Cue the eerie music!

The Legal Genealogist first encountered William W. Montgomery in the statute books of the United States.

MontgomeryWhen I lecture to genealogy groups in different parts of the United States, I make a concerted effort to tailor the presentation — at least in some way — to the specific audience. So as I was preparing to explain this past Saturday to the Dallas Genealogical Society just how knowing the law can make us better genealogists, I looked for Texas examples in the statute books.

And the example I decided to use of a private federal law for the benefit of someone from Texas was set out in volume 17 of the United States Statutes at Large, on page 677. It’s entitled “An Act granting a Pension to Mary Ann Montgomery, Widow of Wm. W. Montgomery, late Captain in Texas Volunteers,” and it simply reads:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Interior be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to place on the pension roll, subject to the provisions and limitations of the pension laws, the name of Mary Ann Montgomery, widow of William W. Montgomery, late captain in Texas volunteers, and to pay her a pension, from the passage of this act, as a captain’s widow, and in respect to her minor children under sixteen years of age.1

Only the Montgomery family benefited from this law, so it’s a good example of a private law: a law passed for the benefit of an individual or family. The other type of statutory law we see is a public law, one passed to affect all of the citizens in general. An example of that would be a law creating a new tax everyone had to pay or one creating a military draft affecting all men of a certain age.

This bill has also got a nice quirk to it: it was originally vetoed by President Grant because its language wasn’t clear, and it was passed over the Presidential veto. Mrs. Montgomery got her pension.

It also turns out that there’s a fascinating backstory to the Montgomery case, and some interesting documents you can find online about it. One of them is a resolution of the Texas Legislature, asking the Congress to pass that pension law. Adopted 22 January 1872, it reads:

Whereas William W. Montgomery, a citizen of the county of Caldwell and State of Texas, on the breaking out of the rebellion was, through fear of violence on account of his loyalty to the Government of the United States, forced to leave his home and take refuge within the Federal lines; and

Whereas the said William W. Montgomery afterward volunteered in the service of the United States, and was appointed captain of Company -—, in the First Regiment of Texas Cavalry; and

Whereas the said William W. Montgomery afterward, to wit, on or about the 15th day of March, A. D. 1863, while a captain in the said First Regiment of Texas Cavalry, then in the service of the United States, and while in the line of duty, was, by a band of rebels, styling themselves confederate soldiers, captured and hung; and

Whereas the said William W. Montgomery left a widow, to wit, Mary Ann Montgomery, whose maiden name was Mary Ann McKay, who is still alive and a citizen of said Caldwell County, and has remained a widow ever since the death of her said husband, William W. Montgomery; and

Whereas the said William W. Montgomery, at the time of his death, had six children under the age of sixteen years, the dates of whose births are as follows, to wit: Francis Marion, September 12, 1847; Edward L., December 19, 1851; John Wesley, January 24, 185i; Mary Ann, April 17, 1856; Martha E., August 19, 1858; and Harriet S., March 3, 1861: Therefore,

Be it resolved by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That the Congress of the United States is earnestly petitioned to enact such measures as may be necessary to enable the said Mary Ann Montgomery and her said minor children to avail themselves of an act of Congress approved July 14, 1862, and to obtain the pension provided for in said act.2

The story gets even better. You can read through the records of both the Confederate and Union Armies, until you finally come across the eyewitness accounts of Montgomery’s death. Richard Pendergrast said “he witnessed … the murder of Capt. William W. Montgomery by a band of armed men…. The murder of said Montgomery was effected by hanging him by the neck with a rope to a mesquite tree. Deponent saw the said Montgomery captured or kidnapped on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande on the morning of the day that he was murdered by the persons who hung him, together with others. Deponent saw the body of said Montgomery still hanging to the mesquite tree four days after the murder.”3

There are some reference books available to go deeper into the Montgomery story. Dean W. Holt’s American Military Cemeteries sets out the tale of the raid by Confederates to capture and immediately hang the Union officers they regarded as traitors.4 The whole story of the Union regiment in which Montgomery served is detailed in Stanley S. McGowen’s Horse Sweat and Powder Smoke: The First Texas Cavalry in the Civil War.5

But if you want the whole story, go to Dallas. Attend a meeting or two of the Dallas Genealogical Society. Get to know one of its members, Suzan Younger, who served as my official meeter-greeter-driver-escort-and-tour-guide-par-excellence this past weekend.

She can tell you all about William W. Montgomery. How the law itself was because Montgomery was officially carried on the books as a private rather than as a captain because of bureaucratic issues. How the purpose of the law was to give his widow and children the benefit of his actual rank as a captain.

But she can tell you more.

She can tell you how he came to be a Union loyalist during the Civil War. How he ended up enlisting in the First Texas Cavalry. How he was captured, hung, cut down and buried by locals. How his body was dug up by the Confederates and hung back on that mesquite tree — the desire to give a warning against Union service was powerfully strong. How his body was cut down a second time and buried again. How his body was eventually moved to the Alexandria National Cemetery in Pineville, Rapides Parish, Louisiana.

And she can tell you how powerfully that story affected the Montgomery family and its descendants.

Right down to today.

Including — you guessed it — Suzan Younger herself.

Now what are the odds that of all the statutes I might have picked as an example I’d just happen to pick the one where a genealogist-descendant would be in the room to provide the rest of the story?

And how cool is that?


  1. “An Act granting a Pension to Mary Ann Montgomery, Widow of Wm. W. Montgomery, late Captain in Texas Volunteers,” 17 Stat. 677 (7 June 1872); digital images, “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875,” Library of Congress, American Memory ( : accessed 28 Sep 2014).
  2. “Joint Resolution of the Legislature of Texas…,” House Misc. Doc. No. 43, 42nd Congress, 2d Session, The Miscellaneous Documents Printed by Order of the House of Representatives, … 1871-’72, 4 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1872), 2: 43; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 28 Sep 2014).
  3. Affidavit of Richard Pendergrast, 11 Dec 1863, in The Miscellaneous Documents Printed by Order of the House of Representatives, … 1889-90, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1891), U.S. Congressional Serial Set 2769: 867-858; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 28 Sep 2014).
  4. Dean W. Holt, American Military Cemeteries, 2d ed. (Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., 2010).
  5. Stanley S. McGowen, Horse Sweat and Powder Smoke: The First Texas Cavalry in the Civil War (College Station, Tex. : Texas A&M Univ. Press, 1999).
Posted in General, Statutes | 17 Comments

Come on, matchmaker… make me that match!

The Legal Genealogist‘s favorite cartoon of all time is one that perfectly sums up my view of patience.

It shows two vultures sitting on a branch. One of them turns to the other and says: “Patience, my ass. I’m gonna kill something!”

And oh boy does that sum up my attitude this fine Sunday morning.

mtdna.battlesBecause, after all, it’s been a whole 48 hours, give or take a couple, since an Arizona man I sincerely hope turns out to be my cousin dropped his DNA test kit into the mail, priority postage attached, headed for the lab at Family Tree DNA.

And I’m dying to know what the results will show.

One of my most perplexing family history mysteries is the identity of the mother of my third great grandmother Margaret (Battles) Shew.

She married Daniel Shew sometime before 1849, most likely in Cherokee County, Alabama. There’s no record of their marriage; the Cherokee County courthouse burned twice, in 1882 and 1895.1 They had one child, William, by the 1850 census2 and two more — Gilford and Martha Louise — by 1860, when Margaret appeared as head of household on the Cherokee County census, apparently a widow.3

We’re pretty sure of Margaret’s maiden name, but proof is hard to come by. It comes to us really from two sources: oral history passed down to Eula’s daughter Opal;4 and the death certificate of her son William.5

And there was only one Battles family in Cherokee County, Alabama, at any time that could have included Margaret, and that’s the family of William Battles, who was enumerated in Cherokee County in 1840,6 1850,7 1860,8 and 1870.9

It isn’t clear who Margaret’s mother was. William was married twice. His first marriage, to Kiziah Wright, resulted in a messy suit she brought against him for divorce that was finally dismissed in 1829, apparently when Kiziah died.10 His second wife was Ann Jacobs. They were married on Christmas Day 1829, and showed up on the 1830 census with — count ‘em — five children.11 One of whom, I do believe, born well before that December 1829 marriage, was Margaret.

But how could we know for sure?

The answer lies, we hope, in that test kit now on its way to the lab.

You see, I am the daughter of a daughter of a daughter of a daughter of a daughter of Margaret’s. So I have inherited the mitochondrial DNA — mtDNA for short — of whoever Margaret’s mother was. That’s the type of DNA that’s passed down the direct female line from a mother to all of her children but that only her daughters can pass on.12

If Margaret was Ann’s daughter, she would have had — and passed on — Ann’s mtDNA. And any direct female-line descendant of any of Ann’s other daughters would have that same mtDNA.

Exactly how many daughters Ann may have had isn’t certain, but three of them were still living at home and enumerated in the household in that 1850 census: Samantha; Julia; and Charlsie.13

And the test kit now on its way to the lab is that of a man who is a direct female-line descendant of Julia. A man who, since mtDNA is inherited from the mother, has exactly the mtDNA I need: that of his mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother — Ann Jacobs Battles.

So if we match… oh, if we match… I will finally know that Margaret’s mother was Ann. And if we don’t, then her mother was most likely Kiziah.

Lord, give me patience.

And I need it right now.


