AncestryDay Recap

Yesterday, the Tennessee State Library and Archives partnered with Ancestry to host the “Tennessee Ancestry Library Event”  here in Nashville. The event had two primary days – a Librarians’ Day on Friday, and a Researcher’s Day yesterday. I was so pleased that I was able to attend the Saturday Researchers’ Day event. for which there were more than 600 attendees.  I don’t often have the opportunity to attend genealogy events in person and I cherished each moment. I met several new people, and even had a chance to see some of our TNGenWeb peeps there!

Upon arriving and registering, we were all given a bag, nametag, and a well-done syllabus booklet; our Stewart County coordinator, Jim Long, took this picture at the beginning of the day.


After a welcome by Kim Harrision, a Senior Account Executive with Ancestry, and Chuck Sherrill, the State Librarian at the TN State Library and Archives, we began the day’s presentation series.  First up was Anne  Gillespie Mitchell, aka AncestryAnne.  Her presentation, “How to Search Successfully to Tell Your Story on” focused on how to take advantage of the search and filtering features of the Ancestry website.  Anne did a great job, is an entertaining speaker, and I enjoyed hearing her personal stories and the tips and tricks she shared. Anne blogs for Ancestry and is active online – you can learn more about her at

Chuck Sherrill then presented “Your Ancestor’s Lawsuit: Finding and Using Tennessee’s Supreme Court Case Files.”  This was probably the most informative presentation of the day for me because I just don’t know a lot about court case files research. But I learned and now feel I can use what Chuck shared to explore these records further.  The TSLA is in the process of indexing the Tennessee Supreme Court Case Files so he shared details about that project. If you’ve not yet had a chance to, go explore the index – they have about 30,000 cases in the database already.


A presentation on AncestryDNA was done by Anna Swayne. I did my first DNA test about 3 years ago with 23andMe, and only did my AncestryDNA test back in July. I’m just getting started exploring my matches, and it was inspiring to hear Anna describe not only how you navigate the system, but also personal stories on connections she’s made and success stories.  Amazingly, she shared that the number of people who have done the test has doubled since the beginning of the year, from 250,000 to 500,000. That is great news because the more people who take the test, the more opportunities there are for matches!  I look forward to Ancestry doing more development of their DNA testing features – they have 12 PhD’s working on the team so that’s encouraging.


Anna Sawyer shares a photo she received after connecting with a DNA match

After lunch, J. Mark Lowe did an AMAZING presentation about a story of a girl who swallowed a snake.  You can read about the story on the Rutherford County TNGenWeb site. Not only are the case details highly interesting, but Mark did the presentation in character; as Dr. William K. Bowling, a physician who was involved in the case and all the happenings around it. Mark was just great! But, he also left us with a cliffhanger – for which you will have to read his blog in October and November for the follow-up. I definitely encourage you to check it out! His blog is at  In the video clip below, here Mark describe “himself” in character as Dr. Bowling.


Then, Juliana Szucs Mitchell presented “Jumpstart Your Research” during which she gave a series of tips for how to search and general strategies to employ as you search in order to be more organized and focused. Juliana helps with the Ancestry Learning Center and also navigated us through parts of that site. Juliana particularly emphasized the need to search widely and be aware of all available resources; I of course very much agree! You can learn more about Juliana at


The day concluded with a panel for all of the presenters to answer questions from the audience.  This was nice because it gave us all an opportunity to hear their approaches for seeking information in specific circumstances. There were two personal favorite highlights of mine from this session.  One audience member asked about finding families in an adoption case, to which Anna Sawyer replied “So…there is this test you can take….”  Loved that because I’ve been interacting with a few people lately who have been adopted and are searching for their families. In each case, I always recommend DNA testing.  Then, one visitor asked about an ancestor who changed his name so was looking for help on where to search.  Would you believe that Mark Lowe had actually READ that pension file in which there were details about where this person had done the name change so Mark was able to tell the visitor which counties in KY to look further. Amazing!


Juliana Smith, Mark Lowe, Ancestry Gillespie Mitchell, Chuck Sherrill, and Anna Sawyer

Overall, the day was just wonderful. Thanks again to the event organizers and if you ever happen to have an event like this come anywhere near you, it is definitely worth going. Follow the #AncestryDay hashtag on Twitter for future news and announcements.


Calling All Volunteers


TN barnwood sign from SignNiche

Tennessee – the Volunteer State.  A perfect nickname indeed for our Tennessee home – especially when it comes to our efforts here at the TNGenWeb Project.  The information we have available throughout all of our county sites would not be possible without the help of our wonderful researchers and family historians who VOLUNTEER their time and efforts.  As you all locate tidbits of information for your own family research, we are in debt to all of you who so graciously share with us.

Over the next few months, we anticipate having more opportunities available to help the project if you can spare some free time.  We are particularly interested in help with indexing and transcribing various types of material. As we better organize the coordination of our volunteers, we invite you so sign up for our new TNGenWeb Volunteer Mailing List.  When you sign up for the list, you will receive periodic emails for projects on which we could use some help.  Whether you can volunteer 1 hour or many hours, we would very much welcome your partnership!

Thanks and we look forward to your help. Join our TNGenWeb Volunteer Mailing List today by clicking the button below! 







Clarksville Area Genealogy Discussion Group

Do you have research interests in and around the Montgomery County area? If so, you may be interested in knowing that there is a new genealogy discussion group forming.  The group will meet starting September 16th near the front entrance of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library.  They will  meet the 3rd Tuesday of each month. 

If interested, contact Hazel Singson or Brenda Harper at [email protected].

The Fun We Had at our TNGenWeb Meetup

It is amazing the energy that can come from a group of like-minded individuals getting together. I am proud to say that I experienced this first-hand yesterday at a meetup I organized for our TNGenWeb team. We gathered at the Tennessee State Library and Archives for a day of conversation and learning. I’ve been the State Coordinator for the project for a little over 3 years now and have very much enjoyed getting to know, via email, the fabulous team I collaborate with throughout the state – the more than 85 volunteers that work tirelessly to provide you with free resources for your family history research.  Earlier this summer, I thought it would be great if we could get together in person and a wonderful day we had!

Present yesterday were myself, Mike Boniol, Jim Daniel and his wife Jo, Ron Evans, Jim Long, Billie McNamara, and Betty Peacock. These coordinators represent multiple counties across the state.  We were also fortunate to have  new volunteer, Debbie Waddell, join us! Debbie does not maintain a county, but is eager to see how she can work with TNGenWeb to volunteer with some of our efforts.  So, what did we do? 

General Meeting – We started the day by sharing  our backgrounds with each other. Some of us have been in the project since the very beginning in 1996 (Billie & Mike), while others came on board later. Jim, our Hardeman County coordinator, was the coordinator there who has been with us the shortest time, but he’s definitely jumped right in! All of us have some very interesting projects in progress related to history and genealogy in our areas and it was interesting to hear about them – from work with local county archives departments, genealogy societies, and personal projects.  We also shared our goals and plans for further enhancing our county sites.


example TNGenWeb website use by platform

I then shared some information about the use of our TNGenWeb website and trends  am seeing in how our visitors use the site, including details about our social media engagement. Using Google Analytics, I took a look at our site use Friday night before the meeting and was surprised to see that 63% of our visitors were using phones or tablets. While I am quite aware that mobile use is increasing overall, this was still higher than I would have thought! Knowing these use details, we definitely want to be sure we are doing our best to make our sites work for you on those devices.  Our Facebook group is busy and active and we currently have more than 2,200 members.  Via the email newsletters we are able to set up on our WordPress sites, more than 1,400 people have signed up to get our new posts and information sent directly to their email inbox. Spectacular!

TSLA Overview – Then, Charles Nelson, Director of Legislative Services at TSLA, gave us an overview. Charles started off by sharing that the staff at TSLgordonandcharlesA use the TNGenWeb site often to help answer patron questions  – even as recently as last week.  He noted that over the years TSLA has seen an increase in the number of people who come in wanting to know about their family history and they do their absolute best to ensure everyone who comes through their doors has nothing but the most pleasant of experiences.  We also learned about some of the databases TSLA offers and all that is available on the TSLA website.  If you haven’t taken the time to really explore it, you definitely should.  The Research Collections page is an especially important starting point.  With their new Digital Workgroup, TSLA is also planning projects to increase their offerings online at at the Tennessee Virtual Archive. The TSLA Friends organization plays a large role in helping promote and fund various initiatives and we heard about some of the upcoming programming to be offered. You can see a list of those at the TSLA Friends website.  I personally had not been a member of TSLA friends, but I am now! 

Since Gordon Belt joined the TSLA staff as the Director of Public Services a few years ago, they have developed a strong social media presence – via blogging & Facebook and I’m always glad to see more organizations truly embracing those platforms for engaging with their users.   Gordon shared his background with us and how he came to join TSLA.  Even though he’d been a frequent TSLA user prior to becoming employed there, he shared that as he was interviewing he was still discovering personal treasures in the library collection, such as this postcard in the TeVa of the Center Hill Motel & Restaurant, an establishment grandfather ran and operated for many years.  Gordon then took us for a behind-the-scenes tour.

Behind-the-Scenes Tour – Many visitors to TSLA may not truly appreciate the great collection they offer. Most of us typically only see the 3rd floor which includes the reading rooms and the microfilm collections. However, the library has 8 floors and offera a myriad of services patrons and libraries around the state.  

In our tour Gordon shared many aspects of what goes on at TSLA.  We learned about processes involved in preserving the collection, visited the area where microfilm records are made – both masters and duplicates, learned about the vertical file collections, saw the Governors’ Papers collections, the services TSLA provides for the blind and handicapped, saw the tapes that capture the recordings of the Tennessee General Assembly, got an overview of the reading/microfilm rooms and more!


Gordon talks about preservation

group learns about legislative recordings


old school / new school contrast! Billie’s idea 🙂

After the tour we had lunch, talked about ideas for further collaboration, and talked about the use of the content management system WordPress for our county sites, and some researched on their own. Importantly, some of the ideas we discussed are to further aid in our mission to be the best provider of free information for your genealogical research and we look forward to acting on them to better serve you.  

We would like to sincerely thank the TSLA team for hosting us yesterday and making our day a most pleasant experience!  We may definitely do this again next year!

Taneya & Gordon


Tennessee Bodes Well in Recent NEH Awards



To all of you Tennessee history enthusiasts, you’ll be so pleased to hear the news of the funding received throughout the state from the National Endowment for Humanities. 

Yesterday, NEH announced the recipients of their recent funding cycle. Awards were made for 177 projects around the country and totaled $34 million dollars. 

In Tennessee, projects awarded include:

  • Chattanooga History Center — award provided to fund the implementation of a permanent, multimedia exhibit to tell the story of the history of Chattanooga, TN.  I would love to go see this when it’s completed!
  • TN Digital Newspaper Program – oh yes! Another 100,000 pages of historical newspapers from around the state will be added to the Chronicling America website (hosted by the Library of Congress).  You can check the current list available here, but be sure to follow the program website for updates! (Disclaimer: yours truly is a member of the Advisory Board for this initiative)
  • Blount County — the Blount County government will receive funds to better preserve their archival records.  Their records date back to the late 1700s and includes a wealth of information on the history and culture of eastern Tennessee. I am personally also glad to hear this news as I coordinate the Blount County TNGenWeb site. 

Congratulations to the award recipients. This is great news for the state and we are all looking forward to the great work that will happen as a result. 

You can learn more about all the funded projects by reading the news release on the NEH website

Morgan County – New Site Redesign

Do you have people you are researching in Morgan County? If so, we hope you’ll visit the Morgan County TNGenWeb page for the resources you need.  Especially since the site now has a new and updated look!

Your Morgan County Coordinator is Julie Cromwell and she’s been busy the last several weeks actively updating the site to make it easier to add new material, and to make it easier for you to keep up with the latest updates. 


Once on the site, browse the navigation menu across the top to look at “Records & Data,”  different “Research Aids,”  check out the extensive “Photo Album,” find resources for “Queries and Mailing Lists,” and see “What’s New.”  

You can sign up for the site’s RSS feed to see updates in your favorite feed reader, or you can also sign up to get site updates going directly to your email.  Just look on the right side for the “Get Updates by Email” section. 

We hope you like the new & refreshed site.  And, remember, if you have material to share – we’d love to know. Just contact Julie using the “Contact” link on the site. 


Goodbye Nancy, You Will Be Missed

ColeNancyTo all our TNGenWeb Project researchers & volunteers – we are saddened to share the news that Nancy Adams Cole, one of our former state coordinators, passed away June 13th, 2014.  Nancy gave her all to the TNGenWeb Project, helping many of our coordinators and many of you researching your own family histories.

We’ve posted a tribute page for her – please do read it to learn more about Nancy’s contributions over these past many years.

Preservation of African American Cemeteries Conference

This weekend, May 16-17th, is the 8th annual meeting for the Preservation of African American Cemeteries, Inc. (PAAC).   This group, based out of Little Rock, Arkansas, is dedicated to the preserving, restoring, and documenting of African American cemeteries.  They promote and provide services in research, documentation, stone cleaning, education, maintenance, restoration and more – all related to cemeteries where individuals of African-descent are interred.


This year’s meeting will be held on the campus of Rhodes College  in Memphis.  During the two-day weekend, a variety of speakers will give presentations ranging from legislative efforts to archaeological preservation in Tennessee.  Additionally, our very own TNGenWeb member, Jerry Butler, will present about the TNGenWeb Cemetery Database. We are so pleased that Jerry will have the opportunity to share what the TNGenWeb is doing to aid in efforts to provide and share transcriptions of cemeteries across the state.

If you’re not familiar with PAAC, now is a good time to visit their website at learn more about them!

We’re Good for Genealogy and More!

One of the great things I enjoy about being part of the USGenWeb Project is the many conversations I get to have with researchers around the country.  It is amazing to see to the extent of how the information all of our volunteers and county coordinators provide, is used for individual research.  From time to time, we like to share how others find value in our work. But guess what? Not only can the information be used for personal family history and research, but also more.   

On the TNGenWeb site is a Special Project section dedicated to information about the Revolutionary War, including information about the 1780 Battle of King’s Mountain. This information is a good source for those who may have had family members involved.  But what is interesting is that Peggy McLain has used some of the information and as contextual backdrop for her new book, Shadow Dogs

shadowdogsShadow Dogs is a historical novel. In the book, she tells the fictionalized story of John LeQuire and his father John LeQuire, her fourth and fifth great-grandfathers respectively. Young John, the central character, participates in the Battle of King’s Mountain, and for these experiences, Peggy drew from the information online with the TNGenWeb regarding the Battle. How cool!

“An unassuming hero, orphaned at the age of twelve, John is caught up in a web of lies and deceit..” is part of the back of the book description.  Sounds quite intriguing! If this sounds like the kind of story you’d be interested in, you may want to check it out. 


Thanks Peggy for your support of the TNGenWeb!