Thursday, October 31, 2013

This is a little different

I am having to prove that someone did not exist.  I don’t think I’ve ever had to do this before.  In a nutshell, I think someone lied on a document about who his father was.  I think he made up a name. I have a lot of evidence to explain why he would want to do this.  Now I have to prove that this father doesn’t exist. 

I am going to have to do more work proving someone did not exist than I normally do to prove someone did exist.  Just because you can’t find someone in the records doesn’t mean they didn’t exist so my work is cut out for me.  I am going to need as many different kinds of records with different informants that were created for different reasons as I can find and I need all of it to turn up nothing.  My biggest obstacle will be that I can’t really narrow down the location.  Sure, I can search in the county where the child was born and where that child spent his entire life.  This is also the same county where his mother migrated to as a child and spent the rest of her life.  I can say there is no one in that county matches my guy but how can I prove that someone with that name didn’t just pass through and then mov on to another location?  This isn’t going to be easy.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chasing another black sheep


Copyright © 2013 Deidre Erin Denton, used with permission

How would you like to get an email like this?  (Names changed to protect the guilty) 

"Oh goodness Michele.  It's a mess with John Doe's records because of his lifestyle.  I spoke to my uncle today who states that John was once married to a woman from Minnesota and that they had a son together.  He couldn't recall her name.  The divorce papers from Jane and John, dated in 1951, listed John's address in Connecticut, so it is very possible he had a wife up north.  My uncle, who is John's son, states that his father was married illegally a few times.  John was also married to a woman who's first name was Mary- I believe that marriage took place in Colorado.  He was a rambler and womanizer.   Good luck!"

So far I have found three marriages and annulment.  None of the ones I found were in Minnesota, Connecticut or Colorado.  I guess I have a ways to go yet.  By the way, this man was my grandfather's half brother. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What is it with my family?

Do remember the post Just How Many Murders Can One Family Have?  Yup, I found another one.

Bonny Aldrich Kills R. Grantham Over Disputed Debt, Five Dollars
   R. Grantham was killed by Bonny Aldrich near Bush last Sunday.  Aldrich was arrested by Deputy Lacroix and is now confined in the parish jail at Covington.  When arrested he had a double barreled shotgun and was prepared to defend himself, as he feared violence at the hands of others.  The sentiment seemed to be pretty strong against him.  The finding of the Coroner's jury is given below with the statement of Coroner Heintz as to the evidence, as follows:
     Bonny Aldrich and John Jenkins were walking down the road from Bonny Aldrich's house to Jenkins' house, when along came J. Bush and Rougier Grantham in a buggy.  They saluted one another.  Grantham stopped his buggy and asked the other party where he was going.  Grantham said: "By the way, Bonny, how about that five dollars you owe me"  Bonny replied, "I have already paid it to you, Rougier."  Grantham said, "You are a liar."  Bonny replied, "You are another."  Grantham then said, "You are a lying s...... b......, " and started out of the buggy with his hand in his hip pocket.  Aldrich picked up a stick five feet long and four inches thick and backed away from the buggy about forty feet,  Grantham still advancing.  He told Grantham, "I'll kill your soul if you continue to advance on me."  Grantham again advanced and Aldrich struck him in the head with the stick.  He fell unconscious and remained so for twenty minutes.  Aldrich remained with the others.  When Grantham came to, he got up and started toward Aldrich with his knife.  Bush took the knife away from him.  They then placed him in the buggy and he left in a half dazed condition, and it is understood that he fell out of the buggy skinning the whole right side of his face.  He was eventually taken to the home of A. Crawford, near Bush.  Dr. Young, of Bush, was called in to see him Monday morning and treated him.  Dr. Heintz was called in between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. Monday and diagnosed the case as a fracture of the skull.  Having little hope for his recovery arrangements were made to convey him to New Orleans Tuesday morning, where an operation might have helped him.  He died Monday night about 8:45. Coroner Heintz impanelled a jury and held an inquest Tuesday morning.  A post mortem was held and the skull was found to be fractured in two places.  A clot of blood about the size of an egg was found just over the left eye.  Jury brought in verdict that Grantham came to his death from a blow on the head inflicted by one Bonny Aldrich.

Rougier Grantham was my second cousin, twice removed.  I was actually working on Rougier to help solve another mystery when I came across this.  Do you remember when I said it might be a good idea to get Coroner’s reports and inquests in the the More Fun Things post?  You can bet that I have already ordered this inquest from microfilm.   By the way, Rusaw Grantham (from the first post) and Rougier Grantham (this post) were half first cousins in case you noticed that they had the same surname.

1  "Bonny Aldrich kills R. Grantham over disputed debt, five dollars," The St. Tammany Farmer, 15 January 1916, p. 1, col. 2-3; digital images, Library of Congress ( : accessed 28 October 2013). 


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, October 28, 2013

Follow up to adding a citation to a document

Tracy made the following comment to the Adding a citation to a document blog post:

”I may be over cautious, but when I scan a Form SS-5, I scan the original in its entirety and then open in Paint and redact (black out) the first 5 digits of the SSN for privacy reasons. While the person is deceased, I do not want to give nefarious persons who may troll ancestry websites, blogs, etc. anything that they could use in an unscrupulous manner. Other than that I do the same as you've done here.”

I am sure that there are other readers that have the same concern as Tracy so I thought I would address it in another blog post instead of just answering Tracy in the comments.

There has been a lot of hype about the SS numbers in the news lately because the government is trying to take away genealogists' access to the death files claiming the high risk for identity theft. You might want to read this article by Dick Eastman, a highly regarded genealogist.   Commentary: Use the SSDI to Reduce Identity Theft

Having said that, I have started redacting SS numbers a bit but only because THEY ARE NOT NEEDED by genealogists, not because I fear any sort of identity theft.  Genealogists need the death index and they need SS-5s but they don't need the number.  As a matter of fact, that is the argument that genealogists have been trying to make to the SSA, give us the death index and the SS-5 but redact the numbers if you are that worried about it.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My very crude attempt at genetics

This is a follow-up post to Quadruple first cousins?  Here is what I came up with (please pardon the grade school level graphics)


A bit creepy that the mother, father and child all have the same basic genetic make up.  Of course children get 50% of their DNA from their mother and 50% from their father but the 50% one child gets isn’t the exact same 50% that another child gets or all three of these people would be clones.  It is still a little too related for me!

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My other life

I thought I would give you a glimpse into my other life.  I have been a registered nurse in the emergency room for 31 years.  This is what I do to pay for my genealogy habit.  Now that I work for Legacy Family Tree, I am doing a little less of the ER thing.

Michele at Work 1Photograph by Rhonda Taylor, used with permission

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, October 25, 2013

Adding a citation to a document

Marv asks:
“I know I am supposed to add a citation directly on the document itself but I don’t want to write on the document.  It might cover up something important and I certainly don’t want to write on an original!”

Me either, Marv.  What I do is I scan the document, bring it up in Paint, add some white space at the bottom, then add a text box with the citation.  I am sure that most photo editing software can do this as well but I am a simple person using simple tools so I just use Paint.  Here is an example:

Houston's SS5

I know that some of my readers are way more computer savvy than I am and I am sure that your output will look nicer than mine.  You can now print this document to use in reports if need be.  I just add it straight from my computer.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My dad’s marker

Thanks to Find A Grave volunteer Nancy Stone for this photo of my dad’s memorial marker at Matecumbe Memorial Gardens in Islamorada, Florida.  You can read Take the time to ask permission if you want to know why Nancy went out and snapped the photo for me.

Simmons, Thomas 2004Photograph by Nancy Stone, used with permission

My dad was born 21 July 1937 in Lamar County, Mississippi to William Houston Simmons and Docia Leora Perry.  He was the third child of six.  He was born into a farming family in a rural area.  After graduating high school in 1955 he joined the Air Force “to see the world.” He never looked back.

My dad did not share my love of genealogy because his childhood was not a happy time.  His family was very poor and they lived in a shack with no plumbing.  He remembered having to pick cotton as a child and he wore old hand-me-down clothes and walked to school barefoot.  He remembers the other kids teasing him.  When he joined the Air Force he left that life behind him forever and he really wasn’t interested in anything that had to do with the state of Mississippi or his past.

I think this is such a shame because his family was one of the founding families in Mississippi.  His 3rd great-grandfather James Simmons migrated to the Mississippi Territory from South Carolina shortly after the territory was officially open for settlement in 1798.  I think that is something to be proud of.  

The point is, there are going to be people in your family that have reasons why they don’t want to talk about their past or their relationships and that is okay.   Just because I find my family history fascinating doesn’t mean my father did.  He just wanted to forget all about it and I had to respect that.  There was no point in me asking him a bunch of questions that would just bring up bad memories for him.  I managed to get the information I needed elsewhere. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Right? Wrong?

W. C. asks:
”How do I know if a census record is right?  I found my ancestor in the 1850 census but he has different parents than I thought.”

  • The 1850 census did not name relationship so you cannot assume that the two adults are a married couple nor can you assume that the children listed are their children.  I have an example from my own file where a man’s wife had died and his unmarried sister moved in to help him with the children.  If you didn’t know that you would think that the two were married.  It was also common for people to take in their nieces and nephews or even younger siblings if their parents had died. Even if this had been a later census and the relationships were listed, you still can’t assume that they are correct.  My grandfather’s mother died in childbirth.  He was raised by an uncle and an aunt even though his father was still living.  On the census he is listed as a “son” of the aunt and uncle.  Don’t take anything at face value.  Always assume there are other possibilities.
  • Could this be an entirely different person?  You need to look around a bit and see if by chance there are two people with your ancestor’s name.  This child may not be the person you are looking for.  Did you find the other set of parents in the census records? 
  • What is your other evidence?  You apparently have some information that leads you to a different set of parents.  You need to evaluate each piece of evidence separately. 
  • Don’t look at this census record in isolation of other census records.  Follow the parents as well as the children through the census records.  Compare and contrast what you find. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Divorce records

David asks:
”Is it worth it to get divorce records?”

It can certainly be worth it.  At the very least, it puts your person of interest in a specific place at a specific time which is important.  Knowing where he was narrows down where you need to look for other records.

I have a certain relative that was married and divorced four times.  I have the divorce decrees for three.  On those decrees it states where he was living at the time.  Where he was living was not where the divorce took place (his wives filed in the county they were living in).  This put him in two different states that I didn’t even know about.  This eventually led me to his death certificate.  Two of the decrees gave the grounds for divorce.  You can’t help but find that information interesting.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, October 21, 2013

More fun things

As I am scanning my documents I keep finding interesting things.  Here is Rusaw Grantham’s death certificate.

Grantham, Rusaw death certificate 1938
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, death certificate 5293 (1938), Rusaw Grantham; State Registrar and Vital Records, New Orleans.

Rusaw’ s cause of death was probable cerebral hemorrhage.   “Fell in knee deep water completely submerged at time.”  So I am guessing the doctor thought he had a stroke and passed out, fell in the water and drowned.  Sounds reasonable.  It is what is written above this that makes my eyebrow go up, “Coroner’s Case.”   Ah!  Could there be more information? The coroner’s reports were on microfilm at the Family History Library (FHL) so there was no excuse not to get a copy.

Grantham, Rusaw coroner's report 1938
Coroner's Report, Rusaw Grantham, filed 11 April 1938; St. Tammany Parish Coroner, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana; FHL microfilm 1,463,469, item 2-3. 

I have to say I was hoping to find something more exciting than this but at least I can say that I was thorough and checked.  There are all kinds of goodles at the FHL.  It is always a good idea to browse their card catalog to see what they have.  If the FHL didn’t have these, I would have checked with the local courthouse.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Take the time to ask permission

Y’all know that I am doing a major overhaul of my genealogy file (remember my massive scanning project?)  One of the things on my list of things to do is add grave marker photos.  Adding the ones I took myself is no problem at all but if someone else took the photo I need to ask permission to use it.  Not only is it common courtesy, it is also an issue of federal copyright law. 

This is my great-aunt Ada (Simmons) Bounds, my grandfather’s oldest sister.  I visited her grave at the Grantham Cemetery in Lamar County, Mississippi in 2001 but I didn’t take a photograph of the marker.  I was so happy to see her marker on Find A Grave.  I sent the photographer an email asking permission to download his photograph and use it in my personal file.  I also asked his permission to use it on the blog.  He very kindly gave me permission and that is why you get to see this great photo.



I have never had anyone tell me that I couldn’t use their photo.  So what would I did if someone did say no?  I would have to find someone else who is willing to give me permission go out and take another photo for me.  If not through Find A Grave then maybe through the local historical or genealogical society.  I have a similar problem right now that I am working on.  My father has a memorial marker at Matecumbe Memorial Gardens in Islamorada, Florida (he was cremated).  The Find  A Grave contributor that took the photo has since died so I can’t ask his permission.   I will need someone to go out and snap a new photo for me.  If any of you blog readers happens to be in the Keys, let me know.

I want to tell you a little something extra about my great-aunt Ada.  When my grandfather was born his mother died in childbirth.  His oldest sister Ada had a baby on the very same day that her brother was born.  Ada took her brother and nursed him alongside her own daughter Della.  I have a lot of admiration and respect for Ada though I never met her.  She died two years before I was born.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Quadruple first cousins?

I am working on a really unusual family.  This family is so interesting that I have been working on it all day and I even forgot to eat lunch.  This one might be one for the record books.  I am leaving out the names because I am still trying to put everything together.  Once I do I will post it all.  I have two brothers that married two sisters.  That isn’t unusual.  It happens all the time, even today.  The children from these two families would be double first cousins.  Most genealogists can point to some double first cousins in their file.   Now here comes the really unusual part.  Three of the children from the first couple married three of the children from the second couple!  So I have three marriages where the husband and wife are double first cousins!  I have never seen this before.  I am not sure what their children would be, quadruple first cousins?  I am scared to try and do the math.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, October 18, 2013

Genealogy Roadshow

So how are y’all liking Genealogy Roadshow?  It features two of genealogy’s heavy hitters, Kenyatta D. Berry, President of the Association of Professional Genealogists and D. Joshua Taylor, President of the Federation of Genealogical Societies.  There are of course other experienced genealogists working behind the scenes helping them gather the information they need for the show but I think that Kenyatta and Josh are doing a great job presenting it.

I like the show.  I am glad they pull a little history in to make for a more complete story.  What strikes me are the crowds.  Did you notice how many people showed up to the venues?  As interesting as the featured stories are, can you imagine just how many more fascinating stories there are in that crowd.  What I do know is if they ever make to Georgia I will be one of those people in the crowd.  Who knows, maybe I will be on the show one day and Kenyatta or Josh will be solving one of my brick walls for me. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A census clue

If you have a male that appears on the 1860 census but you can’t find him on the 1870, especially if you find his wife and children without him, you might want to check the Civil War records.

I am working on Aaron Reese, born about 1821.  He is in Pickens County, South Carolina for the 1850 census with his wife and children.  In 1860 the family had moved to Henderson County, North Carolina.  In 1870 the wife and children had migrated to Lincoln County, Georgia without Aaron. 

I found him on Fold3.  Aaron Reese enlisted on 15 July 1862 in Hendersonville, Henderson County, North Carolina.  Aaron served in Companies D and E of the 7th North Carolina Cavalry and Company C of the 6th North Carolina Cavalry.    He was captured and taken prisoner at New Hope, North Carolina on 17 March 1865 and then was transferred to Point Lookout, Saint Mary’s County, Maryland where he died on 08 June 1865, cause unknown. There is a record of his burial in his service record which states he was buried in the “Prisoner of War Grave Yard” grave number 2069.  Aaron was listed as a blacksmith in his compiled service records.  On the census records he was listed as a farmer so this was new information.

There is some very interesting information about the Point Lookout Prisoner of War Camp and its cemetery on Find A Grave.  You can read it about it HERE.  I am trying to find a copy of the referenced book.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A wonderful find!

The Perry County, Mississippi courthouse burned in 1877 with a near total records loss. Family lore has William Simmons (my 2nd great-granduncle) as Sheriff of Perry County in the 1850s-1860s. I had him as tax assessor on multiple tax rolls, and according to the Chancery Court, the sheriff also acted in the role of tax assessor. However, I have never been able to find anything official with the name William Simmons and sheriff in the same sentence. In the book, Life and Confession of the Noted Outlaw James Copeland, written by J. R. S. Pitts who was Sheriff in 1857, Pitts mentions that the warrant for gang member S. S. Shoemake was obtained by Hon. Wm. Simmons so my William was serving in several roles.

The Perry County Sheriff’s Office was contacted and they didn’t have any sort of list of sheriffs, again citing the records loss of 1877.  I hadn’t thought to contact the Chancery Court for this sort of record until a fellow researcher suggested it.   I called and the clerk found a piece of paper that lists all of the sheriff's of Perry County and their swear in dates.  My William served 5 terms as sheriff. What is even better is that on this piece of paper is the exact location at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) where the original documents are held. WOO HOO!!! Is about all I can say right now. How these records survived I don’t know.   The Chancery court is mailing me a copy of the paper and then I will be able to request copies of the original oaths of office.  It was so funny because the clerk said, “There is something written on the bottom.  It says the source for this information is RG [number] and Box [number]”  I started laughing because I knew that RG stands for Record Group and Box designates the physical box the files are at the state archives.  She didn’t know what it meant but I sure did.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Newspapers and more newspapers part II

emoticons,emotions,news,newspapers,readings,reads,smiley,smiley face,smiley faces,smileys,smilie,smilie face,smilie faces,smilies,smily,smily face,smily faces,smilys,symbols

I wanted to give you a list of the newspaper resources that I use.  I will list the free sites first and then the subscription sites.





Chronicling America
This collection is through the Library of Congress.  It is a bit limited on the number of newspapers it has (only 34 states and the District of Columbia are represented)  as well as the dates it covers (1836 – 1922) but it is free so you can’t complain.  One really nice thing is their US Newspaper Directory, 1690 – Present.  Here you can find any newspaper ever published and it will show you what repositories have it.

Google Newspapers
There are some great papers here that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.  The only problem with this site is that the newspapers are listed in alphabetical order and not by geographic location so it makes it a little harder to find what you are looking for.

Wikipedia List of Online Newspaper Archives
This is a good site to see what newspapers are available online.  They cover the entire world, not just the US.  It looks like it is kept up-to-date because the last edit was made today.


With any of the subscription sites, take a look at the list of papers they carry to see which ones would work best for you.  Pay attention to the date range for each paper. They may only have a very narrow date range for the paper you are interested in.  If you do have a subscription to one of these, it is very important to watch for any updates they make.  You might have done a search that was negative but then they added some papers or dates that might change those search results.  Watching for updates on the free sites is important too but they do not update near as often as the paid sites do.

I use Legacy’s To-Do list for this.  Whenever I am going to do a search I make a to-do with all of the details.  I do a separate to-do for each repository I search (each newspaper archive site).  I also include the search parameters I used so I know exactly how I searched for the information.  I might get some new information in that will change the parameters and I will need to do a new search.  I can then record the results of the search, positive or negative.  If the results are negative, I can see when the last time I did a search was and then I can decide if I need to go back and check it again if the archives have been updated.  

This one is my favorite and I access it almost every day.  They are constantly updating, adding new papers and new dates.  Their search engine is easy to use.

I don’t use this one as much as I do GenealogyBank but they have some newspapers I need that GenealogyBank doesn’t have.  Their search engine is a bit cumbersome. Newspapers
I wouldn’t get an subscription just for this but if you already have a subscription you will find this collection helpful.

Stars and Stripes
I don’t have a subscription to this one but if you have a lot of military personnel in your file this one might be worthwhile.  Their archives covers 1948-1999.  They are in the process of digitizing 1942-1948.
I don’t have a subscription to this one either.  I will say that they have a 7 day free trial period so it might be worth checking out.

There are probably more companies out there but these are the biggest.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, October 14, 2013

Newspapers and more newspapers

I LOVE newspapers!  They are just such a treasure chest of information.  I wanted to tell you about an upcoming Legacy webinar that I am pretty excited about. 

Get the Scoop on Your Ancestors with Newspapers by Lisa Louise Cooke
“Yearning to ‘read all about it?’ Newspapers are a fantastic source of research leads, information and historical context for your family history. Learn the specialized approach that is required to achieve success in locating the news on your ancestors. Includes 3 Cool Tech Tools that will get you started.”

You can watch it live (free) on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm EST.   It will be archived and remain free for 7 days.  

Thomas Kemp (from has done several webinars on newspapers.  These are still free so you can watch them anytime you want.  

