52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 9: Disaster

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks:  Week 9 Disaster

I am taking part in the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge By Amy Crow Johnson. After a couple of weeks where I was unable to take part, I am jumping back in with this week’s topic, disaster. Many of my ancestors experienced disasters of varying degrees during their lifetimes.

I chose a small-scale disaster in the grand scheme of the world but one that had a profound effect on people near and dear to me. The death of my paternal grandfather. His name was Jay D. Fulkerson. I never met him. He died 3 years to the day before I was born.

Jay photo

Jay died of an accidental death at the age of 47. It was May 11, 1976. Jay was working his job operating a street sweeping machine for the city of Flint. He stopped to check to do a check of the machine and while trying to remove a jam the machine malfunctioned. The machine slammed shut on the neck and shoulders of my grandfather and killed him.

When he died, he left a wife, 3 sons aged 23, 21, 18, and a 9 year old daughter.

The life of Jay

Like so many kids born during the same time period, my grandfather didn’t have an easy early life. He was born 11 February 1929 just months before the stock market crash and start of the great depression. Even prior to the collapse of the economy he didn’t come from a privileged family. On his Father’s side, his dad was an orphan. Both of paternal grandparents died within 4 months of each other while his father was a teen. On his mother’s side, the level of dysfunction was high with his maternal grandparents divorced and the extended family at the center of a strange murder plot. It was into this world that Jay Dee Baker was born. The only child of Willie Baker and Lily Weatherspoon.

Life only got rockier for Jay from his rocky beginning. His father was a mean drunk. The marriage of his parents devolved. Lily and Jay left Willie and the next several years are a mystery. One sparse clue about his life during the time is this photo labeled Jay 1935. A few photos appear from during the time period with no date. The only clue to who the photo holds in several cases being my grandfather’s distinct ears.

Jay Fulkerson as child
Jay with unknown girls

In 1937 Lily shows back up in records. Using an alias, she married a second time. I am not sure the circumstances which led to my great grandmother meeting her second husband. He was a widower living in Flint, Michigan and several years her senior. They married in Indiana and built a life together in Flint. From that point on Jay seems to have a vastly improved lot in life. His stepfather was glad to take on the role of Father and the two were close. Eventually, Jay was adopted by his stepfather, Moman Fulkerson, and his surnamed was legally changed to Fulkerson.

Lily and Jay

From his humble beginnings, Jay seemed to have lucked out into a charmed life. He went onto graduate high school and meet and marry a local girl, my grandmother. Pictures of the two of them together show a couple very much in love.

At the time of his death Jay and Loree had been married for almost 27 years. The arrival of grandchildren was blessing the family with a new generation and Jay looks every bit the excited grandpa in photos. It was all cut short with the tragedy that struck that spring day in May 1976.

Jay and Loree

For the world it was just one small tragedy. A moment in the newspapers quickly forgotten as the world went on. For my family it was a disaster that it would never recover from. Perhaps it was something simmering under the surface bound to happen, or maybe it was just the stress of the events, but from that point on there would be fractures in my family that could never be repaired.

I grew up being very aware of the fact that my birth was a day of distinction in my family, and not just because it was my birthday. It was the day of my grandfather’s death. The day disaster struck.

I cannot recall my grandmother and great-grandmother ever being in the same place at the same time in my lifetime. They both lived until I was an adult. Holiday gatherings were spent not together in one place remembering times gone by but instead separated. It was as if in death the two women who were the most momentous in my grandfather’s life battled over his memory. They have both been gone for years and years now. The family they left behind is distant and frayed as the result of battles none of us even had a part in.

The death of my paternal grandfather was not a disaster on the global scale. It was just a small tragedy easily forgotten by most but for my family it proved to be a disaster.

Research Tip of the Week

It is Tip Tuesday once again. This week my tip is about the use of surname tables in research. Surname tables are a useful tool to add to your genealogical research toolbox.

What is a surname table?

A surname table is a simple table that easily shows all the surnames of your grandparents through your 4th great grandparents in an easy to read and compact table. The surname table removes all the extra information of a tree and allows you to just focus on the surnames of your ancestors.

Why use a surname table?

A surname table is a great tool while doing DNA research. Autosomal DNA testing like that performed at sites like ancestry is really the most useful within 5 generations. The closer the better. With the generations of recombination, it gets too unreliable after that point. Using a surname table gives you a quick reference list of the surnames in your tree so that you can search out the familiar names in the trees of your matches. This allows you to find most recent shared ancestors more efficiently.

Surname tables are also useful in the fact that they create a visual to do list of brick walls. I knew I had a lot of brick walls in the family of my maternal grandmother but with the use of a surname table I can see the extent of my brick walls. Each of the question marks is a research project I need to work on further.

completed surname table
Surname table

Creating a surname table

This is my surname table. The concept is super simple. I used Excel to create mine, but you can use any sort of spreadsheet program or even a pencil and paper. The table needs 5 columns and 17 rows. The blank table should look something like this.

Blank surname table
Blank surname table

To fill in the table I start with the first row. I fill in the surname of my father’s father, father’s mother, mother’s father, and mother’s mother. These are my 4 grandparents. I will build out each column with their ancestors as I move down.


On the row with my grandparents you will notice two names (Baker/Fulkerson) separated by a slash and an asterisk next to one name, Baker. This denotes that he was the product of an adoption. During his lifetime he is on records with both his adopted surname (Fulkerson) and his biological father’s surname (Baker). I want to make sure I make note of that fact. I use a slash to denote he used both names during his life.

Okay great now I can move onto the next generation. Another way that I could approach the adoption of my Grandfather would be to add the asterisk and add Baker in an inserted row for the next generation. In my case, because my Grandfather used the name Baker for early years, I added it in on his surname. I will from this point only follow the Baker line back, not the Fulkerson name.

For the rest of this section of my table I only want to focus on the names not already on the table. I need to add the maiden surnames of each of my great grandmothers. I fill the table out moving across. Weatherspoon, Eckler, Brown, and Coats.

Great grandparents

The next generation will have 2 rows in each column. I move down my list. Once again, I only want to add names not already on the table. I want to look at the surnames of each of my great grandparents’ mothers. To keep things organized as I move down the table I start from the top and move down. My Baker great grandparent was the child of a woman with the maiden name Morgan. My Weatherspoon great grandparent was the child of a woman with the maiden name Bennett. I move across the table filling in these two rows for each column.

More generations added

At the next section of the table we are listing 3rd great grandparents. We need to add 4 surnames to our table at this level. At this generation, my tree starts to get less complete. I mark the ancestors that I cannot name with a question mark as a placeholder. This helps keep my table organized for easy understanding. I want to be able to look at my table and even at the 4th great grandparent level be able to see which surnames pair together.

After the last section, your table should look something like this. With such a compact format it is easy to see that I have some lines of my family that I have more work to do. Another thing that this table reveals, if I was not already aware of it, is that some of my lines have some intermarriage going on. I could find some skewed math in my DNA matches in the lines with double cousins.

I find surname tables especially useful when I am working DNA cases for other individuals as a Search Angel where I am not as familiar with the surnames as I am in my own lineage. Have you used surname tables while working with your DNA matches?

Research Tip of the Week

This week my tip is about a simple grade school concept that can be helpful in organizing your genealogical research. I think we all learned how to make a simple timeline at some point in early education. The concept is simple. A straight line with marks to show notable events in chronological order.

Family History Timelines

In family history research creating timelines can be a quick and straightforward way to visually understand what documents you need to find as part of your research. No fancy software or websites required; I often jot down a quick timeline on scratch paper with a pencil. For more elaborate timelines there are software programs and websites that allow the creation of detailed timelines.

A quick refresher

The concept is simple. A line, typically straight, from left to right. The dates at each end will be determined by the topic of your timeline. If you were researching the lifetime of one ancestor your start date would be the year the person was born, and the end date would be the year of death. Between your start and end dates, fill in events that may have generated records during your ancestor’s lifetime.

What to include?

Any records that your ancestor generated between your start and end dates are worth considering for inclusion on your timeline. Census records are a document that people in the United States generate every decade. If your ancestor lived in the United States between 1790 and today, census records might be an item to list on your timeline. If your ancestor lived during a period of military conflict, they may have generated records related to that event. Marriage is another even that leaves a paper trail that you may want to list on your timeline. The birth of children is another noteworthy event to include.

Why create a timeline?

