Wednesday, May 18, 2016

And it’s a match!

This is an ongoing saga.  You can catch up by reading:
Wish me luck!
Update to “Wish me luck!”
Super fun graphic of 3 yDNA lines
A twist of fate

Remember how I said that one of my uncle’s yDNA matches agreed to update from 67 markers to 111? Well look what I got in the mail this morning.



It turned out exactly as I expected. My uncle is a 110/111 match to the above person and that person is a 111/111 match to the third person. You just can’t get better results than this! The three lines are completely different and finding where they come together is an exciting challenge. I think that this yDNA match will eventually break down my 20+ year brick wall. I still haven’t heard from one of the matches but the above match is just as excited as I am. The results have already been uploaded to the Simmons project page. I can’t screenshot it because it is too large but if you click HERE and then scroll down to Family E you will see us. If you look at our numbers all three of us match across the board for every value except DYS442. I have a value of 13 and both of them have a value of 12.

What this means in practical terms is that the other two men have 99% chance of a common ancestor at 6 generations.  I have a 95% chance to match them at 8 generations.  

Take a look at our lines again.  My line is in the middle, I used my dad’s name instead of my uncle that tested since my uncle is still living. The first is at 10 generations, I am at 6 generations and the 3rd is also at 6. We are so close! The 2nd and 3rd lines are proven on paper. It’s the first line that is the mystery. I can’t get ahold of this person to get his sources. I have been trying to prove his line up the chain myself but I am stuck on Henry. I need to know what the proof is for Henry’s parents and then up. I think I will email him again.




Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ah the joy! has the estate case file of my 4th great-grandfather John McMichael.  I was looking for evidence of the parent-children relationship between this John and his son John.  John died intestate and being able to find a nice tidy list of heirs is hit or miss when it comes to administrations. Lucky for me this administration did have a list of heirs but…



… here is the interesting part.  John’s estate file is in TWO parts. There was only one entry in the index and this entry links to the second part.  I noticed that the image of the file jacket said Box 35, Part II.  I started clicking backwards through the images and found Box 35, Part I which had another 21 pages. If I hadn’t gone backwards through the images I would have never found this and I would have missed out on a lot of great info.



This is another example of not trusting the index.

Pike County, Alabama, Wills and Probate Records, 1753-1999, John McMichael Estate Case File 1841-1849, Box 35, Part I and II; digital images, ( : accessed 11 May 2016). 

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

One down, three to go!


This one was a bit of a challenge because Reuben was one of those patriots whose file has been flagged by the DAR as having errors.  My application was scrutinized and I had to send additional documentation and proof arguments before it was finally approved.  I think I quadruple proved Reuben.

I have three more patriots (that I know of) to prove…
Mathew Patton
Jesse Lee
John Kimbrough

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Friday, May 6, 2016

A twist of fate

An ongoing saga.  You can catch up by reading:
Wish me luck!
Update to “Wish me luck!”
Super fun graphic of 3 yDNA lines

In the early days of the Mississippi Territory there were three groups of Simmons’.  There was a group in Natchez, a group in Marion/Pike Counties, and a group in Perry County.  The group in Natchez was there a lot earlier than the other two groups, long before the Mississippi Territory was even formed.  I have never been able to find a real connection to this group.

The group in Marion/Pike is a lot closer in distance to my group in Perry County and they arrived in about the same time period, after the Mississippi Territory was officially opened for settlement. I always suspected that there was a link between these two groups somewhere.  I just found a very unexpected link.

If you have been following my saga about the Simmons’ and their yDNA you will know that one of my matches traces back to Jones County, Georgia

I just found this…

Jones County

We the undersiners recommend John Matthews, Willis Simmons & John Bond as good honest upright citizens and that they wish to obtain a Passport from this County and State to the Mississippie Territory as they are about to remove to.

October the 6th 1809
Harrison Cabaness Capt.
Green Mullins
Sion Thrower
denton daniel
Drury Reese - J. P.
H. Harson J. I. C.
Nathan Peeples
Wm Ratcliff Capt.
Richard Ratcliff Capt
Cuthberth Reese
Melton Amos
John Hogg
Hardy Bullock
Elijah Bailey
Wilkins Jackson J. P.
George Cabaniss
Stephen Kirk
Aniel Huggin
Ephraim Cox
Moses Cox
Asa Cox

Recommendation in favor of John Mathews, Willis Simmons, and Jake Bond of Jones County. Order taken 11 October 1809.1

Well, well, well, I know who Willis Simmons is.  Willis is one of the Marion/Pike County bunch.  I already have him in my database because I knew he had to be connected.  The census records have him born in Georgia about 1784 which means he came to the Mississippi Territory when he was about 25 years old.  I pick him up on tax records starting in 1810.

This gives me a tangible connection between the Marion/Pike County bunch and my family over in Perry County because I have a DNA match to the Simmons’ in Jones County, Georgia where Willis came from.  I will now need to try and back Willis up in time so see if I can link him into the Jones County, Georgia group.

1 Georgia Department of Archives and History, Passports Issued by Governors of Georgia, 1785-1809  (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 1959),  28. 


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Super fun graphic of 3 yDNA lines

This is a follow-up to Wish me luck and Update to wish me luck.

This first line is my 110/111 match.  This line is unproven.  I still haven’t heard back from that researcher and I am still trying to prove all the connections.

The second line is mine. It is proven all the way up the chain.

The third line is my 67/67 match.  This line is proven all the way up.  This researcher has updated to 111 markers and we are both anxiously awaiting the results.

Our best guess at this time is that our common ancestor is in Virginia and then the lines migrated to Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia.

privateLines created using Legacy 8 Charting, lines combined into one graphic using MS Paint.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis




Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Update to “Wish me luck!”

You can read the background info HERE.

I still haven’t heard from the 110/111 match BUT I did hear from someone else.  What I failed to mention in the first post is that I also have a second 66/67 match.  The one marker difference is the exact same marker difference that I have for the 110/111 match (DYS442, they both have a value of 12 and I have a value of 13).

I heard back from the person that manages that DNA sample. Not only does she have that entire line paper trailed and sourced she has agreed to upgrade to 111 markers.  Oh happy day!

The three lineages are completely different which is great.  We know they are going to converge at some point.  Looking at the three different lines gives us a few clues on where that convergence might be (which state).  We are looking toward Virginia, early 1700s.  The person that manages the 67 marker test is an experienced genealogist so between the two of us we will figure this out.  In the meantime, I am anxiously awaiting the results of the 111 marker test.  I suspect that we too will be a 110/111 match and that the other two will be a 111/111 match.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 25, 2016

Follow-up to “Patience, Grasshopper”

Here is the original post, Patience, Grasshopper.

I received Ella’s Indiana death certificate today.  It is as I expected, this is not MY Ella.  I was pretty sure this would be the case but I can’t help being a tad disappointed.

This Ella was born 16 Jul 1874 in Clinton County, Indiana and was the daughter of Stephen Ford and unknown Rogers.  She lived in Clinton County her entire life.

My Ella was born in June 1874 in Marion County, Mississippi and was the daughter of Charles Franklin Ford and Martha Waller. 

What about all of the “trees” out there that have my Ella and this Ella confused?  A few years ago I would have told you that I planned to email every one of them with the correct info but after bad experiences with doing this sort of thing I am not going to bother.

Indiana State Department of Health, death certificate no. 27596 (1951), Ella Ford Goff. 


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Another interesting DNA dilemma

I have a total of 10 people that match on chromosome 17 with the same starting position.  The segment lengths are 9.84 to 113.89.  I have two known family groups represented.  My uncle and I are one known match.  The other group is a man, his mother and his known 2nd cousin.  The other people in the group have no known connection so far.  Everyone is a non X match which significantly narrows down which lines it can be.  When all 10 are put in a Matrix everyone matches everyone else except one person matches everyone else but one.  This is an almost perfect Matrix.  Here is the graphic sans names.


This tells me that all 10 have the same common ancestor. Now here comes the problem. After looking at everyone’s trees (the ones that have trees) no connection is found.  This actually narrows it down a bit more because I only have a couple of lines that I don’t have back far enough that it should pick up the match.  The other people are in the same boat. They can’t find a match to each other.

So here is my brilliant idea.  I created a group on BYU’s Relative Finder for all of the matches.  A couple already have FamilySearch logins but they don’t have themselves linked into the Family Tree.  Once I get everyone inputted, we MIGHT find the match this way.  If we do we will still need to prove the relationships up our individual chains but it is a start.

The bonus for me is that if I figure out who the common ancestor is, I can assign this segment of chromosome 17 to this ancestor. If anyone else ends up matching me on this segment, and they pass the matrix test, I will immediately know the ancestor.  They have to pass the matrix test because everyone has TWO chromosome 17s.  All of the above match the chromosome 17 that came from my father, not my mother.  How do I know?  One of the matches is my PATERNAL uncle.  If a new person is added to FTDNA that matches me on this segment I will have to make sure that they are matching me on the paternal chromosome 17 and not my maternal one.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 18, 2016

So here’s my problem

You can read the background story here, Wish me luck!  which I posted on Saturday. I worked on this all weekend and I have run into a bit of a snafu.  My DNA match hasn’t emailed me back.  I asked for his sources for his direct line relationships.  I have been trying to find the sources for his direct line relationships myself both because of impatience and because I want to see the proof myself.  I made it up several rungs but now I am stuck.  I did a quick survey of the online trees just to see what people have for parents of this one person and I found three different sets of parents.  Of course no one had sources for any of the parents other than other unsourced trees.

I have got to be able to prove his direct line all the way up to his brick wall ancestor or his information isn’t helpful.  DNA is great but without a paper trail it isn’t going to do me any good.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Wish me luck!

One of my uncles was kind enough to donate some yDNA for me and I did a 67 marker yDNA test. I had a very close yDNA match. The match had tested at 111 markers so I upgraded my test. I now have the results.  It is a 110/111 marker match. You can't get much closer than that.

I have inputted the match's direct line tree and have started working on backing up his tree with sources. I need to know if his paper trail is valid or I could go off in the wrong direction. I have emailed him asking for his direct line tree that also includes the siblings.

His brick wall ancestor is 2 generations older than mine and in a state I suspected my ancestor's family originally came from based on known migration patterns.

My ancestor is at 7 generations for me and his is at 10 generations for him. FTDNA’s prediction is 95.60% at 8 generations and 99.59% at 12 generations.  We are right on target.

This will be a brick wall I can bust.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Shared Ancestor Hint I can use

Today I got a Shared Ancestor Hint that I can actually use. 


So what’s so special about this hint?  I have submitted a DAR application using Patriot Reuben Radford.  I have my line proven all the way up the chain.  The person I match has a line up to Reuben through a different child of William’s.  I don’t know if she has it proven on paper or not, all I know is that we are a DNA match.  If she has her lineage proven, a DNA match to her makes my case stronger.  It is a bit of a moot point since I have already turned in my paperwork but it still makes me feel good. Of course it is possible that we have a DNA match with a different ancestor that Ancestry didn’t pick up on or one of us doesn’t have that ancestor in our tree but I am just going to go with Reuben for now. I have sent my new cousin an email.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Monday, April 11, 2016


Erich Priebke.  I am pretty sure that most you have never heard this name before.  I just added him to my One-Name Study (ONS).  He was the son of Gustav Wilhelm Ernst Priebke and Hedwig Selma Rosa Glänzer.  Glänzer is one of the name variations in my ONS and it means he is related to me (just not 100% sure how yet).

I got Erich’s name from my cousin Christina in Germany who works on the ONS with me. She also sent me Erich’s occupation – SS-Hauptstrurmführer.  Even if you aren’t German you probably understand SS.  Erich was a captain in the German SS (Sicherheitspolizei) during World War II.  He participated in the Fosse Ardeatine Massacre of 335 Italian citizens in 1944 and was later captured and held prisoner by the British. He manage to escape and he fled to Argentina where he lived a very comfortable life under the radar until 1994.  Sam Donaldson from ABC news tracked him down and when he was approached for an interview he apparently felt it was safe to speak out after so many years. He admitted to his participation in the massacre to Mr. Donaldson.  He felt he was not guilty of anything because he was simply following orders. He very wrong if he thought this explanation would be accepted.  Now that his whereabouts were known he was arrested and extradited to Italy.  He then went into an endless cycle of hearings, trials and appeals. He was sentenced several times with the sentence changing.  His final sentence was life imprisonment but was given house arrest because of his age.

Erich died on 11 October 2013 in Rome, Italy at the age of 100.  He wanted to be buried in Argentina next to his wife but Argentina refused.  Germany also refused to allow the body to be returned there.  The Vatican issued an order that his funeral could not be conducted in any Catholic church in Rome.  He is buried in the Cimitero della Colonia Penale de Isili in Isili, Italy. It is a abandoned prison cemetery.

I never knew this man existed until today. Now I want to know more. I am interested in his early life before the War. I want to know what made this man tick and why.

History is history, you can’t change it. There are going to be bad people in your family tree and you can’t just ignore them. I could reduce Erich down to a list of vital statistics and pretend that I don’t know about his past but that would be an error by omission.

For more information:

Erich Priebke Biography (
Erich Priebke: Nazi war criminal (BBC)
Erich Priebke, Nazi Who Carried Out Massacre of 335 Italians, Dies at 100 (NY Times)
Just following orders (The Economist)

There are many more. 

If you would like to see a picture of Erich in uniform during World War II and one of him in later life, you can go to Erich’s Find A Grave Memorial.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A broken marker

Here are two images of Daniel Boon’s broken marker:

Copyright © 2007 William Tatum, used with permission


Copyright © 2011 Vince Hatten, used with permission


My picture trumps theirs Smile


Photo circa 1925. The six living children of Daniel and his wife Sarah Ann Anderson.  They had 15 children altogether.

From left to right:

Margaret Elenda (Boon) Hartfield, John Moses Boon, Elisha Boon, Thomas A. Boon, Mary Catherine (Boon) Simmons, Reuben Boon.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A DNA question

P. Johnson emailed asking, “Why are my ethnicity percentages so different at Ancestry and FTDNA.”

There are actually a few reasons.

  • Each company has a different pool of DNA to work with
  • Each company has different algorithms to calculate the percentages
  • Each company breaks up the geographic regions a little differently

Another thing to watch out for is that all of the companies update your percentages as their DNA pool gets bigger and they run the algorithms again. The algorithms themselves are also updated. 23andMe tells you when they last ran your results through. I don’t see this information on the other sites but I could just be missing it. 

Here are the companies/website that will give you your ethnicity percentages:

The Geneographic Project
DNA Land


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My latest Excel spreadsheet

I wanted to know who all in my direct line still needed federal census records. In Legacy I created a search list of my dad’s direct line to include all spouses but not siblings. I had AKAs and married names turned off so that the list wasn’t artificially inflated. I only did my dad’s side because my mother’s side has no one in the United States. I then exported this list as a CSV file. I only included the RIN and name.  Originally I exported the birth and death dates too but it was a bit messy because of the date issue in Excel (I could have overcome this) but I also have a lot of date qualifiers (abt, bef, aft, bet) which mucks things up a bit. I had to look each person up anyway to see what censuses I already had so the dates were no big deal.

I set up the spreadsheet with a header and then froze it so I could scroll without losing my header row. I greyed out the years that the person was not alive and therefore would not appear in a federal census. I put an X if I already a census record for them for that year and an NF if I looked but they were not found for that year. My goal is to attempt to find a census record on every person in my direct line for every year that they were alive. Of course I won’t be able to find them all but I want to make sure that I have at least tried.  I can always go back and try it again later and I might have better luck.

Below is a screenshot from the spreadsheet.  I actually have more census records than what you see.  I have TWO files.  I have my working file and I have my old file still in Legacy 7.5.  I am still transferring things over as I double check the sources, standardization, formatting, etc. As I do, I will be able to fill in more X’s before I get started looking for the missing ones.



Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Friday, April 1, 2016

Get more out of newspapers


I am a bit of a storyteller. I like narratives. I don't like reducing a person to a laundry list of facts. I learned a little tip from John Colletta when I heard him speak at IGHR. He happens to be the master of genealogical storytelling. Even if you can't find any reference in the newspaper to your ancestor specifically why not look for some things that will help tell your ancestor's story. What was the weather like when the event occurred? What was the political climate? What was the social climate? What was going on in the local churches? Were there any natural disasters or epidemics that might have affected your ancestor? Was there an influx of people coming into the area from a migration or immigration? Getting this background information is essential to being able to tell your ancestor's story.

has TWELVE webinars on newspaper research and NINE of them are FREE.  You can see them all HERE.  These webinars will help you learn how to find what you are looking for in newspapers. 

By the way, the above newspaper page from The St. Tammany Farmer details the murder of Rougier Grantham, my second cousin, twice removed.

"Bonny Aldrich kills R. Grantham over disputed debt, five dollars," The St. Tammany Farmer, 15 January 1916, p. 1, col. 2-3; digital images, Library of Congress ( : accessed 28 October 2013). 


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Patience, Grasshopper

         Albert and Mary Graham, circa 1890                  Albert and Mary Graham, circa 1910

Background – Albert Gallitan Graham and Mary Richardson Grantham were my 2nd-great grandparents.  There is a huge mystery surrounding Albert.  I wanted to solve this mystery so I started placing queries in 2003 which yielded ZERO hits. In 2008 I  submitted a newspaper article to the Hattiesburg American for publication.  I was working for the McDuffie Mirror newspaper at the time so I had an in.  The Hattiesburg American did some editing and cut out some of the crucial info so I have included the entire article. This will give you background information on this little mystery. The article yielded ZERO contacts. I continued to submit queries through 2012 which is when I got my first break in the case.  More on that after you read the article. 

Everyone loves a good mystery and this mystery happens to involve a Forrest County woman.  Not just any woman but one that hasn't been seen nor heard from since June 17, 1940.  Her name is Ella Ford Collins Graham, or at least we think that is her name.  So why is this mysterious woman important now?  Maybe if we take a look at what we do know the importance will become clear.

It starts with a man by the name of Albert Gallitan Graham who was born September 1844 in Simpson County.  He lived with his parents Archibald Graham and Sarah Brown until he went off to war in 1864. Albert served well and came home in one piece.  On March 4, 1867, Albert married Mary Grantham and the two of them made their home in Marion County (present day Lamar) raising their four children.  Mary was a widow with three small children.  Her first husband Elias Whiddon had been killed in the war. Albert was your average 1800s Mississippi farmer and he and his wife squeaked out a very modest living.  The next major event was when Albert's wife Mary died on April 6, 1917.  She is buried in the Grantham Family Cemetery in Lamar County.   From then on Albert lived with his unmarried daughter Sarah. On September 3, 1917 Albert applied for his Confederate pension when he turned 73.  He continued to live with his daughter until he became too old and feeble.  On September 10, 1925, at age 81, he was admitted to the Jefferson Davis Confederate Soldiers Home (now Beauvoir) in Biloxi.  Less than a year later on April 21, 1926 Albert died.  He is buried in the Beauvoir Confederate Cemetery.

Now is when the story gets interesting and our mystery woman makes her appearance.  On June 17, 1940, 14 years after Albert had died, a woman by the name of Ella Ford Collins Graham submitted a Confederate widow's pension application to the Forrest County pension board in Albert's name.  In this application she stated that she and Albert had married in Purvis in 1916.  There are very few other clues about this woman.  She stated that she was 67 years old which would put her date of birth at about 1873 and make her 29 years younger than Albert.  She stated she had been living in the state of Mississippi for 60 years.  It is unknown where she was born.  Before and after she applied for the widow's pension Ella isn’t found in any records.  At this time we don't know if Ford was her middle name or her maiden name nor whether Collins was her maiden name or a first married name.  This has made it impossible to locate her in the census records especially considering that the names of Ford and Collins are both quite common.  No Mississippi death certificate has been found for Ella nor is she listed in the book, Forrest County, Mississippi Tombstone Inscriptions, (several other county cemetery books were also checked) though her name could have easily changed if she had remarried.  In all of the previous records of Albert Graham there is no mention of Ella.  On his pension application he is listed as a widower.  On the 1920 census he is living with his daughter and is listed as a widower.  On his admission to Jefferson Davis he is listed as a widower with his dead wife being named Mary.  Ella stated she and Albert married in 1916 in Purvis but Albert's first wife Mary didn't die until 1917.  The marriage records at the Lamar County and Forrest County courthouses have been hand searched with nothing found; however, a common law marriage is possible.

We have but one more very important clue.  Interviews with several elderly descendants and relatives of Albert have reported that Albert fathered a child out of wedlock in his old age with an unknown woman.  Could Ella be the mother?  It would make sense.  Ella might have felt entitled to the widow's pension especially if times were rough and she was raising Albert's child alone.  If these family stories are true then Ella's son or daughter could still be alive (born 1916-1926?).  How many people alive today can say their father was a Confederate soldier? None that I know of so if this child does exist it is something to be celebrated. So where do I fit into all of this?  I happen to be Albert's great, great granddaughter and would welcome meeting a previously unknown child of Albert's.  I have much to tell him or her (or his or her children) about Albert.  If you have any information about Ella Ford Collins Graham or any of her children, please give me a call (XXX-XXX-XXXX) or send an e-mail to  I look forward to hearing from you.
[old email. Don’t try using it]

Michele Lewis, Staff Genealogist
McDuffie Mirror
Thomson, McDuffie Co, GA

Four years later in 2012 I was contacted by a Ford researcher that had part of the answer.  She knew who Ella Ford Collins was.  Ella was the daughter of Charles Franklin Ford and Martha Waller.  She was born June 1874 in Marion County, Mississippi.  She married Benjamin Collins, Sr. on 18 November 1900.  All of this was confirmed with census records and marriage records. But what happened to Ella?  The Ford researcher did not know.

Yesterday I received an email from a gentleman that said, “Hi Michele,  I saw your '04, '07, & '08 posts looking for info on Ella Ford Collins Graham. Were you able to break thru the wall on her?”  I emailed him back and told him everything I know.  And then the bombshell.  “Several trees reference Ella's death as 1951 in Forest City, Clinton Co., IN. I have not been able to verify this reference as yet.”

Indiana?  Seriously? Why on earth would I look there. Okay, now I am looking. I checked the “trees” and I found several people with an exact death date of 20 August 1951 but no one has a source. That would have been too easy.  I found one that had a burial place, Bunnell Cemetery.  Now we are on to something.  Time to check Find A Grave to see if I can come up with enough information to find an obituary or the death certificate. This is crucial so that I can show that THIS Ella is MY Ella using the place of birth and her parents’ names.

Now a roadblock.  There is a Ella F. Goff (a new married name?) that was born in 1874 and died in 1951 buried in the Bunnell Cemetery but the owner of that memorial has her born in Clinton County, Indiana with her mother being Lucinda Rodgers.  Well this isn’t good. 

I find the Indiana Ella’s obituary on NewspaperArchive. I click the link and…

Well okay then.  I really don’t think this is the right Ella but I have to check it out. I just ordered the Indiana Ella’s death certificate. Well worth $8.00. I should start a football pool.  Is the Ella that died in Indiana my Ella? Several “trees” say it is so.  Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis




Thursday, March 24, 2016

A fun project from J Paul Hawthorne

A while back we did a Death Chart on the blog after Nathan Murphy posted his Death Chart on the FamilySearch Blog.  Yesterday J Paul Hawthorne posted a cool chart on Facebook showing the birth places of his ancestors and a gazillion genealogists followed suit (including me).  My chart is a bit boring compared to some of the others.  I am not very diverse.  This was created in Excel.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A problem with the sliders but a shout out for great customer service - I am looking for any documents with the name “Stephen Oliver Perry” that were generated in the state of Mississippi. I have the given name slider set at EXACT, I have the surname slider set at EXACT and I have the event location slider set at EXACT. Here is what the Ancestry search comes back with. Do you see any Mississippi records?


Wait! There is a button under Schools, Directories & Church Records to see more results! Maybe my Mississippi hits are hiding there!


Nope. This one bothered me a bit because the ability to filter is very important when doing searches. I of course took a look at the hits just to see what might be there. Wow, Ancestry is having a really hard time with whatever OCR program they are using. It sees the TYPED words Butts and house as Perry. Yeah, that’s close. It also picked up the words Stephen (or Oliver) as many as 10 words away from word Perry. That doesn’t work for me either. It picked up place names that contained Perry. Even if I could overlook their OCR issues (and they really need to get that fixed) I can’t overlook that I told the search to restrict to the state of MISSISSIPPI. There is no excuse for this one.

I asked Ancestry why the filtered search does not work. I posted on the Ancestry Facebook page and one of their representative responded in less than 5 minutes which I have to say is pretty good at 8:50am on a Saturday morning. So far they get an A+ for customer service. They told me to send my login info to them via private message so that they could look at my search internally. 

Here is their response:

“We believe the reason you're getting the results you're seeing is because you've selected everything to be exact so the search algorithm on the site is trying to bring you everything that you've asked for. What we did was select Mississippi to be the only exact piece of information and that really improved the results we got.”

I am very happy that they answered my concern so quickly but I am not as happy with their answer. My problem is that Perry is a very common surname and Stephen is a very common given name. My strategy is to make the search as tight as possible and then I can loosen it it increments to pull in more results. They answered again:

“Hi again Michele, we will flag this with our development team because it is odd that you would get results for Rhode Island when specifying Mississippi to exact. We apologize for any frustration that may have been caused and we appreciate your understanding.”

Now I am happy (at least for now). They responded very quickly and they acknowledged that there is a problem. I will just live with the search issues until their programmers can address it.  I will be keeping an eye on it though.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis

Monday, March 21, 2016

A big shout out to the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook Page

My DAR application for Reuben Radford was kicked back.  The Registrar in Washington wanted me to provide additional documentation to prove that a certain person in the lineage was truly one person and not two (sometimes she went by Susan and sometimes she went by Elizabeth).  I needed to find two census records that I had previously been unable to find so that I could track this one woman through all of the censuses during her lifetime proving that the families matched perfectly no matter if she was using Susan or Elizabeth.  I had all the censuses except for the 1880 and the 1900 and I searched every which way I could and I just wasn’t seeing it. Indexes can be frustrating sometimes. I needed some fresh eyes to do the search.

I posted a request on the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook page and in less than one hour I had BOTH censuses in my hand.  A huge thank you to Lisa Dotti who found the 1880 census and to Jennifer Pearson Edinger for finding the 1900. I am now able to prove they are one and the same person with a bonus of her being listed as Susan E. in the 1880 census (She was listed as Elizabeth S. on one of her marriage records). 

Life is good!


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis