Category Archives: GeneaGems

New GeneaGem: Mamie McCubbins Collection, Rowan Public Library, North Carolina

Do you have ancestors who lived in Rowan County, North Carolina? Rowan County was home to thousands of 18th century ancestors who migrated westward into Tennessee and Kentucky.

Many of those early residents were Scots-Irish or Germans who first settled in Pennsylvania and Maryland, so Rowan County is a vital link connecting early families with descendants who moved on.

My husband has several ancestral links who, at one time, lived in Rowan County, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time trudging through county records.

Rowan County was formed in 1753 from the northern portion of Anson County. However, it was much larger in area back then than it is today. All, or portions, of the present-day counties of Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Davidson, Davie, Guilford, Iredell, Lincoln, McDowell, Madison, Mitchell, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes, Yadkin, Yancey fell within its bounds at that time – which is most of western North Carolina!

Birth and death records weren’t kept until the 20th century, but Rowan County is nevertheless rich in early records as it has had only one courthouse fire in 1865, in which some records were lost.

Today’s GeneaGem is a terrific collection of records compiled by Mamie McCubbins and housed at the Rowan Public Library since 1954.

The best part of this collection is that not only has it been digitized and is accessible for free online, but family information has been organized with a Surname Index. It makes searching a simple task!

Some of the Rowan County names in my hubby’s family tree include Douthit, Thompson, Jarvis, Roland and Stoehr (Starr). I even have one tie to the South, through my Loyalist Dutch ancestor Philip Crouse, who can be placed in Rowan County in the 1770s.

Every one of those surnames has a folder in the McCubbin collection and has been save in PDF format.

Information varies from surname to surname. One might find correspondence with family information, handwritten index cards, typed abstracts of deeds and even war information.

The Lopp folder contained a list of Rowan County males who didn’t sign the Oath of Allegiance in 1778. Most of the images are quite legible, although my 1778 list shows faded ink.

However, my Philip “Crose” is easily read in the third column.

If you have ancestors who lived in, or even passed through Rowan County, North Carolina, the Mamie McCubbins Collection should be in your online genealogy toolbox!


New East Texas GeneaGem: The History Center in Diboll, Texas

Today’s new GeneaGem is more locale-specific than many of the previous GeneaGems, but East Texas covers a lot of miles and counties.

The History Center of Diboll (pronounced DIE-bawl), Texas not only has many online resources, but it looks like a fun place to visit in person, too.

Let’s start with the on-site exhibits. There were 17 at the time this post was written, ranging from local lumbermen to the Diboll Garden Club to the H.G. Temple High School for African Americans. There is also a community history display as well as an outdoor railroad exhibit. Lots to see and learn in person.

For those, like me, who live too far away to pop in and visit, there are quite a few digital online resources to view from home.

First, to learn more about The History Center collections, browse through the Finding Guides. You’ll find everything from photo and scrapbook collections to aerial surveys, lumber and railroad papers, parent-student-teacher association collection and baseball, rotary clue and garden club collections.

The Finding Guides can be downloaded. You’ll learn a lot about local history just from browsing the Finding Guides.

There are 350 oral histories recorded – if you have family from East Texas, you might be able to listen to an ancestor talk about his/her life.

Next, check out the Online Collections.

I decided to look at the Civilian Conservation Corps from the Depression era. There was a terrific annual (PDF) covering the work for 1936, which devoted pages to each town and to the people in charge of the project. There was even a photograph of the captain and staff of the Lufkin District. I wish I had an ancestor who participated!

There was also a PDF of newspapers articles that explained the work that was being done.

Here are the Family History Collections, consisting of items belonging to individual families who lived in the area:

Other online collections include the Lufkin Negro Chamber of Commerce, School Collections and School Publications (including school yearbooks) and a collection of Historical Maps.

There is such a variety of topics and collections at The History Center that anyone with East Texas family lines should definitely pay a visit to the website.

The History Center collections appear to date from the second half of the 1800s up to modern times.

It can be difficult to access details about social and cultural events in the 20th century, particularly if local newspapers aren’t available online.

The History Center staff has put a tremendous amount of effort into creating a really interesting collection of resources that tell the story of life in East Texas. I’m impressed!





New GeneaGem: Mariners Lost at Sea Database

Although I am always on the lookout for new GeneaGems to share, I don’t come across these hidden treasures very often.

Today’s GeneaGem is a fabulous find if you have ancestral lines that originate on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.

Being an island, Nantucket offers an opportunity to live a seafaring life, whether it be as a local fisherman, a mariner sailing ships from sea to sea or as a whaler.

At the time the American Revolution broke out, Nantucketers worried for their safety and their livelihood, as most of the men’s occupations were related to ocean life.

Their success had reached its peak in the 18th century, but life at sea remained dangerous, not only in wartime, but during peaceful times, too.

Aside from inclement weather, which sank many ships, most sailors were unable to swim. Shipboard accidents happened. Men fell overboard. Angry whales rammed ships. Pirates attacked. Fatal illnesses like yellow fever.

Occasionally, bodies might be brought home for burial, but in the majority of deaths at sea, sailors were ‘buried’ in the ocean.

However, crew members had to be accounted for, so families and government officials knew what happened. Deaths were reported to the Nantucket town clerk, likely by the captain or first mate, and the names of the deceased were duly noted in town or court records.

Today’s GeneaGem is found on at the Nantucket Historical Association, where a database has been created to record and remember Mariners Lost at Sea.

More than 1,100 seafarers from 1726-1896 have been identified and their names added to the database.

Notice the tab at the top right side of the main page (above) – Mariners Lost at Sea Database. Just click and then scroll down.

If you have multiple family surnames and prefer to browse, the database is set up with 50 entries to the page. That can be adjusted up to 100 entries to make browsing a little easier.

If particular surnames are of interest, note the green arrow at the top right. Enter a surname and the list will appear.

The site if very easy to use and I believe as more men who died at sea are identified, the database will be updated.

My own ancestor, Joseph Coleman, died at sea off the coast of Guinea, Africa, of yellow fever sometime between 1775-1790. His name appears in this database.

This database is also very useful for identifying collateral relatives who died at sea.

The Nantucket Historical Association is doing a tremendous job preserving its history. Its website is fun to browse even if Nantucketers aren’t in your family tree – and it’s free!