Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sorting out the Marys

It has probably happened to almost everyone who works on their family tree. You find a record in an area that you know your relative either lived or had living relatives and might have visited. You get excited. "One more record to verify Aunt Mary's age! Woohoo!" You quickly add the record to your family tree and move on to the next tantalizing hint or quivering leaf.

And then, perhaps later that day, or months later, you discover that the person in the record you so excitedly added to your tree was not your relative. Or the person is related to you, but the record is attached to the wrong relative. You correct your error and move on. You may even forget it happened.

Until you discover that someone else either copied your work (OK, so we share finds), found the same record you did and made the same error, or copied someone else's mistakenly linked record. You politely contact the person and fill in the blanks, so he or she can make the corrections for your ancestor.

And that person counters with something like, "Are you certain?" Are you? Have you kept up with your documentation? If you had to prove it, could you?

Yep, you guessed it! This just happened to me. Two Mary's with the same maiden name and almost the same year of birth, born in two different states, marry two Frank's with the same surname, born in the same state and county about 10 years apart. Below is my reasoning and proof. How did I do?

Theory: Mary E. Heise Root of Camden and Columbia, SC is not the same person as Mary Root, wife of Francis Root, buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Southington, CT (FindAGrave memorial id 68137812.)

Proof: We are dealing with two Francis Roots and two Mary Roots. Francis and Mary Root live in South Carolina in 1850 and 1860, although Francis is deceased by 1860. Another Francis and Mary Root live in Connecticut in 1850 and 1860, although Mary dies in 1853.

A Mary Root appears in the 1860 Columbia, SC census and the 1850 Camden, SC census. Her age on both is consistent with her being the same person. Although her husband, Francis, is absent from the 1860 census,

A Mary and a Francis Root are enumerated in the 1850 census, living in Southington, Connecticut. They have children, and these children's names do not correspond with the names and ages of the children of Mary and Francis Root in the 1850 Camden, SC census or the 1860 Columbia, SC census.

The names and ages of the children of Mary and Francis Root in the 1850 Connecticut census correspond with the names and ages of the children of the 1860 Francis and Bridget Root, living in New Haven, Connecticut. This would be consistent with Mary Root of the 1850 Connecticut census dying in Connecticut in 1853 and her Francis remarrying prior to the 1860 Connecticut census. Family trees I found for this Francis Root list his parents as Amzi and Anna Root. I have not verified this Francis Root's parents, so please do not quote this as fact.

Also, in the 1860 Connecticut Francis Root census record, he has a daughter aged 9, Anna. This also fits with the other name on Mary Root's Oak Hill Cemetery (Southington, CT) tombstone: Annie, died 1867, aged 16.

1850 Southington, CT Census                                               1860 New Haven, CT Census
Francis A Root 27                                                                  Francis A Root 37
Mary Root 30                                                                         Bridget A Root 31
George D Root 7                                                                    George D Root 17
Levi F Root 5                                                                         Levi F Root 15
Charles E Root 2                                                                    Charles E Root 13
Polly Thorp 64
                                                                  *under the age of 10; not on 1850 census
                                                                                             *Anna M Root 9
                                                                                             *James H Root 2
                                                                                             *Bernard W Root 11/12

                                                                   ** not on 1860 census
1850 Camden, SC Census                                                     1860 Columbia, SC Census
Francis Root 40                                                                      **dies between 1850 and 1860
Mary Root 29                                                                         Mary E Root 40
Maria Root 13                                                                        **married
John Root 10                                                                          John L Root 21
Francis Root 9                                                                        Francis B Root 20
Ida Root 4                                                                              Ida H Root 15
Caroline Root 1                                                                      Caroline C Root 11
Elizh Root 17                                                                          **married

So, we have two Francis Roots and two Mary Roots. The two Francis Roots may be related. I haven't finished that research yet. However, the two Francis Roots are not the same person. And the two Mary Roots are not the same person.

I am still trying to locate documentation on the date of death and place of burial for the SC Francis (Frank) and Mary Root. If you have any clues, please share.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Losing Elaine

The newest post on my Facebook feed stopped everything: my heart, my mind and time. All were suspended as I read and re-read Cousin Elaine's granddaughter's post. A massive heart attack hospitalized Elaine. Recovery prospects weren't looking good. That was last week, an eternity ago.

