Friday, November 21, 2014

More on contemporary compiled service records

In response to the blog post Vietnam era military records, Clare asks:

Where did you get the compiled service record for your dad? Did it cost much?  I'd like to get my husband’s.

Here is the link:

In the packet that I received they advised that the medals and ribbons would be coming directly from the Air Force.

Everything was completely free.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Vietnam era military records


Several people have asked me if you can get Vietnam era compiled service records.  The answer is no unless you are the veteran.  If the veteran is deceased then the surviving spouse or child can get the records.  When my dad died I was able to get his entire military service record.  The Air Force also sent all of my dad’s medals and ribbons which was a nice surprise. It was very much appreciated.  I got a real kick out of reading my dad’s yearly evaluations.  He had a bit of an attitude.  If you knew my dad you wouldn’t be a bit surprised that his commanding officers mentioned it a time or two. He had a hot temper and liked to get into fights.  He also didn’t like people telling him what to do.  Even so, he was good at his job and made it to the rank of Senior Master Sergeant by the time he retired.  Not bad considering he got busted a couple of time.

There is some Vietnam era (and Korean War) information that has been publically released such as causality lists, POW/MIA lists and lists of people who received military awards and honors.  Fold3 also has Navy Muster Rolls 1949-1971 which surprised me a bit since these most certainly contain names of living people.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Word lists


If you are doing research in other languages you will want to create a word list for that language. FamilySearch has wonderful genealogy word lists for most languages but these are not enough.  When you are actually looking at parish records or civil registry records there will be words that are idiosyncratic to that specific area of the country or even that specific parish or civil jurisdiction.   Certain ministers or civil clerks may use particular words and phrases over and over.  You need to make a note of these words so that you aren’t spending all of your time looking things up in a dictionary.  Be aware that Latin is commonly used in parish records so you will also need a word list for that.  Latin is much less flexible than the other languages so the printed word list from FamilySearch will likely be all you need. 

Screenshot from the FamilySearch Wiki


Here are a few of the word lists.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words

Michael John Neill wrote a great blog post this week, Pencil and Paper Sometimes Will DoI laughed when I saw his little chart because I do this all the time.  Whenever someone wants me to help them with a dilemma I have to draw out the family or it won’t make sense to me.  

The Columbia County [GA] Genealogical Society had a “Genealogy Road Show” not too long ago.  Two of the cases presented were a bit complicated and the best way to show the family structure was by using a diagram like this.  I fancied it up for the presentation using Popplet but the concept is the same.  Sometimes it just makes more sense if you can actual see it.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, November 17, 2014

An image of an index is still an index

There are some indexes on FamilySearch, and other websites that have images of the index attached. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if there is an image that it is automatically an image of an original document.  An image of an index record is still only an index.  Here are two examples, one from and one from FamilySearch.

Texas Birth Index (

birthScreenshot from

Even though this is an official index from the Texas Department of Health it is still an index and you would cite it as such.  You would not cite this the same way as you would cite a birth certificate.


California, San Diego Naturalization Index, 1868-1958 (on FamilySearch, linked to Fold3)

natScreenshot from Fold3

This is not the person’s naturalization papers.  This index will help you locate the naturalization papers but if you think that the information contained on this card is all there is then you are cheating yourself out of a lot of information.  The actual naturalization papers are a goldmine of information.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, November 13, 2014

When things don’t make sense

In the blog post Sometimes you get disappointed (or not) I introduced you to three brothers that fought together in the same unit (10 and 20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia) during the War of 1812.  I made a passing statement that the men were from Mississippi so what were they doing in a Louisiana militia unit when the Mississippi Territory had its own militia.

When I received William, Silas and James Jr.’s compiled service records as well as Silas and James Jr.’s bounty land entry files from NARA I was a little perplexed.  I had all three men in the Mississippi Territory before the war.  Silas and James’ bounty land applications confirmed that they were definitely the correct men because their bounty land was in Perry and Copiah Counties in Mississippi and it was granted for their service during the War of 1812 in the Louisiana Militia.  So why would three brothers from Mississippi fight in a Louisiana unit especially considering that their home was nowhere near the Louisiana border?

When you have something that doesn’t make sense you need to investigate it further to see if you can find a logical answer.  My answer was in this book: 

Casey, Powell A. Louisiana in the War of 1812.  Baton Rouge, Louisiana: n.p., 1963.

Apparently there were several Mississippi militia units that merged with Louisiana ones during the war. Mississippi officers even took over command of Louisiana units.  Great information!  Now I have an explanation.  I still need to do some additional research because I would love to know which Mississippi militia unit the three men were originally attached to.  Right now all I know is that the three men were in the 10th regiment (Louisiana) under Captain Chance and then came together in the 10 and 20 Consolidated unit under Capt. Neasom.  If you read the previous post I was unsure of Captain Chance’s surname but after a bit of research into the names of the company it turns out it was Chance.  Too bad they didn’t use a typewriter to print out the compiled service record cards.

P. S.  Two of my daughters and I are off to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to spend the weekend Christmas shopping.  I won’t be back on the blog until Monday.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The funny thing about census and tax lists

I watch the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness - RAOGK USA Facebook page and someone posted a question about a 1820 Ashe County census that appeared to be alphabetized and it was throwing her for a loop.   After I explained some things to her she said that someone should do an article on this subject.  Ah, an opportunity.

Your Guide to the Federal Census for Genealogists, Researchers and Family Historians by Kathleen W. Hinckley is an excellent resource for all things census.  The information that the RAOGK poster needed is in Chapter 5.

For the 1790 through 1820 census TWO copies were made from the original to make a total of three.  One was sent to the federal district court and two were posted for public viewing so that they could be examined and corrections made.  Here is a quote directly from Kathleen’s book that give the RAOGK poster her answer.

“Some marshals also took it upon themselves not only to copy the record, but to rearrange the entries in alphabetical order—sometimes by the first letter of the surname and sometimes the first letter of [the] given name.  In most cases, the filmed version is not the true original but rather the second or third copy made after corrections were made by the citizens.”  [page 109]    

The same thing happened with tax lists.  After all the information was collected the lists would be recopied, sometimes in alphabetical order.  The good news is that it is usually easy to find someone on these lists, especially if the tax roll has not been indexed.  The bad news is that you have no idea who was living next to whom and in genealogy that is a very important piece of information to have.

Here is a screenshot from the 1812 Marion County, Mississippi Territorial Tax Roll as an example.  I am not including the entire page because it would be too small to read.  This is Page 1 showing the A’s and some of the B’s

tax"Mississippi, State Archives, Various Records, 1820-1951," index and images, FamilySearch (,212062301 : accessed 09 Nov 2014), Marion > Territorial tax rolls 1812, Box 140 > image 3 of 13; Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson.

So does the original exist?  Maybe, maybe not.  To find out you would need to check with the state archives and the local county courthouse for that county.  You might not find the original but you might find that both of the hand copied versions exist.  If so, you might want to compare them because the two copies could be different.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Legacy’s User ID field


I don’t feel as though I have done a complete job with an ancestor until I have found their final resting place.  Of course I won’t be able to find a burial location for everyone in my file, especially the farther back in time I go.  Even so, I do try.  Find A Grave is a resource that I use all of the time. 

Diane Gould Hall of Michigan Family Trails made a great suggestion on the Technology for Genealogy  Facebook page.  She uses Legacy’s User ID field to record the Find A Grave Memorial number.  I decided to take it a step further and use this field to record everything I need to know about Find A Grave.  Here are some screenshots of how I use the User ID field.


If I record a Find A Grave memorial number in the User ID field that means that not only does this person have a memorial, there is a photo AND I have permission to use the photo.  

fag 1


In the next screenshot I have a memorial number but it also says req. photo which means I have sent a request to have John’s marker photographed.  You can see that I don’t have much info on him so a marker photo would be very helpful.  I have his marriage record to his wife so I know his name and who he married (his wife is in my line).  I have an approximate birth date based on when he got married.  Someone has my John Green on Find A Grave but there is no photo so I have requested that one be taken. If you pull up the memorial for John you will see that the person included an obituary.  I can’t use that obituary for a couple of reasons.  It is not sourced and I have no way of knowing if the transcription is correct.  Notice the green box in the screenshot.  See the O next to the To-Do List icon?  That means I have an open task.  That task is tracking down the obituary.  I have sent a request to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for the obituary to be copied off of microfilm.

fag 2


In the next screenshot the word permission has been added.   This means that Cassie has a memorial and there is a photo but I am waiting for permission to use the photograph.  It is a copyright violation to download and use a Find A Grave photo without the consent of the photographer. Notice that I have all of the fields filled in and they are sourced.  That is because I have her death certificate.  I would still like a photograph of her marker.

Fag 3


Just to emphasize the importance of getting permission from the photographer here is a screenshot showing how I have downloaded a photo and attached it to my Legacy file.  I give credit to the photographer both on the photo and in the citation.

Fag 4

And here is the citation:

Find A Grave, digital images ( : accessed 01 November 2013), Kizzire Jenkins marker, Memorial #36842743, photograph by Belford Carver. 

I use Find A Grave as a source if and only if there is a photograph, never without.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, November 10, 2014

Official launch of The Surname Society


Today is the official public launch day for The Surname Society.  I have been involved with this project for quite some time and I have registered the following surnames:

Simmons – my maiden name
Weichert – my mother’s maiden name
Glaentzer – my maternal grandmother’s maiden name
Feige – my maternal grandfather’s mother’s maiden name
Bodenheim – my maternal grandmother’s mother’s maiden name

I chose Simmons of course because it is my maiden name and because there is a DNA project page to go with it.  I chose the other four because these are my 4 maternal great-grandparent lines and they are fairly rare surnames (in Germany/Poland/Prussia) and doing a surname study on these is much more doable than with common surnames.

You might be familiar with the Guild of One-Name Studies.  This group has been around for a long time (since the 1970s).  So why do we need another group if there is already an established one? 

1) The Guild is “worldwide” but focuses mainly on the UK
2) The cost to join is $25.00 a year PLUS $20.00 for each surname you register

I checked my surnames on the Guild website. Simmons is included as a variant name under the Symons One-Name Study but the website for that study is no longer available and I have been unable to contact the manager of this study.

Weichert, Glaenzter, Feige and Bodenheim have not been registered.  I am not really surprised since these are uncommon surnames found mostly in central Europe and not in the UK but if I were to register them it would cost me $25 to join and then $80 to register the four surnames. 

So what’s different about The Surname Society?

From The Surname Society website:

“We launched this new society on 3rd November 2014 for those interested in single surname studies, offering members a fresh, worldwide, collaborative society that is modern, forward thinking and friendly. We do not prescribe how a surname study should be conducted, developed or managed, but we do offer advice and guidance and a whole lot more.

Membership of The Surname Society is just £5 (approx US$7.95 or €6.30) per year as we are predominantly an online society. We offer a first class service tailored to how the majority of researchers now do their research. Please explore the website and forum and see what we have to offer. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Join our Google+ community so you can participate in our online monthly meetings.

The Surname Society has many plans in the pipeline and we would like to hear your views and thoughts too! We have taken some ideas from the questionnaire responses but our ears are open to more (and offers of help to bring those concepts to fruition).”

Count me in.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, November 7, 2014

Another searching and tagging example

Several people want to see another example of how I use searching and tagging.  It just so happens I needed to tag some people in my file for a new database on FamilySearch.

FamilySearch now has indexed images of Georgia death certificates from 1928-1938.  The death certificates for 1914-1927 have been online for quite some time but now I have ten more years of certificates to play with.

First I have to search for anyone that died in the state of Georgia between 1928 and 1938.

ga 1


And here is my search list.  I have 28 people in my file that fit the criteria.

ga 2


Now I will click Options then Advanced Tagging and then I will be here.

ga 3


Now I will show you how I flip through people.

ga 4

At the bottom if you click the I:5 square you can change the tag you want to use. I: stands for Individual.  You will also see M: which is for the Marriage Tags.  I have it set to Individual Tag 5.  Now I can use the left and right arrow buttons to navigate through the list of tagged people that are tagged on Tag 5. Caroline Cornelia (Farmer) Dismuke is first on the list.  I have no problem finding her in the death certificate database.  Here is the index entry.

ga 5

And here is her actual death certificate.

Farmer, Caroline death certificate 1931

So what do I do now?

1) I download and save the document to my hard drive.
2) I attach this death certificate to Caroline’s death field and add a caption and date.
3) I create a source citation for this document on the Source Clipboard.
4) I extract all of the data from this document, add the information to my file,  and then source everything I added.
5) I untag Caroline from tag 5.
6) I click the right arrow and go to the next person. 

Easy peasy!


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, November 6, 2014

More on entering tasks in the To-Do List

I had several Legacy user’s email me about Yesterday’s Post wanting to see how I set up my To-Do tasks for the search I planned to do on Fold3.  Ask and ye shall receive.

The To-Do item has three tabs so I have screenshot each one.

Task 1

It only takes a minute to fill this stuff in.  The Category and Locality fields have auto fill.  I use the TAG to show which tasks I have started working on but haven’t been completed yet.  For example, if I have written off to a courthouse for a marriage record I will tag that task so that I know that I am waiting for something.  UNtagged tasks are ones that I plan to do in the future but I haven’t started on yet.  The Fold3 task I opened and closed on the same day so I didn’t have to worry about the tag and I also didn’t enter a reminder date.  Normally I do enter reminder dates.  How far in the future I put the reminder depends totally on what the task is.



Task 2

This is an example of an negative search.  Now I have a record that I searched the database and when I searched it.  Because of filtering (which I will talk about further down) if I ever want to look at what all I have done to find any military records for James I can filter his list to show me just the category Military Record.  I can see all positive and negative searches I have done as well as any searches I have entered that I still plan to do.

If I had found a record for James I would have said so and I would have attached a complete source citation.  If I had a filing system (paper or electronic) that I wanted to cross reference to I could enter a File ID number so that I could locate where the document is physically located. 



Task 3

You notice that I have included the repository information.  For a repository such as Fold3 this isn’t as critical but if this was a courthouse I would definitely want complete contact information including physical and mailing addresses, phone number, fax, email, URL etc.  There is also a notes tab where you can record things such as how much the documents cost to copy, do you have to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope, will they take email requests etc.  This is VERY handy information.  You only have to enter a repository once.  You can then just select it from a drop down list.  Even with websites like Fold3 I want to add the repository because I can then use the filtering/sorting feature to find all of the tasks I need to do at Fold3 so I don’t miss anything.


So what are the advantages of taking the time to do this for every single search I conduct on every single person and making sure I fill our every single field?  FILTERING.   The To-Do List’s filtering capability is a great research tool. 

Task 4

1 – You can search by keywords if you have your list sorted by task name (the sort will be shown on the next screenshot).

2 – You can see All To-Dos, Individual To-Dos, or General To-Dos (general ones are not tied to a specific individual).

3 – This is where you will see just your filtered list based on the options you select below.

4 – You can chose to see all categories or a specific category (such as Military Record that James had).  You will get a dropdown list.

5 – You can chose all localities or a specific one.  You will get a dropdown list.

6 – You can look at just your open tasks if you wish.  This is how I normally have mine filtered but I can look at the closed ones any time I want.

7 – I designate my tasks by type so that I can use this filter.

8 – I already explained how I used the Tag feature but you can use it any way you wish.

9 – I do set the priority on my tasks because there are some tasks that are definitely more urgent than others and that gives me another filtering option.

10 – If you highlight a task in the list, you can then go directly to that person.  Valentin’s task is highlight but I scrolled down a bit in the task list for the screenshot so you can’t see it.

After you change the filters to what you want, click Apply Filter and your list in the window will then be filtered to your preferences.


Here is the Sort tab.

Task 5

The Sort tab will put your tasks in a particular order.  I might want to sort with the Category first so that I can see all of the Military Record entries together, or, I might sort with Open Date first so I can see the tasks in date order and I can work on the oldest ones first.  You have three levels of sorting.  After you make your selections make sure you click Apply. 

Some other things you need to know.  You can copy and paste tags and there is a To-Do task clipboard just like there is for events.  If you know how to do this with events it works the same way with To-Dos.  Just look for the same icons you are used to using.

You can print out To-Do List Reports which is very handy.  For example, if you filter by a specific repository you can print just those tasks for that repository.  I do this all the time.  I go to several genealogical and university libraries in the area as well as the Georgia State Archives.  There are many options on the report menu so that you will get a printout of exactly what you want to see.  There is even an option to include a blank area for notes for each task. 

In Research Guidance, if you click the Plan to Search button a To-Do task will be automatically created for you and it will include all of the repository information.  This is a big timesaver.  All you need to do is go in and add a few notes to the Task Description and change any settings you want to change (priority for example).

Legacy’s To-Do List is an excellent Research Calendar/Log.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bunny trails!

I am so bad about going off on tangents and that might be why I don’t get as much work done as I should.  A friend of mine sent me an email that said, “I am interested in the War with Mexico right now.  Have a possible lead on one of my grandfathers.  Any idea where to start?”  That was all it took.  I don’t have anyone in my file that fought in the Mexican American War… that I know of.  When I read the email I realized I hadn’t really looked at this records set.  I went to Fold3 to see what they have and they have a lot so off I go on a bunny trail.  I thought I had my day planned out but I was wrong.  This is just too good not to look at. 

So what is my strategy?   According to THIS CHART I need to be looking at males that were born between 1796 and 1831.  They also had to have died after 1848 (the end of the war).   In Legacy I tagged just my direct line and their spouses, siblings of my direct line and spouses of the siblings.  Since I only need to be concerned with my dad’s side of the family (my mother’s entire line is in Germany) I used my dad as the anchor for the tagging instead of me.  I tagged his ancestors on Tag 1.




I then did a tiered search.  I will have to do this TWICE because I have more than three parameters.

ss 1


After I create this search list I have to get my last parameter in.



I ended up with 25 men that could have fought in the Mexican American War.



Did I capture EVERYONE that could have served?  Probably not because I have people in my file that have approximate birth and death dates that might skew is.  I will say that this is one reason you want to always have at least an estimated birth and death date for everyone in your file so that it will be more likely they will be captured on searches like this.  You can use abt. bef. aft. bet. cal. est.

I would now tag just these men on a different tag. 



Now that these men are tagged, I can flip through them one at a time and check to see if they are on Fold3.  As I do this I will create a new To-Do task so that I will have a record of the search.  Why?  If Fold3 adds additional records later I will want to search again.  I need to know when I searched the records originally.  If the search produces something I can create a military service event with the details and then download the images and attach them to the event.  I can create a source using the SourceWriter Templates and attach the source to all of the relevant things I added.  If the search is negative, I would record that in the To-Do task.  When I create the source I will put the source on the Source Clipboard so that I can use it with everyone on the list, I will only need to change the details.

Here are some additional resources for the Mexican American War if you don’t have Fold3.

From FamilySearch:

United States Mexican War Index and Service Records, 1846-1848

United States Mexican War Pension Index, 1887-1926

U.S., American Volunteer Soldiers, Mexican War, 1845-1848
Record of the services of Illinois soldiers in the Black Hawk War, 1831-32, and in the Mexican War, 1846-8

If y’all know of anymore online sites for Mexican American War records post them in the comments.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sometimes you get disappointed (or not)

I have copies of the compiled service records for three brothers that fought in the War of 1812.  When I wrote off for the records I was pretty excited hoping to find some really cool gems.  Initially the documents look a tad disappointing but there is still information to be gleaned.

Here are the records:




So what can I actually glean from these records.  I have also added some questions that I start asking as I go through these records.


  • William was in the 10 and 20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia.  He is listed as being in Captain Thomas Neasom’s Consolidated Company, 10th Regiment, Louisiana Militia. This unit apparently merged with the 20th at some point.  I need to research the history of this company for a couple of reasons.  The most obvious reason is why was a man from Mississippi in a Louisiana unit?  (You didn’t know he was from Mississippi but he was).  I actually know that answer to that but I will save that for another blog post.  I would also like to see a timeline of what action this unit saw so that I will know what sort of service William had.
  • Assuming he was at least 16 years of age, he would be born before 1799.
  • He died after 11 Feb 1815.
  • He was a private.  Since these rolls are dated close to the end of the war he probably wasn’t promoted and was discharged as a private.
  • He joined this company on 25 Dec 1814.  Odd day.  
  • He transferred in from Captain U. Chaun’s [ Chanu’s, Chavis’ ? spelling]  company, 10th Regiment.  Again, I need to do some research on this unit.  This means that he was actually in the Militia prior to 25 Dec 1814. 
  • He served until at least 11 Feb 1815.  The war officially ended on 18 Feb 1815 so this too is interesting.


  • Silas also joined this unit on 25 Dec 1814.  There is another name given that is associated with this unit, Lieutenant Colonel William Willis.  Silas was also transferred in from Captain U. Chaun’s [Chanu’s, Chavis’ ? spelling] company.
  • Assuming he was at least 16 years of age, he would be born before 1799.
  • He died after 22 Mar 1815.
  • He was being paid 8 dollars a month for his service.  Not earthshattering but interesting nonetheless. 
  • He was a private and most likely was discharged as a private.
  • His muster roll specifically states “New Orleans.”   Could he have been at the famous Battle of New Orleans?  The Battle of New Orleans was fought from 23 Dec 1814 until 08 Jan 1815.  Since he was attached to this unit on the 25th of December it looks like his unit was brought in for reinforcements.  He was in fact there.  His bounty land application specifically mentions the Battle of New Orleans.
  • His muster roll and payroll are for 25 Dec 1814 through 22 Mar 1815 which is after the war.  Interesting.  Cleanup duty maybe?


  • His records mirror Silas’

I now want to find the history of the 10 and 20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia as well as the 10th Regiment Louisiana Militia.  I want to do a little research on the three commanding officers mentioned.  I also need to research Mississippi units that merged into Louisiana ones.  I would like to know if these three transferred in from a Mississippi unit originally. 

These records along with Bible records, tax rolls and territorial census records come together to show that these three men were in fact brothers.  In the Testing Your Lineage post I talked about not relying on a single piece of evidence.  I thought I would give this as an extra example to you.  It would be easy to say that these three were brothers because they had the same surname, they were in the same militia unit and they joined that militia unit on the same day.  However, without other evidence you could not make that assertion.  Why?  Because one of them could have been a father or an uncle or a cousin to the others.  It is even possible that none of them were brothers and that they weren’t related at all.  Don’t fall into that trap.

Even when you get a document that doesn’t seem like it has much pertinent information you can always squeeze a little out of it.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis




Monday, November 3, 2014

A cool find

I actually found this a long time ago but I have never mentioned this one on the blog.  Needham Morris and three of his sons fought together in the Civil War. I was having a hard time finding a compiled service record for one of the sons.  This isn’t an uncommon problem because there were quite a few Confederate records lost.  I needed something to prove he actually served.  I found that proof in a 1902 newspaper article. 

"An interesting war relic was brought to the Augusta Tribune office yesterday.  It is a roster of Company C, Twenty-Eighth Georgia regiment, known as the Crawford Rangers, a company which went to the civil war from Augusta.  The roster was written in the trenches before Petersburg, just before the fight at Crater.  It was written with pokeberry juice instead of ink, and though nearly 40 years old, shows the same bright red color as when freshly written." 1

The article then lists the soldiers including,

N. W. Morris [father Needham William Morris]
T. R. Morris [son Thomas Rudolph Morris]
I. B. Morris [son, John B. Morris.  Initials should have been J. B.]
Columbus Morris [son and the one I didn’t have a compiled service record for]

Good enough for me.


1 "Interesting Relics of the Civil War," The Augusta Chronicle, 28 December 1902, p. 16, col. 5-6; GenealogyBank ( : accessed 20 Jul 2011).


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, October 31, 2014

Testing your lineage

A great way to test your research is by preparing a lineage report for a lineage society.  Even if you have no intention of actually applying this exercise will show you if you have done good research.

See if you can trace your line from yourself to one of your ancestors.  Pick a soldier that fought in the Civil War, a soldier in the War of 1812 or a Revolutionary War solder.  If you are lucky enough to claim someone on the Mayflower as an ancestor use him/her.  These are the most popular lineage societies. 

It isn’t as easy as it sounds even if you think you have a lot of documents.  Documenting the facts of a person’s life usually isn’t too hard.  Where it gets more interesting is when you are trying to prove the familial link from parent to child.  How do you know that your Marmaduke Jowers is one and the same as Mordecai Jowers’ son who happens to be named Marmarduke? Here is an example:

Let’s say you have this family group listed on the 1850 census. 

David Merchant, age 30, farmer, born in Georgia
Ann Merchant, age 27, born in Georgia
Wesley Merchant, age 8, born in Georgia
Marion Merchant, age 5, born in Georgia
Janie Merchant, age 3, born in Georgia
Daniel Merchant, age 1, born in Georgia

It appears that this is a husband, wife, and four children but the relationships are not specifically named.  This is NOT enough to say that the listed children belong to either or both of the listed adults.  It is also not enough to say that the two adults listed are actually married.  A lot of people make this mistake.  In the above family, the man’s wife died and his unmarried younger sister moved in to help him with the kids.  It looks as though they are a married couple but they are not.  One of the four children is the son of a brother whose wife died in childbirth.  The father of that child felt ill equipped to raise a newborn so he handed the child over to his brother and sister to raise.  So, 3 of the children belong to David, none of the children belong to Ann, and one of the children belongs to David and Ann’s brother.

Using the same family above I can create another scenario.  Ann is David’s 2nd wife.  Wesley and Marion are his from his first marriage.  Janie is Ann’s from her first marriage but the census taker recorded David’s surname.   Daniel belongs to both of them.

Back to my original example.  Let’s say Mordecai Jowers left a will and in it is says “to my son Marmaduke.”  Your ancestor is Marmaduke but do you have enough to say that he is Mordecai’s son?  No, not without additional evidence.  How do you know that there weren’t two Marmadukes?  Even though this is an unusual name you still have to treat it the same as if his name was John Smith.  It depends on the time period as to what records you can use but the first thing I would be doing is checking the census records to make sure that there was only one Marmaduke in that entire area during that time period.  If there were more than one you will have to document each one of them fully.  I would also want to have an unbroken chain showing my Marmaduke back to the time period of the will.  You want to make as strong a case as possible so the more different types of records you can bring in that support this relationship the better.  This is the type of evidence you will need if you were really submitting a lineage society application. 

A lot of researchers err here.  Not only do you have to document each vital event for a person but you have to also prove the relationship between parent and child.  Many times you will not be able to do this with direct evidence and you will have to put together an indirect evidence proof argument (circumstantial case).  Even if you have direct evidence (like the will that says, “my son”) that still may not be enough evidence to prove the connection.

For more information on lineage societies click HERE.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis




Thursday, October 30, 2014

The history of the Swastika

Three of my 2nd great-grandaunts (sisters) were nurses.  In two different photos I have of two of the sisters one of them has a Swastika pinned to the waist of her nursing uniform.  These photos were taken about 1905 in Louisiana so it was pretty obvious there wasn’t a connection to Hitler’s Third Reich.   I did a little research on the history of the Swastika and it is actually quite interesting.

History of the Swastika

Here is one of the photos.  You can’t see it very well in this one but you can see it clearly in the photo I have on my wall.  I don’t want to take the photo out of the frame to get a good scan of it so you will just have to take my word for it. 


You can read more about one of the sisters, Ida (Perry) Faust, HERE.  She has an interesting story.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A DNA trick

I have always hoped that my husband and I are related in some way.  I just think it would be fun to creep the kids out.  So far I haven’t been able to prove any sort of connection.  We both had our DNA tested and FTDNA says we are not related, at least not down through 5th cousins.  

I wondered if by chance any of the people on my matches list were also on his matches list.  I downloaded my matches to Excel and Jim’s matches to a separate Excel file.  I then used XL Comparator to see if there was anyone that both of us matched.  Jim and I match 22 different people.  The closest match is 2nd-4th cousin to me and 2nd-4th cousin to Jim. 

I now have a renewed hope.  I have emailed the closest match and he is digging around in his file to see what he can find.  We already know where the two of us match but we haven’t found his connection to Jim yet.  This one is very promising so I haven’t even emailed anyone else.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do you think you can crack this one?

James Simmons was born on 14 Aug 1764.1 He married Ellenor Lee about 1787.2 It is unknown where James was born only that two of his known children were born in South Carolina about 1794 and 04 June 1797.3 James and his family migrated to the Mississippi Territory sometime after that. The earliest record of James in the Mississippi Territory is the 1805 Washington County Mississippi territorial tax roll,4 HOWEVER, there is a gap between the 1811 and the 1816 tax rolls. It is possible that the 1805-1811 entries refer to another man names James Simmons and the 1816 and later is my James Simmons. The first land deal that I can attribute to my James is dated 13 June 1816.5 Knowing WHEN James actually came to Mississippi might be crucial.

Research question: Where in South Carolina did James and Ellenor migrate from?

I need to know where they came from before I try and find James’ parents.

James was old enough to have been listed as head of household in 1790. He was also, most likely, already married. More on that in a bit.

I did a yDNA test on my uncle to get James’ DNA profile. The matches are interesting. He has two 66/67 marker matches. Here are the matches, the information about each person is being taken at face value at this point. I have not done any research to verify the dates or locations. I am currently talking with the two people that submitted this DNA.

William Simmons born about 1780 of North Carolina
Joseph Simmons born 22 December 1755 in Richmond, Virginia

Migrations from Virginia to North and South Carolina were common so this is something that has to be considered.

Back to the 1790 census. There were five James Simmons’ (with name variations) in South Carolina. Since only very basic information is given it is hard to rule people in and out using just that. Doing a comparison between the 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 census is more helpful in ruling people in and out. This is where WHEN James migrated comes into play. If the tax records refer to TWO James Simmons then the most likely candidate for James is one that shows up in the Old Pendleton District in 1800 and 1810. If the tax records refer to one James then out of the five that are in South Carolina in 1790 only two can be ruled out. I am ruling those two out merely on the basis that those two men had 39 and 110 slaves which would be unlikely at James’ age at that time. James did have slaves in Mississippi but only two.6

To throw in another date wrench, James’ wife Ellenor died 20 May 1801.  Did she died in South Carolina or Mississippi?  Two unsourced written genealogies have her dying in Mississippi and all of the online trees I looked at also have this.  No one has a source for this information.7

I am not giving you more information about the census (I have a big table that has all of this information in it) because I would love someone to go behind me and do a comparison of the 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820 census records in South Carolina for James Simmons (with name variations) to see if I have made any mistakes with who I ruled in and who I ruled out based on ages and who carried over to the next census.

You have this information to work with:
James born in 1764
Ellenor born in 1769
William born between 1788 and 1792 in ?
Silas born about 1794 in South Carolina
James Jr. born 1797 in South Carolina

[I have an entire indirect case study showing the linkage between the 3 sons and the parents. If you would like to see it just let me know and I will send it to you]

We know the family was still in South Carolina in 1794 and 1795 and was in Mississippi by either 1805 OR 1816.

Here are a few other tidbits. James does not show up in the Passports Issued by Governors of Georgia, 1785-1820. This would have told us exactly when they migrated.

South Carolina does not have county level marriage records until the 20th century. If James and Ellenor married in South Carolina, finding that marriage record would have been a major clue.

I have consulted a plethora of index and abstract books for South Carolina (deeds, newspapers, church records etc.) with no results. I have checked everything I can think to check that is available online. The one thing that I haven’t done is made a trip to the South Carolina Archives. An archivist there could possible point to me to a records group I not aware of.

There is an unsourced genealogy written in the 1970’s that says

“Historical records consulted indicate that the Simmons Family lived in Ullesthrope, county Leicester, England.  The Arms was first granted to William Simmons of that place.  Early American records indicate that a member of the Simmons family came to America and settled in Boston, Massachusetts about 1679.  Another descendant of the Simmons family settled on a large grant of land in Summerville, South Carolina.” 8

In 1995 another unsourced genealogy came out that quoted the above verbatim and then added:

“It is assumed that James Simmons was a descendant of the Simmons Family that came over from England and settled in South Carolina…. James Simmons was born Augusta 14, 1764 near Pendleton, South Carolina, married the daughter of a rice planter of Santee, near Georgetown, South Carolina.” 9

I am sure you can see the problems with these statements.  I just wanted to throw them out there.  I spoke with Mack Simmons’ daughter.  She was unable to locate her father’s notes after he died.  I spoke with Howard and John Simmons and they stated they based their findings on what Mack had written and interviews with George Simmons, a grandson of Silas Simmons.  George died in 1962 at the age of 96 (according to Howard and John).  The interviews were conducted in 1937 and in 1946 by Howard. 

If you have any questions, ask me in the comments.  If anyone can tell me where in South Carolina James and and his family were before they came to Mississippi (with proof) I will send that person a gift card to go out to dinner Smile 

1 James Simmons, Jr. Family Bible Records, 1764-1898, The Holy Bible (Philadelphia: Kimber and Sharpless, n.d.), “Family Record,” privately held by Homer Kees, (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 1979. Though there is no publication date printed, the publication date is between 1807 and 1844 when the Kimber and Sharples publishing company was actually in business [John Wright, Early Bible of America (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1892), 123.]. The earliest entries are in one hand, the later entries are in a different hand and the latest entries are in a third hand. Per Mr. Kees, the Bible passed from James to his youngest child Charity Green Simmons who was Mr. Kees’ grandmother. He inherited the Bible from her. Author has photocopies of the pages.

2 James and Ellenor’s approximate marriage date is based on Ellenor being 18 years of age at the time of the marriage.

3 1850 U.S. census, Perry County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 384 (stamped), dwelling 185, family 185, Silas Simmons household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 10 February 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 379.  1850 U.S. census, Copiah County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 251 (stamped), dwelling 606, family 606, James Simmons household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 10 February 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 371. James Simmons, Jr. Family Bible Records, 1764-1898.

4 Greene County, Mississippi Territorial Tax Rolls, 1805, p. 8, line 7, James Simmons; digital images, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family Search ( accessed 13 January 2012); citing Mississippi State Archives, Various Records, 1820-1951, box 144, series 510.

5 James Simmons (Greene County) cash entry file, certificate no. 363, St. Stephens, Alabama, Land Office; Land Entry Papers 1800-1908; Records of the Bureau of Management, Record Group 49.

6 1830 U.S. census, Perry County, Mississippi, p. 157 (penned), line 11, James Simmons household; digital images, ( : accessed 28 Sep 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M19, roll 71.

7 James Simmons, Jr. Family Bible Records, 1764-1898.  Mack Simmons, “Simmons” [manuscript of a a compiled genealogy of Silas Simmons circa 1970], preface page; copy in possession of author, 1991.  The Family Simmons Living in Perry and Forrest County, Mississippi on Leaf River and Black Creek Early 1800’s thru 1995.

8 Mack Simmons, “Simmons”

9 The Family Simmons Living in Perry and Forrest County, Mississippi


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, October 27, 2014

I’m back. So what have I been doing?

I am back on the blog after two weeks. So what all have I been doing in that time?

1) I mentioned before that I am now updating Legacy’s Research Guidance with every Legacy update. We released an update on 19 Oct 2014 and that update had 164 new sources in it as well as many broken link fixes. I am already working on the next update. I hope to have at least 300 new sources in that one. If any of the Legacy users out there would like to see a particular source added, send me an email at and put RESEARCH GUIDANCE in the subject line. If you come across any broken links please let me know. There are well over 22,000 sources in the Research Guidance already and there is no automatic way for me to find broken links.

2) I dejunked and cleaned my entire office area. I do much better working on genealogical projects when my work space is neat and organized. I had let things go a bit so this was a pretty big project. The cool, fall weather put me in the right mood.

3) I am working on a complex adoption case. I like adoption cases but they can be sticky. This one is a reverse adoption case. It isn’t the adoptee that is searching but rather one of the adoptee’s birth family members. This one requires that I interview people for more information. So far the interviews have gone well but there is always the chance I might contact someone that doesn’t want to be contacted. I have DNA cooking on this one but so far the DNA hasn’t been helpful. It appears that neither the adoptee nor any of the adoptee’s children have tested. At the point I don’t even know if the adoptee knows that he/she was adopted.

4) Another interesting one I am working on is where a wife ran off with another man leaving her husband and three young children behind (this was in 1926). Shortly after this the husband died. Two of the children were placed in an orphanage and the other one was taken in by a paternal aunt. All three children are now dead. Between the three children they only had three children of their own. I have spoken with all three and they have no information. I knew more about the case then they did. The research question is, “What happened to the wife after she left?” I want to know who she ran away with and where they went. Did they get married, did they have any more children, and when and where did she die? None of the three grandchildren are interested in taking a DNA test. Maybe that will change. The woman that ran off had 17 siblings. She is not mentioned as a survivor in any of her siblings' obituaries even though all of the other surviving siblings were. The first one was 1941 so either my person was already dead by 1941 or the family had completely disowned her. The problem with this case is that the lady most likely remarried and I have no idea what her new surname would have been. She didn’t take the children with her so I can’t track her using the children. She never contacted them again after she left. I checked the marriage records of all the counties in the area with negative results. It appears she left the area completely. Another DNA angle might be to test some nieces and nephews of the lady I am looking for but I haven’t tried to locate them yet.

5) I have been working a bit on my biggest personal brick wall. I pick this one up from time to time hoping I can find something new.  Hmmmmmm, maybe I will post the details of that case tomorrow and you guys can help me solve it.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, October 10, 2014

Off the blog for a bit

I am in the middle of a big project at Legacy and I need some time to get everything over there organized and underway so I am going to be off the blog for a bit.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis