Thursday, January 31, 2013

Genealogy By The States : Georgia - The Cherokee Land Lottery

Jim Sanders of Hidden Genealogy Nuggets ( has a series of blogging prompts, Genealogy By The States.  Bloggers for each week focus on a specific state.  This week I'm sharing about our fourth state, my home state, Georgia.

Museum at New Echota, Calhoun, Georgia
by Cculber007 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

If your ancestors lived in northwest Georgia in the mid-1800s, they may have lived on land that was distributed through the Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832.  For Georgians, that is basically the area that today is somewhat north of I-20 and west of Atlanta to the Alabama line.  The history of property in that area is also part of the history of Georgia and its land settlement.

Photocopy of original plat of lottery drawing

Among my father-in-law's papers was a copy of the original land lottery deed for the property where he lived for over 60 years.  The original owner of the property is named in the transcription below.

No. 67
160 acres
State of Georgia
The above Plat is a representation of the Tract or Lot of Land drawn by Jasper McCrary of Camp District, Warren County, situate in the 14th District Third Section in Cherokee County, containing One Hundred and Sixty Acres which is known and distinguished in the plan of said District by the ...
Given on the 2nd day of June 1832.
By Stephen Drew, Surveyor

Wanting to learn about the property's history lead us to explore several interesting resources starting with The Cherokee Land Lottery by James F. Smith, published in 1838.  The book, available as a free Google ebook, contains "a numerical list of the fortunate drawers in said lottery and an engraved map of each district" and is indexed with the list of those persons who received lots.(1)

We also consulted The New Georgia Encyclopedia where we learned about the history of the land lottery process as well as the names of the 10 original counties formed from the Cherokee Land Lottery - Cass, Cherokee, Cobb, Floyd, Forsyth, Gilmer, Lumpkin. Murray, Paulding, and Union. (2)  At the time of the lottery, all the property was considered to be Cherokee county.  Very soon after the lottery, the 10 counties were formed, and today this same area is part of over 20 counties.

Fortunately for us,  Georgia's Virtual Vault includes the District Survey Field Notebooks written as the land was surveyed in preparation for the lottery.  As we read through the notes for the lots around Lot 67, District 14, Section 3 we could imagine ourselves walking along creek banks, over hills, past a house, just as the surveyor had done.  We also found in the Virtual Vault a copy of the surveyor's map, showing the area creeks and notations as to the presence of maple, hickory, white oak, and pine trees along the boundaries of Lot 67.

According  to U.S. Federal Census records for 1840-1860, Jasper McCrary continued to live in Warren County.  He apparently did not choose to move into what was then Murray County to live on his lottery land.  The land lottery's purpose was to distribute land and contained no requirement that the individual settle or cultivate the land, only that they pay the necessary fee to register the land.  The photocopy of the back of the original deed shows that McCrary did register his property although the exact date is difficult to read due to a tear in the document.  

McCrary's original 160 acres changed hands several times and was eventually broken up and sold in smaller sections.  The Nelson family purchased over 40 acres from what had been Lot 67 in the mid-1950s.  Even the deed for this more recent purchase contained some of the picturesque surveyor's language as the plat was described as "starting at a certain old oak tree and walking"  toward other landmarks along the boundaries of the acreage.

The Mesa Arizona Family History Center has an informative PowerPoint slide show  about the Georgia land lotteries.  These land lotteries were another part of Georgia's fascinating history and might also be part of your family's history too.

1.  Smith, James F.  The Cherokee Land Lottery . 1838.  PDF download.  Google Books. : 2013.

2,  Gigantino, Jim.  "Land Lottery System", The New Georgia Encyclopedia. : 2013.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Visiting The Digital State Archives

(], via Wikimedia Commons
It turns out that my husband's family and my family have many ancestors who lived in the same Georgia county, Cherokee County.  We even joke that our relatives surely must have passed each other in town or gone swimming in the creek together in times past.  I regularly use the same great online resources about Georgia regardless of the family I'm researching.  Georgia's Virtual Vault and The Digital Library of Georgia are right up there on my virtual speed dial.

When I'm looking for similar resources for researching people in other states, I find myself stumbling around trying to find online collections about an unfamiliar area.  Along comes a wonderful web site, The Digital State Archives.  The website has so far gathered links to the digital resources of 36 states.  The link for the state of Georgia, for example, provides a detailed listing of resources available with an active link to each collection.  (note: The Georgia Virtual Vault link on the Georgia Digital State Archives page has changed in 2013, use instead.)

I've used the state links from The Digital State Archives to find new digital collections on a number of occasions, most recently when I was looking for information pertaining to Alabama, Florida, and Texas.  It is always helpful to have an informative starting place when seeking additional online resources.  The Digital State Archives is definitely worth adding to your Favorites list.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Cruising Along With Google Drive

Two blog posts I read this past week reminded me just how much I rely on Google Drive in researching my family history and how thankful I am to have it readily available.  If you haven't used Google Drive, it is essentially cloud storage for documents, accessible through tablet apps or Google itself.

Michael John Neill's Genealogy Tip of the Day reminded us to take the information we have scribbled on scraps of paper and put it in a format so that we can locate it and use it.  Keeping information recorded in documents on Google Drive lets me do just that.  

In her later years my mother would jot down bits of family information as she thought of them - names, dates, lineage, etc.  She kept all those scraps of paper together and gave them to me some years ago.  Now I have transcribed all those notes and saved it as a document on Google Drive, easy for me to locate when I'm trying to search for or verify information.  Maybe someday I will finally learn the name of that aunt with whom my Grandmother Myren lived in Minnesota when she met my Grandfather around 1908.  Mother's notes are there to guide me in that quest.

Dear Myrtle, in a recent post, remarked that "spreadsheets aren't just for research logs anymore".  How true.  Recently I posted about my experiences going through my uncle's military records.  Making a spreadsheet (sampled below) and saving it on Google Drive helped me make sense of all the material there.

As I found new information, I added it to the database, sorted, and ended up with an index to all of those papers, much easier that the "dining room table method" Myrtle and many of us have used in the past.

My documents and spreadsheets stored on Google Drive still include research logs.  In addition to these two documents, I also have Geographical To-Do-Lists, Surname To-Do-Lists, Daily and Topic Blogging Prompts, and Ideas for Future Blogs, all easy to access wherever I am, whenever I need them.  All just one more way to organize my family research.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Amanuensis Monday: Miriam and Her "Variety Book"

Miriam F. Vaughan, ca 1900
Imagine being 17 and suddenly have to move over 700 miles, just because your father got a new job.  It isn't that unusual today, but in 1898, it was much less common.  Miriam Frances Vaughan was 17 years old when her father, my Great Grandfather Albert Bell Vaughan, left Canton, Georgia, to become the minister of the Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas.  The family moved to Texas and lived in Nacogdoches from July 28, 1898, to Nov. 26, 1899, after which they returned to Georgia.  From Miriam's vantage point, it turned out to be interesting time.

During those 16 months in Nacogdoches, Miriam kept a diary of sorts, penning her first entry the morning after they arrived in Nacogdoches and her final entry being written their last night in Texas.  Perhaps the book had been given to her as a farewell gift by family or a Georgia friend.  Her "Variety Book" is filled with quotes from literature, song lyrics, pressed flowers carefully attached to pages, and details of daily life.  Scattered throughout the 200 page book were also sermon topics, lines from hymns, and scripture - after all she was the preacher's daughter.   For me, her small book gave a personal and interesting look at being a young lady in the late 1890s.

The 4x6 inch faux leather book was given to me about 14 years ago by an elderly cousin.  For years, I had kept it just sitting on a table with a few other family heirlooms.  Recently I took the time to transcribe the book, and by doing so I started getting to know my Great Aunt Miriam.

The first thing that was apparent was how well educated Miriam was.  Her vocabulary was extensive, and running my 36 page transcription through a spell checker showed only ONE word which she had spelled incorrectly!  Even more impressive were her personal reading lists written in several parts of her Variety book.  Miriam had attended college in Georgia prior to their move but did not while in Texas.  On her own, between late September and early July she read four plays by Shakespeare, Vanity Fair by Thackeray, David Copperfield, Lorna Doone, works by George Eliot, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and popular writers of the day, plus my favorite on her list, Little Women.  Miriam obviously loved to read, sometimes receiving books and magazines as gifts from others.

Being an 18 year-old, single female in 1898-1899 was quite different from life today.  Her social activities were almost always planned by ladies of the community - picnics, parties, watermelon cuttings, simple activities.   Perhaps because her mother was looking after seven younger children, Miriam also spent a lot of time "calling on" ladies of the church.  For other entertainment Miriam also wrote of seeing a traveling minstrel show that was in Nacogdoches, a theater production of Christopher Colt, Jr., a popular play of the time, and attending band concerts at the local college.

Whenever Miriam and any of the eligible young men of Nacogdoches kept company, they were always with others.  Even an invitation for a buggy ride was to a public area and sometimes accompanied by friends.   Since her father was the minister, It wasn't surprising to see the number of gentleman who asked to accompany her to church services.  One Sunday evening, a dinner invitation prevented her from being able to attend the evening church service.  Her entry for that night showed how torn she had been between having fun with friends and doing what she knew was expected of her.  The other suitable escort for social activities turned out to be her 16-year old brother who was apparently willing to exercise this task so he could talk with some of the other young ladies present.

Miriam seemed to have made friends easily in Texas and wrote often about spending time with a close group of girls.  Early on Miriam was invited to be a member of the newly formed Pierian Chataque Circle, a literary and social club for young ladies.  This same group of friends spent the night at each other's homes, wrote notes to each other, went for walks, laughed, shared "confidences" (Miriam's term), and yes, even had some spats, all complete with emotional highs and lows. Sound familiar?

Before carefully reading and transcribing the Variety book, Miriam had been a rather shadowy figure to me.  I never met her, had only heard of her as being the oldest sibling in my Grandmother Perkinson's family, and had only the one picture of her.  Now she is much more real to me, thanks to her Variety book. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Those Places Thursday: Images of ... Woodstock

I am a huge fan of the Images of America series of books by Arcadia Publishers.  If you aren't familiar with this series, it highlights local and regional history, primarily featuring old photographs with informative captions, usually written by someone with local ties.  Their website lists over 8000 titles in this series.

A while back I added to my Images of America collection when I purchased the book about my father's hometown of Woodstock, Georgia.  I thought it would be a nice souvenir of spending some time at the Visitor's Center in Woodstock, but it turned out to be so much more.  
Whitemore, Felicia S.  Woodstock 1860-1970.  Images of America.  Charleston,  SC: Arcadia Publishers, 2009.
For starters, the front cover featured a photo of Dean's Store which was owned by a cousin also pictured on the cover.  Inside the book I found several pictures of the church where my Great Grandfather A. B. Vaughan had been the minister for many years and a shot of the elementary school where my Grandmother Perkinson had taught.  There were also more pictures inside Dean's Store where I remember my Grandfather Perkinson taking me for a Coke during family outings to Woodstock.  Finally I found photographs of the old family home and as well as houses belonging to various cousins.  All places I remembered visiting as a child.  

As I browsed through the book, I started spying names that were scattered on branches of my family tree, so I slowed down and when back to reading every caption.  I found invaluable snippets of information about cousins through the captions.  Later, because the books in this series are not indexed, I made my own index of family names and locations in the book.  This has made it easier to locate information using the index I've tucked into the back of the book.

My favorite moment came as I studied a picture of "Woodstock Residents at President Wilson's Inauguration, March 4, 1913".  There in the backseat of a sightseeing car was my Grandfather Perkinson!  The caption went on to relate how "the driver made a wrong turn and got in front of the presidential inauguration parade and could not turn off the road because of exits filled with spectators.  The four guys from Woodstock and other spectators in the car led the parade unexpectedly."(1)  Love this story!  Plus Google Books just happened to include a picture of page 110 in their preview of the book.

What I thought would be just a souvenir turned out to be a helpful resource in my research.  Sure, I had memories of people and places in Woodstock, Georgia, but this book turned out to be a real gem.  Maybe you will have a similar experience reading one of their books about a town or area that is part of your family's story.

(1) Felicia S. Whitemore. Woodstock 1860-1970. Images of America. (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia, 2009), 110.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Military Monday: "Going to School" With Albert

One of my genealogy resolutions for 2013 was to do a better job of citing my sources, and a personal resolution was to actually go through several drawers in an attic file cabinet to see what was there.  A few unscheduled days recently provided the time to get started doing just that.  This became the time, to quote one of my grandchildren, "to go to school" as I sorted through the military records that had belonged to my uncle, Albert Thomas Vaughan, Jr.

Lt. Albert T. Vaughan, Jr.
Albert loved to talk about being in the Army during World War II, but we were never sure exactly what he did, where he had been stationed, and whether he had always been an officer or had first been an enlisted man.  The answers to these questions surfaced as I spent several days going through close to three inches of military files.

As soon as I started looking through the files, I was hesitant about what to do with all of this stuff.  Denise May Levenick had earlier written a really helpful article on about What to Keep and What to Toss.  It gave me just the direction I was needing.

Her simple guidelines gave three options to consider "save ... skim then trash ... [or]  trash".  As I removed each item from a folder to read, I made one of the three choices.  Some of his papers contained multiple copies, as many as 10, of a single letter or order so it was easy to select the copy in best condition and trash the rest.  I kept those papers and forms that documented where he had been stationed, his rank at the time, and what he did.  A number of brittle, crumbling newspaper articles were scanned and then trashed.

Using the saved documents, now in a slim folder, I was able to construct a timeline for Albert's military service.  My husband, a former Marine, was interested in reading the documents and shedding light on what was happening, my own personal military consultant.  What resulted was a clearer picture of Albert's time in the Army Air Force between 1942 and 1946.

Albert first enlisted in the Army in June, 1942, and was immediately sent to Texas for training as a glider pilot.  When he was determined to be slightly color blind, he was given an honorable discharge in August, 1942, only to be allowed to reenlist several weeks later.  He spent the next months being trained and was assigned as an aircraft armorer, all in the United States.

Soon Albert was selected to attend Officer Candidate School.  After finishing OCS, he was discharged from being an enlisted man and granted a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in August of 1943.  As a new lieutenant he served as a personnel officer at Randolph Field, Texas, before finally getting into the position about which we had heard so many stories.  By July 1944, Albert was put in charge of a Mobile Training Unit, traveling from one Army Air Field to another, assigned at each base for about six weeks.  His unit was charged with training pilots and maintenance personnel on the changes being made with the B-17 bombers.  His papers also included some great 8x10 glossy photos of the cockpit and engine mock-ups that were used in the training process.  Many of the newspaper articles I scanned were interviews from base newspapers telling about the Training Unit's visit and its purpose, all front page articles with quotes from Albert.
B-17 Mobile Training Unit No. 14, ca 1944
Denise May Levenick's article had been the first part of my schooling using Albert's papers.  Next, there was a lot of military and personal information in his records that I wanted to document in my research.  The second part of my schooling came as I dug repeatedly into Evidence Explained to get an understanding as to how to correctly cite privately held military records.  After lots of reading, writing, rewriting, and even a post to the Evidence Explained Forum followed by their prompt answer (Thanks, EE), I think I've finally learned how to correctly write this type of citation.  Practice does make perfect when you write 14 of them!

In the end, I've learned a lot about Albert, how to correctly cite one type of source, and more about stateside military service during World War II.  All of this was thanks to a stack of dusty, crumbling military records, the Levenick article, Evidence Explained, and my husband.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Day the Circus Was in Town

Like so many, I was excited by the release of the 1940 US Federal Census in April 2012.  Even before any indexes were available, I did some browsing on my own.  One of the first places I looked was the census for my husband's home town, Sugar Valley, Georgia.  The census records for Sugar Valley were only 24 pages long and would be easy to browse.   I was certain I would find family listed, but nothing prepared me for the additional information I found.  

Fotokannan at Malayalam Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0
 (], via Wikimedia Commons
As I browsed through the first 21 pages of the Enumeration District, I found the Nelson family, some relatives, and familiar names of family friends.  Page 22 was blank, but I was in for a surprise as I continued on to the next page.  There on page 23 was a listing of 39 circus performers from the Bailey Brothers Circus!  Yes, the same circus that (according to Wikipedia) eventually became part of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.  You can see the page for yourself here.  

Reading all the lines give a interesting snapshot of life in the circus.  Columns 2 and 3 showed the letter T for both House number and Number of Household.  According to the Instructions to Enumerators the T meant "tourist or trailer camp in which households reside in separate dwelling units (cabins, trailers, etc.)".  Besides the way in which the circus people were recorded as living, it was also interesting to see the numbers of families for whom the circus was their way of life.

The section listing Residence in 1935 was very informative.  Some people had been "traveling with [the] circus" for at least five years, while others had lived elsewhere.  The teacher in me hoped that some of the younger circus people had been living at home and attending school in 1935.  Maybe some of these same people really had run away to join the circus. 

It was also interesting to note the number of hours worked in a week (column 21).  Hours ranged from working 48 hours a week for the Foreman to 12 hours for those doing odd jobs.  Another note indicated that they were paid on a percentage basis, a good crowd meant good pay, sparse attendance, less money.

My favorite part, though, was the Occupation (column 28).  I kept remembering Water For Elephants as well as the circus I attended as a child when I read their occupations - trapeze performer, musician, chorus girl, concessions, animal trainer, cook, boss canvasman, carpenter, aerial performer, dance girl, salesman [of] novelties, mechanic.  Just about  everyone you needed to put on a show was listed on that census sheet.  Only clowns and ringmaster were not listed as an occupation.

The researcher in me wanted to know how long the circus was in town, had any of our family attended, where were the circus tents pitched in this small North Georgia town, or had they just stopped on their way to somewhere else?  My father-in-law was a world class storyteller, but none of us remember his ever relating a tale about the circus.  Perhaps the archives of the local newspaper can yield some additional information.  Something else on my Georgia To-Do-List.  

This is what I love about researching our family history.  Sometimes, I finally find that elusive fact about an ancestor or encounter a relative I never knew before, sometimes I find nothing, and sometimes I literally stumble onto something totally unrelated but fascinating, like the circus.  I'm glad the census enumerator was there on April 8, 1940 to document the day a circus was in town.  I'm also glad I went past a blank page and found this interesting record.  The whole experience just puts a smile on my face.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Presenting ... The Top 100

Each new year brings a number of those "Best of ..." lists.  In my e-mail the other day I received a link to a new list, The Top 100 Genealogy Web Sites in 2013 as compiled by GenealogyInTime Magazine.  Their list is based on the Alexa traffic rankings which track the number of page views and the time spent on the site.

To no one's surprise was their number one web site.  The list also included 13 other web sites that are under the Ancestry / Permira umbrella including Family Tree Maker Software, Fold3, and   As I scanned the list, I saw a number of sites I visit regularly and picked out a few new ones to check into this week.  I was especially pleased to see Arkiwerket Digitalarkivet,  the Norwegian Digital Archives, listed.  This is a site I discovered through last year's Family Tree Magazine list of top sites.  I'll be posting about what I learned there soon.

From the GenealogyInTime list, you can tell at a glance what type of information is available on a web site - records, family tree, cemetery, forum, newspapers, DNA testing, blog, articles, ethnic heritage, etc. The list also indicates if the site is free or pay as well as the primary country featured on that site.  Finally, a link to each web site is included in the list.  All pretty helpful, and definitely worth bookmarking a link to the whole list.

My research goals now include finding a number of newspaper articles I want to read in their entirety.  I'll be using their Top 100 list to visit some of the newspaper sites, do a free trial or two, and decide if I want to spend some subscription money.

You can learn more about GenealogyInTime and its free subscription here.

Now, I'm looking forward to the posting of Family Tree Magazine's list for 2013.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Maybe There's Another Way ...

Flag of Canada (Creative Commons)
My mother was born in Canada, and through the years, her family lived in several places in the province of Manitoba.  Two years ago I had found the 1911 Canadian census which listed my Myren grandparents and my uncle using the free online databases of the Library and Archives of Canada.  I had found some good information about where they lived in 1911, but now I was wanting to know more about their life after 1911.

Information from the 1916 Canadian Census of the Provinces was proving more difficult to find. I have an US subscription to, but all I could find through Ancestry was that the family was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1916, nothing more without purchasing a World Explorer subscription which would include Canadian databases.

Next stop was back online at the Library and Archives of Canada.  By this time, the 1916 Census had been fully digitized but had no index  The listings for Winnipeg, Manitoba showed 33 sub-districts, most with 30-40 pages per sub-district and 50 names per page.  Finding my family among my estimate of nearly 60,000 names seemed almost impossible.  (It reminded me of looking at the 1940 US census when the digital images were first released in early April 2012.)

On a whim, I simply googled the term "1916 Canada Census" and quickly found a link to that 1916 census on  Using FamilySearch's web site, I find they had indexed the 1916 Census but had no images of those census records.  Using the Winnipeg district and sub-district numbers from the index, I was able to locate the exact census page on the Library and Archives of Canada web site, print it out, and finally learn more about my grandparents, uncle, and mother.  Putting the index from and the digitized images from the Library and Archives of Canada together, I finally found more information.

There are times that it seems as if we will never be able to find what we're looking for.  Maybe we just need to take another approach.  For me, thinking like the middle school students I worked with for years, led me to simply google the research question I had.  I was reminded by googling that there were other web sites that just might have the information I was seeking. 

If all else had failed, I could have added "check 1916 Canada Census" to my research goals and waited until I finally broke down and purchased that World Explorer subscription to Ancestry.  Or, I could have checked at my public library to see if the 1916 Canadian Census of the Provinces was included in their Ancestry Library Version.  Or stopped by our local Family History Center to look through their resources.  Or ...

As my dad used to say, "There's always another way to skin a cat."