20 April 2015

Is our family related to the outlaw Jesse James?

I got an IM from my cousin Tricia that said, "Hey Mat - this past weekend our daughter, Alyssa, asked me how our family is related to the outlaw Jesse James? I had to admit that I'd only heard that story but I had no idea if it was really true. I know you're interested in genealogy so I'm wondering if you know the details?"

I vaguely remember hearing about this family connection to Jesse James from my mother. Since I have been actively engaged in family history I have never searched out this connection.

My first step was to log into relativefinder.org and see my connection.

According to Relative Finder, Jesse Woodson James is my 8th cousin 6 times removed. The problem with this connection besides how far away we are related is that the path that leads to me is through my father's side of the family and my cousin Tricia is on my mother's side.

I next decided to learn a little about Jesse James and his family to see if there are any common place names or family names that I can make a connection through.

photo from wikipedia

On biography.com it says, "American outlaw, robber and legendary figure Jesse Woodson James was born on September 5, 1847, in Kearney, Missouri. Jesse and his brother Frank James were educated and hailed from a prestigious family of farmers. Their father, the Reverend Robert James, was a Baptist minister who married Zerelda Cole James and moved from Kentucky to Missouri in 1842. In the summer of 1863, the James farm was brutally attacked by Union soldiers. Jesse was 16 when he and Frank became Confederate guerrilla soldiers, riding alongside William Quantrill and 'Bloody Bill' Anderson." The biography goes on to say, "In 1874, Jesse married his longtime sweetheart and first cousin, Zerelda, and had two children." On April 3, 1882, Jesse was shot Jesse in the back of the head and died instantly at age 34. 

Annie James - I though at first she was holding a rifle in this photograph.

I next looked to see where else Jesse may fit in my tree. My grandfather's mother's name is Anna Williams James. She was born in 1877 in Fayette, Utah. She is the daughter of John Saunders James and Elizabeth Henry Williams who were both born in England. Although this James family is the most closely related to me I do not believe that they could be directly related to Jesse James. Tracing Jesse James' family tree, it does not leave the Americas before 1770.

Having Mormon heritage is is well known that Missouri is a common place where our ancestors lived, were chased out and traveled through on their way to Utah. To summarize the entry for Clay County, Missouri in the Joseph Smith Papers it says Liberty was designated county seat in 1822. It served as a refuge for Latter-day Saints expelled from Jackson Co. in 1833. The LDS population in 1834 was about 900. Missouri citizens demanded the Saints leave in the summer 1836. Most Saints immigrated to newly formed Caldwell County by 1838. Joseph Smith was imprisoned in the jail at Liberty over the winter of 1838–1839.

The time the Mormons spent in Clay county before Joseph Smith's martyrdom in 1844 was before Jesse's birth. Although Jesse and his brother Frank were know to have traveled all over the American West. I am not sure anyone can say for sure that they were ever in Utah, Idaho or Wyoming or that they were linked in anyway to the Mormons and in turn my ancestors. Known descendants of the two are also ruled out and direct relatives. 

I think the possibility of establishing a relationship within the James family is not possible without DNA. We may be more closely related through other lines and marriages but my 8th cousin 6 times removed connection may be as close as I get to this notorious historical figure. To put this into perspective I am more closely related to Presidents James Garfield, Ulysses Grant, Grover Cleveland, Rutherford B. Hayes, John Quincy Adams, Gerald Ford, William Taft, William McKinley, Calvin Coolidge, George Washington, William Harrison, Richard Nixon, Warren G. Harding, Millard Fillmore and Franklin Roosevelt than I am Jesse James.

17 April 2015

RootsTech 2015 - One final note

As I was visiting the Expo Hall I noticed that there was a lot of good energy. I mentioned before that there were a lot more people at this conference than last year. Most of the the bigger booths were also similar to what was there last year.

The Ancestry booth had small sessions to discuss different parts of their website. They even had benches for people to sit on and watch the presentations.

The MyHeritage booth had a similar setup with chairs instead of benches. Their presence was felt throughout the conference. I noticed that several of the bloggers I follow are sponsored by MyHeritage and all of the lanyards with the conference tags had the MyHeritage logo on them.

FindMyPast also had presentations, I noticed that their presenters all had an English accent. I know the least about this organization but there presence at the conference was bolstered by Joshua Taylor. Josh is the president of the FGS and Business Development Manager for FindMyPast. He may be most recognized for his appearances on Who Do You Think You Are and the Genealogy Roadshow.

02 April 2015

Best practices for youth family history consultants

I recently attended a training with my stake for ward family history consultants. The training was aimed at new consultants and ideas for how they can work with others in their ward. My son and I were asked to speak about best practices for youth family history consultants.

My son did a wonderful job talking about his experiences as a consultant and they things he has learned while serving. The feedback I got from my list was encouraging enough I thought I would share my thoughts here as well.

Six things leaders should be doing with Youth Family History consultants.
  • Use them don’t just call them – Our ward had a youth family history consultant for many years. I am not sure he ever had an opportunity to meet with someone in our ward to teach them about family history before he left on his mission. We thought we should find  replacements but wanted to make sure our youth understood what their responsibilities are and how they could be accomplish.
  • The Bishop, with input from the Ward Council, should assign specific people for them to teach – As part of the efforts of the ward council to work with members of the ward, new and returning members should be assigned a Family History consultant. The youth consultants should also visit members of the ward council. This gives the Ward Council members the opportunity to learn from the consultant. Even if you pass out a sign-up list for people interested in getting help and assign
  • Give them measurable goals – Ask them to help those they work with to find one name to take to the temple. Ask them to help a member complete a three generation chart. Ask them to help someone to add pictures or stories about four of their loved ones. Make sure they know to whom they should return and report.
  • Help to prepare those they teach – Leaders should have assigned people gather pictures, documents and stories about their relatives before the consultants meet with them. It would also be great if they already had their account set up for Family Search before the consultants arrive. Although consultants can help members to create their accounts and log into Family Search, this time would be better spent looking for their relatives and working toward assigned goals.
  • Make them part of the missionary effort – Assign consultants to work with ward missionaries. The youth consultants should teach their assigned ward missionaries. When the ward missionaries meet someone who would benefit from a consultant there is already an understanding how the consultant can help. Part of reactivation or baptism of new members is to get them to take the names of their relatives to the temple as quickly as possible. Statistics show that this experience increases retention for both new and returning members.
  • Have them teach all ages--not just other youth. Older members struggle with technology. Having youth help them, makes the use of technology more approachable. Not all are familiar with the new website, its functionality, or the information that is available. As I stated before, the youth can work with any new members and investigators when deemed appropriate. 
Not to reveal to much behind the curtain, but my wife wrote this article in our local newspaper. The unnamed 12-year-old boy is my son and the family mentioned is a part-member family in my ward. This article give more insight into our stake's Youth  Family History efforts.