Adventures in Genealogy
Southern Footprints Magazine
Or "Rednecks, Southern Research and a New Tool"
by Uncle Hiram
Let's be honest with each other, the fact is, the South is different. We talk a little slower, we are a bit more laid back and thanks to General Grant and General Sherman our research is bit more difficult.
I ain't trying to badmouth the North or the West, but we do look at things a little different down here. I dont have any links to the Mayflower but I can (and do) with a great deal of pride. point to Randy Travis and Lee Ann Rhimes, both of whom are very distant cousins.
The names of our Heroes, Washington, Jefferson, (Stonewall) Jackson, (Robert E) Lee, Crocket, Bowie, Travis, (Bear) Bryant and Earnhardt are different from those of the North. New England was settled by the English and Dutch originally and research up there tends to flow in a certain direction. Down here in the South, although England was a major player, we also have the influnce of the Spanish in Texas and Florida. Not to mention the Cajuns of Louisiana trace their heritage to France. I aint trying to say Southerners are better than Yankees or Westeners, we are just different.
For those reasons and a lot more, we need research tools that are tailored to our needs. One of these tools is the new genealogical magazine "Southern Footprints".
So far I have received two copies of this magazine and they have been excellent. In the first issue they had articles by several excellent genealogists. Every month they have articles on the following subjects:
I feel the need to be completely honest and tell you they also publish one of my columns in every issue (at least so far). I feel honored that they choose to print the ramblings of a redneck amateur genealogist along side the serious and well thought words of the Professionals.
The following is an interview I recently conducted with Clarise Soper the Editor of Southern Footprints Magazine.
- How long have you been doing Genealogy?
I don’t remember a time when I was not interested in genealogy and history. I began educating myself as a teenager in the 70's on the subject and conducting family research. This was difficult because there were no genealogical societies where I grew up and genealogical how-to books were not prolific at that time. Additionally, most genealogies that were available were for ‘pedigreed’ families, from which I knew I did not descend from.
- When did you start Hosting and Why?
Southern Footprints Magazine’s premier was the January/April issue. There is no other magazine that publishes solely for our region. Our needs and our available resources are different from other parts of the United States and very little is written on southern genealogy in the national publications.
Queries are vital for our region due to the lack of records in certain areas and the migration trails that run throughout the South. Connecting with other researchers through the use of queries has become very difficult. Only one national publication will accept them and then you pay by the word, regardless of whether you are a subscriber. As long as you are a subscriber to Southern Footprints, all queries are free.
Many people are using the Internet to conduct genealogical research. However, many researchers with 30 years of research or more at their fingertips will never be on the Internet. Our goal is to unite all southern researchers with a home.
- What got you started on Genealogy?
I remember as a child quizzing my "Nanny" (paternal grandmother Stella St. Car Fleck) about her life and her parents. She was very vague, yet my "Maw" (immigrant maternal grandmother Bridget Conlin Dougan) was full of wonderful stories (leprechauns and coal mines), songs and jigs! I believe the contrast between my two grandmothers lives and personalities helped to spur my interest.
- Do you ever feel like there is no end to this?
Yes, because technically there is no end! Each of us has thousands of ancestors to research and, some of us, descendants to educate, so therefore you can do genealogy for a lifetime. When you find one new piece of information, it opens up new avenues of research and it blossoms from there. I truly believe that I will not accomplish all the research possibilities (on my personal lines) in my lifetime.
- Where do you get most of your motivation to do this?
This question has two answers, from unanswered questions in my research and from other people asking for assistance.
I hate not knowing the answer to a genealogical question! Unanswered questions have been known to keep me awake at night. So in some cases, my motivation is a good night’s sleep!
By nature, I’m "a people person" like most genealogists. This is a trait most genealogists have. Without this trait, your motivation level would eventually dwindle and you would stop ‘doing’ genealogy. I like teaching people about genealogy - I love it when they call, write or email me after I have spoken at a seminar or meeting. They tell me that I have motivated them, how much they enjoyed learning about genealogy, or have followed my advice and found the answer they were seeking. This motivates me!
- What is the strangest Question you have been asked?
A woman contacted me regarding contracting my services to help conduct her personal research. Within three minutes of the conversation she stated that she ‘knew’ she was of Jewish descent and related to Jesus Christ and asked me to help prove it.
- Does your Family support the amount of time you put into this?
Yes, very much so. Even though they do not conduct research themselves, they like learning about the more interesting aspects of the family history. They also read (and proof) my column for the Hattiesburg American (newspaper) and Southern Footprints Magazine. They assist with making copies and running errands in connection with classes or seminars.
For fun, we have ‘G & G’ weekends at our home - he plays golf and I do genealogy .
- How would you define your job?
In some ways, I am like a dispatching layout artist. I gather/receive information, rearrange it and distribute it. I love reading about history and family histories, not just my own. My job is fun and interesting!
- How has the computer changed your research?
Let’s face it. The computer has changed the world, not just genealogy. However, it has not changed my methodology of conducting research. I still hunt for clues, whether in old newspapers or online databases; I still try to get to the original primary source of the information. I still weigh and evaluate all the evidence.
It has made my genealogy neater, and no one has to try to read my writing! It has also speeded up my access to certain information, such as manifest records that I needed from Ellis Island and the ability to order birth and death records online from certain county clerks. Unfortunately, the computer and the internet has also speeded up the progress of inaccurate information being disseminated and this has affected my personal research.
- Do you regret getting involved to the degree you have?
No, the only regret I have is not having more time to get more involved.
- How many (If Any) conventions do you attend a year?
I attend every convention (Local/State/National) that I can. I did not attend last year’s national conference due to a speaking engagement. This year, we are awaiting the arrival of our newest granddaughter, and I wouldn’t miss this "genealogical event" for anything in the world! I really like the National Genealogical Society's Regional Conferences, I attended the one in New Orleans last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.
- How do you feel the purchase of Rootsweb by Ancestry.Com will affect it and "Free Genealogy"?
I think some people will be less likely to enter information into Rootsweb for fear that it will be moved to the Ancestry web site, or there will be a charge in the future. However, I don’t think this is a mass opinion, and I doubt little will change with regards to Rootsweb.
Remember, that a lot of people use both Rootsweb and Ancestry. If they were to change their current position in keeping Rootsweb free, this would have an impact on paid subscribers to Ancestry. It would not be in their best financial interest to change their policy. It would be like ‘biting the hand that feeds them’, so to speak.
- Which Genealogy Program do you use most often for your personal research?
I use Family Tree Maker. I have tried the other programs, but I don’t find them as "user friendly," nor can you manipulate the information as easily.
- Do you think There should be a twelve step program for genealogy like AA _____ Would you be interested in one.
Yes, for people you want to quit, however, I don’t think you will find many to join. Many people, like myself, will admit to being addicted to genealogy - however wanting to be cured is a different matter!
- What do you see as the future availability of records online ____ Paid Vs Free?
I think both will grow and each has their own place. The free sites are wonderful places where people share their information and you can find some documented family histories. There are also web sites where volunteers are transcribing old newspapers, ship lists, obits, etc. and making them available online. The paid sites offer other types of information such as images of census records, military databases and records, and county histories at a much quicker pace - and this takes money. People are willing to pay for instant access to information versus going to the library and viewing it on microfilm or ordering it because it is not available locally. I believe it is a win-win situation for the researcher.
- Do you wish there was or do you know of a Genealogical Herb, besides Beef Jerky?
Although, Beef Jerky is good, I have another "genealogical herb" that I use daily. It’s coffee - it adds an hour or two to my day !
- What do you think is the single most helpful thing you have done for the Amateur Genealogist?
I am not sure I can answer this question, but I can only hope that the most helpful thing I have done (and continue to do) for the amateur genealogist is to education them on the field itself. It is through learning all aspects of conducting sound genealogical research that they will find the answers to their family’s past. I have had some people tell me "Why do I need to document my sources? I am not going to publish, I am only doing this for my family - it doesn’t need to be that good." My reply to them is "Doesn’t your family deserve the best?" "How do you know where to look for records, if you don’t know where you’ve been?" "What will a descendant think (of you) 100 years from now of the work you’ve done?" "How will you weigh conflicting evidence if you don’t know where you got all the information in the first place?"
Second, I hope that by publishing Southern Footprints Magazine I can help connect the hobbyist with the seasoned researcher and unite the internet user with the non-internet user, to assist them in expanding their personal research.
- Do you ever feel like just walking away?
No, never (I realize this is a double negative, but I cannot help myself!).
- Is it difficult to keep up such a large web site?
It was time consuming to set up the web site mainly on Loreen Baker’s part. She designed the site and has done a wonderful job! It is my job to give her the information to put on the site, which will be updated shortly.
- How big is your staff?
We total six, not including all the wonderful contributing editors like you.
If any of your roots have a Southern flavor to them I strongly recommend this magazine. You can get all the particulars at www.southernfootprints.com
- Adios and Keep Smiling!
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About the Author
"I am not rich or famous so I don't have a pre-prepared Bio written by some high paid ghost rider. So I will just give Yall the relevant facts."
- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)
Memorial Day 2001
Native American Chat