Diggin’ Up Graves – Favorite Posts of 2014 and 2015
I began this blog as a response to Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, which began on 1 January 2014. The name, “Diggin’ Up Graves,” is courtesy of my former spouse who, when I would be online researching genealogy, would ask me if I was “diggin’ up graves” again.
Having this blog has been an amazing experience. Although I have in no way written on one ancestor per week, I have written and learned about more ancestors since I began. I’ve become a better researcher and a better writer. Amy ended the Challenge two years later, on 31 December 2015, but I have kept this blog going and even began a second one for families with variations of the name Coon for the purpose of moving my ancient RootsWeb site to here: Coon Genealogy.
In preparation for the end of 2016, I thought I’d review some favorite posts of 2014 and 2015. WordPress gives statistics on the number of views per post and the posts with the highest number of views during a particular time period. The top posts will be those that have been viewed the most, excluding the Home and About pages. The blog was slow to get going, so any view other than my own was an excitement.
I also have my own favorite posts – the ones I have written that I am either the most proud of or like the best. I have not been successful in ranking them, so they are listed in alphabetical order.
Diggin’ Up Graves Top Five Views of 2014
1. “John Marion RENFRO – Union Soldier and Polygamist” : Read post
Published: 8 December 2014
Views in 2014: 194
Views to date: 366
John Marion RENFRO was my paternal grandmother’s maternal grandfather. He was born about 1846 in either Madison County or Rock Island County, Illinois, to Absalom RENFRO and Elizabeth (CORMACK) RENFRO. John’s father died when he was only 9 years old. As one of several young children of Elizabeth at her widowing, John was sent to live with his sister Jane Almyra (RENFRO) DAVIS (or Almyra Jane) and her family. He fought for Illinois in the Civil War. The most interesting part of his story is his polygamy, which I would not have been able to discover were it not for numerous online records and newspapers.
This post took off thanks to Amy Johnson Crow herself who wrote about it in an article on Ancestry’s blog: “What We Are Reading: December 12th Edition.“
I hope you enjoy the story of John Marion RENFRO, which includes some very thoughtful comments from readers.
2. “Coonrod S. Coon – Indiana Pioneer from Coon’s Fort Area, Marion County, West Virginia” : Read post
Published: 16 March 2014
Views in 2014: 99
Views to date: 462
Coonrod S. COON was born 20 September 1803 in what was then Harrison County, Virginia, and what is now Marion County, West Virginia. The West Virginia COON families are descended from Phillip COON from Germany and his son, Joseph, who were probably two of the first settlers in the western Virginia wilderness (the District of West Augusta) in 1772.
I suspect that the reason behind higher number of views of this post is that there are many descendants of the Coons of Coon’s Fort, so search engines may pull this article up near the top of their search results. A search for Tecumseh could also pull up this article.
Recently, I updated the article to include a link to the detailed research and documentation on my Coon Genealogy website.
3. “Strangeman JOHNSON (Strong-muhn), and the Strange Mystery He Has Left For Us” : Read post
Published: 28 January 2014
Views in 2014: 88
Views to date: 224
Strangeman JOHNSON was born a Quaker on the Quaker date 9th month, 28th day, of the year 1772. His parents were John JOHNSON, son of Ashley JOHNSON and Agatha STANLEY, and Lydia HUTCHINS, daughter of Strangeman HUTCHINS and Elizabeth COX. All four grandparents and their ancestors were Quakers. He had an old Quaker pedigree, yet he was disowned from the Society of Friends, and he didn’t seem to choose to, or perhaps couldn’t, go back. I discovered late in 2014 why he was disowned and wrote about that in a later article.
This post analyzes evidence related to Strangeman JOHNSON and his family and outlines what I knew and speculated at that time. In the process of researching for this article, I was able to answer a long outstanding question.
This post contains many genealogically relevant terms, including “Strangeman” and “Strangman,” “Quaker,” “North Carolina,” and Quaker surnames such as HUTCHINS, STANLEY, and JOHNSON. I suspect this is what made it be in the type five viewed articles of 2014.
4. “Thomas and Rachel (JOHNSON) JOHNSON” : Read post
Published: 15 January 2014
Views in 2014: 55
Views to date: 152
My interest in genealogy began when I was the wee age of eighteen. I don’t know why family history intrigued me, nor from where my need to know and understand my past came. It may have been because my mother talked about it a lot. It probably was. I loved to imagine the “olden days.” Thomas and Rachel moved by covered wagon from the south to the Midwest as did many pre-Civil War Quakers. They were avoiding war and getting away from slavery.
This was my first article on this blog. It has common genealogy and Quaker search terms. Thomas and Rachel (JOHNSON) JOHNSON are two of my favorite ancestors because they were the first ones that I researched, and they were the two who started it all for me.
5. “Mary COTTER, Marion Ann RENFRO, and Adele Marie ANTON : Grandmother, Mother, and Daughter” : Read post
Published: 1 March 2014
Views in 2014: 48
Views to date: 109
I have some special women in my ancestry on my mom’s side, including my mom. This post is about some women on my dad’s side. Because I didn’t grow up with my dad, all I can do is try to piece together the stories and run on logic and some imagination to get that personal connection with these women that I wish I had. They all lived in the same house, making a home, raising children, and taking care of each other. This is a story about these women and what I knew about them at the time that I wrote it.
Favorite Articles Published in 2014
My favorite posts written in 2014, in alphabetical order.
- “Charles TROUTMAN. I Must Be Careful What I Ask For.” : Read post
Published: 18 February 2014. There are so many questions to which I have had no answers. Regarding my paternal line, what made my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather do what they did? How will I find out now that there is nobody left to tell me? Would my dad have known about his father and grandfather’s lives? When I find my ancestors’ stories, I find mine. The enigma of my great-grandfather Charles Troutman is probably a story of a boy, a young man, and perhaps a troubled individual. Or it could be the story of a mean man. A bad man. I don’t know.
This post is one of my favorites because it was spawned by information I found quite by accident right around my birthday in 2014. I cried for the boy who was probably my great-grandfather.
- “Emaline Eliza (BROOKS) TAGUE: Struck By a Railroad Car in 1912” : Read post
Published: 26 October 2014. Emaline Eliza (BROOKS) TAGUE was my 3rd great grandmother. After her husband died, Emily was a widow for 16 years before her tragic death when she was about two months shy of turning 84 years of age. She was killed tragically in downtown Greenfield, Indiana, by a railroad car. I like this article because it brings up so many questions for which I may never know the answer.
- “John Marion RENFRO – Union Soldier and Polygamist” : Read post
Published: 8 December 2014. I gave a summation of this article above. What I like most about it is how the ability to trace the nationwide chronology of John’s marriages existed online.
In 2015, I found information about another marriage. That article is a pingback in the comments of this original.
- “Mary COTTER, Marion Ann RENFRO, and Adele Marie ANTON : Grandmother, Mother, and Daughter” : Read post
Published: 1 March 2014. I gave a summation of this article above. I enjoyed realizing that three generations of women maintained the household, meaning that 4 generations lived in it at the same time. I like thinking about the maternal influences on the children and of how they were probably very well cared for.
- “Strangeman JOHNSON had to PARTAY, PARTAY!” : Read post
Published: 5 December 2014. Oh, this is just a hilarious article that gives the answer to a question that plagued me for years. In the last half of 2014, Ancestry published original minutes from meetings of the Society of Friends. These minutes gave me the chronology of Strangeman’s disownment, including the reason he was disowned.
- “Willie Ann (ROWE) BLUE – She really IS Reuben ROWE’s daughter!” : Read post
Published: 28 December 2014. This is the article I wrote after I found the probate documents for Reuben ROWE. Until then, there was only a “probably” that Willie Ann’s father was Reuben. The first (but not maiden) name of Reuben’s wife was also in this record. There is another little goody in this document – the boundaries of Reuben’s land in Fayette County, Ohio. It’s only a 2.5 hour drive from my house. That sounds like a beautiful spring drive on a sunny day with my camera.
Diggin’ Up Graves Top Five Views of 2015
1. “AncestryDNA Has Now Thoroughly Lost Its Mind” : Read post
Published: 2 April 2015
Views in 2015: 7,145
Views to date: 11,483
This article took off like crazy. I wrote it in response to Ancestry’s “New Ancestor Discoveries” feature, which was a joke. It was shared by others, posted, and reposted, and it still gets the highest traffic of all of them. The quippy title doesn’t hurt, either. Many don’t understand the problems with AncestryDNA. This article, although over a year and a half old, outlines some of them. However, I still have my DNA there and am glad I do.
2. “Kenny, Kenny, Kenny…” : Read post
Published: 10 April 2015
Views in 2015: 1,096
Views to date: 1,197
My response to Kenny Freestone’s “clarification” of “New Ancestor Discoveries.” Kenny Freestone is the Product Director for AncestryDNA. I was hopping mad and had every right to be. This post was directed to him and is self-explanatory.
3. “How to Use AncestryDNA and Stay Sane” : Read post
Published: 8 April 2015
Views in 2015: 593
Views to date: 940
A very useful article based on my own experience with using Jeff Snavely’s AncestryDNA Helper tool for the Chrome browser. Again, this one has not only a good and attractive title, but it is a tutorial that even I can refer to when I need to do the steps again.
