Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What am I doing with my DNA matches?

I tested my Simmons yDNA (thank you Uncle Leonard for your contribution).  I have 2 matches.  Both are 66/67 matches which is very exciting.  The two matches are 67/67 to each other.  I have contacted both contributors and they are at a brick wall with their end line ancestors just as I am. 

My ancestor is James Simmons of South Carolina, born 14 Aug 1764.  Here are the matches:

Joseph Simmons of Richmond County, Virginia, born 22 Dec 1755
William Simmons of ?  born abt 1780

I think this is very promising.  Two of my James’ known children were born in South Carolina but that doesn’t mean James was.  I am excited about the possible Virginia connection.


I also tested my husband’s Lewis yDNA. I have 3 matches.  One is a 36/37 match, one is a 65/67 match and the third is a 63/67 match.  This still isn’t too shabby especially when you see WHERE these end line ancestors are from compared to mine.

My person of interest is John Lewis born 14 Feb 1801 in North Carolina (earliest known record is in Wayne County). The three matches are:

Elkanah Lewis of Surry County, North Carolina born abt 1740
Gilbert Lewis born abt. 1795 in North Carolina
Howell Lewis born abt. 1779 in North Carolina


I have added all 5 of these men to my database and I will research them just like I research anyone else.  Eventually I will figure out the connection.   


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Find A Grave (cemetery surveys in general) won’t tell you

One thing that you miss out on when you don’t visit a cemetery in person is the actual placement of the graves and this can tell you so much.  Who was buried next to whom?  Who all are in the same outlined plot?  You can really see how families fit together by the way they are buried. 

Cemetery surveys, cemetery books and Find a Grave are GREAT but if at all possible, you will want to visit the cemetery yourself to get “the rest of the story.”


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 28, 2014



Yesterday I attended a book signing for Our Ancestors, Our Stories in Edgefield, South Carolina.  All five authors were on hand and it was a pleasure to meet with them.  I had met Bernice in person once before and it was great seeing her again.

Even if you haven’t done any African-American research, and even if you have no ancestors in the Edgefield, South Carolina area, there are several things you can learn from this book.

Harris Bailey starts the book off by giving a great history of the Edgefield area. The other four authors, Bernice Alexander Bennett, Ellen LeVonne Butler, Ethel Dailey and Vincent Sheppard chronicle their quest to learn more about their ancestors who were from the Edgefield area.

1) Oral histories are essential!  You need to talk to as many people as you can and pay attention to what they have to say.  It may be the same story but they have heard it from different people so each version could contain different information.  When you put all of the stories together, more pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.  The authors of this book started with oral histories and then found the documents to back it up.  These oral histories will get you going in the right direction.

2) Interview the oldest members of your extended family before it is too late.  I can so relate to this one.  In 1977, I attended my 2nd great-aunt Lula’s 100th birthday party.  (She died in 1979 at age 102).  She was sharp as a tack.  Can you even imagine what she could have told me?  She was born in 1876!  That was a lost opportunity.  Lula’s mother, my 2nd great-grandmother “Tiny,” died in 1952 before I was born.  She was 100 years old.  My dad’s first cousin Mary (also a genealogist) is kicking herself because she never though to get the old stories from Tiny while she was still living.  Tiny was born in 1852 and her father fought in the Civil War.  You will see examples of this same thing in the book.  You have got to talk to these people before everything they know goes to the grave with them.

3) Sometimes people don’t want to talk about the past.  There are some great examples in the book of how patience pays off when you are trying to talk to people that aren’t as enthusiastic about the family history as you are.

4) Sometimes travelling is necessary if you want really want to do a thorough job.  There are just some things you won’t find any other way.  You will see many examples of this in the book.

5) You will have better luck if you only focus on one line.  The authors in the book were striving toward a specific goal.  I think that many genealogists (including me) look at too many lines at a time.  I know that if I focused all my energy into a single line I would probably be able to break down some longstanding brick walls.

6) Patience is a virtue.  Don’t expect to get the answer you are looking for in a day, a week or a month.  Sometimes it takes years.


This is a great book.  It is well-written and you can learn so much by seeing the steps other people have taken to research their family lines.  I highly recommend it.


IMG_20140427_145507959_HDRThe five authors from left to right:  Ellen LeVonne Butler, Harris Bailey, Jr., Vincent Sheppard, Ethel Dailey and Bernice Alexander Bennett.


Photo 1I am not sure what Bernice and I were talking about!



Photo 2Here we are!


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, April 27, 2014

I promised you a picture


I did say I would post a picture of one of the fish I caught so here it is.  This would be a very ambitious large mouth bass who struck a bait almost as big as he was. 

Believe it or not, I really do things other than genealogy research.  I have had several people ask me what my hobbies are and since I have a picture of one of the things I do I thought I would mention some others.

I love to read.  I like historical fiction as well as non fiction biographies and how-to type books.  I am also a fan of some Sci-Fi novels.  I read classic poetry from time to time. 

I play the clarinet and the guitar and I am learning how to play the piano. 

I like to crochet and I am capable of knitting though I prefer to crochet.  I have always been intimidated by learning how to knit socks but one of my son-in-law’s mother gave me a bag of the most beautiful sock yarn I have ever seen so I am now more motivated.

I love to go hiking and camping though with the kids going off in all directions we haven’t been doing this near as much.  I really like when we take a big picnic lunch with us.  The promise of food seems to make the kids more willing to rearrange their schedules.

I love to cook and bake but again, with everyone going off in different directions I do a lot less of the big cooking and baking.  These days it is more quick meals on the go. 

So, I am actually a pretty normal person even though I look for dead people for a living.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Who knew that Ignatius’ wife Catherine was this popular!

In my blog post, A marriage, a divorce petition, and the Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals, I mentioned the divorce of Ignatius Grantham and his wife Catherine Sheffield.   THREE different people emailed me about this couple  Apparently Catherine went on to marry William Christopher Seaman and they were the proud parents of many descendants, three of whom read this blog. (At this point I am taking their word for this second marriage since I don’t have a marriage license/certificate to back it up). 

Just to give everyone an update, I haven’t received the case file from the Mississippi Department of History and Archives (MDAH) yet but they have acknowledged receipt of my request without any mention of not being able to comply which is a good thing.

I haven’t heard back from the Marion County Chancery Court but that doesn’t surprise me.  The Marion County CIRCUIT Court is the BEST when it comes to being cooperative with records.  Unfortunately, the Chancery Court isn’t quite as easy to work with.  Usually they ignore my requests until I send the 3rd or 4th letter and then they answer me just to get me off their back.  I don’t expect to get anything from them for quite some time.  I haven’t even sent the second letter yet.

Blog reader Ricky very kindly copied the article I needed from the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.  He actually copied two articles because the one I needed was  a continuation of an earlier article in a previous edition.  Now I have a list of deeds I need to get.  Some of them are from Robeson County, North Carolina which happens to be one of my favorite counties because their Register of Deeds has images of all of the early deeds online so they will be no problem to get (as soon as I have time).  The rest are from Wayne County, Georgia.  I will get those from microfilm.

And so the case plods along.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, April 25, 2014

Would you have missed this?

businesses,hands,jigsaw puzzles,metaphors,missing pieces,Photographs,puzzles


Here is an image of a marriage license from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania courtesy of FamilySearch:

Clarence C. Weitershausen and Esther M. Bastecki,  07 Dec 1950

If you pulled this marriage license up what you would do next?  I am guessing you would save the image to your computer and extract all the data but is there anything else?

You might want to click on to the next image, and the next, and the next, and the next.  Why?  Because Clarence’s divorce to his first wife happens to be attached to this marriage license as is the marriage certificate to Esther.  If you stopped when you found this marriage license you would have missed quite a lot.

Here is what the actual search showed:


There is no real clue that there might be more than just this one page so you always want to click the next image just to see what is there.  Actually, there is a minor little clue.  When you click on the above View Document link, what you see is the cover document for the marriage license.  I had to click to the next image to see the license itself.  This sort of cover document is very common and it usually means that this a file with several documents.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, April 24, 2014

When you have a mess

Blog reader Cameron emailed me detailing a genealogical dilemma he is working on.  In a nutshell, the family is a total mess.  When he consults the family trees that others have posted no one agrees on anything.  Cameron has people with common names, the same collateral line surnames popping in and out and his ancestors are doing odd things.  “It is all so bizarre and it seems like the more info I find, the more it adds to the mystery but doesn’t give ANY answers, just more questions!”

Whenever I have a total mess of a family the very first thing I do is take a step back. Many times looking at what other people have on the family will only lead you astray. You need to focus on what you have and what facts you have actual documentation for. Basically, start over from scratch like you have never seen this family before. Start with what you know and then work toward what you don’t know. Revisit every piece of evidence you have (documents) and look at them again. Are there clues you missed the first time around?

Another thing that will trip you up is not realizing that perhaps there is more than one person in that area during that time that had the same name as your person of interest. When things look like they just aren’t fitting together right that is the first thing I consider. You said, “Why would an old man quickly marry women, move children around, change names, etc?” You also said, “Some of the children were boarded with various families, almost passed around the neighborhoods to similar families.” And you also said “All children’s names were changed too, so some changed back when they were 18, others just disappeared (could have died, but SO many?)”  I would definitely be thinking that there might be more than one person with the same name (perhaps several people in this family have “doubles”).

Remember, a person can’t be in two places at the same time, a person can’t be married to two different people at the same time (well, they aren’t supposed to), a person can’t do things before he were born and he can’t do things after he is dead.  This is another reason that it is very important to have good estimations for dates of birth, marriage and death based on the collective evidence you have when you don’ t have direct evidence for precise dates.  This will help you rule people in and out.

Timelines and spreadsheets can help you organize all of this data while you are evaluating it. If you have your data on a spreadsheet, you can sort by column(s) and sometimes this will help you rule someone in or out based on whether they could have been at a certain place at a certain time or if they would have been the right age to have done something. Pretty soon a pattern will emerge that there were in fact two (or more) people with the same name.

The key to solving the puzzle is starting over with no preconceived notions and good organizational skills.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You just never know where you will find something!

King George II (1683-1760)There is a set of books published by the Georgia Secretary of State and Surveyor General’s Office that has all of the English Crown Grants (1755-1775).   Digital copies of these books are online save two.  I ordered the two that aren’t online via interlibrary loan.  The ones I actually need are online but I don’t like to miss anything so I wanted to be able to say that I had looked at ALL of the English Crown Grants.

I received the English Crown Grants for the Islands in Georgia 1775-1775 yesterday.  The book isn’t indexed so I read through the grants one at a time.  I had no reason whatsoever to think I would see any name that was familiar to me.  As far as I knew, I had no one in the Islands of Georgia pre-Revolutionary War.  When I got to page 38 I got a little surprise.
King George II (1683-1760)


Samuel Lyon
50 acres in Christ Church Parish
Granted 02 Oct 1759
Grant Book B, page 299

50 acres on Skidoway Island bounded on the north by land of Inigo Jones, east by marshes, south by land of Thomas Beckett and west by the Back River of Skidoway Island.

Oh my. 

