30 July 2011

North Carolina Family History Transcription Project

I received an email from Taneya at NC GenWeb about the North Carolina Family History Transcription Project. I think the project is a wonderful idea and I wanted to pass the details along to all of you.

The project is a pilot effort launched by the NC Government & Heritage Library. Staff members have uploaded images of documents onto Flickr (you can find the page here), and they are asking for volunteers to help transcribe them.

As of this posting, approximately 164 documents have been uploaded onto the Flickr site. While some of them have already been transcribed, there are many more available for anyone who is interested in helping.

If you're interested, all you need to do is log into your Flickr account and leave your transcriptions as a comment.

22 July 2011

When Military Records Have Been Destroyed

I've been researching my maternal grandfather, Woodrow Lee Land, in an effort to find out as much about him as possible. He is deceased and unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to know him while I was growing up. Aside from a couple of photographs, census records, and the usual vital records, I still don't know much about him.

I did, however, discover that he served in the Army during World War II, so I requested copies of his military records through the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. I just received a letter from them today stating that his records must have been destroyed by fire on 12 July 1973.

This particular fire destroyed most of the records for Army military personnel for the period 1912 through 1959, and also Air Force personnel with surnames ranging from Hubbard through Z for the period 1947 through 1963.

The archivist who sent me the letter did let me know that there is an available record for my grandfather: his Final Pay Voucher.

Upon reading this, my initial thoughts were that a pay voucher wouldn't be likely to provide me with very much usable information, but the archivist went on to explain that World War II Single Name Final Pay Vouchers typically provide researchers with an astounding amount of information, including:

  • Name
  • Serial number
  • Grade or rank
  • Home address (generally valid for 3 months following discharge)
  • Unit assignment at discharge
  • Place and date of entry
  • Place and date of discharge
  • Previous organization
  • Character of service
  • Discharge authority
  • Years of service
  • Signature of veteran
In addition, the following information may also be available:

  • The remarks section might include information such as payment allotments and previous transfers
  • Army component
  • Indication of overseas service (date arrived U.S.)
  • Mustering-out pay ($300 indicates at least 60 days of active service, part of which was served outside the continental U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii; $200 indicates at least 60 days of active service within the continental U.S.; $100 indicates less than 60 days of active service). Receipt of mustering-out pay (or MOP) is an indication of an honorable discharge.
Included within the package that was sent to me was a request document for a Final Pay Voucher for my grandfather. In order to receive a copy, I will need to complete the form and send it (along with $20) to the National Archives and Records Administration in St. Louis, MO.

While the fee seems a bit steep to me, I already know that I'm going to send them a check. Right now, it's my best chance of obtaining some detailed information about him.

17 July 2011

To Contact or Not to Contact - Discovering Cousins in a Dysfunctional Family

If you have a "normal" family without major skeletons in the closet, then it's probably not a difficult decision to make. If, on the other hand, you've got some fairly sordid family history (particularly if that history is relatively recent), it's a bit more complicated to decide whether you should reach out to any cousins you've found while conducting research.

The situation in which I currently find myself is kind of a difficult one, at least from my point of view. I've discovered that I have two cousins that I never knew about while growing up. They are my maternal first cousins.

They live in a different state (Ohio) and are about my age. The problem is that I don't know whether they have any idea about our family history on our maternal side. Their mother (my aunt Juanita Kendall) wasn't raised with my mother. In fact, I don't even know if my mother and aunt ever communicated with one another while growing up. If they didn't, then it's possible that my cousins were never aware of my mother's existence.

Since I generally know where they live, it probably wouldn't be too difficult to find a way to contact them. But if I do, I'll likely have to explain all of the ugly family history in order to tell them how we're related.

Should I make the effort and possibly disrupt their lives by telling them a lot of details they have no interest in? Or, should I take the chance that they might just be interested in learning more about their family and meeting a new cousin?

I'm conflicted.

14 July 2011

World War I Draft Registration Card - James H. Campbell

James Harrison Campbell was my great grandfather. He was born on 9 June 1889 in Randolph County, North Carolina and died on 21 Feb 1970 in Guilford County, North Carolina.

For the most part, I have pretty standard information about him. I have census records, a marriage record, and a death certificate; but I also have a copy of his World War I Draft Registration Card, which provided me with more of an insight about my great grandfather than any of the other documents I have on file for him.

From this card, I learned that he was tall with dark hair and blue eyes. He was a 29-year-old bookkeeper who was married with three children at the time he completed this draft registration.

To me, the most interesting thing about this card is the Registrar's Report (it's on the right-hand side in the image above). This section lists James Harrison Campbell's physical appearance, including the fact that he only had one leg.

According to my research, all males between the ages of 21 and 31 years of age were initially required to register for the draft during that time period (the age range was later changed to include men between the ages of 18 and 45). This was a requirement that stemmed from the Selective Service Act of 1917, which was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson's administration.

13 July 2011

Online vs. In-Person Research

You're likely to hear a variety of different opinions about how to conduct genealogy research. There are some people who seem to believe that online research is somehow not as good as research that is conducted onsite at a courthouse, cemetery, or register of deeds office.

Personally, I think both methods are valid. While there's nothing quite like finding an actual record that you can make copies of to add to your files, conducting research online certainly serves a valuable purpose for genealogists everywhere.

Before the wonders of the internet provided me with the ability to peruse decades of census, marriage, birth, and death records, my research options were strictly limited to a fairly small geographic area. For the most part, I was only able to conduct research in locations that were within a reasonable driving distance. Now, I'm able to make a significant amount of progress that likely would have taken me years to accomplish the old-fashioned way.

I think that one of the major issues some people have with online research is the number of individuals who blindly add ancestors to their family trees without taking the time to properly evaluate the evidence on which they're basing their decisions. They find a name that seems right and add it without examining things like dates, geographic areas, or family relationships. In other words, they're not really researching; they're just looking to add names to their family trees.

Whether this type of activity is due to laziness, carelessness, or indifference, I don't know. As someone who conducts research in-person (when I can) and online, I feel very strongly about the importance of being able to cite resources for each individual within my family tree. The more evidence, the better. It doesn't matter whether I share my research with anyone else or not. I want to have proper documentation for my own benefit as a researcher.

07 July 2011

Molecular Genealogy

Some of you may be wondering what the heck molecular genealogy is, though I'm sure there are lots of you who are already familiar with this concept. I've been trying to broaden my knowledge regarding how DNA works and which tests are the best for the purposes of genealogy research, so I thought this would be a good blog topic.

Molecular genealogy, or genetic genealogy, is the process of applying DNA to your traditional genealogy research. Companies specializing in this process claim that genealogists can break through the various barriers they've encountered through the use of ever-evolving DNA technology.

How do they do this?

By comparing DNA test results to determine which individuals might share a common ancestor. So, you would choose one of the companies performing this type of research, sign up for and submit a DNA test, and allow them to submit your results into their database. By doing this, you might just get lucky and find a match that could help you break through some of those brick walls.

This type of process could be particularly beneficial for individuals who do not know the identity of a parent or grandparent. The downside (at least for some people) is that you would have to allow the research company of your choice to post your DNA results to their compiled database. Personally, I don't know how comfortable I would be doing that, but based on the research I've completed, it appears that a lot of individuals are jumping right in to the molecular genealogy pool.

One database that seems to be quite popular is the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (no, I'm not affiliated with them in any way). According to their website, they already have more than 100,000 DNA samples in their database and the numbers just keep growing.

The thing that I find the most intriguing about their research is that they are working on creating a database for autosomal DNA, which is specifically useful for genealogy research. Autosomal DNA is inherited from ALL of your ancestors, whereas Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA are only useful for specific purposes (Y-DNA is good for surname research, but this testing can only be done by males; mitochondrial DNA is only good for researching your maternal line, but can be done by males and females). The future database will link autosomal DNA to genealogical information, and is expected to be the first of its kind in the world.

It sounds like a lot of people are willing to have their DNA test results included in a massive database, but I'm still on the fence (even though the autosomal DNA database certainly sounds intriguing).

What do you think?

05 July 2011

Tar Heel Tuesday - Rockingham County Historical Collections

The James Library at Rockingham Community College houses a wide variety of historical collections that may be of interest to anyone researching ancestors who lived in Rockingham County.

Included on the site is an article about the restoration of a flag of the Confederate States of America, which is believed to have been created in the summer of 1861 in Rockingham County.

The flag was donated by the family of Lieutenant Colonel Andrew J. Boyd, who was a prominent attorney and businessman in Rockingham County. Andrew J. Boyd enlisted in the Confederate Army in June 1861 as a lieutenant and quickly moved up the ranks.

Also on the site is a link to the e-Vault of the Rockingham County Register of Deeds. The e-Vault contains all of the county's land records since 1787.

You can also find research aids as well as information about private papers and collections, local historical newspapers, and nostalgic digital photos.