4. “Richard of Kentucky, are you my KING? Richard, Oh, Richard, who is your Queen?” : Read post
Published: 15 January 2015
Views in 2015: 229
Views to date: 354
I have an ancestor Amanda Melvina (KING) WILSON whose parents are said to have been Richard KING and Labina “Libby” BALLENGER (or her name could be Sabina “Sibby,” as it is easy to confuse a capital L with a capital S in old handwriting). I have more work to do to try to break this brick wall. This article contains a mixture of traditional and genetic genealogy, as well as speculation and conclusion.
5. “Annie WALLEN and the Cumberland Gap: Too Far From Family, Too Close to Home” : Read post
Published: 6 March 2015
Views in 2015: 156
Views to date: 237
After her husband died in the Civil War, Annie was left with no property, very little to no income, and four sons, ages 9-17, to raise. She may have had hope that her husband and two oldest sons would be home soon. She may have prayed every morning, noon, and night that the war would end and that her men would arrive home safely. In early 1863, she had yet to understand the depth of grief she would soon experience. This article is about Annie and what happened to her husband and two of her sons during the U.S. Civil War. It is a terribly sad story. The women and the children – it was their futures that were so precarious. It was their emotions that were so torn and worn. The war was hell on the women. It was not fair to the children. It hurt everyone.
Favorite Articles Published in 2015
My favorite posts written in 2015, in alphabetical order.
- “Anderson JOHNSON (1770-1857) : Devout North Carolina Quaker, Persecuted” : Read post
Published: 5 February 2015. Anderson JOHNSON was apparently a very kind and peaceful person. We are very lucky to have not one, but two items of interest written about Anderson by his fellow Quakers. Quakers were persecuted for their beliefs, especially when those beliefs contradicted those of their neighbors. I like this story because I am proud to be a descendant of Anderson JOHNSON. I am proud of my Quaker ancestors. I walked his land in the 1990s with a fellow descendant and included the photographs.
- “Annie WALLEN and the Cumberland Gap: Too Far From Family, Too Close to Home” : Read post
Published: 6 March 2015. Well written and well researched, this article taught me quite a bit that I didn’t know. All of my ancestors were a part of the Union at the time of the Civil War. My son, on the other hand, has much southern ancestry on his paternal side. I knew very little about the trials that the individuals in the south went through during that time. This article opened my heart.
- “Barbara (GENGEL) HAAS (1816-1899): Gave Birth on the Voyage to America” : Read post
Published: 27 January 2015. At the time of Barbara’s emigration to America, she had a husband, four children ages ten and under, and she was pregnant. She gave birth to their son Heinrich during the journey. The transatlantic ship was American Eagle out of London arriving in New York, New York, on 17 November 1851. This is an article that I researched fairly well and that allowed me to sort out the chronology of Barbara’s life in story form.
- “Earl Lawrence TRAUTMAN (1893-1964) : ‘Auto Salesman Arraigned in Hit and Run’ or How my Grandfather Got into the 1940 Census Twice” : Read post
Published: 28 November 2015. Early Sunday morning, 31 March 1940, a man named Earl TRAUTMAN was driving a Ford V8 on the rainy streets of Paterson, New Jersey, when he hit pedestrian Joseph EREMICZ. Earl fled the scene, and Mr. EREMICZ died soon after he was hit, before police arrived. So much strangeness on my father’s side, and this ancestor is no exception. Earl Lawrence TRAUTMAN was my father’s father. Because this accident occurred when it did, one day before the 1940 census date, Earl ended up having two records in the 1940 census. I like this strange but true event.
- “How to Use AncestryDNA and Stay Sane” : Read post
Published: 8 April 2015. I like this article quite a bit because it is a good tutorial on how to get AncestryDNA data into a spreadsheet so that it is actually usable.
- “Isaac VAN DUYN (1822-1903) – Willing to Fight, Lost His Sight” : Read post
Published: 7 November 2015. An amazing ancestor who I didn’t appreciate until studying him for this Veteran’s Day article. Isaac VAN DUYN sacrificed much for the Union. He and his wife fathered many children. He was born in Ohio, and he lived in Iowa and Indiana. In the end, he was disabled and blind. His death was one that he didn’t deserve. This article has good citations and even a suggested reading section. I felt particularly good about the work I did on it.
- “Richard of Kentucky, are you my KING? Richard, Oh, Richard, who is your Queen?” : Read post
Published: 15 January 2015. While I don’t particularly like the cutesy title I gave to this one, I think the combination of research and some DNA analysis was impressive given my youth in genetic genealogy. My KING ancestor brick wall has yet to be broken, but I did put a list of next steps in this article. Good plan.