Henrietta Louise Holder’s Story (Sometimes Things Are Not What They Seem)

Henrietta Louise Holder’s Story (Sometimes Things Are Not What They Seem)

Henrietta** was the sister of one of my direct ancestors. I wanted to gather her basic information and hopefully write a short bio on her. What I found was a complete dead-end.

In 1870 and 1880 Henrietta was living with her parents and siblings. I found her 1882 marriage to Douglas Crandall so I expected to find Douglas and Henrietta as a married couple in the 1900 census. Instead I found Douglas listed as a widower and living with his parents. Not good.

By 1910 Douglas is living with his second wife Ella. The census records clearly show that Henrietta was dead, right? Douglas is buried in the family cemetery but there was no marker for Henrietta nor is she in any of the other local cemeteries. Unfortunately, her death was before this state mandated death certificates. Her bio was a bit sparse but at least I knew who her parents were and who she married. I also knew she had three children with husband Douglas because two sons were listed on the 1900 census with their widowed father and a daughter, who had died at age 4 months, was found in the family cemetery. 

The breakthrough was an email from one of Henrietta’s direct descendants. She had seen some of my Holder memorials on Find-A-Grave and guessed I was tied to Henrietta’s line somehow. She asked if I happened to have a photograph of Henrietta. I told her I didn’t but I sent her two photos of Henrietta’s brother. The return email was a shocker. Henrietta didn’t die until 1931, at least 31 years later than I had thought. Henrietta had been declared "insane" in 1899 and was sent to the state hospital where she remained until her death. This was totally unexpected and it again showed me not to assume anything. This descendant sent me copies of the court documents (ex parte order and service*) as well as Henrietta’s complete medical file from the state hospital. It was an absolute goldmine of information.

*An ex parte order, in this context,  is an order for involuntary commitment. It is any temporary order issued at the request of one person when the other party is not there. You will also see these as restraining orders and temporary custody orders. The service is when the sheriff serves the order on the person named, again, in this context it was when the sheriff took custody of Henrietta and delivered her to the state hospital.

Henrietta is buried in the state hospital cemetery in an unmarked grave. I was now able to order her death certificate. I went back to the county clerk and requested Douglas and Henrietta's divorce decree, clean copies of the ex parte order and service, and Douglas and second wife Ella's marriage record. I had so much more information about Henrietta and was able to write a nice bio. I still have a lot of unanswered questions but you never know, another unexpected email might hold the answers.

**All names have been changed at the request of Henrietta's grandchildren

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

Where's the Original?


One of the golden rules of genealogy is that the original document is always best but what happens if there is no original? I have two examples for you.  

Here is what I had written in my marriage notes for Eli Meredith and Martha McMichael:

Jane Doe* at the Pike County, AL Circuit Court Clerk's Office states that Eli and Martha show up in their marriage index but when she went to the marriage book itself to make a copy the page was missing. [*name changed]

I made that note probably 25 years ago. Back then I wasn't smart enough to try and find microfilm. I recently revisited this couple. FamilySearch now has the Alabama county marriage books online.  Look what I found.

Meredith-McMichael marriage
(click image to enlarge)

 Pike County, Alabama, Marriage Book B: 229, Meredith-McMichal, 1856; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 22 December 2017).

[Page 229 also includes the solemnization but I cropped it out because of the space constraints of the blog]

The Genealogical Society of Utah microfilmed this book on 29 October 1979 (before the records were lost) and in this case the microfilm is better than the original. I do want to add that as a general rule microfilm is as good as the original (and is considered an original for sourcing purposes) as long as you have no suspicions that the film was altered or doesn't represent the original faithfully. In many cases you will go to microfilm first. My second example is more dramatic.

I found the marriage of David McMichael and Sarah Cimbro [Kimbrough] in an index. I contacted the Greene County, Georgia Probate Court and they advised me that their earliest marriage records were lost including the one I needed (Murphy's Law). The marriage did appear in their official index. My next move was to see if the Greene County's marriage books had been microfilmed. They were microfilmed on 20 March 1957 so I thought I was on to something. I pulled up the microfilm on FamilySearch and found something that I didn't want to see. The earliest marriages had been copied into an index but the original book apparently no longer exists. The inscription at the front of the book reads:

"A Record of Persons Names who have obtained Licenses for Marriage — By Wm Phillips — Register of Probates for Greene Co."

The index is all in the same hand (Mr. Phillips). I don't know when the index was created but before the book was lost. As a double check I called the Georgia State Archives. All they have is a copy of the Family History Library film. Here is a snippet:

David McMichael - Sarah Cimbro marriage
(click image to enlarge)

Greene County, Georgia, Marriage License Index 1786-1810, McMichael-Cimbro, 1789; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 22 December 2017); The original marriage bonds, licenses, and solemnizations have been lost. At some point the probate clerk created an index of these marriages which now serves as the only official record.

You always want to see the original record yourself (digital image/microfilm considered original as long as you are confident it is a faithful copy) but sometimes it simply isn't possible. There are other scenarios to consider. It might be cost prohibitive to get an image of an original document especially if a repository requires onsite research. Some documents have not been microfilmed and the repository deems them too delicate to be handled. If this is the case, those documents are usually in the queue to be digitized by expert archivists. If I use an index as my source I will explain why as part of my citation so my readers will understand why I used what I did.

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

Using DNA to Break Down a Brick Wall

Using DNA to Break Down a Brick Wall


Back in July I was contacted by a distant cousin. He found me through a blog post I had written that had mentioned my 3rd great grandmother, Pleasant Ann Clawson. I was elated to receive his email. This was my first contact with another Clawson descendant. But I was feeling somewhat apprehensive as well. You see, Pleasant Ann Clawson was my second most stubborn brick wall. I wasn't sure what I'd be able to tell my new cousin.

I've been researching Pleasant Ann for about 12 years. She was born in 1823 in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. She died in 1902, four years before the start of the Pennsylvania death certificates, and took the secret of her parent's names with her.

My biggest problem, besides lack of records in early Pennsylvania, is that the Clawson family is very large! My strategy was to start with the very early censuses, find the heads of households and recreate the families. After that I tried tracking down land and probate records for the best male candidates. Nothing came of it.

My best clue to sorting out these Clawsons was the 1860 US Federal Census where Pleasant McClarren (her married name), age 30, was found right next door to James Clawson, age 35, and family. I spent my efforts trying to chase James Clawson's family tree but never figured out who his parents were either.

What was I going to say to my new cousin? I was still mulling over my response in January when MyHeritage came out with a chromosome browser for their dna results.  I took a much keener interest then and started to really dig deep into the tools provided with the dna. I found I could do a surname search and on a whim searched for Clawson. What did I find but a dna match that was a direct surname descendant of the Clawsons!

Before getting too excited I realized the match only had a tree for himself, his father and grandfather. I would not be deterred.  If searching in the 1800s wouldn't bring results then I would start with an unfinished tree that is proven to be tied to me through dna. And so I started researching someone else's tree!

Recreating the tree of a known dna match proved to be a much easier task.  Perhaps being descended from a male Clawson instead of a female Clawson made finding records easier. Without too much trouble I made it back to William Clawson (1815-1888) and who was very conveniently brother to James Clawson (abt. 1825-1890), the same James who lived next door to my Pleasant in 1860.

My philosophy about solving unknown parentage brick walls is that it is a two-step process. First you determine who the probable parents are and then you prove that you have the right parents. I used this exact same process with Geoff's Nathan Brown brick wall.

So far, because of this dna match, I have determined a likely candidate for the family of my Pleasant Ann Clawson - John Clawson and his wife Elizabeth Wincher (with sons William and James among other children).  A nice gaps exists in 1823 right where my Pleasant would fit into the birth order.

With step one finished let's hope it won't be too difficult a process proving that I have the right family!


Learn how Marian found the parents for Geoff's ancestor Nathan Brown in these two webinars in the Legacy library:

Part 1 - Brick Walls: Cracking the Case of Nathan Brown's Parents

Part 2 - Pointing Fingers at Ancestors' Siblings - Breaking Down Brick Walls with Collateral Research

Other Brick Wall webinars in the Legacy Library


Marian Pierre-Louis is the Social Media Marketing Manager for Legacy Family Tree. She is also the host of The Genealogy Professional podcast. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.



Persistence Pays Off

Persistence Pays Off

I was researching a German soldier who had been interred in a Russian POW camp during World War II. His family never saw him again and didn't know what happened to him after the War was over. I had very little information about him. The Russians did not release him until 1948 (I found this out later). The soldier was incapacitated in some way but the details were fuzzy. I did know that he died in the town of Göttingen because this was recorded in the family's "Stammbuch." A Stammbuch is an official record book that families keep of their birth, death, and marriage records. It include the civil document numbers which is very helpful to researchers. With this information I was able to obtain his death certificate. The death certificate lists the address where he died as Rosdorferweg 70.


August's death certificate
(click image to enlarge)


I plugged that address into Google Maps and this is what I found.  The address belongs to a hospital.

Google map image


So was it a hospital in 1949?  I emailed them and asked. 

Hospital in Göttingen


They told me that yes, they are the same hospital that was in operation in 1949.  I asked them if they had the medical records from that time period. They told me that the old medical records had been turned over to the Stadtarchiv Göttingen. They were kind enough to provide me with a contact person there.


Stadtarchiv Göttingen


The Stadtarchiv told me that the records were now being housed at the Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv in Wolfenbüttel.  I was again given a contact person.

Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv


I contacted the Landesarchiv and they advised that they would write back when they knew whether or not they had this man's records. I got my answer less than a week later.

“Sie können von der Akte des Landeskrankenhauses Göttingen, die [NAME REDACTED] betrifft (NLA Hannover Hann. 155 Göttingen [FILE NUMBER REDACTED]), Kopien in Auftrag geben. Die Akte umfasst ca. 75 Seiten.”

They found the man's medical file, seventy-five pages worth. They mailed me a CD with crystal clear images. His medical file provided a lot of answers to the questions his family had had for their entire lives. 

This entire process took several months but I was on a mission and wasn't about to give up. I honestly thought that there was no way these medical records still existed but I knew I had to go through all of the steps to find out for sure. 


Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

DNA Matches - Where's Their Tree?

DNA Matches - Where's Their Tree?

 I am a member of several DNA Facebook groups and a common frustration you will see is when someone contacts a match and the match doesn't answer, there is no tree attached to their DNA, or they have their tree marked as private. Here are a few things to consider:

  • The person is not a genealogist and took a DNA test just for their ethnicity report. All of the DNA advertisements on TV focus on ethnicity because that appeals to non genealogists. These testers log in to see their results and then never log in again
  • The person doesn't work on their genealogy full time like some of us do. They only log in once in a while so they aren't seeing their messages immediately
  • The person is a newbie genealogist just starting out. They may only have their tree sketched out on paper and haven't tried to construct a tree online or by using a genealogy software program. They may not know what a gedcom is
  • The person is adopted and has no clue about their biological family so they don't have a tree
  • The person has a close misattributed parentage issue and doesn't want to advertise it so they keep their tree private
  • The person is working off of mirror trees which must be kept private (A mirror tree is when you create a tree for a cousin match and then attach your DNA to it in hopes of discovering which line this cousin match is on or even the most recent common ancestor. This technique is used a lot by adoptees)
  • The person in control of the DNA is working for someone else and wants to keep their information private

So what do you do if you find yourself in this situation? You need to record what you do know about this person and his/her DNA as well as your attempts at contact. This is no different than what you would do for any DNA match. Most of the DNA websites have a notes section that you can use but some do not.

I handle it by recording this information in Legacy. It is easier for me to keep track of everything if it is all in one place. I can easily add the tester to my database as an unlinked individual (by their AKA if I need to) and I can add any known contact information. I can use events to record their DNA info (who they tested with, kit numbers if applicable etc.) I can also use events to record attempts of correspondence with them. I can still put these people in triangulation groups by using Hashtags. If I find the connection I can then add their ancestors that hook up with mine. These people are "invisible" in my file and  I use a temporary source of DNA Match - Lineage not Confirmed.  

I try not to get frustrated because that is non productive. Actively working with these matches reduces the frustration for me. If I get further information at some point it is easy for me to add it to what I already have. You can also view this as a teaching opportunity to help others understand DNA research.

For more tips on connecting with your DNA matches watch "Who are You? Identifying Your Mysterious DNA Matches" by Blaine Bettinger in the Legacy library.


Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

DNA Ethnicity Reports - Are they all the same?

DNA Ethnicity Reports

I receive a lot of emails and see a lot of Facebook posts from people wondering why their ethnicity varies so much from company to company. Here are some general principles that you need to keep in mind:

  • Different companies use different reference populations
  • Different companies divide up the world a little differently
  • All of the companies periodically update their algorithms so your percentages will change
  • Once you get back to the 3rd great-grandparents, their DNA starts dropping off the further you go back. You can see a chart showing this. Scroll down to the grandparents chart. This is STATISTICAL data. Real life data will be more pronounced
  • If you have tested your brothers and sisters they will, most likely, have different percentages than you because they have different DNA than you do (this one throws people too so I though I would mention it)

My paper research has my mother's family in central Europe to the late 1500's on all lines that I have been able to carry back. All of my dad's lines migrated across the pond prior to 1750ish. Best I can tell I am looking at England, Wales, and Ireland (Again, on the lines that I have been able to carry back that far). Here are my results from the different companies. The first thing you should notice is the different geographical areas so it is pretty much impossible for these to match exactly.

MyHeritage DNA
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Looking at your ethnicity is fun but don't think it is written in stone. Genealogists should be more concerned with the cousin matches which will help you extend your family tree and break down brick walls.

Want to see another ethnicity report comparison? Check out the YouTube video Marian Pierre-Louis made comparing her ethnicity across MyHeritage, AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA.

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

A Little Help from a Friend

A Little Help from a Friend

I am the administrator of the Glaentzer One-Name Study with the Guild of One-Name Studies. It is a rare surname so it is a great name for this sort of project. The name originates in Germany but I have known lines migrating out to Italy, France, the Netherlands, and even to the United States.

I was talking about my project with Kirsty Gray. She is based in England and is an expert with One-Name and One-Place Studies. She is also one of our Legacy Webinar presenters

Kirsty found an entry for a Glaentzer on the FreeBMD website. I hadn't thought to look there because I had no indication from my research that any Glaentzers had immigrated to England or Wales. This is the first place Kirsty would think to check because she is based in the UK. There is a single entry in the death indexes for a George Glaentzer who died in 1860 (there was a second entry for the same record under the name Georg).

George Glaentzer
(click image to enlarge)

Kirsty ordered the death certificate and emailed it to me. She also pointed me to the official UK vitals website that includes wills and probate. There is a single Glaentzer entry, George. There was something in the index that immediately caught my eye..

"...Francis Glaentzer the Brother and one of the Next of Kin of the said Deceased now residing at Ancona in Italy..."

George Glaentzer entry in the index (last entry on the page)
George Glaentzer entry in the index, continued (first entry on the page)

Bingo! Francis is the Italian line. I checked my file and sure enough I found George (Georg) and his brother Francis (Franz Joseph). They are my half 1st cousins, 5 times removed. Every Glaentzer is related to me somehow which is another perk when working with a rare surname. Franz was known to have immigrated to Ancona, Italy and his line is still there today. I am in contact with his living descendants. I was able to show that the UK George is one and the same as the German Georg in my file. I didn't have death information on German Georg nor did I know that he had immigrated to England like his brother had immigrated to France. I ordered and received Georg's probate file from the website Kirsty led me to. I also signed up for a free trial to The British Newspaper Archive and found Georg's obituary.

So what did I learn? I learned some vital statistics and immigration information about Georg as well as where he fits into my family and into my One-Name Study. However, the most interesting thing I learned is that he was a "mad hatter" and had committed suicide. You can read more about what that is here.

I also learned that I can text message people in England and that the Windows shortcut for £ is ALT-0163.

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

Resolving Conflicts

Resolving Conflicts

I don’t work on my husband’s side of the family all that much because he has absolutely no interest in genealogy whatsoever but he does tolerate my obsession with it so I guess that’s something. I decided to work on his family a bit and he told me that his great-uncle Jimmy died in a car wreck. He said he remembers it clearly. I found Jimmy’s obituary and this is what it says:

James W. Young
APPLING, Ga. - James William Young, 69, died in an Augusta hospital Sunday after an extended illness
[emphasis mine]. Funeral services will be conducted at Lewis Memorial Methodist Church in Columbia County Wednesday at 3 p.m. with the Rev. Robert Boyd officiating assisted by the Rev. W.L. Buffington. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. Young was a native of Columbia County. He was retired and a member of the Hollow Creek Baptist Church in Aiken, S.C. Survivors include one sister, Mrs. G. S. Lewis, Martinez and a number of nieces and nephews.[1]

Well that posed a bit of a problem. There is a big difference between dying in a car wreck and dying after an extended illness. My husband was a kid at the time so maybe he remembered it wrong. I ordered Jimmy’s death certificate to find out.

James William Young Death Certificate [2]

Well there you go. My non-genealogist husband did remember the events correctly. No clue why the paper got it wrong. This is why we do exhaustive (re)search and we resolve conflicts. I knew that Jimmy Young would have death certificate so there was no reason for me not to obtain it. It would have been a mistake for me to automatically believe the newspaper over my husband just because the newspaper is more "official." 

[1] "James W. Young," The Augusta Chronicle, 06 December 1966, p. 5, col. 2. 

[2] Georgia Department of Public Health, death certificate no. 37828 (1966), James William Young; State Vital Records, Atlanta.  

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

Don't Rely on Indexes


I was searching for George Patton in the 1820 census and I found him in an index which made me happy. Here is an image of what was listed in the index as George Patton.

1820 Census Lydia Patton entry
(click image to enlarge)

On this very same page there was another person by the name of George.  You can clearly see what the name George should look like as written by this enumerator. The first image, showing the man indexed as "George" Patton, clearly isn't the name George based on the second entry.

1820 Census George Tilley entry
(click image to enlarge)

1820 U.S. census, Wilkes County, Georgia, p. 162, lines 4, 20, Lydia Patton and Georgia Tilley; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 27 December 2017); citing NARA microfilm publication M33, roll 9.

Luckily I know who the first entry is. It is George’s stepmother Lydia (Orr) Patton. So here is the problem. Lydia and George are very different words so no matter how fuzzy you make this search these two will not be picked up as a possibility for the other unless I searched for the name Patton only. Let’s say I did search just for the name Patton. If you were looking for a Lydia Patton would you click on the name George in the index? Or, if you were looking for someone named George would you click on Lydia? This is just an example. Lydia wasn’t in the index at all since she was indexed as George.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that the handwriting is hard to read and it is always easier for someone who is familiar with the names to spot them. My point is, don’t rely on indexes. The indexers are human and they make mistakes. Sometimes you need to hand search the images.
All of the online repositories have this indexed incorrectly and I have sent corrections to all of them. This is how you can make the index better. If you see something like this let them know.
So where is George? No clue. I haven't found him yet.

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

The Abstract Trap

The Abstract Trap

A derivative source is defined as:

"materials that offer alternate versions of the original—typically transcripts, translations, abstracts, extracts, nutshells, indexes, and database entries. The best derivatives will preserve all the essential details of the original. Still, errors are frequent." (emphasis mine) [1]

Some of the common derivative works are cemetery surveys, marriage abstracts, deed abstracts and will abstracts. These can be in book form, published in a periodical, or in some sort of online database. I want to alert you to a specific trap that I don't want to you fall into when working with these types of sources. This trap usually involves books. It is easier to explain by giving an example.

One of the books I have in my private library is Marion County, Mississippi Miscellaneous Records. I like this book because it has all kinds of court abstracts. I especially like it because each entry has the book and page number of the court book it was abstracted out of. For example, on page 53 of this book you will see a will abstract for John Barnes, Sr. The compiler (E. Russ Williams) also documented that this will is in Marion County Will Book A, page 70-71. This will gives me all kinds of goodies; the name of his wife, his children, his grandchildren as well as "It is not the desire of John Barnes for Edmund Lowe to get any of his estate." (Ouch!)

So what is my source for the evidence contained in this will? Some researchers will cite Marion County, Mississippi Will Book A, page 70-71 and that is the trap. Your source is not the original will book but rather it is the book of abstracts, Marion County, Mississippi Miscellaneous Records. You can't cite the Will Book unless you actually viewed it yourself. The best-case scenario is to obtain a copy of the will from the will book so that you can analyze it yourself. If you do, you can then cite the will. If not, you need to cite the abstract book. This is what my citation would look like.

E. Russ Williams, compiler, Marion County Mississippi Miscellaneous Records (1986; reprint, Greenville, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 2002), 53; citing Marion County, Mississippi Will Book A:70-71, John Barnes, Sr. will, signed 11 August 1838.

Did you notice that I snuck in the information about the will book? I did this so that my readers can have the benefit of knowing exactly where to go to get a copy of the will for themselves. They can see that I didn't actually consult the will but I am using an abstract book. 

In tomorrow's Tuesday's Tip I am going to relate this to something you will see specifically in Legacy so stay tuned. 


[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, "Quick Lesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Map," Evidence Explained (https://www.evidenceexplained.com : accessed 12 December 2017).

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.