Friday, May 22, 2015

Terms of what?

The Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook group page is pretty popular. There are over 20,000 members. One of the things you will see on there all the time are questions like, “Can someone see if Mortimer Snerd has an obituary on and clip it for me?” If you happen to have a subscription to should you do the lookup? 

Before you do, you need to read’s Terms of Use. Doing lookups like this might be in violation of the agreement you signed with the company.

Here is a great article written by the Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell, CG. 

Reprise: a terms of user primer

Most genealogists will bend over backwards to help out a fellow researcher but sometimes you just can’t.  It is always best to follow the rules.  You can tell them whether or not what they are looking for exists but for them to get a copy they will have to subscribe to the website just like you did.


 Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Death certificates and informants

By now you should already know that I love death certificates.  They are loaded with evidence and many times that evidence is wrong which makes it all the more fun.  What some people don’t realize is that there is normally TWO informants on a death certificate, the physician that witnessed the death and the person that provided the background info.  I wanted to talk a little bit about the physician.

If you obtain a copy of a death certificate from the state health department the document is considered to be an ORIGINAL as long as you are confident it represents the original accurately and that it hasn’t been altered/tampered with in any way which is usually the case.

The date of death is DIRECT evidence because it directly answers the question, “When did Mortimer Snerd” die?

But is the information PRIMARY, SECONDARY or UNDETERMINED? It depends.  Was the physician actually present when the person died or was he going on information provided by someone else? You might think this is a bit nit picky but not really.  It can contribute to an error.

Fast forward to when I was a deputy sheriff.  When someone died at home a law enforcement officer would be dispatched to the house.  The LEO would observe the scene, observe the body and conduct interviews. If it appeared that the person had died of natural causes the LEO would call the family doctor and ask him if he was willing to sign the death certificate.  If he knew the patient well enough that he was comfortable with it, he would say yes.  The body would then go to the funeral home.  The doctor would never see the dead body but would sign the death certificate as the attending physician. 

When you are looking at a death certificate pay attention to when the physician states he attended the deceased as well as what date he states he last saw the deceased.  If you are really lucky, the doctor will make some sort of notation if he was not in attendance or if no one was in attendance when the person died.  Many times the blanks won’t be filled in at all and then you won’t even know for sure.  This is just something you need to think about if something doesn’t quite add up.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 18, 2015


wordle 6

I have recently discovered Wordle. On this website you can create really cool word-based graphics.  The above graphic is for my One-Name Study.  It has the names of the countries where the surname is found as well as all of the known variations.  The more common variations are larger than the lesser ones.  Great fun and it is free. 


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why I like the name Smith

One of the things I do at Legacy is update the Research Guidance feature.  Whenever I add a new database I have to look at the database very closely to see exactly what information can be gleaned.  If it is a simple index it is no problem but if there are images I have to look at several from different areas and different time periods so that I can get a good overview of what might be found in that particular record set.  Many of the databases that have images also have an index so I put in random names and then click on the link to see the page.  Guess what name I use?  Smith of course!  Every country has their Smiths and as long as I know what it is I am in good shape.  Here are just a few.

Poland – Nowak
Spain – García
Germany – Müller
Japan – Satō
Finland – Korhonen
Greece - Papadopoulos
Italy – Rossi
Peru - Quispe

When I am actually doing research I don’t like Smiths so much. 


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Super tech

Sherry, one of the people I work with at Legacy, recently did a presentation for a local genealogy group. I thought I would show you one of her PowerPoint slides.

Super Tech

Oh yeah!  That’s me, SUPER TECH!


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 11, 2015

Arg! Rookie mistake!

In the blog post Angerone I said I was going to ask the Mississippi State Department of Health if Angie (Simmons) Nichols had a delayed birth certificate. She was born in 1884 and died in 1960 so it is possible.  I got a response back today that said she didn’t have one. They sent back the original form I sent in and I noticed that I had written her married name as Angie Helpman.  CRUD!  That’s the wrong Angie!   Angie (Gillespie) Helpman was born in 1848 and most assuredly doesn’t have a delayed birth certificate. Now I will have to send another request.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 8, 2015

Glaentzer One-Name Study

TheresiaGlaentzer02I love the Glaentzer (Gläntzer, Glentzer, Glantzer, Glaenzer) surname because it is very uncommon.  When I find a Glaentzer in the records I know that it has to be one of my relatives. Lucky for me I have a distant cousin in Germany that is also working on this line.  Because of the work she has done over there we have the Glaentzers back to Hans Casper Glentzer born abt. 1624, died 24 Oct 1691 in Bretten.

Off of this main line there is a branch that migrated to Italy, another branch that migrated to France and yet another that migrated to the United States.  The Glaentzer surname is perfect for a One-Name Study.  I have registered this surname with the
Guild of One-Name Studies and The Surname Society. I don’t have DNA yet but I really need to get it because there is only one male left in my line.  The problem is, he is in Germany and DNA testing is rare over there.  I need to give him some time to get used to the idea.

If you are interested in conducted a one-name study, here are some resources for you.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Follow-up to “You can’t believe everything you read”

You can read the original post HERE. Kathy T. sent the following via a Facebook message and she gave me permission to share it here with you.

“Suggested reason why the paper "got it wrong" - that's what the family put in. Suggested reason why the family put that in - there was an extended illness that the family had been covering up, and the accident was a direct result of that illness and the family didn't want to accept the truth. Suggested "extended illness" - depression, alcoholism, mental illness of some kind.  My next move given the apparent disparity between the truth and the family's public story - look for medical records for the years prior to his death.”

Excellent!  Kathy is thinking like a true detective.  Yes, this had crossed my mind but I have a couple of roadblocks.  There is no one left alive that would be able to shed light on this.  Jimmy had six siblings.  Two of them didn’t make it to adulthood.  Of the other four, two never married nor had children.  Of the two left, one had two children but both of them are dead.  The last one has one child alive.  I have been in touch with her but for many years.  She would be the only person left that could possibly shed some light on this but I would need to track her down. 

Here is another bit of a mystery.  My husband said that Jimmy never married nor had any children but his death certificate states he was widowed.  The 1920 census shows Jimmy living with his mother but in 1930 he is married and his wife’s name is Marie.  The census shows that they had married within that year.  By 1940 he is back living with his mother though he is listed as single and not widowed.  Sounds like a trip to the courthouse is in my future.

Jimmy died at University Hospital in Augusta and the hospital is still there but even if the medical records from that time still exist I won’t be able to get a copy of them due to privacy laws.  I would have to be the executor/administrator of Jimmy’s estate or Jimmy’s spouse, child or parent.  The only way I could get them would be with a court order and I have no compelling reason for a judge to grant one (Georgia statute O.C.G.A. § 31-33-2).

Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 4, 2015

You can’t believe everything you read

I don’t work on my husband’s side of the family all that much because he has absolutely no interest in genealogy whatsoever but he does tolerate my obsession with it so I guess that’s something. I decided to work on his family a bit and he told me that his great-uncle Jimmy died in a car wreck.  He said he remembered it clearly.  I found Jimmy’s obituary and this is what it says:

James W. Young
APPLING, Ga. - James William Young, 69, died in an Augusta hospital Sunday after an extended illness.  Funeral services will be conducted at Lewis Memorial Methodist Church in Columbia County Wednesday at 3 p.m. with the Rev. Robert Boyd officiating assisted by the Rev. W.L. Buffington.  Burial will follow in the church cemetery.  Young was a native of Columbia County.  He was retired and a member of the Hollow Creek Baptist Church in Aiken, S.C.  Survivors include one sister, Mrs. G. S. Lewis, Martinez and a number of nieces and nephews.

Well that posed a bit of a problem.  There is a big difference between dying in a wreck and dying after an extended illness.  My husband was a kid at the time so maybe he remembered it wrong. I ordered Jimmy’s death certificate to find out.

Young, James death certificate 1966 

Well there you go.  My non-genealogist husband did remember the events correctly.  No clue why the paper got it wrong.


1 "James W. Young," The Augusta Chronicle, 06 December 1966, p. 5, col. 2. 


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis


Friday, May 1, 2015

Irvin Helpman, my one and only Union soldier

I first told you about my one and only Union soldier HERE.  His wife was one of the “Angerones” that I told you about HERE.  I have been taking a closer look at these two and I found Irvin on the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule.  You can look at this census page HERE. Scroll down to line 5 in the bottom section.  It says, “Shot in Right hand” I am not 100% sure about the rest of that line but the word “shot” intrigues me. The second line states he “contracted chronic Rheumatism” and we will see that again.

I have someone that pulls records for me at NARA and I just received Irvin’s pension file.*  His pension was denied (several times).  He tried to get a pension because of his rheumatism, dyspepsia, catarrh** and left inguinal hernia.

22 Aug 1892
19 Jul 1893
30 Apr 1894
21 Nov 1894

In a sworn affidavit he stated the he got the hernia in “March 1894” while “carrying a large sack of pea nuts and fell with the sack which caused me to rupture myself”  His rejection states, “No notable disability under the Act of June 27th” 

12 October 1895
He was approved and rejected on the same piece of paper.  He was approved for $6 a month for the inguinal hernia but rejected for the “alleged rheumatism, catarrh and dyspepsia.” Though the examiner approved him there is no record that the approval actually stuck.  There is an additional comment on this entry, “venereal disease eliminated.”  We will come back to that in a bit.

The pension record includes a transcription/extraction of his Union medical records which don’t exist anymore so this was a nice find.

“The medical records show him as follows, as Irvin Helpman, rank, —, Co. A, 8 Ills. Inf., Flesh wound Right hand, wounded at the battle of Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., Apr 6 & 7, 1862: treated Apr. 14 & 15 and 26 to 29 ‘62, Pneumonia: as I. L. Helpman, rank, —, Co. A, etc., Aug. 2 to 10 ‘64, Wounded, light duty: Oct. 10 to 13 ‘64, Dys. AC. retd. to duty: as Irvin L. Helpman, Corp, etc., Feb. 21 to Mch. 10 ‘65, Prim. Syphilis & Bubors: Mch. 10 to 13 ‘65 Syphilitis Bubs: as I. L. Helpman, Corp., etc., Mch. 15 to Apr. 3 ‘65, Bubs. Chancre, retd. to duty: as Irvin L. Helpman, Corp., etc., Apr. 9 ‘65, Syphilistic bubors: as priv., etc., Apr. 10 & 11 ‘65 Bubo Syphylitic: as I. L. Helpman, Corp., etc., Apr. 13 to May 7 ‘65, Syphilis secondary (diagnosis also shown as Gunshot wound), retd. to duty: and as Irvin L. Helpman, priv, Co. A, etc., July 3 to 7 ‘65, Mch. Fever Quot[?], retd. to duty: and Aug. 4 to 6 ‘65, Inter Fever Tertian, retd. to duty.  Nothing additional found.”

Interesting.  In 1862 he has a flesh wound to his right hand (shot?) and then in 1865 he has a gunshot wound.  I wonder why he told the census taker he had been shot but he never mentioned it on his pension apps. I would think gunshot wound(s) would carry more weight. 

The syphilis interests me too.  This was before he married Angie so he came into the marriage with it.  They married in 1871 and it appears his syphilis was in the latent or tertiary stage at that time.  Once it gets to the later part of the latent stage or the tertiary stage it is no longer contagious.  As far as I can tell, neither Angie nor the kids were infected.  If Angie had been infected the kids could have contracted congenital syphilis.  The line “venereal disease eliminated” in the pension file supports this (at least by 1895). Syphilis goes through stages and in the latent and tertiary stages it would appear that the disease was gone (but it really isn’t). This was long before antibiotics so he wouldn’t have been cured.  It is possible that Angie was infected and that she too when through the stages but my bet is on the first scenario.  The first mention of the Syphilis was in 1865.  Irvin was only 20. The first mention of his “rheumatism” was in 1890 at age 45. The joint swelling and pain he had as well as the catarrh were mostly likely due to tertiary Syphilis.  Tertiary Syphilis is the stage where your body starts to suffer major damage.  Why am I so interested in all of this?  Because I am a registered nurse.  I can’t help it. 

I still have some unanswered questions about Irvin and Angie’s life so I am still digging.


*Full citations to all records available on request.  Sometimes I am just too lazy to put them on the blog.
**Catarrh is a chronic sinus and nasal cavity inflammation with drainage.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Negative search vs. negative evidence

Last Friday I told you how important it is to record your Negative Searches but what is the different between a negative search and negative evidence? Here is an example:

You are tracking John Doe like a bloodhound and this is what you find.

John Doe appears on the 1830 census in Jones County
John Doe appears on the 1840 census in Smith County (but not in Jones County)

John Doe appears on the 1846 tax list in Jones County
John Doe appears on the 1850 census in Jones County

So is not finding John in Jones County in 1840 a negative search or negative evidence?  It depends.

If you are trying to make the case that the man in Smith County is in fact your John (you would certainly need additional evidence to support this) then the fact that John does not appear on the 1840 Jones County census would be negative evidence supporting your case. Your hypothesis might be that John moved to Smith County for a five year period but then moved back to Jones County.  However, if you think that these two are different Johns and you have no reason whatsoever to believe that your John might have been living in another county in 1840 then this is a negative search, not negative evidence.

In this case the difference is this….

Negative search – Your John should have been living in Jones County and there is no evidence at all to support that he had moved away. The John in Smith County is a different man.  John isn’t on the Jones County census because he was overlooked by the census taker, the census taker accidentally forgot to include John when he recopied the census, or a census page(s) is missing.

Negative evidence – The fact that there were no John Doe enumerated in Jones County in 1840 makes your case stronger that the John that was enumerated in Smith County is the John you am looking for. Again, this one piece of evidence would not be enough to put together a proof argument that this was the same man but not finding John in Jones County is evidence you need.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 27, 2015

Well duh!

Marian Pierre-Louis and I work together at Legacy. She just wrote a GREAT article for our Legacy News blog.  When I read it I was a bit embarrassed because I had never thought to create a form to take with me to a repository.  Her article, Navigate Local Town Hall Research, focuses on town records (it’s a New England thing) but you can easily adapt this to any other repository.  I live four miles from the Columbia County courthouse and I see great potential here.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, April 24, 2015

Negative search

Here is a great reason why you want to document your negative searches.   Images of the record set Mississippi, Enumeration of Educable Children, 1850-1892; 1908-1957 are on FamilySearch but the records are not indexed.  I just visually scanned every name on 370 images one by one for Marion County 1892. Believe it or not, that is actually a small image set.   I don’t want to do that again.  I ALWAYS document any negative search so that I don’t accidentally redo what I have already done.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


There are three people in my file that are supposedly named “Angerone” but so far I can’t find this exact spelling for any of them.

It starts with Silas Simmons and his wife Janet who had a daughter named “Mary Jane Angerone Simmons”  (abt 1820-aft. 1870). This name was documented in a family history written in the 1950s (no source).  Family Lore is that Silas Simmons had a Bible that named all of his children but no one that I have spoken to in the past 22 years has every seen this Bible nor have they actually spoken to anyone that has seen this Bible. They only “heard” about it. A lot of people have this complete name in their file but no evidence to support it.  All I can prove is that her name was Mary and she was my 2nd great-grandaunt.  Here are the records I have.

1830 census no name, listed as a white female age 5 to 9
1840 census no name, listed as a white female age 20 to 29
1850 census Mary Simmons
1860 census Mary Simmons
1870 census Mary Simmons

In 1870 Mary was 50, unmarried, and living with one of her brothers. I can’t find her in the 1880 census.  It is more likely that she had died and not married.  I haven’t been able to find a grave marker for her though I am guessing she is buried in the Simmons Family Cemetery in Baylis, Marion County, Mississippi since she was last known to be living with her brother John and that is where he and his family are buried.  With the available data it is a pretty big leap of faith to say that her full name was Mary Jane Angerone Simmons.

Mary had a sister named Nancy who married John Gillespie.  They had a daughter named Angerone Alice Gillespie (1848-1922).  Though I don’t have her name as “Angerone” I am certainly a lot closer than I was with Mary.  Nancy could have easily named her daughter after her sister so it is still possible.

1850 census Angerona Guluspie
1860 census Angeroney Galaspie
1870 census Angie Gillespie
1880 census A. A. Helpman
1900 census Angie A. Helpman
1908 Civil War pension index
waiting for actual file to arrive
Angee Helpman
1910 census Angie Helpman
1915 son Irvin’s death certificate A. A. Gillespie
1920 census unable to locate
1922 death certificate Angie Alice Helpman
1922 grave marker Angie Alice Helpman
Angie’s husband and the rest of her children died before death certificates were required so I can’t look for her name there other than one daughter that I haven’t been able to track past 1900.  I am still working on her.
Mary and Nancy had a great niece name “Angerone” Simmons (1884-1960).  This is through their brother James and then his son William.  At least I get something close.
1900 census Anjaronie Simmons
1910 census Angie Nichols
1920 census Angie Nichols
22 Mar 1928 in the Hattiesburg American Angie Nichols
18 Apr 1929 in the Hattiesburg American Angie Nichols
1930 census Angie Nichols
24 May 1930 in the Hattiesburg American Angie Nichols
1940 census Angie Nichols
07 Jul 1948 in the Hattiesburg American Angie Nichols
22 Jul 1959 in the Hattiesburg American Angie Nichols
1960 death certificate Angie Simmons Nichols
1960 obituary Angie Simmons Nichols
1960 grave marker Angie S. Nichols

This Angie only had one child.  I can’t get his death certificate because it is too recent and I am not a direct descendant of his.  His obit doesn’t mention Angie. I have requested a copy of Angie’s delayed birth certificate (I am hoping she has one) from the Mississippi State Department of Health.

So why is this so important to me?  It just is.  I feel as though a person’s name identifies them and I want to get it right.  I know of course that sometimes this isn’t possible but that doesn’t mean I won’t try.

The closest I have to Angerone is Angerona, Angeroney and Anjaronie.  So is Angerone even a valid first name?  When I do an exact name document search (not trees) on and FamilySearch I do get quite a few hits for women named Angerone (along with some variations).

Angerona was the name of a Roman goddess.  I doubt if a family living in rural Mississippi in the 19th century would have named a child directly after a Roman goddess but the name was out there.  Maybe they heard it and liked it, who knows.  There is also a couple of species of butterfly that have Angerona in their name (most likely named after the goddess). 

I will probably never prove Mary’s name but I might have some luck with the two Angies. At this point I am leaning toward Angerona since the second woman in the list had this as a variation.  So do any of you have an Angerona\Angerone in your family tree or any information about this unusual name?

*All sources available upon request.  I was too lazy to type them all.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 20, 2015

The blog is back!

I took an entire month off.  I wasn’t planning on taking that much time but it just sort of worked out that way. So what have I been doing?  Well, I work for Legacy full time so that does keep me pretty busy.  I am also in the middle of mentoring GenProof Study Group 40 which is going very well.  I finished Warren Bittner’s Reading German I course and I am in the middle of Reading German II though the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research and I am also taking German: Emigration Records though the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.  I am trying to fill in some holes in my German education. 

I am still trying to finish going though my documents and getting everything scanned.  New documents keep coming in and sometimes I feel like I will never get it all done.  I have two more plastic containers to get through.  I took everything out of my binders  and put them in plastic boxes.  After I scan a document, double check what I have entered in my genealogy file, and link the document in Legacy, I put the document back in the correct binder.  I am at about 80% complete which is pretty good.  So far I have been at it for close to a year and a half.  I have been collecting documents for over 20 years so I have a lot.

I am looking forward to finally having a real office.  My daughter Kelly got married a few weeks ago and she will be moving out on May 9th to join her husband in Alabama.  I will be taking over her bedroom.  People post pictures of their offices in the Organized Genealogist Facebook group and I have been getting from inspiration from them.  In 20+ years I have never had an office.  That’s what happens when you have five children.

I took on a client case.  I haven’t done any client research in a while because I just stay so busy with everything else but this one was very intriguing and I couldn’t help myself.  This is a pretty straightforward case so I am hoping to wrap it up in a timely manner.  I am trying to prove or disprove some family lore which is one of my favorite things to do.

Other than that, not much.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, March 20, 2015

Projects, projects and more projects

I have several things going on right now with approaching deadlines so I will be off the blog for a bit.  I received a lot of data this week and I need to get everything processed and analyzed.

On April 6th a new MPG Study Group will be starting which I will be mentoring.  I am very excited about it.  Leading a group helps me keep my GPS skills sharp.  Hopefully there will be some blog readers in the group.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The olden days–Part II

We used to do everything on paper so you had to be VERY organized.  I followed the system recommended by the Family History Library.  You can still read the instructions HERE.  This is exactly how I had my files set up.  This system worked very well if you concentrated on your direct lines.  Once you went off on tangents (collateral lines) you had a problem.  I ended up going with a 5th color, purple, for any collateral lines I was researching.  It worked.  I kept my purple files completely separate from my four main lines.

Each folder had a Family Group Sheet, Research Calendar, and a Correspondence Log, all filled out by hand and in pencil.  Behind that you would keep all of the documents you found.  You would also have your research notes in here (the stuff that didn’t fit on the research calendar) as well as composed biographical information.  Your pedigree chart would be in the very front of each surname section, also filled in by hand and in pencil.   The original instructions did not include any mention of computers.  In this 2001 revision it does say you can print Family Group Sheets and Pedigree Charts using a computer.

I remember when I first got Family Tree Maker in about 1996.  At that time it was owned by Brøderbund.  It was hard for me to let go of my very organized paper files.  It took me several years before I gave them up completely. In 2005 I switched to Legacy Family Tree and as they say, the rest is history. 

I have a friend who still does everything on paper.  She is the most organized person I know.  When I see her penciled-in charts I get a little nostalgic.  it does bring back some good memories.

If you look at the FamilySearch Guide – Organizing Your Paper Files Using File Folders again,  scroll down to Tip 7 – Locality Files.  I LOVED these.  My locality files were the last thing to go.  I finally got them switched over to the computer about 2 years ago.  I now have all of that information in Evernote.  It is much easier to keep the information current.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The olden days

Kerry Scott (Clue Wagon) posted this photo on Facebook and boy did it open up a great conversation!

Copyright © 2015 Kerry Sandberg Scott, used with permission


I remember how excited I was when the 1880 census was released on CD by the Family History Library. It was actually a binder containing 56 CDs!   Before that I had to go to the library in downtown Tampa and look at the census index books and then pull the microfilm and then try and find my family.  These CDs were a godsend because they were also indexed.  For the first time ever I could sit at home and look at census records at my leisure, at least for this one census year.  I also bought various other record sets on CD from Family Tree Maker and before that, Broderbund.  Almost all of these were simple indexes or abstracts. I was THRILLED to get these indexes and abstracts on CD. Getting original records wasn’t nearly as easy to do back then.  This was before anything was available online. 

I was able to order microfilm at my local Family History Center.  In the picture you will see the way we used to access the card catalog.  You would order an index film, wait four weeks for it, find your family on the index, order the actual film you needed, wait another four weeks, and then finally you would have a single marriage license. You would repeat that process for every single document you needed. If you found multiple documents for your family on a single microfilm you would throw a party. 

You haven’t lived until you have hand cranked microfilm for 4-6 hours at a time.  I used to leave the library with a splitting headache. Back in those days there were no microfilm readers with automatic anything and you certainly couldn’t hook your computer or a flash drive up to it.  If you were lucky enough to score the one microfilm reader that could do copies you could print pages, if not, you did it the hard way, you hand wrote everything into a notebook.  Oh yes, this was before digital cameras.

You could also write to repositories to get record.  This wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds.  You would have to type up a nice letter, guess on how much money you should enclose, and then wait, and wait, and wait.  You had to keep close track on the letters you had sent out and if you didn’t get a response back you would have to send a second request.  Today we pick up the telephone and many times the transaction can be handled right on the phone thanks to debit cards. 

The only other way to get information was to travel.  With five children at home that was impossible both moneywise and logistically.  That is why indexes and abstracts on CD were so important.

So many things have changed.  Let’s just say I am happy to pay my subscriptions for online access.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, March 13, 2015

I wonder what our ancestors would think

I wonder what our ancestors would think about us poking around in their private lives.   Someone living in the 18th century might be taken aback if they knew we were digging through their land and tax records learning how wealthy or poor they were.  We might uncover private letters penned in confidence and handwritten notes scrawled in their personal Bible.  What about little secrets we find that they thought would never be known.  Then again, if my ancestors were anything like me they would have purposely left intriguing clues and then stood back and laughed as we hit brick wall after brick wall.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Genealogy Gophers

Genealogy Gophers is a searchable collection of genealogy-specific, public domain books. This website is new and still in beta but I like it a lot.  The advantage over Google Books and Internet Archive is that you don’t have to weed through all of the non genealogy stuff.  The advantage over FamilySearch Books is that it has a better search engine.

I did several searches related to my current project.  I had already done searches at the other sites.  The list of hits was much more meaningful and easier to sort through.  Right now they have 40,000 books online and they are planning to add 60,000 more.

When you click on one of the hits to see the actual page from the book a short survey thing will pop up.  You can skip the survey to get to the page.  A bit annoying but tolerable.  Don’t forget it’s free.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis