Friday, August 28, 2009

My ancestors in the SSDI

I noticed a post on that Michael John Neill had noted his ancestors that were listed in the SSDI. I thought this was an interesting exercise and certainly not one I had considered before, so here goes nothing.....

1. Fred Joseph Harmon (1 Jun 1921-25 Apr 1993) - my grandfather
2. Kate Harmon (5 Nov 1889-21 Sept 1974) - my great-grandmother and mother of #1, maiden name was Arthur
3. Helmer Hiby (21 Jan 1895- Jun 1982) - my great-grandfather
4. Bernice Hiby (27 Mar 1903 - 28 Mar 1982) - my great-grandmother, maiden name was Hanson
5. Charles McNeill (18 Feb 1886-12 May 1970) - my great-grandfather
6. Della McNeill (15 Mar 1893-1 Mar 1979) - my great-grandmother, maiden name was Grindstaff
7. Frona Scott (13 Jun 1890-29 Jun 1971) - my great-grandmother, maiden name was Greathouse

It should be noted that both my grandmothers are still living as well as my parents.

The other unusual thing is that my grandfather, Lee McNeill, should be listed in the SSDI. However, the reason he may not be listed is that he died at age 59 before he started receiving benefits so my grandmother may not have needed to report his death to the Social Security Administration. And she was admittedly rather shell-shocked. Her mother Frona died at the end of June and just over two weeks later Lee died suddenly from a heart attack. Frona had lived with my grandparents since her own husband, Bert Scott, had died in 1950 on the day my uncle was born.

This also pointed out a couple of flaws in my recordkeeping. I need to note the dates of my Hiby grandparents' passing. I remember both their funerals fairly well, particularly for my great-grandma Bernice. She either died on the 27th or 28th of March and the funeral was on the 31st, which was their wedding anniversary as well as my birthday. And my great-grandpa Helmer died just three short months later in June. However, that date escapes me completely. I will need to follow up on that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To My Kindergartener

To my dearest A,

As you begin your educational journey today with the very first day of school, I wanted to share my hopes for you.

May you love school as much as I did (at least most of the time).

May no one (teacher or fellow student) ever spoil that love for learning.

May you have my analytical mind and your dad's artistic one.

May you have at least one teacher in your life that inspires you to dream, though I hope there will be many more.

May you be blessed with good friends and may you make good choices.

May you know that graduating high school isn't just the end, but a beginning to your advanced education.

Know that I am the first college graduate in my family and your dad is the second generation to graduate from college.

May you know that an education, once you have it, can never be taken away from you.

Know you will stumble and may you learn from those mistakes.

Know how far our family has come. Your great-grandfather Fred said he went to the school of hard knocks and only attained an 8th grade education. Your great-grandma Ruth was pulled out of school to become a telephone operator on roller skates! There are countless other ancestors who attended a one-room schoolhouse or probably learned with a McGuffey Reader at home.

May you learn a foreign language, perhaps like one of your ancestors' native tongues: Norwegian, German, or Polish.

May you develop a love for history and perhaps for genealogy. I will have lots of information to give to you someday!

May you appreciate the freedoms we have living in this country and come to understand why our ancestors came here from their homelands.

May you always know how much your dad and I love you and how very proud we are of you.

And may you not have seen the tears in my eyes this morning as I left you at your classroom.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kudos to DNA

The power of the internet never ceases to amaze me.

You may recall I wrote a post a few days ago regarding a frustration I had with's DNA upgrades. I questioned whether the customer service folks were in line with the DNA folks because when I called to upgrade to a 46 marker test I was told my father would have to retake the test. That is not what the DNA blog stated as possible. So I expressed my frustration in the blog post, found how to upgrade my dad's test on their website and went on my merry way.

Less than two days later, I received an email from Kathie with DNA noting that she had read my post and apologized for my inconvenience. I apparently called at a time when it was between training and to let me know that yes I could upgrade without having to start from scratch. She stated they appreciated feedback on their website and services and that corrective action (I'm assuming further training) would be taken. For my trouble, they offered to upgrade my test at no cost.

My first reaction to this was complete shock. Who knew that my little ol' blog was being read by While I realize they probably have some sort of alert system that notifies them of web posts regarding their website, I was still stunned to think that someone actually took the time to read the post, comment on it, and also send me a personal email. I think this is a fantastic indication that is dedicated to maintaining excellent customer service and taking action when improvements need to be made.

My sincere thanks to Kathie and other DNA staff. I wish every company had folks like you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tracy's Sweet Sixteen

Yes, I realize this is several days late for Randy Seaver's SNGF, but because this is one I can definitively answer, I'm participating. I would also like to say that this is the last generation for which I have at minimum a name for all my ancestors.

Randy's instructions are as follows:
1) List your 16 great-great-grandparents in pedigree chart order. List their birth and death years and places.
2) Figure out the dominant ethnicity or nationality of each of them.
3) Calculate your ancestral ethnicity or nationality by adding them up for the 16 - 6.25% for each (obviously, this is approximate).
4) If you don't know all 16 of your great-great-grandparents, then do it for the last full generation you have.
5) Write your own blog post, or make a comment on Facebook or in this post.

Paternal side:

Robert Nelson McNeill: born 29 Oct 1858 in Yancey Co (later Mitchell Co), North Carolina, died 22 Oct 1932 in Asheville, Buncombe Co, North Carolina; SCOTTISH

Margaret (Peggy) Ledford: born 24 Oct 1848 in Yancey Co (later Mitchell Co), North Carolina, died 8 Jun 1927 in Mitchell Co, North Carolina; believe surname is ENGLISH

Rev. Isaac Grindstaff: born May 1852 in Yancey Co (later Mitchell Co), North Carolina, died 4 Apr 1936, Bakersville, Mitchell Co, North Carolina; GERMAN (name was originally Crantzdorf)

Mary Jane Woody: born 11 Jan 1853 in Yancey Co (later Mitchell Co), North Carolina, died 26 Jan 1946 in Bakersville, Mitchell Co, North Carolina; believe surname is ENGLISH

Conrad Coons Scott: born 15 Mar 1845 in Missouri, died 2 Feb 1904 in Desoto, Johnson Co, Kansas; UNKNOWN - family lore indicates that Swift was the original family surname and perhaps two generations back from Conrad it was changed to Scott

Zerlinda Jane (Jenny) Pitts: born 11 Mar 1854 in Iowa, died 1906 in Loring, Wyandotte Co, Kansas; UNKNOWN

William Michael Greathouse: born 19 May 1853 in Missouri (perhaps Wright or Webster Co), died 6 Feb 1906 in Cedar Junction, Johnson Co, Kansas; GERMAN (name was originally Grothause)

Sarah Jane Johnson: 28 Dec 1856 in Randolph Co, North Carolina, died 15 Mar 1838 in St. Clair Co, Missouri; UNKNOWN but perhaps English

Maternal side:

Walter Harmon: born 1855 in Round Grove, Whiteside Co, Illinois, died 6 June 1921, Clark Co, South Dakota; ENGLISH

Fanny Arnold: born 7 Jun 1856 in Berkswell, Warwickshire, England, died 12 Jun 1945 in Clark Co, South Dakota; ENGLISH

Homer Eugene Arthur: born 4 Aug 1850 in Trumbull or Ashtabula Co, Ohio, died 7 Mar 1943, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Co, California; believe surname is ENGLISH

Amanda Savilla Myers: 1862 in Ohio (perhaps Scioto Co), died 11 Feb 1920 in Elrod, Clark Co, South Dakota; GERMAN

Iver Hiby/Hoiby: born abt 1865 in Norway, died 10 Sept 1951, Hamlin Co, South Dakota; NORWEGIAN

Sarah Nelson: born abt 1866 in Norway, died 9 Dec 1930, Foxton, Clark Co, South Dakota; NORWEGIAN

Albert S. Hanson: born 1864 in Winneshiek Co, Iowa, died 1 Oct 1928, Clark Co, South Dakota; NORWEGIAN

Maria Anna Anderson (could also be Anna Marie): born abt 1866 in Norway, died 26 Dec 1949 in Clark Co, South Dakota; NORWEGIAN

So that sums up to be:
English - 6 = 37.5%
Norwegian - 4 = 25%
German - 3 = 18.75%
Scottish - 1 = 6.25%
Unknown - 2 = 12.5%

Well this was certainly an interesting exercise. I have more English than I realized and fewer German. I always thought they were equal. And this has pointed out some information that is lacking that I need to examine further.

What fun!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Is the right hand talking to the left?

When I returned from our vacation, I returned to over 100 emails (in my genealogy account only, that doesn't include the other one I have) and 498 blog posts to sort through. It's taken a week but I've gotten through them. I'll be honest - some of the messages I just deleted and some of the blog posts I skimmed the beginning and that was it.

But there was one in particular that nearly set my blood to boil. I admit I have a short fuse and what ticked me off about this issue was because I seriously had just attempted to do this exact thing one week before we left town.

You may recall my earlier post discussing my father's YDNA test with Because of their discounted price, I opted for a 33-marker test. We ordered in February and received the results in March. In late May, I emailed their customer service to see if there was a way I could upgrade to the 46-marker without having to pay for a whole new test and have him take a whole new swab. Basically, I wondered if they still had his sample and if I could pay the difference to upgrade. I received an email telling me yes I could this and to call their 1-800 number to place this order. So finances being what they were, I put off calling until July. I call and get a very perky girl (aren't they always perky when you're frustrated). I stated what I wanted and referred to the email I had received and named the person by name that had responded to me. Perky Girl tells me she's sorry but I will have to reorder the 46-marker test at the price of $149 and that I can't simply just "upgrade" as I was told in my email. Needless to say, I was a very unhappy camper and Perky Girl bore some of that wrath. So what do I find in my 498 blog posts but this: Introducing the DNA UPGRADE feature.

I have been a longtime subscriber to and will continue to be one. There are lots of folks unhappy with them and vocally make their feelings known. Many times I've wished their website did something it doesn't, but usually those are minor inconveniences I can live with. And this too is a minor ripple in my overall genealogy research. However, it really makes me wonder if their right hand is really talking to the left?

UPDATE: Please see my post Kudos to DNA which discusses the follow up by their website to my situation.


I've been away....literally and figuratively. I have taken a break from posting for some "me time" in an effort to figure out what I wanted to accomplish with this blog. It was also a time to reflect on how best to manage my precious genealogy time. I'm a mom of two busy girls, a wife, a full-time employee, a chief bottle washer (thank goodness for all that my dear husband is the chief cook), laundress, etc. You get the picture. There are only so many hours in my day to accomplish things and something had to give.

As a result, I've determined that Twitter just isn't for me - I can't figure out all the abbreviations and I wasn't gleaning anything really meaningful that I couldn't get from reading my favorite blog posts. I've continued with Facebook which I primarily use for my personal friends though I do have "friends" that are new (to me) relatives and researchers working on common lines. I don't use it as extensively as other genealogists do and probably won't. I'm ok with that. I've also determined I just can't possibly read any more blogs. I love to read the escapades of another's mysterious ancestor, but time is precious. I do continue to scan the new blogs that Geneabloggers puts out each week in the hope that someone will be researching my lines. I continue to gather my genealogy news in that fashion. And I will continue to read (via Google Reader) those blogs of the few kind folks who follow my random ramblings. I will also remain somewhat active on GenWise. They've had a few missteps, dramas, and some outright plagiarism (that was later corrected and properly attributed to Randy Seaver) that have left a bad taste in my mouth. My time is precious and I don't need to deal with that kind of drama - if I wanted to I'd watch daytime soaps. I was hoping (and still am) that more educational opportunities would come from GenWise rather than "tell me everything you know about XYZ". I realize that everyone starts new and makes mistakes. Heaven knows I've had my share. However, I am going to pick and choose how I participate. I hope my time won't be wasted there.

I recall reading a post (and please forgive me for not remembering where it was) about a fellow geneablogger also frustrated with all the social media opportunities and the lack of time to do them all. After reading that, it truly verbalized the exact feelings I had been going through. Since cloning isn't an option, I have to manage time the best I can.

Since my last post nearly a month ago, I have been very busy checking off some "to-do" items. A few "family history" things that I have done include:
1. Taking a family vacation to my mother-in-law's in coastal North Carolina.
2. Requested my grandfather Lee McNeill's Navy records.
3. Requested and received land record information from Whiteside Co., Illinois on my 3rd great-grandfather, Porter Joseph Harmon, and his father, Walter Harmon. They had land warrants to get the land so now I have to figure out how they acquired the land warrants.
4. Hired a wonderful professional researcher to look into some McNeill records for me at the North Carolina State Archives.
5. Requested and received some Patriot applications from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
6. Requested and received a death certificate for my 2nd great-grandfather, Homer Arthur, from Santa Cruz Co, California.
7. Requested an obituary on Catherine Ellen Struble Myers, my 3rd great-grandmother. The South Dakota Archives were unable to locate an obit but did send a WPA transcription of the cemetery she was buried in.
8. Started researching a new genealogy software. I'm using FTM 2005 and also have trees posted on for each grandparent. I'd like to have one tree where I can combine all data, have the ability to prepare various reports, and the ability to attach various media files to the individuals. I'm leaning towards RootsMagic 4, but am also curious about the new FTM 2010. Any recommendations?

I hope in some future posts to discuss the findings, or lack thereof, in the 8 items posted above.

This list doesn't include things like school shopping for the soon-to-be kindergartener in our home, assisting with our church's Vacation Bible School program, swimming lessons, and the list goes on. It's no wonder I'm tired.