Blog » Anne Gillespie Mitchell The official blog of Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:56:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What War Did My Ancestor Serve In? Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:56:56 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more ]]> You know you should look for military records for your ancestor, but what war did he serve in?

Our friends over at Fold3 created this handy little infographic to use as a rule of thumb. There are exceptions to every rule, but this will get you started!

Birth Years of Veterans

Birth Years of Veterans (Right-click on the image to save to your desktop.)


If you want to dig a little deeper into the subject of who served and how to find their story, these presentations will help:

Happy Searching!


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It’s Earth Day! How Did the Earth Determine Where Your Ancestor Lived? Tue, 22 Apr 2014 18:07:53 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more ]]> Physiographic Map of the US

“Physiographic Map,” Natural Resources Conservation Service, United states Department of Agriculture,
( : accessed 22 Apr 2014); citing Physiographic Map Reference: Fenneman, Nevin M., 1946, Physical Divisions of the United States: U.S. Geological Survey, scale 1:7,000,000.

I’m willing to bet at least some of your ancestors were farmers. Their livelihood, their ability to feed their children, to clothe themselves — it all depended on the earth.

And it depended on the type of earth.  All soil is not created equal, and not all soil is used to grow the same things. The type of soil your ancestors had available to them and the climates they lived in dictated the crops that they could grow. People grew what they knew. If you knew how to grow wheat, and you picked up and moved to a new location, you would want to grow it in the next place that you lived.

When your ancestor was looking for new opportunities, this might drive where they migrated to. To gain insight into the direction they went you might want to look at a physiographic map. A physiographic map, shown above, tells you the kind of soil that you will find in a specific area. The Great Road (one of its many names), which many of our ancestors used to migrate from Pennsylvania to places south, follows the same lines as the bluish and purple land swaths that you see there.

Look at this physiographic map of Virginia. The solid lines define the different physiographic areas.

Physiographic Map of Virginia

“Physiographic Provinces of Virginia,” Virginia Department of Environmental Quality,
( : accessed 22 Apr 2014).

So if your ancestors were living on the coastal plains in the early 1830s, do you think they moved west or south?

Did they move west or south?

Did they move west or south?

Probably south. Moving west would require traversing mountains and changing climate and soil.  Moving south requires a change, but it is a change that has fewer unknowns.

Do a Google search for physiographic maps for your state (for example, Pennsylvania physiographic maps). Every little bit of information that you can find about your ancestors makes you understand them that much better.

And dig into agricultural schedules on for another look at what your ancestors grew on their farms.  Five Minute Find: Down on the Farm will give you some pointers.

Happy Searching!


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What You Might Have Missed: April 21st Edition Mon, 21 Apr 2014 21:03:03 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more ]]> Blog Posts
fan chart with DNA


From the Barefoot Genealogist:

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Who Dat? It’s The Bayou State: New Louisiana State Research Guide Fri, 18 Apr 2014 16:49:02 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more ]]> Louisiana Parishes and Parish Seats

Louisiana Parishes and Parish Seats

When you think of Louisiana do you think of New Orleans? Mardi Gras? Hurricane Katrina? Or do you think of your ancestors? Louisiana has a rich and colorful past. The Spanish, French and British fought over it for more than 300 years until the United States obtained most of the state as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Louisiana is the only state in the nation that is made up of parishes and not counties. The entity parish is from the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, although counties and parishes function the same way in the modern day U.S. Another influence from the French and Spanish is that Louisiana state law is based more on the Napoleonic Code and Spanish code while all other states are based on English law.

But if your ancestors are from Louisiana, I bet you already knew that they danced to a different set of drums, didn’t you?

Check out our free Louisiana State Research Guide and make sure that you aren’t missing any of the great resources available on

Happy Searching!

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What You Might Have Missed: April 14th Edition Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:08:38 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more ]]> Blog Posts
WWII Government


From the Barefoot Genealogist:

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Online Trees. Root of All Evil? Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:17:17 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more ]]> What a provocative title: Online Trees: The Root of All Evil? And it was an interesting panel discussion that I participated in at RootsTech 2014.

task list2So are trees the root of all evil? In a word, no. And in fact, not only are they not evil, if you are doing genealogy correctly, they must be part of your research plan. Yep, I went there. Now, I’m sure some of you just spit coffee or whatever you were drinking at your computer screen. But bear with me.

Tom Jones, PhD, CG, CGL,  wrote a thought provoking article for the Board for Certification of Genealogists’ publication OnBoard 18 (May 2012): “Perils of Source Snobbery.

Now I am paraphrasing here, but his point is don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  Yes, we all know that not every tree online is accurate.  And some of those inaccuracies get copied and duplicated much to the frustration of those who have good information.  But does that mean everything you find in an online tree is wrong? It does not.

“Genealogists who categorically disdain certain sources risk overlooking the information they seek or references to that information, thus blocking their research. Genealogists who categorically trust preferred sources risk accepting incorrect information, also blocking—or sidetracking—their research. In contrast, effective family historians consult and assess all sources, regardless of type, that might help answer their research questions. They exclude no potentially useful source, and they trust no unverified source.” — Tom Jones, “Perils of Source Snobbery”

You can’t assume a given source is always going to be reliable.  Can you count on a death certificate always to have the correct death date? Or a tombstone? Usually. But not always. My great grandfather’s tombstone is an example.

Look closely at the death year.  It was originally 1940 and has been since corrected to 1941.

Look closely at the death year. It was originally 1940 and has been since corrected to 1941.

Can you always assume that information in an online tree is wrong? No, you can’t.  You must look at the information and prove or disprove what you see. If you don’t look, you could be missing something quite critical in your research that will block you for a mighty long time.

So next time you are trying to solve a problem, create your research plan that includes all of your favorite “reliable” resources. Census, vitals, immigration and military records.  But don’t forget to include some of those that you have been ignoring.  Family histories, locale histories. And online trees. You just never know where the clue is going to come from that sets you on the right path. If you don’t look at every possible resource, you might just miss it.

Happy Searching!


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Some Blended Families Are Larger Than Others. Can You Beat More Than 20 Children? Thu, 10 Apr 2014 21:31:35 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more ]]> You are probably familiar with one of TV’s most famous blended families, The Brady Bunch.  I bet many of you can sing the theme song. (And sorry if I put it in your head…I didn’t want to be alone!)

And I bet if you’ve been working on your family history for even just a little while you have at least one or two in your tree.  But can you beat more than 20 children in a blended family? Let me tell you about George Gillespie.

image01George Gillespie was born sometime around 1731 most likely in Virginia. He married a woman named Mary.  No one seems to know for sure what her maiden name is, but many believe it to be Moore as two of her 12 children had Moore as a middle name. George and Mary had at least 12 children that lived to adulthood. We know this because all 12 are named in his estate settlement in 1830.

The children were: William, Sherrod Moore, Francis Fanni, Letitia Moore, Lucy, Elizabeth, Alexander, Sarah Sally, George, Dicey, Lewis, and Nancy.

That in itself must have been quite the household. Mary, the mother of this brood, is believed to have died sometime before 1785. George then married Mary Saunders, the widow of Charles Farris (1710-1779). Charles and Mary had at least 10 children: James, Mary, Richard, William, John, Hezekiah, Charles, Nancy, Sarah, and Elizabeth.

Now, no doubt all those children were not living with George and the second Mary between 1785 and 1803.  But we do know that some of them were closer than others.

George Gillespie, the younger, married Mary Faris in 1790; Lewis Gillespie married Elizabeth Betsy Faris in 1800 in Amherst, Virginia.  And when George the elder died in 1803, George and Mary, Lewis and Elizabeth, and the widow Mary moved to Franklin County, Tennessee.  I guess you just never know where you will find the love of your life!

So can you beat more than 20 children in a blended family?

Happy Searching!


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Ask Ancestry Anne: Who Are James Myers Parents? Does AncestryDNA Help? Tue, 01 Apr 2014 23:50:10 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more ]]> Dear Ancestry Anne,

I’ve been having trouble committing to the set of parents I think I found for my great-grandfather James Henry Myers. I think if I got a second opinion I trust, I’d get over being hesitant to claim this family line. I need to be sure I’m climbing the right tree.

If I accept that James Myers was born in May of 1858, then he would have been 51 in April of 1910 as shown in the attached census. I know from the divorce decree that my great-grandmother divorced him on 7 Jan 1905.

Sounds plausible, right? Why do I hesitate? I got exactly zero DNA cousin matches from this family. Neither did my uncle, one generation closer to James Myers. Either no one from this family has had their DNA tested on Ancestry, or neither I nor my uncle inherited any DNA from the direct Myers line. The other thing that bothers me is the court order that committed James Myers to the Poor House has the middle initial S instead of H, and it lists his age as 45 instead of 49 (he was committed 3 Feb 1908). My explanation is that he was probably malnourished and dehydrated and possibly slurred his speech to whoever collected his vital information in the first place.

Please help.

Many thanks for all you do at

Artemis OakGrove

Dear Artemis,

You have 3 questions here and all of them are good.

  1. Why are there no Myers cousins showing up in your DNA?
  2. Does the Court Order have inaccuracies in it?
  3. Are James and Susan Myers the parents of James H. Myers?

Why are there no Myers cousins showing up in your DNA?

It very may well be, as you suggest, that there are no Myers cousins that have taken the AncestryDNA test yet.  Also, you have about 50% of your father’s DNA, 25% of your grandfather’s DNA and about 12.5% of your great grandfather’s DNA.  Not all of your great grandfather’s descendants are going to match you. You wisely chose to have your Myers uncle tested and it is highly likely that he has more of your great grandfather’s DNA and might make more matches as new cousins get tested.  Anna Swayne’s article Understanding Patterns of Inheritance: Where Did My DNA Come From? (And Why It Matters) will give you more information. 

Does the Court Order have inaccuracies in it?

Does the Court Order say who the informant is?  Unless you know who it is and how well he knew your great grandfather, you can’t really assess if the informant even knew his middle initial or his age. And if it was your great grandfather giving the information, the information could have be written down incorrectly, or as you suggest he could have been confused at the time.  The more evidence you gather about James, the better case you will be able to make whether the 1910 census and the Court Order match.

Are John and Sarah Myers the parents of James H. Myers?

Let’s start with the 1900 census record that you mentioned, since that is the one you know to be correct.

James was born in Missouri, Eliza in Germany.  The oldest daughter was born in Kansas (Holt County is very close to Kansas), Amarilla was born in Oregon and the rest were born in Missouri. Oregon strikes me as odd. The census tells us they have been married for 11 years so sometime around 1888 or 1889. Maybe they were married in Missouri, maybe in Kansas.

1900 for James Myers

I did find a marriage license for James H. Meyers and Louisa Cook. Given that Eliza was German she may have had a strong accent and the clerk may not have understood her name. Kuch and Cook may have been pronounce the same. The license is for Dec 1888 and in Oregon, Holt, Missouri which is close in date and location on the 1900 census.

Let’s think about where and when Amarilla and Mary Etta were born.  Mary Etta was born in Dec 1890 in Kansas. Amarilla in Jun 1891 in Oregon. Either Amarilla was very premature, or one of those dates is wrong.

I also wondered at first if Amarilla might have been born in Oregon, Missouri, but I found what are likely to be her other census records and they all say she was born in Oregon. I even found an index that lists her as being born in Oregon. But, it gives her married name.  Now how did they know in 1891 that she was going to marry a Counts? I suspect this is a delayed birth record which brings it into question. It may be right, but there are enough oddities that you are going to need to dig more.

oregon birth

The 1860 record you found may be your James, but it is a long jump from 1900 to 1860. I would take each of James’ and Eliza’s children and research them thoroughly. Maybe somewhere in their information is a clue to an aunt or uncle or cousin of James. And research Eliza’s family as well.

You were very wise to be cautious about committing to this family. While the indicators are there, additional evidence will help you solidify this link. I suggest you read our 5 Steps to a Healthy Tree for how to build a strong case on a hypothesis. Keep digging. The answer is out there.

Happy Searching!


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On This April Fool’s Day, Tell Us Which Ancestor Made A Fool Out of You Tue, 01 Apr 2014 16:21:36 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more ]]> There are all sorts of silly pranks that are done on April 1st. And it got me to thinking, have any of my ancestor’s played practical jokes on me? You know, left clues in strange places. Or falsified documents. Or anything that made you sigh and start talking aloud to yourself when you found it?

My 3rd great grandfather was Charlton Wallace and his wife was Martha Jane Cash. Now I know that Martha Jane Cash was the daughter of Ready Cash. (Yes, really, that was the name he went by.)  But who was Charlton’s father? Now I searched and searched and finally dug up a marriage record where William Wallace signed for him.


It didn’t state the relationship between Charlton and Wallace, but it seems like a pretty good clue. But that document took me a few years to find. And that name was right under my nose all along if I had just bothered to look for it!

When I searched for records of Ready, I found him in 1840. Right where I expected him.


Do you think I took the time to look at the next page? I did not. Do I even have to tell you who was on the top of that next page and probably a neighbor of Ready? You know it was William Wallace.


And if I had looked right away, I would have had a really good candidate for Charlton’s father! I felt pretty foolish when I found that a few years later. Lesson learned: Always look at the preceding page and the next page on a census!

All right, which ancestor made a fool out of you?  Time to fess up!

Happy Searching!



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What You Might Have Missed: March 31st Edition Mon, 31 Mar 2014 17:44:23 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more ]]> Blog Posts
faces of
Fold3 Spotlights


From the Barefoot Genealogist:



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