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What dates changed your family’s life forever?

Events that have changed the course of history are all part of a bigger story—our national story. Those dates—pivtoal moments in time—are well remembered by both historians and the general public. Where were you when JFK died or when you first heard about the 9/11 attacks? These major events are more than an indelible memory. Historical events mark important time periods that help tell our country’s story. In the same way, major dates and events for our families should be used to record family history and to tell their story. For example, with my own family, my great-grandfather— my grandfather’s father— suddenly died in 1918 (but not due to the Great War or the flu), and his mother was left to run the family general store with the help of her teenage son, my grandfather. My other grandfather died in 1940 due to a head-on collision, leaving a widow and six fatherless children. Those dates are major landmarks in our family history during the 20th century.

What about a century earlier? When we research, we find and record events, but is the impact as great when we learn of how an ancestor coped in 1844 with the deaths of both her father and her husband almost at the same time? We know little, if anything, about anyone’s personality that far back, but the gravity on any family would be great. So be sure to note your family’s landmark dates and think about their impact—not just the details for your genealogy, but also the human toll on the family.

>> MORE: Want to learn more about your family history? Free sources are abound on the Internet


Ethnic updates at genealogy sites

Two major DNA sites, and FamilyTreeDNA, have both made changes to the way they post ethnic profiles. has launched “Genetic Communities,” where you can see the link if you have an DNA profile. I am part of a North Carolina/South Carolina community. Ancestry and others are offering a video and webinars to explain what this means. FamilyTreeDNA has recently updated their “myOrigins” section, slightly changing the ethnic or ancestral locality percentages of your profile. I am 95 percent European. My breakdown is 82 percent British Isles, and then other parts of Europe. I also have 4 percent Jewish Diaspora. While many are doing DNA testing to learn more about specific ancestral lines and hoping to meet cousins who might have more information on a family, others have completed a DNA test just to learn their ethnic profile.

Fayette County deeds online

Fayette County has recently digitized their deeds back to the county’s founding in 1821 and posted them online. Visit, and under the main menu, click “property index search.” This is similar to what North Carolina counties have been doing in recent years.

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P.O.Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or

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