Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pumpkin Center, Georgia


I live in Pumpkin Center, Georgia.  Unless you live in Columbia County you have probably never heard of it (and many people in Columbia County haven’t heard of it either).  Its only claim to fame is that it sits at a crossroads of two highways and there is a convenience store so that you can gas up and wet your whistle before you continue your journey. It sits one mile south of I20 and many people go this way.  I am not sure what the population is but I would guess around 200.  We aren’t even big enough to have made it onto Google Maps though the store did.  

I had so much fun taking these photographs because several people stopped to say hello.  I have been taking photos in this area for ten years now and most people know who I am though usually they find my car and not me.  I park my car on the side of the road with a sign in the window that says, “I’m out looking at a few graves, be right back.”  I don’t want the deputies worrying about me.  I used to drive an electric blue pickup truck that had quite the reputation.  No one knew my name but they knew the “cemetery lady” drove the blue truck.  People would be waiting by the truck for my return so they could tell me about some old graves they knew about.   Today I got some quizzical looks because they aren’t used to me taking photos of street signs.  Sorry the photos are so dark but it was getting ready to storm.

Here is the famous Pumpkin Center Store


Here is the crossroads.  We even have a caution light!
his is facing west towards Thomson.


Going north


Going south


Going east


Going west


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Question About Citing Your Sources

Public Service Announcement:  I would like to congratulate David Allen Lambert on his promotion to Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogy Society (NEHGS).  Great job, David!  You can read about it at  NEHGS Promotes Long-Time Staff to Chief Genealogist.

Question from Anne:
”If you are only doing research for yourself is it really necessary to cite your sources so formally like you teach?”

Even if you are the only person that ever sees your research you still want to cite your sources the correct way because one of the reasons you cite your sources is so that you can backtrack and find that source again.  For example, let’s say I record the marriage of John Lewis’ to Leticia Offutt, 22 Dec 1833. Sometime later (maybe years) I find someone else that has a different marriage date recorded.  Now I need to go back and recheck my source.  Where do I look?  I doubt that I would remember where I got it.  Let’s say I DID record my source.     

Columbia County, Georgia Inferior Court, Marriage Book B: 53, John Lewis-Leticia Offutt, 22 Dec 1833.

  I would have no problem finding this record again if I needed to.  Hopefully I copied the license first time around but if I didn’t, I could get it easily..  But there is another reason to cite your source.  You can look at the citation and see how credible the source is.  In the above example I can see that I have a copy of the original marriage license.  That is pretty credible.  What if my citation was this?

Hunting for Bears, "Georgia Marriages, 1699-1944," database, (, entry for John Lewis and Letitia Offutt, 22 Dec 1833.

I can see that I used an index which isn’t near as credible as the actual document. One thing that you can see is that the index gives a different spelling for Leticia’s name.  Leticia’s name is spelled two different ways on the actual document and neither of those spellings match the index.  Indexes are notoriously wrong with spellings and dates.  In this case the date is correct but I have found several Hunting For Bears entries that have the date the license was issued and not the date the marriage was actually performed.  Does it matter?  Yes it does.  If you look through the marriage books you will find times where a license was issued but the marriage didn’t actually take place.   Knowing exactly where the info came from is crucial.

Also, just because you don’t think anyone else will ever read your research you could certainly change your mind about that.  When I first started researching 22 years ago I had no idea that I would eventually be sharing my data with anyone else.  I had to go through my file one person at a time and re-research everything just so that I could get my sources right.  My research was not credible until I did that.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cemetery Wars!

There are several Find-A-Grave volunteers in this area and when new requests are posted the battle begins!  I work part-time as an RN in the emergency room of the local hospital. I was at work on Sunday when several new requests came out.  My competitors took advantage and snatched up all of the requests.  By the time I got home from work all I got was an email from my friend Ann who said she was nice enough to have left me a request in Dearing.  That was very kind of her but Julie snagged that one before I could.  Just when I thought all was lost, a new request came out for Grove First Baptist Church in Grovetown and my fingers flew to the “claim” button.  HA!  I grabbed it before Ann, Dan and Julie could even blink.   I went out today to snap the photo and here it is.  Take that, Ann, Dan and Julie!


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, January 28, 2013

Citing Your Sources Resources

I want to give you a few of resources to help you learn how to cite your sources properly.  You can read my first post The Basics of Citing Your Sources to get the background info.  Yesterday I mentioned Tom Jones’ excellent seminar Seeing the Forest AND the Trees (and Their Leaves): Mastering the Craft of Genealogical Documentation and I want to expand on that a bit.  If you are intimidated by Elizabeth Shown Mill’s book Evidence Explained:Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace then Tom’s webinar is for you.  He explains the process of citing your sources better than anyone else I have heard.  You will understand WHY you cite things the way you do and Mills’ book will make so much more sense to you and you will realize its value. 

I have a couple of other resources that will help you with Evidence Explained:

Evidence Explained Homepage:  Everything you ever wanted to know about the book is here including some preview pages, reviews, quick check models, FAQs etc.

On this page you will also find the Evidence Explained Forums. There are three boards, Citation Issues, Evidence Analysis Issues and Record Usage and Interpretation.  Elizabeth Shown Mills herself frequents the boards as well as many other very experienced researchers.  If you have a question related to one of these three categories you will get an answer.

If you “’like” Evidence Explained's Facebook Page you will see daily posting that include all kinds of helpful hints, questions answered and quizzes you can participate in.

Here are a couple of helpful courses (FREE) from FamilySearch:

I Want to Learn More About Sourcing – This is a beginner class that gives you a great start.

ICAPGen Mentoring Class: Citing Sources – This class is specifically for people seeking accreditation through ICAPGen but this class has a lot of good info that is helpful to anyone.

Another place you can get your citation questions answered is the Transitional Genealogists Forum.  This is a Rootsweb mailing list.  There are several certified genealogists on the list that are more than happy to answer questions.

Please don’t be intimidated by citing your sources.  The more you learn about it the easier it gets and It will soon became an automatic part of your routine. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spotlight–Thomas W. Jones

Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS is one of the most knowledgeable and engaging genealogy speakers I know.  You can read a short bio HERE.  He was mentioned in the comments section of my Who's Who blog post.  I couldn’t put every deserving person on the list because of space constraints so I decided I would do a spotlight blog from time to time on other prominent researchers in the field of genealogy.  Even if you can’t attend the big national genealogical conferences or the courses offered at places like Boston University, you can “attend” some of Tom’s seminars. 

Here are two free courses from Tom and FamilySearch:

Here are two excellent webinars (not free) from Tom and the New England Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists:

Dear Myrtle reported on Facebook that Tom’s new book, Mastering Genealogy Proof, will be going to press this spring.  According to Myrt, it will be in a workbook format with US research examples. Dear Myrtle is one of those Facebook pages you need to “like” to help keep you up to date with what is going on.

I was listening to Tom’s Seeing the Forest and the Trees (and Their Leaves) this weekend (for the 2nd time) and I thought it would be a good time to mention some of his contributions. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Calvin Russell Lewis

The main reason I went to the Georgia Archives yesterday was to see Calvin Russell Lewis’ probate file.  These records were transferred to the Georgia Archives from the Columbia County courthouse in the 1980s and they were never microfilmed.  I was hoping that Calvin’s alleged father John Lewis had been made administrator but no such luck.  I did find something interesting/puzzling though.

Calvin Russell Lewis was born 23 Feb 1824 in North Carolina (Wayne County, most likely). 1  He died on 26 Jan 1851 in Columbia County, Georgia2.  He was only 26 when he died so it was no surprise that he died intestate.  Calvin was married and had 2 small children, ages one and two.3  Calvin did not own any land (negative search through the Columbia County deed books) and on the 1850 census he was listed as “overseer for Burt” which would be Moody Burt listed as a planter on the same page.4  Calvin’s wife Emily (Miles) Lewis was named administratrix of the estate.5  The inventory of his possessions amounted to $142.87.6  You would think that this would have been a very thin probate packet but that wasn’t the case.  His probate case drug out for 12 years and I am not sure why.  One of the odd things found was there were several people that paid IN to the estate. Emily collected over $2300.7  These people apparently owed Calvin money.  After reading the probate file I am beginning to think he was a loan shark or something.  The Archivist that pulled the documents looked through them with me and he agreed that Calvin must have been the county loan shark.  I will continue to analyze the documents. 

1 John Lewis Bible Records, 1801-1890, The Holy Bible (New York: The American Bible Society, 1828), Family Pages; privately held by Lou Ann Penland, (Martinez, Georgia); Ms. Penland inherited the Bible from her grandmother Annie (Lewis) Lewis who was John Lewis' granddaughter.  There appears to be 3 different handwritings.  One is assumed to be John Lewis and another is most assuredly granddaughter Annie Lewis as she made a notation in the front "Written by Annie Lewis daughter of Ellis Lewis."  The third handwriting could be that of John's wife Mary Aycock as he married her shortly before the publication of this Bible; 1850 U.S. census, Columbia County, Georgia, population schedule, p. 263 (stamped), dwelling 436, family 436, Calvin Lewis household; digital images,  ( : accessed 15 June 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 66. 

2 Columbia County, Georgia Court of Ordinary, Probate Case Files, Calvin R. Lewis estate; Georgia State Archives, Atlanta; RG 136, unit 99-1401A, box 1904-07.

3 1850 U.S. census, Columbia County, Georgia, pop. sch., p. 263 (stamped), dwell. 436, fam. 436, Calvin Lewis household. 

4 Ibid.

5 Columbia County, Georgia Court of Ordinary, Probate Case Files, Calvin R. Lewis estate.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, January 25, 2013

Georgia Archives

I am at the Georgia Archives today so no blog post.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Nice Find

If you follow me on Facebook you will know that I went to the Columbia County, Georgia courthouse on Tuesday.  I found something very cool totally by accident.  I was actually there for a different reason.

On prior visits I had asked about loose probate papers/packets (intestate) and I have always been told that there aren't any. Most everything is in bound books but there should be some loose papers. The clerks said they knew nothing about it so I assumed they were lost. I had searched the vault myself and couldn't find any. The FHL has no microfilm of the loose probate packets.

Yesterday I found a little loose leaf folder buried under a bunch of other stuff. Guess what it was. It was an inventory of the loose probate packets.  They were sent to the Georgia Archives years ago so the clerks didn't know. This little folder listed ALL of the persons in the probate packets and exactly which boxes in the archives they are in. The individual papers were sorted and filed in file folders by name. My person of interest, Calvin R. Lewis was on the list. I have been trying to prove who his father was. Calvin was only 26 at the time of his death in 1851. I am hoping, praying, that his father (the person I think is his father) or one of that man's known sons was listed as the administrator which will help me solidify the bond. I do have other evidence but more evidence would be good.

This means a trip to the Georgia Archives.  I am planning on going tomorrow (Friday) so I will be scrambling to make a list of all of the other things I need while I am there.  I am very glad to see that some progress is being made to keep the  Georgia Archives open. 

[Governor] Deal Sets Aside $4.3 Million for Georgia Archives

Here is a picture looking into the vault at the Columbia County Probate Court.  This is where you will find probate, deeds, marriages and tax records along with other cool things like lunacy records and arrest records.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Just How Many Murders Can One Family Have?

I seem to have more murders in my file than should be there.  A cousin found another one this week so I thought I would tally them up.  The funny thing is, every one of these murders is on my husband’s side of the family not mine.  What is even funnier is that I haven’t done near as much research on his side as I have on mine so there are probably even more.  The names in bold are the relatives in my file.  In some cases you will see that BOTH parties involved are related.

John Henry Spires was stabbed by Albert Aiken who owed him a debt.  John didn’t actually die but he came as close as you can get.1

Charles S. Spires was shot and killed by Dave Gulledge over a dice game that went wrong,  He was John Henry Spires’ nephew.2

Ethel (Spires) Burkett was strangled and had her throat cut in a home invasion, assailant unknown.  She was Charles S. Spires’ sister and John Henry Spires’ niece.3

Lawson G. Goodwin shot and killed his neighbor Thomas Dismuke over a long standing feud about property lines and chickens ignoring those properly lines.4

Charles P. Goodwin and his brother Jesse Clarence Goodwin (both sons of the above Lawson Goodwin) shot and killed Walter Barnes for no reason whatsoever other than he was black.5

Matt Wade hit William Edward Goodwin over the head with a gun and killed him because William was a little too friendly with Matt’s wife.6  If you guessed that William was another one of Lawson Goodwin’s sons then you guessed right.

William Nathaniel Fountain [farm foreman] was stabbed to death by Quincy Robinson [farmhand].  Quincy was a bit miffed with William because William had been on his case about not doing his job properly.7

Albert Zachary Lewis was shot and killed by Mary Lee Martin.8  The article doesn’t give a motive but according to Albert’s grandniece, Albert and Mary were living together in the Orangeburg [SC]boarding house while Albert’s wife was living in Augusta.  You know that was a recipe for disaster. Mary got angry with Albert and decided to kill him for some insurance money.9

Maynard Martin was stabbed to death with a pair of scissors by Mrs. Ruby Mitchell.10  Maynard was married at the time (and so was Ruby apparently).  Not sure what was going on.  I couldn’t find a follow-up story. [I have no idea if Maynard is related to Mary in the previous entry].

Captain William Bachelor was shot and killed by W. T. Walton.  Not sure why but Captain Bachelor was chasing Walton so Walton turned and fired.11  If you want to read a really good trial account, this is the one to read.  The Augusta Chronicle printed one of the most detailed accounts I have ever seen.12

William Maddox was beat up and thrown into the Augusta Canal by Archie Hurt and J. B. Kenny.  They had escaped from the city stockade and were out drinking and stealing.  William was out checking the water levels on the Augusta Canal.  Basically he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.13

Newspapers are one of my most favorite sources.

1 “J. H. Spires Stabbed Seriously Injured,” The Augusta Chronicle, 21 May 1909, p.1, col. 7.

2 "Pistol Wounds Prove Fatal for Chas. S. Spires," The Augusta Chronicle, 05 Jun 1919, p. 2, col. 5. 

3 “Tests Scheduled to Find Time of Woman’s Death,” The Progress-Index [Petersburg,Virginia], 02 Oct 1965, p.3, col. 7.

4 "Belair Farmer is Killed Following Dispute Over Land," The Augusta Chronicle, 03 May 1923, p. 7, col. 4.

5 "Negro Shot Down By White Men At Widener's Store," The Augusta Chronicle, 10 Aug 1930, p. 1, col. 2. 

6 "Died From a Blow," The Augusta Chronicle, 14 Aug 1914, p. 10, col. 2.

7 “Mr.. W. N. Fountain Stabbed to Death” The Augusta Chronicle, 19 Nov 1922, p. 14, col. 1… “Negro Slayer of Blythe Man Now in Richmond Jail,” The Augusta Chronicle, 20 Nov 1922, p. 2, col. 3.

8 "Orangeburg Woman Charged With Murder," The Augusta Chronicle, 22 Nov 1946, p. 20, col. 2.

9 Lottie (Lewis) Horne (Aiken, SC), oral interview by Michele Lewis, 15 Dec 2002.

10 “Mother of Five Held in Scissors Death,” The Augusta Chronicle, 14 Apr 1965, p. 13, col. 4-5.

 11 “W. A. Batchelor of Belair Killed by W. T. Walton,” The Augusta Chronicle, 29 Oct 1906, p. 3, col. 5.

12 “Charge of Judge H. C. Hammond in Trial of Walton for Murder,” The Augusta Chronicle, 13 Nov 1906, p. 4, co. 3-7, p. 7, col. 2-3.

13 “Probe Expected into Conditions Among Inmates,” The Augusta Chronicle, 13 Jun 1932, p. 1, col. 1.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Questions on the Georgia Land Lottery and African-American Lines

Question from Anonymous:
”I've found where my ancestor won bounty land in Georgia in the 1827 draw. He was living in Henry Co, GA at the time and I have the land lot # and the county name on his draws. However this ancestor is my brick wall and I would like to see what information he put on his application for bounty land. I have no idea who to contact for a copy of his application - it is not on the Georgia archives site. Can you give me some direction or do I have to hire someone to get this?”

There really isn't an application like you think of an application. He might have had to present his evidence for his eligibility but he didn’t have to fill out any sort of paperwork.  If he met the requirements of the draw, his name would appear on an eligibility list and then his name would be placed in a barrel (or some sort of container).  All of the lots were placed in another barrel.  They would draw a name out of one barrel and then a lot out of the other one and that is how the land was assigned. Here are the rules for the 1827 Georgia Land Lottery.


Another question from an anonymous reader:
”Do you have any black lines in your family that you have researched?”

I have found no African-American direct lines in my family and my DNA shows no African ethnicity. I do have many slave owners in my lines with slaves listed as mulatto so the possibility of collateral lines is certainly there. I have helped a few researchers with their African-American lines to the extent I was able (I am not an expert). 

A Spires family researcher contacted me a couple of years back.  She was researching the post Civil War black Spires families in Lincoln County, Georgia.  I had info on all of the white Spires families so we were were trying to compare our data. 

In 1860, there were two slave-owning Spires families in Lincoln County. Zachariah and his son William.  Zachariah had 18 slaves, ages 2-60.  William had  7 slaves, ages 10-25.  On the 1870 census there are 31 Spires listed as black.  I was working with this other researcher to see if we could match up any of the male slaves and younger female slaves to the blacks listed on the 1870.  The white and black Spires were living next to each other which indicates that the former slaves continued to work for their former owners after they were freed.  We were in the early stages of our research when the other researcher stopped emailing.  I have no idea what happened.  I put the project aside.  I would like to go back and look at this again. 

I think this particular case study has some good potential because of the apparent continued relationship between the families.  Also, there was one mulatto listed in 1860.  There are none listed in 1870 but that doesn’t mean much because the race designation was in the eye of the beholder (enumerator).  There could easily be some blood connection between the two families.   After some preliminary work with the census records, the next move would be looking at the Lincoln County deeds.  The Lincoln County deeds are intact and could give us some names if father Zachariah Spires deeded slaves to his son William.   Thanks to you, I now I have yet another project on my plate!  It might be a good thing that you sent your question to me anonymously. 


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, January 21, 2013

Newspapers (Again)

Yesterday a talked a bit about how reading the newspapers from the time period you are studying will give you some insight of the political and social climate of the community.  I am working on a project for a client and I found something that definitely illustrates the political and social climate in Lincoln County, Georgia in 1909 and it is timely for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  I will warn you that this is a bit disturbing.

Lincolnton Man Savagely Attacked by Negro Whom He Asked About a Debt - Sheriff Rescues Negro
Special to The Chronicle
Lincolnton,Ga., May 20. - Mr. J. H. Spires, one of the most prominent white farmers of Lincoln county, was savagely attacked by Albert Aiken, a negro farm hand, this morning and seriously if not fatally wounded.
     Mr. Spires was on his way to see his mother, who lives about a mile from his own plantation, when he met the negro who was riding a mule.  Mr. Spires was on foot and stopped the negro to ask him about a small debt.  Aiken became enraged and used rough language and when Mr. Spires approached him he jumped off his mule and began stabbing Mr. Spires with a large knife, inflicting a deep wound and cutting an ugly gash a foot long in the back, laying the ribs and spine bare. 
     Mr. Spires called for help and was heard by  his brother, J. G. Spires, who was plowing in a field nearby but who arrived too late to lay hands on the negro, whom he saw riding rapidly off.  He picked his brother up from where he had fallen in the road and carried him to his home and gave the alarm.  A party of fifty men quickly formed, but Sheriff Wright got in ahead of them and caught the negro in a swamp where he had hidden.  For safe keeping the negro has been send out of the county, for owing to Mr. Spires' prominence feeling runs high and lynching is feared.
     Late tonight the physicians announced that there is not much hope for Mr. Spires.  Two of his ribs are in two, one lung is carved in half, and there is a long gash in his stomach, two inches deep, in addition to the terrible gash down his back.1

And then the follow-up story:

100 Lincoln County Farmers Took Negro From Jail.
Recent Activities of Negro Secret Societies Stirred Up Whites - Climax Came With Attack on Respectable Farmer - Mob Left Warning
Special to The Chronicle
     Lincolnton, Ga., May 24 - The usual quiet village of Lincolnton was awakened at midnight last from peaceful slumber by the noise of a mob of about one hundred enraged citizens as they stormed the county jail and brought forth Albert Aiken, the negro farm hand who so viciously cut Jno Spires a highly respected white farmer last Thursday morning.  It is learned here that the body of the negro was found swinging to a limb of a tree at Dry Fork Creek, three miles from this place, this morning and that the body was filled with bullet holes.
     Upon the body was a placard which read: "Notice this is what will happen to all negroes in Lincoln county under similar circumstances, " (Signed) "Regulators."
     The place where the negro is said to have been lynched is near the place where he committed the crime and it is supposed that the mob who took him there had it in view to let the many negroes in that neighborhood see that it was time they quieted down and stopped their efforts to ride over the farmers of this section.
     The crime for which Aiken was lynched was committed last Thursday morning and has been the subject of conversation in the county ever since but it was thought that there would be nothing done to him as the days passed, and the farmers apparently were willing to let the law take its course, but yesterday the news went out that Mr. Spires, the injured man, was not likely to live many days and it rekindled the fire in the breasts of the white men of the county and the work of the mob last night is the climax of their deliberation over the matter.
     This morning it is reported that Mr. Spires is very feeble and there is but little if any chance of his living.  He was cut to a depth of three inches in the right side, the knife severing two ribs, lacerating the lung and injuring the stomach walls.
     This is the first time in the history of Lincoln County that the jail has been stormed and the second time a lynching has occurred.  There is but little trouble between the two races.  Recently, however, inklings of negro secret societies being formed have reached the ears of the white citizens and they are of the belief that Aiken was a member of one of them, from remarks that he let fall while in jail.  They seem determined to break up these clandestine meetings and the work of last night is said to be but a beginning of what will follow if the negroes show any more meanness.

Despite the grim prognosis given in the paper, John Henry Spires did not die from his wounds.3 There is no mention of any charges brought against the lynch mob.

1 “J. H. Spires Stabbed Seriously Injured,” The Augusta Chronicle, 21 May 1909, p.1, col. 7.

2 “Spires Assailant Lynched by Mob,” The Augusta Chronicle, 25 May 1909, p. 1, col. 7.

3 Pine Grove Methodist Church Cemetery (Lincoln County, Georgia), John H. and Sallie V. Spires double marker, personally read, 2013; John died in 1958.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Another Use for Newspapers

You already know to use newspapers to search for things like obituaries, birth announcements, marriage announcements and misc. stories involving you ancestor but there is something else you need to be doing with newspapers.

Newspapers are a great way to really get a feel for what was going on during a specific time period.  Taking the time to read the local newspapers will give you some real insight.  What was the political climate like?  Were there any natural disasters or disease in the area?  How were the businesses doing? What was going on with the local churches? 

What was going on in the community probably influenced some of the things your ancestor did.  If your ancestor suddenly up and moved, take a look in the paper.  Was there a drought with reports of widespread crop failure?  Did a local factory close down causing unemployment?  Was there a war going on and how was it affecting the community? 

I have to say that one of my reasons to read old papers is just because I enjoy the way they wrote back then.  They had a flair for flowery and descriptive language. They didn’t have television or radio so they had to make the written word come alive.

Not Dead, but Sleepeth
Died, in Columbia county, on the 26th day of January, in the 25th year of his age, Mr. Calvin R. Lewis. Gifted with a rare combination of attractive qualities, this devoted man adorned the circle in which he moved, and by the warmth of his affection, and the unchanging fidelity with which he sustained his relations in life, enshrined himself in the hearts that now mourn that they shall see his face no more; crowning a faithful life by a death -- no, not by a death -- a passage from earth to Heaven, brilliant with celestial glory. The shadow of death rested not upon him, but only upon the stricken hearts that could not soar with him amid the unfolding glories of immortality, that in the trying hour opened to his enraptured vision, and made the chamber of his departure a place not far from Heaven, leaving a wife and two small children.
The Christian Index please copy.1

Was Calvin really like this?  I will never know but it is still a beautiful tribute.

1 "Not Dead, but Sleepeth," The Augusta Chronicle, 16 Feb 1851, p. 3, col. 2. 


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Metes and Bounds Part II

Public Service Announcement: Here is a great article from the Wall Street Journal about finding skeletons in your family tree. When a Genealogy Hobby Digs Up Unwanted Secrets .

Metes and bounds rears its ugly head again. Here is my original post on Metes and Bounds. You can see that I am not a fan. I told y'all recently that I am taking the National Genealogical Society's Home Study Course as a continuing education opportunity and to fill in any learning gaps I might have. Guess what I have to do for lesson 9. Yup, you guessed it. I have to to draw a metes and bounds land description. The reason I am mentioning this is that I found a tutorial on metes and bounds in an unusual location. In my recent Researching the "Genealogy" of a house blog post, I linked to Marian Pierre-Louis' list of recommended resources. In the book House Histories: A Guide to Tracing the Genealogy of Your Home by Sally Light, there is an excellent section on how to draw metes and bounds land descriptions (p. 271-4). With this, along with the info provided by the NGS, I am not hating metes and bounds quite as much.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, January 18, 2013

African-American Genealogy

Researching African-American families prior to the civil war is more than just challenging, it is downright difficult. I am in no way an expert (novice would be a closer assessment of my skills) so instead of giving you specific advice, I will try and lead you into the right direction. I try to keep up with what is happening in all aspects of the genealogy world including the latest news in AA research.

Names you need to know (in alphabetical order)

  • Bernice Bennett
    She is the BlogTalkRadio girl! She hosts a weekly radio program called Research at the National Archives & Beyond interviewing the top genealogists in the field on a variety of subjects. I have gotten to "know" Bernice via Facebook. She is always happy and upbeat and continues to pass on great info. You can read more about Bernice on Bernice's Bio.
  • Tony Burroughs
    Tony is the author of Black Roots: A Beginners Guide To Tracing The African American Family Tree. This guy is a true expert on African-American research. "Building Blocks of African American Genealogy" is an excellent article that Tony wrote. You can read more about Tony on Tony's Bio.
  • Toni Carrier
    Toni is the founder of Low Country Africana, a website dedicated to African-American research in Ga, SC and FL. Even though this website is location specific, you will find great info that will help you no matter where your lines are. You can read Toni's bio HERE but you will need to scroll down a bit to see it.
  • Melvin J. Collier
    I am convinced that Melvin and I have to be kin since we are both from Mississippi :) He is the author of two popular books, 150 Years Later: Broken Ties Mended and Mississippi to Africa: A Journey of Discovery You can read more about Melvin on Melvin's Bio.
  • Robin Foster
    Robin's Saving Stories blog encourages you to record those family stories and oral traditions before they are lost forever. Robin also restores old photographes. She shows us that genealogy is more than just a bunch of vital statistics. You can read more about Robin HERE.
  • George Gedder
    George is another popular blogger. He chronicles his research in his Geder Genealogy blog. I love the photos that he posts. You can read more about George HERE.
  • Tim Pinnick
    This guy is a total brainiac! He is a former public school teacher who now lectures at Samford University and writes scholarly papers on African American research. One of his areas of expertise is the black coal miners of the 19th and 20th centuries. You can read more about Tim on Tim's Bio.
  • B. J. Smothers
    Brenda is the executive assistant to the mayor of Selma, Alabama which is pretty cool all by itself. She is also an accomplished African-American researcher. She teaches others what she has learned over the years researching her own family. You can read more about B. J. on her homepage.
  • Angela Walton-Raji
    Angela is really interesting to me because her area of expertise is African-American and American-Indian connections and roots. I am part Choctaw Indian and the Choctaws play prominently in her research. She also does weekly Podcasts at African Roots Podcasts. You can read a short bio on Angela on the right side of the podcast page.

Websites you need to visit:

Genealogical societies you need to join:

Books you need to read:

FREE videos/lectures you need to watch:

Researching African-American lines is very challenging but equally rewarding. Hopefully, the resources I have listed will help you in your adventure.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, January 17, 2013

So Are You a Beginner, an Intermediate or an Advanced Researcher? Do You Know?

How would you categorize your researching ability? Do you know where you are on the spectrum from beginner to expert? Do you know where to find continuing education opportunities based on where you are? Here are some tools you can use to figure out where you are and where you need to go.

You can look through some of the free courses at FamilySearch's Learning Center. The courses can be filtered by beginner, intermediate and advanced topics. See what things you know and don't know and you will be able to categorize yourself.

You can also look through the courses at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. Scroll down until you see "Compulsory Courses." Their required courses for the American Records Certificate are listed as basic, intermediate, and advanced. If you read the course content of these courses, you will be able to figure out what you already know and what you don't which will help put you at a level.

Here is a simple checklist by Sandra H. Luebking. She has outlined criteria that would put you in the intermediate category. It is offered by Samford University as a tool to help you determine whether you are where you should be to take their Intermediate Genealogy and Historical Studies course. You can access it HERE.

Are you thinking that you are more advanced? You can check yourself against what the Board for the Certification of Genealogists and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists consider a proper background in education and experience.

Are You Ready for Certification?
ICAPGen Accreditation Application

You can be a beginner in one area and advanced in another. Even expert genealogists have weaknesses. Most genealogists tend to gravitate toward a specific area of expertise. I am a beginner when it comes to research in the British Isles because I haven't had much experience researching in those records. Constantly assessing your expertise level and what your deficits are will help you plan your continuing education. Even if you are an advanced researcher, new record sets are becoming available online and you really need to keep up with that or you will be doing a lot more work than is necessary.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Genealogy and Adoptees

Public Service Announcement: Michael Hait, CG posted some great continuing education opportunities on his blog. You can see them HERE. To become a better researcher you really must take the time to keep up-to-date with your education.

Many adoptees turn to genealogy to help them discover their biological roots. Now that we have autosomal DNA tests things have gotten a bit easier for them. What does autosomal DNA tell a person? Well, it will tell you who you are blood related to in the collection of other living people who have also taken the autosomal DNA test. If one of your biological parents, biological full siblings or biological half siblings happen to have taken the autosomal test and their results are in the same database as yours, you will have a match. It is a bit of a shot in the dark but not as remote as you might think. It is more likely though that you will find cousins of varying degrees which of course will still put you on the right track though a lot more work is involved.

If this is something you are interested in, here is an article that will help you get started. Autosomal DNA Comparison Family Finder vs. Relative Finder. When you are reading this one be aware that also sells autosomal DNA tests. The one drawback to is that they do not allow you to see the raw data which means you cannot submit your data to other database collections. If it were me, I would take take multiple tests to get my DNA profile into as many databases as I can.

I am not going to go into the ethical concerns with all of this. All adoptees already know what a search like this entails. Suffice to say that before you delve into a project like this be aware that you might be contacting people that have no desire to hear from you and you might find out things that you wish you hadn't. Having said that, this is a problem that ALL genealogists face to one extent or another.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Researching the "Genealogy" of a House

I used to live in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. The house we owned was built in 1850 and had quite an interesting history. When we moved into the house I was dying to know more about it so I spent a lot of time at the local library, the courthouse and reading old editions of the town newspaper. I was able to put together a nice "genealogy" of the house. I traced the family of the original builder and I enjoyed learning more about them. At the time I did this research, I really didn't know that much about researching old houses so I did everything the hard way.

This type of "genealogy" is gaining popularity so there are some resources available out there now. Marian Pierre-Louis is an expert in this field and you will find some things on her websites that will help you. Marian has a list of Books that she recommends. I have the last book but I don't have the first three so I just ordered them (You can never have too many books!). I just wish I had had the benefit of them when I was doing my research.

Marian's New England House Historian blog will give you some more ideas. You can also take a look at Marian's Roots and Rambles blog. It isn't about house histories specifically but she writes about current events in the genealogical world as well as other topics that you will find interesting.

Marian will be doing a webinar for Legacy Family Tree on 05 Jun 2013 on The Genealogy of Your House. It is FREE (as are all of Legacy's webinars) but you will need to register. There is a limit to how many can watch the webinar live but if you don't get in, you will still be able to watch it free for 10 days. Marian is an engaging speaker and I can guarantee you will enjoy it.

The house I live in now was built in 1961 so its isn't quite as interesting. I don't know though. Maybe it was a hideout for bank robbers or something. Maybe I need to take a look after all.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, January 14, 2013

City Directories

Have you used City Directories as a source? I really love these because on the surface it doesn't look like you are getting much info but you really are.

So what is a city directory? Basically it is a phone book before there were phones. has been adding more and more city directories to their collections but they only have a small percentage of what is available. The best place to find city directories is in the main branch of the public library in the city you are interested in. The state archives is another great place to look.

City directories are full of abbreviations and each company that put out the directories has their own. All you need to do is look in the front of the book and there will be an explanation of the abbreviations. So what can see find out? Here are some examples from my file:


This snippet is from the 1927 Hattiesburg, Mississippi directory. What can we glean?

  • Sercia Simmons [Oliver Searcy Simmons] is assumed alive in 1927.
  • He is married and his wife's name is Calley.
  • He is a sawyer [works in a saw mill cutting lumber].
  • He works for the Hattiesburg Flooring Company.
  • He is the householder [a person who lives on a property but doesn't own it, most likely he is renting].
  • He lives at 714 E. 6th [St.], Hattiesburg. If there is no designation behind the address then it is Street. All other variations will be written out. If there is no town name then it is the town of the directory. If he lived in one of the burbs, it would have said so. For example, if he lived in the community of Petal it would have been right behind the address.


This one is from the 1882 Augusta, Georgia directory.

  • Joseph Dismuke is assumed alive in 1882.
  • He is an upholsterer.
  • He boards [rents] at 1137 D'Antignac [St.].

Does the entry mean that Joseph was not married? We don't know. This particular directory lists everyone individually. The only females that will be listed will be those that worked.


This one is from the 1902 Shreveport, Louisiana directory. At first you might think there isn't a lot of info here. We know that Ida was alive and unmarried in 1902. She was a nurse at Charity Hospital in Shreveport. If you read my blog post on The Story of Ida Perry, you can understand just how important this little bit of information is.


This is Brookhaven, Missisippi in 1914. I included this one because Brookhaven was a small town in 1914. It still only has less than 10,000 people today. Not just large cities had directories.

  • Charity G. Kees is assumed alive in 1914.
  • Kees is her married name and she was widowed by 1914.
  • She is living with Martin V. Kees [Martin happens to be her 7th son out of 10 boys. Just thought I would throw that in].
  • She lives in is house. In this case h only stands for house, not householder as was shown in the first example. That is why you need to always check the abbreviations in every book.
  • She lives at 524 E. Cherokee [St.], Brookhaven.

Directories also contain general and statistical information about the city at the time the directory was printed. This will help you put your person of interest in the context of his surroundings.

Here is a nifty website that has info on what directories are available and where they are located. It isn't 100% complete but not bad. US City Directories.

I saved the best for last. You can put the addresses you find into Google Maps and you can see exactly where your person of interest lived. If you are real lucky, there will be a street view photo and if you are real, real, real lucky it will be the same house that your person of interest actually lived in. Here is my favorite example. Remember Ida Perry from above. If you go back and read the post that I dedicated to her you will see how special she is to me. You will also see that she had tuberculosis and moved to Denver, Colorado for health reasons. She died shortly thereafter. If you type in the address of 2222 Newton Street, Denver, Colorado into Google Maps you will see a street view photo on the left. Click that and you will be able to see the house that my Ida died in on 31 Aug 1911. I got that address from her death certificate.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Numbering Styles

This is a continuation of yesterday's post. I mentioned the National Genealogical Society Quarterly's (NGSQ) "style" and I wanted to expand on that. If you plan on writing formal reports or writing for genealogical journals, you will need to acquaint yourself with the common numbering styles.

The two most common are the Register System, the style used by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEGHS), and the Modified Register System, more commonly known as the NGSQ System, used by the National Genealogical Society.

WHY are these systems in place and required by these publications? Again, it is all about CONSISTENCY. The journals published by these two societies require that you follow their standards when submitting articles so that the data is presented in a uniform and consistent manner.

If you want to submit an article/compiled genealogy to any journal/magazine, you need to check their "submission guidelines" which will tell you exactly what you need to do. Just for fun I checked to see what the submission guidelines are for a journal I am not familiar with at all. I chose the journal published by the Texas State Genealogical Society. Here are their Submission Guidelines. Though they don't specify a numbering system, they are very specific on how you are to cite your sources. If I were to submit a compiled genealogy to this journal I would use one of the accepted numbering systems.

When you are preparing a compiled genealogy for a client (whether a paid client or pro bono) you should also be following some sort of style guide. Though the above two are the most common, there are others. The best resource for to learn about the various numbering systems is Numbering Your Genealogy, Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin by Joan Ferris Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane and John H. Wray. It is excellent. Another great resource that has examples is the BCG Genealogical Standards Manual.

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment, I have some good news for you. All of the top genealogy program will put your research into one of the standard formats for you when you print a report. Legacy Family Tree gives me the option of register, modified register (NGSQ), Henry, d'Aboville, and d'Villiers/Pama. The one thing that I will warn you about is that genealogy database programs aren't perfect and you will need to go back through and check the output making changes as needed.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Trudy asks:
"Would you address using all caps for the surname? I don’t use all caps but when I read a story I do like to scan for information about the surname I am looking for and like it when they are in all caps so I can quickly pick them out. What are the pros and cons of using all caps in a database?"

The standard used to be that you typed surnames in all caps. Why? Most early genealogy books either contained no index or an index by last name only. If you had the surnames typed in all caps, it was easier to scan the page for the person you were looking for. For example, if you were looking for Elijah Davis and the index had 42 pages listed for the Davis surname you can imagine it would be hard to fully read 42 pages looking for Elijah. You could turn to those pages and quickly scan and the word DAVIS would stick out saving you time. Most genealogy books today are indexed with full names making it less of an issue. Elijah Davis will appear in the index with just the pages he is listed on.

Today most people use just first letter caps. In formal reports you can use all caps but make them small caps, 2 points smaller than the main text, which is more pleasing to the eye. When you use small caps, it is common to small cap the entire name of the main person of interest (NGSQ Style). Most genealogy programs will allow you to type names in using first letter caps and then you can tell your reports to put surnames in all caps BUT it won't convert to small caps, at least Legacy won't. I have sent a suggestion in for this. Here are three examples from a formal report:


In this example, the entire name of the person of interest is in small caps at 10 points. The rest of the text is at 12 points. It is done this way because that is the standard of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ).


This one has all of the surnames in small caps at 10 points. I think this one looks good too though it doesn't quite conform to the NGSQ standards.


And this is the same text with all caps surnames at 12 points.

I personally think that using all full-size caps is more cumbersome to read. Don't worry though, the genealogy police will not come after you if you prefer all cap surnames. As long as you are CONSISTENT with how you do things then no problem. So tell me, readers, which one do you prefer to read? It would be better if I had an entire page of these styles but it would take up too much space.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow will be a part II on styles.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Union Soldier

Public Service Announcement: Here is a great FREE video course by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL that she did for the Family History Library/FamilySearch, Rubik's Cube Genealogy: A New Twist on Your Old Data. When you load it, it goes to the middle of the course, I am not sure why it does that, so you will need to back it up to the beginning with the slider. The lecture is about how to manipulate your data in different ways to help you see new things.

I have approximately 40 Confederate Soldiers in my file and ONE Union Soldier. I thought it would be fun to take a look at him, especially since he married into a very Confederate family.

Irvin Louis Helpman was born 16 Jun 1845 in Hancock County, Ohio.1 On 15 Aug 1861, Irvin enlisted in Company A, 8th Regiment of the Illinois Infantry.2 He was a farmer described as being 5 foot 9 with dark hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.3 His compiled service record is not complete but it does have a entry of him reenlisting on 02 Jan 1864 in Vicksburg.4

After the war, in 1870, he is living with the Fenwick family in Caddo Parish, Louisiana.5 Melvin Fenwick served in the same unit as Irvin during the war.6 We have two Union soldiers living in a formally Confederate state only 5 years after the war which is very interesting. I wonder how two Union soldiers ended up here and I also wonder if their neighbors knew who they were. I would think that their northern accents would have given them away.

Irvin married my first cousin thrice removed, Angerone Alice Gillespie, on 25 Nov 1871 in East Baton Rouge Parish.7. Angie was born in Mississippi, her father was born in South Carolina and her mother in Mississippi8 so their southern roots run deep with many family members serving in the Confederacy.

So what does that make Irvin? A closet Confederate? A carpetbagger? I thought a look at his occupation might help. On the 1870 census he is listed as a farmer,9 on the 1880 he is listed as a merchant10 and on the 1900 he is listed as a drummer11 [a drummer is a door-to-door salesman].

The newspaper yielded a couple of interesting tidbits. In 1888, Irvin was listed as being a wholesale store owner showing his wares in the exposition hall at the state fair.12 In the wedding announcement of his daughter Neffie in 1904, Irvin is described as "our clever citizen."13 Irvin doesn't really fit the profile of a carpetbagger but apparently he did do well for himself. Perhaps when he was in the south fighting he saw something he liked. Maybe the farmland appealed to him. Perhaps he had some sympathy toward the southern people he met. We will probably never know. All we do know is that Irvin left the north for the south and was able to make something of himself. He married and raised his family there and was apparently accepted into the community even though he was a northerner and a Union veteran. I would still like to know what Angie's family thought about it though.

Copyright © 2012 Scout Finch, used with permission

1 Illinois Secretary of State, "Illinois Civil War Detail Report," database, Illinois State Archives (, Irvin L. Helpman; The Illinois Secretary of State, in collaboration with the Illinois State Archives, abstracted the compiled service records of Illinois soldiers. The Illinois compiled service records are not available on

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 1870 U.S. census, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Ward 6, Shreveport post office, p. 30 [penned], dwelling 274, family 274, Milton Fenwick household; National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M593, roll 508.

6 Illinois Secretary of State, "Illinois Civil War Detail Report," database, Illinois State Archives (, J. Milton Fenwick.

7 Hunting for Bears, "Louisiana Marriages, 1718-1925," database, (, Irwin L. Helpman and Angie A. Gillispie; Waiting for the certificate to arrive from East Baton Rouge Parish.

8 1860 U.S. census, Iberville Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Rosedale post office, p. 27 [penned], dwelling 195, family 195, John Galaspie household; National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 411.

9 1870 U.S. census, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, pop. sch., Ward 6, Shreveport post office, p. 30 (penned), dwell. 274, fam. 274, Milton Fenwick household.

10 1880 U.S. census, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Shreveport, enumeration district (ED) 20, p. 22 [penned], dwelling 158, family 160, I.L. Helpman household; National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll 449.

11 1900 U.S. census, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Shreveport, enumeration district (ED) 40, sheet 13A, p. 221 [stamped], dwelling 227, family 240, Louis T. Helpman household; National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 560.

12 "The State Fair," Times-Picayune, 06 Nov 1888, p. 2, col. 1.

13 "Shreveport" [social news], Times-Picayune, 17 Jul 1904, p. 10, col. 5.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What's in a Name?

Public Service Announcement: If you want a good laugh, "like" the Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches Facebook page. Deidre Erin Denton sends out genealogy themed cartoons over Facebook and they are hysterical. I think Twisted's posts get more shares than any others I have seen. Deidre also writes a regular blog that showcases her actual genealogy research which you might also be interested in. You can read it HERE. Have fun!

I love names. The more unusual the better. Not only is is easier to search through records when you are dealing with an unusual name, it is just plain fun to see what names some parents come up with. Here are a few favorites from my file. If you have some really interesting names, post them in the comments.

Masterdon Alonzo Wood (1876-1941)
Thiot Morris (1921-1945)
Bazzle Emmanuel Fountain (1845-1924) Yathastha Zachary (abt.1740-aft.1790)
Marmaduke Jowers (1738-1790)
Senate Edwards (1823-aft.1857)
Lemuel Elexander Graham (1878-1901)
Azor Eluid Sally (1857-1921)
Bizar Filmore Lee (1885-aft.1900)
Zinnamon Frank Lee (1834-bet.1903-1929)
Anguish Bruce Perry (1860-1945)
Birmah Lee Reid (1883-1955)
Pinkney Theodocia Patton (1883-1966)
Kenion Eden Barefoot (1822-1881)
Zenobia Maddox (1873-1936)
Dolphin Fairchilds (abt.1789-aft.1810)
Toxie Graham (1912-2003, this is a male)
Plummer Ladner (1835-1864)
Rutilous Ladner (abt.1833-aft.1856)
Leonidas Ebenezer Martin (abt.1841-aft.1860)
Commodore Decater Blackston (1820-1844)
Wylanty Hudson (abt.1838-aft.1850)
Cephas Pleiades Knox (abt.1863-aft.1880)
Scot Dargan Entrekin (1910-1911)
Verbon Hyatt (1913-1992)
Gazaway Watkins Sims Lewis (1859-1929)
Littleberry Lewis (1831-1904)
Zadoe Patton (abt.1833-aft.1850)

I'm sorry but I just can't see myself calling to my 3 year old, "Marmaduke! Come here right this minute, Marmaduke!" What were they thinking? Let's hope that Marmaduke had a nickname. My favorite name of all is Smiley Haney Simmons (1900-2003). What a sweet name to give a child, Smiley. I spoke with Smiley several times before he died and he certainly lived up to his name.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Right and Wrong vs. Consistency

Public Service Announcement: Copyright and plagiarism are hot topics right now in the world of genealogy. I have written about it as have several other bloggers and I have tried to link to these other writings so that you can get the information from several different perspectives. Elizabeth Shown Mills has just written an excellent article with examples, Plagiarism—Five "Copywrongs" of Historical Writing. The two articles that I wrote are, Copyright © and Copyright Infringement. Another article that I have linked to in the past is Copyright and Copy Wrong by Michael Lecleric. Please protect yourself by understanding copyright infringement.

You know by now that I am on several mailing lists. Three of the most active are the Legacy Family Tree (LFT) mailing list (for people who use or are interested in the LFT genealogy database software), the Transitional Genealogists Forum (TGF) and the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) list. One topic that frequently comes up on all three lists is what is the right way to record something. This could be about how to properly cite a source, or should you put the cemetery address in the burial location field or is it okay to put Mrs. Davis if you don't know her Christian or maiden name. The list goes on indefinitely.

I wrote a blog post on Genealogy Standards last July. Although I am a big believer in certain documentation standards I am more a believer in CONSISTENCY (the whole reason behind having standards). There is certainly room for interpretation when it comes to how you document things. Sometimes, especially when citing your sources, it can be more of an art than a science but the one thing that remains true is how important it is to remain consistent.

Even if you don't agree with how most genealogists do a certain thing at least be consistent within your own file. For example, the standard way to record burial locations is the same way that you record any location:

Purvis, Lamar, Mississippi, United States

There are many people out there that like to see the cemetery name in the location field like this:

Coaltown Cemetery, Purvis, Lamar, Mississippi, United States

If you like doing it this way then fine, just make sure that you always do it this way. It will make your research look much more professional and credible.

Once you decide on a format then stick to it. Here is and example of what you don't want in your locations:

Purvis, Lamar, Mississippi, United States
Purvis, Lamar County, Mississippi, United States
Purvis, Lamar Co, MS, USA
Purvis, Lamar County, MS, United States of America

I am sure that you could come up with some more variations for this one location. If I was looking at someone's file and saw all of these variations for their locations I would immediately question all of their facts because they were so sloppy in entering them. How can I trust their work if they can't be careful enough to record their locations in a consistent manner? This is a newbie mistake and any researcher that has been doing this for any length of time should have this corrected.

Here is an example with dates. Dates should always be entered 04 Mar 1850 but if you like it better as 03-04-1850 so be it. With dates it is even more important to be consistent. With the 03-04-1850 is that March 4th or April 3rd? (That is why you shouldn't write the dates this way but if you insist at least make it consistent). What if you have dates across your file like this:

04 Feb 1912
2 March 1809

Pick one style and stick with it!

So if you started out this way, how do you correct things like this? If you have hundreds or thousands of entries in your file the task itself is so daunting that you might hesitate. I am most familiar with Legacy Family Tree since that is what I use but I am assuming that the other top programs have the capabilities to do this. Legacy has a master location list. On this screen you can merge duplicates easily. All of my Purvis, MS entries would show up together and I can readily see that I have four entries for one location. I can merge the bad three into the good one and then all of the locations will be corrected with one click. It still takes some time to go through all of the locations to find the dups on the list but it really is quite easy.

You can also scan through the master surname list and find all the surnames that you accidentally entered in all caps and correct them, or, if you really want them in all caps then you can correct those that are not. You can format dates correctly across your entire file with one click. You just tell it what format you want and it will correct all of the dates even though they are in several different formats.

If you want people to take your research seriously, record your information in a consistent manner and don't forget to document WHERE you got your information. For more information about that, read The Basics of Citing Your Sources.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Funny the Things You Find

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: FamilySearch has improved their website by adding two new search features. You can read all about it HERE.

By now you know my family has been in the deep south since before the Rev. War, however, only three of my lines were ever in the state of Georgia and two of those just long enough to get to the state of Mississippi. My son-in-law's paternal side has been in Georgia for a very long time. There was really no reason for me to think that our ancestors had crossed paths, but maybe. One of his counties and one of my counties were right next to each other. Then I found this:

1850 Federal Census, Burke County, Georgia1

Samuel Seager, age 19, male, farmer, value of real estate $2300, born in GA, married within the year
Huldah Seager, age 16, female, born in GA, married within the year
Azariah Dukes, age 18, male, plough man, born in GA

Well, well, well. It looks my son-in-law's 3rd great-granduncle Azariah Dukes was working for my first cousin five times removed Samuel Seegar in 1850 (I am glad it wasn't the other way around or I wouldn't hear the end of it).

11850 U.S. census, Burke County, Georgia, population schedule, 71st and 72nd Georgia Militia District, p. 303 [stamped], dwelling 523, family 523, Samuel Seager household; National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 62.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, January 7, 2013

Your E-Mail Address

If you do a Google search on the email address of you will find a lot of posts on Rootsweb mailing lists and Rootsweb message boards dating back to 2000. was my email address about 10 email addresses ago. We were living in Florida then. Since then we moved to Georgia, then to Maine, then back to Georgia, changing email addresses several times along the way. Where I live in Georgia there is no DSL so I have a cable modem. The cable company was bought out 3 times within a 2 year span of time causing me to change my email address again and again. I finally figured out that this was stupid. How are people supposed to find me when I post messages on genealogy message boards if my email address keeps changing. One of the best things I ever did was get a permanent Gmail account for all of my genealogy correspondence. As a matter of fact, I don't even have a email address through my ISP anymore. You can have as many Gmail accounts that you want (or Yahoo or Hotmail, whatever) and you don't have to worry about having to change them. I use this same email address for every genealogist website I use, every genealogy mailing list I am on and for all of my genealogy business and correspondence. I configured my Gmail so that it works in Outlook so I don't have to go to the Gmail website to read my mail. I can't even tell that I am using a "web based" email address.

From time to time I do Google searches on my old email addresses (the ones I can remember) and I try to post an updated address but I just can't find every one of them. I wonder just how many messages I have missed because someone couldn't find me.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Questions from Yesterday's Post

Here are a few questions in reference to the Working Through a Problem blog post.

Marty asks:
"How did you know where to look for the microfilm?"

I went to the Family History Library's Card Catalog and did a place search, first for Łódź and then for Zduńska Wola. You do not have to put in the diacritical marks, the catalog figures them out.

Sandra asks:
"Wouldn't you want BOTH records, the civil AND the church?"

Theoretically the answer is yes. You always want to get every available document there is. However, sometimes practicality takes over. Is it worth me spending $55 (minimum) for the civil record? I might want to bide my time on that one. If I get the church record, and it answers my research question of "What was Eleonore's maiden name?" then I will document in my notes that a 2nd document might exist at the Polish Archives. That doesn't mean I won't ever get it but right now I don't want to spend that kind of money on a single document. Since I am working on this family right now, I might find that I need other documents from the Polish Archives. Multiple documents can be had cheaper (set price for hourly research) so that might be how I end up getting it.

Anonymous asks:
"Could you not write off directly to the county to get the records? It might be cheaper than the Archives."

So far my experience has been that the older records from the county level have been transferred to the archives for safe keeping. Granted, I haven't actually asked this particular office so it is possible that they have the mid 1800s in house. That would be something I would need to follow-up on. This brings up another topic. HOW would I contact the civil office if I can't speak Polish? I have a couple of options. If I email them, I can put my question to them in English AND Polish (using Google Translate) and hope that one of the paragraphs is understandable. If I feel I must call, I can try the call first in English. There is a decent chance that someone in the office speaks English. My second option would be to contact the nearest Polish-American club and ask if someone is willing to help me out. I don't know anyone personally that speaks Polish so this would be my best option.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Working Through a Problem

My 4th great-grandmother was Elenore Bryhsaow, born abt. 1787 in Prussia and died 12 Jun 1853 in Paprotnia, Zduńska Wola, Łódź, Poland. I got this from an old genealogy written by a German researcher in Germany. The problem is, the name Bryhsaow is not a valid surname, or if it is, Eleonore is the only one in the world that has it. I can't contact the author of the genealogy so what do I do?

Searches on, FamilySearch and Google are all negative. Maybe the Soundex will help me figure out what the name might be. The Soundex code for Bryhsaow is B620. Here are the names that have this same code.


Well, that doesn't look promising. So what would you do in this situation? What do you think my next move should be?

Poland actually has good records. My best chance at figuring this out is to find Eleonore's death record. Europeans love maiden names so it will, most likely, be on her death/burial record. I might luck up and get her parents' full names. I have an exact date and an exact place and I know her married name (she married Daniel Fiege). I could try for her baptismal record but I would have a lot less info to go on. She was born about 1787 in Prussia which just isn't going to get me far. I have two choices. I can write to the Polish Archives and request the record. There are many different archives in Poland but I happen to know this area of Poland so I do know which archives to write to. I would need to write to the state archive in Łódź. The bad news is it costs $55 (minimum) and it takes 2-6 months to get your record. There is one other thing I can try before I go this route. I need to see if the Family History Library (FHL) has microfilmed records. I must mention here that the records the archives has (civil records) is different than what the Family History Library has microfilmed (church records) but both types of records will have the information I need. I tried Łódź first but there is nothing listed there that will help. I then tried Zduńska Wola. This is the county within Łódź where Paprotnia is. Even though my Polish isn't the best, I can see that they do have films for both Catholic and Protestant records. I know that Eleonore's great-granddaughter was protestant so I will assume that her ancestors were also protestant so I would go for those records first. The date range is where I need it so this will be a good start.

HERE is the microfilm I need. HERE is the actual roll I need from the set. You can see that it will cost me $7.50 to order this. That is a lot cheaper than $55. It usually takes about 3-5 weeks to come in which is better than 2-6 months.

If you read the description, you will see that some of these records are in Polish (no problem at all) but some are in Russian (PROBLEM!). Even though I can't read Polish, I can recognize names and I can recognize dates as long as I have a list of the months next to me. So what do I do if they are in Russian? Let's just say I will be doing a lot of copying/photographing of the pages. The trick will be recognizing the dates. If I can find the month of June 1853, I will just copy that entire section. I can spend more time going over the records at home. I do need to know a little Russian though. The first place I check is the Family History Library's wealth of genealogical courses and I find this:

Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 1: The Russian Alphabet
Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 2: Russian Words and Dates
Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 3: Reading Russian Records

This should teach me enough to recognize dates and type of record (baptismal vs. marriage vs. death/burial). So now I am well on my way.

I would like to mention here that it is VERY important to know a little geography. I need to know WHERE in Poland Paprotnia is as well as the political divisions. In this case I am lucky because I already have all of the levels of jurisdiction but if I didn't, here is how I would figure it out.

First I would get a general overview of the system of political districts in Poland. Here is a Wikipedia Page that explains it. Using a current map of Poland that has the town Paprotnia on is, I could easily compare the two maps and see that Paprotnia is in Łódź Voivodeship. Here is where it will get a little trickier. Take a look at the Wikipedia page for the Łódź Voivodeship. The town Paprotnia is not listed. What I would need to do is look at my current map of Poland and map out all of the county seats listed under "Administrative Division" and see which county seat Paprotnia is the closest to. Yup, you guessed it. It would be Zduńska Wola. Paprotnia is just south of that town and that is the county seat of the county of Zduńska Wola. There are plenty of Polish maps on the internet so no problem there. The one problem that you may run into is when there is more than one town with the same name. The best way to handle that is to list all of the other known places associated with your person of interest, or places that his/her immediate family is associated with, and see which town fits into the big picture. Yes, boundary lines have changed so I might not hit it on the first try but as long as I am close, the officials in that district can lead me to the correct one if need be.

At first this looks like a really big problem but when you think it out it isn't so bad after all. This case has a lot of potential to be resolved. Even if I don't find what I am looking for in the protestant records, I could also order the Catholic records and as a last resort, I could write to the Polish Archives. The coolest part is that I will learn a little Russian along the way.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis