Friday, May 30, 2014


I am going to sign off the blog until IGHR to give me a week to get everything in order around here.  I need to make sure the house is clean and stocked with food so that my poor children won’t starve while I’m gone (all of whom have driver’s licenses and could theoretically go get their own food).  I also have a couple of IGHR assignments that have to be done before I arrive not to mention that I am still working for Legacy this week.

I am going to try to blog while at IGHR but we will have to play that one by ear.  Not only are the classes all day, there will be homework to do and special evening session classes that I want to attend.  I also need to make some time to do a little research in the Special Collections at the university library.   However, the plan is to send out a blog post, hopefully with some photos, every evening.  

I am getting very excited Smile


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Charlotta Part III

I heard back from Julia and I have my answer.  It was right in front of me the entire time!  Remember that I told you that the individual entries in the compiled genealogy and narratives in the book were not sourced but that there were photocopies of A LOT of old documents in the book and that is why I liked the book so much.  I overlooked one of the documents.  In my defense this isn’t a small book.  It is a large format book with 613 numbered pages and a supplement.  I say numbered pages because the pages that include the documents are not numbered which greatly increases the size of the book.

So what did I miss?  BIBLE RECORDS!  The dates came from Charlotta’s son-in-law and daughter’s Bible which is in the McMichael section on the book which is another reason I overlooked it.  Charlotta’s daughter Mary married John David McMichael.   Charlotta’s birth and death date are recorded in their Bible.   Photocopies of the actual Bible pages are in the book.

So what does this all mean?  

1) I now have a good source for Charlotta’s birth and death date. 

2) The location of Charlotta’s burial is still uncertain.  Julia told me that the town was quarantined for typhoid which I will follow that up by searching the newspaper.  I think this will make for very interesting background information and would give evidence that Charlotta may have died of typhoid if it is in the same time period.  It is pretty likely that Charlotta’s grave is unmarked.

3) Apparently someone used Julia’s book for Charlotta’s information and put it up on without naming it as their source and then others just copied it over and over again.   The book (nor anything else) was not used as a source for any of the entries that I checked.

4) I now have sourced birth and death dates for my DAR application.  I could have simply estimated Charlotta’s birth and death dates using the information that I did have.  The DAR is more concerned with me proving the relationships than it is me proving the exact dates.  However, I knew that there had to have a basis for these exact dates and that is why I wanted to solve this mystery. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Update on Charlotta

I received several great suggestions on further research here on the blog, via email and on Facebook and I have followed them up.  One of the most interesting was a recommendation to check the book The Millers of Sand Mountain by Julia Ann Crum Benoit.  I actually have this book.  I didn’t check it because specific information in the book is not sourced, however, Julia included copies of some old civil war letters that you won’t see anywhere else as well as copies of plenty of old documents which is why I like the book.    I pulled out the book and read everything she had to say about Charlotta just to see if maybe I had missed something.   I have a feeling that the information found on came from this book.  Here is a quote. 

“She [Charlotta] continued to live with them until both she and Mary Elizabeth contracted typhoid fever as they traveled from Waynesboro, Mississippi to make their new home in Purvis, Mississippi.  Mary Elizabeth Patton McMichael is believed to have been buried at Palmer’s Crossing Cemetery (now extinct), near Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  It is thought that Charlotta Patton Miller was buried there also.”

She records Charlotta’s vitals as born 24 August 1825 in Georgia, died 25 July 1902 in Forrest County, Mississippi [Forrest County was not formed until 1906 so this would have been Perry County], buried Palmer’s Crossing Cemetery, Forrest County, Mississippi.

So my next move is to contact Julia. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Things that drive me crazy

Charlotta (Seegar) Patton Miller was born 24 August 1825 in Georgia and died 25 July 1902 in Mississippi, or was she?  I don’t know.

There are over 90 people on that have Charlotta’s EXACT birth and death dates.  Some even have that she is buried in the “Old Palmer’s Crossing Cemetery.”   Unless I am overlooking something, I can’t find one person that knows WHERE this information came from.  I am assuming from a tombstone but where is it?  I can’t find any cemetery with this name or close to this name in Forrest County, Mississippi or the surrounding counties. 

From a cousin,

“Mary's mother Charlotta was living with her and her husband John McMichael after the death of Charlotta's husband Robert Miller.  They were traveling to Purvis when Charlotta and Mary contracted Typhoid Fever.  They stopped at Palmer's Crossing and died there.”  

The cousin doesn’t know where this came from.  Palmer’s Crossing is a community just south of Hattiesburg in present day Forrest County.  I have cemetery survey books for Perry County and Forrest County, I have checked Find A Grave, I have looked on USGenWeb, and I have checked the U.S. Geological Survey website.  NOTHING.  The closest I can find is the Palmer Cemetery in Hintonville which is in neighboring Perry County.  The earliest burial there (marked) is 1962. 

Nothing would make me happier than to know where exactly Charlotte is buried and I would love to have those exact birth and death dates.  This is just so frustrating. 

Here is someone that actually has sources for everything….  EXCEPT THE DEATH INFORMATION!  The birth information doesn’t count either because they cited the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 census, none of which contains an exact birth date or an exact birth location.


ARRRRRRRRRRRRG!   If someone sees something that I am not seeing please let me know.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day


Senior Master Sergeant Thomas C. Simmons of the United States Air Force
Vietnam War Veteran
1937 – 2004


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, May 25, 2014

So what did I find in these divorce papers?

Grantham, Ignatius and Catherine Sheffield divorce 1825-01

The papers aren’t the easiest to read.  The script is good but the copies are pretty light.  There is  nothing earth-shattering but interesting nonetheless. Unfortunately, there seems to be a few things missing from the file and I am pretty sure that the Marion County Chancery Court has the missing documents.  Unlike the Marion County Circuit Court, the Marion County Chancery Court isn’t the easiest to deal with.  I have already sent them a written request but I haven’t heard back from them which doesn’t surprise me in the least.

If you would like to read about what divorce laws were in effect during this time in the State of Mississippi then click HERE.   It is always a good idea to get some background info regarding the law when you are looking at court documents.   Scroll up to the bottom of page 74 to find the beginning of this section.  These laws were passed 14 June 1822.


18 February 1825 – Bill for divorce filed in Marion County

The petition (undated but most likely 18 February 1825) makes the following declarations:

  • Oratrix: Catherine Grantham of Jackson County, Mississippi by her “next friend” William C. Seamons (This is interesting because Catherine goes on to marry William)
  • Ignatius and Catherine were married on 09 October 1810 (I have their marriage record so this does match)
  • They lived together as man and wife for nine years after the marriage
  • “…soon after said intermarriage, the said Ignatius Grantham, disregarding the sanctity of his vows & the rights & duties incident to the married State, committed the crime of adultery with one Lavinia Grantham & with divers other lewd women to your Oratrix unknown.”  (Oh my!)
  • “… the said Ignatius hath willingly, constantly & obstinately deserted & abandoned your Oratrix.”
  • Catherine asks for a divorce and equity (money)

21 February 1825 – Ignatius is ordered to appear in court on “…the third Monday in August next...”

5 April 1825 – The sheriff [Marion County] returns the subpoena stating “not found within my county.”

16 August 1825 – affidavit of J. H. Morris stating “…the defendant in the case Catherine Grantham vs. Ignatius Grantham is a resident of Greene County Alabama to the best of his knowledge.”

10 September 1827 – Order to the Jackson County Sheriff to collect court costs from Catherine Grantham  “…command you that of the goods and Chattels Lands and Tennents of Wm. C. Seaman for Catherine Grantham – late of your county you make or cause to be made the sum of twelve Dolars and Six & a fourth – cents…”  A detailed list of court costs is given.  So does late mean dead or just not a resident of this county anymore.  According to the date of Catherine’s marriage to William C. Seamon and the date on Catherine’s tombstone it means not a resident of this county anymore.  Catherine supposedly married William C. Seaman on 02 November 1828 in Rankin County.  I have ordered their marriage license/certificate.

September Term 1827 – $11.18 3/4 due.

30 May 1829  - Order to the Hancock County Sheriff to collect court costs from Catherine Grantham  “…command you that of the goods and Chattels Lands and Tennents of Wm. C. Seaman for Catherine Grantham – late of your county you cause to be made the sum of Twenty Three Dollars Three & 3/4 Cents…”  The money was due the first Monday of November.  A detailed list of court costs is given.  

09 June 1829 – William Seaman paid the Sheriff $12.06/4

23 September – $5.00 received

26 September 1829 – a writ was levied “on one negro girl pointed out by the defendant, named Chancy[?]’'

17 November 1829 – Received of the Sheriff of Hancock County $12.12 “in full.”


Catherine filed for divorced from Ignatius citing adultery.  I assume the divorce was granted since Catherine goes on to marry William C. Seaman (missing papers in Marion County?).  Catherine ends up paying court costs and she also is ordered to give up a slave.  I really need the Marion County file for a more complete picture.

So the big question is…. WHO IS LAVINIA GRANTHAM?   She has the same last name as Ignatius which of course intrigues me.  I don’t have her in my file yet so I am on the hunt.  I want to know who she was.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis




Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ignatius Part IV (I have the documents!)

Part I – A marriage, a divorce petition and the Mississippi High Court of Appeals
Part II – Who knew that Ignatius’ wife Catherine was this popular!
Part III – Latest update for Ignatius and Catherine Grantham

Grantham, Ignatius and Catherine Sheffield divorce 1825-01

I received the documents from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History yesterday.  There are seventeen pages so I am still scanning and reading.  I will give you the nutshell version tomorrow.  If you are related to this couple let me know and I will send you the scanned images.  I already have a couple of people that have requested them.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hidden treasures

Mathew Robert Patton was in the 22nd Regiment of the Alabama Infantry during the Civil War.  If you check the index at Fold3, you will not find Mathew (M. R.) Patton.  If you check on the National Park Service’s Soldiers and Sailors Database you won’t find Mathew there either.  I found him totally by accident.  His compiled service record cards were in the middle of the cards for James R. Patton and had not been indexed.  Mathew was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh (Hardin County, Tennessee).  The wounded were transported to the Confederate hospital in Gainesville, Alabama.  There are 250 people buried in the Confederate Cemetery there, including Mathew. 

Patton, Mathew 1822-01

Patton, Mathew 1822-02

Patton, Mathew 1822-03


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Finally taking the plunge

I am finally taking the plunge and going for DAR membership.  I have several ancestors to choose from so the lineage specialist at the local DAR did a preliminary look see and recommended the ancestor I should use.  I will tell you one thing, this lady really knows her stuff.  Working with her has been a real pleasure.  So, I will be working up my lineage to my 6th great-grandfather Mathew Patton. 

Needless to say, I have to have all my ducks in a row paperwork wise.  For two of the relationships I need to write up indirect evidence proof arguments but both cases are strong so I am not too worried.  I am missing one document that would make one of the cases even stronger and I have requested the FHL pull it for me off of microfilm. 

The other thing I want to fix is two people with exact dates of birth and death that came from their tombstones.  I got the information years ago from a cemetery survey which of course I can’t find now.  I don’t know if I got it from a book or an internet survey or what.  I need to get pictures of the markers.  I can estimate their dates of birth and death using the info I have but exact dates would look better.  I wonder if my file will ever be cleared of my past mistakes. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Georgia Black Book

How could you not want to read this book!

The Georgia Black Book – Morbid, Macabre, & Sometimes Disgusting Records of Genealogical Value by Robert Scott Davis, Jr.

I put it on hold at the library and it came in today.  The book is out of print so unless you want to spend a bundle you definitely want to go the library route. 

So here is a list of the chapters:

1)  A Tribute to My State
2)  Horse Thieves and Other Charming People, 1754-1823
3)  Liars, 1810-1838
4)  Convicts, 1817-1850
5)  Murders, Murderers, and Murder Victims, 1823-1869
6)  Convicts, 1851-1871
7)  Insane Asylum Inmates, 1853-1870
8)  Principal Keeper’s Reports, 1866-1873, List of Convicts to Fill Gaps in Chapter 5
9)  Racial Incidents, 1865-1868
10) Central Register of Convicts, 1872-1897
11) More Murders, Murderers, and Murder Victims 1869-1900
12) Central Register of Convicts, 1872-1897
13) Other Sources Equally Disgusting

If you are wondering WHY this sort of book would interest me, you might want to read my blog post on Just How Many Murders Can One Family Have?  I have since found yet another murder.  My 2nd cousin twice removed, Rougier Grantham, was clubbed in the head with a large piece of wood by Bonny Aldrich.1  You can see that my family was… interesting.

Bob Davis is a prolific writer and I have several of his books.  I am going to meet him for the first time in person on August 23, 2014 when both of us are speaking at the Augusta Genealogical Society’s Homecoming event.  I am looking forward to it.

     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 © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Poor Zinamon

I am looking at the will of Zinamon Franklin Lee.1  Here are all the different ways his named is spelled on this one document.

Zimmamon Lee, Sr.
Zinamoun Lee, Sr.
Zinnamoren Lee

He just happens to have one of those names that lends itself to being spelled numerous ways but all on one document?  I have eight more AKAs for Zeno.  Zeno was his nickname, I wonder why.  His namesake son went by Frank most of the time.  Again, I wonder why.


     1Lamar County, Mississippi, Will Book 1: 69, Zimmamon Lee; Chancery Court, Purvis. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 19, 2014

Lyons family

Lyons, William Bible 1810-01

This past weekend I worked on the Lyons family.  My starting point is the William Lyons’ family Bible.1  I have photocopies of the pages provided to me by the Pascagoula, Mississippi Public Library.  William Lyons was my 3rd great-grandfather, born 19 January 1813 in the Mississippi Territory.  Most of the entries are pretty straightforward but some are perplexing. 

William Lyons is listed as William Lyons, Jr. in the Bible.  There is a Charles William Lyons listed who died 23 March 1842.  Is this William’s father?  I don’t know.  This is not his son unless he named two of his sons William.  His known son was James William H. Lyons (1840-1846). 


The 1840 federal census taken in Jackson County, Mississippi has this:2

William Lyon
1 free white male age 20 to under 30 [William]
1 free white male age 70 to under 80 [Could this be Charles William Lyons?]
1 free white female age 15 to under 20 [wife Mary Ann]

I don’t want to jump to a conclusion too quickly because William’s Bible has a couple of first cousins listed so I can’t be sure that Charles William Lyons isn’t one of them. 

I did go back to the 1830 census and there is a Charles Lyons listed as head of household but he is only listed as being age 40 to under 50 which isn’t old enough.3  Normally the first place I look for answers pre-1850 are probate records.  Unfortunately, the Jackson County wills and administrations only go back to 1858 so that isn’t going to help me in this case.

Another mystery.  There is a Mrs. Mary Lyons listed that died 17 June 1839.  This is NOT William’s wife Mary Ann (Cates) Lyons.   Could this be William’s mother?  Again, I just don’t have enough information yet to make this connection.

I also have some names that I can’t fit into the family at all.

James L. Cilburn born 10 April 1819
Mary Cilburn born 06 March 1821 married John Clark 08 June 1837

Elizabeth Cilburn born 19 December [not sure of the month] 1827

Pheldread Hamilton born 18 May 1827
Elizer Hamilton born 28 May 1829
John D. Hamilton born 30 January 1832

Harretta McCole born 15 April 1799
Elizabeth McCole born 17 November 1801
James Wilkerson McCole 12 February 1803

Samuel Bean born 21 January 1831

Many times the oddball names belong to grandchildren but not in this case.  All of these are way too old to be William’s grandchildren. Nieces and nephews?  Only if William had a few much older sisters.  These could be relatives of William’s wife Mary Ann but her maiden name is Cates so I am in the same situation with her. 

So what am I going to do with all of this?  I am going to enter every single person that is listed in this Bible into my database because I know that they are related somehow.  For the ones that I don’t know, I will just enter them as unlinked individuals.  I will put a blub in William’s notes that says that Charles William Lyons and Mrs. Mary Lyons MIGHT be his parents. 

After I typed all of this the Pascagoula Public Library emailed me a article from the Journal of the Jackson County Genealogical Society in response to a question I sent them asking them if they knew the physical location of the Bible.  The article they sent is a Bible transcription of this Bible.4  The article names the transcriber and the person that has possession of the Bible, or at least the person that had possession of the Bible in 1991.  Now I need to do a bit of forensic genealogy and track down the person named as having the Bible.  It took me 30 seconds to find her on Facebook.  I have sent her a message and we shall see.  I would love to have some quality digital images of the Bible pages because there are some discrepancies between what I am seeing on the photocopies and what the transcriber saw. 

I would also like to talk with the owner of the Bible because chances are she is a descendant and may have information about the unknowns in the Bible. 

     1 William Lyons Bible, The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior (Cooperstown, New York: H & E Phinney, 1826), Family Record; privately held by Pascagoula Public Library, (Pascagoula, Mississippi), 1998; The Pascagoula Public Library holds photocopies of the Bible pages.  They do not know the location of the actual Bible.  The photocopies were donated.

     2 1840 U.S. census, Jackson County, Mississippi, p. 276 (stamped), line 4, William Lyon household; digital images, ( : accessed 17 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M704, roll 214. 

     3 1830 U.S. census, Jackson County, Mississippi, p. 8 (stamped), line 8, Charles Lyons household; digital images, ( : accessed 17 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M19, roll 71. 

     4 Thomas C. Wixon, "Family Bible Records," Journal of the Jackson County Genealogical Society 8 (1991): 25-6.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, May 18, 2014


I have very few old photographs.  On my mother’s side most of the photos were lost during World War II (Germany).  On my dad’s side the family was pretty poor through the generations and took very few photographs to begin with.  My Uncle Billy had most of the family photographs but he lost everything when a hurricane wiped out his house.  I have been able to get copies of some old photos over the years from relatives but my collection is still relatively small.  Here is one of my favorites.  This is only a copy.  The original was lost in the hurricane.

The boys

This is a picture of my grandmother, Leora (Perry) Simmons.  The boy in the back is my Uncle Billy.  My dad, Tommy, is the middle boy.  The youngest boy is my Uncle Jerry.  By the time this photograph was taken,  Leora had already lost a son to diphtheria.  James Filmore was the 2nd oldest child between Billy and Tommy.  Leora had two more children after this photo, my Uncle Leonard and my Aunt Carolyn.  They lived in rural Lamar County, Mississippi and they were dirt poor.  That is why there were precious few photographs of the family.   This picture would have been taken about 1943.  For the boys in the family, their ticket out of poverty was the military.  All four boys enlisted, two made it a career.   When I look at my grandmother, I can see the hard life on her face. 

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Find A Grave update

I am loving Find A Grave’s new “Edits” tab under Contributor Tools but I keep forgetting to check it!  I went in this morning and there were five edits that I needed to look at. 

They have now added the ability to suggest familial links which is nice.  I am thinking that with this addition we won’t be getting any more emails other than those tied to requests and request fulfillments.

I checked my list of photo requests.  I only have 17 open requests, not bad.  The oldest request that is still on the list is from 15 July 2011 for Louisa (Baptiste) Chighizola who is buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama.  There are 43 pending requests for this cemetery.   So what’s the problem?  I did a quick Google search and found that this particular cemetery covers over 150 acres. Oh my.  This cemetery does have sexton records, however.  Surely the sexton records can narrow the location of the grave for whoever goes out there to take the photo.

So, are there any blog readers in Mobile, Alabama that want to snap a photo of Louisa’s marker for me?


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 16, 2014

A new resource for me (BLM Part III)

I just ordered Military Bounty Land, 1776-1855 by Christine Rose.   I really need to understand the laws and procedures that were in place when Silas applied for and received his bounty land because right now I have a bunch of unanswered questions.  I already own several of Christine’s books and they are all great.  I don’t think one can own too many reference books Smile

Christine very graciously answered a couple of my questions via email to get me going in the right direction.  Let’s just say that I am very happy that I have Amazon Prime which means free two day shipping.  I tend to be very impatient when I am hot on the trail. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Speaking of BLM records…

My 3rd great-grandfather was Silas Simmons born abt. 1794 in South Carolina.   He received bounty land for his service in the War of 1812.   It is warrant #64098, issued 12 Jul 1854, 40 acres (MOL) in Perry County.   The warrant specifically says “Silas Simmons, Private in Captain Easom’s Company Louisiana Militia War 1812.”  I have Silas’ compiled service record so that matches.  He also lived in Perry County so everything matches.  He actually sold (assigned) his warrant to Manlius Huggins and John W. Myers (a fairly common occurrence). I have his bounty land application and the complete land entry file from the National Archives.   I could have stopped here because everything matches like it should, but…

I decided to take the time to look at the other Silas Simmons’ that received bounty land in Mississippi and I got a bit of a surprise.

Warrant #57078, issued 10 May 1860, 120.39 acres in Clarke County.  “Silas Simmons, Private Captain Easoms Company Louisiana Militia War 1812.”  Silas sold this warrant to Charles Hodges.

Warrant #64098, issued 02 Oct 1854, 39.92 acres in Stone County.  “Silas Simmons, Private in Captain Easoms Company Louisiana Militia War of 1812.”  Silas sold this warrant to Manlius Huggins and John W. Myers.  This warrant was subsequently cancelled.

So what the heck was going on?  Warrants in three counties?  I have to order the land entry files for these warrants to see if they have any clues in them.  I have to say that I didn’t notice this right off and I kicked myself a bit for not seeing it the first time around.  I made the mistake of stopping when I found the record I was looking for.  It never hurts to keep looking just to make sure.  Even if I discount the warrant that was cancelled (and I can’t discount it until I see the land entry file) I still have Silas receiving warrants in two counties.  Apparently Silas chose to split up his bounty land.  I have no clue as to why he would want to do this.  As far as I know, he didn’t have any ties in Stone or Clarke Counties.  He sold his warrants off so maybe he really didn’t care where the land was.

Here is a little side note.  In the land entry file for the warrant issued in Perry County there are multiple affidavits from the Perry County court.  What is so interesting about this is that the Perry County courthouse burned in 1877 with a total records loss.  These documents are dated 1843-1856, before the courthouse was burned.  I couldn’t have gotten copies of these documents from the courthouse.  Since copies were included in the land entry file, I have multiple documents from a burned county.  Very cool. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

One thing you need to know about the BLM records (okay, two things)

The Bureau of Land Management’s General Land Office Records are a goldmine of information for anyone that does research in the Public Land states.  One thing you need to be aware of though is that these records only include the ORIGINAL land patents and land warrants.  These documents record the transfer of land owned by the federal government  to an individual.  If that individual then sold the property, that transaction would be recorded at the county level in a deed, not in the BLM records.

Some people get confused about this.  If you draw out a map of land patents you are looking at the original owners of the land.  That doesn’t mean that these people lived next to each other at the same time or for any length of time.  The federal lands were sold/warranted/homesteaded over a period of many years.  Also, much of this property was sold again or it changed hands in probate.   When you are looking at neighbors for possible familial connections you could make some false assumptions and end up going down the wrong research path.  Mapping out the original patents and then following up with a search of the county deeds will give you a much more accurate picture. 

There is another important thing you need to know.  The date that the patent was issued (the date you will find on the above website) does not tell you the whole story.  The patent could have been issued a long time after 1) the person started living on the land and/or 2) after the application was made. 

I am working on a case right now where a researcher assumed that a particular person didn’t migrate to Mississippi until 1849 when the land patent was issued.  When I received the land entry file from the National Archives it turns out that the first application was made in 1817.  Knowing when the person actually arrived in Mississippi is going to have a big impact on several assumptions and theories made about this man’s life.

I know I said that there are two things you need to know but there are actually three.  Looking at a single section, or even in a single Township/Range will mean you will miss out on possible connections.  Two pieces of land that sound like they aren’t close to each other could be adjoining.  For example, the following two sections in different ranges are right next to each other. 

T5N R13W Sec 13
T5N R12W Sec 18

These two parcels don’t look like they would be next to each other because of the section numbers but they are.

T5N R11W Sec 28 SW1/4 SW1/4
T5N R11W Sec 33 N1/2

I love mapping out parcels in the Public Land states but just knowing how to map them doesn’t tell you everything you need to know.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Getting involved

A blog reader posted a comment on one of my posts and also emailed me about a local issue (Harlem, Georgia).  The city of Harlem wants to tear down an old house with a lot of history.  This building was a private home owned by the local undertaker who would board Augustans during the summer when they vacationed in Harlem to get away from the city.  This was around the turn of the century. 

Community members would like the building to be restored and possibly used as a visitors center, historical museum, art center, meeting house etc.  This house is right next door to the Columbia Theater which is currently being restored.  The city of Harlem owns the house and wants to tear it down.  I don’t know yet what they want to do with the property.

There is a public hearing on May 31st.  The person that sent me this information has been trying to do a house history to present at the meeting.  For more information about house histories you can read my blog post on Researching the “genealogy” of a house.

The Columbia County Historical Society and the Columbia County Genealogical Society have both been notified.  I will be attending the meeting to find out exactly what is going on.  The house itself is in pretty bad condition and the cost of restoring it might be cost prohibitive for the city,  however, the Historical Society might be able to get some sort of grant since this house would be eligible for inclusion on the Georgia Historical Register.  This is the sort of thing that historical societies do.

Unless more people get involved in issues like this our history will be torn down bit by bit. 

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tunnel vision

Blog reader Karen Henry sent in a great illustration of why you should not limit yourself when doing database searches.

“I was reminded once again this morning the pitfalls of "tunnel vision" in genealogy. I had been so focused on a few counties in Georgia and rummaging through their historic papers, that I almost missed a very important story. One of my husband's ancestors died shortly after the civil war ended, which he served in for 4 years. He died not long after the war, and without ever having evidence, I had assumed it was most likely a war related injury or illness. Imagine my surprise when I went to narrow down my search results on a newspaper archive site, when I caught a glimpse of the relatives name and the county he lived in a paper from Ohio! As it turned out, he was involved in a knife fight with another man, killing the other man, and was caught before he could escape. Not exactly a wonderful family story, but now I know he didn't die in the war, but possibly from wounds in that fight, or even being hanged for murder. I will still have to narrow searches down for the more common names, but before I do that a lot more sparingly now. I think a great tip for new researchers would be to not only search by name, but search with the name + county/town/city and not have the tunnel vision I had.”

When I do database searches I always start using the tightest search parameters as possible.  I then slowly expand the search outward.  This gives me complete control over the searches and it keeps my hits to a minimum.  I don’t start my search using very broad search terms because I will get a gazillion hits that I will have to wade through.  However, as Karen’s story illustrates quite well, when you are not getting good hits it is important to broaden your search to areas you initially didn’t consider.  Your ancestor might be in a totally different place than where you think he should have been.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, May 11, 2014


appreciation,cards,concepts,decorations,floral patterns,love,messages,Mother's Day,NVTOfficeClips,sentiments,text

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!   As the mother of a small herd, this is definitely a happy day for me Smile

I am in serious countdown mode.  Four weeks from today (June 8-13, 2014) I will be leaving for IGHR in Birmingham, Alabama.  This will be the first national level event I have ever attended.  I am taking Tom Jones’ Writing and Publishing for Genealogists course.  I am also looking forward to meeting a lot of genealogists that I have “known” for a long time but have never met in person which will be a lot of fun.  I will be staying in the dorms and eating in the school cafeteria which should be an adventure!

I am going to try and blog every evening from IGHR but we will have to play that one by ear because several people have warned me that the homework for this class is brutal so I might not have any time.  Either way, I am really looking forward to this.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, May 10, 2014

If you are on Facebook

Two of my favorite Facebook Groups are:

If you are on Facebook, I highly recommend that you join these two groups.  I have found both of these groups extremely helpful.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 9, 2014

Courthouses and archives

Mike sent me an email asking:

“Have you ever wrote about techniques for dealing with courthouses or even state governments requesting archived records?  You make is seem easy.  I have difficulty even finding the right person to call and do not have much luck at all with emailing to the courthouse.  Living in a different state than my ancestors it makes for lots of frustrating research dealing with these types of records.”

As far as dealing with courthouses and archives go, it is totally trial and error.   I always call or email and just tell them what I want. They in turn tell me if I can have it.

For example, just this week I needed a will from the Montgomery County, Alabama Probate Court (a fairly old one, 1861). I have never dealt with this county before so I had no idea what the correct procedure would be. They have a website and an email address so I emailed them with the details. They forwarded my email to the Montgomery County Archives (which I didn’t know existed) and their archivist pulled the will and sent me a digital copy. The Archivist told me the cost was $1 per page so I called him and paid my $2 bill.  If they didn’t have an email address, their phone number would have been available to me via a simple Google search.

Now that I know about the Montgomery County Archives, I have entered all of the their contact information into Legacy as a repository.  In the notes section I added that the cost for copies (paper or digital) is $1 per page and that they allow you to pay over the phone with a debit/credit card.  The next time I need anything from Montgomery County I will know just what to do.  I talked about how/why I add repositories in Legacy in the blog post Everything in one place.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, May 8, 2014

News searches and new sliders

I don’t usually post this sort of thing because Michael John Neill does such a great job over on his blog exposing problems with but this morning I had a little incident on and I just had to say something.

Here is the scenario…  I wanted to see how many Simmons’ there were living in Perry County, Mississippi in 1850.   Here are my search parameters.

Exact 1Screenshot from


And here are my results:

Exact 2Screenshot from


So why did decide to search the entire United States instead of Perry County, Mississippi like I told it to?  I have no clue but I will tell you that this happens all the time and it is frustrating.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

FTDNA’s myOrigins

FTDNA has a new feature called myOrigins that takes the place of their old Population Finder.  If you have your autosomal DNA with FTDNA you should already have this on your home page, if not, you will be getting it soon.  For more information, you can click on myOrigins Walk-through.

So here’s me:



I can further break down the above two regions:

DNA 2            DNA 3


Does this help me with my genealogy research?  Not really but it is pretty cool looking.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


I watched Thomas MacEntee’s webinar, Mind Mapping Your Research Plans and Results and was intrigued by Popplet.  I wasn’t sure how I might use this website but I tucked the information in the back of my mind for later use.  A couple of days ago someone posted how they were using Popplet and offered up a screenshot.  This renewed my interest.  I happen to be working on a client research project right now that is a tad convoluted.  I need to be able to create a chart that goes off in different directions.  I decided to give Popplet a try.  This is the perfect solution to my dilemma.  I am able to do a chart showing the different branches that I need.  I can color code each branch making the chart much easier to understand.  I can’t post my chart here because this contains real data for a real client but I will tell you that this visual will make it a lot easier for the client to understand how everyone was connected.  I still want to jazz it up a bit by adding some comments and graphics (Thomas shows you how to do this in the webinar). 

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 5, 2014

Why I love WorldCat


Find in a library with WorldCat

I have mentioned WorldCat before but it is such a great thing that I am going to mention it again.  If you haven’t used WorldCat you are really missing out. 

There are a several libraries within 50 miles of my house that have significant genealogical holdings.  When I need a specific book most of the time I can run it through WorldCat and it will be available at one of these libraries.  Most libraries are connected to WorldCat so I can sit at home and browse this collective card catalog while I am sipping my tea.  Even if the book isn’t available within driving distance I will still know where the book is and I can call or write the library to request a lookup. 

Let’s say I know of a book that I would like to search for a specific piece of information.  I search for that book in WorldCat and I find which library has the book.  I will enter a To-Do task in Legacy and attach that repository (library) to it.  I can then filter my To-Dos by repository and print out a list.  For example, I will be going to the Augusta-Richmond County Library next week.  They have a “Georgia Heritage Room” up on the second floor that is packed with genealogical books and microfilm.   Before I go I will sort my To-Do list and print only those that are for the Augusta-Richmond County Library.  I will get a list of the books I want to look through and this list will also tell me exactly what I am looking for.  There will be a space for me to jot down notes.  Normally I just take digital photos of the cover, title page and whichever pages inside interest me but having a place to write a few notes on the same piece of paper as the list of books is nice.  It keeps things organized.

I mentioned this in the Everything in one place blog post.  This is yet another way I keep as much as I can in ONE computer program.

I would like to also point out that libraries in general are just wonderful.  This is one thing that I don’t mind paying taxes for.  I certainly get my money’s worth because I use the library system A LOT.  I borrow books, I borrow DVDs, I use interlibrary loan, I look at microfilm I give presentations there, I attend meetings there, I attend special events there and two of my daughters work at the local library which is really nice. One of the books I want to look at when I go to the Augusta-Richmond County Library next week is the Dictionary of American Family Names by Patrick Hanks which costs $451.25 to own.  I can go to the library and look through it for free.  You can’t beat that.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Names, names, names

Question from Karen Henry:

“Not sure if you've covered this in your blog before I subscribed, but I was wondering if you could do a piece about how families changed surnames over the years. I have a couple of families who have done this type of thing and I was curious about the reasons for doing this. Was it just easier to spell for people? Did it make them sound more American? I have no idea and I feel like knowing the "why" might help me solve a few pieces of my puzzle. For instance, I have the CallihaMs who became the CallihaNs and the Burnes family who became the Burns family. I'm sure there are other, more drastic changes, with immigrants who's names were too difficult for Americans to pronounce. I think I might even pay more attention to places that misspell my last name. I get Henery a lot instead of Henry, but I don't want some ancestor 100 years from now wondering what I was thinking!”

There are just so many different reasons this could have happened.   It is actually easier to look at a particular family and the circumstances surrounding that family and then come up with a theory for why the name might have changed. 

There is a book I would like to recommend.  This is a little book but it is packed with great information.

The Name is the Game – Onomatology and the Genealogist
by Lloyd Witt Bockstock

This book is all about names in general but it also covers why a name could have been changed.  I learned so much reading this book and Karen’s question has made me want to read it again.  This book covers given names, middle name, surnames, nicknames, ethnic clues in names, place clues in names, naming patterns, akas/aliases/renaming, common transcription errors, common pronunciation errors, surnames that were translated into English, shortened surnames, and more.  Lloyd of course gives examples for all of this.  I highly recommend this book.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Could your ancestor have served?

Here is a great graphic showing the Birth Years of Veterans that you can use to see if your ancestor could have served in a conflict/war.  Not all of the wars are listed but the biggest ones are. states the graphic came from Fold3 but I was unable to find it on their website.  I would have preferred to link directly to it. 

This post lends itself well to a question someone sent me.  Bob wanted to know why I always put and not just Ancestry.  With all of the other websites I reference I leave the .com or .org etc. off.  Great question!  There is a reason I do this.  There happens to be a a publishing company in Utah named Ancestry and I want to distinguish between the two.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 2, 2014

Latest update for Ignatius and Catherine Grantham

In my blog post A marriage, a divorce petition, and the Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals I told you had I had written off to the Mississippi Department of History and Archives (MDAH) to get a copy of the appellate court case file for Ignatius and Catherine’s divorce.   I am anxious to see this case file because a divorce in 1825 is rare, a divorce where the wife is the petitioner is ever rarer and a divorce that gets bumped up to the appellate court is even rarer still. 

Today I received a letter from the MDAH.  I always get a little scared when I get a letter from them because sometimes it isn’t good news. however, in this case it is good news.  They have located the case file.  It is seventeen pages long.  The file will cost me $7.25.  Needless to say,  I have written the check and the letter will be going out in tomorrow’s post.  If it wasn’t raining, I would take it to the post office just so I could get it out today.

Stay tuned!


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Legacy Family Tree–Virtual User’s Group Meeting

Tomorrow (Friday 02 May 2013) at 2:00 Eastern Time will be the first Virtual User’s Group Meeting via the Legacy Webinar format (FREE).  You will get to meet some of the tech support people that work behind the scenes at Legacy.  I think that one of the programmers is planning to be there as well.  The topic will our favorite tips and tricks.  There will also be a question and answer session.

Click HERE to sign up.  Only a limited number of people will be able to attend the live session so log in early to get your spot.  If you can’t make the live session, the recording will be posted on the webinar website within a couple of hours.

Geoff is a pro at this but the rest of us are webinar novices so you might witness a blooper or two Smile 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis