Friday, May 31, 2013

My Space


On The Organized Genealogist Facebook group page everyone was posting photos of their work space so I thought I would let you see where I do my sleuthing.  My “office” is one wall of my tiny bedroom.  I have quite a bit of stuff crammed in there.  The bookcase to the left has all of my genealogy books, my document binders and some office supplies.  On top of the bookcase, among the assorted photos and knick knacks, is an antique tea cup from about 1890.  To the left of my desk on the floor there is a shredder and tucked in beside the bookcase is my space heater (gotta have that!)  I use a brown paper bag for a trashcan which is usually under my desk but today is trash day and I haven’t replaced it yet.  The horizontal blinds over my desk serve as my bulletin board.  I use bull clamps to hold the notes on.  The picture on the wall to the left of the desk is a plat map of Wrightsborough, the first Quaker settlement in Georgia.  On top of that is my great-grandfather as a young man.  The painting on the wall to the right of my desk was done by my daughter Kelly.  On top of that are my 2nd great-aunts (both nurses like me!)  You can see my printer on top of the filing cabinet where I keep tons of misc. “stuff.”  The bookcase to the right has all of my nursing books (I work very part time as an RN in a emergency room) and my music (I play guitar and clarinet).  I have two shelves with genealogy stuff; an old Bible, two boxes of photos and a couple of framed photos that haven’t made it to the wall yet.  On top of this bookshelf, along with a stuffed frog and a photo of my wonderful children, is a stack of antique plates I got from my mother-in-law.  What you can’t see is a large plastic tub in my closet that holds all my old periodicals.

Normally my desk would be piled high with papers and the floor just to the right of my chair would be covered in reference books.  I cleaned everything up for the photo.  I wanted you to get the false impression that I keep my stuff organized all the time.  One day I hope to have a whole room to myself.  I need just one more child to move out.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Anonymous asked:
”My good friend and I have just discovered we are distant relatives. I'm wondering if you could help explain exactly what this relationship is. My grandfathers aunt married my friends great grandfather. My great great aunt is my dad's father's aunt. And my friends great grandfather is his dad's mothers father. (If that makes any sense!) Does that make us second or third cousins??” 

You and your friend are  3rd cousins assuming all of the relationships listed are direct line links and not spouses of direct line links.  This one was making my head spin so I just started a new Legacy file and inputted everyone.  I just put their names as, Anon, Anon’s Father, Anon’s Father’s Father etc. and then I “married” the two end people.  I was then able to see the relationship. Your common ancestor is your 2nd great grandfather (and his wife), let’s call him the “Patriarch.”  You descend from the patriarch’s daughter and your friend descends from the patriarch’s son.

Here is the screen shot.
Created Using Legacy Family Tree

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ethics Question

Public Service Announcement:  Don’t forget to keep an eye on Legacy’s Upcoming Webinars. I am really looking forward to Marian Pierre-Louis’ The Genealogy of Your House on June 5th.  In the past three months I have had two people ask me to research the history of their houses.  I am sure I did everything the hard way and I am hoping to pick up some helpful tips from Marian.    

Tracy asked a great question in the comments section of the Ethics blog post.  She asked:
“I am purely a novice at this, and I have a question...(I hope I don't sound too dumb!) When I do searches online and find information about my family, and save it to where I am doing my family tree, is that considered "stealing?" It's not to be published, just for family history purposes. Wasn't sure exactly what y'all are referring to in the case of copying/stealing.”

This isn't a dumb questions at all!  FACTS are not protected under copyright.  If someone states that Mary Doe was born on 04 May 1854 that is a fact.  You can copy that with no problem at all, HOWEVER, there are four things that you will want to consider.  1) You always need to cite your sources for every piece of information that you add.  If you get information from someone's online tree then that online tree is your source.  2) You really should only be using online trees as a clue to lead you to the original source.  For example, if someone's online tree has a marriage date, you need to get a copy of the actual marriage license instead of just taking that person's word for it. 3) Whenever you find someone on an online tree that pertains to your family you really need to send that person a message/email introducing yourself.  You will get much farther in genealogy if you collaborate with other researchers.  Just copying things off of someone's tree without touching base with them is a bit rude.  4) FACTS are not covered under copyright, but if someone has written some commentary or narrative about the person, that IS covered under copyright even if it is only published online.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Monkey Lou’s Biscuits

Linda K. McNeil Wilky posted this on The Organized Genealogist Facebook Group and I got such a kick out of it I asked her permission to post it here.