My mind races back in time to the day quite a few years ago when I ventured into the Hunnicutt surname forum on to see if one of my cousins had left any new tidbits of info. Spying a lively discussion about a distant relative, I settled back in my chair and began to read. Of course, being a Hunnicutt, I had to add my two cents worth to the chatter. The very next message was from Elaine, "Hi Cousin!"

Friends and cousins, we only knew each other through phone calls, e-mails, Facebook and family history forums. Fourth cousins once removed, we felt more like first cousins, sharing laughter over the funnier family tree entries and tall tales (a Hunnicutt family tradition), and bemoaning that one key piece of information one of us needed to make a documented connection on her tree. Every year, she invited my family to her branch of the Hunnicutt reunion. And every year something happened and I failed to show up.

With tears stinging my eyes, on Monday, I updated her family history profile on my family tree with her date and place of death. Missing from her profile are her funny posts, her steadfast loyalty, her terrific sense of humor, her deep seated love of family and God, and well, Elaine. It doesn't show the huge hole in her family's lives that she left when she went home to God.

Part of me is a tad bit jealous of Elaine. Now she's privy to all of that information that we've been rooting around to find for years! Now she knows why we have at least three Thomas Harrison's in the family during the same time period, and who they're actually named for. We used to joke that the first one to get to heaven had to help the one left behind with research. I hope she remembers that I wasn't joking.

Elaine, can you sneak me a hint somehow? And while you're getting to know the rest of the family up there, can you ask "Original" William if he just made up the family surname when he arrived in America, or if he was he just a horrible speller, a trait he possibly passed down through the generations? Did you take the list of our questions and family mysteries with you?

Rest in peace my dear cousin and partner in digging up the family tree. I already miss you! I hope you'll watch over my shoulder while I research, and if you see something I need to take a look at, just give me a Gibbs slap to get my attention. You know me, I may need more than one. And until we see each other on the other side, remember: I love you more!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Where's the genealogy record index auto correct button?

Banging my head on my computer desk, my cries of frustration send my cats hurtling to safety underneath my bed, peering back at me and waiting until my latest tirade is over. "Not another one!" I moan through gritted teeth, blinking furiously in hopes that what I'm seeing isn't real.

But there it is, staring back at me from my computer monitor: the dreaded mis-transcribed genealogy record. I have the transcribed death certificate record and the imaged death certificate document pulled up, side by side. The transcribed record says the lady's name is Goldie. The imaged document plainly shows the lady's name is Addie. And you don't want to know what I went through to get here. Or maybe you do. That's a whole different post for later.

OK, to err is human, right? And it happens frequently in genealogy. Transcribing handwritten documents isn't all fun and games. It's eyestrain, cursing strange abbreviations and sloppy handwriting, and long hours trying to figure out if that's an "A" or an "O". I do thank all of those who do it on a regular basis! Umpires and referees hear back from the fans when they make a bad call. Who do you scream at when it's a genealogy transcriber who goofed? I usually scream at my monitor, my cats hide, and my husband reminds me that "They can't hear you scream."

And who hid the genealogy record auto correct button? Probably in a drawer in Utah somewhere, gathering dust. (No offense to the hardworking researchers and transcribers from all over the world, including Utah.) But I need that button now and it's no where on my keyboard or on my screen.

So how do I get it fixed? How in this virtual world do I get Addie's name changed on the transcribed record and in the index for the website so the next person researching Addie can find it quickly?

With documentation, sticking to the facts, patience and sometimes persistence, that's how. And I usually am able to get corrections made to the transcribed record. I can't make corrections to the imaged document.

But before I submit my changes in a flurry of keystrokes, I need to make sure that I have my facts straight. After all, I don't want to add to the problem, do I? Adding more errors to errors isn't a good thing, right? I don't want to be known as the chicken little of genealogy.

Can I prove that the transcribed record needs to be changed? Going back in my notes, how did I arrive here with Addie? Is this really Addie's record, or have I totally goofed and it's really Goldie's? Where did I find this information? Did I use published documents or databases, or did I use someone else's notes? Checking my notes, I see that I traced this record down with Addie's husband's name and Addie's documented dates of birth and death. The city and state are correct, and are where Addie lived with her husband and children. She's buried in the same cemetery that is listed on the imaged death record. OK, this is Addie's record. And of course, the imaged document shows her first name is Addie. Now that I've double checked my research, it's time to get the record corrected, the transcribed record that is.

Not enough proof? Time for me to go back and find documentation to prove that the record needs to change, I either go back and carefully collect the proof or I make notes that I need to go back sometime and do this. Suspicions and gut instincts aren't enough to request corrections, no matter how convinced I am that I am right. Hunches are hunches, but facts are facts.

Usually, sites have one of three ways for me to submit corrections: comments section, error reporting page or form, or e-mail. I know that they are going to review my request and maybe even double check my documentation. I am clear and specific on the correction(s) I want made. I give the reason for the correction, and add notes from other documentation, such as "name appears as Addie on her marriage license dated 01 Jan 1890, Richmond, VA". On error reporting forms/pages or e-mails, I include the url of the transcribed record with the error and the url of the image. I keep my sarcastic comments to myself, and vent to my husband or my cats. I keep my communication with the website professional, even though I am not a professional genealogist.

I usually see the corrections made fairly quickly, usually within a week, although some sites aren't updated that frequently. One site I submitted corrections to is only updated once every three months, so I made a note to check the next time he sends the site update notice.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day to my father, my grandfathers, my great-grandfathers and all the others

Happy Father's Day to all of the fathers out there! Enjoy your day - you deserve it.

This will be the twelfth Father's Day without my Dad. I still tear up at the Sears Fathers Day commercials and can't set foot in the hardware tool department between Mother's Day and Father's Day. I see so many tools and gadgets that I know my father would have loved.

My husband gets photos for Father's Day. I hope he enjoys them. I think he does.

The best gift I can give to those fathers who have gone before is to continue my family history research, continue to locate "lost" relatives and to connect with as many of my relatives as I can. As I work on the family history, I find myself wanting to pick up the phone to call my Dad to tell him that I found this tidbit of information or that I heard from that cousin. Dad would have loved to have heard my news.

He wasn't excited about uprooting the family tree at first. He thought it a bunch of hooey and told me that I if I thought I was going to find royalty or famous people in our tree, I could just stop and save myself time and energy. As I located the graves of his great grandparents and reconnected with his first cousin's son, Dad grew to appreciate family history. He saw that it wasn't just a bunch of begats and trying to find famous or infamous ancestors or relatives. Dad realized that family history is about the people, about their lives and about their legacies.

Dad was a research chemist, and he passed along many of the techniques of research to me, and I use them. I take notes. I know to verify information that others give me. I think about the whats, the whys and the hows. I make notes of where I found books, and where I found information. I got historical maps and saw how the state and county boundaries changed, and that solved some very puzzling moves by some of my ancestors.

Thank you for all that you taught me, Dad. You may have thought that you were trying to teach me in vain. I hope you see that I did listen and despite my trying not to some times, I did learn.

So, in your honor, I'm going to go and try to uproot some more ancestors on your side of the family tree. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Family is family, no matter how distant

I had lunch with two of my maternal grandmother's first cousin Myrtle's great granddaughters and one of her great great granddaughters. It's the first time we met. And I owe it all to my grandmother. How I wish she had been there so I could have seen her expression when she first saw them. I knew they were related to us in a heartbeat!

It always amazes me how cousins, third and fourth cousins, can look so much alike or have similar mannerisms. I felt right at home with Pat, Tina and Emily. It was almost as if I'd known them all of my life.

As we visited and shared stories, I couldn't help but notice Pat pursing her lips, just like my grandmother, her daughters, her great niece Barb and yes, even I do.

I got so tickled at Emily when she rolled her eyes at her Mom (Tina), and then quickly looked down in total innocence. I've seen my Mom and Aunt Ethel do that to my grandmother. I know I did it to my Mom and so did Cindy. I see others roll their eyes, but they don't usually drop their eyes to the floor right afterwards.

And when we were leaving, Pat went over to talk to one of her friends. She had her back to us, and if I hadn't known that my Mom wasn't there, I would have sworn she was. Pat's stance and the way she moved her head and hands when she talked to her friends was 100% Mom.

I've made progress on the promise I made to my grandmother oh so many years ago to reconnect with her father's family. I know they lost touch when he moved away and that she wished she had known her first cousins.

She set me out on this quest, and I thank her for that. I wish she were here so I could thank her in person. I know in my heart that she is following my journey from the other side. I'm not sure why she asked me, out of all of her grandchildren to do this. Maybe she asked the others, and they either don't remember or aren't that interested. Who knows? Well, grandmother knows. I know that a couple of my cousins are interested and do research once in a while. Now if they would only share their information instead of telling me "Oh, I already knew that." when I send them updates on my research! Grr!

Maybe she knew that out of all of her grandchildren, I would be the one who needed to connect with family, even distant cousins. Maybe she knew that I would take her request seriously and keep chipping away at the brick walls until I could find a loose brick that would lead to a long hidden document or photograph that gave me another clue in my quest to reconnect with my great grandfather's family.

Speaking of which, it's time for me to close. I'd love to hear your stories of reconnecting with long lost relatives.

And now, I'm off to continue uprooting the family tree!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Chronicling America - a Genealogy Goldmine

If you're researching your family history in the United States during the years 1836-1922, you need to know about Chronicling America. Chronicling America is a a partnership between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for Humanities through the National Digital Newspaper Program.

Through this program, various institutions in each state are awarded grants to help select and digitize about 100,000 pages of historic newspapers. Each year, more newspapers and more years are added, giving historians and family history researchers more access to information that has previously been limited to those able to physically visit a library or archive, or pay for someone to copy the article for them.

I love digging through this treasure trove of information. I found out that one of my great great grandfathers had a series of restaurants and bars, and that a distant cousin died on a cruise ship in Nova Scotia in 1911. I've found wedding and birth announcements, flowery obituaries, county fair winners, hotel visits by out of town relatives and articles on elections.

What will you find? Well, you won't know until you start searching. Let me know what you discover. It's out there, just waiting for you to find it.

I'm off to continue uprooting my family tree!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Oops! This Willard is a girl!

So, I'm going down the line of my great grandmother's eldest brother, trying to locate some living descendants to contact to share family history information, and I find a family tree that shows that great great uncle John has a great grandson named Willard. Woohoo! Celebrate, add another twig to the family tree by copying the other person's info for Willard and start searching for more information on Willard, right?

Next, I find a marriage license for Willard. And Willard is marrying another guy in the late 1930's. No way! That just didn't happen back then. I go back and double check the names. Willard and Gordon got married. For real. No kidding. There it is in black and white, or rather in pixels in shades of grey.

Now I have to go and figure this one out. Folks in the 1930's weren't very accepting of two males marrying. So, the index I found has misinformation, or either Willard or Gordon is a female, or something else is going on. I have to keep an open mind, not jump to conclusions and stick to facts, verifiable facts.

I do some more digging around on the internet and stumble upon an image of the actual marriage license. Aha! Willard is the bride! So, I go back to modify Willard's record on the family tree to show Willard is a female. I check the actual census images, which I did not do the first time around, and find that on each one, Willard is plainly marked as female. This is my fault, as I didn't verify what the other researcher had for Willard. I just accepted it and moved on. My mistake! And I know better.

Now I have a ton of work to do to go back and verify the details for family members with unusual names, just in case. And while I don't think there's a boy named Sue in my tree, there is a very beautiful girl named Willard. I'm so happy she's there, that I discovered my mistake and I corrected it. Cousin Willard is on the other side now, probably shaking her head at my mistake, ensuing quandary and the head slap I gave myself when I figured it out. I do hope she's happy that I found her and her family. 

From now on, I have to remember: when you add a new person or line from another's family tree, you need to verify the information. I was so excited that I didn't stop and start verifying Willard's information starting with the census and birth records. Had I double checked, I would have found out that Willard is a female, and I wouldn't have wasted valuable research time on my little adventure. 

So, I'll take a good hard look at what the other tree or source has for the person or line I'm researching. Does the information make sense? Is the person's birthdate in keeping with the parents' birthdates and death dates, if I have those? I've seen people in family trees with birthdates before their parents' birthdates, i.e. John is born in 1780 but his father isn't born until 1810? What about the marriage date, if there is one? Did John get married in 1781, a year after he was born? Unless John's royalty, which won't happen in my family, something is just right with those dates. I'll check it out.

What about the birth and death dates of any children? Do they pass the smell check? Was John born when his mother was 5 years old? I could find out that John's mother died and the person shown is the stepmother who raised him, or the birthdate for his mother could be wrong. I've had both things happen in my quest to uproot my family tree.

On several trees that other researchers have for my mother's family, they have my grandfather as his brother's father and my great grandmother married to my grandfather, even though the dates don't make sense. They have the correct dates. The relationships are way off! Someone messed up on the relationships. Others just copied without verifying. The error spreads. I've tried to contact the tree owners, but they either aren't interested, thought my e-mail was spam or aren't checking that e-mail account.

I'm off to do some verifying of information on my family tree and adding source information for any documentation I find. And then, it's more uprooting the family tree. Have a great weekend. May you make a wonderful discovery on your family tree!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mysterious Burials and Sleuthing Cousins

After I got home from my trip to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Cape Cod and Plymouth, MA, I took my notes, sat down at the computer and started working on the mystery burials in the family plot at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. You can read about the first part of my trip here.

I started working with the unmarked burial. I had a name and a burial date. I double checked my family tree on No matches there. So, I started with my great great great grandparents and went through the trees of each of their children to see if there were any new hints. Of course there were, thanks to Ancestry. I found two likely candidates, both related to a son of my great great great grandparents. One is his daughter; the other is his second wife. He's buried in the plot beside his first wife. The unmarked burial is on the other side of his first wife, so I'm thinking it's most likely his daughter, as there is room for a burial on his other side.

Armed with the birthdate and the date of the last US census record I can find for the daughter, I head over to to see what they might have on my distant cousin. Plowing through the death records and will indexes, I find several records that might be for my distant cousin. Unfortunately, all I can find are the indexes as the online will images don't go very far into 1900 and the first index record that matches is for 1905. I decide to take a break from researching the unmarked burial and see what I can find on the removed grave.

I know the name of the man who was originally buried in the plot and then moved to another plot. I do not have his original burial date. I do have the date he was moved. I do not have any information on why he was moved. I don't have the name of the owner of the plot where he was moved. Doing a search on Ancestry leads me to my great great great uncle's second wife. There is a niece with the same last name and the niece's daughter living with the widowed second wife. Can you say bingo?

A quick check of shows that the niece in question is the wife of the man whose grave was moved. Moving on to FamilySearch, I locate her death record. And yes, we have a match! I have verification from several sources. I even locate a copy of a newspaper article on Chronicling America from 1877, when the mystery man died, that gives his occupation (minister) and his wife's name, which matches.  It all adds up. He was buried in the old family plot when he died in 1877. She, or someone, buys the new plot and has him moved there in 1908. His wife dies in 1921 and is buried next to him.

Always keep in mind that death records are good if and only if the informant can actually answer the questions accurately. Even my own grandmother's death certificate from 1982 has several errors, which I have documented in my notes, verified against other, more reliable records.

One mystery solved. One mystery to go. I sent one of my cousins an e-mail outlining my discovery and sharing a photo of the record with him. A few minutes later, his answer appears in my in box. The unmarked burial is the daughter. Another cousin had more documentation verifying that the daughter is buried in the unmarked grave. Why her grave is unmarked is another mystery for another time.

Stay tuned. I am by no means finished with my family history research. I also have a couple of helpful websites and tips to share with you in future posts.

