Tag Archives: Genealogy

Something Borrowed

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here at Graham Ancestry, but it’s not because I didn’t have anything to write about. I actually have plenty of news to share, but I’ve been doing a lot of work lately for Uncle Sam… wait… let me rephrase that. I don’t want people thinking I actually have an Uncle Sam. Next thing you know it’ll turn up on Ancestsry.com. By “Uncle Sam” I mean the U.S. Army. Anyway, on to the genealogy stuff!

In my previous post, I wrote about my DNA test at Family Tree DNA and how I had been presented with some possible matches, Tommy Graham and Keith Graham, who apparently descended from brothers of my great great grandfather Jesse Graham. I upgraded to a more accurate test, and the results came back with the same matches! Tommy and I were a near exact match, with only one marker being different. Same with Keith, though it was a different marker that mutated there. So, we’re all definitely related.

I’ve also been corresponding with Harold Graham, who is descended from the same line. He has amassed quite a lot of information in his decades of researching the family. I wonder if he could start his own Graham genealogy library. One of the items he has is a large chart that depicts the Grahams of the generations before my great great grandfather, which I was eager to see. Harold graciously loaned it to me. I was stunned by the size of it – it is huge! At first, I thought I could use a digital camera to photograph it, thinking that having a digital copy would make it easier to examine, but I found it too difficult and time-consuming to line up shot after shot, and the tiny by-hand printing was difficult to clearly capture. I finally decided to simply make a copy of it, and after a little bit of searching, ended up at an OfficeMax that had an architectural copying machine designed to make duplicates of large blueprints. A few attempts later (apparently not everyone at that OfficeMax had been trained on the architectural copying machine), I left with my own clear copy of Harold’s chart.

Harold and I were also exchanging e-mails during this time, and he decided to do a twelve marker DNA test at Family Tree DNA. When he got his results back, he and I were an exact match on twelve markers.

So, after all this time of me questioning whether “my” Jesse Graham was indeed Jesse Flournoy Graham, looking for records and not finding any, the proof was in the DNA. They were indeed the same man. And my family tree just got larger.

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Something New, Something Old

“If you share a common ancestor with somebody, you’re related to them. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to invite them to the family reunion, but it means that you share DNA.” – Henry Louis Gates

There’s been a bit of stuff happening with my Graham genealogy research lately, and I’ve just now found the time to write a bit about it.

Several months ago, I wrote that I had submitted a DNA test at Family Tree DNA. In late February, I received an e-mail from a man named Tommy that had matched 11 of 12 markers in my Y-DNA test. Tommy explained his lineage, which connected him to Graham families in South Carolina, Georgia and, what caught my attention, Benton and Calhoun counties in Alabama. Several genealogies of my Graham line have claimed that my great great grandfather Jesse Graham was born in Benton County, Alabama, and that his middle name was Flournoy. In my own research, I’ve strived to prove my lineage with as many records as possible, but in regards to Jesse, I have not yet found the records I need to prove or disprove that he was Flournoy. I’ve treated that connection with a lot of skepticism because I’ve seen a lot of bad genealogies on Jesse Flournoy Graham that contradicted the few facts that I could prove on my Jesse. I even wrote an article here completely discounting any connection. But now, here was the DNA grinning at me. At Tommy’s urging, I purchased an 67 marker upgrade for my Y-DNA test and waited for the results.

Inspired by this possible DNA match, I decided that now was a good time to revisit the Flournoy question: Was he or was he not “my” Jesse? I went back to an old message board post in the Graham Family Genealogy Forum  at Genealogy.com. The message was dated 20 March 2001 and was written by a man named Harold, who wrote that he was descended from Noah Randolph Graham, the brother of Jesse Flournoy Graham. I attempted to contact Harold via the e-mail address he used to post, but no luck. I did a Google search on Harold and found another e-mail address which also yielded no reply. Finally, I found an article that he wrote for the Newton County Historical & Genealogical Society of Mississippi. I contacted them via Facebook, explaining my possible genealogical connection to Harold and politely asked them to put me in touch with him. They obliged, and I soon received a generous letter from Harold describing his Graham lineage in detail, a lineage he began compiling nearly 40 years ago, before the age of the Internet and the rise of Ancestry.com. He’d done his research the old fashioned way, by touching the documents in a library, by interviewing distant relatives, by visiting the places they lived and the people they knew. Harold admitted that he hadn’t researched this line of Grahams in some time, but what little information he did have on Jesse’s children kinda sorta matched the facts I had – similar sounding names, somewhat close dates. For Harold, the trail of Jesse’s descendants had run cold just as it had for me tracking Jesse’s ancestors.

The most convincing bit of evidence that Harold shared was a story about why Jesse Graham had left Texas – a drunken man had broken into Jesse’s home and was killed by Jesse. Rather than face any reprisals from the man’s family, Jesse and his wife Sarah returned to Mississippi. I had heard a similar tale about “my” Jesse twice before, once at my grandpa’s wake in 1983, and once from a man I chatted with at the 2011 North Arkansas Ancestor Fair. In that version, Jesse and Sarah were farming on rented land in Texas. When the landlord showed up to collect the rent, Jesse could not afford to pay, so the landlord claimed all of Jesse’s crops. Jesse told the landlord that if he tried to set one foot on the land he would be shot dead, and that’s exactly what happened. Jesse and Sarah fled Texas, not to Mississippi, but to Searcy County, Arkansas.

So, now I had a possible DNA match and an anecdotal story match to Flournoy. It was beginning to seem like I was about to break through a brick wall.

To be continued.


Arkansas Death Certificates May Now Be Ordered Online

Some good news came today via Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. To quote:

The Arkansas Department of Health rolled out a new service on Monday that allows users to search and order state death certificates on the Web. Previously, the records were available only through in-person requests or paper-form submissions

The new online database currently offers only records of deaths that occurred from 1935 to 1961 on the website, but the department said that workers will be adding records in the coming months. Users may search by last name, death date, county of death and state of birth.


When Looking Back, Don’t Forget To Back Up

For some time I’ve been using a web site called BackupMyTree to, well, back-up my tree. If you ever read the first message on this journal, you’ll remember that I created Graham Ancestry after I’d lost all my previous research in a hard drive failure. That will never happen to me again, because BackupMyTree now automatically creates a back-up copy of my research which I can download to any computer from anywhere. From the web site:

“Fast, automatic backup and off-site storage for all of your family tree files. All of the popular family tree file formats are supported. Download your files at any time. FREE, simple, easy, safe & secure.”

It’s incredibly simple to use. Their software runs in the background of your computer, automatically detects family tree files and uploads a copy of them to their site. I haven’t had to worry about losing my genealogy data since I began using the service. Learn more here:


How to Quickly Discourage Genealogy Newcomers

Here’s something from Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter that’s worth a read. I’ve had something similar to what’s described in this article happen to me as a result of my journal, so I can sympathize.

How to Quickly Discourage Genealogy Newcomers – Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter.


Obituaries Are Usually Wrong

I’ve published several obituaries here at stately Graham Ancestry, almost always with copious footnotes. If there’s one thing I’ve learned practicing genealogy, it’s that obituaries usually get something wrong. Whether it is the spelling of a name or the date of an event, always double-check the information given in an obituary.

For example, the marriage dates are wrong in several of the obituaries I’ve published here. It was easy enough for me to double check against the actual marriage records, which are available electronically on FamilySearch.org. I know that the marriage records are correct because they were recorded at the time of the event. Obituaries are created years, even decades, after the fact and by second-hand sources. Obituaries are a version of events based on what someone else remembered about the person that died. Records get lost and memories fade.

Obituaries are good starting points, however. They can aim you in the right direction. I’ve gotten several names and determined where people were living based on obituaries. That information guided me to new records to search, which either verified or clarified what was found in the obituary.

In short, our research can begin with an obituary, but it should never end there.


Rambo School

Here is a collection of photographs of the old Rambo School, located on Searcy County Highway 8, about half a mile southwest of Rambo Cemetery in Arkansas. The school was established circa 1889, according to the faded sign above its door. Many Grahams and Watts attended class here, including my dad! I don’t presently know when the school originally closed. After sitting unused for some time, it was restored in 1997 and rechristened Rambo Community Center. Since then, it appears that the building was used for religious services for a while (indeed, there are references online calling it Rambo Church) before it fell again into disuse and disrepair. These photographs show its state as of Saturday, 4 June 2011.  Photographs © Ashli B. Graham.

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