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!

Why Should I Care?!

The most popular question I get when I say I’m a genealogist, besides “will you do my genealogy”, is “why should I care about my genealogy?”  It’s at this moment that I have to remind myself that not everyone is a big nerd like me.  Haha!  Anyways, with this post I’m going to do my best to convince you why you should care about your genealogy.

Knowing Who You Are

Okay, so your genealogy isn’t going to tell you what you’re destined to do in life, but sometimes it can help shed a light on one of you passions.  When you start looking into your ancestors’ occupations or hobbies, sometimes you find that you have something in common.  Take music for instance.  Maybe you like to play the guitar and everyone in your immediate family can’t understand why.  When you start digging into your genealogy, you find a great-grandfather who played guitar and his father played guitar and so on.  You instantly find a connection to your past and realize your passion is part of your history and your future.

Ownership in History

While in school we all had to memorize important dates and historical facts, without really understanding what the point was.  What if, when researching your ancestors, you find someone who had their hand in making history?  That might make that historical fact a bit more important to you, right?  For example, my research specialty is the Revolutionary War era.  Researching my ancestors during this time in history has not only provided me with many great stories, but it has also given me a new sense of pride during holidays such as the 4th of July.  When history becomes personal through your ancestors, you gain a new perspective on what those who lived it actually went though.



Now this reason I’ll go into a little more in-depth h in a later post because there is so much to talk about!  On the surface, DNA can tell you most of your genetic makeup.  It can break it down and really tell you what nationalities you are.  I know what you’re thinking, you already know that your family came from Ireland and everyone in your tree is Irish.  Think again!  There is a video that has been making the rounds about genealogy and DNA.  They talked to a lady from France and asked if she would like to take a DNA test.  She said sure, but she could already tell everyone that she was French, her parents were French, and her grandparents were French.  Imagine her surprise when her DNA test came back and she had absolutely no French DNA ancestry!  She was actually British!


Answering the Unanswered Questions

This one can be a bit tricky and can sometimes backfire on a reason why you should be interested in your genealogy.  We all have those stories in our family tree that are basically family folklore.  Some stories are good and some are bad, but we all have a part of us that wants to know the truth.  Genealogy research allows us to be our own family detectives.  To follow where the paper trail goes and answer the questions that have been plaguing our past.  While family trees don’t always have perfect branches, it is a combination of all the stories that have shaped not only our families, but our own lives.


I could keep going on and on about why you should care about your genealogy, but lucky for you, I don’t have the time!  While finding your ancestors may be no easy task, the rewards it gives you can be bountiful.  So the next time you wonder why you like something, or why you do something a certain way, the answer just might be with your ancestors.

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.




Alford Sharp: Tennessee’s First Family

This week I am writing about Alford Sharp, who was a member of one of the first families of Tennessee.  The Sharps lived in Loy’s Crossroads in Union County, TN.   This area was flooded by TVA and is now at the bottom of Norris Lake.  Big Ridge State Park is the closest one can get to standing in the area of Sharp’s Chapel.

Alford Sharp was born to William “Station Bill” Sharp and Rachel Stiner on February 25, 1809 in Anderson County, Tennessee.  Alford grew up surrounded by family.  Not only was he one of sixteen children, but his father had seven siblings, making Alford’s extended family very large.  It is well documented that the Sharp families ran the same circles as the Loy and Graves families.  This is more than likely due to the fact that these families all emigrated from Germany and stayed together due to the sharing of language and customs.

On July 15, 1851, Alford married Elizabeth Loy in Union County, Tennessee.  They had eight children: Nancy (m. Ruben Bledsoe), Jacob L (m. Sally Plyes), Caswell C. (m. Elizabeth Oaks), William (m. Nancy Condry), Jane (m. John Pleasant Oakes), Parly (m. Caswell Wilson), Rachel Irene (m. Elias Carroll), and Alfred B (m. Nancy Gentry).

Alford Sharp was said to be an outstanding member of his community.  Not only did he serve as Justice of the Peace, but was even granted guardianship of his cousin’s children.  According to the early tax records of the state of Tennessee, Alford owned 70 acres of land worth $520 and one slave worth $500 in 1837.  When Alford passed away on December 20, 1876, his will listed five pages worth of personal property that had to be inventoried and divided between his heirs.

Alford was buried in Sharp’s Cemetery in Union County, Tennessee.  In 1935, when TVA planned to flood the area to build Norris Dam, Alford’s grave, along with many others were moved to different cemeteries.  I’ll talk more on this with “Tuesday’s Tips”.


Alford’s lineage is as follows:

Alford Sharp – Elizabeth Loy


Rachel Irene Sharp – Elias S Carroll


Susan Jane Carroll – Abraham Benjamin Price