Timelines can be useful in genealogy in several ways. They can help you build a research plan by showing the records you should be looking for in your research. They can help your research stay on track by letting you easily see the records you have found and the ones that you still need to find. Timelines are especially useful when trying to find determine if a research subject is two people with the same name or the correct person by letting you compare events and places in their timeline. As a tool in the genealogy toolbox, timelines can help push complicated research to the next level.

Genealogy timelines in action

Here is a timeline I have created to help me work on my brick wall ancestor Emma Davis. Emma was my great-great grandmother. I have more questions than answers about Emma. The family lore is that my great-great grandfather, James Spence, left Emma early on in their relationship and took their three young children to Michigan. Further tales tell the story of Emma remarrying and being under the impression that her children with James died in an epidemic and that when her grown children found her later she refused to accept them because she had told her new family the story about their death.

timeline of Emma Davis
Timeline of Emma Davis

A newspaper clipping from 1887 indicate she disappeared from Marblehead, Ohio and I have found no conclusive proof of her existence after that, or a death record. Did Emma drown herself or did she start a new life?

7 April 1887 Stark County Democrat

What is the truth? Who knows? Often records don’t tell the whole story. I want to find as many records as I can so that I might know as much of the story as possible. This timeline helps me organize my research. My research into Emma won’t be complete until I can locate all the documents that she generated during her lifetime.

As I find documents, I can add them and compare my facts with others to make sure things add up and I remain on the correct track. The 1880 census has been especially helpful in eliminating incorrect possibilities. While not impossible, it is improbable that she shows up in two places on the 1880 census.

My timeline for Emma Davis doubles as a research plan. I use excel for mine which allows me to add my documents right to the workbook. I can link the source documents which I have loaded onto another page of the workbook to my timeline. My timeline is visually basic, but it is easy to dress up the worksheet with photos, images, or other eye dressing for situations where you are sharing your information.

Do you use timelines in your genealogy research? What great discoveries have timelines helped you uncover in your searches?

Research Tip of the Week

Vital records are the backbone of genealogy.

Birth, marriage, and death records are the base documents we strive to discover for every research subject when possible.

Each type of document supplies certain details that are of family history importance but often there are details that we might not consider at first glance.

This week’s tip is about death certificates and using the international classification of diseases code to understand illegible or confusing causes of death on death records.

International classification of diseases

The international classifications of diseases or ICD are a code system that used to track diseases. The system currently in use dates to 1893 when French physician Jacques Bertillion introduced his Bertillion Classification of Causes of Death. The coding system’s purpose was in part to track causes of death. The United States adopted the coding system in 1898. The codes are updated and revised as needed and today the world is preparing for the 11th version to go into effect in 2022. Nations around the globe use ICD codes.

While cause of death is not necessarily a family history fact in a genealogical sense it can help add context to family history research in many cases.

In some cases, it might also supply clues to help move your research forward.

Using ICD codes

For my example I will use my great aunt who died at age 19.

1919 Death Certificate of Margaret Spence

While in this case the death certificate is not horribly difficult to read it would be easy for someone to miss information here.

The code for this case is 137. We see that number listed in large easy to read writing in the cause of death box.

The large 137 is the ICD code

I use the date of death to look up the correct version of the ICD in use at the time of Margaret’s death. In this case she died in 1919 so the 2nd edition of the ICD is the one I need.

The ICD code 137 refers to puerperal fever. Comparing that with the death certificate I can clearly see now that she died of septic puerperal fever, septicemia, and the contributary cause was peritonitis.

At this point it would be easy to close the chapter on Margaret Scott. She died at 19. She had one daughter prior to her death. Understanding the actual cause of Margaret’s death led me to look closer at her life… and her descendants. Puerperal fever is also known as childbirth fever. Margaret died because of childbirth. Did the baby survive?

Digging deeper

The 1920 census reveals that Margaret’s baby survived her and the infant was in the care of Margaret’s surviving husband, George Scott, and her mother, Anna. George remarried in July of 1920 and Margaret’s children grew up in the household of George and his second wife. Without do thorough research I could have easily missed the son, Millard Scott. By using the ICD code, I was able to understand more about Margaret’s death and insure I did not miss including her second child in her list of descendants.

1920 Census showing George Scott with his 2 children

Have you ever used ICD codes on death certificates to help your research?

Find a list of the historic ICD codes here!

Be sure to check out previous week’s tips for other great research tips.

Fabulous Free Webinar Offerings for February You Do Not Want to Miss.

Do you love free webinars?

I love free webinars.

There are some great webinars this time of year and if you are like me you want to mark your calendar now.

One thing you need to have on your February calendar is the RootsTech Salt Lake City live stream.

RootsTech is like the Super Bowl of genealogy and some of the greatest minds in the field gather at RootsTech.

RootsTech offers several of their presentations live via streaming.

RootsTech SLC runs February 26 -29, 2020. It is the anniversary event celebrating 10 years.

There are three options for joining in on the genealogy fun.

  1. Travel to SLC for the conference
  2. Catch the free live stream
  3. Purchase a virtual pass

Free live streams from the event start at 8am MST on February 26, 2020 and each day offers a full day of learning opportunities. The last free stream session starts at 3pm MST on February 29, 2020.

Some of the great presenters that I am looking forward to include Angie Bush, Blaine Bettinger, and Judy Russell.

If the 3-day free live stream is not enough knowledge, consider the Virtual Pass. For $129 USD you can access 30 presentations not available in the free live stream for the next 12 months. Some great presenters who will be available in the Virtual Pass presentations include Roberta Estes, Dana Leeds, and Lisa Louise Cooke.

Another wonderful thing to check out about the RootsTech page is the free video archive. The archive includes hours of great presentations from previous RootsTech events. Great presentations available in the free video archive include presentations by Amy Crow Johnson, Diahan Southard, and Jonny Perl.

The RootsTech site offers up hour after hour of great genealogy learning opportunities. If you haven’t added it to your genealogy toolbox you need to do it today.

Do you have any can’t miss genealogy events on your calendar for the coming months?

Research Tip of the Week

This week the research tip of the week is about using military discharge documents in genealogy research.

Military service generates a lot of records. Many of the documents can be valuable in genealogy. One valuable information source is a DD214.

The DD214 has been in use by all branches of the U.S. Armed Services since 1950. It is a certificate of discharge from active duty and is a summary of the individuals service while in the military. The simple one-page document is a treasure trove of information.

Recently I received a copy of my Grandfather’s DD214 from his service in the Korean War. As I looked at my Grandfather’s DD214 I realized that not everyone understands how to read the document or what information is on the form.

DD214’s can be obtained as part of the military service record from the National Archives

This week’s tip is a crash course in reading a DD214 for family history research.

Over the course of the document’s history the DD214 has been updated and changed to collect different information but most basic details you can expect to find on a DD214 regardless of version. I decided to sit down and compare two DD214’s issued nearly 60 years apart to see how they are the same and how they have changed.

Details found on early and recent versions of the DD214 include:

Name of service member

Branch of service

Type of separation

Character of service

Date of enlistment

Date of discharge

Time spent deployed

Medals earned during service

Rank at time of enlistment

Rank at time of discharge

Nearest relative

Address at time of entry into service

Address at time of separation

Place of separation

Duty station at time of separation

Unit of service (for early versions this is most significant unit, for later versions it is the last unit)

Military schools attended and date

Earlier versions of the document may include details such as physical description. The 1953 DD214 for my Grandfather shows that he had brown hair, blue eyes, stood 73” tall, and weighed 185lbs. It also details his level of education, and his employment prior to the service. Modern versions of the DD214 do not include a physical description, the education spot is just a box to check if graduated high school, and there is no mention of field of employment prior to entry into service.

Here is a scan of my grandfather’s DD214. By looking at the bottom left corner I can see that this is in fact his DD214 and I can see that this version of the form went into use starting June 1953.

What does all this information translate into for the family history researcher? The answer is a lot, if you know how to read what you are looking at. It can also be a confusing document full of easily misunderstood terms if you don’t know what you are looking at.

Breaking down the facts:

Box 1 is the name of the service member in all version of the document. All information on the document relates to the service of the individual named in this box.

On the early version of the DD214 the character of separation and department are at the top of the document above the name field. In this case it was an honorable discharge from the department of the Army.

Box 2 is the member’s service number.

Box 3 is the rank at time of discharge and the date that rank was attained. In this case my Grandfather received his final promotion in rank on June 23, 1953.

Box 4 tells me that he served in the RA INF. This stands for Regular Army Infantry.

Box 6 details the date of separation. December 23, 1953.

Box 7 is type of separation. Discharge.

Box 8 provides further details about the type of separation. In this case it states AR615-365 & SEC VI SR615-360-5 (PETS) which means he was released from duty prior to the end of his term of service because he was no longer needed. The Korean War had reached a ceasefire. Here is a great resource for looking up early discharge codes.

Box 9 is the place of separation. Ft George Meade, Maryland.

Box 10 is the date of birth.

Box 11 is the place of birth.

Box 12 is a physical description.

Box 13- 16 detail information about selective service registration.

Box 17 and 18 describe details about the entry into the service. In this case it was enlistment for a term of 3 years, and he entered the service as an E-1 private.

Box 19 and 20 supply the date and place of enlistment and his home address at the time of entry.

Box 21-24 provide details about how his service was spent. It says that the term of service was 2 years 11 months and 24 days.

Box 26 describes the amount of time spent deployed. 11 months and 17 days in foreign service or sea duty.

Box 27 has a list of medals, awards, badges, campaign ribbons, etc. the individual has earned during their time in service. In this case the awards listed are Combat Infantry Badge, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and the Korean Service Medal with 2 bronze stars.

Here is a great article about the difference between the Bronze Star Medal and Bronze Campaign Stars.

Box 28 is the most significant duty assignment. He served in the SVC company of the 179 Infantry Korea.

Box 29 details injuries received because of combat. Thankfully, he received none.

Box 30 holds information about schools attended during service. The QM stands for Quartermaster. He attended cooking school from June to July 1951 at Ft Meade, MD.

Box 31 – 40 details information on pay, insurance, administrative data.

Box 41- 43 has information about civilian employment prior to service. My Grandfather was a farm hand for his father in Landisburg, WV from 1946 – 1950.

Box 44 shows he was a citizen of the United States.

Box 45 – 46 describes his education and marital status. He was single and had a 7th grade education.

Create a timeline

From a genealogical standpoint the details on a DD214 can be pure gold. This document provides a snapshot of life with details from both before and during his time in the service.

1946-1950 At home with his parents on the family farm

1950 Enlisted in Army

1951 Quartermaster school at Ft Meade, Maryland

1953 Discharge

The information in blocks 27 and 28 provide information on the 11 months of overseas service. He served with the 179th Infantry in Korea. The 2 bronze stars on his Korean Service Medal show he served for more than one tour. The fact that he had a combat infantry badge shows at some point he engaged with hostile forces. I could then use this information to learn more about the service of the 179th in Korea.

For a simple one-page form document the DD214 can be a treasure trove of genealogical information. All service members are issued a DD214 when they exit military service dating back to the year 1950. Knowing what a DD214 is and how to read the document can provide great details into the individuals years of service.

From Crowns to Coal Mines?

#52ancestors Week 3 – Long Line

This week the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks prompt is Long Line. For my ancestor this week I actually chose a branch of my family which has very long researched roots. This Claypoole branch has what is considered a gateway ancestor. Through him lineage has been tracked back to the Emperor Charlemagne.

The Virginia Branch

I have spent a lot of time lately working on some of my other family lines.  Recently I decided it was time to revisit some of my Shuck ancestors and see if I could get further with some of my loose ends.  I began working on the line of Malinda Claypoole.  Malinda was the wife of George Edgar Shuck and the mother of Perry Addison Shuck from which the P.A. Shuck Cemetery got its name.  That would make her my 4th Great Grandmother.


Malinda was born in 1819 in Buchanan County, Virginia.  Her family had been in Virginia for generations.  Her Great Grandfather, James Claypoole, had come to Virginia from Delaware sometime prior to 1761.  He settled first in Augusta County and later Hardy County.

Malinda was the daughter of Ephraim Claypoole and Lucinda Arbaugh.  Ephraim (1763-1840) was the son of Joseph Claypoole and Abigail Osborn.  Joseph Claypoole (1735-1790) was the son of James Claypoole (1701-1789) and Jane Elizabeth.

The Three James

James, our Virginia settler was the 3rd of his line to carry the given name of James.  His father, James Claypoole II, was born in England about the year 1664.  James Claypoole II (1664-1706) came to the American colonies in 1683 aboard the ship Concord; also immigrating to the new world at the same time were his parents, James Claypoole I(1634-1687) and Hellena, and six of his siblings.  They were Quakers, and closely associated with William Penn.  James I was a successful merchant both in England and in the colonies.  The family made their home in Pennsylvania and Delaware region.

English Roots

As I started to research the origins of James Claypoole before he left England I quickly discovered that extensive research has already been done on the line from this point.  I’m still connecting all the dots but it gets interesting quickly.  It led to places I didn’t expect it to go.

James Claypoole was the son of John Claypoole and Marie Angell.  Sir John Claypoole (1595-1664), Knight of Latham, was a man of substantial means for his time.  During his lifetime he was both knighted and made a Baronet, he was a Member of Parliament, Justice of the Peace, and likely served as Sheriff for his county.  His family home was an estate called Northborough Manor which still stands today.

Northborough Manor as it is today

John Claypoole was the son of Adam Claypoole and Dorothy Wingfield.  The Find a Grave memorial for Adam Claypoole (1595-1634) had an interesting fact that made me decide to work on the line of Dorothy Wingfield (1566-1619) first.  “Through her father’s lineage Dorothy was a direct descendant of King Edward I of England” the line reads.  Statements like that make me curious but I tend to take them with a huge grain of salt.  Mythology and genealogy can often be close friends.  Upon quick inspection it looks like the information could very well be legit but I’m reserving my grain of salt.

Chasing Royalty

Dorothy Wingfield was the daughter of Robert Wingfield and Elizabeth Cecil.  Robert Wingfield (1532 – 1580) was the son of Robert Winfield I and Margery Quarles.  Robert Wingfield I (1491 – 1576) was the son of Henry Wingfield and Elizabeth Rookes.  Each generation the ancestors appear to have managed at least a relative amount of success in life although nothing extraordinary.

Sir Henry Wingfield (1440 – 1494) seems to have lived a noteworthy life.  He was the youngest of 11 children born to Sir Robert Wingfield and Elizabeth Goushill.  Henry fought for the House of York in the War of the Roses and both Henry and his brother, Thomas, were knighted by King Edward IV at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.  At the end of his life Sir Henry served as Governor of Orford Castle.  Sir Henry and his wife were both buried in elaborate tombs that featured effigies.  The tomb and the effigies no longer exist.

At this point chasing the possibly royal link led me up the line of Sir Henry’s wife Elizabeth Goushill (1404 – 1466).  Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir Robert Goushill (1350 – 1403) and Elizabeth FitzAlan (1371 – 1425).  Sir Robert and Elizabeth FitzAlan, Duchess of Norfolk, were married about 1400.  Elizabeth was a widow and the couple married without license and as a result King Henry IV seized the lands belonging to Elizabeth.  Family connections helped smooth over the issue and the King granted them a pardon and restored her lands soon after.  Robert was knighted at the Battle of Shrewsbury by the king while still wounded on the battlefield.  According legend Sir Robert was murdered for his valuables on the same day her received his knighthood from the King.  He and Elizabeth had been married a few short years and only two daughters were born to the union.  Sir Robert and Elizabeth are buried in an elaborate tomb in St Michael’s Church in Nottinghamshire, England.

Tomb of Sir Robert Goushill and Elizabeth FitzAlan in St Michael’s Church Nottinghamshire, England

Elizabeth FitzAlan was the daughter of Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel (1346 – 1397), and Elizabeth de Bohun (1350 – 1385).  She is the connection of the Claypool family of West Virginia to the ancient Kings of England.  Through her father’s side she is the 3rd Great Granddaughter of King Henry the III of England.  Through her mother’s side she is the 2nd Great Granddaughter of King Edward I, known popularly as Longshanks, and the 3rd Great Granddaughter of King Henry the III of England once again as her parents were distant cousins.

Royalty Found

So it does indeed appear that the modern Shuck family and connected lines indeed carry the blood of Kings.  Upon further digging I have discovered that James Claypool of Pennsylvania is already listed as an descendant of Charlemagne through genealogical societies that trace royal descendants which means that cousins somewhere along the line have even proved the information as accurate.  This just goes to prove you truly never know what genealogical research will turn up.  I expect to dig much further into this fascinating family line.

For what it is worth on the topic of Charlemagne…here is a great article that tackles the topic of his descendants. So you’re related to Charlemagne

See inside Northborough Manor and further details on the estate here

Research Tip of the Week

Today is Tuesday, so it is time for a new research tip of the week.

Right now my Grandmother is on her last days and to be honest I just didn’t take the time to prepare my tip for the week amid everything else going on. I considered skipping my tip this week. With more thought, I decided that this situation has plenty of opportunity for my tip of the week.

This week, my tip is about taking the time to work on that project you have been putting off.

Start today. Whatever your project no matter if it is doing an interview, getting a DNA sample, etc., take the time to start it. If it’s sitting forgotten somewhere, work on it.

For every question I asked my Grandmother, there are a million more I wish I had thought to ask and record her responses to. I never did a formal interview with her because of the distance between us in more recent years.

I attempted to get her DNA, but I waited so long to follow through with buying the kit and sending it to her I don’t know if she ever spat in the tube. Even if someone got the sample, there is no guarantee with her being so close to the end of life that the sample will even take.

The lesson from all this is that whatever your project today is the day to start.

For my parting note on this week, here is a 5 generation photo of my family. This is one project I am thankful I took the time to make happen.

5 generation photo
July 2016 Front Row Sally Spence, Desirae Brown holding Joshua Jay Serhill II, Back Row Tonya Shuck and Carrie Fulkerson

Big Day for New York Adoptees!

Original birth certificates available for NYS adoptees

For some New York state adoptees the day they have been waiting for is coming. Original birth certificates will be available for order from vital statics starting January 15, 2020.

Watch the site below for the feature to go live!

New York Department of Health

52 Ancestors – Week 2 – Favorite Photo

This week’s 52 ancestors challenge has been a struggle for me. To choose just one photo out of so many seems like an impossible chore.

The photo I chose is a unique one. Look closely.

My Photo Choice

Critchley and Brown family abt 1919 WV
Adults L to R Joe Critchley, Della Brown, James C. Brown, Unknown female friend, Minnie Brown, and Jennie Brown. Circa 1918-1920 West Virginia

There are so many things going on in this photo.

The first time I saw this photo I didn’t give it much thought. At a quick glance it is just a group of random people.

Odd Prop

With a closer look the next thing I noticed was the snake. Interesting photo prop but okay. I do come from a long line of interesting folks. To this day I have no clue what the deal is with the snake. I assume it made an appearance as they were trying to take their family photo and it wound up in the photo.

With even deeper examination and discussion with various relatives I learned even more about the photo.


This is a four-generation family photo, and one of the only photos that I have seen of my Great-Great Grandfather, James C. Brown. James is the tall guy in the dark suit jacket in the back row. The lady standing to his right, holding the snake on a stick, was a female friend.

The two younger women are Della, on the left, and Minnie on the right. They were James C. Brown’s daughters, my great grandmother’s (Lucy Brown) sisters.


The elderly woman at the right end is Virginia Jane “Jennie” Osborn Brown, the mother of James C. Brown. “Mother Brown” as she was known locally would have been about 80 at the time of this photo. She went on to live nearly two decades after this photo. Her obituary boasted her ages as 105 at the time of her death but records show she was closer to 98. Still quite a longevity feat.

obit of Mrs Jennie Brown 105

The children belong to Della and Minnie either through birth or marriage. Judging by the ages of the children in this photo I date it to be between 1918-1920. The location is somewhere in West Virginia, likely Fayette County.

One child in this photo that really caught my eye was the little girl standing next to the snake. Just something about her and the way she seems to be watching that snake out of the corner of her eye. I made it a task one day to figure out who that girl was and learn about her life.

Life is fragile

Her name was Luella. She was born in 1915 to Della Brown and Joe Critchley. Sadly, not long after this photo was taken Luella died of diphtheria. She was 10 days shy of her 5th birthday at the time of her death.

Luella death certificate. Died 1920 of diphtheria.

I chose this photo as my favorite because I like how there is so much here that is noteworthy. I like the fact that it is a 100-year-old photo which shows 4 generations. I like the odd snake prop that makes no sense…yet at the same time makes complete sense. I like how when investigated this photo is such a great representation of both human longevity and fragility.