Friday, May 29, 2015

Excel trick

I posted an Excel trick on the Organized Genealogist, Technology for Genealogy and the Excel-ling Genealogists Facebook Group pages.  I was completely overwhelmed with the response.  In less that 24 hours there are over 200 Likes and over 70 comments.

A little background…  I am doing a One-Name Study on the Glaentzer surname.  You can read about it HERE.  I have a distant cousin in Germany that is also working on this surname and we collaborate. She has two trees on  I wanted to compare what she has with what I have.  She could send me a gedcom but I don’t want to import a gedcom into my file because it would mean a lot of cleanup work because of the duplicates. Trying to look through her tree is also not a good option because she has a lot more information in these trees besides just the Glaentzers.  Here is what I did.

1) I went to the first tree.  How you get to the right screen depends a bit on whether or not you are using the beta version of Ancestry.  Here is where you want to be.  This screenshot is from my DNA tree.  You want to click LIST ALL PEOPLE from the dropdown menu.

2)  This is what you will see.  This too is from my DNA tree.


3) I needed to filter this list to only include Glaentzers and variations so I typed “Gl” in the Last Name field to filter the list.  If you want to put the entire tree in Excel then you will skip this step.  Here is the filtered list, this time from one of Christina’s trees.  This is the actual data I was working with.

4) Notice that the names are hot links to that person’s page in Christina’s tree. I copied this list and then pasted it into Excel.  The links transfer with no problem.  You can see in the above screenshot that there are two pages.  You have to copy and paste each page one at a time.

5) Once you have the data in Excel, you will need to adjust the column widths and the row heights and add column headings.  I also froze the headings. 

6) Now is where it gets fun.  After I pasted all of the names I needed from both of her trees and cleaned up the spreadsheet, I did a custom sort.  I sorted by the Name column first, then by the Birth Date/Location column second.  Now I have the names in the exact order I want.  Here is what it looks like.

7) You can see that the names are still hyperlinks and you can see which ones I have already clicked.  As I check each entry, I can color code them showing which ones I have looked at.  The reason this is important is if I ever decide to sort the list in a different way the ones I have checked won’t necessarily be at the top anymore so this will show me which ones I have done.

This has been a real timesaver for me. 

Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

So sad

I told you that when I am working on Legacy’s Research Guidance I have to access records in every database I add to see exactly what information they contain.  I was working on Nova Scotia Deaths, 1864-1877 and I randomly clicked on a page for Pictou County when I found three children (siblings) that had all died of Scarlet Fever.  John McIntosh age 1 year and 3 months died on 10 February 1876, Anne McIntosh age 5 years died on the 13th of February, and Daniel McIntosh age 7 died on March 2nd.  Their parents were Duncan and Bella McIntosh.  You can see the actual page HERE.  I can’t imagine losing one child let alone three children in a span of less than three weeks.

NOTE: Live Writer is no longer working with Blogger.  A Google search shows that a lot of people have been reporting this in the last 24 hours.  My blog posts might look at bit funny until this gets straightened out.

Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 25, 2015

Two bits of advice

1) If you want to have your family tree online I highly suggest you keep your working file on your computer and then upload a gedcom to the website where you want your tree to be instead of doing all of your research online.  Why?  A resident genealogy program has a gazillion more options, tools, searching capabilities, error checking, reports, charts etc. than any online program will ever have.

2) Periodically take down the old gedcom and upload a new one as you update your file.  What you don’t want is several different versions of the same tree on the same website or even on different websites.  If I do a search on’s public member trees for Mortimer Snerd and I get 20 hits but 18 of them are from trees submitted by the same person it is a little frustrating. 


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 22, 2015

Terms of what?

The Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook group page is pretty popular. There are over 20,000 members. One of the things you will see on there all the time are questions like, “Can someone see if Mortimer Snerd has an obituary on and clip it for me?” If you happen to have a subscription to should you do the lookup? 

Before you do, you need to read’s Terms of Use. Doing lookups like this might be in violation of the agreement you signed with the company.

Here is a great article written by the Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell, CG. 

Reprise: a terms of user primer

Most genealogists will bend over backwards to help out a fellow researcher but sometimes you just can’t.  It is always best to follow the rules.  You can tell them whether or not what they are looking for exists but for them to get a copy they will have to subscribe to the website just like you did.


 Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Death certificates and informants

By now you should already know that I love death certificates.  They are loaded with evidence and many times that evidence is wrong which makes it all the more fun.  What some people don’t realize is that there is normally TWO informants on a death certificate, the physician that witnessed the death and the person that provided the background info.  I wanted to talk a little bit about the physician.

If you obtain a copy of a death certificate from the state health department the document is considered to be an ORIGINAL as long as you are confident it represents the original accurately and that it hasn’t been altered/tampered with in any way which is usually the case.

The date of death is DIRECT evidence because it directly answers the question, “When did Mortimer Snerd” die?

But is the information PRIMARY, SECONDARY or UNDETERMINED? It depends.  Was the physician actually present when the person died or was he going on information provided by someone else? You might think this is a bit nit picky but not really.  It can contribute to an error.

Fast forward to when I was a deputy sheriff.  When someone died at home a law enforcement officer would be dispatched to the house.  The LEO would observe the scene, observe the body and conduct interviews. If it appeared that the person had died of natural causes the LEO would call the family doctor and ask him if he was willing to sign the death certificate.  If he knew the patient well enough that he was comfortable with it, he would say yes.  The body would then go to the funeral home.  The doctor would never see the dead body but would sign the death certificate as the attending physician. 

When you are looking at a death certificate pay attention to when the physician states he attended the deceased as well as what date he states he last saw the deceased.  If you are really lucky, the doctor will make some sort of notation if he was not in attendance or if no one was in attendance when the person died.  Many times the blanks won’t be filled in at all and then you won’t even know for sure.  This is just something you need to think about if something doesn’t quite add up.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 18, 2015


wordle 6

I have recently discovered Wordle. On this website you can create really cool word-based graphics.  The above graphic is for my One-Name Study.  It has the names of the countries where the surname is found as well as all of the known variations.  The more common variations are larger than the lesser ones.  Great fun and it is free. 


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why I like the name Smith

One of the things I do at Legacy is update the Research Guidance feature.  Whenever I add a new database I have to look at the database very closely to see exactly what information can be gleaned.  If it is a simple index it is no problem but if there are images I have to look at several from different areas and different time periods so that I can get a good overview of what might be found in that particular record set.  Many of the databases that have images also have an index so I put in random names and then click on the link to see the page.  Guess what name I use?  Smith of course!  Every country has their Smiths and as long as I know what it is I am in good shape.  Here are just a few.

Poland – Nowak
Spain – García
Germany – Müller
Japan – Satō
Finland – Korhonen
Greece - Papadopoulos
Italy – Rossi
Peru - Quispe

When I am actually doing research I don’t like Smiths so much. 


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Super tech

Sherry, one of the people I work with at Legacy, recently did a presentation for a local genealogy group. I thought I would show you one of her PowerPoint slides.

Super Tech

Oh yeah!  That’s me, SUPER TECH!


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 11, 2015

Arg! Rookie mistake!

In the blog post Angerone I said I was going to ask the Mississippi State Department of Health if Angie (Simmons) Nichols had a delayed birth certificate. She was born in 1884 and died in 1960 so it is possible.  I got a response back today that said she didn’t have one. They sent back the original form I sent in and I noticed that I had written her married name as Angie Helpman.  CRUD!  That’s the wrong Angie!   Angie (Gillespie) Helpman was born in 1848 and most assuredly doesn’t have a delayed birth certificate. Now I will have to send another request.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 8, 2015

Glaentzer One-Name Study

TheresiaGlaentzer02I love the Glaentzer (Gläntzer, Glentzer, Glantzer, Glaenzer) surname because it is very uncommon.  When I find a Glaentzer in the records I know that it has to be one of my relatives. Lucky for me I have a distant cousin in Germany that is also working on this line.  Because of the work she has done over there we have the Glaentzers back to Hans Casper Glentzer born abt. 1624, died 24 Oct 1691 in Bretten.

Off of this main line there is a branch that migrated to Italy, another branch that migrated to France and yet another that migrated to the United States.  The Glaentzer surname is perfect for a One-Name Study.  I have registered this surname with the
Guild of One-Name Studies and The Surname Society. I don’t have DNA yet but I really need to get it because there is only one male left in my line.  The problem is, he is in Germany and DNA testing is rare over there.  I need to give him some time to get used to the idea.

If you are interested in conducted a one-name study, here are some resources for you.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Follow-up to “You can’t believe everything you read”

You can read the original post HERE. Kathy T. sent the following via a Facebook message and she gave me permission to share it here with you.

“Suggested reason why the paper "got it wrong" - that's what the family put in. Suggested reason why the family put that in - there was an extended illness that the family had been covering up, and the accident was a direct result of that illness and the family didn't want to accept the truth. Suggested "extended illness" - depression, alcoholism, mental illness of some kind.  My next move given the apparent disparity between the truth and the family's public story - look for medical records for the years prior to his death.”

Excellent!  Kathy is thinking like a true detective.  Yes, this had crossed my mind but I have a couple of roadblocks.  There is no one left alive that would be able to shed light on this.  Jimmy had six siblings.  Two of them didn’t make it to adulthood.  Of the other four, two never married nor had children.  Of the two left, one had two children but both of them are dead.  The last one has one child alive.  I have been in touch with her but for many years.  She would be the only person left that could possibly shed some light on this but I would need to track her down. 

Here is another bit of a mystery.  My husband said that Jimmy never married nor had any children but his death certificate states he was widowed.  The 1920 census shows Jimmy living with his mother but in 1930 he is married and his wife’s name is Marie.  The census shows that they had married within that year.  By 1940 he is back living with his mother though he is listed as single and not widowed.  Sounds like a trip to the courthouse is in my future.

Jimmy died at University Hospital in Augusta and the hospital is still there but even if the medical records from that time still exist I won’t be able to get a copy of them due to privacy laws.  I would have to be the executor/administrator of Jimmy’s estate or Jimmy’s spouse, child or parent.  The only way I could get them would be with a court order and I have no compelling reason for a judge to grant one (Georgia statute O.C.G.A. § 31-33-2).

Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, May 4, 2015

You can’t believe everything you read

I don’t work on my husband’s side of the family all that much because he has absolutely no interest in genealogy whatsoever but he does tolerate my obsession with it so I guess that’s something. I decided to work on his family a bit and he told me that his great-uncle Jimmy died in a car wreck.  He said he remembered it clearly.  I found Jimmy’s obituary and this is what it says:

James W. Young
APPLING, Ga. - James William Young, 69, died in an Augusta hospital Sunday after an extended illness.  Funeral services will be conducted at Lewis Memorial Methodist Church in Columbia County Wednesday at 3 p.m. with the Rev. Robert Boyd officiating assisted by the Rev. W.L. Buffington.  Burial will follow in the church cemetery.  Young was a native of Columbia County.  He was retired and a member of the Hollow Creek Baptist Church in Aiken, S.C.  Survivors include one sister, Mrs. G. S. Lewis, Martinez and a number of nieces and nephews.

Well that posed a bit of a problem.  There is a big difference between dying in a wreck and dying after an extended illness.  My husband was a kid at the time so maybe he remembered it wrong. I ordered Jimmy’s death certificate to find out.

Young, James death certificate 1966 

Well there you go.  My non-genealogist husband did remember the events correctly.  No clue why the paper got it wrong.


1 "James W. Young," The Augusta Chronicle, 06 December 1966, p. 5, col. 2. 


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis


Friday, May 1, 2015

Irvin Helpman, my one and only Union soldier

I first told you about my one and only Union soldier HERE.  His wife was one of the “Angerones” that I told you about HERE.  I have been taking a closer look at these two and I found Irvin on the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule.  You can look at this census page HERE. Scroll down to line 5 in the bottom section.  It says, “Shot in Right hand” I am not 100% sure about the rest of that line but the word “shot” intrigues me. The second line states he “contracted chronic Rheumatism” and we will see that again.

I have someone that pulls records for me at NARA and I just received Irvin’s pension file.*  His pension was denied (several times).  He tried to get a pension because of his rheumatism, dyspepsia, catarrh** and left inguinal hernia.

22 Aug 1892
19 Jul 1893
30 Apr 1894
21 Nov 1894

In a sworn affidavit he stated the he got the hernia in “March 1894” while “carrying a large sack of pea nuts and fell with the sack which caused me to rupture myself”  His rejection states, “No notable disability under the Act of June 27th” 

12 October 1895
He was approved and rejected on the same piece of paper.  He was approved for $6 a month for the inguinal hernia but rejected for the “alleged rheumatism, catarrh and dyspepsia.” Though the examiner approved him there is no record that the approval actually stuck.  There is an additional comment on this entry, “venereal disease eliminated.”  We will come back to that in a bit.

The pension record includes a transcription/extraction of his Union medical records which don’t exist anymore so this was a nice find.

“The medical records show him as follows, as Irvin Helpman, rank, —, Co. A, 8 Ills. Inf., Flesh wound Right hand, wounded at the battle of Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., Apr 6 & 7, 1862: treated Apr. 14 & 15 and 26 to 29 ‘62, Pneumonia: as I. L. Helpman, rank, —, Co. A, etc., Aug. 2 to 10 ‘64, Wounded, light duty: Oct. 10 to 13 ‘64, Dys. AC. retd. to duty: as Irvin L. Helpman, Corp, etc., Feb. 21 to Mch. 10 ‘65, Prim. Syphilis & Bubors: Mch. 10 to 13 ‘65 Syphilitis Bubs: as I. L. Helpman, Corp., etc., Mch. 15 to Apr. 3 ‘65, Bubs. Chancre, retd. to duty: as Irvin L. Helpman, Corp., etc., Apr. 9 ‘65, Syphilistic bubors: as priv., etc., Apr. 10 & 11 ‘65 Bubo Syphylitic: as I. L. Helpman, Corp., etc., Apr. 13 to May 7 ‘65, Syphilis secondary (diagnosis also shown as Gunshot wound), retd. to duty: and as Irvin L. Helpman, priv, Co. A, etc., July 3 to 7 ‘65, Mch. Fever Quot[?], retd. to duty: and Aug. 4 to 6 ‘65, Inter Fever Tertian, retd. to duty.  Nothing additional found.”

Interesting.  In 1862 he has a flesh wound to his right hand (shot?) and then in 1865 he has a gunshot wound.  I wonder why he told the census taker he had been shot but he never mentioned it on his pension apps. I would think gunshot wound(s) would carry more weight. 

The syphilis interests me too.  This was before he married Angie so he came into the marriage with it.  They married in 1871 and it appears his syphilis was in the latent or tertiary stage at that time.  Once it gets to the later part of the latent stage or the tertiary stage it is no longer contagious.  As far as I can tell, neither Angie nor the kids were infected.  If Angie had been infected the kids could have contracted congenital syphilis.  The line “venereal disease eliminated” in the pension file supports this (at least by 1895). Syphilis goes through stages and in the latent and tertiary stages it would appear that the disease was gone (but it really isn’t). This was long before antibiotics so he wouldn’t have been cured.  It is possible that Angie was infected and that she too when through the stages but my bet is on the first scenario.  The first mention of the Syphilis was in 1865.  Irvin was only 20. The first mention of his “rheumatism” was in 1890 at age 45. The joint swelling and pain he had as well as the catarrh were mostly likely due to tertiary Syphilis.  Tertiary Syphilis is the stage where your body starts to suffer major damage.  Why am I so interested in all of this?  Because I am a registered nurse.  I can’t help it. 

I still have some unanswered questions about Irvin and Angie’s life so I am still digging.


*Full citations to all records available on request.  Sometimes I am just too lazy to put them on the blog.
**Catarrh is a chronic sinus and nasal cavity inflammation with drainage.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis