Sunday, February 27, 2011

Keeping Up With the Joneses II

In my last post I began discussing my Jones family history, starting with my grandfather James Dewey Jones (1907-1973).  And, though I still need to obtain copies of his death certificate and marriage license I want to continue back as far as I can go.  I do have his parents’ names from three sources: my grandmother’s Bible, the census forms I found online, and information from my cousin Michelle, so let’s chase more Joneses as we go “forward into the past!”

(top) Vrg, Grandmother Rose, Emy,
Grandpa Jake; (bottom) Paul, Vera, Dan
The parents of James Dewey Jones were Jacob Jones (1866-1951) and Nancy Rosanna “Rosa” Barnes (1872-1948).  Both died before I was born, but my father remembers his grandparents.  Both were born too early to have a birth certificate and I haven’t yet started ordering any death certificates, but I have a number of other sources I can draw on to supplement the personal memories of my living relatives.  First (working backwards) I have a picture, courtesy of my cousin Michelle again, of Jacob & Rosa’s gravestone, showing birth and death dates.  It is located at the North Salem Baptist Church Cemetery in Port Wentworth, Chatham County, Georgia, the same church my grandparents attended all the time I was growing up and where they are also buried.  Because they died before 1962, a search of the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) proves fruitless.  There are some deaths recorded in the SSDI dating as far back as 1937, but very few.  So I’m not surprised.

Jake Jones & Rosa Barnes Jones
Tombstones and other grave markers are funny things.  While most people regard these as concrete evidence of a person’s life and death they aren’t anything more than a memorial placed by others (usually family) after a person’s death.  The date of death on these stone memorials is generally accurate, particularly for gravestones of people who have died in the past century or so, the dates of birth can be problematic, particularly in rural areas where birth records are often sketchy at best until well into the 20th century.  I know people who were born in rural Georgia in the 1930’s who were issued delayed birth certificates decades after they were born because an original was never issued at the time of their birth.  When you go back earlier than that, and into the 1800s, you are often lucky to get a consistent year of birth from one record to the next.  Education was often minimal.  Parents would lie about their childrens' ages to get them to work in the fields sooner.  It was a hand-to-mouth existence for sharecroppers like my great-grandparents and they did what was necessary to provide for their family.

1900 Census, Bulloch County, Georgia
So the grave marker for Jacob and Rosa Barnes Jones is valuable corroborating evidence, but not conclusive for dates of birth.  Note, for example, on the 1900 census, that the record indicates Jake Jones was born July 1865 and Rosie Jones was born March 1870, while the gravestone has Jacob Jones born March 1866 and Rosa born July 1872.  The census was taken in June of 1900.  If whoever gave the information to the census taker got the birth months mixed up and said Rosa was “about 30”, then the census taker would have figured backwards from the age an birth month to calculate the year.  And that’s assuming that it wasn’t intentional fudging of dates whenever talking to a government worker.  However, I am reasonably confident that this census record is that of my Jacob & Rosa Jones in Bulloch County in 1900.  One piece of lore for which I have as yet NO documentation is that two of Jake & Rosa’s sons had multiple middle names: Green Mathew Daniel Jones (1895-1963) and Jacob John Cuyler "Shank" Jones (1899-1976).  I do have a copy of a picture that shows Jake and Rosa with some of their children (thanks again to Michelle; my aunt Mildred Jones Helmey has the original).  The photo is undated, but probably from the early 1940s.  I’m hoping for more pictures and for family reminiscences when I attend a family reunion this spring.  The idea is to add confirmation to the number and names of Jake and Rosa’s children, and where they lived, and hopefully confirm the documentation I’ve been able to find.

Jacob Jones & Rosa Barnes
Marriage License
(click any picture for a larger image)
One other important document I have from Jacob and Rosa’s life is a copy of their marriage license.  As with the other marriage records I have obtained so far I got this from the Georgia’s Virtual Vault website maintained by the Georgia Archives, a division of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.  I posted it previously when I discussed finding marriage records at the Virtual Vault, but here it is again.  It shows that the marriage license was issued in Bulloch County, Georgia, to Jacob Jones and Miss Rosie Barnes on 22 August 1891 by A. R. Lanier, Ordinary.  The marriage was performed 26 August 1891 by J. B. Lee, S.P. & J.P. and recorded in the marriage book on 8 June 1892, again by A. R. Lanier, Ordinary.  I read J. B. Lee’s title as “S.P.  & J.P.”, but now, after a little Google research, I think it might be “N.P. & J.P.”, as in “Notary Public & Justice of the Peace.”  It seems more likely and solves that little mystery.

Since the 1890 census records did not survive there is a gap in the documentation, and this seems to be a good place to end this posting.  As I move back up this branch of the family tree, my primary paternal line, the research gets more and more difficult.  The period from the end of the Civil War through the Great Depression (1865 to 1941) was hard on everyone, but particularly on poor farmers in the South; “hardscrabble” is a word that comes to mind.  I have begun a search in microfilmed records available through the Family Search Center, looking for property and legal records that may exist, but so far it doesn’t appear that my Joneses owned property or wrote wills during those decades.  I haven’t located any probate records of intestate decedents or other court records, though I haven’t yet searched through the court minutes of the inferior and superior courts (in case they got into legal troubles).  I haven’t found any indication of a Jones family Bible from that time period.   

But I think I’ve found enough to at least give me a framework to build on, and I’ll tackle the parents of Jacob Jones in my next post.

Here’s your summary:

  • To repeat an important point: Talk to your relatives.  An old family Bible is a valuable find.  Quite often they may be the only record of your relatives’ births, marriages and deaths.  When possible, try to link living memory with the historic document.  Is there someone alive who has personal memory of the people listed in the Bible record?  Try to get their stories recorded.  They can provide valuable clues about where to search and who to look for.
  • Families weren't always consistent or particularly accurate when talking to the census takers.  While the census forms are extremely valuable, they aren’t necessarily to be taken as Gospel truth.  When conflicts arise, try to arrive at a reasonable decision based on a preponderance of evidence.  At times you go with the “earliest report” method.  The earliest reported age is generally going to be the most accurate.
  • You can search the SSDI in a variety of places on the web, including,, and the FamilySearch site.
  • Marriage and death records can often be found online at Georgia’s Virtual Vault, a digital document resource from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
  • There is a wonderful resource for finding gravestones, call Find A Grave, at  My bookmark for the site goes straight to the search page at  It’s a searchable database of user-submitted cemetery and graveyard information from around the world, though the majority of the listings seem to be in the USA.  Because it’s user-submitted, not all cemeteries and graveyards are covered, and every gravesite isn’t listed.  But it does have a surprising number, with more being constantly added.  Additionally, many have pictures of the tombstone or other grave marker.  So search the site and consider joining.  It’s free.  And you could do a great service to the wider community by joining and contributing wherever you can, even if it’s just a few pictures of your close relatives graves.
  • Don’t forget to use your local public and university libraries, WorldCat (the online card catalog indexing hundreds of libraries across the country), Google Books, eBay and to search out books that may provide indexes to primary resources (marriage indexes, cemetery indexes, will book indexes, etc), as well as published county and family histories that may have information on your ancestors.  Construct search phrases composed of state, county and family names in various combinations, such as “Bulloch County Georgia marriages”, “Jones family history Georgia”, “Jacob Jones Bulloch Georgia”.  You’ll get a lot of extraneous hits, but occasionally you’ll get lucky and make a real find that you might otherwise have missed.  Make sure you read the FAQs or Help files on constructing complex queries that group phrases with quotation marks and plus signs, or use a separate “advanced query” web page; the exact method varies with each search site.
  • Google your counties and add “historical society” or “genealogical society” or “genealogy” to the search phrase.  Consider joining the local historical or genealogical society you may find, even if you no longer live there.  They often have published information that may not be available anywhere else, plus many offer volunteer look-up services for free or for a nominal fee to members.  Plus they can always use your support.  While these are volunteer organizations, there is still a cost involved in editing and publishing the information in a format that is widely accessible, whether as a hard-cover book, soft-cover magazine or booklet, CD, or other, there are costs involved, and your support can prove invaluable.

Later y’all,


Friday, February 25, 2011

Keeping Up With the Joneses

I’ve already traced part of my maternal lineage back to Joshua Perry, who was born in Warren County in 1805, but migrates westward to Early County and died in Calhoun County in 1863.  Now let’s look at my primary paternal family, the Joneses.

Maggie & Dewey Jones (about 1950)
People who have a really uncommon surname, with few mentions in the historical record, think having a name like Jones would be just great.  They’re mistaken!  Don’t get me wrong, I like my last name, but when trying to trace your ancestors it can be truly a curse if you have to rely on just the public record.  Once you get back past living memory, it becomes easy to lose people, or conflate individuals (merge two people into one identity), or just lose track of the line altogether.

I’m lucky that my father is still living, as are most of his siblings.  And I’m extremely lucky that one of my cousins, Michelle, has been researching the family history for a couple of decades.  She has a great number of family names and dates, many gravestone photos and other documentation.  But I have used my own source of to obtain census records.  I’ve also used Georgia’s Virtual Vault to secure copies of some death certificates and marriage records.  And I’ve come up with some possible clues to more distant ancestors that she had not yet seen.  So I’m going to cover some of that for a few columns.

My grandparents were James Dewey Jones (1907-1973) and Maggie Frances Stringer (1907-2000).  They married in Claxton, Evans County, Georgia, in 1928.  Right away I run into problems.  I can find census records for 1910, 1920 and 1930.  His age is 2 in 1910, 14 in 1920 and 20 in 1930.  The 1930 census shows him living with Maggie and son James Dewey Jr. with his parents, and that he was 19 when first married.  I also have copies of pages from Maggie’s bible, given to me by my cousin Michelle.  It states that my grandfather was born 13 Dec 1908.  The Stringer family bible (again, the pages were provided by my cousin Michelle, though I also have paper copies given to me by my parents) lists my grandmother’s name as Frances Magadilin, and gives her marriage date to Dewey Jones as “Oct 6 1928.”  Granddaddy’s gravestone is carved with his birth date as 13 Dec 1907.

Oh my goodness!

Stringer Bible (left) - Jones Bible (right)
In this situation, there is a great deal of conflicting data in the sources.  There is no “preponderance of evidence” here.  So in this case I went with the first and last sources.  The 1910 census states that he was 2 years old in June of that year which is consistent with a birth date of 13 Dec 1907, and that’s what is on his gravestone.  Furthermore, I looked up his SSDI (Social Security Death Index) record online and found the same date there.  So that’s what I’ll use until further evidence comes in, though I will note the discrepancy in dates in my notes.

I mentioned the SSDI.  If you haven’t used it yet, the Social Security Death Index can be a very valuable tool for discovering or verifying vital statistics and possibly other family names as well.  The SSDI is available online from a variety of sources, including, and Family Search.  The first two are pay subscription sites; the Family Search site is free.  If a death was reported to the Social Security Administration after 1962 when they began keeping electronic records, then the person is in this database.  There are also some individuals included who died before then, but after Social Security became law.  A quick search in turns up the index record for my grandfather.  I can also use the retrieved Social Security Number (SSN) to order a copy of what’s called the SS-5 form, “Original Application for a Social Security Card”.  You can now order these online directly from the SSA at  The fee is $27 if you know the SSN, $29 if you don’t.  The SS-5 often provides information on your ancestor’s name, address, date of birth and parents’ names.  The farther back you go, the less likely you are to find all of this information on the form, but it’s a valuable piece of documentation nevertheless.  I still need to order a copy of my grandfather’s SS-5.

There will be no birth certificate, but there are other documents I still need to obtain on James Dewey Jones.  I need to order a copy of his death certificate and marriage license (Evans County records aren’t available through the Virtual Vault).  However, I do have his parents’ names from the Bible pages my grandmother wrote and from the census forms, as well as from information provided by Michelle, so next time we’ll go back another generation or two, trying to keep up with the Jones!

Here’s your summary:
  • Talk to your relatives.  An old family Bible is a valuable find.  Quite often they may be the only record of your relatives’ births, marriages and deaths.  When possible, try to link living memory with the historic document.  Is there someone alive who has personal memory of the people listed in the Bible record?  Try to get their stories recorded.  They can provide valuable clues about where to search and who to look for.
  • has much more than census records and family trees.  Try using the SSDI to search for ancestors who died in the 20th century – particularly those who passed away during the second half of the century.  Then use the SSN you obtain to order a copy of the person’s SS-5 form for documentation and as a pointer towards areas of additional research.
  • Families weren't always consistent or particularly accurate when talking to the census takers.  While the census forms are extremely valuable, they aren’t necessarily to be taken as Gospel truth.  When conflicts arise, try to arrive at a reasonable decision based on a preponderance of evidence.  At times you go with the “earliest report” method.  The earliest reported age is generally going to be the most accurate.

Later y’all,


Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Get By With a Little Help

So far in discussing this search for My Georgia Roots I’ve been concentrating on resources available on the internet.  But I should back up a bit and mention how I got started, as they always tell you to, with the people I know.  Like many other people, I began researching my family history only recently, and later in life.  I’m lucky that both of my parents are still living, everyone from the generations before has passed on.  But I have been blessed with the help of family, close and distant, some unknown until recently, for whom genealogy has been a decades-long passion.  

After initially entering the information I knew about my parents and grandparents into I was stuck.  I knew the name of one great-grandparent, but that was as far as I could get on my own, so I picked up the phone and called my parents.  I asked basic questions: What were my grandparents’ birthdates?  When did they get married?  What are the names and birthdates and spouses for my aunts and uncles?  Who were my great-grandparents?  What about their parents?  We didn’t get very far.  But my mom said that her cousin Barbara is interested in genealogy, and my dad said my cousin Michelle (his sister’s daughter) is, too.  And they gave me their email addresses.

Barbara and Michelle have both been very generous with their time and research, and helping me to refine my search.   When you’ve got names like Jones and Perry in Georgia it can be very confusing to narrow down your search.  It helped to have additional names of family members.  Barbara actually shared family history narratives put together by her aunt and put me in contact with another cousin, the aunt’s son Dan.  Dan shared some pictures, and the promise of more to come.  Barbara also had a rather large old-style family tree diagram for many more distant relations put together by some great-aunts (we’re not sure if it’s one or two greats for her, which would be two or three greats for me!).  In exchange I’ve been able to use the internet to supply documentation she didn’t have in the form of images of census records and marriage licenses.

Michelle was able to supply me with a great deal of information about the Jones side of our family.  She spent a great number of hours in conversation with our grandmother at one point.  I’ve used access to some message boards to contact people with shared lineages, or who had materials that could point me to more people.  Thanks to Dee I was able to obtain a copy of a family history book on the Nevilles of Bulloch County and was able to contact the editor, Hugh, who it turns out is a distant cousin.  Similarly, a chance mention on a Rootsweb archive posting led me to a conversation with Nancy, who had discovered notes in a family Bible at the Georgia Archives years ago while researching her Jones roots.  The record she found didn’t help her, but thanks to her foresight in transcribing it, I was able to move back one more generation with my Jones branch.  That led me to the records posted by Bill on Daniel Jones and the discovery that we may indeed be related to the north Georgia Joneses since he spent about 20 years in the Dahlonega area (Lumpkin County), lured there by the Georgia Gold Rush.

On the maternal side, I was introduced to one Maxwell cousin by Barbara, and found another on a Rootsweb mailing list or Ancestry discussion board (can’t remember now), who it turned out also knew Barbara, and one of them introduced me to a third.  I know I’ll get the order wrong about who came first or who introduced me to whom, but that’s how I got to correspond with Dell, MaryEllie and Roberta.  Loren and Kathleen, two other Ancestry/Rootsweb contacts with Perry information, turned out to also be already acquainted with Barbara.  We’re talking about relationships like Third Cousin Twice Removed here!  But all have contributed something to the store of information.  Several have shared family trees or family history narratives.  Some have stories about people I know, or at least whose names I recognize from other research.  I have truly been blessed and privileged to make their acquaintance, and their help has been invaluable.

Yes, I still need to verify the information, and cite sources, and pursue new leads, but without the help of these people and others I would have a much harder time, and would be missing big chunks of my family history.  There is much more that I need to do, and more people I need to talk to.  I’ve submitted my own Jones DNA for testing, and Barbara’s brother Don has done the same with his Perry DNA, but I need to find a Maxwell cousin, and a Stringer cousin, and Farthing and Barnes and Williams and so on.  Genealogical DNA testing won’t give you names, but it will help to confirm suspicions about relatedness if enough people get theirs tested, or alternatively will preclude some presumed relationship and point you in another direction entirely.  Hopefully it will help us over some brick walls where the possible relationships aren’t documented but the likely suspects have been identified.  I need to obtain additional court and other records on the ancestors and other relations that I’ve identified, and push the boundaries on identifying more.  

And I need to keep talking to strangers in the online and offline groups and try to meet more of my family.  Researching your family history online may seem like a solitary endeavor, but I can’t really do it all on my own … I get by with a little help from my friends!
Here’s your summary:
  • The first thing everybody tells you when you want to do genealogical research is “Start with what you know.”  So write down what you know about yourself and your family, then pick up the phone (or walk in the other room) and ask your parents, and grandparents if you’re lucky enough to still be able to).  Talk to your aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters and cousins.  Don’t pry, just ask them what they remember about Uncle Bill or Aunt Lilly.  If you’re really luck there may already be one or more relatives who have been working on the family tree for some time, “You know, you should really talk to June’s daughter; she’s been collecting family pictures for years!”
  • Search the mailing lists and blogs and forums for people researching your family names (surnames) in the area of the country (or world) that you are from.  Add in your grandparents or great-grandparents first names, or a city to narrow the results.  Or look for their brothers and sisters.  These collateral line searches often turn up more distant cousins who might have more information than you.  Maybe your grandfather’s sister had all the family albums and the family bible, and now her granddaughter is also online and you can make a connection.
  • Always be polite and gracious in your conversations, whether in person, on the phone, or online.  Don’t challenge people’s stories, just document them.  But don’t take anything at face value, either.  You can use this as pointers in your research, but unless they offer documentation along with their stories (a family bible, pictures that have written captions (is that really great-aunt Bessie, or is it her sister-in-law?)  Memories are fallible.  Remember to say “please” and “thank you” a lot. 
  • This particular blog post is a great big “thank you” to everyone I’ve mentioned above and anyone else I’ve forgotten.

Later y’all,


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Still More from the Vault

This time we’re going back to Georgia’s Virtual Vault, from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s, looking for more documents to use in genealogy research. 

So far, in this series of posts and in the series on Joshua Perry, we’ve looked at marriage records, death certificates and Confederate pension records.  There are many other types of documents and records available here which may be valuable for documenting your family history, or even for fleshing out the lives of your ancestors and the places they lived.  Some of these I have not explored as thoroughly as I could because I’m generally stuck at around 1800 with all of my documented ancestors, and most of the ancestral branches appear to have moved to Georgia from the Carolinas around then or a bit later, though a few moved into the state in the years following the Revolution.  The Colonial Will Books, for example, have the official transcriptions of the wills of residents from the earliest decades of the colony.  (Remember, Georgia was the last of the original thirteen colonies.  The first 114 settlers arrived with founder James Edward Oglethorpe in 1733, when they established the city of Savannah.)  There is even a section that has some of the original Colonial wills, and it can be fascinating comparing the tattered condition of the original with the transcription from the Will Books.  So far I haven’t discovered a Colonial connection, though, so I haven’t explored these in detail.

Edison, 1901. Street Scene in Edison
All of the sections can be browsed.  You don’t need to perform a specific search.  Sometimes you do have to make a county or document type selection from a drop down list in order to start the browsing, but no other selection need be made.  It’s a great way to waste a rainy afternoon when you’re feeling listless.  And someday you might make a serendipitous discovery!  Some interesting “browseable” categories are the Ad Hoc Collection, Carnegie Family Collection, County Maps, Georgia Power Photograph Collection, Historic Postcard Collection, Small Print Collection, Vanishing Georgia, and Virtual Georgia.  Also of interest are the four sections listed under Museum Collections, the Campaign Materials Collection, Capitol Art Collection, Georgia Capitol Flag Collection and the Military Artifact Collection.  Most of these are collections of historic photographs gathered by various projects of Georgia archivists or donated by the public.  All are quite interesting, and again, you might just get lucky with a town or a building or even a person of interest to you.  For example, according to the 1900 census my 3g-Grandfather William Preston Perry was living in Edison, Calhoun County.  In the Vanishing Georgia collection I found the photograph above, captioned Edison, 1901. Street Scene in Edison (Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Archives, Office of Secretary of State;,677).  There is more to the caption, explaining what is shown, but you get the idea.

One collection I’ve just started researching is the Headright and Bounty Plats collection, more fully titled the Headright and Bounty Plats of Survey, 1783-1909 when you go to the section.  According to the Digital Library of Georgia:
Beginning in 1783 a head of household living in Georgia could be granted 200 acres of land on his own head-right and fifty acres for each additional family member, including slaves, up to 1000 acres. ... The headright and bounty plats depict a tract of surveyed land. The information includes the physical features of the land; the names of adjoining land owners; the name of the person for whom the survey was made; the number of acres surveyed; the name of watercourse bordering or running through the property; the date the warrant was issued for the survey; the date of survey; and the names of the surveyor and crew.
Nathaniel Wade Headright Plat 1836
Again, because I don’t have a lot of original settlers in the family line, I didn’t originally hold a lot of hope for this one, but the idea occurred to me to search for my ancestors names on the plats of survey as neighbors of the grantees, since when a neighboring plot has already been bought or granted it is identified by it’s owner’s name.  The descriptive information says the collection was launched in 2006 and “completed counties include Screven, Burke, Camden, Chatham and Effingham.”  When you click on the drop down list of counties, you also can select Glynn and Wilkes counties, but I don’t know if those are complete yet.  You can also search by name or number of acres.  That seemed an odd choice, but I suppose if you had a number but didn’t know the original grantee or where it was originally located, it could come in handy.  I picked a random number, 273, and the search returned three plats!

Going back to my brick wall Joshua Perry.  I know he was married to Louvicia Ann Wade in Screven County in 1832.  A quick search for “Perry” turns up nothing relevant.  So I search for “Wade”, thinking perhaps his father-in-law John McGruder Wade received a grant.  The only Wade in Screven County is a Nathaniel Wade who received his grant in 1836.  A quick glance at the plat shows Nathaniel’s 541 acres of “uplands & swamp” bounded on the north by lands belonging to the estate of T[?] Scott, on the east by the Savannah River, and on the south and west by property belonging to John Mc Wade.  I know that John M. Wade’s name is often abbreviated as John Mc Wade, and that he had remarried in 1835 after the death of his first wife.  His second wife was from Washington County, and he is listed there on the 1840 census, but he could still have owned property in Screven County in 1836.  So it’s a definite possibility.

I checked the 1830 Census for Screven County.  The first entry on the same sheet with John Mc Wade is “Josia Scott.”  Two lines above John is “Nathaniel Wade.”  Remember, these are headright and bounty plats, so they don’t show property transfers.  I’ll have to order films of the deed books from the Family History Library to research that further, but I’ve got a lead.  I can search for other names on the same census sheet.  There won’t be a one-for-one correspondence because the parcels of various grants might not be contiguous with each other, and some of the property might have other family members, tenants or even squatters living on them at the time of the census, but it’s a relative guide.  There is also a great little book that was recently published, Atlas of East and Coastal Georgia Watercourses and Militia Districts by Paul K. Graham (available from – no I don’t get a kick-back, I just really like this book).  The 1830 census shows John living in the 38th Militia District.  A quick check of the Screven County map in the Graham book shows that the 38th Militia District is in the northeast corner of the county, on the Savannah River.  (And yes, it did occur to me that county boundaries changed over the year in Georgia.  Screven’s boundaries were set by 1797, except for a small corner on the west side of the county that was carved out in 1905 to form part of Jenkins County.)  Nothing definitive yet, but good pointers for further research.  I’d call that a good evening’s work, wouldn’t you?

Here’s your summary:
  • Georgia’s Virtual Vault is a digital document resource from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.  In it you can find a number of documents that qualify as primary sources of information.
  • The Vault also has material that can flesh out your family history, helping to give life to the lists of names and places and dates.
  • Don’t forget to look for secondary sources as well.  If you can’t find a primary reference to your ancestors, perhaps you can find a reference to their neighbors, which may contain a passing mention of your ancestor and thereby point you toward a new avenue of research.
  • For confirmation, primary source citation, or additional research it often is necessary to access other source materials such as the census, deed books (whether on microfilm from the Family History Library or by visiting the appropriate courthouse), and published references such as the Atlas of East and Coastal Georgia Watercourses and Militia Districts by Paul K. Graham mentioned above.  Paul Graham is a Certified GenealogistSM and his website is

Later y’all,


Monday, February 14, 2011

The Flavor of the Times

We were looking at the records available through Georgia’s Virtual Vault, from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, but I’m going to take a break this week.  Sometimes it helps to shift gears a bit in your research, to back off from a thorny problem of tracing lineage, and relax with a little light reading.  So this week I want to share some sources I’ve read, or started reading, or found and intend to read, that help make your research into names and dates and places into living, breathing relatives that inhabited a world every bit as real as ours.  The point here is not to discover our ancestors but to explore the world in which they lived.

In researching my Perry ancestors in southwest Georgia, as with any Georgia relatives, it helps to remember that counties and boundaries change over time.  There are several sources for historic county maps of the state, but the two I’ve found most interesting and helpful are the Historical Atlas of Georgia Counties (at, part of the Georgia Info web site, and one I’ve mentioned before, the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries from the Newberry Library (at  Unfortunately the interactive maps of the Newberry Library site seem to be unavailable at this time, but it’s worth the time to check back periodically.  I’m sure they’ll get it working again soon.  Georgia Info’s Historical Atlas is a great collection of maps that can be used to illustrate the changing boundaries of a county.  Additionally, because the maps were created over the past 250 years or so, they often show communities that no longer exist, or whose names have changed, helping you to located a particular area that may be listed on old census or tax forms that could not otherwise be located on Google Maps or MapQuest

For example, when Joshua Perry first moved his family westward he settled in Early County.  He is on the Early County census of 1850.  In 1860 he was on the Calhoun County census.  But if I pull up the maps of Early County from the Historical Atlas for 1846 and 1855 I can readily see that Clay and Calhoun Counties were carved out of Early County in 1854.  In fact the 1860 census places Joshua Perry and family in District 4, Pachitta, Calhoun County, and Pachitta is clearly visible as a community in Calhoun County.  I could switch over to the Calhoun County maps as watch the evolution of the various communities.  Pachitta disappears by 1874.  By 1899 the town of Edison appears, which is the location of the cemetery in which Joshua and his wife are buried.

For more down to earth information, I turn to local county histories and even memoirs of individual people.  I haven’t yet located an in-print history of Calhoun County, but the Early County Historical Society has a fascinating series of books which extract information from various sources, official records, contemporary newspapers and personal recollections of residents.  I found mention of a Col. Joel Perry, who may or may not be a brother or cousin of Joshua, who was an early resident of the county in a set of articles reprinted by the Society in the first volume of Collections of Early County Historical Society (1971), available from the Early County Historical Society.  There was a local man by the name of Dennis M. Wade, Sr. who wrote a series of columns or letters to the editor of the local paper about 1898 to 1900 or so.  Through his reminiscences I discovered another relative, for he makes clear that his grandfather was Joshua’s father-in-law.  In a piece dated 15 February 1900 for the Blakely Reporter Mr. Wade writes of his father:
     William Henry Wade, Sr. was born July 24th, 1799, in Scriven County, Georgia, and died August 5th, 1856, in this county. His father was John McGruder Wade of Irish descent and his mother was a Holcombe, a sister of Henry Holcombe, the renowned Baptist preacher of Savannah and Philadelphia.
An earlier piece, dated 28 September 1899, mentions I think my ancestor Joshua Perry, and also gives you an idea of the flavor of the writing:
     I must digress here to tell you something about our old-time weddings. Do you like chicken tart? If so, you ought to have lived in those days. Chicken pie or tart, as it was sometimes called, was the main dish at a wedding supper, which was served at the bride's home. A plenty of other good things were on hand, too. About everybody that knew of it went, invited or not invited. The ceremony was generally performed by a magistrate. I remember one, an uncle of the writer, who was as popular at the business as Judge Perryman is now: Squire Joshua Perry, father of Hon. T. J. Perry of Cuthbert, whose only fee was as many chicken gizzards as he could eat. 
     Uncle Joshua was a good old-time fiddler (not violinist). He could play and talk the "Arkansas Traveler" and other fashionable tunes of that day. Of course,  his services were in great demand on that score, for after supper was over, it was a dance for the balance of the night. Those were halcyon days for the young "Bucks" and "Buckesses," and even older married couples would join in the dance.
There is a great series of books, Images of America, published by Arcadia Publishing.  Many, many localities have their own books published by this company.  They can often be found in the Local Interest section of even large chain bookstores, as well as in smaller local museums and gift shops.  Normally you can only find the books locally, but you can order any of the in-print books through the publisher’s website,  The books are illustrated with historic photographs and have short sections on various topics and locations peculiar to each locale.  While they are uneven in execution, they are almost always worth getting to get a sense of the community as it views itself.  So far I have books for Camilla and for Effingham County.  Two of the ones I particularly want are currently out of print, but I’m hopeful that I will run across a copy on my next visit home.  The books generally run about $20 to $22 each.

In a used book store, I ran across a 1957 reprint of an 1835 book by a fellow named A. B. Longstreet called Georgia Scenes.  The rather long subtitle is Characters, Incidents, &c, in the First Half Century of the Republic.  I have only read parts of it so far, but according to the introduction it was admired by Edgar Allan Poe, and may have been familiar to such literary luminaries as Mark Twain and William Faulkner.  While humorous, the modern reader is struck by the casual acceptance of violence, and the undercurrent of savage barbarity that is barely in check.  It’s difficult to remember, but in the 1830s and earlier, Georgia was the frontier, the original wild, wild west.  Another example, which can be found on Google Books and downloaded for free, is Historical Collections of Georgia, written in 1855 by the Rev. George White.  Being a collection of historical and biographical sketches, it need not be read straight through, but the various bits certainly give a flavor for the way things were in antebellum Georgia.

Before I close this post, I also have to mention that now is a good time to find reprints and new collections of the journals and letters of men and women who lived, and died, during the Civil War.  I found one such reprint in another used book shop, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 by Frances Anne Kemble, a young English actress who married an American and spent several months on his family’s plantation on Sea Island, Georgia.  I haven’t yet worked up the nerve to tackle this one, but I know it will be both challenging and fascinating.  At some point I’ll update you on it.
That’s all for now, so here’s your summary:
  • Historic maps are a good place to start when trying to locate your ancestors and figure out where they lived.  County and state boundaries change over the years, and only by referring to contemporary maps that your relatives might have know can you get a sense of where they were and where they thought they were.  Site such as Historical Atlas of Georgia Counties and Atlas of Historical County Boundaries are a good place to start; you can Google for others.
  • Books, newspaper articles and collections of other writings by 18th and 19th century writers who lived or traveled in Georgia can be invaluable for giving you a “sense of place”.  Try reading items both by native inhabitants and by outsiders visiting or just arriving.  Sometimes their perspective may more closely resemble your own, in the sense that they are trying to figure out as you are what these people were about.
  • Check Google Books for free downloads of period books that are out of copyright.  You can also check, Borders and Barnes & Noble for new reprints of old titles.  Don’t forget to check your local used book stores.  They often have books that were printed in the 1950s and 1960s as part of reprint series for educational courses, and they can be very inexpensive.  Heck, you might even stumble across original printings from the 19th century!
  • For more recent histories, say the 1880s through the 1940s, try the Images of America, published by Arcadia Publishing.  Many of the books were written by county historians, but even the books that read like promotional materials from the Chamber of Commerce can provide valuable historical context.

Later y’all,


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Still More from the Vault

We’re looking through Georgia’s Virtual Vault, from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s, for more documents to use in genealogy research.   

Last time I gave one example of a marriage license found in an early marriage book that had no index. I promised an example from a later marriage book that has an index.  I’m not talking here about the online database indexes where you can type in search terms and find a person.  This is a hand-written index written in the front of each book by each clerk as they entered the license in the court record.  One of the nice things about this type of indexed book is that even if you can’t find an online database index of a marriage, if you can narrow down the approximate time and county of marriage you can often find a record of the marriage in the index without having to search through each page of each book.

Dropping down a couple of generations from last time, my 2g grandparents were Jacob Jones and Nancy Rosanna Barnes.  Based on census records I can make an educated guess that they were married about 1891, plus or minus one year.  The Georgia marriage indexes in won’t help me here because none of them cover Bulloch County for that timeframe.  So I have to search the books for the marriage record.  Fortunately, marriage books by the late 19th century for the most part all have content indexes by the groom’s last name.  

As before I start in the section of the Virtual Vault called Marriage Records from Microfilm.   At the bottom of the page, in the search section, I select “Bulloch” from the drop down list, then click on the “Search” button to bring up the list of Bulloch County marriage books.  There are three possible books that might have the marriage record I want, so I start with the first one, Bulloch County Marriage Book, 1875-1892.  I click on it to start my search.  Here, unlike the previous book, I have and entry in the navigation pane for “Index”.  If I click on the plus sign to expand it, I can see all the index pages listed out.  I click on the “J”.

The “J” index page in this case is fairly brief.  Sometimes a letter will span two or more pages.  Scanning quickly down the page I spot the next to the last line: “Jones Jacob  &  Mifs Rosie Barnes  498.”  Remember that often in earlier times they used a different form for the letter “s”, so that would be read as “Miss Rosie Barnes.”  And the record should be on page 498.  Now I go back to the left-hand navigation pane, click on the minus sign next to the work “Index” and click on the plus sign next to the word “Contents”.  As I scroll down the list I can see that it is quite long, so there is probably one navigation page per book page, making my search even easier.  Scrolling all the way down to 498 I click on it. 

And voila!  I have their marriage license.  As with so many images on the internet I can now right-click on the image and save it to my hard drive.  If I want a larger image I can increase the magnification and stitch together the parts as I discussed last time.  Note that they have switched to a printed form for the marriage licenses.  The license was issued on 22 August 1891 and the marriage was performed by J.B. Lee S.P & J.P. on 26 August 1891.  Notice however that the license wasn’t recorded (entered into the book) until 8 June 1892.  This can be critical to notice throughout the marriage books no matter what century or county, whenever a separate license was issued and the recording wasn’t done until the return was made to the clerk’s office.  If a clerk failed to keep the licenses in order, or if a license wasn’t returned right away, the license could be considerably out of chronological order compared to the rest of the licenses.  I have read that it wasn’t unheard of for a whole group of licenses to be returned at once when the youngest child got married.  So particularly when there isn’t a groom index in front of the book don’t give up because you don’t see a marriage license where you expected to.  It could just be a little out of sequence.
Here’s your summary:
  • Georgia’s Virtual Vault is a digital document resource from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.  In it you can find a number of documents that qualify as primary sources of information.
  • To shorten your search try to find a published index of marriages for the county in which your ancestor was married, or a statewide index if you are unsure.  Some examples I’ve used are 37,000 Early Georgia Marriages by Joseph Maddox and Mary Carter; county-specific books compiled by Alvaretta Kenan Register, Frances T. Ingmire and Jeannette Holland Austin.  There are also marriage indexes built into the Search and Hints functions of (paid subscription required), and many lists produced on Rootsweb, forums, GaGenWeb.
  • Google, Google Books and WorldCat can all help you find printed resources; some of these may be available in digital form for free and others will be found at your local public or university library.

Later y’all,


Sunday, February 6, 2011

More on the Vault

We’re looking through Georgia’s Virtual Vault, from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s, for more documents to use in genealogy research.  Last time I began covering marriage licenses.  All images in this post are screen shots of web pages from the Virtual Vault website and are intended for educational purposes only.  The copyright is held by the Georgia Secretary of State's office.

I know I called them marriage certificates a couple of times.  I tend to use license, certificate and record interchangeably, but there is probably an exact distinction.  It may be that they are more properly called “marriage records”, as the Virtual Vault’s section name Marriage Records from Microfilm does.   So I’m not really trying to confuse you.  In any case you shouldn’t expect to see a copy of the nice pretty marriage license that people get to frame on the wall.  These are the official records of the clerk of the Court of Ordinary charged with maintaining these records.  In early days they were often a line or two saying who the license was issued to and on what date.  Eventually they added a return that transcribed the license issued to the newlyweds and signed by the minister, judge or justice of the peace who performed the ceremony, indicating when the marriage was performed, and later the date the whole thing was recorded.

Here are a couple of examples.  

Go to the section page for marriages, Marriage Records from Microfilm, at  I know from the marriage index in (Georgia Marriages to 1850 – paid subscription required) that John Hendrix married Jemima Brewton got married on 12 Sep 1817 in Bulloch County, Georgia.  They were my 4g grandparents (that’s great-great-great-great-grandfather and great-great-great-great-grandmother).  I want to find the record of their marriage to support the date listed in the index.  So on this section page I scroll down to the bottom and under the heading Search the Marriage Records from Microfilm, below “County”, I select “Bulloch” from the drop down list, then click on the “Search” button.  This brings up the list of marriage books available for Bulloch County.

The top entry is Bulloch County Marriage Book, 1812-1856, so I click on that, either the picture or the words will take me there.  First, notice the link at the top that says “Reference url”.  If you click on that you open a small window with the url that leads to this page.  You can copy and paste that url into your citation when you reference this source.  Additional information for your source can be found by clicking on the “Go” button next to “View: document description”.  The other choice for the “View” drop down is “page description”, but I don’t find that as useful.

Now click on “Page 1” in the navigation pane on the left.  This is the first frame of the microfilm.  Note that the date range recorded on this frame may not agree exactly with the date range in the title as posted on the website.  “Page 2” is the microfilm’s info frame, stating where and when it was filmed, by whom, and the exposure used.  “Page 3” is the “BEGIN” frame and “Page 4” shows the covers of the book.  Most of the books follow this pattern.  If there is an index, the next few pages would be the index pages.  This marriage book has no index of marriages, so the “Page 5” is the page 1 of the actual book.  It’s important to remember what “Page” in the navigation pane corresponds to page 1 of the book if you are trying to look up a reference from an index that says a certain marriage record is on page 37 for
example.  Also, for most books and most “navigation pane pages”, there are two book
pages per frame.  If you can do the math in your head it helps to get to the right image quicker, otherwise, you can digitally “thumb through” a few images to get to the page you want.  
For John and Jemima’s marriage record I’m not so lucky.  Fortunately, I do have a date, though.  A little trial and error and I find the record on page 17 (navigation pane Page 13).  Now I can transcribe the text, or better yet I can right-click the image and “Save As” an jpg file to my computer.  Then I can use image software to crop or enhance the image.  The website will generally resize the image so the whole frame fits on one page.  

If I want a larger image to save, so that it’s easier to read, I click on the magnifying glass with the plus sign in it.  The viewing part of the web page will not hold the whole image, so I can use the arrows to maneuver around to the part of the page I want.  Usually I have to save several images and then use my image software to stitch those images together into a single picture.  So now I know that the marriage license was issued to John Hendrix and Jemima Brewton on 5 Sep 1817 in Bulloch County and they were married on 12 Sep 1817 in Tattnall County by William Johnson, J.P.

I’ve run on so long, I’ll go through a second example next time. Here’s your summary:
  • Georgia’s Virtual Vault is a digital document resource from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.  In it you can find a number of documents that qualify as primary sources of information.
  • To shorten your search try to find a published index of marriages for the county in which your ancestor was married, or a statewide index if you are unsure.  Some  example I’ve used are 37,000 Early Georgia Marriages by Joseph Maddox and Mary Carter; county-specific books compiled by Alvaretta Kenan Register, Frances T. Ingmire and Jeannette Holland Austin.  There are also marriage indexes built into the Search and Hints functions of (paid subscription required), and many lists produced on Rootsweb, forums, GaGenWeb.

Later y’all, 


Thursday, February 3, 2011


Georgia’s Virtual Vault, that is.  I’ve mentioned this web site from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office numerous times, so I thought I’d go more in-depth with it this week.  There are a lot of resources there, right at your fingertips, and unlike a physical library or archives building, it’s open 24-7.  

First, what is it?  The website is produced by the Georgia Archives, which functions as an arm of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.  It is charged with preserving and maintaining the documentary history of the State of Georgia.  This includes official documents produced by the state and it’s constituent counties and cities as well as private sources of historic or cultural significance donated by the citizens of the State.  The Virtual Vault “provides virtual access to historic Georgia manuscripts, photographs, maps, and government records” (as stated on the website’s home page).

Since one of my primary goals in researching my family history is to be able to cite evidence to prove my ancestry, my first interest in the Virtual Vault was for the documents it provides access to.  If you look along the left side of the homepage ( you’ll see the primary resources available.  This menu is also available from each section’s front page.

The section that lead me to the Virtual Vault was Georgia Death Certificates.  This was early on, before I realized how restricted the access to death certificates can be.  I think, based on what I’ve seen, that Georgia falls somewhere in between.  And of course, anything is better than nothing.  The death certificates here are mostly from the early days of statewide reporting.  Not all counties are represented, and not all years in those counties, but I’ve been lucky, finding several direct ancestors here.  The years covered are primarily 1919 to 1927, with a scattering of deaths from 1914 to 1918.  

There are several search fields at the bottom.  Choose a row and fill in one or both fields, then click the Search button on that row.  You can use the asterix as a wild card for one or more characters.  Typing in J*es will return Jones, James, Jaines, etc.  The question mark (?) does not appear to work as a wild card here.  The name row will return the certificate if that name appears anywhere on the indexed fields of the death certificate.  The “Title” of the death certificates means the name of the deceased.  You can type in just a county on either row and browse all the death certificates in the collection that were issued by that county, or you can restrict it to a particular year or name.  Last names are best for a title search, with or without wild cards; if you get too specific with first and last name you may miss a match.  If you know the certificate number you can also search on that.  There is an advanced search, but so far I’ve been able to pretty much use the provided basic search fields without resorting to the advanced ones.

There is also a second section called Georgia Non-Indexed Death Certificates, 1928-1930, covering of course 1928 to 1930.  There are fewer search choices because as the title of the section states, these death certificates are not indexed.  There is a list of the names of the deceased for each year that they call an index; otherwise you have to browse the entire set for each of the years.

Using the death certificates led me immediately to the section on marriage certificates, Marriage Records from Microfilm.  For the most part these were filmed by the LDS church from the 1930s to the 1950s, and they are the same images you would see by ordering a film from the Family History Library – and they’re free!  The quality varies widely, both of the originals and of the films and the digital conversion, though for the I’ve usually been pleased.  I think they actually did a bit of cleanup on the images during the digitization process based on the films I’ve seen at the Family History Center.  As I’ve mentioned before, not all the marriage books are represented here.  There are odd missing volumes that can be ordered your local FHC.  And, of course, there are the volumes that are simply missing.  Courthouse disasters, poor quality originals that apparently were never filmed, But again, I’ve gotten marriage license records that would otherwise have taken me years possibly to collect in a matter of months.

There are two search rows here.  One lets you type in a “Title”, though here it refers to the county name, so it actually duplicates the effect of using the dropdown list of counties in the second row.  The marriage books aren’t indexed.  This means there is no way to search them from a search screen.  So you have two choices: flip through every book which might contain the names you want, or find an index of the marriages you’re researching elsewhere.  The first option is certainly doable.  People have been manually perusing the marriage books or the FHL microfilms for generations now.  All but the earliest of the books have an handwritten index of grooms last names in the front that was created as the entries were made, though these indexes are not 100% reliable.   

Much more efficient is to try to find a published index of the county, or of the state, which will help you narrow your search.  There is 37,000 Early Georgia Marriages by Joseph Maddox and Mary Carter; Alvaretta Kenan Register, Frances T. Ingmire and Jeannette Holland Austin have all produced volumes of marriage indexes for both brides and grooms on many Georgia Counties.  These books are sometimes available through eBay or one of the used book sites if you want your own copy, or can be found in a public or university library.  Search for them on Google Books then use the “Find in a library” link to connect to WorldCat, or just search there first.   

There are marriage indexes built into the Search and Hints functions of (caution, these indexes are definitely not complete, read the details of the marriage indexes).  There are also many lists produced on Rootsweb, forums, GaGenWeb and other forum sites and mailing lists.  Often a Google search will turn these up; otherwise search within the forum or mailing list for “marriages” or for an individual’s name.  I’ve found several listed that way.

Sorry this was a little late because of the blizzard this week.   Next time I’ll continue discussing marriage books and talk a bit about the images you find in the Vault. 

Here’s your summary:
  • Georgia’s Virtual Vault is a digital document resource from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.  In it you can find a number of documents that qualify as primary sources of information.
  • There is a compiled list of Georgia courthouse disasters available from a USGenNet page, among other places, Destruction of Georgia Courthouses.  This list is based on information available from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
  • Accurate official vital records are pretty much a 20th century invention in Georgia, and enforcement of the requirements was lax until the late 1920’s.  Nevertheless, with perseverance many documents that qualify as primary sources can be found.
  • The Family History Center, the Family History Library and Family Search, a closely related set of resources from LDS, are invaluable.  You should find your local Center, and get to know both the individual search and the library search.  The volunteers at your local Center will be glad to help you.
  • A little research can make your searches more productive.  Google, Google Books and WorldCat can all help you find printed resources; some of these may be available in digital form for free and others will be found at your local public or university library.  Don't neglect the forums and list serv mailing lists, either.

Later y’all,