Different kinds of property claims

So here’s a real surprise: The Legal Genealogist is on the road. Again.1

lienBut this time it’s not simply as an instructor at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, but also as a student. I’m brushing up on my DNA education and skills in the Practical Genetic Genealogy class here at GRIP.

In my spare time here2 I’m also teaching in the New York track coordinated by Karen Mauer Jones and in the Advanced Land track coordinated by Rick and Pam Sayre.

Where a question arose that needs a bit more of an answer.

What’s the difference between a lien and a lis pendens?

They’re both things we come across in land or property records, and both of them represent claims against the property, but there really is a big difference between the two.

A lien, by definition, is a “qualified right of property which a creditor has in or over specific property of his debtor, as security for the debt or charge or for performance of some act. In every case in which property, either real or personal, is charged with the payment of a debt or duty, every such charge may be denominated a lien on the property.”3

A lis pendens, by definition, is a “suit pending; that legal process, in a suit regarding land, which amounts to legal notice to all the world that there is a dispute as to the title. In equity the filing of the bill and serving a subpoena creates a lis pendens, except when statutes require some record.”4

So in the lien situation there has to be a debtor-creditor situation. For example, if I do work on your house or your car, and you haven’t paid me for it, I’m your creditor, you’re my debtor, and I can file a lien — a claim — against your house or your car for payment of the debt.

In many states, there’s a flavor of lien called a mechanic’s lien:

A species of lien created by statute in most of the states, which exists in favor of persons who have performed work or furnished material in and for the erection of a building. Their lien attaches to the land as well as the building, and is intended to secure for them a priority of payment.

The lien of a mechanic is created by law, and is intended to be a security for the price and value of work performed and materials furnished, and as such it attaches to and exists on the land and the building erected thereon, from the commencement of the time that the labor is being performed and the materials furnished; and the mechanic has an actual and positive interest in the building anterior to the time of its recognition by the court, or the reducing of the amount due to a judgment.5

So think debtor-creditor every time you see the word lien.

A lis pendens, on the other hand, is filed — or is created automatically — when a lawsuit is started that has to do with the land, and usually with the title to the land. There isn’t a debtor-creditor situation; there’s an actual dispute over the land itself.

An example would be where you and I enter into a contract for the sale of a 100-acre tract of land called Blackacre. You’re the seller, I’m the buyer, and you conclude down the road that I’m not living up to my end of the contract. So you cancel the contract and proceed to contract to sell Blackacre to someone else.

If I sue you for breach of my contract with you, I want to make sure that someone else — the would-be buyer — is on notice of my claim. I would do that by filing a lis pendens. Sometimes just filing the lawsuit against you would act as a lis pendens.

So think notice of a lawsuit when you see the term lis pendens.

Both focus on property, both involve claims against the property, but one involves debtors and creditors and the other involves lawsuits.


  1. I am occasionally home. At least I think so. Home is where again?
  2. Yes, that is a joke.
  3. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 719, “lien.”
  4. Ibid., 725, “lis pendens.”
  5. Ibid., 763, “mechanic’s lien.”
Posted in Legal definitions | Leave a comment

Welcome, Jimmy… and welcome freedom

Today, in Flagstaff, Arizona, the sun is shining and the air is clean and clear.

And the family of The Legal Genealogist is gathered here to watch a beloved niece, Katya, walk down the aisle and join in matrimony with the love of her life, Jimmy.

KatyaIt is a wonderful, joyful event and even thinking about it brings a smile to all of our faces.

Katya is the youngest child of my brother Paul and his wife Nadine, and their only daughter. Her three older brothers are here to see her marry today, even her brother Rudi who lives in Australia. Jimmy is a talented photographer and sweet guy who loves Katya to distraction.

In many ways, Katya and Jimmy are polar opposites. Fair and dark. German and Russian on one side, Irish and Korean on the other. Even vegetarian and omnivore. And yet in so many ways, it’s a perfect match.

And it’s a match we are so happy to be here to witness.

Yet — without wanting to take anything away from the joy of welcoming Jimmy to our family today — we are all riveted on events so many miles to the east where, yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States by the narrowest of margins gave equal rights to other members of our family.

Where, yesterday, in a 5-to-4 decision, it said that another of my nieces can live her life freely and openly without legal discrimination by the federal government or the government of any state where she and her dearly loved partner choose to live.

Where, yesterday, it said that my niece and her partner have the same rights that Katya and Jimmy have. Like file a joint income tax return. Be the beneficiary of each other’s Social Security benefits or pension benefits. Make medical decisions for each other if the need arises.

Where, yesterday, it said that my niece and her partner can marry — legally — anywhere in the United States.

To me, these rights never should have been considered gay rights. They’re human rights. Rights of people who have faces. And names. Of friends, of colleagues, and of many I love with all my heart. People like my niece and her partner, whose faces and names I still decline to use online because they are what they are, two women who love each other in a country where, even after the Court’s decision yesterday, their lives will still be difficult and they will still face discrimination for that fact alone.

I cannot and do not accept such discrimination. I cannot and do not understand it. That they find joy in a partner of the same sex is so much less important than that they find joy in a partner.

And I am so proud that, yesterday, this nation has taken such a huge step towards seeing to it that such discrimination will end.

It will not affect Katya and Jimmy in the slightest — nor any other straight couple in the entire world — that her cousin is now legally able to do just what Katya and Jimmy are doing this afternoon. No right is being taken away from Katya and Jimmy in order to give it to her cousin and her partner.

No religious group will be forced to perform marriages it disapproves of; no pastor or rabbi or priest will lose his (or her!) religious freedom. This doesn’t affect religions at all — it’s a change in the way the law treats individuals, not in the way it treats religions.

We do not take away freedom from some by giving legal recognition to the freedom of others.

So my family is doubly warmed today.

By the Arizona sun shining down as we welcome Jimmy to the family and share in the joy of one straight couple.

And by the sun of legal freedom shining down on the joy of another couple miles to the east. A couple that just happens to be gay.

What a wonderful day…

Love wins.

Posted in My family | 26 Comments

When it’s a tenant by curtesy

When Caroline Adams died in Illinois on the 7th of June 1884, she left behind a husband, Silas.1

AdamsShe left behind two young sons, Henry S. and George C. Adams.2

And she left behind one small piece of land.

In Vermont.

And therein lies the tale.

Because the one thing Caroline didn’t leave behind was a will.

So her estate — such as it was, a small piece of land in Middlebury, Addison County, Vermont — was intestate, and the law would determine who got what.

The land was only worth a small amount. The administrator, Rufus Wainwright, got court permission to sell it in December 1886 because, he explained, “all the heirs and persons interested reside without the state.”3

The land sold for the whopping sum of $60, and some $14.75 of that sum had been eaten up by various costs and fees, leaving $45.25 to be distributed to Caroline’s heirs.4

So… who exactly were those heirs? Who was to get what?

Vermont law at the time provided that real estate should descend in equal shares to the children of the deceased.5

Silas had been named guardian of his two sons by the court in their home county of Grundy, Illinois.6

So clearly, under the law, Henry and George would be the principal beneficiaries of their mother’s estate.

But what about Silas?

And for that, read on to what the court had to say when it approved the final settlement of Caroline’s estate:

It is therefore ordered and decreed that said Adm(inistrator) pay over and deliver the said balance, to wit the sum of $45.25 to the said Silas G. Adams, guardian of the said minor children of deceased, for his own use, as tenant by curtesy, that is, to have the income and use therefore during the term of his natural life, and at his decease, the principal to be distributed to said minor children, or their guardian, and to hold the said fund in trust for them …7

Tenant by curtesy?

What the heck was that?

Curtesy, by definition, is the “estate to which by common law a man is entitled, on the death of his wife, in the lands or tenements of which she was seised in possession in fee-simple or in tail during their coverture, provided they have had lawful issue born alive which might have been capable of inheriting the estate. It is a freehold estate for the term of his natural life.”8

In plain English, it’s the husband’s automatic right to a life estate in all his wife’s lands if, and only if, she had borne him a live child. Here, since Caroline had borne two sons to Silas, Silas had that life estate — the right to benefit from the land for his lifetime.

Vermont law at the time recognized a widower’s curtesy right in his wife’s lands,9 just as it recognized a widow’s right to dower — a life estate in one-third of her husband’s lands.10

So Silas had a life estate in the land, but had no real use for it since he was in Illinois, and the land was in Vermont. That’s why he went along with having the land sold. And what he got was the functional equivalent of a life estate, but in the money rather than in the land: he could use it to produce income during his lifetime, but on his death the cash had to go to his sons.

So he was a tenant by curtesy in the money from the land, while not being a tenant on the land at all.


  1. Addison County, Vermont, Probate Court, Addison District; Estate of Caroline Adams, Application for letters of administration, 28 October 1886; digital images, “Vermont, Addison County and District Probate Files, 1845-1915,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 24 June 2015).
  2. Ibid., final decree, entered 18 June 1887.
  3. Ibid., Application for License to Sell Real Estate, filed 29 Nov 1886.
  4. Ibid., Administrator’s account and settlement, filed 9 May 1887.
  5. See §2230, Revised Laws of Vermont, 1880 (Rutland, Vt. : State Printers, 1881), 452; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 24 June 2015).
  6. Addison County, Vermont, Probate Court, Addison District; Estate of Caroline Adams, Grundy County, Illinois, County Court, Letters of Guardianship, issued 15 June 1887; digital images, “Vermont, Addison County and District Probate Files, 1845-1915,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 24 June 2015).
  7. Ibid., final decree, entered 18 June 1887.
  8. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 311, “curtesy.”
  9. See §2229, Revised Laws of Vermont, 1880, at 452.
  10. See ibid., §2215, at 450.
Posted in Legal definitions | Leave a comment

AAS terms of use

The American Antiquarian Society.

Sounds like something out of the far distant past, doesn’t it?

zoaveBut it is, instead, an historical library with a forward-thinking view of access to information that makes it — pure and simple — a treasure.

This Worcester, Massaschusetts, institution describes itself as a “National Research Library of American History, Literature, and Culture through 1876.”1

Its website goes on to say it’s

both a learned society and a major independent research library. The AAS library today houses the largest and most accessible collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, music, and graphic arts material printed through 1876 in what is now the United States, as well as manuscripts and a substantial collection of secondary texts, bibliographies, and digital resources and reference works related to all aspects of American history and culture before the twentieth century.2

Which, of course, makes it just about perfect for American genealogists.

The library is open to all researchers, free of charge.

You don’t need an appointment.

And its holdings are stunning. Some four million items including:

Books & Pamphlets: “U.S., Canadian, and Caribbean imprints published through 1876 and book history material through 1900, some Americana published elsewhere, plus 20th & 21st century secondary sources supporting the study of early America.”

Children’s Literature: “A comprehensive collection of American picture books, school texts, religious tracts, and novels for children and youth (particularly strong in the color picture books issued by the New York publisher McLoughlin Brothers from the 1850s into the early 20th century).”

Graphic Arts: “American prints, drawings, broadsides, ephemera, maps, photographs, and sheet music, plus the Society’s collections of objects including portraits, furniture, ceramics, etc.”

Manuscripts: “Manuscripts from New England include handwritten diaries, letters, and other family papers, as well as business, institutional, and town records; the American Antiquarian Society’s own records; and manuscripts relating to book history for the entire nation.”

Newspapers & Periodicals: “Serial publications (newspapers, magazines, journals, etc.) from every state in the U.S. plus Canada and the West Indies/Caribbean before 1877 (later for most western states where printing began later).”

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Except, of course, that most of us don’t live in Worcester, Massachusetts.

A fact the American Antiquarian Society knows perfectly well.

And a major reason (along with the fragile nature of many of its holdings) for its digitization efforts: huge numbers of its holdings are readily available in digital format online.

From digital prints of images of men in the United States in the first half of the 19th century (Men in the Young Republic) to digital photographs of the Ridgway dinner service called the “Beauties of America”, the online collections of AAS are stunning.

It isn’t overstatement to refer to the AAS library as a treasure.

And, for those of us making use of the wonderful resources of this treasure through the American Antiquarian Society’s website, its terms of use couldn’t be simpler.

Terms of use, remember, are “the limits somebody who owns something you want to see or copy or use puts on whether or not he’ll let you see or copy or use it.”3

And here’s what the American Antiquarian Society says:

The Society makes available, without charge, all of our existing medium resolution (up to 72 dpi) digital images that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose under the terms of a Creative Commons License. No permission is required.

You may freely download and use any of these images for your own research, for teaching and presentations, or for non-commercial projects. There is no fee for this service; the Society’s preferred credit line for all uses is:

“Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society”4


Everything — all of the digital holdings — covered by the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 license. The terms of that license are very liberal:

You are free to:
Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material
for any purpose, even commercially.
The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms.
Under the following terms:
Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.5

Terms of use don’t get a whole lot better than that.

If the item you want to use isn’t already digitized, the AAS will try to make a digital copy for you for a very reasonable fee — as little as $15 for a non-commercial user from existing photography or $25 if a new image is needed.

The AAS is doing its best to make information free — and freely accessible. Its terms of use make this treasure a truly accessible treasure.


Image A pictorial key of uniformed Civil War regiments, courtesy American Antiquarian Society (cropped).

  1. American Antiquarian Society, homepage (http://www.americanantiquarian.org/ : accessed 23 June 2015).
  2. Ibid., “About.”
  3. Judy G. Russell, “A terms of use intro,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 27 Apr 2012 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com : accessed 17 Jul 2012).
  4. Obtaining Digital Images – A step-by-step guide,” American Antiquarian Society (http://www.americanantiquarian.org/ : accessed 23 June 2015).
  5. “Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0),” Creative Commons (https://creativecommons.org/ : accessed 23 June 2015).
Posted in General, Resources, Terms of use | 2 Comments

Saying thank you in a tangible way

The best things in life aren’t free.

At least some of them aren’t.

At least not to everyone.

Case in point: Cyndi’s List.

This amazing resource and research tool has been available to the genealogical community for 20 years now. It’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer.

And, for all of us who have used it and continue to use it as a means to quickly and easily find what we’re looking for genealogically, it’s always been free.

The one person for whom it hasn’t been free: the amazing person behind that amazing resource.


Cyndi Ingle is a real person, a one-woman dynamo who started Cyndi’s List as her own personal set of genealogical bookmarks that summer 20 years ago. She describes its origins this way:

I joined the local genealogical group, the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society, … During the summer months the TPCGS group doesn’t hold monthly meetings. In September we get back together and do a show-and-tell of what we did over the summer. I remember that meeting in 1995 very well. Nan came and brought a quilt she had made over the summer. The squares had old family portraits and photos that she had printed and ironed onto the fabric. Others told about genealogical vacations they had taken, visiting courthouses and cemeteries and all their discoveries. I had decided to share my list of bookmarks. I had printed it out on one whole page. I wasn’t sure if anyone would care about this Internet thing. Computer owners were in the minority at the time and even they weren’t all online. I made ten copies of my bookmark list in case anyone else was interested. They were. In fact, they were all so interested in it that I had to run upstairs to make more copies. That’s when Cyndi’s List was born.1

And, she adds, “It is hard to imagine that two decades have passed and Cyndi’s List is still growing and evolving and is still incredibly useful to millions of people worldwide. And it is still free for everyone to use.”2

That’s amazing. But — if you know Cyndi — it’s not surprising.

She is funny. She is smart. She is a good researcher. She is a great mom. She is a good friend.

And her work is wonderful, to see and to use.

You can browse the categories at Cyndi’s List, ranging from Acadian, Cajun & Creole (updated 31 May 2015) to Writing Your Family’s History (updated 21 June 2015).

In between, so much to choose from: Calendars & Dates; Myths, Hoaxes & Scams; Recipes, Cookbooks & Family Traditions; even Death Records and Taxes.

If you can think of it related to genealogy, you can find it on Cyndi’s List.

And, today, as from the start, absolutely free to use.

But it sure hasn’t been free for Cyndi.

We can start with her own comment that: “There has been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that I’ve put into the site.”3 Yeah, 20 years worth of hard work surely qualifies as that, doesn’t it?

And then there was the redesign.

In 2011, Cyndi’s List needed a major upgrade and redesign to continue to be as useful into the future as it has been in the past.

And redesigns don’t come cheap.

Cyndi picked up the tab out of her own pocket.

To the tune of some $40,000 plus.

At which point Cyndi finally did what so many of us in the genealogical community had been telling her she had to do: she had to let people help. “When I upgraded the site I added a PayPal Donation button,” she says. “It was one of the hardest things for me to do. I do not like to ask for help. My friends and colleagues tell me that I need to do this.”4

Yes, Cyndi. You do need to do this.

And since there’s still a ton of money outstanding in expenses on Cyndi’s List, all of us who use this amazing resource need to use that PayPal Donation button and say thanks in a tangible way.

I clicked on that button this morning and donated $100.

It’s hardly enough for all the value I’ve received from Cyndi’s List over the years, and all the value I expect to continue to receive into the future.

Come join me, please, in saying thank you in a tangible way to Cyndi’s List.

Click on that PayPal Donation button.

Do it today.


  1. Cyndi Ingle, “It All Began 20 Years Ago…,” Cyndi’s List blog, posted 21 June 2015 (http://cyndislist.blogspot.com/ : accessed 22 June 2015).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
Posted in General | 9 Comments

Today, right now

In case you woke up on another planet this morning, it’s Father’s Day today.

The day to celebrate all of the fathers in all of our families.

Which means we’re down to a matter of hours to get Just the Right Gift for all of the fathers in our lives.

3d render of dna structure, abstract  backgroundWhich, of course, has to be a DNA test kit.

(You did see that coming, didn’t you? I mean, really…)

So… Today is also — not coincidentally — a sale day at Family Tree DNA. You can save $10 on each autosomal test you order through midnight central time tonight.

The Family Finder test — that’s the one that helps us find our cousins — is on sale today for $89, down from the usual $99.

Now you know he wants to know his ancestry and find his cousins. Besides, he may turn out to be MY cousin and I need all the help I can get finding kin to work with.

So get off this website, get over to FTDNA And buy a test kit.

Or two.

Or three.

The sale ends at midnight central time.

Go for it.


It’s Father’s Day.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not the way it’s supposed to be

Child mortality.

The words are devastating.

White Candle On Black BackgroundAs human beings, we rail against the reality that we will most likely bury our grandparents and our parents and ours aunts and uncles in our lifetimes.

Oh, we understand, intellectually, that it is the natural way of things.

And we hate it, and it hurts.

We are crushed by the reality that many of us will bury members of our own generation. Our spouses. Our brothers and sisters. Our cousins.

We understand, intellectually, that as we age so too does the rest of our age group… and we will pay a price for being mortal.

And we hate that, and it hurts.

But to lose a child…

To lose all the hope and the promise that is born in a family’s heart the moment we first come to realize that a new life is entering our family…

To be old and lose the young…

To have to say goodbye before we even got a chance to say hello…


And all the more so today, in this modern world, where modern medicine and modern technology so often insulates us from this kind of a loss.

Not so for past generations.

My grandparents on both sides knew the pain of losing a child.

My father’s parents Hugo Ernst and Marie (Nuckel) Geissler lost their first-born, a daughter, Marie Emma, when she was only four months old. Born the 10th of September 1919 in Bremen, Germany, she died on the 20th of January 1920 at the Children’s Hospital there.


My mother’s parents Clay Rex and Opal (Robertson) Cottrell also lost their first-born, a daughter, Ruth Marie, when she was only six months old. Born the 12th of August 1917 in Wichita County, Texas, she died at home on the 22nd of February 1918.


And that was not the only child they lost. Donald Harris Cottrell was born on the 5th of March 1930 in Midland, Texas. He was just two years and five months old when he died of smallpox on 12 August 1932.


There is no other word that begins to describe the loss of a child. It is not the way things are supposed to be. We are not supposed to bury our children. Especially not today. Child mortality is a thing of the past, isn’t it?

Would that that were true…

Because it is with the heaviest of hearts that my family gathers today in Chicago to try to come to terms with the loss of a child born too soon.

His name was Adam.

He was beautiful.

And he was loved.

And he is gone.

Even modern medicine and modern technology couldn’t pull him through.


It is not the way things are supposed to be.

We are not supposed to bury our children.


There are no other words.

Posted in My family | 17 Comments

Help index these amazing records!!

If you had ancestors anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line after the Civil War, step this way.

Into the richest, deepest, broadest set of genealogical records you may ever find.

The records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands — an agency that because known as the Freedmen’s Bureau.


What, you say? Your family doesn’t fall into the category of freedmen? You have no African-American roots?

No matter. Because that record set extends far beyond its name to just about anyone who lived or worked in the south in those years right after the Civil War.

And, starting today — Juneteenth — a major new initiative to make these records more widely accessible to researchers is getting underway — and it needs our help.

First off, the records. They are amazing, for descendants of all the slaves and all the slaveowners who struggled to redefine themselves, their lives and their communities after the war.

And for descendants all of the members of those communities who weren’t themselves slaves or slaveowners but whose lives were impacted by that struggle to redefine life after the war.

And for descendants of the legions of southerners who weren’t slaves or slaveowners before the war, but who simply needed government help after the war.

And for descendants of the legions of government workers and officials and teachers and relief workers who worked for the bureau.

In other words, for just about anyone who lived or worked in the south in those years right after the Civil War.

The records reflect a massive effort by the federal government first and foremost to assist the newly freed slaves in their transition to lives of their own. There are records of labor contracts as the freedmen sought employment, rather than servitude, after the war. There are the first ever real vital records for this community, as the freedmen sought to obtain recognition of their marriages and the legitimacy of their children.

There are records of schools for the freedmen and free children — often with the first ever records of those children and their accomplishments.

And there are records of the terrible clashes between the members of a society accustomed to being served and those no longer obligated to serve, and the role of the Freedmen’s Bureau in trying to obtain justice for the freedmen in a system stacked against them. It provides a view of the southern legal system that can’t be found in the records of the southern courts — an unparalleled opportunity to see how the system worked, and how it didn’t, in those years.

For descendants of slaves and slaveowners, the records help break through the issues of a system that left slaves with first names only — if even those were recorded — before the 1870 census. African-American research is dramatically aided by access to these records.

But the records are more than that. They reflect a massive effort also to stabilize the southern economy and bring the former rebel states back into the Union. So you will find evidence of relief provided to huge numbers of southern residents devastated by the war, and the interactions of ordinary citizens with government.

Sound good? That’s why heading to DiscoverFreedmen.org is one of the best decisions any southern researcher will make.

That’s where you’ll find the records, made available by FamilySearch, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society and the California African American Museum.

Having these records digitized is terrific.

So… the initiative. Because just having these records digitized isn’t good enough. Finding our needle in that government haystack is always a challenge — and these records are too valuable not to be mined for every single clue they offer to every American family with southern ties.

They need to be indexed… every single name needs to be recorded so every family can know its story.

That’s where we come in.

Starting today, in just a few hours, DiscoverFreedmen.org launches an indexing initiative to which each and every one of us can contribute. We did it with the 1940 census. We can do it with the Freedmen’s Bureau records.

Today, of course, is Juneteenth: that important historical and joyous celebration that commemorates the abolition of slavery — June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger and 2,000 troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, enforcing the freeing of the slaves.

Today is when we can access more of these Freedmen’s Bureau records than ever before, with new records from Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia joining those already online from other southern states.

Today is a good day to join in the effort to help make these records more accessible.

So head on over to DiscoverFreedmen.org. Listen to the announcement today of how we can all help make this rich resource available for family research.

Let’s all pitch in and get this done.

Our families deserve nothing less.

Posted in General | 3 Comments

Summer — and winter! — camp for genealogists

So you were green with envy last week when everybody started posting about their wonderful experiences at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University. Felt you had missed out on what can only be described as summer camp for genealogists. And you’ve been in the doldrums ever since.

Fear not.

There’s always another chance.

And two of the best are open to you to choose from this week!

Summer camp: GRIP

GRIPlogoRight now, you can kickstart your genealogical education by registering, even online still, for courses at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, held at LaRoche College. There’s at least one seat in almost every class that you can still sneak into — even the classes starting in just 10 days, as well as the classes starting in July.

The first set of GRIP classes — the next available summer camp for genealogists — begins June 28 and runs through July 3, 2015, and because of cancellations and schedule changes there’s at least one seat still available in every one of them.

But online registration for June classes ends tomorrow, Friday, June 19th, so if you’re tempted by any of these, you need to act fast.

Here’s the line-up:

Writing Your Immigrant Families’ Stories: From Research to Publishing with John P. Colletta, Ph.D. and Michael Hait, CG

You’ve researched your lineage back to “the shores”: now what? It’s time to write your ancestors’ stories! Using immigrant ancestors as examples, this course will teach you
• how to discover the facts,
• narrate the stories,
• and publish an account of your ancestors.

Determining Kinship Reliably with the Genealogical Proof Standard with Thomas W. Jones, PhD., CG, CGL

Learn how to achieve genealogical proof by planning and executing focused research, citing the resulting sources, testing the evidence they contain, assembling evidence into a conclusion, and explaining it clearly. Jones has edited the National Genealogical Society Quarterly since 2002 where many proof arguments are published. The course scope and sequence follow the content of his book, Mastering Genealogical Proof.

Research in New York State: Resources and Strategies with Karen Mauer Jones, CG, FGBS (formerly Green)

Land of the “Big Apple” and rural farms, New York is historic in its place in immigration and migration, and ethnic and religious survival. Learn how to access records and discover your ancestors who lived in the Empire State.

Problem Solving with Church Records with Rev. Dr. David McDonald, CG
The nature of Christian communities and churches through the centuries suggests that there is overlap in theological perspectives and outlook, with important similarities across denominational boundaries, and yet some very distinct differences within particular sects or traditions. Accordingly, traditions will be considered on a stand-alone basis and also in comparison with and in contrast to other bodies.

Advanced Research Tools: Land Records with Richard G. Sayre, CG, CGL and Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL

Land genealogy is as important as people genealogy for overcoming family history research barriers. This course explores land distribution in the current United States by colonial powers, private land claims, federal land records at both the National Archives and the General Land Office, and local-level county or town deeds. Students will learn about the Public Land Survey System and the metes and bound system. Course content illustrates the use of land records to prove kinship. Use of software and Internet resources for finding land records, mapping, and deed platting is demonstrated.

Practical Genetic Genealogy with Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, CeCe Moore and Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D.

DNA test results can be confusing and their application to genealogy unclear. This course is designed to provide the in-depth knowledge needed by those who wish to analyze results and further research goals for themselves, their clients, or a surname project. These three recognized experts in the field of DNA analysis will provide opportunities for practical, hands-on experience in analysis and correlation of DNA test results utilizing the latest tools and techniques and will give recommendations for further research.

Again, online registration for June classes ends tomorrow, Friday, June 19th.

You have a little more time to think things over if you’re looking at the July classes — the second available summer camp for genealogists — that begins July 19th and runs through July 24th, 2015. Courses with at least one seat available there include:

Intermediate Genealogy: Tools for Digging Deeper with Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA.

Stuart-Warren focuses on unusual resources, manuscripts, methodology, and analyzing records. She researches across the U.S. and brings her experience into the class room. She encourages students to bring their own family history problems for brainstorming and discussion. This gives a personal approach to the course which gives a solid foundation and fills in knowledge gaps.

Advanced Research Methods with Thomas W. Jones, PhD., CG, CGL

Participants will develop advanced genealogical research, analysis, correlation and compilation skills. Hands-on activities, using original records, will enhance this learning. Examples are drawn from American states and colonies and European countries. Before the course begins participants will complete two pre-course reading assignments. Four homework assignments, providing opportunities for advanced skill development, are optional.

Refresh, Rebuild and Recharge Your Genealogy Career with D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS.

The field of professional genealogy offers multiple opportunities to find career success. During the week we will examine the steps to building a career in professional genealogy, looking beyond client-based research to provide best practices for strategic planning, marketing, developing products, and related topics. Faculty includes those working in across various dynamics within the industry, including commercial entities, small-business owners, small-proprietors, non-profit and more. Sessions include lectures, workshops, discussions, and live interviews with working professionals. During the week each participant will draft a strategic plan to refresh, rebuild, and recharge his or her current (or developing) business. This course is designed for those considering a career in genealogy, as well as seasoned professionals looking for a “boost” in the current climate.

Practical Genetic Genealogy with Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, Patti Hobbs, and Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D.

DNA test results can be confusing and their application to genealogy unclear. This course is designed to provide the in-depth knowledge needed by those who wish to analyze results and further research goals for themselves, their clients, or a surname project. These three recognized experts in the field of DNA analysis will provide opportunities for practical, hands-on experience in analysis and correlation of DNA test results utilizing the latest tools and techniques and will give recommendations for further research.

Law School for Genealogists with Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL and Richard G. “Rick” Sayre, CG, CGL.

Understanding the laws that affected our ancestors is essential for kinship determination and successful research. This course explores laws concerning courts, estates, family law, immigration, legal research, military, and property laws. Judy Russell, aka “The Legal Genealogist,” has a blog by the same name in which she wittily explores timely issues and genealogical problems. Rick Sayre’s areas of expertise include federal records, military records, urban research methodology, technology and mapping tools for genealogists, immigration, the Ohio River Valley, and Western Pennsylvania.

Online registration for July classes ends July 10th.

Winter camp: SLIG

SLIGlogoIf summer camp just won’t work for you and your schedule this year, think about a winter camp for genealogists — the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) in Salt Lake City in January 2016. The course line-up for 2016 is amazing, and it’ll be one rare genealogist who can’t find something that’s exactly what’s needed.

And registration for the 2016 courses — some of which are bound to fill up in minutes — opens Saturday, June 20th, at 9 a.m. Mountain time.

You can find a detailed description of all of the SLIG courses online at the Utah Genealogical Association website where the registration link will magically appear on Saturday morning. But just to whet your appetite, here’s the list:

Intermediate U.S. Records and Research, Part II
Coordinator: Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA

Researching New York: Resources and Strategies
Coordinator: Karen Mauer Jones, CG, FGBS

Research In The South
Coordinator: J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA

Corpus Juris: Advanced Legal Concepts for Genealogy
Coordinator: Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

Early U.S. Church Records
Coordinator: Rev. Dr. David McDonald, CG

Advanced Research Tools: Land Records
Coordinator: Richard G. Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA and Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA

Beginning Genetic Genealogy
Coordinator: Blaine T Bettinger, JD, Ph.D

Advanced DNA Analysis Techniques For Genealogical Research
Coordinator: Angie Bush, MS

Solving Problems Like a Professional
Coordinator: Michael Hait, CG

Advanced Genealogical Methods
Coordinator: Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL

Writing A Quality Family Narrative
Coordinator: John Philip Colletta, Ph.D., FUGA

Problem Solving
Coordinator: Luana Darby, MLIS

Advanced Evidence Practicum
Coordinator: Angela Packer McGhie

There’s no time like the present — summer or winter — to build genealogical knowledge and skills. Hope to see you at GRIP, or SLIG… or both!

Posted in General | 1 Comment

In their footsteps

Any genealogist who has ever had the great good fortune to find and walk an ancestor’s land knows there are no words that can be found — and none that are required — to describe the experience.

You just soak it in.

So it has been for The Legal Genealogist in this quick trip in to Mississippi to find the land of my Gentry and Robertson ancestors.

As I turn my steps northeast today, heading home, I am a little frustrated at not finding certain evidence of where my Gentry third great grandparents are buried — but think it’s likely to be where their son George is buried, right down the road from our mid-19th-century land. There are a number of worn stone markers in that very old cemetery — and the location is just right.

But the land… just being there and seeing what they saw… that was good enough no matter that I didn’t find a single thing new in the paper trail. The physical trail was good enough.

On, or very near the Gentry land, some day lilies brightened the field in front of an old barn.


Not far away, the Pearl River makes its muddy way through Neshoba County (and other counties) — and my third great grandfather Elijah Gentry rode the Pearl River circuit as a Methodist Episcopal preacher before marrying and having a boatload of kids.


Down the road from their land is the White Oak Cemetery where, I suspect, Elijah and wife Wilmoth are buried. It’s a lovely quiet peaceful place filled with old stones.


Among the stones that can be read are those of some of my Gentry cousins — from a later generation.


It’s been fun, Mississippi. We’ll have to do this again some time…

Posted in General, My family | 7 Comments