Grandma’s Genes Blog

John Dillard, Backwoods Man

John Dillard, Backwoods Man. 1993 as revised. John M. Dillard.

It was Sunday, June 29, 1941 on the grounds of the Head of the Tennessee Baptist Church at Dillard, Georgia. The writer was then nine years of age. White haired Dr. Andrew J. Ritchie intoned the history of Lt. John Dillard, a Revolutionary soldier and first settler of the town, while Beavert R. Dillard, his great-grandson, strained to hear and nodded his ruddy face in agreement. This was an “all day and county-wide devotional and patriotic gathering” to unveil a marker furnished for the grave of John Dillard. The printed page publicizing the event, directed by Ritchie, described the day as “devoted to the principles of religion and to a revival of Americanism as exemplified in the life and service of our forefathers”. Speakers included Judge T.S. Candler of the Superior Court and Dr. F.C. McConnell, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Anderson, South Carolina.

Both the Baptist and the Methodist Churches let out regular services and combined with the reunion in the Baptist church for an 11:30 A.M. service of preaching and singing. Church services were also held again in the afternoon. Patriotic, familiar hymns were sung including “Faith of Our Fathers” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Approximately 200 or more descendants of John Dillard were in attendance. Out of this world good food in large quantities was prepared as a labor of love by the women of the Valley area of the county. Those present were not only Dillards, but members of practically every major family in the Valley area of Rabun County including the Gibsons, Nevilles, Dickersons, Ritchies, Martins and Grists who were related by blood or marriage to the Dillard family.

Fellowship, fun, and food was enjoyed by all. No one appeared to be burdened with knowing too many facts about John Dillard, the Revolutionary soldier, who was the center of the occasion. Ritchie, after hurried and brief writing to the then War Department and National Archives, concluded that this John Dillard was born in Culpepper County, Virginia in 1760, served in the American Revolution with Captain James Dillard, of Laurens County, South Carolina, while residing in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, and entered Rabun County when it was created about 1819 accompanied by his wife Ruth Terry Dillard and his three children, James Dillard, Mary Rebecca Dillard Dickerson and Elizabeth Dillard Dryman. All of that was later recorded by Ritchie in the now classic, Sketches of Rabun County History. It was considered the cast-in-stone family history of the Dillards from Rabun County, and is still the authoritative source of Rabun County history and genealogy.

Fifty years passed and no family reunion of this same group of Dillards took place. The idea of having a fiftieth anniversary of the 1941 reunion was conceived of by Louise Dillard Coldren, a descendant of John Dillard, in 1991 while helping this writer track down some sources of family history in Rabun County. Plans were made. That day was again commemorated on Sunday, June 9, 1991 at Dillard City Hall next door to the Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia, a few hundred yards from the grave of the Revolutionary soldier. Even though John Dillard was born and raised an Anglican, the Baptist pastor at Dillard, Georgia led the opening services with a religious and patriotic theme following the pattern of the 1941 reunion.

Several Dillard family researchers over the past fifty years have discovered facts which undermine some of the conclusions about John Dillard once held by the Rabun County family traditionalists.

The date of birth on John Dillard’s tombstone erected by the government which shows 1760 may be wrong. It should have read 1755. John’s Revolutionary pension application filed with the Federal Government when he was a 79 year old resident of Rabun County interlineated over 1755 making it uncertain as to whether 1755 or 1760 was correct. John Dillard could have been uncertain himself. He deposed to the Rabun County Inferior Court that he once had the date of his birth in a Bible, but it was “worn out” and illegible. Other facts make the date 1755 more probable.

John Dillard was about 68 years of age when he came into Rabun County before 1823, some three or four years after the county was created in 1819. His son, James, took title in his name alone to four lots of land totaling 1,000 acres in the present Town of Dillard through purchase from third party state land lottery holders. James was then in his thirties, had married Sally Barnard and had given birth to some of his children in Buncombe County, North Carolina from which both James and John came.

What many of Dillard traditionalists did not know in 1941 is that John Dillard in order to pioneer the opening of Rabun County had to give up his rural home of 34 years in the Flat Creek section of Buncombe County, which is located some ten miles north of the present Asheville, North Carolina. His home consisted of some 460 acres of farm land at Flat Creek west of the present town of Barnardsville. John had obtained a state land grant to his first property in Buncombe County in 1789 when it was then a part of Burke County, was Buncombe County ranger and was present on the first day of court at the organization of that county in 1791. He was a commissioner appointed by the North Carolina General Assembly for the laying out of Asheville as the county seat of Buncombe County in 1792 in a dispute which arose between two factions each of which wanted the county seat located on opposite sides of the Swannanoa River. Starting up a new county was not a new experience for John Dillard.

His wife, Ruth, may not have been a Terry, but possibly a daughter of Thomas Vaughn of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, who along with a John and his possible mother, Elizabeth, witnessed the Will of John’s uncle, Colonel Thomas Dillard, Sr. in that county about 1774. Terry was a name which crept into the family history through Obediah Terry Dickerson, a son-in-law who married Mary Dillard, and whose mother (but not Mary’s mother), was in fact a Terry.

The most shocking repudiation of the Rabun County Dillard tradition about John Dillard is that there were several children other than James, Mary and Elizabeth. These were not only not heard of until recent years, but positively denied as kinfolk by some of the Rabun County traditionalists who always insisted there were only three children. In addition to James, there were older sons Thomas Dillard, born in 1776, John Dillard, Jr., born in 1780, and William Dillard, born in 1782, all of whom unquestionably owned land adjoining their father’s home place at Flat Creek in Buncombe County, North Carolina in the early 1800’s, and took off to other parts of the country. An older daughter, Sarah Dillard, born in 1778 who married Baxter Davis, Jr., migrated from Buncombe County and died in Kentucky. Another daughter, Sophia Dillard, born about 1794, became the second wife of Gabriel Elkins while a resident of Buncombe County and ended up in Texas. That left the younger children, James, born in 1792 who married Sarah Barnard, Mary Rebecca, born in 1790 who married Obediah Terry Dickerson, and Elizabeth, born in 1784 who married Henry Dryman, Jr., all of whom came into Rabun County before 1823. There are possibilities of other daughters whose names are not known. Census records show a real crowd of people, whoever they were, in John’s household over a decade.

Some speculate there was another wife who died prior to John’s marriage to Ruth. Others speculate that there was a big family feud. Still others say it was just bad communications. Whatever the explanation may be, John Dillard, Jr. with his young family sold out in Buncombe County in 1812, left his father, and went to Knox County, Kentucky. John, Jr. later migrated back to Monroe County, Tennessee and finally settled near present Calhoun, Georgia where he died prior to 1847 and where there now reside a large number of his descendants. They, like other Dillard branches, are now spread over the entire United States.

William Dillard with his family (including his wife, a daughter of William Gregory, a friend almost like family going back with John Dillard into Pittsylvania County, Virginia) left Buncombe County in the same year to later become a resident of Greene County, Missouri where after the Civil War he cast his influence on the side of the Republican Party and died in 1877 at 95 years of age. Some of his sons were Presbyterian ministers. His descendants later scattered across the entire West and were the settlers of the Town of Dillard, Oregon.

The oldest son, Thomas Dillard, was the first to leave and went to northeastern Arkansas near Independence sometime around 1810 where his descendants to this day reside and did not until recent years discover their Buncombe County origins.

Some of the descendants of Thomas Dillard, John Dillard, Jr. and William Dillard attended the 1991 and 1992 reunions and were welcomed by their Rabun County cousins, all of whom enjoyed the fellowship and family spirit present on those occasions.

John Dillard represented in his Revolutionary Pension application that he was born in Culpeper County, Virginia. Just who were his parents and other ancestors were largely unknown by his Rabun County descendants of the past fifty years. Meanwhile, several able Dillard researchers spread across the country were at work over many of those years trying to piece together fragments of Dillard family history. These included Dorothy Dillard Hughes, Howard V. Jones, Lucile Robinson Johnson, Miriam Dillard Klar and others. This unreferenced overview is for the greatest part based upon the work product of these Dillard researchers to whom the Dillard family is indebted.

Deed records exist that Edward, Thomas, Sr. and George Dillard owned contiguous properties on Gourdvine Creek in Orange and its progeny county, Culpeper County, Virginia between 1737 and 1758. Another probable brother in the area was John Dillard. This was in northeastern Virginia not very far from Washington, D. C. Some of them also appeared in court records and in records of the Anglican Church (Church of England) in which they were active. The deduction has been made based upon circumstantial evidence these four Dillards were probably brothers. A further deduction has been made based upon the same type of proof that the probable parents of John Dillard of Rabun County were this same Edward Dillard and his documented wife, Elizabeth Dillard, later one of the witnesses to the will of Thomas Dillard, Sr. in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

Two of these brothers, Edward Dillard, the believed father of John Dillard of Rabun County, and the prominent Thomas Dillard, Sr., after 1758 moved south into Halifax County and its progeny county, Pittsylvania County, Virginia where they are recorded in public and church records, including land records. This is an area northwest of present Danville in the midlands of southeastern Virginia. Very little is known of Edward Dillard. Information about his probable brother Thomas Dillard, Sr., is abundant. The properties of Edward and Thomas, Sr. in Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties adjoined each other. John of Rabun County took over his father’s land which had been acquired under a Virginia land patent. George Dillard and John Dillard, probable brothers, remained in Culpeper County in northeastern Virginia where lived for the rest of their lives.

This brings up the question of from where did George, Edward, John and Thomas, Sr. come upon their arrival in Orange, later Culpeper County. This is where the road is rough for the Dillard researcher. There is no answer to date but King and Queen County, Virginia is the most plausible theory. One or more of them are detected for a brief period of time in Essex County connected with the family of the wife of Thomas Dillard, Sr.

George Dillard, generally regarded as the first Dillard in this country, it is known was transported from England to coastal New Kent County, Virginia on May 22, 1650 where land records indicate he later owned property on the York River peninsular not far from present Williamsburg, Virginia. That area later became a part of King and Queen County, Virginia. English property tax records, known as the “quit rent rolls”, in 1704 show ownership of property in King and Queen County by Nicholas, Edward, George and Thomas Dillard.

It can surmise that the Edward, George and Thomas Dillard in the 1704 quit rent rolls are the same Edward, George and Thomas who later appeared in Orange, Culpeper, Halifax and Pittsylvania counties. However, their probable ages do not make this a reasonable conclusion. If not, it can be more reasonably speculated that they were the grandsons of George Dillard, the Pioneer. That raises another question of who was their father. Some have suggested that records indicate this father was another Edward. This is the subject matter of much uncertainty. No one knows the answer. No known records which have not already been thorough scrutinized seem to exist to search for additional facts.

The reason for this unhappy state of Dillard history is the destruction of the courthouse records by fire in both New Kent and King and Queen counties covering a century of time. This left a dark hole with no light in piecing together the Dillard family tree between two ends, one end being the entry of George Dillard, the Pioneer, and the other end the succeeding generations of Dillards who had migrated at a much later time into northeastern Virginia from their original coastal homes.

The typical Virginia migration pattern of early Virginia settlers and their descendants was to leave the coastal counties, migrate northeast and then south. George, Edward, John and Thomas Dillard, or their father, whoever he may have been, probably followed this pattern. Reasonable proof of family connections exist only after Dillards migrated from coastal Virginia areas inland as pointed out by William G. Hammell in his publication on the family history of a branch of Dillards who remained in the King and Queen County area.

A story linking many Dillards, including John Dillard of Rabun County, to wealthy planter James Stephen Dillard of King of Queen County which first appeared in a Montgomery, Alabama newspaper article at the turn of the century, repeated and handed down for many decades, seems mostly fictional. Historians at Colonial Williamsburg know nothing of his existence. Other than being an entertaining, grand story and an easy answer to who one’s ancestors are, it proves only the old saying quoted by a Dillard researcher “crooked as a geneologist“. There was a James but probably never a James Stephen Dillard. For the most part most Dillard ancestors, just like most Dillards of today, were just plain people.

From where did George, the pioneer, originate? England we know. However, that is about it. The records behind George’s arrival are even more murky and scant. Wilshire County, England appears most frequently in many tales passed on with no verification. These include that the Dillard family was originally French and came to England as Protestant refugees. Recent research by Miriam Dillard Klar indicates that few Dillards resided in England, but that many more Dillards reside in France. The Dillard story is not all tied together neat and tidy.

With better public records at a later time in an inland area, we know that it was while he was a resident of Pittsylvania County that John Dillard of Rabun County was sworn into the Virginia Militia in 1776 and served in the Revolutionary War. Most of his military service was under Thomas Dillard, Jr., his believed first cousin, who was captain over the county militia, to whom he had been “bound out” as an orphan following what is believed to have been the probable death of his father, Edward, who had earlier been excused from payment of quit rents by the vestry of Antrium Parish Church.

Ritchie’s conclusion that John Dillard served under Captain James Dillard, husband of Revolutionary heroine Mary Ramage Dillard, was in error. James had before this time migrated to Laurens District, South Carolina and participated in separate military events, including the Battles of Kings Mountain and Cowpens. Ritchie picked the wrong name because the given name of “Captain Dillard” in John’s Revolutionary pension application was not specified. Research was more difficult when Dr. Ritchie wrote his book than now.

John Dillard was in the Battle of Gwinn’s Island in 1776 on the Chesapeake Bay where a bombardment from the British Fleet took place. John with many other “backwoods men” (as described in the affidavit before the Rabun County Inferior Court on his pension application) became sick and were taken back home to Pittsylvania County in baggage wagons. In 1778, he again served under Captain Thomas Dillard, Jr. and marched to Boone’s Fort on the Kentucky River and later to the Ohio River where he built a stockade and two log cabins on an island in the river and where he was again sent back home with a group of sick men, including his captain, Thomas Dillard, Jr.

In 1780, John Dillard was a part of the Pittsylvania County Militia which joined General Greene on the Dan River in Halifax County against British Lord Cornwallis where he served as a Lieutenant under Colonel Issac Clemmons and Colonel Perkins and where he was dismissed without a written discharge in 1780. This was the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.

Following the close of the Revolutionary War in 1782, John Dillard along with his one-time guardian, Thomas Dillard, Jr. and William Gregory, (later alleged to be a Methodist minister who had also been “bound out” to Thomas Dillard, Jr.) left Pittsylvania, Virginia and migrated to Greasy Cove in Washington County, North Carolina, near what is now Erwin, Tennessee. Some of the family of the wife of Thomas Dillard, Jr. were already there. This territory was at that time the “wild west” frontier of the southeastern American colonies. In 1787, John Dillard was sworn in as an Ensign in the County Militia of Washington County, North Carolina during the internal political upheaval and Indian fighting in which that county was a part of the State of Franklin which had seceded from the State of North Carolina under its Governor, John Sevier. That territory is now part of the state of Tennessee just across the line from a then much larger Burke County, now Buncombe County, North Carolina.

Both John and James Dillard were already hardy “backwoods” pioneers who had done extensive moving in unchartered lands in new counties before they ever reached Rabun County. Once they bought out the lottery holders of the 1,000 acres of land in Rabun County, there is a family story that they had to buy it again from the Cherokee Indians who gave up the land on a trade for a muzzle loadinrifle, a jug of apple brandy, a coon skinned cap and three dollars. James Dillard was later a Justice of the Peace and State Legislator from Rabun County in which he died in 1861.

James Dillard’s three sons, John Barnett Dillard, William F. Dillard, (who was killed at Petersburg in the Civil War) and Albert G. Dillard along with his daughter, Mary Rebecca Dillard Dickerson, raised succeeding generations in Rabun County, Georgia. His daughter, Elizabeth Dillard Dryman, raised a large family in adjoining Macon County, North Carolina. A large number of their descendants are still there and nearby.

A successful 1992 Dillard Reunion was held at Dillard, Georgia, with well over 100 persons at the dinner meeting. Dillard history sessions have been held each year for three years. Many Dillards from lines outside the Rabun County Dillard line attended. Interest was expressed in learning about Dillards all over the United States.

Many things have changed in the intervening years from the June 29, 1941 Dillard Family Reunion. The pioneering spirit of a 68 year old man and his son who were willing to give up their established home of many years in Buncombe County to start a new life in unchartered land in new Rabun County, then recently ceded by the Cherokee Nation, and the same spirit of their ancestors in this country back to 1650, is the tradition which belongs to the Dillard family which will never change. It is worth documenting and preserving for future generations.

This post contains information which has been compiled from many sources. Some of the information may have been contributed by other researchers. Information within this site is contextually posted – if you copy this information please verify the context, source, and permissions prior to republishing at any location.

Quick and Clean Relationship Trail

I often have the need to do a quick search of the exact relationship between myself and someone else – a relationship finder. How do we connect? What ancestral pair begot our parts of our family tree?

Had an interesting question come up today about one of my Ancestors, John Stoney. The Gentleman who contacted me said his Stoneys were also from Knockshegowna, Tipperary, Ireland but he had no idea how we might connect.

WikiTree’s Relationship finder

Immediately my mind went to, “well have you (the Gentleman with the question) done an auDNA test? I have and so has my dad. Using our auDNA information we might be able to define the possibility that my John Stoney of Knockshegowna is related to his Stoney’s of Knockshegowna.

My first stop? WikiTree’s Relationship finder. It’s “‘WikiTree’s cousin calculator.’ It enables you to find out how two people are related. This can help you sort out the confusing ‘third cousin twice removed’-type relationships.”

Here is my Relation trip trail to John Stoney:

Notice that I do have some DNA confirmed status marked? It’s because I have been able to confirm those genealogical paper trail relationships via the DNA of some close shared cousins with my great grandfather Christopher Lee Templeton. But all the way back to John Stoney? No confirmed status indicators…yet.

So I know that I am genetically distant from John Stoney by 7. this is a genetic distance of 7, starting with 1 at my father. 7 is a long way genetically from me for auDNA since auDNA has a range back to our 64, 4th great- grandparents. But to my Dad? This might just be doable!

Within seconds I know that trying to find a genetic connection between my Stoney’s and the gentleman’s Stoneys of Knockshegowna using auDNA is a possibility. And that if we find some male line Stoney’s of our two family’s to YDNA test, would be a great idea too. There is no Stoney DNA project at FTDNA and no Stoney’s listed in the Stone DNA Project. Sounds like a project needs to get started, doesn’t it?

Distracted by DNA Painter

After working with DNA Painter and GEDmatch matches I discovered that 15% of my DNA matches are actively collaborating in genealogy.

Yesterday Roberta Estes wrote a blog about DNA Painter (she Actually has a series on DNA Painter – see below). Reading her latest sent me into a distracted by DNA Painter Day. Thank you Roberta.

I like DNA Painter and have used it to help my with working out information for my work, but today I decided to paint a bit of my own lines:

I opened GEDmatch and went to my one-to-many matches list. Over on the left hand side of my matches is a column with links to GEDCOM’s uploaded to GEDmatch or a WikiTree 8 Generation pedigree.

GEDCOM/ WikiTree Links

I have used these links many times when doing quick look-ups on how a DNA match might be related to me or clients, are there common surnames? or are there common ancestors? It’s a great way to use what other people have shared to see who you are.

I followed the information in the GEDCOM File or WikiTree Pedigree and connected 12 new DNA matches to 5 of my ancestor couples using DNA Painter. Nice!

I made some obversations

Of the first 222 matches on my list 37 had GEDCOM’s or WikiTree links, three of the GEDCOM’s listed actually had no GEDCOM’s. That leaves a total of 34 total shared family files to go along with the DNA.

From this we can estimate that 15% of the people in my lines are sharing their genealogy. It’s a rough estimate for sure. Is this a good rough estimate for the amount of people who are willing to share their genealogy? It is a very low number.

Email Tennis Example

I have been working with a client to help identify her mother’s birth family. It’s a hard one because her mother was born in 1916. It’s a hard one because the information on the original birth certificate appears to be “made-up”. The first clue here was that the delivery doctor’s surname was given as the child’s middle name.

I have sent out many runs of emails to groups who match this lady (there is a second cousin match with no identifying information who has not answered many attempts to contact them via the testing companies messaging system – oh if they would!). Yesterday I sent another run to 10 matches asking if they would share a tree or pedigree with me. One person answered with asking me to give him her parents names.

I gave him the adoptees story and why I don’t have that information. I sent him to the research for this adoptee listed on her WikiTree profile. He said he would do his own research into her parents, if I could only give him that then he could see if she matched anyone in his tree.

We sent several volleys of emails in this vein and his suggestion I upload the DNA to other sites might help me find an aunt or uncle…no, no aunt or uncle would be alive… Frustration would be a good word to use to describe the volley. The last email I sent was very polite and specific about how sharing genealogy with someone, literally, can help that person find out who they are.

The Little Exercise

I walked through 10% of my total matches on GEDmatch to find shared genealogies and found how many were collaborative Genealogists. The percentage I got was 15%. Is this indicative of Genealogy as a whole?

WikiTree boasts 554,626 collaborative Genealogists. What percentage of all Genealogist’s (from Hobbyists to professionals) is this number?

How do we get the word out to all the DNA testers that there is more to their DNA test than just “What geographic region do their ancestors come from”?

Roberta’s DNA Painter Series

Your Grandma’s Events Calendar has been filled!

Yes, you should visit your Grandma! I worked a good part of the day filling-in items for the events Calendar. All of them HUGE and possibilities to see your favorite Carolinian Canadian Genetic Genealogist.

  1. WikiTree Source-A-thon Hangouts

    September 28 @ 8:00 am – October 1 @ 8:00 am

  2. Ottawa Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society

    November 24 @ 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

  3. i4gg – San Diego

    December 7 @ 8:00 am – December 9 @ 5:00 pm

  4. The Surname Society AGM/Conference 2019

    March 23, 2019 @ 3:10 pm – 4:00 pm

  5. The Genealogy Show, Birmingham England, 11.30am – 12.30pm, June 7, 2019

    June 7, 2019 @ 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

More are coming, just not added to the schedule yet…stay tuned.


If you have ever asked me how I got interested in Genealogy, you know that I claim my grandmother caught me as I was being born and started telling me, “Your Grandfather is…”. If you have ever read my bio, you know that in addition to and in a much more stick to my brain sorta way, another cousin, an influencer, gave my some Hunt Family Papers when I was in High School,

As a Child, my mother, grandmothers, and grandfather would often tell me about my family. Who we were, where we came from and how our family came to be. As a teen I was given some unpublished papers by a Hunt cousin. I scanned them, as teens do, but I kept them. Years later I went back to them and entered the information into Family Tree Maker. Soon after I started my hunt, pardon the pun, in earnest for the rest of my family. – WikiTree Profile Page

This Influencer, Helen “Honey” Hunt, is a distant cousin. I could, in A. J. Jacobesque style, roll – out of our connection,  “she is my mothers fathers grandfathers brothers great grand daughter…

More than that and in spite of being a distant cousin she was always in my life because she is also a very good family friend. Always around at parties and gatherings. Although I talk about Honey’s influence on me often I haven’t really had it sink in – the depth of that influence –  until I heard  of Honey’s passing this morning.

Really, if I think about it, if I had not been given those family papers my interest in Genealogy and in Genetic Genealogy would not have been piqued. Today I have a growing Genetic Genealogy Business, I am an international Genetic Genealogy Lecturer and a leader at WikiTree. My second career is because of something Honey did for me when I was young. To say I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for Honey is an understatement.

This passion I have for genealogy was introduced to me by my Grandmother.  My cousin Honey gave me the tinder upon which to start a lifelong passion and a second career. Honey is one of the greatest influencers in my life and will continue to be one of the greatest influencers of my life.

Thank you.


I went to a Genealogy Conference and met a Chef.

My children – well one son – gives me an incredibly hard time because I like to talk about food. Not just that there is food but what makes the food what it is. He says “Mom, you think you are a foodie”. Pshhaww! I also like beer and talk about the crafts brews I find on my travels. He never calls me a fake “beery” when I talk about choicest hops, barley and malt (Barn Owl Malt in Ontario – shameless plug for a friends Ontario Malt). So fun today, in the hotel lobby with all my bags packed waiting to run to the train station, to meet a Chef. I went to a great Genealogy Conference and met a Chef, The Edible Genealogist, Mark Drew, UE. (@ChefMark Drew)

Much more happened at the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference 2018 than my last minute drool over meeting a Genealogist who is a Chef!

Meeting up with old friends all through out and networking rise to the top of the list for things to do at Conferences, but I got to spend 6 hours on Friday talking about my passion, Genetic Genealogy. Two workshops on DNA! I hope the confusion people brought with them to the sessions was lessened after we were done.

Ontario Genealogical Society Conference 2018 Round Up

Jonathon Vance’s opening Plenary Lecture was fabulous, just a fabulous way to start a Conference and then having Amy Johnson Crow weave threads of Jonathon’s lecture and other sessions into her closing lecture – It takes talent to recognize a thread and it takes something of a humble speaker to change her planned lecture, turn the phrase or theme touched on by other speakers and weave it into their own. Amy and Jonathon and all the rest of the speakers and venders and volunteers made the conference comfortable and consistent- it was very nice to have the theme carried through and tied with a bow.

The Conference was held on the sprawling campus of Guleph University in Guelph, ON. Beautiful setting with the architecture of the school marrying modern and historic buildings and green spaces into perfect symmetry. BUT. The Sprawling campus offered a unique challenge to the Conference co-chairs and committee. Getting all of us from our various hotels or campus residence rooms into the heart of the conference buildings. They had golf carts! A fleet of Golf Carts supplied by Family Search kept the attendees moving on time to our respective activities and sessions.

Take Away? Golf Carts Rock!

Well, the whole conference rocked really. Sessions on building a nation – Canada. Sessions on preserving our records. Sessions on how to care for our precious research once we have passed – What!? you haven’t included your genealogical research in your will? Or talked with the Genetic Genealogists about working to preserve your DNA for future researchers? I was talking about that and work Blaine Bettinger is doing with his Committee for the Preservation of DNA Records in my sessions.

I am headed home now.

I have a huge list of “to-dos” on the go from meetings and discussions had this weekend. Two of them promised while traveling on this very train back to my home. Promises made and promises kept and a sense of loss as I leave all the wonderful friends <appendage> I have and the new ones made and… the Chef? He is in the seat right in front of me.

A Chef who talks about the foods of our ancestors is sitting right in front of me. He is probably praying that I don’t lean over the chair and ask him questions again about the food that sustained Champlain on his initial forays into the Canadian shield – Sun Choke/Jerusalem Artichoke…and what about…

Genetic Genealogy is the Ultimate Crowd Source Project

It’s nothing near a stretch to say that Genetic Genealogy is the Ultimate Crowd Source Project. Genetic Genealogists are often called citizen scientists. To say someone is a citizen scientist means, in my book, that they, them, you and me, us are not associated with multi million dollar corporations in any financial way.

We work to share our work. It’s the new paradigm in Genealogy – collaboration.

Since we are working to share our work and further our research together, we have worked out ways to do that. Many of us have our own blogs. Many of us have Facebook pages or even Facebook groups to share. One great case in point is Blaine Bettinger’s Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques group which has over 40,000 members. 40 thousand people sharing and posting and discussing Genetic Genealogy – crowd sourcing.

GEDmatch stands out as one of the greatest crowd sourced tools in the Genealogy community, offering a database of autosomal and X DNA test results and tools to do analysis and matching. It’s growing rapidly. This growth in new members has occurred since the release of information that the GEDmatch database was used to help identify a man who turned out to be California’s most prolific and elusive serial rapist and murderer. The case has caused an uproar in the Genealogy community with people publicly stating that they will remove their data from this important database because of it’s use in a criminal investigation. But still there is that growth. I certainly have noticed it in the higher count of people on GEDmatch when I login. Good.

Family Search is crowd sourced. Geni is, for the most part, crowd sourced- if you can work around the the many annoying paywalls. We Relate is Crowd sourced.  Then there is the ultimate crowd sourced Global Family Tree, WikiTree, with it’s…well with it’s everything.

Recent Crowd Source Losses

Three significant crowd sourced projects closed their shutters this week. Which speaks to growing concerns for privacy and the GDPR (if you have been under the proverbial rock – it’s the General Data Protection Regulations for the EU and UK. Google it. I am so disgusted with it’s fall out I don’t even want to link to it). I know this new regulation will eventually make crowd sourcing better, but it’s a huge hit to lose Y-Search, mitoSearch and World Families. 

Thank you and goodbye to you three. I have often been in your data working to solve adoption cases or help a family find their true surname or build a clients sense of family or connect my family to the rest of my family tree through DNA.

Moving “onward and upward”

The “onward and upward” quote is something I see often in Chris Whitten’s (WikiTree’s, WikiTreer-In-Chief) emails and posts to WikiTree. We as a community will move on. Moving on means that we need to do some things to protect our databases from extinction. And we will.

Crowd Sourcing

Crowd sourcing will be better with tighter controls on privacy and a mind to even more openness. Yes I said it, privacy and openness. I will say it again and I will follow that advice as I work on my family and friends and clients families on my favorite crowd sourced project (which has taken incredible steps to protect itself and it’s community of crowd sourcing and enthusiastic genealogists) WikiTree.

I will also continue to use and support and lecture about other crowd sourced ventures like GEDmatch.

I love being in this incredible crowd sourced community.

New International Gen. Conference

Great news from Kirsty Gray and Sylvie Valentine this morning. There is a new international genealogy conference to fill the void left by the demise of Who Do You Think You Are?

THE Genealogy Show

From one of the show directors, Kirsty Gray, “I am delighted to announce that Sylvia Valentine and I are Ministers of Magic aka Show Directors for THE Genealogy Show 2019 which is being held at the NEC in Birmingham, England. We already have an international board in place including genealogy stars such as Jill Ball, Ruth Blair, John Boeren, Liv Birgit Christensen, Mags Gaulden, Pat Richley-Erickson (Dear Myrtle) and DM Walsh.”

Our main aim is to create a terrific new show which becomes an annual highlight on the genealogy calendar. Attracting family history societies (in some cases, back) to the event, as well as providing outstanding educational workshops and networking opportunities, are at the core of the planning.

What’s not to like? NEC has 16,500 parking spaces, a raft of hotels and easy access by road, rail and plane. See you there? Check out the website, like our Facebook page,, and follow us on Twitter @THEGenShow2019.

Oh, and did you say you wanted to be an exhibitor, sponsor or speaker? Details on the website!”

Thanks very much and I will see you in Birmingham in June of 2019!

And In My Spare Time?

Incredibly honored and pleased to announce that I will be a part of, the Genetic Genealogist for, the Canadian Casualty Identification Team for the Directorate of History and Heritage within the Department of National Defense Canada. The Team will be working to recover, identify and reunite the remains of formerly missing Canadian Service men prior to 1970 with their families for burial.

Here is a link to a Video about this important work: 

Video about the CCIT

If you would prefer to read about it here is a link to an article:

DND looking to contract DNA and burial experts to help ID Canada’s missing war dead

Off to Kitchener

I am off to Kitchener in the morning and I have been looking forward to this trip for so many reasons that I thought you might like me to outline a few of them.

  1. The Kitchener Public Library Fair isn’t your regular old run of the mill Library Genealogy thing. This library system serves a densely populated part of Ontario and their Genealogy Fair garners crowds with varying degrees of Genealogy knowledge, from beginner to expert and top-notch speakers from the Genealogy field. I get to be a part of it and that is just so cool!
  2. Sharing my passion, Genetic Genealogy, as the Keynote speaker.  The Power of DNA is the message. This message will wrap itself nicely around the DNA theme of this years fair. There will be a small guest appearance by my Grandfather during the presentation too. All the way from the hills and foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina. I kid you not.
  3. Riding a train for the first time in my life to Kitchener. Yes. I know. Of course I have ridden the subway in major cities and yes I have ridden the Monorail at Disney, but never a train. My poor spousal unit is getting peppered with all sorts of questions from me, “How will I know which car is car #4?”, What do I do with my luggage?”, “Where are the bathrooms?”, “How do I find lunch?” and “Do they have footrests?” I will be a wide-eyed Harry Potter on his first ride to Hogwarts (thanks to Sheila at KPL for making my travel arrangements!).

Everything always happens at the same time for me!

If traveling by train for the first time in my life and speaking at such a great event weren’t enough? The WikiTree Clean-A-Thon is this weekend. Not only do I get to speak, share my granddad and ride a train, I get to help clean-up Wikitree Profiles and do Video Hangouts with fellow WikiTreers  while traveling and when I get home.

Another amazingly busy Weekend in the offing! Come see me, or watch for me hanging my head out the train window like a very happy puppy, tongue flapping, ears blowing back and wearing the biggest grin on earth. You can also see me hanging out with other WikiTreers every four hours starting at midnight on Friday and running through Midnight on Tuesday morning during the Clean-A-Thon (NO! Not at 4am and not during the KPL Genealogy Fair).