Blog 2021 08 27 GPS Standard #4: Resolution of conflicting evidence

I touched on this a bit last week when I mentioned the multiple Banner Thomases in Pierce, later Appling, County.  There are many reasons we run into conflicting evidence and all too often people overlook or ignore them and simply concentrate on the person they are confident is the right one.

But I ask, how many times have you seen people with trees online that simply do not make sense?  I found one case where someone did not realize there were two men named Bolar Moon in the same county and between the two there were three marriages.  But this particular person had one man married to all three women, with marriages overlapping, and having kids by all three.

If we want our research to be accepted and believed then we simply cannot ignore evidence that conflicts with what we believe to be true for our research subject.  We must address it using the standards previously discussed, with evidence to support our conclusion, and then write it up.  Sometimes, we cannot directly or even indirectly resolve the conflict and we must speak to it still being an open issue.  Take for example one in my own family.  The elder Gilshot Thomas (Circa 1730 – 1792) had a son, Gilshot Jr. (Circa 1752 – 1809).  One of the two was arrested on a felony and transported to Savannah in 1787.  No court records have been located to show the charge or which Gilshot was charged.  Therefore any write-ups I might do would have to state that this conflict remains unresolved.  Since it does not directly relate to any proof of relationships (that I know of) then this conflict does not require resolution at this time.

However, as in the case of Ambrose Watson, I had compelling evidence that Elijah was his father until something popped up that indicated otherwise.  Upon further research, analysis and resolution, it was shown that Elijah was his brother, 21 years his senior.  Sometimes we want something to be true so we overlook conflicts but we absolutely must thoroughly research the issue, analyze it, and resolve it.  Particularly if it directly impacts establishing family relationships.

Without properly resolving conflicting evidence or information, all of our research is for naught as it can be easily picked apart by others.  Some things, which seem so obvious to us, might look entirely different to someone else.  I am reminded of a meme that has a large number painted on the ground.  The person on one side looks at it and calls it a six, the person standing opposite calls it a nine.  Without something to specifically indicate whether it is a 6 or 9 both are simply relying on a single perspective.

Do not shy away from such conflicts but look for clues to resolve them and commit them to paper, or computer files for others to use.

Blog 2021 08 19 GPS Standard #3: Thorough analysis and correlation

What exactly does this mean?  You cannot always take things at face value and must thoroughly look at all aspects of what you have found.  Also, you must not stop just because you think you have found your answer.  I was researching a Robert Watson and I had fairly convincing evidence his father was Ambrose Watson.

I found where an Ambrose Watson wrote his will in 1861 and died later that year.  In his will he nominates his son, Ambrose M. Watson, to be his executor and names his wife, Jane, and children; W. Thomas, John David, Jesse, and Luiza. [i] However, these are not all of his children.  The younger Ambrose dies without a wife or issue (biological offspring) two years later in the Civil War.  If we stopped here we would determine him to be the wrong father of Robert but always look at every piece of paper or document in an estate.  After the death of the younger Ambrose, the remaining children (led by Robert), all of whom had attained the age of majority, sued their deceased brother’s estate.  This forced the elder’s estate back into court, added the younger Ambrose’s property into the pool, and allowed the court to decide a fair division. [ii] By researching every part of that estate, we get the names of all children of the elder Ambrose by both his first and second wives.

If you look at the 1860 Census and find Ambrose, you will see children named who are not included in the above estate.  That is because this Ambrose is the nephew of the above elder Ambrose.  We must search for ALL people with the same or similar names to ensure we are accurately analyzing our findings and coming to a solid conclusion.  The natural reaction is to assume that every reference to a person with your ancestor’s name must be referencing your ancestor.  But it also means you must annotate all others with the same or similar names and show why the one you selected is correct.

This also means, only stating things as fact if they are based on solid evidence and not using unsourced evidence, authored work, or arbitrarily using other people’s research results.  As your school teacher used to say, Do Your Own Work.  You may find where someone did the research for entry to a lineage society such as Daughters (or Sons) of the American Revolution and that is not proof.  Thank them for their effort, take their work, and revalidate with skepticism.  Make sure that for every name being researched there are not others with the same name without identifying them and explaining why you are confident in that person.

I’ll explain with an example from my own family.  In Pierce County, Georgia’s Tax Digest for 1864, looking at the Thomas surname, there are two Jonathans, four James, and two Banners. [iii] Then if I were to look at the 1860 and 1870 U. S. Census records, there are more.  How do I prove which Banner is mine?  I would use the other Banner who was listed as “Banner, Sr” to be the uncle of “Banner, Jr” by the fact that the elder Banner was in a different Militia District and the Uncle is administering the estate, on two sons who died in the Civil War, and by virtue of being the estate administrator responsible for the taxes.

About the same time, there are two Thomas cousins with the same name and again, one is older and was the tax collector in Ware County before Pierce County was created from portions of Ware before the Civil War.  After the Civil War, the family later moved just north to Appling County and the younger was the tax collector.  During the Civil War, they both had Pierce County addresses and both served in the Civil War but with different Regiments.  One was elected tax collector of Pierce County and was discharged from the Army to serve the term.  But which?  Both descendants claim it was their ancestor and until I can prove once and for all which, I will not make that claim due to unresolved conflict.

[i] Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Will Book E, Pages 127-128, Will of Ambrose Watson, 28 August 1861, Probate Court, Spartanburg County courthouse, Spartanburg, South Carolina, image, ( accessed 6 April 2020).

[ii] Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Probate Court, Real Estate Book 1853 – 1881, page 439, Spartanburg County courthouse, Spartanburg, South Carolina, image, ( accessed 27 April 2020).

[iii] Pierce County, Georgia, Tax Digest for 1864, microfilm, Georgia State Archives, Morrow, Georgia, multiple pages.

Blog 2021 08 12 GPS Standard #2: Complete and accurate source citations

Many people will ask, “Do I really have to write a fully sourced citation to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) or other such standards?”  Not to sound like Certified Genealogist and Lecturer Judy G. Russell but the answer to this question is, It Depends.

What it depends on is what do you intend to do with your research writings?  If you plan to only put it into your personal notes or genealogy software, then you do not need to do it to that standard.  If however, you plan on publishing your results in any manner whatsoever to include self-publishing, then you should meet the minimum standards.  If you plan to submit it to a genealogical society journal, you will need to meet their standard which is almost identical to the CMS.

So what is the minimum standard?  It is still hitting the main points of the CMS or Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, Third Edition Revised, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 2017.

Dr. Thomas W. Jones, in his book, Mastering Genealogical Proof, NGS, Arlington, Virginia, 2013, takes a slightly different approach from Mills’.  Regardless, everyone agrees that citations are an art and not a science and therefore open to some interpretation.  Even this library guide put out by Indian River State College has their viewpoint,  However, they all agree that the minimum that should be in a citation is the below items.

  1. Who?  Not who is being referenced but who is the source of the information or the creator of the record.  Such as Appling County, Georgia, Probate Court.
  2. What?  What the title of the record is such as Marriage Book D (1850 – 1885).
  3. When?  Signifies when the record, book, CD, Newspaper, or microfilm was published.
  4. Where?  Where in the source is the information you are citing.  For U. S. Census records, we put the County, State, City or Township, Militia District, or Other; Post Office location when listed; Supervisor and Enumeration District (SD and ED) when available; Dwelling and Family numbers are preferred over line numbers.  The reason is, most of the schedules (supplemental census records) will use the SD, ED, Dwelling, and Family numbers to link the supplement’s record back to the specific family record on the population schedule.
  5. Where is the original record and where did you find it?  This one is very important, DO NOT use URLs as they change.  You must list the location of the original such as Appling County Courthouse, Baxley, Georgia, Superior Court.  Then you can say or etc.

The bottom line is, can someone pick up your research and readily go find the exact record you looked at.  So many people get hung up over style such as US Census vs U. S. Census vs U. S. census, vs….  Who really cares?  That is my thought and not indicative of anyone else in my profession.  But frankly, I do not care how you write census for those in the United States because I am smart enough to know what you mean.  However, if you mean Birmingham, England and just write, Birmingham, unless all other records have clearly indicated British research, then you have erred.  Anyone looking at your research must immediately know not to look in Alabama for your Birmingham records.

I hope this clears up a lot of the confusion.

Blog 2021 08 05 What is “Reasonably Exhaustive Research?”

Blog 2021 08 05 What is “Reasonably Exhaustive Research?”


One of the tenets of the Board for Certification of Genealogists is the first of five elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard which is, “A reasonably exhaustive search.”  But what does that mean?


It means several things.  To start, do not stop proving something simply because you found one document that supports it.  I have a family Bible that says my Great Great-grandparents were married on 2 November 1880 but the county marriage license and the register shows 1881. [i] Had I stopped at the Bible records I would have the wrong answer.

A recent Genealogy Scavenger Hunt I am running shows the famous silent movie director, Clarence Leon Brown in the 1900 U. S. Census at age 10 living with his father, Larkin H., born in Pennsylvania, and his mother, Catherine, born in Ireland. [ii] However, the birth register shows Larkin was born in Georgia.  If you assume either one is correct alone, you have not conducted “A reasonably exhaustive search.”  We must always try to find no less than two but preferably three documents to support the event.

We must also weigh the specific document to determine which we trust over the other.  In the case of Clarence, the enumerator did not note who gave him the information, and census records are typically less reliable than others.  However, in this case, it is correct.  Using several other records including the 1870 U. S. Census from Delaware County, Pennsylvania, shows a 4-year old Harry, born in Pennsylvania along with his younger brother Hugh, living with his parents and older siblings all of whom were born in Georgia. [iii] To be honest, several documents had conflicting information but the above 1870 census is closer to the fact than the others and does corroborate statements later made by Leon.

In the case of my ancestor’s marriage, the primary reason may have been to conceal the fact that she was already pregnant at the time of their marriage.

When doing research, once again, I reiterate, look for no less than two documents to support the fact and preferably three or more.  If there is any conflict between the three, then further research is required to determine the truth and document the reason for that determination.


[i] For particular reasons I cannot divulge the specific names involved here.  Family Bible personally held by author.

[ii] 1900 U. S. Census, Worcester County, Massachusetts, population schedule, Grafton Town. Supervisor District 1940, Enumeration District 1633, page 4 (inked) B, Dwelling 77, Family 88, household of Brown, Larkin H., image, FamilySearch ( : access 30 July 2021), citing NARA publication T623. Roll 692.

[iii] 1870 U. S. Census, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Borough of South Chester in Chester Township, Village Green Post Office, page 29 (inked), Dwelling 218, family 223, household of Brown, J. M., image, ( :accessed 30 July 2021), citing NARA publication M593, Roll 1336/1337.

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.