Sunday, December 30, 2018


The Genealogy Guys would like to wish wish all of our friends, family, listeners, sponsors, and colleagues the very happiest new year in 2019. May it be filled with thrills of cases for fabulous new evidence, surprise discoveries in the most unlikely of places, and exciting connections and collaborations with a growing body of new and rediscovered family members. We hope you will gain more skills to unlock brick wall challenges that show you down. And may you learn the wonders of the geographical, historical, and sociological context that bring the stories of your ancestors to life for new generations of family historians.

Most of all, we want to express our happiness and gratitude to each of you for listening, sharing news and stories with people around you, and for making us feel so loved. We are honored that you spend time with us and we're planning some new excitement in the year ahead.

We wish you 
the happiest and healthiest new year ever!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Why Would Someone Falsify Genealogical Data?

Published genealogies can provide us with lots of clues. Since we don't really know how good the author was with his or her research, it is always incumbent on us to personally research, verify, and corroborate what is stated. If the author has included source citations for original materials and facts, it is easier for us to personally track down the sources, thoroughly read and understand them in location and time context, and to analyze the facts presented. 

Not every published genealogy is written in such a scholarly manner. There may be omissions of critical facts, mis-communication of others, and the sharing of unprovable hearsay that can muddy the truth.

About 20 years ago I wrote a magazine article about published genealogies, and I received a lot of great email. Most of it was complimentary, a lot shared personal experiences, and some complained about genealogy data published in any format. We all become ecstatic over the find of published and unpublished material. If you are a writer like me, an indexer, a transcriber, an extractor, or an abstractor, you come to appreciate high quality original source materials and always want to examine them for yourself.

As more information becomes available to us, it is imperative to review every word in its entirety. I received several E-mails from people who asserted that the reason for inserting incorrect data was so that they could identify whether their own material was being used by someone else.  One man went so far as to proudly recount that he only does this with children who died in infancy.  In effect, he stated that he adds or changes middle initials for these children because it supposedly doesn't make any difference because they didn't marry or produce any offspring anyway, so nobody will be researching a direct line.  Another man wrote to say that he did the same thing or makes a change to "the date of death by one day because nobody cares."  In both cases, these men stated that they wanted to protect the copyright on their research data.

One woman wrote to tell me that she has "a family member from another line who has blatantly been falsifying [information] and has even admitted it in e-mails to some of the family.  He said all family historians put markers in their work so they will recognize [sic] it if someone else uses it.  He also has been threatening some of the family with lawsuits if they use his work."
I would strongly disagree with that man's statement, and with those of other writers.  This practice is not only nothing about which they should be proud, I find it downright unethical and detestable.  While they may feel there's nothing wrong with altering the facts about a child who died in infancy, the repercussions to other researchers who encounter and perhaps reference their work can be decidedly negative.

The Consequences for Other Researchers

Pretend for a few minutes that you are a researcher seeking evidence concerning a family line about which you know little.  Let's use a fictional example.  Perhaps it is that of your great-grandfather, John Jones -- a somewhat common name -- born in 1849.  You know his father's name was James Thomas Jones but you do not know his mother's name.  You have been told that your great-grandfather had an older brother who died quite young who was named after their father.  You think that they lived in Fairfax County, Virginia.  These are all the “facts” of which you aware.  Your next research step is to examine the 1850 Federal census for Fairfax County.  Let's assume that the index to that census shows seven heads of households named James Jones, none of which show any middle initial.  Which family is that of your ancestor?  If what you have been told is that your great-grandfather's older brother was named for their father, you would probably search each household for a young male child, born before 1849, whose name was listed as 'James Jones' or 'James Thomas Jones" or "James T. Jones" or "Jim Jones" or Jimmy Jones" or "J. T. Jones" or whatever.  You would look for all variations with an emphasis on a child named for his father.  Don’t forget nicknames of “Johnny” or “Tommy” or even the name “Junior”. You find there are three households with children named James Jones and John Jones.  You still don't know which your set of ancestors is.

You subsequently find a public family tree at a Web site that shows a Jones family in Fairfax County, Virginia, with a father named James T. Jones, a mother named Mary W. Jones, and two sons, James W. Jones and John Jones, and a daughter, Mary Jones.  The dates look about right, and you further learn from the tree that James W. Jones died in 1852. You Find A Grave  in Failfax County and find a burial for a John T. Jones who died in 1852.  Since the middle initial in Find A Grave differs from that in the online, public family tree, you may believe that these are not the same individual.  The son’s forename is correct, but that middle initial is wrong.  Could this be the right family but some unexplainable discrepancy?  And here's a daughter born later about whom you know nothing. 

Unfortunately, the researcher who encounters this informational inconsistency may take one of at least three paths:

1)    He/she may search further for additional evidence to corroborate or refute the hypothesis that this is their family line.
2)    He/she may abandon this family group, deciding that young James' middle initial and the presence of a heretofore unknown female child rules this household ineligible to be their family.
3)    He/she may return to the 1850 census and come to the conclusion that another household is a more appropriate avenue of inquiry.

In all three cases, the researcher is confounded, confused and sidetracked in their research.  In a worst-case scenario, a less tenacious researcher may decide that this is a dead-end line and stop researching. What would you do? The uncertainly created by such a difference in something as supposedly simple as a name may make you move on, leaving you with a hole in your research – a dreaded brick wall. I’ll wager, though. that a nagging feeling will persist that causes you to return to this same avenue of research again and again.

What if all this confusion and extra work was caused by someone who, in the interest of supposedly 'protecting' his or her work, inserted or altered data? 

Protect Yourself

As a good genealogical researcher, it is always important to maintain a healthy skepticism of all the evidentiary material  you encounters, even in original documents where any type of spelling errors or omissions are made.  When you find contradictory information, always look for other sources, especially ones that are separate and independent from the material in question.  Don't automatically discard contradictory information.  Retain it in a "might be related" file for future reference when you find other sources.  And if you find those wrong initials and date discrepancies, remember that someone may have purposely altered the data for his or her own purposes.  It's up to you to find the truth and document your family tree with as much accuracy as possible.

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Last-Minute Gift Idea from the Folks at Vivid-Pix

Do you still need a last-minute gift idea, and you're thinking that sharing a treasured memory would fit the bill? What if your memory is in the form of an old faded photo that needs a little help with restoration? Read what the fine folks at Vivid-Pix can do to help you with this!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Conversations with Kenyatta D. Berry

Kenyatta D. Berry is one of the stars in the genealogy community. If you've watched "Genealogy Roadshow," you'll immediately recognize her as one of the hosts of that show. She meets with people who applied to have their genealogical stories evaluated, and then she takes them through what the professional researchers have found. The facts are not always easy to take, and Kenyatta started crying on one of the episodes as she was sharing documents and details.

Kenyatta D. Berry
at the John F. Germany Public Library
 in Tampa on 13 December 2018
(Photo credit: George G Morgan) 
Kenyatta is a multi-faceted woman who is a lawyer, a well-respected genealogical speaker and writer, a researcher, a television personality, and more. You may have gathered that when Drew Smith interviewed her on Episode #10 of the Genealogy Connection podcast.

She has a new book on the market, The Family Tree Toolkit: A Comprehensive Guide to Uncovering Your Ancestry and Researching Genealogy (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018). It is an excellent book for beginners and intermediate family researchers, covering many record types for all types of families. That includes persons of European ancestry, slaves from Africa, Native Americans, Caribbean persons of color, and more. She provides guidance and research strategies for locating slaves and slaveholding families. She focuses on laws in place at the time and what documentation you are likely - and unlikely - to location. Kenyatta's book includes strategies for researching adoptions and provides an overview of how to incorporate DNA into your research.

Kenyatta is in the midst of a 20-city book and speaking tour. In each city she participates in "Conversations with Kenyatta," a Q&A session followed by a book signing. Drew and I had an opportunity on Thursday evening, 13 December 2018, to attend her session at the John F. Germany Public Library in downtown Tampa, Florida, answering questions about her own genealogical journey and questions posed by attendees. Confident, congenial, and classy are just three adjectives to describe this intelligent genealogist. And her new book is an excellent addition to the body of genealogical literature.

If you have a chance to see or hear Kenyatta D. Berry present, you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

My Parents Married Twice!

I think we all expect that our parents were married, and married once. However, that was not the case with mine. 

My father's name was Samuel Thomas "Tom" Morgan, and he was born on 18 December 1909 in Mebane, Alamance County, North Carolina. His parents were Samuel Goodloe Morgan, born 6 April 1879, and Laura Augusta "Minnie" Wilson Murphy (widow of Jeter Earnest Murphy), born 24 January 1873. My father's parents were married on 24 December 1902 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, My father had one older sister, Mary Allen Morgan, who was born on 14 June 1905.

My mother's name was Sara Edith Weatherly, and she was born on 10 July 1910 in Rome, Floyd County, Georgia. Her parents were Walton Carey Weatherly, born 24 September 1882, in Cleveland, Bradley County, Tennessee, and Elizabeth Holder, born 19 July 1885, in  Lindale, Floyd County, Georgia. My mother was the second of four sisters and was known by the name of Edith.

My Grandfather Weatherly moved from Rome, Georgia, to Mebane, North Carolina, in April 1914 to accept a position as treasurer of White Furniture Company and purchased a home there. His wife and three daughters followed soon after. Their fourth daughter was born there in 1917.

My grandfather was a kind man who loved his family dearly. He tried to teach them strong values, good manners, and respect for others. He very seldom lost his temper unless strongly provoked.

My parents met in Mebane in the local public school system. Tom as a teenager first dated Edith's older sister, Beth, who was in his class at school. Later, however, he got to know Edith and soon focused his attentions on her. Tom turned 21 in December of 1930. Edith, on the other hand, would not reach her twenty-first birthday until July of 1931. Twenty-one was the legal age to marry in North Carolina at that time, and my grandfather didn't think the couple was yet ready to wed. Still, Tom and Edith were in love and were eager to marry. 

Tom proposed on Christmas Eve 1930 and Edith accepted, both of them keeping their engagement a secret. On Thursday, January 15th, 1931, they eloped to Danville, Virginia, where Edith lied about her year of birth. Tom also falsified his place of birth for some reason. Here is an image from FamilySearch.

The couple returned to Mebane and acted as if nothing had happened, and they continued to live apart. Edith ultimately confided in her sister Beth about the marriage. One of them apparently let the information slip and their parents found out. My grandfather was truly angry with Edith and Tom, their deceit, their lack of respect for their families, and for flouting conventions by eloping. He was furious that Edith had ignored his wishes and that she had broken the law by misrepresenting her age. He demanded that the couple get married again - legally. Edith asked to be married in her church but her father refused, instead insisting that it be a small, private wedding at the Weatherly home. She asked her parents if she could have a traditional wedding dress and her father again refused. He demanded that she wear a tailored suit and definitely not in white.

A newspaper announcement was made, a few invitations were mailed, and the second ceremony took place on Tuesday, January 24th, Here is another image from FamilySearch showing information about the second marriage.

As a result of the clandestine elopement and marriage, my Grandfather Weatherly held a very low opinion of my father for the remainder of his life. At the time of the second marriage, the Great Depression was in full swing. Tom had earlier attended Davidson College and Duke University but withdrew from Duke when his parent's finances - which had been considerable - collapsed. Edith had finished her college education. Both were fortunate to find employment but they struggled throughout the depression.

In later years, Tom and Edith celebrated their wedding anniversary on the date of the second marriage. Unfortunately there are no photographs of either of wedding. I have obtained copies of the marriage documents from both marriages to document this unusual set of circumstances.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Ohio Genealogical Society 2020 Call for Papers

The Ohio Genealogical Society hosts what is, in The Guys' opinion, one of the very best genealogical conferences in the U.S. each year. The society has just issued a Call for Papers (lecture proposals) for their 2020 event to be held April 29-May 2, 2020, at Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Sandusky, Ohio. Visit their webpage at for all the details.

For information about their 2019 Conference and the great line-up of speakers, topics, and events, please visit to see the full registration booklet. It is definitely not just for Ohio researchers.

Genetic Affairs, a New DNA Tool

Genetic Affairs Logo
Genetic Affairs is a new DNA tool released on 1 December 2018 at It automates the retrieval of your DNA matches from 123 and Me, Ancestry DNA, or Family Tree DNA, processes them and sends you a single email with some new ways to see your DNA matches. Most important, it provides clustering of your matches into familial groups.

First you establish a Profile for the DNA testing result from a company and provide a link. You can then perform a custom AutoCluster analysis using one of three approaches. The choices are:

  1. Using centiMorgan (cM) thresholds,
  2. Using predicted relationships, or
  3. Using both predicted relationships and cM thresholds.
You will receive an email about 10 minutes later. with three reports. Your custom report will be in an HTML-formatted report that will look something like George's, a portion of which is shown below with each family group represented by a different colored cluster. You can analyze the matches in more detail in several view options from there. A manual is provided at the website. 

Portion of a sample Cluster report from Genetic Affairs.
(Click to enlarge image.)

Additionally, the report includes the match data are presented in a searchable, sortable table format that includes match profile and tree links (if the match person has posted a tree).

Credits are used to pay for running your analyses. Users are provided an initial bunch of credits that will cover running the processing several times. After that, additional credits can be purchased for a nominal cost and stored until you use them.

The Genealogy Guys discuss this new tool in some detail in Episode #353 of their podcast.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

George Has a New Article in the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly

You may not have known that George has been a regular writer for the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly since 2008 and was awarded their prestigious APGQ Excellence Award in 2013. The APGQ is just one of the benefits of membership in the Association of Professional GenealogistsMembership is open to any person or institution willing to support the objectives and the APG Code of Ethics.

George's latest article has just been published in the December 2018 issue of the e-magazine. It is titled "Add Visual Context to Your Genealogical Research" and discusses the collection, digitization, and addition of graphical materials to your work and that of clients for whom you perform research. He discusses original documents, personal identification documents, family photographs, stereographs, vintage postcards, newspapers, and more that add to the story.  He discusses many places online to locate a wealth of images you may never have imagined.

The APGQ is an outstanding quarterly publication that shares information for professional genealogists, people who want to enter the profession, and casual researchers as well. Learn more about the organization and membership at Association of Professional Genealogists.