I was putting together this column and got a little sidetracked. Footnote.com has released the Confederate Civil War Service Records on line. So now all those Bounty Pay and Receipt Rolls documents that had to be ordered by mail are available at the click of a mouse. Of course, Footnote.com is a fee site, but so far I’ve found the fee worth it.
My grandfather was Frank Maxwell Perry (1910-1970). His father was John Isaiah Perry, Sr (1878-1956). I still need to fully document my connection to them with birth and death certificates, but as many of you have probably discovered, convincing your relatives, even your parents, that you need copies of their birth records and their parents death certificates is a delicate task that can’t be rushed. I could of course order death certificates myself, but I chose the less expensive route. I do have personal memory of my grandfather, and I can document his relationship to his father through two census records (1920 and 1930). Yes I know these are secondary sources, but they suffice for now.
Where it gets interesting is when I get to my great-great-grandfather, William Preston Perry (1839-1908) and his brothers. Their parents were Joshua Perry (1805-1866) and Louvicia (or Louvisa) Anne Wade (1806-1884). Joshua & Louvicia had at least five children: daughter Julia M. A. Perry (1833-1863) who was the first wife of Joseph Green Collier (1830-1905), and sons John I Perry (1837-1864), William Preston Perry (1839-1908), Benjamin Wade Perry (1843-1843), Theodore (or Thadeous) Joshua Perry (1845-1902), and Francis (Frank) Marion Perry (1847-1905). Though I’m not going into detail on standard research techniques such as finding someone on a census form, here’s a section of the 1850 Census showing the family as it existed then (Year: 1850; Census Place: Division 25, Early, Georgia; Roll: M432_68; Page: 337B; Image: 226.). First is the image from Ancestry.com as of 9 Jan 2010, then the much better image that I got from HeritageQuestOnline, which is a PERSI site that you can only get through your public or university library. Fortunately, these days many libraries allow you to access these databases through their websites from your own home. All you need is a library card.
In 1850, the area the Perry family lived in was in Early County, Georgia. In 1854 the Georgia legislature created Calhoun County, so in the 1860 census they’ll be found there. Knowing where your relatives lived and when is only half the battle. This is particularly true in Georgia. Georgia currently has 156 counties. Not only were new counties created out of wilderness and from older counties, but the boundaries frequently shifted as late as 1954.
There are a lot of historic maps available online, but there is a really neat, fully interactive website that lets you see historical counties and boundaries at any point in time, and it’s not just for Georgia. Plus you can overlay current county and county seat names, too. It’s the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries Project from the Newberry Library in Chicago, IL. The url of the website is http://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/statepages/Georgia.html. Use the Quick Links Interactive Maps dropdown list on the right side of the screen to select the state (Georgia, in my case), then set the date, click the Refresh Map button, and you’ll see what the counties were at that time. You can zoom in or out and apply various other custom features, and you can print the maps if you want to. This website will keep you entertained for at least one or two afternoons! So don’t start if you have anything pressing to do.
I’ll get back to the Civil War records search next time, I promise, but that’s it for now. Here’s your summary:
- Ancestry.com is a wonderful website, but you still need to double-check their data.
- There are good alternatives for US Census images that are free. HeritageQuestOnline (available through your local library) and, though I didn’t mention it above, FamilySearch from the LDS, has many of the census images available, too.
- If you don’t already have one, get a library card at your local library. In addition to HeritageQuestOnline, there are other resources you’ll be able to use in your genealogical research.
- Researching your family history implicitly includes researching history, and maps help you understand the changes made to your city, county and state, as well as the country as a whole. There are many resources for historical maps, but a good interactive website is the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries Project from the Newberry Library. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you that it’s addictive!