Genealogical Research is Fun!

Well… has really helped the masses find family and research their ancestors. And now that AncestryDNA is available, more people are jumping on the bandwagon as it were. And, since its “DNA” it has to be true. Unfortunately, many of these people are missing one major aspect: verification.

As a technical writing instructor at our local community college, I try to teach people to think logically and question everything.  Somehow, I think this same skill set needs to be taught to new genealogists as well. All data should be verified!


One example is my 4th great-grandfather Isaac Shannon (I’ve mentioned him in a previous blog concerning his slave ownership). My AncestryDNA found a 4th-6th cousin of mine with Isaac Shannon also being this person’s 4th great-grandfather.  This is a cool feature in that I can sometimes find new or missing information from other peoples’ research which saves me a LOT of time.  Unfortunately, that is the problem with many people.  They save the time; but don’t check the facts.

Here’s the basic facts of Isaac’s life as reported by many people using Ancestry: He was born about 1799 in Kentucky. He likely married Jemimah Black in about 1821 in Texas. And then he died during or after 1863 in either Texas (major consensus) or Illinois.

So how true is any of that? 

Well, I believe the birth information is likely true.  He (or someone who knew him at his residence) reported to the census takers in the Federal Census of 1850 and the 1860 Federal Census that he was born in Kentucky.  Also the reported age was 51 and 61 years old respectively both of which point to his birth being in 1799.  And I do believe the census information I’ve found corresponds to the correct Isaac Shannon (there were a few that I’ve found so far).

This Isaac Shannon was living in the expected county and state and was married to a person with the expected first name.  Does this make the information absolutely true? Not necessarily – there could have been multiple Isaac Shannons each married to a woman named Jamimah all living in the same county in Arkansas!  But that’s not very likely. So the information is as accurate as we can make it since they didn’t have birth certificates back then and no known Bible exists with the information in it.

The marriage information is less guaranteed in my opinion. The information comes from a “… unique collection of records … extracted from a variety of sources including family group sheets and electronic databases.” This means that the source is from unverifiable information. Not only that, but Isaac was born in Kentucky, and Jemimah was born in one of the Carolinas about 1804.  Everything I have found has them living in Arkansas from at least 1821 (via tax records) to 1863.  It’s possible, but I don’t see them both travelling from their birth states to Texas – find each other – get married – and then move to Arkansas in the same year.  You gotta remember – any travelling would have been in horse drawn carts or the like. So, is the date accurate? Could be; but I’ve found no real proof.  Is the location accurate? Who knows – I sure don’t.

Finally, the death of Isaac has two different locations and years.  A prevailing number of Ancestry trees has him dying in Texas in 1865. Others have him dying in Illinois in 1863.  The first is interesting in that the sources used to show that he died in 1865 in Texas are other peoples’ Ancestry trees – which is to say – there is no proof.

The second death date was actually fun to disprove.  If you search Ancestry for “Isaac Shannon” you will find all sorts of information.  And, if you go to (a military records resource) and do the same search you will find even more information.  I’ve found a minimum of three that were living during the Civil War era: a 60 year old man living in Arkansas, an 18 year old man in Texas, and a dead Union soldier with orphaned children in Indiana (who is clearly not my ancestor).

First off… there IS an Isaac Shannon that died of unknown causes as a prisoner of war at Camp Butler, Illinois in February 23, 1863 after being captured a month earlier.  However, if someone were to ask questions – one of them might be “Why did an Arkansan join the Confederate Army in Texas?” Another question might be “Why is a 62 year old joining the Texas Cavalry?”

So I did a little more digging at (which is a subscription service).  If we look at the 25th Texas Cavalry Isaac Shannon, we find out he was 18 years old when he joined (see the picture above)! He actually joined an infantry regiment that was later transformed into the cavalry regiment. This is obviously not my 60 year old Arkansan 4th great-grandfather.

A little more research shows that my Isaac Shannon signed a Bond of Obedience in Washington County, Arkansas on 5 February 1863 which states that he is, has been, and will be obedient to the United States government.

So… did MY Isaac Shannon die in a prisoner of war camp in Illinois? I’m pretty sure the answer is “No.”  However, one word of mouth story has reached me that he and his family did move to Texas for the duration of the war.  If that is the case, then it must have happened after he signed the Bond of Obedience in Arkansas.

So when and where did he die?  Well, the 1870 Federal Census has a J. Shannon (Jemimah?) living with a W. H. and Sarah Shannon (which just so happens to match William Henry – Isaac’s and Jemimah’s son’s initials) back living in Arkansas. There is no sign of Isaac Shannon in this census.  So maybe the word of mouth fact of them moving to Texas to wait out the rest of the Civil War and the unproven statements that he died in Texas about 1865 are true?  I honestly don’t know – but it’s a place to start searching for old newspapers, tombstones, and the like.

And that is what genealogical research is about…



Ancestry DNA

It’s been a long time coming (I’ve been planning on submitting my DNA to Ancestry for quite a while now but kept spending my money on other useless stuff); but I’ve finally ordered and received my DNA kit from Why? Because I’m a genealogy and technogeek.


One real reason is that I wanted to see where the family comes from (as far as the DNA reports). My research, so far, goes back to the mid-1700s and the only countries outside of the United States that I’ve found direct ancestors to have come from is Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and France (specifically the Alsace-Lorraine region).  Check out a previous post in my blog to learn more about this Alsace-Lorraine discussion.

Another reason is that is able to match up my DNA with other peoples’ DNA that indicate we are related somehow.  This can help us find new information concerning our family tree.

There are concerns that people have and/or are warned about.  Ancestry, and the other private companies, have been approached by law enforcement to get DNA results for specific individuals. So, if you plan on committing a crime AND leaving DNA behind – you best not give away your DNA samples.  For me, however, the government already has my DNA from my time in the military (easier for them to identify my remains even if I left no fingerprints or dental behind). So… I’m busted anyway if I leave a random hair behind at a crime scene.  Guess I’ll have to go out of my way to not commit any crimes.

Another concern is that the private DNA companies might sell or give away our DNA data to other companie (like the insurance folks). The concern is that if the insurance company finds out your genetically susceptible to some disease, they won’t insure you or they’ll charge you a higher premium.Currently, Ancestry’s privacy policy says that they won’t. And, if you do allow them to, when they provide your DNA results to 3rd parties they will de-identify you. The 3rd party will get your results but won’t be able to know where they came from. Even if all this changes, it still won’t bother me. My insurance is already paid for for my life.  Unless the government fails, I’m covered.

So, I opened it up and found all the pieces…

AncestryDNA Kit Exposed

And, I was a little shocked to see how much saliva I was going to have to supply.  It looked like a LOT.  But then I noticed that the tube was already mostly filled.  Turns out I needed to provide about 1/4 teaspoon worth. Everything underneath the activation code label is filled; so it wasn’t too hard to fill it up.

AncestryDNA Sample Tube

Now all I have to do is wait 6-8 weeks for them to analyze the sample!  Once they do that, I’ll write another blog to let you know how it went.

If you would like to order a kit to check out what your DNA says about your genealogy or ethnic background… use this link (you’ll get the kit cheaper at $89 and I get a $10 gift card). Typically, the non-sale price of the kit is $99, I got it on sale (which ends today) for $79.  And there is a $10 shipping fee; but I found a free shipping coupon code on

On the Oregon Trail

Part of the “fun” that I have with genealogy is learning more about our family’s and our country’s history.  The more I delve into our family, the more I want to learn about what they endured and/or thrived through.  Recently, I found a note that one set of my 4th great grandparents (on my mother’s side) headed west on the Oregon Trail! So, I thought I’d share what I found.

First the family…  Much of what I found was first reported by Gordon S. on the Find A Grave website for this family. I then went on to find additional and/or source information from the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.

John Christian Emrich was born and baptised in the Spring of 1797 in Carroll County, Maryland to John and Elisabeth (Lorisch) Emrick (also spelled Emerick) who, it is believed, were of German descent. He later was known simply as Christian Emrick. Within a few years of the turn of the century, about 1804, the family moved to Columbiana County, Ohio. After John’s death in 1821, Elisabeth moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania where she died about 1845.

Christian married his wife whose name was either Catherine Weems or, as her daughter claimed, Mariah Catherine Venning in September 1818 in Ohio. Little is known of her ancestry at this time. They later moved to Illinois and a few years after that to Missouri.  I can’t help but wonder if they just wanted to get away from civilization!  The further west the country expanded, the farther west they moved.  You can view their travels on this map.


For whatever reason, they decided to travel the not quite 2200 miles from Missouri to the Oregon area. Remember, it did not even become an official territory of the United States until August 1848 and wouldn’t become a state until 1859.  This trip was expected to take between 4 and 6 months!

It seems that a major worry of the emigrants was attacks by the indians; but this was actually a rare occurance and, it is believed,  that the attacks that did occur were usually just white bandits. The American Indians were actually helpful to those that were in need.

The other major worry was cholera.  It is estimated that, of the 300,000-500,000 people that went to Oregon, 6-10% died due to disease. That is what happened to my 4th great grandmother.

However, she didn’t die of cholera; it is suspected that she died of Mountain Fever which is a catch all term for a variety of potential diseases. The NPS source states, “The diseases that fit these symptoms are: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, typhus, typhoid fever and scarlet fever.” She died a little over half way along the trail near Bear River in Wyoming (somewhere near the southwest corner of present day Wyoming) in 1848. She would have been about 47 years old.


Christian kept on after this tragedy. Ultimately he made it to Washington County, Oregon. Later, he obtained land near his son, Solomon, near Oregon City, Oregon. He died in 1851 just three years after making the trip to Oregon.  US, Indexed Early Land Ownership and Township Plats, 1785-1898 - Christian EMRICK

His daughter, my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah did not go to Oregon. By the time her parents and brother headed up the Oregon Trail she was on her second of three marriages. And, as it turned out, the 2nd marriage is the one that ultimately led to me!

Skeletons in the Closet

I have known for a long time that most of my family (on both sides) came from the south. Most of them fought for the Confederate Army.  And I sort of took a perverse pleasure in that I came from a stock of rebels. And, I’ve always been proud, in some sort of way, that those relatives never actually owned slaves – at least so far as I’ve found.

Back in the Summer of 2015 Ben Affleck caused a bit of a crisis in the TV show “Finding Your Roots” when they found an ancestor of his was a slave owner. He tried to get the show (or at least the information about the slave owning ancestors) suppressed. At the time I thought that this was a bit silly. I mean, why worry about what your ancestor did?  What they did doesn’t describe who you are, does it?

Mr. Affleck isn’t the only one with this problem. I watched another documentary that discussed some of the issues of the relatives of Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler not too long ago and felt bad for those relatives! Their entire lives seemingly defined by what their infamous relations did.

1850 Federal Census - Slave Schedule

Recently, while working on my direct ancestors, I found some slave owners in my history in the 1850 Federal Census – Slave Schedules. On my dad’s side of the family, my 4th great grandfather (my father’s mother’s father’s mother’s mother’s father) Samuel S. Porter owned nine slaves. My 5th great grandfather on my mom’s side (my mother’s father’s mother’s father’s father’s mother’s father) William Black Jr. owned six slaves. I also found William Black’s son-in-law and my 4th great grandfather Isaac Shannon also owned eight slaves in 1860.

When I found this information, I didn’t know how to feel. Elated that I found new information as a genealogist and let down that I couldn’t be “proud” I had no slave owner ancestors.  And then these conflicting emotions hit me while I was talking about genealogy with someone at work. This someone, oh by the way, is of mixed race (half white & half African-American).  It wasn’t until after the discussion (where, yes, I did mention these slave owners) I started wondering if I put my foot into my mouth somehow.  To me, this was a historical and research discussion. But that was not likely how these things are thought about by others!

I wonder what happened to these slaves.  I know that William Black died before the Civil War. So, I can hope that his will freed them. I’ll need to travel to the county where he died and find the probate records. I couldn’t find Samuel Porter in the Slave Schedules for Porter in 1860, so I can hope he set them free.  And Isaac Shannon moved from his home in Arkansas to Texas during the middle of the Civil War (to get away from it); not sure how convenient it would have been to travel with slaves at the time – so I can hope that he set them free first. But that’s unlikely.

So… the fact that these three families were slave owners is important; but it isn’t all there is to these peoples’ lives.

William Black, for example, was a Captain of 1st Company in Major H. Rennick’s Mounted Battalion of  Kentucky Volunteers under Gen. Andrew Jackson during the Creek War of 1812 as can be seen by these sources:

Samuel Porter seemed to be a contrarian politically speaking and ended up owning about 600 acres of land. He was a devoted Baptist and an “old-line Whig” in politics.

Isaac Shannon is currently lost to me. I can’t find where or when he died. I do know that his wife and family moved back to Arkansas after the war.

Anyway… our family has the spectre of being descended from Confederates and slave owners. Does that have a bearing on who we are? Or how we act? I don’t think so; but then I don’t come from ancestors who were the slaves!

Von Flaugh – Shotgun Accident

While randomly researching names in the online newspaper archives (when I had a subscription to I found some interesting stories.  This is one of those stories…  [heh – that reminds me of the start of the old TV series Dragnet].

It turns out that weapon accidents are nothing new.  I found my great-grandfather, Von Flaugh, (my mother’s mother’s father) had an accident with a shotgun that, apparently, messed him up pretty badly.

Before we get into the details, let’s look at some basics.

Von Flaugh

Von was…

  • born in March 1889 in Pagosa Springs, CO
  • lived in Pagosa Springs until 1905 when he moved to La Plata, NM
  • lived in La Plata, Aztec, and Flora Vista until 1935 when he moved to Ignacio, CO
  • died in Ignacio in September 1936

This map shows you these locations and, something I find interesting, is that he lived his entire life within 70 miles (as the crow flies) of where he was born.

Some other items of note; Von…

  • married Lucy Jeanette Johnson in March 1912
  • had my grandmother, Margaret Etta Flaugh, in January 1913
  • wounded himself in November 1913
  • had my great uncle Herbert Flaugh in May 1914
  • registered for the draft in June 1917

I bring these up because the timing of the accident is fortuitous. The accident happened after his wedding and subsequent birth of my grandmother – without whom I would not be here to write this blog!!

So, here’s the story I’ve been leading up to… this info is pretty much straight from the December 7, 1913 issue of the Albuquerque Morning Journal newspaper with a shorter version of the incident in this reproduction of an article from the December 5, 1913 issue of the Farmington Enterprise newspaper. The date on the reproduction is incorrect stating this happened in 1918; I’ve personally viewed a microfiche copy of the actual 1913 paper and found it.

At the time Von and his wife (and his parents) were living in La Plata, NM while her parents were living about 15 miles away near Aztec, NM. And, while Lucy was visiting her parents, Von went hunting rabbits [heh – now I’m thinking of Elmer Fudd].  After a while, he decided to head back to the house. Fortunately (?) he saw someone riding a wagon from Bloomfield to Aztec and asked to catch a ride (most people didn’t own automobiles back then).

He got up into the wagon and placed the shotgun on the floorboard butt down between his legs. Unfortunately, the floorboards shifted and the shotgun slid down between the boards allowing the hammer to strike and fire the weapon!

The entire shot went into his leg (tearing off an 8 inch chunk) and then entered his groin!

He was taken to Farmington General Hospital (a good 20 miles away or so) where he stayed for at least two weeks.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find when he was discharged.

He survived for another 23 years with this wound; but still died at the young age of 47 years old. By all accounts, when he died it was from complications associated with this accident. My Uncle Bob (a doctor no less and the grandson of Von) tells me that it could have been an embolic stroke or an infection that ultimately caused Von’s death.

If this happened today, he would have likely been at the hospital and in surgery within the hour via our local Air Care helicopter.  Back then… not so timely.

Twenty miles in a buggy? Ouch. Even if if they did have an automobile nearby it would have likely been a Ford Model T which could get up to 40-45mph. Now drive that Model T about 20 miles over dirt roads! I’m not sure which would be worse.  Once you get to the hospital, you’re looking at him getting medical care from doctors that have never heard of a World War (World War One won’t start for another six months or so).

So, once again, I find a story that basically tells me that I shouldn’t complain about my life when it goes nuts! The people in my past have had it much harder.  I can only wonder if our descendants (well, I have none, but my niece’s descendants) will think the same thing about us.