Category: Online Research

Never Ending Genealogical Research

I finished the book, right? I have started new major trees in preparation for the next book. So I can stop with the Wilson stuff? Not on your life.

One of the most fun things nowadays in genealogy is that information keeps being digitized and being made available online. That means that new clues keep cropping up and I have to keep track as best as I can.

I use Ancestry.com for my base research – mostly due to the hint system. I don’t have to go looking for new bits, they can just pop up at any time. There’s a catch though. If you don’t go back to that section of the tree, those hints may not pop up at all. So with a tree of over 21,000? Well, I think you can imagine how time intensive that can be.

Add in the fact that I really have not done extensive work on the Alexander line and I’m now just starting to go back to look at the accuracy of what I have. That means I got hints popping up every time I click. Yippee!  Oh, dear!

I’m not here to promote ancestry as your primary source so I won’t go into details about the best way to use it for your research. After they tried to pull the plug on their long standing Family Tree Maker software, I absolutely do not trust them to do the best thing for their subscribers. So if you do use ancestry, buy software that allows you to easily back up your work there.

So ongoing research? Well, I’m presently tracing the Alexanders of Maine who are not descendants of William Alexander. There was another Alexander that came over in that flotilla of Temple ships – one named William who I suspect was a brother to the known William’s father, David. Most of those descendents lived in Topsham whereas the William who married a Wilson went to Harpswell. Having the two different families makes this research a bit dicey but doing all the Alexanders means I can tease out the threads of which family an Alexander belongs to. That’s the good news.

The problem still lies in tying those Topsham descendants to the proper sons of that original William (I am making that assumption with no proof). One part of my next research in Maine at the end of this month will be to look again at the Pejebscot Records to find all references to the Alexanders.  And the Mustards.

Don’t laugh. Col. Mustard was not just a character in the board game, Clue. Mustard is an old Northern England and Scottish name dating back to 1414.  Ancestry’s Mustard family page says it is a “metonymic occupational name for a dealer in spices, or a nickname for someone with a hot temper or a vicious tongue”.

There are several Mustards in early Topsham so I’m delving into this small family in an effort to figure out who was who and where they came from. Most likely it was one or two ancestors and they may have first come into York, not Topsham. I love a mystery and hopefully I can shed some light on James, John and William Mustard of Topsham. Both a William and a John are listed as dead in the resident list of 1746 with the deeds given to James. William seems to be the father of Martha who married an Alexander.  I think there’s a James may be the father of both the James who got the deeds and of the John and William who is listed as dead. I also think those deaths were due to Indians and that info is probably in those records somewhere.

I’ve also found references to a Margaret (Owen), Sarah (Brown?), a Catherine (Potter) and an Abigail (McFadden) who may have been the daughters of that original Mustard as well. So that’s another family whose name is going to figure highly in my next look at the old Pejebscot records.

One of the reasons for concentrating on a specific geographical area is that researching one family turns up information – frequently the names of the daughters as they marry – on other families. So no matter what, the research never ends.

Mystery abounds and clues pop up. Ah, yes, all in the course of a day. How could historical research be more exciting?

When it’s all over…

The book is done. The Uncommonly Common is as finished as it’s going to get. Except for some expected edits, I have no more research and writing to do. After 18 months, I get to relax. Or not.

I’ve been living this world for so long now, it’s become my alternate reality and my escape. I am left bereft, not elated to have finished.

It’s really time to recap the experience and look at what I have ended up with.

The Journey

I started this whole process by simply signing up on ancestry.com. This is an addictive thing in case you have not tried it.  I took it to extremes by trying to document all descendants of each original ancestor. One family line was just too massive to even think it. One family line had too little to keep me busy. Another needed some work but didn’t appear interesting. And then the Wilson line. Different, mystifying and totally new as I did not know my Dad’s family was from Maine initially.

I got finished running through what I could find out thru ancestry but was left with so many questions. By that time I was hooked on genealogy and wanted more. I researched the profession, signed up with the National Genealogy Society that was meeting that May only an hour away from me in Richmond, and looked into professional certification. I starting learning how to do it correctly.

Then I decided to write a book for several reasons. One, I am first and foremost a writer who turned to web design to make a living. Two, I had a lot of information I wanted to do something with. And three, I wanted to know more, seriously, and do some on the ground research.

I made two trips to Maine and got my hands on nearly every scrap of information I could find on those first three or four generations of the Wilsons.

The Results

I have written a book that is ready to print. I’m a writer, a graphic designer and a genealogist so I have a 350 page book ready to go in Indesign. (6 x 9)

This is NOT a normal genealogy. It is a story of a Topsham, Maine, family from 1719 to today. I tracked all the descendants of James Wilson who came to Maine in the Robert Temple ships. Though he died in 1743, his children were at the right age to populate and usher Topsham into incorporation and the founding of Maine as a state. So they were the inn keepers, the saw mill owners, and the dam owners…oh, yes, and major land owners.

Though James Wilson is one of my ancestors, I am a Georgia girl who, until 18 months ago, didn’t even know about this part of my heritage. The book is a journey of discovery, a comparison of north and south and is written with one over riding purpose: to be a readable and maybe even enjoyable book. I cover all descendants that I could find up ’til about 1900 for most lines and then take one line (yeah, my own) all the way to present day.

There are also two chapters about two different individuals. One is a descendant who became a sheriff in the 1850s near Gainesville, Florida, and one who deserted during the Civil War and ended up settling in the Virginia mountains near me. Both are interesting tales!

This was written to genealogical stand of proof. I have documented the facts, occasionally described the process and provide the reasons for my conclusions when the proof is not substantial  or is an interesting tale.

The finalized Table of Contents is here. Though the writing is finished, I will be continuing to edit up until publication as information is still drifting in. I have proofed the footnotes (I haven’t done a count but there are over 500) and done several read through and editing sessions but I will be doing more of that in the coming weeks and months.

I’m now looking for a publisher. Of course, I will self-publish if I have to but prefer to work with a publisher in order to get the marketing effort that I cannot manage by myself. Publishing just to get it into print is not the goal. Publishing in order to get it into the hands of readers is.

My Conclusions

Not only was this the right thing for me to, spending hundreds of hours, precious money and a lot of thinking, but it was also the best thing to do. I am in my element doing what my education prepared me for and what I was designed for.

Finding my “roots” made me whole. I am no longer an outcast in a southern society but a hybrid who fits into both the north and south equally. I feel like Maine is my real home (just for six months out of the year – not  a snow girl!) and look forward to spending more time up there in the future.

As my web design business normally is not full-time (as intended), I have the time to spend to get my genealogy business into a profitable condition. Starting a new business has its own benefits and my entrepreneurial spirit is rejoicing. Adventure!!

When It’s All Over

There is a beginning. A new phase of life for me. A new business.  And a book, The Uncommonly Common.

 

 

Using DNA Matches in Your Family Search

I recently took time on Ancestry.com to sift through my DNA matches. Ancestry keeps improving their DNA technology and reporting but I hadn’t delved into my matches so deeply before.  I really didn’t think it helped my genealogical work but I have found one value and investigating these matches can actually provide help in tracing one’s family.

First of all, my DNS results did find me second and third cousins that I didn’t know existed. I have added to and refined bits of my Wilson Family Project based on information from those and even more distantly related cousins. That’s one advantage to Ancestry’s DNA matching.

Since I have one family line that is based in Maine and New England and all the rest are southern, I am able to classify my matches based on that most of the time. That’s still not very satisfying though.

After my husband’s DNA test, I realized something that I had not put into play in my own tree. Most of his family lines have been thoroughly documented by many ancestry members and I did trace most of those families back to Europe easily (not verifiably, just an exercise, not a documented tree). He had considerably more matches with hints than I did. In other words, he has more matching trees in his DNA results.

That did not sit well with me. After all, I’ve put hundreds of hours into this Wilson Family Project. One thing I hadn’t done, though, was track back other lines and many maternal lines on the Wilson side.  This was one of the reasons why my husband had more hint matches than I. So I went back and spent a weekend tracking more lines back to Europe. That expanded my matches.

Then as I worked more with the matches, I found matches by searching for names. One of my lines is the Elam family. Elam is not a common name and by george they are all distantly related to me! The Elams only have one American entry – Virginia, 1936. All Elams in the US (and there are a lot of them!) tend to be descendants of that family.  So that gave me the ability to discern who was an Elam match even if we don’t have matching trees.

Trying that out on smaller branches wasn’t as successful. Vance is also not a common name but my branch of Vances is small. I did find one probably Vance match out of the 2500 or so matches. (oh, and hubby has 7200 plus!). And of course, trying that with the common Wilson name was just not doable.

I hadn’t played with the distant cousin matches because of the declining confidence rating. Why bother when it might be a false match, I thought. Oh, I was so wrong.

By adding more tracking back in my tree I ended up being able to identify a match back to our 10th great-grandparents, Thomas Prence and Patience Brewster. I’m waiting for the next further back match now that I see how far back the DNA matches can take you in a tree.

The best part of this particular match? DNA proof that my Wilson line is descended from William  Brewster and his daughter Patience of the Mayflower! As this writing we have not been able to provide the Mayflower Society of documented lineage proof for membership. But we now have DNA validation of our line.

A most satisfying stepping stone provided from just sifting through the DNA matching on Ancestry.com.