20 September 2015

Find-A-Grave Community Day, Raleigh County

So Ancestry.com is promoting Find-A-Grave Community Day for Saturday, October 17th. The Stone Chasers want to get behind this effort in our local area, Raleigh County WV. If anyone wants to meet up with us that day, leave a comment here or leave us a message.

The goals apparently are to fulfill photo requests and meet the other Find-A-Gravers in your area.

If anyone has a suggestion of a cemetery to focus on, please let us know. We were thinking something mid-sized with a reasonable number of photo requests but not too much area to cover.

Our tentative selection is the cemeteries by the Camp Creek Primitive Baptist Church in Flat Top - here are some of the cemetery links in Find-A-Grave that I believe apply:

Lilly Cemetery in Flat Top
(60 interments, 47% photographed, 8 requests)

Flat Top Baptist Church Cemetery
(215 interments, 67% photographed, 7 requests)

Epling-Matherly Cemetery
(47 interments, no photos or requests)

Flat Top is right on the county line, so most of the listings show it as being in Mercer County, but I believe the cemeteries are in Raleigh County. Not that it really matters, just pointing out that you may have to look under both counties to find the records.


Today's The Day

The first thing I've learned from this is that I'm not an event organizer. I apologize to anyone who thought this was going to be a well-planned outing. But for the record, I will be out at Flat Top / Camp Creek Primitive Baptist at 10:00 today and if anyone else can join that would be awesome. Sherry's going to deal with getting ready for basketball tournament and celebrating two birthdays so that I can breakaway and do this today. -- David

28 August 2015

Genealogy of Almedia Branham

The genealogical information from your DNA can be helpful and sometimes it can be a killer.  Recently, through DNA testing, I realized that my biological great grandfather was most likely not James William Brubaker, but instead was Robert Lee Minton.  My DNA markers indicate that I am descended from Robert Minton, as I have multiple DNA matches to the Minton line and no direct DNA matches to the Brubaker line. This breathes life into the old family joke that my grandmother and her twin might be Mintons instead of Brubakers.

Courtesy of Pam Kerschner
My great grandmother, Almedia Branham, disappeared shortly after my grandmother, Kathleen Brubaker and her twin sister, Katherine, were born.  She left behind her husband, James William "Bill" Brubaker and nine children.  After their mother's disappearance, Kathleen and Katherine lived with their grandmother, Margaret, until her death in 1922. Then they may have stayed with one of their married siblings before coming to live with their father, James Brubaker and Roxi (Smith) Prince. (As a side note; the twins were named Elizabeth and Loretta at birth, and their older siblings changed the girls' names to Kathleen and Katherine to be more "twin"-like.) Sadly, the girls died without knowing what had happened to their mother.

My cousin, Pam, is an amazing family genealogist.  She pored through census records, historical documents,  and old phone books; wrote letters, made telephone calls,visited courthouses, interviewed family members, and conducted endless internet searches. During an interview with family members, she learned that Robert Minton was seen boarding a train in Prince, WV, but Almedia was not with him.  However, woman's intuition made her wonder if they had run off together, and she eagerly awaited the 1930 census data release.

After 72 years, United States Census records are released to the public by the National Archives and Records Administration. In accordance with the 72-Year Rule, the National Archives released the 1930 records in April 2002 and most recently, the 1940 records were released April 2, 2012.  https://www.census.gov

When the census was finally released, she was able to find that Almedia and Robert had been living as husband and wife in California. There, she gave birth to another set of twins (a boy and a girl) and raised her new family.  She died in California and was buried there, as "Madie Minton." From our understanding, she never contacted her family here in WV.  However, Robert Lee Minton, was suspected to have stayed in contact with his family.

Unfortunately, Almedia's California twins were both deceased before the family line was traced.  We hope to locate more information and photographs about her, and now with the knowledge that my grandmother was a Minton, about Robert Minton too. We continue to search for the ancestors of James William Brubaker, he is still a family roadblock. Regardless of the genetics, since he raised her, he was my grandmother's father and my great grandfather.
Katherine and Kathleen

As a family genealogist, you learn quickly not to judge your ancestors.  We do not have knowledge of why events occurred.  We search for the factual information about our family's branches. You need to be thick-skinned and ask the difficult questions, be honest with your own responses, and embrace the cousins you may inherit.

Almedia Branham Timeline

Almedia was the child of Melvin Branham and Margaret Wright. She was born in Wise County, Virginia on 19 Nov 1878.

In the 1880 census, she lived with her mother, Margaret Wright, and grandmother, Surrilda (Austin) Wright

In 1895, she married Edward Myers.  Edward Myers abandoned her (see our Edward Myers blog) and she was granted a divorce, 3 July 1903.  [Order of Publication, Wise County, Virginia]

In the 1900 census, she is listed in her mother's household, along with her two children, Alfred and Ethel.

In 1903 she married J. W. Brubaker in Wise county, VA.  [Virginia Select marriages, 1785-1940]

In the 1910 census, she lived in the town or Raleigh, WV with William J Brubaker, and four children, Ethel, Myrtle, Ernest, and Ossie.  Alfred was reported by family history to have died at the age of eight of diphtheria.

In the 1920 census, she lived with William Brubaker in Shady Spring,WV with children, Myrtle, Everett (Earnest) Margaret (Ossie), Alice, Robert, James, and Buster (Charles).  Interesting to note, her mother was listed as Margaret Minton who was living with her husband, Robert L. Minton, next door. Robert's two sons from a previous marriage, George and Walter, were living with Robert and Margaret.

On 26 June 1920, while living in Glen Morgan, Almedia Branham Brubaker bore two more children, my grandmother and her twin sister.

Then on 13 Nov 1921, Almedia Branham Minton of Glenburn, Shasta County, CA bore twins to Robert Minton.  [California Birth Index]

In the 1930 census, she lived in Squaw Valley, Siskiyou County, California, with husband Robert L. Minton, and two children, Cecil and Cleo.

In the 1940 census, she lived in Glenburn, Shasta County, California, with Robert and Cecil Minton

On 3 Mar 1955 she died in Redding, Shasta County, California.  As a side note, the death certificate states she was born in Virginia as Madia Branham, on 19 Nov 1878.  [California Death Index, 1940-1977] She was buried at Pine Grove Cemetery, McArthur, Shasta County, CA as Madia Minton.

Most of this research was completed by my cousin, Pam.  She has been a huge help to me as a family genealogist.

Note: Some of the records listed here were found under alternate spellings or nicknames:

  • Bruebaker for Brubaker
  • Meyers for Myers
  • Mintor for Minton
  • Alferd for Alfred
  • Almeeda, Media, Madie, Madia for Almedia.
  • Kathlene for Kathleen.
If you have any information about our Minton cousins please contact us. 

Ellison Ridge Road

Summers County, Ellison Ridge, and the Lillys

As we've shared before, when we have spare time we like to go looking for cemeteries. To add a specific tangible goal, we like to review the Find-A-Grave photo requests and pick out a hopeful target cemetery. Then we do some research on it (a little "digging" you might say) and then we go out and try to locate the cemetery and the requested grave markers.


We don't always find what we are looking for, but we always enjoy looking.

Recently, we decided to go looking for a Lilly Family Cemetery in Summers County. If you are from southern WV, you might realize how daunting that is.  Lilly is the most common surname in our area, far ahead of Smith and Jones and the rest. And from what I can tell the heart of Lilly country is around Jumping Branch and Nimitz in Summers County. Find-A-Grave lists a bunch of cemeteries in this area, most of them with "Lilly Family" in the name, and most of them with less than a hundred graves.

In other words, there are a bunch of Lillys, and many many small family cemeteries. A big task, indeed.

As a start, we made a list, and found that Find-A-Grave lists 18 cemeteries in Summers County all starting with the name Lilly. Now some may be duplicates, but still that's a bunch. So we noted as many directions and coordinates and descriptions as we could find and tried to organize them.

We found that four or five of the cemeteries seemed to be on Ellison Ridge Road. So we plotted out a map, and headed out to find them all. And as a specific goal, we wanted to find Clarice Lilly's grave, which was a Find-A-Grave request from our friend Ralph.

Before tackling Ellison Ridge, we made two other stops. First, we drove out Will Dodd Road in Jumping Branch, looking for a cemetery that was reported to be there, but we struck out. Then we went to Lilly-Crews, a large cemetery in Nimitz. This one is easy to find, well kept, and fairly large. Interestingly, it contains a number of graves that were relocated from a cemetery near the town of Lilly as the Bluestone Dam was being constructed. The old cemetery was flooded by what is now Bluestone Lake.

Finally, we headed out Ellison Ridge. We had rough directions to two cemeteries - the first was about 1.5 miles along on the left at the top of a hill. After we had gone about 3/4 mile, we saw chain-link fencing near an old burned-out sawmill, and visited the small cemeteries there. There were actually two fenced areas, joined together, with one smaller and one more dominant.
When we continued down Ellison Ridge we were looking for a cemetery up the hill from an old schoolhouse. We found this building here, and a cemetery above it, and were sure we had found it.

Just as at the other site, we found two separately fenced areas. We were excited, but were puzzled that we still couldn't find Clarice Lilly's marker. Nonetheless we photographed the lot, and decided it was time to be done for the day.

When we got home and looked carefully at our pictures and mapping, we realized that we had not found a Lilly Cemetery at all. The first two we found were the small Meader/Odie Cemetery and it's larger neighbor just named Meador Cemetery.

The two fenced areas near the "schoolhouse" turned out to be the Fall Rock Cemetery. Not only that, but all three cemeteries were already completely documented in Find-A-Grave. So we hadn't fulfilled a single photo request.

26 August 2015

Finding Life in a Cemetery


While "working" a cemetery...digitizing headstones, uploading photo requests to Find-A-Grave. I find myself captivated by the life within the cemetery.  As David systematically digitizes headstones, I break off and begin photographing the beauty.

I explore the legends and spirituality behind the life I find in the cemetery.  Here are some of the photographs:

Bee Legend of the Appalachian Mountains

copyright, Slowmoto Graphics
In parts of the Appalachian mountains, there is a legend about bees surrounding a death in the family. Whenever someone dies, the family must whisper the information to the bees before the sunrise of the next day. The bees are the messengers of the gods and fly into the heavens and notify the Gods of the death.

If the family doesn't relay the information to the bees, the family living under the same roof of the deceased will perish.  In Ireland the folklore includes keeping the Gods informed of human events and inviting the bees to attend the funeral or turning the hives toward the path of the coffin's route. http://irishhedgerows.weebly.com

Tell the Bees

By Sarah Lindsay

Tell the bees. They require news of the house;
they must know, lest they sicken
from the gap between their ignorance and our grief.
Speak in a whisper. Tie a black swatch
to a stick and attach the stick to their hive.
From the fortress of casseroles and desserts
built in the kitchen these past few weeks
as though hunger were the enemy, remove
a slice of cake and lay it where they can
slowly draw it in, making a mournful sound.

copyright, Slowmoto Graphics

Butterfly Soul

In Ireland, there is a saying:  “Butterflies are souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory.” A butterfly begins its' life as a caterpillar then metamorphoses into a butterfly. The butterfly symbolizes resurrection and represents the soul leaving the body. https://mysendoff.com 

In Ancient Greek, the word butterfly is known as the psyche, which means soul.  The butterfly's soul is touched by divine love, but which, by reason of the mistakes made, must undergo some tribulations before having access to happy immortality. http://www.insects.org/

copyright, Slowmoto Graphics

Legend of the Butterfly

According to an American Indian Legend, if anyone desires a wish to come true they must first capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it.  Since a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly cannot reveal the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all.
In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom, the Great Spirit always grants the wish. So, according to legend, by making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom, the wish will be taken
to the heavens and be granted."  http://www.swallowtailfarms.com

I read many poems about butterflies and the afterlife before finding this poem:


Do not stand by my grave and weep
For I am not there.

I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am diamonds that glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush of butterflies in joyous flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there.  I did not die.

Author Unknown

23 August 2015

Samuel Carter Cemetery - Part I

Location, Location, Location

Sherry unearthed twelve to fourteen Find-A-Grave photo requests for a "Dempsey Cemetery" which had accumulated multiple cemetery entries, each with the same name but different locations. Tangled among the requests was rhetoric about the exact location of the cemetery, members debating between Raleigh County and Fayette County as the most likely site. After reviewing the burial data and list of possible interments, a Fayette County location seemed reasonable, even with one entry proclaiming a Raleigh County burial.  The mystery heightened and the search for the "Dempsey Cemetery" began.

She found a note in Rootsweb which says:
Samuel Carter Cemetery on Dempsey Branch (Laurel Creek) behind Doggett Chapel, Fayette County, West Virginia
The ones we found in the database were:

One death certificate included in the search stated "Epperly Cemetery", which after a documentation review hinted to Kanawha County being a more likely spot.

We found coordinates for Doggett Chapel on an old list of churches:
and at least according to Google maps, the community of Dempsey is centered right across the street.

So our updated directions to the chapel are:
Take US-19 (N) to Fayetteville. Turn left on Laurel Creek Rd, Route 8. Go about 4 miles. Right where Rt 8 takes 110 degree right, stay straight on Dempsey Rd/Wriston Rd/Rt 81. The church should be 50 feet on left, and the cemetery hopefully nearby.
We found an opportunity to explore the whereabouts based on the data found.   Without error, we drove to the Doggett Chapel UMC, however when we scanned the area around the church  the cemetery wasn't in sight. We talked with a neighbor, and after securing his attention and letting him calm his guard dog, he said it was about 250 yards up a rutted road, but we couldn't get there in our truck.

Pinpointing the cemetery looked to be more involved than the original indication that the cemetery was behind the church.  We were in for a mountainous hike and would need a full day commitment.

Take Two

We set out Sunday to try again. The boys were reluctant to go until we explained the part about a hike in the woods. Our plan was to park at the bottom of the washed-out road, near the church, and walk up the 300 yards or so to the cemetery. Samuel asked how long it would take, and I estimated 5 minutes to get there.

At the 5 minute point, we got to a house, the one of which we had been told. One gentleman was outside with his dogs, and we talked to him. He said the cemetery was up at the end of the road. When we looked where he was pointing, we could see that the road we'd walked up kept on going, sort of, up the hill. At this point it was less of an old washed-out road and more of a couple ruts through the woods.
Road to Carter Cemetery

We went on a couple hundred more yards and came to a fence line and a gate, with pastureland on the other side. This was a venerable pasture, with large bushes and trees grown up in it, and out of sight from any houses or roads. And posted with No Trespassing signs we could not miss.

Feeling like America's Most Wanted, we climbed over the gate and kept following the road. It went up the west side of the pasture along the fence, and just kept gradually climbing up the hill. We didn't see any farm animals, but there was plenty of evidence of them on the path.

Sherry spied a likely spot for a cemetery off to the left of the trail, so she and Joseph went to investigate while Samuel and I continued following the fence line.

Sam and I passed a couple of gates in the fence on our right, and when the road started to go downhill a bit (in our experience, rarely are WV family cemeteries located in a valley), we thought we needed to return to the last gate we had passed, which had a promise of a short distance up to the summit.  So we scaled another gate, and followed what was now a deer trail through the brambles.

Sherry and Joe were unsuccessful in their pursuit and began backtracking. They report that they heard a bear knock over a rotted tree below them, and they hightailed it up the trail. They spotted the muddy footsteps on the gate that we scaled when we detoured off the main trail, so they were able to follow behind.

The trail widened back into a rutted track when it got to the trees, and we kept going with a little more confidence. We could see that some force of nature had felled some mighty big trees, and we had to scramble under one that blocked the path. Just after we crossed that obstacle, though, we saw a small clearing and some gravestones.  Success!

22 August 2015

Family History Documentation at your Fingertips Series, Part 1

Family Heirlooms
Family Picture Box

Family history can be found in the home of a recently deceased relative.  The chore of going through old papers and pictures seems overwhelming. Often the items are placed in a box and not stored correctly, or worse, thrown away.


When someone passes away in our family, we will inquire about any pictures, scrapbooks, and papers, so that we can review the material. By doing so, I was recently given an old box made by my grandfather Jack Goolsby, to keep for the family. To our delight, we found a wedding picture of my great grandmother Lula Goolsby Ison and her first husband, William Edward Goolsby.  My dad had never seen his grandfather before because he was deceased when my Dad was born.  His grandmother and his grandfather were divorced, so old pictures were not readily available.  His grandmother had also remarried.  A side note to this is my husband spent hours enhancing a digital image of the picture to make  the back of the picture to make it readable.  The wedding picture had been used by an artist to make a painting of the couple and a detailed description of their names and clothing colors were on the back.  The picture was in black and white.  What a find!  Some of the techniques to use to make a picture is (list techniques)

Memorial Book

The other huge find for us was the death book for my grandfather Jack Goolsby.  Family oral history stated that he was born in Eccles, WV.  We were unable to locate a birth record for him in WV delayed or otherwise. We didn't review this heirloom right away but decided to shuffle through albums and scrapbooks.   When we did sit down and review the Death Record, we found a page completed by his mother, my great grandmother Lula Goolsby Ison, that documented his birth in Clifton Forge, VA.  This made sense because his father William Goolsby worked on the railroad in Clifton Forge Virginia and he and his wife, Lula were married there.

Guest Books

Warner Camp Guest Book
David's mom's family, Warner, has a camp, on Lake Messalonskee in Maine.  The camp is an old house built in the early 1900's.  Two story home with a guest house, boat house, and garage.  The family would open the camp in the summer and close it before winter.  There were multiple pictures in the home that we carefully digitized and the best record?  The family had kept a guest book of all that had visited the camp throughout many of the years.  The visitors would list the date, their name, the name of their children and sometimes, the ages.   Not only did this document the history of Warner Camp, it is also documentation on the relationship of the family members and can help narrow down lifespans.


Family bibles are a haven of information.  Before official governmental records were kept and even after, many families recorded births, deaths, and marriages in the family bible.  Frequently, bibles are passed down from generation to generation.  Recently, while we were discarding material at the dump, a man emptying his truck found a bible someone had discarded.  He felt funny about not rescuing the book.  Upon examination, it had completed pages of marriages, deaths, and births.  We decided that even though the information wasn't pertinent to either of our families, that the pages should be carefully digitized and made searchable on the internet.  In a few years, this might be the document that helps a family push through their own roadblock.

If you have found family historical information in other places please email or comment.  Sometimes it is a small piece of information that opens the door for family historians, and knowing where to look is helpful.

Samuel Carter Cemetery - Part II

Combing Through The Trees

We were so relieved to actually find a cemetery after hiking what seemed like miles up the hill, we didn't even worry that it looked like only a few grave sites. The small clearing was very pretty anyway, and we could declare a victory. So we set out to photograph the stones.

Copyright 2014 Slowmoto Graphics
As we got up into the clearing more, we saw some huge stone pillars back in the trees. They looked like part of a gateway almost. A little surreal, like a scene from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. (Or at least the way I pictured the scenes reading the book as a child)  Joseph related the larger monuments to chess pieces, a bishop and a rook.

We started towards the pillars, and noticed a few more grave stones on the way. Samuel scrambled around between the pillars and found the inscriptions, which of course proved them to be massive monuments.

When we got through those stones, we found marker after marker stretching back into the woods. The trees and bushes had grown up so much, it was a jungle. There were tree branches down, massive grape vines, brier bushes, and whole trees down. It was a riot of vegetation, old and new.

It felt like a Harrison Ford movie. Sherry might change our blog name to "Indiana Stones" or something after this experience. What fun it was!
Copyright 2014 Slowmoto Graphics

We ended up finding about 30 some grave markers. More than that, really, as some were face down, or covered with fallen trees too big to shift. But amazingly most of the ones we could actually see the front of were legible.

There was a little fenced-in section you can see here. I think this one had the Coleman monument.

There was a section with Samuel Carter's grave. He has two markers - an earlier one and one he shares with his wife.

We also found two markers for Nannie Wood, one with her husband Caleb. We found Nutters, Skaggs, Mosleys, lots of Carters and Eatons, Colemans, Beckelhimers, an Akers, an Adkinson, a Tincher and an Amick.

We knew there were going to be some interesting stories when we started researching these people. But little did we know how much we would find.

Continued soon...

19 August 2015

Wisdom Wednesday - Always Look At The Source

Always look at the source record if you can.

Ancestry.com and presumably other sites let you easily pull in data from census records, birth certificates, and so on.  But be careful, if you don't look at the source records yourself, you may be missing valuable information.

Transcription Errors

The transcriptionists have done an amazing job. There are a lot of entries I can't even begin to make out, but I look at how it was transcribed and then I can see that it looks accurate. But everyone makes mistakes, and once in a while a name like Susan gets transcribed as Suean and if you don't look at the actual record, suddenly you've got some kind of weird Irish name in your family where it doesn't belong.

You don't have to be fanatical about this - just take a glance at it so that when you merge the transcribed data you have some idea of what it should be already and can spot obvious problems before they make it into your tree.

Not all data is pulled in automatically

Some Census data does not make it into your tree - key items like Occupation as well as did they own or rent the home, live on a farm, read and write and so on. Some of the data isn't transcribed, and other data just doesn't have a place for Ancestry to put it.

Looking at the data gives you a better sense of your ancestors, and helps you figure out if the record is actually for someone in your tree or not.  For instance, if your great grandfather who was a carpenter all his life is listed as a coal miner on one record, you can look twice at that one to make sure it is really your GGF.

Early Records

Before 1860, Census records don't include the relationship to the head-of-household field. Since the field isn't there in the record, Ancestry can't assume that people in the same household are the same family, so it doesn't bring them other records in when you merge the single one you found in your search.

All it takes is to look at the data, make a note of the other people in the household, and make sure you get those records added for them as well.


When you pull up the record, look at who the neighbors are. The simplest way is just look at the households before and after the one you've found. Keep an eye out for names that show up later in your history.

If you get stuck finding a census record for a particular year, but you know who the neighbors are, you can search on the neighbors in the missing year. Maybe you'll get lucky and find the record for Uncle Joe that got entered as Moe and didn't come up in your search.

Non-Census Records

Ancestry seems to be optimized for Census records, and that's where most people start. And that's fine. My point here is - when you pull up non-census records, be even more careful to examine the records visually because often most of the information will not be pulled in.

Is it significant that the pastor that married Uncle Joe has the same last name as his spouse?  You'll never know if you don't look at the record. 

Draft cards are very interesting - they usually list another contact person (wife or mother or father usually) and give details like height, eye and hair color.


If this post helps you, and you find some tidbit you might have missed if you hadn't looked at the source, we would love to hear from you - leave a comment below.

16 August 2015

The Search for John Yeoman McKenney

Distortion of facts plagues a genealogist when recovering history to track down a missing ancestor.  Family stories passed down from one generation to the next coax us to research in a certain state or country. However, if the information isn't accurate it can derail progress in uncovering your ancestors.

Recently, we were able to sift through jumbled information to find my great great great grandfather.  The information given to us from a very knowledgeable cousin was correct, but instead of belonging to just one ancestor, the information was a mix of facts from several ancestors.   Assigning all these facts to a single ancestor threw up a brick wall.

Several years ago, my cousin sought out my father to compare family notes and heritage, and he left my father pictures of our shared family branch.  When I began researching our family history, my father gave me the pictures.  I was very excited and called my cousin for more information. We learned from him that John Y. McKenney was my great great great grandfather and the grandfather of Lucy Ellen McKenney, my great grandmother. 

My husband and I interviewed my cousin. He too is descended from John Yorman McKenney and he wanted information on John's father.  The information he did have was:

  • John Yorman McKenney
  • Born 10 Nov 1800 in Donegal, County Claire, Ireland
  • Educated as a priest at Oxford and studied medicine.
  • Arrived in New York from Northern Ireland In 1830s, after breaking with the Catholic Church, he left "quickly" to avoid persecution.
  • Traveled to Indiana, tending to the sick,  then to Virginia.
  • Married Lucy Dew in Virginia.
  • Teacher in Covington, VA
  • Died in 1862
  • Buried beside his wife, Lucy, at The Old Greenbrier Church, Alderson, WV, in unmarked graves.  
  • Judson Mckenney, his son, is buried there in a marked grave.
This information needed to be verified with a final goal of finding his parents, and continuing to unravel our family tree. One of the first records we located was a survey completed by Bess L. Blanche in 1938, titled “Survey Report, John Y. McKinney home site”, http://image.lva.virginia.gov/VHI/html/01/0023.htm.

From this report we extracted the following information:
  • John Y McKinney, County Claire, Dunegal, Ireland
  • Graduate of Oxford University, studying to be a priest and medicine
  • Broke with Catholic Church
  • Traveled to New York
  • Settled in Indiana and Virginia
  • Married Lucy Dew, daughter of William Dew
  • Lived in a home on the land of William Dew
  • Worked as an educator
  • Son by the name of Galvana
The report cites Mrs J P Sullender (my great aunt)  and the Allegheny Court Records as sources. Mrs. J P Sullender was the granddaughter of John Y. McKenney.  The information matched what my cousin had said almost exactly.
However, we still wanted to obtain records that would validate the history and possibly list John Y McKenney's parents.
David and I traveled to Ireland and visited genealogy centers. The genealogy center in Galway, Ireland, was unable to locate records for John McKenney. We didn't find a birth record.  Oxford University’s list of alumni from that time period didn’t list John McKenney as a graduate or a student  We didn't find a definitive immigration record. We didn’t find him listed as a Catholic priest in Ireland.  We didn’t find information in historical books from that time period.  We didn't find a death record. 
The records we did locate were: 
Marriage certificate:  John G. Mckenney married Lucy Dew on 14 June 1838 in Virginia.
"Virginia, Marriages, 1785-1940," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XRC2-52C : accessed 28 Sep 2014), John G Mckenney and Lucy Dew, 14 Jun 1838; citing Alleghany, Virginia, reference P. 8, No. 201; FHL microfilm 30523. 

1840 United States Census, John G McKenney, Botetourt, VA.  An adult female is listed but the 1840 census did not list family members by name.  

1850 United States Census, John Y. McKinny, 50 years old, born in NY, wife Lucy, two children listed.  He was a teacher.

1860 United States Census, John G. McKenney, 54 years old, born in New York, wife Lucy, with six children, including Judson as a twin of James, and my great great grandfather Galvani McKinny, Mary, Ellen, and Stuart. He was a teacher.

1870 United States Census, Lucy Mckenney and his children were listed without John Y Mckenney, which should indicate he was deceased or not living with his family.

David and I traveled to the cemetery reported to be the final resting place of John Y. McKenney, his wife Lucy, and his son, Judson.   We located the memorial for his son, Judson P. McKenny born 24 Mar 1852 died 4 June 1888 in the Old Greenbrier Baptist Church Cemetery in Alderson, West Virginia. The oral history reported that his parents were buried in front of him in unmarked graves.  We have searched records and talked with church officials, but we haven’t located proof of their burial with their son.  
As a last ditch effort to find John Y’s parents, David and I decided to use only the records obtained from his lifetime instead of relying on the oral history of descendants. That eliminated my cousins history and the verbal history from the survey in 1938.  
Two census records listed John Y McKenney's place of birth as New York.  We are normally skeptical of census data, and the reference to New York may have been the port of arrival instead of the place of birth.  He is also listed as a teacher, and not a priest or doctor.  This information was given to the census taker by John Y. McKenney or his immediate family.  During each known census of John Y. McKenney, his date of birth was listed as New York.
David and I decided to ditch the “born in Ireland” factoid and concentrate on New York records.  We immediately located a christening record for John Yeoman McKinney, son of James McKinney and Serah Hunt, in the New York Births and Christenings, 1840 - 1962. The  baptism was on 30 Aug 1801 and the birth was listed as 10 Nov 1800.  Further investigation pointed to some of facts assigned to John Y. McKinney were actually historical facts for his parents and grandparents.
At this point, we decided we had the tree correct by just following records.  Yet we didn't want to cause friction amongst the family historians, so we decided to search for more data to prove his ancestry before revealing our new information.  We continued to dig on and off for several years.  
Eventually I had my DNA tested with Ancestry.com.  When I got the results, I was disappointed not to be matched with any McKinneys or McKenneys.  But Ancestry is continuously updating DNA data and search alogrithms, so David and I worked past John Y McKenney of New York, and developed a tree of his ancestors, and waited.  Finally, just recently, my DNA matched with another descendant of Johann Weller and  Anna Lowegeth, my sixth great grandparents and John Y McKenney's great grandparents.  This gave us the confirmation we needed that we had the correct John Y McKenney.
In retrospect, if we would followed only the records and not relied on the history given by a family born after the death of John Y. McKenney, we would have probably found the right person instead of trying to find records to match the person depicted. 
Here is what we believe to be the accurate line to me from shared ancestors, Johann Frederick and Anna Margaretha Kochin Weller:

Johann Frederick Weller Anna Margretha Kochin
6th great grandparent 6th great grandparent
Elsje Weller
Daughter of Johann Weller and Anna Kochin
James McKinney
Son of Elsje Weller and Matthew McKinney
John Yeoman McKenney
Son of James Mckinney and Serah Hunt
Galvani B. McKenney
Son of John Yeoman Mckinney and Lucy Dew
Lucy Ellen McKenney
Daughter of Galavani McKenney and Cornelia Boone Helmintoller
Willie Weston Jack Goolsby
Son of Lucy Ellen Mckenny and William E. Goolsby
Goolsby Son (name private)
Son of Willie Weston Jack Goolsby and  Kathleen Norris Bruebaker
Sherry Lynn Goolsby Winant

01 January 2015

Success at last!

We are going back over records from Alleghany County, Virginia, where Sherry's Dad's family comes from. We want to find a birth record for her grandfather, which we've never been able to find. So we are reviewing everything from Alleghany County.

We were reminded that Sherry's Great-Great-Grandmother, Cornelia Helmintoller, was supposedly buried in the Johnson-Helmintoller-Plymale Cemetery, which we spent some time in a few months ago and documented in Virginia Stones.

At the time, we didn't think much of it, and we didn't notice any Cornelias, or any Helmintollers or McKenneys we recognized. But Sherry double-checked that I photographed every stone, and called me back with the camera after I was ready to leave. She had found a headstone broken in half, and wanted a picture of it, so she supported the top half with her legs and I took the photo you see here.

Today, we were again reminded that Cornelia remarried after her first husband (Sherry's GG GF) died. She married a John O Fridley. And what this stone actually says is "Nelia, wife of J O Fridley". So not only did we find a picture of Sherry's Great-Great-Grandmother's tombstone, but it was a picture we took months ago without even realizing it.

Global Positioning

When Sherry and I decided to volunteer with Find-A-Grave to take pictures of gravestones, we felt that it was important that we have a record of the location where each picture was taken. Since digital cameras typically produce JPEG files, and the JPEG format can include header data with GPS location, we felt it was simplest to find a digital camera that included GPS that it would stamp onto each picture as it was taken.

It turns out this is called "GeoTagging" and is fairly common among a younger crowd. Younger than us, at least. At any rate, when we looked for GPS-enabled cameras last year, there were two kinds - GPS add-ons to expensive digital SLR cameras, and "tough" cameras. I found this whole new niche of digital cameras I didn't know existed - they are waterproof, shockproof, and geotag-ready. They even take pictures underwater!

So we got one, a Pentax model WG-3 GPS, which we've been very happy with. It takes a couple seconds from when you turn it on until it locates a GPS satellite and then every outdoor picture will be tagged. At home, I can examine the GPS tags and map where the grave location is on Google Maps.

Okay, now we know that GPS for cameras is probably only accurate to about ten feet. But even if the GPS gets you within 20 feet, it has really narrowed the area you have to search for a grave.

We leave the geotag information in the header when we upload the pictures to Find-A-Grave. On purpose.

Here's why.

I feel that the biggest next step for Find-A-Grave has to involve some kind of spatial proximity among graves. When we go to a cemetery to get genealogical information, one of the biggest ways to get information is to look at the graves around the one you already knew about. Maybe Uncle Joe is buried next to his parents. Or his children. Or the "significant other" he spent the last twenty years of his life with after his wife passed.

Find-A-Grave currently allows you to enter plot information. Sometimes this is useful, in larger, more organized, active cemeteries. For the smaller places Sherry and I frequent there isn't any plot information. Even in many of the larger cemeteries a plot number doesn't pinpoint the grave very well, unless you know all the intricacies of how to read the cemetery's cryptic markers.

Find-A-Grave also allows you to enter GPS coordinates for each memorial. This is done as an extra step. If it is a memorial you have created, you click "Add Plot" and enter the latitude and longitude from the photo, after extracting them and converting them to the right format. If the memorial was created by someone else, and you are just adding the photo, you have to send an edit request to the owner/creator of the memorial with the latitude and longitude. Probably if they notice that your name matches the photo, they will accept the edit without question. If they are still active in Find-A-Grave, of course.

Anyway, the point of the above rant is that it would be much simpler if Find-A-Grave decides to examine the GPS tags in the JPEG files themselves. They can automate the process of extracting the coordinates, converting them to the right format, and updating the location of the grave. And maybe by the time they get around to that, they will also address how to display grave positions so that their users can see what graves are nearby the grave of their loved one.

-- David, blogging from 39°08'40.4"N 77°24'45.0"W

Update, 17 Jan 2015

Find-A-Grave now has an "Upload and Transcribe" option in Beta form. You have to go to a link, http://www.findagrave.com/enable-beta, and then it shows a Transcriptions section on your member page, and on each cemetery page.

The idea is that you upload gravestone photos for a particular cemetery, and then you go in and transcribe the gravestone data directly into cemetery records. It's still Beta, so there's the occasional bug, but it seems very well done. You can enter one or more persons data for each stone, and if they already exist in the database it pulls up the existing entry. You have a week from when you upload the photos to transcribe them, and then they are released into a general pool where anyone can transcribe them.

As a side note - I've found that I still want to do a little pre-processing on the photos before I upload them. Usually I just crop the photo close to the stone, adjust the brightness/contrast, and compress.

All of that is fantastic on it's own, and a great improvement to the site. But in the spirit of this blog post, they actually pull the geotag data from the uploaded photos and attach it to the memorial records. Here's a link to one that we uploaded, and you can see the GPS info: Walter P Broyles

There's a Cemetery Photo Map link from the cemetery page, and that sounds very promising, but it doesn't seem to work yet. But as we know the GPS data is already in the system, so when they get it working it should be able to map the photos we are transcribing today.

Thank you, Find-a-Grave!