Presentation of the Family Historian

It’s great to hear stories about Family Historians. We read about their successes and what they’ve learned in their journeys as family historians.

Here’s the story of Miles Meyer, Family Historian, of Vero Beach, Florida.

Miles’ first genealogy project was an elementary school assignment where his class had to diagram a pedigree chart for the family. He found that chart many years later and decided to work on it to see what information could be added.

Now, his main goals are to bring the stories of his ancestors to life where possible so that future generations can have a good idea of how they lived.

Learning From His Research

The biggest thing Miles has learned is that everyone has a story to tell. He likes to build the story of his ancestors through the various records that he is able to find. At times, he tells these stories in his blog (ourancestories.blogspot.com).

Some of his favorite stories revolve around his wife’s LeBoeuf and Vickery line. Several of the LeBoeuf men were ship captains and they have found records of their travels. The Vickery line has a member of State’s Parliament in Jersey, Channel Islands and two sisters who were actresses performing throughout Australia and New Zealand.

His wife’s Bielefeld line is also interesting. Charles Bielefeld was an expert papier-mâché artist. He developed new ways to make papier-mâché and even designed and built an entire town in Australia out of papier-mâché. The material was so resilient that it survived a flood.

Using the Internet for Research

Almost all of Miles’ research is internet based as his expertise revolves around new technologies and internet research. He frequently uses FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage, FindMyPast, FindAGrave, Billion Graves, GenealogyBank, Google, and a variety of other local and regional websites.

With all of the records going online, Miles says it is easier than ever to find the basic information that people are looking for. This makes it easier to bring people in and begin their research in a productive way.

However, the ease of access to a large variety of sources allows some people to overestimate their ability to research and they may post incorrect conclusions online as a result. Miles frequently has to explain to people that just because people have the same names, they may not be the same person.

One example is a person he was assisting who had combined three people with the same name into one person. Extracting these erroneous combinations can be time-consuming and others may copy the information to their trees in a very short period of time, therefore perpetuating the error.

Helping Others

Miles helps others in many ways, and as he sees the need, develops new ways to help.

As a Family History Consultant, and now as a Stake Temple and Family History Director, Miles helps staff and visitors learn how to do their research. Additionally, he often speaks at genealogy societies and conferences.

For example, nine years ago Miles realized that he didn’t have a genealogy conference where he lived in Jacksonville, Florida. He gathered a small group of fellow researchers together and started the North Florida Genealogy Conference. This conference just had its eighth annual conference and now averages about 250 attendees each year.

Three years ago, after moving to Vero Beach, Florida, he began talking to the local genealogy society and established the Indian River Genealogy Conference. The second annual conference will be held this year on April 14th and they are hoping for more than 200 attendees.

DNA Testing Experience

Miles and his wife have done AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA tests. Their results are uploaded to GEDMatch and MyHeritage.

Living DNA and 23&Me tests are pending.

Surprising DNA Results

Miles was surprised by his AncestryDNA results as there was the high percentage of Great Britain DNA (~47%) when all of his ancestors are from Germany. Germany (Western Europe) was represented by 50% of the DNA. His wife was surprised to find only 4% of her DNA was representative of Western Europe since her grandfather’s family was from Germany.

DNA Test Takeaways

Most of the relatives that Miles has found through DNA were already known relatives. However, his wife discovered a close cousin who was adopted and searching for her biological family. The interesting thing is that they only live about 15 miles apart. They meet up frequently to do things together.

Genealogical and Historical Society Memberships and Participation

Miles is the current president and founding board member of Second Life Virtual Genealogy Society (SLVGS) which is an online society based in the world of SecondLife. They meet every other month and are currently working on building membership. He has also been involved with the Southern Genealogist’s Exchange Society (SGES), Jacksonville Genealogical Society (JGS), and Indian River Genealogical Society (IRGS).

Telling the Younger Generations About Genealogy Research

Miles says that you never know what you will discover when you start researching. Someone may discover that the long-held family stories are just that, stories with little basis in actual events. Miles has worked with people who discovered criminals in their families past, more than once, they were murderers. Sometimes these people have been forgotten by their descendants due to their actions. However, everyone deserves a chance to be discovered and remembered.

Genealogy research is a path to discovery about those who came before them. People will find some interesting similarities to things that they have experienced as well as potentially disturbing facts. The important thing to remember is that our ancestors were a product of their times and a person should not assign today’s values to what they did.

Miles’ Favorite Discoveries

Throughout his research, Miles has found some great artifacts.

Below are just two of his most interesting finds. These items demonstrate the benefits of looking outside the normal research sites and also making your research public for others to find.

  1. Sarah Pullen Walters (1816-1896). Sarah lived in Plains, Georgia and was the wife of Seaborn Walters.Sarah is the 4th great-mother of Miles’ wife. Miles and his wife were contacted by e-mail to let them know that this picture was for sale in an antique store in Seattle, Washington. They then contacted the store and arranged for the purchase and shipping. When they received it, they discovered that a family history was written on the back. This picture now hangs in the entranceway of their home.
  2. The book “Down in Dixie – The Story of Three Little Crackers” by Will Allen Dromgoole. This is a children’s book written in 1898 about the adventures of the three sons of Captain Andrew Jackson Phares. The children are Gaston, James and AJ Phares, known in the book as Joe, Jim and Jack. The reason this is interesting to his research is that AJ “Jack” Phares was the 4th husband of Willie Mae Harris, his wife’s 2nd great grandmother.The book was inspired by the adventures of the three boys in the time of pioneer Florida and has tales of encounters with Indians, bears, alligators and panthers. Miles and his wife have two copies, each a different edition of the book, in their collection.

About Miles Meyer

Miles is a scientist by training (BS, Marine Science & Biology; MS, Marine Science) and has been active in genealogy for about 20 years in a variety of ways.

Miles is the current president and a founding member of the Second Life Genealogical Society. He has produced several training manuals and maintains several websites and blogs on genealogy-related activities. He is also a Regional Trainer for the Family History Guide (www.thefhguide.com).