Monday, April 24, 2017

Day 3 – Have a Working Hypothesis

Sherlock gathered his clues and then formulated a working hypothesis. As new clues came in he would modify his hypothesis as needed. His hypotheses gave him direction for what steps he needed to take next.

Here is a very simple example. Let’s say John Q. Citizen was living with his parents in Perry County, Mississippi in 1880. His soon to be wife Mary Ann Smith was living with her parents in neighboring Marion County. In 1900, you find the married couple living together in Marion County. You know that it is more common for a couple to marry in the bride’s home county than the groom’s so your working hypothesis is that they most likely married in Marion County. You now have a direction to search. You search the Marion County marriage records but come up short. Your new hypothesis is that they married in Perry County.

“His extreme love of solitude in England suggests the idea that he was in fear of someone or something, so we may assume as a working hypothesis that is was fear of someone or something which drove him from America.” [Holmes to Watson, "The Five Orange Pips"]

“Well, we will take it as a working hypothesis for want of a better.” [Holmes to Watson, "The Man with the Twisted Lip"]

“Let us take that as a working hypothesis and see what it leads us to.” [Holmes to Watson, "Silver Blaze"]

“Well, we can adopt it as a working hypothesis and then see how far our difficulties disappear.” [Holmes to Inspector White Mason, "The Valley of Fear"]

“Well, now, Watson. Let us judge the situation by this new information…. All of our reasoning seems to point that way. At any rate, we may take it as a hypothesis and see what consequences it would entail.” [Holmes to Watson, "Wisteria Lodge"]

“At least we may accept it as a working hypothesis.” [Holmes to Watson, "The Devil’s Foot"]

“One forms provisional theories and waits for time or fuller knowledge to explode them.” [Holmes to client Robert Ferguson, "The Sussex Vampire"]

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Day 2 - Consult your reference library

As smart as he was, Holmes still had a large reference library which he consulted often. It is well worth your while to invest in books. You need genealogy methodology books, genealogical dictionaries, books on history, topic specific books such as those on land records, census records, court records, books on reading old handwritings, etc. You can take a look at my reference library HERE. A genealogist cannot possibly know everything there is to know. Surrounding yourself with quality reference materials is a must.

“He stretched his hand up, and took down a bulky volume from the shelf.” [Watson observing Holmes, "Sign of the Four"]

“Let us glance at our Continental Gazetteer.” [Holmes to Watson, "A Scandal in Bohemia"]

“Kindly hand me down the letter K of the ‘American Encyclopedia’ which stands upon the shelf beside you.” [Holmes to Watson, "The Five Orange Pips"]

“He picked a red-covered volume from a line of books of reference beside the mantelpiece.” [Watson observing Holmes,"The Noble Bachelor"]

“Holmes shot his long, thin arm and picked out Volume ‘H’ in his encyclopaedia of reference.” [Watson observing Holmes, "The Priory School"]

“I leaned back and took down the great index volume to which he [Holmes] referred.” [Watson narrating, "The Sussex Vampire"]

“There is a great garret in my little house which is stuffed with books. It was into this I plunged and rummaged for an hour. At the end of that time I emerged with a little chocolate and silver volume. Eagerly I turned up the chapter of which I had a dim remembrance.” [Holmes narrating, "The Lion’s Mane"]

“Here is a book which first brought light into what might have been forever dark.” [Holmes to Inspector Bardle, "The Lion’s Mane"]

“Sherlock Holmes threw himself with fierce energy upon the pile of commonplace books in the corner. For a few minutes there was a constant swish of leaves, and then with a grunt of satisfaction he came upon what he sought. So excited was he that he did not rise, but sat upon the floor like some strange Buddha, with crossed legs, the huge books all round him, and one open upon his knees.” [Watson observing Holmes, "The Veiled Lodger"]

“Where is my Crockford?” [Holmes to Watson, "The Retired Colourman." Holmes was referring to Crockford’s Clerical Directory, which is a reference book of the clergy of the Church of England and other churches of Great Britain. It was first published in 1858 and the last edition was published in 2009. Who knows, this book may be as valuable to a genealogist today as it was to Holmes!]

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Some surprises in the box (Part II)

I should have known this last box of papers would give my fits. You can read about the box HERE and you can read about the first surprise HERE.

I found TWO marriage records for the same couple.

W. T. Ramshur and Susie Simmons married in Marion County, Mississippi on 26 Jul 19521
W. T. Ramshur and Susie Simmons married in Marion County, Mississippi on 26 Sep 19612

(both W. T. and Susie are deceased)


Both records have the application, license and certificate which is nice.  The 1961 marriage has a clue. This was Warner’s second marriage with the first ending in divorce and this was Susie’s 3rd marriage with the last ending in divorce. The 1952 marriage doesn’t give this information.

It looks like Warner and Susie married each other twice with a divorce in between. Now I need to ask the chancery court to look for a divorce decree. My to-do list is getting longer and longer as I go through this last box.

1 Marion County, Mississippi, Marriage Book 28: 129, Ramshur-Simmons, 1952; Circuit Court, Columbia.
2 Marion County, Mississippi, Marriage Book 31: 534, Ramshur-Simmons, 1952; Circuit Court, Columbia. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Legacy webinars


Legacy is presenting their 500th webinar on Friday, April 14, 2017 and in celebration Legacy is going to make ALL of their webinars FREE for EVERYONE this weekend, Friday through Sunday.  All you need to do it go to the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website and let the fun begin! I am guessing that there will be some serious binge watching going on this weekend.  If you like what you see (and we think you will) consider getting a subscription so that you can have full time access to these wonderful webinars. There are 2 new webinars each week with some surprise bonus ones thrown in from time to time. There is no better genealogy continuing education bargain anywhere.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Some surprises in the box

You can read about the box I am talking about HERE. The first group of papers I dealt with were papers that belonged to my grandfather. You can read about him HERE and HERE. My mother took possession of these papers when her older brother died and now I have them.  My mother is not a genealogist so she never really looked at the papers and until now I hadn’t really looked at them either.

My mother thought that her father and his family fled from the Łódź area in what is now Poland right before World War I because of the tension between the ethnic Germans (my grandfather’s family) and the ethnic Poles. My mother believed that they came straight to the Köln area but that isn’t true. Her father’s papers tell a different story.

I already had my first clue, August’s mother Emilie’s citizenship papers, I just didn’t realize it. On 10 Jan 1922 August’s mother swore her allegiance to Prussia.1 She and her two minor children were living in the Marienwerder District which was part of the Province of West Prussia. This was AFTER World War I. The Marienwerder District was 274 km north of where they had been in Zdunska Wola (in the Łódź area) so they did move, just not to Köln. I don’t know if they moved before or after World War I but I can say that they moved between 23 January 1913 when Emilie’s husband Heinrich died in Zdunska Wola2 and 10 Jan 1922 when Emilie was in Marienwerder. My mother did know that her grandfather did not go with them to Köln.

Here are the clues I found in August’s papers. This was the first time I had really looked at these papers and they give me a new timeline.

August was an apprentice cooper (barrel maker) from 01 January 1925 to 01 January 1928 to Friedrich Budow in Stolp. On 14 January 1928 he passed the apprenticeship test and became a journeyman cooper and a member of the coopers guild. The guild was out of Stettin.3 Both Stolp and Stettin are in present day Poland.

August then moved to Germany proper. He was a journeyman from 08 Jan 1928 to 20 Apr 1929 in Lückenwalde,4 and a journeyman in Magdeburg from 15 May 1929 to 19 Jun 1929.5 His first appearance in Köln was 03 Aug 1929 to 31 Jan 1930 where he was now a cooper.6 August married Theresia Glaentzer on 18 November 1930 in Köln.7

My mother last saw her father in 1941 when she was only 7 years old. He was captured and never came home. Her mother died in 1945 when she was 11. Her recollections are from her childhood and the stories she remembers are hazy.  I am happy to have documents that shed some light on the true sequence of events.


1 Marienwerder, Prueßen, Optionsurkunden (declaration of citizenship), Emilie Weichert geb. Fiege, 10 January 1922,  Deutsche Reinstaatsangehörigkeit. 

2 Hans Joachim Weichert, "Die Familie Weichert"; report to Michele Lewis,  (Harlem, Georgia), 27 January 2009. Weichert did not provide the death certificate and I have written to the Polish Archives in Łódź to get it.

3 August Weichert Lehr-Brief (apprenticeship document), 1925-1928; privately held by Michele Simmons Lewis Harlem, Georgia. 2003; This document was in the possession of August's son Karl until Karl's death in 2003. At that time August's daughter Emma took possession and then passed it to Lewis (Emma's daughter).

4 Richard Schütze (Lukenwalde, Germany) letter of recommendation for August Weichert (no recipient), 20 April 1929; privately held by Michele Simmons Lewis,  Harlem, Georgia, 2003.

5 Albert Nübel (Magdeburg, Germany) letter of recommendation for August Weichert (no recipient), 20 June 1929; privately held by Michele Simmons Lewis,  Harlem, Georgia, 2003.

6 Mathias Hollmann (Köln, Germany) letter of recommendation for August Weichert (no recipient), 31 January 1930; privately held by Michele Simmons Lewis,  Harlem, Georgia, 2003.

7 Köln III, Germany, Heiratsurkunde (marriage certificate) no. 638 (1930), Weichert-Glaentzer; Standesamt, Köln. 


Sunday, April 9, 2017

My new books

I just got these:

Benton, Jeffery C. The Very Worst Road: Travellers' Accounts of Crossing Alabama's Old Creek Indian Territory, 1820-1847. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 1998.

Hudson, Angela Pulley. Creek Paths and Federal Roads: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Ownby, Ted and David Warton. Georgia's Old Federal Road Phase I: Development of a Historical Content for the Federal Road in North Georgia. Forest Park, Ga.: Georgia Department of Transportation, 2007.

Reynolds, Matthew, et al. Georgia's Old Federal Road Phase II: Development of a Technical Content for the Federal Road in North Georgia. Forest Park, Ga.: Georgia Department of Transportation, 2006.

Southerland, Henry DeLeon, Jr. and Jerry Elijah Brown. The Federal Road through Georgia, the Creek Nation, and Alabama, 1806-1836. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 1989.


Do you see a theme here?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Day 1–Run your theories by Watson

Sherlock liked to present all of the evidence to Watson and then sit back and listen to Watson reconcile the evidence in his own way. Granted, most of the time Watson was wrong but Sherlock did this to not only involve Watson in the process but also to hear how a reasonable person would see all of the evidence. I do this all the time. I gather all my facts and arrange them into a logical sequence of events. I then present the case to another genealogist to get their feedback. Many times they see things that I haven’t noticed.

“Look here, Watson, just sit down in this chair and let me preach to you for a little. I don’t know quite what to do, and I should value your advice.” [Holmes to Watson, "The Boscombe Valley Mystery"]

“Now, I’ll state the case clearly and concisely to you, Watson, and maybe you can see a spark where all is dark to me.” [Holmes to Watson, "The Man with the Twisted Lip"]

“At least I have got a grip of the essentials of the case. I shall enumerate them to you, for nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person…” [Holmes to Watson, "Silver Blaze"]

“There you have it all in a nutshell, Watson, and if you can give me any light I shall be infinitely obliged to you.” [Holmes to Watson, "Silver Blaze"]

"Just sit down in that chair, Watson. I want to put you in touch with the situation, as I may need your help to-night. Let me show you the evolution of this case so far as I have been able to follow it." [Holmes to Watson, "Wisteria Lodge"]


Ah but dear Sherlock couldn’t help but tell poor Watson about his shortcomings when Watson
gave his opinions about the case. I certainly do not recommend this when you are having your own work critiqued but it is fun to see what Sherlock did.

“‘Pon my word, Watson, you are coming along wonderfully. You have really done very well indeed. It is true that you have missed everything of importance, but you have hit upon the method…” [Holmes, to Watson, "A Case of Identity"]

“I am afraid, my dear Watson, that most of your conclusions were erroneous. When I said you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasional guided towards the truth.” [Holmes to Watson, "The Hound of the Baskervilles"]


There are many instances where Sherlock made fun of Dr. Watson and he rarely complimented him but there is one passage where Holmes’ true feelings for his faithful friend are shown. Watson is narrating the scene right after he [Watson] had just been shot by suspect James Winter. [The Three Garridebs]

“You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt!”

It was worth a wound – it was worth many wounds – to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.

“It’s nothing, Holmes, It’s a mere scratch.”

He had ripped up my trousers with his pocket knife.

“You are right,” he cried with an immense sigh of relief, “It is quite superficial.” His face set like flint as he glared at our prisoner, who was sitting up with a dazed face. “By the Lord, it is well for you. If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive.”

Friday, April 7, 2017

The very last box

I have been researching my family for 26 years. I collected a lot of documents before any were available online for download. I didn’t have a computer until 1995 and I don’t think I had a scanner until about 2000. On 07 September 2013, I pulled all of my documents out of their binders and put them in boxes so that I could scan them. How do I know the exact date?  I blogged about it of course. When I scan a document I also analyze it again. I have a lot more knowledge now than I did back then so I could have easily missed something. I also double check my source citation because sources I created years ago aren’t up to the current standards. After I am done I put the document back into its binder. I started with ten boxes crammed full and here it is, the very last box.


IMG_20170406_103310933_HDR (002)

I am very excited. I am going to try very hard to get this box close to empty this weekend. Some of these aren’t that easy to work with. The ones you see on top are my grandfather’s work documents from 1928 until he was drafted into the German Army. He was a Küfer (barrel maker). I have his driver’s license from 1939 and some personal letters. They are all written in German.  Yes, I saved the hardest for last.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

FTDNA old vs. new PART II

This is my uncle’s old and new results.  This one concerns me a lot more than my results do.  You can see my results HERE.

The old results are on the left and the new results are on the right. He went from 43% British Isles to 15% and Scandinavia 33% to 0%  This is a significant change. The old results correspond to his paper trail and the new results do not. I am not sure what to think yet. I am going to wait and see what the top genetic genealogists have to say in their blogs.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

DNA ethnicity–FTNDA old vs. new

FTDNA updated their algorithms and most people have a change in their ethnicity results.  All of the autosomal DNA sites do this from time to time so I dug out some old screenshots to compare them side by side.


FTDNA OLD                                               FTDNA NEW


The 12% Middle Eastern is Asia Minor


AncestryDNA OLD                                    AncestryDNA NEW
(I don’t see a change)

Ancestry oldAncestry


DNALand OLD                                          DNALand NEW

DNALand oldDNALand


(I don’t have a screenshot of my old results)



GEDMatch Dodecad World 9                GEDMatch Eurogenes K13
(I don’t have a screenshot of my old results)

Dodecad World 9Eurogenes K13


And the moral of the story is, every company uses different algorithms and reference populations. Every company updates this information from time to time. It is normal to see different numbers from company to company and it is normal to see different numbers after a company updates. 23andMe is considered to be the most accurate when it comes to ethnicity predictions.  When I look at my 23andMe results they do correspond with my paper trail.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dealing with the accumulation

If you do genealogy full time (or even part time) it is easy to drown in accumulated paperwork, journals, emails, obligations, general disorganization etc.  Here are a few tips.

  • I belong to several societies that have monthly or quarterly newsletters/journals. I used to toss them off to the side vowing to read them later but instead they just piled up and I was missing out on some great information. I now read the journal the day it arrives and if there is something I think I need to keep I scan the article and stick it in Evernote.  I then toss it.  I have switched some over to electronic versions which saves me a step.
  • I receive hundreds of emails a day. I have three email addresses; my regular email, my work email and an email just for DNA stuff.  I have “rules” and folders set up in MS Outlook for all three accounts so that my mail is automatically sorted.  Even so, I used to let the emails pile up.  If they are shoved in a folder where you can’t see them it is okay, right?  I now deal with my email immediately and either trash it, act on it, or archive it (Evernote).  By the end of the day my folders are empty and I can start off fresh the next morning. It took me a long time to get to this point.
  • I know that everything is electronic these days but the one thing I still need to keep on paper is my calendar/planner.  I LOVE the Uncalendar.  Their website does not do it justice.  I suggest you look on YouTube.  There are several good videos showing how the Uncalendar works.  I use Pilot FriXion pens in lots of colors with my Uncalendar. These pens are 100% erasable and work great.  They use heat sensitive ink so I wouldn’t put a blow dryer to your calendar or put it on the dashboard of your car in the summer. I keep track of everything in my Uncalendar, to-do lists, project schedules and updates, meetings, short term and long term goals etc.
  • At the end of the day I make sure my desk is cleaned off and the books I pulled off the shelves have been put back.  When I start work the next morning it is nice to have a clean desk/office.  It only takes a couple of minutes and this one simple thing has had a big impact on my attitude when I start my workday. Every couple of weeks I do a complete cleanup (the dreaded vacuuming, dusting, cleaning monitors and keyboard etc.) I pull as much out of the office that I can so that I can wash/wax the wood floors.  It is a pain but I do so much better when I am working in an clean and organized environment.
  • I am usually working on several projects at a time.  I keep the projects in these boxes.  They hold standard 8.5 x 11 paper. They stack nicely and I label them using colored masking tape and Sharpies making it easy to change the labels as needed.  I just counted and I have 13 of these boxes.  Hmmmmm, unlucky 13.  I might have to buy another box.
  • I have a small bulletin board (cork) next to my desk. Post-It Notes stick to it without having to use pins.  I use this to keep up with my current projects so that I can monitor my progress.  I also put notes up for things that are urgent. I keep the bulletin board up-to-date and neat.
  • This one has nothing to do with accumulated stuff but it has increased my productivity exponentially. My computer has three monitors.  I operated with two monitors for about 10 years but I went to three about a year ago.  The more the merrier!
  • Make sure you stay stocked up on everything you might need in the way of office supplies, things like printer paper and ink, batteries for your wireless keyboard and mouse, etc.  Nothing is more frustrating than to have to stop right in the middle of what you are doing to deal with a missing supply.  I am an office supplies junkie so this is rarely a problem for me.

So what tips do you have?


Monday, April 3, 2017

18 Days with Sherlock (revisited)

SHI ran this series five years ago and it was one of the most popular things I have done on the blog.  I am going to run an updated version. I will not be posting the series on consecutive days (though a few might be consecutive) because I have a lot of other things to post about too. This series will be a fun diversion. Today is an intro to the series.

Sherlock Holmes is just as popular now as he was when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the character in 1887. Two Sherlock movies released in 2009 and 2011 starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Mr. Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson were smash hits. It was announced recently that the original cast would be back for a third movie. The BBC series featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as John Watson recently finished its fourth and final season. It too was a big hit. Sherlock has always been popular in film going back to the 1930s and 1940s when Basil Rathbone starred as the super sleuth. We never seem to tire of the eccentric detective.

Doyle wrote a total of four novels and 56 short stories about the master detective. The stories are told from the viewpoint of Sherlock’s faithful companion Dr. John Watson, with the exception of "The Blanched Soldier" and "The Lion's Mane" which Holmes himself narrates and "The Marzarin Stone" which is narrated by a third-person omniscient narrator. The writing style is absolutely brilliant and you are immediately drawn in. There is no doubt in your mind that Sherlock was a real person and that Dr. Watson’s diaries are accurate remembrances of their adventures. If you have never read these stories you really should.

Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet was rejected multiple times by publishers before being accepted with a £25 copyright fee paid to Doyle. He wrote this novel with no intention of using the Sherlock Holmes character again. The story was a hit in America so Doyle brought Sherlock back again and again.

A few Sherlock facts and trivia:
Reading the stories brings you into contact with some familiar characters, Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard, Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock’s tireless landlady, and Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes. You also meet Irene Adler, the only female Holmes had any sort of feelings for and the only feelings he had were that of admiration as she was able to pull one over on him. If you have seen any of the films you will know that James Moriarty was Sherlock’s nemesis. In the story “The Final Problem” both Moriarty and Sherlock were killed, or so it seemed. Three years later Sherlock reappears which caused poor Watson to faint dead away.

Sherlock is described as tidy in his appearance but unkempt in his housekeeping. He isn’t interested in romance but can turn on the charm when it is to his advantage. He usually solves the crime early on but doesn’t reveal his conclusions until much later. He claims it is so he can lay out all of the facts but also admits that he likes the drama of it all. He is a bit vain and really likes it when someone acknowledges how smart he is. Sherlock was a master of disguises and often fooled Watson. Sherlock was quite the practical joker with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He was also an accomplished violinist. He was a very likeable character.
On the negative side, Sherlock smoked cigarettes, cigars and a pipe. When he wasn’t actively working on a case he turned to drugs because he couldn’t handle his mind being idle, however, Watson was able to eventually wean him off of his cocaine habit. Sherlock could get depressed and morose and would go for long periods of time without eating.

Watson tells us that Sherlock’s career spanned 23 years with Watson at his side for 17 of them. Holmes and Watson mention many other cases they were involved in that didn’t make it into Watson’s collection of stories. Sherlock chides Watson a bit for sensationalizing and glamorizing stories which should have been told matter-of-factly in textbook fashion so that other detectives could learn by them.

Many genealogists look to Sherlock for inspiration because his method of deductive reasoning is the perfect approach for genealogical research. Throughout the stories you will find many sound principles that will help you in your quest to uncover the truths about your ancestors’ lives. For the next 18 days I will outline some of these principles and give examples of how Sherlock’s methods will help you.

By the way, contrary to popular belief, Holmes never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson!” in any of his adventures.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Be flexible and don’t make assumptions

Most researchers know to use name variations and date ranges when trying to find an elusive ancestor in a database but sometimes the database itself doesn’t contain the data you think it does.

The Mississippi Enumeration of Educable Children, 1850-1892; 1908-1957 is one of my favorite record sets. Would you only search this database for someone if they were between the ages of 6 and 18?

Thomas Simmons is my dad and he graduated from Purvis High School in 1955. This school census is from 1957. In 1957 my dad was in the Air Force and stationed in Hahn, Germany but the school board still listed him.

Children that were not attending school anymore were still included.  They are given a W code with an explanation. If your relative married young and left school or left school to go to work he/she will still be listed. This is important information. Always be flexible with your searches and make sure you know exactly what information the particular record can tell you.


"Mississippi Enumeration of Educable Children, 1850-1892; 1908-1957," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 31 March 2017), Lamar > image 98 of 157; citing Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Box ID 15134, Series 21.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

“Critical” couples

I like to play with BYU’s Relative Finder and Ancestry’s We’re Related app. This is mostly for my entertainment but after using these two programs I have noticed some patterns in the connections.  I am seeing certain couples pop up over and over again in lineages. The couple is usually higher up the chain than what I have proven.  This has made me very curious. Some of the lines on the other side of the equation (the famous people) have been proven.  For example, the lineages of the presidents have all been thoroughly researched.  If I am connected to someone like that through one of the couples that keeps popping up I think it is a good idea for me to try and prove the connection to that couple. One of these couples is Edward Grantham and Katherine Proctor.

I match Rutherford Hayes, John Tyler, George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, William Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant, William Taft, Gerald Ford, John Kennedy, and James Garfield. To get to these presidents I have to go through Edward Grantham and Katherine Proctor. It is important to note that once you go above Edward and Katherine the lineage goes in different directions to hook up to the common ancestor of each president’s line but Edward and Katherine seem to be the critical couple.

I need to prove three generations to get to Edward and Katherine.  I “think” that my Daniel Grantham’s father was Lewis Grantham and I “think” that Lewis’ father was John Grantham who is supposedly Edward and Catherine’s son. I haven’t worked on trying to prove Daniel’s parents in quite some time. I am going to start with what I know about Daniel Grantham and then work backwards.  If I DISprove Edward Grantham and Katherine Proctor I will be blowing up quite a few lineages.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Ignatius Grantham again

I told you a little bit about Ignatius Grantham in "Hide and seek with records from burned counties." Since Ignatius was a cad I of course want to know more about him. On 08 January 1820 he claimed 401.72 acres in Jackson County, Mississippi. The Pascagoula River runs right through the middle so this was prime real estate. Ignatius didn’t hang on to it though.  He assigned it to John Williams on 18 February 1820 and then Williams turned around and assigned it to Robert Carr Lane on 20 February 1820. Here the original survey:

ss2Screenshot taken from the Bureau of Land Management’s online Plat Image files
Section 2, Township 4S, Range 7W, St. Stephens

I received the land entry file today and it is 47 pages long.1 Over the years this piece of land had some title issues. Apparently after it was assigned the patent was never filed so it looked like Ignatius still owned it.  What was interesting was a “motion for decree pro confesso” filed 11 Aug 1902 in the case of R. Roberts vs. Ignatius Grantham et als. [sic]. I had to look that up (thank you Black’s Law Dictionary). It means the defendant (Ignatius Grantham) had not answered the complaint so the court treated it as though he confessed to the charges. In that motion it states,

“That said Ignatus [sic] Grantham cannot be found in the State of Mississippi after diligent inquiry and complainant does not know and cannot ascertain or diligent inquiry of Ignatus Grantham is alive or dead, and if he left any heirs.”

This is kind of funny because in 1902 Ignatius would have been about 113 years old. I guess it was a legal thing that they had to do and they did mention possible heirs. 

This little tidbit was in the file too.  Talk about a seriously burned county! I knew about the fire in 1875 but I didn’t know it had burned two times prior to that.


The moral of the story is, if you find a patent or warrant on the Bureau of Land Management’s website you need to order the land entry file to get the “rest of the story.”
I will tell you that it is A LOT cheaper and faster if you have someone pull the records for you at the National Archives than it is to order the records from NARA.

1 Survey of 23 October 1827, Ignatius Grantham claim, Mississippi no, 135; Private Land Claim Files, 1789-1908; Record Group 49; Records of the Bureau of Land Management; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ancestry’s “Genetic Communities”

For those of you that have tested your DNA through Ancestry, most are seeing Ancestry’s new Genetic Communities.  It is still in beta so there are a few of you that can’t see this yet. It popped up on my screen the day before yesterday.  HERE is a definition of what Genetic Communities are.

The Genetic Communities are only picking up my dad’s side of the family which is perfectly understandable.  My mother is a first generation immigrant. All of her family lines are from Germany/Poland/Alsace (Prussia) and are still there. Very few people there have tested.

What I see on my screen is VERY accurate for my dad’s side. I was able to do a close-up because 100% of his dots are right here.



What was most interesting to me is the migration patterns for both communities, again, they are spot on. Here is the migration pattern for the Early Settlers of Mississippi & Louisiana. Most of my known lines follow the migration from NC to SC, AL, GA and MS.


Here is the migration pattern for the Early Settlers of the Deep South.  Notice that the point of origin is Virginia. Right now Simmons yDNA through FTDNA is leading us to Virginia for the common ancestor with migration patterns to SC, GA, TN and MS.



Here are the two big picture migrations.  The first is from the Early Settlers of Mississippi & Louisiana and the second is from the Early Settlers of the Deep South (you can tell which is which by the colors and you can match them to the above screenshots).



I am waiting for my LivingDNA results which I am hoping will pinpoint the UK connections better.

The screenshots I have shown you are only a small number of what I could have taken. The migrations are broken up by time period and I only snapped one time period.

Did I learn anything new? Not really but this did strengthen a lot of my theories. I am looking forward to Blaine Bettinger’s webinar on Genetic Communities today at 2:00 pm ET. I am hoping Blaine will show me some other things I can do with this data.

Exploring AncestryDNA’s New Genetic Communities

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Newspapers are a funny thing (spinoff two)

On Monday I posted about a 1825 divorce case.  You can read the post HERE. You can also read Spinoff one HERE. One of the sources I used was:

"Burning of the Scranton Court House," New Orleans Times, 02 March 1875, p. 4, col. 4; digital images, GenealogyBank ( : accessed 24 March 2017).

This story is about a Mississippi event but I cited a Louisiana newspaper.  Why?  GenealogyBank is my favorite newspaper site because I like their interface best. I searched GenealogyBank and found the article in the New Orleans Times but no articles from a Mississippi newspaper.  This is not surprising because GenealogyBank (nor any other online newspaper provider) has all of the newspapers that were in publication. I could have searched the other online providers to see if I could find something in Mississippi but would that have made the story more accurate?  Probably not. Just for fun I just now searched Google news, Chronicling America, Newspaper Archive (through the Boyd County Library), and Ancestry.  I didn’t find anything better than what I already had.

To give my New Orleans story a little more credibility, at the end of the article there is this notation:

—Scranton (Miss.) Star.

They got their story from the local paper (which is not online).


For those that have DNA tested with Ancestry, most of you are now seeing your “Genetic Communities.”  I am going to post my results tomorrow as well as my opinion of what I am seeing but I wanted to let you know that Blaine Bettinger is doing a Legacy Family Tree Webinar TOMORROW, Thursday at 2:00 pm ET on Exploring AncestryDNA’s New Genetic Communities. If you want to watch it live, I suggest you register early and sign in early because this one will be packed. It is free to watch live and for 7 days after it is archived.  After that you will need to be a Legacy Family Tree Webinar Subscriber.

I found an interesting Ancestry database this morning, “NARA Collections on” You can type in a NARA microfilm series number or the NARA collection title and Ancestry will see if they have the microfilm as an index, database, or database with images. Many times the Ancestry title doesn’t match the NARA title so you might not readily see that they have the title in their collection.  I have the book Guide to the Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States (3rd edition) which has all of the NARA numbers in it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When “late” doesn’t mean dead (spinoff one)

Yesterday I posted about a 1825 divorce case.  You can read the post HERE.  There is some wording in the divorce that is interesting and it could trip someone up.

“To the Sheriff of Jackson County Greeting: We command you, that of the goods and chattels, Lands and Tenements of Wm C. Seaman for Catherine Grantham late of your county…” [emphasis mine]

late of your county sounds like Catherine is dead, especially since someone else, William Seaman, is acting on her behalf. In this case “late of your county” simply means that she used to live in Jackson County, Mississippi where the order was being served. Catherine was now living in Marion County where the divorce was filed.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Hide and seek with records from burned counties

If you need to find a marriage record in Jackson County, Mississippi dated 11 January 1832, where do you look?  You look in the Wayne County, Georgia probate records of course!   

Catherine Sheffield married her first husband Ignatius Grantham in Wayne County, Georgia on 09 October 1810.1 Ignatius was a bit of a scoundrel so Catherine filed for divorce in 1825 in the Marion County, Mississippi Chancery Court.3 They had been living apart for some time because Ignatius is enumerated by himself in 1820.2 Of interest is that Catherine’s soon to be second husband William Seaman was listed as her “next friend” in the court papers and acted as her representative.

Back in Wayne County, Georgia, Catherine’s father West Sheffield died leaving behind an informative estate file. Catherine’s now second husband William was getting some serious payouts from the estate and not only is there an affidavit from Catherine Seaman attesting that she is in fact the daughter of West Sheffield there is a marriage record from Jackson County, Mississippi copied into the Wayne County, Georgia book proving that William is Catherine’s husband.4

William C. Seaman had married Catherine (Sheffield) Grantham on 11 January 1832 in Jackson County, Mississippi but the Jackson County courthouse in Scranton [now part of Pascagoula] burned in 1875. The papers that were in the safe (deeds and money) were spared but the marriage records were not.5 If William and Catherine’s marriage record had not been copied into West Sheffield’s estate papers to there would have been no record of it.

I still need to find out why Catherine moved to Marion County and filed for divorce there. She ended up going back to Jackson County to marry William. I also don’t know where Catherine was in 1820 when Ignatius was enumerated alone. 

Here is another example of finding a record from a burned county:

On 08 November 1851, Silas Simmons applied for bounty land based on his service in the War of 1812.6   In the bounty land file there were Perry County court documents dated 03 March 1855 and 31 January 1856.  Silas had to appear in court to prove that he was in fact the same Silas Simmons that fought in the 10&20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia before he could be awarded his land. So what is so special about that?  The Perry County Courthouse burned on 14 November 1877 with a complete records loss.7  The 1855 and 1856 court documents shouldn’t even exist. If I had merely looked at the information on the Bureau of Land Management website and not ordered the actual bounty land file I would have never discovered this.

1 Wayne County, Georgia, Marriage Book 1809-1869: 8, Grantham-Sheffield, 1810; Probate Court, Jesup.

2 1820 U.S. census, Jackson County, Mississippi population schedule, p. 45 (penned), line 15, Ignatius Grantham; digital images, ( : accessed 25 March 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M33, roll 58. 

3 Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals, Drawer no. 65, Case no. 15, Catherine Grantham vs. Ignatius Grantham, 21 February 1825; Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson. The case was originally filed in Marion County.

4 "Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990," images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 24 March 2017), West Sheffield estate, 1831-1833, Wayne County Court of Ordinary, Wills & Estates Records 1824-1855, p. 199-205.

5 "Burning of the Scranton Court House," New Orleans Times, 02 March 1875, p. 4, col. 4; digital images, GenealogyBank ( : accessed 24 March 2017). 

6 Silas Simmons (Pvt. 10&20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia, War of 1812), bounty land warrant file 64098 (Act of 1855, 40 acres); Military Bounty Land Warrants and Related Papers; Records of the Bureau of Land Management, Record Group 49; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

7 Martha F. Clark, Perry County, Mississippi Circuit Court Clerk to Michele Simmons Lewis, e-mail, 10 Jan 2012, “Courthouse Records,” Lewis Research Files; privately held by Lewis, Harlem, Georgia, 2012.


The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) has updated their Code of Ethics. I encourage ALL genealogists to use the code of ethics as a guideline for their own conduct while doing research.  You can also read the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Code of Ethics and the National Genealogical Society (NGS) Guidelines for Sharing Information with Others.

If you are not following Randy Seaver’s series on the “We’re Related” app by Ancestry on his Genea-Musings blog you are missing out. Every week Randy goes through his new matches and determines how likely the relationship is. I am having a lot of fun reading these. I am working on a little project of my own using the We’re Related app which you will read about later.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The joys of volunteering and pro bono work

Genealogists are a pretty generous lot and most do quite a bit of volunteer and pro bono work, even the professionals. I think it is important for genealogists to get involved in projects that benefit the community as a whole. Here are some ideas.

So what volunteer/pro bono endeavors are you involved in?


Here is an interesting blog post from The Ancestry Insider about some upcoming changes to the Find a Grave website.  You can read the blog post HERE. I think this will be a good thing.

I just can’t turn my brain off from genealogy mode. As soon as I saw that the general manager for Find a Grave is a man named Peter Drinkwater all I could think about was whether or not he could possibly be related to the Drinkwaters of Robeson County, North Carolina in the late 1700s. Sigh…

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Yesterday I asked a fellow genealogist for permission to download a form he created and tweak it for my own use. He was fine with it. There are a lot of things I ask permission for. The most common is permission to use a photograph. I have told you before that I always ask permission to download and use photos from Find a Grave.  I ask for blanket permission explaining that though I am downloading the photo for my personal file I am also a writer (blogs, newspapers, periodicals/journals) and that I might want to use the photograph sometime in the future. I assure them that full credit will be given to them as the photographer.

Not too long ago I had to ask permission to use photographs from both the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Alabama Department of Archives and History. These photos are in their online collections but that doesn’t mean you can use them without permission.  Both agencies had me fill out a pretty comprehensive form to include exactly what I would be using the photo for. I wonder how many people just download the photos without asking. After seeing these forms it is very clear that these agencies are serious about this. 

For my own protection I keep copies of the emails/snail mail letters I have received granting me permission to use something. I looked and I have permission letters dating back to 1991.


  • The Book List has been updated
  • I am not longer formatting the blog using justified alignment because the text doesn’t look good on mobile devices. I like justified text because I am a former newspaper columnist. It looks good on the internet but since many people read the blog on their phones I changed over to left justified
  • Since today’s post was about permissions, make sure you watch “Picture This: Images You Can Freely Use” by Judy G. Russell, CG. This webinar will be free to watch through 29 March 2017. After that it will archived for Legacy Family Tree Webinar subscribers only
  • National Geographic now has free printable topography maps that you can download as PDFs

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Going forward

The BCG certification process curtailed my blog posting over the last year but now I am back in the swing of things. I am doing some much needed maintenance and updates to the blog and I am also going to start posting again on a regular basis.  If there is a particular topic you would like me to address just send me an E-Mail.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

So you want to pursue certification

You can read the background for this post HERE.  I wanted to give you a little bit of advice based on a failed portfolio and a successful portfolio.

  • Read The BCG Application Guide
    This is easier than it sounds. You need to understand exactly what they are asking you to do for each component. If you don’t follow the directions you will get seriously dinged, possibly to the point of instant failure.
  • Compare each section of your portfolio to the BCG Rubrics
    The Judges use the BCG rubrics to evaluate your portfolio so you need to make sure your portfolio passes each rubric before you submit it.  You are lucky to have the rubrics up front.

  • Pay attention to the Standards listed in each Rubric
    The BCG has listed each standard that applies to that rubric which you can look up in the
    Genealogy Standards manual.  This book is essential. When you look up the standard you will see expanded information. You should be familiar with ALL of the standards in this book but pay special attention to the ones listed in the rubrics.

  • Take advantage of the helps the BCG offers
    Visit their Skillbuilding page as well as the Sample Work Products page to see samples of the different components of the portfolio and helpful articles from OnBoard, their educational newsletter. All applicants are subscribed to OnBoard when they submit their initial application. I would also follow the BCG’s Springboard News and Notes blog to keep up to date with the latest news.
    They have a page with their recommendations for Educational Preparation which you should review.  

    The BCG now contracts with Legacy Family Tree Webinars to host the BCG Webinars Series. You can register for these ahead of time and they are free to watch live and for 7 days after they have been archived. After that you will need a webinar subscription to view them. A benefit of having a webinar subscription is that you can go back and watch any of the webinars whenever you want and you will have access to the syllabuses.

  • Enroll in a ProGen Study Group
    The study group is 19 months long and it is based on the book, Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CGSM. I think this is the best prep for the portfolio because each component of the portfolio is addressed (and more). I signed up right after my failed portfolio. I was in ProGen 18 with Laurel Baty, CGSM as my coordinator and Beverly Rice (former CG) as my mentor. The members of my group still stay in touch via a secret Facebook group.

  • Read peer reviewed journals
    The National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ), The New England Historic Genealogical Society Register (The Register), and
    The American Genealogist (TAG) are at the top of the list. I also recommend that you join one of the NGSQ Study Groups. Each month you evaluate an article against the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). Being able to apply the GPS to the work of others will help you apply it to yourself. I have been in a couple of different groups because my work schedule changed. I am now in Study Group A which meets on Google+ for an asynchronous chat with Leslie Karr moderating.

  • Read Mastering Genealogical Proof by Dr. Thomas W. Jones, CGSM
    I recommend that you join one of the
    GenProof Study Groups which is based on this book. This study group is only 8 weeks long and is fast paced so you might want to go through more than once. Understanding the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is essential for your portfolio. I was in GenProof 2 with Harold Henderson, CGSM as my mentor and then I went through the special mentors’ training group with Dr. Jones himself. I have been a mentor for GenProof for two years and I am mentoring a group now (GenProof 50).  

  • Be aware that no one can give you specific help/advice on your projects nor can anyone proofread your work
    There is a special mailing list for those that are “on the clock” and you can get answers to procedural type questions there. You can also see answers to the most common questions on BCG’s Frequently Asked Questions page. As far as the portfolio work itself, you are on your own. You also can’t use any material that has been previously peer-reviewed such as a
    ProGen assignment.

  • However, proofreading is important
    When you are ready to submit set your portfolio aside for at least 24 hours (a week would be better) and then proofread it for the last time. I recommend reading it out loud. You are apt to catch something that you didn’t see before because when you read something over and over again you tend to skim. Grammar and punctuation are important as are good editing skills. More words doesn’t mean it’s a better report. Once you have done your final read through, don’t start second guessing yourself and try to go back and “fix” things. There comes a point when you just need to let it go.

  • This one was specific to me
    I don’t know if this is something you need to worry about or not but in my first portfolio I chose families for my KDP and for my Case Study that I had been working on for years. I thought that would give me a head start but it didn’t turn out that way. I had to redo everything to make sure that it was up to the current standards (some of this work was 10 years old). Going through old research and trying to fix everything that needed to be fixed made it very easy for me to make a mistake. I would have been better of starting from scratch with lines I hadn’t worked on before so that I could document everything right the first time.

Monday, March 20, 2017

2012 vs. 2016

You now know that my portfolio passed the Board for Certification of Genealogists but what most of you don’t know is this was my second attempt. I submitted my first portfolio in 2012 and it failed. It took me four years to get up the courage to go through the process again.

In 2012 I was confident that I would pass, too confident. That confidence was my downfall. When I received the judges’ comments I was mad, dejected, and embarrassed all rolled into one. It took some time for me to stop feeling sorry for myself. The judges had been right, I wasn’t ready for certification.

From 2012 to 2016 I took advantage of every learning opportunity I could and I made sure that I stayed up to date with current events within the genealogy community. After four years I finally had the courage to go through the process again. For those of you that don’t know, the process can take up to a year (longer if you ask for an extension) and then you wait for up to six months for your results. I wasn’t looking forward to that part of it.  Also, on a second attempt you are not allowed to use your previous work. You have to start over completely from scratch.

I am looking forward to seeing the judges’ comments.  I should be receiving them this week. I will be evaluating my weaknesses and creating an educational plan to address them. Even though I won’t be recertifying for five years you can bet I am already working on it.

Tomorrow I will post my best advice for those of you that are thinking about certification or are already “on the clock.”

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Federal census copies

I am currently mentoring a GenProof Study Group and someone asked an excellent question.  We were talking about how the enumerators made copies of the original forms they had carried from house to house. In some cases you might find the copy that was sent to the state which you can compare to the copy that was sent to the federal government.

The state copies, if they exist, will be in the state archives for that state. When you are looking at a federal census it is difficult to know if you are looking at an original (less likely) or an official copy (more likely). To make things worse, although there was an official number of copies that were required there could have been more (especially true of the 1790-1820). So the question is, why aren’t there state copies of the 1890 federal census which was almost completely destroyed?

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a good home reference library.

original and two copies

original and one copy

original and two copies

original and abbreviated copy

1890-1930 [and I assume beyond]
original only1

And there’s the answer. The 1890 was the first census where official copies were not made. If by chance the enumerator recopied his portion to make it neater he would have simply destroyed the draft. I highly recommend the below referenced book and make sure you read the entire chapter, “Census Media: Handwritten to Electronic.” What I listed above is only a small excerpt from that chapter.

1Kathleen W. Hinckley, Your Guide to the Federal Census for Genealogists, Researchers, and Family Historians (Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2002), 108-111.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

48 hours ago

48 hours ago I received this email:

“Congratulations and welcome! I am delighted to report that your application for BCG's Certified Genealogist® credential has been successful. You are Board-certified genealogist no. 1087, effective 16 March 2017. Your paperwork will be returned to you with a letter of welcome, a wall certificate, and a BCG pin. Please use your new initials — you earned them!”

I am still in overwhelmed mode but eventually I will be posting about the experience. It has been a long road.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

My favorite Facebook Groups

If you know me at all you know that I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I think it’s a great way to communicate with other researchers and keep up to date with what’s going on in the genealogy world.

Here is a list of my favorite Facebook groups. I do belong to more groups than this but these are the ones I am most active in. I would love for you to join in but please don’t add your friends to groups, let them join themselves.  It is okay (and encouraged) to post a general invite to a group on your wall for your friends to see but don’t add them yourself. That violates group etiquette.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

GenProof Study Groups

This past Sunday I started mentoring another GenProof Study Group (GenProof 50). I really enjoy doing this and I always learn something. I was in GenProof 2 with Harold Henderson, CG as mentor and then I was part of a special “mentors” group with Dr. Thomas W. Jones, CG. I am now leading my third group through the program. If you want to take your research to the next level I highly recommend that you sign up.

GenProof Study Groups

Friday, February 17, 2017

New Ancestor Discoveries (AncestryDNA)

I hadn’t looked closely at the “New Ancestor Discoveries” after reading some negative posts about them but today I decided to take a look. I have three married couples that are listed. The first is John Wilson Pepper and wife Martha Taylor Yates. Here is what I see when I click their names:

When John Wilson Pepper was born on March 27, 1845, in Pike, Georgia, his father, William, was 23 and his mother, Elizabeth, was 21. He was married five times and had 11 sons and nine daughters. He died on February 10, 1930, in Rusk, Texas, at the age of 84, and was buried in Henderson, Texas. 

When Martha Taylor Yates was born on March 27, 1847, in Colorado, her father, James, was 28, and her mother, Tarissa, was 29. She married John Wilson Pepper and they had 19 children together. She also had one son from another relationship. She died on May 12, 1890, in Rusk, Texas, at the age of 43, and was buried in Henderson, Texas.

I don’t have any Peppers in my file but I do have family in Pike County, Georgia so the link is more likely with Mr. Pepper than it is with wife Martha as I have no connections to Colorado at all. There are five circles that include Mr. Pepper. I have a DNA match to someone in four of those circles. Each circle has a confidence level of “strong.”

The second match is Jesse Wilburn Collier and his wife Sarah Jane Mathews:

When Jesse Wilburn Collier was born on May 28, 1828, in Moore, North Carolina, his father, Thomas, was 30 and his mother, Sarah, was 26. He married Sarah Jane Mathews on July 23, 1857, in Carroll, Georgia. They had ten children in 17 years. He died on January 18, 1915, in Marshall, Alabama, having lived a long life of 86 years, and was buried in Boaz, Alabama.

When Sarah Jane Mathews was born on August 9, 1834, in South Carolina, her father, Abel, was 42, and her mother, Nancy, was 36. She had six sons and six daughters. She died on July 2, 1912, in Marshall, Alabama, having lived a long life of 77 years, and was buried in Boaz, Alabama.

I have strong connections to Marshall County and to Boaz specifically. I connect to three Collier circles and three Mathews circles. They are the same circles.  The confidence level is strong.

The third match, Charles Thomas Pitchard and wife Permelia C. Hensley, is interesting because I can’t even see a remote connection so no starting point for me to research. Here are the descriptions:

When Charles Thomas Pritchard was born in 1821 in Wayne, Tennessee, his father, Henry, was 31 and his mother, Rachel, was 18. He had six sons and seven daughters. He died in 1863 in Searcy, Arkansas, at the age of 42, and was buried there.

When Permelia C Hensley was born in June 1832 in Tennessee, her father, Lemuel, was 47, and her mother, Mary, was 21. She married Charles Thomas Pritchard and they had 12 children together. She also had one daughter from another relationship. She then married Thomas Weeks in 1865 in Searcy, Arkansas. She died on November 20, 1908, in Sanger, Texas, having lived a long life of 76 years, and was buried there.

I don’t have either surname in my file and these locations don’t mean much to me. I match four Pritchard circles and four Hensley circles, the same fours circles, confidence level is high. This couple would be the last one I tried to investigate because I don’t have a clear starting point.

Yesterday I deleted my tree off of Ancestry and uploaded a more complete tree so I am still waiting for the “shaky leaves” to populate on my DNA page. I am going to look at the people I actually match in these circles and see if I can find some commonality. Initial impression – worth investigating.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Vulnus sclopetarium

Vulnus sclopetarium—I found this very interesting term on a soldier’s compiled service record and I had absolutely no idea what it meant. It was listed in a “disease” field.  It was actually abbreviated to Vul Sclopet. I found the answer in an article on Fold3. It means that my soldier had a gunshot wound.  Seriously?  Could they not of just said that? 

Mystery solved

For the background, read My Current Project and a Little Dilemma

Sometimes I can be dumb. I trusted a cemetery transcription and a not so good photo of a marker. John A. Cappell is really John A. Carrell and he is related to several people in the cemetery. That’s what happens when you get in a hurry. All I had to do was go to the cemetery and actually look at the marker.

Copyright © 2017 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Sunday, February 5, 2017

My current project and a little dilemma

I am a member of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church in Harlem, Georgia.  The church has been here since the Civil War. We have a cemetery and my project is to put together a reference book for the church with all of the burials with some basic genealogy information about each person, especially how everyone is related to each other. We have quite a few unmarked graves but I have been able to identify several of them through obituaries.  The Augusta Chronicle has been in publication since before the Revolutionary War and it is online making it pretty simple for anyone buried after about 1920ish.  Anything before that is iffy because obituaries weren’t that common. So far this has been a really fun project.

Now my dilemma.  There is a CSA marker in our cemetery:

John A. Cappell
Co. A
63 GA INF.
C. S. A.

I can’t find a compiled service record for John but that isn’t all that unusual. Not all of the compiled service records survived.  I can’t find a pension record for him either. The state of Georgia started granting pensions in 1870 to CSA veterans who had lost a limb in the war.  In 1879 they expanded it to all disabled veterans and their widows. In 1894 they started including veterans in their old age and those in poverty. John might not have qualified for the early pensions and/or died before the later ones.  I do have a compiled service records for a John A. Chappell (with an H).  More on him in a bit.

While researching John I found another burial of interest in the Hendricks Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery in Upson County, Georgia.

John A. Cappell
Sept. 5, 1843 - Feb. 18, 1912

The dates are consistent with someone that served in the CSA but he should have had a pension by 1912. It is not all that uncommon to have markers in more than one cemetery.  Someone could have erected a memorial marker in one or the other cemetery not knowing exactly where he was buried. John is the only Cappell buried in either cemetery.

I found John’s burial in an old cemetery survey. The cemetery itself is on Find a Grave but this burial is not. I added John to Find a Grave with a note explaining where I found the information and why I am requesting confirmation/photograph. I want to see if this marker happens to be a CSA marker.

Now about John A. Chappell (with an H). This man served in Company G of the 55th Georgia Infantry Regiment. I also have a John Chappell (spelled Chappell and Chappel) that received a pension in Rabun County, Georgia which shows that he served in a South Carolina unit first, was discharged in North Carolina and then later joined Company K of the 3rd Georgia Infantry Regiment. He was born in Abbeville District, South Carolina in 1820. Neither of these men seem to match.

Georgia didn’t start issuing death certificates until 1914 so that won’t help me. I wasn’t able to find a marriage record for John in Georgia. Almost all of Georgia marriage books are online with images. I can’t find John in the 1860 census even using fairly loose search parameters. There is a John Cappell of the right age in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana but a migration from Louisiana to Georgia would have been unusual during this time period; however, I can’t find this John in Louisiana in 1870 so I can’t totally rule him out. I can’t find John in Upson County in 1910 which would have only been 2 years before his death. I then did a search of Ancestry trees for the John Cappell that was born in 1843 and died in 1912.  Not one hit. I tried the search again at FamilySearch and found nothing there either.

So John A. Cappell is my mystery man of the day. I don’t have time to work on him any further right now. I need to get the rest of the cemetery inputted.  I will revisit John later.

What am I using to keep track of everything? Legacy of course! (shameless plug). I created a new database file for just this project. There are two other genealogists working on this project and they both use Legacy making it very easy to share data.

Copyright © 2017 Michèle Simmons Lewis


Saturday, January 21, 2017

BLM and spreadsheets

I love the Bureau of Land Management’ s General Land Office Records. I do lot of research is in the state of Mississippi which is a public land state so the BLM records are invaluable. I am working on a FAN* project involving my favorite brick wall, James Simmons (1764-1843). James’ first known land purchase in the Mississippi Territory was in 1816 (the BLM records show 1820 because that is when the note was paid off but the transaction was in 1816). I want to to see who bought land in the same township/range as James but I want to narrow it to the same time period. James’ property was in T5NR11W. I can easily do a search for everyone in that township/range but I get a list that is 6 pages long. I can get a consolidated list by clicking the Printer Friendly button in the upper right corner which is better but the list is alphabetical and not in date order. It is easy to miss something when you just scan the list. Here is what it looks like:


This table is screaming, “Put me in a spreadsheet!” I simply copied and pasted the table straight into an Open Office spreadsheet. MS Excel is my normal go to but in this case no because of the dates (MS Excel does not recognize pre 1901 dates). It pasted beautifully. I had to do two things first.

1) Format > Merge Cells
2) Highlight the date column and then Format > Cells.  Change the date so that you can see a 4 digit year.

Now I can sort. Highlight the entire spreadsheet and then go to Data > Sort. Sort by Column C (the date column) and choose Ascending.

And here is what it looks like now:



My James is right at the top. I can cross reference this against everyone that was in the same section or the adjacent sections if I wanted to. It is important to know that Section 33 happens to be on the border between townships so I need to do the same thing for T4NR11W to pick up those sections to the south that border Section 33, namely Section 4 of T4NR11W. I am a visual person so once I have my names and dates I use History Geo to show my the layouts and the proximity of the plats. You can see that the dates are on the map but I prefer to have the names and dates in my hand up front because again, if I just scan the map I might miss something.

ss2Screenshot from History Geo

* FAN = Friends, Associates, Neighbors.  This acronym was coined by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  It is a research technique where you look to the people that surround your ancestor in hopes of finding out information about your ancestor.  You can read more about it HERE.

Copyright © 2017 Michèle Simmons Lewis