31 Days to Better Genealogy: Days 1-5


31 Days to Better Genealogy: Days 1-5: Version 2.0

I’m taking Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge for 31 Days to Better Genealogy and blog Amy’s questions, with my answers; I plan to make one blog post, adding daily. Hopefully by the end of the 31 days, I will learn how to better solve some of my genealogy questions. If you haven’t signed up yet, just click on the link below… never too late to catch up!

31 Days to Better Genealogy by Amy Johnson Crow gives you practical steps to make your research more productive. Whether you are just beginning to climb your family tree or have been doing this for years, you can adapt the tips and methods in 31 Days to Better Genealogy to suit your needs.

Day 1: Set a Goal – Ask a Question…

One of my on-going goals, brick-wall, is to find a date of death for my ggggrandfather Joseph T. Sharp (e) and where he was buried. Joseph was born in 1835 in Taliaferro Co., Georgia and married Narcissa Meadows in 1858. In 1860 and 1870 they lived in Crawfordville, Taliaferro Co. (Joseph had left Narcissa to fight in the Civil War 1861) By 1880 there were 5 children in the family but Joseph was listed as a widow and now living in District 109, Hancock Co., Georgia. Their last child, William, was born abt 1873/74. We might assume that Narcissa died in childbirth at that time, but she did die between his birth and 1880. No grave-site or actual date of death has been found for her. (In searching for William, I also found nothing on him after the 1880 census either)

In 1900 I found Joseph T. Sharp living with daughter Rosie (Sharp) and husband Edgar Lawson McKinley in the Hancock Co., Georgia census; daughter Rosie died in 1902 and was buried at Powelton Community Cemetery in Hancock Co. In walking the entire cemetery, I did locate a James L. Sharp(e) and wife Delanie; I learned later that he was a brother of my Joseph; no gravestone of Joseph T. Sharp was found.

Knowing he fought in the Civil War, I searched for his pension records; the pensions in his file were from 1900 – 1906, which made me assume he died about 1907, as he was not listed in the 1910 census with his daughters husband and family.

After I learned that the gravestone  I had found in the same cemetery where his daughter was buried was his brother, I began searching for the other siblings. In the 1910 Augusta, Richmond Co., GA census, I found Edwin Levi Sharp(e)… and there was my Grandpa Sharp living with his family. He did not die in 1907 as I first thought, but instead had left his son-in-laws home to live with his son in Augusta. After searching the 1920 census (he would have been age 85), and not finding him again listed with the family, I concluded he died between 1910-1920.

I’ve set my goal to find an exact date of death and final burial site of Joseph Thomas Sharp, and I have questions.

  • Joseph (supposedly) was living in the home of his son, Edwin L.Sharp(e) when he died, so what did Edwin do with his father’s body? 1910 wasn’t the stone ages, people had burials, bought gravestones and kept records – so what happened to Joseph?
  • Could they have buried Joseph next to his wife Narcissa? But where is Narcissa buried, who died between 1873-1880 – another mystery?
  • Edwin died in 1925 and is buried in West View Cem. in Augusta, GA. (They were contacted and no burial site of Joseph is listed there) My first thought, being Joseph was living with his son, that he buried him locally, but that theory quickly proved false after contact with the cemetery.
  • Joseph is not buried in the same cemetery, Powelton Community Cem., as his daughter Rosie Sharp McKinley. I thought they would have buried him next to his daughter, who has a large headstone.
  • Joseph was born in Taliafarro Co., just next door to Hancock Co., where he lived with his daughter Rosie, but he died in Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia. (I am assuming he died there, as that was the last place he lived)
  • I need to find churches in the counties that he and wife Narcissa lived and attended – finding her grave-site – might find his.
  • Why are his Civil War Pensions only from 1900 – 1906? This is what first made me think he died in 1907.

Do you have any suggestions or questions for me in my search?


Day 2: Set a Goal – Review your Sources…

  Sources used for Joseph Thomas Sharp

  • Joseph Thomas Sharp is my grandfather’s (Edgar T. McKinley) father. He is listed on his death certificate.
  • Word of mouth from my mother as to who her grandfather was.
  • 1910 Augusta, Richmond Co., Ga. Census
  • 1900 – 1906 Cival War Pensions: Co. E., 7th Reg. Confederate Calvary
  • 1900 Hancock Co., Ga. Census
  • 1880 Hancock Co., Ga. Census
  • 1870 Taliafarro Co., Ga. Census
  • 1870 Taliafarro Co., Ga. Census
  • 1860 Taliafarro Co., Ga. Census
  • 1858 Marriage License, Taliafarro Co., Ga (actual copy)
  • 1850 Taliafarro Co., Ga. Census


Day 3: Set a Goal – Explore your Ancestors Occupation…

Before I sat down to write my answers on this one, I thought and thought…and still only came up with “dirt farmers.” Maybe there might have been some uncles, aunts or distant cousins who went another route, but I can’t think of one direct ancestor that didn’t walk behind a plow! I came from Southern roots – they farmed! But my goal is to one day find a new occupation to research!

So, in as much as my ancestors occupations were somewhat boring, just farmers pushing and pulling a plow all day, I decided to choose a gggrandfather who’s agricultural products would have been counted on a non-populated agricultural census. A farm is what is owned or leased by one man and cultivated by him and his worth, livestock and products are counted for the year.

How was all this information actually taken? Did a census taker just show up at their farm with paper in hand – asking for data? Were the farmers required to record their sales, and inventory their land and animals yearly? My grandfather McKinley would never have complied with this, and probably would have run the census taker right off his land. My mother often talked about what happened when the government county bureau agent showed up at his farm. He had bought his farm though a county government program – to be paid off in yearly installments over fifteen years – so I guess they were entitled to show up and check on things.

To help stop erosion, the government soon began a program to plant “kudzu” on the land; little did they know, or care, that it would create havoc down the road. My grandfather wanted no part of that planted on his land, but as his hands were tied, he let them plant. But no sooner than they left, he burned it off. Many of the farmers lost valuable pine timber because of those plantings, as the vines grew and choked the trees.

My grandfather McKinley was a smart man in working his farm. It was only a few years into the fifteen year pay-back program, when he paid off his farm, owning it free and clear. From the moment he first bought it, he walked his land, learning every inch of what it could produce and what could be worked. The land was fertile and rich, with much timber already growing on over half his land – and he took advantage of that. It was the timber that helped him to pay off his loan much earlier than called for. And again, it was the government that didn’t want him to pay it off, telling him that it wasn’t allowed. Being the stand up man he was, he quickly told that government agent that he could pay it off, and he could have his lawyer across the street come over and tell him that if needed. He paid off his farm that day! Many farmers lost their farms on those government programs, but he had worked his farm, scrimping and saving to finally own it.

As to other occupations, my grandfather was a man of many means – or wheeling and dealing. He had been born in one of the last generations of true “green”… not like today. Everything was used, reused, and repaired… until it couldn’t be used again. If your grandfather owned a farm, think about the scrap piles they stored around their house. They threw out nothing, as it would one day be needed to repair something. They truly were not a throw-away society.

My mother has often talked about the many ways he made money. If he found a tire on the side of the road, he stopped to pick it up as there was always someone on a Sunday looking for a tire, and they knew Mr. McKinley probably had several to chose from. Another dealing he had that often scared my grandmother was his selling of bonded liquor; they lived in a dry county and that caused people to want, what they couldn’t readily purchase anywhere local. He often took trips to a wet county to purchase small bottles of liquor to resell – if he paid $2, he sold it for $4.

My mother still talks about the night the law came to the farm looking to find Mr. McKinley’s stash… but it was hid well. She never did think to ask him after she was an adult, but remembered that whenever the family gathered there, the men always hung around the corn crib in the barn…. and always came back to the house feeling “good.”

So, besides being a “dirt farmer”, my grandfather was a wheeler and dealer of anything and everything that could be sold for a buck!

Another tale of government insistence was the woman from the county farm bureau who came to teach my grandmother how to can, and the safety use of a pressure cooker. No matter how hard my grandfather tried to tell her that his wife had been using a pressure cooker for years and did not need instruction…. she wasn’t going to listen. She had a booklet that she was determined to read, so he decided just to let her give her spiel, hoping she’d leave quicker. Well it wasn’t long before he heard a big boom in the kitchen and he came running in to find that the pressure cooker had exploded. He took one look at her and after a few words, she headed to her car, making a fast exit. I’m sure his choice of words upon her exit weren’t very nice, but he had tried to explain to her that they needed no help, that his wife had canned for years… without a problem. I can only imagine that the county woman never came back to the farm again to offer her knowledge.

“Farms” in the agricultural schedule census also included the so-called farm nurseries, orchards and market gardens. Only the family garden was excluded from counts.

I’ve chosen to examine an agricultural census of my gggrandfather Jasper L. B. Hillsman of Taliafarro Co., Georgia.


Jasper L. B. Hillsman: 1860 Taliafarro County, Georgia

Jasper owned 817 acres of land, but only worked two hundred acres. I’m questioning… what was wrong with the other 617 acres? Rocky? Over-growth of timber? Sandy soil? It seems like an awful lot of land to just lay dormant, but I can only assume it wasn’t workable, at least not at that time. Georgia is known for growing tall yellow pines for timber, so that might have been the case. Jasper’s farm was valued at $3085 dollars in 1860.

The value of Jasper’s farming implements and machinery was listed at $600, so he must have owned a vast assortment of farming implements. While he only had 3 horses, he had double (6) that in mules, which have been proven to be a better work animal. My grandfather Bryan only used a mule to pull his plow… and his favorite place was always – behind the plow. An electric tiller was bought for him when he was older, and it sat dormant under the shed – he didn’t want any part of new ‘fangled equipment!

He must have sold milk and cream as he had 12 milch cows, which means milking cows… and they would have had at least one calf. There were 6 working oxen on the farm along with 6 other cattle. In counting the horses and mules, there were over 21 working animals on this farm. That tells me that he worked those acres and possibly his sons worked alongside him.

When I read the column listing sheep, I was puzzled as I hadn’t found any of my other farmers raising sheep, and he had 54. This gave him another occupation of sheep shearer. They grew a coat, so I’m sure he didn’t let it go to waste; after shearing the sheep, they most likely butchered the sheep later for food. There were 90 swines on this working farm – a very profitable animal. It was a very busy day in the fall on butchering day; many hands were needed to fully produce all that can be harvested from a hog. Besides the hams they yielded, the fat was rendered for lard and soap, the skin was saved for cracklins, and my mother always talked about how they ate brains and eggs on the night of the butcher;  it was considered a treat, but I think I’ll pass. The value of his livestock was $1,235 – pretty profitable!

Now that I’ve accounted for all the livestock on his farm, lets take a look at the recorded counts on what he produced using the livestock. He plowed fields of wheat as 35 bushels were counted. Many acres were dedicated to corn – 800 bushes of Indian Corn was documented. Cotton, another southern crop, was grown and he recorded 30 ginned cotton bales. Those cotton bales usually weigh about 500 pounds, so that sure was a lot of cotton. And not to forget those sheep, with the 83 pounds of wool they sheared.


Statistics of Agriculture

The second graph on “statistics of agriculture” did not produce many answers, but he did grow my favorite vegetable – sweet potatoes. What Southerner doesn’t grow sweet potatoes – and he produced 75 bushels that year. When I was a little girl, I dug up my granddaddy Bryan’s sweet potato hill where he kept them stored for the winter; I thought I was helping! Remember all those milch cows Jasper had, well someone did a lot of churning, as 150 pounds of butter was made that year. That was always my mother’s chore on the farm – churning butter – and she hated it. I have that very butter churn, complete with the worn churn handle! I’m not sure what “home-made manufactures” refers to, but there was $35 recorded; did they sell items like quilts or cooked pies and cakes? The last column was for slaughtered animals, and an amount of $165 was listed. That probably accounted for the butchering of the swines and sheep.

Thank You Amy for the suggestion of occupation today, as by dissecting this agricultural census, it really put their farm more in perspective and pushed me to take a deeper look. Plus it allowed me a few remembrances along the way. I can’t wait for Day 4!


Day 4: Explore the Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America is linked to various libraries, museums and state archives across the United States. Amy’s post tells me that there is a little bit about everything there, from digitized photos to letters, books, posters, diaries and more. What I wouldn’t give to find an ancestor’s diary; I kept diaries when I was a teenager, but unfortunately I threw them away before I married. How dumb was that!

Searching the DPLA is not the same as searching Google, you need to think more on the lines of searching a location and subject. Within that search, links to where the exact item is located.

I began searching for towns in Greene County, Georgia and found links to photos at the Georgia Archives. Some I have seen before, but not taken a closer look at until today. I discovered a document from Union Manufacturing Company of Union Point that will help me in a future blog post. I later turned to searching a town of Dahlonega, Georgia, but more time will be needed to wade through all the photos. I did find the original of my 1909 Civil War photograph of my ggggrandfather Berrian Clark Bryan, as he stood on the lawn of the courthouse. If I didn’t already have a copy, this would have been a great find! I was intrigued with the telescope and eclipse photos in Siloam, and sharing below.

A few photos from my searches!

My mother’s small home town of Siloam, Georgia seemed have been quite important in 1900 as these photos listed that Siloam was considered the “best” viewing spot on “Earth” for the solar eclipse of May 28, 1900. This large telescope was set up in a field, and so-called Chabot Field Observatory. The photos were made from a glass-lantern slide.

Sadly, there is no one left to even ask about this, but I”m sure many of the families in Siloam have grandparents and great-grandparents that may have stopped by to take a peak. I hope to research this at another time for more history on this event


Photo from the Georgia Digital Archives

The small town of Siloam had very few buildings that made up this town. Johnson’s Pharmacy was built in 1904 – next door is the Bank of Siloam. Above the pharmacy was Siloam Theater, which was accessed by a side door.

Johnson’s Pharmacy was still in business in the late 50’s and into the 60’s, but unfortunately today the roof has collapsed and only the four walls with the front windows still stand. I spent many hours inside Johnson’s when I was a young girl – mostly buying ice cream and comic books when I visited my grandparents. The Bank of Siloam was where my grandfather banked until it closed in the early 40’s; I have several of my grandfather McKinley’s original checks from this bank. After the bank left, my great-uncle Lawson McKinley opened up a general store there. This is the only full building left on that side of the street; the bank vault still remains in the back room.


Photo from the Georgia Digital Archives

You will find many of these cotton mills in the South, but this one was located in Siloam and owned by W. J. Clifton. The photo was taken around 1925, so I’m assuming it looked pretty close the same way when my grandfather went there in his wagon to sell cotton. He could easily be just like any of the men in the photos, waiting in a wagon to sell his cotton. Mama tells me she often rode with him and waited in those lines; you lined up your wagon under the chute and the cotton was sucked up – a bale was formed from your cotton. Being the shrewd businessman my grandfather McKinley was, he always asked for the going rate of the day, as he didn’t always sell it. If he thought the price too low, he took his baled cotton home and it was stored in the barn loft until the price increased.


Civil War Veterans – 1909 – Gathered on the Dahlonega, Lumpkin Co., Georgia Courthouse: Photo from Chestatee Regional Library System

Although this was not a new photo for me, I was excited to discover it on their site. It would have been a great find if it hadn’t already been shared to me by another researcher many years ago. I’m told that the men often gathered yearly, usually on Memorial Day for a celebration. On this Confederate Memorial Day of April 26, 1909, they were awarded the Southern Cross of Honor Medal and in most later photos I’ve found of Berrian Clark Bryan – he’s wearing that medal. It was said how very proud he was of receiving it and wore it every chance he had – and always for a photo. (Berrian Clark Bryan No. 15)


Civil War veterans of Sparta, Hancock County Georgia, 1900: Photo found at Georgia Archives

Before giving up, I tried one last search on Hancock County, Georgia and was quite excited to find this photo of Civil War Veterans in 1900 at the Hancock County courthouse. My Joseph T. Sharp fought in the Civil War, lived in Sparta, in Hancock County and was still living there in 1900. I have no photo of him to compare and there is no written account of names, but I will pursue this in the hopes that someone had the hindsight to record their names. They took a photograph, so maybe it made the local newspaper? I can hope…. I will report my findings, good or bad at a later date.


Day 5: Back up Your Files

I’m very fortunate that I haven’t experienced the loss of files or photos, but If I didn’t have a clould back-up service, I would have had on one occasion.

My first back-up system was an external drive, and I often thought…”what if someone stole my computer and my external back up?” That thought pushed me to pay for a cloud service, and it’s a good feeling knowing that someone is constantly backing up my files and photos.

Several years ago before I had an external hard drive or cloud back-up, I made CD copies of my genealogy files, photos and left them at my mom’s house, several hundred miles from me. And “Yes” they are still there… buried deep within a drawer; I need to update those files and make new CD’s to leave there again.

I’ve always felt that you can never have enough copies of your files and photos, and that’s another reason I enjoy sharing my genealogy history and photos with new cousins… it ensures you would be able to recover a copy if needed. I don’t know about you, but it stresses me thinking about losing my work. And now that I blog, that’s another part of my genealogy that I need to keep backed up; I also make a yearly book of all my blog posts. Many years ago I also made a notebook of Bryan documents and photos and donated to the genealogy library in Dahlonega, Georgia; another way of preserving data.

So many photos today of our genealogy and family is all “digital”… I have hundreds of photos of my grandchildren, but very few prints. What I print today is definitely not like when I had a 35 mm film camera – always loaded with film. I remember being so anxious to always get them developed, so I could see the photos, and because of that camera, I have boxes and boxes of photos! My digital camera  today shows me my photo instantly, so there’s never a rush to print, and that’s a problem as so many photos could be lost!

This post of Amy’s is reminding me that I have procrastinated too long in scanning my Bryan/McKinley family album. I have/had plans to scan them all before my trip to visit mom, as I’m bringing it with me… for a purpose. Besides bringing to show her all the old photos, my objective was to sit with mom and record some of her remembrances on the photos. I have a portable scanner and with the new software, I am able to record voice to embed on a photo. First though, I must remind her that I’m recording – so she stays on track and doesn’t say something that shouldn’t be recorded. If you don’t know my mother, check out My Conversations with Mom, and you’ll see… she says the funniest things!

After my trip, I need to follow up on filing all the many photos I have sitting in 2 shoeboxes… waiting for a permanent home… so I can actually find when I’m searching for. Nothing like, knowing you have a photo, but can’t find it. I have/had one photo of me with my parents on a glass bottomed boat in Florida… and now it’s MIA! Why it’s not in my albums is a mystery to me! I can visualize it there, and have no memory of ever moving it, but it’s not there; I keep looking and hoping!

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© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in 31 Days to Better Genealogy: Ver. 2.0, Daily Writings and funnies... and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 31 Days to Better Genealogy: Days 1-5

  1. Lyn Smith says:

    Wonderful stories (1 through 5). I don’t know how I’ve missed these but glad I finally caught one and could go back.
    Great ideas, too. I think we had discussed backups before and, while I had a lot of my stuff on CD’s, I’ve transferred some to those USB things.
    I hope you never give up your writing and one day, I’m going to print all your stories.

    Liked by 1 person

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