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.

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

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

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!


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.


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!


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


Posted in Weekend Update

Weekend Update

I realized this morning that is has been way too long since I gave a weekend update.  So, I thought I change that!  Here’s an update of what I am currently working on.


Earlier this week, I received a message from a very distant cousin.  My grandmother matched her on DNA and she was writing to find our connection.  She gave me the surname of Boling/Bowling.  I quickly did a search through my tree and only found one ancestor by that last name, Mary Molly Bowling.

Molly, as she was called, married my 8th Great Grandfather, Andrew Baker.  I was hesitant to say this was the correct connection, however the places where her ancestor lived and mine did match.  The only problem with proving this connection was that her connection was born in the mid 1800s where my only Bowling ancestor lived in the 1600s.  That was quite the time gap!


So, what do I do now?  How do I ever make this connection?  My plan is to work back to come forward.  To start, I expanded Molly’s family.  I only had her parents and no siblings listed in my tree.  If I was ever going to find the connection, I had to first find her siblings.  While there is no guarantee that the connection doesn’t start further back, this was the best place for me to start.

Today, I am working on moving this line forward.  This connection issue is just another reason why it is important to include siblings in your research.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in only following your direct line, but many questions/connections can be answered when you expand your tree!  I’ll keep everyone update on the details of when I finally figure all this out!


Posted in Weekend Update

Weekend Update (Weekday Version)

Hello Everybody!

I just wanted to give everyone an update on some exciting things coming this month in case you haven’t already heard!

Baking With My Ancestors


This new monthly series will feature recipes from around the world as well as their significance to their particular culture. I’ll actually be baking these goodies and sharing the “how-to” so you can enjoy it at home!

The Unknown Heroes of the Revolutionary War


This monthly series will feature some of the lesser-known folks who either fought in or supported the cause of the Patriots during the Revolutionary War.  I’ll be featuring both men and women (because women were awesome during this time in history!) and how they helped to shape the world we live in!

Summer DNA Basics Class


In July, I’ll be teaching a class via IGTV or YouTube all about the basics of DNA testing.  I’ll be going over the why you should do it, the science behind it, and how DNA testing can make the world a better place!  Also, there will be a super special giveaway!

New Monthly Newsletter



Make sure to sign up for the new monthly newsletter!  In the newsletter, you’ll get a sneak peak on upcoming blog features as well as tips & tricks for your own genealogy research.  I’ll also give you an update on what I’m currently researching and the tools I’m using to do so!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Burchfield vs Henderson

Illegitimate children, by definition, are a challenge.  Especially when you are a genealogist and especially when all the parties involved have passed away.  Add in some surname swapping and changes in spelling and you may have an idea of my current challenge.  Really, my challenge for the last several years.

My 2x Great Grandfather, Abraham Benjamin Price, was born in 1878 in Cocke County, Tennessee.  Cocke County is located in East Tennessee, about 45 minutes east of Knoxville.  After the Civil War, like other counties in the area, it was a time of rebuilding.  The only problem is, Cocke county is located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.  This meant that the county was isolated from not only it’s neighbors, but also from new industry.  Many who lived in the area struggled severely with making ends meet.

The perfect storm of no money and no opportunity lead many women in the county to either marry at a very young age, or do whatever they had to in order to provide for their family.  This lead men in the area, who may have lacked gentlemanly morals, to take advantage of these women. The environment in Cocke County caused an uptick in illegitimate children.  Either the mother’s of these children didn’t know who the father of their child was, or the father denied the child’s existence.

This should paint the picture of what life in Cocke County was when Abraham was born.  His mother, Lydia Price, was 20 years old and unmarried (according to census records) when Abraham’s bother, Ruben, was born.  Two years later, still unmarried, Lydia had Abraham.  In the 1880 census, Lydia, or Letty, is living with her mother (also named Lydia) along with her two sons.  Also living in the household is Letty’s sister, Nancy, who has what appears to be an illegitimate son also, Moses Price.

1880 Census – Cocke County, Tennessee

Remember that census records can be deceiving. If you look at the 1880 census, both Letty and Nancy are listed as being children of Apollos Bryant.  This is not true.  Apollos is Lydia’s second husband with which she had no children.

Lydia Price’s marriage license with William Howard Henderson

In 1884, Letty married a man by the name of William Howard Henderson.  They had five children together; Lydia, James, Delia, Amanda, and Winnie.  Two of the children, Lydia and James, would flip back and forth between surnames.  On one document, they would be going by the surname Henderson, while on other documents, they would be listed as Burchfield.  To make matters more confusing, sometimes their surname would be spelled B-i-r-c-h-f-i-e-l-d or B-u-r-c-h-f-i-e-l-d.  It does appear that Delia and Winnie always went by the surname Henderson, while Amanda was the forgotten sibling that not too many knew about.

henderson amanda with husband phillip holderman
Amanda Henderson and her husband, Phillip Holderman

At this point, I was completely confused.  Why were all these children switching up their surnames whenever they felt like it?  Come to find out, William Howard Henderson was also illegitimate.  He did not know if he was really a Henderson or a Burchfield either!  With the research that I have done, it appears that his father was possibly John Henderson, who married Elizabeth Jane Birchfield.  If this is in fact true, things get even more complicated considering John’s parents are Thomas Birchfield and Polly Henderson.

I’ve tried to unravel this spiderweb of illegitimacy by looking into DNA.  I had a male cousin on this line take a yDNA test.  The result were mostly matches with men who had the surname of Burchfield.  So, at first glance, it appears that Abraham Benjamin Price should be Abraham Benjamin Burchfield. Could Abraham’s father have been William Howard Henderson?  This would mean that Letty would have had to “have relations” with William before they were married and when William was only 12 years old.  While this is a little difficult to wrap my head around, given the atmosphere of Cocke County, it certainly a possibility.

Another angle that I have been working has to do with a decedent of Abraham’s cousin, Moses Price.  Remember that  Moses is also illegitimate.  It does not appear that Abraham and Moses have the same father.  At one point, it was believed that Lydia’s second husband, Apollos Bryant, could be the father of both boys.  However both DNA and document research points to that not being true.

I could go on and on about more theory’s on the parentage of Abraham Benjamin Price, but that’s all I have right now…a theory.  Many DNA matches are in the same boat that I am, with no idea of how to piece together the Henderson/Birchfield family tree.  Even reaching out to some cousins have led to dead ends with communication being cut off after digging a little too deep.  Whatever happened back then is leading me on the greatest challenge of my genealogy career!

Posted in Giveaways & Contests

Giveaway: Ghosts of Ancestors Past

In the spirit of Halloween, I wanted to have a giveaway that embraced the ghosts of our ancestors.  I’m giving away the book, How To Research Like A Pro by Diana Elder.  I love this book and it’s really helped me out, so I want to “help” a fellow family researcher!


To enter: all you have to do is, in the comments section, answer these two questions:

  1. If you could “meet” the ghost of any ancestor, who would it be?
  2. If you could only ask that ancestor one question, what would it be?


For me, I would want to meet my 6x Great Grandfather, John Miller.  I have been working on figuring out who his parents are for years.  Therefore, the question I would ask him would be just who are his parents!

I’ll leave this giveaway open until Oct 27th.  On that day, I’ll draw one lucky winner from everyone who posted!  Good luck and I can’t wait to hear about who you want to meet!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Take Notes

So today’s tip is coming from a personal preference…something that I started doing and have found helpful.  I hope you find it helpful too!

If you are like me, when you do research you tend to take notes on anything and everything.  Then when you go to input the information you’ve found, you have no idea where all your notes are.  I’ve developed a system to try to keep track of my information.


It all started at Target (because really, what great stories don’t start at Target?!) where I found the notebooks pictured above.  They are about $6 a piece, but they are just the right size to fit into my research bag and/or to take into a research area where you can only take a spiral notebook. So…because I’m at Target…I bought a bunch of them!  (Don’t judge)


I didn’t really have a plan of what to do with these notebooks until I started taking notes.  Then the light bulb when off!  What if I used one notebook per surname?  Then I would know that everything in that one book would deal with one particular line.  Bingo!

So…that’s what I do.  I have one notebook per surname that I’m researching.  I do carry around post-it notes in case I need to make notes about another surname.  Then, when I have the chance I enter the information into my family tree everything I need is right at my fingertips.  I do use those tabs to mark where I left off as far as where I’ve entered information because sometimes I just can’t enter it all in one sitting.


Who knew that Target would bring a genealogical revelation?!


Posted in Genealogy 101

What Is GedMatch and How Do I Use It?

If you’ve been around Genealogy DNA for a bit, you’ve more than likely heard of the site GedMatch.  GedMatch is a great (and free!) tool you can use to dive deeper into your DNA results. In simple terms, GedMatch is a catch-all for all DNA testers.  No matter the test (with some exceptions) you can find all your DNA matches in one place. In today’s post, I’m going to go into the basics of GedMatch and how you can benefit from using it.

Step One: Upload Your DNA


The first step in using GedMatch is uploading your Raw DNA file.  To find this file, you will need to go to the site of the kit that you used.  For example, if you took the AncestryDNA test, the Raw DNA download can be found under “settings” on your DNA results page.  Once downloaded, you can upload this file to GedMatch.

Step Two: Get Your GedMatch Number


Once your Raw DNA is uploaded, you will receive a GedMatch number (you can see mine in the above picture).  This number will be what you use to run your matches, compare your DNA to specific matches, and as a reference when contacting your matches.  If you notice, my number starts with the letter “A”.  This is in reference in what company I used to take my DNA test.  You will find that GedMatch numbers that start with an “A” used AncestyDNA, “M” is for 23andMe, and “T” is for FamilyTreeDNA.  This will help direct you on where to possibly find a family tree that your match may have posted.

Step Three: Run the “One to Many” Report

Capture2.PNG The “One-to-Many” report will give you all the users that you match on GedMatch.  This can be an unbelievably large number of matches!


This report will give you all the information you need on comparing matches and how to contact the matches (I’ve blacked out names on my results).  The above picture just shows a snippet of my matches.  Believe me the list goes on and on.

What do you do with these matches?  If you find a match that shares a common surname that either you have, or that you’re researching, you can contact that match and share with them what you are researching.  Another option is to select a few matches, run a comparison, and see if you can essentially connect the matches.  This is a long process and the key is to be patient!  I’ve been working with DNA for a while and still have no idea how some of my matches fit.  Personally, I’ve found making my own spreadsheet with specific information helps me keep track of everything. (An example of which you can see below.)


There is so much more that GedMatch can do, but I’ll go into more details in a later blog.  I just wanted today to talk about the basics.

If this all sounds like a bunch of gibberish, that’s okay.  I promise the more you use DNA the easier it gets!  Also, if you ever have any questions about how to read matches or what to do with your DNA results, send me an email…I’d love to help you!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Am I On the Maury Show?!

I remember whenever I stayed home sick in high school, I would spend my day on the couch watching daytime television.  One of my favorite guilty pleasures was the Maury Povich show and the best episodes were always the one with paternity tests.  Talk about drama! To a sixteen year old girl, this was television gold.


I blame Maury for skewing my ideals of DNA tests when they were first introduced into genealogy.  I find that my thoughts then are what many are now…

“If I know my parents, why do I need to take a DNA test?”

First, let’s talk about the who of DNA testing.


There are a multitude of genealogy companies who offer DNA testing.  There are too many for me to go into detail here.  The most popular of the DNA tests is AncestryDNA administer by  For that reason, I suggest anyone looking to take a DNA test for the first time to start with the Ancestry test.  Ancestry gives a great overview of your ancestral makeup as well as DNA matches.  Since AncestryDNA is so popular, you have better odds of matching with a long lost cousin.

Other companies who sell DNA tests include 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, LivingDNA, and MyHeritage.  Each test has it’s pros and cons.  If you’re looking for more information on specific tests, I recommend attending my Facebook DNA online class on Wednesday where I’ll be able to go more in depth about each company.

Next, let’s talk about the what of DNA testing.


What is DNA testing?  Genealogy DNA testing takes your DNA, compares it with other test takers around the world, and with that information, gives your general ethnic makeup as well as potential new family members.  Some DNA tests give you a bit more information.  In particular, 23andMe gives you some medical information.  While 23andMe does not substitute seeing a medical professional, it does give you some indicators of some things you may be more prone to.

There are two ways that companies collect your DNA.  Some test require you to spit in a tube.  Other companies have you scrape the inside of your cheek.  Either way that the DNA is collected, it is all used for the same purpose…to open the gateway to your past.

Lastly, let’s talk about the safety of DNA testing.


After being asked which DNA test to take, safety is usually the second question I get.  Is DNA testing safe….yes.  All companies have a disclosure of how they use your information.  This information is included with your DNA testing kit.  I know there has been some issues lately with DNA testing being used to crack cold cases.  While this is still relatively new, the ability to use your DNA for these purposes is covered in the disclosure by the company.

DNA is complicated, that is a fact, but is also a fascinating journey.  It has many twists and turns but if you’re patient it can unleash a wealth of information.