Friday, October 31, 2014

Testing your lineage

A great way to test your research is by preparing a lineage report for a lineage society.  Even if you have no intention of actually applying this exercise will show you if you have done good research.

See if you can trace your line from yourself to one of your ancestors.  Pick a soldier that fought in the Civil War, a soldier in the War of 1812 or a Revolutionary War solder.  If you are lucky enough to claim someone on the Mayflower as an ancestor use him/her.  These are the most popular lineage societies. 

It isn’t as easy as it sounds even if you think you have a lot of documents.  Documenting the facts of a person’s life usually isn’t too hard.  Where it gets more interesting is when you are trying to prove the familial link from parent to child.  How do you know that your Marmaduke Jowers is one and the same as Mordecai Jowers’ son who happens to be named Marmarduke? Here is an example:

Let’s say you have this family group listed on the 1850 census. 

David Merchant, age 30, farmer, born in Georgia
Ann Merchant, age 27, born in Georgia
Wesley Merchant, age 8, born in Georgia
Marion Merchant, age 5, born in Georgia
Janie Merchant, age 3, born in Georgia
Daniel Merchant, age 1, born in Georgia

It appears that this is a husband, wife, and four children but the relationships are not specifically named.  This is NOT enough to say that the listed children belong to either or both of the listed adults.  It is also not enough to say that the two adults listed are actually married.  A lot of people make this mistake.  In the above family, the man’s wife died and his unmarried younger sister moved in to help him with the kids.  It looks as though they are a married couple but they are not.  One of the four children is the son of a brother whose wife died in childbirth.  The father of that child felt ill equipped to raise a newborn so he handed the child over to his brother and sister to raise.  So, 3 of the children belong to David, none of the children belong to Ann, and one of the children belongs to David and Ann’s brother.

Using the same family above I can create another scenario.  Ann is David’s 2nd wife.  Wesley and Marion are his from his first marriage.  Janie is Ann’s from her first marriage but the census taker recorded David’s surname.   Daniel belongs to both of them.

Back to my original example.  Let’s say Mordecai Jowers left a will and in it is says “to my son Marmaduke.”  Your ancestor is Marmaduke but do you have enough to say that he is Mordecai’s son?  No, not without additional evidence.  How do you know that there weren’t two Marmadukes?  Even though this is an unusual name you still have to treat it the same as if his name was John Smith.  It depends on the time period as to what records you can use but the first thing I would be doing is checking the census records to make sure that there was only one Marmaduke in that entire area during that time period.  If there were more than one you will have to document each one of them fully.  I would also want to have an unbroken chain showing my Marmaduke back to the time period of the will.  You want to make as strong a case as possible so the more different types of records you can bring in that support this relationship the better.  This is the type of evidence you will need if you were really submitting a lineage society application. 

A lot of researchers err here.  Not only do you have to document each vital event for a person but you have to also prove the relationship between parent and child.  Many times you will not be able to do this with direct evidence and you will have to put together an indirect evidence proof argument (circumstantial case).  Even if you have direct evidence (like the will that says, “my son”) that still may not be enough evidence to prove the connection.

For more information on lineage societies click HERE.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis




Thursday, October 30, 2014

The history of the Swastika

Three of my 2nd great-grandaunts (sisters) were nurses.  In two different photos I have of two of the sisters one of them has a Swastika pinned to the waist of her nursing uniform.  These photos were taken about 1905 in Louisiana so it was pretty obvious there wasn’t a connection to Hitler’s Third Reich.   I did a little research on the history of the Swastika and it is actually quite interesting.

History of the Swastika

Here is one of the photos.  You can’t see it very well in this one but you can see it clearly in the photo I have on my wall.  I don’t want to take the photo out of the frame to get a good scan of it so you will just have to take my word for it. 


You can read more about one of the sisters, Ida (Perry) Faust, HERE.  She has an interesting story.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A DNA trick

I have always hoped that my husband and I are related in some way.  I just think it would be fun to creep the kids out.  So far I haven’t been able to prove any sort of connection.  We both had our DNA tested and FTDNA says we are not related, at least not down through 5th cousins.  

I wondered if by chance any of the people on my matches list were also on his matches list.  I downloaded my matches to Excel and Jim’s matches to a separate Excel file.  I then used XL Comparator to see if there was anyone that both of us matched.  Jim and I match 22 different people.  The closest match is 2nd-4th cousin to me and 2nd-4th cousin to Jim. 

I now have a renewed hope.  I have emailed the closest match and he is digging around in his file to see what he can find.  We already know where the two of us match but we haven’t found his connection to Jim yet.  This one is very promising so I haven’t even emailed anyone else.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do you think you can crack this one?

James Simmons was born on 14 Aug 1764.1 He married Ellenor Lee about 1787.2 It is unknown where James was born only that two of his known children were born in South Carolina about 1794 and 04 June 1797.3 James and his family migrated to the Mississippi Territory sometime after that. The earliest record of James in the Mississippi Territory is the 1805 Washington County Mississippi territorial tax roll,4 HOWEVER, there is a gap between the 1811 and the 1816 tax rolls. It is possible that the 1805-1811 entries refer to another man names James Simmons and the 1816 and later is my James Simmons. The first land deal that I can attribute to my James is dated 13 June 1816.5 Knowing WHEN James actually came to Mississippi might be crucial.

Research question: Where in South Carolina did James and Ellenor migrate from?

I need to know where they came from before I try and find James’ parents.

James was old enough to have been listed as head of household in 1790. He was also, most likely, already married. More on that in a bit.

I did a yDNA test on my uncle to get James’ DNA profile. The matches are interesting. He has two 66/67 marker matches. Here are the matches, the information about each person is being taken at face value at this point. I have not done any research to verify the dates or locations. I am currently talking with the two people that submitted this DNA.

William Simmons born about 1780 of North Carolina
Joseph Simmons born 22 December 1755 in Richmond, Virginia

Migrations from Virginia to North and South Carolina were common so this is something that has to be considered.

Back to the 1790 census. There were five James Simmons’ (with name variations) in South Carolina. Since only very basic information is given it is hard to rule people in and out using just that. Doing a comparison between the 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 census is more helpful in ruling people in and out. This is where WHEN James migrated comes into play. If the tax records refer to TWO James Simmons then the most likely candidate for James is one that shows up in the Old Pendleton District in 1800 and 1810. If the tax records refer to one James then out of the five that are in South Carolina in 1790 only two can be ruled out. I am ruling those two out merely on the basis that those two men had 39 and 110 slaves which would be unlikely at James’ age at that time. James did have slaves in Mississippi but only two.6

To throw in another date wrench, James’ wife Ellenor died 20 May 1801.  Did she died in South Carolina or Mississippi?  Two unsourced written genealogies have her dying in Mississippi and all of the online trees I looked at also have this.  No one has a source for this information.7

I am not giving you more information about the census (I have a big table that has all of this information in it) because I would love someone to go behind me and do a comparison of the 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820 census records in South Carolina for James Simmons (with name variations) to see if I have made any mistakes with who I ruled in and who I ruled out based on ages and who carried over to the next census.

You have this information to work with:
James born in 1764
Ellenor born in 1769
William born between 1788 and 1792 in ?
Silas born about 1794 in South Carolina
James Jr. born 1797 in South Carolina

[I have an entire indirect case study showing the linkage between the 3 sons and the parents. If you would like to see it just let me know and I will send it to you]

We know the family was still in South Carolina in 1794 and 1795 and was in Mississippi by either 1805 OR 1816.

Here are a few other tidbits. James does not show up in the Passports Issued by Governors of Georgia, 1785-1820. This would have told us exactly when they migrated.

South Carolina does not have county level marriage records until the 20th century. If James and Ellenor married in South Carolina, finding that marriage record would have been a major clue.

I have consulted a plethora of index and abstract books for South Carolina (deeds, newspapers, church records etc.) with no results. I have checked everything I can think to check that is available online. The one thing that I haven’t done is made a trip to the South Carolina Archives. An archivist there could possible point to me to a records group I not aware of.

There is an unsourced genealogy written in the 1970’s that says

“Historical records consulted indicate that the Simmons Family lived in Ullesthrope, county Leicester, England.  The Arms was first granted to William Simmons of that place.  Early American records indicate that a member of the Simmons family came to America and settled in Boston, Massachusetts about 1679.  Another descendant of the Simmons family settled on a large grant of land in Summerville, South Carolina.” 8

In 1995 another unsourced genealogy came out that quoted the above verbatim and then added:

“It is assumed that James Simmons was a descendant of the Simmons Family that came over from England and settled in South Carolina…. James Simmons was born Augusta 14, 1764 near Pendleton, South Carolina, married the daughter of a rice planter of Santee, near Georgetown, South Carolina.” 9

I am sure you can see the problems with these statements.  I just wanted to throw them out there.  I spoke with Mack Simmons’ daughter.  She was unable to locate her father’s notes after he died.  I spoke with Howard and John Simmons and they stated they based their findings on what Mack had written and interviews with George Simmons, a grandson of Silas Simmons.  George died in 1962 at the age of 96 (according to Howard and John).  The interviews were conducted in 1937 and in 1946 by Howard. 

If you have any questions, ask me in the comments.  If anyone can tell me where in South Carolina James and and his family were before they came to Mississippi (with proof) I will send that person a gift card to go out to dinner Smile 

1 James Simmons, Jr. Family Bible Records, 1764-1898, The Holy Bible (Philadelphia: Kimber and Sharpless, n.d.), “Family Record,” privately held by Homer Kees, (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 1979. Though there is no publication date printed, the publication date is between 1807 and 1844 when the Kimber and Sharples publishing company was actually in business [John Wright, Early Bible of America (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1892), 123.]. The earliest entries are in one hand, the later entries are in a different hand and the latest entries are in a third hand. Per Mr. Kees, the Bible passed from James to his youngest child Charity Green Simmons who was Mr. Kees’ grandmother. He inherited the Bible from her. Author has photocopies of the pages.

2 James and Ellenor’s approximate marriage date is based on Ellenor being 18 years of age at the time of the marriage.

3 1850 U.S. census, Perry County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 384 (stamped), dwelling 185, family 185, Silas Simmons household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 10 February 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 379.  1850 U.S. census, Copiah County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 251 (stamped), dwelling 606, family 606, James Simmons household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 10 February 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 371. James Simmons, Jr. Family Bible Records, 1764-1898.

4 Greene County, Mississippi Territorial Tax Rolls, 1805, p. 8, line 7, James Simmons; digital images, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family Search ( accessed 13 January 2012); citing Mississippi State Archives, Various Records, 1820-1951, box 144, series 510.

5 James Simmons (Greene County) cash entry file, certificate no. 363, St. Stephens, Alabama, Land Office; Land Entry Papers 1800-1908; Records of the Bureau of Management, Record Group 49.

6 1830 U.S. census, Perry County, Mississippi, p. 157 (penned), line 11, James Simmons household; digital images, ( : accessed 28 Sep 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M19, roll 71.

7 James Simmons, Jr. Family Bible Records, 1764-1898.  Mack Simmons, “Simmons” [manuscript of a a compiled genealogy of Silas Simmons circa 1970], preface page; copy in possession of author, 1991.  The Family Simmons Living in Perry and Forrest County, Mississippi on Leaf River and Black Creek Early 1800’s thru 1995.

8 Mack Simmons, “Simmons”

9 The Family Simmons Living in Perry and Forrest County, Mississippi


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, October 27, 2014

I’m back. So what have I been doing?

I am back on the blog after two weeks. So what all have I been doing in that time?

1) I mentioned before that I am now updating Legacy’s Research Guidance with every Legacy update. We released an update on 19 Oct 2014 and that update had 164 new sources in it as well as many broken link fixes. I am already working on the next update. I hope to have at least 300 new sources in that one. If any of the Legacy users out there would like to see a particular source added, send me an email at and put RESEARCH GUIDANCE in the subject line. If you come across any broken links please let me know. There are well over 22,000 sources in the Research Guidance already and there is no automatic way for me to find broken links.

2) I dejunked and cleaned my entire office area. I do much better working on genealogical projects when my work space is neat and organized. I had let things go a bit so this was a pretty big project. The cool, fall weather put me in the right mood.

3) I am working on a complex adoption case. I like adoption cases but they can be sticky. This one is a reverse adoption case. It isn’t the adoptee that is searching but rather one of the adoptee’s birth family members. This one requires that I interview people for more information. So far the interviews have gone well but there is always the chance I might contact someone that doesn’t want to be contacted. I have DNA cooking on this one but so far the DNA hasn’t been helpful. It appears that neither the adoptee nor any of the adoptee’s children have tested. At the point I don’t even know if the adoptee knows that he/she was adopted.

4) Another interesting one I am working on is where a wife ran off with another man leaving her husband and three young children behind (this was in 1926). Shortly after this the husband died. Two of the children were placed in an orphanage and the other one was taken in by a paternal aunt. All three children are now dead. Between the three children they only had three children of their own. I have spoken with all three and they have no information. I knew more about the case then they did. The research question is, “What happened to the wife after she left?” I want to know who she ran away with and where they went. Did they get married, did they have any more children, and when and where did she die? None of the three grandchildren are interested in taking a DNA test. Maybe that will change. The woman that ran off had 17 siblings. She is not mentioned as a survivor in any of her siblings' obituaries even though all of the other surviving siblings were. The first one was 1941 so either my person was already dead by 1941 or the family had completely disowned her. The problem with this case is that the lady most likely remarried and I have no idea what her new surname would have been. She didn’t take the children with her so I can’t track her using the children. She never contacted them again after she left. I checked the marriage records of all the counties in the area with negative results. It appears she left the area completely. Another DNA angle might be to test some nieces and nephews of the lady I am looking for but I haven’t tried to locate them yet.

5) I have been working a bit on my biggest personal brick wall. I pick this one up from time to time hoping I can find something new.  Hmmmmmm, maybe I will post the details of that case tomorrow and you guys can help me solve it.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, October 10, 2014

Off the blog for a bit

I am in the middle of a big project at Legacy and I need some time to get everything over there organized and underway so I am going to be off the blog for a bit.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Elements of Genealogical Analysis and Guide to Genealogical Writing: How to Write and Publish Your Family History

I just finished reading two books published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS),  Elements of Genealogical Analysis by Robert Charles Anderson and Guide to Genealogical Writing: How to Write and Publish Your Family History (3rd Ed.) by Penelope L. Stratton and Henry B. Hoff.

Elements of Genealogical AnalysisThere has been a lot of discussion about this book on Facebook and various email lists because the author does not use the terms associated with the Genealogical Proof Standard.  True, the terms are different but the content is good and I like this book.  My favorite chapter is Chapter 3, Linkage Analysis.  When you have ten documents referring to John Doe how do you know they all refer to the same John Doe?  Distinguishing between people with the same name and attributing the correct documents to each one is an important skill.  Chapter 3 discusses this.

Guide to Genealogical Writing: How to Write and Publish Your Family History – I had a hard time putting this book down.  It is easy to read because of how the information is organized and laid out.  I would trust the authors’ opinion on how to write a book because they did so well with this one.  The book addresses all of the different types of genealogical writing you might do.

Two thumbs up for both books.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Legacy announcement



Legacy’s Research Guidance will now be updated with every update to Legacy starting with the next update which is due out soon.

I am very excited about this especially since I am the one that will be doing the updates.  Access to new sources is exploding and many things that were only available via in-person visits to repositories are now available online. 

I happen to really like the Research Guidance feature. Legacy tailors the list of suggested sources based on what you have already entered and what your research goal is.  As you go through the list you can mark the suggestions as being “Done” after you have consulted them.  You can also add them to your To-Do List by clicking the “Plan to Search” button.  The To-Do task will be filled out for you.  If you know that a source isn’t applicable for this particular person you can mark it as “Ignore.”   Query-type websites will be date stamped when you mark them as done so that you can periodically go back and post a new query if needed. 

Each entry will tell you what the source is and where you can find it.  You are able to see at a glance if the source is online and if it is, you will know if it is a free site, a subscription site or a fee per document site.  Each online source has a clickable link.   If it isn’t online you will see which repositories have it along with full contact info.  There are also notes and tips attached to the specific sources as well as to the repositories if there is anything specific you need to know.  The Research Guidance is an instant research log. 

One thing that I have found to be especially helpful in my research is the Local Histories tab.  I think that I am very well acquainted with the counties in southern Mississippi but the Research Guidance listed several books that I had never heard of.  The link to WorldCat showed me exactly where the books were located.  (You can read about how wonderful WorldCat is HERE).  When you put the Research Guidance feature together with Legacy’s To-Do List and Legacy’s SourceWriter templates you will have all of your genealogical documentation ducks in a row.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ellis Island

The Ellis Island website has undergone a major facelift and they are adding more records (1925-1957) so a lot of genealogists have been talking about the Ellis Island website lately.  If you don’t know, the Ellis Island website has a searchable index and linked digital images to the passenger lists of the ships that came through the Port of New York.  It is a great resource but there are a couple of things you need to know before you get discouraged when you can’t find your immigrant ancestor in the Ellis Island records.

  • Ellis Island was only open for 62 years, 1892-1954.  It was the receiving station for the Port of New York.
  • Even if your ancestor immigrated during the above time span the Port of New York was only ONE port of entry.   Some of the other big ones were Boston, Baltimore, Charleston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Savannah but there were also several more smaller ports where immigrants entered.

In a nutshell, not everyone came through Ellis Island.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, October 6, 2014

We’re All Relative–well worth your time to read

I was recently introduced to a storytelling-style blog by Cynthia Berryman called We’re All Relative.  This blog is well worth your time.  Her writing style reminds me of John Colletta.  This blog gives you a good example of how to put your ancestors into context and make their lives interesting to read about.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, October 3, 2014

A bad day in the DNA world

If you had yDNA or mtDNA testing done through, you might want to read this article:

Ancestry Destroys Irreplaceable DNA Database


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Something nifty from has new State Research Guides that are nice.  Each one contains a short history, a timeline and then links to specific databases at and to other pertinent websites.  You do not have to be an subscriber to access these. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Southern Studies Showcase-Native Americans in the CSRA

This was the last session I attended. Ed Mann did a great job telling us about the history of indigenous Native Americans in the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). He brought a lot of cool artifacts for us to look at. I learned a lot but two things stood out.

  • It is illegal to pick up arrowheads at Clark’s Hill/Thurmond Lake. I did not know this.  Ed said that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will take your car, your boat, your everything if you get caught. We are at Clark’s Hill all the time. I wouldn’t have thought anything about picking up an arrowhead. I personally don’t agree with this but the government and I are rarely in agreement. 
  • Bows and arrows were introduced to the North American Native Americans by the Spanish. Before that they used spears. 

This series of posts is over. I hope I have shown you how much you can get out of attending genealogy conferences. Not only is it a great continuing education opportunity, you also get to meet researchers from all over and you get to catch up with old friends.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis