Fantastic Book!

This week, I purchased the digital e-book, “Online State Resources for Genealogy” by Michael Hait. It is an incredible book that that not only gives a goldmine of websites with genealogy information for every state, but also makes every listing a clickable link to take you directly to the page.

Here’s what I love the most about the book – I visit the State Archives or State Library sites for many states while doing my research, but Michael’s book gives a link to each individual record set available on that site! Sometimes, a state site is less than user-friendly and if I enter a surname, I may get pages of results that are difficult to evaluate as far as potential value of information. Often, I am not able to find a list of databases contained on the site, but this book lists them all!

With Michael’s book, every entry has a paragraph with a description of the information contained in the database including the dates covered.  Not only can I rule out sites in date ranges that don’t apply to my ancestors, but I can see exactly what type of information might be on a site so that I can do some pre-research on what information I have and what information I need so that I can use my time effectively.

Not only are the State Archives and Library sites included, but also many other libraries, historical and county sites and their databases as well.

In the short time that I have had this book, I have been able to look through indexes or actual images of records for counties that my ancestor spent such a short amount of time in, that I would not be likely to pay for films from the FHL. With one link, I was able to see tax records for years that aren’t included on any FHL film, helping me to look for family members and associates to prove a hypothesis for the birth location of an ancestor in 1836.

I downloaded the 1140 page book as a PDF file and as I do my research, I can highlight databases that I have searched and include a comment telling exactly what I searched for and the results of that search.  I can indicate links that I’d like to go back to spend more time with as well as  questions that I have after finding new information.

And while my research tends to focus around 1 surname at a time for long periods of time, I know that this book will be a huge value for me when I change gears to another family or when I am asked to do a “quick search” for information for a friend.

Bottom line: I think this book would make a great gift for any genealogist!

Lovin’ the Form!


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Collaboration! That’s where it’s at when it comes to genealogy research. Finding “cuzzins” and exchanging information – that’s the goal!

Whenever I partner with another researcher, I’m never certain what records they might have access to. Do I need to order a microfilm or does one of my research partners already have access to it? Does a cousin know about a resource that I’ve never even thought of looking for?

I’ve often thought that it would be great to be able to share a database of resources.  I’d love to create a database, relevant to my family line, of all possible resources to help in my research and who has access to them, but to make it really worthwhile, I need to take several things into account.

  1. This needs to be easy – even for those who aren’t comfortable with technology.
  2. This needs to be compatible with PC, Mac, iPad, etc.
  3. There needs to be a way to make sure that everyone is collecting the same information.
  4. There needs to be a way to make all results available to everyone so that everyone reaps the benefits and is motivated to contribute.
  5. I would like to make this available to people that I haven’t even met yet to try to make new family connections.
  6. I would like for this to be a true collaboration tool which means that it should be possible to makes comments and ask questions within the document.

My solution? A Google Form that automatically enters information into a sharable spreadsheet.

I think the Google Form is the easiest answer for #1-3 above. I think that making the Form and Spreadsheet available through my blog may be the answer to #4-6.  So I’m including the form below, but I’m also adding a tab at the top of this blog so that Stephens Researchers can quickly access the form and the spreadsheet without having to look for this specific post.

Am I concerned that this will turn into more work than I’m looking for? yes.

Am I worried that somehow, there will be a negative side to this that I haven’t thought of yet? yes.

Am I worried that the “Build it and they will come” philosophy will be a total bust for this? yes.

Am I going to give it a try anyway? yes.

If you are researching the same Stephens family that I am (Welcome Stephens, Dudley Stephens, Rev. William Stephens, etc) then I would love to hear from you!

The Open-Minded Genealogist?

Sometimes, a genealogist has a branch on the tree that has been researched for years and years by other genealogists. Family histories are published. Trees are uploaded to Ancestry – some are sourced, many are not. Those trees are copied an exponential number of times to other trees. So when a beginning genealogist begins their research, there seems to be an overwhelming amount of evidence to be gleefully accepted as fact.

Then, after creating a timeline for your ancestors, there is a question about how the jump to a previous generations was proven. With a 40 year gap in the records, why does everyone believe this is the correct mother and father? How do you know that this name in the new county is the correct father? There is no marriage record to be found (well, it WAS 250 years ago, so you might think that’s not unusual), so how was the mother connected to the father? Certainly, you think, someone has proven it because it’s on the internet and in books and in newsletters. Someone has a genealogy written out by an earlier ancestor – and everything else has been proven, how could this be wrong? Is research that was done “B.I.” (before the internet) more accurate than research we can do now?

So when another researcher comes along with a totally new idea – what do you do? Ignore it and continue looking for that “missing link” document? The one that makes the connection everyone has been claiming? Or do you set aside what you’ve always believed – the line that you’ve researched for years – the line that everyone else says is true? Are you open-minded enough to try to prove this new potential line? There is an emotional attachment to people you’ve been researching for so long. Is it betrayal to put those “ancestors” in a drawer?

The new information is well documented, but in a round about way – not through your direct line. There is still no document that directly links your ancestor to the generation before, but if you are willing to believe that the most common-sense approach is to believe that neighbors were brothers who witnessed documents for one another and became surety for one another, THEN you can begin to think this new line is more believable that the line you’ve always known.

What would be the negative side to “switching lines”? People who have shared information with you in the past might write you off as someone who is trying to stir up controversy. Or, in a couple of years, you might realize that this new line cannot be right and you’ve “wasted” years of research time. Notes and databases become a mess while making “the switch”. Will it be worth it?

I think that today, I am prepared to take the leap – to make the switch – to be open-minded to the idea that someone else’s research might be a better path to follow. I’m ready to take the “road less traveled” to see where it takes me.

Pulling out the magnifying glass!


I’ve been focusing on finding tax records for Polly Stephens. When did she appear in Russell County and who was she listed near? Can I determine the family groups and find out when migration to other counties began?

So I’ve been going through the microfilms and scanning appropriate documents. Not the most exciting information on a tax record…numbers for acres of land (she had none), cattle (she had 2), mules (none), carriages (none), children….wait, what? Does that word really say “children”? Why yes it does! Why do they care about the number of children on a tax record? What else do those teeny tiny words say?

Well, in 1838, it’s handwritten and it says “Male children”, “Females” and “Total”. Hmm…Polly has 1 female child.

So, what do I know about Polly’s children?  In the 1850 census, Polly (Mary) is listed with 3 children: Elizabeth – born @1830, Lucy – born in 1842 and Andy – born @1844. Other than the 1838 tax list that I found, each year asks for the number of children between certain ages.  For example:

  • beginning in 1840, the list asks for the number of children between 7 & 17.
  • In 1844, this changed to the number of children between 5 & 16.
  • In 1853, it asks for the number of children between 6 & 18.

All of the information that I see for Polly matches well – EXCEPT for an unaccounted for child. From the years 1840-1845, Polly indicates that she has 2 children of the correct ages. Assuming that Elizabeth is one of these children, she would be 10 years old in 1840, but neither of the other children would have been born yet. Even if the birth dates that I have are off by a couple of years, Lucy would not be any where near 7 years old by 1840. I suppose this extra child might not have been her own child, but I’ve never seen anything indicating that Polly had the resources to care for extra children. In fact, I’m not convinced that Polly lived on her own around this time. The tax records indicate that she owned nothing other than a couple of cows.

So this brings 2 questions to mind. What records can I find that might help me find this child? How can I find out what happened to him/her? If the information in the tax listings is accurate, than this child was born between 1829 and 1831. If the child was born in 1829, they would have been 17 in 1846, a year in which I cannot find Polly in the tax list. A 17 year old is old enough to get married, so perhaps I can find a marriage record to give me a hint. If the child was born in 1831, they would have been 17 years old in 1848, the year in which Polly indicates that she has 1 child between 5 & 16. The child could still be living with Polly, but not show up in the tax count. By 1850, the child is not living with Polly, so I will look at potential marriages between 1846 and 1850.

Up until now, I’ve just gathered tax records as a way of keeping track where an ancestor was living. But now, I’ll be using my magnifying glass and will examine those records more closely!

An Ode to Paper

OK, call me a rebel, but I am not part of the “digitize it all and get rid of all paper” camp. I do have 95% of my stuff digitized, but I love my paper copies – usually kept in binders – and here are the Top 10 reasons why…

1) Margins!!!! I love writing in the margins! Relationship notes and clarification of difficult to read words are my most common notations. In the bottom margin, I write the location and year that the document was recorded. Even though this CAN be done on digital records, I rarely have the time to do each document at the time it’s being scanned. At the Allen County Public Library, printouts from the microfilm scanners are free. Scanning is slow, depending on the resolution I’ve chosen, so I can print in sets of 5 and then write basic notes in the margins while the next set of records are being scanned.

2) Re-printable!!! Draw on a map then discover a new document that makes you rethink a location? Reprint the map! I have a chronological set of notes for every family in my tree. One entry might say something like “1853 – Russell County tax lists – 100 acres” with a footnote citation. I try to include a snapshot of the portion of the document that is the source as well so I don’t have full versions of everything printed – but I could find it on my computer if I want to look at the entire page. I write ALL OVER these notes! Sometimes, it’s a note about something I’d like to remember to add. Sometimes, it’s a chart of the ages of all the people in that family at that point in time or a timeline of events for a different family in the same area. I have lists of FHL films that I’d like to order for a certain time period. But mostly, questions, questions, QUESTIONS! I can look at a tax record and notice that I’m not seeing all of the family and write a note to look for them and where I think they might be. I use different colors and draw clouds around things to help them stand out, but I write EVERYTHING I can think of because I know I can update the notes and print them again! Each time I go through a set of notes like this, I use a different color and indicate the date at the top. That way, I can update things in my digital file, but not re-print until I have a significant amount of new data in the file.

3) Post-it Notes!!!! Notes to myself about next steps, notes telling when I had to stop before getting everything I wanted, questions the document brings to mind, hypotheses about neighbors, mini-family tree charts to show how people are related, thoughts about things to put in my research plan for my next research trip, basically anything that pops into my head as I’m working that I don’t necessarily need to have permanently written on the record. Try sticking a post-it note to a digital file!

4) Highlighters!!! Sometimes, documents are either very full of names or very hard to read. If I have the time to really analyze a document and I find the names I’m looking for, I love to highlight them so it isn’t as hard the next time. (Then, I add the notes in the margins about who is a brother-in-law or neighbor, etc.)

5) An entire blank sheet of paper on the back of each document!!!! Sometimes, I write a “letter” to myself with a narrative of what’s happening or questions that the document brings to mind. Obviously, writing the source of the document including where I am, the date and the book or film that I’m looking at always goes on the back. (How many times have a scanned multiple pages from a tax book or court order book and then not been able to rename the files right away! Later, I look in the folder and wonder about dates or the county or whatever – especially if I’m doing “mindless” work such as scanning every page of a tax book for a specific year.) Every page looks the same, so keeping track of what is what is very important. But as I’m working, I can write source citations on the back MUCH faster than renaming files and adding source citations to the file properties. I can also keep longer notes about what a particular document means to my research, if desired, especially if the information in this document fits in well with another document. I also like to write notes to myself about other people that I looked for in the book/record that were not included. Those things are later included in my research log, but sometimes, certain information doesn’t jump out at me in log format.

Another thing I like to indicate on the back is whether or not I did any clean-up work in PhotoShop. So often, there is bleed through of ink from the pages before or after the page I’ve printed from microfilm and it’s an easy fix to take those out. But I like to indicate what I did so I know that the copy I am looking at is not the original (although I always keep both digital files).

Finally, if I have a print out of a digital file that I have transcribed, it’s easy to put the print out in the printer and put the transcription on the back. Again, margins for notes and diagrams, etc!

6) Sorting!!!! I like to write the date  for each page in the lower right hand corner. With that, I can put pages in chronological order. Then, as I flip through a file (usually in a binder), it’s almost like reading a story of the person’s life. I love having my things filed chronologically to help me come up with a timeline of locations so that I’m not wasting time looking at a record set for a time period when the family wasn’t even in the area.  I can also decide to re-organize my pages by source type to find blanks in my research.  For example, I can have a stack for tax records, census records, birth/death records, etc. If I have a family with 8 children, but I only have death records for 6 of them, then I know that’s something to add to my “to do” list.

I will admit that I am so tied to having everything in chronological order, every digital document that I have has the year at the beginning of the name. For example “1840 Welcome Stephens will”.

7) We’ve all heard “out of sight, out of mind”. Well, I get just the opposite by turning pages in a binder! As I flip through an ancestor’s binder, I know immediately what I have and when there are missing chunks in my research. Or I see a document that I forgot that I had! Flipping through a binder is MUCH faster than finding and opening multiple files on my hard drive. Often, when I flip through a binder, questions and connections come to mind that I would never think of just by looking at a list of documents that I have scanned.

8) Maps, maps, maps – I love to include period relevant maps within my chronologically arranged binder. What county is next door? How close to the county/state line did my ancestor live? For ancestors who lived in different counties, how far apart were they? Did my ancestor have to go across a river to get to the county courthouse? Did the county boundary line change between records? All kinds of maps from state to county to plat maps, they all go in the binder! And as I’ve mentioned before, I can write all over these maps or highlight the area where my ancestors were.

9) Portable! Have to go to the doctor or dentist office? Have some time in the car before soccer practice is over? Going for a trip in a car or plane? Bring along a folder or a binder! Much easier to open in an office or car/plane than a computer! (And don’t forget the color pens and highlighters!) Those are the times that I’m forced to really think about what I have and what I’d like to look for next because I don’t have a computer in front of me to jump into databases. I can take a file to school on test days and write all over it while students are working.

10) Better comprehension! Call me strange, but I comprehend information better on paper than on my computer screen. Imagine my guilt over this considering that I am the technology trainer at my school! For the life of me, I don’t understand it, but I process information and remember it better when I’m reading from paper compared to my computer screen.

So there it is! I love my computer and my digital files, but I could NOT do my genealogy research without my paper copies! And it feels good to confess that to you all!

Polly Stephens

I spent the morning at the library, but the film I was hoping to see had not arrived yet, so I spent time with some tax records. Now I’m home again and a storm is brewing outside, so I thought I’d do some “thinking out-loud” to process information that I already have before I start looking for new stuff and to take my mind off the weather.

Polly Stephens is a mystery for me. Here’s what I know and what I think it may mean.

Mary “Polly” Stephens was the daughter of Welcome and Nancy Stephens. Polly was one of the heirs listed in Welcome’s estate settlement in 1840.

Based on ages listed in census records, Polly was born around 1807 in Kentucky. There is a tombstone for a Polly Stephens in a cemetery with several other Stephens family members with the dates 1807 – 1894. So did Polly Stephens marry a Stephens? There are many cousin-cousin marriages in this family, so that doesn’t seem unlikely. Going on this assumption, I’m trying to figure out who the spouse would be.

@1807 – birth of Mary “Polly” Stephens

1830 – birth of Elizabeth Stephens listed with Polly in 1850 census. Polly would be around 23 years old. This may not have been Polly’s first child, so I’d begin looking for a marriage around 1825.

1837 – Today’s trip to the library revealed a court record from the January Term, 1837 in which George F. Harris appeared to answer a charge of bastardy made by Polly Stephens, but Polly did not appear as requested. Therefore, no action was taken against George.  To read about bastardy laws during this time, click here. Who was George Harris? He was Polly’s cousin, son of Welcome’s sister, Dorcas. She would have been 30 years old and he would have been 34.

1838 – I see a Polly Stephens with no land listed in the Russell County tax records. She is listed 2 lines above her father, Welcome. When I go back to the library, I will look at previous years to see when she appears (and hopefully, to see who disappears as a potential spouse!) After more research, I see that she was first listed in 1838. She is listed again in 1840 – 1846 now through 1855 (the last year that I checked this morning at the library)

1840 – Polly is not listed in the 1840 census for Russell County although she is listed in the tax records. I will take a look at family members to see if someone might have an “extra” female of the right age living in the household.

1843 – birth of Lucy Stephens – who I believe may be the daughter of Polly. According to Lucy’s son’s birth record, Lucy was born in Russell County.

1847 – birth of Andy Stephens listed with Polly in 1850 census. Polly would be about 40 years old.

I searched for additional court records during this time for Polly and found none in Russell County.

1850 – Mary Stephens (age 43) is listed in the Adair County (Russell County’s next door county) census with Elizabeth (age 19), Lucy (age 7) and AJ (age 3). Mary lives next door to Sherwood Stephens, her brother. Originally, this is the listing that made me think that Mary “Polly” was the mother of Lucy.  As I think about the tax lists I was looking at this morning, I’m thinking that perhaps Lucy and AJ could be the children of a family member. If they ARE her children, (and assuming she wasn’t a “loose” woman, which perhaps was too hasty with my new information!) then she would have had a husband in 1846. Why would she be listed in the tax records of that time if she had a spouse? I should look at guardian records for a clue.

1860 – Franklin Co, Alabama. Polly Stephens (age 55) with Elizabeth (age 30) and Andy (age 16). Living next door are A.J. Stephens (grandson of Welcome) and his wife, Lucy (daughter of Polly?)

1870 – I cannot find Polly OR A.J and Lucy.

1880 – A.J. Stephens and Lucy Stephens and their 8 children plus “Pollie” age 70 – Aunt of head of household.

1894 – Tombstone for Polly Stephens in the Pleasant Hill cemetery. Also in the cemetery: (Note: Welcome is Polly’s father, William is Polly’s brother, Andrew (and Lucy) is William’s son)

  1. Caroline Stephens Crockett – Grand-daughter of Welcome, daughter of William
  2. Almarine Stephens – Son of #3 and #8
  3. Andrew J. Stephens – Andrew #3 in my “5 Andrew Stephens” tab Hmmmm…is there any chance this could be Polly’s son, Andy???
  4. D.C. Stephens – Great-grandson of Welcome, grandson of William, son of Andrew and Lucy
  5. John Stephens – Grandson of Welcome, son of William and Dorothy
  6. Lenora Stephens – Great-grand-daughter of Welcome, grand-daughter of William
  7. Lucy Ann Stephens – Daughter of #3 and #8
  8. Martha J. Stephens – Wife of #3 and Grand-daughter of Welcome Stephens, daughter of William

Next step – more time with the tax records to try to pin down when Polly began appearing (which I’m assuming means her husband has passed away or left her.)

William Stephens will – 1829 Russell County, KY

I’m working through my “Stephens File” and I’ve decided to transcribe documents that I’ve scanned or downloaded, but not really examined. At this point, I’m looking for clues in collateral lines that will help me with my direct line, but I thought I’d go ahead and put the transcription on my blog in case it is helpful to anyone else.

This William Stephens (1750 – 1829) was the step-brother of my Welcome Stephens (@1780-1840).  Both men died in Russell County, Kentucky. The will can be found on FamilySearch here. Directly after the will is the renunciation from William’s wife Anna (Susannah Fox) who did not feel she was being adequately provided for.

1st, I, William Stephens senr am old and in a low state of health, but in my reasonable senses thank God for it. I do hereby make my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say

2nd, I do give my son William Stephens junr all my blacksmiths tools

3rd, I also give to my son Stephen An Stephens my three year old mare, biggest bed and furniture and still,

4th, I give to Anny Wilson daughter of Anny Wilson deceased all the money that her father Moses Wilson is owing me.

5th, I give to my daughter Lishey Hampton all that is in her hands, by her paying ten dollars in work to supporting my old wife

6th, I give to my grandson Jordan Hampton my gun. I also give to my granddaughter Hester Hampton a small bed and furniture (interlined before signed)

7th, I also give to my granddaughter Anny Stephens daughter of Obed Stephens, my youngest colt.

8th, I give to my grandson William An Stephens all my shoe making tools, hand saw, drawing knife augers pan handle and a note that said a Stephens is owing me

9th, I give to my two sons (to wit) William Stephens junr and Stephen An Stephens all my irons and iron tools except there above mentioned to be equally divided between them two. I do give all the above mentioned to them to hold forever. As for all my daughters except those above mentioned is received their full part of my estate (interlined before signed) I do also leave all my personal estate home hold and kitchen furniture money in hand and all that is owing except that above mentioned to the support of my wife after my just debts and funeral charges is paid. I leave my son William Stephens a guardian for my wife and to sell all the property that she don’t need at present and keep the money for her use as she needs and at the decease of my wife if any things remains to be equally divided between William Stephens my son and Stephen An Stephens my son, and Obed Stephens and to be enjoyed by them forever, as hereunto I have set my hand and affixed my seal this December 26th 1828 signed sealed and delivered and for the last will and testament of the above named William Stephens in the presence of us Jacob Petitjohn, Moses Wilson (it would seem that this is William’s son-in-law, mentioned above), David Roach

At a county court began and held for the county of Russell at the courthouse in the town of Jamestown on Monday the 19th of January 1829. The last will and testament of William Stephens deceased was produced in court and proven by the oaths of Jacob Petitjohn and Moses Wilson subscribing witness thereto and ordered to be recorded.

To the county court of Russell County, I Anna Stephens widow and relict of William Stephens deceased, not being satisfied with the provisions made for me by the will of my late husband, do by these presents declare that I will not take or accept the provisions made for me by such will or any part thereof and hereby renounce all benefit which I might claim by said will witness my hand and seal this 19th day of January 1829. Witness: George F. Harris, John Ard (George Harris was the son of Dorcas Stephens Harris, William’s sister. John Ard was the son-in-law of William’s brother, Welcome)

At a county court began and held for the county of Russell at the courthouse in the town of Jamestown on Monday the 19th day of January, 1829. This is a renunciation of Anna Stephens widow and relict of William Stephens deceased, to the provisions made her in his last will and testament, was produced in court and proven by the oaths of John Ard and George Harris and ordered to be recorded.

Marion and Franklin Counties, Alabama

Summer is here and school is out!  I thought that I would jump right back into my genealogy research, but I am having a surprisingly difficult time! Where to begin? What do I want to work on first?

I’m too easily distracted and can’t seem to stay on track. I thought I’d take my binder and pick a decade for the Welcome/William/Andrew Stephens families and pick 1 think to try to look for, but as I go through my notes, I keep “rabbit trailing” and end up with nothing done at all. So I thought that perhaps I could put some thoughts into the blog to try to keep myself on track as I make a plan.

I’ve decided that I’m going to try to pinpoint the year that Andrew and his father William left Alabama. What I have:

  • 1850 – William, his wife Dorothy and 5 children – including Andrew – live in Marion County, Alabama in District 14.  Living next door to the family is Jacob Wigginton and family. I will begin to follow this family closely as I believe they are related to Dorothy.  (William Stephens and Jacob Wigginton were listed on consecutive pages in the 1840 Tishomingo County, Mississippi census.)
  • William is also listed in the 1850 Alabama State Census. There are several Wigginton families listed as well, but no Jacob. There is at least 1 Wigginton that I see living near William who was not listed in the search results, so I need to spend more time here. NOTE: there are 2 families with a head of household named William Stephens.
  • 1855 – Alabama conducted a state census. There are no records for Marion County, but there are for Franklin County (where William and Andrew are found in 1860) but William’s family is not found.
  • 1858 – Andrew Stephens marries Lucy Stephens in Ripley County, Missouri
  • 1858 – Jacob Wigginton of Marion County receives about 80 acres in a land grant – Cert# 22661
  • William Stephens of Marion County receives 3 parcels of land totaling about 160 acres in a land grant – Cert # 22663, 226634 & 22665
  • William Wigginton of Marion County receives about 120 acres in a land grant – Cert #22662 (Jacob and William Stephens were approximately 18 miles apart)
  • 1859 – Andrew and Lucy Stephens give birth to Nancy Stephens in Missouri.
  • 1860 – Jacob Wigginton (age 67) lives with the James Wigginton (age 26) family (father?) in Marion County, Alabama
  • William Stephens – now lives in Franklin County (1 county north of Marion County) and Andrew and his small family are living with him.
  • Andrew (son of William) is listed a 2nd time in Franklin County living next door to Polly Steavens who I believe may be Lucy Stephen’s mother as well as Andrew’s aunt. (In 1880, Aunt Pollie, age 70, lives with Andrew and Lucy (age 36))
  • Why would Andrew and his family go from Ripley Co, Missouri to Franklin Co, Alabama to Metcalfe Co, Kentucky within 2-3 years? According to the Alabama Pioneers website, there was a drought in 1860 in Alabama – could this be the reason for the move? 
  • 1861 – Andrew and Lucy’s first child, Nancy, dies in June in Metcalfe Co, Kentucky and a 2nd child – William Dudley – is born in October. (Andrew’s uncle – Sherwood – settled in Metcalfe Co between 1850 and 1860)
  • 1864 – Andrew and Lucy have Mary Elizabeth Stephens in Metcalfe Co, Kentucky
  • 1866 – Andrew and Lucy Stephens “of Russell County” give evidence to birth of a nephew’s children for a widow’s pension.
  • 1868 – Russell Co land sale between Andrew Stephens and William Hopper.
  • 1870 – William Stephens is listed in the Federal Census in Russell Co, Kentucky. I cannot find Andrew in any 1870 census. Clearly, Andrew should be in Russell County by now.
  • 1876 – Russell County land sale between AJ Stephens and Wesley Flanagan and AJ Stephens and GC Bennett.

Conclusion: It appears that Andrew and Lucy Stephens may have moved to Russell County around 1865. I cannot pinpoint when William Stephens arrived

Next Step: There are no microfilm records for Marion or Franklin County, Alabama for the correct time period to determine when they may have left. The ACPL has microfilm for Russell County tax records from 1826 – 1856 and Andrew does not appear here. I will order tax records for 1856-1874 from the FHL to see if I can find when Andrew appears in Russell County. There is a book for Franklin County, Alabama – Old land records of Franklin County, Alabama / Margaret Matthews Cowart. – at the ACPL that I will look at for clues as well.

Decade Notes

I’ve been researching my Stephens family line for years. And I LOVE my notes for each generation! My notes are in timeline format and I enter every single thing I can find including “probable” events such as births that I don’t have an exact date for. My source citations in these notes are as complete as anything that I have and are MUCH easier for me to keep up to date than within my genealogy software. I include maps and cropped images of the records that I’ve found within the notes so I don’t have to dig through files unless I need to see the full page. I make colorized notes to myself along the edge with text boxes around them to make them stand out. In these notes to myself, I include ideas of books to look at when I go to the library, questions as to why something might be happening or why I think my records might have a mistake.  For example, I may have a clue to a birth location from someone else researching my family, but when I put it in the notes, the location does not match the proven location of the parent. I also include small images of simplified group sheets with the ages of each person at that time period to help me keep the people straight in my mind. By including the ages at that time, it helps me see if a son is old enough to be found in the tax records or if he is too young to be married. If a mother and father have passed away, but still have young children, where are the children living? These are all questions that I would put along the edges of my notes.

But I still get confused when I have to compare the notes from one generation to another generation.  For example, I can’t find Andrew Stephens in the 1870 census. So I wanted to look at Andrew’s father’s notes as well as Andrew’s children’s notes to see where THEY were in 1870 to see if Andrew was nearby. When that didn’t work, I looked at Andrew’s siblings and their children. Now I’ve got people named the same thing in various locations and my brain just has a hard time keeping it all straight. (I blame this on the medication that I’m taking – and I’m sticking with that story!)

So, during the ride home from Spring Break, I decided to combine all of the notes from my Stephens research into one file. I took each individual’s records and made the text for each a different color. Then, I copied and pasted them all into one file while still keeping everything in chronological order. I’ll still keep my original notes, but by combining them all, I’m hoping to see better patterns in locations and records available. But this new document became QUITE long – beginning with 1715 and continuing through 1928, so I decided to put it in my binder with dividers for every decade. I REALLY like it! In 10 year time periods, I can make some nice maps of the changing county boundaries to get a better idea of where to look for records – and what counties are nearby at that time. It’s much easier to keep track of where each person is that I’m tracking by having a US map with a pin for each person’s locations. And gaps in records become much more evident. By having entire lifetimes in one document, it wasn’t giving me a realistic idea of how much time had gone by from one record to the next. Two pages could be 5 years or 30 years depending on how much information I’ve found.

I’ve decided on a 2 binder approach. One binder has my notes and the appropriate source records all in chronological order. The other binder will be my “clues”. Printed emails, web sites, church histories and such go in the “clue binder” that I can have open side-by-side with my notes binder. This keeps all of my records in order while still having easy access to whatever I’ve found online that I want to follow up on. Group sheets for every family member – even siblings – will go in the Clue Binder. Each decade will have it’s own Research Plan. Before this, I’ve been creating Research Plans for each person, so the new Research Plans will deal with all of the people I’m tracking within that decade.

I’m looking forward to putting these binders together and adding records and hints. I think it will help me stay focused because the time period I’ll be researching will be shorter rather than looking for anything that matches an individual within his entire lifetime.