My 5th great-grandfather was Samuel Lyon(s) born abt. 1749 in Georgia.  His father was Samuel Lyon and I have no further information on him.  This entry looks suspiciously like the person I am looking for.  This entry caught me completely off guard.  I haven’t working on this line in a very long time and I think I just got the incentive to reopen the case.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Everything in one place

I try to keep all of my genealogy information in one place (one computer program).  It just makes it so much easier to keep track of things.  If you have stuff scattered between several programs it gets confusing.  Y’all already know that I use Legacy as my genealogy database program but I keep other things in Legacy as well.   I do use MS Excel when I am trying to sort out a lot of records in a certain place that pertain to more than one person of the same name.  I also have a letterhead template in MS Word that I use when I write to people/repositories and I do write up complex proof arguments using MS Word.  However, I can attach the Excel and Word documents to Legacy so it still keeps everything in one place. 

If you don’t use Legacy, make sure you take the time to learn what all your program can do.  Many times there are features that you don’t readily see but can save you a ton of time.

Here are some things I have in Legacy that help me keep everything in one place.

All of my living extended family is already in Legacy.  Most of the living people I contact for genealogical purposes are also in my tree somewhere.  If they aren’t I add them just so that I can put all of their contact information In there.  When you take the time to add all of this information up front it will not only keep everything is in one place but it will save you a ton of time.  

add 1


But that isn’t the only type of address I keep track of.  I also have every repository that I use.  It takes me two seconds to find what I need.  I enter it one time and then it is there when I need it.  In the notes section I can write down things like how much copies cost, do I have to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope, what records are they missing etc.  On the pages I have for libraries, I can also put things like the hours they are open and any special collections they have that are of interest to me.  I can send emails directly from this screen and go their homepage.

Add 2


I can also print source citation labels directly from the program.  I can use these on the documents themselves or on the sheet protectors they are in.  I don’t have to use a separate program to do this.  I can print address labels for correspondence and even name tags for reunions.

When I create a To-Do that involves me writing a letter (like to a state archive) I can link the letter right to the To-Do even though I created it in MS Word.  Again, it keeps everything in one place. 



Here is one of my favorite tricks.  I can put everything I know about a location in the location’s notes.  This is for my use only.  I can refer to it whenever I need to.  This keeps me from having to have separate files for all of the place information I have gathered over the years.



Having as much information you can in ONE computer program will save you time and aggravation.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 21, 2014

Why I like FamilySearch’s Family Tree

In a previous blog post, Public vs. private, and the debate goes on, I mentioned that I like FamilySearch’s Family Tree better than’s Public and Private Member Trees and I thought I would give you a more comprehensive list why.

  • FamilySearch (FS) is a totally free website and even though you can access’s public member trees without a subscription I feel that FS is a better overall environment especially for those researchers just starting out.
  • is a collection of many individual trees.  A certain person could be in hundreds of trees making it difficult to look at each one for information.  FamilySearch is a collective tree that everyone contributes to.  Yes, there is some duplication but not on the scale of  Duplicates are addressed whenever you add anyone to the tree.  
  • Since FS is a collaborative tree, you have a lot less of the big time errors that you see on, things like people having children after they are long dead and people getting married when they are three.  The tree is constantly being cleaned up.  If you see something wrong, you don’t have to email 23 people to try and get it corrected (most of whom will not email you back).  You simply correct it and then back up your corrections with sources and explanations.
  • FS has a place to post discussions so that you can document your thoughts and theories for others to see and comment on.

Family Tree is still relatively new so the programmers are still tweaking.  You can now add photos and sources and links to documents.  I expect more enhancements and refinements will be implemented making it better and better.  A friend of mine that works at the local Family History Center was showing me some cool tricks today that I didn’t know about.  The more I work with it, the more I like it. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Yes I do

Carmen D. sent me an email asking if I ever do any sort of live presentations or lectures. Yes, I do.  Here are the things I have scheduled so far for the rest of the year.

02 May 2014, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Legacy User Group Virtual Meeting (A Legacy Family Tree Webinar)
Legacy tips and tricks.  Several of the tech support team will be participating.

08 May 2014, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Columbia County Genealogical Society, Euchee Creek Library, Grovetown, Georgia
Vital Records - Births, Marriages and Deaths

11 Jul 2014, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Legacy User Group Virtual Meeting  (A Legacy Family Tree Webinar)
Topic TBA.  Several of the tech support team will be participating.

