Archives for genealogy

Back to the basics: Locality Guides

Don’t you just hate it when you have those “duh” moments?  Maybe you don’t ever have those, but I sure do.  Just this last week I was confronted with how much time I had wasted by not following one of the basic principles of genealogy.  Over and over again I have read that the first step in researching an ancestor in a new place is to study that place, what records are available, where are they, when was the county/state founded and what was it before.  I do practice this now, even writing up a one sheet locality guide when I begin on a new area.  I ran into problems this week because it wasn’t really a “new ” area for me to work on and so I didn’t think to approach it in the same way.  I have been researching the Murphey/Murphy clan in northwestern Louisiana for about 10 years now in an on again- off again type of way.  Since my mother-in-law had moved from her birthplace in the NW Louisiana/ SW Arkansas area in the mid 1940s sometime when she was just a teenager and refused to talk about her family at all I had none of the traditional first step sources of asking relatives that I could turn to to start.  So I began by entering  the names I had into internet search engines.  There were so many families and they moved with such ease back and forth over the borders of states and counties and I didn’t have very clear picture of which families were in which county/parish or even in which state at any period of time.  Several of the families had genealogists who were very knowledgeable and had posted sourced information online so for several years I busied myself with tracking down the originals of those sources and adding to them with my own research.  The Murpheys were one big brickwall.  The only reference that I could even find was an unsourced IGI entry and a rootsweb inquiry from 1998  that said that my husband’s great grandfather was “Coon” Murphey.  There was no “Coon” Murphey on a census record anywhere!  They were firmly situated on the back burner.

In 2011 I managed to track down the poster of that 1998 message and found that he was a grandson of “Coon” Murphey.  With the information and records he provided, the Murphey family jumped back onto my active research list.  With all this history in the area, when I began researching the family in depth in preparation for a trip to DC in November I did not take the time, or honestly even think to do a locality guide at this time.  What I did do was to start trying to place the various locations associated with the family on a map, since I want to particularly do land records research.  I had found an uncle of “Coon” on the 1840 Census, along with a lot of other families that the various brothers married into, but they were all in Claiborne Parish.  Not a single person of interest comes up in 1840 in Bienville Parish, where I know that they were founding members of a church in 1844.  Oh well, I guess they moved…. In 1850, Coon Murphey’s father and mother are in Natchitoches Parish, but Coon’s half siblings from his father’s first marriage were with their maternal grandfather back in Bienville Parish.  Coon’s paternal grandfather was in Bienville also as were his paternal aunts and uncles.  A warrant for military bounty land for service in the War of 1812 was awarded to John Murphey, Coon’s grandfather,  in Bienville in 1851.  I needed to find them all in 1860.  Hours and hours were spent trying every spelling combination possible to turn up anyone in 1860 with no luck.  Where could they all have gone?  

Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place and began to research Bienville Parish.  The first thing that I found was that Bienville was only formed in 1848 from the southern part of Claiborne.  The family was probably right near that church they helped found in 1844 all along.  With that little problem settled I kept reading the Family Search Wiki which had lots of good info, but moving on to the USGenweb site for Bienville Parish I came across this little nugget,  There is no 1860 census for Bienville Parish, which was either lost or destroyed.   

Lesson learned.  I will always begin with developing a locality guide whenever I start  research in a new area OR revisit a previously worked location that I have never developed a Locality Guide.

Information Overload

Have you ever had a serious case of information overload?  That’s what I’m suffering from right now.  FGS in Fort Wayne was amazing, but exhausting!  Classes all day from 8 am until 6 pm and then off to the Allen County Library for research each evening until 11.  It was actually open until midnight Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but I just couldn’t last that long.  Because the 2 hotels that were right downtown had filled up already, I had to stay at a place about 10 miles away and get a shuttle back and forth.  That little detail added at least an hour onto each day.

The classes that I chose to attend were mostly in the Methodologies  Track, so they were more about the “big picture”, putting it all together, building a case from various bits of indirect evidence and resolving conflicting evidence rather than classes about an individual subject, location or records group.  There were many great speakers, but may favorite was Elizabeth Shown Mills, who gave 4 presentations

  • Smiths and Joneses: Success with Families of Common Name
  • Trousers, Beds, Tacks& Housekeeping bills: Problem Solving with ‘Trivial Details’!
  • Identity Crisis: Right Name, Wrong Man? Wrong name, Right Man?
  • Finding Fathers: Bridging the Generation Gap

You can start to get the idea just from the lecture names.  In each one she illustrated how difficult problems can be solved if we employ the Genealogical Proof Standard, beginning with reasonably exhaustive research, then complete and accurate source identification, skilled analysis and correlation of data, resolution of any conflicts in evidence and finally, last but not least, “a soundly reasoned conclusion or ‘proof argument’.   One example in the Smiths and Jones’ lecture yielded a probable identity for the father of a woman by using land records.  Not just one land record, but actually plotting all the land belonging to likely families despite the fact that it stretched across county lines and into different townships even within the county.   Then correlating that with the road maintenance records from supervisors or commissioners minutes and plotting property of each man named.  These records will sometimes name young men still living at home, they might not own the property, but they will be maintaining it!  Another research avenue she mentioned also involved land records.  Often there is a separate index for grantees and grantors and I have been satisfied to look for the name there and then just go to the particular book and page named.  Ms Mills pointed out that sometimes each individual book will also have an index and that index might have quite a bit more detail.  Particularly in those places where other things like marriages, indentures, bastardy bonds and other great records are recorded in the deed books.  The clerk who compiled the grantee/grantor index might have just left those other little bits out.  There’s also the extra layer of transcription that may have introduced more error.  Knowledge Ability Skill Words 3-Way Signs Learning In the Trivial Details lecture, a man’s date of death was found by looking through his probate file.  The actual date was not mentioned anywhere and the probate had not been promptly opened when the man died.  By reading each of the little receipts and bills and other scraps of paper in the probate file she came across a dated bill against the estate from a merchant for multiple yards of “black domestic” and tacks.  That invoice for the necessary items to outfit a casket and a house in mourning pinned down the date.

These are just a couple examples of things I learned in 1 or 2 classes.  How many brick walls will come tumbling down if I can develop the skill to use the knowledge I received at this conference?

Choices, Choices, Choices

The registration is long ago done, the plane tickets purchased, hotel reserved (not the one I wanted…too slow there), still need to decide if I  rent a car or use taxi/shuttle combo.  I’m ready for FGS coming up in just over a month.  Well, not quite.  The biggest decisions still need to be made.  How do I decide which classes I will attend?

crossroads image


At any time during the day there are at least 8 different classes going on and special workshops in addition. Each and every one of those lecturers will be presenting information that I could benefit from, especially as a professional who may be called upon to research in places other than where my families originated or where they ultimately settled.  Unfortunately, there is no way that I can learn and retain longer than 5 minutes any information that I will not be putting to use in the very near future!

This is why my primary choices tend to be classes dealing with methodology.  I know that, in many cases, I already have the key to tear down my brickwalls.  It is just buried in a document collected years ago.  That document is definitely stored digitally on multiple computers and external hard drives and backed up in the cloud using several services.  That digital image will not be lost, but what good does it do me if it was not properly analyzed?  Even if I actually got it attached to all of the individuals mentioned in the record, out of the 4993 individuals in my database (I really need 7 new people) ,  how will I ever go back and reanalyze the information contained in that source?  When I obtained the image, especially if it was at the Family History Library or on some other research trip, I know that I made notes about the film, questions the document raised in my mind, other people who were mentioned etc., but those notes were in whatever spiral notebook I had with me on that trip.  Those notebooks, hopefully, now reside in  the huge pile in my office waiting for me to go through them and revisit each and every note or document I have found in the last 10 years.  There needs to be a better system!!!

I know that there is.  It involves retraining myself to approach a research trip with a written research plan and then turning that plan into a research report as I do the research.   This is what I have been learning in the last few conferences that I have attended.  Until I get it down and into practice this will be the main focus of the classes that I choose to attend.   So many of the class descriptions are appealing and yes, I need to learn more about DNA, I have those results and don’t know what to do with them so should attend T-234. I have one ancestor who I believe worked on the Erie Canal, at least he lived in Lockport at the right time period, so I would love to go to T-216 and hear Karen Mauer Green speak about “Navigating the Erie Canal Records”.   So many other classes that will be covering things that would benefit my research to know, but alas, I can’t attend them all.    Maybe the DNA class would have info about cloning myself??  Hmmmm?

So, instead of attending all the classes that sound like great fun, many of them having really engaging speakers who tell great stories, I will be reading about those in the syllabus, getting some of the info presented but missing the fun, and attending the methodology classes and hearing over and over again that I need to write and follow a research plan and write research reports for each family.  This is the one thing that will most impact my genealogy skill set in the long run and so it needs to be my focus and priority.  Research varies on how long it takes to form new habits and I think I may be more resistant to change than many, but I will continue exposing myself to the influences that will produce change in my life until that change is accomplished.

Unless of course it is late in the day and the class I have chosen to attend next is way across the convention center.  I may just decide to stay for whatever class is next in the room where I am.

tired person

Why Genealogy Conferences?

FGS blog logo

You may have noticed this emblem on the sidebar of this blog.  It is there to direct your attention to one of the most exciting genealogy events to be held in 2013,  Journey Through Generations, the Federation of Genealogical Societies  annual conference.  It will be held this year in Fort Wayne, Indiana August 21-24.  Those of you who have never been to a major conference might be asking yourselves the question, “Why Genealogy Conferences?”  Those who have attended in the past know why, but that reason might be different for each individual.

My first national conference was last year’s FGS conference in Birmingham, Alabama and my answer to “Why Genealogy Conferences?” was “Elizabeth Shown Mills“.  She is my genealogy hero, and not only for her work on citing sources.  She is the foremost authority on Natchitoches, LA region genealogy where my husband has multiple ancestors. Future blogs will deal with this more. Ms. Mills does not appear at a lot of conferences, at least not out west at my local society,  but I had promised myself that if I saw a conference where she was speaking I would be there if I could.  Last year FGS was my chance and I was not disappointed.  Her talks were informative, but more than that they were fun!  She will once again be a presenter at FGS and I will be there in each of her sessions.   This year’s conference is full of presentations by other amazing genealogists who speak to so many different subjects.  The location of the FGS conference each year lends to the emphasis of one or two of the different tracks and this year’s has many lectures focusing on the Midwest and the groups that tended to settle there.  Most of our ancestors spent some time at least passing through the Midwest and this is the ideal time to focus our learning there.  Many times some of the sessions are recorded and you could possibly listen later to the presentations, but the dynamics of being there in person are not to be missed.  The ability to speak one-on-one to the presenter, to ask questions, to get that little tidbit of advice or direction from an expert in the field that has you stumped….PRICELESS as the commercial would say.

The ability to interact with superstar genealogists is only one facet that comes from attendance at a conference like FGS.  Imagine spending 3 or 4 days with hundreds of people that are just as passionate about genealogy as you are!  The energy that comes from just being able to sit and talk with others that will listen and give suggestions is sometimes enough to blast down those brick walls.  Maybe you will have the key to blast through for someone else?  Maybe you will find the long lost cousin that has the family Bible?  Genealogists are some of the most generous people that I have ever met and this give and take and sharing of strategies is all the answer that is needed for some to answer, “Why Genealogy Conferences?”

The Exhibition Hall is the answer for others.  Are you an “early adapter”?  One of those that always has the newest program, the latest device?  This is where you will find them.  New tools are coming out all the time and the vendors are more than happy to take the time to explain to you how to use them to your advantage.  Even if you aren’t interested in learning new methods or programs, the largest booths are occupied by those tried and true favorites like, FamilySearch, Fold3, NEHGS.  They all have a supply of computers there with staff just waiting to help you perfect your search strategies on their sites.  Who knows the breakthroughs that could be waiting there for you?

One of my reasons for being particularly excited about this year’s FGS is the location.   Fort Wayne, Indiana is the home of the The Genealogy Center of Allen County Library, the second largest genealogy library in the US.    This will be my first visit there and I am really looking forward to exploring the unique resources there.  The Allen County Library is the home to the largest collection of English language genealogy and local history magazines and newsletters.  The PERSI (Periodical Source Index) was developed by the staff there to allow you to find articles of interest to your research.  PERSI can be accessed through HeritageQuest at many libraries, but only in Fort Wayne can you have instant access to the articles of interest once you find one in the index.  Many people journey to Fort Wayne even when there is not a conference going on right there, but travelling there Aug 21-24 for FGS is like getting 2 trips for the price of 1.  How could you pass up a deal like that!

One final group that does not need me to give them a reason for attending FGS 2013 is those that have responsibility for the growth of their local genealogy societies.  FGS does after all stand for “Federation of Genealogical Societies” and the schedule on Wednesday the 21st is dedicated to programs geared to helping societies develop new programs and expand and serve the growing number of genealogists.

See you there!

Carolinas Research

I’m currently on an airplane heading back to the Charlotte, North Carolina area for a month long stay.  It will be genealogy heaven!  Living  in the Western United States for the past 42 years of my life I have always had to travel to explore the places where ancestors left their records, even if it was only travelling to Salt Lake City to view microfilms from around the world. I’m looking forward to being surrounded by State Archives and county court houses just  a couple hours drive away in any direction.  A few months ago I was able to spend a wonderful day in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Robinson-Spangler Room and found so many interesting things on my husband’s Penney and Barclay lines there I can hardly wait to go back!    Several years ago we made a short stop at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History in Columbia, SC.  to research his Bamburg line.  We only had 2 or 3 hours there, but in that time I was able to locate the probate file of his 5th great grandfather, Johann Georg Bamburg who died sometime before 1802, and that of his 5th great grandmother Mary (LNU) Bamburg Orth, who died before 1822.  This is a page from his probate file showing the sale of his possessions, many of them being purchased by his widow, already remarried to George Orth.



Johann Georg Bamburg fought for the British during the Revolution, but whether he was a mercenary hired by them, was born in Pennsylvania and was a Loyalist, or maybe was sent over by Frederick the Great to check on the welfare of the troops as a memorial stone contends is still hotly contested.  Maybe the definitive answer lurks in the South Carolina Archives, but requires a little more than 2 hours to uncover.  I’m looking forward to searching for that answer.  Whatever the truth is regarding how he came to be in the British army, he, like so many others,  remained in the newly independent United States of America.  He started several Lutheran churches in South Carolina and Bamberg county of South Carolina was named for a grandson of his who fought in the Civil War.

While I’m here in the Carolinas I will be visiting archives in both North and South Carolina and several county courthouses, libraries and universities.  If anyone has any research needed back here, I can take care of it for you without charging for any travel time since I will already be there.  My plans at this time include Mecklenburg, Cabarrus,Yadkin, Rowan, Surry and maybe Pitt counties of North Carolina and Orangeburg, Barnwell and Bamburg counties of South Carolina.  There will not be time for all of them of course, when is there ever enough time, but my priorities can be altered it it meshed with your research requests.



Welcome to my new Blogger hosted blog.  I am at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Blog Blitz Workshop at RootsTech 2013.  This is right now a practice blog to learn more about blogging.  Be sure to check out my other blog and website at  That one was designed by the wonderful folks at and they help me design and post there still .  This one, I am attempting on my own, with Lisa’s help, of course.

Here is a photo that I just wanted to post somewhere.  This photo was in with a box of photos from my Grandmother Boll’s house.  His name could be Boll, Kohler, Platzer, Wilhelms or someone associated with those families probably in St Louis, MO.  Looking at the ax that he is holding I have wondered if maybe he was a fireman.

St. Louis, Missouri

My favorite city for genealogical research is St. Louis. As the home of my ancestors for over 150 years, St Louis is full of treasures. I will bring you a wealth of knowledge in your search for ancestors in St. Louis.

Natchitoches, Louisiana

My husband’s family has taken me to in-depth study of the Natchitoches, Louisiana area from the time when it was the border between French held and Spanish held territory, to the Carolinas, where Bamberg county was named for a relative, and to New York and Holland Land Purchase research.

Early Boston Settlers

Another line led to research in Puritan Boston in the 1630s, to a brother-in-law of both Rev. John Cotton and Rev . Richard Mather. He was numbered among the early Baptists in spite of his relations. Lutheran church planters and New Light Baptists in the Appalachians, LDS pioneers and Catholics, church records yield some of the most interesting insights into their lives.

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