Friday, August 31, 2012

Filing Bookmarks

Public Service Announcement - If you are not already taking advantage of the FREE Legacy Family Tree Webinars you are missing out on one of the best continuing education opportunities out there. You can watch them live for free and then Legacy makes them available for at least 10 days in their archives for free as well. After that, they are available on CD for $9.95. However, if you listen to the current webinar you will get a coupon code that you can use on any of the old webinars (and anything else Legacy has to offer) which make is even cheaper. Some of the archived webinars are free forever. The top genealogists in the country present these webinars. The latest one was done by Judy G. Russell, CG. She holds a law degree and is the blogger for The Legal Genealogist. This one is still available in the archives for free. It is a great case study on building a family using circumstantial evidence. It is worth your while to take a look at what Legacy has to offer.

So far we have talked about Paper Filing Systems and Computer Filing Systems. Today I will show you how I have my internet bookmarks set up. Someone asked about this on the Transitional Genealogists Forum and I thought it would make a good companion topic to the first two. It was fascinating to see all of the posts about bookmarking systems. Some of the methods were very complicated to my simple mind but very organized which I can certainly appreciate. I have a very simple method that works for me. With the exponential explosion of genealogical information on the internet, you need some way of organizing your internet bookmarks so that you can find what you are looking for quickly.

I have my bookmarks set up very much like my old locality files and how I have them set up in my Research Binder. I like using the same system across everything I have so that I don't have to think too much to find something. The system is very easy to expand and contract as needed.

Here are the main folders and then subfolders. This is just a small snippet of my bookmark folders to give you an idea.

AL - Choctaw   [subfolder]
AL - Pike
AL - Tuscaloosa
GA    [this is a folder for any statewide resource]
GA - Columbia
GA - Lincoln
GA - Richmond
LA - Caddo
LA - East Baton Rouge
MS - Forrest
MS - Lamar
MS - Perry
SC - Edgefield
TX - Tarrant

Federal Land Records
Military - Civil War
Military - Rev. War
Military - WWI



So my main bookmark list looks like this and then I click to get to the alphabetized subfolders:

Most of the time I have the folders and subfolders in alphabetical order but in some cases I will put something out of order because it makes more sense to me. I have the main folders in the order that I use most which isn't in alphabetical order. When I bookmark a page, I always change the title to something that makes sense to me.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Computer Filing System

Yesterday I blogged about four different Paper Filing Systems. Today's topic will be how to organize your filing system on the computer.

I have a file on my C drive titled, "GENEALOGY" I put EVERYTHING genealogy related in this one location so that I can find things fast. I have a shortcut to this folder on my desktop. Here is a list of the sub folders in this file:

  • Case Studies [These are the current complex case studies I am working on. They are in MS Word format]
  • Classes [These are my Power Point presentations I use when lecturing, as well as my notes]
  • Correspondence [These are the letters I have sent out that I am still awaiting for a response. Once I get a response I delete the letter]
  • DOCUMENTS - Bible Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Birth Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Church Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Court Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Death Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Deeds
  • DOCUMENTS - Education Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Genealogies
  • DOCUMENTS - Land Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Marriage Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Military Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Personal Letters
  • DOCUMENTS - Social Security Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Wills and Probate
  • ICAPGen [I am going through the process to become accredited. All of my stuff related to that is in this file]
  • Misc [This is a catch all folder. If I can't find something, I look here]
  • PHOTOS - Grave Markers
  • PHOTOS - People
  • Legacy Backups [this is where I back up my computer file. I also back up to a flash drive and to Carbonite]
  • Repository Forms [these a pdfs of the forms I need to request death certificates, PERSI articles etc.]
  • Societies [this is where I keep all of the electronic newsletters from the organizations I belong to]
  • Temp [As I get things in, I store them here until I get them analyzed and filed correctly]
  • Writing Resources [here you will find my style sheets, a complete bibliography of every genealogy book I own, etc.]
I hope you noticed that my document files mirror my binders. I can easily add and subtract files folders as I need them. I have tried to keep it as simple as possible so that I can find things as I need them.

My file names follow a consistent pattern. The computer gurus on the Legacy Family Tree mailing list advise not to have spaces or commas in your file names [underscores are okay if you want to use that instead of spaces]. I know nothing about this so I just take them at their word and I don't put spaces or commas in my file names though I want to. They look like this:


I use the person's full name [maiden name for females] followed by a number so that I can have several documents in the same file for the same person. I use 01, 02, 03 so that the numbers will sort properly. I only use 2 digits because I doubt I will have more than 99 for any one person in any one file. If the photo or document concerns more than one person, I use a hierarchy to decide what name I use. This is usually more of an issue for photos than documents. Direct line ancestors get top priority. Married couples will be filed under the husband. If no direct line ancestor, then filed by the closest relation. If more than one of the same rank then by the oldest [for example, if it is a picture of 3 of my grandfather's siblings then it would be filed under the oldest sibling].

You need to use whatever filing system makes sense to you. I only show you mine to give you some ideas.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Paper Filing Systems

This post is for Cindy, Mommyof2, Dave, Brin and Emmie who all requested a blog post on paper filing systems. I am going to explain 4 different systems. The first is the way I do it, the second is the way the Family History Library recommends, the third is a MRIN* based system that Karen Clifford, AG recommends and the fourth is yet another popular method.

Method 1 - Michele's Way
I keep all of my documents in sheet protectors in two inch wide, 3-ring binders. The notebooks have A-Z dividers in them. I keep the binders on a bookshelf right next to my desk. I have the binders labeled like this:

  • Bible Records [copies and transcriptions]
  • Birth Records [birth certificates, birth announcements in newspaper etc.]
  • Church Records [rolls, minutes etc.]
  • Court Records [minutes, guardianship bonds, bastardy bonds, etc.]
  • Death Records [obits, death certificates, funeral cards etc.]
  • Deeds [deeds found in deed books, other land records are in the land records book]
  • Education Records [rolls, diploma, copies of yearbook entries etc.]
  • Genealogies [this is for printed Family Group Sheets and written genealogies I receive from other people that I feel I need to keep. For example, one of my dad's first cousins wrote a genealogy of her immediate family, her parents and her siblings, of one of my grandfather's older sisters. The person that wrote it was the last living child and her information was first hand knowledge and very credible]
  • Land Records [patents, warrants, head rights, grants, etc.]
  • Marriage Records [banns, bonds, licenses, certificates, announcements in the newspaper etc.]
  • Military Records [compiled service records, letters of commendation, rosters, etc.]
  • Personal Letters [these are letters that I have gotten a hold of that were written by family members. I have several letters that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother while he was in a Russian POW camp during WWII. I also have a couple of Civil War era letters. They are stored in acid free paper and in acid free sleeves in this binder]
  • Social Security Records [SS-5 forms]
  • Wills and Probate [wills, administrations, inventories etc.]
If a binder gets full, I add a 2nd one like this:
  • Marriage Records A-M
  • Marriage Records N-Z
You can easily expand this to 3 or 4 or more binders per type of record as needed.

I file the document by the principle person's name [maiden name for woman]. The complete source citation is written on the document. If I need to see James Elexander Simmons' death certificate all I have to do is pick up the Death Records Book and flip to the S's. He will be in alphabetical order there. All of his death paperwork will be in the same sleeve. In James' case that would be his death certificate and his obituary. I am sure you noticed that I don't have a binder for census records. I do not make paper copies of census pages. I save these directly to my hard drive since I have to access them from the internet anyway. If I were to have paper copies it would take up 15 binders just for the census records!

Method 2 - The Family History Library Way
This is the way I had my paper files organized for many years. It is a very organized system and it did me well for a long time. However, I found it a bit cumbersome once I was doing most everything on the computer. Here is the link to the method:
Organizing Your Paper Files Using File Folders
I did it exactly as described except I had my files in a filing cabinet, one drawer per line. If you prefer to use binders instead, then read
Organizing Your Paper Files Using Binders
but you must read the file folders one first because that one has the specifics of the method.

Method 3 - The MRIN* Method as Recommended by Karen Clifford, AG
I am going to refer you to Karen's Organize Your Paper Files website. She has an easy to understand, step-by-step tutorial. You just click on the genealogy database program that you use on your computer and she will show you how her method works with that specific program.

Method 4 - Another Popular Method Used by Genealogists
Many genealogists use their own number based system. Some use a simple sequential numbering system [1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc] while other break it down by type [Marr 1, Marr 2, Marr 3 for marriage records and Bap 1, Bap 2, Bap 3 for baptismal records, etc.] They label and file their documents this way either in a filing cabinet or in binders. Most genealogy database programs have a field where you can record this information. In Legacy Family Tree for example, when you add a source there is a space for a "File ID." This ties your computer file to your paper files.

You use whatever system works for you. The point of any system is to keep you papers organized in such a way that if you need to look at a particular document you can find it in seconds. Tomorrow I will outline how my files are organized in the computer.

* Marriage Record Identification Number

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Even More Questions About Research Calendars

The Research Calendars post has got to be one of the most popular ones to date. Here are more questions about this topic.

Mori asks:
Do you put all of your Find A Grave photo requests on your research log?

Find-A-Grave photo requests are a little different. If the person is already listed on Find-A-Grave then I already know where the person is buried and I probably know their birth and death dates. The reason I request photos is that I want to see the marker for myself. Not only can I confirm the spelling of the name and the dates, but the style of the marker and the exact inscription can give me other clues. I keep track of this in Legacy Family Tree which is my genealogy database program. There is a built-in To Do List that is perfect for keeping up with this type of task.

Bennie asks:
So you have separate research and correspondence logs?

No. I used to a long time ago when I kept a single research calendar for each individual. I would have a research calendar and a correspondence log for each person I was working on. Now that my research calendars have a single goal, I put everything on that one form. If you prefer to do a single research calendar for each person then it makes sense to have a correspondence log to go along with it. Many people still do it this way and this is still the method recommended by the Family History Library. I don't do well with this method because I go off on tangents very easily and I need to stay FOCUSED FOCUSED FOCUSED. Working on a single goal at at time works better for me.

Anonymous asks:
You said that there are some resources you check again after a negative search [Anonymous is referring to a mention I made about Find-A-Grave and GenealogyBank]. Do you have some sort of written schedule for this like checking a site every 6 months?

I am not that organized or disciplined. Many times when I am stumped [brick wall] I set my research aside for a time and work on something else. When I pick it back up I go over everything I have already done. If I see that a certain search on a frequently updated website was negative I might decide to check it again.

Rachel asks:
Do you include your research logs when you share information with other researchers?

Not usually. Research calendars are a tool to help keep your efforts organized. I can't see a real need in sharing this with someone else. For example, let's say my goal was to find who Charlotte Seegar married. I have a research calendar of the things I did to try and find this marriage. I eventually find that she married Mathew Patton and I get a copy of their certificate. I then source the marriage correctly. When I share my findings with someone else, all that person will see is the fact of the marriage and the citation [Madison County, Georgia, Marriage Book A: 165, Mathew R. Patten-Charlotte Seegar, 1843.] Since I have a positive end result then there is no reason to include the process I went through to get there. The exception to this is if I didn't find what I was looking for and I am enlisting the help of someone else. I will send this person my calendar so that they don't waste their time looking at things that I have already checked. If you ever use a professional genealogist to help you with one of your brick walls then this is essential. You don't want to pay someone to redo all of the things that you have already done. It wastes their time and your money. One of the first things a paid consultant will ask you is what you have already done and what the results were. If you can present this information to them in an organized fashion things will go much better.

Mary asks:
Are there any other "logs" you use in addition to your research log? I thought that I could do everything in the genealogy computer program I bought so that everything is in one place.

You do whatever is best for you. You can keep this log in your genealogy program [I don't know which one you use]. If there isn't a specific research log/to-do list feature in your program you can easily just hand type it out in the notes. The reason I keep mine separate is because that is what works best for me to keep everything organized. If I put my research calendars in the notes section of Legacy it would get very cumbersome very fast since I have multiple goals for each person. Legacy's built in To Do List doesn't serve my purposes well for this one thing so that is why I do it in MS Word. The only other thing I have outside of Legacy are case study files in MS Word. If I am working on a particularly interesting brickwall that I might want to submit for publication, I have a case study document. It is a working document where I start to tell the story of how the brickwall was solved. It is where I pull everything together. Once the case study is finished, I will copy and paste it into my file but I need to Word document so that I can submit it. Other than that, everything is in Legacy.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, August 27, 2012

Questions About Research Calendars and Analyzing the Data
Part 2

Yesterday I answered questions about the Research Calendars post and today I will be addressing the questions that came in about Analyzing the Data.

David comments:
I have never listed everything out like that to come up with possible scenarios! Very cool!

Thank you, David. I think it is pretty cool too. Many times when you have a brick wall you have everything you need to know right in front of you but you are just not seeing the answer. If you take all of the individual bits of info and compile them into a table or chart, you just might have a light bulb moment.

Deb asks:
What if you have conflicting data?

Great question because conflicting data is pretty much the norm. You always record ALL data you find, even if it conflicts with what you think you know to be true. You can give weight to the various facts. Let's say you have 3 different locations for a person's birth. You have to evaluate how reliable each of the sources for that data is. You might end up having to investigate all three as possibilities if you can't exclude anything. Remember, just because you have 3 sources that say a person was born in GA and only one that says SC, you can't just assume that GA is correct.

Frances asks:
Where do you record all of this information and in what format?

I just put it in my research notes in Legacy Family Tree. Legacy has a general notes tab and a research notes tab on every person. I put the person's bio under the general tab and all of my active research under the research tab. I pretty much just type it out just like I did on the blog. If I am doing a formal case study (for possible publication) then I have all of this information in a Word document. I can always cut and paste the entire report back into Legacy.

Michelle asks:
"In your analysis, you concluded,'If Lydia remarried after her husband Solomon died, it had to have been after the 1830 census was taken. Since she is not found in the 1840, she has either died or remarried.' Isn't it possible you just missed her in the 1840 or the census taker did?"

Yup, it sure could be possible. It is also possible that Lydia moved away and I am just not finding her. I didn't find her listed as head of household in 1840 in the entire state of Georgia (name variations also checked). I also checked the households of all of her known children (who all remained in a two county area) and there isn't a female in any of those households that could be Lydia. Using the data that I have, I have come up with the most likely hypothesis which is that Lydia has died or remarried. That doesn't mean that something else didn't happen. There are a couple of Lydia Pattons listed up in the New England area. It is unlikely either of these are my Lydia, especially since all of her children stayed in the area. I did look at the two Lydias in New England but rejected them, for now. That doesn't mean that later I won't have to go back and revisit this and broaden my search. Your first hypotheses should be the most logical, most likely scenarios. You might have to broaden it later but it is better to start out specific and work your way outward than to start out by investigating everything.

Another question from Michelle:
So what will you do now to prove/disprove your theory that Lydia has died or remarried?

I want to take a look at the tax records. Solomon died in 1811 but his estate wasn't sold/distributed until 1816 so there should be a tax record paper trail. At this point I don't know if Solomon's entire land holdings were sold off or only a portion. I need to look at the tax records to find this out. If there was a piece of the estate left intact, and left in Lydia's control, then there will be tax records on the land. I can then follow these records forward in time. I also need to watch the deeds during this same time period in case Lydia sold or deeded any remaining land. It is also possible that Lydia still had control over the original piece of land she had in Oglethorpe County.

I have checked the marriage index for Wilkes County through 1834. The originals later than that have not been microfilmed so I need to check the abstract book by Butler and Turner. If the marriage is there I can request a copy from Wilkes County. I will add these two tasks to my Research Calendar for finding Lydia's death information.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Questions About Research Calendars and Analyzing the Data
Part 1

Before we get into today's questions and answers, I would like to recommend The Legal Genealogist blog to you. This is one of my absolute favs and I am signed up to receive the posts by email. Judy G. Russell, CG, who also hold a law degree, is an expert on anything legal relating to genealogy. I have learned so much from reading her posts and I encourage you to check out her blog.

I received several questions about the Research Calendars and the Analyzing the Data posts. Today I will answer the ones about the Research Calendar and tomorrow about the Analyzing the Data post.

Deb asks:
"Do you really record every single web site you visit when you are doing research? I can look at many in a very short period of time."

Yes I do. If you are checking tons of websites you are not going to remember what you checked a month from now let alone a year from now. Also, websites are updated all the time. I can look back at my research calendar and see that I checked a particular website on a particular day. I might say to myself, "Self, maybe you should go back and check that one again." Two simple examples of this are Find-A-Grave and GenealogyBank. They update frequently and it is a good idea to go back and take another look if you see it has been quite some time since you last checked.

Deb also asks:
"When you find what you are looking for, what do you do with the research calendar?"

That is a great question! Let's say my goal was, "Who did John Doe marry?" I find his marriage license, obtain a copy, enter the info and source it. I suppose I could trash the research calendar but I don't. I have a file on my computer where I store the finished calendars. I do this for a couple of reasons. If I ever need to show the steps I took to find a certain piece of information, I have it. This is important if you ever plan to write a brick wall type article for a newsletter/magazine/journal. If I ever have a similar research problem in the same geographical area I can refer back to this plan to see what all I did which might help me with my new goal.

John asks:
"I use Legacy Family Tree as you do. Why don't you use the To-Do list in the program to keep track of what you have done?"

I love Legacy. I think it is the best program out there (at least for me). However, their To-Do List falls short in one area. Each task is completely separate from each other. You don't have a "list" of tasks for each goal you have. It is possible to group them using the filters but you would have to make sure that your categories are exact and consistent. The setup itself is nice. You have an open date, reminder date, task description, results, and repository with plenty of room to type but I need to see everything I have done on a single goal on a single piece of paper (or screen). I have heard that RootsMagic has more of a traditional research calendar template. I haven't seen it myself so I don't know for sure. Maybe someone can comment about that.

John also asks:
"I don't suppose you know when Legacy Version 8 will be coming out?"

You're kidding, right? That is probably the most closely guarded secret on the planet. I have heard a rumor that it will be later this year but I don't believe anything until I actually see it.

Kristen asks:
I watched the two videos and I just can't see how this is going to save me time! It makes great sense but it seems like a lot of work. Let's say you want a marriage record on someone and you find it right off the bat on Ancestry. Why do you do a calendar for that?

The only thing that will keep you from overlooking something or duplicating your efforts is a systematic approach that leaves a paper trail. I promise you, once you start doing this it will just become part of your routine. Now to your Ancestry example. Here is an example out of my own file.

David McMichael married Sarah Kimbrough on 20 Feb 1789 in Greene County, Georgia. (Hunting for Bears, "Georgia Marriages, 1699-1944," database, Ancestry ( : accessed 09 Sep 2008), David McMichael and Sarah Kimbro.) Of course I wanted the original document since this couple is in my direct line. The Ancestry search was my first entry. My second entry was to check Georgia's Virtual Vault. This website from the Georgia Archives has most of the marriage books online (digital images). Unfortunately, Greene County isn't included though the marriage was listed in their card catalog. My third entry was FHL Film #159051 and #159052 [early Greene County marriage records]. The search showed the marriage in the index but no actual certificate appears on the microfilm. My fourth entry was contacting the the Greene County Probate court. I saved this one for last because Greene County has been uncooperative in the past. The marriage is found in their index but they could not locate the actual license. I can now say I have done and exhaustive search. So why does this couple appear in all of these indexes but there is no bond/license? The Greene County Probate court was the original author of the index. The index the Family History Library and Ancestry has is this original index. Apparently some time after this index was compiled, the original record was lost. This index was compiled in the 1930s according to the courthouse. It also means that the original was lost before the Family History library microfilmed the holdings. You might find what you are looking for on your very first attempt but maybe not.

J. D. asks:
"Couldn't you do something like this in Excel?"

Sure you can. I like Excel but I am by no means an expert. I have seen charts/forms that other people have done in Excel that were just wonderful. I am not that good so a simple chart in Word works for me. I could probably fancy up my Word template too.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Questions About Wikipedia, Indexes and Obituaries

A little announcement before I get into today's questions. Michael John Neill, member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), has over 30 webinars on a nice variety of topics you might be interested in. These are not free but close to it. They might be a good resource for you. Most of them are $8.50 BUT Michael gave a coupon code of “halfoff” (don’t use the quote marks) which will give you a 50% discount. This code will be good until 11:59 PM Central Time on August 26th. He does have a free webinar so that you can try it out to see if this is the type of information that might be helpful to you. I watched the freebie and thought it was quite good. The link to the freebie is in the first paragraph under “Updated List of Genealogy Webinars.” When you click the link on it looks like you are going through Paypal but you really aren’t. Just submit the order and there you go.
Michael John Neill Genealogy Webinars
Ann asks:
Do you consider Wikipedia a good source?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. When you look at a Wikipedia page, you will see the sources for the information as listed by the contributors. You need to evaluate those sources. I do use Wikipedia for background information on towns/counties I am doing research in. I have found it most helpful. I will also use it for specific events. For example, I have an ancestor that was wounded in the Battle of the Crater. I did look this up on Wikipedia and I did use the Wikipedia page as a source for some background information that I wrote about the battle. If you look at the list of references on this page they look good. If I had needed more extensive information, I would have consulted the references listed but in this case I only wanted to write a one paragraph, general information summary of the battle.

Ann also asks:
You talk a lot about making sure you get the original documents but is there any time that you just settle for the index?

I use indexes as a placeholder source until I get the original. I also use an index if the original is not readily available or not easily obtained (unless the original is critical to my research). I will "settle" for the index if it is a collateral family member and not part of my direct line. I can always change my mind later and get a copy of the original document.

Gerry asks:
When you find an obituary do you just copy the page or do you transcribe it too?

I transcribe it too. I like to have the obituary in an easy to read format within my genealogy file on my computer even though I have a copy of the newspaper page saved to my hard drive.

Another question about obits from Gerry:
When you save an obituary, do you save the entire newspaper page or just crop out the obituary itself?

I always save the entire page. You can always zoom in on the obit if you need to look at it again. I like to see the obit (or whatever kind of article it happens to be, it doesn't have to be an obit) in the context of the page and it is nice to have the name of the newspaper, the day, the date and the page number at the top and then there is no question of what you are looking at. If you crop it, you are going to have to add in all of that information on some sort of label anyway. This is of course assuming you are talking about newspaper pages being downloaded from the internet or being copied off of microfilm. I have many newspaper clippings that were actually cut from newspapers. In those cases I scan then into Microsoft Word and then add an appropriate label.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, August 24, 2012

Analyzing the Data

I wanted to do a very simple data analysis exercise to get you thinking deductively. For this analysis, we will be using my brick wall Lydia (Orr) Patton that was used as an example yesterday in the Research Calendar.

What can we deduce from the following facts?

  • On 14 Nov 1805, Lydia Orr received a draw in the 1805 Georgia Land Lottery because she was an orphan. Her land grant was in Oglethorpe County.
  • On 11 Feb 1806, Lydia Orr married Solomon Patton in Wilkes County, Georgia.
  • Her husband Solomon Patton died in 1811.
  • On 04 Jul 1814, Lydia Patton was granted guardianship of the minor children in Wilkes County.
  • There are no federal census records for the state of Georgia prior to 1820.
  • Unable to find Lydia in the 1820 census.
  • Lydia appears as head of household in Wilkes County in 1830. She is age 40 to 49.
  • Lydia is not found as head of household in 1840 nor is there a female of the right age in any of the households of her known children. She is also not found in the 1850 census.
  • Lydia does not appear in the Wilkes County will index under the name Lydia Patton. There are no Lydias listed at all.

We can deduce all kinds of things from this very limited list of facts. These deductions help guide you to the appropriate sources to meet your goals.

  • Since Lydia was listed as an orphan on 14 Nov 1805, we know that at the very least her father was deceased by this date and possibly her mother also. She would have also been eligible for a draw if her widowed mother had remarried.
  • We know that Orr is Lydia's maiden name. We didn't know that when all we had was her marriage record. She could have been married before. Now that we know that she was listed as an orphan in 1805, Orr is in fact her maiden name and not a first married name.
  • We can narrow her date of birth to between 1781-1790 [1830 census]. That puts her at age 16 to age 25 at the time of her marriage which is reasonable.
  • If Lydia remarried after her husband Solomon died, it had to have been after the 1830 census was taken. Since she is not found in the 1840, she has either died or remarried.
  • She received land in Oglethorpe County the year before she married in Wilkes County. It is likely that her parents had lived in Oglethorpe County before they died. These two counties are closely linked. Wilkes was formed from Oglethorpe County in 1790 which means any records prior to that would be found in Oglethorpe.

When you approach your data this way you narrow down the number of sources that will be helpful to you in your quest saving you a lot of time and effort. As you get new facts, you keep making deductive hypotheses to guide your research even further. The first thing that strikes me is that I need to start a new research calendar with the goal, "When did Lydia (Orr) Patton die?" I need to check the tax records for Wilkes County to see how far I can follow Lydia in time which will narrow down a possible death date. I also need to check the administrations in Wilkes County since there is no will listed in the index. And speaking of tax records, I need to add a task to my original calendar to see if there are any Orrs in the Oglethorpe tax records prior to 1805 which may lead me to a possible father for Lydia. I need to start checking deeds because we do know that she owned some land. Checking the deed books may also help me with my original goal to find Lydia's parents so this task will appear on both of my calendars. I could also start another calendar with the goal, "Did Lydia (Orr) Patton remarry?" You can see that research begats more research and all of this research can get jumbled up unless you use a systematic approach. It looks like I need to get started!

All the facts listed are sourced. I am still trying to figure out how to do footnotes correctly on the blog. If you want to know what my source is for anything just ask.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Research Calendars/Plans/Logs

When I decided to start using research calendars, I made a huge step toward becoming a better researcher. Back when I first began doing research I thought that they were a total waste of time. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Whether you call it a research calendar, research plan or research log, it is simply a systematic and organized record of every source that you have checked and plan to check along with the results of the searches. There are a couple of reasons to take the time to do this. First of all it keeps your thoughts focused. It is very easy to go off on tangents when you don't have a plan. It will also keep you from accidentally duplicating your efforts. Can you really remember all of the sources you checked 5 years ago? If you don't keep track of your negative searches you will end up looking at the same things over and over again.

I prefer to have a separate research calendar for every specific research goal that I have. I have found that keeping the goal narrow helps me stay on track. There are some researchers that prefer to have a single log per person or per family group.

GENERAL - Research the life of John Doe
SPECIFIC - Who did John Doe marry? [my preference]

The easiest way to explain a research calendar is to show you one. Here is a real research calendar on a real brick wall I am working on. The last two items on the chart have not been done yet.

Lydia (Orr) Patton Research Calendar

The form you use isn't important. If you do a search on Google using the terms, "genealogy research calendar", you will find a plethora of different forms you can use or customize for your own use. I have mine in Microsoft Word. Many of the genealogy database programs have built in research logs that you can use.

Here are two excellent video lessons by G. David Dilts A.G. on how to use research logs effectively.

I am sure you will be a believer after watching the videos. One thing I do differently is I keep my logs (and everything else) on my computer instead of in paper files. The only other thing I do differently is I have a separate research calendar for each specific research goal. Mr. Dilts does one log per family group. His research logs contain a extra column where he states the research goals. WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU! I find my method keeps me on task better; Mr. Dilts' method causes me to be more haphazard because I tend to be ADD.

Before I switched over to the computer, I did my research calendars and my paper filing system just as Mr. Dilts does. His filing system is based on the one recommended by the Family History Library.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Questions About Brick Walls, Letters of Administration and North Carolina Records

Deb asks:
Do you have a certain step by step method you follow to try and solve brick walls?

The short answer is yes, however, the steps I take depend greatly on where and when this person lived. How I handle someone that was born in 1703 is very different than one that was born in 1903. The exact brick wall matters too. Am I trying to find where a person was born? Or who his parents were? Or who he married? The research goal dictates which directions I go off in. I do formulate an organized research plan so that I don't miss anything. I will be doing a blog post in the near future about research calendars/plans/logs. They are essential in my opinion.

Deb also asks:
When you are working on a brick wall, how do you keep track of everything you have done?

I sort of answered this question in my first answer but I will elaborate here. I have a research calendar/plan/log for every brick wall that I am working on. On this plan I keep track of everything I want to check, everything I have already checked, and what the results were. Stay tuned for an entire blog post on research calendars/plans/logs. By the way, the old school term is research calendar but many people today just call it a research plan or log.

Mark asks:
In the newspaper I found a "Letter of Administration" but I can't find the man's will listed in the will index book.

If there was a letter of administration there won't be a will. When a person died without a will (intestate), an administrator was appointed by the court to handle the person's estate and affairs. The notice that you found in the newspaper was put there by the administrator to notify anyone in the community that might have a claim against the estate (creditors, family members that wanted a cut, etc.). The deceased will still have a probate file in the probate court. It will contain the assignment of the administrator(s),the inventories of the deceased's property, receipts where the estates paid out monies, and various other documents. Sometimes these probate files are quite large and stretch out over many years. If there was any argument between the persons receiving property from the estate it could drag on and on.

Trish asks:
The two wills I need [North Carolina] were lost in a fire. Where do I go from here?

A little background... I have been helping Trish with her King family in North Carolina and she has been hitting wall after wall trying to connect these people up. The time period is the late 1790s to the early 1800s. I have given her several things to check but one resource is exceptional and I want to mention it here for anyone that does research in North Carolina. The North Carolina State Library and the State Archives have a joint website called the North Carolina Digital Collection. On this website you will find North Carolina Family Records Online. They have digital images of MANY Bibles and they have marriage and death notices from North Carolina newspapers. If I am researching a North Carolina family I always check this website. It might be a long shot but if you do find your family here then it is a goldmine.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, August 20, 2012

Questions About Backing Up Your File, Connecting People, Baby Graves, Boarders and Genealogy Computer Programs

Question from Peggy:
How do you back up your genealogy file?

I back up my file every day that I work on it. I back it up to my hard drive, to a flash drive and to Carbonite.

Question from Trisha:
How do I connect Brittain King and Dorcus King who both show as heads of household in the 1820 Lenoir County, North Carolina census?

My first move would be to detail all of the Kings in Dobbs County in 1790 [Lenoir was formed from Dobbs in 1791] and Lenoir County 1800 - 1850. I would use the 1850 to work backwards to show which families progressed through time. I would then pull all the King wills from Dobbs and Lenoir counties for this time period to further reconstruct the family. The next set of documents would be deeds. I would also look at all of the King marriages during this time period. All of these things are available on microfilm at the Family History Library. If it were me, I would try and find an abstract books for wills, deeds and marriages in Lenoir County and start there. It will make your life a lot easier if the books exist. Once you get all of the names and dates from the abstract books you can get the original documents a lot easier. You can start piecing the King families together and you will be able to also rule out certain relationships.

Question from Dan:
I have a marker in a cemetery of a baby that died in 1935 but there is nothing on the marker but the last name and the year of death. The last name is one of main lines and there are gazillion people in this family buried in this cemetery. How can I figure out whose baby this is?

This happens so often. You will find baby graves where the child was born and died between the census years so there is no census record of the child. You are lucky in that 1935 is late enough you should be able to get a death certificate. I would also check the local newspaper. In 1935 most deaths made the local paper. If the baby/child had died in 1863 then your task would be a lot harder. There wouldn't be a death certificate and there mostly likely wouldn't be anything in the paper unless the death was particularly unusual or the parents were extremely important in the community. In this case I would compile a list of possible parents. I would look at the census records as well as who all is buried in that same cemetery. You should be able to narrow down the list by looking at the ages of the parents and the dates of birth of the other children. Also, see if the marker matches any other markers in the cemetery. Many times when a family lost more than one child the children's markers will match each other in style, even if the deaths were not close together. I had an example of this where 6 children died in one family over about a 15 year period. The children were buried in two different cemeteries but the markers were identical to each other in both the style and the way the inscription was done. Several of the children were listed on the census with their parents (who were buried in one of the cemeteries with the grandparents buried in the other). The remaining children could then be tied in. The census records also showed that the parents moved from near the first cemetery where the grandparents were buried to the second cemetery where the parents were buried. It all fit together nicely.

Question from Amy:
I have a man listed as a boarder in the census but he has the same last name as the wife's maiden name so I am sure that he is really the wife's brother. Why would they list him as a boarder?

When you have extended family living the household it isn't uncommon at all for them to be listed as boarders. Having said that, just because the man has the same surname as the wife's maiden name doesn't automatically make him the wife's brother. It could be a totally unrelated person, it could be a brother, it could be a nephew or an uncle or any of several other possibilities. You need to corroborate this one piece of evidence with other pieces to make a more complete picture.

2nd question from Amy:
You have mentioned Legacy Family Tree several times. What other computer programs do you use?

I use Microsoft Word for all of my correspondence. I use Microsoft Excel to put together timelines and conflicting info tables when I am working on a brickwall. I use Ani-Map to map out locations and watch boundaries change over time. I use L-Tools which is a utility program that works with Legacy Family Tree. I use GENViewer which is another Legacy add-on type program. It allows you to look at your data in different ways. I have been toying around with Microsoft One Note for brick wall research but I haven't really started using it to its fullest potential yet.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

The Best Paid Sites?

Question from Trudy:
Love your newsletter! How do the different genealogy sites compare (free or pay subscription)? Ancestry, World Vital Records, Archive, fold3, Family Search etc. I just read that Ancestry purchased Archive. They are keeping it a separate entity. Does Archive have different information available through their subscription vs. an Ancestry subscription?

Every one of the paid sites have some overlap and some unique records. The trick is finding out what specific records are the most important to you. For example, I love GenealogyBank and I have had a subscription for several years. It has served me very well. However, there is one paper they don’t have that I needed desperately. I had to break down and get a subscription to NewspaperArchives just because of this ONE newspaper! My family has been in the Lamar County/Forrest County area of Mississippi since 1798. The Hattiesburg American is crucial to my research and it has only been available on microfilm in Mississippi which isn’t much of an option for someone living in Georgia. Now that NewspaperArchives has it I had to get the subscription and it has been well worth the price to me.

I have a subscription to because they are the site with the most records. There is overlap with what World Vital Records has but World Vital Records has some international records that Ancestry doesn’t have. For me personally that isn’t a problem. There is a FREE webinar from Legacy Family Tree that you might want to watch. Exploring and by Their Founder, Paul Allen.’s card catalog is available to non subscribers so you can always look and see what they have available. is a bargain at $39.95/year but I am not sure just how many unique records they have. They do offer a 7 day free trial which is nice. I have never tried them out myself. Fold3 is a unique website because their main focus is military records. They DO have things that no other website has. If you want compiled service records and pension files this website can be a bargain. Ordering these documents from the state archives (or worse, the National Archives) can be expensive. They do NOT have every military record there is so you will still have to find some things at the state or nationals archives level.

You mentioned FamilySearch. This is one of the absolute best resources available and it is FREE! The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City has hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world indexing microfilm and those images are being put online on an almost daily basis. The FHL is the largest repository of genealogical holdings in the world. In addition, they have so many more things to offer including beginner, intermediate and advanced genealogical courses, genealogical wikis, videos, and message boards. They also have NewFamilySearch (nFS) which is not available to the general public yet. Only members of the LDS church and selected non LDS beta testers have access. It is a giant, interconnected family tree that anyone can contribute to. I am a beta tester for this project and it will be valuable. It does have its pros and cons through. The cons are the same as those of the family trees posted on or any website that accepts GEDCOMs. Garbage in, garbage out. You have to thoroughly evaluate the information you are looking at. nFS does have some advantages though. You can post comments and there are discussion areas for each person. There is a place to post sources but right now it is inconvenient to do so until they make it where you can upload your sources at the same time as your information. It is ONE interconnected family tree which is easier to navigate than thousands of individual trees. You can combine duplicate entries. You can separate records that are not duplicates. nFS does have a lot of potential.

There are other free sites that are great too! Most of the individual state archives have been putting either searchable indexes or actual images online. There are even individual county courthouses that are starting to put indexes and images online to include marriage records and deeds. Always check these two things since they are updated frequently. There are also state library sites that have online images. There are several website that have gazillions of books online that are no longer under copyright. These sites are a goldmine for old genealogy books and even periodicals. Two of the biggest are Google Books and Internet Archives. The Library of Congress has image collections as well. One of the most used is their Chronicling America collection of newspapers.

The amount of genealogical resources available on the internet is exploding exponentially and many of the things coming available are free. If you did an internet search for something a year ago it would be a good idea to check again.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why I am a Find-A-Grave Volunteer

I have been surveying cemeteries for 10 years now. I love to go out to the old family cemeteries that no one knows about. A friend of mine gave me directions to a cemetery way out in the woods that he thought I might be interested in. I went out there yesterday to take a look. This small cemetery is not maintained and is in deplorable condition. I found 11 marked graves but there were several more marked with fieldstones and two that had pedestals but the markers themselves were missing. I found a Georgia State Senator buried out there along with two confederate soldiers. They have been totally forgotten. What a shame.

I can't stress enough just how important it is to capture this information before it is lost forever. Please consider becoming a Find-A-Grave volunteer, especially if you live in a rural area.

In Memory
Senator of 19th District
of Georgia
Born Feb. 5th 1815,
Died May 10th
Aged 54 Years, 3 Months
& 5 Days.
May he rest in peace, and may we
meet in Heaven, there to dwell
forever with God.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Questions about Facebook, Missing Children, Conflicts, and How Big is Your File

Question from Dana:
Do you ever use Facebook in your research?

Yes I do. I have tracked down several descendants of persons of interest using Facebook. This works well if you have someone with a rather unusual name. If the name is more common then you might send out many messages before you get the right person. I also belong to several genealogy specific pages. I try very hard to keep up to date with what is going on in the world of genealogy. You will also find me on Google+.

Second question from Dana:
What do you do when you are at a total brick wall? When do you give up?

I never give up. What I will do is set the brick wall aside for awhile (sometimes a month or two) and then I look at it again with fresh eyes. Sometimes when you go back over the information that you already have you will notice something that you didn't see before. Also, with more and more resources coming online every day, it is always a good idea to search for new records groups that you didn't know existed before.

Question from Denise:
When the census says, "Mother of 7 children, 5 children living" do you record the two missing children even if you don't know who they are?

Most definitely. If the child was born and died between the census years you won't automatically know who they were, however, you might be able to figure it out with Bible records or cemetery records. Even if you never figure out who the missing children were, you still want to record that they existed.

Question from David:
How do you handle census records that don't agree? My great, great-grandfather is listed throughout the census years being born in three different places and a date of birth spanning 12 years.

This is a VERY common problem. The first thing I do is try and pull in other records to substantiate the year of birth and place of birth. Sometimes those records will conflict too. Death certificates are a great example. The dead person isn't the one giving the information so the information given is suspect. I will put the information that makes the most sense (considering everything that I know) in the database fields and then I will record everything else as conflicting data. All genealogy database programs have a way to record conflicting or alternate vital statistics type information. You should always record ALL of the conflicting data so that you have it available to analyze as new data comes in.

Question from Bennie:
How many people do you have in your personal file?

I have 8672 linked individuals in my file. I think this is probably about average. I know of researchers who have more and researchers who have less. The number of people you have in your file is not indicative of how good of a researcher you are. I would rather have 100 well documented individuals that are completely sourced than 50,000 names that were added to the file just because.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, August 17, 2012

Two Dates for the Price of One

Debbie asks:
Can you explain double dating to me? I just don't get it.

In a nutshell, we changed from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar in 1582 but it wasn't officially adopted by England (and its colonies) until 1752. The problem with this is the Julian Calendar used March 25th as the first day of the year and the Gregorian Calendar uses January 1st.

The problem dates are January 1st through March 24th. If you are looking at one of these dates between the years 1582 and 1752 you need to double date them.

04 Feb 1740 under the old calendar would be 04 Feb 1741 under the new calendar. Why? Under the old calendar the year 1740 didn't end until March 24th but under the new calendar the new year started on January 1st. You would write it as 04 Feb 1740/1. The reason this is important is when you are looking at the chronology of documents and dates you might get things out of order.

There is one other slight problem with the change over. There was an 11 day discrepancy. In the first year of the change, 1752, they dropped 11 days off of September to get things back right.

For further information, please read The 1752 Calendar Change put out by the Connecticut State Library.

Quakers and dates...
All of the above applies to the Quakers too but they didn't use the names of the days or months because they were named after Roman/Greek gods. They used numbers. Sometimes they used Arabic numbers and sometimes they used Roman numerals. As long as you can read Roman numerals there is no problem because you will recognize them immediately.

If you see 2nd day of the 11th month of 1750 in a Quaker record, this would be 02 Jan 1750 on the old calendar and 02 Jan 1751 on the new calendar. January was the 11th month on the Julian Calendar. Double dated it would be 02 Jan 1750/1.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Transcribing Documents

I received an email from Jim. He wanted to point out that you can learn a lot from the "boring" parts of a document. He gave the example of learning about a person's wealth and family dynamics by what was willed to whom. Point taken. I was actually trying to find a document that DIDN’T have as much property division in it so that I could avoid that point completely only because it would simplify things. I too am one to scrutinize inventories to see what all the deceased owned to put together a better picture of his wealth and I love it when I see a particular child get only a penance. A new mystery to solve! I don’t have my will transcriptions in a separate file so I had to just browse through my database. I had one that would have been perfect in that it was LOADED with boilerplate and no property division other than the wife getting "all that I own" but that will is 3 pages long and it would have been a bit much for a short blog. I thought Jim's point was a good one and I wanted to post it here.
Yesterday I gave some examples of the excess verbiage you find in legal documents (boilerplate). Today I thought I should explain the differences between a transcription and an abstract.

A transcription is an EXACT copy of the document complete with the exact formatting, capitalization, punctuation and spelling. An abstraction is when you pull out the important parts leaving behind the fluff. In an abstraction you still faithfully copy the spelling though you can reformat and fix punctuation and grammar errors. You will be putting the information into a new format so the punctuation and grammar will be yours. Spelling is never changed. If you want to clarify the spelling of something you can put the correction in brackets [ ]. Use brackets judiciously as they can really clutter up a document. Your readers can figure out that that "bequith" is really bequeath and you don't have to add an explanation. I like to use brackets to clarify the spelling of place names which might not be so easily figured out. When transcribing, if something is crossed out, you have to write it and then cross it out. If something is inserted about the line, you have to insert it above the line.

Abstracting documents is more of an art than a science. One of the best references I have found to learn how to transcribe and abstract is chapter 16 of Professional Genealogy.

Here is a very simple example of transcribing a document. I am using this one because it is nice and short and contains errors. This is as big as I can get it on here so you will need to make it bigger if you want to see it more clearly. NOTE: I can't get the exact formatting right (indentations, stuff to the right side of the page etc.) because of the HTML formatting required. I am just not that good with it. On the real transcription the top two lines are to the right with the first line indented more than the 2nd. That is what I mean about formatting.

August the 9, 1903.
Zimmamon Lee, Sr.

By ^all hom this May concern
I, Zinamoun Lee Sr will the
place back to John Lee at mine
and Nancy Lee death as he give
me and her the place for us a
home the north west 1/4 Sect 10
township 1 Range 14 contane
40 akers we want him to have
hit back as his own place as he
gave us the place. And John
you give Luner the Gray mar
and all the Rest of the cattle
and hogs keep them for your
mother to live off of and Joh[n]
you look after your mother and
see that she is cared for and
at her death you see that she is
put away nice and if tha are any
of the cattle and other stuff left
you children let your mother live
on the old place til her death
then the place is yours as you
give us the place for us a home
we want you to have it back.

witness: Minervia Wooderd
Riley Wooderd

Yours Zinnamoren Lee

Filed the 7 day[?] 6 day of August A D 1929

This will was a loose paper found in the probate office in Marion County, Mississippi. Did you notice how many different ways the testator's name is spelled?

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Question from Donna:
I am having a hard time reading deeds.  There is so much legal mumbo jumbo in there that it just doesn't make sense.

Ah boilerplate...
Boilerplate is the term used for all of that unnecessary legal "mumbo jumbo" [good choice of words on Donna's part].  Here is a very simple will transcribed word for word, spelling, capitalization and punctuation errors included.  I have highlight the parts that are important to me in red:

Wilkes County, Georgia Will Book 1806-1806, pages 108-111

[page 108]
In the name of God, Amen.  I Mathew Patten of
Wilkes county State of Georgia Finding myself in good
Health and sound in memory Do make this my last will

[page 109]
and Testament revoking all Wills whatever here to fore by me
made.  In the first place I command my soul To God
who gave it and my body to the Earth from whence it cam
and there to be decent by E____[?].  And after my debts and
Funeral charges are Paid my will is as followeth. To Wit
Item.   I give and bequeath to my son Solomon Pattin all
the Land wher on I live and  all my plantation Tools of evry
sort Likewise my Black Smith’s Tools To him and his
Heirs forever.  Item.  I give [?] And biqueath to my son
Samuel Pattin my Negro Boy named Lott to him
and his Heirs for Ever. After which my will is that my
Executors whom I shall nominate and appoint here=
=after shall divide the ballance of my Estate in to four
Equal divisions or parcels which may be Evened or Equ-
=lled by adding some stock which shall be at the des-
=creation of the Executors my desire is that they shall
make Each Lot of Equal Value according to your
Judgement.  After which my will is that my son
Thomas Pattin and my daughter Rebekah Wimpey
my son Samuel Patten my son Solomon Pattin shall
draw lotts for choice of Parcels and what Ever Parcel
falls to my three sons.  To Wit, Thomas Samuel and
Solomon Pattin the Effects or article that compose

[page 110]
them I give and bequiath to them and their Heirs for ever.
Item my will is and I do hereby give and bequeath
Unto my daughter Rebekah Wimpey the Effects and
articles that composes the lot or parcel she o_____[?]
during her lifetime and at her death that part of my
Estate she draws shall be Equally divided among the
Children of the said Rebekah Wimpey.
Item. My will is that my Executors shall be paid
Two Dollars Each of the? pr? Day for the time they
lose and Trouble they are at To be paid by my Lya-
=tns? Item.  my will is and I do Hereby appoint
Wm. Henderson George Barber & Christopher
Orr to Execute this my last will and Testament? Given
under my hand and Seal 20th Day of April One
Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety Nine.

Ignatius Rains Snr                    Mathew Patton {Seal}
Henry Rains
Ignatius Rains Jnr

[page 110]
Georgia Wilkes

Personally appeared in Open court
Henry Rains and Ignatius Rains Two
of the subscribing witnesses the Within will and bey?
Duly Sworn Saith that they saw the within named
Mathew Patten sign seal Publish and declare the within
Instrument of writing to be his las Will and Testament

[page 111]
And that the time of his so doing he was of soud &
Disposing mind and Memory & that Ignatius Rains Snr
Subscribed as a concurring evidence in this Re______[?]

Sworn in Open Court                Henry Rains
this 3rd March 1806                Ignatius Rains
D[?] Pernell C. Corly
Recorded July 30th 1806       

Mathew Patton signed his will on 20 April 1799 and it was proved on 03 March 1806 which means he died between these two dates.  That is important.  The will was signed and probated in Wilkes County, Georgia so he died there.  He names his children as Solomon, Thomas, Rebekah and Samuel [no wife is named].  The names of the executors is important [usually family or close friends].  The names of the witnesses are important, again, usually family or friends.  I didn't highlight what Mathew willed to his children because that isn't necessary to establish relationships BUT I will say they fact that son Solomon got Mathew's land is important.

Here is a simple deed.  Instead of  highlighting the important parts in red, I will follow this one with an abstract:

Jacob Pope & Others to William Sterling
Robeson County, North Carolina
Deed Book S:122
Written 01 May 1807; proved February Term 1819

 Jacob Pope & others to William Sterling
State of North Carolina Robeson County.  Know all
men by there presents that we for the natural love
and  affection which we bear for our brother in law
William Sterling do give grant and confirm in
him our right and title of a certain negro girl named Charity which
was given to him by one Jesse Lee during the natural life time of his
wife Obedience Sterling by Will after which time she is to belong to the
rest of the heirs of the said Jesse Lee according to said Will we as a
part of the lawful heirs of the said Jesse Lee do hereby relinquish
all our rights titles or claims to the said girl unto him the said
William Sterling and his heirs forever. In witness whereof we do
hereunto set our hand and seals. this 1st day of May 1807.
James Terry     }    Robeson County February Term 1819.          }    Jacob Pope
Richard Smith  }    This release was proved in open                   }     Benjamin Lee
John Miller        }    Court by the oaths of Richard                         }     Joseph Lee
Smith and James Terry and ordered to be                                   }     Stephen Lee
registered.                  Rich.d C. Bunting  Clk                                }     John Drinkwaters
                                                                                                          }     Jesse Lee
                                                                                                          }     Willis Loe
                                                                                                          }     Benjamin Lee
                                                                                                          }     Joshua Herring
                                                                                                          }     James Barnes
                                                                                                          }     Beedey Hester

State of North Carolina Robeson County.  We, for our brother in law WILLIAM STERLING do give a certain negro girl named CHARITY which was given to him by one JESSE LEE during the natural life time of his wife OBEDIENCE STERLING by Will after which time she is to belong to the rest of the heirs of the said JESSE LEE. We relinquish our rights to the said girl unto WILLIAM STERLING.



Robeson County February Term 1819.  Proved by oaths of RICHARD SMITH and JAMES TERRY

In both examples you can see that there are a lot of unnecessary words.  Learning to wade through the fluff just takes practice.

Note:  Sorry about any formatting issues.  I am having a hard time getting stuff to line up like it is supposed to.  You can't just copy and paste. 

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Questions About French Records and Networking

Question from Anonymous:
One of my family lines came from France. I can't speak French. Do you have any tips?

You can do quite a bit of French research without speaking a word of French. I do it for Polish records all the time. The Family History Library has many French records. As long as you have your family narrowed down to a certain locality and a certain time period you can take advantage of these records. Start off by arming yourself with a French Word List for Genealogists which has most of the words you will come across. Then watch these great interactive courses to help you learn how to read and interpret French records:

These courses not only familiarize you with French handwriting and how to read/interpret French documents, they also include supplemental materials and interactive exercise to strengthen your skills. Soon you will be confidently flipping through French records.

I hope you read my blog post on Research Binders. This is the PERFECT place to store your French word list and some of the supplemental materials that are available in the lessons as well as some sample documents. Take your binder with you if you go to a Family History Center to look at microfilm.

Whenever I need to learn something about a specific topic, the first place I look is the Family Search Wiki. The second place I go is the FamilySearch Research Courses. FamilySearch provides so many great learning opportunities that are completely free of charge.

Question from Michelle:
How can I hook up with other people that are researching the same family as I am?

My favorite way is through the Rootsweb Mailing Lists. There are mailing lists for every locality and every surname you can think of. If you are new to a particular list, you can also browse and search the old messages. My second favorite are the Rootsweb Message Boards. You can access the very same boards through the Ancestry Message Boards. They are one and the same.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, August 13, 2012

Some Serious Math!

Okay, this was the most fun I have had in a while. I had a different blog planned for today but I just had to interject this one. Kayla sent the following questions that all involve some serious mathematical calculations.

Kayla's 1st and 2nd questions:
“Do you and your ninth cousin 2 times removed share anything, or even related? ...also found this same person through another side of my family tree listed as 8th cousin 10x removed. Any relation at all?”

Yes, if you are truly 9th cousins twice removed you do share a common ancestor. 9th cousins share a 8th great-grandparent. The twice removed simply means that the 9th cousin and the grandchild of a 9th cousin are being compared. So the common ancestor would be the 9th cousin’s 8th great-grandparent and the twice removed’s 10th great-grandparent (same person).

Okay, now the 8th cousin 10 times removed. The 8th cousins would have a 7th great-grandparent in common. The 10th removed would be the 8th great-grandchild of one of the the 8th cousins. So, their common ancestor would be the 8th cousin’s 7th great-grandparent and the 10th removed’s 17th great-grandparent (same person).

Kayla's 3rd question:
“Are you related to your 7th cousin 3x removed? I just have heard it's so distant, but nevertheless you share a set of distant great grandparents...”

This is the same principle. 7th cousins share a common ancestor of the 6th great-grandparent. 3 times removed means it is the 7th cousin and the great–grandchild of a 7th cousin being compared. The common ancestor would be the 7th cousin’s 6th great-grandparent and the 3 times removed’s 10th great-grandparent (same person).

Kayla's 4th question:
“I recently found out two cool facts. Loretta Lynn (through her mother Clara Ramey) happens to be my third cousin 1x removed. How much of a relation is there here?”

3rd cousins share a common ancestor of the 2nd great-grandparent. Once removed means a 3rd cousin and the child of a 3rd cousin are bring compared. So the common ancestor will be the 3rd cousin’s 2nd great-grandparent and the once removed’s 3rd great-grandparent (same person). That isn’t that big of a relationship difference in the grand scheme of things, certainly a lot closer than your first two examples.

Kayla's 5th question:
“Last question, I also found out that my 12th great grandmother (long shot, I know! lol) happens to be Rebecca Rolfe (aka Pocahantas). Is that even related? I know it's a direct bloodline, but being so distant, does that make me Indian AT ALL?”

Wowser! You really want to test my math skills don’t you! IF Rebecca is your 12th great-grandmother and IF she is the only person in your entire ancestral line that is an Indian, then you would be 1/16384th Indian. The number doubles with each generation. If your dad is 100% Indian that makes you 1/2 Indian. If your grandfather is 100% Indian it makes your dad 1/2 Indian and you 1/4 Indian. If your great-grandfather is 100% Indian that makes your grandfather 1/2 Indian, your father 1/4 Indian and you 1/8 Indian. If you continue this all the way to the 12th great-grandmother then the number goes to 1/16384th. Who knew that math skills would actually come in handy!

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Why should I join a genealogical society?

Question from Sarah:

“What are the benefits of joining a genealogy society?”


I am going to answer this one by listing all of the groups I belong to and what benefits there are to each one.

The Columbia County Genealogical Society
This is the local group here in Columbia County, Georgia. We meet at the Euchee Creek Library once a month. We get together to discuss what all we are working on and we brainstorm through brick walls. We have a GREAT time! We have a
Rootsweb Mailing List that anyone can join. Our members are everything from brand new researchers to researchers with 20+ years of experience. The newbies keep the oldies enthusiastic and the oldies give the newbies the benefit of their experiences.

The Augusta Genealogical Society (AGS)
The AGS focuses on research in the greater Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) which includes counties in Georgia and South Carolina (the city of August sits right on the line). The AGS has the Adamson Library which has a wonderful collection of genealogical works. The AGS has several Publications. The society meets once a month and they also conduct wonderful workshops on general topics of research (i.e. Using Land Grants to Sort Your Ancestors) and local topics of research (i.e. Race and Religion in Augusta). The AGS collaborated with Augusta State University and presents day long seminars. Some of top genealogists in the country have been presenters. The AGS is involved with local cemetery preservation. With over 1500 members this is a very strong group.

The Georgia Genealogical Society (GGS)
With Georgia being one of the original 13 colonies you can imagine we have a lot of history here and a very active state level society. I am not putting links to the specific information because some of this is in members only sections of the website. The GGS publishes a scholarly periodical, The Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly and a quarterly newsletter, The Scribe. They offer webinars for continuing education. Members have access to online books. The GGS lobbies in the Georgia Congress on issues that affect the preservation of history in the state. Currently they are trying to save the Georgia Archives. Because of budget cuts, the Archives are only open two days a week and the fear is that they will be shut down permanently. The GGS meets four times a year and hold workshops and seminars with the top genealogists in the country. The GGS presents several awards for outstanding service within the genealogical community.

The National Genealogical Society (NGS)
I am sure you can imagine what all is available at this level. The National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) is considered the gold standard for scholarly work. The top researchers in the country present their research in this publication. They NGS also publishes the NGS Magazine which will keep you up to date with what is going on in the field of genealogy as well as excellent articles on methodology. The NGS offers the NGS American Genealogy: Home Study Course. You do not have to be a member to take advantage of this. If you want to learn how to conduct research the right way this is the course for you. They also have some additional courses that you might be interested in. The NGS also publishes many helpful books/booklets in their store. They host conferences presented by the top researchers and historians in the country. They sponsor competitions and present awards for outstanding contributions. Members have access to the gazillion Family Group Sheets submitted my members as well as submitted Bible records and several other nifty things.

There are regional societies also. The New England Historic Genealogical Society is one of the oldest and one of the best. If you do any research in the New England area you really need to join this one. They have resources available to their members that are a great help.

You will be missing out on a lot if you don't take advantage of membership in local societies all the way up to the national level.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis