Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Newspapers are a funny thing (spinoff two)

On Monday I posted about a 1825 divorce case.  You can read the post HERE. You can also read Spinoff one HERE. One of the sources I used was:

"Burning of the Scranton Court House," New Orleans Times, 02 March 1875, p. 4, col. 4; digital images, GenealogyBank ( : accessed 24 March 2017).

This story is about a Mississippi event but I cited a Louisiana newspaper.  Why?  GenealogyBank is my favorite newspaper site because I like their interface best. I searched GenealogyBank and found the article in the New Orleans Times but no articles from a Mississippi newspaper.  This is not surprising because GenealogyBank (nor any other online newspaper provider) has all of the newspapers that were in publication. I could have searched the other online providers to see if I could find something in Mississippi but would that have made the story more accurate?  Probably not. Just for fun I just now searched Google news, Chronicling America, Newspaper Archive (through the Boyd County Library), and Ancestry.  I didn’t find anything better than what I already had.

To give my New Orleans story a little more credibility, at the end of the article there is this notation:

—Scranton (Miss.) Star.

They got their story from the local paper (which is not online).


For those that have DNA tested with Ancestry, most of you are now seeing your “Genetic Communities.”  I am going to post my results tomorrow as well as my opinion of what I am seeing but I wanted to let you know that Blaine Bettinger is doing a Legacy Family Tree Webinar TOMORROW, Thursday at 2:00 pm ET on Exploring AncestryDNA’s New Genetic Communities. If you want to watch it live, I suggest you register early and sign in early because this one will be packed. It is free to watch live and for 7 days after it is archived.  After that you will need to be a Legacy Family Tree Webinar Subscriber.

I found an interesting Ancestry database this morning, “NARA Collections on” You can type in a NARA microfilm series number or the NARA collection title and Ancestry will see if they have the microfilm as an index, database, or database with images. Many times the Ancestry title doesn’t match the NARA title so you might not readily see that they have the title in their collection.  I have the book Guide to the Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States (3rd edition) which has all of the NARA numbers in it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When “late” doesn’t mean dead (spinoff one)

Yesterday I posted about a 1825 divorce case.  You can read the post HERE.  There is some wording in the divorce that is interesting and it could trip someone up.

“To the Sheriff of Jackson County Greeting: We command you, that of the goods and chattels, Lands and Tenements of Wm C. Seaman for Catherine Grantham late of your county…” [emphasis mine]

late of your county sounds like Catherine is dead, especially since someone else, William Seaman, is acting on her behalf. In this case “late of your county” simply means that she used to live in Jackson County, Mississippi where the order was being served. Catherine was now living in Marion County where the divorce was filed.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Hide and seek with records from burned counties

If you need to find a marriage record in Jackson County, Mississippi dated 11 January 1832, where do you look?  You look in the Wayne County, Georgia probate records of course!   

Catherine Sheffield married her first husband Ignatius Grantham in Wayne County, Georgia on 09 October 1810.1 Ignatius was a bit of a scoundrel so Catherine filed for divorce in 1825 in the Marion County, Mississippi Chancery Court.3 They had been living apart for some time because Ignatius is enumerated by himself in 1820.2 Of interest is that Catherine’s soon to be second husband William Seaman was listed as her “next friend” in the court papers and acted as her representative.

Back in Wayne County, Georgia, Catherine’s father West Sheffield died leaving behind an informative estate file. Catherine’s now second husband William was getting some serious payouts from the estate and not only is there an affidavit from Catherine Seaman attesting that she is in fact the daughter of West Sheffield there is a marriage record from Jackson County, Mississippi copied into the Wayne County, Georgia book proving that William is Catherine’s husband.4

William C. Seaman had married Catherine (Sheffield) Grantham on 11 January 1832 in Jackson County, Mississippi but the Jackson County courthouse in Scranton [now part of Pascagoula] burned in 1875. The papers that were in the safe (deeds and money) were spared but the marriage records were not.5 If William and Catherine’s marriage record had not been copied into West Sheffield’s estate papers to there would have been no record of it.

I still need to find out why Catherine moved to Marion County and filed for divorce there. She ended up going back to Jackson County to marry William. I also don’t know where Catherine was in 1820 when Ignatius was enumerated alone. 

Here is another example of finding a record from a burned county:

On 08 November 1851, Silas Simmons applied for bounty land based on his service in the War of 1812.6   In the bounty land file there were Perry County court documents dated 03 March 1855 and 31 January 1856.  Silas had to appear in court to prove that he was in fact the same Silas Simmons that fought in the 10&20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia before he could be awarded his land. So what is so special about that?  The Perry County Courthouse burned on 14 November 1877 with a complete records loss.7  The 1855 and 1856 court documents shouldn’t even exist. If I had merely looked at the information on the Bureau of Land Management website and not ordered the actual bounty land file I would have never discovered this.

1 Wayne County, Georgia, Marriage Book 1809-1869: 8, Grantham-Sheffield, 1810; Probate Court, Jesup.

2 1820 U.S. census, Jackson County, Mississippi population schedule, p. 45 (penned), line 15, Ignatius Grantham; digital images, ( : accessed 25 March 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M33, roll 58. 

3 Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals, Drawer no. 65, Case no. 15, Catherine Grantham vs. Ignatius Grantham, 21 February 1825; Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson. The case was originally filed in Marion County.

4 "Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990," images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 24 March 2017), West Sheffield estate, 1831-1833, Wayne County Court of Ordinary, Wills & Estates Records 1824-1855, p. 199-205.

5 "Burning of the Scranton Court House," New Orleans Times, 02 March 1875, p. 4, col. 4; digital images, GenealogyBank ( : accessed 24 March 2017). 

6 Silas Simmons (Pvt. 10&20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia, War of 1812), bounty land warrant file 64098 (Act of 1855, 40 acres); Military Bounty Land Warrants and Related Papers; Records of the Bureau of Land Management, Record Group 49; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

7 Martha F. Clark, Perry County, Mississippi Circuit Court Clerk to Michele Simmons Lewis, e-mail, 10 Jan 2012, “Courthouse Records,” Lewis Research Files; privately held by Lewis, Harlem, Georgia, 2012.


The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) has updated their Code of Ethics. I encourage ALL genealogists to use the code of ethics as a guideline for their own conduct while doing research.  You can also read the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Code of Ethics and the National Genealogical Society (NGS) Guidelines for Sharing Information with Others.

If you are not following Randy Seaver’s series on the “We’re Related” app by Ancestry on his Genea-Musings blog you are missing out. Every week Randy goes through his new matches and determines how likely the relationship is. I am having a lot of fun reading these. I am working on a little project of my own using the We’re Related app which you will read about later.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The joys of volunteering and pro bono work

Genealogists are a pretty generous lot and most do quite a bit of volunteer and pro bono work, even the professionals. I think it is important for genealogists to get involved in projects that benefit the community as a whole. Here are some ideas.

So what volunteer/pro bono endeavors are you involved in?


Here is an interesting blog post from The Ancestry Insider about some upcoming changes to the Find a Grave website.  You can read the blog post HERE. I think this will be a good thing.

I just can’t turn my brain off from genealogy mode. As soon as I saw that the general manager for Find a Grave is a man named Peter Drinkwater all I could think about was whether or not he could possibly be related to the Drinkwaters of Robeson County, North Carolina in the late 1700s. Sigh…

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Yesterday I asked a fellow genealogist for permission to download a form he created and tweak it for my own use. He was fine with it. There are a lot of things I ask permission for. The most common is permission to use a photograph. I have told you before that I always ask permission to download and use photos from Find a Grave.  I ask for blanket permission explaining that though I am downloading the photo for my personal file I am also a writer (blogs, newspapers, periodicals/journals) and that I might want to use the photograph sometime in the future. I assure them that full credit will be given to them as the photographer.

Not too long ago I had to ask permission to use photographs from both the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Alabama Department of Archives and History. These photos are in their online collections but that doesn’t mean you can use them without permission.  Both agencies had me fill out a pretty comprehensive form to include exactly what I would be using the photo for. I wonder how many people just download the photos without asking. After seeing these forms it is very clear that these agencies are serious about this. 

For my own protection I keep copies of the emails/snail mail letters I have received granting me permission to use something. I looked and I have permission letters dating back to 1991.


  • The Book List has been updated
  • I am not longer formatting the blog using justified alignment because the text doesn’t look good on mobile devices. I like justified text because I am a former newspaper columnist. It looks good on the internet but since many people read the blog on their phones I changed over to left justified
  • Since today’s post was about permissions, make sure you watch “Picture This: Images You Can Freely Use” by Judy G. Russell, CG. This webinar will be free to watch through 29 March 2017. After that it will archived for Legacy Family Tree Webinar subscribers only
  • National Geographic now has free printable topography maps that you can download as PDFs