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Monday, July 21, 2014

Two chances to hear lecture on solving a family mystery

Military Pension files can hold a wide variety of information.  The files you want to uncover, however, are the ones where the individual had to prove to the government that they really did qualify for the pension.  These files are large, extensive, and where the most interesting genealogical finds are made.

One of my favorite family history cases was also one of the first large research projects I took on, so it makes it that much more special.  The joy the research and discovery brought me from being able to shed light on a 100 year old family mystery was indescribable.  My only regret was that my husband's grandmother could not hear the story as well.  She died 15 years ago this month, and at times I swore I felt her guiding me.  Meme was a firecracker and I just know she would have been fascinated by her ancestor too.

I am giving two lectures this fall about solving this family mystery. If you have read this blog, and the FTU Family Tree Firsts blog, you know a little bit about my husband's ancestor Harry Coad.  His story was amazing and unbelievable on so many levels that I felt his story needed to be told.

Lies of a Soldier: The True Identity of Harry Coad will be presented twice this fall.  I hope that you will be able to come listen and learn about Harry's life, love, heartbreak, and mystery.

Presentation 1:
Second Life APG Chapter
8:30pm Thursday 14 August 2014

Presentation 2:
Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society
7:30pm Wednesday 12 November 2014
Salem Church Library
Fredericksbrug, VA

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It can't really be July, can it?

Me in front of the Founders Memorial
DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
The last few weeks were a whirlwind of activity around here.  In fact, I just got home on the 13th so I am still piled under laundry and playing catch-up with the mail and phone!

From the 24th to 29th of June I attended the annual conference for the Daughters of the American Revolution (Continental Congress) in Washington, D.C.  It was my first time and it was absolutely amazing.  I served as a page while there on the Congress Communications committee.  Which, to be
honest, was the perfect assignment.  I helped with the Congress Herald Online, social media, editing / writing articles, and met some truly amazing women who are writers like me.  As a first year page I really, really lucked out.

My favorite part of the week was that my boys and my parents were able to spend time together being touristy in The City.  It’s been years since my parents were in D.C. and my boys were more than happy to drag them from museum to museum.

Then it was home for 4 days and off again!  Yes, I am a glutton for punishment.

This time it was a family trip with some friends to the Berkshires.  We have never been there and it was breathtaking.  I truly didn’t want to leave the amazing weather!  On our trip we did a lot of things besides sleeping and playing card games. Like going to Vermont for dinner since we could and no one in the car had ever been.  My kids were even excited about all of the activities, even if it took some convincing.  For instance they really weren't sure about the Norman Rockwell Museum but warmed up quickly once we got there. 

Family Tree by Norman Rockwell
At the Norman Rockwell Museum
My oldest child, and self proclaimed military history nut, was thrilled we made time to visit Saratoga Battlefield.  I and my husband were giddy when I found one of his ancestors (Philip Greeley, New Hampshire) listed on the rolls of fighting men who were at that battle.  Yes, there was a happy dance done, pictures taken, and books bought.

My highlight was visiting the New York State Library and Archives and doing some research on the family.  My husband truly humors me at times huh? I was able to order several vital records thanks to the index they had for my husband’s lines.  Fingers crossed they have some break through information on them!

For my side I spent time in the New Netherlands Research Room looking into those lines that were part of that colony.  Some juicy things came out of that research that had my friend (who was also doing research with me that day) cackling with laughter over what my family was involved with.  Look for a post later about the criminal master mind and the wife who wouldn’t put up with it!

OK, that’s about all I have right now.  Lots to do, not enough time to get it all done, plus this week is summer camp so I have to go pack lunches.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Writing Life Blog Hop, Week of June 23rd

Earlier this month a good friend of mine, and fellow author, Jennifer Holik asked if I would participate in a Blog Hop for authors and writers.  Well, I couldn't just past that up!  I mean really, a chance to talk about what I am writing, what it’s like, and get to tell you about some of my other writer friends?  That just sounds like a win-win situation to me.  Plus, it’s going to be fun!

Image from the Library of Congress
This particular blog hop started in April of this year by Ellen Barone on her blog The Internal Traveler.  Let’s just say that it’s been going gang busters ever since.  This blog hop has covered a variety of writers from a number of different niches, so if you follow links backwards you will see a wide variety of areas represented.  If you Google “Blog Hop Ellen Barone” you can see a sampling of what I am talking about.  Also, you can read Jennifer’s post about being a writer on her blog and the other writers she featured there too!

On that note, let’s get started!  Let me tell you about writing from my perspective and hopefully you won’t get bored.

What am I writing or working on?  Currently I am working on a handful of projects that range from writing to lecturing.  This fall I have several larger speaking engagements that are taking quite a bit of my time.  I like to compare one of these lectures to a book since I am telling the story of a man as seen through his Civil War pension file.  The audience will get to hear the story instead of reading about it.

In addition to that I am finishing my second genealogist’s guidebook (this time on the Washington, D.C. area) and a book on how to apply to lineage societies.  If everything works out the guidebook will be out in July 2014 and the lineage society book will be out before the holidays later this year.

Currently I am in the outline stages for a third publication on genetic genealogy.  As a researcher with a passion for genetics I see a need for a simple pamphlet explaining the basics of genetic genealogy to the everyday family historian. The idea was suggested to me by several people who have attended my lectures on genetics in my local area.  It seems the training to be a biology teacher may show through from time to time.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?  I am just now branching out into my genealogy business but I can see a difference in what I do and what others in this field do.  Last year I fell into writing about lineage societies for the In-Depth Genealogist.  These types of societies have always fascinated me and as I learned more and more about them the curiosity continued to grow.  Few people speak about what types of societies are out there, let alone giving tips and advice on how to get your paperwork together. 

To be honest, I think that my work will continue to evolve and grow the more I do.  Ask me this question in 5 years and see how it changes.

Why do I write what I do?  Plain and simple, I write what I like and what is interesting to me.  That is what this blog is about and always has been.  For me to be successful at a writing project I have to be enthralled, intrigued, and even pulled to do it. Without that drive I just sit there and stare at the screen.

Also, I like to think that if it interests me there has to be someone else out there that would find it interesting too.  Right now I am writing about my family, DNA, lineage societies, gadgets and gizmos, plus anything else that gets thrown my way.  I’d like to think that it will evolve and be refined the more I write.

How does my writing process work? 
I am a big believer in mind maps, drafts, and doodling.  Everything I write starts out as a sketch or an outline.  From there I flesh it out with key points and items that I want to touch on.  Next I start adding the flowery bits and words. 

If you came to my house you would see lots of colored pencils and markers.  I create in full color.  Each topic is a color, lines are a different one, connections a third, and so forth.  It helps me visualize where I am going and what I am doing.

Also, I keep a small notebook with me for when inspiration strikes.  Sometimes I can be standing in line and a sentence, thought, or idea will pop into my head.  If I don’t stop what I am doing right then and there to take the time to write it all down I will lose it.  That is part of my flighty creative side I am sure of it. 

To keep the blog hop going I have invited the following writers to participate.  Their posts will be out next week and I hope you will “hop” on by to see them!

Cheri Hudson Passey has been researching her family and helping others get started with their own research since the early 1980’s. Born in Camden, SC, the majority of her lines come from many counties in SC, including, Aiken, Berkeley, Clarendon, Darlington, Edgefield, Florence, Georgetown, Kershaw, Lee, Richland, Sumter, and Williamsburg. A line also comes from Iredell County, NC. Truly a “Carolina Girl” for many generations!  

A love of History and Genealogy has grown into collecting not only names, dates, and places, but family pictures, stories, and ephemera as well. Her mother calls her “The Keeper of All Things”.  Cheri is a member of the National Genealogical Society, Association of Professional Genealogists, The NextGen Genealogy Network, South Carolina Historical Society, South Carolina Genealogical Society, several SC County Genealogy Societies as well as her local Grand Strand Genealogy Club. 

She is also active in the Genealogy Community via several social media platforms including Facebook, Google +, Genealogists in Second Life, and Twitter. Her Blog “Carolina Girl Genealogy” has been instrumental in connecting with and sharing information about her family and the research process.  

Julie Goucher has been researching her genealogy and family history since the late 1980s. Her ancestry is predominately within the United Kingdom, although Julie is half Italian and has genealogical links to Italy, Canada, Australia, India just to name a few. A founder member & former vice chair of the Anglo Italian FHS and a member of the Guild of One Name Studies (for the surnames of Orlando & Worship). More recently Julie has been involved as a founder member with the Society for One-Place Studies, and is currently

Following a career in pharmacy management & training, Julie is the writer and developer of The Book of Me, Written by You, which is currently run both as a series of workshops and via online methods. A book to accompany the program is due to be released during 2014. Julie is also working on a further book project which is due to be published in Feb 2015 by Pen and Sword Books and writes a regular column, Across the Pond for The In-Depth Genealogist.

You can keep up to date with Julie via various social media
Twitter -@juliegoucher
Website –
Blog –

G+ -

Michelle Roos Goodrum is a researcher, speaker and writer with a passion for research in land records, organization, photography and genetic genealogy. She writes about various family history topics on her personal blog, The Turning of Generations and pens the column Timeless Territories for the monthly digital magazine, Going In-Depth.  She is a ProGen 14 graduate and administers the Gen Proof Study Groups studying Mastering Genealogical Proof. Michelle became involved in family history in the early 1990s when she realized her ancestors collectively had saved over 130 years worth of the family’s history. She is now the caretaker.

Raymond Johnson is a former criminal investigator and lifetime resident of the Chicago area. His love of Chicago history coupled with his natural curiosity and research skills fuels his many articles on the less well known aspects of Chicago History and two published works.

He conducts historical research for clients through Johnson Research Services and runs various historic tours in the Chicago Area including Elmhurst’s Voices from Beyond Tours and White City Tours through his non-profit “Friends of the White City” and blogs for the Chicago Tribune’s ChicagoNow as “Chicago History Cop”.

He is a past Chicago Area Representative of the Association of Professional Genealogists and has done research work for various television production companies, authors and historical societies. and has been featured on the WGN morning show, WGN news radio, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He is a member of the Hyde Park Historical Society and Jackson Park Advisory Council.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

DNA doesn't lie, you just need to understand the science

For the past several days I have struggled with whether or not I was going to publish this post.  After talking with several friends, and watching others I know become confused over the science, the decision was made for me.  I think it is time for a lesson in genetics on how it can or can’t affect us.

On 14 June 2014 there was a blog post by Michael J. Leclerc about a genetic condition that can occur in humans.  To say it caused undue stress, hand-wringing, and confusion is an understatement.  Just read the comments and the comments on the re-posts of the article.  The title, unfortunately, may be part of the problem, I mean can DNA lie to you?  You see DNA doesn't lie but it sure as heck can be misinterpreted if it is not read by a person who completely understands what they are looking at. 

Image from the Library of Congress

The people he talks about in the post are Chimeras.  No, they are not the creatures from mythology, but something that a lot of non-geneticists struggle to understand.  Essentially being a Chimera means that one person has 2 sets of DNA in their body.  For example, the stomach may be genetically different than the skin.  It seems fantastical, but yet, it does happen.  In fact, many doctors believe that it may happen more often than people realize. 

I won’t bore you here with a lot of the technical information.  Trust me I could go on for pages about the types of Chimeras, how they forms, why they forms, and how many of them have absolutely no idea.  Instead there is a list at the end of this post for further reading.  If you are really interested, please go read up on it.

What I will do is explain how being a chimera will have absolutely no impact on your genealogy testing.  OK, let that sink in a second.  This condition will NOT affect your genealogy. 

Some of you may be shaking your heads, trying to understand how having 2 sets of DNA won’t throw something for a loop.  Simply put, you are the product of you parents.  All of the DNA within your body came from 2 cells: an egg and a sperm.  ALL OF THE DNA.  This means, for genealogy purposes you can still take genetic genealogy tests if you are a Chimera because even though you have more than one set of DNA it all came from the same 2 people.  

Since I am trying to not go really in depth with the science in this post I am going to leave that here for now.  If you are really intrigued, please contact me or leave me a message and I will go into further detailed explanations.

Which Half is Mommy? Tetragametic Chimerism and Trans-Subjectivity (long journal article about the 2 women in question, the medical history, and the societal understanding of the phenomena) 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Have you seen this genealogy scam?

Anyone who researches their family history knows the thrill and excitement that comes from an email
that may lead to a possible living connection.  We love cousin hunting and get excited like a kid on Christmas morning when a message come in that says “I think we are related.”  On occasion there may be an email from an institution or an attorney’s office about a probate case.  However, genealogy specific phishing scams were a new one for me.

I wanted to let everyone know about a scam that was in my email this morning from the address I use for this blog.  At first I read the subject line and was very interested.  After a cursory glance through the email red flags went up right away.  That was even before breakfast without my glass on too!

When we put our information online we need to expect emails from nefarious sources.  Throughout history there were people who prayed on the naive, gullible, or simply over trusting.  Today is no different.  The email I received however, was a first for me.  It was not from a foreign dignitary, no large sum of money was quoted, nor was there a plea to help them because they were in danger.  Nope, it was a simple query about an intestate will.

Lawyers, fellow genealogists, investigators, and heir hunters reach out to people every day in similar manners.  I know this.  You probably know this.  Well it seems that scammers know this now too.  I have to hand it to the person, it was very unique. 

What gave it away?  Well, the way it was written mainly.  Oh, and most people who find me through this blog know, or can figure out, what my name actually is.  My first name is not Combs in case you were wondering.  That sent up the flag for a robot or automated response.

Here is the email:

Dear  Combs,
Good day to you! It is very important that you get back to me as soon as possible so we can discuss further.
A late client of mine who shares the same family name with you ,died intestate with a huge sum of money left behind with no one to claim. He may be a relative or not but i would appreciate your confidential attention to this matter.
Do kindly get back to me as soon as possible for more details/discussions
Yours truly

I would love to know if anyone else out there has received a phishing email with a genealogy slant.  If not, this must be new and just the first time I was targeted.  Wonder how else these guys will try and trick us?

**Update: Here is a link to a BBC Warning about Heir Hunting scams in the UK

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Research at the Southern Maryland Studies Center

I love finding out of the way hidden research gems.  It just drives home the fact that not everything is online, and yes you still need to get out and do research in brick and mortar buildings sometimes.  A few weeks ago I had an amazing adventure in Maryland and I wanted to share it with you.

You see, I am on a mission.  My mission, as set out by my mother, is to get her ancestor Edward Arvin listed as a DAR patriot.  I have talked about him before on this blog and seeing that I have his pension file this should be a slam dunk right?  Well, there is one glitch.  The solid proof that he is the father of Henry Arvin, the son through which my line descends.  I have lots, and lots, of circumstantial evidence but I am still holding out hope that I will find that elusive document that clearly shows relation.  Proving family folklore is a pain at times, right?

The family resided near Port Tobacco in Charles County, Maryland which had record losses from the War of 1812.  Earlier this spring I stumbled on an archive located there which specializes in Charles County records and research. I called, made an appointment, and spent a whole day researching my family.

The Southern Maryland Studies Center, located on the campus of the College of Southern Maryland at La Plata, was a treasure trove of information.  I called ahead of time to talk to the Archivist there about the collection and to schedule a time that I could come in at other than the ones posted.  Living 2 hours away and having to plan around bus/school schedules made it difficult to get in there at the times the archive is normally open. 

It was well worth the trip, and I know I will need to make several more trips back there in the future.  The archives, which contain the historical and genealogical society records, is only open from 1pm-4pm M-F or by appointment.  However, the stacks with all the genealogical published books are open when the main library is open which varies during the school year so check the website.  First time visitors do have to read and sign a sheet stating they understand the rules of the archives.  You can see the sheet on the centers planning your visit page.

I am still going through the documents I uncovered.  One more thing I did realize while there, I will have to figure out how to get to the Maryland State Archives.  They may just have the key to my research.  YAY road trip! 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Still here and kicking

Hello again readers! I know, I’m a slacker, and I have missed you too.

Sickness hit our house as well as a lot of deadlines right after NGS.  Needless to say over the past several weeks there were sleepless nights and grumpy people around here.  However, never fear, I am on a writing binge and I actually have several cool posts in the pipeline.  You’re just gonna have to wait a bit more for them.

As a preview though, one of the big projects I am working on is a new website.  It will be unveiled the end of June (fingers crossed) and it will be chocked full of great information.  This blog will still be up for my ever quirky, and of course interesting, posts so don’t worry.  The other is primarily for the launch of my genealogy business.

Yes, business.  Scary thought and all that, but I have worked the last several months to pull it all together.  For those of you who have read this blog since the get-go, and even the new comers, thanks.  I really appreciate all your cheers and support.  Four years ago I would never have imagined that this was a possibility.  It wasn’t even on the table.  When the time is right you just know it in your gut.  Plus, if you don’t try and pursue your dreams you will always wonder what could have been. 

So here is to shooting for the moon.  If I don’t make it…at least I will land in the stars!

"The Earth and Moon," Center: JPL