Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Just to the right you will see a link to GeneaBloggers.  Do you know what GeneaBloggers is?  Thomas MacEntee maintains a clearinghouse of most (if not all) the genealogy related blogs on the internet.  He makes it really easy to find blogs you might find interesting and helpful to your research as well as blogs that are just plain fun.  Thomas has well over 3000 blogs listed on his website and he has them categorized so finding what you are looking for is easy.  GeneaBloggers also provides help and support for the actual bloggers.  Thomas has a list of Daily Blogging Prompts to give you some ideas when you have a case of writer’s block.  Thomas will showcase your blog on Facebook and Google+.  Thomas has thousands of friends and followers so your blog will get some serious exposure.  He will also post about your blog again on its anniversary date.

Blogging is a great way to show off your research and to connect with others working on the same research problems as you are.  It will also help keep your research organized and on track. Why not start your own blog!  Just make sure that you take advantage of GeneaBloggers by registering your blog and displaying the GeneaBloggers logo on your home page.

Bloggers, you can support your fellow genealogy bloggers but visiting the new blogs that Thomas posts and leaving a word of encouragement in their comments. If you are on Facebook you can “like” Thomas’ posts when he showcases new blogs or announces an anniversary and if you are on Google+ you can hit the +1. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 29, 2013

Paid Subscriptions

Dan asks:
”What paid subscription sites do you subscribe to?”  I can’t decide which ones  I need and which ones I don’t.”

Which ones you need depends greatly on the type of research you do.  For example, I don’t subscribe to British Isles record sites because I don’t do British Isles research, at least not right now.  I can tell you what I subscribe to but that  doesn’t necessarily mean that my choices will work for you.

Ancestry.com – This is the first thing I subscribed to and have had it for many years.  The initial reason I subscribed was for the census records.  It was so wonderful to not have to drive to downtown Tampa to look at microfilm.  I could stay and home and do research.  Now that census records are online for free that isn’t my main reason for using Ancestry.com anymore.  They have a lot of other indexes and image databases that I use.  I will say that the more things that FamilySearch digitizes, the less I need Ancestry.com and I anticipate that one day I will give up my subscription.  I only subscribe to the U.S. collection.

Fold3 – I do a lot of military research and this site is essential for me.  It saves me tons of time and money.  It is so nice to pull up digital images of compiled service records and pension files without having to order them through the state archives or NARA.  If you are a member of the National Genealogical Society (possibly other groups as well) you can get a Fold3 subscription for half price ($39.95/year) which is a bargain.  To see other reasons why you should join genealogical societies click HERE

GenealogyBank – I am addicted to GenealogyBank.  I can’t even tell you how much good stuff I have found here.  Many brick walls have been solved by using newspapers.  GenealogyBank is adding more papers on an almost daily basis.

NewspaperArchive – I subscribe to this site because of ONE newspaper, The Hattiesburg American.  The day that GenealogyBank carries The Hattiesburg American is the day I drop NewspaperArchive.  I like GenealogyBank much better but I have to have The Hattiesburg American.  A lot of my research is in rural Lamar/Forrest Counties and this paper covers it. 

Everything else I do on the internet is on the Freebie sites.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Major Photographic Coup!

I am sure you know by now that I buy up old photos in order to keep them safe and available for other researchers.  Yesterday I was scanning, dating, and cataloging a set of 10 cabinet cards I bought off of eBay on 22 March 2013.  I bought them for 55 cents each including shipping.  When I went to scan the last photo I noticed that it was labeled on the back with the name “Mrs. William McKinley.”  Could it be?  I did a quick internet search and found that indeed it is a photograph of Ida (Saxton) McKinley, wife of President William McKinley.  You can read a short biography of Ida (Saxton) McKinley HERE.  If you notice, the same photograph is shown on this page.  This tells us that Mrs. McKinley had several copies of this same photo made which was a very common practice.  All I know is that I have one now and I can pretty much guarantee this one will be framed and put on my wall.   For more information about this photograph, please visit our other blog, Orphan Photos.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Alex Haley’s Roots

One of my relatives asked me about Roots yesterday. She had just watched the mini series on video from the library.  She wanted to know what I thought about it.  She is a NOT a genealogist but knows that I am and she figured I had an opinion.   “Do you think this story is true?  I think it would be hard to prove all of this.”  Great observation.  African-American genealogy is challenging to say the least and Alex Haley followed his line back further than most African-American researchers are able to do.

For the best analysis of Roots, please read Elizabeth Shown Mills and Gary B Mills’ article, “The Genealogist’s Assessment of Alex Haley’s Roots which appeared in the March 1984 issues of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.  Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG ,CGL, FASG is considered one of the top genealogists in the field and is a respected researcher and writer.

We must give credit to Alex Haley for one thing.  His book motivated people to delve into their own past and a new generation of genealogists was born.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, April 26, 2013

Adoption Birth Certificates

Sherry asks:
”Do you know anything about some kind of form that might be registered in certain states when a birth happens that might have the birth mother and birth father's name, even if a birth certificate was then issued with the adopted mother and adopted father's names on the birth certificate?  I was told in passing by a genealogy "fairy" that there is a form like that that can be found later, but now that there is a need for the info, I can't find the term she used or how to figure it out.  Any idea what I'm talking about? Like an after birth but pre-adoption birth certificate or a pre-adoption form or something?”

Whether or not you can get the original birth certificate or not depends completely on the state of issue. Each state has a form you fill out to request a birth certificate (even for “normal” ones) and you can find that on the state’s department of health website.  There might have been a form (worksheet) that was filled out at the time but that would have only been used for informational purposes to assist in filling out the birth certificate itself.  This form, if it was used, wouldn’t have been kept and even if it had of been it wouldn’t have anything on it that isn’t on the birth certificate itself. 

Some states allow the adoptee to get a copy of the original birth certificate once they become an adult.  Some also allow children of the adoptee to get a copy.  Some states will issue a birth certificate with some of the information blotted out (like the parents’ names).  Some states don’t allow anyone to get a copy without a court order.  In some states one or both of the birth parents can block the release of any information to the adoptee.  The rules for your state will be on the state’s department of health website and then you can go from there.

Sherry also had a follow-up question:
”What do people do who were in closed adoptions but need a passport, for example, and only have their adoption birth certificate?”

Getting a passport is no problem at all. The adoption birth certificate is the official birth certificate. You would never need the original one.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kissing Cousins

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Here is a great FREE webinar on Preserving Photographs.  Per the course synopsis, “This presentation offers basic guidance on the care and preservation of family photographs from nineteenth-century tintypes to contemporary color prints. The webinar addresses the fundamental physical and chemical properties of photographic print and negative materials, including albums and scrapbooks, and the causes and mechanisms of their deterioration. Strategies for preservation, such as proper handling, storage and display techniques, will be shared.”  This webinar is sponsored by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, a division of the American Library Association.

Blog reader Angel sent me a fascinating story about Iceland.  Iceland has a very small population so they have a problem with people that are too closely related dating/marrying.  Everyone is pretty much related to everyone else in one way or another.  They now have an app for that.  You can read about it HERE.

Most genealogists have come across cousin marriages in their research, especially if you do research in rural areas.  I was curious to know which states allow cousin marriages (this of course is current law). 

Here is a list of states that allow first cousin marriages with no restrictions:

New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina (DOUBLE first cousins is illegal)
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Washington DC

Here is a list of states that allow first cousin marriages with caveats:

Arizona – allowed if couple unable to have children
Illinois – allowed if couple unable to have children
Indiana – allowed if couple unable to have children
Maine – allowed if couple submits to genetic counseling
Minnesota – allowed if couple is Native American and if that culture allows it
Utah – allowed if couple unable to have children
Wisconsin – allowed if couple unable to have children

This only pertains to first cousins. There are also laws that make other relationships illegal (father-daughter, brother-sister, uncle-niece, etc.) and these also vary by state. I was really surprised to see it is illegal in Mississippi.  I can’t even tell you how many cousin marriages I have in my family in that state. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Have You Ordered Your Book Yet?

One of the most anticipated genealogy books is about to be released by the National Genealogical Society. Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS is scheduled to ship on 20 May 2013.  You can preorder your copy HERE.  If you want to bring your research to the next level you need this book.  Tom is an expert on the Genealogy Proof Standard and he is an excellent instructor.  You can read more about Tom HERE.  The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is a methodical and systematic approach to research.  I did a series of blog posts in February to introduce you to the GPS. 

Step 1 – A Reasonably Exhaustive Search
Step 2 – Complete and Accurate Source Citations
Step 3 – Analysis and Correlation of the Collected Information
Step 4 – Resolution of Any Conflicting Evidence
Step 5 – A Soundly Reasoned, Coherently Written Conclusion

I highly recommend that you order this book. 

opyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

FamilySearch Has A New Look

FamilySearch has updated its home page with a new look. There are six main tabs, FAN  CHART, PHOTOS, FAMILY TREE, SEARCH, INDEXING and LIVE HELP.  To get to what sort of looks like their old page, either click the SEARCH button at the top or the SEARCH button on the 6 button toolbar.  On the search page you will now see a direct link to BOOKS which is FamilySearch’s collection of out of copyright books.  It also includes manuscripts that have been digitized from microfilm.  These are compiled genealogies that have been submitted to the Family History Library.  This was not on the main page before.

Photos is a new section.  FamilySearch is now encouraging people to upload photographs as well as their family tree.  For those people that have access to New FamilySearch it is still available but I don’t know for how much longer.  FamilySearch will be taking it down and Family Tree will be the only access to the data. 

Getting to the FamilySearch Wiki and the online courses is a bit tricky.  There is no direct link on the home page. Click on the GET HELP link in the upper right corner.  You will see a drop down list.  Click the last entry, HELP CENTER.  To get to the online course click  on LEARNING CENTER.  To get to Wiki click on RESEARCH ASSISTANCE.  You will see the VISIT THE RESEARCH WIKI at the bottom. 

The FamilySearch Forums have been discontinued.  They will be replacing the forums with some sort of question and answer format but I haven’t seen it yet.

For more information, you can watch Legacy’s FREE webinar What’s New at FamilySearch.  This particular webinar will be archived and will remain free so you don’t have to be in any hurry to watch it.  It will be shown live tomorrow, Wednesday, 24 April 2013 at 2:00pm EST. 

  Between yesterday and today FamilySearch has added a link to the Wiki on the main search page.  Many people had complained about it FamilySearch.  This was a topic of discussion on Facebook and on several genealogy mailing lists.  I am glad that FamilySearch listened.  It is nice to have all of the main links in one place.  To get to the Wiki click on the SEARCH button at the top of the page.  You will now see the WIKI link right next to BOOKS.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 22, 2013

What do Foot, Horse and Dragoon Have in Common?

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS:  I am back (obviously!).  I didn’t get everything done that I needed to but at least my head is back above water.  I ordered another DNA test.  I can see how DNA tests can be addicting.  FamilyTreeDNA has a sale going on that ends TODAY (22 April 2013).

Angel asks:
”I have a question that I cannot seem to find the answer for: What does "CAPTAIN OF HORSE" mean in US history? I know it has something to do with a high honor ranking in the militia in the 1740's...maybe Captain of the Horse Soldiers?”

Captain of Foot – captain of the infantry (foot soldiers)
Captain of Horse – captain of the cavalry (soldiers on horseback)
Captain of Dragoon – captain of the mounted infantry.  They were armed with muskets called dragons.  These guys were trained foot soldiers but used horses to get from place to place.  They were not the same as the cavalry who trained and fought on horseback.

You usually see these terms in the 15th- early 19th centuries. These terms were used in British, French, German and American armies as well as several other countries. 

Angel also asks:
”I enjoyed the blog today and tried to find a used copy of the Lyman book but there were several that looked alike but had different ISBN numbers...are there more than one version? Which one would you recommend and is there any place where it is digitized online I can view?”

Angel is referring to the Timelines and Tables blog post where I mentioned the 3 volume set  Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia by Lyman Chalkley.  The different ISBNs you are seeing are for different reprints.  The content is the same.  Here are two digital versions, one on InternetArchive and one on  Rootsweb.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Couple of Interesting Websites

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: I am taking a week off from posting because I am in the middle of a couple of big genealogical projects that have deadlines.  I will continue to post on the Orphan Photos Blog because it only takes me a minute to get a post ready for that one.  I will be back on Monday, April 22, 2013.

Someone posted a question about the definition of “mulatto” in reference to census records on the National Genealogical Society’s Home Study Course mailing list.  Someone else posted a website that details the instructions given to the enumerators for the 1850 through 1950 censuses.  The Enumerator Instructions are very interesting and will answer a lot of your questions about what was recorded on the census.

Genealogy Trails is a collection of individual state and county website set up very much like USGenWeb.  The emphasis is on the transcription of documents. It is free and worth taking a look at.  You will find some things here that aren’t on USGenWeb.  Genealogy Trails hasn’t gotten a lot of publicity and I think many genealogists don’t even know about it so I am giving it a little air time here.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dawes Rolls

Carrie asks:
”I was told I should look at the “Dawes Rolls” to find my Indian ancestors.  What are the Dawes Rolls?”

It is a census of sorts of Indians in the “Five Civilized Tribes” that was taken from 1898-1914.  The Five civilized tribes were the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles.  You can read a short explanation on the FamilySearch Wiki, Dawes Commission Enrollment: Records for Five U.S. Indian Tribes.  The National Archives also has some great info on their Native American Heritage page.  If you are wanting to be recognized by one of these 5 tribes as a potential member you will need to be able to prove your genealogy to someone listed on the rolls.  The INDEX is available on FamilySearch and the IMAGES are available on Fold3 (a paid subscription site).  There are two sets of records, the Dawes Enrollment Cards and the Dawes Packets.  Both are important and have great info.  What is neat about the enrollment cards is you will also see those persons that applied for recognition but were denied.  In the packets is where you will find the meat and potatoes information.  You will find applications, letters, questionnaires etc. that are loaded with genealogical information.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, April 12, 2013

Timelines and Tables

This week I had a conversation with a researcher who was asking for some help with a brick wall.  He wasn’t sure if he was dealing with one person or two people with the same name and he wanted to know what his next move should be.  My advice was to plot everything he knew on a timeline.  Timelines are one of my favorite strategies to figure out that very question, is it one person or two.  I have a blog post about Timelines in general where I explain what records/events you need to be looking for to put on your timeline.  In this case the researcher already knew that there were other record sets that he needed to examine to find more data.  Remember, a person can’t be in two places at one time and a person can’t have two different wives, two different sets of parents nor different siblings.  (Well, as a general rule he can’t.  We aren’t going to get into bigamy in this post).  You are also looking for other subtle differences like unexplained differences in ages, land purchases and sales that don’t quite add up, two distinct  sets of witnesses on documents, subtle differences in the name (you have records in the name of John Doe and in the name of John W. Doe), etc.

I use a simple table/spreadsheet to keep track of my timeline data.  I usually just do this in Microsoft Word but for very complicated cases I will use Excel because I can sort my columns so that I can look at my data in different ways.  For example, I used a spreadsheet to extract all of the data from the books,  Chalkley, Lyman. Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, 3 volumes. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1965, that involved a Patton.  My ultimate goal was to separate out all of the Mathew Patton entries because I was sure there were at least two, possibly three Mathew Pattons in Augusta County, Virginia at the same time.  I needed to follow all of the other Pattons as well because I wanted to see who was related to whom which would help separate the Mathew Pattons.  I can’t put my spreadsheet on the blog for you to look at because there are 357 entries.  This is the most involved timeline I have done to date.  I have 63 entries just for Mathew Patton.  Because I used a spreadsheet, I can sort by date or by person or by type of event.  Using this spreadsheet I was able to say with all certainty that there were at least two Mathew Pattons.  I was also able to separate the records out for each (pretty much) and I was able to find both Mathews in later records (both migrated to different areas).  I still have some records that don’t quite fit either man and that is why I think there is a third.  I am still working on that. 

I want to add that the above books are an extraction/abstraction of documents. Normally I work with original records but in this case extraction/abstraction books were much more helpful in sorting everything out.  It is similar to using indexes to get your research going.  I would of course request the pertinent originals at some point. 

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Vital Records and Genealogy 101

Anonymous asks:
”Where do you go to find out when a particular state started recording births and deaths?”

I like VitalRec for this since all the states are listed in one place.  I don’t order records through VitalRec though.  I order directly from the state agency that handles the birth and death records which is usually the state department of health.  Be aware that the individual counties may have older records.  You definitely want to get your marriage records from the county courthouse because in almost all cases the county was recording marriages long before the state got involved. 

Francine asks:
”I am an absolute beginner.  I have no idea where to start.  Any advice?”

Start by watching FamilySearch’s Beginning Videos. Scroll the the bottom of the page and you will see 21 episodes of “5 Minute Genealogy.” This is a great way to learn the absolute basics.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Follow-up on Chancery Suits

The Twin Rivers Genealogy Society in Lewiston, Idaho will be using some of my brick wall information in an upcoming presentation.  Thank you, Jill Nock (president of the TWGS), for reading the blog and for sharing the information with your group. 

I have added a new page to the blog.  The Toolbox page has my favorite websites listed by category.  This is a work in progress so check back often.  I am going through my bookmarks and cleaning them up as I am updating this page so it will take a while to get it just right.

Here is a follow-up on Chancery Suits from Holly:

“I received the Chancery suit yesterday. It was an informative document. I found the name of Mariah's daughter, Mary Ann Moffett. In it, Mariah and her daughter vs George W. Booth (Mariah's husband) and his brother Thomas Harper Booth. The judge asks questions of two others, Alexander G Booth, another brother and J. Jarrett Morrow about their hiring of two negro boys Jim and Bill and how long they employed them and who did they pay. The boys were hired for $140 apiece for 5 months of work. The money was paid to George W. Booth and the time period was 1838. Mariah and her daughter wanted their share of the money. Since the other record I have not yet received was from 1838, this year must be critical. My bet is that Mariah and her husband parted ways this year, financially and otherwise and that is what the 1838 document is concerning.

Now, my question is, were trial separations given in this time period? Where would I go to look for a possible divorce? I can find lists of marriage records, but not divorces. I am sure it would be covered under some other court action. Each state did everything so differently, I have no idea where to look.”

Whenever I have a question like this the first place I look for an answer is the FamilySearch Wiki.  This is a convenient and fast way to find things out. It isn’t always completely up-to-date but it is a great starting point.  I found a wiki page just for Alabama Divorce Records.  On this page you will see that there are divorce records back to 1818.  The original records are held by the Alabama Department of Archives and History and have been microfilmed by the Family History Library. 

As far as a legal separation goes, this concept was first established in Alabama in 1852 and was a divorce “a mensa et thoro” which means a divorce from bed and board. You can read about it HERE.  In 1838 this wouldn’t have existed.  Your Mariah and George might have been separated but it wouldn’t have been a legal arrangement. 

I found that answer on Google Books which is another one of my favorite places to go to find an answer to a question.  I had a teacher in high school tell me that no one can possibly know everything but as long as you know where to look to find the answer then you will get along just fine.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Correspondence and Junior-Senior

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  I encourage you to read Warning!  Don’t do THIS by my friend Heather Wilkinson Rojo.  In my novice days I made this very same mistake.  I don’t make this mistake anymore.  You can learn something important by reading Heather’s blog post.

Anonymous asks:
”I was wondering if you have ever called someone on the possibility that they maybe a relative or lead to a relative? If so, what were the results? Also, have you ever written someone but never heard from them? What did you after that? Write them again or call if you had their number from the whitepages.com?”

Just a few months ago I called three people I had found on White Pages. All three were the right people and all three were just as nice as they could be on the phone. I have also written to people using the addresses I found on White Pages. I have called people and the person on the other end of the line wasn't the right person but I have never gotten a rude response. I have written to people and many times never got a response but I have also written to people and gotten a lot more than I expected. I guess it is a bit of a crap shoot. I do not write them again unless the letter was returned as undeliverable and I find another address. I only call back if there was no answer. If I left a message on an answering machine and I don't hear back then I don't call again. I might follow up with a letter though.

Sherman asks:
”I found a birth record in Tennessee in 1910 that goes against the accepted information regarding a child and his father. The accepted link is Fred McMurray - Fred McMurray, Jr, because of names on headstones and relative proximity in the cemetery. A birth record I recently found states Fred, later called junior, was actually son of a brother of the elder Fred. Headstone proximity can be explained simply because they were related and died within months of each other in 1910 and 1911, though the headstone clearly states Fred junior. Some have argued that the birth record was covering up a possible illegitimate birth.  I'm looking to add some weight to my case that accepted information is wrong and juniors are not always sons.”

You are correct.  Senior-Junior designations do not automatically mean father-son.  This was a way to differentiate between two men (usually in two different generations) with the same name living in the same area at the same time and it could have easily been uncle-nephew.  It could even be an older cousin and a younger cousin.  It is even possible that the two men were not even related but just fell into being called senior and junior.  Also, when the older one died, the younger one usually moved up a rung and became senior. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 8, 2013

Slave Children?

Question from Angel:
“I ran across a will of my ancestor, who apparently was a plantation/slave owner in 1826. SUCH a sensitive subject but fascinating nonetheless, especially when I saw he made provisions for each one and obviously thought of their welfare. This is such a deep subject and people either feel one way or the other, but I do believe that some slaves were considered family and when freed, did not want to leave.

One of the things that jumped out at me was that in the will, after he provided for every one of his children and son-in-law (he was a wealthy man in Virginia and a Captain in the Revolutionary War, as well as other military assignments in Virginia), there was a mention that $50 would be set aside for  "children named for me".

It especially caught my eye due to the quotation marks used. Is this a way to acknowledge a child by a slave mother, possibly by him? I do believe there was a tradition or practice for slaves to name their child after the Master, because then they would be taken care of, and maybe not separated down the line. Or am I off-base? I am trying to research more about this time in our history. What are your thoughts? I am eager to hear what you think.”

I did not know the answer to this question as I have never seen this wording in a will myself so I posed the question to the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) mailing list.  I got two great answers and I asked for permission to post those answers here.

Michael Hait, CG stated, “He was more likely talking about grandchildren. I have seen wills with similar provisions, where the sons of daughters legally changed their names—including dropping their father’s surname—in order to receive the inheritance.  It is extremely rare that (1) slave children were acknowledged by their owner-fathers, or (2) slave children were named after their owners."

Drew Smith stated, “Googling the phrase "children named for me" turns up some wills in Pennsylvania in which this language is used: "if any remained to be divided among any grand children named for me" and "and the remainder to be divided equally among the grand-children named for me and my first wife". A North Carolina will has the language "to each of my other grandchildren named for me or my wife $1" and a Virginia will states "to grandchildren "named for me" $50 when each comes of age".  (So the latter one uses that phrase in quotations, too.)  So this seems to point to its use being primarily to reward heirs for naming their kids after the benefactor, and even the phrase in quotation marks doesn't seem to point to slave children. Perhaps it's in quotation marks to provide some leeway as to how the child's name was written?”

Thank you Michael and Drew!

Please visit:
Michael Hait, CG’s blog Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession
Drew Smith’s blog Rootsmithing: Genealogy, Methodology and Technology

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Orphan Photos, FS Family Tree, Indexing and SS-5s

Keri asks:
”Are you doing any research yourself to find the families of the people in your
orphan photos?”

I really don’t have the time.  I am hoping the readers will get curious enough to do a little sleuthing.  For now I am just happy to rescue the photos and keep them safe. 

Rebecca asks:
”Do you have your family tree on FamilySearch’s Family Tree?”

I have a few selected individuals and small branches on FS’s Family Tree.  I do not have my entire file uploaded nor do I have any immediate plans to do so.  I upload a person here or there as I am working on them to give me the time to combine duplicates, add notes, etc.

Bev  asks:
”I have gotten addicted to indexing records [
FamilySearch Indexing] What is your favorite thing to index?” 

I am partial to military records.  I also like any sort of death record because I think they are very interesting.  My current favorite project is the Maine Delayed Births, Marriages, and Deaths.

John asks:
”How long does it normally take to get a
SS-5 back?”

A long time, at least 8 weeks.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Photo Filing Systems, ProGens, and Relationships

Dan asks:
”On your
photo blog what do the numbers under the photos mean?”

I am answering this on the main blog because I only post photos on the other one.  I did let Dan know where to find his answer.  The number under the photo (ex. B01P019) tells me where the photo is filed in my filing system.  B01P019 is Book 1, Photo 19. 

Sharon asks:
”I saw that you are a professional genealogist and I wondered if you can help;  We have a family brick wall from our ggggrandfather who we found in New York, apparently born in Virginia to New York parents.  We cant find any information on his parents.  They have the 2nd most common surname (Johnson) and we only have a first name to go on and a birth year.  Have no idea where in Virginia the birth took place or indeed if it was Virginia in 1795 as we live in the southern hemisphere.

I wonder if you could tell me what professional genealogy services cost please and whether you undertake research in  the area of New York/Virginia.  We have paid for visits ourselves to NY and have searched Archives there, been through Ancestry, Fold 3, Archives, Family search etc., all without success.”

I don’t normally do research in the New York area (and I am not taking on any new clients right now anyway) but I can help you find someone that does.  I will tell you that professional genealogists are not inexpensive but sometimes having someone else do the leg work for you will save you time and money in the long run.  To make it as inexpensive as possible you need to write up everything that you have already searched and what you found, both positive and negative.  This will keep the researcher from duplicating your efforts. Also, limit your research goal to a single fact, “Who were John Doe’s parents?” 

I encourage you to read Hiring a Professional Researcher which has a lot of great information.   In Part III of this article there are links to the three places to look for a person to help you.  There are online directories for Accredited Genealogists, Certified Genealogists and members of the Association of Professional Genealogists.  You will be able to find someone that specializes in New York research which is important because that person will know what records are available and will be in a position to get them.  I hope this helps and  I wish you the best of luck.

Heather asks:
”My grandfathers brother (my great uncle) married a woman who already had a son from a previous marriage.  (The son is no blood relation to me).  What is his son called to me? An Uncle??  hat son (who is no blood relation to me) married a woman and had a baby.  What is that baby called to me?  Thank you! I have been searching everywhere for these answers!”

In the first example there is no blood relation.  If you really want to specify a relation you could say, “great-uncle’s wife's son.”   The second example is the same.  You could say, “great-uncle’s wife's son’s daughter” but it is starting to sound a bit weird.  In real life I would just say “my great-aunt’s son” and my “great-aunt’s granddaughter.”  The reason I didn’t use these terms when I first answered the question is if you are trying to explain a relation to someone (another genealogist) you want to explain it in terms of someone you are blood related to (your great-uncle).  I hope that all made sense. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, April 5, 2013

Final DNA Results are in!

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
25 and 37 marker results – 03 Apr 2013

So what did the DNA show?  I have one match at the 37 marker level and it is a 1 step match.  Family Tree DNA says, “Very few people achieve this close level of a match.”  So far so good!  I am very excited because this match has the correct surname and he has his earliest known ancestor back to 1755.  My earliest known ancestor (with this surname) is 1764.  The contributor has an exact date of birth for his earliest ancestor.  Since I am a bit impatient, I ran the name and birth date though Ancestry.com and FamilySearch and got no hits.  I did find a couple queries on genealogy message boards when I did a Google search but I didn’t see anything earth shattering.   I have emailed this Simmons match and I am anxiously waiting for his reply.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, April 4, 2013

FamilySearch’s Family Tree

FamilySearch’s Family Tree has been the topic of conversation this week on the Association of Professional Genealogist’s (APG) mailing list with both pro and con postings.  The conversation got a bit heated at times which of course made me think that this topic would make a good blog post.

FamilySearch is in the process of transitioning its online family trees from NewFamilySearch to Family Tree.  NewFamilySearch was the precursor and was put in place to get the program up and running and to work out the kinks.  Family Tree is the final product though you can certainly expect more changes and updates.  Members of the LDS church and some non LDS beta testers had/have access to NewFamilySearch.  Everyone has access to FamilyTree.  One day NewFamilySearch will go away completely though we are still using it to make corrections.

In a nutshell, Family Search’s Family Tree is a collaborative effort to make a single family tree that contains everyone linked correctly (in theory).  Some people will continue to keep their research in a stand-alone genealogy program such as Family Tree Maker, Legacy Family Tree or RootsMagic in addition to uploading their information to Family Tree but there will also be people that keep all of their information exclusively in Family Tree. I love the concept but there is a long road ahead to get the program where it should be.

There are several problems.  Some researchers  will be uploading information that hasn’t been researched thoroughly or sourced.  Some researchers will link or unlink people in error.  One of the biggest problems is that anyone can change what you have uploaded.  For example, if I have William Houston Simmons married to Docia Leora Perry, someone can come behind me and unlink them and then say that William Houston Simmons was really married to Addie Velula Perry.  I can go back and fix it but then you can create a war between two researchers with the two of them going back and forth between the corrections.  Family Tree is hoping this can be avoided with the use of sources and discussions between the contributors but I am not really confident about this.  I can’t tell you how many times I have sent a message to someone on Ancestry.com pointing out an error and including the pertinent sources to only be ignored or rebuffed.

Another problem is that the old Ancestral File was imported to NewFamilySearch (and now Family Tree) as the starting point information.  The Ancestral file is a collection of GEDCOMs uploaded to the LDS church from 1979 to 2003.   Please read this FamilySearch wiki on the Ancestral File to understand the implications of this.  In a nutshell, this is a collection of millions of names and links with no sources and no contributor information.  When the Ancestral File was being used, the contributor information was displayed and you could write the person a letter.  All of the contributor information has since been purged.  You can tell which info came from the Ancestral File because the contributor will be listed as “FamilySearch.”

There are of course some good things.  The program does give you the ability to correct mistakes and compare notes with other researchers. Unlike Ancestry.com which is a collection of individual trees, Family Tree has all of the uploaded information connected so there is only one tree.  HOWEVER, this isn’t actually true because there are still a gazillion duplicates, people linked incorrectly and other people not linked at all.  The program is still in its infancy so it will take a very long time to get it all straightened out.   

I also like that each unique person is issued an ID number.  Legacy (the genealogy program that I use) displays the number so I know that their person has been identified as unique.  This is similar to the old Ancestral File’s numbering system if you are familiar with that.  For example, Silas Simmons, son of James Simmons and Ellenor Lee is KDM1-8B5.  I even have my own number!  I am LCRV-38D.

Before you get started with Family Tree, please take a look at all of the Training Materials that are available.   This is VERY important.  Please do not haphazardly upload your file to Family Tree.  You will make a lot more work for everyone else as they try and clean up the data. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Old vs. New Part III

Today I will show you that you can get different results using the old and new searches on Ancestry.com. I put in the name Joseph Rufus Chenevert using the exact matches option and historical records only.  I am using an example with only a few hits so that you can see the results in the screenshots better. 

If you notice, the new search gives us a hit with the the name Joseph and Chenevert close to each other but it isn’t an exact match which is what I asked for.

joe 1

If  I use the old search it doesn’t make that mistake.

joe 2

I suppose you could make the argument that Ancestry.com was trying to help me by giving me close hits but that isn’t what I asked for.  I have the options for fuzzy searches and close matches but in this case I had asked for exact matches only. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Old vs. New Part II

I am going to show you one reason I like the old search better.  If you put the name Marmaduke Jowers in both the old and the new searches using the criteria of exact matches and historical records only you will get 14 hits either way.  It is how the records are displayed that is different.  Sorry that the first screenshot isn’t completely clear.  I can only make the graphic so big on the blog.

Here is the new search.  All of the results are sort of jumbled up on the right.  For example, the census records are not grouped together.  To narrow it to the type of record you have to click on of the categories on the left.

Jowers 1


If I do the same search on the old search page I get a short and sweet list of results that are already grouped by category making it easier for me to see what I have.  If you notice, this has more information than the left panel in the new search.  I like it this way better.  The list is more organized and meaningful.

Jowers 2

Tomorrow I will give you an example of a search producing different results using the old and new searches.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 1, 2013

Old vs. New Part I

If you are fairly new to Ancestry.com (say within the last couple of years) you might not be aware that the search feature is different than it used to be.  For some reason Ancestry.com will still let you use the old search even after all this time.  The reason I mention this is a lot of people like the old search better.  If you have having problems finding what you are looking for you might want to try it out.

This is what the new search page looks like and this is what most of you are used to seeing.


Here is a screen shot of where you need to click.  This is in the upper right corner of the Search Page.



And here is a screenshot of the old search page.


You should always have it set to Advanced Search no matter which search page you like better. The more fields you have to input data, the narrower your results will be. I always mark the “exact matches only” box as well.  I can always lessen the criteria if I need to.  Remember, make your searches as tight as possible and then slowly loosen them up.  That will cut  down on the irrelevant matches.  When you are using the old search, click on the “choose which categories to search” at the bottom.  This is the same as the “restrict to” feature in the new search but it isn’t obvious.

Play around with the old and new searches a bit and use whichever one you like better.  Hopefully Ancestry.com will continue to offer the old search.  Tomorrow  I will show you an example of why I like the old search better.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis