Getting The Most Out Of Your Family History Research

To get the most out of your family history takes time. You need to research and verify facts and sources. Sometimes you need to order documents. But, what you get out of it is so much more than the time and money you spend. It helps you to understand your family members a little bit more, and it may just help you to understand yourself a bit too.

And, don’t underestimate your children. As I explained in my Family History for Children blog, children are very curious and avid learners of their history. A good age, in my opinion, is about 4th grade.

There are many online programs out there to help you find records but do not ignore the many other outlets that can help you. I have reached out to many other researchers and genealogists in the past to help guide me in the right direction. Some I have hired to look up documents for me in a place I was not able to go to myself. Also, see my post on using Facebook to help you in your research.

Maybe you are not curious enough about your family roots to spend hours digging through historical databases. That is where Family History Researchers like myself can help.

At, there are many ways in which I can assist you in your family history research. I not only blog about my ancestors and family research in general, but I also offer other services.

An online genealogy basics class, I provide one-on-one tutoring as well as group tutoring in the Clay County, FL area, online consultations, and I offer my Family History Research Specialist service.

So, visit me at today, and let’s build something together!

 I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. 

Civic Duty

A couple of weeks ago, I received my jury notice. Yes, like you, I immediately rolled my eyes and groaned. But, as the date got closer, my curiosity got the better of me.

The first day was the narrowing of the jury, but was very tiresome. The waiting around and the same questions were fraying on my nerves, but I ended up being one of the seven picked. The guards called us the “Lucky Seven.” We were to report to trial the next day.

The trial was going to be an interesting one. An assault case, but not a cut and dry matter. I was excited to fulfill my obligation as an American citizen. Our court system has been tried this way for over 200-400 years, and I was going to be apart of that history. And, to think, it was only one year before I was born that women could even serve on a jury!

The trial lasted only one day. The whole process was fascinating. Not the interesting you see on television, but many of the same aspects, weighing evidence, hearing testimonies of witnesses, etc. The hardest part is not speculating or giving an opinion.

Yes, it is an obligation to serve, but it is also a privilege and an honor. I will not roll my eyes the next time I get a summons.

Born in America, 99.9 % European

When I was laying in bed last night, I was thinking about my ancestors. I know, weird, right? It is just amazing to me that 23andMe shows my DNA make up is 99.9% European. Europe is such a diverse continent with so many countries within it as it covers the whole Northern Hemisphere and a lot of the Eastern Hemisphere. It has over double the number of countries than North America. But, believe it or not, Europe has the least amount of various languages spoken with 286 languages in 2015 compared to 1,064 in North and South America.  

29.7% is German and French, with most of my German being in Bavaria, Hamburg, Hesse, and Rhineland-Palatine. The French connection is in Switzerland mainly in Canton of Bern and Grisons, although I haven’t found these connections yet.  

23.9% is British and Irish with the United Kingdom of Greater London, Glasgow City, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, West Midlands, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Merseyside, Belfast, and Kent. In Ireland, we have County Dublin, County Cork, County Cavan, County Galway, County Mayo, County Leitrim, County Kilkenny, County Wicklow, County Longford, and County Louth. 

2.2% of my British and Irish are Scandinavian and Northwestern European. 13.9& is Eastern European. 1.8% is Southern European, which consists of Italy and the Mediterranean. 9.1% is “Broadley European,” explained by 23andMe as Neolithic farmers from western Asia joined Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to settle Europe.  And, .1% of the European DNA is Ashkenazi Jewish.

So, what is the .1%? It is southern South Asia. This area consists of these countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Interesting. I doubt I’ll find that .1%.  

The diversity it amazing to me. I have come so far in my research in the last 25 years, but looking at these regions, I have so much more to go. It is an exciting challenge to find these places in my research as I did with my Slovenian and Croatian connections in Eastern Europe. And, my Scottish links in Northern Europe.  

I am proud of my European ancestry. Maybe that’s why I am addicted to all the European shows on Britbox and Acorn! 😉  

From Scoundrel to Governor Matthew Rowan

I have always wondered and had a feeling that my Rowan family had some connection to Rowan, North Carolina. I was right! My 6th great uncle, Matthew Rowan, is the connection. He started as a bit of a scoundrel but ended up as Governor of North Carolina for a time.  

Julie Lane was studying stories for her roots in Maine. She found in archives and museums that Captain Matthew Rowan wasn’t always a good guy. The Irish ship, Martha & Eliza, sailed from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on July 28, 1741, bound for Newcastle, Pennsylvania, on the Delaware River. According to the article at Working Waterfront Archives,

The ship was known as a snow (a square rigged vessel), a 90-foot, two-misted bark, commonly used to transport passengers and goods from Ireland to the colonies. The boat must have been severely overloaded with some 200 paying passengers. The captain was Matthew Rowen.  

After about four weeks, the ship was caught up in a hurricane and drifted around the north Atlantic for several weeks during which time the captain lost his bearings. Fever swept through those on board, as well as starvation, and many passengers died. At one point, a passing vessel, also in distress from the storm and low supplies, provided the ship with biscuits and water. On Oct. 28the crippled ship, her human cargo severely debilitated, finally drifted ashore among the islands around Grand Manan, fabled in ship’s lore as the site of more than 250 shipwrecks, according to Eric Allaby, an island historian.

After evacuating the passengers from the disabled ship and dispersing them in groups on three small islands, with no provisions, Captain Rowan and his crew reportedly sailed in the ship’s longboat to Fort Frederick at Pemaquid, where they “tarried.” As for the passengers, they were left to fend for themselves, creating rude shelters from parts of the derelict ship and eating shellfish and seaweed.  

Many of them died, but thanks to the discovery of their plight by Passamaquoddy Indians, a small group of passengers eventually arrived in Midcoast Maine, where a few of them remained and married local people.  

Passamaquoddy tribal members took letters from the abandoned survivors of the island shipwreck to St.George, Maine, paddling 100 miles on behalf of the stranded Irish emigrants. The letter they delivered finally brought about the rescue of the remaining stranded passengers, including Isabel Galloway and her infant. The child’s father had died, and Isabel soon married Warren farmer Archibald Gamble, with whom she had more children. The surviving infant, Isabel’s son Robert Galloway, grew to boyhood but was lost at sea at age 17. Lane said there may be Gamble descendants in the area today, as well as descendants of other survivors. Isabel is said to have given tribal members a warm welcome in Warren, unlike neighbors who considered them threatening savages.  Read more here  Read also Fisherman’s Voice

Despite his reputed smuggling activities, Rowan became a respectable member of society in North Carolina. He was never convicted or sought after for any crimes against humanity. It is recorded that he was a “Church Warden” in Bath in 1726. In 1727, after moving to the Cape Fear region, Matthew became a member of the Colonial Assembly, 1731 was on the executive council, and in 1735 was part of the team that surveyed the boundary line between North and South Carolina and was appointed surveyor-general of the colony. Four years later was named to the Governor’s Council as Acting Governor. Thirty different letters and minutes are mentioning Matthew from 1731 to 1754. You can peruse them at Documenting the American South, Colonial and State Records of North Carolina.  

Matthew had an illegitimate son with Jane Stubbs but married his brother John’s widow, Elizabeth. They did not have any children together, but she did have four daughters with John, whom Matthew provided for at least one in his will as well as his son, John.

Matthew Rowan was born in about 1703 to Reverand John Rowan and Margaret Stewart in County Antrim, Ireland. Sometime around 1726, he immigrated to America as a shipbuilder and merchant.  In the book,

History of North Carolina: From 1584 to 1783
By Samuel A’Court Ashe

It states that Matthew Rowan came from Ireland to North Carolina around 1724-26 to build a ship or two for people in Dublin. The building of ships was an established industry in the colony at the time.

Rowan County was named after Matthew in 1753. Initially, Rowan included the entire northwestern sector of North Carolina, with no clear western boundary, but its size was reduced as a number of counties were split off. 

Matthew died on his plantation, Rowan Plantation (known as Roan) in April of 1760. It is said he owned 26 slaves and over 9,000 acres at the time of his death.  

A complicated, weathly man he was. Shipbuilder, merchant, scoundrel, politician, and governor.

Download Records, Don’t Just Save Them

It is very easy to get enthralled with attaching records of your ancestors from the many genealogical websites like Ancestry®, My Heritage ©, or Family TreeDNA. However, you should download those records instead.  

When you just attach a record to your ancestor on one of these sites, it stays attached to that ancestor only as long as you are paying for the service. It also may sync to your database program, such as Family Tree Maker, Legacy 9, Roots Majic, but as soon as you no longer have your paid subscription to the online part, the record will not be available to you.  

Many think that when they transfer their genealogical data through a GEDCOM file (an acronym for Genealogical Data Communication), it transfers everything, but it only transfers the data, not images, text files, or documents. This is why you should download the document to your hard drive or flash drive. I have a folder for each ancestor and download the records I want to those folders. I also back them up through Google Drive. You can do the same with any cloud storage.

You want to attach the record like you normally would because the programs will create the citation for you.   

You can also link them. Here’s how.

  1. Download the genealogy record you need
  2. Upload the record to the cloud location of your choice
  3. Create and get the link for that record (right-click and select “get a shareable link)
  4. Add the link to your source citation (find the source citation, click on “edit citation” and type something like, “This record can be accessed at…..”)
  5. Now when you transfer your tree you, and everyone you decide to share it with will have access to your records.

You do not want to put it in the website field as that is for where the record is stored originally, such as an archive. 

My point is, do not rely solely on your online program. You need to save important finds to your computer and/or (I suggest and) to your cloud storage.  

Genealogy and Psychology

A historical fiction book I am reading is about a man and his wife who inherited his father’s house. As they were cleaning the house, they found a secret door in a closet that led them to an attic. Inside the attic were trunks and trunks of letters, documents, photos, etc. from Germany and Sudetenland. They even found references to the Nazis.  

The couple met as psychology majors in college. The wife had mentioned a connection to psychology and the study of family history when the husband wanted to shut down the investigation of all they had found. Since I know that gardening is very beneficial to mental health, I wanted to see how my other passion, genealogy, was helpful as well. 

From Psychology Today, it states, 

Why is Emotional Genealogy Important?

Every living thing has origins and ancestors. We are all part of a chain of life. We owe our existence to those who came before us. Simply put, if they hadn’t lived, we would have no life. And yet, most people ignore their antecedents and have no knowledge of what and who preceded them. A tree cannot ignore its roots, or it will get no nourishment. The same is true for us. We can be nurtured by our roots, even if they weren’t healthy. They may have been toxic, but they also endowed us with intelligence, talents, and positive attributes. We can honor those who came before us, and what they endured so we could have life. It is possible to make sense of the dysfunction in our families by understanding where they originated and how they were handed down. And by understanding, we can decide not to pass the dysfunction on, and to change our family behavior patterns. And we can get relief from the rootlessness, so many of us feel. Finding out where we come from can give roots, solidity, and meaning to our lives. It can also help us to solve the mystery of who we really are.

This one sentence stands out for me, “And by understanding, we can decide not to pass the dysfunction on, and to change our family behavior patterns.”

That is how I choose to live. Understand, change the pattern, help yourself.  

Think about it, when we think of a memory, or we see something that triggers a memory, it gives us emotions, good or bad. Our stories are meant to be shared and remembered. They are who we are, how we are, where we are today.   

So, don’t hold back. Research your family history in all it’s glory or ugly past. Knowledge is power, and yours is to be treasured so you can break the pattern.   

Sleuthing For The Holidays

Halloween is this week. You know what that means, right? The holidays are right around the corner! In all the preparing, traveling, and shopping, remember to socialize with those you love. What a great time to interview your relatives for family history time!

You do not need to do a formal interview, just casually stick in some questions now and then. Bring old photos you’ve been wondering about and find out the story behind them. Just seeing a photo will bring back memories to those you hold dear. But, most importantly, write down the dates and the names of the people in the photos. You may know who they are now, but twenty years from now, will you remember, will your children?

Ask something personal, like what their nickname was and why. Did they grow up in a house, an apartment, a city or a suburb? What are the different jobs your parents or grandparents held? Did they meet their grandparents and great grandparents? Where did they grow up?

How did couples you know meet? What led them to where they are now?

At the end of each of my Family History Detectives class, I gave my students a Family History Mystery to solve. They had to find out what their family tradition was, why and who started it? Another one was to find out about a recipe that has been passed down and why it is so special.

My Aunt recently gave me a bunch of photos that had been passed down. Most had no information on them. I created a family Facebook page and scanned the photos so my cousins and aunts and uncles could weigh in about them. It helped me tremendously and got everyone interacting and discussing the “good ‘ole days”.

You don’t need to take over a family gathering with questions, dates, and records, but you can make it an enjoyable experience. Make it a game. Use the record feature on your smartphone. Pass it around to each member and ask them to state an event they want to share or a treasured memory about a family member.

You could also do a similar thing with index cards. Pass them around and ask a question that everyone has to answer on the card. Then pass them around again for others to read. There is no one size fits all. Have fun with it and at the same time gather intel.

Ask family members for the recipes of the foods they made for the occasion. Make your own recipe box from these recipes. Write notes on them as to where the recipe originated and what changed as the recipe was passed down. Be sure to write down the date it was given and who you received it from.

With a little creativity, you can enjoy your holiday gathering while building on your family history.