Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blogger's New Views - Pay Attention

Earlier today I was sent a link about Blogger's new "Dynamic Views" capability which has been rolled out on a trial or "optional" basis. Mashable has reported on this and interviewed the Blogger Project Manager to get some more information. The comments from the Project Manager are why I thought it necessary to warn my Blogger friends out there to pay attention to this new development.

The main reason I feel it necessary for us to monitor this one closely is due to the language used in the interview. Apparently, Google is trying to "revolutionize" and "modernize" the "blog consumption experience". I actually love new ways to present information, and find some of the new views quite fun, but with this new change comes some sacrifices. Each new "view" actually removes any of the standard info we are used to seeing along the peripheral sections of our blogs. In other words, these views take the raw RSS feed version of the posts and comments and allow this to be the only content seen in the new "views". This of course removes any of the peripheral information we have painstakingly added to our blogs, such as personal profiles, Twitter feeds, Surname links, theme icons, links, label list, and even ads. If this is meant to just be another way to view them in an RSS feed reader, fine, but that is not the language being used.

The second reason that I feel this might be one to keep a close eye on is the wording about "optional". For now, these "views" can only be accessed if you type in the word "/view" after your standard blog address, or bloggers can disable this function from their site altogether. However, "for now" is a scary thought. Apparently, the Project Manager has hinted that the optional views may be mandatory at some point.

After viewing my blog in some of these new "views", I can see how this change will happen someday. The entire internet as we know it is changing: becoming more fluid and visually dynamic. Google specifically noted HTML5 among other advancing technologies as a reason for this switch. But let's just slow the train down here. First of all, these new views are only supported by the very latest in browsers. My first attempt gave me a screen that listed the browsers these views supported, and apparently, my IE version was not one of them. This sent me scurrying for Firefox. Once I did get to play around with them, I liked some, but a couple were just plane silly. As a hobbyist photographer, I was instantly drawn in when I could see all of my blog photos displayed in the mosaic form - what a pretty representation of family history! But after the flash and ooohs and ahhhs.....I suddenly remembered....uh wait, isn't a blog a web log? We WRITE here. In fact, writing is the main element of a blog. Yes, photos are important, but NOT the main focus of most of the blogs out there. So in my "VIEW", these new Blogger "views" better not be the final versions.

As of right now, I'm against any FORCED Blogger change. We all put a lot of time and (sometimes painful) effort into getting our blogs to look as they do. Besides, many of the little elements on the side are not there just for visual stimulation. They provide helpful links, information, labels, affiliations and ads - which helps with revenue for bloggers who usually don't make squat writing about what we love in the first place. Besides, as a Blogger user, I think they should fix some of the other HIGHLY aggravating bugs of the current Blogger user interface (UI) before changing the entire view system! Cough, cough, photo editing, cough cough - just sayin. And then there is the track record with Google. Anyone remember Google Wave? Flash in the pan. Buzz? Fading faster than your ancestor's ink on non-archival paper! Google LOVES to make waves and shake things up.....and I LOVE many of their things (Blogger, Gmail, Docs, not to mention the staple search engine)......but wake up Google! Please don't reinvent the wheel with Blogger. Sure, it's time for a revamp, but make it better by fixing bugs first, give us new features, make editing easier (take a look at WordPress/Tumblr), but for heaven's sake, don't break what has been a stable, popular product! I think some of the changes are awesome.....but in proportion......please don't forget that blogging is about writing, otherwise, it would be a Flickr account.

So in short, I think as Bloggers, we should keep an eye out and voice our opinions on this one heavily (each view has a feedback portion as explained on the official Google site here)......before they turn "optional" into "permanent". To play with your own Blogger blog in the new "views" just add /view to the end of your blog address:  Below are some screen captures  of the different "views" and perhaps a note or two about layout. At the end is a new video Google has put out there to give you a better idea of what to expect.
Happy Blogging!
Sidebar View - Nice text to photo ratio, more like standard blogs -
like the comments number posted by title - comments can be
seen or hidden based on user's preference.

Mosaic view - all intro photos - hovering mouse over a certain pic
gives you the title of the post.

