Archive for June, 2009

June 30, 2009

The Crew of the Little Lulu

This post was written for the 75th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, “Justice and Independence”.

I was fortunate enough to have three grandfathers, and all three served in World War II. My mother’s father, Lake Ledford, served in the US Navy. My father’s stepfather, Ned Burrell, was in the Army. And my father’s father, Thad J. Watson, Sr., served in the Army Air Corps.

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June 30, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday: Graves of the Unknown

On a recent visit to Hollifield Cemetery in Rabun Co., GA, I was struck by this field of stones set to mark the graves of those long deceased. Most of the stones held no markings; the ones that were marked were unreadable. There are probably people still alive with the knowledge of who those souls are, but the longer these graves go unmarked, the more likely it is that the identities of those buried in this field will be lost forever.

June 28, 2009

A Sunday Walk Around the Blogs

Some of my favorite blog articles, web sites, and other genealogy and history goodies from around the Internet for the past week.

Connect Your Tennessee Ancestors to Origins in North Carolina from Arlene Eakle’s Tennessee Genealogy Blog. This article, from one of the Southeastern US’s most prominent genealogists, is an excellent overview of Dr. A. Bruce Pruitt’s extensive work on Tennessee and North Carolina land warrants.

John Chipman of Pittsylvania Co., VA (part 2) from acme nuklear blimp. I was particularly interested in this because of a name that caught my eye near the bottom of the article: one Thos. Dillard witnessed this document. My interest in the Dillard family is two-fold. First, my brother-in-law is a Dillard from nearby Dillard, GA. Secondly, the Dillards were among that group who emigrated from Buncombe Co., NC through Haywood and Macon Counties to Rabun Co., GA and settled in the Little Tennessee River Valley of that county.

It is through the previous blog that I found the next link, the Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England, which is exactly what it sounds like, a database of Anglo-Saxons living in England from the “late sixth to the early eleventh century”. Even though I’ll never actually use that database, I found the idea of it incredibly interesting.

June 16, 2009

RCPL Cuts Hours in Response to Budget Shortfall

The Rabun County Public Library in Clayton, Georgia is cutting its hours effective July 1, 2009. The new hours will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays. Previously, the library had been open until 8 p.m. on Monday nights.

When asked why the hours had been changed, the staff responded that the decision had been made by the library’s Board of Trustees due to budgetary concerns. I did not speak with the library manager, however, and so I cannot say for certain exactly what the impetus is behind this change.

What I can say is that this seems to be a trend throughout the nation in light of the recent economic downturn and the resultant loss of tax revenue. For genealogists, especially those who work a different full-time job during the day, these reductions in service can prolong research which had previously been done during evening hours; such research must now be conducted on days off or during the odd Saturday when our children and grandchildren aren’t on the ball field or attending some other extra-curricular activity requiring parental involvement.

The more critical hit is to those who depend on libraries for services they could not afford on their own (e.g. reading material or computer access), especially at a time when so many have lost their only sources of income (in Rabun County, for example, the unemployment rate is estimated to be 11-13%). Others affected by this change are students whose parents work during the day, but who have school projects assigned during the week requiring resources found only at the library. Unfortunately, the few hours that most small libraries are open on Saturdays are often not enough to serve the needs of the members of the community who cannot use the library during weekdays, for whatever reason.

No matter how small, all libraries serve as centers of education and knowledge to their community; any reduction of services is therefore harmful to the citizens they serve. Here in Rabun County, we have strong public and private educational systems, and a community that recognizes the importance of these institutions. Other areas are not as fortunate, yet their libraries are still an integral and necessary public body. At a time when education, both formal and informal, is key to the success of the individual and, therefore, the community at large, can we really afford to cut funding for our public libraries?

June 14, 2009

Florida Genealogical Society to Host Elizabeth Shown Mills, September 26, 2009

It is a red-letter day in the Watson household: I actually wish I lived in Florida (mark that on your calendars, as it will never happen again).

The Florida Genealogical Society’s annual Fall Seminar will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2009 at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa. Guest lecturer is none other than the renowned Elizabeth Shown Mills, one of the leading genealogists of our time, and certainly one of highest credentialed. Mills is the author of several books, including Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian and Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, both of which are industry standards.

Topics for the day’s seminar include: The Elusive Ancestor: There’s No Such Thing as “Too Poor to Trace”; Sources and Citations Simplified; The Identity Crisis: Right Name, Wrong Man? Wrong Name, Right Man?; and Okay, I Got the Neighbors–Now What Do I Do with Them?

Cost for attendance to the conference is $35 for FGS members, and $40 for non-members. For more information, visit the Florida Genealogical Society.

June 14, 2009

Virginia Genealogical Society Fall Conference, October 10, 2009

The Virginia Genealogical Society, in conjunction with the Shenendoah Valley Genealogical Society, is holding its annual fall conference on Saturday, October 10, 2009, at the Winchester Medical Center in Winchester, Virginia. The theme of this year’s conference is Oh Shenendoah! Migration and Settlements Across the Valley. The day-long conference includes lectures on research in Virginia, Colonial migrations in and out of the Shenendoah Valley, and Google Earth for Genealogists. Cost for the conference is $30 for VGS and SVGS members, and $40 for non-members. For more information, visit the Virginia Genealogical Society.

June 1, 2009

Defining “Personal Knowledge”

I saw a database of genealogical information today that puzzled me a bit. It was a collection of vital statistics for those living in a certain county in North Carolina. All of the information had been contributed by researchers who were required to give a “source” for the information they were sharing. Many listed records as sources: family Bibles, tombstones, military pensions, etc. But many other researchers claimed “personal knowledge” as their sole “source”.

The puzzling part is that these researchers obviously could not have personal knowledge of some of these events, many of which took place prior to 1900. For someone to have personal knowledge of an event, it is generally considered that said person witnessed the event. I know several of these researchers personally, and know without a doubt that not a one was born before the 1920s, let alone were they alive when the generations previous to that lived. How then could these modern-day researchers have been personal witnesses to the events stored within this database?

Now, I have been guilty of using the “personal knowledge” fallback when I should have used an actual source. For instance, I know that my mother was born on June 25, 1948, but I did not personally witness that event; it would therefore be more correct for me, in retelling how I came about acquiring this knowledge, to state that my mother told me her birth date. The problem then becomes that while my mother was a personal witness to her own birth, it’s highly unlikely that she carries any memories of the day, and so her source for the information was likely her mother. While we can assume that my grandmother would know when her own child was born, this illustrates a problem we encounter when information is removed from the source by hearsay or some other method: the farther away from the actual “witness” we go, the more ears into which something is repeated, then the less reliable the information in question becomes.

In our modern-day quest to rebuild the lives of our ancestors, it is exceedingly important for us to attach the appropriate source to each tiny bit of information, no matter how small. If we truly have personal knowledge of an event, then we should say so, but we should also add more: where the event took place, other witnesses, any detail that might enrich the record for future readers of our work. And if our knowledge comes from some other place, then we should also say that. Doing so will allow others to verify our work, thus making it more credible, but it is also adheres to a level of honesty that is the hallmark of modern genealogists.