Posted in Weekend Update

Weekend Update – April 10

Happy April, everyone!

You know I like to keep y’all in the loop of what is going on (thus the reason for the Weekend Update posts). Let me first apologize for being a little absent lately. As many of you know, for the past four years I have been helping to take care of my grandmother who had dementia. She sadly passed away in February and it’s been a bit of an adjustment getting back into the swing of things. I’m here now….and lots of things are coming up genealogy-wise in the next few months!

This morning I had the opportunity to be a guest on the podcast “Threads and Truth” hosted by my dear friend Sonja. We had such amazing talk about connections and the importance of encouraging younger generations to get interested in genealogy and family history. The podcast will be available soon for you to listen. Make sure you’re following me on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/coolgirlgenealogy/) where I’ll post the link as soon as it’s up. Also, while you’re there, follow the “Threads and Truth” page (https://www.instagram.com/threadsandtruth/)

If you’ve seen my last few IG posts, you know that I’m knee deep in researching my Scottish ancestors. I always knew that the majority of my DNA was Scottish, but I never really took the time to dig in and research my Scottish ancestors. Then, a random conversation turned into planning a trip to Scotland (is it 2022 yet?!). I figured if I’m going to go to Scotland, I should at least figure out the area that my Scottish ancestors lived.

This lead me to digging into my Arthur surname. After flipping though my “Surnames of Scotland” book, I realized that my Arthur line is more than likely Scottish. I knew they lived in Ulster for a bit so I was not surprised that the name may have deep roots in Scotland. I found Clan Arthur and decided I really wanted to connect back of the MacArthur line that supposedly descends from King Arthur. To be fair, I wanted to prove my connection more because when I was in elementary school I used to tell other kids that King Arthur was my grandpa. Maybe, deep down, I already knew this connection to be true!

I decided to start with my Arthur lines that I knew. I say lines because, spoiler alert, both my paternal and maternal line directly descend from my 9th Great Grandfather, Thomas Barnabus Arthur. As I started up the line, I soon discovered that another direct (maternal) line descended from Thomas. Yes, I have three direct Arthur descended lines. I guess that solidifies that I was meant to be an Arthur and I wear the name proudly! Oh…and I guess that makes me even more Scottish!

So, this weekend, I am spending my days deep in Scottish history and hanging out with my Scottish ancestors. I’d love to hear what you’re working on! Drop a comment below and let me know!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Taking It Way Back

Since there are a few new followers to the blog, I thought it would be the perfect time for us to get back to the basics.  Not just the nuts and bolts of genealogy, but how in the heck to get started.  Most of the questions I receive are not about specific research issues, but how in the world to take the first step.  So here it is…a refresher for all of us!

The thought of jumping into your family history can be a bit intimidating.  With so many people and so much information to find, how in the world do you even get started?!  Well, let me help you out a bit.

1.  Start with what you know

You may only know your grandparents’ names, or you may be lucky enough to go all the way back to your 2x Great Grandparents.  Either way, you are at a great jumping off point.  If you only know your parents information, that’s okay too!  The best way to get your feet wet in genealogy is to start with what you know.  My suggestion is to start by filling out an ancestral chart.  This sheet will help you to see the information you already have, and will help direct you in the direction of where to take your research.

https://www.archives.gov/files/research/genealogy/charts-forms/ancestral-chart.pdf

I suggest starting with either your maternal or paternal side.  I find that usually a person knows more about one side than the other.  Do not ask me why this is the case!  Haha! Do not try to do both at the same time.  You will get confused on who goes with who and who was where. (That sentence alone sounds confusing!)  This isn’t just something for beginners to remember, but a good reminder for those of us who have been doing it for years!

2. Keep it simple

Okay, this kind of goes with what I said under number one, but let me go into a little more detail.  When I say simple what I mean is do not go in looking for every story about your ancestor.  Those will come with time.  To start, look for the basic vital records (birth, marriage, and death) and use these basics to grow your tree.  Birth certificates will usually tell you both parents’ names.  Marriage certificates will sometimes tell you who the couple’s parents are, and death certificates may tell you the spouse’s name as well as the parents’ names.