Snapshot view - EVERY photo from each blog post.
Hovering with mouse displays a piece of the opening paragraph.
Blog post titles are always present.

Timeslide view - feature posts on the side jump quite a bit chronologically.
Actual post view if anything is clicked from the new "views" navigation pages.
Flipcard view - each opening photo from your posts.
Hovering over them with a mouse flips the photo to
reveal the title and link to the post.
Flipcard also - the only view with multiple ways to
organize your list of posts -
in this case, according to date.

Also Flipcard - organized by label - poor use of screen space.
BTW, the label count is very wrong - cut my Daniels listing in half at least. 
The last option is a grouping by author (not shown),
but ends up being a clump since I'm the only author.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Landscape Across Time

The one thing that brought me to genealogy as a passionate pursuit was the thought of restoring identities and communities back to our consciousness. Facts will only get us so far. A record or tombstone can give us a name, a place and a date. A photograph can give us a face or a space. Pieced together, all of these things form a skeleton without flesh. But what gives us the flesh for those bones? The things that form flesh are the serendipitous pieces of information that give us the living details. These living details can come from so many places. A memory, a story, a beloved object or heirloom. All of these non-facts, the ethereal parts of a person's life are what provides color, warm tones that bring that person's life back from obscurity.

The same can be said for communities. My mother grew up in the Pendleton County area of Kentucky. My grandparents moved away from that area when I was about a year old, so I have no memory of my life being fully connected as a livable space. But the roots attached there are still so complex and deep that it became an important part of my existence. My mother and grandparents raised me to appreciate and remember that my roots are from this place.

Ironically, because our roots in this one county span so many generations (late 18th century), my visualization and understanding of this community is unique. Above the town of Falmouth, literally, the steep rolling hills of the northern part of this county form a chain of farming families. Perhaps not all of the residents farm now, but the original farms are still pretty well spaced as they have been for many generations. When we drove the back country roads, my mother, and before her, my grandparents, and before them, my great grandmother, all made a point to demonstrate our deep roots here by pointing out places that used to be connected to our family - thus painting a picture of a farming community that does not respect the limits of time.

When they proceeded to point out a beloved neighbor's house, or the former farm of a ggg grandparent, or the church that they belonged to for years, they always told a small story to go with it. Each story connected a person or many people to this place, and added some flesh to the bones of the community skeleton. My mother is still here to tell the stories and each visit to that area, each drive down those roads is a pop quiz. Am I ready to pass on the information? Have I learned it well enough to recite some of the stories and point out the special family places? 

One thing I discovered is that after all of those years of sharing stories and places while we drive, I now have this marvelous image of the timeline of this community. My visualization of each place along the road shifts across generations and decades like shimmering colors of a waterfall. Around one corner I can see my ggg grandfather building a stone fence around his property. Around another, I can see my mother as a child, sitting on the steps of her school house, and still another, I can see my grandmother hanging clothes out on the line to dry. Even when houses or landmarks are no longer there, I can see them - and they are not black and white, they are full of marvelous color! Which means, for this one small community, the people who worked and worshiped and played and loved are not gone, I can see them every time I travel down those winding roads that overlook the hills. To be able to see time unfold in that manner is the wonderful gift given to the genealogist - because deep down, we never stop at facts - they are not what drives our research. We do not seek the dead - we seek the lives of the people who have simply moved on, yet whose lives gave us ours, and forever changed the future course of the next generations.

My apologies on the sappy level - but sometimes don't you just feel like waxing sappy about what we do?
We wouldn't do this if we didn't love it!

52 Weeks - Sweets!

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:
Week 13: Sweets. What was your favorite childhood candy or dessert? Have your tastes changed since then? What satisfies your sweet tooth today?

I was a die hard SweeTarts fan. Unfortunately, "was" is how I remember that wonderful romance. The love was complete. I could eat roll after roll, or a whole bag of the egg ones at Easter. Sadly, I encountered a slight upper hernia several years back that meant no spicy foods, etc. This of course included SweeTarts. So after everything healed nicely, I tried to eat them again. Bought a couple of movie sized boxes, poured them into a jar to munch on at will - only, "at will" consisted of about a week. I totally stripped the lining of my stomach. Heartburn from hell!! For a few weeks, the heartburn was horrible.....kinda like one huge felt ok, but once the stomach acids hit that wounded lining.....ouch!! I have decided that they are too big a weakness for me. If I see a little packet like we used to get in our trick-or-treat bags, I can have one, but keep the box or big sizes away - they are still my destructive weakness! So, as an adult, what have I moved on to console my hunger for that lost love? Dark chocolate baby.....not quite the same, but in a way, MUCH more satisfying!
For more info about this weekly genealogy challenge, click on the icon below to visit the Geneabloggers page:

RootsTech Rebuttal

Sorry folks, I really need to address a recent post I read out there in the blogosphere - I will try to make this a SHORT treatise. On Monday, the Wandering Genealogist wrote a great post about his lack of interest in RootsTech and wondered if he was alone in his apathy for this seemingly popular new conference. He raised some very practical questions - and answered them with the same well argued practicality. In a nutshell: He tried to get excited about this new conference, read some blog posts about it, watched some videos, etc. - but still wondered what all the hype was about, and how this really affected his research as a genealogist.

My answer to all of this - he's right - in a way.

1. He is soooo correct about the lack of interest most genealogists would have about this one little conference. It was after all extremely tech-centric, which does not apply to everyone. In fact, it only applies to a small proportion of worldwide genealogists - 3000 attendees at one new conference is hardly a pebble in the pond when the total population of genealogists is concerned. Plus, when I think of genealogy as a pursuit or profession, technology is only one very small part of how genealogy is conducted. Online resources and social media are great, but MOST genealogy is conducted via tried and true methods of good old fashioned research - which is not always glamorous - mostly dusty, heavy, eye straining and oftn-times head scratching. Overall, when someone mentions genealogy, I think of photos, records, court clerk offices, libraries, citation format, etc.....which is only assisted by technology.

2. The hype was a little over the top for me too. Yes, I am perpetuating it by even writing about it when I really want to focus on Charleston in May (woo-hoo!), but we have to put the hype into perspective - as a technology conference, it was going to be touted within those technological tools - and it was. The folks at RootsTech wanted the word to get out - encouraging tweeting, etc - in the hopes things would become viral - and they did to a degree. Probably enough to make those who did not attend or who didn't care want to tweet scream in protest. Those who did tweet and write about it were not paid advertisers, just regular genealogists (albeit heavy tech users), and still usually glowing about it - which says something pretty cool was going on.

3. The cool factor of RootsTech was in its uniqueness to our industry. As a librarian, I see the same restrictions that hamper genealogy: funding. The library budget is never huge, and neither are most of our genealogy budgets. Just because Ancestry proved money can be made off of us, does not mean that we are a very lucrative bunch. Therefore, just like library land, genealogy is not an area that is privy to the latest in technological advances. We might eventually get there, but the latest and greatest doesn't visit genealogy land until after several years of conditioning in the mainstream. Which is why RootsTech WAS pretty important. We need opportunities like RootsTech to pool our resources and confer with the programmers that create the tools to make our research lives easier.....which leads into number 4.

4. Collaboration acknowledged - not exactly obtained. Ok, this is where John and I both get stones thrown at us over our naysaying. From my vantage point (mine, not anyone elses), I was still seeing too much flocking together of the same bird species. For the advanced programmer sessions, programmers attended, for the beginning user sessions, beginners attended. RootsTech advertised that its purpose was to bring both programmer and genealogist (neither terms automatically exclusive) together in order to collaborate and develop user friendly programs. Wonderful purpose, but with the exception of the un-scheduled break-out sessions that anyone could utilize and the exhibit hall/social conversations, I didn't see much collaboration going on - at least not in the regular sessions. I think this should still be the goal - but we need more sessions that are joint panel sessions between users and programmers. I know it is extremely tough to get get users and programmers to talk since they generally don't speak the same language - but the programmers need to hear what works best for our research needs BEFORE they build it! Just my two cents in that regard.

