Visit to Union Cemetery

Visit to Union Cemetery

Just west of the small Texas town of Gustine lies the old Union Cemetery. My husband and I visited the cemetery last week, a side-excursion on our way home to Oklahoma from South Texas. The cemetery is the final resting place for many of the Comanche County Kee’s, my paternal grandmother’s family. As a genealogist, visiting the family burial grounds is a must anytime we are within a “short” driving distance. I tease my husband that we have to visit the ‘dead relatives’. Fortunately, he is very understanding.

1-DSCF5257The small cemetery is enclosed by a stone fence with a couple of iron gates at either end. You cannot drive through the cemetery, but there is parking off the road and the gates were not locked. The Union Cemetery sign states it was established in 1879, several years after the town was originally settled, but before a post office was established. In the older part of the cemetery, there is a sign marking burial site of Susan Mary Rogers Speed, the first burial. The cemetery itself is well maintained and most of the markers are in good shape.

Having never been to the cemetery before, I didn’t know where to start, so I picked one end and began looking for anything that said Kee.  Having just come from South Texas, where the weather was warm, I was not prepared for the fierce wind of an early February morning. My light sweater did very little to keep out the cold. 1-DSCF5256Fortunately, I quickly found my 2nd-great grandmother, Plaiscetta Adeline Culp Kee. In keeping with Texan tradition, her grave marker only lists her initials, “P.A. Kee, wife of J.S. Kee.”  Plaiscetta was born April 23, 1822 in Chester County, South Carolina. She was the great-granddaughter of German immigrants who settled first in Pennsylvania and then South Carolina. Culp was an Americanization of the original name, Kolb. Plaiscetta  married John Silas (“J.S”) Kee , also from Chester County, around 1840. Plaiscetta, John, and their children moved to Alabama about 1848 where she and John had several more children before John died in 1867. She moved to Texas in the 1870’s, following in the footsteps of some of her sons.

The other important grave I found was my great-grandmother, Elmira Renfro Ford Kee. “Mira” was born in 1859 in Union Parish, Louisiana. She was married twice; first to William Issac Ford and then to John Culp Kee, son of Plaiscetta and John Silas.  Like many of the Kee women, Mira lived a long life, dying at age 90. I can remember a story my grandmother told me once about her. Mira was very young during the civil war but apparently old enough to throw rocks at Union soldiers as they passed by. Her strong feisty nature was definitely passed on to a few of her daughters.1-DSCF5258

Had I been more prepared with warmer clothes I would have stayed longer but it was a cold day and we had a long drive ahead. Missed during this visit were Mira’s husband, my great-grandfather John Culp Kee, also known as “Kit” and Lilla Renfro Kee, Mira’s sister and wife to her step-son John Jefferson Kee. This just means I need to make another trip, which is just fine with me.

**Union Cemetery is located 1.5 miles north of Gustine, Texas on Highway 36 at the intersection of County Road 1476 in Comanche County. ***

A Genealogy New Year

A Genealogy New Year

2016The tradition of making new years’ resolutions began thousands of years when ancient civilizations made promises to the gods for such things as paying back debts and reaffirming loyalty to their ruler.  January was chosen as the start of a new year to in honor of  Janus, the god of new beginnings. His two-faces looked both backward to the past and forward to the future.

Like millions of others, I start my new year making resolutions. Most of my resolutions are simply ideals I strive for, rather than firm commitments, and as expected, they fall to the wayside a few days into the new year.

While my commitment to losing weight may not be strong, I am firmly committed to make some changes where my genealogy research is concerned. Resolutions tend to fail for two reasons: they are not written down and they are not made public to at least one other person who can hold them accountable. I realize no one will slap my hand if I fail to follow-through, but I want to hold myself accountable by sharing my top five resolutions, listed below:

Organize my files, both digital and physical.

I have close to 40 years of genealogy research and data in various states of organization.  My later work is better organized than my earlier work, but I lack consistency. My goal is to organize all of my direct family lines in a consistent manner. Many of my loose papers that I have kept “just in case” can be tossed because the information has already been added to my tree.  The rest can be added to my future research To-Do list.   If I can’t bear to part with something, I can scan it and place in digital files, freeing up space for those documents that I need to keep.

Clean up my sources and citations

Like many old-time genealogists, my early work is not sourced as well as it should. My later work may have sources and citations but I have not always applied the genealogical standards. I’ve got too much time invested in my work for someone to disregard it simply because I can’t show where the information came from or how it supports my conclusions.

Prepare for the demise of Family Tree Maker

The surprise announcement that Ancestry would stop selling and supporting Family Tree Maker software has left the genealogy community in a state of turmoil. I know the software will not suddenly turn into a pumpkin at midnight on December 31, 2016, but a lot of my current research habits revolve around the FTM-Ancestry tree sync process. So steps need to be taken to capture as much as I can before the end of the year, and to change my habits so that I am not relying on the sync process.

Utilize my DNA evidence to break through brick walls.

I recently realized that I am leaving  potential genealogy gems on the table by not using my DNA results and matches to discover new leads. This epiphany came to me a few days ago after I added a new surname to my direct line and realized that maybe some of my DNA matches could be through this line. How much more could I learn from doing periodic reviews of my new results and following up on leads?  I am also considering submitting my Ancestry results to other DNA databases to increase my odds of finding matches.

Write more.

My secret desire is to be a writer. I would love to write the Great American Novel but first I have to become a consistent writer. I also love genealogy, so what better way to combine my two passions than to develop a writing habit by blogging about genealogy. That was my goal when I started this blog last year and while I have not maintained any schedule for posting in the past, my goal for 2016 is to submit a post once a week.


My goals are ambitious but on January 1st, any thing seems possible.Each month I will provide an update of my progress. Feel free to offer suggestions and ideas for making this the year I keep my resolutions. If you would like join me by committing to a genealogy resolution, feel free to publically commit in the comments below.



Using OneNote for Genealogy

Using OneNote for Genealogy

It’s the end of Genealogy Do-Week 2 and I have to admit, I got a little off-track. Week 2’s theme is “Back to the Beginning” and covered the topics of interviews and setting research goals. The good thing about the do-over is that you can be a hybrid, either following the program exactly as it is laid out, or modifying it to meet your needs. I didn’t need to do interviews and I have my goals written down, so my ‘back to the beginning’ tasks centered around organizing. Organization has become an underlying personal theme as I have years of work in various states of disorganization. It will take a long time for me to get things in a better state.

One of my distractors this week was the discovery of Microsoft OneNote. I have been an Evernote user for quite some time but I have to admit that OneNote is more appealing visually and has some great features. If you have never used OneNote, here are some of the features I like the most:

  1. It is structured like a real notebook, something I am use to;
  2. It is a Microsoft product so the learning curve was fairly quick;
  3. It is better than a physical notebook because I can easily add pages or rearrange sections, based on my needs;
  4. It allows me to link data between sections and pages so I only have to capture the information once;
  5. It allows me to copy webpages, photographs, and other documents into my page and then add additional notes or information;
  6. It feeds my creativity by letting me color code;
  7. My notebooks are available on all my devices
  8. It is free!

OneNote is very popular among genealogists and I spent time reviewing YouTube videos and reading blogs in order to learn how others use it. I even joined a Facebook Group specifically for using OneNote for Genealogy. While there is a lot of information to be found, it’s hard to digest. Before I can understand a system, I have to understand how it is used, and most of us have our own styles. I am also a visual learner, so seeing a picture tells me a lot more than words. I did get some great ideas, however, and have put together a prototype of my virtual notebook, which I share below.

Notebooks and Tabs

One of my bad genealogical habits was not keeping everything related to a family in a single notebook. I realized just how bad a habit this was as I was going through my old papers that needed filing. I noticed I would find one page of the notebook for one family and a second page for an entirely different one. Needless to say, this was a haphazard approach, one that I look to correct by setting up notebooks by Surname.


My tabs reflect categories of information I want to keep about my chosen surname, and the good thing is I can expand tabs to my heart’s content. So far, I have a Surname Index, which will link to my individual ancestors; a tab for research plans, which will most likely be by individual; a tab for my direct line and a second tab for my indirect line; a tab for a Location index (which will include the places the family lived) and a task tab that will include all outstanding tasks to be worked on.


Individual information will be stored on pages and grouped under the ‘Direct Line’ tab or the ‘Indirect Line’ tab. This is the method I use in my physical notebooks. Females will be listed under their father’s page until they are married. After marriage, they are listed under their husband. Sexist, I know, but I don’t have a better solution.

This is how the individual pages within the section may look.


This is it so far. I feel good that in the span of a week I was able to learn how to use OneNote and set up the foundation for my notebook. The Internet is full of information on using OneNote for Genealogy. If you are interested in learning more, see the link below. It is a blog that goes into quite a bit of detail and allows you to actually see pages in OneNote.

There is also a Facebook Group devoted to OneNote called ‘OneNote for Genealogy’

Until next week….

My Genealogy Blueprint

My Genealogy Blueprint

Loose papers stored in a single locationI am mid-point into Week 1 of the Genealogy Do-Over, (GDO) a 13-week initiative to improve my genealogy habits and research skills. I have learned a lot this week from fellow participants, a great testament that collaboration always brings better results than working alone. Week 1 signals the end of my old genealogy ways. I have stopped work on my current project and filed my research documents. After a bit of reorganization, I can now happily state that all of my resources are in a central location instead of scattered all over the house. I have also started putting together family notebooks, but that is a topic for another day.

In Hitting the Reset Button – Genealogy Do-Over Week 1, I listed some of my  bad research habits that I hope to overcome. It is comforting to know that I am not alone when it comes to such things as not properly citing sources and trying to fit genealogy research in between other tasks. I believe the success of Genealogy Do-Over initiative has a lot to do with the fact that many of us have been at this for years, without proper training, and now recognize there is a better way. Reflection is never about blame. It simply means we cannot change what we do not understand.

Looking forward, I want genealogy to be more than a time-filler. I want the time I invest to be of value. To do that, I need to add structure and consistency to what I do. I have come up with a simple model that will get me started.

Genealogy Model Signed

Many people use the term ‘research’ as an umbrella for the various tasks they do, but I found this to be too restrictive. The term ‘Genealogy Work’ is purposely vague because it allows me to expand my model with additional categories and work as the process matures. For now, there are three categories of tasks, described below.

Get started

In pre-GDO days I rarely prepared for my work session. This resulted in a lot of wasted time due to stopping and starting. I would have to stop and look for documents I needed, or insert genealogy work between other tasks. It is a proven fact that the brain cannot handle more than one task at a time and every time we try to multi-task, our productivity goes down. As part of GDO, I will determine what I need in the way of supplies and resources, review what I want to do and how I will do it, clear my schedule so other things do not interrupt me, and find a tidy space to work. It might take me five minutes or 30 minutes but getting started will allow me to focus on the work and make my work time more meaningful.

Do Work

This category includes the actual work done. Not everything is research. Genealogy work includes time spent analyzing our findings, writing letters and emails to relatives, organizing our files and documenting the results. Whenever I start working without knowing what I am going to do, I end up chasing after BSO’s (Bright Shiny Objects) that tend to distract me. Anything I do will link back to my general research plan and goals, which I explore in more detail during Week 2.

Shut Down
As much as I would love to spend all my time engaged in genealogy work, there has to be a stopping point and it is much better when planned. Going forward, I will attempt to time-box my work so I do not have to worry about other pending tasks. I will close out what I am working on, back-up files if necessary and make sure everything stored away so I know where to find it next time.

I know this is not a perfect system and will change over time as I learn what works and what does not. This system establishes a foundation for better habits. Over time, my genealogy results should improve. I can hardly wait until we get back into work mode so I can try it out.

If what you do is not working, try something new. George Bernard Shaw said it best:

 “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”

Mary Ann Walker Brown

Mary Ann Walker Brown

Mary Ann WALKER was the second child of Allen Wood WALKER and Bethany Emeline HOWARD. She was born on 24 Jul 1834 in Alabama, USA. She had ten brothers and sisters, namely:

  1. Naomi WALKER was born about 1832 in Tennessee, USA
  2. William C. WALKER was born about 1837 in Alabama, USA.
  3. Howard WALKER was born about 1839 in Alabama, USA.
  4. Hampton Clay WALKER was born on 03 May 1839 in Mississippi, USA
  5. John WALKER was born about 1841 in Mississippi, USA.
  6. James WALKER was born about 1843 in Mississippi, USA.
  7. Nancy Minerva WALKER was born about 1844 in Mississippi, USA.
  8. Kizzie WALKER was born about 1846 in Mississippi, USA.
  9. Jasper N. WALKER was born about Mar 1850 in Mississippi, USA.
  10. Newton WALKER was born about 1851 in Mississippi, USA

When Mary Ann was 17, she married James Snyder BROWN, born 30 Oct 1827 in South Carolina. They had the following children:

  1. Sarah “Emma” BROWN, born on 26 Nov 1852 in Mississippi, USA.
  2. John Thomas BROWN, born on 13 Apr 1853 in Mississippi, USA
  3. Stephen William Coleman “S.W.C” BROWN, born in 1857 in Mississippi
  4. Hampton D. BROWN, born about 1863 in Mississippi, USA.
  5. Nancy C. BROWN, born on 09 May 1861 in Mississippi.
  6. Mary E. BROWN, born in 1866 in Mississippi, USA.
  7. Martha C. BROWN, born in 1867 in Mississippi, USA.
  8. Joseph Eclaston Robertson “J.E.R” BROWN, born on 04 May 1872 in Alvarado, Johnson, Texas, USA.

S.J. and Mary Ann, their children and Mary Ann’s parents left Mississippi in 1868 for Johnson County, Texas. There she lived until she died of a ‘short but painful illness’ on February 1, 1874. She is believed to be buried at Center League Cemetery, located between the towns of Venus and Alvarado, Johnson County, Texas.

Why my Ancestry tree is now private

Why my Ancestry tree is now private

My approach to genealogy research has always been one of sharing. I have gladly shared information I acquired with anyone who asked. My family tree on Ancestry has always been public because I know how frustrating it can be to find your ancestor in someone else’s ‘private’ tree. Ancestry makes it easy to contact the owner but sometimes it is more trouble than it’s worth. Especially when it is your own family who is withholding information!

Which is why it may seem strange that I have made my family tree private. Read more

Wishful Wednesday – Elizabeth Rose

Wishful Wednesday – Elizabeth Rose

Wouldn’t it be great if we could jump in our time machines and interview our ancestors? What questions would we ask? What secrets would they reveal? GeneaBlogger’s prompt Wishful Wednesday gives us an opportunity to imagine such a meeting.

Today, my choice is my great-great grandmother, Elizabeth “Rose” Webb. The place: somewhere in England, most likely Hampshire county where she was born. Rose was a middle daughter of George Webb, a master mariner, and his second wife, Louisa Bedford. They lived in the hamlet of Woolston, a town with Norwegian roots dating back to the 10th century. The date is December 23, 1893, a few days before Christmas Day and the day Rose turned sixteen.

Like other girls her age who are not privileged at birth, Rose has left school and is now ‘in service’; a polite way of saying she works as a domestic servant in the home of a wealthier family. Her duties would include cooking and cleaning, along with caring for any children her employer may have. Her days would be long and tiring. Rose would wake early to build the fire to warm the house and to prepare the morning meal. Before the end of the day, she would ensure the chamber pots were emptied. It was a hard life but Rose comes from a middle class family so there is hope that within her social circle she will meet a man of good means who would take her for his wife. She would give birth to children, attend church on Sunday and engage in less demanding work, such a needlework or mending.

I am sure that is what you dreamed of. What I want to know is where did all go wrong?

I wish you and I could sit down together for a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit. I want to know about the child you are carrying, the little girl who will one day be my grandmother. I want to know who the father is and why he did not support you, either through marriage or finances. Was it because he was already married? Or was he just a stranger in the night. I have to be honest, it’s difficult for me to imagine girls in your time having sex outside of marriage but you probably would blush and say girls will be girls.

Do you love him? Does he love you?

I want to know about your parents because looking back on your life with 21st century eyes, they seem more supportive than one would expect. It was customary for pregnant girls to be sent off to another town to have their child in secret. And for those who could not care for themselves financially, there was also the work house. But you did neither. You will give birth in your parents home and I have to wonder what kind of people they were to have been so kind.

Please understand, there is no judgment here, only questions.

I wish I could give you hope that all will be well, but I know how your story ends, and it is not a happy ending.

If it means anything at all, my mother carried your name. She was also a Rose. rose


Hitting the Reset Button – Genealogy Do-Over Week 1

Hitting the Reset Button – Genealogy Do-Over Week 1

While I was on vacation last week, I came across Genealogy Do-Over, a 13-week project developed by Thomas MacEntee, creator GeneaBloggers. The purpose of the project is to help those of us who need to hit the reset button on our genealogy methods. I have to say, this is something I have needed for a long time. The advice given in Genealogy Do-Over is based on Thomas’ own personal experiences as a genealogist. While I would like to think that after 15-years of genealogy research that I was more than a novice, I am sure there are many genealogy enthusiasts like me who never created good, solid habits for research. Over the years, I have taught myself through reading, conferences, and trial-and-error, and created my own unique methods. However, I know there must be a better way to ensure that I make the most of every hour I spend. Read more

Alexander Andrew Gow – My Most Challenging Ancestor

Alexander Andrew Gow – My Most Challenging Ancestor

Alexander and children

For the past 15 years, I have attempted to piece together the story of my mother’s family and her ancestry. I started with very little information, but one clue lead to another and I succeeded in identifying her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Although both sides presented significant challenges, the most perplexing relative is my maternal grandfather. Starting with an all too common name, the man eluded census takers, doctored his own age, mistook his stepmother as his mother, and claimed to have been born in a country that records say otherwise. Most confusing of all, he changed his surname. My grandfather, Alexander Andrew Gow, is by far, my most challenging ancestor. Read more