Genealogy Tourism

I read an inter­est­ing arti­cle in the Cana­di­an Press enti­tled “ ‘Geneal­o­gy tourists’ hit Salt Lake City library in search of fam­i­ly tree”.

It’s an inter­est­ing piece, espe­cial­ly the sec­tion about Car­la San­tos, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of tourism at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois at Urbana-Cham­paign, who makes the point that every des­ti­na­tion is a geneal­o­gy des­ti­na­tion because “every­one has a fam­i­ly sto­ry that con­nects them to some­where.”

This is def­i­nite­ly true of my fam­i­ly. Yes, we occa­sion­al­ly get to “tourist loca­tions”, like Maui, and love them, but we’re cur­rent­ly plan­ning to go to Mon­roe Coun­ty, West Vir­ginia and Madi­son Coun­ty, Illi­nois. These are not exact­ly as pop­u­lar as the Ital­ian Riv­iera … just in case you were won­der­ing … but they mean some­thing to us because of what we may dis­cov­er in the court hous­es and ceme­ter­ies there.

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Ancestors on My Cell Phone

"Helen and Horses" (Helen Kjerstine Johnson, my Grandmother)
“Helen and Hors­es” (Helen Kjer­s­tine John­son, my Grand­moth­er)

I find tech­nol­o­gy exhil­er­at­ing, ener­vat­ing, and some­times just plain hys­ter­i­cal.

HTC EVO: “I see dead peo­ple.” (And some liv­ing ones.)

A few months ago, I post­ed a bunch of images that I had had scanned by Scan­Cafe into a Google Picasa account. There’s a fair­ly new fea­ture in Picasa where the soft­ware rec­og­nizes faces and you can tag them with names. As you go along, it learns what peo­ple look like, and starts to pre­dict who is who. (This face recog­ni­tion soft­ware is show­ing up increas­ing­ly. It’s also in iPho­to on the Mac.)

So, I tagged the names of a cou­ple dozen ances­tors and oth­er rel­a­tives. All of them have been deceased for at least 20 years. Some of them for 90 years. What I did not real­ize is that Google would cre­ate con­tacts for these peo­ple in my asso­ci­at­ed GMail account.

Fast for­ward a cou­ple of months.… Today, I got a new cell phone, the HTC EVO, a pow­er­ful micro-lap­top if ever there was one. Since it runs on the Google Android oper­at­ing sys­tem, one is encour­aged to con­nect it with a GMail account. When I did, I chose the account with the Picasa pho­tos. While I can add oth­er GMail accounts, and get the wealth of my oth­er con­tacts, I now have in my con­tact list my wife, my step­sons, and twen­ty or so … dead peo­ple.

“Who you gonna call? Ghost Busters!”

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Robert Washington Gregg (1843–1910)

Robert W. Gregg
Robert W. Gregg

My great great grand­fa­ther, Robert Wash­ing­ton Gregg (1843–1910), was known as “Gyp­sy” Gregg because he trav­eled so wide­ly.

I have been cat­a­loging these trav­els. An account of what I have found so far fol­lows. Each new loca­tion is high­light­ed in red.

Accord­ing to his Civ­il War pen­sion file, Robert W. Gregg was born in Ohio Coun­ty, VA (now WV) in 1843. He appears in the 1850 cen­sus in that coun­ty at the age of 7 with his par­ents William and Mar­garet, five sib­lings, a 75-year-old woman that I sus­pect to be his grand­moth­er, Sarah Echols, a cou­ple more Echolses, and some­one who was prob­a­bly a ser­vant girl, Isabel Carr.

By 1860, he has moved to Des Moines Coun­ty, Iowa, where he appears in the cen­sus with his father, five sib­lings, again Isabell Carr. He is 17 and list­ed as a farmer. His father is list­ed as hav­ing 15,000 worth of real estate and 2,500 worth of per­son­al prop­er­ty.

On 22 August 1862, at the age of 19, Robert W. Gregg of Par­rish, Iowa, and born in Vir­ginia, enlist­ed in Com­pa­ny E of the 25th Iowa Vol­un­teers. His pen­sion records indi­cate that he was shot in the hand by the Fed­er­al sol­dier next to him as the left a troop trans­port after cross­ing into Ken­tucky. He spent the bulk of the war in hos­pi­tals and was mus­tered out as a Pri­vate in Wash­ing­ton, DC on 6 June 1865. (His broth­er, William Gregg, aged 31 and resid­ing in Burling­ton, Iowa is also list­ed in the muster rolls as hav­ing been more in Vir­ginia. He also enlist­ed into Com­pa­ny E of the 25th Iowa on 22 August 1862 and was lat­er pro­mot­ed quar­ter­mas­ter sergeant.)

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Marcom Family Cemetery

I vis­it­ed the Mar­com Fam­i­ly Ceme­tery in Mor­risville, North Car­oli­na today.

The Mar­com Fam­i­ly Ceme­tery is on the cam­pus of Cis­co Sys­tems, Inc., near the bas­ket­ball court by Build­ing 1, right off the inter­sec­tion of Davis Dri­ve and Kit Creek Road in Mor­risville.

It’s a small, pri­vate ceme­tery that the for­mer own­ers of the land had on their farm, and under the North Car­oli­na ceme­tery laws, had to be pre­served, or a pro­tract­ed legal process would ensue. What I have heard is that Cis­co Sys­tems agreed to stip­u­late that the ceme­tery would not be dis­turbed when they pur­chased the land.

Aside from the strange loca­tion, which jux­ta­pos­es a high-tech com­pa­ny that touts effi­cien­cy and speed in its prod­ucts, and a grave­yard, where no one is going any­where, what inter­est­ed me here were that most of the graves sim­ply had the name of the deceased, with­out dates or any oth­er per­son­al infor­ma­tion. This kind of thing may have been done to save mon­ey, and can some­times pro­vide a poten­tial cor­rob­o­ra­tion of a low­er finan­cial sta­tion for a fam­i­ly.

Read the full post for the tran­scrip­tions.

[slickr-flickr tag=“gravestones,morrisville,genealogy,wordpress” sort=“date” direction=“ascending” flickr_link=“on”]

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It’s entire­ly pos­si­ble that I’m miss­ing some­thing when I look at the web­site.

This new genealog­i­cal site launched in July 2009, and while it is attract­ing a lot of hits, it remains pret­ty unknown among the most avid geneal­o­gists. (Quant­cast esti­mates that they have over 900,000 view­ers a day.) In offer­ing com­pli­men­ta­ry 3‑month access to mem­bers of the Nation­al Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety, admits that “Despite … [being one of the most vis­it­ed geneal­o­gy web­sites], many peo­ple still don’t know about us!”

I took a look, and I have to say I’m not impressed.

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TNG v8.0

TNG v8.0 Cal­en­dar

Ver­sion 8.0 of TNG, The Next Gen­er­a­tion of Geneal­o­gy Site Build­ing looks to be a major improve­ment in speed, usabil­i­ty, and design.

In case you do not know about it, the TNG pro­gram is a PHP/MySQL-based geneal­o­gy data­base that allows you to build advanced web inter­ac­tion for your genealog­i­cal data sim­ply by upload­ing a GEDCOM file. You can also edit items right inside your web­site, or share author­ing with oth­er researchers.The infor­ma­tion sits in an indus­try-stan­dard open source data­base, where you

I had been con­cerned about inte­grat­ing it with the Word­Press blog, because the TNG plug-in had been slow to load. Now, the whole appli­ca­tion, even with­in the con­text of Word­Press, seems speedy. The graph­ics sim­ply look bet­ter, and the graph­i­cal pre­view (where you can quick­ly get a bet­ter view of the graph­ics) is snap­py.

The pro­gram is very handy. Since it runs on a serv­er, I have my research with me every­where I have a web brows­er. I am also exper­i­ment­ing with using this as my main repos­i­to­ry of genealog­i­cal data. The speed and look of this ver­sion may help con­vince me. I already know that it’s easy to use, main­tain, back­up, and con­fig­ure. The data is mine, and does not reside some­where else (say on rootsweb). I have been a devot­ed user of The Mas­ter Geneal­o­gist, but I see the porta­bil­i­ty of TNG, as well as its con­fig­ura­bil­i­ty. (Even the data­base schema can be mod­i­fied.) Unlike TMG, The Next Gen­er­a­tion gives me my data­base where ever I can get on the web, which is pret­ty much any­where these days.


I find it dif­fi­cult to be over enthu­si­as­tic about Ever­note, the web­site and desk­top appli­ca­tion that promis­es to “remem­ber every­thing.” It has a slick and easy to use inter­face, per­forms well, and often in the back­ground, and allows you to cre­ate con­tent, such as notes, to include images and even whole pages from the web, as well as to scan direct­ly into it from a scan­ner, take pic­tures with your web­cam, phone … I could keep going. (Their sup­port for mobile devices includes: iPhone / iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Black­Ber­ry, Palm Pre / Palm Pixi, and Win­dows Mobile.)

Now, they are announc­ing a few inter­est­ing inte­gra­tions. You can use Seesmic to auto­mat­i­cal­ly sent Twit­ter and Face­book posts (yours or those of friends or col­leagues that you would like to remem­ber) off to Ever­note, for stor­age, sync­ing, and avail­abil­i­ty. I haven’t fig­ured it out yet on the Mac, but I should also be able to use the Mac OS X Ani­ma­tor to cre­ate a watched fold­er for Ever­note, to sync images and oth­er files. (This is out-of-the-box func­tion­al­i­ty on the PC.)

The ser­vice is free, with some lim­its (that I have nev­er run up against, by the way: 40 MB a month), and there’s a pre­mi­um ser­vice, which ups the month­ly upload lim­it to 500 MB.

In Ever­note, you can orga­nize your notes or web clip­pings into fold­ers and with tags. Addi­tion­al­ly, tags can be nest­ed. I have been cre­at­ing tag struc­tures along the lines of:

          NC Archives
          Pres­i­den­tial Libraries
          1810 …

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