Tag Archives: Southern roots

Georgia Archives to Remain Open…For Now

Imagine having no state archives open to the public for research.  What a sad day in the genealogy world!  That is what the people of Georgia were facing until recently….and may face again in 2013.  The office of Georgia’s governor, Nathan Kemp, announced last month that the Georgia State Archives in Morrow, GA will remain open for the remainder of the budgetary year that ends on June 30, 2013.  It will keep its current hours, which are already limited to just Fridays and Saturdays.  On July 1, the archives will be transferred to the University System of Georgia.  What then?  Will it be by appointment only?

Think of all the valuable materials to be relocated and the care which must be taken in this situation.  What if the documents that prove your ancestor ever existed on Georgia soil are not available to you because of budget cuts?  Hopefully, it will not be a worst-case scenario.  The press release from the governor’s office did indicate that the transfer provides for the appropriation of funds for operation and staffing; however, just the thought of losing access to the archives makes many genealogists and other researchers very nervous.  If it can happen in Georgia, it can happen elsewhere.

If you live in a place in which your state archives and other repositories are open several days a week with no plans to close anytime soon, consider yourself fortunate.


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1940 Census: Southern States Added

The 1940 U.S. Federal Census is still in the process of being indexed; however, many states have been completed and their searchable indexes are available online.  This includes the following southern states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

While all states are online, the indexes are an invaluable time-and-sanity saver.  One free source is  As of 12 July 2012, the following states are indexed:


Just when you think you know everything about your immediate family, the 1940 census can yield some interesting surprises.  Some of the information includes:

  • the family’s residence in 1935, their address (name of street and house number)
  • employment information for persons age 14 and older, income earned in 1939 and number weeks employed full-time in 1939
  • whether the home was on a farm or not
  • value of home and whether it was rented or owned
  • race
  • those absent from household denoted with “Ab”

The 1940 census also asked supplementary questions to provide a random sample of about 5 percent of the population. These were usually, but not always, asked of people enumerated on lines 14 and 29.  Some of those questions included:

•birthplace of mother and father

•native language

•veteran status (including widow or minor child of a veteran)

•Social Security details

•occupation, industry, and class of worker

•marriage information for women (married more than once, age at first marriage, number of children

If the state you need is not indexed yet, don’t despair.  There are ways to find the enumeration district if you know some basic information about the family’s location.  Then, it is a matter of scrolling through the pages to find your family.  This is easier to do in a small town rather than a large city, but it can be done.  Or, you can wait for the index to be completed.

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Posted by on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 in Online Resources


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Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville, Alabama

Maple Hill Cemetery is a wonderful place full of history, large trees, poignant stories, and colorful characters.  Established in 1822, it is the oldest and largest cemetery in Huntsville, Alabama.  If you have ancestors in that area, chances are they may be buried at Maple Hill.

Maple Hill Cemetery in October 1982

To search the online database of over 21, 000 names, go to the City of Huntsville’s website:

You can also try

I have frequented Maple Hill Cemetery and am more than willing to take photographs or do research on the families interred there.  You can inquire about this service by selecting the “Contact Me” tab and sending me an email.  I would love to have an excuse to wander through this historic landmark!


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Huntsville Depot

This photo of the Huntsville [Alabama] Depot, entitled,”Captured by Union Forces,” was published about 1962 in a local newspaper.  The caption under the photo says, “Huntsville’s railway depot, site of the capture of locomotives and railway cars by Federal troops 100 years ago, still stands.  Forces under Union Gen. Ormsby M. Miller cut the strategic Memphis and Charleston Railroad at Huntsville Friday, April 11, 1862.”

My mother intended to mail this clipping to my grandmother in Minnesota because she sometimes visited Alabama by train, and our family picked her up at this depot on those much-awaited visits.  Built in the 1850s by the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, the Huntsville Depot not only served the public with passenger train service, but also served as the company’s corporate offices for its eastern division.  It boasted a large and lavish lobby that was used as a waiting area for passenger train travel.

The depot opened in 1860 shortly before the Civil War began.  During the 1862 capture, the Union soldiers not only took control of a very strategic point on the rail line, but they also detained Confederates as prisoners and kept them on the third floor.  One of the most fascinating scenes inside the depot today is the wall of graffiti left by those Confederate prisoners!

The U.S. government returned the depot to the Memphis & Charleston Railroad in disrepair after the Civil War, but the company was able to eventually resume its passenger service after a period of rebuilding.  Many greetings and goodbyes took place here over the years.  Passenger service at the Huntsville Depot ended in 1968.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 2002.  The depot now serves as a transportation museum and a symbol of Huntsville’s historic growth from a small cotton town to a center of space technology.

Huntsville Depot in 2010


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Digging Up the Past

While weeding in the mulched beds in the semi-cool of the day, I came across a particularly insidious patch of Bermuda creeping into the neat row of shrubs.  I noticed that by pulling at the farthest ends where the Bermuda had not entrenched itself too deeply into the soil just yet, I was able to pull from there to get to the next knot of vine-like shoots.  Knowing that I may never get all those roots fully sorted out but continuing to work from the ends back to the thickest part in a systematic way, I loosened the dirt at each junction to get to the next.

Researching your genealogy works much the same way.  By starting at the newest end, yourself, and working your way backwards bit by bit to the knottier roots, you can dig in and unravel parts at a time.  Sometimes it goes quickly, when one end loosens and new clues lead in quick succession to the next.  At other times it seems as though you are never going to get to the root of it all, but you keep trying.  When one knot seems particularly hard to unravel, go to another point and systematically work your way back to the cluster.  Just as it is with weeding the garden, you find another loose end in your family history and work backwards or sideways until the weeds give way.  If you dive into the knottiest end of the weeds first, digging them up by the roots seems impossible.  In the outdoor garden, it’s true that if you do not dig up the weeds by their roots, the weeds will grow back, but resist the temptation to start there when working through your family’s past.  Grab hold of the ends and let them lead you where you need to go.

Are you ready to know what will be uncovered in your family garden?  It can get messy!  The legends you’ve heard may be just that–legends only.  The truth will reveal itself in the documents.  Be respectful of your great-aunt’s fading memories but quietly question everything you hear.  Get the documention to back up or refute those claims you’ve heard time and again.  Maybe you’ve been told your family came from Ireland during the potato famine, or that your family descends from some famous person in the history books.  Really?  How do you know?  Let the family stories guide you but not blind you to the truths about your ancestral past.

Be ready to accept what you find because there will be surprises along the way.  Some of those surprises can be found in the lives of your parents and grandparents.  You thought you knew everything, but a closer look lets you know you missed the obvious clues.  Just as with pulling those nasty weeds from the mulch, you will reveal some dirt but also the beautiful plants that grew from those roots.  How did they survive the heat of their lives, the dry spells, the cold?  As you dig, one thing leads to another.  You may never unravel it all, but there is satisfaction in the digging and ultimately finding the roots of your being.

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Posted by on Monday, June 25, 2012 in Genealogy


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