By Dorris Douglass, Special Collections Librarian
I will be retiring Oct. 31st and it has been a wonderful 16 & 3/4 years. Upon my announcement of my retirement, the blog master asked if I would be willing to share some of my most rewarding experiences here at the library.
The first was in 2002. I had a family call me on a Saturday morning. They had an uncle who had died in California and could be buried for free in the Military Cemetery at Pegram, Tennessee, if it could be proven he was born in Tennessee. But he had no birth certificate, though he was born in 1929. My immediate reply was “Oh you need this in a hurry!” I took their phone number and said I would do my best. The 1930 census had just come out and the library had had the microfilm about two weeks. This was before any census records were on the Internet, or indexed. Before closing time, I did find him on the census which showed he was a year old and “born in Tennessee.” I printed it off, stamped it with the Williamson County Public Library hand stamp to make it look very official, signed my name and dated it. They came and picked it up and got their uncle buried back home in Tennessee.
My second most rewarding experience was via a phone call from Indiana. This was before the day of constant e-mail. A young man wanted to find for his uncle, the uncle’s sister whom the family had lost contact with fifty years ago. The woman had divorced and remarried but they did not know her married name. All they could give me was the name of her first husband. The last information they had was that she was then living in Franklin, Tennessee. I found a fairly recent obituary for her first husband, and whoever compiled the obituary was very thorough, not only giving the name of the former wife of fifty years ago, but the first name of her second husband. I picked up the phone book and there he was. I called the young man and said “Here is her phone.” They later called me and told me about the big family reunion they were having.
The next two experiences were not near so dramatic but rewarding just the same. Some library patron found a glossy black and white photograph of a young girl dated 1950, stuck in a library book that had not been checked out in 6 years. There was a name on the back of the picture but that was all. I found where the girl had married in Marshal County, Tennessee in 1954. Now knowing her married name, I checked our library card holders and sure enough she had a Williamson County Library card. We were able to get the picture back to where it belonged.
My last rewarding experience was just a couple of weeks ago. We had a patron come in with one question and leave with the answer to another that she had not dreamed was even possible of knowing. She was a big talker and happened to mention she wanted to get her father’s World War II medals. She had been to Veterans Affairs in Nashville and they had told her they could do nothing without his social security number, as his name was W.C. Brown and there would be a million veterans by that name. When she said that, I said “Oh I can get his social security number.” She had no idea the retired Social Security numbers are on Ancestry.com. As she knew his birth date and that he died in Franklin, (that is the last benefit was sent to Franklin) we could pick out which W. C. Brown was his social security number. And she left thrilled that she could go get her father’s World War II medals.
By Dorris Douglass, Special Collections Librarian
Yes the Special Collections Department does actually have some “locked doors,” but we the staff bring out the material for you, our patrons, to look at “ to your heart’s content.” One set of locked doors are the glass front cabinets in the Williamson Room where we have our Civil War collection of pre-1900 books about the Civil War and by the participants themselves.
Another locked door is our Manuscript Room where we house the Whitley Collection and other collections. Edythe Rucker Whitley (1900-1989) was a professional genealogist in Nashville from 1919 to the early 1970’s. She kept personal carbon copies of the research she did for various clients over a period of more than five decades. She also kept contemporary newspaper clippings of obituaries and articles on World War II soldiers. Helen Sawyer Potts later purchased this vast collection and donated it to the Williamson County Public Library in 1983. The collection consist of 538 acid free boxes containing three note books each .
To find out if your last name is mentioned in the Whitley Collection go to the Library Web page and type your name into the catalog search box in the upper right hand corner of the web page. The Whitley Collection is usually the last entry to come up, if the name is there.
For example, if you type in Mangrum (a good old Williamson County name) entry number 5 will say “Edythe Rucker Whitley Collection: Box 227.” Try typing in your last name, or as we genealogist call it “surname,” and come to Special Collections. And if you are under 50 years old, you will also learn what a carbon copy was before the days of Xrox and photo copiers.
By Jason Gavin, Special Collections Librarian
DNA testing offers the modern genealogist an important and powerful tool that can provide unique information never available to previous generations of genealogists. In fact, there are so many companies offering DNA tests on today’s market, it can be somewhat daunting to know where to begin. In short, the answer to the question – “what kind of DNA test should I take?” can be answered by asking, “What kind of information are you hoping to get?” Below I’ll review some of the different types of genealogical DNA tests out there, and explain some of the pros and cons of each.
This test examines DNA found on the Y-chromosome. The Y-chromosome is one of the sex chromosomes that determine the gender of humans. Women of have an “XX” set of sex chromosomes while Men have an “XY” combination. Consequently, one drawback of the Y DNA test is that only males can take it, and it only traces a direct paternal line. It will give you information on your father’s father’s father, and so on, but no information about any females in your line, as the Y chromosome is only inherited by males. This means a Y DNA test can be especially useful for tracing surname history and origins, as surnames are also usually inherited along a direct paternal line.
Two males descended from the same male ancestor will have inherited the same DNA marker. That means that if you or a male relative and another person have the same marker 40 generations back, this test will let you know. One interesting consequent of this is what’s called the “Genghis effect”. In researching DNA dispersal through populations, it was discovered that a large proportion of the male population in Central Asia and beyond carry the same particular Y- DNA marker, meaning, they are all descended from the same single male. Further research concluded this was probably Genghis Khan, who conquered much of Asia and whose sons (who continued ruling in various parts of the continent) would have continued passing on this marker.
In addition, Y-DNA tests can provide “deep genealogical” information. Humans began migrating out of Africa beginning as early as 60,000 years ago, but they did so in waves. Often, there would be a wave of migrations to somewhere out of Africa – say the central Asia for example – and that wave would stay put for thousands of years, before a sub group would split of and travel to another area. These waves left their DNA markers in the places they traveled and settled. These markers can thus be divided into one of a number of identifiable “haplogroups”, the migrations of which can be traced by examining what percentage of a population carries a particular DNA marker.
Y-DNA PROS: Can help trace family surname
Can provide matches with other males that have the same marker, this might help solve “brick walls”, or place your father’s line at a specific place and time.
Can provide “deep” genealogical haplogroup information
CONS: Only traces direct paternal decent.
Can only be taken by males.
– Familytree DNA offers a variety of Y-DNA tests that vary in price depending on how many markers are to be tested, and will provide member matches and surname work groups as well.
– The Nation Geographic Genographic 2.0 DNA test is more expensive, but will trace the Y-DNA line as well as the Mt and autosomal tests. However, it is focused on providing haplogroup information more than more recent genealogical data.
This kind of DNA test examines mitochondrial DNA. This DNA is only inherited from your mother. Thus this test will only provide information about you direct maternal line – your Mother’s mother, and on back. Unlike the gender exclusive Y-DNA test, however, this test can be taken by both males and females. This test is useful in providing haplogroup information, but provides the maternal haplogroup rather than the paternal. Since mitochondrial DNA is always inherited directly from the mother’s line unchanged, population geneticists can trace concentrations of particular DNA markers around the globe and extrapolate migration patterns from that. Both Family Tree DNA and the Genographic project also trace Mt DNA.
Mt-DNA PROS: Can provide matches with other females that have the same marker.
Can provide “deep” genealogical haplogroup information
CONS: Only traces direct maternal decent.
Autosomal DNA tests
These are the types of DNA tests offered by popular genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe. The big advantage of this type of test, is that it traces both the father’s and the mother’s line. The drawback is that it is only accurate to a limited number of generations. You’ll get no haplogroup information here, but companies such as Ancestry do provide an “ethnicity estimate”. By comparing your DNA markers against a sample collection from various populations around the globe, a rough estimate can be made. They can, in effect, tell you “your DNA looks like its 20% Irish, 40% German, and 20% Russian” for example. Of course, this information can only be compared from comparatively recent generations, and is not the same as tracing one’s haplogroup back thousands of years. In addition, details about the sample population against which your DNA is being compared is generally proprietary, so we don’t know how many people were sampled, or from what exact area. Another big advantage of using companies like Ancestry.com, is that your much more likely to find a match between your DNA and another Ancestry.com user, since so many people use this popular site.
PROS: Traces both paternal and maternal lineage
More useful for more recent genealogy. Primarily 6 – 8 generations back.
Popular companies like Ancestry.com and 23&Me can provide a large number users against which to compare your DNA.
In general, these tests tend to be a bit less expensive
CONS: Lacks any “deep” genealogical component – does not provide haplogroup information
Usefulness is largely determined by how many other users of this service have similar DNA to yours – thus there is no way to know how useful the test will be before you’ve taken it.
Some accessible introductions to using DNA to trace populations available at your library:
Brian Sykes: Seven Daughters of Eve
Saxons, Viking, and Celts
Spencer Wells: Deep Ancestry
The Journey of Man
by Jason Gavin, Special Collections Librarian
The annual American Library Association’s Preservation Week is fast approaching! This year it is April 27th to May 3rd, and it’s a great time to pick up some great tips and tricks to preserve your family treasures! Hop over to the preservation week website to print out a free bookmark with great general preservation tips, or check here for preservation tips for specific materials – books, paper, photographs, electronic media, comic books, textiles, as well as general care tips for a collection or how to make a time capsul. Library of Congress also has some great tips for saving your stuff here!