There is a lot more information you can gain from vital records, but I’ll go into more specifics in a later post.  Right now, you just want to get used to looking at the records.  One thing I failed to mention above is to pay attention to where these events occurred.  Be aware that of how people moved during the time you are researching.  If you’re in the early 1800s and a couple was married on the east coast and had a child nine months later on the west coast, you may need to do a little more digging.  That’s not to say that the scenario is impossible, but travel back then, especially across the country, was treacherous.  Could a couple, with a pregnant woman, really have made it across the county in that amount of time?

3. Don’t be afraid to ask the dumb questions

I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as a dumb question, especially in genealogy.  While research may be done as a solo project, most genealogy is a collaborative effort.  That means, that someone out there may have the information that you need and vice versa.  If you are on Ancestry, and have completed the DNA testing, do not be afraid of reaching out to a new “cousin” that is researching the same family members that you are.  Ask them what information they have.  It’s always a smart idea to compare notes.  Sometimes you’ll hit a gold mine of information while other times you’ll come up with nothing.  You never know until you ask!

4. Manage your expectations

I would love nothing more than to tell you that you will find what you’re looking for in exactly one week, but genealogy doesn’t work that way.  The best way to avoid getting frustrated is just to take it a bit at a time.  Celebrate when you find a new ancestor.  When you hit a brick wall, take a break.  It’s okay to step away for a moment.  Got get some wine…or a cupcake…believe me, I do it!

When doing genealogy, always remember the saying that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Genealogy is addicting, frustrating, but most importantly fun!

If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me coolgirlgenealogy@gmail.com

Keep an eye out for my next Genealogy 101 post talking more specifically about vital records!

Posted in #52Ancestors, Ancestor Stories

Let’s Start At the Very Beginning

When deciding what to write about for Week One’s 52 Ancestor challenge, I thought it would be best to start at the beginning. If you’ve been a follower of the blog for a while, you know that I got my love of genealogy from my mother. What you probably don’t know is how she found her way into the genealogy world and became the official family historian. So, here is her story..

Pamela Sue Burkhart was born in 1957 in Detroit, Michigan to Dorothy Jean Price and Vernon Burkhart. Her parents were both from Harlan County, Kentucky. They had moved to Detroit for work by way of the “Hillbilly Highway”. My mom says that when she was growing up, it was just like being in the south. All of her neighbors were either from Kentucky or other southern states. Families in their neighborhood held tight to their Southern traditions. So, while they were living, and working, in the north, most families never really embraced the Michigan way of living.

My mom with her grandfather, William Howard Taft Price

My mom married my dad, Christopher Franklin Arthur, in 1975. His family came from a similar background. They made their way from West Virginia to Michigan for work also. To say that my childhood had mostly southern influences and traditions would be an understatement. In 1991, my dad’s job moved us back to the south. This time, though, we were heading to Tennessee.

About this time, my mom began to hear stories about her 2x Great Grandfather. There was a family discussion on what his name was and which side he fought for during the Civil War. At the time of the war he lived in East Tennessee (Union County to be exact). If you know your Tennessee history, you know that the state was split on who fought for which side. While rumors were that he fought for the Union, nobody knew for sure.

Now that we were living in Tennessee, about 4 hours away from the Knoxville/Union County area, my mom decided to put this “discussion” to rest. She now had easy access to the Tennessee State Archives and, with a little drive, access to the cemetery where her 2x Great Grandfather was buried. Needless to say, she solved the mystery and figured out the Elias S. Carroll was a Lieutenant in the Union Army during the Civil War.

During one of our many road trips to East Tennessee

She now had a taste for the research and how if felt to solve a family argument. Now she was eager to see what else she could find. Family history had always been important to her, but now it was at another level! This was long before internet research was a thing. I love reading over some of the notes from phone calls and the emails that went back and forth between newly discovered relatives. If she had not laid such a great foundation, I would not be the genealogist I am today.

I asked my mom what advice she would give to someone beginning their family history/genealogy journey. Here is what she told me:

Listen to the stories. Find what they all have in common. Usually there is a least a small nugget of truth in there somewhere. Be patient and be willing to put in the work. It will all be worth it!

My mom and I
Posted in Weekend Update

Weekend Update – August 9th

Let’s just say July was my month of “vacation” if vacation looks like a Covid scare and life pretty much up in the air! I suppose that is just the time we live in now. Making plans, even for genealogy, is almost impossible!

This weekend is the first in a while that I have been able to dedicate to genealogy. Yesterday, I attended the Tennessee Genealogy Society’s Virtual Summer Seminar. It was so good! The classes gave me new “tricks” to try and reminded me of the close connection that my Tennessee ancestors have with the state of North Carolina. I may, or may not, have made a list of websites and books to check out to help me in my research endeavors.

Today, I am knee deep in my Loy ancestors. While I’m not sure where they originated from across the pond, I pick up the line in North Carolina. They then made their way thoughout the county including everywhere from Alabama to California!

I’ve been particularly intrigued by the family of George Albright, who married his cousin Martha Albright. They lived in Greensboro, North Carolina and became a fixture in the town. George ran the Mansion House (hotel), and from what I read in newspaper articles, made sure everyone felt at home. His sons also had occupations that supported the town including physician, lawyer, and newspaper publisher. To say this family has deep roots in Greensboro is an understatement!

Coming up this week, I will be starting the new series “Gen School”. I figure with everyone going back to school in their own way, we should too! I’ll be starting from the basics and going through the different steps of what it means to research your family’s history. From how to get started to how to keep track of it all, I will do my best to cover it all! If you have any particular questions, feel free to send me an email to coolgirlgenealogy@gmail.com

Also, make sure you’re following over on Instagram where I’ll be continuing the Genealogy Photo-A-Day challenge!

Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Brown Sugar Saucepan Blondies

If I’m being honest, I have never been a fan of Blondies. So, when I came across this recipe I didn’t immediately feel the need to bake them. I kept searching for a different recipe to try. As I continued to search, this recipe kept coming back to my mind. Maybe it was time that I finally time to give Blondies another try.

The history of Blondies started during World War II. Women were looking for an alternative to Brownies since chocolate and white sugar were being rationed. It was time to get creative. Originally called “Light Colored Brownies” by Mrs. Alexander George (a home economics teacher turned newspaper columnist), these so-called Brownies replaced white sugar with brown sugar and left out the chocolate completely. As Blondies evolved, bakers included butterscotch chips, pecans, and many other ingredients to make them their own.

Needless to say, after trying these Blondies, I am now a big fan!

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, if desired

How-To

  1. Place a rack in the center of the over, and preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour a 13×9 baking pan and set it aside.
  2. Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir until melted. Add the brown sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the granulated sugar and stir until well combined, 1 minute. Let cool sightly.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-size bowl. Add a third of the flour mixture to the saucepan and stir to combine and bring down the temperature of the butter and sugar mixture, 30 seconds. Add half the beaten eggs and the vanilla. Stir to combine, 30 seconds. Add another third of the flour mixture, stir to combine, then add the rest of the eggs, then the last of the flour, and stir until smooth. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with pecans, if desired. Place the pan in the oven.
  4. Bake the Blondies until nut brown around the edges and just firm in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. You do not want to overbake.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven, and place it on a wire rack to cool. Score the Blondies into pieces with a sharp knife. When completely cool, slice into pieces and serve. These Blondies keep covered at room temperature for up to 4 days and in the freezer for up to 4 months.

