Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Southern Studies Showcase-Overcoming the Roadblocks in African-American Genealogy

10483116_365909383557707_7393336667736540925_nCopyright © 2014 Elvin Thompson, used with permission

Here I am hanging out in Elvin Thompson’s class.  Nice shot of Elvin’s bottle of Sprite.  I have heard Elvin Thompson speak several times and I always learn something.  The class is actually a lot bigger than you see.  Most of the people are to the out of view over to the right.  The cool people are up front Smile  Elvin is a funny guy and if you ever meet him in person make sure you ask him about the name “Blake.”  I’ve heard that story three times and it still cracks me up.

Brick walls are brick walls whether you are doing black research, white research or any other type of research so the techniques Elvin talked about work for everyone.  Black researchers know the value of oral histories but I think white researchers don’t put as much emphasis on this.  You need to interview every person you can in your family (the older the better).  Elvin makes it clear that these oral histories will probably not be 100% accurate but they give you the clues you need to go out and find the documents.

Elvin also warns that everything is not online.  He uses church records as an example and talks about spending time in the basements of churches looking though documents that have never seen the light of day let alone been digitized and indexed.  He found some real jewels in these documents.  One thing that black researchers need to know is that slaves often attended church alongside their white owners and these white churches kept records of the slaves that attended.  It wasn’t until after the emancipation that the black churches were established.  Elvin showed that paying attention to how the slaves were listed in the attendance rolls can help you figure out the family relationships. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, September 29, 2014

Southern Studies Showcase-Abbeville Court Records

Dr. Connie McNeill outlined what is and what isn’t available for Abbeville County and the old Ninety-Six District (South Carolina).  Connie introduced us to the book, Abstracts of Old Ninety-Six and Abbeville District Wills and Bonds by Pauline Young.  It was published in 1950 and is out of print.   WorldCat is your friend.  There are three copies within 20 miles of me.  This book is invaluable because it will tell you the box and package number of the documents you are looking for.  The images of the documents are on FamilySearch but they are not indexed.  Knowing the box and package number will save you a whole lot of time.  To see what I mean, take a look HERE.  Do you want to try and find a probate file in there? 

Knowing that Abbeville County holds the old Ninety-Six records is also pretty important considering Ninety-Six doesn’t exist anymore.  It just so happens that I am working on a big South Carolina brick wall and I will need to consult Pauline Young’s book.  I am meeting two other genealogists at the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society’s Library tomorrow (Tuesday).  If you will be in the area stop by and say hello.  We will be right there at 9:00 am when they open.  I will be using the things I learned in Connie’s presentation to help me with this case.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, September 26, 2014

Southern Studies Showcase-Robeson County, NC: Lessons from the Records of Slaves and Free Persons of Color

John Smith, past editor of the Burke Journal, was the presenter for this session.  I happen to have several direct lines in Robeson County and I wanted to hear anything and everything John had to say even though my lines are white.

John told us something about the State Archives of North Carolina that is very important to know.  The Archives has filed all slave records and records of free persons of color under the Misc. section of each county.  I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t have thought to specifically look there.  I probably would have checked the Misc. category anyway just to see what was there but I wouldn’t have expected that it is the routine filing location for the records specific to blacks and free persons of color.

The second thing John told us is that even if you are doing white research you will want to consult these records because the slave owners are mentioned.   I learned this when I started reading the Slave Narratives.  Even though these would be considered records that African-American researchers would be more interested in, slave owners, overseers and persons on neighboring plantations are not only mentioned but many times they are mentioned in detail.

Here is where it gets really good, at least for me.   John is transcribing all of the records in the Misc. file for Robeson County, many of which are court records.  He told us about several cases involving slaves to give us some idea of the type of information you might find.  He mentioned TWO of my ancestors!  He talked about Joseph Lee (brother to my 5th great-grandfather) and Sarah Slade (possible 5th great-grandmother from a completely different line).  I told him I want a copy of his book as soon as it is published and I have been prodding him to get it done quicker.  He has already done seven other counties.

I routinely look at court records but would I have read through the cases involving blacks?  Probably not especially considering that these records have been segregated out by the archives.  Now I know better. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Southern Studies Showcase-John Lewis Gervais’ Old Edgefield Plantation and How it Solved a Major Mystery from 1775

This was the second time I have heard Dr. Robert Scott Davis speak and I wasn’t disappointed. Dr. Davis solved a brick wall that no one else had been able to crack since 1775. 

In a nutshell, some anonymous letters were published in the book American Husbandry (also anonymous).  Researchers have been trying to figure out who wrote the book since it was published in 1775.  Dr. Davis first identified the writer of the letters which gave him the clue he needed to identify the writer of the book.  This was not so easy because the writer of the book altered the letters a bit to fit his purpose.  Dr. Davis is able to explain the reason why the author did this.  The process Dr. Davis went through to uncover the story is fascinating. 

John Lewis Gervais (the writer of the letters) and the man that wrote the book (I won’t tell you his name) were both important figures not only in the history of the Old Edgefield and Ninety-Six Districts but of all of South Carolina.  You can read Dr. Davis’ article, “Mystery Book and the Forgotten Founding Father” published in the Journal of the American Revolution HERE for a condensed version of the story. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Southern Studies Showcase-Discovering Dave

Last year at the Southern Studies Showcase I attended the class, An Overview of Edgefield Pottery, presented by master potter Justin Guy.  It was fantastic.  Though the talk was more on the processes and techniques unique to Edgefield pottery Justin also talked a little bit about the slave Dave Drake, a master potter.  This year George Wingard, the program coordinator for the Savannah River Archeological Research Program, showed us a documentary film about Dave’s life that has already won several awards. 

Dave was born about 1801 into slavery and remained a slave until the emancipation.  Dave was unusual in that he was able to read and write.  His talents as a potter must have been respected by his owners because he was allowed to sign his name on his pots and he was even allowed to write short lines of poetry on them.  He had a special talent of being able to turn very large pieces of pottery (30+ gallons) which was not easy to do. There are no known photographs of Dave.  In 2010 one of Dave’s pots sold for $41,250 at auction.  I wonder what Dave would have thought about that.

If you would like to know more about Dave and see examples of his pots, you can read:

The Ceramic Works of Dave Drake, aka, Dave the Potter or Dave the Slave of Edgefield, South Carolina by Jill Beute Koverman of the University of South Carolina.

Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave by Leonard Todd.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Southern Studies Showcase-Meet the Authors

Left to right, Ellen Butler, Harris Bailey, Ethel Dailey, me, Bernice Bennett, and Vincent Sheppard.

10653579_10202968759965335_7748921395120447211_nPhotograph copyright © 2014 The Memory Keepers, used with permission

I was privileged to be the moderator of the Meet the Authors event for the book, Our Ancestors, Our Stories by the Memory Keepers; Ellen Butler, Harris Bailey, Ethel Dailey, Bernice Bennett, and Vincent Sheppard.

This book focuses on four of the authors’ slave ancestors in the Old Edgefield District in South Carolina.  The fifth author, Harris Bailey, provided the needed background information about Edgefield.  This book is a great read even if you have no African-American ancestry nor anyone in Edgefield.  Reading about the process the writers went through to discover their heritage is well worth your time. 

When I read the book one of the things I learned was that during the Revolutionary War the British promised emancipation to any slaves that escaped their owners and joined up and fought with the British.  After the Meet the Authors event I got to talking with Harris Bailey about these slaves. I was curious to know what happened to them.  Harris explained that many of these now freed slaves fled north along with the Tories/Loyalists.  Those that did received land grants in Canada.  There was a group that fled to Nova Scotia specifically and these men were not given their promised land grants.  Harris was kind enough to give me a copy of his research notes right out of his notebook so that I could do some further research on my own.

Another thing I want to mention is something that one of the attendees said (sorry, I didn’t catch your name).  He said that he loved the format of the book.  Each author had a single chapter.  He made the point that a project like this is so much more doable than trying to author an entire book by yourself.  He was hoping that other writers would be encouraged by this book to write their own collaborations so that these family stories are preserved.  I thought he made a great point.  If anyone knows the name of the nice guy wearing the glasses let me know and I will give him credit.  The authors announced that book two is in the works which everyone was happy to hear.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, September 22, 2014

Southern Studies Showcase–Ask Granny

I had a great time in Edgefield at the Southern Studies Showcase as I knew I would.  I am going to do a post for each class I took and tell you what specifically I learned from that class (just a short synopsis).


Session One – Ask Granny

I had heard of Ask Granny and I am friends with Judy Russell, the co-creator of the Ask Granny project, on Facebook but I had no clue what great things this organization does.  Judy’s partner is Greg Crane and the two of them started the Ask Granny project in 2009.   In a nutshell, Judy and Greg go out to any place that caters to seniors and teaches a class on how to fill out a 4 generation pedigree chart.  The pedigree chart is a legacy left to the senior’s family.  The senior keeps the chart along with a letter explaining the purpose.

Not only do Judy and Greg travel and conduct these sessions themselves, they will equip YOU to lead these sessions.  They will give you the tools you need completely free of charge.  The only thing they ask is that you don’t charge the seniors anything for the session and you leave the completed letters and charts with the seniors themselves so that they can be passed down in their families.  Each senior receives a notebook with everything in it.  The cost to put these notebooks together is approximately $1.00.  This would be a great project for any genealogical or historical society.  Judy will send you the directions on how to put the notebooks together as well as the printable pdf files you will need.  She will also send you pdfs for promotional materials to draw people to your classes. 

In 2011 Ask Granny was the winner of the Georgia Genealogical Society’s “Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Genealogy” award and in July 2014, they received the national “Seton Shields Grant” from the Honoring our Ancestors Foundation of Megan Smolenyak.  They have personally presented this program more than 50 times to over 800 senior citizens and have sent the free materials to organization groups in 47 states, five Canadian provinces, four cities in Australia and four UK counties.

Can you imagine where your genealogy research would be if your grandparents or great-grandparents had completed one of these packets?   I encourage you to contact Judith (Judy) Friedman Russell at ask.granny.us@gmail.com to get more information about how your genealogical or historical society can get involved in presenting this program to a seniors group in your community. 

Ask Granny logo copyright © 2014, Judith F. Russell and Greg Crane, used with permission


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Southern Studies Showcase

I will be in Edgefield, South Carolina on Friday and Saturday (September 19th-20th) for the 3rd Annual Southern Studies Showcase.  It is sponsored by the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society.  On Friday I will be moderating a “Meet the Authors” event for the book,  Our Ancestors, Our Stories by Harris Bailey, Jr., Bernice Bennett, Ellen Butler, Ethel Dailey and Vincent Sheppard.  On Saturday I will be giving a presentation on Legacy 8.0.  I had a great time last year and I am really looking forward to it again this year.  Here is a recap from last year’s event.

Thank you, Edgefield!
Thank you, Edgefield!  Part II

I plan to do something similar this year with a few photos and synopsis of the sessions that I attend.   I will be back on the blog Monday the 22nd.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Update on the NIGS

National Institute for Genealogical Studies

I told you a while back that I would be taking the German courses that the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (NIGS) offers.  Even though I was born in Germany and I speak German I am not that familiar with doing in depth German research and that is why I am taking these specialized courses.   I am also blogging about the German courses on the NIGS Blog.  I wanted to give you a bit of an update of where I am at in the program.

I have completed two courses, Introduction to German Research for North Americans and Locating Places in Germany.  I have to say that I am amazed with how much information they pack in.  The texts for the courses are excellent.  I can honestly say that I have already learned a lot.

The course I am in right now is German – The Language.  The next course after that will be Church Records.  That will conclude all of the basic level courses and then I will be on to the intermediate level. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database

If you do any African-American research you might want to take a look at this website.  The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database is a database of the known slave ships along with all of the known stats for each voyage they made.  If the ship happened to have been captured, you might see the actual names of the slaves on board along with their gender and age.  Some of the stats you will find are the name of the ship, year the ship was built, name of the captain, country, of origin, number of gun mounts, departure port and arrival ports, numbers on board, number of deaths in the crew, numbers of death of the slaves and more.  Even if you don’t do any African-American research directly this database is a fascinating look into the slave trade.  The numbers are both staggering and sobering.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, September 15, 2014

New FamilySearch community groups on Facebook

The series on Getting the most out of FamilySearch is officially over but there is one more FamilySearch related thing I want to mention.

FamilySearch's State Genealogy Research pages on Facebook are going away and they are being replaced with regional community groups.  For example, the Mississippi Genealogy Research page will be deleted soon and you will be using the U.S. South Genealogy Research Community Page instead.  I think this will be much better.  Groups work better as a forum than regular pages do. This is another tool you can use to connect with other researchers.  Here are the links.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Tree (part 5)

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

There are a few more things I want to point out.



1 – The discussion area is where you can post things you want other researchers to see such as your theories.

2 – Notes is for whatever you need it for.  For example, sometimes you need to write something about one of the vital events you added.  In a genealogy program you have space for that but on he website you need to use the Notes section.

3 – The Records Hints is similar to Ancestry.com’s “Shaky Leaves.” 

4 – FamilySearch will automatically populate the search fields with the data that has been entered on this person.

5 – For those people that use the website exclusively here is how you can print out reports and charts.

6 – Every addition, deletion and merge is recorded here.  You can see who did what and when they did it.

7 – This is where you can add a birth to death biography on a person.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Tree (part 4)

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

In the next couple of posts I want to point out a few important things.   All of them will be on the Person screen.  I can’t screenshot the entire page so this is just the bottom part. 

fs 1

Possible Duplicates is the very first thing you want to do whenever you are working on someone and you will want to check this every time you open a person.   Just because there wasn’t a duplicate yesterday doesn’t mean there won’t be one today.  I picked someone that actually has a duplicate.  Here is what it looks like:

fs 2


Fred only has one possible duplicate but you could easily have a long list.  You will have to click the Review Merge on each one.   I can’t screenshot the entire merge screen but this will give you an idea.

fs 3

I am not going to talk you through how to merge two people because this is in the Training Materials, however, there are a couple of important things I want to point out.

  • Do not use the FSID number as part of your paper or electronic filing system.  When two people are merged one of the FSIDs is lost and it might be the one you have been using. 
  • The person on the LEFT is the one that is retained and the person on the right is the one that will be lost.
  • If the person on the right has data that needs to be retained you can move it to the left.  Make sure you check all of the tabs that have information (Life Sketch, Vitals, Other, Family, Sources).
  • If the person on the right actually has more correct information than the left, you can switch them using the Switch Positions option. That will save you some time.
  • When you merge two people this might cause problems with the attached parents, spouse(s), and children.  You will most likely have to go in and merge these people too.
  • Don’t merge two people unless you are sure!  Merges can be undone but still.  All changes are logged.  If you know the FSID of a deleted person you will still be able to look them up and it will point you to the new person.
  • You can merge people from within the three programs that interface with Family Tree.  I use Legacy and I think it is easier to do a merge there than on the website.  I can’t speak to the other two programs.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Tree (part 3)

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

Now I am going to start showing you some specific things in Family Tree.  The first thing are the four options.

FT 1

The Tree link will bring you to a interactive “map” of your Family Tree.  The default view is a traditional pedigree chart though you can change that.  I will show you how in another screenshot further down.  You are the anchor person.  As you link to family members your tree will grow.   What you see on this particular page is your simple direct line only (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents) etc.  To get to the siblings of a particular person you will need pull up the Person page for one of the parents.  To get to collateral lines you do the same thing but you will have to navigate to them.  Just remember, when you go to the tree itself you will only see your direct line but you can navigate to all of the people that are connected to you. 

One thing I want to mention right now is living people.  When you add someone to the tree that is alive no one but the person who added the living person can see him/her.  You can work with them just like anyone else but only you can.  IMPORTANT:  Make sure that anyone you add that you know to be deceased is marked as deceased or add something in the death field which will automatically mark them as deceased.  If you are working on the website itself this isn’t much of a problem as long as you mark the little box that says deceased but if you are using one of the programs that directly interfaces with Family Tree then you will need to make sure that there is something in the death field.  Simply having them marked as deceased in your program isn’t going to work.  If FamilySearch does not see something in the death field when the person is imported it will mark them as living.   This also applies to any gedcoms you upload. If you don’t know an exact death date you can simply add an estimation such as abt. 1850, bef. 1900, after 1765, bet. 1820 and 1830.   FamilySearch will then mark the person as deceased.  What you don’t want is someone born in 1793 to be listed as living because no one else will be able to see him. 


The Person link will bring you to this page.  Here is my favorite person, Silas Simmons.

FT 2

This is the screen you will use when you are actually working on someone, if you are doing it on the website and not using one of the programs that directly interfaces.  I can’t screenshot the entire page.  What is missing at the bottom is the spouse/children information and parents/siblings information.  You can navigate to these people from this screen.  The only thing I want to point out on the screen right now is the word Person at the top (it is highlighted in green).  There is a drop down arrow there that will bring up a history list of who you have been working on. This list works like bookmarks. You can easily navigate to people this way.   FamilySearch recently added a new feature so that you can now delete people off of this list (little x to the right of their name).  Your list will then only include those people you are actively working on.  You can also hand type in an FSID number to get to someone if you need to. If you are using one of the programs that interfaces, like Legacy, you will have all of these FSID numbers at your disposal.  I will be coming back to this screen in a future blog post to point out some important things.

The next link is Find.  This is a simple search screen you can use to find people in Family Tree.  The person does not need to be connected to you. 

The last link is Lists.  This will bring up a list of all the people you have put on your “Watch List.”   If you look at the screenshot of Silas’ page, just to the right of his photo you will see “Watch.”  If you click that it will put that person on your Watch List.   Once a week FamilySearch will send you an email with a list of everyone on your Watch List that has been modified in anyway.  This is a great feature but only those persons that are using the website exclusively need to use this.  Legacy has an internal way to tell you that someone on FamilySearch as been changed and you will see this immediately not once a week.   If you click the Lists link you will be able to see who all you have on the Watch List and you can remove them from here if you want to.  If anyone adds, deletes, or merges anything on a person on your watch list you will be notified.

Now we are going to go back to the Tree link because I want to show you how to change the way it displays.  On the screenshot I whited out the living people (except me, you already know who I am anyway). If you click on the arrow at the end of a line you can expand the tree.  The screenshot show the default view.

FT 3

You have 4 choices of views.  I have mine at the default which is Traditional.  I am not going to show you the other three.  I will let you play around with that yourself.  I will tell you that if you use the mobile app for Family Tree you might want you use the Portrait view which is the same as what the mobile app displays.  To navigate the page you just use your mouse to drag the chart around.  Under the dropdown box for the different views there is a print button and a + and – to make the view bigger.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Memories

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

We are going to take a bit of a detour and discuss the Memories section before we go back to Family Tree.  The Memories section works with Family Tree.


You can add photos, stories, and documents to your ancestors directly in Family Tree but so can everyone else.  If you only want to see what you have personally added you will go to the Memories section.  Memories pulls all of these things out of Family Tree so that they are easier to see.  If you go to People, that will show you a list of people to whom you have added photos, stories and documents to.  Albums allows you to group your photos.  The Find link is simply a search engine to search everything in Memories.

There is one really cool thing you can do in Memories and that is batch upload.   Let’s say you just scanned 20 death certificates.  I could go into Family Tree and pull up each person one at a time and then attach the correct death certificate OR I could batch upload all 20 at one time in the Memories section.  After the upload FamilySearch will ask you who each photo/document belongs to and it is easy to assign each one to the right person.  It is much quicker doing it this way.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Tree (part 2)

Yesterday I talked about how important it is to learn the proper way to use Family Tree so today I want to show you all of the training materials that are available.  This is in two parts.  The first part includes resources for using Family Tree on the website itself and the second part are resources to learn how to use the Family Tree interface within Legacy.  Legacy is one of only three database programs that can directly interface with Family Tree.  Even if you are going to access Family Tree using Legacy you really need to go to through the training for the website itself.   There are still some things you can’t do through Legacy (or the other two programs) and you will have to do these things on the website.   Family Search is in full control of what the database programs can do and what they can’t do.  FamilySearch approves features one at a time so these programs do not have full functionality yet, however, you can do most tasks through the interface.

FamilySearch Training

  • Family Tree Videos – Here are some really great videos on every possible task you can do in Family Tree. Scroll through the list because the order they are on this list isn’t necessarily the order you will want to watch them. 
  • Family Tree Help Page – Make sure you read the FAQ, What’s New, Tips and Tricks and Other Resources.  The Learning Center Video Courses only lists 5 videos and in the link above I have listed all of them.
  • PDF Handouts – This set of handouts is the best.  Each one walks you through the common tasks and the have wonderful graphics showing you what every single item on a screen is and does.  The PDFs you need are under the Family Tree section.

Legacy Training

Please take the time to learn how to use Family Tree the right way.  Not only will this help you but it will help everyone else using Family Tree.  Please don’t be one of those people others have to clean up after.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, September 8, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Tree

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

tree 1

There are four links, Tree, Person, Find, Lists.   We will talk about all four but first you need to know exactly what Family Tree is.  Family Tree is a single collaborative tree.  The picture you see in the screenshot happens to be of Silas Simmons.  In all of history there was only one Silas Simmons that was born about 1794 in South Carolina who married a woman name Janet, fought in the War of 1812 and whose parents were James Simmons and Ellenor Lee.  When you go to Family Tree you will find this Silas Simmons one time.  He has a unique FamilySearch Identification Number (FSID) which is KDM1-8B5.  Every genealogist who has information about THIS Silas Simmons will add it here.   In contrast, the Genealogies section of FamilySearch and the Member Trees on Ancestry.com are collections of uploaded gedcoms.  If you run a search in Ancestry.com for this Silas Simmons you will see him 189 times.  To see what information everyone has on Silas you will have to access all 189 trees and compare/contrast what you see.  In Family Tree you only have to look at one person.

I personally like the Family Tree concept better.  Is it perfect?  No, but neither are the collections of uploaded gedcoms.  Family Tree is still relatively new.  It is getting better all the time.  FamilySearch is making improvements and the genealogists working on the tree are doing a lot of cleanup work which will also make it better.

When Family Tree was first introduced as NewFamilySearch they started the tree by importing all of the gedcoms from the Ancestral File and the Pedigree Resource File.  We discussed what these two databases are HERE and I also posted a follow up HERE.  These gedcoms contained a lot of errors and a lot of duplicates.  Using my Silas Simmons example there are 189 on Ancestry.com and I am sure that the Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File had even more.  The first order of business was to try and merge all of the duplicates which in itself was (and still is) a massive undertaking.   Then there are all of the errors and unsourced information.   There are thousands of experienced researchers doing this cleanup work, however, inexperienced researchers are sill adding people without checking to see if the person is already there and they are still adding unsourced data so the cleanup is ongoing.  As more data gets cleaned up and as more people gain the experience needed to use Family Tree it will only get better over time.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Odds and ends

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

Here is a collection of little odds and ends before we move on to Family Tree

1) At the very bottom of the FamilySearch home page you will see a link to their Site Map.  This is well worth a look because this is an easy way to find all of the different pages and resources in easy to navigate categories.

odds 1


2) You really will want to subscribe to the FamilySearch Blog.  Again, the link is at the bottom of the FamilySearch home page or you can just click the link above.  This is the best way to keep up with everything that is going on at FamilySearch.  They are adding new records and new services all the time and you don’t want to miss out.

odds 2


3) Don’t forget that FamilySearch now has a Mobile App for iDevices and Androids that will sync with Family Tree.

odds 3


Next well will move on to the Family Tree section of FamilySearch.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, September 5, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Booklet

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

There are a couple more things I want to point out on the FamilySearch website before we get into Family Tree and Memories (they go together).  The first one is the Family Booklet.  The link for this one is in a little different place.

FB 1


FamilySearch wants to help you preserve all of the old stories you know that have been passed down through your family.  Recording these stories is so important because if you don’t do it they will be lost forever. 


FB 2

The Online version is more for yourself (you will be the anchor person).  If you do use the online version you can pull people in from Family Tree which makes the data entry a lot faster. You can also order paper booklets ($1.00 each) or print off the website (free).  These booklets are just perfect to pass out to family members to fill out and return. There are check sheets built into the booklets to make sure you remember to upload the information.  I would order the paper copies (as opposed to printing them online) and then pass the booklets out at your next family reunion.  Make sure that the people you are collecting data from understand that you plan on adding this information to Family Tree.  You should have permission from anyone that is living even though living people are totally private on Family Tree (only the person that added the living person can see this person online). 

When someone is kind enough to provide me with information, I use Legacy to print out easy understand pedigree charts and reports for them so that they have a record of their lineage.  Everyone I have done this for has always been appreciative. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Thursday, September 4, 2014

FamilySearch Genealogies–Addendum

I previously said that you can’t remove your gedcom from the Genealogies section of FamilySearch.  (See original article HERE).  I need to qualify that a bit.  You can physically remove it BUT FamilySearch retains the information which amounts to the same thing.

Here exact information from FamilySearch help file.

“The Pedigree Resource File has existed for many years, and the data has been published in several ways. If you submitted this GEDCOM file several years ago, you should be aware of the following:

  • The Pedigree Resource File has been published on compact discs for more than a decade. If this file is on one of these compact discs, it is deleted from the online version of the Pedigree Resource File. It remains on the compact discs.
  • Some information from the Pedigree Resource File was used to create the database that is currently used by the new.familysearch.org and FamilySearch Family Tree websites.) This data is stored separately from the official Pedigree Resource File, which people can search from the user-submitted genealogies section of FamilySearch.org. If you delete a GEDCOM file, it is deleted from the online Pedigree Resource File. It is not deleted from new.familysearch.org or the FamilySearch Family Tree.”

Although this says, “several years ago” this isn’t quite true.  Here is what FS says on a different page in their help file:

“Some corrections to the Pedigree Resource File are possible. If you find errors in data that you submitted, you can sometimes delete the entire submission and make a new submission containing the correct information.”  You can do this IF the information hasn’t already been added to Family Tree.

The current version of Family Tree was released to everyone March 2013 (not several years ago).  The uploaded gedcoms that FamilySearch had at that time were added to Family Tree to give Family Tree a solid starting point.  All of these records are easy to spot because they will say, added “by FamilySearch” even if it came from an uploaded gedcom. You will not see the original contributor’s information so you won’t be able to contact them.

I didn’t want to talk about Family Tree just yet but I will say one thing that relates to this topic.  You can delete people from Family Tree but if your entire gedcom was uploaded that is impossible because you have to delete them one at a time.  FamilySearch’s position is that these people should not be deleted but rather corrected. These people were most likely real, it is the specific information attached to them and the familial links that are wrong.  The problem with that is if you you uploaded a gedcom fraught with errors all of those errors are now visible and available to everyone and if your gedcom contained 10,000 people good luck tracking them all down.  People with little researching experience will see the information up on Family Tree and think it is 100% true.  I personally think that you should be able to delete ALL information you have submitted with a push of a button but that isn’t the case either with gedcoms or Family Tree.

Having said that, I really like Family Tree.  It improves over time as experienced researchers go in and clean up the data.  However, people are still uploading gedcoms to the Genealogies section and to Family Tree so the cleanup is a massive undertaking and it is ongoing.   I didn’t want you to think that I don’t like Family Tree because I do.  I do think there are problems with the Genealogies section and Family Tree and I think that users should have more control with what they have submitted.   There is one other problem with Family Tree that I think should be addressed but I will discuss that later.

I will tell you that I contacted the FHL several times in the past to get my original gedcom removed and I also asked that my original gedcom be removed from NewFamilySearch (the predecessor to Family Tree) and I was told that it was impossible.  I was told to upload a new one with the correct information and it would be added to the mix.  I don’t think that is the best solution so I have not uploaded another gedcom.

Even though FS says that you can remove recently uploaded gedcoms I would be wary in that at anytime FS could upload all of those gedcoms to FamilyTree as they have done in the past and then your information will not be retrievable.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Volunteering

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

vol 1


Indexing isn’t the only way to contribute to FamilySearch.  If you click on the Volunteer button at the top right of the screen you will see other opportunities.

vol 2

I encourage you to click on each one of these links to see what all is available.  Some of these options are for LDS members only but there is plenty to do for non-LDS as well.  I administer a page on Facebook and I help update the Wiki.  How hard is that?  


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Indexing

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website and from the FamilySearch Indexing program.

Index 1

We are now moving on to the Indexing tab.  There are three sections, Overview, Find a Project and Help Resources.  I will explain the three sections a little further down.

Here is some general information:

  • Indexing is a great way to give back to the genealogical community
  • Indexing is a great learning tool for reading handwritten documents

How it works:

  • You download a small program to your computer (FS will be switching over to a web-based indexing system soon so you won’t need a program on your computer anymore)
  • You watch/read all of the training materials
  • You select a batch and off you go!

“But I am worried that I won’t be able to read the handwriting and I will make a mistake!”

  • All batches are indexed by TWO indexes.  If the indexers disagree on anything the entire batch goes to an arbitrator who will decide
  • There are batches for beginner, intermediate and advanced indexers
  • If you ever pick up a batch and it looks too difficult you can throw it back into the queue and pick up a different one
  • If there is something on a batch you need help with you can “share” your batch with another indexer or arbitrator for their opinion
  • After a batch has been arbitrated you will have the opportunity to review the batch and see what the arbitrator changed
  • You will be given your percentage of agreement with the arbitrators.  As you gain experience  you will see this number go up.  This is a great way to monitor your progress

The #1 reason an arbitrator has to change an entry has absolutely nothing to do with how well the person was able to read the handwriting!  The #1 reason an arbitrator changes something is because the indexer did not read the specific instructions for that project.  Each project has its own set of instructions and they can be very different from project to project.  I have been an arbitrator for a long time and I have to say it is a bit frustrating when I have to go through a batch and change a lot of things just because an indexer did not read the instructions.  A little further down I will have a screenshot of the indexing program and I will show you where the instructions are.


Here is a screenshot from the Overview section.  Make sure you go to each section, Test Drive, Get Started, Find a Project and Get Help.  I can’t screenshot this entire page but below this are some cool stats about indexing as well as announcements about the Indexing Project.

Index 2 


Here is a screenshot from the Find a Project page.  You will be selecting the projects through the program itself but on this page you can see what all is available beforehand and you can see what percentage of the project is complete. 

index 3


The Help Resources tab is the most important.  The more time you spend here the better you will be.  There are separate sections for indexers and arbitrators.  The stake indexing director and group administrator sections are for LDS leaders.

index 4


I have expanded the Indexer section so that you can see what all is available to help you.

index 5


Now I am going to show you the indexing program itself.  This will change once indexing switches over to web-based.  The first picture is the main window in the indexing program.  I have written some notes on the screenshot.  Click the screenshot to make it bigger.

index 6


This second shot is what you will see when you are indexing.  I moved everything up so that you can’t see the actual document image because FS prefers that images of current projects are not displayed (you are able to see the very top of the image but that is all).  You can see in the left panel what you need to extract from this document. These fields will change depending on what you are working on.  This happens to be sexton records.  Over on the right I have highlighted the most important thing—the Project Instructions.  If you read this you and  the arbitrators will get along very well.  There are many ways to manipulate the image to make it more readable but that is more than I can do in a single blog post.

index 7


I encourage you to at least give indexing a try.  I think that once you get started not only will you enjoy it you will get addicted Smile

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, September 1, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–The Search menu (Genealogies)

Screenshot taken from the FamilySearch website

Genealogies is the last section of the Search menu that we are going to discuss.  Genealogies is a collection of uploaded GEDCOM files.  This is very similar in format to the trees on sites like Ancestry.com.  It is VERY different than the Family Tree section of FamilySearch.  You will see two options, Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File.  Basically, the Ancestral File are all of the old GEDCOMs that FamilySearch has been collecting from day one (and these are LDS submitted genealogies only) and the Pedigree Resource File which is all of the old genealogies submitted by non-LDS researchers as well as all of the new GEDCOMs coming in.

When you do a search in this section you will get a list people that match your search criteria.  You can click them one at a time to see the details of what was included in the submission.

Again, this section is very different than Family Tree.  You can’t do anything but view the information in this section.  You can’t manipulate the data in any way.  FamilySearch does generate a nice source citation for you if you choose to use this information as a source (I wouldn’t).

The bad news about this section is once you upload a GEDCOM it is there forever.  You can’t take it back.  About 18 years ago I submitted a GEDCOM to the Family History Library.  I was so excited! I was a novice researcher and the GEDCOM I submitted was full of errors and had very few sources.  It is still there and I can’t remove it.  People that search this section will have my bad info in their search results and if they are newbies they just might add that bad info to their file not knowing any better.  Be careful using this section and don’t take anything you find as gospel.  Many people have uploaded bad GEDCOMs over the years.

NOTE:  I have added an addendum to this post.  I wanted to leave this post intact and submit an addendum instead of changing the original.  Here is the ADDENDUM.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis