Tuesday, October 15, 2013


John Downing, an early pioneer of Logan County, Illinois, fought in the Revolutionary War. That was never in doubt. The problem turned out to be where. It was complicated by so many John Downings and the lack of diversity in place names in early America.

Originally, John got a Revolutionary War marker based upon his service in the company of Capt. James Scott, 3rd Battalion, Washington County Militia, Pennsylvania. He was a private 5th Class and can be found listed in the Pennsylvania Archives. DAR agreed. Later John and his extended family and friends traveled to Ohio and on to Sangamon now Logan County, Illinois. They even brought along James Scott. 

(When I looked into this I couldn't find anything about the James Scott except he traveled with John Downing. About the same time a James Scott joined the Lake Fork Predestinarian Baptists before dying in neighboring Macon County, Illinois. I could not swear it is all one person but it seems likely. Not that it mattered.)

Then it was determined that was not the right service for this John Downing. Nope. His service was in Capt. Timothy Downing's Company, Washington County, Pennsylvania, militia. At least the location was correct. And probably the two Johns are related. A new marker was added to the old on at Bowers Templeman Cemetery just north of Salt Creek. The DAR participated in the ceremonies. That was 1977. 

Then the DAR decided that wasn't correct either. And the timing really was off. After the war John moved back east in Pennsylvania instead of continuing on west? That could not be explained. 

Recently, DNA testing allowed Mary Lou Cole of Pennsylvania to follow a theory. John Downing didn't serve in Washington County, Pennsylvania, but Washington County, Maryland. Mary Lou is not a descendant of this particular Downing line but she was determined. There were naysayers, including me. She continued on.

On September 5, 2013, the DAR notified Mary Lou that they agree with her conclusions (and documentation of course) and John Downing is now officially recognized as having his Revolutionary War service in Maryland.

John Downing has three stones. He has his original, which goes with the stone of his wife Hannah, to go with the two in the photo. Will he get a fourth, this time with the correct service? 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

FamilySearch is Looking Better

I haven't had a lot luck finding my relatives on Ancestry.com. My six month trial is about up and I'm debating on whether to go another six months. I particularly hate searching for "John C. Brown, born 1830 Illinois, married 1850 Illinois, died 1890 Illinois," and being presented with choices of people who lived and died in other states and other countries, World War I draft registrations, 1940 census results and so on.

Today I searched from my genealogy program (Legacy) to FamilySearch.org. I was not expecting much. However, they seem to have improved their search. The results were a lot more relevant than those I've gotten from Ancestry. I found some census images (specifically 1850) which were sharper than those I had saved from Ancestry. I don't know how widespread the better images are but I plan to check.

Fortunately FamilySearch is able to use logic in the searches. Volunteers transcribe documents and those transcriptions show up in the search. The volunteers are working with old images and rotten handwriting in some cases. Some of the transcriptions are quite accurate. Some of the transcriptions are hysterical, so obviously incorrect it is pathetic. It reminds me of some of the 1940 census arbitrators' "wisdom." But FamilySearch finds that and that's what counts.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Genealogist vs. Family Historian

There is an ongoing discussion about genealogy and family history.

Family Historian seems to be a title for those who collect all sorts of things that a family member once touched or might have touched or probably would have touched had it been placed in their hand. In other cases it is the process of collecting family stories.
Everyone, I hope, had one or two or three cherished items from ancestors. But 300?
People collect family stories to preserve them. It turns out that collecting family stories is also perceived as a way to draw young people into genealogy.
There are plenty of family stories. But, and here’s the rub, how many of your family stories are true? Three brothers came to America… My ancestress was an Indian Princess… You get the idea.
Genealogists deal in facts. Ok, not a lot of those whose family trees bloat Ancestry.com, but serious genealogists are into facts and proof. They want evidence. Heck, they want you to prove you were born and didn’t just appear full grown. (Superman is in big trouble.)
Isn’t being a “Family Historian” contradictory to being a “Genealogist”? What do you think?

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Ancestry Family Trees

I have now been introduced to Ancestry family trees. They are extremely creative. I am pretty sure it is inappropriate to use "genealogy" and "Ancestry family trees" in the same sentence.

I am amused by all the "hints" which lead to other family trees. Those trees have misinformation, creative information and no sources. They obviously copy from one another because the same errors are repeated over and over again.

I am not so amused to find they have stolen and used as their own my personal family pictures. In a couple lines the number of descendants is extremely limited. I don't know the authors of those trees. They are clearly not descendants of the people in the photos. There is no way they would be the owners of the photos. Some still have my date stamp or other identifying marks on them. They have been stolen from places such as these blog posts, my web sites, ILGenWeb and FindAGrave.

I think the thing that upsets me most is having my family photos attached to the junk family trees.

Someone suggested I complain to Ancestry. Have you seen the process? Do you really think Ancestry cares?

Is this the price we pay for sharing information?