While working with an organization dedicated to the restoration of a small segregated school in Parkville, Missouri, Mary Celeste, an avid genealogist, thought the perfect way to keep track of the relationships between the students, teachers, and others connected to the school would be to create traditional family trees, but soon found that would entail entering the same data over and over because so many of the families were inter-related. Instead, she discovered that it wasn’t too difficult to combine all of the trees and enter individuals’ personal data only once. The outcome was one large tree to represent the whole community.
With this tree, she was able to create a single database for the entire community, separate unrelated families with the same surnames, discover immigration patterns in to and out of the town, and create lots and lots of lists, including students and teachers, cemeteries where families were buried, military service, common health issues, etc. An unexpected benefit was that distant relatives of the Parkville families who were doing their own research on Ancestry contacted her and she discovered a whole new audience with whom to share the story of the little brick school house.
While few genealogists are researching one-room schoolhouses for children of former slaves, this technique, which will be familiar to those who have done “cluster research”, will work just as well for anyone focusing on relatively small groups of people that may have many complicated interrelationships, such as small cemeteries, religious congregations, very small towns, ship’s passengers of a single crossing, a graduating class, etc. Likewise, the concept would probably work just as well with any program that creates family trees, such as FamilySearch.org, Family Tree Maker, etc. Whatever your primary interest, you are sure to find some use for this technique.
Over the years, Mary Celeste has followed her parents’ examples in efforts to preserve local historical buildings and record and research family history. She has held leadership positions in historical and genealogical organizations, including serving as a Director-at-Large of the Missouri State Genealogical Association, serving as the Registrar (genealogy and lineage researcher to assist prospective members complete their membership applications) for a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and serving as president of the Northland Genealogy Society. She is a member of the National Genealogy Society, the Platte County Historical and Genealogical Society, and is a former member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and the Genealogical Speakers Guild. She has lectured on family history topics at local, state, and national levels and has been published in a national genealogy magazine.
Mary has recently become a member of the Country School Association of America and the Missouri Historic Schools Alliance, both organizations dedicated to the preservation and restoration of one- and two-room school houses.
Her current passion is restoration of the 1885 Banneker School in her adopted hometown of Parkville, Missouri where her personal goals are to help tell the stories of the children who once attended both Banneker school buildings in Parkville and to learn more about the trials and triumphs of the black families who lived in this community. She also looks forward to being a docent in the Banneker School Living History Museum and Interpretive Center, educating young and old about education practices in the late 1800s and the challenges faced by local African Americans in the Jim Crow Era of segregation.