RootsTech 2015: Check in

So I had a nice flight in from Denver with no problems.   But from the moment I sat down on the plane I quickly learned that the couple behind me and the woman next to me were going to Rootstech 2015.  I spent the whole flight talking about Wikitree and Genealogy.  The couple behind me had an ancestor at the Battle of Kings Mountain.  My John Kelly is often conflated with another John Kelley who fought at King’s Mountain.   So we had a lot to share.

I grabed a cab and 15 minutes and $30 later I arrived at the Ellerbeck Manson Bed & Breakfast where I met a very nice host named Debbie.  The accomodations are very homey and I do not feel like I am at a hotel.

Salt Palace Convention Center

I am only a mile from the Salt Palace where the Convention is being held.  Upon my arrival, only a 20 minute walk from the B&B, the first person I ran into was AJ Jacobs and his “Handler”.  AJ is responsible for the Global Family Reunion (GFR) and it was fun to meet him as he has a big presence on Wikitree.  In fact, Wikitree’s own Eowyn  Langholf is also responsible for promoting the GFR.

A.J. Jacobs

So it is only fitting that I next met up with Eowyn and Tami Ozmer, both work for Wikitree and together are known as the WikiChicks.

Shortly after meeting them, Michelle Hartly joined us and I was oriented to the booth and the plan ahead.

It is so much nicer to meet people in 3D.  I had seen all three ladies pictures online and have emailed and spoken via Facebook and the G2G forum (Genealogist to Genealogist) on Wikitree.  But meeting and seeing and hearing them is so much better.

WikiTree Genealogy HoodieEowyn outfitted me in a XXL hoodie as they did not have any Wikitree shirts in my size.  It is a very nice hoodie and a few will be raffled off during the convention.  The arey expecting over 96,000 participants with 20,000 on Saturday.  So, it looks like we will have a lot of explaining, many times over on how wonderful it is to be on Wikitree.  And it is and if you are doing Genealogy, you need to join us there.

I stoped by the Family History Library, watched their 4 minute video, and was taken to a volunteer Elder who was to help me get started.  These volunteers are great for people getting started, but I quickly tested his abilty to help me and after speaking with another Elder on the floor, they took me upstairs to speak with Linda, on of their consultants.   She was very knowlegeable but I tested her with trying to find any new info on Smith Alexander Stills and Alonzo M. Culp.

I only had about an hour because I needed to eat, walk home and get some good sleep for tomorrow.  Linda will be useful on Saturday when I hope to find a little more time at the Library.  But I now know what I need to do in planning a full length trip to the Libary in the future so I was glad I stopped in and got the preliminaries out of the way.  Everyone has been advising me to have a plan but I now better understand how to plan and use their consultants.

Good Night, tomorrow I get to speak “Wikitree” and I am looking very much forward to sharing.

RootsTech 2015 with Wikitree

I am sitting at Denver International Airport waiting for my 1:10 Departure.  Getting in and to the gate was very smooth for a change. We had about 5 inches of snow last night but the next three days in Salt Lake City are looking good.


I will be meeting up with Jeff Heyman on Friday for Dinner so an added surprise to the trip.

Wikitree folks are already at the RootsTech 2015 conference setting up and with any luck, I will be able to join them later today.

As Fate always has a surprise for me, the Jefferson County Historical Society website that I volunteer to maintain is down.  Last night they moved it to a new server to take advantage of the latest PHP and something broke.  I have absolutely no access and am relying on them to get us up an running.

deet..deet…deet… this just in. is up an running.  Apparently one little bracket { }shut us down, somehow a line was duplicated during the transfer.  Once removed, we are good to go!

Thank you Hurricane Electric!

Next Stop, Salt Lake City and the Ellerbeck Bed and Breakfast.


February Ancestral Anniversaries: Week One

Wikitree just launched their new Family Anniversaries tool.

Michael’s direct line Ancestral Anniversaries:

Tracey’s direct line Ancestral Annivesaries:




New Blogger and Fouth Cousin Once Removed

I recently connect with Hollie Ann Henke, a 4th Cousin Once Removed (4C1R).  She is related through Cornelius Joachim Wicoff and Leah Critser.  We have a DNA match on and have been bumping into each other on other Genealogy related website.

