Thursday, March 20, 2014

Off the blog

I will be off the blog until 07 Apr 2014 to do some catching up.  I have a few big projects due.  Keep researching while I am gone Smile

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Question about my marriage citations

I got an email about the two marriage citations I posted yesterday.  Here they are:

Hancock County, Mississippi, Marriage Book D: 168, Jenkins-Grantham, 1882; Circuit Court, Bay St. Louis.

St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, Marriage Records, 1811-1967, Marriage Book 2: 200, Jenkins-Grantham, 1887; FHL microfilm 1,463,133.

Rich wanted to know why I cited them differently if they are both marriage records that were created in a county courthouse. 

The Hancock County one I actually got straight from the courthouse.  I found the marriage in an index so I wrote to the county clerk and asked for copy which she sent me.  The citation shows that I got it from the Circuit Court in Bay St. Louis.

The St. Tammany Parish one is a copy taken from microfilm.  Even though this is the same record I would have received had I wrote to the clerk in Covington I still need to say where I actually got it.  There are reasons for this.  Let’s say my copy wasn’t all the good.  The person coming behind me could then make the decision to request a copy from the parish clerk knowing that they might get a better copy.  This works in reverse.  If I received a copy from the courthouse that was in bad shape the person behind me might try getting it off of microfilm in the hopes that the microfilm was made before the damage was done.  Also, many times when marriage records are microfilmed the loose papers stuck inside the book are not.  If this was an underage marriage I might want to contact the courthouse to see if there are any loose papers such as a permission note from the parents.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

One couple, two marriages?

Here is a weird one that I am working on.

Peter J. Jenkins and Miss Keziah Grantham married on 04 Aug 1882 in Hancock County, Mississippi.1 

Jas P. Jenkins and Kasiah Grantham were married 12 Dec 1887 in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.2

Same couple?  Maybe.  Peter (or James) went by his first or middle name depending on the record and his particular mood that day.  Peter and Keziah were both living in St. Tammany Parish prior to their marriage and they apparently crossed the line into neighboring Hancock County, Mississippi to get married in 1882.  They then got married again in their home county.  Why?  No clue.  As far as I know they never divorced.  Neither was under age.  Keziah was actually from Mississippi originally but migrated to Louisiana with her parents and siblings. The 1882 marriage makes more sense because they had a son in 1885.  I do know that Peter was married before he was married to Keziah and I am trying to track that down now.  So here is the one thing that is tripping me up.  There are TWO Peter Jenkins in St. Tammany Parish in 1850 that are both the same age.  I can follow one of them through time but the other one I lose.   Keziah is a relatively uncommon name but I have come across several in this area so it is possible there are two of them.  The plot thickens.  I love mysteries like this Smile

I am disabling the comments for this post because this little sub plot is part of a much bigger case study involving Keziah Grantham.  I might decide to use it one day for the BCG and if I allow any feedback it would be disqualified.  I just wanted to show you the types of dilemmas you might run across.

I am just beginning this investigation so I might luck out and have my answer before tomorrow, you never know.  Or, this may be one of those things that haunts me for awhile.

1Hancock County, Mississippi, Marriage Book D: 168, Jenkins-Grantham, 1882; Circuit Court, Bay St. Louis. 

2St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, Marriage Records, 1811-1967, Marriage Book 2: 200, Jenkins-Grantham, 1887; FHL microfilm 1,463,133. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, March 17, 2014

Questions I get

I would say that a good 75% of the questions I get via email have to do with “how do YOU do this?”  The other 25% are straightforward research questions.   Don’t get too hung up on the “how do YOU do this” sort of stuff.  There are some things that are considered “standard” in the genealogy community but a lot is just how you prefer to do things.  Some people that write me are really paranoid about doing something wrong.  All you need to do is think about why you are doing something and does it really matter if you do it one way or another and then it will make sense.

Something that has a standard format is dates.  We record dates as 04 February 1850.  We do it this way so that there is no way the date can get confused.  There is a real reason why you should do it this way.  Consistency is also important with dates because we share data between programs and between people in different countries.  There really needs to only be one way to enter a date.   04 Feb 1850 is considered just fine because it is still in the same format.  For more information about dates and other things that have true standard formats, click HERE.

Now an example of personal preference (and this is from a question I got this week).   “Should I record a census event or should I record a residence event and use the census as the source for that?” This one is totally up to you.  I can tell you the way I do it but in this case there really isn’t a right or wrong answer.  The most important thing to remember in situations like this is to be CONSISTENT.  As long as you are consistent you will be fine.  Now to answer the question.  The way I do it is that I actually have a census event.  I will name my event 1850 United States Federal Census.  I transcribe the family details into the notes section and then copy the event to all of the family members.  I use the census as a source for as many things as I can glean off of the record.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Learning to say no

Once friends find out that you are a genealogist/family historian you will start getting a lot of requests to probe their family histories.  The problem is, many times these people have no idea how much time is involved even looking up simple things (if you are doing it properly).  Pretty soon you might find yourself doing more work for others than for yourself.   This is an easy trap to fall into and I want to warn you about it.  Your good intentions just might just come back to bite you. 

Over the years I have cut down on the amount of freebie research I do.  I will take on a freebie case for a friend if it is particularly interesting to me for some reason and if I know it is something I can research quickly.  I answer questions from blog readers because that is just part of having a blog like this one, though normally what I do is I point them in the right direction so that they can find the answers themselves.  I can do that with the blog readers because they too are genealogists.  With friends that doesn’t normally work. 

I used to feel pretty guilty when I had to tell someone no but now I just tell them that I am swamped (which I am). 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Too late

I attended a funeral today, the funeral of John Amos Dukes of Wadley, Georgia.  He was my son-in-law’s grandfather.  You couldn’t have met a nicer man.  He and his wife accepted my daughter into their family with open arms.  My daughter and I had been planning to visit Papa and Granny Dukes just to sit down with them and hear all of the old stories that only they know.  Kaitlyn and I both lead very busy lives and we just didn’t get around to it.  Instead, we attended Papa Dukes’ funeral today. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, March 14, 2014

Legacy and FamilySearch


This one is just for Legacy users.  Geoff Rasmussen just released a special free webinar showing you how to interface with FamilySearch’s Family Tree using Legacy.  I just finished watching it and it is great.  This video will answer all the questions you have about how to connect to Family Tree, how look to for matches and duplicates, how to upload and download information, how to add sources, and for the LDS members, how to do the Ordinance work. 


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


Thursday, March 13, 2014

As of 7:00 am this morning…

… I had ZERO emails in my inbox and ZERO emails in any of the email folders!  I completely cleaned out EVERYTHING yesterday (and it took me most of the day).  This morning I only had a few to deal with and my boxes were completely empty by 7:00 am.

That might not sound like a major feat but for me it is.  I get well over 100 emails a day and a lot of those actually require me to do something.  It is easy to shove them into a folder and tell myself that I will deal with it later.  I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator anyway. 

Yesterday was a good day all the way around.  I cleaned off my desk, tackled my To-Do List in Legacy, purged some things out of EverNote, scanned a stack of documents and sent a few letters I needed to get out to some repositories. 

It is very easy to let things pile up when you are a genealogist/family researcher.  It can get very frustrating.  I have started dedicating one day a week to nothing but catching up on outstanding tasks and to do some genealogical “decluttering.”  I picked Wednesdays because on Wednesdays I take my daughter Kaitlyn out to eat and then for a little shopping.  She is married, in school and works so she stays very busy but on Wednesday afternoons/evenings she is free so we can spend some time together just the two of us.  I don’t like to get involved in a major genealogy project on Wednesdays because then it is hard for me to put it down.  Doing “clean up” is the perfect project for this day.  By the time Kaitlyn gets to my house I am ready to go.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thank you St. Heribert

In 1945, my mother’s mother was shot and killed by an American soldier in Germany (assumed to have been accidental).  my mother’s father was still in a prisoner of war camp in Russia so my mother and her two brothers were pretty much orphaned (their father died in 1949 on the trip home back to Germany).   The children were sent to a Catholic orphanage in Leichlingen.  This orphanage still exists today.

Kinder und Jugendorf St. Heribert

This morning I received a copy of the original log book page that shows the details of when my mother and her two brothers entered St. Heribert’s.  I am not putting a copy of the page on the blog because my mother and one of her brothers are still living and the log contains their full names and dates of birth.

It is a bit surreal looking at this yellowed page.  Three children ages 12, 11 and 9 had lost literally everything and then they are sent to a place far from their home where they knew no one.   They were Protestant and this was a Catholic orphanage so on top of everything else that they were having to deal with they were also being converted to a different religion at the same time.  My mother was only 13 when she left St. Heribert’s bound into an apprenticeship. 

In spite of all of this, my mother and her two brothers were never bitter and all three became successful and productive members of society.  One of my uncles became a chemical engineer, the other became a successful businessman and my mother is an expert seamstress.  Of course my mother’s real claim to fame is ME Smile


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Here we go again

Back in July 2013 I wrote a blog post that was very hard for me to write.  I had already done several posts about violating copyright and plagiarism but this post was different.  It named a specific person that was causing trouble in the genealogy community.  I normally don’t name names but in this case I did.  You can read the original blog post HERE.

The person in question has launched a “new blog” or at least that is what he is saying.  The blog is actually the same blog he has had all along.  He has merely transferred it to a new domain.  If you click on any of the blog post links over on the right side you will see that all of them were posted within a few days of each other.  I am going to give you the link to the blog just so you will know to avoid it, Genealogy by Barry

If you are on Facebook you might have already seen some of the posts about this situation.  In this case social media is a good thing because it is a great way to get the word out quickly.  In those FB posts, you will see genealogists posting specific examples of copyright violation and plagiarism that this person has committed.  He has lifted copyrighted information from many genealogists.   Some of the genealogists posting are people that are considered to be in the very top echelon of the field. 

In my original post you will see some links to some general information about copyright and ethics.  Here is another link I would like to give you:

Plagiarism – Five “Copywrongs” of Historical Writing by Elizabeth Shown Mills

I recommend that you do not access any of this person’s webpages or blogs. 


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, March 10, 2014

Our Ancestors, Our Stories


I am very excited to tell you about a new book coming out that will be of particular interest to those living here in the CSRA (Central Savannah River Area) called,  Our Ancestors, Our Stories written by “The Memory Keepers.”   Here is a synopsis taken from the book’s website:

“Our Ancestors, Our Stories book narratives shares invaluable lessons learned and important research by The Memory Keepers.

Harris Bailey Jr., in "This Place Known as Edgefield," sets out the historical context of Edgefield where the stories of the four families are set. He examines the political, economic, social, intellectual, and cultural context of historic Edgefield.

Bernice Alexander Bennett, in "Finding My South Carolina Kin," unravels the mystery of her South Carolina heritage, which resulted in a union with relatives she never knew, as well as the slaveholder's descendant of her 3rd great-grandfather and mother.

Ellen LeVonne Butler, in "A Journey to Find My Butler Ancestors," confirms her family's oral history passed down from her grandparents, and she identifies the white families that enslaved her ancestors.

Ethel Dailey, in "The Journey Has Just Begun," vividly tells of her personal journey in researching her Edgefield ancestors.

Vincent Sheppard, in "On Behalf of the Ancestral Spirits," traces a journey from conversations with his parents, family members, and friends of the family in his community. He finds hundreds of maternal descendants of his great-great-grandfather's siblings as well as the offspring of his 3rd great-grandmother's twin sister.

My husband has several family lines in Edgefield County and it is one of my favorite places to do research.  The Old Edgefield District is very rich in history.  Any genealogist that has ties to this area should get this book.

I have “known” Bernice Bennett for some time now I was finally privileged to meet her at the Southern Showcase in Edgefield, South Carolina on September 20-21, 2013.  You can see a photo of Bernice and I together as well as a synopsis of the class she taught by going to Thank you, Edgefield Part II and scrolling down to Day 1- Session 3.

You can visit the Our Ancestors, Our Stories website for more information.  They also have a Facebook Page that you can like.

Bernice will be in Edgefield at the Thompkins Library in Edgefield on 27 April 2014 for a book signing.  The library is located at 104 Courthouse Square, you can’t miss it.  I am planning to be there to get my book signed and to show my support for Bernice. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bad assumption

What if you read this in a cemetery book?

Aug. 1, 1879 … Aug. 5, 1964
Wife of James W. Young

Jul. 20, 1897 … Dec. 4, 1966
Hus. of Cora Lee Reese Young

This is taken from a real cemetery book.  Do you see a problem or at least a potential problem?  James is 17 years younger than Cora.  A man marrying a woman 17 years his senior is not very commonplace so this situation warrants a closer look.  But this is in a published cemetery book so it has to be correct, right?  The markers actually say Wife of and Hus. of because that is how the compiler transcribed it, right?


Here are the actual markers

Reese, Cora 1964Copyright © 2007 Kathy Margrave, used with permission.


Young, James 1966-01Copyright © 2007 Kathy Margrave, used with permission.


Cora’s marker clearly states that she was the wife of James N. Young not James W. Young.  When you look at James’ marker there is nothing there at all about he being the husband of anyone.  The compilers of this book ASSUMED that these two were married because they had the same last name and they were buried next to each other.  The one marker says “wife of James” so they ASSUMED the middle initial was wrong and they corrected it for you. 

So how are these two people actually connected?   Cora Lee Reese was married to James Nathaniel Young1 and James William Young was their son.2

Don’t believe everything you read.  Just because it is in print doesn’t mean it is correct.  In this case a cemetery book isn’t your best evidence, photographs of the markers are.  If you are surveying cemeteries, photographs are best.  In lieu of a photograph ACCURATE transcriptions are essential, no more and no less than what is actually on the marker.  If the marker is damaged in some way and hard to read, then just say so and say that it is your best guess or give possible alternates such as “Jan. 8, 1850 OR Jun. 8, 1850, marker worn and hard to read.”

One thing I wanted to add about cemetery markers specifically.  I have made a big deal about how important it is to photograph markers or at the very least transcribe them accurately,  however, you need to understand that the information on the marker itself should also be suspect.  Who was the informant for the information inscribed on the marker?  Most of the time you won’t know this.  Just keep this in mind and always try to find other evidence/records that can help you piece together the person’s vital statistics and timeline and don’t rely just on a grave marker.

1 Columbia County, Georgia, Marriage Book F: 100, Young-Reese, 1894; Probate Court, Appling. 

2 Young family birthdates; privately held by Michele Lewis (Harlem, Georgia). 1991. Scrap of paper found in Gordon Sanders Lewis' personal effects at his death in 1991. The paper lists the full names and birth and death dates of Gordon's grandparents James Nathaniel Young (31 August 1869 - 03 November 1912), Jessie Cora Lee (Reese) Young (01 August 1879 - 05 August 1965) and his uncle James William Young (1897 - 04 December 1966). It is unknown who authored the note… 1900 U.S. census, Columbia County, Georgia, population schedule, Militia District 131, enumeration district (ED) 6, sheet 10A, p. 86, dwelling 169, family 169, Nathan Young household; digital images, ( : accessed 11 Aug 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 190. 


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Godfrey Memorial Library Online

Do you remember my blog post NewspaperArchive (not!) from January 31st?  I now have a subscription to NewspaperArchive via Godfrey Memorial Library Online.  I am paying the same thing that I was originally paying but now I am getting a lot more than just the above subscription.  I already had a free account with Godfrey so all I had to do was upgrade to their premium membership.  When I called them on the phone the research librarian was so nice and helpful.  Even though their record sets are mostly for the New England area the subscription is still so worth it to me just for the newspapers.  If you happen to do New England research then you will find this collection even more helpful.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, March 7, 2014

Legacy Family Tree Webinars


If you missed Sources and Citations Made Simple, Standard, and Powerful presented by Geoff Rasmussen you missed a great webinar.  You can still watch it by clicking on the above link.  The accompanying handouts are normally only available to the webinar subscribers but this was such a requested topic Geoff has made them available to everyone so don’t miss out. 

I can’t emphasize enough what a great continuing education opportunity these webinars are.  I was singing the webinar’s praises long before I ever went to work for Legacy and I can recommend them with no reservations. 

Even though the webinars are free for the live presentation and for one week after, you might want to consider getting a webinar subscription because there are quite a few perks.  You can read more about it HERE.  Here is a list of the Archived Webinars and a list of the Upcoming Webinars where you can see the diverse topics presented by some of the top genealogists in the world.  Here is the FAQ that answers the most common questions about the webinars and the webinar subscription.

Considering the feedback we get from webinar subscribers, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Family History Library’s photoduplication service

Did you know that the Family History Library (FHL) has a FREE photoduplication service?  They will look up a document from microfilm for you and email you an image.  This is a GREAT service!  You must know the exact microfilm and the details needed to find that document quickly.  The volunteers doing this will not do any research at all. 

  • Limit of 5 lookups per month.  They have to restrict the number because of how many requests they get.  You can put all 5 on a single request.
  • You must have exact information, microfilm number, name and date of event.
  • Please check to make sure that the microfilm/record you need isn’t already available on FamilySearch (FS) as a free image.  FS releases new databases with image files all the time.

Here is an example of an appropriate request (and this is one that I just got back):

Microfilm #1463133
Marriage record of William Grantham and Louisa Watts 1861
Volume 1, page 397

I was able to get the actual volume/page from an index.  If I had had the exact marriage date I could have gotten away with not having the volume/page. 

Photoduplication Request Form


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cobb Family Cemetery on the Cherry Hill Plantation


If you look behind the graves to the left you can tell you are at the top of a ridge.  It is a 200 foot drop to the creek below.  It is actually quite picturesque. 

So who are the people here?



Howell Cobb
03 Aug 1772 – 26 May 1818 

Here is a short bio on Howell Cobb.  So it was Howell’s great-nephew (same name) that was the Governor of Georgia.  I am glad that mystery is solved.



Laura Battaile Rootes
04 Jul 1797 – 25 Oct 1817

Not sure what her connection to the Cobb family is.



William Jackson
1811 – 1817


Sarah Jackson
1816 – 1823

These two are on the same stone.  The marker states “children of Col. Wm. H. & Mildred L. Jackson.  The parents weren’t hard to track down.  They are buried in the Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens, Georgia.  That is actually quite a distance away.  I am sure it was hard for them to leave their two children behind.

Col. William H. Jackson
Mrs. Mildred Jackson

The person that added the above two memorials listed Mildred’s maiden name as Cobb.  I don’t know what his source for the information is but it does make sense.


Here is what happens when you add flour to a marker like this.  It makes it perfectly readable.  Flour is not abrasive (like chalk is, don’t ever use chalk) and it can be easily brushed/washed off (which I did do).



We will be going back to rope off the cemetery using the surrounding trees to alert the hunters that are allowed on this property as well as the property owner himself.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


After 45 minutes of raking, we finally found the graves.  There are 3 flat markers.  Was one of them a governor of Georgia?  You will find out tomorrow.  I still need to upload the photos to Find A Grave.  Here is where it is in relation to the nearest road.   What is really neat is the cemetery is up on a high ridge.  When you look down there is about a 200 foot drop to that creek that is on the map.  With the wet leaves it was pretty slick.  One slip and you would have been reading about me in the newspapers in about a week when they found my body. 

Cem map

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, March 3, 2014

Welcome to the 21st century

911,cell phones,communications,emergencies,text,servicesI am slowly creeping into the 21st century.  I now have a smart phone, sort of.  It is still in the box on my desk.  I am not going to open it until tomorrow when my daughter Kaitlyn can help me.  Pathetic I know.



Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, March 2, 2014

What will I find?

A hunter reported finding a cemetery in a neighboring county that is in the middle of 900 acres of woodlands owned by a Mennonite farmer.  The farmer leases the land to a hunting club.  This property is remote and heavily wooded but right now the woods are quite easy to navigate because it isn’t spring yet.  Having said that, I have already been out there twice looking for this cemetery spending about 2 hours each time.  I even had an aerial photograph to use.  No luck.  Just talked with the hunter again today.  He left out one very important piece of information; the markers are buried under several inches of dirt and leaves and are not visible.  I wish I had known that the first time I went out there!  He felt something hard under his foot and dug a bit when he struck marble.  He says there are several confederates, a Georgia governor and a child buried out there.  He thinks about 6 or 7 graves.  Since it has been a year since he saw the graves they are covered back up again.  This time I will be going out with not only the machete and chainsaw I had the first time but now with rakes and shovels. 

I looked through every one of Find A Grave’s “famous” burials in the state of Georgia (682) and there is no record of a Georgia governor being buried in this area so I am very excited to see who is out there.  This cemetery is not accessible and the land owner will not grant access so it is very important for me to get good photographs.  I am also going to try and talk the hunters that have access to this property into building a simple rail fence around the area to mark it.  I am also going to try and get the markers upright if I can.  If I can’t I will at least dig them out so that they are visible.  I am probably going to have to wait until Tuesday afternoon to go out there because it is supposed to rain on Monday.  After that we will be back down in the 40s which means I will have to wait until it warms back up a bit.  Two or more hours in the woods when it is 40 degrees isn’t my idea of a good time. 

I am very exciting and I will be posting pictures of what I find. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The tax man cometh


I did my taxes today, oh joy.  It got me to thinking about our ancestors and their taxes.  Of course I deal with my ancestors’ property taxes all the time as the tax rolls are an important records set but what about income taxes?  When did our ancestors start paying those?  I had no idea so I looked it up.  I found this very interesting information on the The Library of Congress site.


The origin of the income tax on individuals is generally cited as the passage of the 16th Amendment, passed by Congress on July 2, 1909, and ratified February 3, 1913; however, its history actually goes back even further. During the Civil War Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861 which included a tax on personal incomes to help pay war expenses. The tax was repealed ten years later. However, in 1894 Congress enacted a flat rate Federal income tax, which was ruled unconstitutional the following year by the U.S. Supreme Court because it was a direct tax not apportioned according to the population of each state. The 16th amendment, ratified in 1913, removed this objection by allowing the Federal government to tax the income of individuals without regard to the population of each State.
[excerpt from the History of the US Income Tax]


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis