Thursday, July 19, 2018

Digging Up Dirt: My Top 5 Sites for the Beginning Genealogist

By Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams
If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that part of its focus is on genealogy. As I’ve said, I’m not a professional genealogist. Like most of you, I began with a curiosity about where I came from . . . where my roots are. My journey began back in the 1990s when we moved to Florida and I met the regent of my local DAR chapter, a fellow-member of our church choir.

I had no clue where the road would lead me but believe me when I tell you, I’ve been on more pot-hole-filled, back-woods-country-roads than I ever thought possible. I’ve gotten lost more than once. I’ve driven over rain-slicked, red clay roads, over briar and bramble, and trudged through the thickest, insect-infested woods in south Alabama. All for the sake of finding the final resting place of a long-forgotten ancestor.

I Found Her!

Let me tell you, the thrill of seeing that person’s name carved into a piece of stone has been worth every single scratch and bite I’ve gotten. And, not once have I gotten into poison ivy. Thank you, Lord.

When I began this genealogy journey, I didn’t even have a cell phone. I was one of the last holdouts for the new technology. I’m still not very tech savvy, but I’m learning something new every day, and I’m not intimidated by such these days. I’m doing my best to embrace all of these tools as the helpful friends they are. But I want you to have an easier time than I had, so today I’m giving you my top choices for help in beginning your ancestor search. I hope you find these sites useful

My Top 5: (
Did you know that Ancestry is the most widely-used site of all? Yes, you do have to pay for it and it’s not cheap, but you can get fourteen days for free. I suggest you make a list of the people about whom you’d most like to learn something, then do a search. But beware—you must proceed with caution as not all of the information you find in a tree will be accurate. After all, it is added by amateurs for the most part. Here’s my rule: if it isn’t documented, don’t add it. Then go do your own research for any document that will help you identify this person through deeds, marriage records, death records, birth (if you can find it), wills, court proceeding, etc. Since you may not want to join, be sure to print the pages you find and save them in a file folder. Believe me, you may never find them again, so be sure to print the pages or take a screen shot of your findings. I've been a member of Ancestry for many, many years and I like it. It offers a variety DNA information once you've tested with them.

USGenWeb Project (

This one is free. It has resources for every US state and most counties within those states. Content will vary from state to state and county to county. Common records you may find include cemetery and marriage records. You may also add your own records here, but please make sure they are documented.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA):
Another free site. It’s where the government stores most federal military, census, and immigration records. There are many things available here that you may not find anywhere else. Some are digitized.

Free. One of the best free sites out there. Here you may search millions of digitized and indexed records from around the world. Be sure to check out the Learn tab. You can even rent microfilmed records for use at your local FamilySearch Center. And, add your own family tree. Again, be sure it is well documented.

Another free resource. If your library offers this, it is a great source. You’ll find Revolutionary War records, US census records, local and family history books, even articles. Know that you will have to sign up with a user name and password.

This is a new one to me, but when I jumped in and began looking around, I found it to be a great place for the beginning genealogist. It covers quite a variety of topics and answers some of those questions that most of us will have at one time or another. Enter genealogy basics into the search box. You'll find many articles about how to get started.

These are just a few of the sources I’ve used at one time or another as I’ve searched for my ancestors. I didn’t add it to this list because it seems so obvious, but don’t forget to do a Google search. You never know what may show up. I hope you find that elusive ancestor, that brick wall. Happy hunting.

Have you begun a genealogy journey? Tell us your favorite sites below. I'm always looking for sources of good information.


Digging Up Dirt—My Top 5 Resources @DDuPreeWilliams (Click to Tweet)

Bonus Sites to Check Out:

Cyndi’s List

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Scripture and Hymns, The Gospel in Song

By Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams
I don’t know why I should be surprised, but in the past couple of weeks, I have been by the number of scripture verses posted that are anthems or solos I’ve sung at one time or another in my lifetime. Now, granted, when you get to be my age and you’ve been singing in church since you were three, you should know a verse or two and not just Jesus Loves Me.

This got me to thinking of the tradition in which I was raised. My Daddy’s family worshiped in the Presbyterian church, my Mama in the Methodist. During WWII when Daddy was fighting over in the Pacific and Mama was home with Bobbie, Mama went to the Methodist church close to her home because it was too far to walk to the Presbyterian church where Daddy and his family had worshiped. Then, when Daddy came home from the war, the people at the Methodist church came by to welcome him home. Sadly, his home church didn’t do the same. That is how we became the only Methodists in the DuPree family.

One cannot think about music in the Methodist church without thinking of Charles Wesley and his brother John. They, along with George Whitefield, are the founders of the Methodist church. As a child, I most closely associated John with having been the founder of the church and Charles with having written so many of the hymns we sang.

Charles Wesley, Writer of Hymns

Born in 1707, Charles was one of eighteen children. He received his education at Oxford (I hope you will forgive me while I brag just a bit and say that I have a son enrolled in the MBA program at Oxford). Charles married Sarah Gwynne, daughter of a Welsh gentleman. They were the parents of musician Samuel Wesley, and the grandparents of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley. I’ve sung a couple of anthems written by Samuel Sebastian Wesley. Charles graduated from Oxford with a master’s degree in classical languages and literature. In his lifetime, he wrote more than six-thousand hymns. I’m sure that Oxford education was a huge help with that.

It’s no wonder that I know so many of Wesley’s hymns. They are a treasured part of my up-bringing. We were a musical, church-going family. If the doors of the church were open, you could be assured that we were there. And none of us was shy about singing loudly.

Singing with my Sissy

It was in Lafayette Street Methodist Church in Dothan, Alabama, that I became enthralled with music. Not just any music, but the music of the church. When I was three and my sister was ten, we began singing together in church. I stood in a chair and Bobbie stood beside me. The first things we sang together were hymns. She taught me the words and the melody and she sang harmony. We sang in many churches in the Dothan area, and when we moved to Andalusia when I was ten, we sang in our church there, First Methodist (now First United Methodist). Soon we were singing at many other churches in the area and at various civic groups. Then my sister went away to college and I began singing solos.

The Gospel Message

The hymns of the church carry the Gospel message in plain words that everyone can understand. (Except for that word, ebenezer. I always thought that was a character straight out of A Christmas Carol.) Set to beautiful melodies, the words are easy to memorize. I know all the verses to many hymns and I still sing those around our home when I’m cleaning or cooking. And my husband and I still sing along with recordings of our Birmingham church choir, Independent Presbyterian Church. We were members of the choir there for the first eleven years of our marriage. We moved to Florida after those eleven years. Thirty-four years later, we still miss the people and the music.

It saddens me that we’ve gotten away from the tradition of hymn singing. My children don’t know the hymns I learned as a child. My grandchildren will never know, or even hear them. Unless you’ve been in a church where hymns were a part of the service, you can’t relate to how impactful the words are. They tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. The majority of them point to our need for Christ or what He did for us on the cross. Many of them come straight out of the scriptures, maybe paraphrased, but the message is the same.

So, y’all just keep posting the scripture verses and I’ll keep walking down memory lane as I sing the hymn associated with the verses you all post. I don’t even mind when a tune gets stuck in my brain for a day or two . . . or seven. It just becomes old home week. Thanks, y’all.

Does your church still sing hymns?  Tell us about your experience and share your thoughts.


Here are some familiar hymns written by Charles Wesley:

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

Jesus, Lover of My Soul

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

Rejoice, the Lord is King

Soldiers of Christ, Arise

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Thursday, July 5, 2018

My Patriot, One of Many

By Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams

Since we celebrate our great country’s birthday this week, I spent a bit of time today looking up my great-great-great-great-grandfather’s Revolutionary War service. As we celebrate our independence, I couldn’t help but think about Grandpa Jeremiah Dupree.

Grandpa Jeremiah was born November 16, 1754, in Brunswick County, Virginia, which became Greensville County in 1780.  He entered the service in Greensville County in 1777 as a Volunteer and was Ensign of the Company. His commanding officer was Captain William Peterson.

Apparently, Grandpa went in and out of service. When he left, he was replaced by his brother, Cordell Dupree. It seems that they swapped places with one another from time to time. Terms of service were only three months. I suppose they thought the war wouldn’t last long. I have no clue and I am no historian. In 1780, Grandpa volunteered once again and entered the service within the same county.

Guilford Courthouse and Yorktown

On March 15, 1781, Grandpa was at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse,located today in Greensboro, North Carolina.  His commanding officer was none other than General Nathaniel Greene.  He was severely wounded in this battle and was sent home to recuperate. After a three-month convalescence period, he volunteered yet again and joined a company led by Captain Turner Bynum and was marched to Yorktown, Virginia. Present in the battle here were the Generals, George Washington, Anthony Wayne, and Benjamin Lincoln. He was discharged from the Army around the tenth or eleventh of October in 1781, due to illness, thus he wasn’t present for the surrender of the British troops.

I didn’t know any of this as a child, or even as a young adult. It wasn’t until late 1999 or early 2000 that I began to seek my ancestral roots. Let me tell you, the things I have learned have been mind-boggling. I am very proud of my ancestors, but I can tell you that not all of the stories are pleasant. This is to tell you that when you begin your genealogical search, you need to be prepared for both the good and the bad, because you will, inevitably, learn some not so pleasant things in your research.


One interesting thing about Grandpa Jeremiah is that family lore said he had been the standard-bearer at Yorktown. Apparently, he really was the standard-bearer, but it was at Guilford Courthouse, not Yorktown. Court records in which he was trying to get his pension show testimonies not only by Grandpa, but by others who witnessed him refusing to let go of the standard even though he was gravely wounded.

That pension? Well, he never got it from what I can tell. Even though witnesses were brought in who testified that they knew him and knew his comings and goings and that he had, indeed, been wounded, and even though Grandpa personally testified, they denied his pension due to lack of proof. His first hearing was in 1833, the last was in 1852. Grandpa Jeremiah died on September 8, 1838. It was his son, Ira E. Dupree, executor of his estate, who through his power of attorney, tried to obtain any benefits owed his father’s estate for his years of service.

Thank You

From Cowpens Battlefield, South Carolina
As we celebrate our nation’s two-hundred-forty-second birthday, let’s remember all the Jeremiah’s who volunteered to fight for our beloved country back then and who have continued to step up to fight for our freedom. Let’s remember all those who stayed at home and held things together so that we might be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let’s all stand and cheer and maybe even shed a tear as we remember all those who have served through our entire history. We are free today because of men and women who bravely said, Here am I . . . send me. (Isaiah 6:8)

Do you have an ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War? If you think you do, contact your local DAR, SAR, or CAR chapter and tell them what you know. They won’t do all the work for you, but they will help you find the proofs you need. And share with us about your ancestor.