Saturday, October 22, 2016

My Lying Grandmother

My maternal grandmother strung such a line of baloney. If it wasn't so sad it would be funny.

I grew up in a world where I had no past. And I had no past because my parents divorced early which just left me with my mother and my mother had no past. And my mother had no past because her father left and her mother lived behind a moat of secrecy.

According to my mother my grandmother had only two vague memories:
  1. A dark lady with braids leaning over a cooking pot.
  2. An Irish man with red hair.
Just the kind of information any family historian would be thrilled to inherit.

The lies my grandmother told:
  • She was born in 1900.
  • She was part Cherokee.
  • Her first daughter was born in 1921.
  • She had only two vague memories.

Here's some truths:

She was born out of wedlock in 1899.

She was not even remotely Cherokee.

She lived with her mother, grandmother, aunt and 1st cousins until she married in 1919.

Her first daughter was born in January 1920, 7 months after she married. She hid her from the census-taker in March.

Her aunt's youngest child was born (also out of wedlock) when she was 15 but she didn't know anything about a man hanging around her house. Total blank.

When my mother, at age 10, asked her why her mother and her aunt had the same surname, my grandmother said they must have married brothers in a tone that told my mother to SHUT UP.

She was 20 years old when her grandmother died but her children never heard anything about this woman.

Her mother-in-law died when she was 31. Her children didn't know anything about her.  

The grandmother of her husband (also born out of wedlock) died when my mother was 12. My mother never met her or even knew she existed.

She had a close relationship with her father until she was 36 years old and he moved out of the area. My mother never heard of him.

It's been a long road but we know who he is now. And we've figured out some of this other bullshit. Rest in peace, Pearl.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Leaving It or Handing It Over

I was having an email conversation with someone the other day about leaving my genealogy work to someone when I die or handing it over while I'm still living. She didn't understand what I was saying so I had to think about it some more.

This is what I mean.

When I die there are provisions in my Will to leave my work to someone in the family who will either be interested or give it to someone else in the family who's interested. Hopefully it will land with someone who carries on giving it due honor and diligence. I'd like to care if that works out but when I'm gone from Earth I just won't.

Leaving it to someone means it may get dumped in the back of their hard-drive and the rest in the basement because it's too disruptive and too much for them to incorporate into their life. They've just come home from a hard day's work and they'd rather flake out in front of the television. There are valid realities to not-interested and not-enough-time.

Although it would be more work for me, I prefer the idea of transitioning while I'm still alive. That doesn't mean 'handing it over' to someone who says they're 'interested'. A lot of people who are 'interested' in the family history don't know what they're asking for. They're asking because it's a fad or because they have 5 minutes to burn right then.

And the reason they don't know is that they don't understand how many moving parts there are. They think the family history is something they can 'get' while they're double-parked at the curb.

I've written README documents for some of the moving parts to go with my Will.

  • Legacy; learning the software
  • familiarity with the family lines; what's known/unknown
  • MRIN digital filing system (IPTC metadata & related software)
  • paper filing system (file-boxes and binders)
  • photo software
  • online resources (bookmarks, webinars, social media)
  • other tools
  • DNA and related correspondence
  • other correspondence
  • privacy concerns, copyright, etc.

That's a daunting lot of stuff.


Off and on over the years I've heard either first or second-hand of someone in my family who's 'interested'.

Ten years ago I wrote 18 weekly installments; the family history as a cliff-hanger. I thought I was being entertaining. I sent it to two sisters and two nieces. Three of them ignored me. Only one sister wrote back to say she couldn't follow it. Really? Am I that abstruse as a writer?

I've stopped being a lemming running to the sea and smartened up. Since I obviously don't know what they mean by 'interested', and they don't know enough to know what they mean, I've made a list of potential candidates and I'm working on creating an invitation for Next Keeper of The Family History. I don't know if I'll send it; I'm just playing with the idea.

Meanwhile, I've thought about what transitioning means exactly. How would I go about this? It seems to me there's a way to develop someone's interest instead of just throwing an 800 page Descendants Book Report at them and watching it go down the toilet because they don't understand what they're being given. And who could blame them? Weekly installments wasn't it either.

If they're interested then let them earn it. Earning it means making time, paying attention and being willing to learn something. Call me old-fashioned.

The only mandatory step in transitioning is they have to have their own copy of genealogy software. If they inherit the whole thing when I die they're going to have to do that anyway. If they can't get that far I figure they're not that interested. Of course I would prefer it be Legacy because that's what I use and it would be easier if we were on the same page.

And it means they're hands-on from the beginning. They don't get a free ride and they don't have to be bored to death by me talking over their heads. They can play with it on their own time putting in a few people they know like their parents and siblings and then I will feed them more information.

In a relaxed sort of way, when they have time, I will export one marriage at a time with the accompanying folder of documents, leaving time for absorption and discussion as I work my way up the direct lines. That means they're learning how to import a family file. They're learning about their ancestors. They're learning the software. They're learning the filing system. They're learning what I don't know yet and they're learning about privacy and copyright issues.

If they poop out after one generation I'm gone too. If they stick with me, I'll stick with them.

Surely, by the time the direct lines are transitioned they'll have a good handle on how things work.

Right now, the next generation of my family range from ages 33 to 44. Some of them have children, some of them don't. All of them work from morning til night in areas of their own interest. The family history is a vague curiosity for some. For some it's not even on their radar; they couldn't care less. So be it. None of them has asked to take this on; I'm just saying I have a plan if they do.

In the meantime, the satisfaction in this biz comes in the present tense; answering questions, solving problems, breaking down brick walls, teaching and learning with people who are presently engaged. And all of this will live to see another day.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Genealogy Overwhelm

One thing at a time; exactly how I do everything else in my life.

Say I'm cleaning up the kitchen. Then I find one cupboard that seems to be a project in itself. Do I go back to generally cleaning up the kitchen or do I focus on that one cupboard?

Say I pick the cupboard. Then I find a forgotten project in that cupboard that could be a day's work all by itself. Do I go back to cleaning up that one cupboard or do I start to focus on that one project?

Decisions, decisions.

As of today, there are 22,922 individuals in my Legacy database. Fact: There's not enough time.

Two things.

1) If I'm working on something and I find a tangent, which I always do, I add the tangent to a running to-do list.

2) If it's a web page, I drag the shortcut into a folder of genealogy shortcuts.

What's most important to me will always rise to the top. Just like everything else in life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


My mother's paternal grandfather's surname is WEST, proven through Y-DNA. He's either the great- or great-great grandson of Willis WEST and Sarah GAINEY, born around the 1860's or 1870's in North Carolina. Probably Johnston Co., but it could be Sampson or thereabouts.

I've put together a list of WEST men that fit the criteria. It could be one of them or it could be someone else. I strongly suspect that BLACKMAN or BLACKMON is also in his ancestry.

Surname, Given names BirthDt BirthPl DthDt DthPl Father Mother
WEST, Albert Sidney 02-Jan-1874 Sampson, NC 22-Aug-1938 Salisbury, Rowan, NC John Elliot WEST Sarah ROSE
WEST, Archie Berry 31-Dec-1878 Johnston, NC 27-Apr-1943 Wake, NC James Allen WEST Sarah Right BEASLEY
WEST, Atlas Z. 26-Dec-1880 Johnston, NC 13-May-1956 Smithfield, Johnston, NC Franklin WEST Narcissus BLACKMAN
WEST, Charles Bayard Sr. 07-Feb-1877 Sampson, NC 17-Apr-1948 Kinston, Lenoir, NC John Elliot WEST Sarah ROSE
WEST, Charles Sylvester 24-Aug-1867 Johnston, NC 28-May-1941 Benson, Johnston, NC Lloyd WEST Martha MORGAN
WEST, Charlie Franklin Abt 1870 NC Franklin WEST Narcissus BLACKMAN
WEST, Esther Perry 08-Dec-1877 Benson, Johnston, NC James Allen WEST Sarah Right BEASLEY
WEST, John Claude 23-Apr-1873 Sampson, NC 3-Feb-1957 John Elliot WEST Sarah ROSE
WEST, Lloyd M. Abt 1863 Johnston, NC 8-Jan-1940 Elevation Township, Johnston, NC Allen Jesse WEST Lucy BAKER
WEST, Robert Marshall 14-Jun-1869 Johnston, NC 14-Jan-1942 Salisbury, Rowan, NC John Elliot WEST Sarah ROSE
WEST, Vassey 25-Jun-1872 Johnston, NC 5-Mar-1915 Ingrams Township, Johnston, NC Jesse Anderson WEST Sr. Nancy JOHNSON
WEST, William Henderson 08-Jan-1866 NC 14-Jun-1912 Allen Jesse WEST Lucy BAKER

If you know any of these men or their families or anyone I've left out that could also fit, please contact me at

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Robert David Johnson

After many years of looking, it's now known that Robert David Johnson is my mother's maternal grandfather. He had a child with someone before he married and that child is my grandmother. Below is what I've been able to put together about his family from publicly available records. He was the son of David P. Johnson and Catherine Tyner. He was a lumber mill operator in Johnston Co. in 1930. I would like to talk to anyone who knows this family. If that's you, please contact me at

1-Robert David JOHNSON b. 25 May 1876, Smithfield, Johnston, NC, d. 29 Sep
  1952, New Bern, Craven, NC
 +Lula Zanie SMITH b. 20 Oct 1882, Wilson, NC, m. 14 Dec 1904, Ingrams
  Township, Johnston, NC, d. 01 Sep 1936, Smithfield, Johnston, NC, par. Henry
   2-David Paul JOHNSON b. 01 Aug 1903, Wilson, NC, d. 03 Oct 1960, (Wilson,
     Wilson, NC)
    +Ruby Iva BARNES b. 21 Feb 1906, Wilson, NC, m. 15 Jun 1921, Wilson,
     Wilson, NC, d. 12 Apr 1990, Wilson, Wilson, NC, par. William Henry BARNES
     and Mary Frances BARNES
      3-Paul Leondes JOHNSON b. 25 Jun 1923, Wilson, NC, d. 07 Apr 1992, Sims,
        Wilson, NC
       +Alice Lucille BARNES b. 15 Oct 1923, Wilson, NC, m. 26 Dec 1942,
        Wilson, NC, d. 25 Apr 2000, Wilson, Wilson, NC, par. Clinton Oliver
        BARNES and Vida MEWBORNE
      3-Robert H. JOHNSON b. Abt 1928, NC
   2-Robert Silas JOHNSON b. 06 May 1906, Johnston, NC
    +Marguerite Delois LOCKE b. Abt 1912, Franklin, OH, m. 03 Feb 1930, Putnam,
     WV, par. Elmer Andrew LOCKE and Alma Rosette DAVIS
      3-Frances Jeanne JOHNSON b. 29 Sep 1930, Lenoir, NC
   2-William Jennings Bryant JOHNSON b. 08 Jun 1908, NC, d. 18 Jul 1937, Stump
     Sound, Onslow, North Carolina, United States
    +Sue Taylor CHAUNCEY b. Abt 1915, m. 19 Aug 1936, Pamlico, NC
      3-Robert Bryan JOHNSON b. 11 Mar 1937, Washington, Beaufort, NC
       +Virginia Dare KEECH b. Abt 1943, m. 30 Jul 1958, Beaufort, North
        Carolina, United States, par. Edgar KEECH and UNKNOWN
         4-Robert Bryan JOHNSON Jr. b. 04 Apr 1959, Washington, Beaufort, NC
         4-Emily JOHNSON b. 06 Nov 1960, Washington, Beaufort, NC
         4-Tammie Raye JOHNSON b. 28 May 1963, Washington, Beaufort, NC
   2-Dixie Faye JOHNSON b. 07 Apr 1911, NC, d. 15 May 1974, Raleigh, Wake, NC
    +Edward Stanley ABELL Jr. b. 01 Dec 1900, Johnston, NC, m. 31 Aug 1934,
     Lenoir, NC, d. 27 Mar 1978, Raleigh, Wake, NC, par. Edward Stanley ABELL
     Sr. and Irene PAGE
      3-Edwina Faye ABELL b. 07 Aug 1934, Smithfield, Johnston, NC, d. 21 Mar
        1999, Chapel Hill, Orange, NC