Sunday, November 16, 2014

2 lessons from my DNA experience.

Once my dad’s DNA results became available I quickly received a message from someone interested in one of the branches. He shared a 4th great grandfather (1774 to 1821) with my father.  His ancestor was a son of that 4th great grandfather as was mine.  That meant my direct ancestor had a brother.  Dolt! It shouldn't have surprised me but it did because I never checked the pre-1850. I stopped with the 1850 discounting the earlier head of household-only census.

Sure enough I found them in the 1810 and 1820 federal census.  Not only did I find the 2 brothers but I found a third brother and 3 sisters. I may not have had names but I had an age guesstimate and knew how many to look for.  All of a sudden I had some new research opportunities.  Then I found I had another research mistake. 

Let’s see if I can explain this…the grandson of my dad's direct ancestor (one of the 3 brothers) married my father's great grandmother whose mother’s maiden name was the same as his great grandmother's married name (death certificate info). I assumed a transcription error.  Big mistake!  As I followed the 3rd brother into the 1850 census I found his daughter was the same age and had the same name as my ancestor’s mother.  It turned out that the granddaughter of one brother married the grandson of another.  While 9 times out of 10 there is a transcription error this time it was correct.

Thanks to the DNA generated connection I learned a couple of valuable lessons. 
1. Do not discount the pre-1850 census 
2. Never assume a transcription error

I love it, the clearer it becomes the murkier it gets! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Columbia City Minutes now online and searchable

The historical minutes of Columbia's City Council, spanning January 1883 to December 1911 are now digitized on South Carolina Digital Library. Through the efforts of volunteers at Richland Library's Walker Local and Family History Center the handwritten entries are in the process of being transcribed to allow for full-text searching. The volume that includes 1883-1886 is now complete and available for searching

Columbia City Minutes

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The DNA bug

The DNA bug has hit me.  DNA results have expanded my tree and broken down a huge brick wall.  It has also identified gaps in my research.  My DNA learning curve is enormous and I have much more to learn.  Getting started, however, was hard.  I didn't want to spend the money but my aging parents alerted me to the passing of time.  I chose the DNA services of a large company (very large…the largest!) because it was cheap and easy.  I don’t regret the choice.  In fact, I am glad I started with them although I am anxious now to try other services. 

The service they offered provided good basic information.  However, it wasn't the information I thought I was going to get. That made me research what other, more knowledgeable, people were writing about the different services.  Now I understand the difference between autosomal, mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA tests.  Yeah! Step one completed.

So the large company I used for my parents DNA analysis used an autosomal test.  This means that the DNA comes from both of their parents, not just the male or female side. Close relatives share a lot of autosomal DNA.  The results diminish with successive generations.  However, there are enough results to spend years researching where they lead. 

I learned quickly that the autosomal DNA results were only compared with others who have chosen that company for the same service.  What’s a girl to do to get a wider pool of comparison?  Well stay tuned because I am still figuring that out.  Remember I am just beginning but I am reading a lot about raw DNA data and uploading it into other sites to expand my search.

The whole idea of trying something new is to learn from it.  DNA testing is a tool just like the census or death certificates.  I still learn new stuff about the census and I use it every day. Where would my research be without it?

While I get together with my friend Anita to understand the raw DNA data better I am going to put together my thoughts about the DNA experience.  It is making me a better researcher and I will tell you why.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Looking for the dead

This morning I woke up thinking that it is a good day for another review of publicly available SC vital statistics.  Let's get down to work.

Divorces:  Not legal in South Carolina between 1879-1948.  See individual county probate courts for records.  Current divorces (from about 2000-present) may be listed in local newspapers.

Marriages: Statewide records begin in 1911.  Individuals counties may have earlier records.  See online listings on this page.  Also, check the Richland Library obit index. We have been adding marriages. Currently covers the Columbia Daily Register from 1875 - 1891 and the Palmetto Leader 1925-1952.

Births:  SC statewide birth certificate records begin in 1915. They are not a public document.  There is a 100 year delay before the first birth certificate becomes public. That will be in 2016.

Deaths: SC statewide death certificates began in 1915.  There is a 50 year delay so we currently have 1915-1963 publicly available. Spartanburg and Charleston County have earlier county death indexes. Charleston County is available in Ancestry. Spartanburg's are available on the Spartanburg County Library website (see the link to the right). Searching SC statewide death certificates can be a challenge.  Here are the ins and outs.

1. Ancestry has digitized SC death certificates from 1915-1960.  They are indexed by the name of the deceased.

2. Family Search has digitized SC death certificates from 1915-1943 and an index only for 1944-1955.
They are indexed by name of the deceased and by the parents name. Because the indexing is so much better I often search for a death certificate on Family Search and then go to Ancestry for the digital copy.

3. The SC Department of Health & Environmental Control has a keyword index for 1950-1963 (bottom of the page).  It is the only place that has an index for 1961-1963.  Every January a new year is added.

Death certificates that are not digitized can be accessed at the SC State Archive (SCDAH).  Use the index to find the date of death and the certificate number.  It will save you a step at the SCDAH. Death certificates are also available at the Greenville Library for $5.00.

The obituary indexes may also be helpful. See the list on this page!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Dead Librarian speaks.

There are several opportunities coming up to hear the Dead Librarian speak from the grave! 

July 24, 6:00 pm, I will be at the Southeast Library on Garners Ferry Road giving a presentation called Three Interesting WomenThis program encourages family historians to leave the tree behind and focus on researching one or two people in their family tree for a more detailed story.  I use my research as an example of using available SC resources to build a more complete story of someone's life.

August 16, 9:00-4:00, I will be at the Family History Day at the LDS Church 1330 Whipperwill Dr. West Columbia, 29169.  I will speak twice that day but I don't know the times.  The presentation will be: The Local Scene - Learn more about South Carolina’s online and print historic resources and the institutions that collect, preserve and make materials accessible to family researchers. 

September 6, 10:30, Bleckly Inn Anderson SC, the Anderson Chapter of the SC Genealogy Society is hosting the Dead Librarian's Top Ten Free Genealogy Sites presentation. 

September 19, time not yet announced,  Southern Studies Institute Edgefield, SC. Actually I am not sure what I am presenting at  the SSI this year.  It might be researching Historic Newspapers or the Top Ten free sites presentation.  This is always a great workshop. Try to make it.

December 15, 11:00 Eastover Library.  Beginning Genealogy. Look for more Beginning Genealogy classes at the Richland Library branches 2015.

Dec 6 - Don't forget about After the Burning: using reconstruction records at the Main Library with Toni Carrier from Low Country Africana.  More information to the left under programming.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Last night, May 22, I read an article about a nifty app called Scanbot.  The iphone app scans good quality images, easy and fast then uploads them to your cloud. In my case that is Google Drive.  For a limited time it is available for free. It will be so handy when I head up to the National Archive this summer.  Jump on this!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Records search at SC Archives

I use the SC Department of archives and History site a lot but have always struggled to find what resources are available for a particular SC county.  My search would give me (for example) the deeds records for all the counties or the probate records for all the counties.  Then I would scroll through the pages to find the unique county resource I was looking for but, of course, many resources were easily missed.

The staff at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History recently gave me a “finding county records” tutorial.  It has changed my life! Now I can find an easy to read list of individual county resources.  

Here are the steps: 
                1. Select the Research & Genealogy tab
                2. Select Online Research
                3. Select Guide to Collections
                4. Select Summary Guide to Local Record and then Summary Guide to County                              Records

Once you select your county there will be a list of resources. If you want detailed information about a specific resource copy the series number ("L 01001"  "L1001001"  "S 102001"  "B 800101"  “C 700001"  “F 600210"  “P 900001"  "O 800210").  Make sure you keep track of the space it is necessary to include that in the catalog search. 

Next, go back to Online Research and select SCArchcat. Click the advanced search and type in series number with the space and in quotes in the Series number search window.  This will give you a detailed finding aid about the resource.