Friday, June 29, 2012

Silver Creek Simmons Book - Will Do Look Ups

I've got a copy of The Silver Creek Simmons Family Descendants of Willis and Jane Goslyn Simmons. It was written by Edna Simmons Campbell and Hansford L. Simmons, and contains a great deal of information about the descendants of Willis Simmons, born 1784 in Wilkes County Georgia.

I will happily do look ups. If you need me to check the book for an ancestor, contact me or just leave me a comment with all of the information you already know. I'll see if I can find them for you.

My line comes through Willis' son John Richard Simmons and Margaret Rimes. Their son, William Solomon Simmons, was my ggg grandfather.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

1940 Census - 30 States Indexed and Searchable at FamilySearch

The volunteers at, who have been avidly indexing the 1940 Us Census images since it was released to the public in April of this year, now have 30 States available to search by name. That's more than half of the States, and roughly 75% of the entire 1940 Census.

The new US States added June 28 to FamilySearch's 1940 searchable records are California, Washington, Iowa, New Mexico, Nebraska and Missouri. The remaining states can still be browsed by enumeration district, but chances are, it won't be much longer before the indexing of the 1940 Census is complete. FamilySearch is hoping to complete indexing of the remaining census schedules by the end of July.

This event marks an impressive milestone for one of the largest free-to-use genealogical data repositories available online. To check out updated progress of the 1940 Census indexing project, visit

Here's a list of 1940 US Census States searchable at as of this posting:

  • Alabama

  • Alaska

  • Arizona

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Delaware

  • Florida

  • Hawaii

  • Idaho

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Louisiana

  • Maine

  • Minnesota (pending)

  • Mississippi

  • Missouri

  • Montana

  • Nebraska

  • New Hampshire

  • New Mexico

  • Nevada

  • North Dakota

  • Oklahoma

  • Oregon

  • Rhode Island

  • South Dakota

  • Utah

  • Vermont

  • Virginia

  • Washington

  • Wyoming

Getting Started With Genealogy Step 2 - Easy to Find Docs

Documentation is a crucial element of genealogy, as it is the only way to verify the information in your family history. Too many aspiring family researchers jump ahead of themselves and start downloading gedcoms with names of ancestors in them, just to find out later that the data is full of inaccuracies (yes, I speak from experience).

Good documentation habits will keep you off of a wild goose chase, and help you to find your answers much sooner. Keep up with your sources. We'll discuss citing your sources of documentation later, for now let's just find some.

Family Bibles

Did you inherit a bible from a parent, grandparent or great grandparent? Many bibles include pages for the owner to record their parents and grandparents names, as well as their own marriage information, and lists of births and deaths of family members.

Bibles are different, but usually, when made available, the family history pages are located near the front of the book. I have also found a Family Register located between the Old and New Testament instead, so be sure to check it thoroughly.

Also contact other family members who may possess a bible previously owned by an ancestor. They probably won't want to give it to you, but may be willing to scan the family pages and email them to you. Worst case scenario, ask them to transcribe it for you, or read it to you while you write it down. Also be sure to include the name of the person in possession of the bible and who the bible originally belonged to on the transcription for later reference.

Vital Statistics and Personal Documents

Many people will keep their personal documents and vital records together in a safe place. When someone dies, often these records are passed on to an heir. If that heir wasn't you, find out who would have inherited the deceased's personal items. While vital statistic records may be easy enough to gain from the county clerk, personal documents may be harder, especially if you don't know what you are looking for.

US States made birth and death certificates mandatory at different points in history, but if your ancestor was born after that date, there is a good chance they had to obtain a copy of their birth certificate at some point. They may have also had need to acquire a copy of an immediate relative's death certificate. Some even had heirloom marriage certificates made up, which might provide more information than the marriage license filed with the county.

Other personal documents can include things such as land sales, tax records, military service, graduation certificates, grade school memorabilia, newspaper clippings, obituaries, and much more. My husband was once practicing his lock picking skills on a strong box he found in the garage. Turned out it had belonged to his grandmother, and contained a document stating that she had married her deceased husband's brother, and shortly thereafter had the marriage annulled.

If you locate someone in the family in possession of an ancestor's personal documents, ask them to make copies and mail them to you. Offer compensation for copier fees and postage, of course. Keep all documents you find together, perhaps in a file folder or manilla envelope.

Note: If you don't already have a copy of your own birth certificate, get one. It can be obtained from the county clerk's office in the county where you were born. You should be able to find the mailing address and phone number of the county clerk online with an online search engine.

Family Photos

Also ask family members if they have any family photos or photo albums. If they live near to you, they may allow you to borrow them for scanning. Be sure to check the back of each photo for name and location data, and scan those too.

If you find a relative who is not close to you has family photos, it is possible that they would be willing to scan them for you, but the quantity of photos or their personal circumstances may not allow this. If the latter is the case, simply make a mental note (or write it down if you're forgetful) to go visit them when the chance presents itself.

Record What You Learn

If you find out anything new, such as birth or death dates, or parent names you didn't previously know, be sure to write it down on your paper pedigree chart. If you have had the need to expand your data to multiple charts, be sure to keep the pages together in a file folder, binder, or manilla envelope.

Be sure to number each chart you add according to the "continued on" number next to the last ancestor on you first chart, and keep your charts in order to make it easier to flip through to the chart you are looking for.

If you haven't started your paper and pencil pedigree, yet, see Step 1 for information and a free pedigree form you can print out.

Next Step, Researching Online

Preserve The Pensions Fund Gets Generous Donation

The Preserve the Pensions - War of 1812 Pension Digitization Fund has received a $135,000 gift in memory of Ardath Stedman, the mother of the late Jon Stedman, from who’s estate the donation originates. The generous donation will help in the Federation of Genealogical Societies' (FGS) endeavor to digitize the War of 1812 Pension records for preservation and access.

This year marks the bicentennial of the war America declared on the British in 1812. The military conflict began on 18 Jun 1812, and lasted almost three years, finally coming to an end on 18 Feb 1815. The Preserve the Pensions project hopes to complete digitization of the pension records by the bicentennial of the war's end.

The efforts of the FGS will result in free access to digital images of 180,000 pension applications from the War of 1812 for genealogy researchers. The records that have already been digitized and indexed can be found at Fold3, free of charge.

More information about the Preserve the Pensions project is available at

Getting Started With Genealogy Step 1 - Pedigree

For those just starting out on their genealogy research, where to start can be somewhat confusing, or even overwhelming. I will share what I learned, through both folly and the advice of others when I first began my family history research.

Write Down What You Know

The best place to start is by printing and filling out a pedigree chart, also known as an ancestral chart. This resource will prove invaluable, both in beginning your research, and as you continue to gain more knowledge of your ancestors. It is also going to help you keep what you learn organized.

You can find pedigree and ancestral charts for free at numerous websites, but in searching for one to recommend, I couldn't find a chart as good as the pedigree form I had been given at my local genealogy library upon my first visit. Unfortunately, neither could I find that exact form online, so I created this one (save and print as needed).

Using a Pedigree / Ancestor Chart

A pedigree is basically a spreadsheet showing parental lineage over a number of generations, which may be continued on a fresh page to reflect unlimited generations. On the first sheet of your pedigree, you will enter your name in field number 1 on the left hand side of the chart.

Note: I recommend printing out blank charts and filling them out in pencil, as it makes correcting mistakes and adding additional information, such as middle names and cities (when you at first only knew the county), much easier.

Your parents will be recorded in fields 2 and 3. Customarily, the father of the person in field 1 is number 2 on the chart, and the mother is number 3. Following this pattern, all male entries on the chart will have even numbers, and all female entries will have odd numbers (obviously the person in field 1 will be an exception to this if they are male).

Some pedigree charts don't number the individual fields, but those that do will make your research much easier as you add more generations, as well as different types of genealogy forms to your collection.

Continue to fill out the generation chart in this fashion, adding your paternal grandparents to your father's branch of the line (fields 4 and 5), and your maternal grandparents to your mother's branch (fields 6 and 7). Fill out as much information as you think you know about each generation of your family.

If you already have names for more generations than will fit on the first page of the pedigree chart, go ahead and number this first chart as 1 in the "Chart Number ____" field. You may also notice that there are tiny little blank lines next to the name fields of the last generation on the chart, which may or may not be labeled to show their exact usage. In these blanks you will indicate which chart number each of these relatives' lineage is continued on.

To avoid future confusion, go ahead and number these blank fields from top to bottom, starting with 2 (since this is chart 1). If you have a five generation pedigree, the great great grandfather along your father's paternal branch (person number 16) will be continued on chart 2. Your maternal great-great grandmother in field number 31 will be continued on chart 17. For a four generation pedigree, the ancestor in field 8 will be continued on chart 2, and person number15 will be continued on chart 9.

You can go ahead and print out and number the charts you will need to continue each line of your family tree (what I did), or you can print them out as needed. Just be sure that you label each subsequent chart with the number corresponding the chart number you assigned to each member of the last generation appearing on chart 1.

There is also an area on the chart that will say something like, "Person Number 1 on this chart is the same as Person Number _____ on chart _____". So if you are continuing chart number 2 from person number 16 on chart 1, this person will be "the same as Person Number 16 on Chart Number 1".

Write Down What Others Know

Once you have filled in all the information you "think" you know, a good place to turn next is to older family members who may be able to offer more information. But again, I would advise that you fill out your pedigree in pencil. This is not your "official" genealogy, this is your starting information, all of which will have to be verified. Family memories are fallible, and just give you a lead to go on.

Example: My father told me his paternal grandfather was born in Holland in 1888. He had the year right, but after a very frustrating search of immigration records, I eventually came across his WWI draft registration card, which stated he had been born in Gonzales County, Texas.

So I thought maybe HIS father had been born in Holland, and the story got skewed. Nope, his father was born in Gonzales County, too. Maybe it was another generation back? Nope, Alabama. I don't have any idea how "Holland" got into the oral family history, but I haven't found any evidence to suggest that it's true. Moral: use a pencil.

Next Step, Easy to Find Documentation.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Webinars Available Online at

Robert Kehrer presented the first in a series of FamilySearch webinars on June 19, 2012 intended to aid visitors about using making the most of FamilySearch's extensive collection of free genealogical materials. The second webinar in the series was recorded June 26, and will soon be amade available online to those who missed it.

The FamilySearch Webinars have come in response to an influx of user questions about many of the online genealogy site's existing and newly added features. The webinars will focus on specific elements of the website, and instruct viewers on how to access and utilize the immense collection of free family history data.

Part 1 of the FamilySearch Webinar is primarily geared toward familiarizing visitors with FamilySearch's International Genealogical Collection (commonly referred to as the IGI), but also covers the Library Catalog and Historical Records Collection. The version of the webinar that has been posted for the public is a re-recording of the original webinar, thus it does not contain the question and answer session that followed the original broadcast.

The second part of the informative webinar series is a rebroadcast of the original, complete with the questions and responses that followed the presentation. FamilySearch Webinar Part 2 focuses on searching and browsing the constantly growing collections of records available at FamilySearch. Topics include search strategies, result filtering, how to broaden search results, use of wild cards, additional information about the IGI, using the My Source Box, and features of the FamilyTree.

FamilySearch Webinar Part 1 can be viewed here.

FamilySearch Webinar Part 2 can be viewed here. is a non-profit genealogy service provided by The Church of Latter-day Saints. The website contains a plethora of free family history records. Some of the document images that have been scanned into the genealogy data base require a member account to view, but membership and access to all of FamilySearch's resources is completely free.

Also known through history as the Genealogical Society of Utah, which was founded in 1894, the organization has been dedicated to the preservation and free sharing of family history and genealogical data in the form of microfiche, microfilm, and digital records for over a century. The vast collections at contain 2.5 billion names (and growing) from countries all over the world.

Robert Kehrer, presenter of the FamilySearch Webinars, is the Senior Manager of Search Technologies at


1940 New York Census Indexed by Name

Earlier this month, added New York to the short list of US States that can now be searched by name in the 1940 Census. Completion of the indexing of roughly 13.5 million residents of New York appearing on the 1940 US Census marks the fifth completed State (including Washington DC) can now provide name-based search results for.

Boasting an impressive 10 percent of the population in 1940, New York had the largest population of any State in the US. It is no wonder that the team avidly indexing the New York enumeration districts of the 1940 Census at has spent just over 2 months working on the project.

To search names in the 1940 US Census of New York, go to the 1940 Census at to search the indexed states, or browse by enumeration district. The 1940 Census images at Ancestry are currently viewable without a paid subscription, but a free membership is required.

States that are currently searchable by name in the 1940 U.S. Census at are Delaware, Nevada, Washington D.C., Maine and New York. The remaining 1940 US Census States are actively being indexed by staff, and will become available as each State is completed.

The 1940 United States Federal Census was the 16th census taken by the United States. It was released to the public on April 2, 2012, by the National Archives and Records Administration. In an unprecedented internet event, the images were made public in digital format by the NARA on
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