Thomas also have another newspaper webinar coming up on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 2:00 pm EST.

Family Stories: Using Newspapers to Reconnect with the Stories of Your Family's Past by Thomas Kemp
”As genealogists we want to learn who our ancestors and relatives are, to document them, learn the stories of their lives and pass them down to the rising generation. The old newspapers are the new tool for uncovering these stories. Newspapers were published every day of their lives – take this tour of the remarkable examples that can be found in GenealogyBank’s three centuries of newspaper archives. Find your family’s stories that have been lost over time – document them and preserve them. Don’t let your heritage be lost.”

Please take advantage of these free continuing education opportunities.   Tomorrow I will outline the newspaper resources that I utilize.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, October 7, 2013

New computer

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I have a new computer which makes me very happy. It will take me some time to get everything downloaded, installed and transferred over so I am going to take a few day off from the blog. 



Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thank you

On Friday, October 4, 2013, Anne Gillespie Mitchell posted Ancestry Anne’s Top Rules for Growing Your Family Tree  on’s official blog, .  I am glad to see that recognizes that there is a problem with their “shaky leaves.”  Personally, I don’t think it went far enough but it is a great start. is being flooding with newbies thanks to mainstream television shows such as Who do You Think You Are? and Genealogy Roadshow.  I think could do more to encourage these people in the RIGHT way.  I am happy that their business is going so well (the rest of us benefit from that) but I think they do have some responsibility to educate and to promote accuracy.

Thanks, Anne and for taking a step in the right direction.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Look at what I found

I found three obituaries that I printed off of microfilm on 01 Jul 1991.  The date is stamped on the printout.  These would be some of the very first documents I collected when I first started out.  I copied these at the University of South Florida.  I remember not having a clue about how to use a microfilm machine.  I even remember that they cost me 10 cents a copy.  You had to put your 10 cents in the machine and a copy would spit out.  The bad news is, I didn’t know to write down the date, page number and column number for the obituary.  I do know these came from the Tampa Tribune but that is about it.

I originally started looking into my family’s past when my dad told me about a family rumor from about 1932 concerning my grandmother.  I decided I had to prove or disprove the rumor.  That is what got me started and I haven’t stopped since.  By the way, I was able to disprove the rumor.

I have put the microfilm printout below.  You can click it to make it bigger.  You can see my grandpa William Simmons just above the word Notices. In the far right corner you can see the date I copied it.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, October 4, 2013

I am still scanning

Several people have asked me how my scanning project is going.  In case you missed it, I am scanning all the paper documents I have into the computer (22 years worth).  This is very time consuming because I am doing several things at once.

1)  Scanning the document and saving it to the hard drive. 

2)  Filing the paper document in the appropriate binder and printing a new label.

3)  Entering the information into Legacy.  I had exported my direct line plus siblings to a new file without exporting the source citations.  Many of my citations did not conform to Evidence Explained.  I am crafting new citations and I am also evaluating every piece of evidence that is on each document.  I missed some things the first time around, especially on the older documents. 

4)  I am linking the document  to the person in Legacy so that I can see everything I have on each person by going to their Media Gallery. 

5)   I am sending permission requests to photographers on Find A Grave for any photos that I didn’t take myself.  I want to include tombstone photos in the Media Gallery.

Yesterday I worked on this most of the day.  I managed to do 20 documents.  At this rate it is going to take me awhile but it is already so worth it.  When you have 22 years of research entered in several different stages of research competency, there are bound to be omissions and errors. I have so much more education and experience now.   It is actually quite exciting going over these old documents and finding things that I didn’t notice before.

I also have many documents that I downloaded straight to the hard drive that I don’t have paper for.  I will be doing these after the paper ones are done.  These are in an older filing system and need to be renamed and moved into the correct folders.  I will be reanalyzing them and creating good source citations.  I will also need to link them to the correct people in Legacy. 

I will be able to thin down my paper documents a bit.  Anything that is available online I will just download and not have a paper copy.  The only paper documents I will be keeping are true originals/artifacts and copies of documents I got from repositories that are not available online.

The next step will be to go back through the census records.  I am dreading that one but I know that it will be fruitful.  I didn’t download the census pages as I examined them the first time around so I will be reevaluating these as well as I download them and attach them to the correct people.

A little side note.  Remember I said that I only exported my direct line and their siblings.  I did this to give me a skeleton to work from.  I will have to add collateral people as I come to them in the records which of course takes even more time.  I will say that there are many collateral lines in my old file that will not be making it into my new file.  In my early days I copied stuff into my file willy nilly just like all newbies do.  It is time to prune,.

Do I have a goal for when I want to be finished with this massive project?  I am trying to be realistic. I know that I will be going off on tangents and doing research at the same time as I am doing all of this.  I have given myself until December 30, 2014.  If I finish early that would be a good thing but I didn’t want to give myself a deadline that wasn’t doable.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Please don’t do this

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A word of advice.  If you post your genealogical information online, do not include information about living persons unless you have their explicit consent .   This might seem like a no brainer to you but there are a lot of people out there that are putting the names and dates of living family members in their online trees without the knowledge or consent of those persons.

I have helped two different people this past week who found information about their immediate family in online family trees.  Neither of these people were genealogists.  They stumbled across the information via a simple Google search.  If I found my children’s names and dates of birth in an online tree I would not be happy either.

All genealogy programs have the capability of marking people as Living with no details.  All of the normal genealogical websites that handle trees also have this capability.  In these two cases the trees were on private websites.

Now before you accuse me of not being understanding of newbies that might not know better, the persons that posted the information refused to remove the information when asked nicely.  E-mails were then sent to the web hosting services. 

No, it isn’t illegal but it is most certainly unethical.  There may even be civil ramifications.  Don’t set yourself up for that. Here are two good articles by Judy Russell, CG. 

Private Facts in Public Genealogies
Getting Permission

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 and Find A Grave has bought out Find A Grave.  Based on what I saw on Facebook over the last couple of days, you would have thought that this was on the scale of an invasion by a hostile country. 

The big controversy is whether or not Find A Grave will remain free.  Here is the official press release from and here is an excerpt from it:

“We will maintain Find A Grave as a free website, will retain its existing policies and mode of operation, and look forward to working with Jim Tipton and the entire Find A Grave team to accelerate the development of tools designed to make it even easier for the Find A Grave community to fulfill its original mission to capture every tombstone on Earth."

I think that statement is pretty clear.  I am not sure why people are panicking.  Could change its mind sometime down the road?  Sure, but I doubt they will.  They will still be making oodles of money.  Find A Grave is a very popular website. will be able to funnel some of the Find A Grave traffic into subscriptions and Family Tree Maker purchases. Either way, I don’t plan to get upset about it.   If things change maybe I will get upset then.

The good news is that has a lot of resources that Find A Grave does not so you will see some significant updates.  Here is what is telling us:

“ plans to bolster the resources dedicated to Find A Grave to launch a new mobile app, improve customer support, introduce an enhanced edit system for submitting updates to memorials, foreign-language support, and other site improvements.”

Sounds good to me!

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Where oh where

Ann asks:
”I was wondering where is a good place to enter in Legacy, the name of the city/town newspaper that I may want for future reference (more exploring).  Comments section? Perhaps that is the only place it can be entered.”

[Though this question is Legacy specific, the general principles work for any software program]

You have some options:

1.  If this is in reference to a specific ancestor, you can put the information in his/her research notes.*

2.  If you want to search this paper soon, you can add a To-Do List item.  Add a To-Do for each person you plan to search the paper for.

3.  If you keep a “research binder” either a physical binder or a virtual one, you could add a blurb about this newspaper including the name of paper, years of publication, is it still in publication, if so, address, phone number, email of the main office, do they take requests to search their archives, is the paper online somewhere, it is on microfilm, if so where. If you do this then the next time you are working on an ancestor in that same location you will have all of the info you need about the paper. You won’t have to do all of that work again.  I have a virtual research binder that is divided by state and then further divided by county.  I would put this on a county page.

*Here is how I use the notes sections in Legacy.  You don’t have to use them this way, this is just what I do.

General Notes are for biographical information. I like to write a paragraph (or a lot of paragraphs) about the general life story of the ancestor. I try and do this for my direct line ancestors at the very least.

Research Notes are for what is going on in my search. I record my theories, my thoughts, my negative findings etc.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis