How Cleaning My Office Led To New Genealogy Research

It was time. As I set out to declutter and organize my home office, little did I know that such a routine task would lead to a wonderful new database to explore. In genealogy, we are looking for records that provide more names, dates, and connections to our ancestors. In this blog post, I’ll share this “new” discovery and explain why you’ll want it in your genealogy toolbox too.

Creating Order

While we all have various amounts of clutter, these small piles of mine have been around for too long. Just knowing they were in the closet seemed to clutter my mind as much as they cluttered the floor. So I took everything out and placed it in the next room and completely cleaned my office. Then, I brought each pile in and started going through them.

Most of the papers were discarded, filed, or put in the receipts folder. After several days of this (just a few hours each day), I’m left with 2 small piles of personal and genealogy to-do’s. It’s always nice to start with a clean slate and that’s what I have now. I also have a plan to go through those to-do piles and how to keep up with future clutter. I don’t want to do this again!


In this digital age, many books and magazines are online. I prefer to feel the material in my hands, but that also means I have more clutter. Another pile comprised several years of the magazine, American Ancestors, from the New England Historical and Genealogical Society. That’s the subject of today’s post.

Despite the large task ahead, I read (or at least looked through) each one. I came across the “New Database” section from the Summer 2020 edition.1 The article by Don LeClair highlighted NEHGS Membership Applications for the period 1845-1900. He explained how to find the database on the NEHGS website and included interesting facts like how former President, John Quincy Adams, became the first member. An acceptance letter dated 1 August 1845 is included in the collection. Also in the database are the first women applicants from 2 February 1898.

I don’t have many New England ancestors, however, my husband does. So, I went to the database and entered the surname “Lunt.” If you recall Rob and I took a trip to Newbury/Newburyport, Massachusetts earlier this year to research their first settlers, including his 8x great-grandfather, Henry Lunt. You can read about that blog post here.

New discoveries

That search resulted in the application of David Perkins Page dated 5 April 1872. David was the son of David Perkins Page and Susan Maria Lunt, the 4x great-granddaughter of Henry Lunt, and a distant cousin of my husband.

I absolutely love the opening paragraph, “To Rev Edmund F. Slafter, Corresponding Secretary: Sir: – I have received your Communication informing me of my election as a Resident Member of the New England Historic, Genealogical Society, and hereby beg to express my acceptance of membership. I am very respectfully yours, David P. Page.”2

David’s application was four pages long, which was the standard length at the time. Some members added numerous additional documents, such as family trees, and biographical and genealogical data providing genealogy gold!

With every document we uncover, we either learn new information or confirm what we already know. David provided his parents’ birth date and place, his paternal and maternal grandfather’s names, his children’s names, and his wife’s maiden name along with her father.

He also furnished his occupation and prominent facts about his life. He served in the Navy during the Civil War as a Ship’s Master. After the war, he commanded a ship in the California and East India trade. This type of information is hard to come by and David wrote it in his own hand, plus his signature!


While its name might suggest a regional focus, The New England Historic and Genealogical Society serves as a vital source of information beyond New England as well. Recognized as the oldest genealogical society in the country, its resources (including the wonderful databases on the website) make it a must-have in your genealogy toolbox.

Do you have some cleaning to do? Like me, you might discover interesting stories of ancestors you didn’t know you had. If you need help getting started, please reach out. I’d love to help with your journey to the past.

Genealogy tip: Many genealogy publications and websites provide updates to helpful databases. Every so often, check out blogs and articles on major sites to see if they have something new for you to explore!

1 Don LeClair, “New Database: NEHGS Membership Applications, 1845-1900,” American Ancestors (Summer 2020): 36-7.

2“NEHGS Membership Applications, 1845-1900,” database with images, AmericanAncestors ( accessed 19 Aug 2023), entry for David P. Page, vol. 1872, pp. 33:1-33:4; citing New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2020.

Why It’s Important To Prove Parentage

One of the most fundamental things we can do as genealogists is to prove parentage. It’s important we correctly link the generations before moving up the family tree. If we don’t, we may be tracing someone else’s family instead of our own.

Depending on the time and place, proving parents can be easy or challenging. It’s easy when there are multiple records that directly answer your question about parentage. When there are few to none, it gets a little trickier.

I’m going through my family tree verifying my ancestors’ parents, and ensuring all my sources are cited…starting with the parents of John Edward McKamey, my great-grandfather.

Documents and methodologies for finding parents:

Vital Records: Birth, marriage, and death records are essential documents in genealogy. I found John Edward’s death certificate online. This gives direct evidence that his parents were John McKamey and Edith Hightower. 1

There is a marriage record for John Edward, but no parents were listed. I came up empty for birth and baptism records as well. Anderson County, Tennessee didn’t start recording births until 1881 and statewide registration didn’t begin until 1914.2

Census Records: Since John Edward was born around 1873, the 1880 census is an excellent place to start. He lived in the John McKamy household. Beginning in 1880 relationships were included in census records, so the fact that John Edward was listed as the son of John McKamy also gives us direct evidence of parentage. John’s wife’s name was Ada. I’m not sure if Ada was a nickname or Edith’s middle name as I have found her called Edith, Ada, and Eady.

Probate Records: These can be wonderful documents to search for proof of parentage. Unfortunately, in this case, there are no probate records. John McKamey died in the Fraterville Mine Explosion, so there is no will.

DNA Testing: I do have several DNA matches from siblings of John Edward that prove my lineage back to John McKamey and Edith Hightower. It’s important to look for descendants other than your direct line to help your case.

Challenges to finding the correct parents for your ancestor:

Incomplete Records: Genealogical research is sometimes hampered by incomplete or missing records, making it challenging to prove parentage beyond doubt. Sometimes you have to use indirect evidence to build your case. Indirect evidence is when you have a research question that is not directly answered by a source and its information. You have to combine it with other pieces of evidence to arrive at your conclusion.

Common Names: Common names can lead to confusion and mistaken identity. Distinguishing between individuals with identical or similar names requires meticulous attention to detail and a thorough analysis of available records.

Illegitimacy and Adoption: Uncovering parentage becomes more complex when dealing with cases of illegitimate birth or adoption. In such instances, alternative sources, like court records, adoption documents, and even oral histories, might provide vital clues.

Proving parentage is an essential aspect of genealogy that requires a blend of traditional research methods and modern technological tools. There may be challenges along the way, but making sure you’re climbing the correct family tree is worth the effort.

Genealogy tip: Take your time! Racing through the generations may provide more ancestors, but unless you take the time to prove the parent/child link, you may be doing a lot of research for nothing.

1“Tennessee, U.S., Death Certificates, 1908-1965,” file number 49-04105, John Edward McKamey, died 17 Feb 1949, Anderson County, Tennessee; digital image, ( accessed 10 Feb 2023), image 73; citing Tennessee State Library and Archives.

2 “Anderson County, Tennessee Genealogy,” FamilySearch (,_Tennessee_Genealogy: accessed 11 August 2023.

3 Reasons To Believe In Genealogy Serendipity

Do you believe in serendipity? I’m not sure I ever gave it that much thought, but now my answer is a resounding YES!

As I’ve pursued my love of genealogy and the research process, I’ve had several instances of genealogy serendipity.

The first came when I looked through some framed photos of my dad’s family, specifically his great-grandparents, Frederick Stabley and Emma Welty. You can read about them in a previous blog post. When I took the picture out of the frame to scan, I found hidden photos of my grandparent’s wedding. Yay!!

Frederick and Emma Welty Stabley
Bernard D. Stabley, Sr. and Lillian Bothwell Wedding Day

Second, in the next two years, it is my goal to be certified through the Board for Certification of Genealogists. One of the required submissions is called a Kinship Determination Project (KDP for short) where you tell the story of 3 generations and link them together. This past month I decided who I would write about. That in and of itself is not earth-shattering news.

But, my city has a free local paper that is delivered weekly in the mail. In it, the president of the local historical society writes about people, places, and things of the past. Wouldn’t you know the subject of the article she recently wrote about involved the family of my KDP? I’m not a big believer in signs, but I think this is saying…you’re headed in the right direction.

And last, my husband’s family has been in this area for over 100 years. His mom was born just down the street. Across from that house lives one of my husband’s many cousins. Over the winter she had a pipe burst which soaked everything in the basement. One of the boxes was filled with photo albums and old documents. She brought it to us and I started to go through it to see what could be salvaged.

There were many candid pictures, but my husband was delighted with a picture of his great-grandmother whom he had never seen.

Agnes Gertrude McIntosh Lunt Barnard with three of her grandchildren

Another was a beautiful picture of his grandmother from 1908 when she was a junior at North Yarmouth Academy.

Helen Thompson

The documents included Bible-like pages with vital information about his 2nd great-grandfather and family. This is amazing! Most of this I already knew, but it’s wonderful to get confirmation of names and dates.

As genealogists, we often go looking for our ancestors and their stories, but sometimes it falls in our lap. That’s genealogy serendipity!

You too, may be able to find treasures like these. Let me know how I can help with your journey to the past!

Genealogy tip: You never know where you will find information about your family. Make sure to research all family members (living and deceased) to see who has those wonderful documents and pictures!