23 Aug 2014, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm 
Augusta Genealogical Society’s 35th Anniversary Homecoming, First Baptist Church, Augusta, Georgia. 
1) Getting the Most Out of FamilySearch’s Family Tree
2) Legacy 8.0 – Setting a New Standard in Genealogy Software
Bob Davis will also be presenting today.

05 Sep 2014, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Legacy User Group Virtual Meeting (A Legacy Family Tree Webinar)
Topic TBA.  Several of the tech support team will be participating.

11 Sep 2014, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Columbia County Genealogical Society, Euchee Creek Library, Grovetown, Georgia
The CCGS version of the “Genealogy Roadshow”  Rhonda Watson and I will be presenting several cases.

19-20 Sep 2015
Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society’s annual Southern Studies Showcase, Tompkins Library, Edgefield, South Carolina
Legacy 8.0 – Setting a New Standard in Genealogy Software (the 20th at 9:45 am – 10:45 am)

14 Nov 2014, 1:00 pm
Legacy User Group Virtual Meeting (A Legacy Family Tree Webinar)
Topic TBA.  Several of the tech support team will be participating.

This is a pretty light schedule right now because I am finishing up ProGen 18 (finished July 1st!) and I will be going to IGHR in June as well as a week’s vacation in June.  Never a dull moment Smile

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Just my luck

Everyone is so excited about the Pennsylvania Death Certificates being released on  They are releasing them on a schedule.

The 1906-1924 death certificates have been released.
The 1925-1944 death certificates will be released in June 2014
The 1945-1963 death certificates will be released in November 2014
The 1906 birth certificates will be released in March 2015.

Pennsylvania residents have FREE access to this record set when you register through the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.  Everyone else will need to have a regular subscription to view them.

I did a search in Legacy to see who all I had in my file that died in the state of Pennsylvania.  This is what Legacy told me.

no records

Just my luck Sad smile


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, April 18, 2014

A cool blog

I would like to introduce you to a really cool blog.  Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi’s List posted about it on Facebook.  Because of what she wrote I started reading it.  You have to start reading it at the very beginning because the blog tells a story.  Michael Lacopo writes about a serious genealogical subject using a a touch of humor.  It is a pleasure to read.   I am linking to the very first post so that you will start in the right place.

Hoosier Daddy?

Great job, Michael!


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Keeping my genealogy database in tip top shape

antibacterials,bottles,buckets,household chores,cleansers,containers,detergents,fotolia,germs,hygiene,maintenance,plastic,reflections,rubber gloves,sanitary,scrubs,services,sprays,tools


This post is aimed at Legacy users but even if you use a different genealogy program most of this stuff will still make sense.  I am a little OCD about keeping my database file in tip top shape.  Here are the things I do on a regular basis.




1) I backup my files every day that I am working in them and sometimes more than once a day if I am adding a lot of data.  I keep my ten most current backups and I delete the older ones.  I keep my backups on SkyDrive. My files are also automatically saved to Carbonite so I have them in two places.  I have 23 years worth of research in my database file and if I ever lost that I might have to throw myself off of a cliff. 

2) Before I backup my files I do a List Cleanup and a Check/Repair.  I already have Legacy automatically renumbering my RINs and MRINs which compacts my file even further.  Routine Check/Repairs are very important.  It is similar to defragging your hard drive.  As you add data, delete data, merge data the information gets a bit scattered.  A check/repair will compact the file and make it run more efficiently.  It can also fix most of the common database errors that occur over time.

3) Once a week I address every issue that is on my Potential Problems list and either do the research needed to clear the problem or if it isn’t a problem I mark it as such.  I don’t like to let the Potential Problems get out of control because if you wait too long to address them you will feel a bit overwhelmed.  Don’t forget to take the time to go through the Potential Problems options to get them set exactly like you want so that it is only picking up legitimate problems that you need to address.

4) Once a week I look for duplicates in my file.  I either do the research needed to determine whether or not they are actually duplicates or if I know for a fact that they are not, I mark them as such.  I love this feature in Legacy.  When you have a large database you can easily add someone as a spouse not knowing that you already have that same person as a child in another family.  This is especially true when you are working in areas of the country where it is common for people to marry relatives.

5) Once a week I review my To-Do list.  Is there anything I forgot to close out?  Is there anything that I said I needed to do but haven’t done yet?  Have I not heard back from someone in a reasonable amount of time meaning I need to send my request again?  This is another area you want to stay on top of or it can become overwhelming. 

6) I close my file at night.  I don’t leave my database open for extended periods of unsupervised time.  If Windows decides to update and reboot with your file open it could cause trouble.  Before I shut down for the day I do the first two items on this list. 

7) I change my color scheme from time to time.  This has absolutely nothing at all to do with maintaining your database but it does keep me from getting bored Smile 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gone fishin’!

emoticons,faces,fishermen,fishes,fishing,fishing poles,hooks,leisure,smiley,smiley face,smiley faces,smileys,smilie,smilie face,smilie faces,smilies,smily,smily face,smily faces,symbols

My son wants me to go fishing with him today and I am looking forward to smokin’ him.  I was going to upload a real blog post but then I found this really cool fishing emoticon and I decided I would use it instead.  If I catch anything good maybe I will post a picture.  We are going up to the State Fish Hatchery.  They have bass, blue gill, channel cats and sunfish.  The high today is 61 with bright sunshine so it should be really nice. 




Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I couldn’t have explained it better

I get asked all the time about why should a person bother with a genealogy database program when one can just do all of their work online via or FamilySearch?  Renee Zamora has written as excellent blog post on this subject and I couldn’t have explained it better than she has.  I encourage you to read what she has to say.

Do I Still Need a Desktop Genealogy Program or is Family Tree Enough?


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 14, 2014

Public vs. private, and the debate goes on

I have a private tree on  The only reason I even have that is so that I can be alerted about DNA matches.  I only have my absolute direct line posted (a pedigree chart). You wouldn’t believe the amount of flack I get because of this.  If I hear one more person tell me that a real genealogist would want to share their data and not hoard it I think I will have to kill someone.  I DO share my data but I want to have control over what I share and with whom.  I want to be able to talk about the research that is being shared.  I don’t think that is unreasonable.  Kerry Scott has written an article about this and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Why Don’t People Post Public Family Trees?

I also have selected persons up on FamilySearch’s Family Tree.  I actually prefer it over so you will see more of my research posted there.  Why?  Because they provide an area to add notes and discussions about the person.  I also like that I can sync directly to Family Tree using Legacy.  If anyone goes in and adds anything to my person of interest I will be notified by FamilySearch and by Legacy.  There are several reasons why I prefer Family Tree but I will save that for another blog post.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Graham crackers

If you don’t already know this by now, I love FamilySearch.  I needed a 1820 Elbert County, Georgia marriage license.  The earliest Elbert County marriages are loose papers (not books) contained in boxes at the Georgia Archives.  They have been microfilmed but not indexed.  I was getting ready to send a request to the Family History Library for this record. When I went to do a search in the FHL card catalog, I got the dreaded, “not available on microfilm” stating the film is in the Vault and not available.  But I then got a much better message, one that said click here.  I clicked and the images of the precious loose papers are on FamilySearch.  They aren’t indexed but I can live with that.  Box M1 contains the 1818-1821 loose marriage records.  There are 540 images.  It took me 40 minutes to find the right one (Once I got the 1820 ones I had to go through one at a time because though all the 1820 ones are together, they aren’t in any particular order so having the exact date wasn’t a help in this case).  So here is what I was looking for.

Wilhight, John and Elizabeth Wilhight marriage 1820Elbert County, Georgia, County Records, 1790-2002, Box M1, loose marriage records, Wilhite-Wilhite, 17 Aug 1820; digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 April 2014). 


Why did I need this record so badly?  I knew that John B. Wilhite had married someone named Elizabeth but Elizabeth what?  Egads!  He married Miss Elizabeth P. Wilhite!  Of course he did.  So much for this being easy.  Now I have to figure out what John’s relationship to his bride was.

I would like to thank Job Weston, Clerk of the Court of Ordinary for his easy to read penmanship which made it a lot easier to scan through all of those documents.

So what do graham crackers have to do with any of this?  I ate an entire sleeve of Annie’s Organic Cinnamon Graham Crackers while I was searching.  It made the time pass by more pleasantly.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gotta use the index

Here is an example of the rare time an index is the best evidence. 

McMichael, David and Sarah Kimbrough marriage 1789

The Greene County, Georgia Courthouse sent me this page from their official marriage index.  David McMichael and Sarah Kimbro (Kimbrough) are my 5th great-grandparents.  Their marriage record no longer exists.  The Greene County Probate Clerk told me that some of their records have been lost, David and Sarah’s marriage record being one of the missing ones.  It could have been accidentally destroyed or it could have even been stolen.  I have no idea.  This index was written before the record was lost.  These marriage records were not microfilmed before they were lost. In this case the index is my best evidence.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, April 11, 2014

Don’t do this


I found copies of several deeds I got from a cousin many years ago.  Guess what they don’t have, book and page numbers.  For me to cite them properly I have to request clean copies from the courthouse.  Gerrrrrrr…..



Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Thursday, April 10, 2014

One wife? Two?

Yesterday I showed you an example of a marriage certificate that wasn’t filled out but the man and woman did in fact get married.  Today I am going to show you an example of one where the two probably didn’t get married.

On 06 February 1943, Andrew Simmons and Marie Sistrunk were issued a license to get married.  The bottom portion, the actual certificate, is not completed.

Simmons, Andrew and Marie Sistruck 1943Marion County, Mississippi, Marriage Book 24: 471, Simmons-Sistrunk, 1943; Circuit Court, Columbia. 


Six months later, on 15 August 1943, Andrew Simmons and Lossie May were married.  Though this document doesn’t say so, it is a given that they were in fact issued a license to get married and that probably occurred on 07 August 1943.

Simmons, Andrew and Lossie May marriage 1943Marion County, Mississippi, Marriage Book 24: 523, Simmons-May, 1943; Circuit Court, Columbia.


The Marion County Circuit Court has been unable to locate a divorce decree for Andrew and Marie.  Apparently they got their license and then backed out.  Andrew ended up marrying Lossie.  It is of course possible that Andrew and Marie did marry and their divorce decree is lost but that is a less likely scenario since the Marion County Circuit Court has a pretty good reputation when it comes to their recordkeeping.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It pays to get your paperwork filled out properly the first time around

If you have been looking at marriage records for any length of time I am sure that you have run across marriage licenses where the certificate portion hasn’t been filled out.  Of course you wonder, “Did they, or did they not, actually get married?  Here is an example.

Ladner, Oda and Eva Tyner marriage 1910Lamar County, Mississippi, 2nd District Marriage Book D: 287, Ladner-Tyner, 1910; Circuit Court, Purvis.


Oda and Eva found out the hard way what can happen if you don’t get your paperwork filled out correctly.  In 1944, Oda and Eva apparently had to prove that they were in fact legally married.  There is no way to know why they needed to prove this, perhaps for a life insurance policy or a mortgage or something.  They couldn’t use their marriage license as proof because the certificate portion wasn’t completed so this is what they had to do.

Ladner, Oda and Eva Tyner affidavit 1944Lamar County, Mississippi, 2nd District Marriage Book D: 287, Ladner-Tyner, 1944; Circuit Court, Purvis; Affidavit dated 14 July 1944 attached to the original marriage record attesting that the marriage did in fact take place.


Thirty-Four years later, the original witnesses to the marriage had to sign an affidavit swearing that Oda and Eva actually get married.  Lucky for them their witnesses were still alive!


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A marriage, a divorce petition, and the Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals

Ignatius Grantham married Catherine Sheffield on 09 October 1810 in Wayne County, Georgia.1  In 1825, Catherine filed for divorce in Marion County, Mississippi which is really interesting.  The case was then sent to the Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals which makes it even more interesting.2  I have written to the Marion County Circuit Court asking for a copy of the original petition and I have written to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for the appellate case file.

I then did a search on Google Books just for fun.  Guess what I found, a reference to a National Genealogical Society Quarterly issue from 1955 that mentions not only Ignatius but his father John.  John is my real target.  He would be my 5th great-grandfather.  Google Books would only let me see a snippet so I have fired off an email to the NGS asking them how I can get a hold of this issue (the issues on the website only go back to 1970).  One thing that I could see in the snippet was a mention of some deeds.  This family was in several counties in two different states so knowing where these deeds of interest are would make it a lot easier for me to request copies. 

I have to say though, I am mostly interested in the details of the divorce case.  A divorce in 1825 where the wife was the petitioner and the case gets moved to the appellate court.  You know it’s got to be good.


    1 Wayne County, Georgia, Marriage Book 1809-1869: 8, Grantham-Sheffield, 1810; Probate Court, Jesup.

      2 Mary Louise Flowers Hendrix, compiler, Mississippi Court Records from the Files of the High Court of Errors and Appeals 1799-1859 (Greenville, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, Inc., 1999), 6.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis




Monday, April 7, 2014

I’m back in the saddle again (Thank you Gene Autry!)

I had thought about taking another week off from the blog because here in Augusta, Georgia it is Master’s Week.  The famous Master’s golf tournament is in town which means that everyone is out for Spring Break.  Spring Break coincides with The Masters so that everyone that wants to go, can.  This is of course assuming you have enough money.  I can’t even afford to go to a practice round.  My husband, son, and one of my sons-in-law will be fishing in Florida which means the girls and I will be partying all week.  We have a lot of cool things planned (all girly stuff).  We also have a lot of food planned, all of the things that the males in the family won’t eat.    I have to say though, I miss the blog and so I am back.

I ran across something yesterday that threw me for a bit of a loop so I posted a message on the Transitional Genealogist’s Forum email list to get some other opinions.  Here is the marriage record I was looking at.

Porter, William and Emily Seegar marriage 1843

Madison County, Georgia, Marriage Book A: 16, Porter-Segar, 1843; Probate Court, Danielsville.


Emily’s sister Elizabeth’s marriage record is found on this same page and the word intermarriage is not used on her record so if there was some sort of “intermarriage” it had to have been on William Porter’s side of the equation. 

I looked up the legal definition of “intermarriage” using Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd Edition) just to see what exactly I might be dealing with.

In the popular sense, this term denotes the contracting of a marriage relation between two persons considered as members of different nations, tribes, families, etc., as, between the sovereigns of two different countries, between an American and an alien, between Indians of different tribes, between the scions of different clans or families. But, in law, it is sometimes used (and with propriety) to emphasize the mutuality of the marriage contract and as importing a reciprocal en- gagement by which each of the parties “marries”‘ the other. Thus, in a pleading, instead of averring that “the plaintiff was married to the defendant,” it would be proper to allege that “the parties intermarried” at such a time and place.

Basically, it could mean nothing at all.  The only thing that makes me wonder is that the same court clerk was making all of these entries.  Sometimes Jonas used the word intermarriage and sometimes he didn’t.  There was another intermarriage entry on the next page.

At this point I am still not 100% sure if this was just a legal term that had no real bearing or if there was something about William Porter that made Jonas the clerk write intermarriage.  For now I am just going to keep it in mind.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis