Monday, August 25, 2014

FGS Conference in San Antonio This Week

I count myself fortunate to be headed to the FGS Conference in San Antonio this week. FGS is the Federation of Genealogical Societies, one of two highly regarded national genealogical organizations.  My home society, the Bay Area Genealogical Society is sending a large contingent as are most of the societies in Texas.  This year’s conference sessions will include a wide array of offerings from leading family history experts.

Each day of the conference features a track, like"Ethnic Origins," focusing on different ethnic groups, including German, Polish, English, Hispanic, Eastern European, Irish, Scots-Irish, Scottish, Native American, and African American. If you have Texas ancestors, you don’t want to miss the "Texas and Neighboring States" research track.  My selections will focus on German and African American sessions.

Another session that sounds promising will be presented by Joshua Taylor who has starred on the Genealogy Roadshow on PBS: Embracing Technology: Tools You Can Use Today to Move Your Society Into Virtual Space.  This will be one of several sessions geared toward improving operations of local societies.  D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS, is the current president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and a frequent speaker at national and regional family history events. He is the data strategy manager - US and Canada for He has appeared on Genealogy Roadshow (PBS) and Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC and TLC).  We also like to call him the “Boy Wonder” due to his youth when compared to the rest of us grey-haired genealogists.

On Thursday I am looking forward to hearing from Elizabeth Shown Mills on Poor? Black? Female? Southern Research Strategies.  She will be using real characters from two historical novels – Tademy’s Cane River and Mills’s Isle of Canes to teach us to identify and track elusive women.  Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, is one of the most recognized genealogists and speakers in the field of family history research. She is known for her development of problem-solving methodology and her packed lectures at national conferences. She is past president of both the Board for Certification of Genealogists and the American Society of Genealogists. She was editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly for 16 years.

Mills founded Samford University IGHR’s groundbreaking Advance Research Methodology track, taught for twelve years at the National Archives-based NIGR, and has been featured as a genealogical authority on CNN, NPR, PBS, and ABC-Australia, and BBVC’s 20th and 30th anniversary specials on Alex Haley’s Roots.  She Is a prolific author and is recognized as one of the most authoritative experts in the field of genealogy.

These are just two examples of the numerous experts that will be on hand in San Antonio this week.  I will offer my perspectives in a recap of the conference next week.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Searching and Adding Records to Your Family Tree at

Searching and Adding Records to Your Family Tree at

One of the great new features of the Family Tree at is the ability to add records to the profile of an ancestor.  This is especially exciting when you see the vast collection of online records at

I will use my great-grandfather, Antonino Cimino as an example.  My dad’s generation called him “Nonnu” which is the Sicilian name for grandfather so I will use that name in the rest of this article.  I logged into and went to my family tree.  I navigated to Nonnu’s profile.  On the right hand column I noticed a click box entitled “RESEARCH HELP” with a hyperlink Search Records. I clicked on Search Records and a list of records appeared.

I carefully perused the list to see if any of the records mentioned places that Nonnu had lived.  I found a record for “Tony Cimino” residing in South Sioux City, Nebraska in 1940.  It was his 1940 census record so I clicked on “Tony Cimino”.  The record transcript stated Tony Cimino was residing in Ward 2, South Sioux City, Nebraska.  He was 63 years old, married and born in Italy about 1877.  His wife’s name was Mary.  My great-grandparents and their children were the only Ciminos in South Sioux City, Nebraska so it was easy to confirm that this was the right record.

In the grey bar above the transcript there was a blue box that said: “Attach to Family Tree”.  I clicked on the box and a new page appeared that said “Attach Historical Records to Family Tree”. 

Family Tree Search Engine found two possible matches for me but neither matched the Person ID number for Nonnu.  One of the matches died in Cleveland and I knew that Nonnu died in South Sioux City.  The other had the wife of Tony Cimino as Mary Vasino.  I knew that my great grandmother was Mary Ossino.  This record could have been entered by someone else in my extended family so I made note of the Person ID numbers to refer to later.

Since neither was a good match, I kept reading and saw “Not a good match? Try your History List or enter a Person ID Number.”

I entered Nonnu’s Person ID and his record populated the right hand column.  I clicked on the record information in the left column and attached the 1940 and 1935 Residence information to his profile.  A box appeared asking for a REASON TO ATTACH SOURCE.  I typed the following words into the box: “My great-grandparents and their children were the only Ciminos in South Sioux City, Nebraska”.  This shows that I have personal knowledge of the family and that it was a reasonable decision to attach the record.
I clicked attach and followed a similar process to attach the record to the profile page for my great grandmother, Maria “Mary” Ossino.

The process was pretty easy but you have to be careful because Family Tree does not always find the right persons to match with the record as you saw in this example.  It pays to keep your Person ID Numbers on a cheat sheet and review those numbers to make sure that you have a match.  The process can be tricky.

I would be happy to consult with you or assist you in building Your Family Tree on either or

Monday, August 11, 2014

Magnolia Cemetery, League City, Texas

Magnolia Cemetery

The Galveston Historical Foundation has announced that Melodey Hauch and Floyd “Lanny” Martin have been selected to receive a 2014 Sally Wallace Preservation Award for their community service with regard to the Magnolia Cemetery project. The selection jury convened in July to review all of the submitted nominations and chose Melodey and Lanny to receive a 2014 Preservation Award.  Melodey and Lanny partnered with Pastor William Henry King III of the Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church to preserve and record the graves in the Magnolia Cemetery.

Magnolia Cemetery is located in League City, Galveston County, Texas on the border of League City and Dickinson. The entrance is reached by turning off of State Highway 3 onto 18th Street in Dickinson which is the border between the two cities. Most of the burials were of Dickinson residents.  Historically, the cemetery was known as the Dickinson Colored Cemetery and that name is found in numerous obituaries and death certificates.  The online Find a Grave page for Magnolia Cemetery currently includes 556 graves.

A group of five volunteers including Melodey and Lanny surveyed the cemetery during 2006; taking photos of the headstones dated 1905 to 2005 and created a computer file with 126 names and dates taken from the headstones. They noticed a number of obvious graves, many covered with concrete slabs that had no inscriptions. Melodey and Lanny visited Mainland Funeral Home in La Marque, Texas and were able to find the names of additional people who were buried in the cemetery in unmarked graves.  Lanny has scoured the Texas Death Certificate Databases on and and the Galveston Daily News obituary pages to find records on dozens of unmarked graves.  Melodey and Lanny have written a book that captures the story of the preservation effort.  

The 2014 Sally Wallace Preservation Awards will be presented at a reception on Saturday, August 23, from 4 pm- 6pm, at the 1861 Custom House (502 20th Street).  Admission is $15 per person or $100 for a reserved table for eight (8). The reception will include a short program, light hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine.  We hope that you will plan to attend the ceremony, and help us celebrate historic preservation efforts in Galveston County.

Please call the GHF offices for more information or to make reservations to the 2014 Sally Wallace Preservation Awards ceremony and reception.   GHF offices are at the 1940 Sears Building, 2228 Broadway, Galveston, TX 77550 and their phone number is 409.750.9108.

For more information:
Houston Chronicle Online Article

Find a Grave Memorials

Monday, August 4, 2014

TOMLINSON HILL- Book, Documentary & Website

Houston Chronicle columnist, Chris Tomlinson, has embarked on his first book, TOMLINSON HILL.  He was at Brazos Bookstore in Houston this week to read from his new historical narrative.  TOMLINSON HILL is the stunning story of two families—one white, one black—who trace their roots to a slave plantation that bears their name.

I enjoyed listening to Tomlinson read several passages from his book which delves into the family history of the two Tomlinson families in the vicinity of Marlin, Texas and beyond.  His sources for the book are very familiar because I have been researching the African American family named Willis in the same geographic area.

Internationally recognized for his work as a fearless war correspondent, award-winning journalist Chris Tomlinson grew up hearing stories about his family’s abandoned cotton plantation in Falls County, Texas. Most of the tales lionized his white ancestors for pioneering along the Brazos River. His grandfather often said the family’s slaves loved them so much that they also took Tomlinson as their last name.
Tomlinson Hill Plantations near Marlin, Texas.  Chris Tomlinson's direct ancestor and two uncles owned over 300 slaves.  This image shows the extent of the three cotton plantations in the vicinity of Tomlinson Hill.

LaDainian Tomlinson, football great and former running back for the San Diego Chargers, spent part of his childhood playing on the same land that his black ancestors had worked as slaves. As a child, LaDainian believed the Hill was named after his family. Not until he was old enough to read an historical plaque did he realize that the Hill was named for his ancestor’s slaveholders.

A masterpiece of authentic American history, TOMLINSON HILL traces the true and very revealing story of these two families. From the beginning in 1854— when the first Tomlinson, a white woman, arrived—to 2007, when the last Tomlinson, LaDainian’s father, left, the book unflinchingly explores the history of race and bigotry in Texas. Along the way it also manages to disclose a great many untruths that are latent in the unsettling and complex story of America.

TOMLINSON HILL is also the basis for a film and an interactive web project. The award-winning film, which airs on PBS, concentrates on present-day Marlin, Texas and how the community struggles with poverty and the legacy of race today, and is accompanied by an interactive web site called Voices of Marlin, which stores the oral histories collected along the way.

Chris Tomlinson has used the reporting skills he honed as a highly respected reporter covering ethnic violence in Africa and the Middle East to fashion a perfect microcosm of America’s own ethnic strife. The economic inequality, political shenanigans, cruelty and racism—both subtle and overt—that informs the history of TOMLINSON HILL also live on in many ways to this very day in our country as a whole. The author has used his impressive credentials and honest humanity to create a classic work of American history that will take its place alongside the timeless work of our finest historians.

An interesting sidebar to this story is a list of four books that influenced his staggering work.

Learn about Voices of Marlin here:

Chris Tomlinson and Loreane Tomlinson discuss cotton-picking techniques during one of his many trips to Falls County. Photo credit: Waco Tribune