5. With the above taken in mind - RootsTech still filled a need in the genealogy industry: tech-centric sessions. We cannot deny that technology has forever changed the landscape of genealogy - even John used a blog to express his apathy towards this tech conference. As technology continues to permeate this industry, there is a shocking lack of tech-centric sessions at the major genealogy conferences (the big ones). Even when perusing the upcoming NGS conference sessions, technology is a very small percentage of the offerings. This is the biggest reason why some people were questioning whether RootsTech would replace one of the big conferences. My opinion on that is: NO WAY. The big conferences are here to stay - but they do need to include bigger percentages of technology based sessions to make the conferences more well rounded and representative of the industry as a whole.

6. Which brings me to the final point: Can RootsTech survive longterm? Maybe. Since it had never been done before, the ideas and enthusiasm were flowing like green ale at a St. Pattty's Day Pub Crawl! And while the need for collaboration will never wane, I suspect that its numbers will dwindle a bit after a few years because adding another major conference to our list of must attends will stretch all of our budgets - and we can only collaborate so much before the results of that collaboration have us busy all over again learning and mastering the newest developments. My suggestion for survival.....either don't have it every year or periodically become a tag along to another conference. Within the next couple of years, I suggest RootsTech be held in conjunction with another of the major conferences (FGS or NGS). We do that quite often in library land, and it draws bigger crowds, and ultimately, more participants in collaboration equals better ideas in the long run.

Sorry, I tried to make it short - but, John started it! :-)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One Lovely Blog Award!

I am always humbled at the very thought of readers actually enjoying my blog, but here is another little proof of blog life: The One Lovely Blog Award! This time the award was given to me by three kind and generous readers:

Joy Neighbors @ A Grave Interest:
Kim Hites @ Heritage Heart:
Mary Hellman @ Mary Jane's Genes:

Accepting such awards comes with a certain responsibility, and in this case, it is a responsibility that helps all of us by sharing with our readers some of the other wonderful blogs we have newly discovered. Honestly, I have learned more from fellow genealogy bloggers than from any other online source out there. They are true precious gems that should be read and shared with others.

The official rules are as follows:
1. Acknowledge receipt by posting on your blog.
2. Nominate 15 other blogs that you think are lovely.
3. Email each person that they have been nominated.

With much thanks and without further ado, here are my 15 One Lovely Blog Award winners (In no particular order):

Ancestral Discoveries:
Letters from WWII:
Kentucky in My Heart:
Kentucky Kinfolk:
Ancestors Gotta Eat!:
Ancestors Within:
For All My Relations:
My Tangled Vine:
Our Family Quilt:

I think I counted right, but kinda got lost in the task as I got stuck reading the wonderful blogs!
Again, many thanks to my award givers and ALL my wonderful guys rock!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Aerial Photography & Rural Cemeteries

We all know the unsurpassed usefulness of Google Earth for scrutinizing unfamiliar topography (including historical images), but back in 2002, our family needed older rural images to help in cemetery research. Several cousins from around the country and Canada got together to stage a cemetery intervention or attempted rescue in Bracken County Kentucky. After years of debating and combining genealogical research, a few of the cousins had found remnants of our Brandenburg/Hughbanks family cemetery at the top of a very steep hill near Foster. Due to the remote area of the cemetery, and the unfriendly stance of the current landowner, some of our research involved aerial photography.

Before I give a small report about the Brandenburg Cemetery, let me explore the use of aerial photography for cemetery research. At present, most states have quadrant coverage of current aerial photographs available for free online. Many of these sites are linked to current topographical maps and other studies posted by statewide government agencies. As a general rule, most of these maps and aerial photographs are fairly recent - usually within 10-15 years old depending on the agency posting the information.
However, when many of the older rural cemeteries were begun, they were done so during a time when the areas were much more agrarian. In most cases the land had been cleared for farming and well maintained in that manner for generations. It has only been within the past 30+/- years that these former fields have been abandoned, allowing the regrowth to obscure former markers. Having driven many backroads, I can tell you that a small stand of large clumped trees near a field or in the middle of a field is a strong indication of either a cemetery or sink hole. Sometimes the only clue to go on is the types of trees in the clump to hint at the purpose, until, hopefully, walking closer to the site can offer a view of fence or stone remnants. But what about the cemeteries we can't see from the road, or are not accessible even though we've heard about the possibility of its existence from the locals?
1965 aerial view of Foster and the Kennon Road area prior to the AA Highway construction.
This is when we turned to the older aerial photos available through local state storehouses. In this case we went to the Geology Library (now the Science Library) at the University of Kentucky to peruse through the older photos taken in the 1960s (some counties have photos as far back as the 1930s). In the Northern Kentucky area, farming was still the main occupation on these steep yet rounded hills. Therefore, the aerial photos from this timeframe gave us just enough visual information to see former households, assent routes, and in this case, former topography indicators prior to a state highway construction. These photos are original and in paper form just sitting in giant drawers. The staff had scanning equipment available to scan and send the photos to yourself at no charge.

For our case, they made all the difference. Due to the construction of the AA Highway, the original road had been cut in two, leaving the gradual incline cut off in one direction, and very far away in the other direction. About 20 years after the production of the 1960s photos, someone had purchased the gradual incline side, built a new house and assent in the form of a driveway, but would not allow their new driveway to be used as the egress to the cemetery. In essence, the cemetery had been cut off from any plausible access route. We all hiked straight up a dangerous quarter mile incline to get to the cemetery of our ancestors. Kentucky law states that landowners have to allow family to visit cemeteries, but any law surrounding how they allow access is vague, and since the driveway was new, they basically said, "no - find another way up there". Ironically, when we were up there, they called the local judge to try to have us arrested for trespassing, and the judge was allowed to use the driveway for access. Good times. BTW, the judge could not touch us as he informed the landowner of the law. He was just up there making sure we were family and not troublemakers.

The cemetery was also registered that day by the Kentucky Historical Society as a pioneer cemetery since at least one person buried there was born in the state prior to 1800 (James Hughbanks). We had a great time, even inviting a local preacher to conduct a small re-dedication ceremony, but the cemetery itself was beyond our means to save. The landowner had also parked a 1950s rusted out Chevy in the middle of our cemetery and refused to move it....which meant some of the stones could still be underneath. We found some of the main stones, but many were missing - some were "rediscovered" locally at a hunting club who had used them as stepping stones! We did the best we could....cleaned out brush, placed wooden markers there for later replacement, but funding was never found to properly restore this pioneer site. There is a Findagrave entry with photos of all the stones we found.
The moral of the story is: older aerial photos can be wonderful tools for not only locating cemeteries, but homesteads, access routes, tributaries and other distinguishable markers that could not be seen under current levels of brush. Thanks to cousin Katheryn Maddox Haddad for getting the cousins started on this adventure - we at least got it cleaned up a bit and documented for future generations!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Daniels Family Bible Records

Another task off the old to-do list: Posting the Daniels Family Bible Records. These had been posted on the old site, but are now being transferred here to rest in limbo until a more permanent online repository can be created. Special thanks to Aunt Mattie Daniels Townsend for passing these treasures on to my father years ago. Enjoy: Most of the records are from the Pennsylvania and Ohio regions. I will post the transcription below each image.
John Daniels son of John and Experience Daniels was born in state of Pennsylvania August twenty second Eighteen hundred and four.
Delilah Daniels daughter of Silas and Sarah Estle was born in the county of Green and the state of Pennsylvania May eight Eighteen hundred and four.
Eliza Anne Daniels daughter of John and Delilah Daniels was born in Washington county Pennsylvania December twenty second Eighteen hundred and twenty four.
Abram Daniels son of John and Delilah Daniels as born in Fayette county Pennsylvania October ninth Eighteen hundred and twenty six.
Isaac Daniels son of John and Delilah Daniels was born in Green county Pennsylvania September eight Eighteen hundred and twenty eight.
Isaac Daniels son of John and Delilah Daniels departed this life September tenth Eighteen hundred and twenty eight.
Nancy Jane Daniels departed this life January the thirty first one thousand eight hundred and forty five aged eight years and four months and four days.
Silas Daniels son of John and Delilah Daniels was born in Fayette county Pennsylvania November twentieth eighteen hundred and twenty nine.
Mary Daniels daughter of John and Delilah Daniels was born in Fayette county Pennsylvania January fifth Eighteen hundred and thirty two.
James Daniels son of John and Delilah Daniels was born in Fayette county Pennsylvania February thirteenth Eighteen hundred and thirty four.
Nancy Jane Daniels daughter of John and Delilah Daniels was born in Jefferson county Ohio September twenty fourth Eighteen hundred and thirty six.
Madison Daniels son of John and Delilah Daniels was born in Jefferson county Ohio December eighth Eighteen hundred and thirty eight.
Harriett Daniels daughter of John and Delilah Daniels was born in Jefferson county Ohio March fifth eighteen hundred and forty one.
John Q. A. Daniels son of John and Delilah Daniels was born in Gallia county Ohio September the twenty fifth one thousand eight hundred and forty three.
John Daniels was joined in marriage to Delilah Estle March seventh eighteen hundred and twenty four.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Boston's Mob Massacre

Today is celebrated as the anniversary of the Boston Massacre - also known as Crispus Attucks Day in honor of the first American to fall in our fight for freedom. This day has been full of controversy since 1770 despite our nation's inclination to honor it as a patriotic event. As a historian, I have been fascinated with this event for many years - from an early age - and devoured anything I could about the subject. The reason being: smoke and blood covers many sins, and this event was the result of many sins on both sides. I also have a suggestion: If you love murder mysteries or dark intrigue - this is the historical event for you! The wealth of primary source documentation for this "massacre" is staggering: autopsy reports, various and contradictory eye witness accounts, trial transcripts, victim placement maps, crossbone propaganda adverts, plagiarized artistic handbills (yes Revere, that means you!), etc. Since there are scores of books already written about this night that almost started the Revolution, I will only list some of the fascinating and little known facts surrounding this dark night.
  • Setting: Cold, cloudless night, frigid temperatures after a significant snowfall.
  • Mob or riot that began and ended in the "massacre" was only one among several that had taken place in the city over the past several days. Reports of a red cloaked "instigator" were heard concerning the other riots.
  • The number of bullets fired into the crowd were almost exactly double the number of guns used by the soldiers. Where did the other bullets come from? Eyewitnesses said shots from the Custom House were also seen. Some of the soldiers reported the possibility of double loading the muskets.
  •  While Crispus Attucks was one of the men killed in the "massacre", his legacy as the first to die, and significance as an African American martyr was not established until 1826 at the earliest during the country's jubilee and the beginning of the abolitionist movement's momentum.
  • Rioters or "patriots" were not unarmed. They were throwing ice chunks and wielding clubs/sticks at the soldiers who were forbidden from firing their weapons. The rioters knew the soldiers could not fire unless "read the riot act" which allowed them to disperse a mob via violence.
  • The command to fire was reported by the rioters, but the commanding officer Preston was found not-guilty of giving this order.
  • Just before the incident, church bells rang out calling the citizens to fire - but instead they were called by the words "town born turn out". It was reported that the series of riots staged throughout the city were meant to incite the emotions of the people. Rebellion was desired to get rid of the British troops stationed in Boston since 1768. It was said that the local villages already had arms hidden and ready to fight should the Rebellion begin, but in 1770, they did not act as the Sons of Liberty had hoped....they were not ready for fighting until 1775 as demonstrated at Lexington and Concord.
  • Paul Revere's famous engraving of the Massacre was stolen from Henry Pelham, his local competition.
  • Every year up until the first years of the Revolution, orations were given to large audiences when the anniversary of the Massacre came around.
  • Despite their involvement with the Sons of Liberty, John Adams and Josiah Quincy defended the soldiers at the trial, winning their case for all except two who were charged with manslaughter and branded on the hand. The trial transcripts are widely available as published shortly afterwards.
This is only a small list of the fascinating facts that surround this event. Despite my use of quotation marks, I am a staunch believer in the patriotic cause. I admire all the efforts of those who conspired to acquire our freedom....but am realistic in my understanding that this was not a pretty nor honorable process. Boston was an incredibly volatile place in the years leading up to the Revolution. Those responsible risked their lives at every turn....not always out of noble intentions, but always out of a sense of dedication and the desire to make a difference. The Boston Massacre is a romantic title given to an incident that killed not-so-innocent men....or as John Adams described them: "a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes, and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs"......ah, our patriotic ancestors.....sure sounds like heroic Revolutionaries to me!
For further reading, you must begin with the authoritative title of the event's name by Hiller Zobel. From there, I suggest reading the propaganda, the trial transcripts and other eyewitness accounts.

Murder Most Foul?

Ok, confession time.....I am one of those serious researchers that gets a certain twinkle in the eye when skeletons are uncovered. After years of romanticizing my ancestors, these skeletons are always ready to pop out with a historic reality check! Let's face it, we all have family is exempt from this proof of human frailty....and our job is to record them for the next generation - or next party topic. Learn to embrace the skeletons. Hiding them allows for an incomplete picture of your family's story, and many times they provide a unique opportunity for deep analysis.

After closing down my original website of ten years for a future migration, I have been trying to place some of the important photos here for fellow researchers. This photo of my great great grandparents was always on my site, but without the controversy that surrounded the last years of their lives. William (Billy) Watts and his wife Sally Fuller were married for almost 30 years. They were the parents of eight children and made their lives as farmers in the Western Kentucky/Tennessee areas. Billy died suddenly in 1907 after an accident that involved a shotgun:

Sounds like a pretty straight-forward, albeit icky incident. I'm personally glad we don't include descriptions about brain splatterings when we write about current news stories. But in this case, where is the genealogy CSI unit when  you need them? I mean really - quite the wound angle when removing a gun from over your head! According to family legend (two letters from two different branches of the descended children) - this was no accident. Despite their long marriage and raising of eight children, it was the children who did not believe this report. Instead, they perpetuated the report that their Mother, Sally, contrived with her lover Clarence Clyde Chapman to kill Billy and then married each other the very next year.

Their eight children were widely dispersed in age. At the time of Billy's death, the children ranged in age from 30 to under 9:
  • Mary Ann (Bowlin) - b.1877 (Born a year prior to Billy and Sally's marriage)
  • Sadie (Bowlin) - b.1885
  • William - b.1888
  • Bessie (Wilkerson) - b.1890
  • James Thomas (My Great Grandfather) - b.1891
  • Steven Clyde - b.1895
  • Noah - b.1898
  • Hetti - b.?
In this case, it would be safe to assume that it was not just older children who had left the nest and were bitter over Mom marrying again so soon, but rather a combination of observers. Yes, a few had left in marriage already, but ironically, even at advanced ages, most of the children had not yet married and were still residing at home at the time of this incident.

Apparently, Sally and Clarence never paid for any "crime" as accused by the children. I did some searching around the time of the death in more local newspapers, but the incident is always described as an accident. I cannot locate an obituary for Billy, but I may need to visit the area to get my hands on more complete runs of the local papers....among other records. The older family group sheets are a fun mix of fact and personal opinion. They include a marriage date for Sally and Clarence as March 15, 1908 - just over one year after Billy's death. Next to Billy's death date of February 9, 1907 they include the word "murdered". Another interesting side note is that Sally was not married to Clarence for very long as she died within 2 years of her second marriage. I'm wondering if her death was suspicious at all? Definitely an area that I will turn some of my research towards.....but who would be the suspicious party? The second husband? The angry children? Karma? Or simply coincidence? Despite the fact that this was only a rumor and never proven, I have a hard time believing that eight children would turn on a devoted and loving mother by declaring her a murderer simply because she got married again the next year. My radar says something foul was going on in that family. Even though we may never know what really happened (all of the children are long gone) I think it safe to conclude that we have another prime example of a dysfunctional, so what else is new?


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