Archive for July, 2009

July 26, 2009

A Sunday Walk Around the Blogs

Below are links to some of my favorite blog and news articles from the past week.

Where is my family’s file?, a humorous look at beginning genealogy written by Daniel N. Leeson and reposted at

Top Ten Rules of Genealogy by Michael Hait on GenealogyWise, Genealogy’s new social networking site. Per usual, Michael offers some good rules of thumb. After you read that post, hop on over to Michael’s African-American genealogy column.

Your great grandfather cannot be found. Read it carefully. Laugh a lot. Nuff said.

July 13, 2009

Posting to Message Boards

Message boards can be a great way to meet other genealogists, and to find out what research has already been performed (and what hasn’t). My favorites are those hosted by Rootsweb and GenForum, but there are many other message boards out there for genealogists.

Unfortunately, message boards are one tool in the genealogist’s toolbox that are highly underutilized, in part because their function is not understood, and in part because many users do not know how to write an effective query.

A message board functions as both a digital meeting grounds and a digital bulletin board. Like records repositories, they are a wonderful place to meet and greet other researchers, to exchange information gathered, and to extend one’s knowledge of a family. Unlike records repositories, which may house both original and derivative information, the information contained in message board posts is always derivative and should be treated as such (that is, it should be verified independently, preferably using a variety of original records).

It is not enough to know that message board posts should be taken with a grain of salt. One must also know how to write an effective query post in order to reach the right researcher. Here are a few examples of poorly written queries:

I am looking for information on James Morgan. Please list everything you have.

Or another post that’s even more broad in nature:

I have just started researching the Morgan family. Please help.

How are other researchers supposed to know to which Morgan family these posts pertain? There simply isn’t enough detail in the post for other researchers to know if they have information on the subjects of these posts or not.

An effective query contains a minimum of the following: the exact name of the individual(s) being sought, dates of any pertinent events along with their associated places, known associates of the individual, the sources of the known information, and the information being sought. Here’s a better example:

I am searching for information on James Morgan, who was born circa 1788 in North Carolina. He appeared with his wife, Elizabeth (maiden name unknown), who was born circa 1780 in North Carolina, on the 1850 and 1860 US censuses for Rabun Co., GA (free population schedules). I also believe this James Morgan was the same James Morgan whose name was drawn to serve as a juror during the June Term, 1848, Inferior Court in Rabun County (see James and Elizabeth’s children are believed to be:

1. Elizabeth Morgan, born circa 1814 in NC, married Joseph Hial Fletcher on February 27, 1848 in Rabun County;
2. Polly Morgan, born circa 1815, who was living with James and Elizabeth in both 1850 and 1860;
3. Martin Morgan, born circa 1820 in NC, married Priscilla Jennings on February 17, 1848 in Rabun County;
4. Jane Morgan, born circa 1824 in Polk Co., TN, married James Fletcher (a possible brother to Joseph Hial Fletcher) on September 5, 1839 in Green Co., TN;
5. Dicy Morgan, born circa 1825 in NC, married Joseph E. Jennings on February 24, 1848 in Rabun County;
6. Beverly Morgan, born circa 1826, married Malinda Bullard on November 29, 1853 in Rabun County.

I am specifically seeking information connecting the suspected children to James and Elizabeth.

The above post is much more effective than the previous two posts because it includes the names of the individuals being sought, enough detail to distinguish this family from other families with similar names, and some of the sources used. It also includes the all-important reason why this query is being posted.

Unlike query letters, message boards are the perfect place to list detail, and lots of it. There is a limit, yes. For instance, posting transcriptions of all known records for one family in a single post might be a bit much (perhaps those should be placed in individual posts under the original message), but a long list of sources used (both original and derivative) would be perfectly appropriate. This is also the place to say I don’t know. For instance, in the above query, one might have added:

Information on the James Fletcher and Jane Morgan family came from another researcher (name and e-mail address available upon request). I presume from the information this researcher sent that the James and Elizabeth Morgan family were in the Polk Co., TN area in the late 1830s, and possibly in adjacent Western NC before and after, but I have not yet verified this.

See? A simple, painless, and honest I don’t know that lets other researchers know what avenues have and have not been explored. More importantly, it shows that a basic analysis of the gathered material has taken place.

Message boards offer endless opportunities to the savvy researcher who remembers to be specific and include details. Plus, the posts remain open indefinitely, allowing future researchers to find and contact past ones, as long as e-mail addresses are maintained and kept current.

July 9, 2009

The Paper of Record

Paper of record is, in short, a term used to define a newspaper that functions as the legal organ of an area; that is, the newspaper is responsible, whether officially or unofficially, for publishing public notices required by law for certain instances, such as rezoning efforts or changes to statute.

For genealogists, the paper of record can be a goldmine of information as it contains legal notices that might be missing from court records, for whatever reason (e.g. the court minutes were destroyed). This includes notices to debtors and creditors for an estate, notice of two parties divorcing, and notice of sheriff’s sales, or any other instance where public notice was required by law.

In Rabun County, the current paper of record is The Clayton Tribune. While the Tribune has been published off and on from 1897 to the present, it wasn’t always the paper of record for Rabun County. During the late 1910s and early 1920s, the Tri-County Advertiser, published in Clarkesville, Habersham County, Georgia, was the paper of record for Rabun County.

Before the Tribune was published, other newspapers served as Rabun County’s legal organ. During the 1850s, the Southern Banner out of Athens, Georgia filled this function. From at least 1878 to the time the Tribune was first published, the Gainesville Eagle, published in Hall County, was the paper of record, although the Clarkesville Advertiser, the Tri-County Advertiser’s precursor, and the Clayton Argus may have been used as the paper of record during the 1890s. Issues of the Tri-County Advertiser, the Gainesville Eagle, and the Clayton Tribune are still on file in the Probate Judge’s office at the county courthouse in Clayton.

A little research into local historical newspapers can yield a great reward for the family historian. Recent efforts to preserve these papers have resulted in the formation of newspaper projects by large universities and state libraries. The University of Georgia’s Georgia Newspaper Project was the first such project I learned of and used. For information on other state historical newspaper collections, see the United States Newspaper Project, courtesy of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

July 7, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday: Harrison and Nicie Darnell

The tombstone of Harrison and Nicie Darnell, Betty's Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, Rabun County, Georgia

Harrison Mar. 17, 1814 Nov. 24, 1893
Nicie Jan. 7, 1819 Feb. 14, 1898

Betty’s Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, Rabun County, Georgia

July 5, 2009

A Sunday Walk Around the Blogs

Interesting blog and news articles I’ve stumbled across during the past week.

Study Groups Take Many Forms by Stefani Evans for the Las Vegas Sun. Ms. Evans describes the phenomenon of virtual or online study groups for genealogists. Includes a link to a related article.

Tombstone Tuesday from Georgia Black Crackers by Mavis Jones. Ms. Jones shares pictures of two of her Pierce ancestors tombstones, and gives a link to a volunteer web site for those needing cemetery research in Georgia.

My Brickwall Ancestor: John Kelly, (1840 – 1905) – Madness Monday at Still More Genealogy: Because there’s just no end to the genealogy. Aside from the catchy title of the blog, I was struck by how thorough this author’s attempts have been, both in breaking this brick wall and in writing about it. Kudos and good luck!

Discounted NEHGS Memberships Through July 31, 2009 by Thomas MacEntee for MacEntee describes the benefits of membership with the New England Historic Genealogical Society, which is a bargain at $60 per year…but only if you sign up before July 31st. After that, you’ll have to pay the normal membership fee of $75 per annum (which is still a bargain, IMHO).

July 2, 2009

A Fellow Researcher Asks About the Neville and Price Families

On June 20, 2009, I received the following comment on a previous blog article I’d written for my old blog at, Tombstone Tuesday: Edward Coffee and Elizabeth Neville Coffee. Since I’m no longer able to access that blog, I thought I would post and answer the comment here:

Hi, this is very interesting. I have visited this cemetery and have seen these stones. Elizabeth was a sister of Rebecca Neville. Their father and mother were Jesse and Margarette McCarter Neville who are buried in the old Neville Cemetery just outside of Walhalla. Jessie had a plantation at the site of the cemetery, so I assume that the girls were born in what is now Oconee County. Rebecca is my ggggggrandmother, having married William Price. I am looking for their graves, but not having any luck. He died in RABUN County, Ga in 1825. Rebecca lived to be 94 and also died there. Do you know much more about the Neville family? I would love to know more and would love to know what you have. If you should find their graves, please let me know by my private e-mail address. Thank you, Sue D.

Thanks for writing, Sue. Unfortunately, I know very little about the Neville family except what I’ve learned from other researchers or local history books (e.g. Sketches of Rabun County History by Dr. Andrew J. Ritchie).

As for Rabun County burials, try the USGenWeb Archives for Rabun County. At the top of the page is a link to the search engine. After clicking on that link, enter the surname, select the county and record type, and then hit the search button. Most of the burial grounds for Rabun County were surveyed and placed online in about 1998 by Elaine and Bill English, a local couple who are avid historians.

I can tell you from personal experience that there aren’t many graves marked by engraved tombstones in this area from the early to mid-1820s. I’m not certain why that is, because there were certainly residents who died during that time period, and many were more than able to afford to erect a stone. Part of the reason may have been because Rabun County was still very much a wilderness in 1825, in spite of the influx of white settlers and businessmen. It’s also possible that many of the earliest graves were marked by engraved tombstones, but years of weathering may have eroded the stones to the point of illegibility.

You may be able to narrow down possible burial sites by comparing early land records for William and Rebecca Neville Price against the original land lot maps and modern maps to find nearby burial grounds. If you can find where they lived, you may also be able to locate the church they attended, if any, and find burial or other records that way.

I wish you well with your search.

July 1, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: The Martin Sisters, 1958

From left to right, starting in the front: Eunice, Daisy, Stella, and Catherine, the daughters of O. W. and Pearl Hopper Martin. Taken in 1958, likely near the family home on Messer Creek in the Betty’s Creek area of Rabun Co., GA. Photo courtesy of Catherine Martin Spencer.