Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Sophie’s Story

Welcome to week four of the series “Why Genealogy”. I’m sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Sophie!

A seed of curiosity is where my genealogy interest originates. My paternal grandmother is a many-cousined woman, and she would return from the funerals of her numerous aunts and uncles naming reams of people I was related to but didn’t know. She kept their names up her sleeve like a Magician’s never-ending hanky. The fact that my Nan held all the knowledge about these people and their relation to us began to worry me. One day she wouldn’t be here, and then who will remember their names, or how we’re related? I decided I needed to take on the job myself to preserve the information. So in 2012, at the age of 16, I began building out my known family tree online, pulling out the never-ending handkerchief from Nan’s sleeve, and laying out each square to untangle the list of cousins she’d preserved. Soon I was able to document everything we knew about her side of the family. 

Moving on to my paternal grandfather, I asked about his extended family but he didn’t really know anything. How can my Nan know so much about her family, but my Grandad know so little about his? My nosey nature sent me digging to find out more. This led to me uncovering that his parents had moved to Derbyshire from Gloucestershire after they married. My Grandad’s mother, Dorothy, was from Somerset and hadn’t always lived with her parents and siblings, instead living with a different family nearby. Perhaps this was why my Grandad never met his maternal grandparents, despite the fact that his grandmother lived until he was 15. Then on my Grandad’s father’s side – James was his name – he’d been born in Leicestershire, then moved to Lincolnshire, to Gloucestershire before finally settling in Derbyshire. Both James’ parents died before my Grandad was born, and his three siblings lived in Yorkshire and the Isle of Wight, which is likely why my grandad never knew a cousin on that side.

As to why I love genealogy is a layered answer. I’ve mostly grown up with one side of the family, and have never known my aunt, uncles, and cousins on the other side. It’s a shame, but it’s hard to navigate a mountainous landscape of relationships without a guide. I find genealogy is a great way to feel more connected to these people, even though we don’t have contact in daily life. If we ever do get the chance to meet, I’ll have plenty to tell them about our shared history. 

A lot has happened in my life since that seed of curiosity first sprouted in 2012. Genealogy has grown roots deep into the foundations of my identity. Having struggled with mental health issues, the process of researching is a logical and organised task that’s been a great distraction at times. Each time I’ve found stories about my ancestors has felt like lighting a candle in a dark room, over and over until the whole room’s illuminated and you can finally see what’s around you. Having a clearer picture of my family history has helped me understand more about my living family. Knowing I come from generations of working-class families and who sometimes worked and worked in difficult and dangerous conditions has helped me understand my family’s background and attitudes more. The process of learning more about the hardships and events that my ancestors lived through in order for me to be here has given my life a renewed sense of meaning, and has made me feel happier and more appreciative for the life that I have.

It’s been empowering to learn where I come from, after feeling so lost and disconnected from myself. I feel emotionally and spiritually closer to family, and connected to some of the places they’ve lived, especially Derby. It’s the city where I grew into myself as a person; where I lived and worked, studied and struggled. Knowing that for multiple generations, this city shared the same importance and was home to similar life experiences for my ancestors, which makes it feel like such a special place. Being able to walk through the city reminiscing my own memories, whilst envisioning their lives among the same street names, buildings, and monuments is a magical feeling that I am so fortunate to experience. 

Sophie Haire is a 25-year-old genealogist based in the UK. Her research interests are in the East Midlands, Somerset, and Aberdeenshire, and in the use of DNA. She is a member of The Hidden Branch and enjoys encouraging genealogy among younger generations. Alongside genealogy, she enjoys writing and psychology. In 2020 Sophie graduated with an MSc in Psychology, and also holds a BA in Creative Writing. Sophie is passionate about researching the intersection of these three areas. You can find her on social media @DerbyGenes.

Check out the previous voices featured in the “Why Genealogy” series!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Jennifer’s Story

Welcome to week three of the series “Why Genealogy”. I’m sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Jennifer!

What is genealogy if not the search for something missing? It is the search for a missing piece of us, or of our identity. Even if the researcher is not cognizant of what they’re looking for, genealogy is, at its very core, the act of searching for those who came before. My path to genealogy was driven by such a search, and since establishing genealogy as a hobby, my search has at times taken on seemingly mythical proportions, like one of Hercules’ labors or Perseus’ quest.

In my earliest years, until I was 7, I lived upstairs from my great-aunts, my grandmother’s two spinster sisters, lovingly referred to by everyone as “The Aunts.” My grandmother and her siblings were first-generation Americans, with both of their parents having come to the United States from the south of Italy around the turn of the 20th century. Well, though I didn’t know it then, The Aunts were a genealogical goldmine, and their love of family history was passed to me.

Edie, the older of the two sisters, and Clara, the youngest of the family, spent many hours with me as a child. They had a small chalkboard, and would dictate words for me to spell, or math problems for me to figure out. They also talked, and talked, about their parents, and the towns – villages, really – where they came from in Italy. Beautiful placenames like Montefusco and Montemiletto and Montefredane, places I have not yet seen with my own eyes, but which I hope to see one day. Neither of The Aunts ever made it to Italy themselves, a fact that will always make me sad for them, but based on what filtered down to me, their knowledge of family connections throughout the mountains and countryside of Campania and Benevento was quite extensive.

When I was 21, Aunt Clara passed away, and I moved in with Aunt Edie to help her out. She wasn’t in good health, and with some knowledge of actual world history at that point in my life, and desperately wanting to figure out who I was as a person, I talked to her in the evenings about her own youth, her education, trips, vacations and jobs and suitors… her history. She remembered a lot. Place names, names of cousins (were her parents actually distant cousins?!), how old were they when they came here? Did they ever get to see their parents again? I kept a notebook of answers to these questions, now long since lost, but it remains indelibly inscribed on my heart. 

This was right around the time that the internet was really experiencing explosive growth, and Ancestry.com was new on the market. I signed up, plugged in what I could, and began to build my tree. Sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong. 

I didn’t remotely comprehend how a website like Ancestry worked, only knew that I could build a family tree on it. I would get frustrated when I couldn’t find what I was looking for, only to realize years later as I studied actual historical records what actually goes into building such databases And let’s not discuss how many “hints” I accepted that were for completely different people and families! I can laugh now at my own foolishness, but it was tough at the time, and in those early days, I did a lot of revising on that tree! 

As I mentioned, I was at a point in my young adulthood where I was trying to figure out who I was, other than the typical elder-millennial/late gen-x mess! I wanted to know why we didn’t know my mother’s family well, why we weren’t raised with her extended family in the same way we knew my dad’s myriad cousins. The reasons for that are not mine to share, but suffice to say, I thought that if I could build Mom’s tree and trace the family patterns, I might find where I fit into it, and that might help my search for identity. 

It’s been 25 years since then. I’ve taken trips to the archives, have spent countless hours searching databases online, I’ve looked up things for others, and have had others find records for me. Genealogy goes in fits and starts for me, but when I’m on a hot streak, whew, look out! Even the advent of genetic genealogy has been amazing, enlightening, and a quagmire of questions and discoveries. Have I found who I am? Well….

I have found facts about my grandparents (who I knew) and my great-grandparents (who I didn’t know), and even my great-great-grandparents. I spent years tracing names and dates and newspaper clippings and church bulletins and military records… and I’ve put together some pretty comprehensive pictures of these people who formed the people who formed me. Through genetic testing, I have found “family” in unexpected places, with people I never knew I was related to, but who are so similar to me it’s as if we grew up in the same family unit, and that has been an incredible gift!

After decades, genealogy remains one of my favorite habits. I don’t do it every day anymore, because life, amiright? But at least once a week I give a once-over on everything and sometimes do a little digging. Thus far, nobody in the next generation of my family is interested in carrying the mantle, but they all call me when they have a question about the tree, our history, and our collective past. That’s become a large part of the identity I worked so hard to find!

About the Author: Jennifer wears many hats including wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. She has a Master’s Degree in History with a specialization in modern Irish history. She is also in training to become a Licensed Professional Counselor. When not studying or running the house or raising her sons, Jennifer volunteers with JDRF, mentoring local families who are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, as well as raising awareness and encouraging radical acceptance of those living with autism and ADHD.

Check out previous stories by clicking below!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Katty’s Story

Welcome to week two of the series “Why Genealogy”. I’ll be sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Katty!

I sat my Dad down. The burden of my news weighed heavily on my five year old shoulders.
“Daddy, did you know that you are not my real Daddy?”
No-one knows who told me. My biological father had left before I was born and the divorce finalized before my first birthday. I was almost two when my mother married my Dad. I grew up with parents who loved me and loved each other. It wasn’t a family secret, there had just been no reason to talk about it.
“Yes.”
“But you still love me don’t you?”
“Of course! You will always be my daughter!”
Content with that answer I merrily trotted off and carried on doing the things five year olds do. Dad says I did not mention it again for years.

I don’t look like my Mum, Dad or younger brother. They are tanned and dark, products of generations of English agricultural labourers on both sides. I am fair skinned and blonde, like my Irish biological father. Ireland was a place I owed half my heritage and clearly a lot of my genetics to, but had no link. This missing piece of my history laid the foundations for my interest in genealogy.

At eleven years old, I sat at the family computer listening to the whirs, beeps and whistles of the dial up modem. The birth of the internet had opened up the possibility of researching from your own home. I Asked Jeeves how to find my family, and then posted in all the family history forums and genealogy message boards I could find to try and locate my biological family. Alas the internet was too young, and there were not enough people to connect with to get any real answers.

Three years later my biological father made contact, and my parents welcomed him into our lives. He has now been in my life for longer than he was absent. My children have a huge loving family and no idea that 3 sets of grandparents is not the norm.


The way I was raised has given me the strong belief that family and genealogy are not the same. It is why I am interested in the stories and relationships behind the names. I look at next door neighbours on census records and trace the lives of the witnesses on marriage certificates. A third of my family are no blood relation to me at all, yet I research my Dad’s family as thoroughly as my other branches. I may not share their blood, but I am part of their story. I share their name.

I was pregnant with my daughter when I started researching my family history seriously. There was something about preparing for a descendant that made me feel linked to my ancestors.

I signed up for a free 2 week trial with Ancestry, and bothered all my relatives for names of great aunts and uncles and any other tidbits that could help me in the right direction. After 2 weeks I wasn’t finished, so I bought a month, then a year. I learned that a family tree is never finished. That is the addiction. As my tree grew, so did my fascination. Finding more sources, and documents. WWI records with my Great Grandfather’s height and eye colour. Newspaper articles of unpaid bastardy payments. Plans of an avenue of tree’s planted by a landscape gardener 5 generations back that can still be visited today. People who lived and loved, drank and fought, won and lost. People who raised children, who raised children, who raised children, who raised me. Forgotten people, remembered.

I recently discovered that my beloved Grandad had an illegitimate Aunt that no-one knew about. Census records show that she was raised by her grandparents. I wonder if she ever knew her biological father? Or if she was able to find that sense of belonging and family that I am so fortunate to have. That sense of family that is nothing to do with bloodlines. I hope so.

You can find Katty on Twitter at @gene_alogy

Katty is a performer and director from South London. Since Covid she has been at home raising her two young children by day, and researching family history by night.

In case you missed week one, go check out Daniel’s story by clicking below!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Daniel’s Story

Welcome to week one of my new series “Why Genealogy”. I’ll be sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Daniel Loftus of Daniel’s Genealogy.

My Genealogy Journey

Now, while it seems that the question “What’s the best way of getting young people interested in genealogy?” seems like it should have a definitive answer – it doesn’t! There are a number of ways that the Next Gen of genealogists can pick up the genealogy bug. They could be curious about the story behind an old family heirloom that’s been passed down for generations. Some might even want to find more out about themselves to be able to see where they come from. Or you could even be like me, someone who had a long car journey back home and you had 2-3 hours to kill so you decided to quiz your parents on what they knew about their family. Guilty as charged! So while I’ve listed at least three different scenarios, that doesn’t mean that these are the only three ways to engage and even inspire young people to look into their past and those that walked the Earth before us.

So before I give some tips, I figure I may as well continue my story – so after I drove my parents nuts (no parents were irritated in this story!) asking them about their family history, I was just processing what I was hearing and I couldn’t believe some of the stories (good and bad, truth or rumour) that I was hearing. So nothing really happened for a few days until fast forward to January 7th 2017 [5 days later after the funeral] and I’m sitting flicking through Google on free family tree builders until I discovered Family Echo (I was not aware of Ancestry, FindMyPast or MyHeritage like I am now) and I thought brilliant, I can start adding my family to it and I did. Although it was just me filling it in to start and it only showed me how little about my own family, my own personal history. I showed my mother and asked if we could start filling more in but we left it until tomorrow and the following evening my mother dug out a dark green book with a gold ornate frame on the cover with the words “The History of our Family”. I asked her about the book and she said for my father’s side of the family, she sat down with my grandmother who was alive at the time and wrote down all the info that my nana was telling her about her family and a bit about my grandad’s family. Now for my mother’s side of the family – we were not so lucky when it came to info. Her mother’s side, she had no living aunts or uncles still alive (last one died in 1995) so she only had limited info. Her father’s side we didn’t have a clue about. I would sadly lose my grandfather that year as well but he was able to tell me his parents’ names and I’m grateful for just that piece of info (as small as it may seem it helped me to push back a number of generations.) and spent that evening inputting all of the info in that book and working back! I had a bit of help from cousins who knew bits that corroborated with what I was hearing. And from then on there isn’t much more to tell from then on – I just kept building my tree more and more. 

I think the main thing to keep in mind with all of this is it’s not going to be a quick task – I’ve been doing this for 4 years now (at time of writing) and while I may not have gotten any new leads or bits and pieces from family, who’s to say tomorrow won’t be the day that a brick wall could be broken? But what I’ll finish with is the answer to this question “What made me want to delve into my own history?” Well it was a combination of things, I love history as a subject in school (am better in that compared to some subjects!) I also wanted to know more about my family and where I came from and I’m so happy at the amount I’ve been able to discover about my past. And most importantly, I thought it’d be fun to try (and can happily say it was one of my best decisions!) And trust me, if you don’t think genealogy is for young people, then stick around with me on Twitter, [am on Facebook and Instagram if you’re not a Twitter user] I might be able to change that opinion. And most importantly – if any young genealogist does see this and is on the fence about doing this – it’s so much fun and a great hobby and if you’re a young genealogist reading this, please get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you.

[Editor’s note: Thank you Amanda for the opportunity!]

Are you ready to get started on your genealogy journey? Check out my post on getting back to the basics!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Loyston Family Relocations

Imagine living on the land that had been in your family for generations. Your great grandfather had immigrated to America and settled in the area that is now your home. Close family and extended family are buried in your backyard. You know everyone who lives in a 10 mile radius since you see them every Sunday at church. To say you have deep roots in this land would be an understatement. Life can be hard, but it is what you know and you love it.

Now imagine a corporation comes in and tells you that you have to move. They explain that this is for your benefit and not theirs. This is the foundation of the Loyston relocation process.

The Interviews

When the Tennessee Valle Authority came in the area for the Loyston relocation, they knew they needed to interview the families who they needed to relocate. In order to do so, they reached out to local teachers and others who they considered “educated”. The thought was, if those who were being relocated were interviewed by others in the community, it may lead to a better outcome. This was true with some of the residents, but others did not trust the TVA no matter who they talked to.

As part of the interview process, Loyston residents were asked about themselves, their family, and how the supported/were supported by the community. Questions ranged from their religious affiliation and where they went to church to what newspapers they subscribed to. It interviewer also asked how far each parent went in school and if anyone in the family had a “physical defect”. No question was off the table in order to help the TVA collection information.

Evaluating Farms

In order for the TVA to give residents a dollar amount for their property, they needed to evaluate three things; the property, the resident’s income, and their expenditures. The majority of the families that were part of the Loyston relocation were farmers. Therefore, much of what was being evaluated had to do with farm land, livestock, and other farming needs.

Property

When looking at the property, the TVA made note of any livestock on the property. This included all animals from horses to bee stands. It was noted how many of each were located on the farm and then assigned a monetary value. Machinery used on the farm was also assigned a value. The last items listed as property was that of a personal nature. This included if the resident owned a car, a radio, a stove, a sewing machine, etc.. Just like the farm equipment, each of these items were given a price as to the value.

Lewis Loy’s Property evaluation
family income

To get a full picture of the family’s income, the TVA looked at both expenditures and receipts. Expenditures included everything from food to feed the livestock to taxes on the property. It also included cost of insuring the property which most farmers did not have. On the receipt side, the TVA looked at if the family when to market and how much they received for selling goods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and other homemade goods.

The TVA also took into account the cost of running the household. They broke down each food item and evaluated how much the family used and what the cost would be. On some of the documents, you can see the actual receipt tape where the interviewer added up all of this information.

Lewis Loy’s income information
Outside income

The TVA also wanted to know if the resident was receiving what they considered “outside income”. This included income from savings account, pensions, insurance policies, and investments. This is also where if there were any kids living at home and working elsewhere would list their income. As you can see on the example below, the interviewer made a note that Lewis was “very curious about these questions.”

Lewis Loy’s Outside Income Information

The Final Report

After all the questions and evaluations, the interviewer was responsible for writing up a report of their findings. This report was basically an opinion of the interviewer of the likelihood of the resident willing relocating. You can see below in Lewis’ report, that the interviewer said he “gladly cooperated” with the interview, but that his attitude towards the TVA was “antagonistic”. The interviewer goes on to say that Lewis needs “further study” and that Lewis is only willing to give up the land that floods.

Final Page of Lewis Loy’s questionnaire

The last question which asks for the “gist of conversation” is always interesting to read. On Lewis’ form, it states that he is very clever but vows to not leave. This is usually where the interviewer gets brutally honest with how they feel about the family. I read one where the interviewer stated that the family desperately needed help or else their daughter would end up “working on a street corner”. I have also read several that call the family uneducated and, for that reason, easy to convince that relocating is for the best.

The Final Evaluation

The TVA took all of this information to form their opinion on where the displaced families of Loyston would go. While the majority of the residents finally gave in to the idea of moving, most agree that they were not given fair market value for their land. Farmers felt that they should have somehow been compensated for the fact that this property had been in their families for generations. The TVA did not pay for the emotional attachments that these families had.

Loyston and the TVA series

Make sure to also check out the other posts in this series…

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: TVA and the Dispossessed

Celebrating your 40th birthday during a global pandimic is not the ideal situation. To make up for it, my family decided to get everyone involved in the celebration by buying me a book for my birthday. The goal was for me to receive 40 books on my 40th birthday. I have never felt so much love in my life!

You’re probably wondering what that has to do with this book and my book review. In that collection of 40 books was a book by the name of “TVA and the Dispossessed” by Michael J. McDonald and John Muldowny. I’ve made no secret of my slight obsession with the Tennessee Valley Authority and their construction of Norris Dam. I had no idea that this book existed, but my mom found a random bookstore in England (of all places!) that had a copy and she was determined to get it for me for my birthday. I devoured this book in no time.

The Book

TVA and the Dispossessed starts at the very beginning of the Norris Dam project. The book does a good job at explaining why the Tennessee Valley Authority even took on this project. It introduces all of the players and the roll(s) they played in the process. The book explains how the TVA looked at the Norris Basin as not just a way to bring jobs and electricity to the area, but also as a social experiment. They looked at those who lived in the Norris Basin area as people from a different era.

This books does take a deep dive into the data collected by the Tennessee Valley Authority. While some charts seem to get repetitive, they do a good job of really showing important information.

The Surprises

This book includes interviews from those who lived in the area at the time of the TVA request for relocation. The words they share paint a clear picture of what life was like. It also clearly shows just what was at risk for families being forced to relocate. For example, the chart below shows the living conditions/personal possessions of those who were being relocated. It clearly shows what the families were at risk of losing. While some may not believe they were losing much, this chart shows how they were accustomed to living.

Chart explaining the living conditions of those being removed for the Norris Basin

The authors of this book also took the time to interview some of the residents who were living in the Norris Basin at the time. These were families who were being forced to relocate. By reading their words, it really gives you a sense of what life was like for them. It also gives you a better understanding of what their feelings were about the TVA.

But…most people…didn’t want to leave, and they thought they should have been…given something for having to move or being driven out of their homes where they’d lived for generations, their forefathers lived there before them, and I think they should have been allowed some consideration for that.

Hubert Stooksbury “TVA and the Dispossessed”

The Verdict

This books ended up being eye-opening for me. While I thought I knew a bit about the TVA and the Norris Basin project, I had never looked at it from the other side. I will admit, it did not change how I feel about the situation, but I did come out of it with a better understanding. The book was fairly easy to read only because I had a vast interest in the subject. It does go into the data of the project quite a bit and I did get a little confused with all the names.

If you had ancestors in this area in the 1930s, I highly recommend reading this book. It will allow you to walk in their shoes and experience the uncertainty of relocating and losing the community you had known. Researching documents will only get you so far. This book does an excellent job at filling in the blanks and giving the complete story.

With that said, I would give it an 8 out of 10. The technicalities of dam building and relocating got a little old, but I understand why it was included. Read this book for the words of those who were there. Read this book to feel more connected to your ancestors.

Previously…in book reviews…

Make sure you check out my other book reviews!

Posted in Podcasts

Stories In Our Roots Podcast

A few weeks ago, I was a guest on Heather Murphy’s podcast, Stories In Our Roots. I talked with Heather about how I originally hated genealogy, but thanks to the stories, I fell in love. We also chat about why I feel it is important to know where you came from and how it effects our future.

I had so much fun on this genealogy podcast! I hope you will take from this talk how that no matter the connection, we are all family!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Loyston Grave Relocations

When the Tennessee Valley Authority came to Loyston, they knew they had to do two things. They had to relocate families and relocate graves. To do so, the TVA developed two departments. One group was responsible for interviewing families and taking inventory. (I’ll talk about that later this week.) The other group was responsible for documenting graves and contacting family members to ask permission to move their loved ones. Needless to say, the business of moving graves was not an enviable task.

Finding the Families

The first step to moving the graves in Loyston, was to find the heirs of those who were buried. Remember, it was the 1930s and some of the graves were marked with years from the 1800s. Finding the next of kin was no easy matter. The best course of action was to reach out the community to find family members. For that reason, it worked to the TVA’s advantage that Loyston, and the surrounding communities, were close-knit. Usually someone knew someone who was related to the person the TVA was looking for.

Once found, each heir had to sign off on the grave removal contract to give the TVA permission to dig up the remains and relocate them to a different cemetery. The TVA had a few cemeteries established for this reason. For example, New Loyston Cemetery would become home to a vast majority of the graves. Other remains were moved to the cemeteries requested by the family members.

The Grave Removal contract for my maternal 5th Great Aunt, Rachel Loy Irwin

As you can see in the above example, Rachel Loy Irwin’s son gave permission for the grave to be relocated. While these documents do not deal with the most pleasant information, a genealogist can find some important information. We know that Rachel had a son named Harvey Irwin. She learn when she died and her cause of death. The original cemetery, and where she is being moved to, is also listed. In this case, Rachel was buried at Anna Irwin Cemetery and is being relocated to Sinking Springs Cemetery.

Moving the Graves

After the TVA located the next of kin, the next step was to actually move the graves. To do so, either the named family member in the contract (or a family appointed representative) had to accompany the TVA to the original grave. Each excavation required a witness. At each disinterment, the TVA was required to fill out a Grave Removal Record. This was an accurate report of where exactly the original grave was and what was found in the grave. It also stated who the remains were transported to the new site. Once at the new cemetery, a “foreman of reinternment” reviewed the document and signed off that everything was handled accordingly. I don’t envy anyone who had to deal with the disinterment and reinternment of the graves.

Grave Removal Record of Rachel Loy Irwin

By looking at Rachel Loy Irwin’s Grave Removal Record, you discover just how specific the disinterment team had to be. The form asks for the condition of the container and the condition of the body. They were also required to state what was found in the casket (or box in many cases). In Rachel’s the only items listed were skeletal bones. Notice in the inventory line, it states that shoes were found with the remains. In other reports, you may find pieces of cloth or hair barrettes mentioned. The inventory items makes this feel a bit more personal then just the movement of bones from one place to another.

How to Find the Records

The TVA documents also included a follow up sheet that restated where the remains were reinterred. This document also includes the inscription found on the tombstone (if any). In some cases, pictures of the tombstones were included.

Post reinternment document for Rachel Loy Irwin

I have found the easiest way to locate the TVA Grave Removal documents is on Ancestry.com. To find these specific records, you will need to go under “card catalog” under the search category. Once there, type in “Tennessee Valley” in the keyword(s) box. This will pull up several results but you should see “U.S., Tennessee Valley Cemetery Relocation Files”. This will allow you to specifically search for your ancestor.

If you missed the first part of this series, “The History of Loyston”, make sure to go check it out!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

The History of Loyston

To understand the impact that the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Norris Lake Project had on this area of East Tennessee, you have to go back to the very beginning. Now, I’m not talking about the beginning of time, but more like the beginning of this area being settled. One of the very first communities in this area was Loyston.

Sharp’s Station

The first inhabitants of what would become the town of Loyston, was Hendrich Honus Sharp (my maternal 6th Great Grandfather) and his family. Hendrich was the son of John George Sharp and Anna Maria Loy. Hendrich’s father was a German immigrant who had settled and married in North Carolina. Hendrich was born in the North Carolina back country, but made his way to Tennessee thanks to Revolutionary War land grants. He settled on a slope of Big Ridge which overlooked the Clinch River. Due to the threat of Native American attacks, Hendrich built what would be called Sharp’s Station. The Station was essentially a fort for the settlers in the area and a place of protection.

Loy’s Cross Roads

A bit to the east of where Hendrich Sharp settled, another family was making their home in East Tennessee. John William “Fisher” Loy (my maternal 5th Great Grandfather) found a place to raise his family at the base of Big Ridge. Like Hendrich, John was born in North Carolina and came to Tennessee after the Revolutionary War. He soon discovered that the area was rich in iron ore deposits. Thanks to this discovery, John established a foundry and soon found himself in the middle of a new settlement. It did not take long for Loy’s Cross Roads to become just that. A crossroad and a gathering place for those who lived nearby.

John William “Fisher” Loy’s headstone which was made from the nearby iron ore deposits.

Loyston

After a post office was established in Loy’s Cross Roads in 1866, the name of the town was changed to Loy’s Crossroads. In 1894, the name was changed once again to Loyston. When the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) came to survey Loyston in the 1930s, the town contained approximately 70 residents. The town itself included a post office, two general stores, a filling station, a café, a mill, and a barbershop. The majority of the residents considered themselves Methodist and attended church at the Sharp’s Station Methodist Church. Loyston had become an important community that serviced many of the smaller communities in the area. Therefore, when the TVA began talking to the town’s people about possible relocation, the residents became a bit apprehensive.

Sharp’s Station Methodist Church in the 1930s

The Flooding of Loyston

While I’ll go more in depth in future posts about the TVA and the relocation of graves and families, it’s important to understand what happened to the town itself. Loyston was flooded to make what is now Norris Lake. The town was not destroyed. After those who lived in the area were relocated and Norris Dam was finished, the town of Loyston was flooded. Rumor has it that when the lake levels are at the lowest, you can still see the top of the church steeple peaking out of the water. Divers have also taken equipment down to video what Loyston looks like. However, since the water is so murky, it is difficult to make anything out. If you ever find yourself at Big Ridge State Park, there is a trail that you can take that allows you to look out over the water where Loyston once stood.

Norris Lake where Loyston once stood
Posted in Genealogy 101

Genealogy Burnout

It is a new month which means an opportunity to reset my genealogy goals and make plans for new content. As I was doing so, I realized that during the month of July I had unknowingly put all my genealogy work on the back burner. It wasn’t something that I had done intentionally. When I looked back at my weekends, I realized that most of them were spent just looking at my computer and making up excuses of why I couldn’t research or write. That’s when I realized that I was deep in genealogy burnout.

Just like anything else you are passionate about, at some point you have spent all the energy you have. The things you loved to do, like chasing down a DNA match, seem more like a chore than an adventure. Genealogy is such a time consuming and emotionally investing hobby, that sometimes we need to take a break. The question then becomes, how do we get back to this journey that we love so much?

Go Back to Where You Started

When I say go back to where you started, I don’t mean that you should start over. Just go back to the basics. Find that family line that you researched when you first started and see if maybe you can extend/expand that part of your tree. Sometimes going back to the line that first hooked you into doing genealogy will be the cure for your burnout.

For me, this means going back to my Miller line. If you’re familiar with my story, you know that John “Raccoon” Miller is my gateway ancestor. He is the one that helped me find my genealogy passion and is now the cure for my genealogy burnout. Luckily for me, he had a bunch of kids who had a bunch of kids. Whenever I’m struggling with finding my groove, I go back to this line and start searching for cousins. It usually does that trick!

Talk to Other Genealogist

You may be surprised how many of us find ourselves in some kind of genealogy burnout. The upside is, we don’t all experience it at the same time. This means that while you’re in a funk, your genealogist friends may not be. Talk to them about what they are researching. Find out what they are excited about. Sometimes when you talk to someone who is passionate about what they are doing, their passion is contagious.

Get Out of Your Head

Get out and experience genealogy. If you’re like me, you have a designated area in your house, or maybe at the library, where you always go to do research. That is great when you are focused and able to concentrate on researching. On the other hand, the routine can feed your genealogy burnout. When that happens, get out of there! That could look like going to visit a cemetery or going to a new research facility. One of my favorite things to do is to visit a local historic site. Even if it doesn’t relate to my ancestors, something about walking in history gets my genealogy soul moving!

Be Kind to Yourself

The most important thing you can do when you find yourself with genealogy burnout, is to be kind. Don’t force the research. Don’t force the connections. I guarantee when you do, you will find yourself dreading doing any kind of genealogy activities. You and I both don’t want that! It is okay to take a break. Life is happening now and sometimes we have to set the past aside and deal with the present. Your ancestors understand that better than anyone else. Give yourself grace. The passion and desire for genealogy will come back…I promise you.