Monday, September 4, 2017

The end has come

I am retiring the Ancestoring  blog for a couple of reasons. Now that MyHeritage has acquired Legacy,  my job description has changed (for the good) and I will be doing a lot more writing for Legacy News. I think it would be better for me to concentrate my blogging efforts there.

I feel overextended. I am going to give up several things that I am involved in to free up some time for myself and for my family. I am a serious Type A personality but there comes a time when something has got to give. I have been promising to sew a dress for my sweet granddaughter for a month now and the materials are still sitting on my sewing machine so…

I want to thank everyone that has supported the blog over the past five years. I have learned many things along with you as I did the background research for the posts.

I wish all of you the best in your genealogy/family history pursuits.



Tuesday, August 22, 2017


My dad had an older brother named James Filmore Simmons who was born 29 April 1935 in Lamar County, Mississippi. He died a short three years later on 24 November 1938 of Diphtheria. I am not eligible to get a copy of his birth certificate but one of my uncles was kind enough to write off for it and I now have it in my possession. The problem is Filmore’s death certificate. His death is not on file with the Mississippi Department of Health. I have inquired on three separate occasions over the years hoping that they would find it. My uncle recently contacted the Lamar County Circuit Court and they said that they didn’t know where the local copies of the death records from that time period were but they would contact the former Clerk of the Court to see if he knew.  My uncle just emailed me this…

“The current people at the Lamar County Circuit Clerk's Office checked with the former Clerk and the former Clerk stated that records that old were destroyed years ago. I guess they never expected anyone to ask for them. Since the Circuit Clerk was responsible for notifying the State, I have run into a dead end (no pun intended) and have no other place to look.”

Filmore’s dad (my grandfather) told me that he died of Diphtheria so there’s that but I feel like Filmore’s life is an incomplete story. There was no obituary in the local paper which didn’t surprise me because this was a very poor family in a rural area. The local funeral home that handled the deaths of other family members has no record of Filmore’s death and it is likely he was simply buried by the family. Filmore does have a grave marker though which is something.

James Filmore Simmons
Photograph copyright © 2011 Barbara Lee, used with permission

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

MyHeritage and Legacy


By now I am sure you have heard that MyHeritage has acquired Millennia, the parent company of Legacy Family Tree and Legacy Tree Webinars.

Here are the official press releases:

Legacy Family Tree (and an additional FAQ)

We have been pretty busy during the process so I am just now getting around to announcing it on the blog. As we move forward I will be posting more information and answering any questions that you might have. If you are on Facebook I highly recommend you join our Legacy Users Group page (over 14,000 members strong) which is monitored by some of Legacy staff and some of beta testers and translators. We have been answering everyone’s questions there as well as on our Legacy Users Group Mailing List.


Friday, July 28, 2017

DNA tip

Ancestry, FTDNA, and MyHeritage have note fields for each of your DNA matches. This is a great way to record when you attempted contact, whether or not they answered you, their GEDmatch number if they have uploaded, MRCA if you have figured it out, etc.

If you want to make contact using Ancestry it will be via an internal message.  The messages are held in a central location and not attached to the individual match so the notes field will help you keep things straight.



FTDNA does not have an internal messaging system and contact is done via email. Again, the notes field helps you keep track of attempts to contact.




MyHeritage has an internal messaging system but the messages are in a central location (like Ancestry) and not tied to the individual matches (like 23andMe). Luckily they too have a notes field.


23andMe does not have a notes field but does has a message box that holds all of the back and forth conversations that is attached to each individual match which is very useful.  You don’t need a notes field.


GEDmatch does not have a notes field.  It would be VERY useful here to know who you have contacted and who you still need to contact.  Contact with matches is done via email. I will be suggesting this to them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Keeping track of the unknowns

You can read about who I am trying to keep track of HERE.

I have entered the one known lineage and the three unknown brick wall ancestors into Legacy. Since all of this is speculative at the moment I have made them invisible. Invisible means that if I ever export my file or a part of my file these people will not be included.  They don’t exist anywhere but on my hard drive. Why do I enter them like they are real people even though they are not proven?  Because I can work with them much easier this way.  I can use them to directly sync to FamilySearch* and I can use Legacy’s new hinting feature.  As I learn more things about them I will enter the information including my sources.  I can also add Hashtags to these guys putting them into different groups.  I have a bunch of Hashtags already set up for my DNA projects.  I also add them to location Hashtags.  What I am eventually hoping to find are overlaps which will give me a clue as to which known Simmons groups these guys belong to.  When I first add them I add a special source to every fact.  Since these people are invisible and no one can see them but me this is only to help me keep track of what all I still need to look at and source.  The source looks like this:  DNA Match - Lineage not Confirmed. 

* When I say sync what I mean is I can see what FamilySearch has on this person through Legacy’s direct syncing capability but I don’t have to actually transfer any information.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Don’t ignore the 12 marker matches

If you have been following the blog for any length of time you will know that my all time #1 brick wall ancestor is James Simmons born 14 Aug 1764. I am trying to solve the big mystery of who his parents were using yDNA. My paternal uncle matches two men at 110 out of 111 markers which is about as good as you are ever going to see at this level of testing. As of yet the three lines do not connect even though all three lines are back far enough in time for the connection to be right at out fingertips.  My line is proven and one of the other lines is proven.  The third line, the one that goes back in time one more generation than the other two, is unproven. I have been unable to get ahold of the that tester for over two years. The other researcher and I are in the process of trying to prove that third line up the chain but we have 3 connections that we haven’t been able to prove yet.

In the meantime, if I drop down to 67 markers I pick up three more matches but they aren’t good ones.  Different surnames and genetic distances of 6-7.  When I drop down to 37 I have no new matches there to content with. When I drop to 25 I pick up a lot of matches but the genetic distance is too far off and there are no surname matches.

But when I drop to 12 markers…

I pick up four men with the surname Simmons that are a 12 out of 12 marker match.  All three only tested at 12 markers so I am not seeing them at the higher levels.  All three are in the right haplogroup. One of the four has a tree that leads back to the right area of the country. The other three don’t have trees. One of those three has his brick wall ancestor listed and he is in the right place.  Another has his brick wall ancestor listed but no locations. The third has his brick wall ancestor a good 3 generations farther back in time and in England but no pedigree so I don’t know if that is valid or not. Normally I don’t put too much stock in 12 marker matches but these have some promise.

That’s the good news.  That bad news is that none of the four has answered my emails. I have politely asked for their Simmons lineage and I requested they consider upgrading to 67 markers.

While I impatiently wait for a response I am actively working with what I have, one pedigree and three brick wall ancestors. I will be seeing what I can match up on FamilySearch and on Ancestry. I might even find my testers there and can try and contact them that way.

Next time I will tell you about a couple of little tricks that I do in Legacy to help me with this.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

It’s not the end of the world

Major panic attack on Facebook this week after Ancestry announced that starting July 18th each DNA sample will have to have its own Ancestry account.  Here is the official announcement by Ancestry:

Enhancing Collaboration and Roles on DNA Results

Many of us manage multiple kits under our account so this will be a change for us, however, it isn’t horrible. A little more work maybe but not horrible. If you manage multiple accounts at FTDNA you will be used to this sort of thing and Ancestry’s system will actually be less work than FTDNA’s in the long run. If you already have multiple kits under your account those won’t change. This will only affect new kits.

Since I need testers for specific dilemmas many of the people I ask to test are not genealogists and some don’t even have a computer so how will I handle this?

1) Set up a Gmail account for each test that you activate. You will need to come up with some sort of unique naming system for the accounts so that they follow a pattern to make it easier on you. Genetic genealogists already keep very detailed records so this isn’t going to be a big deal.

2) Have all mail from those accounts forwarded to your account. In Gmail click the gear icon and then go to Settings > Forwarding.

3) Create a new Ancestry account using the above address. One account per kit.

4) Log into this new Ancestry account and set yourself as “Manager” for that DNA.  When you log into your account you will see this DNA on your list.  Managers can do everything that the owner of the DNA can do except remove managers from the account.  You can even download the raw data.  If you have ever tried to talk someone through how to download their raw DNA so that you could get their DNA on GEDmatch you will know how nice this is. Since you have a paid account (most likely) you can do a lot more with the DNA from your account than you could if you logged into the free account.

Having said all of that.  Make your that you have PERMISSION from your test taker to do all of this. FULL DISCLOSURE is a MUST. You need to explain exactly why you need their DNA and what exactly you plan to do with it.  You also need to warn them about any surprises that could be uncovered. If they are comfortable with computers you can provide them with the login for their Ancestry account though you will be able to provide better information for them from your account.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


LivingDNA contacted me awhile back and offered me a free DNA test in exchange for an honest evaluation. No way I was going to pass that up.  I didn’t have to actually test. I sent them my raw DNA file from 23andMe. They do not normally accept raw DNA transfers. You must test with them, at least right now.

I was interested in LivingDNA because of their emphasis on the UK. They have started a new German project as well which I will be equally interested in.  Why is the UK and Germany interesting to me?  I “know” that certain brick wall lines originated in the UK but I don’t know where exactly.  I thought this test might help narrow it for me. One-half of my DNA is Germanic (Germany, present day Poland, and present day Alsace) so any insights on my German half is also appreciated.

My general breakdown is exactly what I expected. It matches my paper research very well.


Where it gets interesting is when you click the Sub Regions.  It is hard to see in screenshots. You can’t see the entire list over on the left, but how cool is this!  Look how the UK is broken down.


You can then click each individual region to get a closer look.  The lightly shaded area are additional regions but I only have South Central England highlighted.


Because I transferred my raw data and didn’t directly test with them I was not given my mtDNA haplogroup (men would also get their yDNA haplogroup).  They don’t do full yDNA and mtDNA testing but will provide the haplogroups as well as haplogroup maps and trees.

With their emphasis on the UK and soon Germany I think it is well worth your while to test with LivingDNA if you are interested in these areas.  All serious DNA researchers should have their DNA in EVERY pool and that includes LivingDNA. As with any company that reports ethnicity, the results will become more refined over time as they add more reference populations.

They do not have cousin matching yet but it is coming. Since LivingDNA's focus is international testing this will open up all kinds of new avenues.

I received my test results for free.  Would I have paid for it?  Yes.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Keeping up with DNA

Several people have asked me how I keep up to date with what all is going on in the world of genetic genealogy. Here are the resources I count on.


Facebook Groups



Sunday, June 25, 2017

All quiet in Georgia and Trello

I’ve been a bit quiet of late. Besides Legacy  keeping my very busy I am also working on two complex DNA cases. Both are non paternity events (NPEs) requiring a lot of my time and brain power. These are client cases so I am starting completely from scratch.  One is based in West Virginia and the other is based in California, two places where I haven’t done much research before.  This isn’t a bad thing though. Learning what records these two states and their counties have has been interesting and I will be tucking all of the information away so that I can use it again.

My new toy is Trello. I had played around with it a bit but until I watched Your Whiteboard in the Cloud: Trello for Genealogists by Lisa Alzo I didn’t understand how useful it could be.  Now that I am using it, I love it.  There is also a Trello for Genealogy and Family History Facebook Group that you join.

I have four boards:

  • Ancestoring — My business stuff, the blog, lecture/workshop dates, articles that I am writing, client projects
  • Genealogy — My personal genealogy
  • Legacy — My job at Legacy
  • Household — Yes, I actually have a life outside of genealogy

All of my boards are all set up the same way:

  • To Do
  • In Progress
  • Done
  • Ideas

For now I am keeping it as simple as possible but I will probably end up expanding it a bit in the future. When I start up Google Chrome in the morning four pages automatically load.  Trello is one of them.  It is always in the background so that I can switch to it quickly.  You can even have collaborative boards with other researchers.  I haven’t done this yet but this would be great for brick wall research. I need all the help I can get with staying organized.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

GEDmatch tip

After you have done your "one to many" comparison on GEDmatch, you can copy and paste the information into MS Word. Change the page orientation to Landscape, set the margins to 0.25 all the way around and set the font to Calibri 10. These settings will make everything format correctly and be readable but you can certainly tweak. If you notice, the check boxes are visible AND usable. This makes a great worksheet to keep track of who you have contacted and which testers you can link to a most recent common ancestor (MRCA).

In the below example I have blanked out the details for privacy. If there is a check mark I know exactly who that person is and how they fit in. I did this screenshot as an example for the blog but my real one is also color coded. If I have contacted someone but I haven't heard back yet, I color code that line red. That keeps me from accidentally emailing the same person more than once.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Kitty Cooper is my hero today

Kitty Cooper has designed an Ancestor Chromosome Mapper tool. It has actually been around for a long time but every time I looked at it I was a little intimated so I ignored it. Today I decided to bite the bullet and generate a chromosome map for my family. I pulled data from GEDmatch.  I did a “One to Many” comparison and then check marked the boxes of the people that I know who the most recent common ancestor (MCRA) is.  I then downloaded the segment info into a CSV file.  GEDmatch includes not only the segment data for your matches but also how all of your matches match each other so I deleted the rows below my matches.  I then manipulated the columns per Kitty’s instructions and uploaded the file.  MAGIC!  This is a very limited map that only includes a few of my matches but now that I know how this works I can start adding more data into my master spreadsheet.


But that’s not all Kitty is helping me with today.  I haven’t had the time to work with putting my GEDmatch matches into tagged groups and that is what I am doing now thanks to Kitty’s GEDmatch Tag Groups blog post.

You can use Kitty’s Ancestor Chromosome Mapper free of charge but please consider sending her a donation for all of her hard work. There is a link at the bottom of her page that has instructions on how you can do that.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Never give up!

There is a particular chancery court in Mississippi that gives me fits. Trying to get anything from them is like pulling teeth. Formal requests by letter are ignored. If you call them on the phone with the EXACT details they don’t have the time to pull it. I have been fighting with them for years.  Funny thing is, the circuit court in the very same county is one of the best ones to work with. Yesterday I got a package in the mail from the chancery court.  They sent me divorce records I requested almost two years ago. I honestly think they sent them just to aggravate me but no matter, I will take them.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

DNA groups on Facebook

There are a couple of unscrupulous DNA groups on Facebook that claim to help adoptees find their birth families. The “searchers” misrepresent themselves as experts when they are not and they are asking for money to “help” with your searches. If you are an adoptee looking for your birth family, or you are a birth family member looking for the adoptee, the group you need to join is Search Squad. The “Search Angels” volunteer their time and expertise and they are vetted by the administrators.  I am one of those Search Angels and I am appalled at what I am seeing in some other groups. Search Squad is an sister group to CeCe Moore’s DNA Detectives group.

Here is the description of the DNA Detectives group:

“The DNA Detectives group is focused on bringing together volunteers with genetic genealogy and searching experience with those seeking biological family -- adoptees, foundlings, donor-conceived individuals, unknown paternity and all other types of unknown parentage cases, near or far. This group is for members helping members and self-education.”

And here is some information from Search Squad pinned post:

“We are a group of VOLUNTEER Search Angels. We called this group Search Squad for a reason - we work together as a team and amazing things happen. Cases are not assigned - this group is truly a squad and we work together on cases. Each volunteer has their own set of skills and databases and chooses posts they think they can help with...then finds and posts information that other volunteers can work from when they are here. With that being said, there can also be people here who are not helpful and may even be harmful. Be cautious when communicating in private with any individual, trust your instincts. If you keep your search in the open on this group, we can monitor and jump in if something seems off. If you have concerns, please let an admin know. We conduct searches on your post. We do not use email, phone calls, or texting to work your search, we work as a TEAM. You may be contacted by an “Authorized Angel” in a PM with questions or sensitive information. Those “Authorized Angels” can be found in the files section, and are also linked in your “welcome” post after your post is approved.”

DNA Detectives is more for the do-it-yourselfer and for people wanting to learn more about DNA strategies.  There are quite a few expert genetic genealogists that monitor and contribute to this group so it is a great learning environment.

Search Squad is more for the person that does not have much experience with traditional genealogy or genetic genealogy and needs help with their search.

If you stick to these two groups you will not go wrong. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Document vs. record group, Part II

I received several emails asking for another example of a document vs. a record group.  You can see the original post HERE.

Let’s say you are looking for a marriage that occurred in Marion County, Mississippi in 1825. What kind of background information would you want to know?

  • What were the laws governing marriages in Mississippi in 1825
  • Which court handled marriages
  • How did that court organize their marriage records (loose papers, registers, books, separate books for bonds vs. licenses vs. certificates, etc.) and did the organizational system change over the years
  • Is there any records loss
  • Are you looking at the original records or are you looking at official abstracts/indexes created by the clerk at a later date
  • Can you identify different clerks and analyze their style during the time period you are interested in

Here are two books that discuss analyzing the record group as a whole when you do your analysis of the actual document:

Anderson, Robert Charles. Elements of Genealogical Analysis. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014.

Osborn, Helen. Genealogy: Essential Research Methods. Ramsbury, Eng.: Robert Hale, 2012.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Document vs. record group

In Focus on the Details I mentioned putting a document in the context of the entire record set to which it belongs. I wanted to expand on that. 

Let’s say you are looking at the 1850 census and you see your family of interest.  You extract the information you need and you create your source citation.  Do you take the time to learn more about the 1850 census itself?

The United States Census Bureau is a good place to start.  They have a large History section on their webpage. If you drill down a bit you will see a page for Census Instructions and then you can pull up the Instructions for 1850.

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration also has a Census Records page.

A must have book for your reference library is:

Hinckley, Kathleen W. Your Guide to the Federal Census. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2002.

I also like:

Fulton, Lindsey. "The Portable Genealogist: Using the Federal Census: 1790-1840." Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2015.

Fulton, Lindsey. "The Portable Genealogist: Using the Federal Census: 1850-1940." Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2015.

Understanding the background information for the entire record group will help you interpret the data you find on a document within that set correctly. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Day 6–Focus on the details

This method goes along with Gather All Clues. Now you need to focus on the details of each clue you have gathered. Sherlock was very detail oriented. He wanted to know who, what, when, where and why for every clue. When you are looking a document, you will understand it better if you answer these questions:

"Who created this document?"
"Why was the document created?"
"When was the document created?" (not only the date but put the document in context of the entire record set and in context of what was going on at that place and time)
"Who are all of these other people mentioned?" (how do they relate to each other)
"Are there other documents that could shed light on this one?"

"It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” [Holmes to client Miss Mary Sutherland, "A Case of Identity"]

“It is, of course, a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles." [Holmes to client Mrs. St. Clair, "The Man with the Twisted Lip"]

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Day 5– Gather ALL clues

Sherlock gathered ALL of the clues from the scene of a crime even if he didn’t know if they were relevant or not. Genealogists make the mistake of gathering only what they think is important and then they miss something vital along the way. Take the time to look at the neighbors in the census records. Do background research on the location to see what was going on during that time period. Extract ALL the names mentioned in official documents. Make note of the deeds before and after the ones you are interested in. Look at everyone with the same name in the same area and develop a profile on each one of them. Over time you will be able to figure out which facts go with which person and then you will be able to exclude those that don't belong to your person of interest.

“As I watched him I was irresistibly reminded of a pure-blooded, well-trained foxhound, as it dashes backward and forward through the covert, whining in its eagerness, until it comes across the lost scent.” [Watson observing Holmes, "A Study in Scarlet"]

“Well, Mr. Holmes, what are we to do with that fact?”
“To remember it – to docket it. We may come on something later which will bear upon it.” [Inspector Lestrade to Holmes and Holmes' response, "The Six Napoleons"]

"I had at the outset no particular reason to connect these journeys with the disappearance of Godfrey Staunton, and was only inclined to investigate them on the general grounds that everything which concerns Dr. Armstrong is at present of interest to us…” [Holmes to Watson, "The Missing Three-Quarter"]

"Much of what I tell you is no doubt quite irrelevant, but still I feel that it is best that I should let you have all the facts and leave you to select for yourself those which will be of most service to you in helping you to your conclusions.” [Watson to Holmes in a letter, "The Hound of the Baskervilles"]

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A husband for Katie

The background information for this story is in Mystery Marker and Update to Mystery Marker. It has been a year and a half since I last looked at this.  I am a big believer in two heads are better than one so yesterday I posted a query on a Facebook group that I belong to and Mississippi researcher “GJ” jumped at the challenge.  We started trading information back and forth and within three hours we had the answer. We used newspapers, city directories, social security applications/claims, draft registrations, census records and Find a Grave to put the pieces together.

Catherine Elizabeth “Katie” (Hickman) Warden married Oliver Searcy Simmons.  It was the second marriage for both of them. We have a paper trail but I will be calling the Forrest County Circuit Court to request a copy of their marriage license/certificate to seal the deal.  I already had Oliver in my file as I knew I would.  I doubt if there is a Simmons in Perry, Forrest, Lamar or Marion County that I don’t know.  What I didn’t know is that Searcy remarried after his first wife died.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Another must have book

Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA

This book is in a workbook format like the others in this National Genealogical Society’s series. Here are the others:

I have the previous three books and recommend them.  I am looking forward to the new book which will begin shipping on May 22nd.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

More on spreadsheets (some mistakes)

Someone on the Excel-ling Genealogists Facebook group page wanted an example of how I use a spreadsheet to analyze data.

This is actually an old spreadsheet I did and now I want to go back and clean it up to make it better. In a nutshell, there were THREE Mathew Pattons in Augusta County, Virginia at the same time. I am trying to separate the three men.

DISCLAIMER: You will see that I am using Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, a three volume set of document abstracts that is available online. I normally harp on the importance of obtaining copies of the documents themselves but right now I am compiling data for a process of elimination. Abstracts are exactly what I need for this.

I inputted every entry for every Patton (not just Mathew). I also had a couple of newspaper clippings that helped differentiate the three. My mistake with the spreadsheet was that I needed columns for other people mentioned in the document so that I could pick up patterns of who each person was associated with. This was a big mistake because I have 354 documents entered! I will look through the old spreadsheet and see the max number of witnesses for an event and then create that many extra columns. 

Another thing I need to do is reverse the names so that they sort better. I need James Patton and Col. James Patton to sort next to each other so I need to do Patton, James and Patton, James Col. Titles are very important when trying to separate men with the same name. Another clue is when a man always used his middle initial.

I also want to add a column indicating the type of document. This won't help with the analysis but it will make it tidier. Since I will have associates listed I might get rid of the Event column completely and maybe add a comments column in case there is something really important I need to mention.

Anyway, I wanted to show an early attempt at a spreadsheet along with some ideas of how to make it better.




I will be able to sort by the person, the associates or the date. I can also sort using multiple parameters. The more ways you can sort your data, the easier it will be to see the patterns you need to see.

Monday, May 8, 2017

I have no clue but I am very happy about it

UPDATE: Thank you Tim Firkowski for letting me know these records are actually in RUSSIAN! I did tell y’all that I had no clue and I also told you that I would probably need to learn some Russian too.  So here are some additional resources:
FamilySearch’s Russian Word List
FamilySearch’s Russian Alphabet Key
Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 1: The Russian Alphabet
Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 2: Russian Names, Dates, and Key Words
Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 3: Reading Russian Records

The Polish Archives in Łódź just sent me scans of seven death certificates. I can’t read one word of Polish and I don’t even know which one belongs to which person yet but I don’t care. The most important thing is I now have a new resource for a very important branch of my family, my maternal grandfather’s line.  These death certificates are just a start. The Polish Archives also has birth and marriage records and my grandfather’s family was in the area that became Poland since the early 1700s at the least.

All I have to do is learn a bit of essential Polish and I am well on my way. Chances are I will eventually need to learn some essential Russian also.  I do have German covered though.

My starting point is FamilySearch’s Polish Word List and their Polish Alphabet Examples. The handwriting on all seven death certificates is very clear which will make things much easier.

Look what else I found:
Reading Polish Handwritten Records Lesson 1: Polish Letters
Reading Polish Handwritten Records Lesson 2: Names, Dates, and Key Words
Reading Polish Handwritten Records Lesson 3: Reading Polish Records

I can’t say enough about how great a resource FamilySearch is.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

When the county clerk does you a favor (or not)

When you contact a county clerk and request a copy of a marriage record it is important to tell the clerk that you want a copy of the ORIGINAL record as it is in the marriage book. If not, you might get this:


The clerk thinks she has done you a favor by copying the information out of the marriage book and putting it on this nice certificate.  Here is the copy from Marriage Book D, page 240:

Simmons-Boon marriage 1880

In the original record Isaac’s name is Wm. Isaac Simmons. The clerk totally missed Isaac’s first name. Notice that Mary is listed as Mary Boon (no e) as well as Mary Boone (with an e). Also notice that the minister is listed as D. Boon. This might not seem significant but it actually is. The clerk transcribed their names as Boone without noting the two spellings. Their surname was actually Boon with no e. D. Boon was either Daniel her father or Daniel her brother. Both were preachers as was another brother. The original record also tells me that they applied for their marriage license on 18 November 1880. It that earthshattering news?  No, but I still have a more complete picture knowing when they applied for their marriage license vs. when they actually got married. In this case it isn’t a big deal but what if there was a 2 month difference?  I would try and find out why. The clerk’s name doesn’t appear on the transcribed certificate either.  A. G. Webb could have easily been someone that I know since I am familiar with the entire community. This marriage puts A. G. Webb at a specific place and time and gives me his occupation.

Here are Daniel Boon’s six remaining children out of 15 circa 1925. From left to right: Margaret Elenda (Boon) Hartfield, John Moses Boon, Elisha Boon, Thomas A. Boon, Mary Catherine (Boon) Simmons, Reuben Boon. 

Boon, Daniel 01

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Don’t be an online genealogist estimates that only 7% of the world’s available documents are online. I want you to think about that. Do you have a brick wall that you can’t break through?  Maybe this is the reason. Online records are great and I love being able to sit back in my office and go click click click with my mouse but I also do old fashioned research at courthouses, archives, and libraries. I guess it might be easier for me because when I started out in 1991 I didn’t own a computer. It didn’t matter because there wasn’t any genealogical anything online. 100% of my research was done onsite or by snail mail. Some genealogists just starting out don’t understand this. I get many emails from people telling me they can’t find so and so and I ask them did you check ______? I can feel the deer-in-the-headlights reaction in their answer.

The trick is knowing what records are available for that specific location and time period and then knowing how to access them. There are many resources that can help you with this. Here are a just few books to give you an idea of the type of reference material out there that can guide you.

Breland, Claudia. Searching for Your Ancestors in Historic Newspapers. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Claudia Breland, 2014.

Darrow, Carol Cooke and Susan Winchester. The Genealogist's Guide to Researching Tax Records. Westminster, Md.: Heritage Books, 2007.

Eales, Anne Bruner and Robert M. Kvasnicka, editors. Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States. Third edition. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2000.

Eichholz, Alice, editor. RedBook, American State, County, and Town Sources. Third edition. Provo, Utah: 2004.

Hone, E. Wade. Land and Property Research in the United States. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Incorporated, 1997.

Meyerink, Kory L., editor. Printed Sources, A Guide to Published Genealogical Records. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Incorporated, 1998.

Neagles, James C. U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal & State Sources, Colonial America to the Present. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1998.

Rose, Christine. Courthouse Research for Family Historians, Your Guide to Genealogical Treasure. San Jose, Calif.: CR Publications, 2004.

The Handybook for Genealogists. Tenth edition. Draper, Utah: Everton Publishers, 2002.

Szuc, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, editors. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. Third edition. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2006.

Another great resource is the FamilySearch Wiki. This is the first thing I check when I am working in an unfamiliar state, county or record group.

It is a good idea to keep “locality files.” This is a term from an old Family History Library Research Guide on how to organize your paper files. These Research Guides are what people used before the FamilySearch Wiki. Today most genealogists keep electronic notes in applications such as Evernote or OneNote instead of using paper files. You need to create your own reference material for each county, state, country you do research in as well as general reference material on the major record groups (military, land, probate, etc.).  This will save you time the next time you are researching someone in that same jurisdiction and time period.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Day 4–Go with the obvious

When you are forming your hypotheses, go with the obvious answer first. You can always amend your theory later. Here are a couple of very simple examples:

If you see John Q. Citizen, age 32, living with Mary Jane Citizen, age 30 on the 1850 census, the obvious conclusion is that they were husband and wife even though the census doesn't say so. Yes, they could be brother and sister or some other relationship but go with the obvious until other clues come in that cause you to rethink your position.

John and Mary Jane Citizen were living in Perry County, MS in 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 per the census records. All of their children were born doing that time period. The obvious conclusion would be that all of the children were born in Perry County, MS. It is possible that Mary was visiting her sister in Marion County in 1864 when son Thomas was born but that is a more unlikely scenario. Again, you may find some evidence further down the road that leads you in that direction but for right now you can make the assumption that the children were born in Perry County.

“Perhaps, when a man has special knowledge and special powers like my own, it rather encourages him to seek a complex explanation when a simpler one is at hand.” [Holmes to Inspector Stanley Hopkins of Scotland Yard, "The Abbey Grange"]

“It is possible.”
“More than that. It is probable.” [Watson to Holmes and Holmes’ response, “The Five Orange Pips”]

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Education overload

Institutes, conferences, webinars, certificate programs, online classes, online study groups, Google Hangouts, seminars, workshops, lectures, how-to books, podcasts—I am sure there are many more types of genealogical education out there.

I love learning new things but there comes a point when you are spending more time trying to attend the latest and greatest educational opportunities and less time doing actual research.

You need to formulate a focused educational plan that takes into consideration your level of expertise, what types of research you do, and specific gaps in your knowledge. No one can learn everything there is to know about everything so a shotgun approach to education isn’t going to work.

Here are some resources that will help you design a personalized educational plan:

Sometimes the best education is simply diving into a new project and learning along the way. This will work for you if you have access to a good reference library and you have good general research skills. 

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.