Archive for May, 2013

May 29, 2013

Wishful Wednesday: My grandfather, Thad J. Watson, Sr.

My grandfather, Thad J. Watson, Sr., died the August before my father’s birth in a bombing run over Czechoslovakia during World War II. His plane was shot down. Only one crew member escaped.

My grandmother, Stella (a.k.a. Nanny), remarried two years later to Ned Burrell, or Papa Ned as we kids called him. He was a good man, and a good father to my grandmother’s children by both her husbands. My father has told me many stories about Papa Ned that make me grateful to have known him, if only for a short time.

While I don’t want to wish away Papa Ned and the integral role he played in our family, it would have been nice to know Daddy Thad, too. From all accounts, he was a good man, kind and well-liked. Steady and dependable with a warm sense of humor. But these are all second-hand reports of his character, taken from his siblings and people who knew him, and the few stories of him that have been passed down in our own line. Meeting him, knowing him, would have been grand.

Thad Sr. and Jr.

May 22, 2013

Call for Authors: The SAGA Newsletter

The Southern Appalachians Genealogical Association (SAGA) was formed last month to serve the needs of researchers with ancestors from across that region in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Membership is open to anyone willing to support the Society’s objectives, which revolve around education, preservation, publication, and scholarship.

The Society’s quarterly newsletter will be published in February, May, August, and November of each year. The first issue is scheduled for publication in August 2013. Regular features will include member queries, member news, and news from around the region.

Longer articles are also needed. Topics of particular interest include: research in archives or libraries; using and finding specific records; methodologies and techniques for better research; genealogy technology; genetic genealogy; biographies and short case studies; and articles on the history and culture of the region (specific localities or events), as well as historical preservation activities. Ideas on other topics are welcome.

All articles should be well-documented [edit: i.e. referenced] using citation formats recommended in Evidence Explained: Citing History from Artifacts to Cyberspace (2d. ed.) by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

For more information, see the newsletter section of the Society’s web site. Contact the newsletter’s editor at

May 14, 2013

Thank You, CGGS!

Many thanks to the folks at the Central Georgia Genealogical Society, who hosted my presentation on research in newspapers last night in Warner Robins. Y’all were an attentive and friendly group. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this versatile records set with you, and hope to meet with you again in the future. Until then, happy hunting!

May 11, 2013

A Sunday Walk Around the Blogs

Laura June wrote a lovely article that was published for The Verge, Who am I? Data and DNA answer one of life’s biggest questions. My personal feeling is that people rely too much on the Internet and DNA without really understanding basic genealogical research and methodologies (such as what constitutes “proof”), let alone that there are many, many other useful records found offline. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed Laura’s article, and hope that the limitations of technology in the genealogy field will one day be overcome.

Carl Zimmer, at National Geographic, discusses mathematics and genealogy in Charlemagne’s DNA and Our Universal Royalty. Be sure to check out the referenced scientific literature at PLOS Biology, The Geography of Recent Genetic Ancestry across Europe. Thanks to Redditor jjberg2 for posting these articles.

May 8, 2013

The times, they are a-changin’

On Monday, Randy Seaver, blogger extraordinaire, discussed recently made changes to the Evidence Analysis Process Map used by genealogists as a guideline for assessing the quality of sources and the information they contain, the nature of evidence, and the strength of proof. Two excellent versions of this map are available from Historic Pathways, courtesy of Elizabeth Shown Mills, and Think Genealogy.

The changes, too new to be shown on either map, would expand sources, information, and evidence each from two to three categories, adding authored sources to original and derivative ones; undetermined (or indeterminate) information to primary and secondary information; and negative evidence as a third category of evidence, along with direct and indirect evidence.

These changes are important for the same reason that it’s important to separate the form of a source from the information that source contains: because doing so helps us better understand the quality of both the source itself and the information derived from it, which in turn leads to better evidence (of all kinds) and, ultimately, to better proof.

While most genealogists focus on larger changes to the field, like better access to records through digitization, these small changes to underlying research tenets slip quietly by. Don’t get me wrong. I’m as excited about digitization, DNA, and the like as anyone else. But I’m equally excited about having new ways to analyze records, historic or modern.

These new distinctions aren’t merely semantics. They’re crucial to the assessments we make every day about the records we use and the evidence we derive from them. Genealogy is, after all, a field where details reign. Precision is key, and using precise terminology is an excellent way to remind ourselves of that.

May 5, 2013

A Sunday Walk Around the Blogs

In Talented Tuesday: Sture Wallin, Soldier and Baseball Player, Susan W. Mosey describes the intersection of her grandfather’s life with the Great American Pastime.

It’s shallow, I know, but when I see neat New England tombstones, like that of Elanathen Ives and Abigail Frisbe posted by Les at Bits and Pieces, I wish I had New England ancestors, too. But just for the tombstones.

Robyn at Reclaiming Kin writes about Genealogical Shock Syndrome in Martha Simpson: Right Under My Nose. GSS is a common malady often found in victims of the more well-known but related disease, Genealogical Researchitis. Fortunately, there’s a remedy, as Robyn amply demonstrates.

GeorgiaArchivesMatters brings good news for supporters of the Georgia Archives in A New Beginning…Bill Signing Scheduled.

May 3, 2013

Feature Friday: “Will Go By the Hemp Route,” 1896

Source: The Gainesville [GA] Eagle, Thursday, January 2, 1896, page 3, column 2.

Continue Reading

May 1, 2013

Publish or Perish?

One recurring topic on the members-only mailing list for the Association of Professional Genealogists is the rampant inaccuracies of lineage society applications. Those of the Daughters of the American Revolution are of particular concern because they’re often cited or used as proof by genealogists who don’t realize how many errors old applications contain.

The most recent discussion of this issue revolved in part around how genealogists can correct these errors without submitting a new application. My solution is, on the surface, quite simple: publication and wide dissemination of the corrections.

Unlike much of the rest of academia, genealogy is not a publish or perish field. Publication is encouraged, however, and there are plenty of outstanding opportunities for doing so.

More importantly, publication offers an outlet for the frustration many of us (rightly) feel when confronted with sloppy research. It’s a positive way to affect change, rather than sitting back and complaining about the situation.

Genealogy might not be a publish or perish field, but perhaps it should be a publish or quit complaining one.