Sunday, June 30, 2013

Native American Ancestry

I am a bit surprised that I have not talked about this before now.  I might have some Native American (NA)blood in my veins so the topic is of interest to me.  So how do you go about learning more about your NA heritage?

You need to start with a little background information before you try and piece together your NA ancestors.  Here are some good resources.

If you are researching connections between African Americans and Native Americans then these resources will help you.

One thing I will warn you about, many families have the tradition that they are descendant from a “Cherokee princess” or similar such tale.  Please don’t get too excited when you hear something like this.  This is one of the most common myths passed down in families.  Here is a good article for you to read on "All Things Cherokee" and another one, "The Cherokee Princess Myth." 

So now I will tell you a little bit about my story. Silas Simmons (abt. 1794 - abt. 1856) supposedly married a Choctaw Indian named Janet. There is precious little information about her. The only information we have comes from the 1850 census where she is listed as Janet Simmons, age 55, born in South Carolina, living in the household of Silas Simmons, age 56.[1] She is assumed to be his wife. The biggest problem I have is that the Perry County, MS courthouse burned in 1877 and the Greene County courthouse burned in 1875.[2] These two courthouses would have been where any possible records would have been. A marriage record for Silas and Janet would have been nice but… So what do I have besides family tradition? In Houston Simmons’ family Bible there is an entry for “Silas Simmons married Indian girl” and on another page the notation “Indian (Choctaw)” is written.[3] Apparently the belief that Janet was an Indian was considered common knowledge to Silas and Janet’s descendants. In 1951, three of Silas and Janet’s descendants wrote letters to the Mississippi Band of Choctaws to prove their lineage to Janet in order to benefit from the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. In the 1947, the Choctaw Nation sued the state of Mississippi saying they had been cheated out of their land and they wanted compensation.[4] Stuart Simmons (2nd great-grandson), Hazel Pearl (Entrekin) Hart (2nd great-granddaughter) and Lydia Mae (Graham) Blackburn (great-granddaughter), wrote letters to the Choctaw Nation in hopes of proving their lineage to Janet so that they would benefit from the monies dispersed in the settlement.[5]

What is interesting about these letters is that they are written as though it was a known fact that Janet was a Choctaw Indian and that they only needed to prove their lineage to her. Unfortunately for those involved, the Choctaw Nation lost their lawsuit against the United States government and no monies were paid out.[6] Several attempts have been made to contact the Mississippi Band of Choctaws in search of possible records relating to this claim and to Janet Simmons specifically. All requests for information have been denied.

I have one more bit of totally unsubstantiated information. Elizabeth (Simmons) Grimes (3rd great-granddaughter) states that Demaris (Simmons) Dearman (granddaughter) and her son George Dearman were receiving a monthly government check because of their relation to Janet. This is per Demaris' grandson (unknown which one) “who used to go to the bank in Hattiesburg with his Uncle George to deposit his grandmother's and uncle's checks.” Demaris died in 1968 and George died in 1997.[7]

That should give you some idea of just how fun this is.  To make matters even worse, family tradition and these letters also state that Janet’s surname was Freeman, McCarter or McCardle and she was adopted by a family named Brown. There were Freemans, McCarters, McCardles and Browns in Perry County during this time period (of course there were!), and don’t forget that the census states she was born in South Carolina which even complicates matters further. And this is only ONE of the supposed Indian ancestors. I have several.

[1] 1850 U.S. census, Perry County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 384 [stamped], dwelling 185, family 185, Silas Simmons household; digital images, ( : accessed 10 Feb 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 379.

[2] Martha F. Clark, Circuit Court Clerk, Perry County, Mississippi [E-MAIL FOR PRIVATE USE,] to Michele Simmons Lewis, e-mail,10 January 2012, “Courthouse Records,” E-Mail Folder, Lewis Research Files; privately held by Lewis, [(E-ADDRESS), & STREET ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE, Harlem, Georgia, 2012; Cecelia Bounds, Circuit Court Clerk, Greene County, Mississippi [E-MAIL FOR PRIVATE USE,] to Michele Simmons Lewis, e-mail,10 January 2012, “Courthouse Records,” E-Mail Folder, Lewis Research Files; privately held by Lewis, [(E-ADDRESS), & STREET ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Harlem, Georgia, 2012.

[3] William Houston Simmons Family Bible Records, 1815[?]-1976, Holy Bible (Chicago: The John A. Hertel Co., 1951), “Important Events in Our Family’s History”; privately held by Michele Simmons Lewis, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Harlem, Georgia, 1978. All entries in the Bible were made by Houston Simmons. The earlier entries were based on information that was told to him by his father, James Elexander Simmons who was Silas Simmons’ grandson.

[4] “Choctaws Claim U.S. Did Not Abide By Its Treaties, Ask Millions,” clipping, Jackson Daily News, 06 August 1947, privately held by Michele (Simmons) Lewis [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Harlem, Georgia, 1995.  Clipping part of a collection of papers obtained from Marie (Knight) Simmons. Her husband, Stuart Simmons, great-grandson of Silas and Janet Simmons, was pursuing the Indian claim. After his death, Ms. Simmons turned over all of her husband’s papers.

[5] Stuart S. Simmons to “The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians” letter, 27 March 1951; privately held by Michele (Simmons) Lewis [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Harlem, Georgia, 1995. This is a draft. Stuart’s wife Marie copied it in her better penmanship to be mailed. After Stuart’s death, Ms. Simmons turned over all of her husband’s papers; Pearl Hart to “The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians” letter, April 1951; privately held by Elizabeth (Simmons) Grimes [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Jonesboro, Georgia, 1995. Ms. Grimes has a draft of the letter that was sent; Lydia Blackburn to “The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians” letter, April 1951; privately held by Elizabeth (Simmons) Grimes [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Jonesboro, Georgia, 1995. Ms. Grimes has a draft of the letter that was sent.

[6] “U.S. Rehearing in Big Choctaw Claim is Denied,” clipping, Jackson Daily News, 27 January 1955, privately held by Michele (Simmons) Lewis [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Harlem, Georgia, 1995.

[7] Simmons Family Cemetery (Forrest County, Mississippi; On AB Simmons Road, off of Rock Hill to Brooklyn Road), Demarious Dearman and George Y. Dearman markers, personally read, 1999.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, June 29, 2013

DNA weirdness

I had my autosomal DNA testing done at  Here are my results:

52% British Isles
43% Central European
5% uncertain [at least part of this will be Native American]

This matches my genealogical research perfectly.  I transferred my results to FTDNA and these are the results I got back:

86.53% ± 3.94% Western European (British Isles)
13.47% ± 3.94% Middle East


Something isn’t quite right.  The results pretty much match my research.  The FTDNA results don’t. At this point I am not sure what to think.  FTDNA’s population finder is still in Beta so maybe my numbers will change.  In the FTDNA FAQ it says that Middle Eastern could be European around the Mediterranean but even if I converted the 13.47% to central Europe (all of which is not on the Mediterranean) the numbers still don’t jive. announced that they are updating things on their end and soon their percentages could change a  bit.  I am also looking forward to FTDNA updating their algorhythms.  Maybe one day my numbers will match. Time will tell!

My next DNA adventure will be mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).  The kit is on the way to me.  This will be really interesting because on my mother’s side 100% of my line is in central Europe for as far back as I have been able to research (early 1700s).  I talked with a genealogist friend of mine in Germany to ask her how many people are getting DNA testing done over there and she told me only a very few are.  She said that genealogy is still “an old man’s hobby” over there. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, June 28, 2013

Southern Appalachians Genealogical Association

I want to give a shout out to the Southern Appalachians Genealogical Association (SAGA) which is a brand new organization for researchers interested in the Appalachian areas of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. 

I have written an article for the inaugural issue of their quarterly newsletter.  If you want to read “The Georgia Archives Endures” you will need to join this association.  You can read more about what they have planned for their newsletter HERE.  Their website will keep you up to day with the happenings in the area and give you information about pertinent resources.  They also have some projects planned to get more resources in the hands of their members.  One of the things they have planned for the future is an annual academic journal edited by Michael Hait, CG.  Michael is a very knowledgeable and well-respected member of the genealogical community and I know this journal will be excellent.  You can read more about him in Spotlight – Michael Grant Hait, Jr., CG. This association has a lot of promise and you just might want to get in on it on the ground floor. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Clooz and Evidentia

Clooz and Evidentia are two genealogy support programs.  Your genealogy database program focuses on people while Clooz and Evidentia focus on your sources.  The two programs each has its own personality.

Clooz has been around a long time.  It was designed by Liz Kelly Kerstens, CG in the 1990s.   In 2012 it was bought out by Ancestral Systems and they have since made a major update.  Clooz gives you a way to catalog all of your sources. Basically, it is a filing system for your paper and electronic files.  You can sort your documents in several different ways to aid in analyzing them.  You can link your documents to the persons mentioned in the document though the main focus is on the document itself.  One of Clooz’s nifty feature is their “composite view.”  You can find all of the links between people. For example, your person of interest might be the main person on a document or he/she might be listed as a witness or in another capacity.  Seeing who is on what documents with which other people might give you a clue to their relationship.  Clooz also has document templates which assist you with your extraction of data.  Clooz will import data directly from Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic and The Master Genealogist.  It will import data indirectly via a GEDCOM from other programs.  It will also export directly to Legacy Family Tree.   It works very well for one name surname studies where you are gathering many documents that name people you haven’t connected yet.  Clooz has excellent support via their Facebook Page, Mailing List, Rootsweb User Group, User’s Guide and Instructional Videos.  You can really get to know the program before you make your purchase.  The cost is $39.95.  They do offer a 30 day money back guarantee.

Evidentia is a fairly new program developed by Ed Thompson that also catalogs all of your sources but its focus is on the extraction and analysis of the information contained in the documents.  It is based on the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) model.*  The program allows you to classify all of the information on the documents based on the GPS labels.  There is also a place you put your proof argument/proof summary.  One of Evidentia’s strengths is that if you aren’t sure which person the document refers to (more than one person with the same name) you can tag each person pending further analysis.  You can then evaluate all of the evidence you have for a specific person and easily spot anything that is conflicting.  You can also look at all of the documents that pertain to a specific event for your person of interest excluding those documents that don’t pertain to that event.  One thing I particularly like is the capability of making your own citation templates.  I use Legacy Family Tree as my database program but unfortunately some of their templates do not strictly conform to Elizabeth Shown Mill’s Evidence Explained.  Evidentia has Evidence Explained templates but you can modify them or create your own.  Evidentia offers support though its tutorial videos, step-by-step written instructions, support forum, and Facebook Page. Evidentia offers a 30 day free trial.  The cost of the program is $24.99. 

For more information about the GPS, please see the below series of articles:
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
Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Groups

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Identifying photos and uncooperative relatives

Tam asks:
”I found a box of photos when I cleaned out my mom’s attic [mom is deceased].  None of them are labeled.  Do you have any suggestions on how I can figure out who these people are?”

William [named changed for privacy] asks:
”My Great-Aunt Matilda [named changed for privacy] refuses to talk to me about our family.  She is the oldest living member of the family and her mind is sharp as a tack.  I know that she knows a lot of things but I can’t get her to talk about any of it.  She just says that the past is the past and its nobody’s business.  I am so frustrated!  I don’t know what else to do.  The only thing I can think is that there is some big family secret she is trying to hide.”

There isn’t a lot you can do.  You can’t force her to talk about things that she doesn’t want to.  You can try giving it a rest for a while and then approach her again.  You can tell her what all you know and see if she is willing to contradict or add to what you tell her.  You can ask her if she has any old photos and that you would like to see them.  She might let some little tidbits slip when she is telling you who is in the photos (if she is even willing to show them to you).  There might not be a deep, dark family secret.  Some people just aren’t interested in talking about the past.  Maybe if you explained your intentions she will start talking.  Maybe she is afraid you are going to publish a book or something. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ditto and Lulu

Pat asks:
”What does ‘do’ mean in the place of birth spot on a census? The whole page has nothing but ‘do!’”

“do” is short for ditto which means same as above. If the entire page is dittoed, then you will need to go to the previous page.  Since this is in the space where the place of birth goes, it is most likely going to be the name of the state in which the census was taken.  Many people were born in the state where they lived.  It could also be a lazy census taker that didn’t bother to ask but rather just put the same birthplace for everyone.  That is why you shouldn’t rely on a single census record to tell you where a person was born.  As a matter of fact, it is best if you use records from a variety of sources to decide where the person was born.

Mercy asks:
”I would like to publish my family history and have the books available at our family reunion next year.  It is always a hugs gathering with about 200 people.  Do you have any recommendations for a publisher?”

I have never published anything in book form so I don’t have any first hand knowledge but Lulu has been mentioned many times on the Transitional Genealogists Forum and the Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list with positive comments. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, June 24, 2013

Two questions about how to record a date

Mercy asks:
”Do I use the official date of the census or the date the enumerator actually recorded the information?”

If the enumerator recorded a date then I use it, if he/she didn’t then I use the official census date.


Rebecca asks a related question:
”I looked at some tax records on microfilm at the state archives.  The records were labeled 1826 but on the documents themselves there is no date.  Should I assume that these really are from 1826?”

I would put 1826 as my date but in my source citation I would put an explanatory note stating that the Archives have this filed as 1826 but no date was found on the actual documents.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Slave Narratives

Between 1936 and 1938, the Works Projects Administration (WPA) interviewed over 2000 former slaves and compiled the narrative accounts into collections by state. There are 17 states represented.  If you want some insight into what life was like for a slave you should read these.  Over the years the accuracy of some of the narratives have been called into question but these accounts are still a very valuable source of first hand knowledge of life during the time just before the Civil War. 

If you research black lines these narratives are invaluable if the person being interviewed happens to be one of your family members.  In most cases the person named their mother and father as well as siblings.  Some will even state that the slave owner was their father.  If this is the case DNA testing would be the next step.  They detail when they were bought and when they were sold and how the family was broken up.  What is interesting to me is several of the ones I read stated that the interviewee felt that they were better off as a slave than after the war.  They would recount that as a slave they had plenty to eat, a place to live and clothes to wear.  After the war they were turned out with nothing.  It is so sad to know that they felt this way, especially when they also recount the mistreatment.

If you have family on the other side of the equation, you will find the names of slave owners, their wives, children and their associates.  You will gain some insight into their personalities and read descriptions of the farms/plantations. 

You can read all of the narratives on the Library of Congress website.  You can see a list of the states along with links to the individual narratives HERE.  You can also download each state’s collection of narratives as free Kindle books from  This is how I have been reading them.  An Introduction to the WPA Slave Narratives by Norman R. Yetman will give you some background information.  When I read narrative #7 from the Mississippi collection I immediately recognized the slave owner’s name.  I am sure there will be more familiar names before I finish reading these.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, June 22, 2013

PAF and New FamilySearch News

For those of you that use New FamilySearch (nFS) directly, or those that use Legacy, RootsMagic or Ancestral Quest to interface with nFS, be aware that on 30 Jun 2013 you will no longer be able to make any changes to nFS.  That is the official switchover day to Family Tree.  The three listed programs are those that have been certified by FamilySearch to interface with nFS and now Family Tree.

Effective 15 Jul 2013, the Family History Library (FHL) will no longer have Personal Ancestral File (PAF) available for download nor will they be providing technical support to those people that continue to use PAF past that date.  The FHL recommends that you switchover to one of the above listed database programs.  If you use PAF, you can read more about how to switch over HERE.

For those of you that have no idea what I am talking about, FamilySearch’s Family Tree is a giant online, interconnected family tree.  It is much different than the trees you find on or similar websites where individuals upload their GEDCOMs.  On those sites the trees are kept separate.  In Family Tree the goal is to have ONE tree that everyone belongs too (in theory anyway).  It is fairly new so it still have kinks but the LDS members and the non LDS beta testers have been working hard to get the Tree is good shape. 

Before you upload anything to Family Tree, or before you interface with Family Tree using one of the above database programs, please watch the instructional videos.  The last thing Family Tree needs is for people to start uploading their files willy nilly.  Go to the Family Tree Training Page to view the online courses and training videos.  You will be asked to sign in.  If you haven’t registered (free) you will need to do so.  These training sessions will teach you how to use Family Tree the right way.  Remember, this is ONE tree which means if your ancestors are already in the tree you will have merge your person into the one already there and not add a new one.  You will be able to make corrections, add more information, add sources, add family links, add comments etc.  If everyone uses Family Tree the way it is meant to be used it will be a great resource.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cemeteries on private property

Bill asks:
”Can I go on private property to photograph a cemetery?  I know of a old family cemetery that is out in the woods but the place is marked with no trespassing signs.  I don’t know how to find out who the owner is and I don’t know if I even need his permission.  I live in Georgia.”

I guess this is the time of year for Georgians to go tombstone hunting because a member of the Columbia County Genealogical Society (CCGS) asked a similar question at the last meeting.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division has an excellent web page about Georgia law and Georgia case law and how it applies to cemeteries.  You will find the answer to your question HERE.

As far as how to figure out who the owner of the property is, many Georgia counties tax assessors have their tax records online.  It is fairly easy to figure out who owns vacant land by using the map feature.  Find a mailbox nearby with an address and plug it in.  You can then move from that location to the one you are looking for.  You might have to change addresses to get the map to move far enough.  Use a property owner you see on the map and then start the process over with his address.  That will move your map over some.  If the records are not online, just measure how far the property is from the nearest cross street and visit the tax assessor’s office.  They will help you figure it out.

For those of you in other states it would be a good idea to find out what the laws are before you go traipsing in the woods looking for tombstones.  Nothing is more embarrassing than being dragged off in handcuffs (though future genealogists will enjoy reading about it when they do a newspaper search).

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Information Overload?

I just finished listening to Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, Information Overload? Effective Project Planning, Research, Data Management and Analysis (scroll to T241), recorded at the 2013 NGS conference in Las Vegas. I wish I had the syllabus so that I could have seen her visuals but even so, it was excellent. One of the most interesting concepts was the order she does her research, exactly backwards from how most people (including me) do it. She does her research report, research notes and transcriptions/abstractions of all documents BEFORE she enters any information into her database program. She gave excellent reasons why she does it this way that make perfect sense.

After posting this on the Transitional Genealogists Forum (Rootsweb mailing list) on 16 Jun 2013, Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL responded that she too had given a lecture that details this methodology.  Elissa’s lecture is Baker’s Dozen Steps to Writing Research Reports (scroll to S401). Elissa elaborated by saying:

“The idea is that the research report is the "living document" that grows and changes as you do the research. It makes it so much easier to finish the report because much of it is already written through the process. The writing also drives the research as holes or record gaps are easier to see.

Long gone are the days of "collect, collect, collect and I will write the story later." By integrating writing and research, the thoughtful application of words to "paper" make us better and more efficient researchers.”

I have ordered Elissa’s lecture and I can’t wait to hear it.  Even if you can’t attend the big national conferences you can stay up to date by ordering the audio CDs.  This is great stuff and I am certainly going to modify the way I do things.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Death of the Telegram

Telegram from George Burns to Bob Hope, 1991.  Library of Congress

According to Fox News, on July 14, 2013, India will signal the end of an era by sending the last telegram.  Text messaging has rendered the iconic telegram obsolete.  When I think of telegrams I think of bad news.  At one time this was the quickest way to notify family members that a tragedy had occurred.  During war time people dreaded seeing the telegram delivery boy.  I opted to post an image of a funny telegram instead.

The first telegram was sent by Samuel Morse 144 years ago and was an important form of communication in our country’s history.  I wonder what Samuel would have thought about text messaging.

[Samuel F.B. Morse, three-quarter-length portrait, seated, facing front, posed with a camera and glass plate negatives]

Samuel F. B. Morse, 1872, Library of Congress

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Happy birthday, Kelly!

Today is my daughter Kelly’s 21st birthday!  WOO HOO!  I took a look at my database and found the following people share a birthday with Kelly:

Patience Spires 1728
Phoebe Bent 1782
Mary Garraway 1867
George Pylant 1908

Does Kelly care?  Not a bit.  She is much more excited that she shares a birthday with Paul McCartney.  Happy birthday to Kelly and Sir Paul!

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, June 17, 2013

Did you know?

Did you know that most of the major interstates, US roads, and state roads used to be dirt trails traveled by your ancestors?  The “King’s Highway” went from Boston to Charleston and linked all 13 colonies by 1750.  Now it is better known as Interstate 95.  The “Fall Line” brought northerners to the deep south, also in the mid 1700s.  Today it breaks off of I 95 into US 1.  The “Trading Path” went from Virginia to Alabama which now follows current state roads through all three states.  “Jackson’s Military Road” from Nashville to New Orleans catches pieces of I 65, US 45 and I 59 as well as several state roads.

If you have a major interstate, US road or state road near you, do a little research and see if you can figure out if it was an old overland trail some of your ancestors might have traveled. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, June 16, 2013

To “e” or not to “e,” that is the question

Ted asks:
”My last name is Blackstone and all of my living relatives are Blackstones.  However, some of my ancestors were Blackstons and some are Blackstones.  I am not sure what to do.  It isn’t a misspelling because those that are Blackstons kept that spelling their whole lives.  It is almost like some in the family preferred that spelling. I don’t know how to record this.”

Those that were known as Blackstone you record as Blackstone.  Those that were known as Blackston you record as Blackston.  If you want to show that a certain person was known both ways you could put Blackston(e).  My husband is related to this Blackston(e) line so I know what you are talking about.  I haven’t done enough research on this line to give you any solid theories about it.  If you find a document where the person actually signed his name himself you will have a better idea and if you have enough of these types of documents you might even pick up some sort of a pattern.  For example, you might have a family of all Blackstones and then one of the sons decides he likes Blackston better.  When you follow his children they also use the Blackston spelling.  If the family was illiterate then they might have just spelled their name the way that others around them spelled it.  At this point there is no way to know,

Take a look at the Blackstone Website put together by Jim Blackstone. He has collected many records for Blackston(e) whether he could tie them into his family or not.  If that isn’t enough for you, take a look at the Blackstone/Blakeston DNA Study.  Here you will see a lot more variations. The more Blackston(e) (and all other variations) submit DNA, the clearer the name variations dilemma will become.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Annie’s Ghosts

I just finished reading Annie’s Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg and I highly recommend it.  The author is the senior editor of the Washington Post and not a genealogist, well, I guess he is now.  He found out about a secret in his family and he decided to investigate it.  The book chronicles his journey to discover the truth. 

The book is very well-written, not surprising considering Steve’s occupation.  Steve starts out not knowing anything about genealogy, research methods or repositories/document sets.  It is interesting to watch how learns through trial and error.  You will learn a lot of history pertaining to the treatment of mentally retarded persons and those suffering from mental illness back in the 1920s-1970s, both by the system and by society.  You will also learn some history about the atrocities suffered by Jews during the Holocaust.  This is an excellent example of an in depth case study in a non technical format.  I could not put this book down. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, June 14, 2013

RootsMagic and Legacy

By now you know that I am a long time user of Legacy Family Tree but I many of my colleagues like RootsMagic so I thought I should try it out.  I now have both programs on my computer and I am looking forward to comparing the two.  The first thing I did was join the RootsMagic Mailing List.  I know I will have questions even after watching the Training Webinars.  I love trying out new stuff so this will be fun. 

I also want to talk about Legacy a little bit ecause I am not abandoning it.  Version 8 is coming out very soon and Geoff Rassmussen has been sending out little teasers on the Legacy Mailing List about the new features.  So far we know that the look will be updated and streamlined.  Yesterday Geoff announced that you will be able to see all nine tags on the family view and on the individual screen instead of three which was definitely on my wish list.  You will also be able to see how many individuals there are on each tag which is very handy.  Before you would have to do a search for everyone tagged on tag 5 to get a count.  Legacy now interfaces with New FamilySearch but soon it will switch over to FamilyTree.  That might happen before Version 8 is released. 

Many genealogists run more than one database program on their computer to take advantage of each program’s strengths.  I guess I just became one of them.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Keep or Throw Out

TrashThere has been a lot of talk this past week on Facebook about whether or not we should be keeping the paper copies of our documents.  I would never even consider trashing true originals but what about the copies of marriage licenses, wills, deeds etc. that you have gotten from courthouses?  I thought about all of the documents that I have collected over the years.  I probably only have one binder’s worth of true originals.  Everything else I have are mere copies.  I have been wanting to get all of this stuff scanned into the computer so that I can link the documents to the correct people in Legacy.  That way I can see everything that I have in one place.  Should I trash the copies once I do this?  I have to admit, it would be very hard for me to get rid of all of these papers but honestly, do I really need them?  I have all of my scanned documents backed up to the “cloud” so even if my computer crashed I wouldn’t lose anything.  This is something that I really need to ponder.  If you have an  opinion, please leave a comment. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Compiled Genealogies

I have spoken to you several times about compiled genealogies.  The trees you find on, FamilyTree and other websites are compiled genealogies. Family history books are also compiled genealogies.   I have always said to view these with caution but use them for clues to find the original documents you need for your own research.  Betty Lou Malesky, CG has written an excellent article I think you should read.  She lists ten things you should consider when evaluating the validity/credibility of a compiled genealogy. 

GENEALOGY: How to evaluate a compiled genealogy

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Alternate Spellings and Nicknames

1880 U.S. census, Marion County, Mississippi, population schedule, Beat 1, enumeration district (ED) 131, p. 281 [stamped], dwelling [blank], family [blank], A.G. Graham household; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Oct 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll 656; Every family in this enumeration district was listed as dwelling 1, family 1.

This is the household of my 2nd great-grandfather, Albert Gallitan Graham.  My great-grandmother is listed as Corean Graham.  That is an incorrect spelling of her name.  Her name was Corrine.  How do I know that?  My grandfather told me how his mother’s name was spelled and he also named one of his daughters Corrine.  Her name is spelled Corrine in the family Bible and I have other documents that have her name spelled this way.  Corean is a phonetic equivalent and it is easy to understand how the enumerator made this mistake.  So how do I handle this when I am recording the information in my file or if I am writing a report?

I do a couple of  things. I record the name Corrine Elizabeth Graham in the main name field because that is the name that I know to be correct (in some cases this would be the name that I “think” to be correct).  I record the name Corean Graham as an AKA in Legacy (and I know the other genealogy database programs also have this capability).     If I am writing a report, I will put a blurb in there stating that for clarity’s sake I will be using the name Corrine throughout the report though there are alternate spellings. 

If there is a reason why I need to mention a particular AKA I will do so.  An example  is when I am trying to prove that two people are in fact one and the same.  In my file I have a person named Mary who was referred to in her grandfather’s will as Polly.  I had to prove that Mary and Polly were the same person.  Another example would be showing that an alternate name is in fact the person’s middle name.  Many people even today prefer to be known by their middle name.  If I know a person had a specific nickname I will definitely mention it in reports because that helps make that person unique.  I still record what I know/think to be the person’s birth name in the main name field. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, June 10, 2013

Researching a Lineage for the DAR

Anon asks:
”You may be the answer to prayers. Can you please tell me the source of this information. It is on a website that sells software, which I don't want. I can't figure out another way to get the info, pay or not. Any help would be so appreciated.”

Anon sent me a link to a compiled genealogy posted on Family Tree Maker’s website.  Here is the LINK.  Anon then clarified with this: 

“I do lineages with proofs not the family trees with aunts and cousins. This particular search is for a friend who is 92 years old and says she can die happy if she can get in the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution] and she feels this is her last chance. Of course when you take on search like this, it becomes your search, too. I am not getting paid anything.  Her Revolutionary ancestor is Richard Curtis but I found this generation I need going thru William's wife – Callie Simmons. I need a family Bible or a will or probate record or some record of note. The line goes Richard, (Rev anc.),  to William (I have kinda), William to James b abt 1784 (I need), I have James Curtis's Family Bible and on down to my friend Bonnie.  I belong to but haven't found sources.”

To get your friend in the DAR you will need proofs for every relationship going up the line.  Sometimes these proofs are not simple documents that name the relationship specifically but rather a complex case study/proof argument.  You might want to start by reading my six part series on the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) which will give you some idea of what the DAR expects.  The DAR’s requirements have tightened up quite a bit in the last few years. 

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 took a particular interest in your little dilemma because I happen to know who Callie Simmons was.  I had to research Callie’s father, James Simmons, because I had to differentiate this James Simmons from my James Simmons who also lived in Mississippi at the same time (they both lived there before Mississippi became a territory).  It was actually fairly easy for me because your James Simmons lived in the Natchez area and mine lived in Perry County which is quite a distance away.  My James was also one generation younger.  There might have been some sort of familial connection between the two but I haven’t been able to find it.

Anyway, back to your dilemma.  I would contact the person that posted this information just to see what he has in the way of documentation.   His contact information is posted on the site, just hit the HOME link at the bottom.  Even if he doesn’t have the documentation that you need, his research may give you clues to help you find the documentation yourself. 

You need to find out what DAR applications have already been submitted for this Revolutionary War Patriot.  If the application is not flagged as having errors, you can piggyback onto that application and only have to add any relationships that aren’t included.  I ran a search on the DAR Ancestor Search and your Richard Curtis #A028944 is listed HERE.  There are NO applications using Richard’s son William.  You will definitely have your work cut out for you because it looks like you will be starting from scratch.  Richard’s children that have been used are Richard Jr., Phoebe and Jemima.  It would still behoove you to get a few of these applications because however these people proved that Richard Jr., Phoebe and Jemima were children of Richard might also prove that William is a child of Richard’s. 

The two places you will need to look for your documentation are the Family History Library’s (FHL) and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH).  It just so happens that there are a lot of surviving documents from the Natchez District.  Half the battle is knowing what is actually available and where it is located. 

It is very likely that you won’t be able to find direct evidence documents for every fact.  You will  probably need to put together a convincing circumstantial case and that is where the GPS will help you.  I wish you the very best luck.  Your friend is lucky to have someone to help her with this.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, June 9, 2013

NGSQ Study Group

10-08-0201-f-1 OSOC-NGS01 Logo TM Symbol

The NGSQ Articles Online Study Group  is another FREE continuing education opportunity. There are several different groups set up that meet at different times and using different formats.  You should be able to find a group to your liking.  The groups meet once a month to discuss past articles published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ).  When you sign up you will get some articles to read that will help you learn how to read published articles critically.  You will also get the list of articles that will be reviewed for the entire year.  Members of each group take turns leading the discussion.  I really enjoy this group and have learned a lot.  If you are interested, send an email to the address listed in the above link.  You will need to be a member of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) to be able to access the articles in their archives.  To learn about other reasons you need to join genealogical societies click HERE.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Two More Relationship Questions

Joshua asks:
”What is the proper relationship for a 1st cousin (not removed) of the wife of my fifth great granduncle to me?  To generalize, is there a simple rule of thumb for dealing with extended in-laws?”

You guys are killing me with relationship questions! I think y’all are trying to come up with the weirdest combo to see if you can trip me up :)  Actually, yours is pretty easy. Whenever you are describing the relationship of someone that is not blood related to you, you always describe it in terms of how the person relates to one of your actual blood relations. Your 5th great-granduncle is the blood relation so you would say “the first cousin of my 5th great-granduncle’s wife.”  You could also say, “my great-granduncle’s wife’s first cousin.” 

J. D. asks a related question:
”How do you describe someone that you are related to more than one way?”

This is a common dilemma for those of us that do research in the deep south.  You refer to them using the closest relationship.  In some cases I will violate the rule I gave Joshua (blood relationships come first) for simplicity’s sake.  My stepmother happens to be my 5th cousin once removed.  I prefer to just call her my stepmother.  Stepmother is the closest even though it isn’t a blood relationship.  My two stepsisters would die laughing if I called them my 5th cousins twice removed!  There are always exceptions to every rule. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ada’s Birthdate

In yesterday’s Extra Children Post I mentioned Ada Frances Simmons.  I don’t have any direct evidence of her exact birthdate so I had to do a proof argument showing why I believe her birthdate was 23 July 1890.  This isn’t in normal proof argument format. I am leaving it in the current format because there is extra information in there that will help you understand the thought processes.  The last paragraph, “Analysis,” is more in a proof argument format.  This report was used in a National Genealogical Society (NGS) Home Study Course assignment as well as a ProGen assignment. 

I want to point out one thing.  In the report I stated that a date calculated from a census age was INDIRECT evidence. My rationale was that if a person was a certain age on the census he/she could have been born in two different years depending on what month they were born in.  It doesn’t exactly answer the question, “When was Ada born?”  However, the current thinking on this exact situation is that it is in fact DIRECT evidence. You could answer the above question by stating, “Ada was born in either 1889 or 1890.”  I left the report in its original format because I am still working on getting the definitive answer to this question.  Also, when I uploaded the pdf to Google Docs some of the formatting got messed up (different fonts show up in the same paragraph).  I just wanted you to know that the actual report doesn’t look that way.

When was Ada Frances (Simmons) Bounds born?

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Extra Children

I want you to look at two census entries:


1900 U.S. census, Marion County, Mississippi, population schedule, Township 4 North, Range 15 West, enumeration district (ED) 75, sheet 5B, p. 29, dwelling 82, family 83, James E. Simmons household; digital images, ( : accessed 20 Oct 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 819.


1910 U.S. census, Lamar County, Mississippi, population schedule, Beat 4, enumeration district (ED) 91, sheet 18A, p. 83, dwelling 221, family 221, James Simmons household; digital images, ( : accessed 19 Oct 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 747.

In 1900, Corrine was the mother of 7 children with 6 children living.  In 1910, she was the mother of 10 children with 7 children living.  Let’s see if I can reconcile James and Corrine’s children.

Ada Frances Simmons, born 23 Jul 1890, died 15 May 1960 1   [NOTE: Tomorrow I will present a mini proof argument showing how I came up with Ada’s birth date]
Mary Leona Simmons, born 19 Oct 1891, died 02 Jul 1976 2
Albert Simmons,  born 05 Mar 1893, died 08 Mar 1893 3
Jesse Colon Simmons, born 10 Apr 1894, died 11 Mar 1943 4
Walter William Simmons, born 20 Mar 1896, died 17 Mar 1958 5
Claudia Mae Simmons, born 14 Feb 1898, died 23 Jan 1968 6
Lemuel Elexander Simmons, born 25 Mar 1899, died 03 Nov 1926 7
Rufus Elmore Simmons, born 12 Jun 1906, died 22 Nov 1967 8
William Houston Simmons, born 17 Nov 1910, died 13 Mar 1978 9 [my grandfather]

There are nine known children.  In 1900, there were six children alive and Albert had died in 1893 so the census numbers are correct (7/6).  In 1910, there were seven children alive (Elmore had been born in 1906 so he makes the 7th living children).  Albert was dead but now we have two more dead children.  Houston was born in November (after the census was taken in May) so he is not listed on the 1910 census.  The conclusion?  Corrine had given birth to two children between 1900 and 1910 and both of those children had also died between those dates.

Do you see the seven year gap between Lem and Elmore? There is also a 4 year gap between Elmore and Houston. All of the other children are nice and tight. This also supports that there were two children that were born and died between the two census years.

So I have established that Corrine had two children that we have no information on.  What do I do with this information?  Do I record these children in my genealogy file?  The answer is yes.  There may be information about these children out there that I just haven’t found yet (Bible records, cemetery records, etc.). Corrine was the mother of 11 children, not nine.  Is it possible that she had even more children after Houston was born in Nov 1910?  In this case the answer is no.  Corrine died in childbirth with Houston so I can be fairly confident that Corrine was the mother of 11.10

I would add these two children to my file with their sex unknown and with birth and death dates between 11 June 1900 (when the 1900 census was taken) and 04 May 1910 (when the 1910 census was taken). 

Here is what my actual list of children looks like:

ListCreated using Legacy Family Tree

Boys are blue, girls are red, and unknown sex children are green.  This gives me a more accurate picture of this family.  Even though I don’t know much about these two, I do know that they existed.

1 Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 8504 (1960), Ada Frances Bounds. 
2 Entrekin Family Cemetery (Carnes, Forrest County, Mississippi), Mary Leona Entrekin marker, personally read, 2000. 
3 Grantham Family Cemetery (Lamar County, Mississippi; Cameron Road off of Old Hwy 24), Albert, son of J.E. and C.E. Simmons marker, personally read, 2000. 
4 Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 3466 (1943), Jesse Collon Simmons.
5 Grantham Family Cemetery (Lamar County, Mississippi; Cameron Road off of Old Hwy 24), Walter Simmons marker, personally read, 2000.  
6 Simmons Family Cemetery (Forrest County, Mississippi; On AB Simmons Road, off of Rock Hill to Brooklyn Road), Claudia M. Lee marker, personally read, 1999. 
7 Entrekin Family Cemetery (Carnes, Forrest County, Mississippi), L.A. Simmons marker, personally read, 2000. 
8 Pine Grove Baptist Church Cemetery (Pinegrove, Lamar County, Mississippi), L.A. Simmons marker, personally read, 2000. 
9 Florida Department of Health, death certificate 78-023580 (1978), William H. Simmons. 
10 William Houston Simmons, deceased (Purvis, MS), interview by Michele Simmons Lewis, 1977. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Finding an Old Genealogy Website

Matt asks:
”I'm trying to find some information that was available on the web a number of years ago but is no longer accessible.  I've looked at the 'Wayback Machine' Internet Archive but the pages are no longer available.  Are you aware of another Internet Archive I can use to find the old webpage?  It is”

I ran a Google search and I found a 2004 post by Stu Roberts stating that all of his research was now on  You can see the post HERE.  I ran another Google search with the following search terms; Stu Roberts, Leverton, genealogy.  I then found Leverton Genealogy which appears to be what you are looking for.

The Wayback Machine that Matt mentioned is an excellent way to find old websites that no longer exist.  I am really surprised that they have no record of Stu’s old website.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Groups

Woo hoo!  I am in the Mastering Genealogical Proof (MGP) Study Group 2 led by Harold Henderson, CG, a well-known Midwestern researcher.  The study group is based on Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS.  Tom’s book is in a workbook format so it is perfect for a study group.  I am really looking forward to working through the book with other researchers.  There are several groups in session at the same time but I know our group with Harold will be the best :)  If you are interested, you can get your name on the Waiting List for future groups. 

Dear Myrtle also has a MPG Study Group and It isn’t too late to get in on it.  They have already had the orientation session but you can see the archived video HERE.  The session for Chapter 1 is scheduled for 16 Jun 2013.  I will be watching these sessions via Dear Myrtle’s YouTube Channel.

Here are two great FREE options for quality continuing education.  Please don’t let this opportunity pass you by.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sharing Your Research With Family

Fran asks:
”How do you respond when a family member (a non genealogist) hears about your research and suddenly gets all excited about it and asks you to send them everything thing that you have uncovered?”

I would send them a simple pedigree chart with that person as the anchor.  This will show them their direct line ancestors which is what most non genealogists are most interested in anyway.  I might throw in a few interesting family stories about specific ancestors. I would also answer any specific questions that they might have like “Do you know if Grandpa Morgan fought in WWI?”  Maybe it will be enough to spark their interest so that they will start sleuthing a bit on their own.  I don’t think I would ever send my entire file to anyone, let alone someone that doesn’t know what they are looking at.  It would be overwhelming for them and a waste of time for me if their interest is only fleeting.  It would also be way too tempting for someone just starting out to copy the entire file as their own.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, June 2, 2013

One of My Best Tips

One of the best things I ever did to advance my genealogy is go to two computer monitors.  I know that sounds a bit odd but I can’t tell you how much time and frustration this has saved me.  In the My Space blog post you can see my laptop with the attached second monitor and a couple of people asked me about it so I thought I would talk a bit about it. 

I have had my computer set up like this for about 5 years now.  Once I did it I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t done it before.  You can have your genealogy program up on one screen and a document on FamilySearch (or whatever) on the other other.  You can type the information into your genealogy program at the same time you are looking at it instead of minimizing and maximizing different windows back and forth.  Or, you can have your genealogy program up on one screen and Facebook up on the other :)

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Siblings, Worth the Effort?

Someone on The Organized Genealogist Facebook Group Page asked a very interesting question.  She wanted to know how much effort you should put into researching siblings of your direct line.  I gave a short answer but want to expand it a bit on the blog.

I try and get complete information on the  siblings of my direct line ancestors.  At the very least, full name, date and place of birth, full name of spouse, date and place of marriage, date and  place of death and place of burial. Many times when you are researching a sibling you will find out more information about your direct line.  The siblings share the same parents as your direct line ancestors do.  For example, I was doing research for a client.  The person of interest had five siblings. I requested death certificates for all six people.  The names of both parents were listed on every death certificate EXCEPT on my client’s person of interest.  If I hadn’t checked the siblings I wouldn’t have had that information.  In this case it was very important because the parents died right after they came to this country and were not listed on any American census record.  This is how I was able to figure out who the parents were and I was then able to track down more information on them.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis