26 April 2011

Tar Heel Tuesday - GenFest 2011

If you happen to be in the area on Saturday, April 30, the High Point Public Library is hosting their fourth annual GenFest informational fair. GenFest focuses on the genealogy, history, and culture of the Piedmont (the High Point, Greensboro, Winston-Salem area).

22 April 2011

Disturbing Discoveries

Over the years, most of my research discoveries have been pretty basic. I find names, dates, general census details, and in some cases I discover an ancestor's occupation or information about some local event he or she was involved with. Nothing particularly exciting to anyone other than me (and possibly some other genealogy enthusiasts), so I don't create posts about every discovery I make. It's just not interesting reading.

But every once in a while I find some information that's not only interesting, it's awe-inspiring or downright disturbing. I made such a discovery this week (the disturbing kind).

I decided to write about this because most people seem to like to think they will only find information that doesn't upset or bother them in any way. I guess most of us want to idealize our ancestors and imagine that they had pleasant, normal lives.

Certainly, no one wants to discover unsettling facts about their families, regardless of how many years ago something occurred (or how dysfunctional the family). The reality, however, is that bad things happen to people all the time, so why wouldn't we expect to find evidence of these things while conducting genealogy research?


I'm currently researching a couple of different surnames: Kendall and Stephenson. I've written previously about the Kendall line and how difficult it's been for me to find information about them. I haven't yet written about the Stephenson line simply because I haven't found anything that's interesting enough to write about (I'm not trying to put people to sleep). So, this post is about a Kendall ancestor, but it's not William C., which is who I've written about before.

The disturbing discovery that I made is about William C.'s son, William Earl Kendall. Up until this week, I hadn't been able to find out where he was born, which was a puzzle simply because I had birth certificates for his two younger siblings. I did, however, have a date and location of death for him, so I paid the Ohio Department of Health for a certified copy of his death certificate.

I've always thought it odd that he died at such a young age (23). Now that particular mystery has been solved. He committed suicide.

I found myself wondering what on earth could make a 23-year-old decide to do that?

No autopsy was performed because the cause of death was obvious (gunshot wound to the head), but could he have been terminally ill?

From his death certificate, I also found out that he was married at the time of his death, so I also have his wife's name and residence at that time (1962). I also know his occupation and Social Security number (I already knew his parents' names, but of course the death certificate is additional confirmation of that). And, I now know the state in which he was born: Indiana.

Both of his younger siblings were born in North Carolina, so there are still quite a few facts I need to uncover in order to completely unravel the mystery that surrounds this family.

Though most of us would rather not discover this type of disturbing information about an ancestor, finding it makes us take a closer look at the realities of our ancestors' lives and helps us to see them a bit more clearly. They aren't just names and dates that we add to our family trees; they were real people with real issues just like all of us today.

19 April 2011

Tar Heel Tuesday - Bentonville Battlefield

The largest battle ever fought in the state of North Carolina took place March 19-21, 1865 in what is today Four Oaks, NC.

The Battle of Bentonville was the last full-scale activity of the Civil War in which the Confederates were able to mount a tactical offensive, and it was the only major attempt to defeat the Union army during their march through the Carolinas.

The eventual Confederate withdrawal led to the largest troop surrender of the Civil War, which took place on April 26, 1865.

17 April 2011

Organizing my Information

I maintain two different family trees: one maternal, one paternal. Breaking it down this way helps me to keep track of all the data more efficiently, but it can still become a bit overwhelming, particularly when trying to remember to follow through with my intentions to research the siblings of my direct ancestors.

In an attempt to try to improve this process, I'm working on creating spreadsheets for my direct ancestors that lists their basic information (dates and locations of birth and death, parents, spouse, children, and siblings). I've started with the Stephenson line, but I'm not yet sure how this experiment is going to turn out. In all honesty, I'm not sure if having a spreadsheet is really going to help me to keep track of everyone any more efficiently than my pedigree charts do, but it's worth a try.

My hope is that I will wind up with an Excel workbook that is easy to navigate and that helps me keep better track of all the different ancestors I would like to research.

12 April 2011

Tar Heel Tuesday - Genealogy News

In honor of National Library Week, Gale Cengage is offering free access to some of their databases, including the Gale News Vault, which contains a collection of historical UK and US newspapers.

North Carolina newspapers that are available include:

  • The Daily Register - Raleigh, NC - 1850-1861
  • Fayetteville Observer - 1816-1899
  • News and Observer - Raleigh, NC - 1880-1899
  • Raleigh Register - 1800-1899

* * *

On 16 April, a genealogical seminar will be held in Lincolnton, NC from 9:30am to  3:30pm.

Where: Lincoln Cultural Center
           403 East Main Street
           Lincolnton, NC

* * *

The Rural Hill Scottish Festival will take place from 15 April to 17 April in Huntersville, North Carolina.

Some of the events on tap include:

  • Scottish and Celtic music
  • Scottish clans and their representatives
  • Battle Axe throwing
  • Heavy Professional and Amateur Athletics
  • Piping and Drumming
  • Food
  • Merchandise
  • Scottish Country Dancing
  • Genealogy Search - Council of Scottish Clans and Associations (COSCA), the Tartan Museum, and Family Tree DNA
What fun!

08 April 2011

Progress!

In the early part of the 20th century, birth records were not necessarily maintained in the organized, systematic fashion that we are all used to in this, the glorious age of computers. Depending on the state and county, birth records might or might not have been recorded at all. Hence the beginning of my problems with trying to find information about William C. Kendall.

In Shelby, Indiana, several male children were born between 1900 and 1901; many of them were only recorded as "male Kendall" because their parents decided to wait a while before naming them. This aspect of my research became a process of elimination. I took the information that I knew and searched for male Kendalls that seemed like a good fit.

Going with the information that I had about him (approximate date of birth, full name, location of birth), I continued to look through records, storing any information that looked like it might be a match. Luckily, my William C. Kendall's middle name is a bit unusual (Chauncey), which made it easier to eliminate records as I discovered them. I found someone in the Social Security Death Index who looked like a match for my relative, so I paid the $27 for a copy of his original social security card application. Bingo!

I now have William C. Kendall's parents' names, as well as his address at the time he applied for a social security card in 1938.

I still have lots of questions, though. I still haven't found any record of his marriage to Myrtle Hooker, but I'm working on it.

05 April 2011

Tar Heel Tuesday - Old New Hanover Genealogical Society

The Old New Hanover Genealogical Society provides an interesting array of information within their website. For instance, you can access over 4,000 records from the Yopp Funeral Home, which operated in Wilmington from 1892 to 1966. You can also find records for the Confederate Hospital at Wilmington; these records list more than 7,000 names.

You can also find links to church records, newspaper indexes, and photos. It's an interesting site that is definitely worth a visit.

01 April 2011

My First Genealogical Society

I've finally joined a local genealogical society. It took me a while to quit procrastinating and choose one, but what can I say. In addition to being afflicted with random ADD (as I recently commiserated about with fellow genealogy blogger Heather at Leaves for Trees), I can also be quite the procrastinator.

In my defense, I've usually got a lot going on, so it's pretty easy for me to make excuses for not jumping in and doing things right away. I also like to tell myself that it's better to think things through before making hasty decisions (yes, I've mastered the art of rationalization as well).

Seriously, though, I'm looking forward to getting to know other genealogy enthusiasts and to becoming more actively involved in my local genealogy community.