Children of Lewis William and Susan Amanda Walston Rivers, My Great Great Great Grandparents

Today I started getting back into my family history research and genealogy work by looking at the children of my third great grandparents, Lewis and Susan Rivers, and recording facts about them into my Ancestry family tree and into virtual cemeteries on Find-A-Grave.

Why did I start here?

Lewis and Susan, if I go backwards in generations from myself to my parents, to my paternal grandparents, to my paternal great grandparents, to my paternal second great grandparents, were the first generation to have more than two children for which I don’t already have a good amount of information recorded. I’m an only child of my parents. My dad was one of three children. My grandfather was one of two sons. My great grandfather was one of two sons. But my great great grandfather, Dewitt Oscar Rivers, was one of nine sons!

I started with David Gillum Rivers, the oldest of the children of Lewis and Susan. He was born in 1858 and died in 1937. He married Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Hancock and they had seven children. I’ve been looking them up in census, marriage, death, birth, burial, and residential records, and adding data to my family tree on Ancestry.

It’s been a day of uncovering bones in a bulldozed pit using only a toothbrush and a whole lot of patience.

The Gifts DNA Testing Can Bring

Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com

It’s been about thirteen years ago when an old friend of mine looked me up on Facebook and in reconnecting with each other I discovered one of my greatest passions: unpuzzling my family history. My friend built a family tree for me on Ancestry and it was incredible to go through it. I was amazed at all she had uncovered, all from entering in a small bit of information here and there and pointing and clicking with the mouse. Seeing all the different names and the different branches and lines of the tree, seeing all the locations where my ancestors and relatives had been, and seeing actual images of documents and photos and maps started a fire inside me. I had to have my own subscription to Ancestry and I had to learn how genealogist use evidence to make the claims that they do. Some of the claims made in my tree were really hard to believe and I had to find out for myself.

So in 2006 I started learning how genealogists look at primary and secondary and tertiary sources to identify facts that can be used to rule out certain possibilities and support others. I started up my own family tree doing what professionals do, and I looked at documents, mostly images of documents that were scanned and uploaded to the internet. I looked at documents created by researchers who used primary sources in their research. I also looked at documents created by researchers who used secondary sources for their research. It’s been a fascinating journey but it’s been a journey of small steps, and one with lots of breaks in between.

FTDNA Logo

FTDNA Logo

After several years I was able to delve into genetic genealogy when I was able to have my DNA tested. I used a company called FTDNA and they provided a great number of services for genealogists to be able to use their genetic test results to compare and match with other test results and connect with other researchers and relatives.

 

Through FTDNA I’ve been able to learn about my Haplogroup for Deep Ancestry research, learning about ancestors who existed on this planet long before the origins of civilization, long before humans settled down to plant, long before the origins of written human languages, long before the origins of spoken human languages. I’ve also met plenty of cousins through FTDNA, fellow family history fans and researchers.

After a few years of toying around on FTDNA, looking at GEDMatch, Y-Search (which is, sadly, no longer online), Mito-Search (also, sadly, no longer online), and various DNA projects, I had a much more interesting experience.

 

AncestryDNA logo

AncestryDNA logo

About two years ago a man contacted me who claimed to be related to me according to genetic testing, and he had done his testing through Ancestry, which didn’t exist when I had my DNA tested. This man didn’t know how we were related, but his DNA profile told him we were a match.

 

Soon after this “cousin” explained that he was also related to a woman who I had already met through Ancestry, another cousin, so this indicated we shared a common cousin. I was related to this woman through my mother. She is either the Great granddaughter or the granddaughter of my mother’s mother’s mother, my great grandmother. I knew and still know very little about my great grandmother or this line (my mother’s maternal line).

So I learned a bit about my great grandmother, the mother of my grandmother who I was very fortunate to get to be around quite a bit, especially after I moved close to her right before I started high school. I learned about my great grandmother from my new cousin, the female cousin, who knew my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother,  and my great grandmother’s sister, who was this cousin’s grandmother, I believe. My cousin also knew the mother of our great grandmothers, our great great grandmother.

The male cousin who contacted me also contacted my female cousin, but none of us really knew exactly how we were related. I figured it had to be through my mother’s mother’s line because of the connection with my female cousin. What it turned out to be was far more amazing.

I started asking more questions of this new cousin — where was he living, was he married, kids, what was his age, what was his occupation, what were his hobbies? I learned that he was in his early 50s. He lived in Connecticut. He was married. No children. He worked with grants for organizations, a financial job. He played guitar in jazz combos professionally. He liked to cook. I also learned he was adopted.

This new cousin of mine was adopted, and his parents, after he reached a certain age, told him about his biological mother and gave him the name of the “home for unwed mothers” where she gave him up for adoption. He went on a search, and part of that search involved having his DNA tested and attempting to contact his matches, like he did with me.

I looked at photos of my new cousin. I saw him with his guitars. I saw him in a kitchen, sautéing something on the stove. I pondered his age and figured out his birth year and possible time when his mother would have known she was pregnant. I thought about myself: I love music and love playing guitar. archtopjazzguitar.jpgI love to cook and have worked in restaurants nearly all my life. In his photos it seemed to me he looked like my grandfather, Simmie, who I didn’t really get to know because he wasn’t around much when I was a child and died before I reached the age of eight. I thought: what if he was the son of my grandfather with another woman? He was married five times. But some things didn’t fit.

My cousin and I discussed our searches through messages, and I was flipping through photos. I started pulling up photos of my uncle, my mother’s brother, Simmie’s only son that I knew of. Donnie was beloved by my mother. She thought of and spoke of him often in her life. Before my parents were married Donnie was killed in a horrible car accident in his MG.

I looked at the photos of Donnie and the photos of my new cousin. I thought about Donnie’s age before he died and noticed that my new cousin was born before or around the time Donnie died. Donnie was a musician too, according to my mother. He played drums real well. And it seemed to me that my new cousin looked even more like my Uncle Donnie than he looked like Grandpa Simmie. I sent my cousin photos of Donnie and shared my suspicions after he took a look at them and said “That is my father!”

Well, soon after this conversation my new cousin had introduced himself to many other family members on my mother’s side through Facebook friends I assume he found through my page. And soon we both learned from Simmie’s sister as well as his second wife that Donnie did, indeed, father a child before he died. The child’s mother was sent away to that “home”, gave birth, and had to move on. We now had her name and heard the whole story. I had no idea that Donnie had fathered a child. My mother never told me. My aunts never told me. None of my cousins ever told me, and I don’t think they knew about our cousin.

DNA testing had (“re”?)connected me with the son of my Uncle Donnie. DNA testing had (“re”?)connected my new cousin with family he didn’t ever really know for sure he ever had. He eventually met our other DNA cousin on my mom’s side. He even eventually found and met his biological mother and then was happy to meet his newly found biological sisters, daughters of his own mother. It’s truly an amazing gift that this technology brought to all of us: the gift of knowing who we are after knowing where we came from and the gift of knowing our family and our pasts.

Now this, of course, is a special outcome of DNA testing. Not everyone can have their DNA tested and immediately discover lost worlds like our new cousin did. However, what are you missing out on by waiting to have your DNA tested or deciding it’s not that important or just putting it off as something silly or extravagant or a waste of time? Other than the cost of having your DNA tested, or perhaps you are worried about security and privacy, what is it that concerns you?

I’m curious to know.

R1a1a/R-M512, My Y-DNA Haplogroup

Although I have found genetic genealogy to be interesting and enriching I use a much different approach with the use of DNA testing than with standard and traditional genealogy, using paper and digital image documentation. Genetic genealogy, using the science and technology behind DNA collection and analysis, looks at deep ancestry over tens of thousands, sometimes millions or billions of years, while standard and traditional genealogy looks at ancestry over generations of people, over hundreds of years, sometimes several hundred years, and even, in some rare cases, sometimes thousands of years. Continue reading

Military Historian Profile: Jonathan Gawne, Militaria Magazine, Author, Collector

Finding Your Father's War

Finding Your Father’s War : A Practical Guide to Researching and Understanding Service in the World War II US Army, by Jonathan Gawne (Casement: 2006)

Military Historian, Collector, and Author Jonathan Gawne has written books and an extensive amount of articles and has consulted on many, many projects on the subject of World War II. This book, Finding Your Father’s War : A Practical Guide to Researching and Understanding Service in the World War II Us Army” (Casemate: 2006), promises to be an excellent resource for family history researchers, military historians, or history enthusiasts who have an interest in learning more about an individual’s military history.

Understand that Gawne is much more than a military collector and enthusiast, as illustrated by a brilliant interview on military-trader.com by Andrew L. Turner. He is a scholar who has done his research thoroughly and has clearly gone beyond the level of the war movie fan-turned-re-enactor, doing extensive reading, studying still and moving images, interviewing veterans, and talking with other historians and collectors. Check out his work on the “Ghost Army of the E.T.O.” project. He’s written his own book on that subject, “Ghosts of the ETO…”. He has a website promoting “Finding Your Father’s War” and an archive saluting the 8th Division. Gawne has also written “Spearheading D-Day : American Special Units in Normandy”.

If interested in contacting Jonathan Gawne through social media you might try his Facebook page. Also, check out his works on the Militaria Magazine website.

Buy This Book on Amazon!

 

Back At It

I am back on the saddle again, hit with the genealogy bug, ever since I got my computer and internet hooked up in my new home, with space to store all of my research materials and reference books.

I’ve been going over the Joseph D. Rivers Pedigree Charts. I’ve been going through the screen clips of those charts that I’ve clipped into Evernote, and I’ve been placing where I left off two years ago.

I’ve restored my Ancestry account and have purchased a new Ancestry DNA kit.

I’ve made a collection of ‘ancestor cards’ that will be a short glimpse of a particularly interesting ancestor. I’ve been working on my virtual cemeteries on Find A Grave.

Stay tuned for more posts!

Why I Celebrate Samuel L. Jackson Day on 21 Dec Every Year…

Facebook Post from 21 Dec 2012
This note about a happy day popped up in my ‘this day in history’ type feed from Facebook, and I remember this day vividly. It was a great wintery day!

My girlfriend and I celebrate actor Samuel L. Jackson‘s birthday on this day, rather than the day my mom died nine years ago, but it’s hard to forget sad days.

I’d rather remember the happier days, but I realize that in remembering the bad times I create a palette of moments that makes all of those moments important in expressing how truly valuable is life.

Happy moments stand out, however brief they may be.

This is one reason why I love history so much! By studying what happened in the past I can see how all of these moments are connected — how they touch each other and ultimately lead us to the present moment. Right now.

Mom, I love you for being me my mom, and particularly for all of the happy moments you gave to me.

Happy Birthday, Samuel L. Jackson!

Happy December 21!