Expeditionary Genealogy

NGS 2018 Grand Rapids, Michigan

Come visit us in booth 304 at the National Genealogical Society Convention!

Battle of Stones River, January 1863

                 12 Feb 2018


Usually, I’m the first one to admit that I am not a military history enthusiast, and military genealogy is not one of my areas of interest.  Even so, our ancestors often lived in times of war that dominated their way of life.  Military history is our history – without it we lack the framework of our nation and the development of our society.

Jesse Shackle, my husbands 3rd great uncle, was killed in action during the Battle of Stones River near what is now Murfeesboro, Tennessee.   Not too far off of I-40, the battlefield is now a national park.  I went last month to pay my respects to Great Uncle Jesse.

Jesse was 42 years old at the time of the battle.  For most of his life he had been at home in Indiana helping to support his parents and was unmarried at the time of his death.   To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know much more than that when I went to the cemetery.

It was a beautiful (but cold!) day, and the cemetery was powerful and moving in the way that national cemeteries are.  We owe so much to these courageous people, it can be overwhelming to see all of the markers that each represent a life given for my freedom.  Great Uncle Jesse and I had a good “visit.”  I gave him the cliffs notes update of the last 155 years – the war is over  and his side won, slavery is outlawed and no longer acceptable in any way in our beloved nation, women can vote, central heating and air conditioning make life comfortable to such a degree it’s difficult to think of life without them, and cameras are in our telephones – oh, and phones are tiny, wireless, and indispensable to our way of life now.  I thought he might find that as boggling as everyone being able to own property, marry, vote, and pursue life as they choose.

There is a custom of leaving something behind in cemeteries – whether it is a stone, a coin, or flowers.  Leaving something of yourself behind to say, “you are remembered” is nearly universal throughout all cultures.  Stones, my usual remembrance, are a no-no in national cemeteries and in this cemetery pennies were placed on headstones and memorials.  The only penny I had with me was from 1999 – the year I married into and joined the Shackle family.  For a coin of its age it was clean and shiny and easily read.  “Liberty” is to the left of Lincolns bust, and it struck me as profoundly meaningful that the coin I was to leave behind to honor Jesse’s life and memory was from the year I joined his family and held the image of the last president he knew, with the one ideal that lay at the heart of our nation.

Thank you, Uncle Jesse.  You are remembered.


Best Laid Plans…

     20 Jan 2017


As it seems to go, I had the best of intentions of updating the blog as I went from activity to town to archive during my trip to the UK last fall.  What I didn’t seem to grasp what that my website changes/tinkering/”improving” crashed the site and boom! No ShackleGenealogy.com for a while.  I’m glad to say I’m back up and running (thank you Marissa!) will be posting more frequent updates.  If I do seem to disappear for a while, please check my facebook account which seems Donna-proof.  : )


2018 has hit North Carolina with winter weather, and snow days upon snow days for the kids.  While they’re home I tend to set work aside (who can really work with little ones around, anyway?) and mama.  So there’s tons of catching up to do before my upcoming February trips to Georgia and Texas, assuming of course, at some point they will go back to school.  It’s a bittersweet thing – love the kids, love my work, but can only do one at a time.  You’re all with me, right?


February brings a (mostly) cross country road trip on my way to Texas.  The great thing about Texas is that it’s in the middle of the country so I can happily research along my way as I go.  Last time, I was able to stop off in Memphis and go to Graceland.  Getting to fit in fun stuff like that along the way is definitely a perk of being solo on the road, and I’m sure the family appreciated not being forced along to ooh and ahh through Elvis’s home.  Highlights this time will be mostly researched based and I’m not sorry at all.  Delighted, even.

9 days to go! The Race Begins

     25 Oct 2017


There has been a flurry of pleasantly frenzied activity lately while I’m preparing for my upcoming research trip to England and Scotland.  I’m not sure how many lists I’ve made, lists of lists, of what to do, before, during, and after my trip.  See? There I go thinking I should add English Tea and Scottish Biscuits to my list: During>To Do>Gifts.  Coordinating appointments and records with each of the different archives to maximize the efficiency of my research plans sounds easier than it’s turning out to be, but with 9 days to go, I’m not too concerned.  That’s plenty of time.  Right?

A few years ago, our family had the good fortune to live in Northern England.  Well positioned to go north to Scotland, or south to explore England and Wales.   Which means that I’ll be traversing familiar territory.  I’ll be making a loop from Leeds to Edinburgh, through the Highlands to Inverness, before Wakefield, Birmingham, Thrapston, and London (Kew) researching along the way.  Archives and repositories thrill me, and I while I’m inside their walls I’m happy and content.   Dusty boxes might bring on a sneeze, but the ability to hold history in your hands is just about the neatest thing.  Some people go to concerts and feel the same thing, but for me it’s libraries and documents and artifacts.

The ability to help families answer the question, “I wonder…” is so satisfying.  I love what I do.  It makes me happy.  So get ready to see some big smiles in November as I investigate some mysteries.