Progress Report

In my last post, I stated that I was pausing all record collection until I got my files, piles, folders and binders organized for at least 1 ancestor – John M. Smith. That project is going well, but I hit a wall when it came to the digital records.  Oh, I’ve been working on it, but I’m at a point where I’m paralyzed with fear!

I’ve written before about my love affair with flash drives: Confession of a Flash Addict. And I still haven’t been able to break the habit! Well, my problem is the great fear of deleting something that’s had information added that I didn’t add to the “master” file because I didn’t happen to have the “master flash” with me at that moment. So I’ve decided that using “THE CLOUD” as my master file has got to be the answer.  I can’t think of too many places I would be that I don’t have internet access except in my car and in certain hotels. In those cases, I’ll have to take only the files that I’ll be working on and put them on a flash drive and then replace all of the files in the cloud after a trip – and then delete them from the flash drive. If I’m missing a file that I need, then I’ll just have to find the nearest McDonald’s or Starbucks, get the file and then be back on my way.

So I’m taking a step – I’ve decided that during this organization phase,  as I put a file out on Sky Drive (I guess this is now actually called One Drive), I will find copies of that file on each flash drive and delete it.  I would never have the time to go through each file to compare, so I’m going to have to live with the consequences of my actions and choose the file that I think is most complete and get rid of the rest. Yes, get rid of them! That’s the only way to know that the file that I’m working on has all of the updated information.

Now, I’m not too worried about most of my files, but I know I’ve done more work on my Stephens family and my Smith family than any other family. So those notes and group sheets will be compared.  But everything else, I’m taking on faith. I’ve already started the process. All of my digital notes files have been uploaded except for Smiths and Stephens.  John M. Smith’s notes have been extensively updated as I’ve been going through organizing piles, so those are already on the cloud. I don’t believe I’ve updated any other Smith notes except John M, so the other family members should be easy to do a quick comparison and then upload and delete from the flash.  The Stephens family notes will have to wait for awhile, so those will remain on the flash.

Now I do have a small confession to make.  Yesterday was my birthday, so I did take a trip to the library and I collected a few tax records and deeds. Those have been properly labeled and today, will be uploaded directly to the cloud and then deleted from the flash that I had to put them on at the library. These records are for “possible connections”, so for the most part, they don’t affect any of the notes files I’ve got going with the exception of some expanded tax information that I didn’t have before. That info was added to my newly updated and uploaded master notes for John M. Smith.

So on with the organization! Or should I say, on with the deleting! (YIKES!)

Stop! Do Not Pass Go!

Have you ever decided to put all new research on hold until you get what you have organized? How many hours do I have to spend trying to figure out what I have and what I want to do next before I decide that it would not be wise to add more piles of goodies to my stacks? I think I’m there.

I’ve finished my last year of teaching and now I will be working full time with my husband on our business. So I’ve been doing all kinds of organizing in the house – stuff I’ve wanted to do for years, but haven’t taken the time to do – and my office is looking great. But when I realized that I had a free day after working all week-end, I decided to have a day at the library. I thought I’d take the morning to gather my materials before taking off so I’d know exactly what I wanted to look for. It did not take me long to see that my files LOOK organized – nice neat piles and lovely binders and folders – but if I wanted to find my most recent print outs from my last trip to the library, I was lost.

So I’m taking a day (as if I could get this done in a day!) to organize one ancestor – John M. Smith. I’ve got to stop making new group sheets for potential family members and instead, find all the ones I’ve already filled out and written little notes on and get all of the information into 1 “master” group sheet! No more post-it notes stuck to the group sheets – I’ve got to make that information more permanent on the sheet. I have 2 different computers now so I think I’m going to use OneDrive so that when I need to add information, I’ll know exactly where the file is and I’ll be able to access it from either computer or my iPad.  I’ve done a lot of work using Dropbox in the past, but now that is being “taken over” with business stuff and I’d really like to keep it separate, so I’ll be working to migrate stuff to OneDrive while trying to weed out duplicate files at the same time.

I’ve also got to organize print outs and transcriptions. Have I transcribed that deed already? Who knows! Well, it’s all digital, but are the files together? Of course not! I’m going to put all print outs into chronological order by county and make sure it’s all labeled correctlly before I add another print out to my stash. It’s not hard to tell that I’m looking at a tax list, and I have have the year written at the bottom, but no county! I’m sure that at the time I thought I’d label them as soon as I got home.  Never again!