“Woohoo! Major genealogical find! Just found my Grandma Gibson's recipe for her biscuits! Gma was famous clear across the nation for these homemade biscuits that she made twice a day, nearly every day of her life - breakfast and evening meal. They were always served with butter and either Granddad's honey from his beehives, or Gma's homemade jams, jellies, or apple butter. I can't count the number of times I watched Gma make these right on the table top (one of those white metal painted enamel tables with red paint around the edges). The secret to making these perfectly is to barely touch them when pulling them together, using the soft touch you would use if touching a newborn baby bird.

"Grandma's" real identity was Lillian Mae "Monkey Lou" (Haynes) Gibson. She was born 14 Jul 1907 in Blountsville, Blount Co., Alabama; died 7 Aug 2005 in McPherson, McPherson Co., Kansas.”


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 27, 2013

Researching a Rev. War Pensioner

Don asks:
”I've run out of doors to open.  Well, not really, but I can't find anything on-line and I don't know where to start a library-by-library and courthouse-to-courthouse search.  My GGG Grandfather, William Hooks was given a Revolutionary War pension in 1828 while living in Emanuel County, Georgia.  His pension folder contains a certification declaration that claims he enlisted in Maryland and the muster sheets and pay cards show him to have joined the 8th Virginia Regiment of Foot as a private in December 1776.  He claims he was discharged about two weeks before the fall of Charleston, SC which was May 12, 1780.  His Regiment at that time was the 4th Virginia and it was one of those captured at Charleston.  He may, in fact, have escaped - who knows?  Anyway, he appears on tax rolls in Montgomery County, Georgia in 1805 and 1806 and in Emanuel County, Georgia (Emanuel was formed in 1812 from Montgomery and others) in 1820 and 1830 censuses and in 1828 when he applied for his pension.   The 8th was recuperating in the Shenandoah Valley when William joined and a history of the 8th says many of the recruits at that time were Pennsylvania Germans.  Where am I most likely to find useful information when I do my on-site research?  Are there any on-line collections that might give me more?“

The first thing I would need to know is what is your research goal exactly?  Where you look for information depends on what you are looking for.  Are you just wanting to know more about William Hooks in general or something very specific like “When and where did William Hooks die?”  You need to make a timeline for William so that you know where to look for records.  He was living in Emanuel County, Georgia when he received his pension but he enlisted in Maryland. 

I will say that the first place I would look for information is the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library. Your William is listed in the DAR Patriot Index as William Hook (no S).   He is ancestor #A206461.  You can see his listing HERE.  There are only three DAR applications associated with William which is really a small number.  All three have supporting documentation so it might be worth your while to get copies of the three applications.  One word of warning though, applications submitted today go through a pretty thorough review before they are approved.  Some applications in the past weren’t scrutinized as severely and those applications wouldn’t pass today if they were submitted.  Having said that, none of the listed applications have been flagged as having potential errors so that is encouraging.  I would try and get in touch with the three people that submitted these applications.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 20, 2013

Spring Cleaning

I am taking a week off from the blog to do some catching up around the house.  Not only do I need to do some spring cleaning but the school year just ended for us (we are homeschoolers) and I have a lot of loose ends to tie up with our documentation and standardized testing.  You should see my to-do list!  I will be lucky to get everything done this week.  Most everything I need to do is NOT genealogy related which means  I will be going through withdrawal.  I will be answering my email and responding to any comments posted on the blog so I will still be around if you need me.   We will be back on 27 May 2013. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sterile Facts vs. a Person’s Story

Angel asks:
”I have a question that may elicit some controversy, so it is not my wish to create drama on your blog. I am simply interested to see what the majority of your readers will reply. If you choose to answer privately, that's ok, too. Your blog on Maggie [see
Eating Their Young] made me think to write you, as I have been pondering this for a while. I have made a personal choice to 'do my own thing' but wonder how deeply ingrained these stigmas go in the world of genealogists.  My question is: Is it better to follow the established route of doing genealogical research and presenting your facts, or create a lasting memorial that reads like a story? I realize that the first choice is essential to having accurate facts, but it seems to me that people either follow one route or another. I noticed with interest that the topic of 'telling your story' seems to be the latest thing, and I think its because people do research for a while, all fired up and then lose interest and nothing ends up being communicated. What are your thoughts on this? Should a family history read like an encyclopedia or be a mix of creativity and facts?”

Reducing an ancestor to a list of vital statistics is doing the ancestor an injustice.  Of course you want to find the exact places and dates for all of the events in a person’s life but that is merely the skeleton of the story.  You need to dig deeper into that person’s life.  You said, “Should a family history read like an encyclopedia or be a mix of creativity and facts?”  I don’t believe in “creativity” to the point that you are making things up.  You can give an opinion about something but you need to label it as such.  There are words such as possibly, probably, likely, and most likely that will help you out with this.  You can also make some general assumptions if those assumptions are clearing coming from your deductive reasoning and not written in such a way that your reader will be lead to believe you are stating hard fact. 

For example, let’s say I have an ancestor that was listed as a farmer on the census records.  Instead of just mentioning it I would want to also look at the land and tax records to find out how much property he had and I would also want to look at the agricultural schedule to see what crops and livestock he raised.  Being able to give specifics about the farm makes the story so much more interesting.  I wouldn’t write everything I found in a list format but rather in a conversational paragraph style.  I want you to be able to visualize the farm not just view it as a list of how many cows and horses he had.  You could go so far as comparing this farm to the surrounding ones.  You could talk a little bit about the neighbors (also found on the census records).  Maybe throw in some general information about what farm life was like in this area during this time period.  There are all kinds of books out there that can give you this sort of background information (cited of course!)

You can also add some details about what was going on in that area during that time that would give your reader some idea of the social and political climate.  Was there a war going on?  An epidemic?  A drought?  This would give them a sense of what sort of things your ancestor was having to deal with.  All of these details bring your ancestor to life.

Another thing that readers like are photographs.  Even if you don’t have a photo of the ancestor you can put a photo of their grave marker or a scenic photo of the area where they lived.  You can put images of the obituary or any other interesting documents like maybe a hand written letter or a piece of their Civil War service record.  You can also draw out land plats showing where your ancestor lived in relation to others mentioned in your report.  The goal is to make the report so interesting that people can’t help but want to read it.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Putting Citations on Documents

Ricky asks:
”What I was thinking was saving an image of a census page or obituary or whatever, and somehow edit the photo to include the citation at the bottom of the image. So include the citation with the image.  I guess my question is do you do anything like this and if so what software do you use to edit the photos to add a text box to contain the citation?  I asked my wife who is a graphic designer because I thought maybe one of the Adobe tools, but she said doing it that way was probably not the best thing to do. She suggested copying the image to a Word document, then adding the citation below it, and saving the document as a PDF. Thoughts?  Sorry to ask such an off the wall question, but I'm wanting to clean up and better organize my research documents (adding citations), and when I heard the NGS presentation, that is how I visualized what the presenter was saying. (add the citation to the bottom of the image, so they are always together).”

I do exactly like your wife suggested. I pull the graphic file into Microsoft Word. I am then able to type a full citation at the bottom. I usually change the margins to .75 all the way around so that the document has more room. This is how I do it so that I can print things out for a report. If for some reason the document is too small to be readable, I will blow up the part of the document that I need and put it on its own page with a full citation. I always include both the full document and the snippet in the report. I usually do convert the entire report to a pdf. 

If I was more computer savvy, I would probably edit the jpg itself to include a border at the bottom with the full citation. I have been told you can do this in Picasa (a freebie program from Google) but I haven’t had the time to really play with it.  I would want to do it this way so that the saved graphic files on my computer would have full citations right in the graphic itself so that I don’t accidentally forget where the document came from.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lineage Societies Part II

Bob (the original poster in Lineage Societies) wrote back to ask:
”Do you belong to any societies?”

I should have known this one was coming.  The answer is no.  I have applications for several societies that I have completed.  I did this to prove to myself that I had the required evidence to meet the eligibility requirements.  The reason I haven’t turned any applications in is two-fold.

I won’t mention the exact lineage societies but I was invited to meetings of two different ones that are held in this local area.  I was excited about it but when I actually attended I was disappointed.   The members of these particular chapters were not genealogists.  They were non genealogists/non historians that joined the societies to increase their social standing in the community.  They did not do their own research but rather hired people to do it for them.  These groups are very involved in civic duties (a good thing) but their group was just not my cup of tea.  The members were in a higher social class than I and talked a lot about their social gatherings and events and nothing at all about genealogy and history.  I felt very out of  place.  I don’t move in the same social circles and active participation in their events is required.  I don’t want you to misunderstand.  These groups are very civic minded and do a good job in the community raising awareness and funds for local needs but I would be more interested in a group that has a main focus on genealogy because that is what my passion is. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I have written about copyright three times:

Yet another professional genealogist  has posted on Facebook that her stuff has been copied without any citation or permission.  Actually, copied isn’t the right term, STOLEN is.  This goes way beyond copyright law.  It is a matter of ethics.  No matter what the law says, this sort if thing is just ethically wrong.  What bothers me the most is that this is going on in the world of PROFESSIONAL genealogists, people that know better.  I can easily forgive (and educate) someone that does this out of ignorance but I have a much harder time forgiving someone who does it knowingly for personal gain.

If you didn’t write it, it doesn’t belong to you.  You can quote or paraphrase small portions as long as you credit the author.  If you want to use a larger portion you will also need to obtain permission.  I think that is pretty straight forward and simple and I know that the readers of this blog already know this.  Like I said, the person in the above example was a professional genealogist knowing taking material from another professional genealogist.  I have a really hard time understanding that.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

ADGD Anyone?

Copyright 2013 Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches, used with permission

When I saw this on Facebook I wanted to hide my face.  I could easily be the poster child for ADGD.  Sometimes I get so mad at myself for going off on tangents instead of staying focused on what I am supposed to be working on.  I will start looking at the 1870 census for a particular family and then I will see another name of interest on the page which causes me start looking at Civil War records to see if the man served in the war.  Then that man’s wife’s name catches my eye and I think I might know who she is so then I start looking at compiled genealogies to see if the man married the woman that I think he did.  The woman turns out to be the daughter of a different man than I thought but could her father be the same man that I saw in the tax records last week?  I go back and have another look.  In the meantime, I have totally forgotten about the family I was looking up in the 1870 census.  Sigh…

When I am doing genealogy research for other people I MUST stay on task.  Going off on unrelated tangents just isn’t an option no matter how tempted I am.  I try to use the same tactics that I use to stay on track when doing professional research when I am doing my personal research.
  • I  use Research Calendars almost religiously.  I used to not use them at all because I thought that they took more time than they were worth but I have totally changed my mind about that.  Research calendars keep me focused on the research goal at hand and I can then use them to write up my final findings.  I can copy and paste my citations right from the calendar.  
  • Another tactic is to start a new family file in Legacy for the person/family that I am working on.  I can merge that file into my main file later.  It keeps me from flipping to unrelated persons because it is too much of a bother to close the file I am working on and open up my main file.  It keeps my target family isolated and that keeps me on track.  
  • When I am starting a new project, I try to clean off my desk completely.  I file all the documents that have been piling up and I put away any reference materials.  I clean out my in and out boxes and make sure that everything I will need is at my fingertips.  I want nothing but the project at hand within my vision field and I don’t want to run out of printer paper or ink when I am in the middle of something.
  • I set time limits.  I will set aside a certain amount of time to work on the specific project.  Knowing that I am on the clock really helps me stay focused.  I will even mark blocks of time off on my calendar.  Treating your research as an actual appointment will help you make time for it.
  • I make sure that all of my other genealogy obligations are caught up.  Right now I am in ProGen 18 which involves reading, studying, assignments, feedback and chats, I belong to the NGSQ Study Group, I have a Power Point presentation that needs to be updated for a lecture I will be giving, and I write two blogs. I have to stay on top of those things so that I can devote blocks of time to research. 

Thank you Deidre Erin of Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches for the great ADGD graphic!  It is a great reminder for us to stay on task.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lineage Societies

Bob asks,
”I want to join the Mayflower Society, what do I have to do?”

I thought this question would be a great lead up to lineage societies in general.  There are many genealogists that specialize in helping people gain acceptance into lineage societies.  Why?  Depending on where you live in the country, inclusion in a lineage society can earn you some serious respect and clout.  For example, here in the deep south telling someone that you are a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) or the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) will earn you some brownie points.  The south has always been known for its patriotism and pride in military service.  I am guessing here but if you are a New Englander I would think that being able to say you are a member of the Mayflower Society would be a pretty cool thing.  Many people that seek membership are not interested in genealogy in general and that is why they hire someone to help them.  There are also plenty of experienced researchers that apply because they know they have the evidence they need to prove their eligibility.  Being able to say you are a member of [insert name of society here] helps validate your research skills.  Today the scrutiny placed on applications is much greater in years past.  Many people that applied years ago would have their applications denied today for not sourcing their evidence properly nor proving their parent-child relationships consistent with the Genealogical Proof Standard.

To Bob’s specific question, here is the Membership Info for the General  Society of Mayflower Descendants (the official name).  The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has some very helpful information and pitfalls to avoid in their article, Applying for Membership in the Mayflower Society.  Every society has their own rules.  Some will only allow you to apply for membership if you have been invited to do so by another member.  Some societies’ have very strict documentation requirements while others are a bit more lax.  I personally would appreciate the stricter requirements especially if I was trying to prove to myself that I produce quality research.  Many of the societies are also civic associations involved in local historical preservation and education as well as fundraising for local charities. Many require you to be an ACTIVE member of the society or they will boot you. 

The first step is to find out exactly what the lineage society you are interested in requires.   Legacy Family Tree has a nice Lineage Society QuickGuide that you might find useful.  The Hereditary Society Blue Book by Robert R. Davenport has listings of 147 lineage societies though this book is a bit dated (1994) and there could be some new ones that have been formed.  Here is a list of Hereditary and Lineage Organizations on Wikipedia. 

The one other thing that I will mention is that once you prove your eligibility, you will also be paying yearly dues for the privilege of saying you are a member of [insert name of society here].

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 13, 2013

How Far Back Can You Go?

I am sure you have seen pedigrees posted on the internet that go waaaaaaaay back.  I start getting pretty skeptical if I see anything prior to 1600.  Apparently there are people out there that have managed to trace their line all the way back to Adam and Eve, or so they claim.  I have never seen a pedigree like this but apparently they are out there. Nathan W. Murphy of FamilySearch wrote a great two part blog post, I Have My Family Tree Back to Adam and Eve Part 1 and Part 2 that you should read.

Suffice to say, every parent-child relationship must be proven and documented using the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) before the pedigree is credible.  For more information about the GPS take a look at “Have You Ordered Your Book Yet?” where I recommend Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS.  I have since received the book and I haven’t been disappointed.   Dear Myrtle will be hosting a series of study groups based on Tom’s book that I think will really help you understand the GPS process and apply it to your own research.  Pretty soon it will be come second nature.  For more information about that, see Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group with Dear Myrtle.

You can also read my six part series on the GPS that is geared specifically to the beginning researcher.

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

A bit of a tangent… there are a few researchers out there that have tried to document the genealogy of the Bible.  David W. Marshall is one and you can see his file HERE.  Another one is the Complete Bible Genealogy and yet another one is Adam to Christ.  I would imagine following the GPS would be a bit rough when doing Biblical genealogy since there is basically only one source (the Bible) though there are some 1st century writers such as Josephus as well as some non-canonical books such as the Apocrypha, Deuterocanonical Books, and the Pseudepigrapha that you could possibly use but you would have to document their credibility. What a project!  This isn’t something I think I will undertake. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Angels and Demons

Inferno, by Dan Brown, will be released on 14 May 2013.  In anticipation of its release I am rereading Dan Brown’s other books -- the ones that have the same main character, Robert Langdon.  You might have heard of them, Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol. In Angels and Demons, Maximilian Kohler searched the internet for an expert on the Illuminati and finds Robert Langdon.  Robert is curious why Kohler picked his website out of the thousands that reference the Illuminati.  Kohler’s response,

“Yours, however, contained references to Harvard, Oxford, a reputable publisher, as well as a list of related publications.  As a scientist I have come to learn that information is only as valuable as its source. You credentials seemed authentic.” 

Maximilian Kohler would have made a good genealogist.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Marianne asks: 
“My great-grandfather came from Cuba.  I don’t know where to start in trying to research his life there.”

My ex-stepfather’s parents immigrated from Cuba.  I did some research on his side and it was very hard to say the least.  I was lucky in that I was able to contact some extended family and fill in some gaps in names and places. His family was only in Cuba for one generation having come from Spain prior to that.  Once I got to Spain I was more successful. 

There are very few records available for Cuba.  Getting vital records from the Cuban government is near impossible.  This is one area of genealogy where networking and collaboration is extremely important.

You will definitely want to get the naturalization records of any immigrant from Cuba (assuming they naturalized).  It will be your best source for vital statistics.  The immigrant himself was the informant.  On my stepfather’s father’s naturalization records, I found his full name, when and where he was born,  his wife’s maiden name, when and where she was born, when and where they married, full names, dates of birth and places of birth of their two children.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Another great source is Cuban newspapers.   For example, Tampa has, and still does, one of the largest populations of Cuban immigrants.  That is where my stepfather’s parents came to live.  Tampa was a popular destination because of the cigar industry. There are several Spanish language newspapers in Tampa which contain loads of great info. 

Here are a few websites that might help:

Cuba City Hall specializes in Cuban document retrieval but it is very expensive.  I have not used this service because the need doesn’t justify the cost, at least not for me.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Organized Genealogist

Susan Petersen has started The Organized Genealogist blog and I am very excited!  Keeping all my genealogy "stuff" organized has always been a challenge for me and I am looking forward to reading Susan's words of wisdom and encouragement.  I encourage you to take a look.  Susan also has a Facebook Group Page where she would like people to post some of their helpful tips.  This group had 72 members in less than 24 hours and is already very active.  You can help Susan out by posting your own tips for staying organized on the FB Group page.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Civil War, Indexing, Pinterest and Surnames

Anne asks:
Is there a free website where you can see if someone served in the Civil War?

Yes there is.  The National Parks Service has the Soldiers and Sailors Database for the Civil War. I use this all the time.  It is a quick way to find people.  You can also read a short unit history of the unit your ancestor served and get a complete roster of the soldiers in the same unit.  This is an index only which means you will not be able to see the actual compiled service records or pension files but this index will give you the information you need to order a copy.

Marie asks:
Are you still indexing records for FamilySearch?

Yes.  I try to index or arbitrate one set every day. I feel that is the least I can do considering how much I use FamilySearch.  I arbitrated Alabama County Marriage records this morning.

Anonymous asks:
”Do you use Pinterest for genealogy?”

No.  I know several genealogists that use Pinterest but so far I haven’t gotten involved in that.  I do have a Pinterest account but I only get on there maybe once every 3 or 4 weeks and I am only looking at recipes or arts/crafts ideas. 

M. J.  asks:
”Is there a way to find out where in the world a surname comes from?”

There are several websites that will give you the basic history of a certain surname.  I like Discover the Meaning and History Behind Your Last name by  You do not have to be a member of to use this.  I like this one because it will tell you the country of origin and the distribution of the name both in the US and the UK in different years.  It will also give you a lot of stats gleaned from the census records. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Old English Money

When you are reading colonial records do you understand the English money system being used?  If your 8th great-grandfather gave your 7th great-grandfather 5 guineas in his will would you know if that was a lot of money or just a little?  You will also see these old money terms if you enjoy British literature prior to 1971 (Sherlock Holmes anyone?) 

Here is a great info page on Old English Money. This page is the easiest to understand that I have found.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Starting a New Genealogical Society

What if your town/county doesn’t have a historical or genealogical society.  Would you be interested in starting one?  It isn’t as hard as you think.  The Columbia County (GA) Genealogical Society was formed in June 2012.  In less than one year we have 12-15 members that consistently come to the monthly meetings and we have 30 on the mailing list.  Not bad for a rural Georgia County.  Columbia County has had a historical society since 1975 but its focus is more on local landmark preservation and not on genealogical research so there was a need.

Ann Rhoden, a local researcher, contacted me to see if I thought there might be some interest in a local group.  Ann and I met through Find A Grave.  We are both volunteer photographers.  We got to know each other by talking back and forth about cemeteries and photo requests and then our conversations expanded to general genealogical research topics and then to the possibility of forming a group.

We decided on a date for our first meeting and the Euchee Creek Library was kind enough to offer their conference room.  The Euchee Creek and Harlem Libraries advertised our group to their patrons and we emailed and Facebooked (is that a word?) people we thought might be interested.  I think we were both surprised about the turnout.  We have met every week since. The Euchee Creek Library has bent over backwards to help our group out by printing large posters and encouraging patrons to come.  They even provide refreshments.

Everything we do is on a volunteer basis.  We don’t collect any dues.  Our members range from beginner to advanced.  It is a nice mix and everyone learns something new at the meetings.  We are really getting into the swing of things.  We now have a monthly agenda and nametags! We have show and tell (photos, artifacts), question and answer sessions, presentations from members (The Schrivers told us all about their trip to New England complete with photos and maps), and we can hook a laptop to the AV system and projection screen so that we can do things on the computer that everyone can see. This month we will be going on our second field trip.  Our first field trip was to the Columbia County Probate Records Vault in Appling so that we could learn what records they have on site.  Our field trip on May 9th will be to the Georgia Heritage Room at the Augusta-Richmond County Library in Augusta.  They have a nice collection of Georgia resources.  We have several other tentative field trips in the works. 

We don’t have a Facebook page (yet) but we do have a Rootsweb mailing list.  If you have any connections in the Columbia County Georgia area we invite you to join GA-CCGS.

Our little group is growing and our activities are expanding.  If we can go it, you can do it. 

Flyer for Library

 Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 6, 2013

FHL’s Photoduplication Services

I received a great question/remark regarding yesterday’s Index ------> Original Records blog post.

David asked:
“Why should you order the film? You can email the FHL and request a digital copy of the record and it will be sent to you, no cost.”
[via Google+]

David is correct, the Family History Library (FHL) does offer FREE Photoduplication Services and in the example given in the blog post this service would be the way to go.  I have talked about the FHL’s service on the blog before.  The only thing you need to be aware of is that the FHL library does not have the manpower to do research for you.  In other words, you need to know the exact film number and the details of the record you are looking for.  They will not search films to see if your ancestor happens to be on it.  In the Benjamin Harrison – Lucinda Grimes marriage example, I DID know the exact film number and the details of the record so I should have mentioned this service.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Index -------> Original Records

Dave asked:
”I found a marriage record I need on  It has all the info on it, full names, place of  marriage and date of marriage.  I am still not quite understanding why I need to get the “original record.”  You said that their might be errors in the index but I know their names are correct.”


“Texas Marriage Collection, 1814-1909 and 1966-2002,” database, ( : accessed 04 May 2013), entry for Benjamin S. Harrison and Lucinda Grimes, 05 September 1846; citing FHL microfilm #0109273.

When you look at this it looks pretty good, right?  You can document the information and use as your source.  But what does this index NOT tell you?

  • Are the names spelled as they are spelled on the marriage record? Even though you say that the names are spelled “right” that doesn’t mean the index matches the actual record.
  • Is the date listed the date of the application or the marriage itself?
  • Are there any witnesses listed that might be relatives?
  • Are there any loose papers inside the marriage book such as a permissions note from Benjamin or Lucinda’s parents?
  • Is Lucinda listed as Miss or Mrs.?  That would tell you if it is a first marriage or a subsequent marriage.
  • Depending on the place and the time, other information could be listed on the license such as parents names, ages, etc.
  • You also need to make a note of the clergyman that married them.  This might give you a clue as to their church affiliation which could possibly lead you to church records.

You can either write to the Austin County Courthouse or you can order the Family History Library [FHL] microfilm that is named.  The microfilm will have images of the actual licenses/certificates. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Eating Their Young

I received a disturbing email this week from “Maggie” (named changed for privacy).  Maggie said that she took my advice and joined the local genealogical society.  Maggie is a brand new researcher and was very excited about meeting other researchers in the area.  She went to the first meeting and was taken aback by the way she was treated.  She asked some questions during the meeting that some of the other members thought were “stupid.”  The more experienced researchers made Maggie feel like she was incapable of doing family research.  She left the meeting totally dejected. 

Y’all know I am a nurse and nurse’s have the very bad reputation of “eating their young.”  Basically this means that the older, experienced nurses pretty much go out of their way to make the lives of the new graduates miserable.  We were warned about it in school and unfortunately, it was pretty much true. I have seen new graduates quit nursing in their first year because of how they were treated by their fellow nurses.   It saddens me greatly that genealogists would act this way.  Genealogy is one of those hobbies/professions where networking and cooperation are very important. 

Maggie did have one good thing to say.  She said that a member of the group came up to her after the meeting and apologized for the way she had been treated by the others.  This person offered to  answer all of Maggie’s questions and help her with her research.  If it hadn’t been for this one person Maggie might have just called it quits.

I will say that I have been guilty of moaning and groaning about some of the stuff that is posted on and the like but I will also say that when I actually contact the person that posted the information I always try to be very kind and constructive.  I offer to send them whatever documentation that I might have along with citations.  I also try to give them some words of encouragement and helpful tips.  It is very easy in genealogy to develop a “holier than thou” attitude and you just need to keep yourself in check. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 3, 2013

Blogging Part II

I was overwhelmed with emails asking for more information on how to actually start a genealogy blog.  This topic was introduced in the GeneaBloggers post.

I use Blogger for my blog hosting site which is free.  You can take a Blogger Tour and watch a Video Tutorial which will teach you everything you need to know about starting a blog on Blogger.

Another popular blog hosting site is WordPress.  I have not used this one myself but I know a lot of people that do.  You can get a free account with WordPress but you can also have an account with more bells, whistles and storage for a fee.  On the WordPress Support Page you will find links to their tutorials and helps.

So what should you blog about?  Most genealogy bloggers use their blogs to tell the story of their own family and to get their research out there.  You can post discoveries you have made or brick walls you are working on.  Another thing you can blog about are any special projects that you do such as showcasing cemeteries that you visit/survey or maybe photographs that you collect like our companion blog Orphan Photos.  If you have a special area of expertise, such as DNA or 18th century New England research, you can blog about that. 

Blogging can help you with your research because it forces you to organize everything and do double checks.  If you know that other people will be reading your work you want everything to be just so.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group with Dear Myrtle

On April 24th I asked y’all if you had ordered Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS from the National Genealogical Society yet.  The books shipped much earlier than anticipated and I received mine last Friday.  Yesterday I mentioned Dear Myrtle’s Google Hangouts.  I would like to specifically mention that Dear Myrtle is planning a series of study sessions based on the MGP book via the Google Hangout format.  They will start on Sunday, June 2nd at 8pm EST.  You can read more about it HERE and HERE.  You will be able to participate live or watch it later in the archives.  You will need a copy of the book before the sessions start.

This is yet another great FREE continuing education opportunity that you shouldn’t pass up.  

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Facebook and Google+

Are you on Facebook  and/or Google+?  If you have been resisting social media I will tell you that if you are serious about your research you might want to reconsider.  Here are a few reasons:

  • You can network with genealogists from all over the world including very well-known researchers and authors
  • You will see the latest news in the world of genealogy including the release of new document groups and legislation that might effect your research practices
  • You can “like” pages that are specific to you interests such as cemetery preservation, Acadian research, military research etc.
  • You can join groups such as surname groups, locality groups and genealogy societies
  • You will hear about the latest continuing education opportunities and seminars
  • You can join scheduled Google Hangouts to discuss things live.  (Dear Myrtle is famous for her Google Hangouts)
  • You can keep up with what is going on with the big online repositories such as, FamilySearch, GenealogyBank etc.  This is how I found out that FamilyTreeDNA was having a sale and I ordered another DNA test

If y’all* have other reasons why you should join Facebook and/or Google+ put them in the comments so that others can see.

*y’all – a southern contraction for “you all” which is equivalent to the northern idiom “yous guys” also spelled “youse guys.”

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis