Blog 2021 07 21 Never Stop Learning

One thing professional genealogists themselves do is to never stop learning.  We will take as many classes as our time and wallets will allow.  We always strongly recommend you do the same.

I will be attending the 3rd year of a 3-year cycle “Research in the South” led by J. Mark Lowe, FUGA, at the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research all of next week.  Then in August, I am attending a weeklong presentation on Law School for Genealogists with Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL, and Richard D. Sayre, CG, CGL at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP).  Since I am doing two institutes this year I chose to forego the National Genealogical Society annual conference.  All of these this year are still virtual which cut down costs considerably.

While you may not be able to spend the money nor take the time out of an already busy schedule to attending there are countless opportunities to attend local genealogy society meetings and a host of online classes available, many of them free, and many which allow you to view at your convenience.  You should really check them out.

One great place to start is where you can watch for free when they are live and for the first week after each presentation, after that, you need to be a member to get all webinars for free for a whole year and the price is reasonable.  For a great list of where to start, check out’s listing at


Blog 2021 06 30 The case for backups, backups, and backups

As some of you know, I am working on getting certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG).  To that end, one of the pieces required is a Kinship Determination Project (KDP) consisting of an indepth look at three generations plus the listing of the children of the most recent genealogy.  Every newly introduced fact requires a proper source citation and my paper is currently at about 16 pages and growing.

I spent several hours this past Sunday reviewing the first half and properly citing all sources in the correct format.  When you are using a Family Bible, you must acknowledge the publisher and date of printing as well as the dates for the first and last family entry.  This makes us look at how far removed the entries were made, whether they were all done at one time or overtime, and how close to the actual event date the entries were made.  So we had to pull the Bible back out and take some pictures to capture the publisher and date of printing.

The bottom line, four hours worked to get these updated.  I kept hitting save in Microsoft Word ® so I would not lose all of my work.  I did not close the document and sometime between Sunday and today, half the pages were erased the file resaved.  The work was lost.  Or was it?

I have all of my work in various clouds, for this work, I have it in Dropbox.  One of the features of Dropbox is the ability to recover previous versions.  So I was able to go into Dropbox on the web and recover my file.  Hallelujah!

Closing thoughts….  Make backups and close your files when you have finished working on them for the day.  You do not want to lose hours’ worth of work because of carelessness.

I know I am behind, I have been very busy the past couple of weeks with clients and family visiting.

Blog 2021 07 15 – Set it aside

One of the techniques I have learned over the years in trying to solve a brick wall is to set it aside for anywhere from 2 months to 2 years.  While this may sound like a crazy idea, let me explain why.

First off, sometimes we cannot see the forest because of the trees.  We begin to get a bit frustrated in our failure to solve the riddle and stop seeing clearly.  By setting it aside before returning, we take a few extra minutes to relook at what we have, what we have looked at, and what areas we may not have looked at.  The second reason is that documents are being digitized and put online every day and something entirely new may now pop up.  Another reason is that we might learn of another area to research and be able to go back and solve the questions.  Finally, while setting person A aside we might start looking at a collateral line who may have had a relationship with person A and discover something new that will aid us later on when we pick it back up.  Allow me to share a few examples.

The oldest known ancestor on my father’s side (although not yet proven) was known as Lawrence Gailshiott in Cecil County, Maryland in the early 1700s.  It was long believed he was Lars Gailshiott of Norway although nothing was known to exist to support that claim.  After Googling everything known, I set it aside for a few years and upon returning learned that The Breviate in the Boundary Dispute Between Pennsylvania and Maryland, which contained the research to support the lawsuit that led to the hiring of Mason and Dixon.  In the very think book, Lawrence gives a deposition which includes his age and the date of the deposition.  Then after several more years, the census from that part of Norway was digitized and put online and the year of birth for Lars, who sailed off, aligns with Lawrence’s.

Another concerns my late wife’s great-grandmother.  The family story was that her father, who by today’s money was a millionaire, wrote her out of his will because she married below his station in New York.  As it turns out, after he died, she fought it all the way to the New York Supreme court where she once again lost.  That court record is now digitized and online.

Finally, one of my great-grandfathers who I have just taken back up spent several years with the family in Arizona.  After setting him aside and starting again, I realized I never really researched him in that state and until recently, never thought about researching voting lists.  As it turned out, he registered as a Democrat in 1918 and a Republican in 1920 but more importantly, what he did and the company he worked for was clearly written.  I could never make out on the Census what he did just the industry and as it turns out, he worked for a company that supported the industry but his actual job was far from what I had thought.  Additionally, looking at his father on voter lists helped me put him in a specific family.

Keep searching, but sometimes, set it aside for a while.

Blog 4 July 2021 – Lineage Societies

I am sitting here drinking my coffee on this sunny 4th of July morning and one of the items someone posted on Facebook talked about our founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence.  When they signed their name to a document which ended with, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”  The Facebook post is of a grave marker and it reads, in part,

“nine signers died of wounds during the Revolutionary War.  Five were captured or imprisoned.  Wives and children were killed, jailed, mistreated or left penniless.  Twelve signer’s houses were burned to the ground.  Seventeen lost everything they owned.  No signer defected – Their Honor Like Their Nation, Remained intact.”

Many people who do genealogy research do so to join some kind of lineage society such as the Daughters (or Sons) of the American Revolution.  A genealogy friend of mine recently told a group of us that one of the main reasons she joins these societies is because it forces her to research that person and line and thus get more of her research done.

I know there are also many researchers whose families immigrated to the United States in the past 100 -150 years so what kind of society could they join?  Well, another friend of mine knew her grandmother worked at the Bell Bomber plant here in Marietta, Georgia, and was able to prove it and her relationship to her grandmother and joined the American Rosie the Riveter Association, this friend’s first lineage society.  There are literally hundreds of lineage societies out there so look for them, do your research, and join one that fascinates you and encourages you to complete your research on that line.

For me, I will submit my SAR packet after I submit my portfolio to the Board for Certification of Genealogists since it overlaps a lot.

DNA Clustering and Reports

Evert-Jan Blom, who lives in the Netherlands with his wife and children had a background in Molecular Genetics before getting interested in genealogy. [i] After getting tired of manually trying to connect his matches into groups based on chromosome clustering, he wrote an algorithm (computer code) that did the clustering for him in record time.

This clustering has since become a very popular tool.  In theory, every match on a specific cluster should ultimately share a common ancestor.  While he is no longer allowed to run it against® matches, his Genetic Affairs will run against your 23 and Me® or your FTDNA DNA matches.  He has also written the same for MyHeritage® and Gedmatch®.

For example, on one of the clusters, I know, based on my own research, that three of the testers descend from the same family as my g-great-grandmother, Lurraine “Lizzy” Elizabeth Reese, the daughter of Samuel Reid and Sarah Catherine Reese, nee Sparks.  Several of the Reese children married Akers and Hamiltons not to mention Akers marrying Hamiltons.  So I can realistically assume that the others who share that cluster must also descend from those family combinations.

These are powerful tools and might be worth your time to investigate.

In addition, he recently added some reports that operate similar to Ancestry’s ThruLines which is based on what others have in their online trees.  However, as the old axiom says, “Garbage in – Garbage out.”  Hopefully, he will improve on this part of code which weighs too heavily on the same or similar name and not on timelines and locations. As I have said concerning ThruLines, if the result does not make sense, do not spend a lot of time chasing it.

As of today, any code that tries to predict pedigree and ancestry is basing the results on trees posted by others and the DNA which these modern testers have attributed to that line.  I was hired awhile back to try and prove that a man who added the nickname Major (he never attained a rank higher than Sergeant) in front of his first name, William, was the son of a county Sheriff who also went by Major since the younger Major one got married in that county.  I proved he was NOT the son because the sheriff’s son was William D., a lawyer who stayed in that county and always signed his name William D.  Whereas the younger Major William moved to Macon, Georgia, and ran a munitions factory.  They were obviously two different Williams.  Plus, the sheriff had two other sons and a daughter.

However, numerous people who have researched the younger Major and his known brother have all attributed their father to the sheriff so ThruLines show the sheriff and makes it appear they share DNA with the sheriff.  They do not.  When clicking on the sheriff, all the DNA matches are via the two misattributed sons and zero sharing with the four known children of the sheriff.

Is this making sense?  To rephrase, the sheriff had four known children, if the younger Major was a son, then his descendants and his known brother’s descendants would share DNA with the four proven children of the sheriff and there are zero matches.  It gives a false narrative.

You can take the information as clues and that is about it.  My oldest proven Thomas ancestor had four children and none are named Joseph.  However, some have attribute Joseph Thomas, born circa 1818, to my known direct ancestor.  However, the reason we do share DNA is that Joseph is actually a grandson of my ancestor and not a son.

That is not to say we cannot use it. I have had several clients move various men in and out of their 4th or 5th great grandfather position just to see the various results.  We are looking for the highest shared cMs with cousins.  Case in point, we are trying to find the father of a Joseph Bishop who was born about 1790, probably in the Spartanburg County area, and appears in the 1810 U. S. Census in Hall County, Georgia.  He then moved to Campbell County, Georgia.  In trying to determine the most logical Bishop family he descends from, we have moved a lot of potential fathers in and out of those positions.  All of the Bishops are related to some extent.  We have narrowed it down to two distinct Bishop families as the most likely.

This does not solve the problem but it does give us a good starting point to spend time researching closer.

Be careful what you believe.  Be careful of any predicted pedigree.


Posted in DNA

Another thought on Veterans and their #1 supporter

3 June 2021

I was at the GA National Cemetery in Canton, GA yesterday morning paying my respects to Karen since it was 10 years ago yesterday God called her home.  Arriving at about 9:30 I did not expect to see a lot of groundworkers there who were not just taking care of the lawn.  And I was taken back a bit.

First off, so much has changed since the last time I was there and they have opened many new areas, enough to confuse some people.  But they were quite busy, laying out new rows for graves, digging new graves, and replacing grave markers.

Why replace grave markers you might ask?  That means the spouse of the first one to pass has joined them  For example, Karen’s grave has her information on the front about being my wife and that I am the veteran.  On the back is the grave number.  When the day comes for my sons to put me there, the VA will replace that marker with one that has my info on the front and her’s on the back.

We are losing our veterans and the ones who gave them all their moral support at a very fast rate.  Be sure to their stories while they are with us.

I’ll end with a little hint, do not trust the VA grave locator at newer cemeteries (less than 20 years old) as they may renumber sections.  They are not buried here and there, they are buried in chronological order.  Karen is in a full-size grave in June of 2011 so it was section 1, now section 6 but find the section where the front section is 2010 or 2011 and start walking back until you find the year and row that corresponds.  Same with the ones where urns are buried with ashes.

2021 Memorial Day Thoughts

I am sitting here after attending my small town’s Memorial Day Ceremony I reflect on the words spoken by Timothy Zarbo, who served six months in the Gulf War as a member of the United States Air Force.  He stated, “Veterans Day is for those who survived and retired.  Armed Forces Day is for those who are still serving.  Memorial Day is reserved for those who never got to take off their uniform.” [i]

Our American Freedom was paid for by the blood of the patriots who fought and died on the battlefield or from wounds inflicted in that conflict.  We often think about the American Civil War as the first war that pitted brother against brother, father against son, and destroyed families.  In fact, it was the Revolutionary War.  It has been said that about 1/3rd of the population supported the revolution, about 1/3rd opposed it and supported the British (AKA Tories), and about 1/3rd did not take sides but simply wanted to survive the conflict.

More than 1.1 million men and women have died in wartime in our history and nearly half of them were from the Civil War.  They would want us to go on and live and enjoy life and be happy, but they would also want to be remembered.  As today’s guest speaker here in Powder Springs, and numerous folks have said on various programs, “In this world, we die twice; once we when our heart stops beating and the other is when our name is spoken for the very last time.

Let us, as genealogists and family researchers, continue to tell their stories.  Let us commit to never let that second death occur because we have researched and uncovered their stories and tell everyone about them.


Larry W. Thomas

Captain, U. S. Army (Retired)



It’s not always this easy

We all hope to find the answers readily available like the below from the Revolutionary War pension application of Jacob Higginbotham. [i]

Here, Jacob’s son, John, gave the date of his parents’ marriage, names of all the children along with their dates of birth.  We see that Joseph and Benjamin are twins and that Jacob Senior died in January 1836.


Truth is, these can be found but are very rare indeed, normally we have to hunt and search for them.  Even now I am trying to determine which, if any, of these children are the father to a specific Higginbotham.


Sometimes the answers are well hidden and we must use all possible records.  The above came from a military pension record which is where I found proof that one of my scoundrel 2nd great grandfathers ran out on wife number 1 and therefore was never legally married to wife number 2.  If you see that there is a pension record, you should get it.  Whether it is a military pension or a railroad pension.  In them, they were required to show evidence of marriage if the spouse was to get any benefits, same with children.


After looking in all the standard places like census records; birth, marriage, and death registers; probate, and land records, you should start looking at possible military service, church affiliations, and even historic government meeting minutes.


Sometimes you will need to think outside the box.  I have found missing information in Visa applications, in history books that are written about a neighbor but the family of interest gets caught up in the storytelling.  I have found proof on how to distinguish a previously unknown son with the same name as his father in a small memoir book written by someone else.

[i] Higginbotham, Jacob Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications, pension number R 4977, ( accessed 24 May 2021) citing NARA publication M804.

Is your Family Tree Naked?

So many times I have been asked to help someone do their research and when I look at their family tree, there are very few branches because either every family had only one child or none of the siblings were added to the tree.

You may be looking for William Bishop and there are many of them in the area but the one you are looking for had a sister named Patience and a brother named Thomas Jefferson.  If you exclude the siblings you risk missing hints on ® and similar sites as well as not looking at records pertaining to Patience and her family as well as Thomas Jeffersons.  You may find that Patience’s husband puts in a will that W. Bishop is named executor to his will and given guardianship of the minor children.  Or, if you lose site of William you might be able to determine his father from his father’s estate records showing children William, Patience, and T.J. and it might indicate that William is now living in Coosa County, Alabama.

At the same time, you may learn about William Bishop through his wife’s father’s estate or land records.  If William was married more than once, don’t limit that research to only the wife of your person of interest.  Research all wife’s parents and siblings.  I am looking at one in St Mary’s County, Maryland, where the father never mentions his daughter but leaves his son-in-law, Hopewell Addams, half his estate for “Love and Affection.”  He must have been some kind of son-in-law!

By putting the person of interest in context with his whole family and the spouse and spouse’s family, you better your chances of finding the information you seek.  While it might be a challenge occasionally when there are 14 siblings, but you will be glad if it pays off.

Think about how you can find your person of interest in the census.  If you do not consider the whole family you might have the wrong one.  That was a mistake a distant cousin of mine made concerning the census of where my Great Grandfather, General Jackson Thomas, was about 8.  Seems there was another G. Jackson Thomas in the county who was 7 and she did not look at the entire family to notice that the father was not Banner, the mother was not Mary, and none of the siblings lined up.  While there were also other indicators it was the wrong family, had she looked at all the names she would have caught it.

Speaking of General Jackson’s family, Appling County did not assemble the U. S. Census pages in the correct order and 45-year-old Banner is the last name on one page and at the top of the next page is a 20 something Mary and an infant instead of a 40ish year old and several kids.  A retired archivist advised me to go to the archives and look at the official records which bound into a book and it was that book that was scanned by all of the agencies.  By looking at the date the enumerator went to each area, I found that the pages are out of true order and were numbered based on the way it was bound.  So Banner’s family is about ten pages before the page where his name is located.

Final thought, do not limit your research to just the direct line of your research if you want to stay on the correct path.

When March 1743 to June 1744 equals 3 months

If my 7th Great Grandfather, Lawrence Gailshiott signed his will on 4 March 1743 and died around the first of June 1744 how could that be about 3 months later?

I promise you, this is not any kind of new math nor am I intoxicated!  It really is three months later.

We must first understand a bit of history and the calendar because it all changed in 1752 for the American Colonies.

Prior to 1752, the colonies and most of the British Empire operated under the Julian Calendar which did not calculate the actual time the Earth takes to complete a single orbit around the Sun. [i] It did add a Leap Day every four years similar to the current Gregorian but in reality, it was adding too many days and getting the users off the true date.  So in 1582, the concept of the Gregorian Calendar, which was named after Pope Gregory but designed by Luigi Lillio who was an astronomer of his day, was first proposed and many Catholic countries adopted it. [ii]

It was determined that about 10 days too many had been added since the calculated beginning of A.D. Anno Domini and these would be dropped when converting.  The Julian Calendar, established by Julius Caesar in 708 B.C. [iii] The British Empire being protestant, did not make the change until 1752 by which time 13 days had to be shaved off.  What this meant was that everyone went to bed on Wednesday, 2 September 1752, and woke up the next day on 14 September 1752. [iv]

But that still does not help the initial situation.  The other change was moving New Year’s Day from 26 March to present-day, 1 January.  Therefore, 4 March 1743 was actually in 1744 by current standards but the year did not change until 26 March. [v] You may also see the date written as 4 March 1743/44 or 1743/1744 because they all knew it was already a new year.

Now you know.