Monday, July 16, 2018
Taking the South: the Strategy
When devising a research plan, I'm accustomed to limited perspectives. "Research the Kelly line" or "get ready for that research trip to Fort Wayne" are typical, short-range plans I come up with.
In tackling my southern roots, especially in preparation for the SLIG class on southern research I'll be attending next January, I've got to expand my horizons. Why? In my case, it's not just a matter of researching one surname, or one line out of many. Thanks to my mother's family history, every line leads to a root in the south. Her paternal line involved a migration trek through colonial Virginia to settle in Tennessee, with a possible link to North Carolina, as well. Her maternal lines were in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and elsewhere, also stretching back to colonial times.
It's one thing to learn how to expertly research a state. But in this case, we're talking about learning how to research an entire region—from the northern border of Maryland to the islands at the southern end of Florida, and from the tip of Cape Hatteras all the way to the endless domain of Texas.
That's a lot of learning.
The funny thing is, I've got kin in almost all of those places. And some of those folks have been making it pretty hard for me to find them.
It takes a plan to outfox those recalcitrant ancestors. And a strategy to step up my game from its status quo level of progress. For the past few years, my plan (other than for specific research trips) has been to move through all the branches of my family tree and add about one hundred documented ancestors or their collateral lines per week. Granted, now that process will be revised to focus specifically on only my maternal southern lines until I complete next January's class. But I need to do more than just "focus." I need some specific details to guide me.
A typical approach I've taken has been to regularly review my DNA matches to ascertain which family line can claim these hundreds of matches. While I've been contacting about one to two matches per week—some with gracious answers returned, some with nothing but silence—this is certainly no way to scale a mountain the size of my match lists. I've used some tools at GEDmatch.com and DNAGedcom—hey, I've even dabbled with DNA Painter—but I need to bite the bullet and learn how to master Genome Mate Pro.
Also, for the next six months, I need to organize a spreadsheet with all DNA match information, including notes from contacts, and which matches can be corresponded to which family lines. I think it would be great to just pull up a report of all the DNA matches across testing companies, for, say, my McClellan line. There is so much time frittered away, simply going back to look up one detail from one company, then jumping to details from another company. Streamlining the process, across all testing repositories, will help conserve time.
Most of all, though, my strategy needs to include the basic tactic of pushing each southern family line back as far in time as I can go through online resources. For families whose roots reach back to the 1600s here, it does me no good to stop at an ancestor living in the 1800s. There are still many lines I've not attended to, since stopping for lack of progress on their research when I last reviewed them ten years ago. So much has changed in online access to records in just the past year or so that it pays to review all these abandoned research lines to probe for fresh access to documentation. That will need to have its own plan for systematic review.
So, who am I looking for? I've got the Davis and Laws lines in Tennessee, both of which have me stuck in the early 1800s. I've got the Tilson line in Tennessee, which I know came from Mayflower origins in Massachusetts via Virginia—but how? I've got the Boothe line, also in Tennessee, from Nansemond County in Virginia, where I'm also stuck in the early 1800s. Likewise the Rileys, another early Tennessee family, supposedly from North Carolina in the late 1700s.
My maternal grandmother's Florida roots don't make life any easier. I've got McClellan, Charles, Tison and Sheffield who supposedly arrived there from North Carolina and Georgia, but how? I have yet to find out.
Many of these families are rich in history yet difficult to find, thanks to their status as early interlopers on the American frontier. My hope is that, with the many additions to online resources in the past few years, a fresh look at each of these lines will yield promising results. And for those mysteries still remaining, well, isn't that why I'm taking that research class at SLIG? One way or another, at the end of this campaign, these research strategies should yield me some helpful material—and help me figure out just how all those mystery DNA matches connect.