Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wyatt Earp

Blog reader “Share Our Garden” sent me a story she thought I might be interested in (I was).  It is a news story about two men that found previously unknown photos of Wyatt Earp for sale in an antiques shop.  These two men were very knowledgeable about old photos and knew that had found something special.  I am hoping this story will encourage you to rescue orphan photos.  You never know what treasures you might find.  You can read the entire story here: Photo Album Provides a New Picture of Wyatt Earp.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Paid Clients Part II

One thing I forgot to mention is when you decide to take on paid clients don’t forget the legal ramifications.  The first thing you need to read are the IRS publications Is Your Hobby a For-Profit Endeavor? and Business or Hobby?  Answer Has Implications for Deductions.  Two more useful articles are Don’t Get Caught by the Hobby Trap and Is Your Business Just A Hobby In The Eyes Of The IRS?  The good news is, if your “business” only qualifies as a hobby then you will  have a lot less to worry about even though you won’t be able to deduct any of your expenses/losses.  If the IRS thinks you are running a legitimate business then you can deduct your expenses and losses but you will also be dealing with a  lot more paperwork and red tape. 

You also have some other things to worry about.  Here in Columbia County, Georgia where I live this is what you need to do (this is just an example of what you can expect):

“When operating a business in Columbia County there are three departments that require completion of various forms in a timely manner: the Department of Building and Commercial Services, the Tax Assessor's office and the Tax Commissioner's Office.”

You will need to keep your personal finances and your business finances separate. It will help you when tax time rolls around. The federal government expects you to be making a profit 3 out of 5 years (assuming they agree that you are running a business and not a hobby). Best advice is to keep track of EVERYTHING and then you can decide which situation applies to you come tax time. You really can’t bounce back and forth between the two situations or it will be a red flag to the IRS to audit you.

Another thing to think about is marketing and advertising. Most professional genealogists get their business via word of mouth once they are established but when you first get started you might need to get your name out there. 

Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians by Elizabeth Shown Mills has information on setting up your business that is genealogy specific.  There are chapters on executing contracts, copyright and fair use, structuring a business, setting realistic fees, and business recordkeeping.  Another good resource is the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Going from hobbyist to professional is a big step.  You need to do some research on all of your options before you take the plunge.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, March 29, 2013

Taking on Paid Clients

H. V. asks:
”A friend of mine wants to pay me to do some research for him but I am not sure if I should.  I have been doing my own research for about 15 years so I think I have enough experience but  I don’t know if doing paid research is different than doing regular research.”

There are so many things I want to say to you but there is no way I could get it all in a single blog post so I am going to have to nutshell it a bit. 

Before taking on paid clients you really need to evaluate where you are in your education and your knowledge.  When you take on a totally unfamiliar family you will find that it isn’t nearly as easy.  You will be leaving the comfort zone of the locations and records that you are used to.  I would definitely stick to research projects in geographic areas that are very familiar to you.  I would also take on a few pro bono clients first to get your feet wet.  Treat them exactly like you would a paid client.  This will give you valuable experience.  Remember one thing.  Pro bono clients are just as important as paid clients and they deserve the same respect and quality of research. 

You also have to evaluate the research project itself.  Has the client given you a reasonable research goal for your talents?  A research goal of “Who were John Doe’s parents?” is a lot different than, “I want you to research my Doe line back to the Mayflower.”  You need to put serious limits on what you will agree to do and then expand those limits as you get more comfortable,

When you take on paid clients you really need to have some support and resources.  I highly recommend membership in the Association of Professional Genealogist (APG).  I also recommend you join the Transitional Genealogists Forum (TGF) mailing list.   This very active list is just for researchers making the transition from hobbyist to professional.  There are many long time professionals on the list that are willing to answer any questions that you have. 

I suggest you read the APG's Code of Ethics whether or not you decide to join the APG.  Also read the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Code of Ethics and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogist (ICAPGen) Code of Ethics.  A professional genealogist is expected to act professionally.

Continuing education becomes essential once you are taking on clients (whether paid or pro bono).  Your clients expect you to be the most knowledgeable person around.  That is why they chose you in the first place.  You need to belong to national, state and local genealogical societies which will help keep you informed with what is going on in the world of genealogy and they will also lead you to continuing education opportunities.

On a practical note, how are you going to present your research to your client?  Do you know how to write a research report?  I highly recommend:

The jump from hobbyist to professional is a big one and it can be a bit scary.  Take some time to evaluate your readiness.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Genealogy and Politics

I received a very interesting e-mail yesterday.  I thought I would post it here.  I am leaving the sender’s name off.

“This may sound ‘strange’ but I hope you never go political even for an instance. When I say ‘political’ I am speaking about pushing a particular political issue. What about the Georgia Archive thing you say? That was different and I think you understand why it was and is. Getting back to my point, if you do go ‘political’, I'll stop reading your blog faster than a’"speeding bullet!’"

I am actually quite opinionated when it comes to politics and current events but I would never even think to post my thoughts on a GENEALOGY blog.  My mission is to help beginning/intermediate genealogists with their research. My political opinions don’t belong here. As the reader pointed out, I will post on issues that are directly related to genealogy such as the Georgia Archives funding issue and the legislation that might affect the social security death index but that is it.  I just thought I needed to clarify that. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chancery Suits and the Court of Ordinary

Holly asks:
”I am ordering a document called a Chancery suit from Lawrence County, Alabama involving Mariah Booth Winfield Moffett  Booth et al and her second husband, Dr. George Washington Booth, who is also her first cousin, and his brother Dr. Thomas Harper Booth. Its from 1840. What is a Chancery suit in these circumstances?”

A Chancery suit is when someone was bringing a complaint against another person.  We call these civil suits today.  The complaint was heard by a judge only, not a jury. 

Ben asks another court question:
”What is the Court of Ordinary?” 

This is an old name for the probate court (in some states).  Here in Georgia the court of ordinary also handled deeds, marriages and lunacy hearings among other things.  Each state is a little different.  Ben is in South Carolina so I took a look and found that the court of ordinary and the court of equity (chancery) combined in 1868 to become the court of probate.1

This brings up a good point.  Every state has its own court system.  When delving into court records you need to have some understanding of this.  When I walk into the records vault in Columbia County, Georgia, I will see documents from the superior court, court of ordinary and inferior court.  Knowing what each of those courts did will help me locate the documents I need.  You also have to look at it in the context of the time period because courts changed names and changed jurisdictions.  A simple example is juvenile court.  In the state of Georgia the first juvenile court wasn’t established until 1908.2  Courts with the same name in different states might have completely different jurisdictions.

I can also go up the judicial chain to the state and the federal levels.  In the state of Mississippi, I frequently consult the High Court of Errors and Appeals when dealing with burned counties.  If the case went up to the appellate level you will find court records that were destroyed at the county level. 

1 Alice Eichholz, editor, Redbook: American State, County, and Town Resources, 3d ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004) 599.

2 “A Chronology of Corrections,” Crime and Delinquency ( : accessed 26 March 2013); In 1908, four counties created “Children’s Court.”  In 1915 the children’s courts were abolished and all counties with populations over 60,000 established juvenile courts. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dating Photos

Now that I have the new blog, Orphan Photos, I thought I would talk a little bit about photo dating.  I feel like a bit of a detective when I examine these photos for clues.  It is a lot of fun. I am not an expert by no means. I figure that if I can get the photo to within 5 years or so I am doing good.  There are very few absolute dating clues.  You have to look at all the clues together to starting forming a time period.

If you can at least narrow down the type of photo it is, you can get a general date range.

The Daguerreotype was introduced in 1839.  It was popular between 1842 – 1856 and then started disappearing around 1857 – 1860.  A Daguerreotype is shiny and the back is copper.  You have to adjust the angle when you are looking at it to see the image clearly. 

The Ambrotype was introduced in 1853.  It was popular between 1855 – 1861 and then started disappearing around 1862 – 1865.  An Ambrotype is on a glass plate and looks like it has depth (3D).

The Tintype was introduced in 1856.  It was popular between 1860 – 1870 and then started disappearing around 1872 – 1878.  You will see tintypes that are newer than this though.  They were popular as a novelty item at fairs and carnivals.  The tintype is easy because it is magnetic.  It will be on a thin blackened piece of iron.

The Carte de Visite or CdV was introduced in 1859.  It was popular between 1860 – 1880 and then started disappearing around 1880 – 1889. A CdV will be small, about 2 3/8 x 4 inches.  It will be a thin piece of photographic paper glued onto a card. 

The Cabinet Card was introduced in 1866.  It was popular between 1875 – 1900 and then started disappearing around 1901 – 1903. A cabinet card is much bigger than a CdV, approx. 4 1/4 x 6 1/2 inches.  They were called cabinet cards  because they were meant to be displayed in a cabinet in your house.  These will also be thin pieces of photographic paper glued onto a card.

Real Photo Postcards were popular from 1903 to 1930 but continued on into the 1940s.  These are easy to spot because there is a photo on one side and a postcard on the other.  It was a great way to mail yourself to your relatives. 

Once you determine the type of photo it is you can then look for specific clues to narrow down the date.  I don’t have enough room on the blog to give you all of the specifics but I can give you a few references you might want to get if you are interested. 

If you want to see examples of the different types of photographs and see how I date them, you will need to tune in to the Orphan Photos blog.  I just bought a lot of 10 tintypes.  I can’t want to get them in the mail.  You will see those on the blog in a couple of weeks.

I encourage you to rescue old photos from eBay, estate sales, yard sales and flea markets.  Remember that the people in the photos are real people and they have descendants out there somewhere that would love to see their ancestors up close and personal. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, March 25, 2013

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

DNA Update: 
Ordered – 15 Feb 2013
Kit received by my uncle – 21 Feb 2013
My uncle mailed it back – 22 Feb 2013
Kit received by FTDNA – 28 Feb 2013
12 marker results – 22 Mar 2013 which is earlier than the projected date of 19 Apr 2013
37 marker results estimated to be in – 05 May 2013

I did look at the 12 marker results.  I match up with some other Simmons researchers which is encouraging through I don’t recognize the names they have on file.  I will wait until the 37 marker test is in before I start emailing people.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was mentioned in the The 1973 Fire at the National Personnel Records Center blog post.  Rhonda sent me an email requesting more information about the FOIA.

In a nutshell:

  • This only pertains to records created at the federal level (any federal agency).  Most states have a similar law that govern records created at the state level.  You can find the laws for your state HERE.
  • You must make your request in writing.  Some agencies have a form you can fill out or you can just write a letter. Some agencies allow you to make your request by email.  You need to make sure that you include as much information that you can to assist them in their search.  Here is the FOIA addresses for all of the federal agencies.
  • Each individual agency decides on a fee schedule. Per the FOIA website, “For a typical requester the agency can charge for the time it takes to search for records and for duplication of those records. There is usually no charge for the first two hours of search time or for the first 100 pages of duplication.“  Tell that to the Social Security Administration!  They charge $27.00 for a copy of an SS-5.
  • Records at NARA don’t fall under the FOIA (at least the records genealogists would be interested in don’t).  Since these are archival materials they are available without having to use the FOIA. 
  • It can take anywhere between 2 weeks and 6 months to get a response. Don’t forget that you are dealing with government bureaucracy.  

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spotlight–Michael John Neill

Michael John Neill has been doing genealogy research for over 20 years and his name is well known among other researchers.  He is a teacher and writer with many offerings out there on the internet. He happens to be one of the favorite blog writers of the Columbia County [Georgia] Genealogical Society.  Members are constantly referring to his Genealogy Tip of the Day and Daily Genealogy Transcriber blogs.   The reason I like Michael is he tells it like it is. He is not afraid to voice his opinion.  I enjoy reading his thoughts on current events within the genealogy world.

Michael has four blogs.  I don’t know how he does it. 
Daily Genealogy Transcriber
Genealogy Tip of the Day 
Search Tip of the Day

He has two subscription newsletters:
Casefile Clues
Casefile Clues for Beginners

Over 40 Webinars:
Upcoming Webinars
Archived Webinars

You can read more about Michael on his Bio Page.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Thank You, Mary!

My cousin Mary has been my genealogy partner in crime for many years.  She recently moved into a smaller place and had to downsize a bit.  Yesterday I received a surprise package in the mail.


These are the nursing diplomas of two of my 2nd great-aunts, sisters Ida Leora and Dona Olive Perry.  They graduated from the Charity Hospital School of Nursing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1903 and 1907 respectively.  My cousin Mary knows that I have a special connection to these two and to their older sister Mary Susan who was also a nurse.  My aunt Carolyn gave me a photo of Ida and Dona when I graduated nursing school in 1982.  Here they are:


Cousin Mary has this photograph of Ida and Dona.


Ida was always quite the mystery.  Cousin Mary and I worked very hard to unravel her story.  Here is The Story of Ida Perry.

Here is me at my pinning ceremony in 1982.  I hope Mary, Ida, and Dona would have been as proud of me as I am of them.  Thank you so much, cousin Mary.  I love you dearly and I will treasure these as much as I know you have.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, March 22, 2013

My New Obsession

I have very few old photographs of my family which makes me sad.  I have started collecting unrelated old photographs that I buy via online auctions as well as estate sales/auctions.  I have a new blog that showcases these treasures called Ancestoring's Orphan Photos.  Some of these photos have been tentatively identified but most are of unknown persons.  If you can convince me that you know who the mystery person is and that you are related to him/her, I just might send you the photograph.  If you would like to know more about this lady, visit the new blog.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Professional Genealogists

There was a discussion on the Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list about whether or not there should be minimum mandatory educational requirements for professional genealogists.  If such a requirement was instituted, it would most likely mean that the states would be involved and licensing would be required.  I posted a poll question on the blog about this because I wanted to see what the blog readers think.  Here is the question and the results:

“Do you think genealogists that work professionally should be licensed by the state and have minimum/specific educational requirements?”

Yes   18%
No   77%
Not Sure   5%

I promised that I would tell you my opinion on this and here it is.  The answer for me is a resounding NO!  Here are my reasons:

  • There are many educational paths to sound research practices. Mandating one over another limits the researcher in the depth and breadth of their knowledge.
  • There would be no acknowledgement of actual research experience which is just as valuable as “book learning.”
  • Having a license does not mean you do quality work.  I am sure you have had dealings with a licensed “professional” whose work was not up to snuff. 
  • Bureaucracy always means a higher cost for the consumer.  The added costs of specific educational requirements and licensing fees will be passed on to you.

So what is the answer?  The consumer must take some responsibility.  He/she must do a little background work on the potential researchers.  Recommendations?  Work samples?  Professional affiliations?  Here is an excellent article on the FamilySearch Wiki on Hiring A Professional Researcher.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The 1973 Fire at the National Personnel Records Center

Public Service Announcement: Legacy Family Tree is taking 2 weeks off from broadcasting webinars for Rootstech and a vacation.  To keep the webinar junkies happy they have made two of their popular webinars free once more!  If you missed these the first time around here is your chance.

Share Our Garden asked:
”I have been trying to be creative with alternative sources for military records.destroyed in the 70s you might suggest? I am specifically looking for a DD214 from the 1945 era.Thanks!”

The fire that Share Our Garden is referring to is the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.  You can read more about this devastating event HERE.  A DD Form 214  is a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.  Veterans use this form to prove their military service and to access VA benefits.   Another thing that you need to know when researching military records is that records created after 1951 are protected and only the veteran’s themselves or their next-of-kin have access to them.  Next-of-kin is defined HERE. When my dad died, I was able to get a copy of his entire personnel file. The military also sent me all of his medals and ribbons free of charge.  Records created prior to 1952 are public record and accessible.  

Share Our Garden, have you tried requesting the DD 214?  It was not a complete records loss and NARA has also reconstructed a portion of the lost files.  It would be worth your while to try.  You can make the request HERE.  Your veteran most certainly had a copy of his DD 214 in his possession.  Another strategy would be to locate his children/grandchildren to see if it was passed down in his family (I am assuming he is deceased).  If the veteran ever used a VA hospital the hospital would have a copy of his DD 214 on file (he would have presented it to them and they would have copied it).  Medical records are protected but if one of his children were to make the request for you,  you could get it.  If your veteran went back to school under the GI Bill, the school would have a copy of the DD 214.  Again, you will need one of his children to request the school records.  Depending on the school, you might have to go the court order route.  If the veteran has a military marker that was provided by the VA free of charge, the next-of-kin would have presented the DD 214 as proof of service.  You can contact the US Department of Veterans Affairs and request the veteran’s cemetery marker file under the Freedom of Information Act.

Good luck!

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

DNA Update And Questions about BLM Records and Relicts/Consorts

DNA Update: 
Ordered – 15 Feb 2013
Kit received by my uncle – 21 Feb 2013
My uncle mailed it back – 22 Feb 2013
Kit received by FTDNA – 28 Feb 2013
12 marker results will be in – 19 Apr 2013
37 marker results will be in – 05 May 2013

If the dates are correct, it will mean an 11 week and 2 day wait from the time I ordered the test until the test results come in.  Ouch.  I ordered a 37 marker test but they will post the 12 marker results as soon as that portion of the test is complete. I have another yDNA that I want to do so I guess I better get going on it.

Question from Anonymous:
”I can’t find my ancestor in the Bureau of Land Management [BLM] records online but I know that he owned land in Choctaw County, Alabama. Are there records that have been lost?”

The BLM only has the ORIGINAL land patents and warrants.  Whenever the original patentee sold the land to someone else it would have been recorded at the county level.  If your ancestor was not an original patentee, try looking in the Choctaw County deed index.  Here is some good info on Understanding Land Patents from the BLM. 

Question from a  Columbia County Genealogical Society Member:
”What does relict and consort mean on tombstones"?

These are terms only found on the tombstones of woman.  Mary Doe, relict of John Smith means that Mary was John’s widow at the time of her death (her husband predeceased her).  If you see Mary Doe, consort of John Smith that means that John was still living when Mary died.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, March 18, 2013

Questions on Sources, Poll Tax, and Technology

Anonymous asks:
”I found someone on Ancestry[.com] that has my family back to the 1400s.  They don’t have any sources listed and they aren’t answering my messages.  I want to use this information but I have a feeling you are going to tell me I can’t.”

I am not going to tell you that you CAN’T use it but I will tell you that you SHOULDN’T.  Even if every single relationship in that person’s file was completely sourced, you still shouldn’t just copy into your file without some further investigation.

Whether it is sourced or not, start with the first relationship that you don’t have and then research it yourself to see if it pans out.  If the person has sources, you will have clues as to where to look but you still have to do the research yourself. 

If the information has been thoroughly researched and sourced you could add the information to your file using this researcher as your source.  This would be no different than using a compiled genealogy book.  If you want to use it as a source then you need to evaluate how valid you think the research is and document that. 

Dave asks:
“On a tax record, what does 1 poll mean?”

A poll tax is a tax that is placed on a person.  It had nothing to do with whether or not he owned property. Those that had to pay a poll tax were men between the ages of 21 and 50 [age varied a bit by jurisdiction]. Those that paid this poll tax would then be eligible to vote and to serve on a jury.  This was an easy way to keep poor people from participating in local affairs. 

Annice asks:
”Where is the best place to go to keep up to date with the technology aspect of Genealogy?  You mentioned that Thomas MacEntee is the expert but I can’t find anything on his website that tells me the things I want to know.”

You need to catch Thomas by reading the articles he writes for various magazines and in the webinars that he gives.  He has done several webinars for Legacy Family Tree Webinars and here is a list of articles that he has written.  I also recommend you join the Technology for Genealogy Facebook group.  Thomas, along with many other techies, post all kinds of great info here.  I just checked and there are over 1000 members and the group isn’t even that old.  If you have a specific question you can post it and it will get answered.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spotlight–Dee Dee King, CG

Dee Dee King, CG of Forensic Genealogy Services, LLC is a very special type of genealogist.  This is from her website:

“Dee Dee King, CG, is the contract professional genealogist for the US Navy Casualty POW/MIA Branch. She identifies living relatives who are eligible to contribute mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and yDNA Family Reference Samples and family members, who by law, can direct disposition of remains as requested by the Department of the Navy for unaccounted-for Navy service members from World War II,  Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, through Desert Storm.”

WOW!  This is a whole different ballgame.  Just think of all of the families that Dee Dee has helped.  She is definitely a genealogist you can look up to.  Here is one of Dee Dee’s current cases.  Dee Dee does other work as well but in my opinion the work she does for the Navy is just the coolest.

You can read more about Dee Dee on her Bio Page.  You can also check out the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy home page if you would like more information about this type of genealogical research.  If you are really interested, then I suggest you consider attending the Forensic Genealogy Institute in Dallas, Texas but only if you have a significant amount of research experience under your belt.  This course in not geared for beginners.  It is definitely on my wish list.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, March 15, 2013

Continuing Education News

RootsTech 2013 will be be streamed live from Salt Lake City FREE March 21-23.  Here is the Class Schedule and times as well as the website address you will need to use to access the streaming.  They will not be broadcasting all of the sessions but this is still a great opportunity for those of us that can’t travel that far.  You can pick up your handouts HERE.  You can even get the handouts for the classes that aren’t being streamed.

Y’all already know that I am a big fan of the FREE Legacy Family Tree Webinars and I mention them frequently on the blog.  They now have a webpage dedicated to the webinars that is separate from their Legacy Family Tree Software Page.  They have also started a subscription service so that you can watch all of the archived webinars at your leisure without having to purchase the individual CDs. If you subscribe, you will also have access to the handouts that you don’t get when you watch the webinar live.  These handouts are available on the CDs as well. 

Even with this new website and subscription service, all of the webinars are still FREE when you watch them live or within 10 days of when they are first shown.  After that you will either need a subscription or you will need to purchase the CD to see them.  There are some webinars that remain free forever.  The new site doesn’t show you which ones are free like the old site did and I am hoping they will change that.  You will have to just click on the titles individually to find them.  I will tell you that all of the DNA ones, the newspaper ones, and the FamilySearch ones are freebies.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Poll Question

There was a discussion on the Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list about whether or not there should be minimum mandatory educational requirements for professional genealogists.  If such requirements were instituted, it would most likely mean that the states would be involved and licensing would be required.  I would love to know your thoughts on this.  The poll question is on the right sidebar and will be there for one week.  After that  I will post the results as well as my own thoughts on the subject.  I look forward  to your comments!  I love a lively debate but any mean comments by either side will be deleted. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

More Effective Searches

Public Service Announcement:  I have updated my Book List to include my latest purchase.

Johnson, Richard S. and Debra Johnson Knox. How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been in the Military. Eighth Edition. Spartanburg, South Carolina: MIE Publishing, 1999.

I needed this book for a client project I am working on and I have to say that this is a wonderful resource! 

There is a real art to doing searches on, FamilySearch, GenealogyBank and the like.  Each website has its own quirks.  I want to give you some general principles.

Always start with the most specific information you have and then slowly make it more general
Making you search as tight as you can will limit the number of hits you get.  If you don’t get a good match the first time you can then expand your parameters a bit.  You might end up doing several searches but you have a better chance of snagging your person of interest with the fewest irrelevant matches to wade through.

Remember that you are working with indexes and indexers make mistakes with spelling
You know how your ancestor’s name was spelled so when you look at a document you can see the name in the messy handwriting better than someone who doesn’t know your family.  Try different spellings.  If the website allows for fuzzy name searches (Soundex, phonetic etc.) use it. 

If you can’t get a hit using the surname, try using the first name
I can’t tell you how many times I have used this strategy.  You can also try middle names, nicknames and initials.  Surnames seem to get bungled more than first names. 

Use different indexes
Back in the olden days when we were still looking at census records on microfilm, we used census index books to help us.  If you didn’t’ find the name in one book you would find one from another publisher and check again.  If you can’t find your ancestor on, try the index on FamilySearch or Heritage Quest (not all years indexed).   You need to do this too if you have an unclear image.  Even though all of repositories digitize the same microfilm, they have different enhancement capabilities.  If you have found your family and you just need to check another image, then you can add InternetArchive to the above list.  If it happens to be the 1940 you are looking at you can also add NARA.

Try searching for a known neighbor
If you can’t find your person of interest, look and see who his neighbors were in the census before and the census after.  Try searching for these people in the census year where you can’t find your ancestor.  They may still be living near each other.

Sometimes you just have to do it the hard way
If you are trying to find your ancestor in a particular census and they are just not showing up in the index, you might have to actually look at the census page by page.  That is how I found my grandfather in the 1920.  It took forever but there he was.  He wasn’t in the index (not sure why). Of course this will only work if you can narrow it down to at least the county level.  If you are looking in a big city you need to try and get the location narrowed further that that.  I will tell you that this is the one time that looking at microfilm is better than looking at digital images.  You can go through a county microfilm roll a lot faster than waiting for individual images to load on your computer.

When you are working with something like GenealogyBank you have the advantage of adding in keywords
If I am looking for an obituary and I don’t have enough information to do a tight search, I will use just the surname and then add keywords like “funeral” or “died” or maybe the first names of some of the known survivors. I might have to try several combinations. I found an obit by putting the name of the town where my person of interest was born. I had no idea where he died or when he died but within the obit it actually said, “native of Purvis, Mississippi.” When I put the word Purvis in I got a hit. I have found that keywords don’t work as well with because not every word is indexed.

The more searches you do, the better you will get
When I worked at the McDuffie Mirror I was given access to the Augusta Chronicle Archives (owned by the same parent company).  The search engine was nothing like GenealogyBank or NewspaperArchives.  It took me forever to get the hang of it but once I did it was a goldmine.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thoughts from an British Isles Researcher

I have mentioned several times just how important it is to take the time to research the history of the location and time period of your person of interest.  Glynn Burrows of Norfolk Tours posted something on the Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list that he has allowed me to quote here. He expanded this concept to include the home country of your immigrant ancestors.  I thought you would like to read the thoughts of another genealogist on this topic.

“For me, the study of family history MUST also include local, national and international history too, each person researched is part of the history of their locality, they are almost  always effected personally by things happening in their country and often influenced by what is going on around the world. If we just look at the names and dates, we are not researching family history, we are just building a pedigree.

This was made even more obvious to me when I was researching living conditions during the middle of the C19th in Norfolk, England. Village records were obviously the first places I looked and there were some references in the poor records, charities etc. but not much. The local newspapers were interesting, giving details of houses (in adverts of houses for sale), criminal cases reported and several other articles but the most surprising records, giving reports on the actual conversations with the people in the streets, were in the reports to central Government! National records can sometimes give more detail about life for the poor in Norfolk, than Norfolk records!

For people in the countries where immigration featured greatly in the make-up of their population, it is imperative that the history of those countries that sent the immigrants is looked at. Why did England send hundreds of thousands of poor across the other side of the world in the 1830's and 1840's? Unless you look at world history, you will never understand the whole history of your family.

My own ancestry is entirely from within 50 miles of where I live today and my parents still live in the village where one side of my family has lived since the late C16th, so although I don't need to look at the history of Belle Ewart in Canada, Warwick in Australia or Hingham in the USA for my direct ancestors, I do need to look at them because some local families, including my "aunts" and "uncles" went to those places in the past. What a fantastic reason to learn about the world.”

Excellent, Glynn!  Glynn and I are planning a blog post where I will be asking him questions about research in the British Isles.  I have very little experience in this area so I will be using Glynn to help get good information out to you.  If you have any questions you would like Glynn to answer, please send them to ME

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Sad Heraldry Story

I have warned you in the past about the fly-by-night companies here in the United States that will “research” your family name and then send you your “coat of arms” or “family crest.”  On 03 Dec 2012, I answered a question about this for Harold.  You can read it HERE

It just so happens that my uncle had his family name researched (my mother’s maiden name) back in the 1960s but this was in Germany.  Germany take heraldry very seriously and I thought maybe fly-by-night companies wouldn’t be allowed to even exist because of it.  My uncle and my mother have had this coat of arms hanging on their walls for as long as I can remember.  I asked my mother about it (my uncle died in 2003) and she said that my uncle went through a reputable company and that the research took a long time.  When he got the coat of arms back, she had someone hand paint it on parchment and that is what she has on her wall.  She said that her brother received a packet of papers along with it but she hadn’t seen that since the 1960s and doesn’t remember what was in it. 

I asked the Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list if anyone knew of a Heraldry expert and I was given the name of David B. Appleton of Appleton Studios (thank you Trevia!)  David in turn referred me to the Heraldische Gemeinschaft Westfalen in Germany.

Here is the response I received back from the Michael Wass from the Heraldische Gemeinschaft Westfalen:

“Dear Mrs. Lewis,
Sorry but the arms seems to be a fake.  We run our database (almost 400.000 names and arms) and no match was found. We also tried several spellings as Wiechard etc. but also no match. In addition we couldn't find any arms having the same charges. Do you know the name of the German company who did the research? Most companies were fraudulent at that time.  Most of all the arms is not designed according to the German rules. Crest and helmet always have to point in the same direction.  In this case the Wings are pointing to dexter and the helmet is frontally. Also supporters are not very common in Germany. By German law supporters are no part of the armorial bearing they are decoration only. Motto scrolls are not often used too.
Yours truly
Michael Waas”

Well their go all my hopes right down the toilet.  Apparently the Germans have the same problem  with this sort of thing as American do.  By the way, here is the coat of arms in question:


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, March 10, 2013

When the Courthouse Burns

Public Service Announcement: I have taken the “Captcha” requirement off for comments posted to the blog.  I have changed it over to moderated.   What this means is you will no long have to type in the Captcha letters and numbers to comment. Your comment will go into a moderating queue and I will be able to filter out the spam that way.  The last time I turned Captcha off the blog was flooded with spam and I had to turn it right back on. Adding the moderation feature should make it where I can just ignore the spam and approve the real comments.  It will mean more work for me but it will make it much easier for you to post comments.  I will try it for a bit to see how it works out.

There are many resources out there that will teach you about SUBSTITUTE records you can use in place of the records that were lost due to fire, flood or vandalism but is it possible to find the actual records themselves?

