Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I couldn’t have explained it better

I get asked all the time about why should a person bother with a genealogy database program when one can just do all of their work online via Ancestry.com or FamilySearch?  Renee Zamora has written as excellent blog post on this subject and I couldn’t have explained it better than she has.  I encourage you to read what she has to say.

Do I Still Need a Desktop Genealogy Program or is Family Tree Enough?


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 14, 2014

Public vs. private, and the debate goes on

I have a private tree on Ancestry.com.  The only reason I even have that is so that I can be alerted about DNA matches.  I only have my absolute direct line posted (a pedigree chart). You wouldn’t believe the amount of flack I get because of this.  If I hear one more person tell me that a real genealogist would want to share their data and not hoard it I think I will have to kill someone.  I DO share my data but I want to have control over what I share and with whom.  I want to be able to talk about the research that is being shared.  I don’t think that is unreasonable.  Kerry Scott has written an article about this and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Why Don’t People Post Public Family Trees?

I also have selected persons up on FamilySearch’s Family Tree.  I actually prefer it over Ancestry.com so you will see more of my research posted there.  Why?  Because they provide an area to add notes and discussions about the person.  I also like that I can sync directly to Family Tree using Legacy.  If anyone goes in and adds anything to my person of interest I will be notified by FamilySearch and by Legacy.  There are several reasons why I prefer Family Tree but I will save that for another blog post.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Graham crackers

If you don’t already know this by now, I love FamilySearch.  I needed a 1820 Elbert County, Georgia marriage license.  The earliest Elbert County marriages are loose papers (not books) contained in boxes at the Georgia Archives.  They have been microfilmed but not indexed.  I was getting ready to send a request to the Family History Library for this record. When I went to do a search in the FHL card catalog, I got the dreaded, “not available on microfilm” stating the film is in the Vault and not available.  But I then got a much better message, one that said click here.  I clicked and the images of the precious loose papers are on FamilySearch.  They aren’t indexed but I can live with that.  Box M1 contains the 1818-1821 loose marriage records.  There are 540 images.  It took me 40 minutes to find the right one (Once I got the 1820 ones I had to go through one at a time because though all the 1820 ones are together, they aren’t in any particular order so having the exact date wasn’t a help in this case).  So here is what I was looking for.

Wilhight, John and Elizabeth Wilhight marriage 1820Elbert County, Georgia, County Records, 1790-2002, Box M1, loose marriage records, Wilhite-Wilhite, 17 Aug 1820; digital images, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 03 April 2014). 


Why did I need this record so badly?  I knew that John B. Wilhite had married someone named Elizabeth but Elizabeth what?  Egads!  He married Miss Elizabeth P. Wilhite!  Of course he did.  So much for this being easy.  Now I have to figure out what John’s relationship to his bride was.

I would like to thank Job Weston, Clerk of the Court of Ordinary for his easy to read penmanship which made it a lot easier to scan through all of those documents.

So what do graham crackers have to do with any of this?  I ate an entire sleeve of Annie’s Organic Cinnamon Graham Crackers while I was searching.  It made the time pass by more pleasantly.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gotta use the index

Here is an example of the rare time an index is the best evidence. 

McMichael, David and Sarah Kimbrough marriage 1789

The Greene County, Georgia Courthouse sent me this page from their official marriage index.  David McMichael and Sarah Kimbro (Kimbrough) are my 5th great-grandparents.  Their marriage record no longer exists.  The Greene County Probate Clerk told me that some of their records have been lost, David and Sarah’s marriage record being one of the missing ones.  It could have been accidentally destroyed or it could have even been stolen.  I have no idea.  This index was written before the record was lost.  These marriage records were not microfilmed before they were lost. In this case the index is my best evidence.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, April 11, 2014

Don’t do this


I found copies of several deeds I got from a cousin many years ago.  Guess what they don’t have, book and page numbers.  For me to cite them properly I have to request clean copies from the courthouse.  Gerrrrrrr…..



Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Thursday, April 10, 2014

One wife? Two?

Yesterday I showed you an example of a marriage certificate that wasn’t filled out but the man and woman did in fact get married.  Today I am going to show you an example of one where the two probably didn’t get married.

On 06 February 1943, Andrew Simmons and Marie Sistrunk were issued a license to get married.  The bottom portion, the actual certificate, is not completed.

Simmons, Andrew and Marie Sistruck 1943Marion County, Mississippi, Marriage Book 24: 471, Simmons-Sistrunk, 1943; Circuit Court, Columbia. 


Six months later, on 15 August 1943, Andrew Simmons and Lossie May were married.  Though this document doesn’t say so, it is a given that they were in fact issued a license to get married and that probably occurred on 07 August 1943.

Simmons, Andrew and Lossie May marriage 1943Marion County, Mississippi, Marriage Book 24: 523, Simmons-May, 1943; Circuit Court, Columbia.


The Marion County Circuit Court has been unable to locate a divorce decree for Andrew and Marie.  Apparently they got their license and then backed out.  Andrew ended up marrying Lossie.  It is of course possible that Andrew and Marie did marry and their divorce decree is lost but that is a less likely scenario since the Marion County Circuit Court has a pretty good reputation when it comes to their recordkeeping.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It pays to get your paperwork filled out properly the first time around

If you have been looking at marriage records for any length of time I am sure that you have run across marriage licenses where the certificate portion hasn’t been filled out.  Of course you wonder, “Did they, or did they not, actually get married?  Here is an example.

Ladner, Oda and Eva Tyner marriage 1910Lamar County, Mississippi, 2nd District Marriage Book D: 287, Ladner-Tyner, 1910; Circuit Court, Purvis.


Oda and Eva found out the hard way what can happen if you don’t get your paperwork filled out correctly.  In 1944, Oda and Eva apparently had to prove that they were in fact legally married.  There is no way to know why they needed to prove this, perhaps for a life insurance policy or a mortgage or something.  They couldn’t use their marriage license as proof because the certificate portion wasn’t completed so this is what they had to do.

Ladner, Oda and Eva Tyner affidavit 1944Lamar County, Mississippi, 2nd District Marriage Book D: 287, Ladner-Tyner, 1944; Circuit Court, Purvis; Affidavit dated 14 July 1944 attached to the original marriage record attesting that the marriage did in fact take place.


Thirty-Four years later, the original witnesses to the marriage had to sign an affidavit swearing that Oda and Eva actually get married.  Lucky for them their witnesses were still alive!


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A marriage, a divorce petition, and the Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals

Ignatius Grantham married Catherine Sheffield on 09 October 1810 in Wayne County, Georgia.1  In 1825, Catherine filed for divorce in Marion County, Mississippi which is really interesting.  The case was then sent to the Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals which makes it even more interesting.2  I have written to the Marion County Circuit Court asking for a copy of the original petition and I have written to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for the appellate case file.

I then did a search on Google Books just for fun.  Guess what I found, a reference to a National Genealogical Society Quarterly issue from 1955 that mentions not only Ignatius but his father John.  John is my real target.  He would be my 5th great-grandfather.  Google Books would only let me see a snippet so I have fired off an email to the NGS asking them how I can get a hold of this issue (the issues on the website only go back to 1970).  One thing that I could see in the snippet was a mention of some deeds.  This family was in several counties in two different states so knowing where these deeds of interest are would make it a lot easier for me to request copies. 

I have to say though, I am mostly interested in the details of the divorce case.  A divorce in 1825 where the wife was the petitioner and the case gets moved to the appellate court.  You know it’s got to be good.


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

      2 Mary Louise Flowers Hendrix, compiler, Mississippi Court Records from the Files of the High Court of Errors and Appeals 1799-1859 (Greenville, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, Inc., 1999), 6.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis




Monday, April 7, 2014

I’m back in the saddle again (Thank you Gene Autry!)

I had thought about taking another week off from the blog because here in Augusta, Georgia it is Master’s Week.  The famous Master’s golf tournament is in town which means that everyone is out for Spring Break.  Spring Break coincides with The Masters so that everyone that wants to go, can.  This is of course assuming you have enough money.  I can’t even afford to go to a practice round.  My husband, son, and one of my sons-in-law will be fishing in Florida which means the girls and I will be partying all week.  We have a lot of cool things planned (all girly stuff).  We also have a lot of food planned, all of the things that the males in the family won’t eat.    I have to say though, I miss the blog and so I am back.

I ran across something yesterday that threw me for a bit of a loop so I posted a message on the Transitional Genealogist’s Forum email list to get some other opinions.  Here is the marriage record I was looking at.

Porter, William and Emily Seegar marriage 1843

Madison County, Georgia, Marriage Book A: 16, Porter-Segar, 1843; Probate Court, Danielsville.


Emily’s sister Elizabeth’s marriage record is found on this same page and the word intermarriage is not used on her record so if there was some sort of “intermarriage” it had to have been on William Porter’s side of the equation. 

I looked up the legal definition of “intermarriage” using Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd Edition) just to see what exactly I might be dealing with.

In the popular sense, this term denotes the contracting of a marriage relation between two persons considered as members of different nations, tribes, families, etc., as, between the sovereigns of two different countries, between an American and an alien, between Indians of different tribes, between the scions of different clans or families. But, in law, it is sometimes used (and with propriety) to emphasize the mutuality of the marriage contract and as importing a reciprocal en- gagement by which each of the parties “marries”‘ the other. Thus, in a pleading, instead of averring that “the plaintiff was married to the defendant,” it would be proper to allege that “the parties intermarried” at such a time and place.

Basically, it could mean nothing at all.  The only thing that makes me wonder is that the same court clerk was making all of these entries.  Sometimes Jonas used the word intermarriage and sometimes he didn’t.  There was another intermarriage entry on the next page.

At this point I am still not 100% sure if this was just a legal term that had no real bearing or if there was something about William Porter that made Jonas the clerk write intermarriage.  For now I am just going to keep it in mind.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Off the blog

I will be off the blog until 07 Apr 2014 to do some catching up.  I have a few big projects due.  Keep researching while I am gone Smile

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Question about my marriage citations

I got an email about the two marriage citations I posted yesterday.  Here they are:

Hancock County, Mississippi, Marriage Book D: 168, Jenkins-Grantham, 1882; Circuit Court, Bay St. Louis.

St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, Marriage Records, 1811-1967, Marriage Book 2: 200, Jenkins-Grantham, 1887; FHL microfilm 1,463,133.

Rich wanted to know why I cited them differently if they are both marriage records that were created in a county courthouse. 

The Hancock County one I actually got straight from the courthouse.  I found the marriage in an index so I wrote to the county clerk and asked for copy which she sent me.  The citation shows that I got it from the Circuit Court in Bay St. Louis.

The St. Tammany Parish one is a copy taken from microfilm.  Even though this is the same record I would have received had I wrote to the clerk in Covington I still need to say where I actually got it.  There are reasons for this.  Let’s say my copy wasn’t all the good.  The person coming behind me could then make the decision to request a copy from the parish clerk knowing that they might get a better copy.  This works in reverse.  If I received a copy from the courthouse that was in bad shape the person behind me might try getting it off of microfilm in the hopes that the microfilm was made before the damage was done.  Also, many times when marriage records are microfilmed the loose papers stuck inside the book are not.  If this was an underage marriage I might want to contact the courthouse to see if there are any loose papers such as a permission note from the parents.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

One couple, two marriages?

Here is a weird one that I am working on.

Peter J. Jenkins and Miss Keziah Grantham married on 04 Aug 1882 in Hancock County, Mississippi.1 

Jas P. Jenkins and Kasiah Grantham were married 12 Dec 1887 in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.2

Same couple?  Maybe.  Peter (or James) went by his first or middle name depending on the record and his particular mood that day.  Peter and Keziah were both living in St. Tammany Parish prior to their marriage and they apparently crossed the line into neighboring Hancock County, Mississippi to get married in 1882.  They then got married again in their home county.  Why?  No clue.  As far as I know they never divorced.  Neither was under age.  Keziah was actually from Mississippi originally but migrated to Louisiana with her parents and siblings. The 1882 marriage makes more sense because they had a son in 1885.  I do know that Peter was married before he was married to Keziah and I am trying to track that down now.  So here is the one thing that is tripping me up.  There are TWO Peter Jenkins in St. Tammany Parish in 1850 that are both the same age.  I can follow one of them through time but the other one I lose.   Keziah is a relatively uncommon name but I have come across several in this area so it is possible there are two of them.  The plot thickens.  I love mysteries like this Smile

I am disabling the comments for this post because this little sub plot is part of a much bigger case study involving Keziah Grantham.  I might decide to use it one day for the BCG and if I allow any feedback it would be disqualified.  I just wanted to show you the types of dilemmas you might run across.

I am just beginning this investigation so I might luck out and have my answer before tomorrow, you never know.  Or, this may be one of those things that haunts me for awhile.

1Hancock County, Mississippi, Marriage Book D: 168, Jenkins-Grantham, 1882; Circuit Court, Bay St. Louis. 

2St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, Marriage Records, 1811-1967, Marriage Book 2: 200, Jenkins-Grantham, 1887; FHL microfilm 1,463,133. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, March 17, 2014

Questions I get

I would say that a good 75% of the questions I get via email have to do with “how do YOU do this?”  The other 25% are straightforward research questions.   Don’t get too hung up on the “how do YOU do this” sort of stuff.  There are some things that are considered “standard” in the genealogy community but a lot is just how you prefer to do things.  Some people that write me are really paranoid about doing something wrong.  All you need to do is think about why you are doing something and does it really matter if you do it one way or another and then it will make sense.

Something that has a standard format is dates.  We record dates as 04 February 1850.  We do it this way so that there is no way the date can get confused.  There is a real reason why you should do it this way.  Consistency is also important with dates because we share data between programs and between people in different countries.  There really needs to only be one way to enter a date.   04 Feb 1850 is considered just fine because it is still in the same format.  For more information about dates and other things that have true standard formats, click HERE.

Now an example of personal preference (and this is from a question I got this week).   “Should I record a census event or should I record a residence event and use the census as the source for that?” This one is totally up to you.  I can tell you the way I do it but in this case there really isn’t a right or wrong answer.  The most important thing to remember in situations like this is to be CONSISTENT.  As long as you are consistent you will be fine.  Now to answer the question.  The way I do it is that I actually have a census event.  I will name my event 1850 United States Federal Census.  I transcribe the family details into the notes section and then copy the event to all of the family members.  I use the census as a source for as many things as I can glean off of the record.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Learning to say no

Once friends find out that you are a genealogist/family historian you will start getting a lot of requests to probe their family histories.  The problem is, many times these people have no idea how much time is involved even looking up simple things (if you are doing it properly).  Pretty soon you might find yourself doing more work for others than for yourself.   This is an easy trap to fall into and I want to warn you about it.  Your good intentions just might just come back to bite you. 

Over the years I have cut down on the amount of freebie research I do.  I will take on a freebie case for a friend if it is particularly interesting to me for some reason and if I know it is something I can research quickly.  I answer questions from blog readers because that is just part of having a blog like this one, though normally what I do is I point them in the right direction so that they can find the answers themselves.  I can do that with the blog readers because they too are genealogists.  With friends that doesn’t normally work. 

I used to feel pretty guilty when I had to tell someone no but now I just tell them that I am swamped (which I am). 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Too late

I attended a funeral today, the funeral of John Amos Dukes of Wadley, Georgia.  He was my son-in-law’s grandfather.  You couldn’t have met a nicer man.  He and his wife accepted my daughter into their family with open arms.  My daughter and I had been planning to visit Papa and Granny Dukes just to sit down with them and hear all of the old stories that only they know.  Kaitlyn and I both lead very busy lives and we just didn’t get around to it.  Instead, we attended Papa Dukes’ funeral today. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, March 14, 2014

Legacy and FamilySearch


This one is just for Legacy users.  Geoff Rasmussen just released a special free webinar showing you how to interface with FamilySearch’s Family Tree using Legacy.  I just finished watching it and it is great.  This video will answer all the questions you have about how to connect to Family Tree, how look to for matches and duplicates, how to upload and download information, how to add sources, and for the LDS members, how to do the Ordinance work. 


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


Thursday, March 13, 2014

As of 7:00 am this morning…

… I had ZERO emails in my inbox and ZERO emails in any of the email folders!  I completely cleaned out EVERYTHING yesterday (and it took me most of the day).  This morning I only had a few to deal with and my boxes were completely empty by 7:00 am.

That might not sound like a major feat but for me it is.  I get well over 100 emails a day and a lot of those actually require me to do something.  It is easy to shove them into a folder and tell myself that I will deal with it later.  I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator anyway. 

Yesterday was a good day all the way around.  I cleaned off my desk, tackled my To-Do List in Legacy, purged some things out of EverNote, scanned a stack of documents and sent a few letters I needed to get out to some repositories. 

It is very easy to let things pile up when you are a genealogist/family researcher.  It can get very frustrating.  I have started dedicating one day a week to nothing but catching up on outstanding tasks and to do some genealogical “decluttering.”  I picked Wednesdays because on Wednesdays I take my daughter Kaitlyn out to eat and then for a little shopping.  She is married, in school and works so she stays very busy but on Wednesday afternoons/evenings she is free so we can spend some time together just the two of us.  I don’t like to get involved in a major genealogy project on Wednesdays because then it is hard for me to put it down.  Doing “clean up” is the perfect project for this day.  By the time Kaitlyn gets to my house I am ready to go.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thank you St. Heribert

In 1945, my mother’s mother was shot and killed by an American soldier in Germany (assumed to have been accidental).  my mother’s father was still in a prisoner of war camp in Russia so my mother and her two brothers were pretty much orphaned (their father died in 1949 on the trip home back to Germany).   The children were sent to a Catholic orphanage in Leichlingen.  This orphanage still exists today.

Kinder und Jugendorf St. Heribert

This morning I received a copy of the original log book page that shows the details of when my mother and her two brothers entered St. Heribert’s.  I am not putting a copy of the page on the blog because my mother and one of her brothers are still living and the log contains their full names and dates of birth.

It is a bit surreal looking at this yellowed page.  Three children ages 12, 11 and 9 had lost literally everything and then they are sent to a place far from their home where they knew no one.   They were Protestant and this was a Catholic orphanage so on top of everything else that they were having to deal with they were also being converted to a different religion at the same time.  My mother was only 13 when she left St. Heribert’s bound into an apprenticeship. 

In spite of all of this, my mother and her two brothers were never bitter and all three became successful and productive members of society.  One of my uncles became a chemical engineer, the other became a successful businessman and my mother is an expert seamstress.  Of course my mother’s real claim to fame is ME Smile


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Here we go again

Back in July 2013 I wrote a blog post that was very hard for me to write.  I had already done several posts about violating copyright and plagiarism but this post was different.  It named a specific person that was causing trouble in the genealogy community.  I normally don’t name names but in this case I did.  You can read the original blog post HERE.

The person in question has launched a “new blog” or at least that is what he is saying.  The blog is actually the same blog he has had all along.  He has merely transferred it to a new domain.  If you click on any of the blog post links over on the right side you will see that all of them were posted within a few days of each other.  I am going to give you the link to the blog just so you will know to avoid it, Genealogy by Barry

If you are on Facebook you might have already seen some of the posts about this situation.  In this case social media is a good thing because it is a great way to get the word out quickly.  In those FB posts, you will see genealogists posting specific examples of copyright violation and plagiarism that this person has committed.  He has lifted copyrighted information from many genealogists.   Some of the genealogists posting are people that are considered to be in the very top echelon of the field. 

In my original post you will see some links to some general information about copyright and ethics.  Here is another link I would like to give you:

Plagiarism – Five “Copywrongs” of Historical Writing by Elizabeth Shown Mills

I recommend that you do not access any of this person’s webpages or blogs. 


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, March 10, 2014

Our Ancestors, Our Stories


I am very excited to tell you about a new book coming out that will be of particular interest to those living here in the CSRA (Central Savannah River Area) called,  Our Ancestors, Our Stories written by “The Memory Keepers.”   Here is a synopsis taken from the book’s website:

“Our Ancestors, Our Stories book narratives shares invaluable lessons learned and important research by The Memory Keepers.

Harris Bailey Jr., in "This Place Known as Edgefield," sets out the historical context of Edgefield where the stories of the four families are set. He examines the political, economic, social, intellectual, and cultural context of historic Edgefield.

Bernice Alexander Bennett, in "Finding My South Carolina Kin," unravels the mystery of her South Carolina heritage, which resulted in a union with relatives she never knew, as well as the slaveholder's descendant of her 3rd great-grandfather and mother.

Ellen LeVonne Butler, in "A Journey to Find My Butler Ancestors," confirms her family's oral history passed down from her grandparents, and she identifies the white families that enslaved her ancestors.

Ethel Dailey, in "The Journey Has Just Begun," vividly tells of her personal journey in researching her Edgefield ancestors.

Vincent Sheppard, in "On Behalf of the Ancestral Spirits," traces a journey from conversations with his parents, family members, and friends of the family in his community. He finds hundreds of maternal descendants of his great-great-grandfather's siblings as well as the offspring of his 3rd great-grandmother's twin sister.

My husband has several family lines in Edgefield County and it is one of my favorite places to do research.  The Old Edgefield District is very rich in history.  Any genealogist that has ties to this area should get this book.

I have “known” Bernice Bennett for some time now I was finally privileged to meet her at the Southern Showcase in Edgefield, South Carolina on September 20-21, 2013.  You can see a photo of Bernice and I together as well as a synopsis of the class she taught by going to Thank you, Edgefield Part II and scrolling down to Day 1- Session 3.

You can visit the Our Ancestors, Our Stories website for more information.  They also have a Facebook Page that you can like.

Bernice will be in Edgefield at the Thompkins Library in Edgefield on 27 April 2014 for a book signing.  The library is located at 104 Courthouse Square, you can’t miss it.  I am planning to be there to get my book signed and to show my support for Bernice. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis