank Co tax lists examined for this study, and who was found there from 1785-1787 and again from 1792-1793.  No one with the Spears surname was found in the 1786 NC state census or in the 1790 federal census in Pasquotank Co.

The Jones pension file, which provides direct evidence of Lazarus Spears' relationship to his father, Samuel Spears, demonstrates only that Lazarus Jones served in the Revolution from Pasquotank Co, NC and is neutral regarding both the residence or service of Samuel Spears.  

The confusion lies in the fact that two and possibly three of Samuel’s siblings lived there:  his brother William might have been the man who appeared on Pasquotank Co tax lists in 1785 with no property and one white poll, and certainly two of his sisters, i.e., Keziah and Ferribee, married men in Pasquotank Co.  As we have seen from the evidence of Ogburn Hale, however, distance was not a barrier to relationship.  

Only one individual named Samuel Spears appears to have lived in Halifax Co, NC and no one by that name lived in Pasquotank Co.  This, together with the ties of relationship and association documented in this study among individuals living in both places, all of whom later migrated to Tennessee, provides sufficient evidence that there was but one individual named Samuel Spears in Eastern Tennessee:  the man who served in the 3rd Regiment of the NC Continental Line during the Revolution from Halifax Co, NC, who was the father of Lazarus Spears.

Table 1--Samuel Spears Associates
Halifax Co NC Tax Lists

Ogburn Hale Christopher Haynes Samuel Spears Arthur Spears Ann Spears William Spears Wm Exum Spears
no District 11, 490 pounds District 10, 21 pounds District 11, 146 acres, 95 pounds no District 3, 150 acres, 150 pounds no
no District 11, 572 pounds District 11, 30 pounds District 11, 224 pounds no District 3, 291 pounds no
no District 11, 424 acres District 11, 70 acres District 11, 146 acres no District 3, 100 acres no
no District 11, 424 acres District 11, 170 acres (transcriber questions this figure) District 11, 146 acres no District 3, 100 acres no
District 11, 140 acres District 11, 424 acres District 11, 70 acres District 11, 146 acres no District 3, 100 acres no
no no no District 11, 146 acres no District 3, 100 acres no
District 11, 140 acres no no A Spears estate, District 11 no District 3, 100 acres no
District 11, 140 acres no District 11, 1 white poll, 1 black poll, 1 stud horse no District 11, 146 acres District 3, 1 white poll District 3, 100 acres
no no no no no District 3, 300 acres, 1 white poll, 1 black poll no
Source: Gammon, David B. Halifax County North Carolina Tax Lists, vols. 1-4, FHL microfilm #795995, transcription of original lists

Additional Research Notes — Samuel Spears’ Marriages

County clerks in both Halifax and Pasquotank counties certified that no marriage records existed in their jurisdictions prior to 1800:
  • (Doc B-Haynes pension file, p 38)  W.W. Daniel, Clerk of Halifax County, North Carolina, stated that “…no marriage bonds or licenses are to be found on file in my office of as old a date as 1790 nor is there any on file of a date prior to 1800.” []
  • (Doc C-Jones pension file, p 67) Statement by Stephen Charles, Clerk of Pasquotank Co NC Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, on 15 April 1840: “…there is no record of marriages kept in this office…” [ ]
To confirm this, a search was conducted for any extant marriage records, licenses, and bonds, but was negative for Samuel Spears, either in Halifax County, NC or in Hawkins County, TN.  Marriage records for Hawkins County, where a possible second marriage might have occurred, also turned up nothing.  Land records in both Halifax County and Hawkins County shed no further light on the identity of his wife or wives; during Samuel Spears’ lifetime, the law in both North Carolina and Tennessee did not require wives to release dower when land was sold.  In addition, final payment vouchers for Revolutionary War pensions were examined at the National Archives in hopes that one might name a beneficiary, but no such vouchers were found for the Samuel Spears of Hawkins County (one Samuel Spears was listed in the index, but the actual vouchers belonged to the man of the same name who lived in western Tennessee and who had served from Virginia).
Lazarus Spears stated (Doc C p 146) that he had often heard his mother and father discuss Lazarus Jones’ Revolutionary War service — so it would seem that his parents were married, and his mother was alive at least through his childhood.  Samuel Spears’ statement in his pension application in 1820 mentions a 38-year old wife (Doc A p 6).  This person would have been born ca 1782, too young to be the mother of Lazarus Spears, who was born in 1785.  However Samuel Spears’ household in the 1830 census includes a female aged 60-69.  This was most likely an error on the part of the census-taker, but in the absence of any sources documenting Samuel’s marriage/s, no conclusions can be drawn at this time.

If you can't beat 'em....join 'em!

Soon after I started this blog, I focused my writing on a set of templates I created in Bento for  managing my research.  That came to an abrupt halt when FileMaker discontinued support for the Bento database program.  They were probably right... computing has changed so much that databases are becoming things of the past.  Powerful search engines, the ability to tag data, the cloud -- Evernote -- have all made the old fashioned database obsolete.

But there was still that nagging desire to have all my research in one place, easy to retrieve, yet organized around some basic principle, which nothing but a family tree-oriented software can achieve. The problem with family tree programs is that they don't do a great job of tracking ongoing research, unproven conclusions, and complex sources.  As far as I can see, they still don't quite hit the mark, but I've come up with some work-arounds that I'm fairly sure can be adapted to whichever family tree program is being used.  Certainly, the convenience of keeping all your work in one place makes it worthwhile to give it a try.

First of all, I've set up imaginary, unlinked "people" in my family tree, with the first name "RESEARCH," the middle name corresponding to the first name, and then the surname of interest.  I attach to this "person" any item I find in my research that I cannot conclusively attribute to a known individual in this family.  It's kind of like Ancestry's Shoebox, but with a little more focus and precision.

If I have some data that I believe might pertain to a known individual in my tree, but still need more evidence to confirm an identity or relationship, I will attach that data to a custom event called "RESEARCH."

I add my source for this information in the usual way, but when I add the detailed citation I also include a reference to "research."  As we all know, many types of evidence -- useful,worthless, and everything in between -- can exist within a single source.

Another custom event I've added is "Link to another generation;" I use this to identify at a glance the evidence proving relationships.  Family tree software doesn't do a great job of letting you explain why you have placed a child in a particular family or assigned a wife to a particular husband.  I want to be able to see at a glance what proofs I have for these conclusions.  In many cases, these conclusions are not based on any one piece of direct evidence, but on a number of things that together point to this conclusion.  In such cases, I write an analysis and cite this as I would any other source.

One of these days, I'm sure the software developers will catch on to the fact that documenting family ties is not a "one and done" proposition, but rather an ongoing process that must be managed in the same environment where we record our conclusions.  One of these days....

A letter from your great-grandmother....

I recently read a blogpost on about the Oklahoma Historical Society's exhibit on the Century Chest, a 100-year old time capsule that was recently opened in Oklahoma City.  I am fascinated by the very idea of communicating directly with another time, like a message in the bottle.  Last April, I watched via live streaming as this huge time capsule was opened, and was absolutely riveted as the messages from the past were slowly discovered.  But the great news is that the collection has been scanned and is now available online.

My sense is that people tend to submit material for time capsules much as they might prepare for meeting a delegation from a foreign country -- contributing formal, descriptive information about city and state institutions, and producing proclamations commemorating the event.   Predictably, such material is dry and boring and of interest only to historians.  

This time capsule certainly had a lot of this type of material, but also contained wonderful artifacts of 1913, such as clothing, popular magazines and music, appliances, wax voice recordings, and -- most exciting for the family historian -- letters to descendants.   

I read every one of these letters, and was in tears the entire time.  One woman clearly couldn't imagine her four-year old daughter ever being a mother, let alone an "ancestor;" another wrote about her family's moves from North Carolina through several other states before ending up in Oklahoma; and yet another wrote about her descent from royalty.  The one that really choked me up was this one -- you can hear her voice:

I am fortunate enough to live in a historic home -- we are the third family to own it since it was built back in the 1800s.  We created a time capsule when we moved in, which we buried in the foundation. I think the best way to create a time capsule is to put in what you would hope to find yourself, so we added old farm papers and photos that had been saved from the previous owners, our own family photos, and long, personal letters from each one of us telling about our lives and our hopes for the future.  Every good time capsule has to have buried treasure, so we put in packets of flower seeds, bags of coins from all over the world, and old jewelry (nothing really of value today, but who knows in the future!) 

Now, if only I could come back as a fly on the wall when they open it!

Exploring a little-used source for Southern research!

I love finding new sources.  Half the fun of genealogy is ferreting out new information... the kind that most people don't bother to chase after.  The Draper manuscripts are one such source, a monumental collection of original documents, notes, and correspondence collected by Lyman Draper and relating to the history of the American South in the period from the French and Indian War through the War of 1812.  These manuscripts were the original materials Draper collected over many years, which he used to write his 1881 historyKing's Mountain and Its Heroes.   
Recently I attended a webinar on the Draper manuscripts, courtesy of Legacy Family Tree software company.  The webinar provided an invaluable rundown on the rich content of this collection and how to access it.  The difficulties lie in the fact that it is not indexed, has a complicated structure making it difficult to navigate, and copies are not readily available to most researchers.   The webinar guides the researcher through the collection and provides examples of the kinds of detailed information that might be found there. has digitized some of the calendars for the Draper collection, making the document summaries completely searchable (go to Card Catalog, search on the keyword "Draper," and from there enter your own search terms).  Since I have quite a lot of Southern blood, I was anxious to try it and see what I could find.    

Boy, I hit the jackpot with information on William Green, and I am so excited I can hardly stand it!  He has been a "potential ancestor" for some time -- several undocumented family trees on Ancestry suggest a connection with my own but I had not yet seen any evidence for this.  Now, after one quick Ancestry search, I had something to work with:  I identified 30 documents in the Draper Collection containing information about this man.

William Green was an interesting figure; he was a Tory officer who fought against the Americans at the Battle of King's Mountain, but afterwards became a private soldier and spy for the American side.  His story is one of those few that help us imagine the real person who was trying desperately to survive during the Revolutionary War.  In King's Mountain and its Heroes, Draper noted that Green and a companion were among the Tories taken prisoner by the Americans after the battle:

Lyman Draper, Kings Mountain and its Heroes.
If a good story like this one made it into the final draft of Draper's book, imagine the details yet to be discovered in the manuscript collection!  Of those 30 references to William Green that I found in the Draper calendars on, the one that jumped out at me was this: 

You see, this Mrs. Mooney, née Charlotte Green, is my documented 4th-great grandmother... the proverbial missing link!!  

Now, all I have to do to add William Green to my family tree is track down this document on microfilm....

Finding the Missing Pieces

I've been a listener of Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems podcast for awhile now -- I love Lisa's friendly style and her great ideas for using technology for family history research.  She often tells stories of the serendipitous connections made by people who share their research online.  

Think about it, we are all just part of a whole:  your old family movies also include neighbors who attended your family birthday parties, your photos include people and places in your ancestral communities, and your memorabilia include events that other people participated in as well.

I was reminded of this recently, when I got an email from a woman named Carla who had seen my blogpost from Memorial Day 2013.  In that post, inspired by one of Lisa's podcasts, I wrote about my father-in-law's experiences during World War II as an Army doctor attached to the 1777th Construction Engineer Battalion in the European and Pacific theaters.  I included a Google map with a scanned copy of his unit's "travelogue" and photos from every place they were stationed, as well as relevant newsreels I found on YouTube.  Altogether, it provided an in-depth perspective on his unit's experiences in the last years of the war.

This is what Carla wrote:


I just found your blog about the 1777th Engineering Construction Battalion.   My father was a member of the 1777th Engineering Construction Battalion out of Ft. Sill, Ok.  Although I saw no reference to Oklahoma in your blog or map detail I can only assume they are the same group.  My father told us next to nothing about his time in the service.  He did mention working in Japan after the war helping clean up.  He was a bulldozer operator and said he worked in the kitchen also.  So when I saw your picture of the "kitchen ablaze" in Agoo, I burst into laughter.....oh, let's just pretend it was my dad's fault.  LOL...he never enjoyed working in the kitchen let's just say.

The only time I can actually recall him working in the kitchen was when my mother was making homemade rolls.  She would call him into the kitchen and he would have them "rolled" in no time.  Typically rolling them against the counter with multiples at one time.  A skill he attributed to from working in the kitchen while in the Army.

My father, Junior T Montgomery (based on the discharge paperwork) but who went by the name Thomas Montgomery afterwards died of cancer in June 1990.  I sometimes wonder if the time spent in Japan had anything to do with his dealth.

The discharge papers that I have from the Army shows that he departed on November 2, 1945 for AP (Asia Pacific) and arrived November 21, 1945.  It also shows returning July 29, 1946 and arriving back on August 10, 1946.

Thank you for your detail on their movements.  I have often wondered.  I submitted a request for his medals several years ago.  At that time I also requested a detail of the travels done.  The government replied stating the archives had burned in a fire years ago.  So finding your information has been a gift.  Something I can now share with my kids.

My father brought back with him some Occupied Japan china, some weapons, and binoculars from Japan.  I plan on dividing up the items and gving them to my children.  I will add the Travelogue to the collection.

Again, thank you. 

Carla Montgomery Matto

"No, not enemy action -- kitchen ablaze at Agoo" -- Henry Tesluk, 1945

Making those connections and helping someone find the missing pieces of their story is one of the true joys of genealogy in the internet age.