Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Week four - Genealogy Do-Over - Really? Can't we agree on a date?

With the citing of sources and learning the process, it has become very clear that it is no longer possible to ignore the birth dates differences for my father and my grandfather.
My dad, Ernest Rhea and my grandpa, William Rhea, La Brea Tar Pits, October 1947
Until the day he died (at age 79 or 80, depending on whose story you believe) my dad lied about his age and told everyone he was 35. He and my uncle liked to talk about how close they were in age at 11 months apart. My uncle was born in November 1919 (verified) which would make 11 months, October 1920. My dad's birthday was in October but many of his records also say 1921 and that's the story he stuck with. He always kidded my mom about her advanced age being three years older than he. However, I honestly believe some of the records are wrong and he was born in 1920. I have lots of documents with both years so it's up in the air at this moment because the one document I don't have is his birth certificate. It seems Montana's fees are quite expensive so it will have to wait.

My grandfather was maybe born in 1882. My mother copied the pages of the family Bible in 1982 but no one knows where it went after that. I have the copies and it lists my grandfather's birth year at 1882 but many of his other documents say 1881. I believe I will eventually end up using the Bible as proof because it is the source listed on the Delayed Tennessee Birth Certificate. I don't think I can argue with the State of Tennessee.  I can understand the confusion with my grandfather, he did not request the certificate until 1946 at the age of 64.

I'm beginning to think I like my mother's side of the family much better because they documented everything. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over - Week Three - What I learned from the "Real" Genealogists

I have played with everyone's research logs. Some I like, some I find difficult, and some have great features I wish were all incorporated into one. In the many (many, many) years I have worked with my family history, I have never tracked anything. The Do-Over is forcing my hand.

I am aware of the "Real" genealogists who complain about us "Family History" researchers. It seems to be us against them when it comes to research procedures. I have always just smiled at the attitudes and continued on my merry way, finding sources but not citing them. All of a sudden, it changed.

I can honestly say I have known all along that my research was sloppy. I know there are holes in my research because I couldn't afford to purchase the records I needed. The Do-Over has made it really clear that my careless research has hindered my research and I have already found two proof points I missed. I will be ordering documents as I can afford them.

Then, I actually had to cite a source. What a drag! If you are like me, you have lots of original documents, letters, photos, and certificates. I look at the sheer amount of work I need to do to catch up and want to quit.

Citing sources is a chore and a new process for me. However, I will adjust because I just learned has satisfying it is to have the information verified and documented.

Does that make me a "Real" genealogist? No way. I am still a "Family Historian" who will now use the research processes used by the genealogists while continuing to go my merry way, finding out about my family.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

You might be a Redneck

The phrase "You might be a Redneck", popularized by Jeff Foxworthy and defined by Merriam-Webster as a "a white person who lives in a small town or in the country especially in the southern U.S, who typically has a working-class job, and who is seen by others as being uneducated and having opinions and attitudes that are offensive", had an entirely different meaning in the 1920's.

How does this fit into my Rhea family history? One of the reasons my grandmother refused to live in the tiny area surrounding Sneedville, Tennessee was the mine. The only way to make extra money was to work in the mine and she didn't want that for her husband. So, in 1914, William Ogden Rhea and Mellie Farris Rhea, packed their bags and headed north until their money ran out in Billings, Montana.
William Ogden Rhea and Mellie (Farris) Rhea in Los Angeles, California, visiting my newly married parents in August 1947. 
The rest of the family, Martha Jane Rhea, my great grandmother, and three of the kids, continued to farm the land along the Clinch River. They did quite well supporting themselves by growing corn and tobacco. However, several family members were lured into working the mine for the money to supplement the farm income. The working conditions for the miners were brutal all through the Appalachian Mountains. There were no safeguards, the worker's and their families were terrorized, and working the mines brought black lung and other respiratory illnesses.

In a letter to my grandparents on January 1, 1919, Martha Jane Rhea wrote:

"The mining people is going slow. Wages for common work is $1.50, carpenter $3.00 or $3.50. A man by the name of Coberly from Joplin, M.O. is here to setup their machinery. His family is here. They claim to have one million and quarter dollars worth of mineral in sight." Big money for the investors, nothing for the miners.

It all came to a head in 1921 at the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia when more than 10,000 coal miners confronted state and federal troops. Their goal was to unionize the Southwestern West Virginia mine counties. The labor laws in effect today were largely due to this battle for better working conditions. It was the biggest armed uprising in American labor history.


The protesting miners at Blair Mountain wore red bandannas around their necks, hence the term "Redneck". In this short video of the struggle, the bandannas can be seen in some of the pictures.

Do you have Rednecks in your family?