We are happy to announce that Michele Simmons Lewis is joining The National Institute as a blogger. She’ll be blogging her thoughts as she proceeds through the German Records Certificate program. Before you read her posts, we thought we’d sit down and ask her a few questions.
The National Institute: How long have you been doing genealogy? What got you started?
Michele: I have been doing research for 23 years. My dad accidentally let a family skeleton slip and I was determined to either prove or disprove what he said. I ended up disproving it and I haven’t stopped researching since. What amazes me is how much things have changed in those 23 years. When I first started everything was done on paper and the only way you found information was by doing onsite research.
The National Institute: Do you have a favorite research project ?
Michele: One of the biggest projects I am working on is determining the parents of James Simmons of South Carolina. He migrated with his family to the Mississippi Territory in about 1798. Right now I am plotting out all of the original land owners in Perry County, Mississippi. I am tackling it one township at a time using the records at the Bureau of Land Management. James had three parcels of land and I want to analyze all of his neighbors to see if I can find any sort of familial links. Perry County is a burned county as was its parent county, Greene County. It goes downhill from there because Greene County’s parent county, Wayne County, is also a burned county. There are very few records to go on. Getting James back to the correct county in South Carolina is a challenge. There are several James Simmons’ in South Carolina in the 1790 census. I am hoping that the people I uncover in the land records also migrated from South Carolina (people tended to travel in groups). If I can associate James’ neighbors to a particular county in South Carolina I might discover which of the James’ in the 1790 census is the correct one.
The National Institute: Why did you decide to take courses from The National Institute for Genealogical Studies?
Michele: I was born in Germany as was my mother so we are the first immigrants in her line. All of my relatives, both living and dead, are in Germany. Most of the research I have done has been on my father’s side because it was just easier to do (US and UK). Even though I speak German and can read the records I am not very familiar with the types of records that are available nor the laws that affect the vital records. When I first started doing research the only German records available were on microfilm and this only included a very small percentage of the German records that existed. Traveling back to Germany to do research was out of the question because I was raising five children. My mother was able to get some documents for me from her relatives and from the local government office when she went back to Germany for a visit. She is not a genealogist and I had to limit what I asked for to things that would be easy for her to find. Today there are many more records available online and I have better access to German repositories via the Internet. I am also not as well-versed in Germany history and geography as I should be. I left Germany when I was only 6 years old so my formal German schooling stopped there. I am taking the German courses to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of German research so that I can research my German side more competently.
The National Institute: Where can others find your writings?
Michele: My Ancestoring blog is at http://ancestoring.blogspot.com/ . I also write articles for various genealogical magazines. I am active on Facebook, Google+ and Linkedin and I always love connecting with researchers from all over the world. I work for Millennia, makers of the Legacy Family Tree software program. I do a fair bit of writing for them as well.
Thanks Michele! Look for Michele’s posts starting next week.