Thursday, July 26, 2012

Genealogy Pioneers

When I first started doing genealogy research, a very kind researcher who worked on Johnson Co., TN gave me a lot of advice.  When I would start down some road of speculation, she would gently guide me back to the path of reality.  Through her I learned the value of the Internet and the pitfalls.  I had never found a connection with her…until one day I came across her information on the Elliot’s.   By this point, she had passed away and I had never had the chance to work with her on this family…to my everlasting regret. 
There were many evenings that I spent when I first started doing genealogy looking through some wonderful online records that a small bunch of researchers had transcribed and put online.  This was during the early days of the ability to use the Internet to search online resources.  MaryFloy Katzman and Jeff Weaver were two of the pioneers as far as I am concerned with creating online repositories of records.  Both have passed on now - but they have left quite a legacy.  These two researchers gave me quite a foundation of records to begin my Pennington research.

Mary Floy Katzman started what is still called “The Original Johnson County Tennessee Genealogy Page which is located - the website is still maintained by Ruby Coleman and Basil McVey.  Since I knew that my great grandmother came from Johnson Co., TN – this was one of the first places that I began researching and MaryFloy was one of the first people to lend me a helping hand.  I remember chatting online with her in the wee hours of the morning – never realizing that she lived in Boston, MA and it had to be quite late for her.  After she had passed away, I found that she and I were distant cousins.  She was descended from Harvey Pennington and I was descended from his younger sister, Elizabeth.  Both were children of Levi Pennington and Elizabeth Henson.  Thanks to her example and advice, I started to build my own web page with my favorite genealogy links and her website was first on my list.  I still use the site today and am still surprised at how much information is still on the site and how much is still relevant to my research today. 

I didn’t have as close a web relationship with Jeff Weaver.  We shared several email conversations through the years mostly with me asking questions and he sharing his wealth of knowledge about the New River area.  This geographic area around the New River in North Carolina and Virginia seems to be a cradle for many families.  There is a huge amount of information on the New River Notes located at - this website is still maintained by the Grayson County, Virginia Heritage Foundation.  Jeff Weaver passed away this last spring after years of suffering through a variety of illnesses.  Almost to the end, Jeff still supplied information and knowledge to those on the New River list.
You might wonder why I chose to discuss these two individuals and their contributions to genealogy research.  So many of our ancestors were pioneers who blazed new paths forward for those of us who followed – these two people are among the pioneers of genealogy research for laying a wonderful foundation of information and knowledge for the Internet researcher.  

The Pennington Research Association has also laid a wonderful foundation for research.  It may be a surprise that there are a few decades of genealogy scholarship that is available to Pennington researchers almost at their fingertips.  The Pennington Pedigrees have been published since the founding of the PRA and most of those journals have been scanned and are available to Pennington researchers who are members of the PRA.    Just as I started my research in the late 1990’s, the Internet was exploding with data and opportunities for contacts.  However, these earlier researchers did the hard way by perusing court house records, searching through libraries and looking at microfilmed census records.  None of the indexes that we appreciate so much today, were available.  There is no doubt that some of the information is incorrect because other resources have appeared since then but there is still a lot of great information that has been gathered and written on a typewriter before advent of the personal computer.
As I look through the variety of both paid and free data resources for the modern genealogy researcher, I have to remember people like Bee Holmes of the PRA (among others whose name I don’t recall) Jeff Weaver, and my Pennington cousin, MaryFloy Katzman.  They have a left a truly wonderful legacy for all researchers.  If you are interested in looking at the PRA and its research – go to and consider joining or spend some time looking at the Johnson Co., TN website that I listed above or the New River notes and think of the foundations that these remarkable people built for no other reason than the desire to share their knowledge and resources.

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