Tuesday’s Tips: The Road to Nowhere

I had a whole topic planned for today’s tip, and then like I usually do…I fell down a genealogy rabbit hole.  You know what I’m talking about.  You have a plan.  Just some quick research and then you start chasing an ancestor.  You’re determined that whatever question you’re trying to answer can be found just around the corner…and then three hours later you still have no answers.

That is where I found myself yesterday.  I found myself researching an ancestor that I had done some work on before.  I remember this ancestor well because I have yet to be able to find what port they came in when arriving in America.  It’s like I have a crazy amount of puzzle pieces and yet none of them will go together.  What is a genealogist to do?!

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This is where I’m reminded about migration paths.  Where one family traveled, more were bound to follow.  If you’ve done research in Kentucky, I’m sure you’re familiar with the “Wilderness Road”.  These paths were taken by many families and some even turned into the roads we used today.  If you have a general idea of where your family either started or finished their journey, you may be able to use these paths to find them in other locations.  Some researchers specialize in this topic and therefore a quick Google search can provide you with the information you’re looking for.  Remember, though, to keep it broad.  Many paths covered the same areas so don’t get discouraged if you don’t find your ancestors right away.

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The other tip to finding the migration path your ancestor may have taken is to look at census records.  I know it’s easy to get caught up in only looking for, and recording, your particular ancestor, but it’s important to pay attention to those living around them.  I know that I have a group of ancestors, the Loys, the Sharps, and the Graves, that traveled the southern part of the United States together.  While I am still trying to find where the first came to America, I know that these families started together in Virginia, then onto North Carolina, and then settled together in Tennessee.

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By researching these families together,  you will not only discover how they traveled, but other insights into their background.  You will find that the families that migrated together had a lot more in common than just where they lived.  These families tend to share the same religious preference and country of origin.  So, even if you can’t find the history of your particular ancestors, you will gain some insight into what their background may be.

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Tuesday’s Tip: Leafy Family Trees

The whole time I was trying to come up with what to write about this topic, I couldn’t help but thinking of an episode of Friends.  You know the one where the girls lose the apartment because they don’t know what Chandler’s job is.  Anyways, there is a scene in that episode where Phoebe is giving the questions and asks what their favorite thing about trees is.  To make a long story short, the answer Phoebe is looking for is “leafy, leafy.”

While this proves my point that everything in life can be related to an episode of Friends, what better way to describe our family trees on Ancestry.com.  If you’re not familiar with Ancestry.com or their infamous leaves, let me explain it to you.  When you enter information on your family tree, Ancestry begins to pull from their databases any information that could possibly be attributed to that person.  Also, any time new information is found for someone in your tree these leaves pop up.  This can cause an onslaught of “leaves” appearing on your tree.  Just yesterday I had 100+ “leaf notifications” on my tree.  Talk about a daunting task!

I’ll admit, I get a little excited when I see these leaves.  Maybe, just maybe, that one missing document I have been looking everywhere for to break through a brick wall has finally appeared! More often than not, this isn’t the case.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Ancestry.com, but I can’t be the only one who yells “IT’S NOT THAT EASY” at my TV whenever their commercials come on.

Regardless if you’re a seasoned Ancestry professional, or you’re new to this whole thing and eager to grow your family tree, I have a few tips that may just help you deal with these leafy trees.


Check…and then check again

Don’t get in the bad habit of just glancing at the “hints” and assuming it matches your ancestor.  The dates could be off just enough to where this information cannot be your ancestor.  The trick is, no matter how daunting it may seem, it to break down each hint.  Look at the dates, the way names are spelled, and the locations of where this person was during their life.  Is there enough doubt in the information to discredit the hint?  This is especially important when dealing with other family trees.  The worst thing you can do is to just take someone’s word on what is “fact”.


Pick a Starting Point

You have a death date for an ancestor that you know to be 100% true.  Use this information against the information that you find under the leafs.  When you have one fact that you know is undeniable, it gives you something to compare to.  Don’t have a date, but have a particular location?  That’s okay too!  Use the location that you have and map out the information in the leafs.  For example, if you have an ancestor who was born in England and died in Pennsylvania, what is the likelihood that they had a child in Tennessee?  Think about how people traveled back then and see if the travel makes sense.  It’s fun to think of all this information as a giant puzzle.  The information you have is the boarder and you have to find the pieces that fit in the middle.


Don’t Get Overwhelmed

It’s easy to see all the leafs and get overwhelmed.  The key is to not let the leafs feel intimidating.  Select one branch of your tree and focus on that.  Believe me, I’ve tried to just start at the bottom of the tree and work my way through the leafs.  This approach is next to impossible.  You’ll find that verifying one leaf’s information will lead to another leaf which will lead to another leaf.  Take it one person and one family at a time you’ll have a much more enjoyable time pruning your tree.

…and if all else fails, just channel your inner Phoebe!

Tuesday’s Tips: TVA Records

This week’s tip takes a look at Alford Sharp’s cemetery/burial records.

In 1933, the TVA was given the task to build Norris Dam (and lake) in what is now Anderson/Union County.  In order to do so, TVA had to move not only families who were living in the area, but also the graves of their family members.  Included in this “move” was many of the members of the Sharp family.

Many of the Sharp family members were buried in the town Loyston.  In order to visit the town now, you would need a boat and take it to the widest area of Norris Lake.  If you suspect you had a family member buried in this area, your best bet to find where they are located now is to look up the Tennesssee Valley Cemetery Relocaton Files on Ancestry.com

If you are able to find your ancestors in these documents, you should find anywhere from one to four pages.  These pages may include everything from your ancestor’s cause of death and death date to what type of coffin they were buried in and the contents of the coffin. Below you can see a copy of Alford Sharp’s relocation paper.




Tuesday’s Tips: What Are You Fighting For?


Yes, I know it’s Wednesday and I’m just now posting “Tuesday’s Tip”.  You can blame the NHL playoffs for that! Haha 🙂

Anyways…this week I have been showcasing Thompson Baker.  You have already read about his time in Union army during the Civil War.  That brings us to today’s tip!  Always look…and read…the pension papers!

You never know what you may find in pension papers.  Look for both the soldier’s and his/her spouse.  For example, Nancy Henderson Baker, Thompson’s wife, applied for the widow’s pension.  In her statement, she verified not only that she was married to Thompson, but the date, place, and person who married them.  (A copy of that page of her statement is below).  Sometimes in pension papers you will find children’s names, ages, and if you are lucky enough, who they married.

My favorite place to search for pension records, and really any type of military record, is http://www.Fold3.com

…and when you find these documents, make sure you actually read them!

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Tuesday’s Tips: Spelling Doesn’t Count

This week’s tip is to not get hung up on spelling.  As you’ll see when you research census records, ship manifests, and even court documents, everyone had their own way of spelling names.

Take this week’s spotlight ancestor, Eve Weidner, for instance.  As I have done research on Eve, I have seen both her first and last name spelled many different ways.  For her first name I’ve seen Eve, Eva, and even Lucy (someone stated this was her “nickname”).  Her last name has many different variations including Whitener, Widner, Wydner, Whiter, and many more.

You may be wondering why all the different variations in names.  This occurs most often on census records when census takers either guessed at the spelling or just didn’t care if they spelled it right or not.  This is why it’s important to take some liberties in spelling when researching your ancestors.  In case you didn’t realize it, on ancestry.com you can choose “phonetic matches” and/or “names with similar meanings or spellings”.  This is a smart tool to utilize when you may be a roadblock in your research.