Monday, September 30, 2013

1890 Veterans Schedule

This is an often overlooked record set, especially by those that do research in the south.  Technically this is a census of surviving Union soldiers but a bunch of Confederate soldiers managed to make the list.

I had no problem finding examples but I picked this one because these men were enumerated while in the Bexar County, Texas jail which makes them all the more interesting.

VetScreenshot from

The last line shows Ephraim E. Cottingham, Company G, 2nd Regiment, Texas Infantry which was a Confederate unit.  You can read more about this unit HERE.  If you click on the roster you will see E. E. Cottingham listed in Company G.  The enumerator realized his error and tried to scratch Ephraim out.  No problem though, we can still see what he wrote.  I wonder what Ephraim did to end up in jail.

Anyway, the 1890 Veterans Schedule is a great resource especially since almost all of the 1890 population schedule is lost.  It is definitely worth your while to take a look, even if you are looking for a Confederate.  These schedules are available on and FamilySearch.  Unfortunately, the states of Alabama through Kansas and half of Kentucky are lost.  The District of Columbia and half of Kentucky through Wyoming survived.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sometimes you can’t win

A few of examples from my files.…

A man told me his older brother’s cause of death.  This older brother actually died before this man was born.  I got a copy of the death certificate and the cause of death was something completely different.  I reported back and was told I was wrong. 

A man told me that his father didn’t have a middle name.  Obtained several documents including the man’s SS-5 that he filled out himself that stated otherwise.  The name he knew his father by was actually his middle name.  He stated it wasn’t true no matter what the documents said. 

A woman has a direct ancestor that committed a murder.  Entire event chronicled in the newspaper with the ancestor confessing to the crime.  Woman states the event never happened and she doesn’t know why the paper would print such a thing.

A woman’s ancestor was a wealthy slave owner.  Let’s just say she didn’t deal with that news very well and insisted there was some mistake.  None of her relatives would have ever done that. 

A man’s great-grandmother had a child out of wedlock.  He insisted that all of the documents and evidence was in error. 

A woman didn’t appreciate it when I presented census records to her that showed the brother of her ancestor listed as an “idiot.”  (I did try and explain the term).

  •  I don’t hide anything.  What I find is what I find.
  • I do try and convey “bad news” as gently as I can along with explanations and background information to put things into context.
  • I present the evidence but I don’t argue about it.  If you don’t want to accept it I can’t help that.
  • If you are not prepared to hear things that are different from what you “know,” or if you don’t believe that skeletons are possible in your family, it is probably better if you don’t dig into your family’s past.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, September 27, 2013

Short locations

There are some people that fuss when I tell them that they should record their place names in the standard 4 field convention. 

Town/city, County, State, Country
Purvis, Lamar, Mississippi, United States

You are working with a database program that does everything in “fields.”  If you keep your information in the correct fields then you will have no problems with searching and sorting.  This also helps when you are sharing files between programs either by direct transfer or by GEDCOM

I agree though, that this format really isn’t what you want to read in reports.  You might want to check and see if the program you are using has a “short location”  option.  This is a powerful tool.  You can tell the program how you want your locations to print.  This is what it looks like in Legacy. 

PurvisScreenshot from Legacy Family Tree

I still have my short location pretty long because I don’t like abbreviations but I could have easily put

Purvis, Mississippi
Purvis, MS
Purvis, Lamar County, MS
Purvis, Lamar Co, MS

It is totally up to you but for consistency’s sake I would choose one style and then stick with it.  I can tell Legacy to use the short locations when printing reports to make them more readable, especially for the non genealogist.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Attaching documents and photos

David and Patty ask:
”I am going to do a GEDCOM from Ancestry. All of the documentation I know will be the standard basic style as you stated on the 19th [see the comments section of the
Announcement blog post]. Do you copy and save all documents for each person or just go with the basic? I have saved many documents in my word processing file to put into the program when I get everything loaded from the GEDCOM. Do you have any advice as to what I should do? Just keep the copies as is or transcribe or scan into the program for each person and go back into Ancestry and get all others? I guess what I am asking is do we need all that much of a paper trail to go with our genealogy?”

You can’t directly transfer any of the photos or documents you have uploaded to or have linked to but you definitely want to keep these (a GEDCOM is not capable of this).  You will need to move them manually.  WHERE you save them is personal preference. Some like to keep their documents on the computer only, some like to keep paper only, and some like to keep paper but also have everything scanned to the computer. I am transitioning from all paper to all (almost all) computer. If the document is available online I won't be keeping a paper copy. If the document isn't available online (I wrote off to a courthouse to get it) or if it is a true original (Bibles, letters, original certificates) I will be keep those in binders.

As far as Legacy specifically, Legacy allows you to attach computer scans of documents and photos to each person that they refer to. For example, if I have John Doe and Jane Smith's marriage license I can attach this document to John and Jane. There are two ways to do this and again, it is personal preference. You can attach the document to the person, or to the citation, or to both. There is a picture area for each person (you can attach photos, documents, audio, video). You could attach the marriage record here. Or, when you do your marriage citation, there is a place within the citation itself to attach a copy of the marriage certificate.

These attachments are LINKS to where the document is on your hard drive but you will see a thumbnail on your Legacy screen. All you have to do is click on the thumbnail and the document or photo will come up.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The power of the word “of”

I love the word “of.”  Here is my 4th great-grandfather, James Simmons, Sr.

JamesScreenshot  from  Legacy Family Tree

He was “of” South Carolina.  What does that mean?  That means that I don’t know where he was born but the earliest record I have of him places him in the state of South Carolina.  That is pretty important information and I don’t want that to get buried in the notes section somewhere.  I can look at this and immediately see that I do not have James’ place of birth but I do have him in the state of South Carolina.  That is a lot of information stuffed into that little word “of.”

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thank you, Edgefield! Part II

First the answers to yesterday’s trivia questions.  The South’s famous red clay is red because it contains iron oxide (rust).  There is no difference at all between the clay you dig out of the ground here in the South and the “slip” that is used to make ceramics other than the color. 

Now about the classes:

There were eight sessions in two days.  Each session had several classes to choose from and unfortunately you had to pick just one class per session.  I wish I could have attended every class.  I wanted to give you a little info on the classes that I did attend.

Day 1 – Session 1
”An Overview of Edgefield Pottery” by
Master Potter Justin Guy
You can read about this one in yesterday’s blog.  Justin gave us the history of pottery making in general, Edgefield Pottery specifically,  and the history of several of the potter families in Edgefield District.  I am so glad I went to this one.  It was just fascinating.  Being able to be there when they opened the groundhog kiln the next morning just made it even better.

Session 2
”Revolutionary War Battlefield Research of Historic Brattonsville and Huck’s Defeat”  by
Michael C. Scoggins.
Michael not only gave the entire history of the historic battle, he also detailed the modern methods used to pinpoint the exact location of the battlefield.  His account of the events leading up to the battle had us on the edges of our seats.  This was history at its best.  I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about the battle tactics used by both sides, the weaponry and how the local residents were drawn up into the conflict.

Session 3
”The Civil War Widows Pension Application Process” by
Bernice Bennett
This class was a real treat for me.  I have “known” Bernice for quite some time but this is the first time I have met her in person.  She definitely didn’t disappoint.  Her class was both informative and fun.  Her sense of humor had everyone in the class cackling.  Here is a photo of Bernice Bennett and I.  She stays knee deep in the compiled service records and pension files at the National Archives so there is no one that knows these records better than she does.  She is part of the project that is digitizing these records for Fold3.


Session 4

”Sources for Genealogical Research at the
South Carolina Archives” by Archivist Steve Tuttle. 
Steve detailed the holdings of the Archives and included large, full color copies of the various records for  us to look at.  They have so much more available than I had imagined.  He also gave many helpful research tips on how to use the records to your best advantage.  He updated us on the digital images that are available and assured us that getting those documents online is a priority.

Day 2 – Session 1
”Was Granny Crazy? Researching Ancestors in the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum” by
Mike Becknell
Mike explained the laws governing access to the hospital’s medical files  He also told us about many other record sets that will have additional information even if you aren’t allowed access to the hospital records.  The information he presented was useful no matter which state your person of interest was committed in.  I have one person in my file that was at the Arizona State Hospital and one in the Mississippi State Hospital.  I now have a couple more places I need to check for documents,

Session 2
”DNA Research” by Jan Alpert (past president of the National Genealogical Society)
I was really looking forward to this one.  DNA research can get very complicated and I had so many questions.  Jan explained several of the harder concepts in very easy to understand terms.  I had thought “Chromosome Mapping” was just totally above me but now I understand it!  She is also a surname project manager (multiple surnames) and I was missing so much good information on those project pages.  My matches make so much more sense to me now.

Session 3
”Overcoming the Roadblocks in African American Genealogy” by Elvin Thompson
I happen to be working on a case study right now that involves a slave that was freed after the war so I knew I needed to attend this class.  Elvin used examples from his own family to make his points which made it all the more interesting.  One of Elvin’s main points was how important oral histories are.  In my case study, the oral history was absolutely critical.  Without that I wouldn’t have been able to find the supporting documents.

Session 4
”1860: Secession – Was it a Conspiracy?” by Ann Bowen
There was controversy all the way around.  In Lincoln’s first inaugural address on 04 Mar 1861 Lincoln stated, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”  [transcript available from Yale Law School].  I never knew that Lincoln said that.  Then on the other side, did you know that not all southerners were on board when the southern states seceded?  I knew of course that some men went north to fight in Union units but some southern states came very close to not seceding at all.  Was there pressure put on them to do so?  My head was spinning after this one.  It was amazing how much information Ann packed into her lecture.

Just as a side note:  This two day conference cost $30 (yes, thirty).  It included a catered “block party” held in the town square on Friday night.  We also got a cool tote bag loaded with goodies, a piece of authentic Edgefield pottery and a commemorative pin from the Mayor of Edgefield.  On Saturday we were able to watch them open the groundhog kiln and lunch was available at three different restored historic sites (lunch $10, proceeds to support these sites).  The entire town of Edgefield participated and supported this conference.  I am looking forward to next year. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, September 23, 2013

Thank you, Edgefield!

I want to thank the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society, Old Edgefield District African American Genealogical Society and the town of Edgefield, South Carolina for hosting the Southern Studies Showcase.  Y’all did a fantastic job!

Tomorrow I will be giving you a little synopsis of the classes I took but today I wanted to tell you a couple of interesting things about Edgefield itself.

Edgefield is a small town with a spectacular past.  It is the birthplace of ten governors.  I doubt there is any other town in the entire United States that can say that.  It is also home of Edgefield Pottery.  They have been making pottery in this area since the very early 1800s.  The “Fall Line” has a large deposit of clay along its length making this area perfect for potters.   The Edgefield County Historical Society and Old Edgefield Pottery operate an authentic groundhog kiln which is fired up three to four times a year.  Several local artisans use the kiln.  They keep the kiln burning for two days using two full cords of wood.  The temperature inside is 2500+ degrees.  The kiln is then allowed to cool for four days.  Saturday morning, before the second day of the Southern Studies Showcase got underway, the kiln was opened.  Over 150 pieces of pottery were removed from the kiln and then were immediately put up for sale with the artisans standing by.  The temperature inside the kiln was still approximately 120 degrees even after the four day cooling period.

Here are a few pictures:

001Opening the kiln by removing the entrance bricks


Master Potter Justin Guy inside the kiln retrieving the pottery


Inside the kiln


Some of the pottery taken out of the kiln

Here is a trivia question for you:  Why is the clay in the deep south red and what is the difference between the clay you dig up out of the ground here in the south and the “slip” they use when making ceramics?  Answers tomorrow!

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Southern Studies Showcase

America,American state,Americans,map of South Carolina,maps,South Carolina,South Carolina map,South Carolina state map,states,United States,US,USA

I will be at the Southern Studies Showcase sponsored by the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society and the Old Edgefield District African-American Genealogical Society on September 20-21, 2013 in Edgefield, South Carolina.   You can see what the topics will be and who will be presenting HERE.  You will have to scroll down a bit.  A couple of my buddies from the Columbia County (GA) Genealogical Society will also be going which is nice.  It is going to be a lot of fun and very informative.

I will be back on the blog Monday, September 23, 2013.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I post a lot on this blog about Legacy Family Tree.  It is the software that I have used since 2007 after switching from Family Tree Maker and I recommend it wholeheartedly.  I have also included many screen shots from Legacy when I have wanted to show you something from my file.  I have always added a disclaimer that I don’t work for Legacy and that I am just a loyal customer.  Well, that isn’t true anymore.  As of Monday, I now work for Legacy Family Tree.  Wow!

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Did they move?

Shelby asks:
”Is it possible someone could have moved during a census and get listed twice? The dates are approximately 2 weeks apart and the locations are about 8 miles apart. The earlier one she is listed as a daughter and the second as a boarder along with 21 other people. The birth location for the person and her parents match. It is a 1910 census and I have yet to find her on anything earlier. By the 1920 census, she is my Great grandmother.”

Yes.  I have two instances of this in my own file. The first one was an entire family so it was easy for me to prove it was the same family (same father, mother and like five children). The second one was only a husband and wife but they both had fairly unusual names and I can show that the husband was working in the oil field camps as a cook and moved around. 

In your case though, when you are working with a single name you have to be more careful. I would be checking as many different records as I can for that location and that time period to determine if there were two people with the same name or if this girl did move.  Another thing you might want to consider is did one of the parents give the daughter’s name to the census taker even though she wasn’t actually living there? 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, September 16, 2013

FamilySearch Family Tree question

Shelby asks:
”I am adding in people, kind of rebuilding a new tree on family search and I am not finding anyone so it is creating new people. Is this normal or am I missing something? Also, it's like the new IDs are all starting with the same codes. Am I to guess that they are just really not in here; I've gotten up to my grandparents and my hubby's parents (who are both passed).  Am I likely to eventually run into someone who might be in the system?”

If you started with yourself then you probably won't get a duplicate until you get farther back in time. It is much more likely someone has already added your great-grandparents than added you (and you shouldn’t be able to see living people anyway even if someone did add you). The reason the codes are similar is because you added a couple of people in a row that weren’t in the database. They weren't perfectly sequential because there are many people out there that are adding people, merging people, and splitting people at the same time as you are so that is why you are seeing numbers that are close, but not quite sequential.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Questions about evidence and sources

Ann asks:
”In reviewing your blog this morning I have two questions.  How do you define direct or indirect evidence? Also, is a copy of a census report, marriage license, etc. on the internet considered an original source?”

Direct evidence is something that answers the research question directly. Indirect evidence is two or more pieces of evidence that answer the question indirectly. For example, let’s say your research question is, “Who was John Doe’s father?”  If James Doe’s will states, “And to my son John…” Then you have direct evidence that James is John’s father.

Think of indirect evidence as circumstantial evidence.  Here are the indirect evidence pieces to the puzzle.

  • James was the right age to have been John’s father.
  • There are no other Does in the same county that are the right age to be John’s father.
  • In the 1840 census there is a child in James’ household that was the right age to have been John.
  • John and James lived on adjacent pieces of property.
  • James was listed as a witness on John’s marriage license and several deeds
  • John was the administrator of James’ intestate estate.

None of these things by themselves answers the research question directly, however, you can take several pieces of indirect evidence and build your case.

Now to your second question.  Digital images and photocopies are considered original sources as long as you are convinced that the image has been reproduced faithfully and that there have been no alterations.

There is another type of copy that you need to be aware of and that is handwritten copies.  For example, when someone wrote a will you do not see that original will in the will book. What you are looking at is a copy that the clerk made. The person who wrote the will kept the will.  When the man died, the executor would present the original will in court. You will sometimes find the original will in the loose probate files.  That is why when you look at a will book, you see the signatures of the testator and the witnesses in the clerk’s hand and the word {seal} next to them. The county clerk signed the men’s names for them on the copy in the book. If you were to look at the original will it would have the signatures of the actual men so you want to check the loose probate packets.  You always want to check the loose probate files anyway because you never know what little goodies you might find.  You have this with deeds too. The original deed was in the possession of the person that owned the property. The clerk made a copy in the deed book.  These are still considered original documents because they were recopied by someone whose job it was to render the information accurately. Unless you have some reason to suspect that the copy has been altered in some way you can label it original.

Another thing you need to be aware of are tax lists and census records. If you see a tax list that is in alphabetical order it has been recopied by the tax assessor. Census records were often recopied.  If you are doing an evidence analysis you might want to note the possibility that these were copies so that your reader is more clear on the situation.   I label these as derivative because there is no way to know if the person that originally took down the information is the same person that recopied it. 

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), 29-31, sections 1.24, 1.25, 1.26, 1.27.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ethnicity update

Public Service Announcement: I am listed as a nominee for Rockstar Genealogist.  What an honor!  I am very happy but also surprised considering who all else is on the list.  Thank you everyone :) has updated their algorithms so here is my new ethnicity breakdown.  Interesting…

DNAScreenshot from

At least you can see my Irish McMichaels and Pattons now.  I was hoping for a little more than 3% but what can you do.  Scandinavia is a bit of a surprise.  I have always been fascinated by the Vikings so this may work out for me.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, September 13, 2013

Thank you, Thomas MacEntee!

I just finished watching Thomas MacEntee’s FREE Legacy Webinar, "You Use WHAT for Genealogy? Wonderful Uses for Unusual Tools" (free until 19 Sep 2013).  The entire webinar was great and I learned quite a bit but what I had the most fun with was WolframAlpha.  I had never seen this website before.  Thomas has actually written an ebook about how to use WolframAlpha called Guide to WolframAlpha for Genealogy and Family History Research.  How I missed this book I will never know.  Sometimes I think I live under a rock. 

WolframAlpha is some sort of weird mathematical calculator that uses actual information.   The example below is similar to the one that Thomas did in the webinar. How am related to my 3rd cousin twice removed?  I can do the calculation myself on paper but the “relationship properties” at the bottom is more than I am willing to do with a calculator and it is just fascinating.

WAscreenshot from WolframAlpha

I typed in the another question that was also similar to what Thomas did in the webinar, “What was the weather in Hahn, Germany on January 1, 1970?” and here is what it spit out:

WA2screenshot from WolframAlpha

Hahn is where I was born but this isn’t my birthdate (I wish it was!).  There was actually much more info under this but I it was too much to do as a jpg for the blog. 

Anyways, this is another tool for you.  To learn more get Thomas’ book.  After watching the webinar I am also going to give Evernote another look.  I use OneNote but I see a couple of things that I think Evernote will handle better.  You just can’t have enough toys to play with.

One last thing, in the webinar Thomas showed how to use Google Alerts (this I already do).  He showed how he had his own name in there so that if any webpage uses his name it will alert him.  Let’s see how long it takes Thomas to find this post.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Extracting data

Just how much evidence can you extract out of a document?  I love to do this!  I think it is a fun game.  Today we will look at a death certificate.  I am using a death certificate of a person I don’t know.  I just picked it randomly off of FamilySearch so that I could simply link to the document instead of trying to squish it onto the blog as a jpg.  Since Simmons is my maiden name I just picked a Simmons that happened to be in the state of Pennsylvania, a state where none of my Simmons’ are from.

Death Certificate of Charles Henry Simmons

  • Charles Henry Simmons was a white male
  • He was married at the time of his death
  • He was born 26 Apr 1839
  • He died on 06 Sep 1908 at 7:00 pm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • He was 69 years, 5 months and 11 days old when he died [this does NOT calculate correctly.  If this was his correct age, his date of birth would be 26 Mar 1839 so keep that in mind]
  • He died of apoplexy [stroke]
  • It appears he had the stroke but didn’t die until several days later.  He was attended by a physician during that time, 26 Aug – 06 Sep 1908
  • The physician that attended him was Charles W. Coburn of 1308 South 24th Street [Philadelphia]
  • At the time of his death he was not working [no occupation]
  • He was born in Lynchburg, Ohio  [located in both Clinton and Highland Counties]
  • His father was Samuel R.  Simmons who was born in Ohio
  • His mother was Mary A. Clark who was born in Ohio
  • He lived at 2712 Latona Street at the time of his death and he died at home.  This address is in the 36th ward [Philadelphia]
  • He was buried on 09 Sep 1908 in the Mt. Peace Cemetery [Philadelphia]
  • The undertaker was J. C. Chew of 2218 Ellsworth Street [Philadelphia]

That is quite a lot of information.  What is missing from this certificate is the informant.  Was it his wife?  A grown child?  A sibling?  Knowing that would give you an idea of how credible Charles’ date of birth and place of birth is as well as the names of his parents and their places of birth.  His date of death and place of death are assumed to be accurate since this is a death certificate.  It was created specifically to record his death.  The physician is signing off on it stating that he verified the death.  In other words, the death date and location are direct evidence (answers the question, “When did Charles die?” directly) given by a primary informant (someone that witnessed the event).  They is pretty reliable.

Charles’ date of birth is direct evidence (answers the question “When was Charles born?” directly) but is given by an undetermined informant.  Most likely it was given by a secondary informant.  The only way it would be primary is if the informant was Charles’ mother or someone that was actually at the birth.  Even Charles’ father might not have been present at the birth.  You don’t have as much weight with this one. 

Every document you examine will have many pieces of evidence on it and each one of them need to be evaluated separately for their weight.  You can make a table that shows this. This document (source) is considered original because it is a faithful digital copy of the original record.  I have no reason to suspect that it has been altered or unfaithfully reproduced.  I will put just a few of the facts in a table to give you an idea.

married direct undetermined (if wife had been the informant then primary)
date of birth and place of birth direct undetermined
date of death and place of death direct primary
cause of death direct primary
father and mother’s names and places of birth direct undetermined

Sometimes using a table like this really helps you see things more clearly especially if you are examining several documents that contain overlapping information.  I could do tables for each individual fact and that would l look like this:

John Doe’s date of birth

1844-1845(age 5) 1850 census dated 01 Jun 1850 original* direct undetermined (the 1940 is the only census where the informant is named)
(age 15)
1860 census dated 01 Aug 1860 original direct undetermined
(age 26)
1870 census
dated 23 Jul 1870
original direct undetermined
(age 35)
1880 census
dated 28 May 1880
original direct undetermined
Nov 1844
(age 55)
1900 census dated 01 Jun 1900 original direct secondary (no one living in the household that could have been present at the birth)
(age 62)
1910 census dated 15 Aug 1910 original direct secondary
30 Nov 1845 death certificate
dated 02 Dec 1917
original direct secondary (wife)
age 71 obituary original direct secondary (probably the same informant as above so not really a separate piece of evidence)
30 Nov 1845 tombstone original direct ditto
bef. 1847 (if he was at least 16 at the time of enlistment) CSA compiled service record, enlisted 14 Oct 1864 original indirect undetermined (if he was underage, his father might have vouched/lied for him)
30 Nov 1844 Mother’s Bible
copyright 1840, right after her marriage
original direct primary (assuming you have determined that the entry was written by the mother herself)

*When dealing with census records you can’t be 100% sure that it isn’t a copy.  Many times the enumerators went out and wrote down the info as a draft and then came back and redid it.  I could have easily put this one as a derivative.

Back to the original death certificate.  If this was a new person to me, where would I go next?  My first stop is always the census records because they can build you a nice timeline skeleton.  I need to know where all Charles was before I can look for records.  I have plenty of info here to track Charles from birth to death.  I will probably pick up the names of his siblings as well as his wife’s first name.  I want to get Charles’ family group sheet under control before I try and go backwards and investigate his parents.  I will want to try and find Charles’ marriage record.  I should be able to figure out where they got married after looking at the census records, at least down to the state or two states.  If I am real lucky I can narrow to the county. 

One more thing.  Why would I care what Charles’ address was, who the undertaker was or who the physician was?  Charles address is important if I am mapping out potential relatives in the area. At the very least it gives a more personal glimpse into Charles’ life if I mention where he lived.  I can do some research to see if the actual house is still standing.  It brings interest into the story if you can put a photo of the house in your file.  I can research the undertaker and find out of any burial records still exist.  Did this physician treat other family members?  Was he the local doctor that everyone went to?  Again, this brings more insight and interest into the story of your ancestor’s life.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Update on classifying sources, information and evidence

Here is a blog post I wrote back in November 2012 on classifying sources, information and evidence.  I need to update this information just a bit.  A new category has been added to sources.  Now you have original, derivative and authored.  Authored works would be things such as compiled genealogies or local history books.

Information also has a new category.  You now have primary, secondary and undetermined informants.  Undetermined would be something like a date of birth on a death certificate where the informant isn’t named.

Evidence has been expanded to three categories.  You have direct, indirect and negative.  We always noted negative evidence on our research calendars before but it wasn’t actually classified as an evidence category where you would actually weigh the negative evidence along with the direct and indirect.  An example of negative evidence would be that John Doe was not found in the 1850 tax rolls though he is found in 1851 through 1870.  This negative evidence may help you prove that John was not yet of age in 1850.

This method of classification is Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Analysis Process Map.  Click on the link and you will see expanded information and a case study that illustrates the process.  You will need to know what all of these terms mean for tomorrow’s blog post.

One thing I will warn you about.  Even though you have an original source giving direct evidence by  primary informant that doesn’t mean the information is actually true.  That is a hard concept for many beginners.  Take a look at people lie if you need more information on that.  Sometimes an indirect evidence case is more convincing than a direct evidence one.

I highly recommend the book, Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas Jones.  I also recommend that you sign up to participate in one of the MGP study groups.  There is a waiting list so go ahead and get on it.  The groups are offered on different days, different times and in different formats so there will be something there that will work for you.  Though you will have to pay for the book, the groups are free so why not take advantage of this opportunity.  You will learn more about classifying evidence and you will learn how to work through the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) one step at a time.  If you want your research to go to the next level then you will want to learn more about the GPS.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Potential problems

A couple of people were interested in knowing more about Legacy’s Potential Problems feature so I thought I would give you a few screen shots so that you can see what Legacy checks for.

The first screen shot shows the main dialog  box for Potential Problems.  Legacy give you many different things to chose from on each screen.  We are going to look at the 4 tabs.  The “records” tab is what you are looking at now and this is just where you tell Legacy which records you want it to check.  This screen is pretty self-explanatory.   You can view the list or your can print to a text or pdf file. 



This next screen shot shows the second tab, “warnings.”  These are things that may or may not be a problem.  You can change the ages to whatever you think works.  Whenever Legacy thinks there is a problem but there really isn’t one you can mark it as “not a problem” and then Legacy will ignore it in future searches.



Here is the first set of “problems.”  As you can see, if you have one if these there is something definitely wrong.  Many times it is just a simple data entry error (hopefully!)



This next screen has the standardization errors.


Here is the actual potential problems list from a file I am working on.  Amos actually was over 100 when he died so I will mark that as “not a problem.”  The event dates after death dates are probably burials.  If you have “cemetery” as an event with a burial date this happens.  Legacy does check to see if your burial date is more than 30 days after the death but that is in the actual burial field.  The other ones, same surname, child born when parent under age 15, and married under age 15 can all be explained because this is in the state of Mississippi.  Okay, maybe not all of them.  The ones with the same name are either truly two people that married that had the same surname (Mississippi, remember), or I have put someone in as Mrs. Surname. I have no choice but to do this if I know the person was married but have no idea what the wife’s name was.  I do this as a placeholder so that I know that there was a wife.I could put unknown but that would be picked up as an error as well.  These just get marked as not a problem,  If the couple had children then I can actually delete the wife after I add the known children.  In those cases Legacy understands that there was a wife (mother) and it will mark it as unknown without creating an error.

With the dates it is usually either because of a data entry error or you have people’s birth dates and marriage dates in as “abt.” based on the evidence you do have.  Abt. dates are general and can be off a year or two or even more. If you have both the birth and marriage dates as abt. then the math gets fuzzier. You will see this when you first start working with a couple and all you have are census records. I will check these one at a time. As I get more documents in these usually disappear on their own.


I wanted to show you one other error checker that Legacy has and that is invalid county names.  If you spell a county name wrong or if you put a county that isn’t in existence yet you will find it in this report.  Legacy will notify you if you type in a county wrong as soon as you type it in but if you don’t have that feature turned on you can always run a report.  I created an error so you can see what it looks like. 


Now the good news.  When Legacy 8 comes out you will be notified of all errors as you make them just like with the county errors.  This is a nice improvement. It can be a bit daunting when you run a report and you have 437 errors at one time. 

I will be doing a little Legacy workshop this coming Thursday which I am very excited about.  I love Legacy and  I enjoy helping others to use it efficiently.  If you happen to be in the area, it will be Thursday, September 12th, at 12:00 noon, at the Euchee Creek Library in Columbia  County, GA.  It will be right before the regular meeting of the Columbia County Genealogical Society at 1:00 pm which of course you are also invited to.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, September 9, 2013

I like surprises

I told y’all that I was going to the Richmond County courthouse to look for some marriage licenses.  Well I did and I found some nifty things.  I had nine marriages on my list.  I only found five of the nine but I am okay with that because I wasn’t sure if the marriages took place in Richmond or in Columbia County.  The two counties are closely linked.  I will be going to the Columbia County Probate Court this afternoon. 

What was even more fun is I found two unexpected marriages just by accident.  I found a new first marriage for someone in my file that I didn’t know about.  I had his second marriage which I thought was his first.   The other thing I found was the marriage license of the parent’s of a good friend of mine from church.  I texted her and she was pretty excited.  Her parents happened to have the same surname as one of the people I was looking for so I saw her parents in the index. 

Both the Richmond and Columbia County Probate Courts are very friendly toward genealogists.  You are allowed to root around in the records without being bothered.  I know that other researchers are not this lucky.  Some courthouses put severe restrictions on what you can and cannot do.  So far I have never had a problem in any courthouse in any state that I have been to.  Maybe the south is just friendlier than the north (can’t wait to hear the responses to that).

Always call ahead and find out what the rules are.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Just because a cemetery is listed on Find A Grave does not mean that the entire cemetery has been surveyed.  In the last couple of weeks two people have emailed me because they weren’t sure what to do.  Their ancestors were listed as being buried in a specific cemetery on their death certificates but they weren’t showing up on Find A Grave. 

Having said that, it is always possible the person is in an unmarked grave but the only way to know  is to have someone go out there and look. 

If you have reason to believe someone is buried in a specific cemetery but they aren’t listed on Find A Grave, add a memorial for them with the information you have and then request a photo.   You do have to be a member of Find A Grave to do this but registering is free.  Please take advantage of this free service and I hope you will consider helping out by surveying /photographing cemeteries in your local area.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Scanning and more scanning

I have been putting this off for years but I am finally scanning my paper documents.  I used the excuse that I had a letter sized scanner and couldn’t scan my legal size documents.  That worked for a while until someone on the Technology for Genealogy Facebook Group page told me I could scan my legal size docs by using the feeder at the top of my machine.  Sigh…

At the same time I am scanning I am also updating my filing system a bit.  I am still using the same system but I am making it a little better.  Just a few little changes like labeling the outside of the sheet protectors with my cool new label maker and putting multiple documents of the same type into the same sheet protector if they are for the same person. 

I have binders for my paper documents.  Each binder holds a different type of document.  Within the binder the documents are in sheet protectors and filed alphabetically.  On the outside of the sheet protectors I have a label on the edge which makes it easy for me to flip through the book and find what I am looking for.  Here are the binders I have:

  • Birth Records (birth certificates, delayed birth certificates, birth announcements in the paper, etc.)  If a person has multiple documents I file them together in the same sheet protector.
  • Death Records (obits, funeral notices, funeral cards, death certificates, coroner’s reports)
  • Marriage Records (licenses, certificates, banns, announcements in the paper)  I put divorce records in here too.
  • Bible Records (photocopied pages, transcripts)
  • Probate (wills, administrations, inventories, guardianships, announcements in the paper)
  • Deeds (land and otherwise)
  • Federal Land Records (warrants, patents, land entry files. I do keep these separate from the regular county land deeds because they are a completely different sort of document)
  • Military Records (compiled service records, pensions, discharge from draft, etc.)
  • Church records (rolls, minutes). Church vital records go in the respective vitals records binders.
  • Social Security (I couldn’t figure out what to do with SS5s (social security applications) so I ended up with another binder)
  • Newspapers (everything other than the already above listed announcements. This would be things like stories where the ancestor is mentioned. I happen to have a lot of murders in my husband’s family so I have all of the clippings for that)
  • Court Records (most court records will be in probate but if an ancestor was part of a lawsuit, dispute or a witness to something it will end up here)
  • Artifacts (this is where I would keep personal letters, any scraps of interesting paper found in someone’s personal effects/estate, I have things like old report cards, papers from someone’s workplace, driver’s licenses etc. in here)
  • Census Records (the ONLY census records that are in here are ones that are not available online. I have some agricultural census records, industrial census records and mortality schedules that I got from state archives. I do not print online census records. If I did I would have 200 binders just for census records.  I do save the pages on my hard drive)

The only paper records I keep are those things that I have collected over the years that are not available online.  Any documents that I find online are just downloaded and saved on my computer.  For example, I have paper copies of Confederate compiled service records that I ordered years ago.  I now get them from Fold3.  I save the file to my hard drive but I don’t print out a copy to put in the binder.  So, I have more things on my hard drive than I do in the binders because everything in the binders is on the hard drive but so are all the documents that I found online and scanned. Eventually I will start tossing some of my paper documents.  It is hard for me to let go so it will take some time.  My ultimate goal is to get down to just a couple of binders that have nothing but true originals.

E-mails that I receive do not go in these binders! The above binders are only for actual documents  I have three blog posts that talk about nothing but what I do with emails.

My Inbox is Empty
E-Mails Part II
E-Mails Part III

I have matching folders on my computer. They have the same name as the binders which makes it really easy for me to find things. I decided against using any sort of numerical system for filing.  I understand things better if they are written out.  Here are some examples:

In my birth records binder the documents are labeled with the persons full name and year of birth.  This is on the label on the outside edge of the sheet protector so that I can find people easily.  This is not the full citation that is printed on the document itself.

In the birth records binder you will see:
Lewis, Gordon Sanders 1927 (year of birth)

In the death records binder you will see:
Lewis, Gordon Sanders 1991 (year of death)

In the marriage records binder you will see:
Lewis, Gordon Sanders and Miriam Wood 1946 (year of marriage)

In the deed records Binder you will see:
Lewis, John to Jackson Maddox, 1850 (year of deed)

In the folders on my hard drive you will see a little more info.  Why?  In the binders I can file more than one document in the same sheet protector, for example, a death certificate, an obituary and a funeral card.  However, on the hard drive each document is separate.  I could roll them all into one file but that is way too much work for me.

In the birth records folder you will see:
Lewis, Gordon Sanders, birth certificate 1927

In the death records folder you will see:
Lewis, Gordon Sanders,  death certificate 1991
Lewis, Gordon Sanders, obituary 1991
Lewis, Gordon Sanders, funeral card 1991

Okay, I know you computer gurus are screaming right now because I am not following the “rules” for file naming.  I don’t care.  I have never had a problem with the way I name my files and it makes sense to me so I will just take my chances.

You might also be wondering how I find documents if there is more than one person named on them?  I file the document by principle person.  If I use that document as a source for someone else there is a place in Legacy to record the file name.  For example, if I used the Lewis to Maddox deed as a source for Jackson Maddox, there is a place for me to record “Lewis, John to Jackson Maddox 1850” right on the citation page as a hint to me.

It is going to take me awhile to get everything scanned in but the side benefit is that I am examining the documents again which means I might see something I didn’t see the first time around. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


Friday, September 6, 2013


One of the drawbacks to doing professional research is that your own research gets neglected.  Over the last few years I have gotten so busy doing work for others, researching, writing, lecturing etc. that my own genealogy file doesn’t get opened often enough. 

Since I am finally scanning my paper documents and getting my filing system in tip top shape I have actually been sleuthing a bit on my own ancestors and having a lot of fun.  In the last couple of days I have learned a few new things which has motivated me even more.

Just this week I went out to Magnolia Cemetery and found two markers that I needed,  I went to the Columbia County courthouse to get some marriage records,  I wrote off for two death certificates, one in Georgia and one in Maryland and I wrote a letter to a man in Mississippi that is rumored to have a Bible I would be interested in.  Today I am going to the Richmond County courthouse looking for a few more marriage records.  I even solved a minor brick wall.

Working on my own line is actually relaxing because I have no deadlines.  

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A clue!

I have warned you in the past about accepting uploaded family trees and compiled genealogies as gospel.  I have encouraged you to look at the information critically.  I did say that you can use the information as clues to help you with further research.  Yesterday I came across a perfect example of how this works.

My person of interest's obituary dated 1904 stated that the named surviving wife was actually his second wife.  This was new information to me.  I didn't know anything about a first wife.  If he had been married before she must had died shortly after they married.  I did a search on’s public and private member trees.  I always do this as part of an initial survey.  I’ve told you before not to ignore compiled genealogies but don’t rely on them.  You need to do your own research.  However, seeing what other people have can give you some direction on where to search for your answers.

Someone on had my person of interest in the 1860 census.  Up until this point I had been unable to locate him in the 1860 census.  I was able to pull up the page that this person had cited.  My person of interest was listed just by his initials and in Bulloch County, Georgia,  not where I would have thought he would be.  However, he was listed as an overseer so maybe that is where he found a job.  The man’s apparent wife's name was Jane.  I wasn't 100% convinced that this man with just initials was my guy though this guy was born in NC as my guy was.  The person on had the wife's full name and exact date of marriage but no location and no source.  That was my clue. 

I checked the marriage books for Bulloch County and there was nothing.  I then went to my person of interest's home county of Richmond.  I wasn't expecting to find anything because I have searched those books many times for this surname, however, I was now armed with an exact date and a wife's name.  Well guess what, I found the marriage!  The reason I didn't see it before is that my guy's name in the handwritten index at the front of the marriage book was buried in the crack of the book and unreadable but what was readable was the wife's name and the page number.  I looked at the page and on the marriage license/certificate it showed my guy's full name.  The couple on the 1860 census now appears to be the correct couple.  I now have him in the 1860 census and I have his first wife’s full name.  Oh happy day!

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How to redo research

Karen gave me permission to reprint a question she posted on The Organized Genealogist Facebook Group page.

Karen asks:
”I have to admit, my desire to organize all my research has come to a complete halt. The reason is that I can't decide where to start first. My earliest research was probably the most unorganized and has left me with less than perfect sources, duplicate scans of documents, and things I adopted from other trees before I realized so many of them were wrong. It was a bad foundation to build on and one that I completely regret right now. When I think of how much there is to do, I get so overwhelmed that I can't even decide on what is best to do first. My question to everyone is...where did you guys dig in and start at and what is the best foundation to lay for good researching in the future?”

Start a new file in whatever genealogy database program that you use (Legacy, RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker etc.).  Add your direct line, starting with yourself, one person at a time.  For now limit yourself to just your direct line and the siblings of your direct line.  You can add in the spouses of the siblings and their children later.   As you are doing this you will still have your old file to refer back to. 

As you add in each fact (event, date, place) add a source to go with it.  You can now format the source correctly using a style guide such as Evidence Explained or the templates in your database program which are based on Evidence Explained.  If you don’t have a source recorded in your old file then you need to stop right there and do the research you need to do to find it.  Don’t continue on to the next fact until you have that one taken care of.  If you copied down a birth date out of someone else’s online tree and there is no source for it, you need to remove the date and put in an estimation based on the evidence you do have.  You can put that exact date in your NOTES section, something like this, “I found John Doe’s birthdate of 01 Jan 1860 in an unknown online tree several years ago but there was no source attached.”  Why would I do that?  The person that posted the date may have gotten it from a legitimate source but failed to record that source.  I want to use that date as a possible clue.  I don’t want to record it in my database but I do want to put it in my notes. 

Sometimes you will need to estimate dates and you might not have an actual source for the fact.  For example, let’s say you have John and Mary Doe in the 1880 census. Their oldest known child is listed as being 5 years old.  You can put in a marriage date of abt. 1874 even though you don’t have a marriage record… yet.  You need to add this as a task on your to-do list or research calendar.  You can make some educated guesses on where they might have married and then search in those locales.  Hopefully you will be able to come back and put that John Doe and Mary Jones married on 30 Nov 1873 in Columbia County, Georgia because you now have a copy of their marriage license and certificate from Marriage Book B, page 215.   This is very different than having random facts that you copied from online trees with no sources. 

At the same time, make sure you are scanning the associated documents into the computer and filing the paper copies in your binders (if you keep paper).  If you have online images as sources, make sure you download them and save them to your hard drive as well.  There are many paper filing systems and computer filing systems out there.  Use whatever makes sense to you.  You are on The Organized Genealogist Facebook Group Page and we talk about filing systems all the time.   You are not going to do all of your documents all at once.  You are just going to pull out the ones you need for each person as you add them.  You will get those scanned and filed correctly and then move on to the next person.  It works much better if you do this systematically than if you were to try and scan and organize every document you have all at the same time. 

As you are scanning and organizing these documents you have the opportunity to reanalyze them and you will see things that you missed the first time around because you know so much more now. 

Once you have your direct line and siblings under control, you can then add in the spouses of siblings and their children. Once you get to that point you will have an impressive family tree.  Eventually you will be able to add in all of the collateral lines that you have collected.  It will take you a long time to do all of this but it is well worth the effort.  You can do more effective research when your data is organized.  You will be able to fix the mistakes you made and find new things that you overlooked.  Your work will be more professional and you will be proud to share it with others.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Updating Find A Grave

I manage a lot of memorials on Find A Grave.  Most of these are full cemetery surveys that I have done on people that I don’t know at all.  Frequently someone will send me an email requesting that I update a memorial with additional information that is NOT on the marker itself.  I don’t have the time to ask these people what their sources are nor time to double check the source and write a correct source citation so what I do instead is I list the person that emailed me as the source.  I put the information in the bio section.  I do NOT update the memorial with the added information.  I make the memorial match the marker itself unless it is a person that I have researched myself and I have the proper sources.  Here is an example of what I would add in the bio section:

“Per Find A Grave contributor Jane Doe (#123456789), J. A. Doe’s full name was John Adams Doe, his full date of birth was 01 Jan 1800 and his full date of death was 31 Dec 1851.”

Now the researcher can contact the person themselves and quiz them about their sources. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, September 2, 2013

People lie

People have been lying since the beginning of time.  If you want some examples just read the book of Genesis.  Just because you see something in an old record doesn’t mean it is true.  People lied to census takers, they lied to county clerks, they lied when documenting things in their family Bibles, they lied on everything you can think of.  People lied to cover up family secrets and they lied to get their way.  You need to keep this thought in the back of your mind when you are analyzing documents. Just because you find a document that contains direct evidence of what you are looking for that doesn’t mean it is true. This is why you conduct a “reasonably exhaustive search” (step 1 of the Genealogical Proof Standard) and you don’t rely on a single piece of evidence.  This is also why you conduct “analysis and correlation of the collected information” (step 3) and “resolution of conflicting evidence” (step 4).   If you follow the Genealogical Proof Standard you will expose the liars. 

Just to give your ancestors the benefit of the doubt, some of these erroneous entries were due to simple mistakes and guesses and not due to out right lying (children as informants on census records is an example).  Errors were also due to mistakes made by the recorder of the information (county clerks that misheard information given to them).  Either way, don’t believe everything you see.

I still think there was a lot of lying going on.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why Legacy?

I get a lot of questions about why I chose Legacy Family Tree as my genealogy database program so I thought I would talk about it a bit on the blog.  I do not work for Legacy Family Tree nor do I get any compensation for anything I say about it. 

I used Family Tree Maker (FTM) for many years starting with the very first version.  In 2007 Family Tree Maker completely changed their overall look and I just didn’t like it.  I tried Legacy’s free version and almost immediately upgraded to their full version.  For one thing, Legacy had a lot of built in error checkers that FTM didn’t have.  When I ran the ”potential problems” for the first time I was really surprised to see the number of errors it found.  Many of these were simple data entry errors but FTM hadn’t caught them.  It found a lot of standardization errors and I am all about uniformity and standardization.  It also caught more significant errors like women who had babies at age 6.  It has a county verifier so if you enter a place name where that specific county didn’t exist for the date that you also entered, it will tell you.  I spend many days just cleaning up my file.  I am not familiar with the current version of FTM so maybe they have error checkers now. 

Two of the most powerful features in Legacy that FTM didn’t have were their search and advanced tagging.  You can search for anything you can possibly think of within your file.  You can have as many search parameters that you want.  After you have done your search your can tag everyone that met the criteria on one of nine different tags.  A simple example would be a list of the males in your file that would have been alive and of the right age to have served in the Civil War.  You could then use that list on Fold3 to find their compiled services records.  I use the search and tagging all of the time. Another example is that  I can find everyone that is buried in a certain cemetery if I am planning to go out to that cemetery to get photos.   These are two simple examples but you can do very complex searching. Again, perhaps FTM has something like this now.

You can customize Legacy to your heart’s content.  You can pretty much get it to do whatever you want it to all the way down to customizing your event sentences so that your reports read out exactly like if you had hand typed them.  There are simple customizations you can do that will help you navigate through your file such as color coding and highlighting direct lines.  The program is very flexible.

Legacy has excellent customer support and they offer FREE webinars done by the top genealogists in the country.  Most of these are not Legacy specific but rather they cover general research techniques and strategies as well as very specific topics based on geographic location or record sets.  You can watch the webinars live as well as for 7 days after the presentation totally free of charge.  After that 7 day period you will need to pay to access them but I have never paid.  I put them on my calendar and I watch them during the free period.  To get an idea of what they have to offer, take a look at their list of Upcoming Webinars.

One thing that FTM does that Legacy does not do is that it interfaces with  This makes sense since owns FTM.  I don’t have my file on so this isn’t a problem for me at all.  As a matter of fact, I will say that being able to interface with is a big problem for a lot of researchers, specifically the newer ones that don’t have a lot of experience.  FTM/ encourages you to upload and download information to and from trees that haven’t been properly sourced.  You can easily fill up your file with a lot of junk.  If you are an experienced researcher then this isn’t near as much of a problem because you know better than to accept  anything you see on blind faith. 

Legacy, RootsMagic and Ancestral Quest all interface with FamilySearch’s Family Tree.  They are the only three programs that have been certified by FamilySearch to have this kind of access.  This interface has the same pitfalls as the one does. It is easy to upload and download information that hasn’t been verified and sourced.  However, I do like the concept of Family Tree better.  FamilyTree is a single unified tree that everyone contributes to.’s public member and private member trees are a collection of a gazillion individual trees.  I like to be able to search for a person and see everything that everyone has on that one person in one place but that is just me.  This is totally a personal preference thing.

One thing that I would like to mention is that I do have RootsMagic on my computer.  I had a client that had RootsMagic and wanted me to help him clean up his file.  It was much easier for me to work with him within RootsMagic itself so that no data was lost during GEDCOM transfers.  I just don’t like it as well as Legacy. I don’t think it is near as easy to navigate through people and their data entry screens are harder to use, in my opinion.  RootsMagic has a free version.  It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles but it will give you a good idea of how the program works. 

I also have Heredis on my computer.  I bought it when it was on sale for $10.00.  This one is out of  France and I actually really like it.  The biggest drawbacks are that it doesn’t have citation templates like the top US programs do, it doesn’t have the powerful error checkers and it doesn’t have any sort of built in research calendar/log  but it is a really good program.  It has an easy to navigate data entry screens and it produces quality reports and charts.  It has all of the major features that you would need.   Heredis does have a trial period so that you can evaluate it.

I have never used The Master Genealogist so I can’t really give much of a review.  I do know that its strength is being able to customize everything, or at least that is what the users say.  It does have a 30 day free trial so I should probably take a look at it so that I at least know the basics.  I did go through their guided tour video and I have to say that I like Legacy’s data entry screens better.

Another program that I haven’t personally worked with is Ancestral Quest.  I give it some brownie points for being certified to interface with FamilySearch.  Obviously it has to be a pretty okay program or FamilySearch would not have given it the green light.  It has a totally free version just like Legacy and RootsMagic do.  I probably need to download the free version just so that I know what it has to offer.

What don’t I like about Legacy?  I wish their to-do list looked more like a traditional research calendar.  I wish that they had Polish characters.  I wish they they had a spellchecker that worked as you are typing, or at the very least, a global spellchecker.  I wish you could have two files open at the same time.  They do have a “split view” but it has serious limitations. 

Deciding which program is best for you is a very personal decision.  The features that are essential to me may not matter to you.  You might think a certain feature is a must have and I might think that feature isn’t important at all.  Between free trials and free lite versions you can try all of them out yourself except for FTM.  FTM neither offers a free trial nor a free lite version which I really don’t like.  I might have given FTM another look if it wasn’t for that.

I will be sticking with Legacy though I might use one of the other programs for very specific purposes.   

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis