Jeans & Genes


                                   Rockdale County Genealogical Society Newsletter-February 2009


                                                                  Dabblers and Delvers

 Find new adventure in your family history!
Many people dabble into family history. They get into it looking for easy answers-and superficial family trees or pedigree charts. The Internet will ultimately become the best thing that ever happened to family research, but I believe it is currently producing a new generation of dabblers. Some of these potential genealogists will get into it in earnest, acquire the necessary skills for it, and find that it can be a lifelong hobby-or avocation.

  The first very large wave of dabblers was created in the 1970s, after the premiere of the TV miniseries "Roots", which was based on Alex Haley's best selling book. I was one of those early dabblers, rushing out to our old ancestral church and frantically copying the tombstone dates; and even visiting a known family cemetery in rural Butts Co. I may have looked at a few microfilmed census records then-but it didn't go much further than that. I didn't really learn much about genealogy, or just how many old records were out there. I got lucky in the early 80s, when my 2nd great grandfather's diary came to light. Fortunately my interest was still alive, thanks largely to a few "Roots" reruns-and a sequel, but it was quickly accelerated when I was privileged to bring that old  family "journal" into my home. In a matter of days I was transformed from a novice "dabbler" into a true "delver", as I painstakingly learned to read that strange, ancient script, and gained an insight into my ancestor's daily life. Like most, I was at first turned off by that old handwriting-"I can't read that", but with the aid of someone looking over my shoulder, we were soon able to make out fully 90 to 95 percent. By the third read- through, we were able to read it like a newspaper. But, being able to read old handwriting is only one of the skills necessary in genealogy. Patience, and "delving" into records are its two most important requirements.

 You may not be lucky enough to have an old family  journal heirloom, but I would bet that you'll find some very interesting things, somewhere in your family tree. You learn genealogy by doing it; after studying all you can about it. For me it took five to seven years before I considered myself to be a pretty good genealogist. Of course, during that span I found a lot of good things, but I still had much more to learn. After checking most of the genealogy books at Nancy Guinn library, I found other books at Covington-in the old Porter Memorial. I also utilized their microfilmed censuses. Somewhere in there, I belatedly visited my first courthouses in Henry and Butts counties-a revelation, in learning the variety of records available. In considering where to donate the diary, I made visits to our great State Archives, and the Atlanta History Center. A lot of your family's history is out there. Take your time-(and the time)-to find it.          See "Adventures in Genealogy"-pg. 3

                                                          Visit a local Courthouse-examine a variety of records

Most genealogy is done at the county level, where your ancestors interacted with government, creating marriage, legal, and estate records.  Court clerks are usually very helpful.  Simply tell them you are getting into family history and would like to look at some of their older records. They are likely to have more time near month's end. I have researched in forty courthouses in Georgia and nothing beats the hands-on experience of examining the actual records. Though many old volumes have been microfilmed, it is best to use thin cotton gloves on the originals. In Georgia the Probate Court is the source of most family records-including: marriages, wills, appraisements, inventories, sales, annual returns, and tax digests. Look at some of all types. You will learn to decipher handwriting only through practice. Move over to Superior Court for your ancestor's deeds, contested wills, equity cases, and most other civil or criminal records.

                                                                                                    Genealogy Online

According to Family Tree Magazine, if you "googled" the term genealogy, you  might recently expect 25 million plus Internet "hits"-or links to pages with that word. Needless to say considerably less than 100 of those would be of any use to you in researching your family history. So, you have to narrow the field. Of course you need to have a general idea of what, where, or who you are looking for. The so-called "Boolean" entry method makes it easier for you to refine your search. If you typed in georgia genealogy you would get links to pages with either word. By using the phrase "georgia genealogy"-with quotation marks-you would limit your hits to pages containing only that phrase. By using plus signs(+)between words, you can narrow it further: georgia + genealogy + rockdale + conyers. Suppose you were looking for a Josh Smith, who may have lived in Newton and Rockdale counties, you might consider: georgia + genealogy + "josh smith" + rockdale OR  newton. Capital letters are not used except in certain cases, here in the capitalized OR-used by Google, for multiple choices.  Look for detailed tips or search help on each search engine's homepage. Be sure to use more than one search engine, as they do not all index the same websites. As you get into specific databases, you will find that most have their own search engines. Again, you will have to focus your search, and adhere to each  site's protocol. Or, you can just use trial and error. I found the old "message board" sites on genforum by entering three words: genforum, georgia, & counties.

  Both genforum and the rootsweb system are now part of, which may soon add them to their subscription site. For now they remain free. There are "boards" for  surnames, counties, and states. Free registration is required to post queries, as email address changes remain a problem. Should your ISP change, this provides a way to update. A good idea for your genealogy mail is a free online mailbox. The USGenWeb network is becoming popular with contributors. Add your biographies, documents, and photos(deceased only)to these usually county-based sites. All scanned items require a separate text file, so that names, dates, & places can be found by search engines. Include plenty of details in your attached summaries-as text uses little very server space. I am a fan of all county sites, just "google"-genealogy, state, & county. I really like this one:   Post your family group sheets on this site:

 For those with ancestors scattered all over the country, a subscription to would be worthwhile for their census pages alone, but be aware that automatic renewals have been a problem. Their library edition is free at Newton Co. Library, Nancy Guinn,  and the State Archives. Over 4700 titles, or databases are part of, but you still have to have an idea about what you are looking for, so do your offline research first. National Archives records are being digitized by subscription service. It is available free at all National Archive branches, as well as their microfilmed originals. Look around for "freebies", I found "footnote" free in the Floyd County Library system. Initially the Internet offered scatter-shot sources, lots of names and indexes; now more actual documents are available. There are shortcuts in genealogy-use them, but be very cautious. As late night TV's Craig Ferguson often humorously says-"It was on the Internet, so it must be true". Don't believe it-at least have doubts, and ultimately verify  everything that you find. Always document your family's history with primary sources, those generated at, or near the actual events-diaries, court records, newspapers, etc.



Rockdale County Genealogical Society

% Nancy Guinn Library, 864 Green St.

Conyers, Georgia  30012


President: Chris Zawadski

Vice President: Gayle Vivian

Treasurer: Margaret Mitchell

Assistant Treasurer: Ellen Trainer

Secretary: Pauline Hullinger / Jane Conn

Liaison: Jackie Smith / Martha Brown

Programs: Dee Davis / John Brown

Membership: Bertha Little

Trips / Research: Claudine Jackson

Newsletter Editor: Larry Knowles

             < >

Archives / Assistant: Marion Farmer

            < >

                                                      Scheduled Programs
February-8-Lillis Brown-Probate Judge of Rockdale County speaks about wills and estates.

March-8-Darrell Huckaby, columnist, and history teacher-"The way is was…used to be…and ought to be"

April 19-Chris Zawadski talks about genealogy software programs.

May-17-Brian Williams will talk about websites and web-page design.

June-14-Ken Thomas-genealogy writer of the Atlanta-AJC column. Subject to be announced later.

Due to library renovation, all Society meetings are held at the LDS Church, 1275 Flat Shoals Rd., Conyers, GA


                                                                      <<Adventures in Genealogy>>

One Man's Family

 My late best friend Harry Alexander was a reluctant genealogist. He loved to visit rural family cemeteries with me, and hear tales from my old family diary, but he never expressed any desire to trace his own family. Harry was truly a great friend, but he was a type-A personality, he didn't have the patience that God gave Job's Billy goat. Yet, in the short span of two years, he became a great genealogy buddy, and a good family historian. As my  family lines began to hit "brickwalls", I finally got him to go to the State Archives. I don't recall what we found that first day, but it was enough to spark his interest. Each trip became more intriguing. At first he wanted to do only his paternal line, but we soon branched out as each marriage was found. With few initial clues, Harry found a Civil War soldier, a pioneer Presbyterian minister, a member of the Georgia Legislature, a Madison hotel owner, three Revolutionary soldiers, and two 1770s Virginia patriots. Like me, most of his easily traced forebears were here in Georgia, so we could readily visit the courthouses, seek old cemeteries, or even sightsee on our short day trips. We did get off on one wild-goose chase, but the clues eventually cleared that up. We made trips to NC on his paternal line, but we got great information on his Virginia men in Macon at the Washington Memorial Library. Harry's good luck would have filled a nice little book on the adventures possible in genealogy, unfortunately, I didn't record every detail. Harry's father, Edward G. Alexander, grew up in Senoia in Fayette Co. GA. We knew that his father, Harry, a postman, had married Annette Nipper, and was buried in Senoia, near his father, Thomas G. Alexander. Harry's mother said that Annette Alexander had told her that her mother, Frances, buried with husband Jacob D. Nipper, in Atlanta's Westview Cemetery, had been a "Widow Cherry". And, that the Nipper family had often received visits from a "Major Dozier", in their West End-Atlanta home, in the early 1900s. Beyond his grandparents, these few clues were all that we had to start with. If Harry could do family research, considering his temperament-and few clues, I believe anyone could do it. Here is his story.


                                                                     Widow Cherry and Major Dozier

 This story is not sequential-and, as in all genealogy, the facts and final conclusions were accumulated from multiple sources, over varying periods of time. We of course started with Harry's paternal line in Fayette Co, but I will get to the wild-goose chase first. We found that Jacob D. Nipper was a drug company salesman in Atlanta in 1900. Had we looked closer at his census, and his then wife, Antoinette, we would have likely saved a lot of time. Instead, we found Jacob listed on the 1880 Spalding Co. census, as a "commercial traveler"-age 33, with wife Fannie-22, three small sons, and his mother-in-law, Emma Adair-59. We soon found that the couple had married in Fayette Co., though her parents, William H. P. Adair-a grocer in Greenville, and mother Henrietta Emma(Coleman)had lived in Meriwether Co. As Jacob's business evidently placed him east and west of the rail corridor from Atlanta to Griffin to Macon, an elopement seemed entirely possible. We didn't make any quick links on Wm. H. P. Adair's line, as he was born in Alabama, but we soon made a connection to Emma's father, Samuel Coleman, in Columbia Co. Her mother, likely Sarah Coleman-age 72 on the 1850 Meriwether census, lived next-door to the Adair family. Though we would eventually go to Columbia Co. on another line, most time was wasted at the Archives. We didn't really get on the right track until I found "Emma Coleman Adair's" burial in a book that I had on Henry Co. "Churchyard Cemeteries". [By coincidence-Henry was one of my home counties] This book had also noted that Jacob Nipper's parents, John and Rachel Nipper, came to Henry in 1849 from Richland District SC-[facts on their tombstones]. Interestingly, we learned that they were buried in the cemetery of long defunct Mount Pleasant Methodist Church, now on the grounds of Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, GA, just barely outside of the 3rd & 4th turns! Much later, we visited Emma C. Adair's grave at the Berea Christian Church cemetery in Hampton-and, surprise, surprise-we found that daughter, "Fannie"(Frances)Nipper was buried beside her. She had not made the book! Instantly, all of our Adair/Coleman research was useless, as Harry's ancestor was the "2nd Fannie" Nipper, buried in Atlanta with Jacob. We then returned to Jacob's 1900 Fulton Co. census, and saw that he and wife, Antoinette, had been married nine years. Though the census taker had noted that she was the mother of five children, with five living, none of the children shown could have been her's. Fulton Co. court records showed that Jacob Nipper had married Antoinette Dozier.  Suddenly, both of Harry's mother's clues were relevant. Was "our" Fannie-a "widow Cherry? And, a Dozier? And, who was Major Dozier? After Jacob Nipper's death, we found Antoinette on the 1910 census, living in the same neighborhood, in the home of a James S. Dozier. Again using census records, we found that James and Antoinette were children of William Hunt Dozier of Columbia Co.(later of Floyd Co)-but we couldn't find a sister Frances or "Fannie". Somehow(the details are now fuzzy)we learned that James Dozier's Spanish-American War bible-a small New Testament, was in the Archives vault. An examination reveled the obvious names of siblings-Antoinette, and others, but still no Fannie. Finally, we began to look for "Cherrys" in areas where Jacob Nipper lived and worked. On the 1880 Bibb Co. census, I found a John Cherry-30, wife-Frances 25, and, with Harry's luck-a girl, Emma Dosier-13. Other records confirmed that we had found our "Fannie", the daughter of Ignatious J. Dozier of Pike Co., a younger brother of William H. Dozier[sons of Green J. Dozier of Columbia Co.]. Antoinette Dozier was Fannie's first cousin!