LinkConnector Validation

A Genealogist In The Archives: September 2020

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Genealogy, Our Ancestors and the County Fair

This week I would have attended the local county Fair. However, during this time of Covid-19, the local fair has been cancelled. Even though my local county fair has been cancelled, it still got me to thinking about my ancestors and their experiences with the county fair.

Stewart and Houston Counties Fair, ca. 1900, Houston County, TN. Archives

I love this time of year because it means Fall is on the way and attending the fair brings back such wonderful childhood memories.

Have you ever thought about your ancestors and if they attended or better yet participated in the county fair?

Another great record source for genealogist are Fair Records!

Many of our wonderful archives have collections of records and memorabilia from the local county fair or the state fair in their records collections. These collections could be archived alone or they could be part of a larger manuscript collection.

Houston County Agricultural and School Fair, ca. 1930, Houston County, TN. Archives

So, what can a genealogists find in Fair Records?

  • Information that your ancestor helped organize the fair as a committee member or head of a particular event
  • Information that your ancestor submitted her best canned peaches for judging and even won a blue ribbon.
  • Information that your ancestor put his best cow on display and won a cash prize
  • Information that your ancestor showed her handmade quilt and won "Best in Show"

And this is just to name a few items that can be found in fair records. Maybe your ancestor just attended the fair and wrote about it in their diary. Fair records at an archive can give you more background and details about that particular fair that your ancestor wrote about.

Houston County Agricultural and School Fair Program, ca. 1930, Houston County, TN. Archives

The county fair was usually a major event in our ancestor's towns and lives. Seeking out these records and recording the information found in them can add to our ancestor's life story. 

Knowing how our ancestor's lived and what they participated in helps us to know them better.

The next time you are researching at the archives, ask them if they have Fair Records!

Until next time......Remember.......

It's Not All Online, Contact or Visit an Archive Today!!


NOW Available at my Legacy Family Tree Presenter Page...

-15 Webinars to help you with researching in archives and records preservation

-10 Legacy Quick Guides to guide you in finding records about your ancestors

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Your Ancestors and the Four Seasons

It's turning cooler here in Tennessee where I live. I can smell Fall in the air and the trees are just starting to turn colors and lose their leaves. Fall and Winter are my favorite seasons of the year. Many who know me, know that I hibernate in the Summer and come out in Fall and especially Winter. I even love snow!

Have you thought about what seasons your ancestors enjoyed? Were they Summer people or Winter people? Did they hate a particular season? 

I have been researching my family history for over 30 years. I am the type of researcher that wants to know what my ancestors had for breakfast, what were their hobbies and lately I have been thinking about what season they enjoyed the most and which season they detested.

I will admit it might be a bit difficult to really know if your 6th great-grandfather loved Summer as I imagine there are probably no records that actually state this fact unless you have his diary where he says it himself. But maybe we can glean from other sources if our ancestor was partial to a particular season.

Maybe your ancestor loved gardening and you know this because you have records where they bought gardening supplies or seeds from a catalog. Or maybe you have photographs of them next to the beautiful roses they grew in their garden. My Grandma Ida Kathryn (Drummond) Bartram loved gardening, especially growing flowers. She truly had a green thumb.

My Grandmother, Ida Kathryn (Drummond) Bartram, ca. 1968

Many of our ancestors grew their own food, either out of necessity or pleasure or both. There is a certain sense of accomplishment, I am told, when you can grow your own food during the Summer and feed your family throughout the Winter.

Mrs. P.L. Cook Prize Winning Canned Food, Houston County, TN. Archives

In the Fall of the year, here in Tennessee, is sorghum molasses making time. This is an old tradition that dates back to the mid-1850s. Here is a great article from the Tennessee Encyclopedia about Sorghum Molasses making history: Possibly your ancestors made sorghum molasses and you can find evidence of that because they sold their jarred molasses to the local mercantile or they entered it in the local county fair and won a blue ribbon. Documenting our ancestors daily lives, in any season, helps to tell their life story. 

Lola Knight Scrapbook, ca. 1922-1923, Houston County, TN. Archives

Maybe it's the Summer season that your ancestors loved. They loved picnics, going creek stomping and attending that family reunion. Summer was a very busy time for farmers but they always took the time to enjoy themselves at the local watering hole or enjoying a summer treat of cold watermelon. My husband's family owned and operated a local public pool and it was the place to be in Houston County, Tennessee on a hot summer day. 

Southernaire Restauant & Motel Pool, ca. 1959, Houston County, TN. Archives

So, as you are reading through old letters, diaries, scrapbooks and any other records your ancestors left behind. Pay closer attention to any mention of the seasons and if there are any thoughts shared about if they preferred one season over another.  We can't know every thought and feeling our ancestors had but we can sure glean as much as we can from the records they left behind.


Get Melissa's Legacy QuickGuide

Family Gatherings: Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family

Friday, September 18, 2020

Book Review "The Stranger in My Genes: A Memoir"

Imagine finding out you are not who you thought you were. Being a genealogist or “the unofficial historian for the family” as Griffith calls himself, only to find that you are researching the wrong family.

The Stranger in My Genes is a memoir of Bill Griffith who had been conducting his genealogy research since 2003. Urged by his cousin, Griffith took a DNA test that would change everything. The story Griffith tells that leads up to that fateful moment when he is presented with the shock of a lifetime is one that most of us would have a hard time relating to.  Searching for genealogical documents, traveling to sites where his ancestors lived their lives are some of the normal things any genealogist does to know more about their family history. Griffith conducted these same type research trips only to find that it was the wrong family tree.

Griffith states and believes “Genealogy is the pursuit of truth and if you choose to begin researching your family’s history, you had better be prepared to accept whatever truth you uncover”. In this memoir, Griffith faces his own truth that very few have had to face.

This book is an extension of Griffith’s journaling that he did at the time he received the results of his DNA test and started on a very unusual journey. The chapters and entries are for the most part chronological with the exception of some entries where Griffith remembers his genealogical trips to ancestral home places and cemeteries.

Griffith explains in detail the journey he took to verify the DNA results and the steps he took to accept the truth that he learned. Griffith gives detailed information about DNA and how it works in such a clear and concise way that someone who has never encountered genealogy DNA could understand it and follow the scientific meanings.

This memoir reminds us of the fact that most genealogists have family secrets contained within the family tree. These family secrets should be documented and recorded by the genealogist with care and with living family member’s feelings in mind. Griffith’s conscience effort to respect the feelings of his Mother during his journey is very touching.

The agony Griffith went through waiting on the DNA results to arrive will resonate with many who have experienced the same waiting period. The results themselves are something that anyone would have trouble grappling with once they arrived. To find that your Father was not your Father after so many years of researching that side of your family is something Griffith had to come to grips with and it was not easy. The way in which Griffith writes about his agony, disbelief and how he finally was able to cope with the results is something he did so eloquently in this memoir.

The journey Griffith takes in his memoir is truly his own and one that made me truly sympathize with him as I read his story. The ups and downs with regards to the relationship with his Mother is difficult to read when the reader thinks about their own parents and how this news would affect their relationship.

Many genealogists struggle with the hidden truths they dig up while doing their genealogy research. Most are not as earth shattering as Griffith’s but none the less something we have to deal with in our own way. Griffith’s memoir shows us the grace and sensitivity that should be used when dealing with our own family secrets.

(This review original published in the Federation of Genealogists Magazine FORUM)


Get Your Copy Today!

The Stranger in My Genes: A Memoir by Bill Griffith

Amazon Link:


Watch Melissa Barker's Legacy Family Tree Webinar

Your Ancestors Didn't Leave a Paper Trail: Are You?

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My Grandmothers Taught Me to Have Fun!

This past Sunday, September 13th, was National Grandparent's Day!

It got me to thinking about both of my Grandmothers and remembering something fun they both taught me. 

Grandma Agnes (left) and Grandma Ida (right), ca. 1968

My Grandmother on my Mom's side of the family, Ida Kathryn (Drummond) Bartram (1922-2012) was the Grandma that I didn't live near until about 5 years before she died. My Dad was in the Air Force, so we lived away from my Grandma and Grandpa Bartram.

Grandma Ida, as I called her, taught me how to "bird dog". To her, "bird dog" meant to scan the area where you are walking for coins, buttons, or just anything that you might find. My Grandma loved to walk for exercise and she would find and pick-up all kinds of things when she would walk and "bird dog". Grandma Ida taught me how to "bird dog" when I went to stay with her and Grandpa Bart one Summer. She and I would walk to the coffee shop every day that was located a few blocks away from her home in Mogadore, Ohio. As we walked, we would scan the sidewalk to see what we could find. 

From that Summer until now, I "bird dog" everywhere I go and I remember my Grandma Ida when I do it.

Grandma Ida with Me, ca. 1969

My other Grandmother on my Dad's side was Agnes Marie (Curtis) LeMaster (1920-1988). She was very special to me because she came to live with my family when I was 3-years old in 1972 after the passing of her husband and my Grandfather Cody Lee LeMaster (1909-1972). She lived with our family until her death which was 2-months after I had married.

Grandma Agnes taught me how to play Bingo! She loved to play Bingo and never missed a chance to visit the Bingo hall. When I was old enough, she would take me with her to the local VFW to play. One time they even had "Kiddie Bingo" where the kids could play and instead of winning money, whoever won could choose from toys that were donated. My Grandma and I had so much fun playing Bingo but also spending time together. Not long after Grandma Agnes died, they stopped allowing Bingo to be played in Tennessee for money. When that happened, I remember thinking, "If Grandma Agnes was still alive, she would be so mad". Whenever I see something on TV about Bingo or hear it in other circles, I think of my Grandma Agnes and how much fun we had.

Grandpa Cody and Grandma Agnes, ca. 1967

I have learned so much from my Grandmothers over the years. But these two things that I learned from them were fun and I now have wonderful memories to share with my daughter and grandson.


Finding It Hard to Talk To Your Family Members?

Get My Legacy QuickGuide

Family Gatherings: Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Genealogy and The Andy Griffith Show

Genealogy is everywhere.....

I was talking with my friend Thomas MacEntee of Genealogy Bargains the other day about how we can find genealogy and family history everywhere these days. This is so true and it's also true genealogy related themes have always shown up in our popular culture and in places that are not genealogy related.

School Board Minute Books, Houston County, TN. Archives

For instance, a couple of months ago my husband and I started watching The Andy Griffith Show. We started with Season 1, Episode 1 and have really enjoyed watching each and every episode. I have to admit, I have never watched The Andy Griffith Show. I had heard about it and maybe seen a clip or two but never had I sat down and watched entire episodes. 

The Andy Griffith Show

The other night we watched Season 1, Episode 25 which originally aired April 3, 1961 and was titled A Plaque for Mayberry. This particular episode description caught my interest: There may be a direct descendant of a Revolutionary War hero living in Mayberry flatters the town, 'til they learn who it is. The Women's Historical Society presented a plaque to the descendant of the Revolutionary War Hero who lived in Mayberry.

Members of the Women's Historical Society

The words Revolutionary War Hero jumped off the TV screen at me and I couldn't wait to watch the episode.

I won't spoil the show for you but you can watch this YouTube video of a synopsis of the episode.

You can also read about the story line and some trivia about this episode at IMDb:

If you watch the episode, you will even get a chance to see Barney Fife's family tree!

So, it's true, genealogy is everywhere! Even on The Andy Griffith Show!


Get Melissa Barker's Legacy QuickGuide

Family Gatherings: Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Finding School Records in the Archives (Even if Your Ancestor Didn't Go To School)

The kids are starting to head back to school!

Are you doing genealogy research in school records? Don't think you need to because your ancestor didn't attend school? Think again!

School records are one of the more interesting sources of records available in a lot of archives. Even if your ancestor didn't attend school as a child, you might be surprised by what can be found in the various types of school records.

School Enrollment from Camp Ground School in Houston County, TN., located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

School Transcripts or Attendance and Grade Reports: These types of records were kept at the teacher level and by the school district. These records would record when the person attended school and what grades they made in each subject. Sometimes a copy of these records were kept by the teacher and these records will get donated to an archive when that teacher passes away.

Cave Orchard School Register ca. 1929, located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

School Board Minute Books: These are a very interesting and a useful record source for the genealogist. These books record the business of the local school board which could include anything. This particular type of record is where you might find your ancestor even if they didn't attend school. Maybe they hauled coal for the coal burning stoves in the schools and they were appointed by the school board for this job, their name would be listed in these minutes. Possibly your adult ancestor had a problem with a teacher and they brought their grievance to the school board, this could have played out in the minute books and your ancestor would be named. A lot of local residents were involved with the school system but never actually attended school.

Houston County High School Yearbooks, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Yearbooks and School Newspapers: Many of our archives, historical societies, genealogical societies and libraries have collections of yearbooks and school newspapers.Yearbooks not only have photos of students and information about school clubs but they also will have local business advertisements. These local business would have been solicited to pay a fee for the advertisement to help pay for the printing of the yearbook. Possibly your ancestor's business is in one of these yearbooks. School newspapers. Many of our schools published a school newspaper and the articles were written by students and a lot of times there are photographs from school events. Checking school newspapers for our ancestors and their school activities is something to put on your "To Do List".

Houston County High School Newspaper, ca. 1926, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Photographs: When looking for your ancestor's photographs in an archives be sure to check any school photograph collections. They could include individual photographs as well as photographs of sports teams or clubs that your ancestor was involved with.

Erin High School Girls Basketball Team, ca. 1946, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives
Unknown school photo, undated, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Maybe your ancestor was one of the teachers of one of the schools. Some archives do have collections of teachers records such as teaching certificates, student registeries and grade books.

Teaching License for Gertha Brooks, ca. 1919, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

School records are a must when doing any genealogy research and even if your ancestor did not attend any organized schools, remember that they could still be named in some of the school records that exist. Don't overlook this very valuable resource!



Get My Legacy QuickGuide:

Researching in Libraries and Archives