Tuesday, December 27, 2016

So what are the pros?

In yesterday’s blog post, Let’s make FamilySearch’s Family Tree better for everyone, I briefly touched on the cons of a collaborative tree but I didn’t talk about the pros. Why would you want to be part of this project?

I will start out by saying that I do not have my entire file sync’d to the Family Tree.  If I did, I would spend all of my time doing maintenance because Legacy immediately alerts me to any changes that have been made on anyone I have sync’d.  With a little over 10,000 people in my file the probability is very high that a number of my people will be changed every day. So who do I have sync’d?  I have my entire One-Name Study (ONS) sync’d.  My surname for my ONS is very rare (Glaentzer and variations) so it is less likely there will be activity on these people.  The other group of people I have sync’d are my brick walls. 

So what does “sync’d” actually mean?  For each of these people I have told Legacy that I have viewed the information on FamilySearch.  Here is one of my brick wall ancestors:


Both arrows set to green means we are in sync. This does not mean that the information I have in Legacy is identical to what is on FamilySearch. I could choose to upload/download to make both sides have the identical information but I don’t have to.

If anyone changes any data on the FamilySearch. side I will be notified immediately because the bottom arrow will turn red (if the top arrow is red that means I have made changes in Legacy without resyncing).

If I see that arrow change to red, the first thing I am going to do is connect to FamilySearch to see what was changed and by whom. Legacy allows me to filter my names by what color arrows they have. The other two programs that can directly sync to the Family Tree have similar systems built in to alert you of changes.

This helps me in two ways.  If someone uploads something I don’t have I can analyze it.  Does it have a source?  If so, I can investigate it further to find the source and evaluate it myself. I can also contact the submitter so that we can talk about this person. If this is a descendant from a different branch they may know something that I don’t and they might have photographs and documents (like Bible records) that I had no idea existed.

FamilySearch’s Family Tree is a research tool. Like any other tool you must use it judiciously. As long as you know what you are doing and you use the Family Tree the right way, the data on your computer will not be changed and you might just learn some things about your ancestors that you did not know.  

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Monday, December 26, 2016

Let’s make FamilySearch’s Family Tree better for everyone

I am a big supporter of FamilySearch’s Family Tree. Yes, there are problems with a collaborative tree but I think the pros outweigh the cons. The biggest issue is that people complain when others come behind them and make changes. There are a couple of things I want to say about that.

  • All of your research should be on YOUR computer. You should not be using FamilySearch as your genealogy database program. I think it is a mistake to use FamilySearch that way. People can change what is on FamilySearch but no one can change what is on your computer. You can easily sync to FamilySearch using one of the authorized programs (I use Legacy) which gives you full control over what is uploaded and downloaded.
  • They aren’t “your” ancestors. These ancestors belong to other people too. Here is a fun Descendants Calculator. I set it at 5 generations, 25 years per generation, and 4 for an average number of children (a very conservative number). This person would have 3,905 descendants.  I am sure more than one of these descendants is a genealogist.

So here are a few suggestions on how you can help make the Family Tree better:

If you don’t know what you are doing you can mess it up for everyone else 
This is my biggest pet peeve.  People get excited and try to make changes to the Family Tree without taking the time to educate themselves on how everything works. Adding people, merging people, and deleting people affects EVERYONE who has those ancestors in their tree.  The very best training I have found is the
Riverton FamilySearch Library Handouts. There are 11 pdfs you can download to your computer to read and use as a reference. They include screenshots and Riverton updates them as needed. These are the handouts I use when I give a presentation on FamilySearch (with permission). 

Take the time to address the possible duplicates
A lot of people don’t address possible duplicates. They have FSID ABC-1234 in their tree and they only worry about updating this FSID. All of the programs that can sync will present you with a list of possible duplicates. If you are working directly on the FamilySearch website you will also be presented with a list of possible duplicates. The two mistakes you can make are not combining duplicates when you should and merging people haphazardly when you shouldn’t. If there is any question, don’t merge. Please see the
Riverton Handouts for more information.

Please add your sources
Other researchers need to know where you got your information because if it conflicts with what they have and you don’t have a source, chances are they are going to update the person with their information knocking your data off.

Take advantage of the Discussions area
This is a great place to post your theories and evidence for other researchers to ponder and add their thoughts.

Make sure your email address/contact information is correct
Nothing is more frustrating to a researcher than not being able to contact a contributor when they have a question.

If you use Legacy, here is the training information you need: Legacy FamilySearch Training.  If you use one of the other programs that can sync, check to see if they have specific training materials that address both how you use the Family Tree in general and how to use their program specifically to sync. Even if you don’t use Legacy, you might want to read the above article, especially the part about cleaning up your data before you start uploading.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Ethics and the Genealogist

I have started a second blog called Ethics and the Genealogist.  I feel there is a need for a forum dedicated to the ethical issues genealogists face. It will be a few days before I post on the new blog because I have a couple of technical issues to work out first.

I have also created
The Ethical Genealogist Facebook Group page so that there can be open discussion about current events and topics related to ethics within the genealogist community. This is a closed group so you have to request to join and then myself or a moderator will approve you. I am going to get the Facebook Group page up and running first and then the blog will follow.