So as I’m organizing these files, I’m thinking about what exactly I’d like to have with me at the library.  I certainly can’ take everything! I would like to grab one binder and go at a moment’s notice. It must be a binder because of the way my brain is wired.  Out of sight – out of mind! I have every single record I’ve ever collected saved in a digital format, but I can’t flip through a flash drive the way that I can flip through a binder. I can’t write notes and questions in the margins or on the back of a digital file – but I can on a paper version in a binder.  The binder method is a must, but what will be in the binder?

  • I absolutely love my notes for an individual – they are quite lengthy! They are written like a timeline with cropped images whenever possible along with my transcriptions or thoughts. Questions that I want to research are in red. So I don’t need actual document printouts, but I’ll definitely have my notes. (Someday, these notes will be re-written as more of a narrative than timeline.)
  • I have a horrible problem remembering family relationships other than my direct line.  So I’ll want group sheets for the main person, his/her parents and in-laws, each child and the grandchildren, if possible. (I have quite a rash of cousins marrying cousins, but I can never seem to remember exactly how they are related.)
  • The research log that I’ve created for that individual. This is an Excel document that has each question I want to research along with a list of websites, books or films that might help me answer that question. Results are recorded as well.
  • A sections for FANs – information I’ve collected on associates and neighbors including any biographies orgroup sheets I’ve put together.
  • Some system for remembering what I’ve collected for potential connections and locations.  I don’t know that I want to keep every print out of a potential tax record or deed, but I need to have some way to keep track of what I’ve collected so I don’t re-collect it.

And now – back to it!!

Kentucky Pioneers – a movie

I haven’t had much time to work on my genealogy research lately – but I have been organizing my genealogy office, so I still feel like I’m getting things done. We had company for the holiday week-end, but everyone has gone now and I’m taking some time to do some genealogy surfing.  I decided to spend some time on Internet Archives and I came across this 10-11 minute educational film from 1941 about the “typical” experiences of a family traveling to Fort Harrod in 1780.  The film is entertaining, but because it was created for school children, it is a very sanitized account of a family traveling during this time period. I did think it had some interesting visuals and it was fun to watch so I thought you might enjoy it as well.

Hope everyone has enjoyed the week-end!


Why didn’t I think of that??

Today was the last day of school (insert happy dance here!) and not only was it the last day of the school year, but it was my last day as an Algebra teacher! Tomorrow is my last day (clean out day!) and then I’m “retiring”. Well, I’m actually going to be working at home with my husband in a business we started about a year ago. But it means a major shift to the routine of my days – some days will be filled beyond belief and other days will be pretty open. THOSE days will be genealogy days, of course!

Tonight, I was in a genealogy mood, but just too physically tired to get out files or go to the library, so I decided to take a “stroll” through my own blog.  I searched for all of the posts I’ve written about a particular ancestor and I was amazed at how much I had written – and how much I had FORGOTTEN that I had written! Lots of ideas for things to research – research plans, books to look for and connections to consider.

So my “tip of the day” is to re-read what you’ve written on your own blog! See what your thought processes were in the past and see what you still need to follow up on!

In Honor of…

Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor ancestors who served the United States in the military. Today, I would like to honor 2 of my great-uncles: Arthur Bennett and Link Bennett. They were my mother’s uncles and they were very dear to her heart.

Arthur 4


Arthur Alexander Bennett (1919 – 2004) who served in the Army during WWII and the Korean War







1943 Arlus Lincoln Pvt Marine CorpsArlus (Albert) Link Bennett (1922 – 2003) who served in the Marines during WWII


FAN list – a 3 way connection?

Andrew Meadows:

There end up being 3 surnames tangled in this mess, so I’m going to try a bit of color with each surname to try to tie things together.

John M. Smith’s 2nd son (that I know of) was Elias Smith – born about 1810. Elias married Elizabeth Meadows in 1834 in Russell County, Kentucky and Andrew Meadows was Elizabeth’s father.

Andrew was born 17 Jun 1791. I can find him in the 1820 census for Wayne County, Kentucky and Andrew’s father, James, is also in Wayne County in 1810. Andrew can be found in each census for Russell County from 1830 – 1870. According to his tombstone, Andrew died in 1873 and is buried in the Jamestown Cemetery in Russell County.

In Feb, 1833, John M. was made the administrator of the estate of John B. Smith.  I have never been able to found a record for “John B Smith” so I have not been able to make a connection to, but I suspect that he may have been one of John M‘s sons. Andrew Meadows is the security of the Administrator Bond. Interestingly, Hiram Rowe is listed on the Executor’s bond the same day, but Hiram’s name is crossed out and Andrew’s name written in on the Administrator’s bond.

On the “potential line” that I’m trying to connect to, there is a Mercer Co, Kentucky Guardian Bond dated Feb, 1833 for a deceased John Smith. I can only see an abstract for the bond (, but it says that there was an orphan, Fanny – a bondsman, John Garr – and a guardian, John League. I have to wonder if the deceased could be John B. Smith? The timeline works – John M. Smith b. abt. 1776, m. abt 1800 could have had a son, John B. Smith who could have been of marrying age before 1833 and had a child. Is it too much of a coincidence that 2 men named John Smith both died in Feb, 1833 and that records for each appear in the exact 2 counties that I’m trying to connnect? The name “John Smith” is so common, maybe I’m trying too hard to make this work? The Garr surname does appear in a Meadows connection, described below. I’ve done just enough research on John League to know that he moved his family to Indiana, so I don’t expect to see his name again, but I will keep it in the back of my mind.

Andrew Meadows was listed as security along with John Cook for George A. and Elias Smith to be the administrators of their father’s (John M. Smith) estate in 1835.

I began filling in children of Andrew Meadows and doing a quick search on each child and found his youngest son, Andrew C. Meadows, married Mary Margaret Gaar in 1852. The 1900 census for the family included mother-in-law, Fitny. I continued to research and found that Fetnah Jane Smith had married Louis Proctor Garr in 1831. They were the parents of Mary Margaret Garr.

Will this link back to the 1833 Smith/Garr guardian bond?

I decided to create a chart to show how these families relate to each other and as I do research I will continue to look for these surnames in each time frame that I examine. I don’t have the break through yet, but here is the chart.  I tried to arrange the names to show who might have the potential to appear at the same time in the right records to help me narrow down what to look for.  Vertical lines show a parent/child relationships. I did not skip generations.

Smith Garr Meadows Chart

The only names I am taking on faith from someone’s un-sourced online tree would be William Smith and Mary Baber. While Fetnah’s mother in this chart would have been 41 years old when giving birth, William would have been almost 60. I see potential for a missing generation there, but I know that this scenerio is not impossible.

So where do I go from here? I’m not sure. I have a nice pension application file for James Meadows, so I will be checking those names and locations to see if I can find a Smith match. And the Garr/Gaar surnames is more unique than Smith or Meadows, so I’ll certainly be watching for that!

I would love to find out more about the John Smith who died in 1833.  I think I’ll be taking a look at the tax and land records of that time to see if that reveals anything. I’m also going to examine more Wayne County records to see if I can extend the Meadows and Smith association. I’m off to the library right now!

Eight Years is a lifetime?

Eight years.  That’s the entire timeline that I have documented for my 4th-great-grandfather, John M. Smith. And he has been my longest running brick wall in all of my genealogy research. I have 11 pages of notes for John, but the only information that I can prove spans an 8 year period from the time right after Russell County was formed until his death in 1835.  That means a significant portion of his life is still to be discovered!

His first proven appearance comes in a land purchase of 100 acres along the Cumberland River in April of 1827 followed by a listing in the tax records for that same year. Where did John come from before this?  Because it is such a common name and because I have no information on siblings, I have not been able to prove a family connection to take me back another generation.

So I’m turning to names in the “other” category.  Names which may or may not be related but which I hope can yield some clue that will help me break down this brick wall. So who do I have and what do I know about them? I’m planning to list each person one at a time in order to do some “quick” research on each man as I write to help keep me from getting distracted!

James Gilbert: On Dec 31, 1827 a land grant was given to John M. Smith and James Gilbert. The land straddles the Russell County/Wayne County boundary line. I’m unsure why a grant would be given to 2 individuals.  Does this mean it’s likely that they are related? Could James or his wife be related to John’s wife?

The following day, on Jan 1, 1828, another grant was given. In this grant, it says, “granted by the said Commonwealth unto John M Smith & James Gilbert assignee of said Smith who was assignee of Timothy Burgess assignee of Braxton Carter who was assignee of Elijah Hutchison”. So in this grant, John M. had the grant and he sold (I assume) a portion of the grant to James Gilbert but that the original grant was for Elijah Hutchinson who sold to Braxton Carter who sold to Timothy Burgess who sold to John M. Smith.  Timothy Burgess’s line is mentioned as a border of this land.

Doing a very quick search on Ancestry, I found an un-sourced family tree which says that James was born around 1788 and that he married Sally Decker around 1817 in Wayne Co, Kentucky.  The tree indicated that James was born in Wayne County, but it wasn’t formed until 1800, so that assumption is incorrect. In fact, Kentucky wasn’t even a state until 1792.  John Smith was born around 1775 and was married around 1800 based on the age of the oldest child that I am aware of.  Perhaps I should research James’ father – possibly Elijah Gilbert (the only Gilbert I see of the correct age in 1810 Wayne Co census. There is a John Smith in the correct age range on the same census page as Elijah. I will follow up on this.)

I can find James Gilbert listed in the 1820 Wayne County census living next to an Abner Decker. On the Kentucky GenWeb site for Wayne County, there is a transcription that only says “Gilbert, James m. Sally Decker 1817”. The only other Gilbert listed is Richard Gilbert who married Elizabeth Melbourne on 16 Apr 1822. There are several Decker marriages, but James and Sally are one of the earliest listed.  Wayne County was formed in 1800, but the transcribed marriage records begin with 1811.

I find James Gilbert, age 16-25, listed in the 1820 Wayne County census with a wife and a daughter under age 10. (Assuming relationships here.) By 1830, he can be found in Russell County, but both census lists are alphabetical and I cannot tell if he is living near John M. or not.

In 1826, the county boundaries changed and the north western sliver of Wayne County became the south eastern edge of Russell Co, so it’s likely that there was no moving involved between the 1820 census and the 1830 census. In the map below, the white boarder in the center of the map is the area that would become Russell County. This map is off slightly as I know that John’s land was just south of the Cumberland River and that the lower loop of the River was actually in Wayne County.  This is the area where the land grant land was located.


In 1835, James Gilbert and his wife, Elizabeth G. Gilbert (a second wife?) of Spencer County, Kentucky sell their share of the 1827/8 land grant as well as another parcel of land to John M. Smith. John M. died in the fall of 1835.

I can find a James Gilbert in the 1840 Spencer County census, but he is 10 years younger than expected.  In 1850, the census shows that his wife’s name is Elizabeth. By 1860, there is no wife listed, but in 1870, Elizabeth is once again shown.  Perhaps this is another marriage. James is found a final time in the Mortality Schedules indicating that he died in 1879 at the age of 80.  He was listed as a widow. At this time, I have found no probate records for James after doing a quick look at FamilySearch.

As I think through possibilities for gaining information from James Gilbert, I’ve decided to:

1) Search for a marriage record for James Gilbert and Sally Decker to see if there are clues from a bondsman or witness.
2) Search for land transactions for James Gilbert to see if there are any clues to relationships.
3) Continue searching for a will from James Gilbert.
4) Search the tax records for Wayne County to see when Elijah Gilbert died or possibly left the county.
5) I will try to analyze the tax records for Elijah AND the John Smith that I found to see if they arrived in the area around the same time. I’ll need to keep in mind:

  • Wayne County would have been Pulaski County for 1 year just before its formation (1799)
  • Green County from 1793 – 1799.
  • Kentucky became a state in 1792 and at that time, this area was part of Lincoln County.

6) Continue researching Elijah Gilbert to see if I can find a will that might mention a child or grand-children to connect the Gilberts to John M. Smith.

Next time: Andrew Meadows.

Giant (Digital) Bulletin Board

In my last post, I was craving a giant bulletin board to try to sort all of the wills and deeds and marriage records, etc. for the different John Smiths that I’ve found.  So I thought I’d go back to a web site that I used to use several years ago for class projects.  The site is, but boy has it changed a lot since I’ve used it last!

I can’t say that I feel that it is a super easy site to learn, but there are some video tutorials that would be helpful – if I would take the time to watch them! I thought I knew enough to get a basic start, so I just jumped right in.

The cool thing about the site is that you can zoom in or out as much as you want, so my goal is to create an area for at least 3 different John Smiths with each man’s will at the center of their area.  You can include images or text and you can create paths so that a presentation will flow from one area to another as you direct.  But I want to be able to quickly move from one area to another, so I’m just creating my giant bulletin board.

I’m putting the will in the center of each area.  Then I’m placing text for each person mentioned in the will around the circle.  As I find information for each person, I’m adding that along with a line to connect the person to the document or information.  If you double click on an area, the program will zoom to that area for a closer look.  So I can zoom out to see the whole project:

full prezi

Or I can double click to zoom in on a specific person:

zoomed prezi

If you’ve told the site to keep the full sized image when uploading, you can click on an image until it is full screen to be able to read the text. I’m trying to include marriage documents, wills, land records or other information paying close attention to witnesses and neighbors to try to make connections for each family. For example, if a John Smith gave permission for his daughter to marry and the witness to the consent was a neighbor of a specific John Smith, then that could help me narrow down which land deeds go with which man.

It’s pretty slow going because I did not take the time to watch the tutorials – and I’m sure there are some awesome features that I’m not using. It is certainly a work in progress! It is easy to move objects and text at any time, I just wish I could move a group of objects at the same time. (Which is probably possible, I just haven’t learned it yet.)

The free account comes with 100 MB of space – enough for a “few prezi’s” according to the website. I thought it was interesting enough to share my idea, but I’m no where near being knowledgeable enough to give any “how to” information. I just thought you might like to see what I’m doing to see if you might like to give it a try.

Spider Webs of Connections

I was able to spend a few hours at the library today, but for the first time ever, I could not get onto a microfilm scanner because they were all full!  Normally, I’m one of the first at the library on Saturday, but a dead car battery conspired against me – or so I thought…

Because I couldn’t scan the microfilm pages I wanted, I turned to the stacks to look at a few books.  I had looked at these books when I first started to research Smiths in a new location, but nothing stood out to me then.  Now when I look at these books, I see names and connections that I understand – or at least recognize.

Because I wasn’t planning to spend time in the books, I didn’t have my Flip Pal with me, so I took about 25 pictures with my phone. Most of what I got was from a book of Court Order transcriptions. I was looking for anything “promising” with the Smith surname. Some images weren’t in great focus and most were crooked in one way or another, so I decided to type up what I had collected.

As I was typing things up, I saw listings for wills that had been recorded in the County Court with an unexpected Smith as an Executor or Heir. Or guardianship granted to a Smith for a “non-Smith” child. I’m starting to see connections for which John Smith is which based on neighbors surveying roads together. Wouldn’t neighbors be likely to be witnesses for marriages or wills? In some court orders, additional hints appeared with the names – like “John Smith the lesser”. (I’m hoping that is the same thing as Jr!)

So I decided to see if I could find the wills in the Probate Records on Family Search that matched the court orders I have found. What a great thing this has turned out to be! I see all kinds of family connections for daughters that I didn’t have before. But there is a lot of criss-crossing that has me longing for an empty bulletin board from school that I can pin pages to and start making a “spider web” with yarn to really understand it all. Yarn to show that this group sheet connects with this land record which connects to this marriage bond, etc.

I wonder if my husband would notice a giant bulletin board in the hallway…

In needs of some fans!

For my entire life….well, it seems like all my life, but probably just several years…. I’ve been trying to find the father of John M. Smith who died in Russell County, Kentucky in 1835.  I’ve got hints on top of hints, but the name John Smith is so darn common!  One of the hints that I have has lead me to jump back over a generation and now I’m trying to get them to meet in the middle.

Recently, I received a new hint, but to make the connection – or at least convince me not to stop trying to make the connection – I’ve got to follow the fans (friends, acquaintances, neighbors) and every thing I look at makes me say, “Where have I heard THAT name before”?

No matter how often I’ve heard the advice to keep track of these people, I never have taken the advice and now I’m regretting it.

So where to begin? Of course, it will involve using Excel. This morning, I was able to make a worksheet of the marriage records for the cluster of families and I’m including witnesses, bondsmen and pastors, if known. Next, I’m going to work on land records, but the stack is quite tall, involves at least 3 counties, and I feel like I’m about to jump into a very deep pool without any floatation device.  It seems too random and unorganized. There will be WAY more land records than marriage records. I certainly don’t want to have to do this again, so I want to be thorough. But knowing me as well as I do, I will have to FORCE myself not to get side-tracked, because that’s my M.O.  Read a document, think of 5 questions, research one of those, which leads me to more documents…..till suddenly I have no idea what I was working on originally.

Somehow, I will have to come up with a way to show WHICH John Smith or which family group a record belongs to…

Feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Advice is welcome!