Browsing North Carolina and Tennessee

Each visit to SGS, I arrive with some vague research goals and head to the shelves for inspiration. Last week, I was getting familiar with the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Massachusetts section for researching my maternal grandmother’s lines — Whitcomb. This week, the goal was to get familiar with North Carolina and Tennessee collections for my maternal grandfather’s lines — Rhodes.

Our Rhodes are purported to have spent some time in Orange County, North Carolina and afterwards Bedford and Henderson County, Tennessee. These locations are supported by the pedigrees of 5th-8th Rhodes cousins from my DNA matches. However, there is much debate concerning which Rhodes of Bedford-Henderson and Orange counties we belong to.

Some claim William Rhodes (1745) m. Mary Poteet, and others John Rhodes (1743) m. Sarah Standiford (1750). Each hypothesis has compelling merits and problematic challenges, and also fascinating DNA evidence in support! Eventually, a collective of us will come together, present the evidence for the arguments, and perhaps reach a consensus on the likeliest couple. It is for this eventual meeting-of-the-minds that I plan to evaluate the research of all past and present Rhodes family historians. An ambitious project to be certain, but rewarding all the same.

Into the fray!

Shelf directions
Not surprisingly, the North Carolina and Tennessee shelves contain many indexes in book and paper-file form which are discoverable online. I am looking amongst these standards for unique and rare offerings.

North Carolina Genealogy Journal

A serial publication with a cover of bright orange beckons from the shelf. They are the North Carolina Genealogy Journals. I can return at a later time to evaluate the completeness of SGS’s collection. Perhaps there will be some interesting articles about Orange County that I will want to browse at some future time.

Court Minutes of Orange County

I almost missed these. The binding is black and conspicuously unmarked. Pulling them out, I discover that they  contain the transcribed Court Minutes of Orange County from 1752-forward. I believe there were four volumes present. Court minutes can be fascinating, and you’re in luck if ancestors enter into a legal squabble or break the law at some point. Even if your ancestors are not represented in court documents, you may find that neighbors are and from them you can learn all kinds of interesting things about the properties or issues surrounding ancestral lands and businesses.

Now on to Tennessee. Disappointingly, although the Tennessee shelves where 3-long, there were few Bedford and Henderson County centric offerings.

Cemetery Records of Bedford County Tennessee

The Cemetery Records of Bedford County Tennessee seemed promising, although I knew that their time in Bedford was brief, it’s possible that peripheral family could have died and been buried there. Worth a look. This one came off the shelves, and made it into my browsing pile.

And finally, a book with a spine simply stating “Henderson” also went into the browsing pile.

History of Henderson County

At my table, I opened my laptop to begin taking notes. Cemetery Records of Bedford County Tennessee by Marsh, 1976 was up first.

Remember last week I talked about adopting the intention of approaching books with an eye for understanding as opposed to simply fact skimming? Here was a great opportunity to begin.

First question to ask — What kind of book is this? Reading the introduction, I learned that the authors are a married couple who spent 8 years traveling all over Bedford identifying both large and small family cemeteries.

This book represents the culmination of those efforts. In the introduction, they describe that cattle and land improvements are some of the greatest threats to family cemeteries in the area — much more so than the wearing away of the headstones from natural weathering. As a consequence, the family cemeteries were disappearing at an alarming rate and many only exist in the memories of the eldest members of the community.

Now curious about the authors themselves, it was time to finally do a web search. Using discipline, and avoiding looking for an online index or version of the book, I googled the Marshes instead.

The first hit was a 2013 obituary for Timothy Marsh. And far from his passing being a sad affair, Timothy had achieved an enviable age of 92, and I learned that the Marsh couple were well known for over 70 published genealogical works concerning West Tennessee. Timothy and Helen are obviously authorities in the regional areas of my Rhodes ancestors, and it’s likely that their other publications will inform future research.

Now that something had been learned about the book and its authors, the right to check out the index had been earned. On the way to it, there were wonderful maps detailing the exact locations of the cemeteries. In the index though, there was disappointment — just two entries for RHODES. Looking them up, they represented burials in the 1900s, and my interest lay in the early to mid 1800s.

However, just the information in the introduction made pulling this book off the shelf worthwhile. Adopting the new reading guidelines is paying off.

I’m going to break here. I would love to go into what was discovered within Tennessee County History Series: Henderson, G. Tillman Stewart (1979), but dinner time is approaching, and chores must get done.

If you’re curious, you can look through it yourself. Here’s an online transcript of the publication.

From the first pass, I did learn that fossils abound in the area. My second great love, the origins of life on earth! That makes Henderson County an absolute must-go destination for the bucket list.

NEHG and Maryland: Exploring the Shelves at SGS

I was greeted this afternoon by the lovely desk attendant Chris Schomaker. A volunteer with Seattle Genealogical Society for many years, she delights in helping intrepid researchers find just what they’re looking for among the stacks, and often resources of value that they weren’t expressly seeking.

I hadn’t set out this early afternoon with specific research goals. However, I did have a general desire to browse and see what goodies could be found amongst the Maryland section, maybe find something to inform my RHODES of Maryland research.

Before settling in, I stopped at the open seating area just inside the door of SGS. Comfortable chairs face a welcoming coffee table adorned with local society bulletins, Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter (Plus Edition), and various journals.

Prominent and tempting, The NEHG Register: Winter 2015 (produced by the famous New England Historic Genealogical Society) called out for a casual thumb through. Curious about the overall-size of SGS’s collection, I wandered over to Chris and she graciously directed me to the treasure trove. 3 full shelves of products produced by NEHG!

NEHG publications are well organized, and easy to find at SGS.

NEHG publications are well organized, and easy to find at SGS.


“Is The NEHG Register collection all there?”

Chris explained that it was almost complete. I found Vol. 1-60 looking great, but then around Vol.s 70-96 things got a little dicey. I can imagine that at some future point, those small voids will get filled. But after Vol. 96, I believe the collection looked solid (I didn’t count every single one).

Theres a small section where the NEHG Register collection isn't complete, but not significant.

Theres a small section where the NEHG Register collection isn’t complete, but it’s not significant.


“And how do I find things?”

Chris pointed out several bound volumes representing the printed indexes. Overwhelmed, I wondered out loud if there might be an online searchable database.

There is!

We journeyed over to the visitor work stations, and Chris pulled up NEGH’s American Ancestors website (accessible for FREE through the SGS library). With a little poking about, we found the portal for searching the NEHG Register.

Of course, this is me. After 2 minutes, I got side tracked away from searching the index and sucked into outlying pages. I happened upon the Town Guides — covering Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — which had resources detailing how to find records for Windham, Green, New York (important to my WHITCOMB line).

Chris was handily standing nearby to suggest that I could save the information into a thumb-drive. That would have been lovely had I remembered to bring one.

SGS had me covered though, they sell 8GB thumb drives for $10+tax. Great time saver, and I didn’t go home empty handed.

SGS branded thumb drive!

I opened up a text editor, created a text file to copy bits of an article, plugged in my newly purchased thumb drive, and saved the notes and a few pdfs offered through the website for future sorting and analysis. Success.

Smartly, I also took a moment to create a file that included my name, phone number, address and named it “! IF_FOUND.txt”. The exclamation mark at the front the filename ensures that this file will always be listed at the top when the drive is opened.

Finished at the computer, and remembering that I had a goal of eyeballing the Maryland section, I wandered back to the stacks and easily found my area with clear labeling. SGS kindly provides foot stools in the aisle to sit upon while you’re searching through the bottom shelves.

Get comfortable with the floor.

Get comfortable with the floor.


Started exploring near the beginning of the shelf, and wasn’t disappointed. Found Inventory of Maryland Bible Records: Volume One published by The Genealogical Council of Maryland in 1989 and prepared under the supervision of author and historian Robert Barnes.


Right there on page 1 — A023/24/25, STANDIFORDs of Baltimore County. Great find. I have yet to delve into the world of Bible records research, I’m not sure what to expect, and don’t yet know how to get access to these records, but I now know that they exist!

Index listings of Bibles with Baltimore County, Standifords.

Index listings of bibles with Standifords of Baltimore County .


Hearing my enthusiastic mutterings, Chris wandered back to see what I was celebrating about. I explained a little bit about my RHODES lines from Fayette County, Illinois which are suspected to descend from colonial Maryland lines, and the possible intersection with the STANDIFORD family. After a quick chat, I asked her a little bit about her interests, and she shared with me that she enjoys researching HARRIS lines from Virginia.

Hey! Aren’t my HARRIS from Virginia? I know what you might be thinking, there are Harris everywhere (almost as bad as Smith), and the odds of a mini-Harris Reunion in the stacks at SGS would be slim. But on a whim, and hopeful, I pulled up my AncestryTree, and she instantly recognized our Wooten Harris (1759-1840, b. Virgina d. Fayette County, Ill.).

HARRIS lines from Fayette County, Illinois which originate in Virgina.

HARRIS lines from Fayette County, Illinois which originate in Virgina.


She’s run into our line collaterally in research. When asking if I was certain of descent, I brought up the existence of plenty of supporting autosomalDNA evidence. Which reminded her of the Harris Y-DNA Project results page. I plan to go back and look closely to look for leads on which group we may belong to, although first pass shows no obvious Wooten Harris or relevant Isaac Harris leads.

By this time, I had been at the library for about 3 hours, gabbed for about 2.5 of those, and it was time to head home and review notes and think about future research strategies.

In all, it was a fine day. Made a new friend, learned some things, and am eager to go visit again real soon… maybe tomorrow. 😉

Wish I'd spent more time thumbing through the books rather than getting distracted with the online index!

Wish I’d spent more time browsing the hardcopy books rather than getting distracted with the online index!

Ancestry’s Shared Matches Tool

Ever since Ancestry released it’s Shared Matches feature, I have fallen down several rabbit holes.

I’ve been consumed with exploring both paternal and maternal leads.

Previously, I had been using Gedmatch and contacting cousins for possible triangulation projects. It was slow going, response rate was pretty good, but so many didn’t have Gedcoms attached to their kit profiles and getting an invite to trees was laborious.

Prior to the ICW release, the reputation for testing through Ancestry for genetic genealogy has been poor — criticisms about a lack of a chromosome browser for analyzing matches, etc.
However, because FTDNA allows for a $39 import to their database, it’s most cost effective for those interested in fishing in bigger ponds to test at Ancestry first, upload to FTDNA (to save $50) and be in two databases at once… with the goal being to connect to FTDNA because there is a reputation that users are more genetic genealogy friendly.
Interestingly, my experience to date has differed from the common belief that Ancestry is practically useless for those serious about genetic genealogy. Because the emphasis is on trees at Ancestry, I’m able to more quickly determine Common Ancestors with my matches there than at FTDNA and 23andMe.
And even though the Mirror Tree technique has been terribly throttled by caching issues and bugs at Ancestry, I am still building speculative trees and have been able to keep working on several triangulation projects there.

Another bonus, Ancestry seems to be much faster than the other two companies at processing kits. I tested in July at FTDNA, and didn’t get my results for nearly 3 months. Being impatient, I tested at Ancestry and things were processed in less than 6 weeks. So, I was able to start working with matches at Ancestry much faster. Sure, I gave up a $50 discount at FTDNA by testing there first. However, the matches at Ancestry were invaluable in busting through the paternal black hole in my tree. Utilizing Mirror Trees, I was able to discover paternal matches and then close family within weeks. Of course, every case is different and results will vary for others.

Even without detailed segment analysis through Ancestry, I’ve been able to identify important migration patterns for my surnames of interest simply by using the location search feature in conjunction with surnames queried against matches.

Analyzing paper trail clues and trees not connected to DNA kits, I knew that it was possible that certain branches existed in neighboring states to my primary branch of interest. Within our branch of the Rhodes surname, we long suspected that we came out of Maryland in the late 1700s and spread across the US through Tennessee, Kentucky, and North and South Carolina. For example,  by searching “Rhodes” “Kentucky”, I am able to see distant cousin matches in those areas, and by closely examining their trees, we can make informed guesses as to our shared ancestors above our regional patriarchs.

 In this way, I was able to identify prominent families and origins in Maryland — thereby, adding a bit more evidence to support that long held suspicion. I am also utilizing Ancestry to find cousins from these neighboring branches, and soliciting them to upload to Gedmatch. These queries to persons with kits at Ancestry are better informed and response to upload to Gedmatch has been good.

There’s still much more to be researched, and segment analysis is going to be a big part of that. However, with Ancestry’s ICW clues, we now know that our future-forward Maryland research is not in vain and a worthwhile continued focus.

More writing, less digging

I need to cool my jets. Recent projects have been so interesting and consuming, that I haven’t taken the time to slow down and write them up.

Documents and photos are piling up. Some cursory analysis has been done, but just enough to catapult me into the next challenge. I think writing can wait, more discoveries! Discoveries to be made!

Might be time to slow down and embrace the famous admonition: It’s the journey not the destination. Who said that anyway? (focus, focus!)

I know there are drives for directed blogging prompts and some people really like them, but do I really need them? Don’t think so. I have enough material to last me several lifetimes.

So what have I been working on?


In spring of this year, I felt a desire to communicate more with Seattle Genealogical Society members, but felt it hard to get down to the library. So, I have volunteered to moderate the SGS Networking Facebook Group. After a slow start, we now have about 20 members and growing everyday.


In November of 2014, my grandmother passed forward my second great grandmother’s genealogical notes. What a treasure! Therein, I discovered a 7-decade old brickwall that at least a dozen people have been working on. We wish to know the origins of the patriarch Alexander Rhodes (1790-1840) of the Rhodes in Illinois. So, I decided to aim my genetic genealogy skills at the problem, and now we have a thriving project well on its way to connect the Rhodes to the long suspected Rhodes and Standiford families of Anne Arundel, Maryland. Illinois Rhodes from Maryland.


Along with that mystery came the knowledge that we also do not know much about the Dodson families of Fayette County, Illinois. It’s Anna Dodson’s search for her husband’s family patriarch (Alexander Rhodes) that brought to light that we also do not know who her father’s parents are. James Knox Polk Dodson (1850-1905), who were your parents? Speak up! I’m now in contact several Dodson families outside of Illinois that look promising. We’re comparing our chromosome segments looking for commonalities, and I hope to be able to close this cold case within a year.


And finally, the holy grail. I discovered a year ago that I am the NPE (non paternity event) in my generation after a DNA test to contribute to a health study revealed some anomalous (but not entirely surprising) results. The journey to get to the heart of the how, why, when, where and who… intense, exhausting, at times troublesome. It’s been so challenging to get my head wrapped around, and such a sensitive issue, that I find it difficult to write about publicly. However, I still feel a desire to do so. My nature is to want to be both transparent, and yet kind and fair concerning the privacy and feelings of the living still connected with the issue. The decision to share about it always comes down to wrestling with some core issues of ethics… am I entitled? To discover, to talk, to question, to continue to seek? Whose feelings are more important… mine? Or the extended family who may feel some shame, discomforts, or insecurities about my drive to know the truth? And what about the others like me? The people I know who can benefit from what I’ve learned, how I’ve struggled, and what I’ve discovered about the nature of acknowledging that I do have a right to know the truth. They matter, they are deserving as well. I’ve learned that there are protected places that we can gather to have these conversations… so I have been taking my questions and contemplations there.

If you are a person considering trying to discover birth parents, or the nature of an NPE in your family tree, I highly recommend visiting DNA Adoption for how-to articles and support in your quest.

Great. This is a good start, and an opportunity to start fresh.