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Taking Back What Was Once Lost

Posts in category Vital 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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

Shaky Leaves and the Importance of Th...

Shaky Leaves and the Importance of Thoroughness

I want to first thank Bernice Bennett for having me as a guest on her Blog Talk Radio show last night, Research at the National Archives and Beyond. I spoke about one of my most popular posts, Do You Have an Artificial Brick Wall? The post can be heard in its entirety at the show’s link, […]

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” […]

A White Father: Direct Evidence

A White Father: Direct Evidence

My friend Aaron has made an incredible find that I wanted to share here because it is such a rarity. Many enslaved African-American women had children with white men, men whose names are sometimes passed down through oral history in the black family. But many times, only the knowledge of an “unknown white man” survives […]

Lie To Me

Lie To Me

Records lie to us. The very records we depend upon to reconstruct our families, lie all the time. This 1900 census for my gggrandmother Hannah Harbor stated that she was widowed: But her former husband was alive and well; he had just left her for another woman. I guess I wouldn’t want to say that […]

Untangling Matildas: Brick Wall Crash...

Untangling Matildas: Brick Wall Crashes Down

My great-grandfather John Smith was born in Georgia and migrated to Jacksonville, Florida sometime around the turn of the century. His roots in Georgia continue to be one of my greatest brick walls. I’ve been researching him in more depth recently, and I had a huge breakthrough on his wife’s family yesterday. I am so […]

One Step Closer in Alabama: the Fendr...

One Step Closer in Alabama: the Fendricks Family

I’m building a case that just got stronger. I have posted before on my long odyssey researching the Fendricks family, my maternal great-grandmother’s maiden name. I had a breakthrough in August 2009 and found a duplicate death certificate earlier this year. In this line, I encountered the common roadblocks of moves across state lines and […]

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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."

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

"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