Genealogy Tourism

I read an interesting article in the Canadian Press entitled “‘Genealogy tourists’ hit Salt Lake City library in search of family tree“.

It’s an interesting piece, especially the section about Carla Santos, an assistant professor of tourism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who makes the point that every destination is a genealogy destination because “everyone has a family story that connects them to somewhere.”

This is definitely true of my family. Yes, we occasionally get to “tourist locations”, like Maui, and love them, but we’re currently planning to go to Monroe County, West Virginia and Madison County, Illinois. These are not exactly as popular as the Italian Riviera … just in case you were wondering … but they mean something to us because of what we may discover in the court houses and cemeteries there.

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Ancestors on My Cell Phone

"Helen and Horses" (Helen Kjerstine Johnson, my Grandmother)
"Helen and Horses" (Helen Kjerstine Johnson, my Grandmother)

I find technology exhilerating, enervating, and sometimes just plain hysterical.

HTC EVO: "I see dead people." (And some living ones.)

A few months ago, I posted a bunch of images that I had had scanned by ScanCafe into a Google Picasa account. There’s a fairly new feature in Picasa where the software recognizes faces and you can tag them with names. As you go along, it learns what people look like, and starts to predict who is who. (This face recognition software is showing up increasingly. It’s also in iPhoto on the Mac.)

So, I tagged the names of a couple dozen ancestors and other relatives. All of them have been deceased for at least 20 years. Some of them for 90 years. What I did not realize is that Google would create contacts for these people in my associated GMail account.

Fast forward a couple of months…. Today, I got a new cell phone, the HTC EVO, a powerful micro-laptop if ever there was one. Since it runs on the Google Android operating system, one is encouraged to connect it with a GMail account. When I did, I chose the account with the Picasa photos. While I can add other GMail accounts, and get the wealth of my other contacts, I now have in my contact list my wife, my stepsons, and twenty or so … dead people.

“Who you gonna call? Ghost Busters!”

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Robert Washington Gregg (1843-1910)

Robert W. Gregg
Robert W. Gregg

My great great grandfather, Robert Washington Gregg (1843-1910), was known as “Gypsy” Gregg because he traveled so widely.

I have been cataloging these travels. An account of what I have found so far follows. Each new location is highlighted in red.

According to his Civil War pension file, Robert W. Gregg was born in Ohio County, VA (now WV) in 1843. He appears in the 1850 census in that county at the age of 7 with his parents William and Margaret, five siblings, a 75-year-old woman that I suspect to be his grandmother, Sarah Echols, a couple more Echolses, and someone who was probably a servant girl, Isabel Carr.

By 1860, he has moved to Des Moines County, Iowa, where he appears in the census with his father, five siblings, again Isabell Carr. He is 17 and listed as a farmer. His father is listed as having 15,000 worth of real estate and 2,500 worth of personal property.

On 22 August 1862, at the age of 19, Robert W. Gregg of Parrish, Iowa, and born in Virginia, enlisted in Company E of the 25th Iowa Volunteers. His pension records indicate that he was shot in the hand by the Federal soldier next to him as the left a troop transport after crossing into Kentucky. He spent the bulk of the war in hospitals and was mustered out as a Private in Washington, DC on 6 June 1865. (His brother, William Gregg, aged 31 and residing in Burlington, Iowa is also listed in the muster rolls as having been more in Virginia. He also enlisted into Company E of the 25th Iowa on 22 August 1862 and was later promoted quartermaster sergeant.)

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Marcom Family Cemetery

I visited the Marcom Family Cemetery in Morrisville, North Carolina today.

The Marcom Family Cemetery is on the campus of Cisco Systems, Inc., near the basketball court by Building 1, right off the intersection of Davis Drive and Kit Creek Road in Morrisville.

It’s a small, private cemetery that the former owners of the land had on their farm, and under the North Carolina cemetery laws, had to be preserved, or a protracted legal process would ensue. What I have heard is that Cisco Systems agreed to stipulate that the cemetery would not be disturbed when they purchased the land.

Aside from the strange location, which juxtaposes a high-tech company that touts efficiency and speed in its products, and a graveyard, where no one is going anywhere, what interested me here were that most of the graves simply had the name of the deceased, without dates or any other personal information. This kind of thing may have been done to save money, and can sometimes provide a potential corroboration of a lower financial station for a family.

Read the full post for the transcriptions.

[slickr-flickr tag=”gravestones,morrisville,genealogy,wordpress” sort=”date” direction=”ascending” flickr_link=”on”]

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It’s entirely possible that I’m missing something when I look at the website.

This new genealogical site launched in July 2009, and while it is attracting a lot of hits, it remains pretty unknown among the most avid genealogists. (Quantcast estimates that they have over 900,000 viewers a day.) In offering complimentary 3-month access to members of the National Genealogical Society, admits that “Despite … [being one of the most visited genealogy websites], many people still don’t know about us!”

I took a look, and I have to say I’m not impressed.

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TNG v8.0

TNG v8.0 Calendar

Version 8.0 of TNG, The Next Generation of Genealogy Site Building looks to be a major improvement in speed, usability, and design.

In case you do not know about it, the TNG program is a PHP/MySQL-based genealogy database that allows you to build advanced web interaction for your genealogical data simply by uploading a GEDCOM file. You can also edit items right inside your website, or share authoring with other researchers.The information sits in an industry-standard open source database, where you

I had been concerned about integrating it with the WordPress blog, because the TNG plug-in had been slow to load. Now, the whole application, even within the context of WordPress, seems speedy. The graphics simply look better, and the graphical preview (where you can quickly get a better view of the graphics) is snappy.

The program is very handy. Since it runs on a server, I have my research with me everywhere I have a web browser. I am also experimenting with using this as my main repository of genealogical data. The speed and look of this version may help convince me. I already know that it’s easy to use, maintain, backup, and configure. The data is mine, and does not reside somewhere else (say on rootsweb). I have been a devoted user of The Master Genealogist, but I see the portability of TNG, as well as its configurability. (Even the database schema can be modified.) Unlike TMG, The Next Generation gives me my database where ever I can get on the web, which is pretty much anywhere these days.


I find it difficult to be over enthusiastic about Evernote, the website and desktop application that promises to “remember everything.” It has a slick and easy to use interface, performs well, and often in the background, and allows you to create content, such as notes, to include images and even whole pages from the web, as well as to scan directly into it from a scanner, take pictures with your webcam, phone … I could keep going. (Their support for mobile devices includes: iPhone / iPod Touch, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Palm Pre / Palm Pixi, and Windows Mobile.)

Now, they are announcing a few interesting integrations. You can use Seesmic to automatically sent Twitter and Facebook posts (yours or those of friends or colleagues that you would like to remember) off to Evernote, for storage, syncing, and availability. I haven’t figured it out yet on the Mac, but I should also be able to use the Mac OS X Animator to create a watched folder for Evernote, to sync images and other files. (This is out-of-the-box functionality on the PC.)

The service is free, with some limits (that I have never run up against, by the way: 40 MB a month), and there’s a premium service, which ups the monthly upload limit to 500 MB.

In Evernote, you can organize your notes or web clippings into folders and with tags. Additionally, tags can be nested. I have been creating tag structures along the lines of:

          NC Archives
          Presidential Libraries
          1810 …

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