Check out her new blog where she takes up the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.  This is definately a real challenge and huge undertaking so wish her luck and follow along.  Appropriately, her first Blog post includes a photo of a Wyckoff ancestor.

Her Blog is appropriately titled Relativitity

Congratulations Hollie and good luck!

Tennessee Traveling: DAY NINE

Last Night in Tennessee

Stills Grocery

I woke up early and finished packing before I headed out early to meet Hayley for a final goodbye and to deliver all the leftover food we had while staying at the hotel.  We avoided eating out as much as possible and kept some food in the hotel room.  I met Hayley at the Bean Barn for coffee and a hot chocolate.

Before our trip, before coming to Greeneville.  I got on Facebook to check out what the locals thought I should see.  Someone said I should visit the Stills Grocery Store.  Now, where I grew up, I was the only Stills, I never saw my surname anywhere outside my family, I was constantly asked if I was related to Stephen Stills. So I started research his family tree.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find a Stills connection.  So seeing the name Stills elsewhere was interesting to me.  But, each time I drove through Greeneville and the surrounding area, I kept my eye out for the Stills Grocery. Unfortunately, I was never able to find it.

Old TN License Plate
Crooked TN License plate. Uncle Ross tells a story that the Crooked Tennessee License Plate is a result of the Tennessee landscape. With all the mountains in East Tennessee, when they went to make the plates, the machine rested on a hill side and as a result, all the plates came out crooked. Here is the proof.

As Hayley and I were leaving the Bean Barn, she introduced me to the waitress behind the counter who was another Stills, through her mother.  The owner over heard us talking and asked if I was a Stills. Upon replying yes, he said, “This place used to be owned by a Harold Clifford Stills (he is a descendent of William Henry Stills); this place used to be called Stills Grocery.”  Well, we spent another 20 minutes talking about that story.

Cracker Barrel

Next,  I headed back to have breakfast with my Uncle Ross and Aunt Maggie for the last time and another final farewell.  It was wonderful spending time with them and getting to know them so much better.  I will be visiting them in Florida sooner than later, I am sure and I hope to make it back to Tennessee again as well. (Uncle Ross just called, they are safely home in Florida after a 9 hour drive.)

On the drive back to Nashville, we must have passed 10 Cracker Barrels in 4 hours, some as little as three miles apart. Wow, I just went to their site and discovered that not only can you find the locations, as you might expect, you can enter your route and see where they are along the way.  And I was correct!  There are exactly 10.

Dinner with a Friend

I used to be a law enforcement Explorer Scout with the LAPD.  One of my good friends, Vince Lowder was an Explorer as well.  His brother Brett lives in Nashville and he invited me to get together.  We met him and his wife at Sals the same restaurant we ate in on Halloween night when we first arrived in Nashville.  We spent three hours together telling stories.  It is good to hear how well all the Lowders are doing as well as Rick Branam and his wife.  Rick was another Explorer as well.

Mike Stills and Brett Lowder at Sals
Mike Stills and Brett Lowder at Sals

It was a great trip.  I still have lots of research left to do in Greeneville, TN and someday I will have to return.  But I reconnected with close family, met a whole lot of cousins distant and near, obtained new photos and new stories and have a whole new appreciation for my roots and the good folks I met in Greeneville, TN.

Tired Tennessee Traveler

With the trip over, I will not be posting as often, but as I review the materials I gathered while there, I will post the info for all the new Stills and friends reading so we can share and learn more about our common family history.

Remember: There are more Stills in Greeneville than anywhere else in the United States.

Megan is now safely home as well.

And I am going home tomorrow.

Good Night!



Tennessee Traveling: DAY EIGHT

Last Night In Greeneville.

Tomorrow we head back to Nashville and fly home to Denver on Saturday.

I spent the morning with Hayley and Michelle at the T. Cox Library and later had lunch at the Sandwich House.Hayley and Michelle

We talked a bit and discovered some potential new connections for Hayley and Michelle.  They helped me better understand the lay of the land and were my family lived which helped with potential new records to look for.  Michelle generously offered to check Cocke County for for a marriage record for my Grandparents, Bertha Naomi McCoy and Melvin Virgil Stills.

With the help of the volunteers at the T. Elmer Cox Library, we found several wills or estate listings.  These will be helpful to fill in details.  Hayley was sharp and remembered that their was information in an Estate listing of John Kelley‘s that mentions son-in-law, William H McCoy.  William is the husband of Elizabeth Kelley and she is the link I needed to complete the connection to John Kelley.  I think we may have found  or narrowed some of the information on John Kelley that leads us to the original source of his origin story coming to America from Ireland.  This will help us sort out a lot of misinformation.

Also among the Kelley info we found, I may have to change John Kelley’s wife from Margaret Hutchinson to Margaret Snapp.  They are likely the same woman but there is some question as to her correct maiden name and there is room for her to have been married before she married John.   As per usual, answer one questions and gain two more questions.

I really enjoyed meeting Hayley and Michelle, we have been corrisponding online for many years and now we were able to talk in person.  It was exciting and fun and too short.

After our “Mini Genealogy Society Meeting” I headed back to the hotel to pick up Uncle Ross, Maggie and my parents.  J.R. Bledsoe and his wife Blanch were there as well and J.R. recommended a great place for dinner.  The Gathering Place.

We said goodbye to J.R. and Blanch at the restaurant and headed back to the hotel.  I am so very glad J.R. and Blanch came.  Facebook connected us a few years ago and Blanch was well aware of my Family History search.  She rescued some of Aunt Elizabeth’s photos which have new pictures I had not seen and she had generously created copies for me in advance of our meeting.

At the hotel, we had our last time together with Uncle Ross and Aunt Maggie.  Tomorrow we all head for home.  But not before I meet with Hayley one last time at the Bean Barn to say goodbye.


Tennessee Traveling: DAY SEVEN

A week already!

This morning I headed to Burnett’s Chapel to meet Hayley.  It is right next to T’s.   Hayley gave a Tour of Rilla’s Cabin, daughter sister of Smith Stills and the place where T was raised. We also visited Kelley Gap and met Hubert Kelley, a descendent of John Kelley. Rilla's Home

This was quite the experience and hinted at a time long past.Hayley and Hubert

I have long wanted to see Kelley Gap.  I have info that suggests that Elizabeth Kelley is the daughter of John Kelley, the immigrant settler that is responsible for Kelley’s in Greeneville and Kelley Gap.  But I need more to prove it.

Kelley Gap Michael
Marker at Kelley Gap.

Finally, after a 5 year wait, I was able to see the Stills-Darnell Cemetery which is located on private property.

Stills Darnell Cemetery
Stills Darnell Cemetery
Reunion at Nana Ayers.  Some folks left early.
Reunion at Nana Ayers. Some folks left early.

In the afternoon, we went to Nana (Ayers) Swanger’s home for the Instant Family Reunion.  Nana was able to call a lot of Stills’s and get them to come visit.  So after the pre-reunion yesterday, we had the Instant Reunion today and once again, I scored serveral new pictures I did not have.  I need some time to download and sort before I post but I promise they are coming.

Tomorrow I finally get a chance to dig around the T. Elmer Cox library.  I had a few minutes today to drop in and talk with the Ladies there.  They have a great reputation for knowing their resources and using their local knowlege and their reputation is well deserved.  But if there is no information to find, well then there is no information to find.  They do not have the Aug 1881 newpaper that I need.  It appears no one does.  Nor were we able to find any info for Widows and Orphans from post 1870 that had any Stills or Rickers that might be mine.  So, I will focus on McCoys, Lowery’s and a few other names.

The fun part of the morning is that I will get to meet Michelle Stuart face to face.  I have actually known Michelle online longer than Hayley but Hayley’s and my line are connected a lot closer.  Hayley and Michelle with meet for the first time face to face as well, we have have our own little mini-Genealogy Society Meeting tomorrow at the T. Elmer Cox Library.  I am looking forward it!

In the afternoon, I will put away the family history stuff and Uncle Ross and Aunt Maggie will join us for a tour of President Andrew Johnson’s home and possible a tour of Green Mountain amid the Great Smoky Mountains.

Tennessee Traveling: DAY SIX

Sorry folks, this whirlwind of a trip has me tangled up tonight.  A short post until I can catch up.

Uncle Ross and Aunt Maggie took us on a trip to Parrotsville and other parts of Greeneville.  We saw a few of the places Dad and Uncle Ross lived and the area’s where the schools were but are now gone.  I am not sure I can recreate that right now.  Wow they moved alot!

Pics to follow later, I need to get some sleep.  Uncle Ross is fighting a bug, but “Maning Through it”  just like my Dad would do.  Those Farmers didn’t stop for ‘nothing.  Get better Uncle Ross, I don’t want my crazy adventure bringing you down.

Stopped by 1st Cousin Nana’s and met up with J.R.. Nana’s daughter Vickie was only able to come today.  It was a good visit, we exchanged info to continue our Genealgy Quests online.

Big Score courtesy of Blanche, J.R.’s wife.  She saved J.R.’s mother’s (my aunt Elva)  photos and other docs.  Great info on the McCoys and a photo nobody can identify, but looks fruitful if we can get it figured out, maybe tomorrow, when we meet at Nana’s again for another batch of cousins.

Hayley and I have been corrisponding over 5 years now.  Tonight we met with William Thomas Ricker or “T”.  This was 5 years in the making as T has some great stories about Smith Alexander Stills and Smith’s father William Henry Stills.   My crazy family, Mom, Dad, Uncle Ross, J.R., and Blanche decided to join me for Story Time at T’s.  Hayley brought along her own contingent and we filled T’s house.  His wife fell and broke her hip and is in the hospital, yet he was going to be home alone and welcomed the cousin company.  What a gracious act.  Thanks T!  He did not disapoint and gave us a few new tidbits to chew on.  More to follow.  Thank you Hayley!  We had a great time.

With just enough time left, I got a call into my wife. she is home alone, as my daughter is away at Camp working as a program instructor. Highschool kids teaching elementary kids at an Outdoor Science Camp in Jefferson County Colorado.

Just 4 Days left!

Another full day booked for tomorrow.  See you at 8:30am Hayley for the infamous Stills – Darnell cemetery.  If we don’t get shot we will have another great story to tell.  Bill Hicks, I’m holding you libel if something happens!  And I hope it does!

Tomorrow Then!

<Deep Breath>  <Big Sigh>

Good Night!



Tennessee Traveling: DAY FIVE

Day five means that my trip is already halfway over.  Another five days and we head back to Colorado.  I still need to get to the T. Elmer Cox Library and the Courthouse, Wednesday is likely.  Tomorrow Uncle Ross is going to take us around Greeneville and show us what he remembers from his youth.  It will be interesting to see what my Dad can remember but it is good to be here with him and uncle Ross.

This morning however was an awesome day.  TnBreeze did not disappoint.  With their help and expertise we were able to knock off seven cemeteries in 6 hours.  I highly recommend them as your tour guide if you need to visit Greeneville area cemeteries.   Tammy and Brian know as much if not more about my family as I did.  Their local knowledge was very helpful in understanding how people lived around here.  But the fun fact of the day was establishing that Brian and I are cousins multiple times over through Ricker and Davis connections and likely a couple more as we work thru the lines.

We visited BeershebaGethsemaneHarrisonRehobothRiver HillSolomon Lutheran, and Zion Presbyterian.  We were able to find all the Gravestones that were to be found.  Some of the sites had unmarked graves but the visit helped clarify a few questions I had.

For example: We do not have a burial location for Uriah Ricker.  A gravestone for Martha Smith, his wife exists at Rehoboth (Rehobeth). A visit to this site revealed that their is a depression next to her plot suggesting another burial.  Additionally, Uriah’s brothers and parents are buried in an area obviously marked out for for the Rickers.  A logical conclusion then is that Uriah is buried in the unmarked location next to Martha.  Unfortunately finding someone who cares for many of these cemeteries who also has records is difficult.

Ricker Plot
Ricker Plot. Tammy and Brian mark two of the corners. The big letter R in the foreground marks a third corner. Directly behind the Big R in the shade is Martha’s plot and just to the left of her is a depression suggesting Uriah is buried here.
Uriah Ricker Plot
Uriah Ricker is likely buried in the space just in front of me.









Uriah’s son, Smith Alexander (Ricker) Stills is buried at River Hill.

Smith Stills Marker
My Great Grandparents


Tomorrow night, we meet “T”

See y’all tomorrow.

I’m tired.

Tennessee Traveling: DAY FOUR

Well, I was able to sleep in a bit this morning thank goodness.  Because tomorrow the adventure really begins.  We had a small breakfast at the hotel and then headed for Greeneville.  It was a nice drive and as we got close you could see the snow covered Great Smoky Mountains with clouds nestled among the peaks.  It was a very pleasant site.

Years ago, when I first applied to work for the National Park Service, I could apply to two parks.  I put in for Mesa Verde and the Great Smoky Mountains.  I was actually contacted by both parks but Mesa Verde came first and I moved to Colorado.  While I never became a permanent Ranger, my time at Mesa Verde is what brought me back to Colorado.  I had met my future wife Tracey while working at the Santa Monica Mountains in California. I fell in love and proposed and then convinced her to move to Colorado.  I love living in the Mountains.  But sometimes I wonder what life would have been like if I had gone to the Great Smoky Mountains instead?

After checking in to the Quality Inn, we went out to find some food and drove through Historic Greeneville. Today, I got my first glimpse into the town where my father was born and live during his childhood.  He grew up as a Sharecropping Farmer and moved around quite a bit between Florida and Greene Co. Tennessee.  However, Historic Downtown Greeneville on a Sunday is a very desolate place and we ended up getting some food on the main highway nearby.

But I am looking forward to exploring the multitude of historical markers, monuments and buildings around here.  My Uncle Ross will be arriving tomorrow and we can make some plans for the week to see the many places of their youth.  While many of the buildings are now gone, it will still be great to see the locations and imagine of a time long past.

Tonight I was able to meet Hayley Stills for the first time.  We have emailed and talked on the phone for the past five years and it was great to see her in person.  We spent a few hours reviewing what we knew of the Stills line and of William Henry Stills, the progenitor of all the Stills in this area.  William is something of an enigma, we know of his time in Greeneville but we only have hints of his time in South Carolina and Virginia.  Whispers from old Census records and stories passed down through generations.  We know not who his parents are.  Our conversation concluded with the idea that the science of a new generation, Y-DNA testing may be our only fruitful path forward.  Hayley and I will meet up again a few more times this week to track down stories from old generations and hunt for ghosts in Kelley’s Gap.  Named for our Ancestor John Kelly.

John is supposedly from Ireland and a recent DNA test of my father reveals that my dad is 23% Irish and this supports that believe.  His origin story goes something like this.

John Kelley, Sr. came from Armagh, Ireland about 1771 and landed in North Carolina on the captain’s pretense of having lost his bearings, some say because of the slave trade.  Apparently, so the story goes, their vessel drifted so far south that the heat was intense, and they were thirteen weeks in reaching their destination and then only because, after fourteen days in such heat that the ship’s chains would sizzle as they touched the water, they persuaded the captain with the rather forcible argument that they would throw him overboard if he didn’t change his course.  John landed on the North Carolina coast, taught school, and finally married Anna Hunter, by whom he became the father of three children: John, Joseph, and Andrew.  He crossed the mountains at Kelley’s Gap, and settled in Greene county, where some of his descendents still live, and hold as a relic his old chest brought from his native land.

Hayley and I will visit Kelley’s gap and we hope to meet up with a Kelley relative to hear the stories in person.

But tomorrow morning belongs to TnBreeze, Cemetery Hunters Extraordinaire who post their accomplishments on Findagrave.  Like Hayley, we have corresponded over the years.  I brought my boots just for them and we will be hunting ghosts, thankfully my cousins, Brian and Tammy Clouse,  know just where to look.

Pleasant Dreams.


A blog by Michael