Until then, enjoy uprooting your family tree!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mysterious Burials, Flaky Internet and a Laptop That Lost Its Mind

Recently, on the way to visit relatives on Cape Cod, I realized a childhood dream and visited Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, NY, where I have many relatives buried. To make my visit even better, Jim in the cemetery office helped me find my great great great grandfather's burial record and he tracked down the plot map and interment record for the plot where both of my great great great grandparents in this line are buried. (I will talk about my experiences at Sleepy Hollow in another post, so stay tuned.)

Well, my family being my family, this couldn't be a clean and simple interment record, now could it? Of course not! If there is one lesson I've learned from researching my family history, it's that almost every discovery opens another can of worms to research. Hints, tips and research to do's multiply faster than a pair of rabbits or guppies.

While I was quickly able to identify most of the burials in the plot as family members and could connect each name with their place on the family tree, there were two mysteries: an unfamiliar relative and a mysterious grave removal. I checked my tree on the mobile app on my smartphone. Nothing. Drat! Time to grab my laptop, hook up to the internet and do some uprooting.

Not so fast missy, says someone somewhere in the universe. It can't be quite that easy. After all, this is my family history research we're talking about. There must be challenges and roadblocks somewhere. Ah yes, there they are, straight ahead. I should have known this wasn't going to be easy.

Since I was stuck in a resort on Cape Cod with spotty internet service, solving those mysteries would have to wait until I could get home where I had reliable internet service and a working PC. The first night we were at the resort, my laptop was acting "funny." Virus scan clean. Malware scan clean. Spyware scan clean. Check disk cleaned up a few problems.

On the second night, my laptop decided to lose it's mind. After beating my head against the wooden table and trying my best to coax my laptop into finding itself again, I gave up and resorted to restoring my laptop to factory settings on the third night. Hello universe, I have a mystery to solve! I don't have time for a sulking laptop, fifty eleventy million windows updates and internet service that goes up and down faster than the needle on the EKG machine during a cardio stress test.

Oh joy of joys! Now I'm dealing with unreliable internet that goes down at 9 pm every night, a laptop that needs windows updates from the dawn of time and I'm dying to get to work on the mysterious burials in the family plot. Sigh, breathe, enjoy visiting with my family, and have fun on the cape.

Now, fast forward to the day after I return home from our trip. Woohoo! Finally I can get started on solving the mystery. Who are these people? How are they related to me? Why was one grave moved? What's their story?

To be continued in my next post ...

Until then, enjoy uprooting your family tree!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Cousin Connection - Finding New Cousins

I love finding new cousins! My poor husband says that by now, I must be related to most of the residents of the United States. While that is a huge exaggeration, I do know many more of my cousins, closely related and distant, than he knows of his closely related cousins. And I keep in touch with many of my cousins, between e-mails, phone calls and Ancestry updates.

Chanda is my most recently found cousin. I haven't calculated exactly our kinship degree (first, second, removed), but we are at least third cousins. My great great grandfather is our common relative.

We connected while I was researching an old newspaper article on my great grandfather's family. I was trying to verify or disprove some if the information by searching for other documentation on Google. And Chanda's tree popped up. I contacted her via Ancestry. While she wasn't able to verify the information I sought, we were able to confirm that we are related. She descends from my great great grandfather's sister. Her grandfather lost touch with his family, so she doesn't really know too much about our family history. And I don't really know too much about her line, so we're both going to do some research on her line and see what we uproot.

I'm looking forward to getting to know Chanda and working with her on our shared family history.

Here's to uprooting the family tree!


Sunday, April 7, 2013


Welcome. I've been uprooting my family tree for a long time, and those roots keep multiplying and hiding from me. And the more I uncover, the more I find I need to discover.

Along the way, I've found family and made friends, many of whom I consider family. I work with cousins I've only met on the internet and spoken to on the phone.

Why am I now deciding to blog about my adventures? Because I'm finding that many people are encountering the same issues I've found and don't quite know how to proceed. I hope that by talking about how I worked through or over or under or around or shelved an issue, I can help someone else.

Plus, now that I've discovered so many new cousins, I can share some of the good stuff with them on this blog.

So, grab your shovel, notepad, hard hat, flameproof vest, flashlight and pc/tablet/smartphone and let's go uproot the family tree!