I have been dabbling off and on with researching the family tree on Ancestry.com for awhile now. (disclaimer time: they are not a sponsor, but if they want to offer me a free DNA kit, I will be happy to take it!)
I usually get the urge to go back on once the season of Finding Your Roots starts on PBS. Fascinating show. I learn new tricks about genealogical research, plus some history you might not otherwise hear. The first hand accounts of the civil rights movement as told by Samuel L Jackson and Condoleesa Rice was one of my favorites (she was a few blocks away at her father’s church in Birmingham and heard the explosion at the 16th Street Baptist Church. Anyway, check your local listings and try to watch an episode or two. I bet you get hooked.
As for my research, it can be overwhelming at times so I try to limit myself to one to two hours at a time.
On my dad’s side I run into the roadblocks that his grandparents were born in Italy (paternal) and France (maternal), so unless I spring for the International version there is only so far I can go. And even if I do, there is no guarantee I will find anything because more than likely they weren’t born in hospitals and my French is spotty. My Italian is pretty much non-existent.
On my mother’s side I can go sideways for hours. Her father had 11 siblings and her mother 10. Add to that fact my grandfather’s last name was Smith, and you can quickly see how time disappears when I get on the site.
Today, I focused on going up as far as I could on the Smith side, mostly because I have a few family members on Facebook and I knew I could run things by them.
Today I shared with them my great grandfather’s death certificate.
You get a Texas sized star for the day if you can pronounce Quitaque. Ha ha! This Cali-girl knows because I grew up hearing it occasionally. (it is Kitty-quay for those that are curious).
If you are new to Ancestry.com let me give you a tip. Inspect every document and don’t just add it to the person. The only info that would have gone in automatically would have been the death date and place.
I would have missed some important data. No, not his wife’s name – “Mrs. C.L Smith”. Sheesh, that mid 20th century formality can really hamper us amateur genealogists. Luckily, I know her name. What I didn’t know for sure was his parents names. Plus, I got verification of his place of birth.
One observant cousin noted he died ten years before he was born. Ha ha! I guess people didn’t freak out about the change of century like we did back with Y2K.
Then I hit a snag: Winfield Smith was not married to Harrett Devell
BUT… before you go thinking there was something hinky going on there, a W. S. Smith married A.T. Bevell in Carroll County, Tennessee on August 13, 1867.
Does that look like a V to you? It does to me, but a cousin has her name as Amanda Berell. My uncle has it as Amanda Little. And some possible cousins on Ancestry.com have it as Beville.
Yet another reason to inspect the documents. Human beings transpose the data from these handwritten records and mistakes are easy to make. The death certificate is nicely typed, but obviously there was a typo or Mama Smith got the name wrong or Harrett (possibly Harriett) was a nickname. And some of the writing, particularly on the census reports can be hard to read. I have found a mis-transcription before, reported it to Ancestry.com and they corrected it. All within a few weeks. Yeah!
The best resource to verify the name would have been census reports, except they were married in 1867 and by the 1880 census he was remarried to a Martha (as of 1878). So Amanda/Harrett had to have died sometime before that.
So that’s where I am leaving it for today. Next time I may regale you with the romantic tale of the Confederate POW that married the Indentured Servant. But that is another family line…