(recipe c/o American Cookies by Anne Byrn)

Posted in Genealogy 101

Guest Blogger – Annika with Find A Swede

I love connecting with other genealogist and family history fans through social media. That is how I met Annika. She is a Swedish genealogist and the owner of Find a Swede. Annika lives a stone’s throw from the harbor where one million Swedes emigrated between 1850 and 1910.

While I haven’t found my Swedish ancestor just that, I love learning about Swedish history and how to do Swedish genealogy. That is why I was so excited when Annika offered to do a guest post all about Swedish Genealogy! Below, she explains just how to get started. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did and make sure to go follow her on Instagram: @FindASwede

How to trace your lineage in Sweden
It’s easy to access historical records in Sweden. The earliest resident registrations are from the 17th century. There are even taxation registers from the 16th century. But, you may have to change your approach when you trace your lineage in Sweden. You are not likely to find a Facebook group for your Johansson family. In fact, your ancestor’s surname may not help you much at all. Before the 20th century most Swedes did not have regular surnames. They existed mainly among some professionals like priests, soldiers, or craftsmen. But these last names could just as well be personal names and not family names. Most Swedes went by a patronymic. The son of Johan had the last name Johan’s son – Johansson. The female version was Johan’s daughter – Johansdotter. This way you will find different last names in the same family. You will also have people who are not related sharing a last name. So it’s not meaningful to search for the Johansson lineage.
The use of patronymics ended in 1901. The naming becomes less confusing after that. But the names are still not useful for tracing your family history in the 19th century.

So what do you do?

Think like a real estate agent. Location, location, location. Instead of searching for your Johansson lineage, think of them as your ancestors from Sandvik Parish, Jönköping County. It will make everything easier. The name of the parish is usually the most important thing to know. Most of the records are organized that way. Some parish
names exist in more than one county. So to know the parish, you may also have to know the county. As family historians we often share our work with other genealogist or online. Be careful to include the birth and death parishes in your family tree. Only listing the names of your ancestors is not going to be useful for anyone else. If you add the
location, the chances of making a meaningful connection will multiply. There are many local history groups for different regions on Facebook. Some of them are specifically for local family history. The groups are often based on the province (landskap) or the nearest city. Some of the groups even have English names. But it’s usually fine to write in English in the Swedish speaking groups as well. If you don’t know the birth location of your ancestor, I have a blog post with useful statistics. Where Did My Swedish Ancestor Come From? Other great tools are
https://www.hembygd.se/shf

https://www.hitta.se/

https://www.eniro.se/

So to reiterate, when you trace your Swedish ancestors you want to focus on the home parish. Location, location, location. That’s the Swedish approach to genealogy.
If you want to start researching your Swedish ancestors, I have a free guide on how to take the first steps.

Have fun tracing your Swedish ancestors! There’s so much information out there. You may even feel like you get to know them.

Annika

Annika, the owner of Find A Swede

If you would like to be a guest blogger on my site, send me an email to coolgirlgenealogy@gmail.com

Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Grandmother’s Coca-Cola Cake

My grandmother was not the type of woman to pass down recipes. It isn’t because she didn’t want to. It’s more because she never really followed a recipe. Whenever any would ask how to make a particular dish, her instructions were basically “a pinch of this, and a dash of that until it looks good”. She made some amazing dishes, but my favorite (and, luckily the one she actually wrote down) was Coca-Cola Cake!

The recipe in my Grandmother’s handwriting.

Nobody knows exactly where Coca Cola cake originated.  Some say it was by a housewife looking for a new spin on a chocolate cake.  Others say it was created by Coca Cola themselves as a clever way to market their drink in other ways.  The only thing everyone can agree on is that it was invented in the South.  The Coca Cola Company’s headquarters are, after all, located in Atlanta, Georgia.

Marshmallows and chocolate?! Yes, please!

Coca Cola cake it not made like a traditional cake.  If you find it a bit lumpy at moments, that’s okay!  Also, when you are finished with the batter, it may appear a bit runny.  That’s okay too!  While this cake may have some unusual steps, it’s tough to mess it up.  That’s the best thing about this recipe…even the mistakes taste yummy!

The finished product!

A note before you get started, the frosting will be applied to the cake while both the cake and frosting are still warm!

Ingredients (batter)

  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup Coca Cola
  • 1 cup Butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups Marshmallows (I use mini marshmallows)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla

How to make the Batter

  1. Grease and flour 9×13 inch cake pan and set aside
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Stir to combine.
  4. In a saucepan, combine cocoa, Coca Cola, butter, and marshmallows and bring to a boil.
  5. Combine the boiled mixture with the flour/sugar mixture and set aside.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla.  Add to the mixture in the large bowl.
  7. Pour mix into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes.
  8. Cake will be ready when a toothpick comes out clean.

Ingredients (frosting)

  • 1/2 cup Butter (1 stick)
  • 3 tablespoons Cocoa
  • 6 tablespoons Coca Cola
  • 1 box Confectioner’s Sugar
  • Optional: 1/2 to 1 cup Nuts (use your preference for type of nuts and how much)

How to make the Frosting

  1. In a saucepan, bring butter, cocoa, and Coca Cola to a boil.
  2. Stir in the sugar and mix well.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the nuts.
  4. Spread over the cake while both are still warm.

You’ll want the Frosting to set before you serve it.  Once it does, dig in and enjoy!

A selfie with my Grandmother

Posted in Ancestor Stories

AMMD Pine Grove Project

Sometimes the messages you find in your Ancestry inbox can bring about the best connections. That is how I met my cousin Sonja. We matched each other through AncestryDNA and after a few back and forth messages, we figured out our connection. Sonja is my 7th cousin, 1x removed. While that might not seem like a close connection, it doesn’t matter. We are still family and hopefully someday soon we will move from Facebook family to hanging out in real life family!

As I’ve got to know Sonja better, she told me about the AMMD Pine Grove Project. I fully support any project that seeks to save historical areas/buildings, but this was family! This project is working to save the Pine Grove School. The school was established by free African Americans who wanted to give their children the gift of education. Founded in a rural, segregated, farming community, it is a very important piece of history that needs to survive for future generations.

The Project recently received recognition as one of 2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places by Preservation Virginia. Preservation Virginia is the premier preservation organization in Virginia. It warms my heart to see all the hardwork paying off! Below you’ll find the press release talking about the designation, and details about the project, written my Sonja’s mother (and another one of my wonderful cousins), Muriel Miller Branch. Also, make sure to check out the bottom of the release to see where you can find more about the AMMD Pine Grove Project and how you can support this wonderful project!

 Muriel Miller Branch, President of the AMMD Pine Grove Project and former student of the Historic Rosenwald School, stands in front of the community’s beloved Pine Grove School in Cumberland County, Virginia as she is creating a video to submit to Preservation Virginia.  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Pine Grove School Community on the                                                       

2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places

May 19, 2020

The cause for today’s celebration (May19th) is to announce the Pine Grove School Community’s selection as one of the 2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places by Preservation Virginia, the premier preservation organization in Virginia. This recognition coincides with AMMD Pine Grove Project’s vision of “Preserving History, Expanding Community.”

Pine Grove School’s origin is as humble as the former enslaved and free African Americans who established the school  to educate their children in this rural, segregated, farming community.  In 1916, Black residents of the community seized the opportunity afforded them through the Rosenwald Fund and building project, to build a school. They contributed the land, a sizable amount of money, and the labor to build it, and the school opened to students in the Fall of 1917.

Pine Grove School is one of the few remaining Rosenwald Schools established in rural communities throughout the South for the purpose of educating colored children. The brainchild of  Dr. Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and Julius Rosenwald, President of Sears Roebuck Company, both visionaries, devised a plan to build state-of-the art schools for children who would not otherwise have received an education due to Jim Crow laws imposing racial segregation. The two-room schoolhouse served Pre-K to Sixth grade students, who walked up to five miles to attend their cherished school. 

In 1964, after the school closed its doors, a groups of concerned residents of the community, led by Mr. Robert L. Scales, rescued Pine Grove from auction by Cumberland County, and later repurposed  the building to serve as the Pine Grove Community Center for over a decade. However, with the death of many of its members, the School became neglected. Pine Grove School was on the verge of demise until, in 2018, members of the Agee-Miller-Mayo-Dungy families created a grassroots organization to save the school. The newly formed group paid the back taxes and began to visualize a new life for Pine Grove. Shortly after organizing, AMMD learned about the proposed installation of a Mega Landfill adjacent to Pine Grove which would adversely effect both the historical integrity and the environmental integrity of the school and community, and a two-fold fight ensued. Muriel Miller Branch, an alumna, spearheaded the effort to save the school that she, her father, and numerous relatives and neighbors had attended. 

The efforts of the AMMD’s Pine Grove Project have been rewarded many times over by attracting family, alumni, community, scholars, legislators, environmental justice organizations,  and historical and cultural institutions.  It has become a beehive of inspired, willing workers. 

The Mission of AMMD Pine Grove Project is to work cooperatively with a broad coalition of individuals and organizations “to protect, restore, and repurpose the historic Pine Grove Elementary School as an African American Museum and Cultural Center to showcase the contributions of the community that built and sustained it.

For more information, about the AMMD Pine Grove Project, email: ammdpinegroveproject@gmail.com.

You can also follow the organization on Social Media:

https://www.facebook.com/ammdpinegroveproject/

https://www.instagram.com/projectpinegrove/

Posted in Weekend Update

Weekend Update: May 9, 2020

Happy Saturday, everyone!

I don’t know about you, but all this quarantine and stay-at-home business has thrown me all off.  I’ve been working at home (my day job is as a Title Agent) since mid-March.  While my commute to the office is not far at all, I embraced the extra time I was given.  I made list after list of things I wanted to get caught up on, as well as new things to try.  I just knew that I was going to come out of the other side of this quarantine with so many amazing projects done!

giphy-2

Fast forward to today and I’ll be heading back to the office in the coming week.  As I look back, I feel like I accomplished nothing.  I actually did little to no genealogy work in the month of April.  I realize now, that while I had my long list of things I really wanted to do, what I really needed was a break.  I think I had just got so wrapped up in my “there’s something to do every minute” life, that when I had the extra time I felt like I needed to fill it with something. Now I’m sitting here not sure how to feel about my quarantine experience.

giphy

I’m giving myself grace.  Not everybody is going to come out of this quarantine having accomplished everything that they set out to.  While I may not have done much genealogy research, I was able to put in motion a couple of genealogy projects that I’m really excited about (detail to come!).  Also, I’ve made plans to keep the website consistently updated and I’ll be bringing back the newsletter! I’m refreshed and so excited to continue on this genealogy journey with you!

Happy researching!

giphy-1

Posted in Genealogy 101

Genealogy 101 Live: Episode 1 Recap

In case you missed it, last night was episode one of my new series, Genealogy 101 Live. I talked about how I got started in genealogy and what it looks like to do this professionally.  I also touched on what you should do if you are wanting to get started on your family history journey.

I announced the topic for my next episode which will be all about Census records.  While I’ll mainly be focusing on United States census records, I’ll touch briefly on other census records from other countries (i.e. Ireland).  Make sure you’re following me on Instagram where I’ll announce when the next episode will go live!  I’d love to have you join me!

Another reason to follow me on Instagram is that I will be doing a giveaway when I hit 1,000 followers!  If you’re already following me, thank you!  It means the world to me!  If not, give me a follow.  All who are following me when I hit the 1,000 mark will be entered to win a genealogy surprise!

Here are a few links to things that I talked about last night:

Board for Certification of Genealogists

Research Charts and Forms

Sample Interview Questions