On 08 November 1851, Silas Simmons applied for bounty land based on his service in the War of 1812.1   In the bounty land file there were Perry County court documents dated 03 March 1855 and 31 January 1856,  Silas had to appear in court to prove that he was in fact the same Silas Simmons that fought in in 10&20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia before he could be awarded his land.  So what is so special about that?  The Perry County Courthouse burned on 14 November 1877 with a complete records loss.2  The 1855 and 1856 court documents shouldn’t even exist.

So are there other places you might find county generated documents that should have been lost when the courthouse went up in smoke?

  • Bounty land applications and federal land entry files can contain copies of county generated documents as I have already shown.  You can find court records, deeds and marriage records.
  • The Appellate Court system will have copies of the lower court records for any case that went up the judicial ladder.  I have found all kinds of good stuff in the Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals.
  • Court documents can be found in loose probate packets that were generated AFTER the courthouse fire.  The principles in the probate will bring wills, deeds and marriage records to court for the probate proceedings and then those end up in the probate file.
  • Deeds are commonly found in the personal effects of the land or property owners and then those documents get passed down through the generations.  These will be the ORIGINALS.  The deeds you see in deed books are copies that were made by the county clerk.  You can also find marriage certificates and wills (ones that didn’t end up going to probate for some reason) this way.
  • Don’t forget that many county tax records  were copied and sent to the state so there are usually county tax rolls to be had even if the courthouse burns.

One last hint.  Whenever you are working with a “burned” county, contact the courthouse, state  archives, and check the Family History Library’s card catalog.  Many times you will find that there was only a partial records loss, not a complete one. 

1 Silas Simmons (Pvt. 10&20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia, War of 1812), bounty land warrant file 64098 (Act of 1855, 40 acres); Military Bounty Land Warrants and Related Papers; Records of the Bureau of Land Management, Record Group 49; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

2 Martha F. Clark, Perry County, Mississippi Circuit Court Clerk to Michele Simmons Lewis, e-mail, 10 Jan 2012, “Courthouse Records,” Lewis Research Files; privately held by Lewis, Harlem, Georgia, 2012.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Grits Without Salt

Ben asks:
”I am reading your blog posts one at a time starting with day one.  I am on
The Importance of Bios and I have a question.  How do you come up with all of that background information?”

I realize that only people from the deep south will understand this analogy but “grits without salt is WORSE than bland.”  That is how I view family trees that don’t include biographical information.  Please don’t reduce your ancestors to a laundry list of vital statistics.  These were real people that lead interesting lives.  [Off my soapbox now].  So how do you find this background info and how do you incorporate it into a biography? 

Researching the time period and the location is ESSENTIAL
You must take the time to research what was going on when your ancestor lived.  It will help you understand why he did the things that he did.  Read local history books.  You will find a lot of these on Google Books, Internet Archive and Family History Books (FamilySearch) that are out of copyright.  If your ancestor was a Union or Confederate soldier, read about the Civil War from their point of view.  If you ancestor was a planter or a farmer, read books about what it was like to be a planter or a farmer during that time period.  I recently wrote a blog post about Childbirth in the 18th Through 20th Centuries that recommends two books I think are essential to understand what the females in your family went through just to have babies.  If your family migrated, read books about what it was like on the trail. Did the family attend church? Religion was an important part of many people’s lives and you want to include that if you can. Knowing the denomination will also help you understand why they did the things they did. You need to take the time to read up on that particular denomination and its history.

Topography and the community can enlighten you even further
Did they live in a city?  A small town?  Out in the middle of nowhere?  Did they live in a valley?  Was it hilly? Was there a river or lake nearby?  Knowing what type of community they lived in and what the land was like can give you some insight on what type of house they may have lived in.  You might be able to find some copyright free photographs of both the area where they lived as well as sample houses that you can add to your biography that will add interest.

Go the extra mile
If you see that your ancestor was a farmer on the federal census, try finding him on the agricultural schedule.  Here is where you will find information about acreage, types of crops grown, kinds of animals raised etc.  That will tell you a lot about his daily life.  Construct maps showing where everyone lived in relation to everyone else based on land descriptions. Put together a timeline of your ancestor to make his life easy to follow (but you still need to have a narrative).  Search records that you really don’t think would apply to your family.  I was in the Columbia County courthouse awhile back and noticed that they had arrest records, logs of police encounters and lunacy books.  Just thumbing through I saw people’s names that I knew.  I was searching coroner’s reports for a specific person and found another person I wasn’t expecting.  These unusual record sets will definitely spice up your narrative!

Read between the lines
Did your person of interest have extended family living with him in the census records?  Elderly parents or newlywed children?  That gives you some insight on the family dynamics.  How much property did he own, did he own slaves?  This can give you a sense of wealth. Always pay attention to who went to school and who didn’t and who is listed as illiterate.  This can mean many things.  Were there no schools in the area?  (check the other families living nearby).  Was the family poor and needed the children to stay home to work?  Did your person of interest have some sort of disability?  Some families simply didn’t see the need for any formal education.  When you have multiple possibilities you can discuss them in your narrative.  One thing to look out for are children who didn’t go to school in earlier censuses but are listed as being able to read and write in the later ones.  This can indicate children who were taught to read and write at home by their parents which was very common.

At the minimum you should have a biography for every one of your direct line ancestors.  Once you get into the habit of writing them up it actually gets a lot easier.  As you do the research, you will get to “know” your ancestor better and you will want to tell others about him/her. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, March 8, 2013

Questions About Census Records and Citations

Howland posted this question on the Legacy Family Tree mailing list and I thought it was a really good one so I asked his permission to post it here.

“I have an ancestor who was a supervisor in an asylum for the insane per the 1880 census.  The first person listed for the dwelling is the superintendent of the facility.  When I write a citation for the census, is he the head of the household or would I show the name of the facility as the household name (i.e., McLean Asylum for the Insane Household, 1880 U.S. Census, etc.)?”

I have orphanages, prisons, hospitals and insane asylums in my database and I record the name of the facility as the head of household.  Here is an example:

1930 U.S. census, Hinds County, Mississippi, population schedule, Beat 1, enumeration district (ED) 26, sheet 2A, p. 254 (stamped), dwelling [none], family [none], Baptist Orphanage; digital images, ( : accessed 02 July 2010); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 1147. 

I write the name exactly as recorded on the census page.

This brings up another question about recording households that came up in one of the ProGen assignments. “How should you record a household that has multiple families?”  Here is a sample citation for that:

1880 U.S. census, Marshall County, Alabama, population schedule, Beat 16, enumeration district (ED) 258, p. 26 (penned), dwelling 87, family 98, John D. McMichael household, Charlottie Miller family; digital images, ( : accessed 01 Sep 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll 24. 

Here is another question from one of the mailing lists. “What date do you record, the official enumeration date or the date the census taker actually went out to the house?” 

I always use the date the census taker wrote at the top of the page unless there is no date recorded in which case I will use the official enumeration date.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Steno Pads

By now  you know that I am a bit of a techno dweeb.  I use my computer all the time but I know that I don’t take advantage of all of the technology that is available out there.  I look at my cyberfriend Thomas MacEntee with awe and jealousy.  He knows more about the high tech aspect of genealogy than anyone else I know.  Sometimes I think I might be missing out on some things that could help me be a more effective researcher.  In the meantime, I rely on my steno pads. 


Yes, I still make paper notes.  I take my steno pads everywhere I go.  Unlike Thomas and the like I don’t use my smart phone (I don’t even have a smart phone) to record my notes along the way.  I have a steno pad in my purse, in my car, in my laptop case and several on my desk.  I just love those things.  I am going to cemetery today to snap a photo for a Find-A-Grave request.  My steno pad will be going with me because you never know what I might need to write down. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Where are Edward and Grace Jung?

Linda, fellow member of the Columbia County Genealogical Society (CCGS), posted this dilemma on the CCGS’s mailing list:

“I am stymied. I know the Jung family lived in NYC or New Jersey in 1940. I have tried to find Grace Jung b. 1901,d. 1970 Teaneck, N.J, Her husband, Edward Jung b. 1899, d. 1952 Hoboken. Both were born in or around NYC. They had 4 children:

  • Katherine b.1920, married William Shaw so she may not show asJung but she is not listed as Shaw either.
  • Edward b. 1922
  • Walter b.1927--- (my husbands father)
  • Charles b. 1930

I know they were there. I tried alternate spellings.... Yung, Young, Sung.  No luck. why am I unable to find them?”

Myself and other members of the group started searching the 1940 looking for this family.  I want to show you why they were so elusive.  Here is the image from  You can see that the image is blurred.  This family’s surname was indexed by as Jerry.

Jung 011940 U.S. census, Hudson County, New Jersey, population schedule, Weehawken Township,Ward 3, enumeration district (ED) 346, sheet 3B, p. 4320 (stamped), household 60, Edward Jung household; digital images, ( : accessed 05 March 2013); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 2353.

Rhonda (another CCGS member) tried FamilySearch and found the family indexed correctly as Jung.  The image on FamilySearch is equally blurry but the indexer figured out the correct name.  Always check another index if you are having a problem finding someone.

Here is another hint. if you have a hard to read image try looking at that page on another site (, FamilySearch, Heritage Quest, Internet Archives, and NARA if you happen to be searching the 1940).  Even though all of these websites start with the same microfilm, they use different digitizing equipment and enhancement techniques so what looks unreadable on one could be perfectly clear on another.

One more thing, if you get stuck like Linda did, ask someone else to take a look. Sometimes that is all it takes.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The 1790 Census

Joelle comments:
”I just don’t get much out of the 1790 census.  I already know the head of household’s name and the ages of the other people don’t tell me anything.”

This is one of those analyzing the data moments.  Let’s look at a sample entry:

Philip Perry household1
1 free white male age 16 and over
2 free white males under age 16
2 free white females

  • Philip was alive on 02 August 1790
  • Philip was living in Robeson County, North Carolina on 02 August 1790
  • Philip was born before 1775
  • Philip most likely had a wife and three children, two boys and 1 girl, all living on 02 August 1790. The two sons would have been born between 1775-1790.
  • Philip married before 1790
  • Philip had no slaves

Another thing you need to check is who all was living near your person of interest in 1790.  This particular page was a goldmine of info.  Not only are there family members listed living in the area but there are households of people that migrated to Marion County, Mississippi along with the Perry family later down the line.  Being able to track families that migrated together will unlock many doors. Philip owning slaves or not (and the number of slaves) can give me a general idea of his wealth and land ownership. The demographic information becomes more useful as you are comparing censuses.  Here is the family in 1800:

Phillip Perry household2
2 free white males age 10 to under 16
1 free white male age 45 and over
1 free white female age 45 and over

  • Phillip Perry was alive on 04 August 1800
  • Phillip Perry was living in Fayetteville [Robeson County, North Carolina] on 04 August 1800
  • Phillip was born 1756 [this narrowed his date of birth considerably from the 1790]
  • Phillip was most likely married [wife born before 1756] and had two sons in the household.  The two sons listed are most likely the same sons listed in the 1790. I can now put their dates of birth between 1785-1790 which is a nice narrow range.
  • The assumed daughter that was listed in the 1790 is now gone.  She most likely married. You could check to see if any Perry females married in Robeson County between 1790 and 1800.
  • Phillip married before 1790 (based on the ages of the children)
  • Phillip had no slaves

I can’t analyze this page for neighbors because this census is a copy in which the names were put in alphabetical order.

I worked this family forward in time but you really need to work them backward in time.  If you are lucky enough to have a family in the 1850 and then work them backward you will be able to put some names to the children that have no names in the earlier censuses.  You can also use other documents to help put names to the nameless (marriage records, probate etc.)  It is like piecing a puzzle together and it is a lot of fun.

Here is an example of being able to identify people in a pre-1850 census by correlating all of the available records:

Silas Simmons3
2 free white males age 5 to under 10 [John and Benjamin]
1 free white male age 10 to under 15 [James]
1 free white male age 15 to under 20 [Abner]
1 free white male age 20 to under 30 [William]
1 free white male age 40 to under 50 [Silas]
1 free white female under 5 [unknown]
1 free white female age 5 to under 10 [Melinda]
1 free white female age 15 to under 20 [Nancy]
1 free white female age 20 to under 30 [Mary]
1 free white female age 40 to under 50 [wife Janet]

I have but one unknown child.  This child does not appear in the 1850 census.  It is possible that she married very young but it is more likely that she died.

Don’t discount the 1790 census as useless.  Not only can you glean important information from the census itself you will be able to deduce even more when you correlate the information with all of the other data you collect.

1 1790 U.S. census, Robeson County, North Carolina, p. 145 (penned), col. 1, line 12, Philip Perry household; digital images, ( : accessed 11 Sep 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M637, roll 7. 

21800 U.S. census, Robeson County, North Carolina, Fayetteville, p. 411 (stamped), line 13, Phillip Perry household; digital images,  ( : accessed 11 Sep 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M32, roll 32.

31840 U.S. census, Perry County, Mississippi, p. 180 (stamped), line 5, Silas Simmons household; digital images, ( : accessed 12 Feb 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M704, roll 217. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, March 4, 2013

Questions About Research Calendars and Certified Copies

DNA Update: 
Ordered – 15 Feb 2013
Kit received by my uncle – 21 Feb 2013
My uncle mailed it back – 22 Feb 2013
Kit received by FTDNA – 28 Feb 2013

Book List Update:
I have added the following two books to my collection:

  • Fitzpatrick, Colleen. Forensic Genealogy. Fountain Valley, California: Rice Book Press, 2005.
  • Schaefer, Christina K. The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1999.

Daniel asks: 
“How do you document all of the random internet searches that you do? [In reference to Don't Neglect A Simple Google Search]

I am switching more and more of my research calendar stuff to Legacy’s built-in To-Do List.  This is one example where the To-Do List works better than a traditional research calendar. I have an entry for Google Searches. In the results box I have a running list of every search I have done along with the exact search terms and the date.  Knowing what search terms you used helps for future searches. 

I also do this for message board and mailing list queries but I do each of these as a separate entry.  I put the date, name of the list and a copy of the exact query.  If I get responses, that goes on the results page. 

Nan comments:
”When visiting in Warren County [Georgia] some years ago, I saw the marriage book where my GGG grandparents marriage (1808) was recorded.  The lady judge said she could make a copy of the page for a few cents, or for some $ she could give me a certified copy.  She said the former wouldn't be worth the paper it was printed on!”

About your Warren County experience.  When I go to a courthouse I just snap digital photos instead of getting paper copies.  If I write to a courthouse I ask for plain paper copies.  There is no reason whatsoever to pay extra for a certified copy.  Certified copies are used to prove something to a court or a government agency.  For example, let’s say you just got married and you want to get a social security card in your new name.  You will need a certified copy of your marriage license to get this.  The only advantage to a certified copy is that it usually looks nicer.  It doesn’t make the record any more valid. I will warn you that some counties will only release certified copies (generates more money for them?). In those cases you might want to see if the Family History Library has the records on microfilm.  It will be cheaper for you especially if  you can pull multiple records off of one microfilm.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, March 3, 2013



This would be me at the Georgia Archives looking at microfilm. I would love to know if there are any blog readers out there that have never used a microfilm (or microfiche) reader. Back in the olden days this is all we had other than books and trips to the courthouse. I can’t even tell you how many hours I spent glued to one of these things. The one I am using here is a fancy one. This is the first time I have used one that allows you to download the images directly to a flash drive. I have since learned that this is actually an older model and there are even fancier machines out there. Living in the sticks does have its disadvantages sometimes.

I just worry that new researchers rely too heavily on the internet because it is so available and easy to use.  The problem is that the internet only has a mere fraction of what the Family History Center, the National Archives and the State Archives have on microfilm.  There are also many records that have never even been microfilmed or digitized and you will only find those by visiting the state archives or courthouses in person.  Please don’t limit yourself to just the internet because all it will do for you is build a lot of brick walls.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Georgia Archives

I am at the Georgia Archives today.  My daughter Kaitlyn is with me so I am having double the fun.  I would like to remind you that not everything you need is on the internet and  that is why I am at the Archives.

I am also hoping to hear the latest news about the Archives transferring from the control of the Secretary of State to the University of Georgia system which I think will be a good thing.  The archivists  think this is what they need to get  back on track.  The University System can give them a better organizational structure, more resources and more money.

We will back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, March 1, 2013

World Cat and Interlibrary Loan




   Is é Márta an mhí le haghaidh taighde na hÉireann.
Is mian liom leat ádh mór maith!





I wanted to give a quick mention to World Cat and interlibrary loan just in case any of you are not familiar with it. I just got notified by the Euchee Creek library that two interlibrary loan books I ordered are in and that is what made me think about it.

World Cat is an electronic card catalog that includes most of the public libraries in the country and many from around the world. You can search for books and if you find something that you like, you can request it via interlibrary loan. You cannot get a book (or microfilm) by interlibrary loan if it is catalogued as a reference material. You will be asked to pay for the postage to get the item to your local library. The library will ask you upfront what the max you will pay is. The ones that I just ordered cost me $3. All you do is give the librarian the publication info. They put it into the computer and the computer decides which library it will come from. I just print the page from World Cat and give that to the librarian.

Another thing you use World Cat for is to see if the library that has this book is within driving distance and then you don’t have to order it. You put in your zip code and it will give you a list of libraries that have that book in order of distance. That is how I find books at the Special Collections room at Augusta State University. They have a really nice collection and they are very friendly there. All of their books are catalogued as reference material so I can’t get them on interlibrary loan anyway.

Right now I happen to be researching three brothers that fought in the War of 1812. They enlisted on the same day in the same unit. What is odd is that they were from Mississippi but they joined a Louisiana unit. What is even odder is that one of the brothers was a lieutenant in the Mississippi Militia (pre war) and then resigned and joined the Louisiana unit as a private. I thought the following two books might give me some background information that would help me understand this:

  • Rowland, Eron. Mississippi Territory in the War of 1812. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968.
  • Casey, Powell A. Louisiana in the War of 1812. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: privately published, 1963.

I found them on World Cat and ordered them via interlibrary loan.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis