Many ancestors, many siblings, many descendants, many cousins

rivers_family_treeIt is hard to imagine sometimes how many ancestors we have when we go pretty far back in generations.

When you start counting these things it’s easy, at least for me, to be amazed.
Everyone has two biological parents, no matter how complicated the fertilization process is, because, let’s face it, things have changed. There are all kinds of technologies and procedures that complicate matters, but just for the sake of this lesson: We each have two (biological) parents, and every one of our ancestors has two parents.

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The Joseph D. Rivers Pedigree Chart Preservation and Continuity Project – Update, September 2016

There are five “sheets”, which are really five different charts, that make up the Joe Rivers Ped. Chart collection. I found them when a fellow family historian pointed me to the Thomas W. Rivers Collection that is available online through East Carolina University. That collection contains all five of the charts that are known to exist that Joe Rivers compiled, using data compiled by a whole slew of family historians who have researched the Rivers family, and other connected families, over decades and decades. These are people like Leon Madison Rivers, just one of thousands upon thousands of our cousins who took his interest in looking into and sharing our family’s history to a whole new level and made it available to future family historians to use and build on. It has been my passion to just be able to take part in a story that has been unfolding and has been told and re-told for a long, long time. I hope that when I’m long gone that future family historians can use the work that we’ve all put into understanding, recording, and sharing this great story of ours.

What I’ve done so far…
with Sheet 4 of the Joe Rivers Pedigree Chart, which is the copy of the huge “family tree” chart that was recovered from Grandma Reba’s and Grandpa Thomas’s home in 2009 (thank you, Vera Rivers Schemering!), or maybe 2010, is to capture small “screen clips” of a digital copy (thank you Deborah Jane Rivers Clasby!) of the chart and to save them to Evernote, a “note-taking” app.
I took the whole sheet and “clipped” an image of every family group on the chart, and now I am entering the data from the chart, as best as I can, since some of it is difficult to read, even when the print is blown up to 200-300%.
Over the years, in my moments of lunacy, I’ve saved many of those screen clips as image files onto my PC’s hard drive so that I can add them to the RootsMagic database, and I have used Evernote to “tag” them and organize them into families and sort out the families, places, and individuals associated with each image. I use these “notes” when I enter the data into RootsMagic, and I use other online sources, like big-name genealogy sites (, GENI, WikiTree,, FamilySearch), newspaper archives (, document archives (university libraries), to find primary and/or secondary and tertiary (etc) sources to support the claims made in the charts.
When Joe Rivers compiled all the data he could amass in preparing these five beautiful charts he was using data that came from real research. He used documentation. He checked on sources. He recorded where he found those sources and where they could be found again. He may have even possessed some primary documents, like Family Bibles, family papers, family heirlooms, photographs, hand-drawn charts, or any vast number of ‘documents’ (using that term loosely). At this point I am unaware of the location of these ‘documents’ that Joe Rivers was using. He makes references in his charts to certain ‘documents’, such as a family heirloom that was a vase, emblazoned with the initials “G.R.” that indicate, supposedly, that the vase once belonged to George Rivers, Sr, a Rivers Family patriarch (my seventh great grandfather).
These source ‘documents’ that Joe Rivers used in his project had to have gone somewhere or stayed somewhere. Maybe some of them ended up in the Library of Congress, an archives somewhere, a library, or a museum? Maybe they are in the possession of a Rivers descendant? Maybe some of them were ‘lost’ or destroyed? Maybe some of them ended up on EBay? I don’t know. What I do know is that these objects, these family heirlooms, these source ‘documents’ should be preserved and archived and documented and be made available to be used for research and for viewing. Maybe someday they will be?
In the meantime, I am using the charts as a guide, and I am using the resources available to me, to document the information made on the charts, to fill in the data ‘gaps’, to get through the ‘brick walls’, and to add information that was not included on the charts. A lot has happened since the final chart was published in 1970!
Although I feel like a total snoopy-snoop for doing so, due to time constraints and money constraints, I’ve had to use Facebook and Find-A-Grave and Twitter and Ancestry and GENI and Flickr and Instagram and all kinds of websites and social media in order to gather some of my the information needed for this project. I’ve made it a point to ask people if they would like to provide information for this project and have done some ‘interviews’ here and there, using email and social media. I’ve also used information that was made publicly available. It is not my goal to publish personal information about my living or recently-deceased relatives and ancestors and to make people vulnerable in terms of personal security or to violate their desires for privacy. So, I follow a system for protecting the privacy and security of people in this family project. Please let me know if you spot something that I may have missed or overlooked.
I am working on this project on an almost daily basis now and I will make an effort to keep you all posted through my blog and through this group.
I can’t explain why I’m so crazy about doing genealogy and learning more and more about history and our family’s history other than to say that I know I was born to do it, and I promise to put everything and all that I am into this project. Thank you all for showing interest in this project and for all your help and cooperation and support!

Who Are The Parents of Ollie Virginia “Ollie” Richards, My Great Grandmother? – Part 1

Yesterday, I received a message from a cousin of mine who I had been waiting to hear back from for such a long time I had almost forgotten about what she had to say. Brenda Pinti reached out to me in the end of January 2013 to tell me that she knew my maternal grandmother, my mother, as well as my great grandmother, the mother of my maternal grandmother. I replied back to her message, indicating my eagerness to learn anything she could pass on to me about our family, but I didn’t hear back from her right away. In fact, two-and-a-half years went by before I finally heard back from her.

I was very excited when I read this message from Brenda, as I was very close with my maternal grandmother. Grandma Lois Marjorie PALSON Romanac, who I called “Grannymom” when I was very little,

J.P. Rivers and Lois Romanac

The author and his grandmother, Lois Romanac, Fall 1986

was such a gentle and loving person with a kind of prankish sense of humor. It wasn’t an ill-intentioned prankishness or malevolence. She just got a kick out of hiding things from my mother, like her cigarettes or her lighter, and giving no clue that she knew exactly where they were. She loved to keep secrets.

She loved to let me know that she knew a secret that she wasn’t going to tell me.


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Finding the Right Genealogical Software and “How To” Books and Videos For You, Part 1

For someone who may be new to doing genealogical research and doesn’t yet have a firmly-established system of methods, like myself, you may find it helpful to use a book or a piece of software or videos to help guide you, and provide tips and advice on how to go about searching for your ancestors, especially if you don’t have a lot of time or financial resources to work with.

I’ve looked at a number of different genealogy books and resources over the years… Continue reading

“Life can only …

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
– Soren Kierkegaard

Does it sound trite, opening up with these words on a blog, dedicated to telling the story of my own personal search for my roots? Maybe a little. You can’t deny it, though. Life just doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense when you’re right in the middle of it… Continue reading

…Rivers always reach the sea

“Then as it was,
Then again it will be.
Though the course may change sometimes,
Rivers always reach the sea.

Like stars of fortune,
Each has separate rays.
On the wings of maybe,
Down in birds of prey.
Kind of makes me feel sometimes,
I didn’t have to grow.
But as the eagle leaves the nest,
He got so far to go.”

(Lyrics from the song, “Ten Years Gone”, by English rock band Led Zeppelin, from their 1975 album Physical Graffiti)