Jeans & Genes

Rockdale County Genealogical Society Newsletter-Supplement January 2008

                                  Come Join Us in 2008!

The Rockdale County Genealogical Society is a small-but growing, group of folks who share a passion for family history. We usually meet on the 2nd Sunday of the month-January to November-at 3 p.m. in the Nancy Guinn Library on Green Street[ near the old Conyers depot]. Notice of meetings-or any changes-are posted in the Rockdale Citizen, or in the library lobby. We have many "expert" members each month who are happy to advise you, and great programs on many interesting subjects, such as how to edit your heirloom photos, or trace your family lineage through DNA. There are no annual dues, though we do have a "dollar jar" for donations. Join us in the New Year! Come learn more about genealogy with us, then extend that knowledge to your own family research. [for more information on meetings check with the Nancy Guinn Library circulation desk]

                                <<<<  Tips for new genealogists  >>>>

If you love a good mystery novel, or enjoy the many police and forensic shows on TV, then genealogy might be for you. You will probably be amazed by how much information is available on your ancestors. And, you absolutely never know what you might find! Of its many analogies, the nature of genealogical research, seems to resemble more closely detective work. In all cases you will work from clues, from what you know and learn, to the unknown. And, you must always verify the results by seeking primary records, those generated at or near the time and place. Secondary sources such as indexes, books, and most online records are very helpful but need to be checked for accuracy. As Sergeant Joe Friday of TV's "Dragnet" fame said long ago-"Just the facts, Mam, just the facts".

Do your homework. That is, learn all you can about your immediate family; learn where they were born, where they lived, and married. If you are fortunate enough to have living grandparents visit them. Take your cassette recorder or video camera. Most older folks love to talk about 'old times'. Don't hurry them, record everything they say, ask them about brothers & sisters, about their parents and grandparents. Ask where they lived or moved. Ask if they know about a country of origin. Be sure to ask if there is a family bible, or a known family historian. And don't forget about your collateral kin; cousins, Aunts or Uncles, who may remember more details, or who might have inherited family documents or photos. Make as many family contacts as you can. In my own family, my father's first cousin had a large portrait of my 2nd great grandfather(1833-1865)-and, my 1st cousin-twice removed-[my grandfather's first cousin]-had his daily 1852-1858 diary. When you have learned as much as you can from these living sources, you will have the clues to begin your serious genealogy research.

If you have learned a family's place of residence, a good place to start is with the 1930 US Census, the most recently released. At Nancy Guinn, and many other "PINES" libraries, the online censuses are available through or Heritage Quest. Microfilm copies are also available at many other sites. When you find your kinfolk in 1930, you are ready to move further back to 1920, 1910, etc. Always copy "complete families" and record them as family groups. Pedigree charts, or trees, are nice but family group records are the most useful. With the exception of the 1890 census which was lost in a fire, the censuses contain complete families back to 1850. Early years had special censuses; among those were slaves-not usually named-and manufacturing & agricultural lists. In rural areas the latter might tell you how many oxen, cows, horses, hogs, or sheep your ancestor had, or how many bushels of corn & wheat he had on hand.         [continued on back]

After finding an ancestor, be sure to look at nearby census entries. In earlier censuses, especially in rural locations, siblings or even parents may be found in the same area. Make copies of all same-surnamed families, even if you don't know how they may be related. If you know a wife's maiden name look for those families, as well.

Now that you have filled in a few family groups, you should start to organize things. You can begin with a simple pedigree chart, but the best way to organize is with a computer genealogy program. Family Tree Maker is the most popular, but most of them will do the job. Look for one that is GEDCOM compatible, as that format allows data exchange among the various programs. [FTM-2008 has changed completely after nearly 18 years of upgrades, and is said to be more internet efficient. However, some users say text files, which include sources, are not translating fully to the new edition; they are still recommending Version 16 instead]. There may be free programs online-or those you can try before you buy. The LDS church site < > once offered its PAF-Personal Ancestry File-for free download, or on an inexpensive CD. Whatever you select, don't settle for entering only the names & dates in your program-link all facts with their sources as soon as you fill in the "blanks".

After finding locations for some of your ancestors, it is time to get down to the meat & potatoes of family research-county records. If you live nearby, go to the courthouse! If not, go online and Google-genealogy then your county & state, and see what comes up. Look for sites specific to the county, as there will be many commercial links. Online content varies widely by county; those sites with long-standing Genealogical Societies are usually among the best. There maybe several different sites for each county-so check them all. The USGenWeb's "Archives Project" sites are my favorites. I hope they become the "industry standard".

Most counties will have two court systems. In Georgia, these are the Superior and Probate courts. Superior Court's name has remained constant, though Probate was once known as Inferior and Court of Ordinary.  In Alabama, Circuit Court corresponds with Superior, so there may be differences in your state. Criminal and civil cases in Georgia are filed in Superior Court-and deeds are recorded. Probate Court is a goldmine for  genealogists here. Marriage licenses. Guardianships.   All estate records, be it wills(testate) or without a will(intestate). Contested wills, however, would be carried to Superior Court & might not be indexed in early probate records. All types of estate-related bonds and guardianship bonds are filed here. Inventories and Sales from intestate estates often offer views into your ancestors' lifestyle-and are much more interesting than simple wills! Tax records[digests]are also found here. Taxed acreage is listed by Militia Districts-along water courses, with adjoining landowners noted. In Land Lottery counties the exact landlot maybe given. So, if you can't find a deed recorded, you may find where your ancestor lived through his tax records!

Research in Georgia was greatly enhanced with the recent completion of new facilities for the National and Georgia State Archives in Morrow[the buildings are side by side]near the main entrance to Clayton State College(University)on Jonesboro Rd.[GA Hwy 54]. The State Archives has a wonderful old card catalog file for its extensive self-serve microfilm collection-which includes most of the county records above(prior to 1900). It also has the tax digests, Civil War records, extensive publications, and much more. Currently they are in the process of listing their holdings online. The National Archives-Southeast Region has Federal census for the area, Federal-level court records, Revolutionary War pensions, WPA records and much more. There is just too much in both facilities to itemize here. So, if your heritage is in this part of the country, plan on visiting both. Your ancestors are waiting to be found!

OPEN HOUSE- The local LDS Church, 1275 Flat Shoals Rd. S.E. has announced a mini-seminar on Family History on Saturday January 26, 2008 from 10 a.m to 2:30 p.m.  Light refreshments during the lunch hour.  Sixteen classes will be offered-including "Getting Started".  For more information & pre-registration call: 770-785-9888  It is FREE, from genealogy's best friend-our Mormon neighbors!

Jeans & Genes is published by Rockdale County Genealogical Society
% Nancy Guinn Library, 864 Green St. SW-Conyers GA 30012

Officers for 2008 listed in regular edition.

Newsletter Editor: Larry Knowles-

Archive Editor: Marion Farmer- < >

[Slightly revised: January 24, 2008]