Taking Back What Was Once Lost

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. […]

The Application for a Marriage Licens...

The Application for a Marriage License

This summer I discussed the little known records usually called Petition for Letters. I discussed how this record, when found, often names all known heirs of a deceased individual. A similarly useful record is the Application for a Marriage License. We all seek out marriage records for our ancestors, and I have previously talked about the […]

What is Genealogy “Methodology&...

What is Genealogy “Methodology”?

Thanks to everyone who commented on my previous post about slavery and slaveowners. If anything, it kicked off some great discussions and dialogue about the country’s worst and most contentious period of history. I’ll leave that topic with one quote from one of our greatest slavery historians, Ira Berlin: No understanding of slavery can avoid these themes: […]

There Were No “Good” Slav...

There Were No “Good” Slaveowners

I’m convinced that slave research and the research of slaveowners is one of the toughest kinds of genealogy research the field will ever see. This is a long post, because this has been on my mind for awhile, and I hope you’ll read it all. I don’t usually do “opinion” pieces, but I will because it […]

Harriet and Martha: Sisters Reunited

Harriet and Martha: Sisters Reunited

Getting better at genealogical research involves many things. One important skillset is understanding and learning how to find relationships when no document states the relationship. The early years of genealogy are filled with the “low hanging fruit” of census records, marriage and death records, online documents, etc. When that fruit runs out—which I assure you […]

Slave Distributions

Slave Distributions

One of the most important pieces of information those of us researching enslaved ancestors need to know is how the slaves are distributed after the owner’s death. If we’re lucky, there’s a will that tells us to whom each slave is bequeathed. Most of the time, there’s not. There are many wills that simply say […]

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 […]

Slave Research in Tennessee Bibles

Slave Research in Tennessee Bibles

Slave research is a little easier in Tennessee. The Tennessee State Archives and Library (TSLA) is one of the country’s best, and the service I have received over the years from its dedicated employees has been magnificent. They just finished digitizing and uploading hundred of bibles in their collection. I spent some time perusing through the […]

Probate Records: Petition for Letters

Probate Records: Petition for Letters

As valuable as probate records are, I have posted before about the need to search every step in the probate process, as opposed to just viewing the will and the inventory. One of the first steps in the probate process is that an individual needs to petition the court for the authority to probate the estate. […]

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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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