Sunday, January 27, 2013

Finding more on "Find A Grave"

Find a Grave is a relatively new site for me. When searching, the site would popup in the search and lead to another website. The website would display graveyard information about the person I was researching and quite possibly a corresponding headstone. I would blindly add the gravesite to my ancestor’s page and move on. I didn't quite get it but thought it was really cool.

I don't know when it changed but suddenly, like most of my genealogical research, it hit me that there was more to Find A Grave than I realized. The website is not flashy. Its plain look threw me off and the features don't come with bells, lights, and whistles. However, I'm not complaining because I discovered advantages I never expected.

The format is straight forward. Fill in the information and press search. The trick is to put in enough information to get close to the person you are searching for but not more than was posted on the site. For example, I typed in William Ogden Rhea.

This is the message I got:

Grave Search Results
Sorry, there are no records in the Find A Grave database matching your query.

Well, at least the system is polite. So I played with it and found that if I put in “Rhea”, added the state, and omitted the William Ogden, there were 16 results. From there, it was easy to find my grandfather. With those results, I could also see my grandmother.

Wait, I am getting ahead of myself.

Martha Jane McColloam is my great grandmother. She is my topic for the Family History Writing Challenge in February 2013. Lynn from “The Armchair Genealogist” does this every year. I have spent weeks getting ready.

When I found Martha’s headstone I was delighted. It confirmed birth and death in a very concrete way. However, buried with her was a L. V. McColloam and a link to that page. Scrolling over to her page, I saw it was assigned to a Lillie McColloam. I knew that wasn’t right. Lillie married Nelson Snodgrass. I also knew that Martha’s daughter Luvena never married and died young. Sure enough, the dates I had for her matched the headstone.

On the Find a Grave page, there is a tab called edit. Clicking on the tab takes you to a form where you can correct information, add a bio or add other information for others searching for that person. Corrections were completed the next day.

Curious, I wondered who got the form so I starting reading the forum. I found that mostly volunteers maintain Find A Grave. I also found that it is possible to request a marker photo if there is not one on the page. Given the new-found knowledge, I tried another family and asked for the photos of my husband’s biological grandparents graves. The next day I received an email from the person who was going to take the pictures. She had questions about the family who makes up 90% of the cemetery. We had a very long conversation. I added her as a guest on my to aid her in identifying many of the graves with markings that aren’t clear anymore. It was very beneficial for both of us and we still correspond.

Back to the Rhea’s…the pictures of the markers were available almost immediately. They came with a message. Was the other two Rhea’s part of the same family? I didn’t realize my aunt and uncle were buried there too. I looked them up on Find A Grave but there were no pages for them. That’s when I learned I could add people if the cemetery is known. I completed the bio and the links and then requested the photos. I had always assumed that if they weren’t there, they didn’t exist. Now I know better.

I will admit that there is more for me to learn but giving back is big on my list. I am a new volunteer and take photos at my local cemeteries. If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, I will be out taking photos of the headstones in my queue.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Getting ready for the Family History Writing Challenge

The Family History Writing Challenge is coming up really quickly. I have pledged to write 1000 words a day. I don't think that it is an issue for me. It helps to be wordy. What I find difficult is the research. Having all the facts is only interesting to me.

The Armchair Genealogist is one of my favorite blogs. It is a complete one-stop-shop for research and writing family histories and she pulls in others who share their information as well. I have been reading all the new posts and have discovered I am woefully under-researched.

I have one week to find out what was going on in Sneedville, Tennessee during the time period I want to write about. I need to know what was going on in the country. I know that James McCollum missed the Civil War by going to California. I know that the Clinch River flooded at times and the family lived on the river. I read in the letters that they had to pull up the corn as the river rose along the banks where they planted.

I don't know where my mother found the information that John Brewer is the one who shot my great grandfather. Since Brewer must have lived in Sneedville too, that is another avenue to explore. The Brewer family does have a history that includes later relatives who had a gun battle in town over an election around 1900. Is it the same family?

The more I find, the more questions there are. This is going to be a busy research week.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Straddling the line between fact and fiction

Lying in the land of Memoir: Straddling the Line Between Fact and Fiction is an incredible article sharing thoughts about what we remember when writing a memoir and the actual truth.

I am joining the Family History Writing Challenge and don't know what was said in 1918. I wasn't there but I do have information about that time from my great grandmother's letters. To tell her story, I have done the research into her past and can make educated guesses about her life. Still, I will have to embellish some to fill in the gaps.

The article clearly shows how it is possible to add dialog and details because what we really want to share are not the exact details but the flavor and texture of the times and the person we are writing about. It won't make her story any less true nor the trials and troubles she endured. I want to write about her strengths, ability to overcome obstacles and abiding faith.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Need to find out who James Northcross McCollum really was

Finding that James Northcross McCollum left his family in Tennessee while he went off to the gold mines in California was interesting enough. Then to find out that in the 1880 Census, Mary Polly McCollum listed her marital status as divorced, added another wrinkle. I don't have the records to back the divorce but have written to the Hancock County Historical Society for help.

I had great success with other historical societies in Wisconsin when researching my husband's family so I am hoping for similar results. I have lots of questions. Most of the historical societies do research for reasonable prices and can often find the backup documentation. The hardest part is waiting.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Making a timeline

I would imagine that there is software out there to make a timeline. creates a timeline for each person but doesn't combine it on a family level. With the Gaulthair family, I used Excel to combine all the family members into some sort of order. I found it was really helpful.

With the Rhea family, I decided to do the same. I started with Martha Jane McColloam and her parents. I was shocked to find that my great, great grandfather, James Northcross McColloam, left his family somewhere between 1852 and 1867 and went to California. Doing a little research, I found that he was a miner in Klamath County, California. That is a beautiful area and is described as the Redwoods meeting the sea. I don't know if he was a gold miner on his own or worked for one of the larger mining companies. However, I did find that he was still there in 1880, leaving his wife, Mary Polly Gray,
to raise the girls in Tennessee.

It was certainly a change in career for him as he was a farmer when he headed west. It makes me wonder why he would make such an abrupt change. California would have been a real adventure for him and for all those times I have been there, I never realized that part of the Tennessee family had taken the same paths. While he was there, he experienced earthquakes that were not common in Tennessee. The weather is different. It does snow in Trinidad but certainly not like the winters in Sneedville.

Again we don't know when he came home but when he died in Sneedville, Tennessee, he was 75 years old.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Martha Jane McColloam

The Armchair Genealogist is starting their Family History Writing Challenge for the month of February. I am joining in with Martha as my topic. I have the five letters and with the recently unearthed photo, I feel like I have a good starting place.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Swiching gears

There are two blogs I follow religiously. "The Armchair Genealogist" and "Maybe Someone should write that down". Both of the have inspiring stories of their family histories but they also share tips on organization and posts from other blogs on motivation. I look forward to receiving their posts in my email. Today both of them talk about getting a handle on all the information that floats around my desk. It's the new year and getting organized seems to be the theme. Usually, I read it and then, go back to jumping from spot to spot without getting much done.

Today, I am going to organize my desk. I am going to make a file for all the papers I need to get my husband enrolled in the tribe we recently found he belongs to. We had his adoption records unsealed and have a lot of things to do to get the package ready to send in.

I have a heart template. I want my grandson to make valentines to use on my Squidoo lens. It is sitting on the forms for the original birth certificate. There is an envelope on top of that with some new information I found on the Gaulthair children. That needs to be filed for updates later.

What I really want to do is develop a in-depth history for my great grandmother. Spending time on the research is being sidetracked by all the other stuff sitting on my desk. Thanks to the two blogs for sharing their ideas. Today I clean my desk, tomorrow, I am off (figuratively) to Sneedville, Tennessee to peek into the past.