What to say about my Southern Roots

I’m a Babb, and my line of Babbs moved down the East Coast from Virginia into South Carolina and then into Georgia in the early 1800’s. I can’t do anything about that.

The land my ancestors moved onto in Georgia was essentially stolen from the Cherokee, and there’s no good way to sugar-coat that. They didn’t steal it, but it was stolen so that white families could exploit it. I don’t know at this point who the family’s land in South Carolina was taken from, but it was good land and I’m pretty sure someone was already on it.

Then there’s the whole mish-mash of states rights, stavery, and the Civil War. It’s 2015 as I write this, and in 2015 – especially after that monster shot nine people after sitting with them at a prayer meeting – it’s all about white supremacy. Of course, the entire history of European colonialism has been about white supremacy, and states rights were an issue at the Constitutional convention, but we put on our blinders now and behave as though it’s all about white and black.

Here’s the thing: at least four of my 2nd great-uncles served the Confederacy, most with the 53rd Georgia Infantry. They served at Gettysburg, and Richmond and Appomattox, and three of them did not return from the war. One, a medic I believe, was captured outside of Atlanta and briefly held as a POW. I respect their service and their sacrifice.

The flag they served under isn’t mine, but it was theirs. The fact of its subsequent adoption by hate groups shouldn’t reflect on their service any more than the adoption of the svastika by the Nazis in the 20th century should reflect on ancient Sanskrit culture.

Who Said So?

For the longest time I used a quote attributed to C.S. Lewis on my e-mail signature without questioning it. C.S. Lewis doesn’t appear to have ever said or written those words anywhere still in the historical record. I should have known better.

Early on in my investigations a cousin of mine, Olive Margaret Batcher, cautioned me that, although the internet can be your friend, it can often be a false friend. I’ve noticed many family trees which consistently contain the same common error and it’s apparent that folks have simply been copying trees from one another without checking them. I understood how Robert E. Babb, Penny Kilgore, and even Jean Sargent, could perpetuate an error; they were working with perhaps hundreds of index cards, many with common names. (Every household of my Babb family had at least one Kellett Babb in it for awhile but the first one was probably not born to a long-deceased father and aging mother.)

Feel free to call me out on it, but I’ve tried to do a better job of citing my source material since I started my web pages. It’s not perfect because, in my experience, there don’t always seem to be reliable sources. Finding early information on my ancestors with Huntingtons has been and may remain an impenetrable brick wall. I need to do my best to vet information before I put it out where people will probably copy and paste it as gospel into their family trees. Not entirely sure why I owe that to them, but I owe it to myself.

Time to Get Back to Work

This is a little embarrassing; people are registering to receive updates and I haven’t posted in years. It’s also a blessing because it may be the nudge I need to do more work, although I recently moved back to California away from all of my primary sources.
It occurs to me that doing genealogy may be a bit like eating an elephant. Every once in awhile someone will drop a truckload of well-researched and documented information in your lap, but usually it’s best to just take one bite at a time. I’m anxious to get to my 3rd great-grandfather Babb, but I feel like I ought to tie up loose ends in more recent generations first.
I’m pretty comfortable that I know what I need to know about my mother and her immediate family. I’m sure that I don’t know everything, but it’s probably none of my business. The Lawrence Morgan sighting in Wyoming in 1910 is intriguing, but what would it mean if it was my grandfather? Probably not much.
My father’s immediate family has been interesting. I think I’m good with the paternal grandparents, and I’ll respect the privacy of his sisters’ families. #5’s parents, although known, are more of a mystery. Who was #10 besides a name, where did he come from, and what became of him? Where did #11 come from?
For the time being, my “plan” is to work on the gaps in #8’s family and in #10’s. See how long I last before I get distracted again.

Waiting for More DNA Matches

For whatever reason, I got my invitation to participate in the new Ancestry DNA program early, and I sent my sample back the day I got the kit. That’s where “pretty quick” stops.

I’ve watched too much television and retained some illusion that my results would be back within 46 minutes. They took a couple of months. My results contained no grenades: 64% British Isles, 32% Central European, and 4% Who the Heck Knows. That’s consistent with everything that I know of or have heard about my immigrant ancestors

Now I’m waiting for someone closer than my 29 probable 4th cousins to submit DNA samples.  Nothing wrong with 4th cousins, and, yes, they may have research on families I’m looking at. Actually, and upon further reflection, I’m nor really sure what I’m waiting for; maybe for my brother or one of my sisters to say “Hey, Sibling!.” Maybe they won’t. We’ll see.

Posted in DNA

Hereditary Diseases and their fallout

I found my maternal grandfather’s Shellback Certificate this morning – re-found it, actually – and started reflecting on his life and his family’s. One earns or earned a Shellback Certificate by crossing the Equator upon the sea and being initiated into the Realm of Neptunus Rex, but I understand that this initiation, too, has fallen out of favor these days. Anyway, he was a sailor 64 years before I was and before air conditioning and most other creature comforts I enjoyed, and he was doomed to die of Huntington’s Disease. I don’t know whether or not he knew that.

His father and his father’s father had both died by the time Lawrence enlisted in 1901, both in state lunatic asylums (Iowa and Indiana respectively) because no one knew what else to make of Huntington’s. By virtue of his service, my grandfather would eventually die in Hines VA Hospital near Chicago.

His mother and father both appear in the 1880 federal census in Story County, Iowa, in June. In July, his mother stood up for her sister’s wedding in Kearney, Nebraska, and he was born there in December. Within two years, his mother would remarry and he would be adopted by his step-father.

For years I assumed that his father, Jacob, must have accompanied his wife to the wedding, but I haven’t found his track since June, 1880. Did Jacob leave her in Nebraska or did she leave him in Iowa? Did they know yet that Jacob had inherited the HD gene?

In my grandfather’s life, at what point did he and my grandmother learn that he had inherited the gene? I remember in early conversations with my mother that she had very little idea of how HD worked. She thought maybe it only affected males, and maybe it skipped generations. There was no test for it.

What must life have been like for “Shaky” Jake in fin de siècle Iowa? When he was admitted to the state hospital there was a reference to some time in or with the Army, but I’ve found no record. So far his hospital record is about all that I have. I don’t have even that for his father, Jacob Senior, in Indianapolis in 1854.

Can you imagine your ancestors’ lives?


Why I “Do” Genealogy

I’ve mentioned before that I had a genealogist in the family, but my incentive to start digging was a sense of my own mortality. My parents separated when I was fifteen months old, and my mother moved us from Henry County, Georgia, back to Rock Island County, Illinois, shortly thereafter. One result of that was my total ignorance of half of my family medical history. Once I had the time and opportunity to do some sleuthing (thanks to the internet and my first Family Tree Maker program) it became more and more like eating really good potato chips.

It started with medical history: my father died of liver failure (good to know), and my surviving aunt told me that my paternal grandfather also had a bad liver although that didn’t kill him. Now I pay much more attention to possible liver damage when it’s mentioned among the side effects of drugs.

Next I thought to follow my Y chromosome a little further back, and found many of the nuts-and-bolts facts back to my 2nd great-grandfather, Colville Babb, and was introduced to the work of Jean Sargent and Robert E. Babb, among many others, who did this stuff before computers and went clear back to Phillip Babb when he was the harbor master on Hog Island in the Isles of Shoals in the 1600s. They did this stuff before computers! They crawled through church records and court houses and kept track of it all with note cards! Yeah, Robert said that Joseph’s youngest son was born in 1791, years after Joseph was dead, but he was doing this stuff with note cards!

I found that my great uncle Claude was killed in Belleau Wood serving with the 1st Bn. of the 5th Marines. I’ve deployed twice with elements of 1/5! Plus, Claude was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French before he fell!

I found that those two little girls in Colville’s family after the war were Thomas’ daughters. Thomas didn’t survive the war, and his wife remarried but then died in childbirth and the girls were returned to his family. One of them married my great-grandmother’s brother.

I also found that another great-granduncle was a medic during the war, and I’m a retired medic.

Where does one stop? When does one stop asking the next question? I have no idea; I’m still digging. I’m still finding stuff about my maternal grandfather (adopted by his stepfather but inherited Huntingtons from his biological father) and adding what I can to the work on my mother’s family; and I’ve barely started on my father’s famly.


A Low-Key Celebration of Sorts

Not a huge fan of self-congratulatory posts; but just found out this blog has been added to Cyndi’s List, and that’s kind of a big deal to me.

When I first started poking around in genealogy I had the opportunity to sit in while my cousin, Olive Batcher, interviewed my mother about her recollections as the sole surviving child of my grandmother for her book, Hill-Wallace Family History. Olive came with boxes of photographs (Mom shared some of hers, too). They talked for hours, and Olive carefully sourced and identified everything.

Later, I met Olive in Ames, Iowa, and we drove up to Story County, Iowa, where she walked me through the genealogical section of their library in Nevada looking for Washburns and Stemlers. Again, she emphasized the importance of sourcing, ideally from primary data. Not a fan at all of internet genealogy, she cautioned me against relying on anything that I hadn’t carefully checked myself for accuracy.

She also mentioned another genealogist she had heard speak at a gathering of genealogists a few years ealier: Jean Sargent. Jean, of course, had coincidentally written Babb Families of America, so I had one role model recommending the other to me.

I am conscious, especially when posting anywhere for the public, of the potential for misinformation, and I do try to source as much from primary documents as possible. It’s not that I care about being correct for the folks copying from my trees, but that I don’t want to be an embarrassment to Jean or to Olive, or to misinform the people I hope will use my trees to inform themselves about their families.

Don’t know if they just read my blog or my trees or what, but now I’m on Cyndi’s List; and I take that for what it’s worth, and will try not to embarrass anyone.

It’s a Process

Just knocked out five more batches/pages of census index. I’ve entered more than 3400 names so far, and was starting to get a little cocky about it, but then I met an enumerator who knew just where to hit me where it would hurt.

After the first couple of pages of his, I  got to where I could read his writing most of the time. I managed a 95% conformance on the first page despite his switching between names and abbreviations, ditto marks and slashes, etc.He never did indicate who the source of information was, but it’s too late to track him down for a reprimand now.

As I got into the pages where he started entering the Head by last name and initials, I started to take it a little personally. Then he stopped recording the first names of the wives. Seriously, the Head might be, for example, “Jones”, “K C”, and the wife would then be “Jones”, “K C”, “Mrs”. A whole page like that. If you have a relative in Brooks County, Georgia, I just indexed what he wrote; after that, you’re on your own. (Son of a gun; I was supposed to mark the field for Mrs. Jones’ given name “Blank” and put the “Mrs” in the next field. Dang!)

I was thinking again today about what the enumerators had to write with. Consider that the ballpoint pen wasn’t patented in Britain until 1938, and didn’t go on sale in the U.S. until 1948. All of the letters I’ve found from my father to my mother were written in pencil. My first fountain pen, a Sheaffer, back in 1957 or so, siphoned ink from a bottle into a reservoir, although by high school they had those cartridges of ink you could carry around. I’m a little more forgiving of some of the smudges on the census sheets, but only a little.

I don’t know at what point the census process began to be automated. I think I read that one of the earliest mainframes was delivered in time for 1950 census, so maybe indexing will be obsolete after this. At least in our process I believe there have been two indexers who have either agreed on their transcription or an arbitrator has adjudicated the differences. Can’t imagine what the first automated census is going to come out looking like. Remember in 2000 a little hanging “chad” screwed up a Presidential election.

I need to reread the rules of indexing. I’d have done better than 95% but was gigged because I took the liberty of correcting the enumerator’s work. For instance, he wrote something starting with an “Moult….” in “Colqui..” county, which I transcribed as Moultrie in Colquitt. I’m sure the arbitrator was correct because you can’t just have every indexer in the process doing their own “corrections,” but it didn’t feel right to leave it wrong. I’m sending myself back to school as penance.


A Couple of Odds & Ends

Just a few words about some things that seem to pop up in many families starting out on genealogy:

I noticed then, as my former sister-in-law has since, that her mother’s paternal grandfather changed his name and location a few times before he ever got to America. He lived very near the border between Poland and Belarus; so near, in fact, that on successive census reports he appeared to move from Poland to Belarus and back again.

All of her great-grandparents were immigrants, and all had their names changed at the Port of Entry either by will or the pen of whomever recorded their entry. I have also noted that many names are spelled differently from accounting to accounting. It occurs to me that many of our ancestors were not what we’d call literate; they might have had no more idea of how to spell their names than the census taker whose best guess made it into the historical record.

We have the family name of Kellett, or Kellet. The last name is usually recorded as Kellett; but, when it’s a first name, it varies between the two spellings from person to person and from census to census. My mother’s maternal grandmother’s name is commonly presented as Adelaide; but, when she was the enumerator in 1910, it was Adalaide. My maternal grandfather’s name was said to be Laurence, but his military records and a signature I’ve found indicate it was Lawrence. (No worries, son; you were named as much for your uncle, Porky, as for your great-grandfather.)

The issue of potentially embarrassing stories: I have at least two. I had no idea that the Babb family held slaves; however, at that time, I knew next to nothing about the Babb family. The other, on my mother’s side, was that we had always been led to believe that our Wallace ancestors were Scots (possibly from William Wallace), and they were, in fact, not; they were apparently Hessian (Wallis), and that branch of the family spent a generation or two up in Canada after the Revolutionary War before coming back as Wallaces.

That’s it for today, I think.

Hello world!

I was over on the Ancestry Aces page on Facebook, and Crista Cowan asked if we had a genealogy blog. I already have a blog or two; but, as I’ve thought about it, a genealogy blog sings to me a little bit.

I have no idea whether or not anyone visits my Babb site or my Washburn-Hill site; but, to the extent that anyone ever does, encouraging a conversation seems like a pretty good idea. Here it is.

My work has been in a bit of a lull recently. Although I now live within an hour of Laurens, South Carolina, I still haven’t been down there. I’m only a few hours from Henry County, Georgia, but haven’t been back there recently either. I haven’t been up north in years. I did get to help a little on the Seth Babb cabin raising up in Greenville, TN, awhile ago, but they’re somewhat removed from Kellet and Colville.

I have been working on indexing for the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, and have a new appreciation for those who have gone before me. I was exasperated that no one could find my mother’s paternal grandfather in Story County, IA, in 1880 because Washburn had been mis-indexed. Well, 100 batches into the 1940 census, I can tell you that reading some of these census takers’ writing isn’t exactly a walk in the park. One might have expected a little more conformity and uniformity, but one would have been disappointed.

Anyway, here it is: my first post on my genealogy blog. Feel free to chime in!