Taking Back What Was Once Lost

Posts in category Census Records

Evaluating Evidence: Sorting “R...

Evaluating Evidence: Sorting “Rezins”

Evaluating evidence is probably the most critical skillset to master in order to break through some of the most stubborn brick walls in genealogy. This post provides an example of how I put that skill to use. When I first discovered that my enslaved ancestor’s name was Rezin Prather, I thought, “What an odd name. […]

I Found You, Mary Neal: Analysis Unco...

I Found You, Mary Neal: Analysis Uncovers An Identity

We all have those lines that seem to withstand all of our greatest efforts to uncover, and one of those lines for me has been my maternal ggrandfather Walter Springer’s line. I know the names of his parents–Lou and George Springer–but have only ever found Lou Springer, widowed, on the 1900 census. That is an […]

Marriage Records: Look Out for Multip...

Marriage Records: Look Out for Multiple Marriages

Marriage records are a foundational record for genealogists. I have discussed many times in this blog how finding a female ancestor’s new married name led to breakthroughs on the family line. Most of us automatically think of that when we suddenly “lose” tracking of a woman. What hasn’t come naturally for me yet is anticipating […]

Is The Wife Really The Mother Of All ...

Is The Wife Really The Mother Of All Those Children?

This week’s lesson comes from the Freedman’s Bank Records that I have been recently exploring. I once heard a lecturer say that up to 60% of the time, people are researching the wrong woman as mother of the children. This example shows the need to prove the father’s relationship to a child separately from the […]

Analyzing and Correlating Records

Analyzing and Correlating Records

I have recently realized I am utterly incapable of writing a short post. That said, I’d like to think I still have avid readers who value them and take the time to read them when they can. I thank you for that. I just had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family & hope you all […]

The 1880 Donut Hole

The 1880 Donut Hole

This is a phrase I’ve been using to refer to that Bermuda Triangle between 1880 and 1900…the Donut Hole. Now I like donuts just as much as the next person. But I’m not the first and sure won’t be the last to lose relatives on either side of it. We all know about how the aftermath […]

The Definition of Black

The Definition of Black

Censuses provide the framework for much of the family history research that we do. Every once in a while, it is useful to consult the actual instructions that were given to enumerators for that particular census year. The University of Minnesota has posted them online to the eternal gratification of all genealogists. Of course, we […]

Matilda: Back Another Generation

Matilda: Back Another Generation

I have been having some tremendous breakthroughs in this past year. I am grateful for that. With every new name, a piece of me and and my history slides into place. Into memory. It is a rule of thumb in good genealogy practice to pull every record related to an ancestor, to perform “exhaustive research” […]

The Criticality of the 1870 Census

The Criticality of the 1870 Census

When researching African-Americans, the criticality of the 1870 census cannot be understated. It is called the “Brick Wall” for good reason. Because the vast majority of blacks were enslaved prior to the Civil War, and because most stayed in the area of their enslavement, finding the family in 1870 can be the key that unlocks the door […]

Martha Simpson: Right Under My Nose

Martha Simpson: Right Under My Nose

I am in a state of genealogic shock. My ancestor Martha Simpson was the wife of Levi Prather. I’ve been working hard in past years trying to unravel the complicated slave relationships in the Prather family of Montgomery County, Maryland. Finding Levi’s slaveowner was hard work, so I hadn’t focused much on Martha yet. Just recently, I’d started […]

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About Me

I blog, teach, write and lecture about family history research and it's just as rewarding today as it was when I began 18 years ago. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my past and I've taken back--reclaimed- my kin and some of that lost memory.  

Post History

What I Talk About

Locations and Surnames

Hardin, Chester and Lawrence Counties, TN
Holt, Barnes, Harbour, Bradley Springer and Fendricks
Lawrence County, AL
Springer and Fendricks
Montgomery County, MD
Prather, Simpson
Somerset County, MD
Waters, Fountain, Curtis
Duval and Madison County, FL
Smith, Harris, Garner

Favorite Family History Quotes

"The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past."
-William Faulkner

"Call it a clan, call it a network, all it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one"
- Jane Howard

"Friends are God's apologies for relations."
-Hugh Kingsmill

"No matter what you've done for yourself or for humanity, if you can't look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?"
-Elbert Hubbard

"Families are like fudge; mostly sweet with a few nuts."
-Unknown

"If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you might as well make it dance!"
-Unknown

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city;)"
-George Burns

"Where does the family start? It starts with a young man falling in love with a girl. No superior alternative has yet been found."
-Winston Churchill

"The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never ever introduce yourself to had life not done it for you."
-Kendall Hailey

"If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all the generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people."
-Thich Nhat Hanh

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