Copyright © 2016 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, December 16, 2016

2016 International Genetic Genealogy Conference

If you want to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the world of genetic genealogy then you need to buy the conference videos from the 2016 International Genetic Genealogy Conference. For $99.00 you will get NINETEEN lectures on a broad range of topics. You are not going to find a better bargain when it comes to high quality continuing education. So far I have watched the first eight and haven’t been disappointed.  I will be knocking out several more this weekend.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

My friend Randy Seaver

I read Randy Seaver’s blog, Genea-Musings. It’s one of my favorites. One of the things Randy does is he posts lists of the new databases coming online at the major repositories. Part of my job at Legacy is to keep our Research Guidance module up-to-date so I monitor these databases too. I sent Randy a message over Facebook with my observation that lately Ancestry has been adding databases that FamilySearch already has. I do know that Ancestry and FamilySearch have a partnership but I was bemoaning a bit about Ancestry not adding more unique databases. What I didn’t know is that Randy had just done a comparison of the four top websites. I get his blog by email and it arrives in my inbox a day or two after his blog actually comes out. He did an exact name search for “Seaver” on all four websites to see what results he would get. You can see his findings HERE.

It just so happens that I do a One-Name Study for a rare surname (Glaentzer and variations).  I wanted to do something similar to what Randy did. I am not as industrious as Randy so I simplified my test. I recorded the number of hits I got on the top four websites for their documents side and their tree side and compared them.  I did an exact search for “Glaentzer.”  This is my maternal grandmother’s maiden name.

Company Records Trees
Ancestry 680 93
FamilySearch 346 333*
FindMyPast 93 n/a
MyHeritage 314 346

*Even though I told FamilySearch to do an exact search only, it returned names that were not exact when I searched the FamilyTree.  I didn’t go through and count the actual number of Glaentzers. I recorded the total number but the real number is less than this.

On the surface it looks as through Ancestry has the others beat in the number of records but I haven’t scrutinized the hits yet. It was a very interesting experiment.

You will also want to check out Randy’s ongoing series about Ancestry's We’re Related App which has been very interesting. Randy looks at each of his matches and then evaluates the probability that the lineage is correct.

So far I have 61 matches, both to famous people and to Facebook friends. I have a barebones tree on Ancestry for DNA purposes but I might upload a more comprehensive tree just for fun. I happen to like BYU’s RelativeFinder which is similar in concept but uses FamilySearch’s FamilyTree. Both of these are more for entertainment purposes but you never know when you might get a valuable clue so I don’t discount them.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Thursday, December 8, 2016

DNA and more DNA



I have been spending the last few weeks rounding out my DNA education through selected webinars, books and blogs. Everything else has been on the back burner. I am a solid intermediate trying to get to the advanced level. My latest endeavor is setting up and learning how to use Genome Mate Pro. In preparation, I became a Tier 1 member of GEDMatch. I had subscribed to the Tier 1 tools for a single month a couple of times but now I am to the point that I need access all of the time. I am also now a paid member of DNAGedcom. Genome Mate Pro works together with GEDmatch and DNAGedcom so it just had to be done. I manage a lot of kits and I think Genome Mate Pro is going to be a godsend when it comes to keeping everything organized and analyzed.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Friday, November 18, 2016

Update on Maude

Here are the two previous posts:
A Brick Wall for YOU
More on Maude

A blog reader suggested that I check to see if Maude applied for a delayed birth certificate in the state of Mississippi. I thought that was a pretty good idea. I requested a search but unfortunately the search was negative and she never filed for one. I really can’t read too much into that though. She would have needed a birth certificate to apply for a social security number but she could have died before she would have applied or she never applied at all which is likely considering that she never (as far as I know) was part of the regular workforce.

Here is a good article on this history of Social Security on the Social Security Administration website:

 Historical Background and Development of Social Security


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Follow up on GySgt Di Reyes Ibañez

What I didn’t tell you yesterday is that Di was a legal immigrant from the Philippines. He made his declaration on 06 October 1959, joined the Marine Corps on 18 Jan 1960 under a green card, took his oath of allegiance on 08 June 1965 and his petition for citizenship was formally granted on 19 June 1964. He died three years later fighting for his new country. Di was single and had no children.   

I did find a passenger list for the USNS David C. Shank that listed Di R. Ibañez along with a Deogracias Ibañez. The vessel traveled from Subic Bay, Philippines to San Francisco, California with a stopover in Agana, Guam. Deogracias was listed as an American citizen while Di was listed as Filipino. This is definitely an avenue of inquiry.

I did a “tree” search on Ancestry and there is one person that has Di in their tree.  I did send a message but that person hasn’t logged in to Ancestry in over a year so I am not too hopeful. I found Di on FamilySearch. He is FSID MBGN-JJ6. There was nothing on him but a birth date with the wrong birth location and a wrong death date. I have updated his listing with what I know so far and as I find out more I will be adding it. I do not want this man forgotten.

FamilySearch has 19 online databases for the Philippines. I couldn’t find Di in any of them. He isn’t listed in the Social Security Death Index so my next move it to try and find his death certificate. I have asked an expert forensic genealogist for instructions on how to get a copy of it. I am hoping his next of kin are listed which I am sure they pulled from his military records. I did find Deogracias Ibañez in the records though. I found a marriage record in the same town where Di was born. Deogracias Ibañez married Natividad Patawaran on 31 December 1955.  Deogracias was a 51 year old widower putting his date of birth about June 1904. Is this Di’s father?  Click HERE to see the marriage contract. There are two other listings for a Deogracias in Manilla with two other spouses but I don’t know yet if this is the same person. I can’t view these two images without going to a FHC.

This is one of those people you just can’t let go of. I still have a lot of research ahead of me.

*Source information can be seen HERE.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Friday, November 11, 2016

Gunnery Sergeant Di Reyes Ibañez


Every time I pull this bracelet out and look at it I want to cry. Thank you for your service, Gunnery Sergeant Di Reyes Ibañez. I am so sorry you didn’t make it home. Di was missing in action on 05 June 1967. He was declared dead, body not recovered in 1978. You can read his story here:

Gunnery Sergeant Di Reyes Ibañez


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Monday, November 7, 2016

Your right to vote

George Washington Esq., President of the United States of AmericaPresident George Washington, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Tomorrow is the big day. This particular election is one of the most controversial in history and it got to me thinking. I wonder who my ancestors voted for. I looked at one ancestor in particular, my #1 brick wall, James Simmons, Sr. I wanted to see which elections he would have voted in and which candidates he would have had to choose from. James was old enough that he would have voted in the very first presidential election. How exciting that must have been for him!  He would have understood just how important his vote was having lived through the American Revolution. Voting was his right, his privilege, and his responsibility. James was 25 years old in 1789 and he would have voted in 14 presidential elections prior to his death in 1843. I assume he did vote. He was of age and a land owner. He also signed a couple legislative petitions making him politically active. Back in those days the only way to learn about the candidates was from the newspaper and from local forums. I have visions of local gatherings discussing/arguing the issues. I wonder if James got up and voiced his opinion. I will probably never know the answer. What I could do is research what each candidate’s platform was and then guess who James voted for based on what I know about him. I think it would be a fun exercise. Here are the presidential elections that James would have voted in.

George Washington (no party affiliation)
John Adams (no party affiliation)

George Washington (Federalist)
John Adams (Federalist)
George Clinton (Anti-Federalist)
Thomas Jefferson (Anti-Federalist)
Aaron Burr (Anti-Federalist)

John Adams (Federalist)
Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican)
Thomas Pinckney (Federalist)
Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican)

Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican)

Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican)
John Adams (Federalist)
Charles C. Pinckney (Federalist)
John Jay (Federalist)

Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican)
Charles C. Pinckney (Federalist)

James Madison (Democratic-Republican)
Charles C. Pinckney (Federalist)
George Clinton (Democratic-Republican)

James Madison (Democratic-Republican)
DeWitt Clinton (Federalist)

James Monroe (Democratic-Republican)
Rufus King (Federalist)

James Monroe (Democratic-Republican)

John Quincy Adams (no party affiliation)

John Quincy Adams (no party affiliation)

Andrew Jackson (no party affiliation)
William H. Crawford (no party affiliation)
Henry Clay (no party affiliation)

Andrew Jackson (Democratic)
John Quincy Adams (National Republican)

Andrew Jackson (Democratic)
Henry Clay (National Republican)
John Floyd (no party affiliation)
William Wirt (Antimasonic)

Martin Van Buren (Democratic)
William H. Harrison (Whig)
Hugh L. White (Whig)
Daniel Webster (Whig)
W. P. Mangum (no party affiliation)

William H. Harrison (Whig)
Martin Van Buren (Democratic)


Please exercise your right as a citizen of the United States of America and vote in the 57th presidential election.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

DNA update

My most frustrating brick wall of all time has been trying to find parents for my 4th great-grandfather, James Simmons, born 14 August 1764. I have been working on this for 25 years. The good news is that DNA testing has created a small crack in that brick wall.  You can read up on where I am on with the DNA testing HERE but I have a bit of an update. There were three prominent Simmons men in adjoining counties to where my James lived — Ralph, Willis and Richard Simmons. These three men headed distinct family groups but I have always suspected that the three lines must tie in somewhere. I have actually mentioned Ralph and Willis before HERE.

Ralph served in the same Mississippi Militia unit at the same with my James’ oldest known son William. They were both officers. Coincidence? I was able to find a female descendant of Ralph’s through FamilySearch. She is a genealogist and she was able to find a direct line male descendant of Ralph’s for me to yDNA test. I wrote him a letter and he called me back yesterday. He is more than willing to take the DNA test. We spoke on the phone for about 30 minutes and he was very interested in the case. We should know something in about 6 weeks.

Another genealogist I happened across while working an atDNA angle was able to point me to some specific yDNA already on the Simmons project page. There is a man that has DNA tested who put his brick wall ancestor as John Simmons born 1725. According to this other researcher, This John was Willis Simmons’ grandfather. There is a book written about Willis that you can see
HERE. Willis headed up the “Silver Creek Simmons Family”. On page 23 is this statement, “Willis Simmons was born in Wilkes County, Georgia in 1784, came to Mississippi from Jones County, Georgia sometime between October 11, 1809 and November 1, 1810…” all of this is unverified BUT take a look at THIS PAGE again. Scroll to the graphic at the bottom and then look at the DNA match on the right. Look at the very top person, William Simmons. Look what county he is in. JONES COUNTY. Hmmmmmm. I do have Willis’ passport from Jones County, Georgia to the Mississippi Territory 11 Oct 1809 so that part is correct.1

The person that yDNA tested who is in the Willis Simmons line only tested at 12 markers but it is a 12/12 marker match to my James. I have emailed him asking if he would be willing to upgrade to 67 markers and also does he have a tree I can look at. Willis is looking good as a match and I am thinking we will be able to hook him into the known Jones County line.

There is one other prominent group of Simmons’ in this area at this same time. There happens to be a book written about this family too and you can see it
HERE. This is the “Bala Chitto Simmons Family” headed by Richard Simmons. Richard looks like a good candidate because he was born in South Carolina 04 July 1770 (not verified). Richard headed a huge family over in Pike County, Mississippi, and again, I suspected that the Pike County Simmons’ would tie in. The same person that alerted me to the person that DNA tested in Willis’ line pointed me back to the Simmons yDNA project page.  There was something there that I had completely overlooked. Two direct line descendants of Richard have tested at 111 markers.  I never saw this. Why? Their DNA is completely different. I stopped comparing their DNA to my James at 12 markers because they already had a genetic distance of more than 10. Ouch. Since Richard is a contemporary and was in South Carolina at the same time as my James, there could be an NPE to explain this. As a matter of fact, one tester carries the Simmons surname but the other does not. The two testers are a perfect match to each other. So where does that leave me?  It means that I still have to try and follow Richard’s line on paper because this could still be a match (of a sort) and could lead me back to my James’ parents.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

1 Georgia Department of Archives and History, Passports Issued by Governors of Georgia, 1785-1809  (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 1959),  28. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

The cost of DNA testing

All I have to say is, no matter how much I spend on DNA testing I will still never spend as much as my husband and son do on hunting and fishing.  ‘Nuff said.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Der Johannisfriedhof ist der schönste Friedhof Deutschlands

Yesterday I told you that the Johannisfriedhof in Bielefeld had been voted the most beautiful cemetery in Germany. I linked to the article but I couldn’t post the photo because I didn’t have permission to use it.  My cousin Christina has come through again.  She gave me two photos to use. 

Photograph copyright © 2016 Christina Gläntzer, used with permission

Photograph copyright © 2016 Christina Gläntzer, used with permission


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Friday, October 28, 2016

Dr. Oetker’s wife

Anyone that knows anything about Germany will understand the significance if what I am about to say.  My friend (and distant cousin) Christina and I work together on the Gläntzer/Glaentzer One-Name Study. She told me something today that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Gläntzers but it is the best piece of news.  Christina’s great-grandmother was best friends with Dr. Oetker’s wife!  Yes, THE Dr. Oetker!  For those of you that are sitting there scratching your head right now, Dr. Oetker is the Betty Crocker of Germany. There are hundreds of Dr. Oetker products and Dr. Oetker cookbooks are very popular.  I own five Dr. Oetker cookbooks myself and whenever I go to Helen, Georgia I stock up on Dr. Oetker cooking and baking supplies.  (For those who don’t know, Helen is a town in the north Georgia mountains that is patterned after a German village). 

Christina was kind enough to send me a photograph and give me permission to use it in the blog. 

Fromm, Friedrich and wife AnnaPhotograph circa 1937, Baden-Baden, Germany, courtesy of Christina Gläntzer
Left to right, Mrs. Oetker, Dr. Fritz Fromm and wife Eleonore (Baack) Fromm

Oh but that wasn’t the only thing Christina told me today.  She also let me know that a cemetery where family members are buried was named the most beautiful cemetery in Germany.  “Der Johannisfriedhof ist der schönste Friedhof Deutschlands.” I can’t post the picture of the cemetery because I don’t have permission to use it but if you have Facebook you can see it HERE.

Today is a very good day.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

DeArmond - Fuller - Crowder Family Cemetery

A man named Daniel happened across a blog post I did on Pumpkin Center, Georgia which is the community where I live.  You can see that original blog post HERE.  He posted a comment which said:

“Good afternoon! I found your information online and saw you did a lot of research on cemeteries and were in the Pumpkin Center, GA area. My mom's side of the family is from Pumpkin Center and I spent every summer at grandma's house, which is at the corner of Wrightsboro Road and Old Appling Harlem Highway. The reason I am writing though, is that I am working on my family lineage and while researching, I remembered finding a few graves in the edge of the woods across the street from grandma's house. I looked online but did not see them mentioned anywhere and wondered who they were. I wondered if you knew of these graves and if you had any information on them? Growing up, my mom and grandma always told me they were in the woods there and I remember finding them one summer. A few summers later, I remember going there again and finding they looked like someone had tried to dig them up, which spooked me as a kid and I never returned. That was probably 25 years ago. I did a parcel search online and that property is indeed listed as a cemetery. It's parcel 030 004B and is a triangle shape bordered by Wrightsboro Road to the north side of the property and Old Appling Harlem Highway on the south side of the property. The graves were on the south side, just inside the tree line if I remember correctly. Have you ever seen these or heard of them?”

I was a bit miffed that there might be a cemetery less than half a mile from my house that I didn’t know about. Needless to say, I dropped everything I was doing.  I had to find this cemetery.

I was able to locate the current land owner via the Columbia County tax records and I gave her a call.  She was very nice and told me yes, there is a cemetery out there.  She hadn’t been out there in years though. She told me that the cemetery is not visible from the roadway and it is in heavy woods.  She gave me some landmarks to look for and off I went.  I had no problem finding it.  There are 11 graves marked with readable markers and several more graves marked only with brick coping and fieldstones.  I searched for the names on Find A Grave and found that they were not there so I added a new cemetery and the markers I found.  And here is the DeArmond – Fuller – Crowder Family Cemetery.  I goofed when I added the cemetery name.  It should be DeArmond and not Dearmond.  I have already sent a request to have it fixed.

Copyright © 2016 Michele Simmons Lewis


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Buckner Hospital

I am working on a report about my 3rd great-grandfather who died at Buckner Hospital in Gainesville, Alabama after the Battle of Shiloh. I just found a memoir that a nurse who served Buckner Hospital wrote. She detailed the horrible conditions there and stated,

"Alas! alas! were these the brave men who had made forever glorious the name of Shiloh?"

Having a first hand account of what was going on at the hospital at the time is invaluable. Since she was there after the Battle of Shiloh, it is very possible she herself took care of my 3rd great-grandfather.

Mathew Patton is buried at the Confederate Cemetery in Gainesville though his grave is only marked as “unknown.”  There are well over 200 unknown graves here.

imagePhotograph Copyright © 2016, Tammy Underwood McCown, used with permission


Fannie A. Beers, Memories: A Record of Personal Experience and Adventure During Four Years of War (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1889), 59-69; digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com : accessed 30 July 2016).


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Where were your parents born? (Part II)

You can read Part I HERE.

I am trying to prove that Janet Simmons’ brother was Cornelius Freeman and that their father was James Freeman.  It would be helpful to know where Cornelius was born.  Cornelius died before the 1850 census was taken.  His widow, Elizabeth, was living in Perry County, Mississippi and her birth place was given as North Carolina.  She lived to the 1860 census and in 1860 she was now born in South Carolina.  Since she has no clue where she was born why should I expect the children to know?  Cornelius and Elizabeth had four children.  Three lived to 1880 and two lived to 1900.



Father’s birthplace

Mother’s birthplace



South Carolina








South Carolina








North Carolina

North Carolina

*Yes of course I know all about how mistakes can happen in the census.  You never know who the actual informant was, you don’t know if the enumerator was paying attention, and you don’t know who recopied the census pages and how careful they were. If I wasn’t trying to figure out whether or not Janet and Cornelius were siblings this would actually be quite funny.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Where were your parents born? (rhetorical)

According to the 1850 federal census in Perry County, Mississippi, both Silas Simmons and his wife Janet were born in South Carolina.  Silas and Janet died before the 1860 census was taken.  Eight of their children lived to the 1880 census and then two of those made it to 1900.  So where were Silas and Janet born?

Census Child Father’s birthplace Mother’s birthplace
1880 Elizabeth North Carolina North Carolina
1880 William South Carolina South Carolina
1880 Nancy Alabama Alabama
1900 Nancy Alabama North Carolina
1880 James South Carolina South Carolina
1880 Melinda South Carolina South Carolina
1880 John South Carolina South Carolina
1880 Benjamin South Carolina South Carolina
1880 Matilda Georgia Mississippi
1900 Matilda Mississippi Mississippi

Who knew this was such a hard question.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Monday, October 10, 2016

More on Maude

For the background information please see A Brick wall for YOU
I haven’t looked at this case in a while and thought it was time to pick it back up.  I am going to try working the DNA angle.  What I am hoping to find is that Maude had more children after she left Lem.  If one of those kids (or grandkids) tested it might lead me to someone that knows something.

Maude only had three grandchildren from her marriage to Lem and all three are living.  One has agreed to DNA testing and I am waiting to hear back from the other two. 
I did get an interesting email today from the daughter of one of Maude’s half sisters.  Maude was the oldest child from her dad’s first marriage.  Maude’s half sister from her dad’s second marriage is one of the younger ones in that group so there is actually 31 years difference between the two (there were 9 children from the first marriage and 9 more from the second).  Anyway, the daughter of Maude’s half sister said, "My mother told me that her daddy went so far as to hire a private detective to look for her but they never found her." Ouch. Another blow.  Maude was hiding out well enough that a private detective couldn’t find her. 
This is one of those cases that I just can’t let go of.  I really want to know what happened to Maude.
Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Bear with me seven more weeks

The massive project I am working on will be completed by next weekend. The weekend after that I start the six week long Advanced Evidence Practicum through SLIG. Once I get through that I will back to my normal happily-blogging-self. I actually have quite a bit to tell y’all.

I do have a couple of things I want to tell you today.  If you are interested in genetic genealogy (using DNA) then you need these two books:


I also have a website to recommend if you are doing research in a Public Land Survey state (for more information on what that is, see Public Land Survey System).

History Geo

This is not a freebie website, there is a subscription fee; however, if you work with the Public Land Survey system this website will save you oodles of time.  In a nutshell, they have mapped out all of the original landowners from the General Land Office Records at the Bureau of Land Management. Remember one VERY important thing.  These are the ORIGINAL land owners that obtained their land directly from the federal government either by patent or warrant.  If the original owner sold the land, that would be handled at the local county level in the form of a deed.

Here is a screenshot of T4N R11W sections 21 and 22 in Perry County, Mississippi.  You can see James Freeman and his son Cornelius had adjoining properties.  This is one of the families I am working on now. 


Screenshot from History Geo

This is so much easier than trying copying down the land description and then drawing it on a grid.  Trying to squeeze in the names in those itsy bitsy boxes is a pain. Now I just screenshot what I need.

If you hover over the parcel you get this:


Screenshot from History Geo


Another major time saver.  Look at these links, especially the Google Maps one. Being able to equate the location with a modern map is very helpful.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Friday, August 5, 2016

A bit of advice and a couple of recommendations

One of my pet peeves is when someone reduces an ancestor to nothing more than a list of vital statistics. Even worse, “genealogists” who are nothing more than name collectors.  Every one of your ancestors was a real person, had a real family and lived in a real community. They had friends and maybe even some enemies.  They probably attended the local church.  He or she had a personality, opinions, likes and dislikes.  Their life was just important to them as your life is to you. Slow down!  It isn’t a competition to see who can collect the most ancestors or who can get their pedigree back to Charlemagne. Take the time to get to know your ancestors. 

Sharon DeBartolo Carmack has written a couple of books on how to put your ancestor in context and then write about it.  What’s the point of doing research if you don’t write up what you find for others to read.

You Can Write Your Family History
Tell it Short, A Guide to Writing Your Family History in Brief

Right now I am working on a project where I am telling the story of a family for three generations and I have these two books by my side. 

John Colletta is one of those genealogists that strives to tell the story of an ancestor.  I was privileged to hear him lecture at IGHR a couple of years ago. He is very enthusiastic and animated when teaching researchers how to make an ancestor come to life. John really loves to tell a story. You can see a list of John’s publications HERE and his lectures HERE.

These two authors will help you look at your ancestors in a new way.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

My favorite feature in Evernote

My favorite feature in Evernote is being able to forward emails from your e-mail client to Evernote.  Not only can you send them directly to Evernote but you can send the note to a specific notebook and you can tag the note all at the same time.  But there is more.  You can change the subject line to whatever you want which will become the title of your note, you can trim the email of unwanted text, and you can add notes to yourself at the top of the email to remind you why you are saving the email. You can click the image to make it larger.


Here is a link to the Evernote Help Desk that has more info, How to save email into Evernote.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Sunday, July 31, 2016

All I needed was a little motivation


Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Corinthians 14:40)

Ouch! I read this Bible verse and was immediately convicted. I have a file folder on my hard drive simply named, “Genealogy.” This folder is a catch-all for everything I don’t want to deal with at the moment. I keep hoping that everything will just magically process itself.  I have been pretending that since I have this folder organized with nice subfolders that I was handling the materials effectively.  Nope.  I was just procrastinating big time. 

I read two good books this past week.  I bought them specifically to try and get myself motivated to clean all this stuff up.

Even though I am a seasoned researcher I found both of these books very helpful. They are not just for beginning researchers.

So far it is working. I have processed more than half of what I have in this folder. Funny thing is, some of it I was able to just delete.  It was taking up needless space and making me think I had more to deal with than I actually do. 

My error is that I don’t deal with things immediately as they come in which is a major workflow problem. When you have a lot of things coming in at the same time on different projects it is just too easy to just throw it all in a folder with the intention of getting to it eventually.

I was already using Evernote but I needed to do some serious cleanup there too. I have Evernote all nice and tidy now. One thing that I needed to move from my Genealogy folder to Evernote were all of my reference materials I have been collecting, things like e-books, PDFs of cemetery surveys, PDFs of document indexes, class syllabi, etc.  What’s nice about Evernote is that the contents of these files are now searchable which saves me a ton of time.

There is a lady that pulls documents for me at the Family History Library.  She names the files with everything I need to create a full citation.  Because of that, I can park these files in this folder and not worry about forgetting what they are or where they came from.  I have quite a few that I need to rename, save to my main Media folder and link to Legacy.

With DNA being the big thing right now I have a ton of DNA stuff in this catch-all folder which I need to sort through.

I want to have the folder empty by the end of weekend so that I can start fresh on Monday morning and I think I will meet that goal.  Thanks, Drew and Kerry.

Next time I will tell you what my #1 favorite feature of Evernote is.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Statistical DNA percentages vs. real life

You get 50% of your DNA from each of your parents* which in turn means you get 25% of your DNA from each of your grandparents which in turn means you get 12.5% of your DNA from each of your great-grandparents which in turn means you get 6.25% of your DNA from each of your 2nd great-grandparents etc.  However, these are only simple mathematical calculations. DNA is much more complicated than that and real life doesn’t always match the math. For example:

You get 50% of your DNA from your mother and 50% from your father but which 50% of their 100% DNA is a crapshoot.  Your parents also got 50% of their DNA from each parent but again, which 50% was a crapshoot.  This means as the DNA is mixing and diluting as it is being passed down you can’t use a simple mathematical equation to calculate how much DNA you got from a certain person. The only time that the percentages will be on the money is the 50% you got from mom and the 50% you got from dad because you inherit entire chromosomes from each. 

Here is a great chart from ISOGG that give more of a real life expectation of what you might or might not actually see.  Even if you should mathematically inherit X amount of DNA from an ancestor that doesn’t mean you will. 

File:Ancestor relationships.jpgCousin Statistics ISOGG Wiki Page


The chart shows you the chance of you not inheriting any DNA form a particular ancestor.  What this chart doesn’t show you is the amount of DNA you could inherit in between the mathematical calculation and the calculation on these charts.  In other words, you can inherit UP TO the mathematical percentage but it may be (and probably will be) lower.

Here is a real life example and one that many people are pursing, Native American (NA)ancestry.  My 3rd-great grandmother was a Choctaw Indian (have paper trail).  Simple math would say that I would inherit 3.125% of her DNA and my uncle who has also tested would get 6.25% At this level I only have a slight chance of not inheriting any DNA from her and my uncle has 0% chance. So far so good.  However, with the way that DNA mixes and dilutes as it comes down the line I can have anything from 3.125% to 0% and my uncle can have 6.25% to above 0%

My uncle has 0.62%
I have 0.57%

Is this still reasonable?  Yes it is.  What is interesting is that I have almost as much as my uncle has.  I wish I could have tested my dad because I would bet he got a bigger chunk than my uncle did.  I also wish I could test my other living uncle but he isn’t interested in testing.  I would like to see how much he ended up with. The uncle that won’t test has a granddaughter that did test. Mathematically she could have 1.5625% of her 4th great-grandmother’s DNA.  She has a little over 1/2% chance of inheriting no DNA.  Her number should between these two.  She has 0.19%

I am waiting for DNA from a first cousin to add to my NA pool as well as the DNA from my stepmother and her brother who both descend from my 3rd great-grandmother’s brother.  This is pretty exciting because I will have DNA from a different line to compare to.  I still need to map out the exact segment matches but I am off to a good start.  There is always a chance of a false positive but I don’t think this will be the case.

For genealogists working with autosomal DNA this next chart from ISOGG might be of more interest. This will explain why you don’t share as much DNA (or you share no DNA) with someone you have a paper trail for as a cousin match.

File:Cousin relationships.jpg


Here are the mathematical calculations for familial matches. This time it will be expressed in centimorgans (cM) along with the percentages. The chart is too big for the blog so go to ISOGG's Autosomal DNA Matches and scroll down to the Table, “Average autosomal DNA shared by pairs of relatives, in percentages and centiMorgans”


Now compare those mathematical calculations to what Blaine Bettinger actually found using real life data. Notice that in Blaine’s data there are averages and ranges.

SharedcMProjectUpdate to the Shared cM Project

Blaine updates his chart as he gets additional data in.  The more data, the more accurate. 


Nutshell version – You can’t rely on statistical calculations to rule someone in or someone out as a DNA match at a particular relationship. 

* For practical purposes it is a 50/50 split but there are slight variations due to the y chromosome being smaller than the x chromosome and the possibility of endogamy – your parents having a common ancestor down the line somewhere and they are actually sharing some DNA.

NOTE:  Gedmatch’s Dodecad World9 Admixture algorithm was used to give the percentage of Amerindian in the DNA testers.  Algorithm’s are updated periodically and all of these numbers could change.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Four years

Today is Ancestoring’s 4th Blogiversary! I haven’t posted in a month so I feel a bit guilty but life is just spinning a bit too fast right now. I have one HUGE project that I hope to get done by October 1st. I was accepted into the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy’s (SLIG) Virtual Advanced Evidence Practicum which starts October 1st and that is why I have set that deadline. This will help me keep focused and on track.

I have really enjoyed the blog. I love to write and I love to hear from other genealogists so the blog format works well for me. By this fall I am hoping to be back posting at least three times a week again. In the meantime, I will continue to post a bit more sporadically.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Friday, June 17, 2016

Update to Mission Impossible

You can read the original post HERE. A very kind soul send me the names and addresses of every Grantham in St. Tammany Parish. Thank you, Katherine! I will be snail-mailing all of them. I know that one of these will be who I am looking for. As soon as I know, I will let you know.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mission impossible?

I need some DNA.  I need some very specific DNA. I need DNA from a direct descendant of Almo Grantham and his wife Martha Thomas of St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find me a direct descendant to test. Here is what I have done thus far…

  • Contacted the St. Tammany Genealogical Society
  • Posted on the the St. Tammany Genealogical Society’s Facebook page
  • Contacted the St. Tammany Farmer (newspaper) but their advertising rates were cost prohibitive.  They wouldn’t print a letter to the editor for me. I will keep this one in mind though
  • Sent a message to the St. Tammany Rootsweb mailing list
  • Posted on the DNA Detectives Facebook page
  • Posted on the Genealogy Chit-Chat page
  • Posted on the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook page
  • Obits for the family will be in the St. Tammany Farmer which is on microfilm.  I don’t have ready access to these. The microfilm is at the St. Tammany Parish Library
  • I searched the gedcoms that have been uploaded to Gedmatch in hopes of finding a relative (any relative) that has tested and has their gedcom uploaded
  • I contacted the person that manages all of the Find a Grave memorials for this family

Almo Grantham was born on 30 October 1879 in St. Tammany Parish and died there 29 Oct 1943.  He is buried in the Thomas Cemetery.  He married Martha Wilmuth Thomas on 12 March 1901 in St. Tammany.  Almo’s real name is Armand but he went by Almo his entire life.  He is the son of Keziah Grantham, father unknown.  He had one full brother named Rougier (he went by Rusha) who was murdered in 1916.  I have the DNA I need from Rusha’s descendants. Here are Almo and Martha’s children:

Mary died as an infant, 1904
Lena who married William G. Purvis, died 1986
Mae who married a Seals, died after 01 May 1974
Yvonne who married Edward Crawford, died 1959
Georgia who married James Gaines, died 1994
Elbert, died without issue, 1974
Louise who married a Uell Holmes, died 1994
Alma who married Michael Alsobrooks, died 1993

Okay bloodhounds, off you go!

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Monday, June 6, 2016

A few more than I expected

I was curious to see how many DNA matches I have actually have.  This is for my DNA only (I manage quite a few kits).  Also, I don’t have that many matches on my mother’s side because my mother and I are first generation immigrants.  Even so, I have a lot of matches.

Here are the big three:

  • 23andMe – 799
  • FTDNA – 1300
  • Ancestry.com – 7700 (how is that even possible?)

Wow. I am going to check again in about a month because there were a lot of kits sold when they were on sale and those results are just now starting to come in.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Fan Charts are your friend

When you are doing autosomal DNA research the further back you have all of your direct lines the better. If you have every line back at least 8 generations you are in very good shape but it helps if everyone else has their lines back that far too. Once you are at 8 generations you are close to the upper limit of autosomal DNA (6th cousins) though when you add the “removeds”  your chart should go out to 9-10 generations. I have never met anyone that has managed to do that (sourced).

Creating a fan chart is the best way to find the gaps in your research.  Filling those gaps should be your priority. I have my fan chart complete to 6 generations.

Ancestor Fan of Michele Lynn Simmons


When I go to 8 generations look what happens.

Ancestor Fan of Michele Lynn Simmons 2


Since almost all of the DNA research is on my dad’s side, and I have my dad’s brother’s DNA, I will use my dad as the anchor for the chart at 8 generations.  This will cut out my mother’s side completely but it will add a generation to the chart since my dad/uncle is one generation ahead of me.

Ancestor Fan of Thomas Calvin Simmons

You see that I still have quite a few unknown lines. Some of these lines are brick walls but some I am sure I could fill in with some additional research.

Go ahead and create an 8 generation fan chart using the person that DNA tested as the anchor person and you might see the reason why you can’t figure out how your DNA matches relate to you. Researching these gaps will make your DNA research more fruitful.  DNA and paper genealogy go hand in hand. Of course DNA can help you fill in some of these gaps if the other person has their direct lines filled out this far, however, they are counting on you for the same thing.

Charts created using Legacy 8.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

And it’s a match!

This is an ongoing saga.  You can catch up by reading:
Wish me luck!
Update to “Wish me luck!”
Super fun graphic of 3 yDNA lines
A twist of fate

Remember how I said that one of my uncle’s yDNA matches agreed to update from 67 markers to 111? Well look what I got in the mail this morning.



It turned out exactly as I expected. My uncle is a 110/111 match to the above person and that person is a 111/111 match to the third person. You just can’t get better results than this! The three lines are completely different and finding where they come together is an exciting challenge. I think that this yDNA match will eventually break down my 20+ year brick wall. I still haven’t heard from one of the matches but the above match is just as excited as I am. The results have already been uploaded to the Simmons project page. I can’t screenshot it because it is too large but if you click HERE and then scroll down to Family E you will see us. If you look at our numbers all three of us match across the board for every value except DYS442. I have a value of 13 and both of them have a value of 12.

What this means in practical terms is that the other two men have 99% chance of a common ancestor at 6 generations.  I have a 95% chance to match them at 8 generations.  

Take a look at our lines again.  My line is in the middle, I used my dad’s name instead of my uncle that tested since my uncle is still living. The first is at 10 generations, I am at 6 generations and the 3rd is also at 6. We are so close! The 2nd and 3rd lines are proven on paper. It’s the first line that is the mystery. I can’t get ahold of this person to get his sources. I have been trying to prove his line up the chain myself but I am stuck on Henry. I need to know what the proof is for Henry’s parents and then up. I think I will email him again.




Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ah the joy!

Ancestry.com has the estate case file of my 4th great-grandfather John McMichael.  I was looking for evidence of the parent-children relationship between this John and his son John.  John died intestate and being able to find a nice tidy list of heirs is hit or miss when it comes to administrations. Lucky for me this administration did have a list of heirs but…



… here is the interesting part.  John’s estate file is in TWO parts. There was only one entry in the index and this entry links to the second part.  I noticed that the image of the file jacket said Box 35, Part II.  I started clicking backwards through the images and found Box 35, Part I which had another 21 pages. If I hadn’t gone backwards through the images I would have never found this and I would have missed out on a lot of great info.



This is another example of not trusting the index.

Pike County, Alabama, Wills and Probate Records, 1753-1999, John McMichael Estate Case File 1841-1849, Box 35, Part I and II; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 May 2016). 

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

One down, three to go!


This one was a bit of a challenge because Reuben was one of those patriots whose file has been flagged by the DAR as having errors.  My application was scrutinized and I had to send additional documentation and proof arguments before it was finally approved.  I think I quadruple proved Reuben.

I have three more patriots (that I know of) to prove…
Mathew Patton
Jesse Lee
John Kimbrough

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 6, 2016

A twist of fate

An ongoing saga.  You can catch up by reading:
Wish me luck!
Update to “Wish me luck!”
Super fun graphic of 3 yDNA lines

In the early days of the Mississippi Territory there were three groups of Simmons’.  There was a group in Natchez, a group in Marion/Pike Counties, and a group in Perry County.  The group in Natchez was there a lot earlier than the other two groups, long before the Mississippi Territory was even formed.  I have never been able to find a real connection to this group.

The group in Marion/Pike is a lot closer in distance to my group in Perry County and they arrived in about the same time period, after the Mississippi Territory was officially opened for settlement. I always suspected that there was a link between these two groups somewhere.  I just found a very unexpected link.

If you have been following my saga about the Simmons’ and their yDNA you will know that one of my matches traces back to Jones County, Georgia

I just found this…

Jones County

We the undersiners recommend John Matthews, Willis Simmons & John Bond as good honest upright citizens and that they wish to obtain a Passport from this County and State to the Mississippie Territory as they are about to remove to.

October the 6th 1809
Harrison Cabaness Capt.
Green Mullins
Sion Thrower
denton daniel
Drury Reese - J. P.
H. Harson J. I. C.
Nathan Peeples
Wm Ratcliff Capt.
Richard Ratcliff Capt
Cuthberth Reese
Melton Amos
John Hogg
Hardy Bullock
Elijah Bailey
Wilkins Jackson J. P.
George Cabaniss
Stephen Kirk
Aniel Huggin
Ephraim Cox
Moses Cox
Asa Cox

Recommendation in favor of John Mathews, Willis Simmons, and Jake Bond of Jones County. Order taken 11 October 1809.1

Well, well, well, I know who Willis Simmons is.  Willis is one of the Marion/Pike County bunch.  I already have him in my database because I knew he had to be connected.  The census records have him born in Georgia about 1784 which means he came to the Mississippi Territory when he was about 25 years old.  I pick him up on tax records starting in 1810.

This gives me a tangible connection between the Marion/Pike County bunch and my family over in Perry County because I have a DNA match to the Simmons’ in Jones County, Georgia where Willis came from.  I will now need to try and back Willis up in time so see if I can link him into the Jones County, Georgia group.

1 Georgia Department of Archives and History, Passports Issued by Governors of Georgia, 1785-1809  (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 1959),  28. 


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Super fun graphic of 3 yDNA lines

This is a follow-up to Wish me luck and Update to wish me luck.

This first line is my 110/111 match.  This line is unproven.  I still haven’t heard back from that researcher and I am still trying to prove all the connections.

The second line is mine. It is proven all the way up the chain.

The third line is my 67/67 match.  This line is proven all the way up.  This researcher has updated to 111 markers and we are both anxiously awaiting the results.

Our best guess at this time is that our common ancestor is in Virginia and then the lines migrated to Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia.

privateLines created using Legacy 8 Charting, lines combined into one graphic using MS Paint.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis




Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Update to “Wish me luck!”

You can read the background info HERE.

I still haven’t heard from the 110/111 match BUT I did hear from someone else.  What I failed to mention in the first post is that I also have a second 66/67 match.  The one marker difference is the exact same marker difference that I have for the 110/111 match (DYS442, they both have a value of 12 and I have a value of 13).

I heard back from the person that manages that DNA sample. Not only does she have that entire line paper trailed and sourced she has agreed to upgrade to 111 markers.  Oh happy day!

The three lineages are completely different which is great.  We know they are going to converge at some point.  Looking at the three different lines gives us a few clues on where that convergence might be (which state).  We are looking toward Virginia, early 1700s.  The person that manages the 67 marker test is an experienced genealogist so between the two of us we will figure this out.  In the meantime, I am anxiously awaiting the results of the 111 marker test.  I suspect that we too will be a 110/111 match and that the other two will be a 111/111 match.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis