Thursday, May 25, 2017

My Genealogy Bullet Journal, Month 5

"Winner" from pixabay
Winner from pixabay

Sometimes you just end up amazed at what a positive change something has caused. That's the way I feel about my genealogy bullet journal after five months. And here are three reasons why.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Virtually all of my genealogy research is done solo. By myself. At my own pace. When I decide to do it. The simple act of writing down one or two weekly genealogy to-dos has helped me be more accountable to myself. It is one thing to think I might try to look for a new record, check out the validity of a shaking leaf, or search for a death date. I've found that writing it on a weekly to-do list has made me much more likely to do it and to do it in a timely manner. Amidst travel plans, family visits, and life, I have that visual reminder of what I am trying to do. It is written right there in my bullet journal.

PLANNING: On page three of my bullet journal is a list of five genealogy related goals I hope to accomplish in 2017. I wrote about having goals in my Genealogy Bullet Journal, Day 1 post. Two of them had been ideas that I just hadn't gotten around to for several years. Once again, seeing something written in my bullet journal has reminded me that this really is something I feel is important to do.

One of my 2017 goals was to study some documents housed at the Calvin M. McClung Collection of the Knox County Public Library in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was especially interested in looking at the  Parham Papers, a collection of documents, records, and notes by genealogist Will E Parham that documented many families who had been part of East Tennessee's history. I particularly wanted to view those papers related to my husband's Bogle family ancestors. In my bullet journal I had already recorded information about the collection as well as the library's address and hours.

In April we were near the Knoxville area so I let this become my time to finally see the Bogle folder of the Parham Papers. Seeing available time was something I had discovered and mentioned in a previous Bullet Journal post and now was the time to see those Bogle papers. It was a worthwhile two hour visit. I saw much that confirmed what I had already learned on my own. I was able to have photocopies made of new information. I even enjoyed reading Mr. Parham's letters to genealogy clients quoting rates for his services, even requesting approval of a $2-$2.50 cost for a hotel room in Nashville if the client wanted him to conduct additional research at the state capital in the 1930s. Had I not listed a visit to the McClung Collection in my 2017 goals, I would probably still be planning to do it someday, later, eventually, one of these days.

PROGRESS: Another goal for 2017 was to finally compile a small scrapbook of the stories associated with some family heirlooms. My bullet journal has proven to be a good place to record my progress on this project. I started with a burst of activity back in February, taking a lot of photos and looking over previous blog posts to see what I wanted to include in the scrapbook. I actually started putting the scrapbook together during one of those periods when I needed a break from research. Before long I had completed 20 pages in my Family Treasures And Tales scrapbook. This much was completed in time to share with our children and grandchildren during recent visits.

The scrapbook is still a work in progress. Notes in my bullet journal help me keep up with these additional things that I want to include in the scrapbook. Now I when see an item related to family history, perhaps a quilt on a bed or a 100-year old wooden planer sitting on a bookcase shelf and realize that its story needs to be included in the scrapbook, I make a note in my journal. My mother's collection of souvenir spoons hangs on the wall in my dining room, and my notes remind me that I need to polish those spoons, take pictures, and write a short story about some of them.

So, for me, my Genealogy Bullet Journal continues to have a special role in my genealogy research. It has made a difference to be more accountable to myself and to actually carry out plans that had previously just been rolling around in my thoughts. My journal isn't fancy or elaborately decorated. It is minimal in design, but it has helped to encourage me and has enabled me to be a better researcher and family historian. That makes my Genealogy Bullet Journal a winner for me.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Amazing What You Find When You Do a Little Spring Cleaning!

Spring Cleaning in the Vondelpark; source Wikimedia Commons.

Like so many, I have been anxiously awaiting the upcoming release of Family Tree Maker 2017. Having been a Beta tester for several library software products and revisions, I know that it can take time for all aspects of new or revised software to work consistently and in the intended manner so I don't mind waiting until FTM 2017 is 100% (or at least 99%) ready to go before my copy is ready to download.

I agree with Russ Worthington that the waiting period is a great time to do some neglected database clean-up. His post on 14 April 2017 presented a number of areas we can look into and steps we could each do to improve the quality of our database before we tried to sync it with an Ancestry tree. If you use Family Tree Maker, his post is definitely worth reading. A clean-up like Russ suggests is what I've been doing the last two weeks, and each day I am amazed at what I find in my personal clean-up.

My first round of clean-up involved looked at FTM sources that were not attached to anyone in my FTM tree. Probably 95% were for a source which, upon closer reading, turned out to not have information related to any one in my tree. These had come about because I have gotten into the habit of creating a new source when I find a record or other information that seemed, at first glance, to belong to someone in my family tree. Then, as I read the entire record or document, it was clear that the record involved someone who was not connected to my tree. Some of these sources remained like dead leaves on my tree as I tried to see if the information applied to someone else in the family; some remained because I just forgot to delete the source at the time. Now, after reading a lot of source records and following the web link in the citation, I was able to delete all that didn't belong in my tree. The great part was finding those few sources that did belong but somehow I had not actually connected them to the specific person. Who knows why, the phone rang, time to cook dinner, my phone buzzed that it was time to leave for an appointment. But now, all those previously unattached sources are either attached to someone or else have been deleted. I also have a new resolve to study a document more thoroughly before I consider it as a source for my tree, saving creating a source citation for when I know the source actually provides information about someone in my family tree.

Next I turned to looking at people in my database who had no source attached to them. Again, I was chagrined to realize that I had about 40 names attached to my family tree with no supporting documentation. Just a name, and that was all.

For example, in trying to find documentation (beyond personal knowledge) for the husband of a second cousin, Alice Northcutt Dean Felton. I stumbled upon a treasure trove of family information in Alice's obituary.(1) I had documentation of her death through an e-mail I had received, but this obituary found online from a small, local newspaper provided information about her husband, children, and something I had never heard before, that Alice had polio as a child. This one fact added another dimension to her rich, full, active life.

Another just-a-name-cousin became more real to me just be googling his name. I found information about his college years at Davidson College, an address for him from the 1960s through an alumni directory, and a record of his marriage to the previously named Joan xxx (my method for recording an unknown part of a name). The college information supported what I already knew about this first cousin once removed and where he had lived for many years, but now I had something besides a family directory from the 1970s that I had never bothered to cite as a source for him.

Other names without a source turned out to be very removed from my family tree. That included people people like George Glasscock, the brother-in-law of an 8th Great Uncle, and living in the 1600s. Looking at the information about my 8th Great Uncle, I could not find any connection to George (beyond that of being the brother of his wife), so George was among the names I decided to just delete from my family tree.

Then there are people like William Good, the husband of Sarah Solart (about whom I will be posting later). All I can find are the numerous statements in books that refer to William as the husband of Sarah, nothing more. I had early on added him as her spouse but never sourced it, hoping to easily find a record of their marriage. After several months, I staill have found nothing more that William Good's name, but at least I realized that I needed to document that it was recording in several books. After all his life was a large part of Sarah Solart's story.

The real thrill came as I tried to find a source for Weldon Perkinson, a 4 Great Uncle, the son of my 4 Great Grandfather David Perkinson. I had found sources to verify that David had a son William and a daughter Phoebe/Phebe, just no source to connect Weldon beyond having seen his name written somewhere, some time. There were a number of online trees that listed Weldon as the son of David, few with birth or death dates only Union County, South Carolina as his place of death, I knew I had to approach this from a different angle. David Perkinson's death was listed in many online trees as occurring about 1807 in Union County, South Carolina, so I spent an hour looking at unindexed probate records for Union County on FamilySearch.(2) Finally I find a link between David and Weldon. David had died intestate, so his son William was appointed by the Union County court as administrator of his father's estate on 17 Aug 1807. Pages later in the packet, the final payments from the estate were made to the Martha Perkinson (presumably a daughter), Weldon (presumably a son), Phoebe Perkinson Bevis, Polly Perkinson Dickens (presumably a daughter) and Elizabeth Perkinson (presumably a daughter), the amounts to each person being essentially the same amount as is frequently the case with children in an estate. This certainly started chipping away at a brick wall.

Lessons learned: All in all, my Spring cleaning has kept me busy while I wait for the actual release of Family Tree Maker 2017. During this time, I was able to find sources for several relatives, possibly poke a few holes in a Perkinson brick wall, and locate helpful information using online obituary and college sites. Plus I removed a few people about whom I found nothing. It also became clear that I need to tweek exactly when I create a source and attack it to an individual. Maybe I need to do Spring cleaning a little more frequently than every four or five years.

(1) "FELTON, Alice Dean", Tribune Ledger News, Canton, GA, 24 Jan, 2017;
(2) South Carolina, Probate Records and Loose Papers, 1732-1964, Union, Probate Court, Probate records 1777-1961, Box 5, package 24, estate of David Parkinson/Perkinson; accessed

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Slave Name Roll Project* : Estate of William Brooks Willingham, Walton County, Georgia

"Power of Words" b y Antonio Litterio,

Each will or probate record of an ancestor who owned slaved provides the opportunity to learn the names of enslaved individuals. This was definitely true when examining the records for William Brooks Willingham who died in 1838 in Walton County, Georgia.

William's will is not presented in the online records, but the probate records for his estate provide a great deal of information. The inventory of his estate recorded in September of 1838 listed 12 slaves.(1) The inventory was especially informative as it provided the name, sex, and age of each of Willingham's slaves. Records from the 1839 sale of these slaves provides information as to where they moved as the estate was settled.(2) The information provided in these two lists has been combined and is recorded below. These individuals were each listed in the 1838 estate inventory. There was one girl, however, a girl named Lucretia, aged 15 months, who was listed in the estate inventory but whose name did not appear in the 1839 sale. One possible reason might be that she was the unnamed one-year-old child who went to Mary Willingham. The ages given are those recorded in the 1839 sale.

  • Charles, a man age 45, to John T Pool
  • Mary, a woman age 35 and child age 6 months [not listed in the estate inventory], to Wm Lacky
  • Eliza, a girl age 4, to Wm Lacky
  • Henry, a boy age 3, to Charles Huff
  • Sarah, a woman age 36 and child 1 year of age, to Mary Willingham [wife of William Brooks Willingham]
  • Rose, a woman age 19 and child 2 months of age, to R S Willingham [son of William Brooks Willingham]
  • Allen, a boy age 2, to R S Willingham
  • Sanday, a girl age 15, to Jessee Moon [brother-in-law of William Brooks Willingham]
  • Ebeline, a girl age 3, to Jessee Moon
  • Sally, a girl age 5, to Louis S Moon, Jr
  • Sam, a boy sold by the Sheriff to Jessee Moon in October 1838

Blogger Schalene Dagutis, through her blog Tangled Roots and Trees, developed the Slave Name Roll Project in 2015. This project is a means for listing the names of slaves as individual names are located through our research of wills, probate records, and property records. It us the opportunity to provide information so that present day descendants can make a connection to their enslaved ancestors.

(1) Georgia, Will and Probate Records, 1742-1992, Walton County, Estate Papers, 1820-1915, image 1194 of 1295, estate of William Brooks Willingham; accessed on
(2) Ibid, image 1207 of 1295; accessed on

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Tale of the Timeline: the Solarts of Massachusetts

The Solomon Kimball House, Wenham, Massachusetts
By John Phelan (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes, it takes something as simple as a timeline to make sense of the stuff going on in a family. That was certainly the case when I started researching the family of my 8th Great Grandfather, John Solart of Massachusetts. I kept finding tidbits over several months from various sources concerning various family members. When I put events in order chronologically, several stories just seemed to pop out.

The first story concerned John Solart, Sr, my 8th GGfather, one of the early settlers of Wenham, Massachusetts. The earliest mention I've found concerning John, Sr. was in an interesting chapter on the historical taverns located in Wenham in Jack Hauck's book, Treasures of Wenham History.(1) John, Sr, was appointed by the General Court as "Keeper of the Tavern" in 1670, and later that year, John built another tavern, a building that still stands as a private residence on Main Street in Wenham.

John, Sr, was considered, by many sources, to be a wealthy man, implying that he was most likely an astute business man. It was surprising, however, to learn that John, Sr, died intestate, leaving no will. The story that appears over and over is that John committed suicide on 24 May 1672. Essex County Court records presented the deposition of two of his servants or employees who told of John, Sr, telling them several months before his death of his final wishes. John told the two men that he was "being often troubled with faynting Fits" and felt he "haue not long to live".(2)

In September, 1672, John's widow Elizabeth presented John's verbal will to the Essex County Court. At this September hearing, the two servants stated that John, Sr, said that his entire estate was to go to his wife Elizabeth "duering the time of her widowhood" and to be used for raising their children. Were Elizabeth to remarry, she was to receive one third of John, Sr's estate, the other two thirds to be divided among his children. Their deposition agreed with the customary division of property during that time. The estate inventory valued John, Sr's estate at 500 pounds. The record also listed the names of the seven children who were to receive a share of their father's estate when they came of age: John (Jr), Sarah, Hanah, Martha, Joseph, Abigaill (my 7th Great Grandmother), and Bethia.

Just three months later the widow Solart married Ezekiel Woodward on 20 Dec 1672.(3) According to the terms of John Solart, Sr's will, Elizabeth would not receive a portion of the estate, only money for the raising of the seven named in the court records.

Jump ahead a few years and the family composition has changed. Son John, Jr, had died and his will was proved on 28 Mar 1676.(4) Elizabeth Solart Woodward died in December of 1678.(5) The money from John, Sr's estate, however, still had not been divided among John's six children and John Jr's wife.

Less than a year after Elizabeth Solart Woodward's death, her son Joseph died. The Essex County Court in April of 1679 appointed an executor for Joseph's estate and allowed Elizabeth's daughters Abigaill and Bethia to select whom they wanted to be their legal guardians. Interestingly, none of these legal responsibilities were handed over to Ezekiel Woodward.(6) The estate money apparently had continued to be kept or used by Ezekiel Woodward.

It took further lawsuits filed by the surviving six children to attempt to get the share of their father's estate due to them. In September of 1682, all six of the surviving children, plus the husband of a deceased daughter Mary Solart Edwards, were still petitioning the Essex County Court to let one of them be named administrator of their father's estate.(7) The petition stated that Ezekiell Woodward had taken over the estate and had not paid the legacies.

By 1682, ten years after his death, the estate of John Solart, Sr, still had not been settled according to his desires. His widow had died, both of his sons were deceased, and all of his surviving daughters were now of age to receive their legacies. And, thus far, I have not come across any record that the daughters ever received the money due them by Ezekiell Woodward. For some of them, having additional money could have made a significant difference in their lives. For Sarah Solart, at least, her life might have made for a very different story.

Lessons Learned:
  • Research such as this would be much more difficult without the digitized court and church records available online, records that have survived from our country's early days.
  • When I find probate records like that for John, Sr, listing the full inventory and value of his estate as well as the names of all his family members, I remember once again just how much we can learn from wills and probate records.
  • It is hard not to judge Ezekiell Woodward by today's standards, but the early courts did not appear to punish him or penalize him for the manner in which he seemed to maintain control of the Solart family's money. Life then as well as now is not an drama that is neatly solved in a 42 minute television program. I need to remind myself to simply look at the facts as they are presented in the time in which they occurred and not as similar events might be dealt with in the twentieth-first century.

(1) Hauk, Jack E. "A History of Wenham Taverns From 1643 to 2008". Treasures of Wenham History. Wenham, Mass, self-published, 2013; accessed http://www.hwlibrary/org
(2) Dow, George. The probate records of Essex County, Massachusetts. Salem, Mass: Essex Institute, 1916-1920; accessed on
(3) Massachusettes Town and Vital Records 1620-1988, Wenham Vital Records Transcripts, Marriages; accessed on
(4), Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991, Essex Probate Records, 1672-1691, estate of John Solart, Jr.; accessed on
(5) Massachusettes Town and Vital Records 1620-1988, Wenham Vital Records Transcripts, Deaths; accessed on
(6) Dow, George. Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County. Salem, Mass: Essex Institute, 1911; accessed on
(7) Historical Collections of the Essex Institute. Salem, Mass: Essex Institute, 1861; accessed on