Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Few Followups

The first two are in regard to the Old Stories blog post.

Carrie comments:
"You didn't seem very upset that your ancestor was a deserter! If I found that I would not be very happy."

History is what it is. I am not the least bit upset about it. If you let things like that bother you, you probably shouldn't be doing family research because eventually you will find a murderer, an adulterer, or a deserter in your tree. I find it all very interesting. It makes me want to know more about John to maybe understand why he did what he did.

Don asks:
"How do you know that John McMichael didn't desert to fight for the Union side?"

I don't know for sure but it is the least likely explanation. There are no Union records in his name and they let him go in 1864 (before the war ended). The book that I referenced said that this situation was a pretty common occurrence (Confederates taking oaths of allegiance and then being released), but, anything is possible.

The next two are in regard to the Who Is This Guy blog post.

Connie asks:
"Have you discovered anything about Gazaway Sims yet?"

It has only been 3 days :) The person on did email me back and said he knew nothing at all. Someone on the Transitional Genealogists Forum mailing list found Gaz on New FamilySearch. I had missed it somehow so I have emails going out to those folks. I only found one marriage for Gaz. Gazaway W. Sims married Miss Ann B. Zachry on 20 Sep 1836 in Columbia County, Georgia. 1 This was actually helpful because Gaz's middle initial is clearly W. on this license/certificate which might explain where the name Watkins came from (Gazaway Sims Watkins Lewis). I do have Zachry/Zacharys in my file that were in Columbia County I don't have a tie between the Lewis' and the Zacharys. So, no, I don't have the answer yet but I haven't been completely idle either :)

Davis asks:
"Is it possible that John Lewis and Gazaway Sims were stepbrothers? Men often name their children after their brothers."

Sure, it is possible. I don't think it is probable though. The two men are less than a year apart in age. John was born in NC and Gazaway was born in GA. The persons on New FamilySearch have Gazaway's parents listed (still waiting to confirm sources) and it appears this couple was married early and stayed married until death. I always go with the most likely scenarios first, and then I widen my net as needed.

This one is in regard to the Location Specific Records blog post.

T. J. asks:
"Is this the sort of thing that you put in your Research Binder? I don't know how else you could remember all of this. Right now I am only doing research in Louisiana. I have only been able to get back to my great grandparents so I haven't had to look at another state yet. I don't even know if I am missing stuff in Louisiana."

YES! You are in the perfect position to get your research binder off to a good start by doing a thorough section for Louisiana. When you go on to the next state you will have an idea of what all you will need to include. You want to cover all of the types of records like births, marriages, death, church, probate, tax, voter records, court, etc. I would also include information on specific counties as well. Add the counties as you do research in them. You need to know things like when the county was formed from which parent counties and if there are any records losses due to fire, flood or theft. Maybe I will do another post on research binders detailing WHERE you can look to get all of the information you need.

1 Columbia County, Georgia Marriage Book B: 74, Gazaway W. Sims-Miss Ann B. Zachry, 1836.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. On the first bit on John McMichael.... Our ancestors were people, not historic figures. He had been there for more than two years. We have no idea what he saw, or experienced, or had to do, or what the conditions were. Nowadays, we understand "post traumatic stress" in our own soldiers. We understand depression in our own friends and family. We need to know that the same things happened back then, without the same possibilities of support we have now. (And even those now are spotty....)

  2. Very true. That is why I said I would love to know more about John so that I can understand why he did what he did. His records don't say anything about being wounded though there are records that are obviously missing in his file. I have heard no family stories that he had been injured. He was only 47 when he died in 1874. That makes me wonder as well. This reminds me of a story of a confederate soldier here in Georgia in the next county over. He lost his leg in the war and he was never quite right after that. His wife had died by then and he was raising 3 children by himself. One day he lured his two young sons out into a field and bashed their heads in with his crutch and then shot himself in the head. His daughter was suspicious and refused to go with him and so her life was spared. He and the two boys are buried side by side on the old farm. A very sad story. He was obviously a victim of post traumatic stress syndrome.

  3. Linda Schreiber, formerly 'Anon'December 29, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    What a sad story....
    You don't have to be injured to have PTSD, by the way. Just experiencing way too much of the most brutal parts of war, for too long, over and over, is more than enough. No one comes back from that unchanged, but some have real, life-long problems -- often the people who are naturally the most empathetic and compassionate, the 'nice guys'. Has nothing to do with 'weakness' in any way. At least now, we have some treatments available. Back then, they just went home....

  4. There is so much in the media about PTSD for contemporary wars that I think we might forget that it was a problem for ALL wars.