So it is possible to research from 8 am to 9 pm Tuesday through Friday at the Family History Library. I didn’t manage that any of the days for a variety of reasons (including Red Wings hockey) but I did manage a marathon session from 8 am to 7:30 pm on Day #3 of my Salt Lake City Trip… all focused on my father’s families in Bradley County, Arkansas.

In many ways I’m at a bit of a brick wall with my father’s lines. I have a potential slave owning family (or more accurately, allied families) but no clear cut line to trace. So, my goal was really to look hard at whatever records I could get my hands on in the hopes that along the way a story might emerge. What that translates too is that I went through the majority of the available rolls of microfilm in the FHL from the county—court records, deed books (lots of deed books), tax indexes, tax books. And I have to confess microfilm makes me vaguely motion sick. But it was worth it.

I didn’t come out that day with a new set of names but it did give me solid supporting documents about where my families were, their living situations, and their relationships. For example, the deed books included land transactions, but you could also find contracts ranging from the purchase of “a certain Roan mare colt,” to (in the earliest books) the sale of 8 slaves from son to mother for $1. It’s breath-taking and troubling at the same time.

Finding real documents implying the relative wealth of my 2nd Great Grandfather Sandy York (born in slavery) was fascinating. He was making deals for that roan mare in 1871 and buying land out right by 1885.


And when going through the earliest records whenever I found anything indicating a slave transaction I copied the related documents. I’m still sifting through those and transcribing in the hope that the information will help someone in their research even it if it isn’t me. These include slaves held by the Ganaway, Ederington, Hampton, Newton, McCammon, and Williamson families so far.

But my find of the day has to be the deed of gift for an undescribed tract of land belonging to the Pagan family to Trustees Monroe Wilfong (the 1st father-in-law of Sandy’s son, my Great Grandfather Phillip Henry York), Andy Wilfong (a relative by marriage), and Mars Ingraham to establish an African Methodist Church—given the families’ early involvement and staunch support I would guess this was a tract meant to house Mt. Olive Church.



Happy hunting!


I knew I wouldn’t keep this up while I was in Salt Lake but the next blogs will continue to offer highlights from my recent trip to the Family History Library…

Day 2 was spent mostly on B2, the British Research Floor, further exploring my military ancestors and their relations. Among others, I searched for information on Major Wade Rothwell whose sons, Thomas and Frederick, settled in Warwick, Ontario and married Harry Alison’s daughter, Frances, and her niece (and my 3rd great aunt), Mary Anne Massy.

Interestingly, I couldn’t find him anywhere in the records. And I spent a good chunk of the morning trying to search the internet for any additional information I could find beyond one appearance as a Lieutenant in A List of Officers of the Army and of the Corps of Royal Marines in Google Books. But, through a combination of general searching on the internet and in, I was able to uncover a bit more of his story including his brevet promotion to Major while serving as a Captain in the 6th Garrison Battalion on 4 June 1814. The article below is from 1809 when he first transferred to the Garrison.


Probably the most intriguing find was this one on Black Kalendar, a website dedicated to cataloguing cases of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, etc. in Britain from 1254-2015. This was a fabulous fluke find while googling “Lieutenant Wade Rothwell.” It notes his fine and six month sentence for participating in a duel that left a fellow Lieutenant dead… One more scoundrel on the family tree. The reference is a minimal article from the Hampshire Chronicle available through The British Newspaper Archive but it confirms that Rothwell was in the 9th Regiment. (Search on “Obrie” or “Roth Well”—with a space. The indexing is wonky.)

My fail of the day was finding a the reference down to the bundle number in the British National Archives site of a pension for an Owen Byrne (possibly my 5th great grandfather), only to find that the relevant microfilm roll ended exactly before his entry AND is wasn’t on the next roll. A Specialist did his best to assist me but he was stymied as well. My options are to have someone look it up for me at Kew or order it direct from them. And, no, for some reason it’s not in either though theoretically it should be.

Happy hunting!


There is nothing like going into a research trip while still recovering from a performance weekend! But I am happily on vacation, crossing off a bucket list item by taking a week to do research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake Cityona trip hosted by the Oakland County Genealogical Society.

I spent the majority of my first day on B2 (British Isles) tracking my Massys and Alisons during their time serving in the British Military. As noted before I had located a detailed service record for Hugh Massy but hadn’t been able to find the equivalent for his father-in-law, Harry. Well, with the help of one of the specialists, and after going through a lot of microfilm, I finally found an equivalent record for Harry Alison. A service record with his birth date and place, marriage date and place, outline of service at home and abroad, promotions, and children’s birth dates and location of baptisms. That by itself was a tremendous find for me. And I have a stack of baptismal records and a new web resource to play with.

DetailAlisonHarryServiceRecordNot bad for a first day’s work!

Happy Hunting,


Films to FindI am counting down to a genealogy vacation! I have a billion things to do between here and there (including dancing in a show!) but I’m trying to plot a research plan in snatched moments of down time. I can’t wait!

It’s a chance to do serious research among like minded folk, cross something off my genealogy bucket-list, and at it’s simplest I am getting out of town for a little over a week.

Again… I can’t wait! More from the road soon!

Happy hunting,


Grandma EthelI hope you’re celebrating with fun in the sun! Have a wonderful birthday and many more to come.

Love you!


shelfThe last several months have been a bit harried with a move, work, and the odd existential crisis… but I’m still here and I was thrilled to see Thomas MacEntee’s great post about his “Genealogy Do-Over.” While everyday life has also interfered, I think I’ve been quiet on my blog because I’ve been working through similar issues since coming back from GRIP @ Orchard Lake in August. Thomas Jones’ class made me want to clean up my research, get everything properly cited, and appropriately researched and I have been quietly backtracking and making sure there is solid research with multiple sources for my genealogy. And Thomas MacEntee (and everyone who chimed in) is right, that’s a daunting task after nearly 20 years. Yet (very) slowly but surely that’s what I’ve been working on these past few months. I didn’t toss (or set aside) everything, instead deciding to start with my father and work backwards filling in missing citations, reexamining sources to wring out additional information, and examining sources I didn’t have on hand (or for that matter think to use) when I started my research.

A great example of the latter has been using city directories. I made a tremendous leap forward on my mother’s very urban ancestors by working my way through the directories of Detroit, Michigan. It filled in tremendous gaps, raised interesting questions and ultimately led me to the discovery of the Massey family. But when researching rural Arkansas families I had not thought to apply that same idea, so in this pass I searched the city directories that have been loaded into Ancestry only to find that those men I always thought of as rural lumberman and farmers spent a fair amount of time in the cities. I found Grandpa Levie working in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, before moving to Detroit and one of his (and my grandmother’s) cousins, Dewitt Trotter (from an earlier Trotter-York marriage), is well-documented in the directories for El Dorado, Union County, Arkansas.

SkiffLouisaNewEngMedGazette1869This review, so far, has exposed paths I had either missed or turned away from—including some that have led to fascinating new finds such as: two relatives with intriguing probate files committing them to the Northern Michigan Asylum; a previously unnoticed marriage between a man I believe to be my great grandfather’s older brother and my great-grandmother’s aunt; and the 50-year career of my a 5th grand aunt, Dr. Louisa Skiff Millard Clark, a respected homeopathic physician in the late 19th century in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Without systematically working through the siblings of my direct ancestors I was missing so much texture—not to mention information that directly connected to my ancestor.

To be fair to myself a lot of these things I have done well in my recent research but the work I did when I was in college is not up to par and those relatively large sections of my research need the review. As the new year unfolds you may see me chiming in on aspects of the “Genealogy Do Over” while I continue my own style of review but I definitely agree with the concept and think everyone needs to step back from time to time and try to look at their work with new eyes and the finer honed skills that come with practice and education.

Happy hunting,


The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleishman and illustrator Bagram IbatoullineSo, one of my genealogy related projects this month was a preschool storytime for work which meant I had to track down great books to interest kids in talking about their families and their stories. My fabulous find for the year was The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleishman and illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline. It’s wonderful!

This picture book begins with a great-grandfather asking his great-granddaughter to pick anything in a memory filled room and he would tell her a story. She picks an old cigar box and so begins the diary he started as a child in Italy before he could read or write and continued as his family immigrated to the United States. The story is hard and beautiful, the art work amazing and detailed. It’s a perfect book to share to talk about the immigrant experience and family stories. It is a bit long for a storytime but my fabulous children’s librarian reminded me that you can skip around with this age group, so a few properly placed paperclips made it just right.

For my craft portion of the day I gave them all  plain boxes to decorate and keep their memories in. They decorated with markers, puffy letters, and assorted bits o’stuff we keep in the closet—in other words glue stick fun!

Other great picture book picks:

  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan—a wordless fantastic masterpiece about the immigrant experience.
  • Grandpa Green by Lane Smith—a great-grandfather’s life story in topiary.
  • All Kinds of Family by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Marc Boutavant—on the broad concept of family.

Do you know of other good family history related reads for kids? Please pass them on!

Happy hunting,



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 387 other followers