RootsTech 2019 Recap

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It’s hard to believe that RootsTech 2019 was 3 weeks ago! I came back from an absolutely wonderful week to a pretty big assignment for the ProGen course I’m taking and have been working on that all month. It’s finally submitted now and time to do a short recap of what was a busy, fun, exhausting, but inspiring week!

This was my fifth RootsTech and the fourth that my friend Kandace and I have been at together. We meet in Salt Lake City each February to indulge in our love for genealogy and to catch up on each others’ lives. The theme for this year of Connect.Belong. seemed to fit so well with a friendship that’s been going strong for over 18 years now!

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This year was my first as a RootsTech Ambassador and it was fantastic! Besides promoting RootsTech on all of our social media platforms, each ambassador was given a free registration to give away and my competition was won by John. John came all the way from The Netherlands to attend RootsTech! It was great to meet him in person.

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John and I in front of the Family History Library

What fun to be part of this amazing group of RootsTech ambassadors!

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Just a couple of the wonderful genealogists I got to meet in person!

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RootsTech always comes through with interesting classes and inspiring, energetic keynote sessions. No exception this year! The keynote sessions are available to watch at RootsTech.org. So if you weren’t able to attend RootsTech 2019, or just want to watch them again, head over and relive the magic!

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I was interviewed by RootsTech and given a few minutes to gush about why I love it so much and what keeps me coming back. A fun but kind of nerve wracking experience!

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What a great experience this year’s RootsTech was! And now RootsTech is headed to London! I got the news while at RootsTech that I am one of the official RootsTech London Ambassadors which is really exciting! I’m so happy that friends and family in the U.K. will be able to experience the magic that is RootsTech! Early bird pricing is happening now for RootsTech London!

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2020 will be RootsTech’s 10th anniversary year! Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can’t attend RootsTech in person? The Virtual Pass may be the perfect solution

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RootsTech is truly listening to its fans and finding options for those who aren’t able to make it to the conference in person. This past week the brand new RootsTech Virtual Pass was announced! It provides access to 18 online recorded sessions from the conference, allowing you to watch from the comfort of your home.  What could be better than learning something new…in your pajamas!

The RootsTech free live streaming sessions will also be available to those not headed to the conference. This includes the general sessions featuring keynote speakers such as Patricia Heaton, Saroo Brierley and Jake Shimabukuro. These sessions will be streamed live starting on Wednesday, February 27, at 9:30 a.m. MST from the RootsTech.org home page.

For those who have attended RootsTech before, we know that it is almost impossible to get to every event or session that you want to see. There are just so many great classes to learn from! That’s where the Virtual Pass comes in. You can add the pass to your existing registration and that way, add more content.

The Virtual Pass, and the free live streamed sessions are a win-win for those unable to attend RootsTech in person, and for those attending but who would like access to more content.

important-98442_1280Quick tip: Did you know that you can access the recorded content from past RootsTech conferences (2015-2018)? What a great way to get a taste of RootsTech for those attending for the first time in 2019! Or just to relive what have been some truly memorable sessions and classes!

 

 

Let’s Call him James or maybe … James?

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My father is James Thomas

My grandfather is James Thomas

My great grandfather is James Thomas

My great great grandfather is William Thomas

My great great great grandfather is James Thomas

My great great great great grandfather is John Thomas

My great great great great great grandfather is James Thomas

With the exception of William born in 1834 and John born in 1769 there has been a James Thomas in every generation of my direct line since 1731.  And if we look at all the children of my direct line ancestors, there has been a James Thomas in EVERY generation since 1731.

They did live in different places so that should make it easier to distinguish them, right?

My father is James Thomas, b. 1935 in County Durham

My grandfather is James Thomas, b. 1894 in County Durham

My great grandfather is James Thomas, b. 1864 in County Durham

My great great grandfather is William Thomas, b. 1834 in Cornwall

My great great great grandfather is James Thomas, b. 1808 in Cornwall

My great great great great grandfather is John Thomas, b. 1769 in Cornwall

My great great great great great grandfather is James Thomas, b. 1731 in Cornwall

Not so much.

They had different occupations by which to distinguish one James from another…

With the exception of my father and grandfather, all were coal miners.

That didn’t help.

And Thomas is a rare surname in Cornwall, right?

An article from Who Do You Think You Are? magazine cites a study commissioned by the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site (CMWHS) and done by genealogist Stephen Colwill into the spread of Cornish surnames around the UK.1 Stephen Colwill concluded that, “The three most common Cornish surnames are Williams, Richards and Thomas.”

It’s certainly an interesting experience researching my Thomas roots in Cornwall and County Durham. I have to admit I kind of love that there is a James Thomas in every generation. And I am not one to buck tradition. So I named one of my sons…James.

 

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 25 prompt: Same Name.

 

 


  1. Rosemary Collins, Who Do You Think You Are? (http://www.whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/news/your-surname-cornish : accessed 23 June 2018), “Is Your Surname Cornish?” 

Tax Records: An often overlooked source

Tax records are a valuable but often overlooked source:

  • They can help to fill in the decade between census enumerations and before the first federal census of 1790.
  • In burned counties tax records are often the only information you may find on your ancestor.
  • Tax records sometimes contain specific residence information, giving an exact physical location of an ancestor at a specific time.
  • Tax records can point to an ancestor’s occupation, give descriptions of land and animals owned and of personal property.

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A few interesting taxable items:

  • If you owned a billiard table or a silver plate or cutlery, a carriage or wagons, you owed the government some tax. If you manufactured boots and shoes, bonnets, collars or sold miscellaneous clothing, you had to pay a tax on those too.
  • In 1862 in Michigan, Albert B. Judd was taxed on 8 coffins. I sure hope he was an undertaker or perhaps a manufacturer of coffins because I can’t imagine any other reason someone would have 8 coffins lying around.
  • John G. Burnell of Trenton, New Jersey was taxed in 1862 on his 1316 lbs. of ground coffee and spices. He had to pay individual taxes on cinnamon, pepper, mustard, cloves, allspice, and ginger.

An example of an 1862 tax record from New York:

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Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for New York and New Jersey, 1862-1866, unpaginated entries arranged alphabetically; images, “Records of the Internal Revenue Service, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed April 12, 2018), Record Group 58, citing the National Archives at Washington, D.C.

Tax records are worth the effort to track down as they can add rich detail to your ancestor’s life.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 15 prompt: Taxes

One of The Second World War’s Best Kept Secrets

The headlines rang out with the news:  “Queen Mary Cut Cruiser in Two. Disaster that was Kept Secret.”(Dundee Courier) and “Queen Mary Sank a British Cruiser.  Disaster While Evading U-Boat” (Daily Record).  It was Friday 18 May 1945.  Joseph and Mary Thomas had been wondering for 3 years exactly how and where their youngest child, Stanley Mather Thomas had died.  They had received the news in 1942 that their 22-year-old son was missing ‘at sea’ presumed dead. The story of what happened to Joseph and the other 338 British sailors who died in October 1942 was one of World War Two’s best kept secrets.

Stanley Mather Thomas was born on June 1, 1920 in New Silksworth, Sunderland, County Durham.  He was the youngest of four children born to Joseph and Mary (Mather) Thomas.  Stanley joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Force, a reserve force of the Navy called…

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‘Where there’s a (contested) will …Thomas Lantry of St. Lawrence Co., New York

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Well known as one of the first settlers in Massena, St. Lawrence county, New York, Thomas Lantry died at the age of 98 in August 1887. 1 He left an estate of some $35 000.00, equivalent to approximately $890 000.00 today.

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The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, October 13, 1887.

For the thirty years previous to Thomas’ death, he had been living with his son, Joshua Lantry and family. Thomas’ wife, Jane, died before 1880 and the rest of their children, all married, lived in their own homes. In 1872, at age 78, Thomas Lantry asked his nephew, Barnaby Lantry, to help draw up his will. Thomas Lantry left $500 dollars to each of his children and the bulk of the estate went to third oldest son, Joshua Lantry.

In May 1887, Joshua Lantry died suddenly of heart disease. 2 This meant his widow, Catherine and their children, would now inherit what Thomas Lantry had originally left to Joshua. Immediately, the other children of Thomas Lantry began to contest the will. They contended that the will was not properly executed, was not signed in the presence of the witnesses and declared the signature on the will to not be that of their father, Thomas. They also argued that the will was not properly published and that their father did not actually declare this his last will and testament. The contention to the will garnered a lot of attention from the county where almost all knew Thomas Lantry.

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The Sun, Fort Covington, New York, April 5, 1888.

Several newspaper articles were written, most favoring Joshua Lantry’s widow as the legal heir. Their sympathies lay with the family who had taken care of Thomas Lantry and his wife for over thirty years. Several hearings were held and the case finally argued in Norwood, St. Lawrence county in April 1888. The judge declared that the will was a valid document and that the principal property would go to the widow and heirs of Joshua Lantry.

Thomas Lantry was a well-respected and prominent citizen of St. Lawrence county, New York. Previously a shoemaker in Ireland, he had left there in his early 30s with his wife and two small sons. He arrived in St. Lawrence county around 1823. He managed to buy land in Massena and farmed there all his life. He became a wealthy man through hard work and determination. The Lantry family was well-regarded by all who knew them. It is hard to imagine that Thomas would have been happy with the contention surrounding his will.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 9 prompt: Where there’s a will …

 

 


  1. “Death of Thos. Lantry,” The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, St. Lawrence, New York, 13 October 1887, p. 5, col. 5. 
  2. No heading, The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, St. Lawrence, New York, 26 May 1887, p. 1, col. 6., Vol. XXII, No. 21. 

Family Heirloom: The Thomas family bible.

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The Thomas family bible.

The family bible is one of the most precious heirlooms a genealogist can have. A few years ago, my father was visiting his brother in England, and the subject of the family bible came up. My uncle was kind enough to pass the bible on to me, knowing of my passion for genealogy.  It is a beautiful, large, and heavy bible, about 14 inches x 10 inches and almost 5 inches wide.

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Our biggest hurdle was getting the bible from England to the U.S. where I lived. I did not want to send it via the mail.  Fortunately, my father was staying at a guest house with a couple from the U.S. who had brought their daughter over to York to begin university. These strangers very kindly offered to bring the bible back with them to the U.S. and send it on to me.

The bible is titled, ‘Brown’s Self Interpreting Bible’ and the cover is embossed leather with metal on each edge and beautifully engraved metal clasps (one of which is missing). The Self Interpreting Bible was Rev. John Brown’s (1722-1787) most successful work. It contained the scriptures with marginal references and explanations for the ordinary person.

The inside of the bible contains beautiful pictures of various bible scenes, in vivid color.

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Scriptural scenes inside the bible.

In the middle of the bible are the pages that every genealogist hopes to see. Those that contain handwritten names and dates of birth, marriage and death. I can see from the handwriting that most of the names and dates were written by one person at one time, not at the time of each event. And the names are of only one family, the James Thomas and Margaret Bruce family. They are my great grandparents, who lived in County Durham, England. 1

James Thomas was born in 18622 in Medomsley, Durham, and Margaret Bruce was born in 18663 in Sherburn, Durham. They married in 1888 at Bethany Church 4, a Christian Lay Church in Sunderland, Durham.

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Thomas family bible with the names of my great grandparents, James and Margaret Thomas.

James and Margaret Thomas went on to have six children with only two surviving infancy. Those names are written in their bible. How sad it must have been to write down the death dates of their precious little ones.

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Dates of birth and death for James and Margaret Thomas’ six children.

The Thomas family bible is a valuable resource but it is more than that. To me it is the precious feeling of being able to hold in my hands something that I know my great grandparents once treasured.

 

 


  1. Thomas Family Bible, The Holy Bible (Newcastle Upon Tyne: Adam & Co. Lmt), “Births, Deaths”; privately held by Sue McNelly, [address for private use,] Arizona, 2010. 
  2. England, birth certificate for James Thomas, born 29 January 1862; registered March quarter 1862, Durham District 10a/265, Lanchester Sub-district, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. 
  3. England, birth certificate for Margaret Bruce, born 4 May 1866; registered June quarter 1866, Durham District 10a/365, Saint Nicholas Sub-district, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. 
  4. England, marriage certificate for James Thomas and Margaret Bruce, married 3 March 1888, registered March quarter 1888, Sunderland District 10a/715, Bethany Church, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport.