Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dear Myrtle's, “FINALLY Get Organized! 2016 Weekly Checklists”

Dear Myrtle’s FINALLY Get Organized! 2016 Weekly Checklists

I am really looking forward to this!  I love checklists and breaking down organizational challenges into weekly bites sounds like a great idea to me.


Copyright © 2015 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Father and two sons

Battle of Shiloh, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

I was working on my Patton line this morning.  I already had my 3rd great-grandfather Mathew Robert Pattons’ Civil War compiled service record.  He was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh (Tennessee) on 06 April 1862 and he died in Gainesville, Alabama on 10 May 1862.  I am trying to get a photo of his CSA marker at the Old Cemetery in Gainesville, Sumter County.  I have had the request on Find A Grave since 2012 and no takers so if anyone happens to live near Gainesville let me know.

Anyway, Mathew had four sons.  His youngest son is my 2nd great-grandfather.  I was thinking that even his oldest son was too young to have served but my definition of too young and the CSA’s definition of too young are two different things.  You guessed it.  The two oldest, 17 year old Flemon and 15 year old James,  were both in the CSA. 

Flemon survived the war and died between 24 August 1867 and 01 July 1870 so he still died quite young.

James also survived and I have him through the 1880 census (still working on him).

I have an 18 year old son and I can’t even image this.  It about killed me when we got his Selective Service notice in the mail.   I think about Mathew’s wife Charlotte watching her husband and two teenage sons walk away to go to war.  It makes me want to know more about Charlotte.

Compiled service record, M. R. Patton, Private, Company D, 22nd Regiment, Alabama Infantry, CSA; Civil War Service Records; digital images, Fold3 ( : accessed 22 May 2014).

Compiled service record, Flemon Patton, Private, Company I, 10th Regiment, Alabama Infantry, CSA; Civil War Service Records; digital images, Fold3 ( : accessed 19 December 2015). 

Compiled service record, James R. Patton, Private, Company D, 22nd Regiment, Alabama Infantry, CSA; Civil War Service Records; digital images, Fold3 ( : accessed 19 December 2015).


Copyright © 2015 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Never believe the index

I normally don’t post on Saturdays anymore but I was doing some personal research and found something that would make a good point.

I was looking for George Patton in the census and I found him in Ancestry’s index which made me happy.  Here is an image of what was indexed as George Patton.

On this very same page there was a George.  Here is what the word George looks like on the same page by the same enumerator.

Luckily I know who the first entry is, it is George’s stepmother Lydia (Orr) Patton.  So here is the problem.  Lydia and George are very different words so no matter how fuzzy you make this search these two will not be picked up as a possibility for the other unless I searched for the name Patton only.  Let’s say I did search just for the name Patton.  If you were looking for a Lydia Patton would you click on the name George in the index?  Or, if you were looking for someone named George would you click on Lydia?  This is just an example.  Lydia wasn’t in the index at all since she was indexed as George.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know that the handwriting is hard to read and it is always easier for someone who is familiar with the names to spot them.  My point is, don’t rely on indexes.  The indexers are human and they make mistakes.  I am still looking for the real George…

Copyright © 2015 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bombshell has announced that they are discontinuing Family Tree Maker (FTM) as of 31 Dec 2015.  You can read their official announcement HERE.  I have to say, I wasn’t expecting that.  No problem though.  You can easily switch to Legacy.  It happens to be on sale right now so that is even better.


You already know that I work for Legacy but did you know that I have been using Legacy since 2005 which is long before I ever went to work for them.  It just so happens I switched from FTM and I have never looked back.  

Getting your information from FTM to Legacy is a simple two-step process.  You export your FTM file as a gedcom file and then you import that gedcom into Legacy. That’s it. The number #1 question from FTM users is, “Will my media files transfer?” and the answer to that is yes if you are using one of the newer versions of FTM that links to media instead of embedding the images.  If you have a tree you will want to make sure that your tree is completely sync’d to your computer and all of the media files have been downloaded.  When you create the gedcom the media links will be there and Legacy will “see” them.

If you have any other questions or need help switching from FTM to Legacy you can join our Legacy User Group Facebook page and ask there (close to 6000 people will be more than happy to help including tech support personnel and some of our top beta testers) or you can email us at


Copyright © 2015 Michèle Simmons Lewis


Monday, December 7, 2015

Degrees of consanguinity and DNA

For some background you can read two posts I did in 2012 on Recording kinship by the law and When is your great-uncle not really your great-uncle?

So what does this have to do with DNA?  If you are looking at a DNA site and they have predicted that your relationship to a certain person is a 3rd cousin you have to understand that what they are really telling you is that you and this person are predicted to be 8 steps apart.  It is the number of steps it takes to go up the chain to the common ancestor and back down the chain to the other person.  There are a lot of relationships that will give you 8 steps and all of these are possibilities.  The DNA website can’t list all of these so it lists the most direct relationship. 

To see this in action take a look at Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project Charts.  Blaine created these charts from actual data sent in to him from people that have had their DNA tested and know the exact relationship to other people that have had their DNA tested.  For example, I have my DNA, my mother’s DNA and a paternal uncle’s DNA.  I was able to send Blaine how many cMs I share with my known mother and my known uncle. I also sent more data on known cousins that I could map out on a pedigree. Blaine did a statistical analysis on shared cMs using known relationships so that you can predict what relationship two people have based on these numbers.

Here is a very simple example.  2nd cousins are 6 steps.  1st cousins twice removed are also 6 steps.  On Blaine’s chart the average 2nd cousin relationship is 245.98 cM.  1st cousins twice removed average 239.72.  That’s pretty darn close considering the limited pool. 

Nutshell version: If one of the DNA websites tells you that you and another person are predicted to be 2nd-3rd cousins that means you are predicated to be 6 to 8 steps apart.  If you look at the two pedigrees thinking that you must straight 2nd or 3rd cousins without investigating the other possibilities then you just might miss the connection/common ancestor.


Copyright © 2015 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Friday, December 4, 2015

All it took was a little persistence

I recently told you that I had obtained my grandfather’s death certificate.  The death certificate lists the address where he died, Rosdorferweg 70 in the town of Göttingen.



I plugged that address into Google Maps and this is what I found.  The address currently belongs to a hospital.



So was it a hospital in 1949?  I emailed them and asked. 



They told me that yes, they are the same hospital that was in operation in 1949.  I asked them if they had the medical records from then.  They told me that the old medical records had been turned over to the Stadtarchiv Göttingen. They were kind enough to provide me with a contact person there.



The Stadtarchiv told me that the records were now being housed at the Niedersächsischen Staatsarchiv in Wolfenbüttel.  I was again given a contact person.


I contacted the Landesarchiv and they advised that they would write back when they knew whether or not they have my grandfather’s records.  I got the answer today.

“Sie können von der Akte des Landeskrankenhauses Göttingen, die Ihren Großvater betrifft (NLA Hannover Hann. 155 Göttingen Acc. 2004/008 Nr. 01921), Kopien in Auftrag geben. Die Akte umfasst ca. 75 Seiten.”

They found my grandfather’s medical file, seventy-five pages worth. I have requested the file and they are mailing it to me.  These medical records will answer quite a few questions that I have.  When I first started the process I thought for sure that these medical records no longer existed and I would never see them. I am glad I plodded along anyway.


Copyright © 2015 Michèle Simmons Lewis