My name is Kathleen, and I have been researching my family history since I was a child. I love to go into county courthouses and smell the old books and paper... or is it dust? This blog will focus on the stories I've heard over the years and the research methods I follow. I am particularly interested in data management and cloud genealogy.

Some of my personal areas of interest include Southern Maryland and DC (Robie, Rhodes, Grimes, Lindsey), NY state (Hill, Cookingham, Flynn, Rhodes, Skinner, Wheeler, Mead, Havens, Trotter), NJ (Parcell), North Carolina and Eastern TN (Lynch, Seabolt, Spears), MO (Wilcox, Kiddell), and CA (Simi, Grady)

I am always happy to compare notes or share my experiences, so please leave a comment!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

St. Louis civil war-era cartes de visite

One branch of my husband's family emigrated from Ireland to St. Louis, Missouri by way of Canada in the 1840s.  We inherited a photo album full of cartes de visite, many of which have revenue stamps on the back, dating them to the civil war era.  Unfortunately, none of the individuals are identified, although in many cases the photographic studios are printed on the back.  So, if you have ancestors who were neighbors of the Andrew Wilcox family of St. Louis, maybe you will find them in this collection:

More later…..

Monday, December 9, 2013

The past is present

One night last week I dreamed I received a cache of old family documents and papers, all wrapped in their original ribbons and strings…. it was a genealogist's treasure trove. As I opened each package, I reveled in the complexity and wonder of it all: The papers were old and brittle, the writing cramped and hard to read, but somehow these artifacts had survived time, and were a tangible link to the past.  The dream was colored in rich, deep tones of sepia, brown, and olive green.

Finally, I unwrapped the twine from one last, rather small box, expecting to find more papers. Instead, what I found was a bundle of roots curled around a large seed.  As I opened the box, the tangle of roots and vines slowly took on color and shape, and resolved itself into a living thing before my eyes -- a beautiful, vibrant flower.  The colors, too, changed from sepia to technicolor, and reminded me of the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy opens the door from the black and white world of Kansas into the brilliance of Oz.
photo credit: my own photo

As genealogists, we are the ones with the patience and interest to wade through the dry artifacts of another time, and it is our task to give them life.  Our work demonstrates that all that is considered to be "history"-- dry and old -- is still alive…. in each one of us.  

Furthermore, DNA shows that if you go back far enough, we are really just one family.  Separation is one of humanity's deepest existential pains, but we are starting to understand that we are part of a whole, and can never be separate… and by breathing life into the past we are no longer separated from it.  

The day after my dream, DNA evidence helped me make a connection with a new (fifth) cousin.  Our common ancestor, Thomas Amis, is a person whose experiences in life impacted our country's history (that's a story for another day), and there are many people online who claim descent from him.  Somehow, though, the discovery of a concrete link through DNA made this particular connection seem more meaningful than the usual online meeting of a fellow researcher.  We are the living proofs that he existed!  I love how family history research is creating new communities in ways we could never even dream of before.  

Postscript:  My last blogpost was a diatribe about my frustrations with the collaborative family tree on, and how crowd-sourcing the family tree of mankind may not be such a great idea…. Well, I'm not sure if anyone at FamilySearch reads my blog, but two days after my post, someone from within the organization fixed my problem.  I am very grateful for that, and so is my 2nd great-grandmother; she is now linked back to her family.  My position hasn't changed, though.  I still say that there must be some kind of safeguard to ensure that the information included in the family trees are well sourced. At the very least, properly documented lines should be harder to edit in order to minimize gratuitous changes in the data set.