Tag Archives: Family Tree Maker

Chaotic Genealogy

Here’s an example of how genealogy research can lead a person into unplanned directions.

Yesterday, I was searching the website of the Sikeston Standard Democrat for news on Grahams and related families living in the area. There’s a lot of family in that part of Missouri! I saved several obituaries to be added to my tree.

Today, I sat down with the intention of adding yesterday’s findings to my file in Family Tree Maker, but the program flashed one of those little green leaf icons on the entry for Alvin Graham. The leaf icon indicates that Family Tree Maker has found possible matching records at Ancestry.com. So, I clicked on the icon and found matches in the U.S. Public Records Index for Alvin’s residence in Yuba City, California.

The entry for Dora McClung, Alvin’s wife, also was sprouting a green leaf. Clicking on that, I found a matching record in the Arkansas County Marriages Index. “Interesting,” I thought, “that Ancestry has an index to those records, since the actual images can be found on FamilySearch.org.” While I was importing the source, I noticed that at some point I had left myself a note that Nona Graham Lathum was recorded as a witness at Alvin and Dora’s wedding. I looked at the scan I had previously acquired from FamilySearch to confirm it again, then opened up my article on Nona here at Graham Ancestry. I decided to update her article to add in the wedding detail and, while I was at it, to include new information from the recently released 1940 census.

The problem with the 1940 census is that, at present, it isn’t indexed. That means you can’t simply type a name into a search engine and get results. You have to do the search manually by knowing where to look and what you’re looking for, then flipping through the images one at a time until you find it.

To find Frankie and Nona Lathum, I started with the last place I found them in 1930, Red River Township, Searcy County, Arkansas. I didn’t find them, but I found lots of other relations. I tried next in Shady Grove Township, knowing that some Grahams had settled there, with no luck again. So, they had moved, but to where? I looked at where Nona was buried, thinking that she was probably buried near where she last lived. She is buried in Chinquapin Cemetery in Searcy County. I jumped over to Find A Grave to view a map of where Chinquapin Cemetery is located, then compared the location to the map of Searcy County Townships I have here at Graham Ancestry. It is in Sulphur Springs Township. I opened up the census records of Sulphur Springs Township at the National Archives site and found Frankie and Nona there on the second page of enumeration district 65-20.

Which leads us into the next exciting episode of…

Tidying Up The Gray Home

Today’s tidying was done on the article for Nona Elizabeth Graham. The following tidying took place:

  • Added newly-released data and an image from the 1940 Census
  • Added section headings by decade to make the article easier to follow
  • Added information from Mary Matilda Bohannon’s obituary
  • Added information from Irene Polk’s obituary
  • Added information from the John Henry Graham Family Group Sheet
  • Added information from the marriage certificate of Alvin Graham
  • Updated section on name variations
  • Updated sources.

Read the new version now!

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2010 Graham Ancestry In Review

It’s the end of the year, and so it’s time to reflect upon what I’ve accomplished as for researching my family roots.

I started off the year with a family tree online at Ancestry.com.  This tree was based on an older tree compiled by my brother Darryl in the late 1990s, and incorporated data from a cousin with whom he had shared information named Larry D. Watts.  I had subscribed to Ancestry.com and expanded upon that tree by linking to census documents and other family trees.

Then I picked up Family Tree Maker 2010.  I started a new tree document based on the online version, but decided to keep it saved locally and to minimize the amount of un-sourced information it contained.  It quickly became my favorite pass-time to work on this tree.

In April, the National Guard sent me to a two-week course at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas.  While the course itself had nothing to do with my family research, it provided me an opportunity to visit Searcy County, Arkansas, the area where previous generations of my Graham ancestors had lived.  While photographing tombstones at Rambo Cemetery, I encountered a distant cousin named Gail Feese, and we exchanged information.  (This meeting will be the subject of an article in 2011 because it was such a lucky incident.)

In June, I discovered Footnote.com.  They were offering their entire Civil War collection for free during the month of June.  I was able to find the service records for my great great grandfather William Alexander Watts, Jr.  In 1863, he served with the Union Army, Company E, 2nd Arkansas Cavalry.  (He will also be the subject of an article in 2011.)

Later in June a minor tragedy struck – my hard drive failed.  By that time, the local version of my tree had become the most researched and sourced, and probably the most accurate, version of any family tree of my own.  Thankfully, I had saved in my online inbox all of the e-mails I exchanged with Gail, and she had given me hard copies of her own research, so all was not lost.  Also about this time I decided to let my Ancestry.com subscription lapse due to budgetary reasons.

A couple of months passed where I didn’t have much of a desire to pursue the research.  I still had my old family tree online at Ancestry.com, but by this time I knew where it was lacking and how much work it would take to put it right.  It had many duplicate entries for name variations, and accepted far too many un-sourced entries from other folks’ trees.

By October I was really missing working on the family tree.  Who knew that sitting in front of a computer browsing scanned census document could be such a fulfilling hobby?  I began thinking about how I would do it “right” when I inevitably started again.  And I decided I wanted to blog about it.

On 15 October 2010 I launched this here journal, Graham Ancestry.  This has turned out to be the greatest addition to my family research.  First, in compiling an article on an ancestor, I will spend some time focusing only on that ancestor and, in every instance so far, I have found more documents and made more connections.  Second, after posting my findings, I’ve been contacted by distant cousins who are also researching their family trees.  In the three months since this journal launched, I’ve “met” three cousins, and their willingness to discuss our shared ancestry has added greatly to my research, and I hope that I have added to theirs.  Third, having this journal drives me to do more research.  Graham Ancestry has attracted a small audience and a couple of subscribers.  Indeed, it has the most traffic of any online journal I’ve written.  I don’t want to disappoint my audience!

Happy New Year!


Updates and Connections

Already this blog is paying dividends on my ancestry research.

No, I haven’t yet had some long lost cousin offer me a treasure-trove of already researched and sourced data.  What is happening is that as I gather the information to write entries on my ancestors, I’m making connections that I hadn’t made before, noticing little details that had previously gotten by me.  For instance, I have revised my entry on John Henry Graham with details about his children.  I hadn’t even listed his children in the original version.  What prompted the revision was that I noticed the 1910 census recorded the number of his children as ten, with eight living.  I wanted to ensure that I had accounted for all ten children, so I took a second look at my records.

I paid a visit to FamilySearch’s beta web site, which has free access to many historical records.  I was able to find a digital image of John Henry’s original marriage documents and thus confirm his exact marriage date to Matilda Bohannon. I also learned that another person in my family tree, James Newton Siler Watts, had signed as security for John’s marriage bond. A new fact I hadn’t known before!

I also received in the mail yesterday Family Tree Maker 2011, the latest version of Ancestry.com’s software. I had used the 2010 version before, and found it excellent for finding and linking to source documents, including documents that I’d download from other sites (like FamilySearch), so I collected all this new data in “Graham 4.0”, the latest version of my family tree.


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