  1. Alabama Courthouses Destroyed by Fire,” Alabama Department of Archives and History ( : accessed 22 Mar 2014).
  2. 1850 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, 27th District, p. 136 (back) (stamped), dwelling 1055, family 1055, Danl Shew household; digital image, ( : accessed 22 Mar 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 3.
  3. 1860 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, p. 315 (stamped), dwelling 829, family 829, Margaret Shoe household; digital image, ( : accessed 22 Mar 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 5.
  4. Interview with Opal Robertson Cottrell (Kents Store, VA), by granddaughter Bobette Richardson, 1980s; copy of notes privately held by Judy G. Russell (also a granddaughter).
  5. Texas Department of Health, death certif. no. 10077 (1927), W.W. Shew (10 Mar 1927); Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  6. 1840 U.S. census of Cherokee County, AL; 1840 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, p. 116 (stamped), line 17, Wm Battles household; digital image, ( : accessed 22 Mar 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication M704, roll 3.
  7. 1850 U.S. census, Cherokee Co., Ala., pop. sched., 27th Dist., p. 136 (stamped), dwell. 1052, fam. 1052, Wm Battles household.
  8. 1860 U.S. census, Cherokee Co., Ala., pop. sched., p. 314-315 (stamped), dwell./fam. 825, Wm Battles household.
  9. 1870 U.S. census, Cherokee Co., Ala., pop. sched., Leesburg P.O., p. 268(B) (stamped), dwell. 26, fam. 25, W Battles household.
  10. Transcription, Records of the Blount County Circuit Court, 1824-1829; Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, Oneonta, Ala.; transcribed by Bobbie Ferguson; copy provided to J. Russell and held in files.
  11. 1830 U.S. census, St. Clair County, Alabama, p. 252 (stamped), line 24, William Battles 2nd household; digital image, ( : accessed 22 Mar 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication M19, roll 4.
  12. ISOGG Wiki (, “Mitochondrial DNA tests,” rev. 9 July 2014.
  13. 1850 U.S. census, Cherokee Co., Ala., pop. sched., 27th Dist., p. 136 (stamped), dwell. 1052, fam. 1052, Wm Battles household.
Posted in DNA | 13 Comments

The boy in the picture

The attic was a place where, it seemed, anything might be found.

Old clothes to dress up in.

A place to hide when the younger kids were just too annoying.

An education in anatomy, through the … um … unclad figures in my father’s old how-to-do-photography books.

Evan.1947And the boy in the picture.

I will never forget the day I found that boy. I was probably 10 years old or so, up in the attic of the house where I grew up, and poking around in the boxes that were stashed up there.

And I came across what I remember as a small box inside a bigger box inside a bigger box.

And it had pictures. Mostly of people I didn’t know. But then there was that one that had someone I did know.

On the left (as I recall) was my father, in a tuxedo. On the right, a woman in a wedding gown.

A woman who, it was abundantly clear from her blond hair and light eyes, was not my brown-haired brown-eyed mother.

Now that photo, as I recall, didn’t really arouse my interest much at all. My mother’s family was the only family I ever knew growing up — my father’s parents were dead before I was born — and in my mother’s family, multiple marriages weren’t exactly rare. The number of former aunts and uncles by marriage on that side greatly exceeds the number of aunts and uncles by birth.

No, I don’t remember even wondering much about that photo of my father and the woman who wasn’t my mother. Maybe it was just that whoever she was didn’t have anything to do with me. And maybe it was because of the photo underneath that photo.

The photo you see here.

The photo of the boy.

Before that day in that attic all those years ago I knew I had one older sibling — a sister, Diana.

But that day in that attic all those years ago I knew somehow immediately.

I knew we had another older sibling.

A brother.

The boy in the picture.

I don’t remember ever thinking, not even for one minute, that perhaps he might not have survived. That the reason why my father had been free to marry my mother might have been because of death, rather than divorce.

What I knew, beyond any question, was that there was a boy out there who was my brother. My older brother. Mine. And I wanted him.

What I didn’t know, then or for years afterwards, was how to go about getting that brother into my life.

It just wasn’t in the cards for that kid aged 10 or so to go downstairs and strike up a conversation: “Hey Dad, about that first marriage and the boy in the picture…” My German-born father rarely spoke about his life before he met my mother. It wasn’t until I got into genealogy, years after his death, that I even knew he had aunts and uncles, and I had cousins, in the United States.

But I never forgot the boy in the picture. And it ate at me and ate at me and ate at me, until the day just before I headed off to college when I screwed up my courage and confronted my father.

I don’t remember asking anything about the circumstances of that first marriage — who she was, how it had ended. I only wanted to know about the boy.

His name, I was told, was Hugh Evan. He was five and a half years older than my older sister. And in the 1940s he had lived with his grandfather and his mother in Chicago.

My father didn’t have — or at least didn’t give me — an address than was less than 20 years old. He didn’t have a picture more recent than the one I had found. I can’t say that he actively discouraged me from trying to find my brother. But he didn’t go out of his way to help.

Now I’m not one of those people who started out in genealogy as a teenager. I was as green about trying to locate records as it was possible to be.

And I had exactly zero luck. Nobody by that name in the phone books. Nobody I could find in the driver’s license records or the draft records or any other kind of record I could think of — and had even a clue about how to access.

And months later, just about Thanksgiving, I was about to give up. I couldn’t think of anything else to try. I didn’t know there was such a thing as genealogy — or genealogy groups that might help.

But just before throwing in the towel, I decided to try one more thing.

I picked up the phone, called Chicago information, and asked for a telephone number for my brother’s grandfather at that more-than-20-year-old address.

And the operator gave it to me.

I remember being absolutely dumbfounded. It had never occurred to me that the family might have stayed in one spot, just waiting to be found.

It took a few days to get up my courage and to figure out what I wanted to say. Finally, right around the beginning of December, I called that number. An older man answered the phone. I asked for my brother by his full birth name and got 30 seconds of silence in response. Then the older man spoke.

“Who are you?” he asked. “And what do you want?”

How do you begin to condense years of wanting someone who’s missing from your life into a 30-second please-don’t-hang-up-on-me answer to questions like that?

I don’t remember what I said. I do remember the moment of silence after I finished my explanation.

Then the older man spoke again. He was my brother’s grandfather, he told me, Edward Anderson. And, I later found out, a retired Chicago police detective. He told me my brother was called Evan. He would not tell me where he was. But, he promised, if I sent a letter to his address, he would see to it that Evan got it.

It was as much as I could have hoped for under the circumstances. I thanked the man, and took a few more days to carefully write out what I wanted to say.

I probably mailed the letter around the fifth or sixth of December. It would have gotten there by perhaps the 10th or so. And Edward Anderson gave it to Evan right around December 15th.

And, on the 17th of December, Edward Anderson died.

I didn’t know about that death when Evan answered my letter early the next year. When he sent a photo that showed how much he resembles my older sister.

I didn’t know about it when we spoke for the first time on the phone and when we discovered that we both had learned to scuba dive and shared a love of certain books.

Or when we met for the first time and when I knew, for the first time, the joy of hugging and being hugged by the brother I had been missing from that day in that attic all those years ago.

But I have thought about it, time and again, in the years since I started doing family history, since the day when I first recorded the key facts of my brother’s mother’s family.

Since the day when it first dawned on me, just what a close thing it had been.

If I had waited just a few more days before getting that phone number.

If I had called a few days or weeks later.

If I had waited a week or two more before sending that letter.

If it had arrived just a few days later than it did.

If any of those things had happened, Edward Anderson wouldn’t have been able to give Evan my letter. And I don’t know if anyone else would have been as faithful as he was to his promise to make sure it got into Evan’s hands.

Oh, I believe, knowing what I know now about genealogy and research, that I would eventually have found Evan. Just the power of today’s internet would be enough now.

But we would never have had the years we have had. The times we have had. The fun we have had.

The sheer joy of knowing the boy in the picture.

The boy who celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday wrapped in the love of both sides of his family.

His wife. His children and, now, a grandson. His many relatives on his mother’s side.

His brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews on his father’s side, too.

And, I can’t help but think, smiling down on it all, a grandfather who kept his promise. And who gave me the gift of so much more time than I might otherwise have had with his grandson, my brother.

The boy in the picture.

Happy birthday, Evan.

Posted in My family | 59 Comments

Two weeks from now, in Salt Lake City

It’s a tradition of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, its way to say thank you to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and its staff for all of the work it does and they do to support genealogical research.

2014 Board for Certification flier 17Every year, just before the annual fall meeting of the BCG Board of Trustees, BCG presents a free lecture series — free and open to the public — at the Family History Library.

And that lecture series takes place on October 11th, just two weeks from tomorrow, in the classroom on the B2 floor of the Family History Library.

The series begins with an overview of the BCG certification process by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, at 9 a.m. and continues with five presentations by three lecturers who hold credentials as Certified Genealogists from BCG and who serve as members of the BCG Board.

If you’re anywhere in the area… or if you’re looking for one last excuse to get on a plane and head for Salt Lake City for some research… this is a series not to be missed.

The lecture line-up:

Saturday, 11 October 2014, Classroom on B2, FHL

9:00 – 9:30 a.m.

BCG Certification Seminar
Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL

9:45 – 10:45 a.m.

Shootout at the Rhododendron Lodge: Reconstructing Life-Changing Events
Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

11:00 a.m. – noon

From the White Lion to the Emancipation Proclamation–Slavery and the Law Before the Civil War
Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

1:15 – 2:15 p.m.

Using Evidence Creatively: Spotting Clues in Run-of-the-Mill Records
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA

2:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Oh, The Things You Can Map: Mapping Data, Memory, and Historical Context
Stefani Evans, CG

3:45 – 4:45 p.m. Keynote Address

Trousers, Black Domestic, Tacks & Housekeeping Bills: Trivial Details Can Solve Research Problems
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA

Come join us for this free, public lecture series — a thank you to the FHL.


CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluations. The board name is a trademark registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Posted in General | 9 Comments

A few points to ponder

Ancestry has updated its terms of use effective September 1 for existing users and August 1 for new users and, while there are no big surprises, there are a few provisions that users should know about and factor into their thinking as they use the Ancestry family of websites.

You can find a link to these at the bottom of the home page (and most pages) on each of the three Ancestry websites:

But each of the links takes you to the same place, at, and the terms of use set out there for “the Ancestry family of websites.”1

Ancestry.2014termsTerms 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. These are limits that are different from copyright protection, since the law says what is and isn’t copyrighted and you can own a thing without owning the copyright. So this isn’t copyright law; it’s contract law — you and whoever owns the thing you want to see or copy or use reach a deal.”2

And the things you should know about the changes include:

First, the terms are now uniform across the three websites operated by Ancestry:;; and The only thing that changes depending on which website you’re using is how to contact the company about any issue you’re having with a particular website:

• For, please call (800) 262-3787, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or visit
• For, please call (800) 613-0181, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or visit
• For, please call (877) 519-0129, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or visit

Second, there has been no significant change in our rights as users to use the content of the websites. We are still allowed to “access the Websites and use the Content only for personal or professional family history research, and download Content only as search results relevant to that research.”3

Ancestry has clarified some aspects of its users’ rights to use the content. It now explains: “For example, the download of the whole or material parts of any work or database is prohibited. Resale of a work or database or portion thereof is prohibited. Online or other republication of Content is prohibited except as unique data elements that are part of a unique family history or genealogy.”4

In other words, we can’t copy all of, say, the 1940 census directly from Ancestry and resell it on our own websites, but we’re perfectly free to use any specific census record — or even a subset of records — to illustrate our own family histories or those of clients for whom we may be working.

And it explains that:

Ancestry does not claim an exclusive right to images already in the public domain that it has converted into a digital format. However, the Websites contain images or documents that are protected by copyrights or that, even if in the public domain, are subject to restrictions on reuse. By agreeing to these Terms and Conditions, you agree to not reuse these images or documents except that you may reuse public domain images so long as you only use small portions of the images or documents for personal use. If you republish public domain images, you agree to credit the relevant Ancestry Website as the source of the digital image, unless additional specific restrictions apply. If you wish to republish more than a small portion of the images or documents from any of the Websites, you agree to obtain prior written permission from us.5

Note in particular that the terms require two things if we download, print or republish anthing:

• Whenever we download or print an item from one of these websites, we “must retain all copyright and other proprietary notices contained therein.”6

• Whenever we republish anything we’re allowed to republish, we “agree to credit the relevant Ancestry Website as the source of the digital image, unless additional specific restrictions apply.”7

Third, and this is a big one, we are now much more clearly and directly on the hook for anything we do that ends up getting one of these Ancestry websites sued. The prior terms just said that we would indemnify Ancestry “against all liabilities, claims and expenses that may arise from any breach of this Agreement by you or otherwise as a result of your use of the Services or Website.”8

Today, the provision says:

You agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Ancestry, its affiliates, officers, directors, employees and agents from and against any and all claims, damages, obligations, losses, liabilities, costs or expenses (including but not limited to attorney’s fees) arising from: (i) your use of and access to the Websites and Services; (ii) your violation of any term of this Agreement; (iii) your violation of any third-party right, including without limitation any copyright, property, or privacy right; or (iv) any claim that your User Provided Content caused damage to a third party. This defense and indemnification obligation will survive this Agreement and your use of the Websites and Services.9

What that means is that if Aunt Mabel decides to sue Ancestry because you uploaded her copyrighted picture of Uncle Homer wearing a grass skirt, and she wins, you could end up paying not only the full amount of the copyright award and your own legal fees and Aunt Mabel’s legal fees, but all of Ancestry’s costs and legal fees too.

Fourth, any dispute you have with any of these companies now has to be handled through binding arbitration or through a small claims court proceeding in Utah under Utah law.10 Binding arbitration means no judge, no jury and no right to appeal to a court if you don’t like what the arbitrator did. The only court review of binding arbitration is if you can show that the arbitrator acted illegally, not just stupidly.

For most of us, this doesn’t mean much, since we could still choose to go to the Utah small claims court — and that’s allowed for any claim up to $10,000 in damages.11 I don’t expect most of us would ever have a claim we could even arguably make as users of these websites for more than that amount.

And, finally, one good change is that Ancestry has actually made it easier to cancel a free trial or regular subscription: you can now use email as well as the phone.12

Bottom line: there’s not much change here, except to reinforce that we need to be careful about what we upload. Violating someone else’s rights could be very expensive.


  1. Ancestry Terms and Conditions, Revision as of August 1, 2014,” ( : accessed 24 Sep 2014).
  2. Judy G. Russell, “A terms of use intro,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 27 Apr 2012 ( : accessed 24 Sep 2014).
  3. Paragraph 2, “Your Use of the Websites,” “Ancestry Terms and Conditions, Revision as of August 1, 2014,” ( : accessed 24 Sep 2014).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Paragraph 12, “Miscellaneous,” “Ancestry Terms and Conditions, Revision as of April 26, 2012,” ( : accessed 24 Sep 2014 via the Wayback Machine, Internet Archive).
  9. Paragraph 7, “Liability Disclaimer,” “Ancestry Terms and Conditions, Revision as of August 1, 2014,” ( : accessed 24 Sep 2014).
  10. Ibid., paragraph 8, “Governing Law; Disputes.”
  11. See Utah Code Section 78A-8-102.
  12. Ibid., paragraph 4, “Subscription Terms, Fees and Payments,” “Ancestry Terms and Conditions, Revision as of August 1, 2014,” ( : accessed 24 Sep 2014).
Posted in Terms of use | 5 Comments

Ick! The -ix!

Whistling girls and crowing hens
Always come to some bad end.1

whistling.girlThey are decidedly odd to the modern eye, these words from an older time.



They are even odder to the modern ear, if you ever hear them spoken aloud.



And even though The Legal Genealogist‘s younger kin accuse her of living in the past, even my now-ancient law school experience didn’t prepare me for dealing with these words from an older time.

Even to me, they look and sound weird.

Downright icky, that -ix ending.

But we encounter them all the time in older legal documents, so …

First off, the ending really isn’t -ix, it’s -trix:

a suffix occurring in loanwords from Latin, where it formed feminine nouns or adjectives corresponding to agent nouns ending in -tor, (Bellatrix). On this model, -trix, is used in English to form feminine nouns (aviatrix; executrix) and geometrical terms denoting straight lines ( directrix).

A suffix borrowed directly from Latin, -trix has been used since the 15th century on feminine agent nouns that correspond to a masculine (in Latin) or generic (in English) agent noun ending in -tor: aviator, aviatrix; legislator, legislatrix; orator, oratrix.2

And an agent noun, by the way, is “a noun denoting the doer of an action, as editor or jogger.”3

So in reality we should be dealing here with a woman of action, right? An oratrix, for example, is currently defined as “a woman who delivers an oration; a public speaker, especially one of great eloquence.”4

Um… no.

Because, as usual, the law has its own set of definitions. So when you come across these words in a dusty old court record, keep in mind that even the underlying term (orator, for a male) may have meant something different when used in a legal context.

But so that you won’t have to go off looking for just the right definition, here’s your cheat sheet of common terms ending in -trix that you’re likely to encounter in legal documents:

Actrix. “Lat. A female actor; a female plaintiff.”5

Administratrix. “A female who administers, or to whom letters of administration have been granted.”6

Creditrix. “A female creditor.”7

Curatrix. “A woman who has been appointed to the office of curator; a female guardian.”8

Disseisitrix. “A female disseisor; a disseisoress.”9

Emtrix. “In the civil law. A female purchaser; the purchaser.”10

Executrix. “A woman who has been appointed by will to execute such will or testament.”11

Inheretrix. “The old term for ‘heiress’.”12

Oratrix. “A female petitioner; a female plaintiff in a bill in chancery was formerly so called.”13

Pandoxatrix. “An ale-wife; a woman that both brewed and sold ale and beer.”14

Procuratrix. “In old English law. A female agent or attorney in fact.”15

Prosecutrix. “In criminal law. A female prosecutor.”16

Relatrix. “In practice. A female relator or petitioner.”17

Testatrix. “A woman who makes a will; a woman who dies leaving a will; a female testator.”18

Venditrix. “Lat. A female vendor.”19

Now excuse me please. I have an irresistable impulse to go whistle.


  1. Sylvester Judd, History of Hadley, … Massachusetts (Northampton, Mass. : Metcalf & Co., 1863), 381 n.*; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 23 Sep 2014).
  2. Unabridged, Random House, Inc. ( : accessed 23 Sep 2014), “-trix.”
  3. Ibid., “agent noun.”
  4. Ibid., “oratrix.”
  5. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 29, “actrix.”
  6. Ibid., 40, “administratrix.”
  7. Ibid., 300, “creditrix.”
  8. Ibid., 309, “curatrix.”
  9. Ibid., 377, “disseisitrix.” A disseisor is “One who puts another out of the possession of his lands wrongfully.” Ibid., “disseisor.”
  10. Ibid., 418, “emtrix.”
  11. Ibid., 457, “executrix.”
  12. Ibid., 622, “inheretrix.”
  13. Ibid., 854, “oratrix.”
  14. Ibid., 865, “pandoxatrix.”
  15. Ibid., 949, “procuratrix.”
  16. Ibid., 956, “prosecutrix.”
  17. Ibid., 1016, “relatrix.”
  18. Ibid., 1166, “testatrix.”
  19. Ibid., 1213, “venditrix.”
Posted in Legal definitions | 18 Comments

Notice is hereby given …

Janet Iles hit the ball out of the genealogy research park when she asked, in a blog post yesterday, “Do you check newspaper advertisements when doing your family research?”

noticesThe retired Canadian library technician who now does genealogical and historical research as Janet Iles Consulting & Research Services went on:

You may learn more about what life was like for your ancestors and kin. What were the current fashions? Where might they have shopped? What were the prices for food? You also may be fortunate to find an advertisement for a business they owned.1


Businesses they owned, land they had to sell, buildings they had to rent. Newspaper advertisements covered them all.

And, The Legal Genealogist is compelled to add, there may be so much more in those newspaper advertising columns.

Particularly in the legal advertising columns: with the notices so many of our ancestors were required to post — or have posted to or about them — because of the law.

From notices to creditors of an estate that they had a certain time frame within which to file their claims to notices of pending court actions against absent defendants, the legal advertising columns of newspapers large and small, all across America (and beyond!), were chock full of information the law thought people had a right to know — and no other way to find out.

And from a genealogist’s perspective, they are an absolute gold mine.

Here’s just a very small sampling of what you might find:

• 8 May 1806. The (Annapolis) Maryland Gazette. “Taxes. The subscriber being again appointed collector of the taxes now due in Anne-Arundel county, earnestly requests that all persons concerned will be prepared to settle wjem called on; it will be considered a favour in any who have taxes to pay, if they will call and settle the same at the store of Lewis Duvall, in Annapolis. Zachariah Duvall, Collector.”2

• 5 July 1810. The (Raleigh) North Carolina Star. “Ten Dollars Reward. Stolen. From the Subscriber, a GRAY HORSE, about four feet 8 or 10 inches high, 6 years old last spring. He is a little hip-shot, I think on the father side. It is presumed he was taken by two young men who absconded from the neighborhood o(f) this place at the time he was missing. The men are small and slender made, and subject to get intoxicated with spirits. Their names I forbear to mention at this time — they are supposed to have gone to the Western Country, and it is not improbable they will sell of exchange the horse by the way. … Matthew Shaw.”3

• 4 October 1810. The (Raleigh) North Carolina Star. “Fifty Dollars Reward. Ran-Away from the Subscriber on the 11th of September, 1809, a Mulatto fellow named JIM. He is large and likely, about five feet eleven inches high, and aged thirty-five. His face is overrun with marks of the Small Pox, and on one side of his nose (the right side I believ) there is a scar occasioned by the kick of a horse. … Jim can read and write and I expect he will pass himself for a free man. … Robert Clark, Anson County, March 15, 1810.”4

• 6 November 1822. The Sandusky (Ohio) Clarion. “State of Ohio, Huron, SS. In the Supreme Court, of the term of June, A.D. 1822. HALSEY CLARK came and filed his petition, shewing that he was heretofore joined in marriage with Polly Clark, who had since committed adultery, treated him with extreme cruelty, and been wilfully absent from him for the term of five years; and praying said court to dissolve the bonds of marriage between them; which petition is continued until next term. Said Polly is therefore notified to appear at the next session of this court, to be holden in said county, to resist said application, if she see cause. David Gibbs, Cl’k pro tempore. E. Lane, Att’y.”5

• 17 November 1864. The Fort Wayne (Ind.) Daily Gazette. “Executor’s Notice! Letters testamentary have been ganted to the undersigned as Executor of the estate of Mrs. Elizabeth Lillie, late of Allen County, Indiana. … Sol D. Bayless, Executor.”6

The moral of this story is Janet’s lesson from her blog yesterday: “Do you check newspaper advertisements when doing your family research?”

Particularly when it comes to the legal ads, the answer for all of us should be a resounding yes.


Image: (Annapolis) Maryland Gazette, 8 May 1806, p. 5, col. 3; digital image courtesy of

  1. Janet Iles, “Check newspaper advertisements,” Janet the Researcher blog, posted 22 Sep 2014 ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
  2. “Taxes,” (Annapolis) Maryland Gazette, 8 May 1806, p. 5, col. 3; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
  3. “Ten Dollars Reward,” (Raleigh) North Carolina Star, 5 July 1810, p. 1, col. 1; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
  4. “Fifty Dollars Reward,” (Raleigh) North Carolina Star, 4 Oct 1810, p. 1, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
  5. “Notice,” Sandusky (Ohio) Clarion, 6 Nov 1822, p. 3, col. 4; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
  6. “Executor’s Notice,” Fort Wayne (Ind.) Daily Gazette, 17 Nov 1864, p. 2, col. 5; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
Posted in Methodology, Resources | 8 Comments

Last chance to register

Last week, The Legal Genealogist was honored beyond words to be voted as one of the American and international Rockstar Genealogists by readers of John Reid’s Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections blog.

Tom-JonesThose nominated for this straw-poll award are the ones John describes as “those who give ‘must attend’ presentations at family history conferences or as webinars. Who, when you see a new family history article or publication by that person, makes it a must buy.”1

One person who’s on my personal list of “must attend” presenters is Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS. And you can listen to a new webinar presentation by Tom tonight as the Board for Certification of Genealogists launches a new webinar series.

For anyone who’s not familiar with Tom’s work, his speaker write-up for the 2014 Federation of Genealogical Societies tells most of the story:

Dr. Thomas W. Jones, the author of Mastering Genealogical Proof, is also an award-winning genealogical editor, educator, and reseacher. He has co-edited the National Genealogical Society Quarterly since 2002. Certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists since 1994, Dr. Jones serves the board as a trustee and is a past president. He is the 2011 recipient of the Association of Professional Genealogists’ Professional Achievement Award, 2004 recipient of its Grahame T. Smallwood Jr. Award of Merit, and 1997 and 2002 winner of the National Genealogical Society Award for Excellence for scholarly articles in the NGS Quarterly.

Dr. Jones teaches in Boston University’s Genealogical Research Certificate program, online and in the classroom. He coordinates week-long courses at the British Institute, the Genealogical Research Institue of Pittsburgh, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and Samford University’s Institute on Genealogical and Historical Research.2

And, the writer might have added, he is witty, charming and manages always to educate and entertain at the same time.

His webinar tonight — the inaugual webinar of this new series — is “Fine Wine in a New Bottle: Guidelines for Effective Research and Family Histories.” It focuses on the updated, retitled, and reorganized new edition of the genealogy standards first published in 2000. The webinar will describe the changes and what they mean for all family historians.

The webinar will be at 8 p.m. EDT, 7 p.m. CDT, 6 p.m. MDT, 5 p.m. PDT, and you can register for it here:

And yes, it is free.

The webinar series continues next month when, on October 15th, I will explain “Kinship Determination: From Generation to Generation.” Requirement 7 of the BCG certification application asks for a Kinship Determination Project in which the applicant writes a three-generation narrative and explains how the relationships are documented. All genealogists do this regularly while placing relatives with their appropriate connections in the family tree.

And you can register now for this webinar — also free, also at 8 p.m. Eastern — at

Hope to see you tonight, next month and in the future!


  1. John D. Reid, “Rockstar Genealogists: Who Do You Think They Are?,” Anglo-Celtic Connections, posted 1 Sep 2014 ( : accessed 16 Sep 2014).
  2. Sandra Crowley, “Speaker: Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS,” FGS Conference Blog, posted 5 July 2014 ( : accessed 21 Sep 2014).
Posted in General | 8 Comments

Videos from I4GG now available

So you missed the first Institute for Genetic Genealogy (I4GG) near Washington, D.C., in August.

A first-ever gathering of more than 400 people who wanted to know more about DNA and its use in genealogical research, and who listened to the 30 or so presentations ranging through every type of DNA test and at every level from beginner to advanced.

Maybe you didn’t know about it in time to go. Maybe you couldn’t take the time. Maybe the budget just didn’t go that far.


I4GG.videoBecause it was terrific.

There was something there for everybody, no matter how much or how little we knew about genetic genealogy when we got there. It was absolutely electric.

But even if you didn’t make it to the institute, even if you have been kicking yourself for weeks, boy have the organizers got good news for you.

Because most of the presentations were videotaped and, despite a colossal set of technical difficulties,1 most of the videos are now available online.

For conference attendees, access to the videos is part of the conference price, and you should have gotten an email explaining how to access them.

But if you missed the conference…

You can still get to see much of what was presented.

And you can do it for a very very reasonable price.2

Access to the entire set of 27 videos can be purchased from the I4GG website for just $50 — and, though math isn’t The Legal Genealogist‘s main strength, that looks like something less than $2.00 each.

Or you can pick and choose among the 27 and buy access only to the ones you particularly want to see for $4.00 each.

Here’s what’s available — with the conference organizers’ estimate of the skill level for each:


• Anna Swayne — Workshop: Getting the most from AncestryDNA
• Larry Vick — Using Y-DNA to Reconstruct a Patrilineal Tree
• Debbie Parker Wayne — Mitochondrial DNA: Tools and Techniques for Genealogy
• Katherine Hope-Borges — International Society of Genetic Genealogists


• CeCe Moore — The Four Types of DNA Used in Genetic Genealogy


• Joanna Mountain, Christine Moschella — Workshop: Exploring All of 23andMe’s Genealogy Features
• Maurice Gleeson, Jim Bartlett, CeCe Moore, Janine Cloud — Family Tree DNA – Workshop: Exploring All Family Tree DNA Products by Maurice Gleeson (Y chromosome overview), Jim Bartlett (Family Finder/autosomal DNA), CeCe Moore (mitochondrial DNA overview), and Janine Cloud (other features)
• Terry Barton — Surname Project Administration
• Joanna Mountain — 23andMe Features
• Shannon Christmas — Identity by Descent: Using DNA to Extend the African-American Pedigree
• Julie Granka — AncestryDNA Matching: Large-Scale Findings and Technology Breakthroughs
• Razib Kahn — Tearing the Seamless Fabric, Ancestry as a Jigsaw Puzzle
• William Hurst — Mitochondrial DNA Focusing on Haplogroup K
• Blaine Bettinger — Using Free Third-Party Tools to Analyze Your Autosomal DNA
• Bonnie Schrack — Y chromosome Haplogroups A and B
• Ugo Perego — Native American Ancestry through DNA Analysis
• Rob Warthen, Karin Corbeil, Diane Harman-Hoog — Not Just for Adoptees – Methods and Tools for Working with Autosomal DNA from the Team at
• Maurice Gleeson — An Irish Approach to Autosomal DNA Matches
• Judy Russell — After the Courthouse Burns: Lighting Research Fires with DNA
• Rebekah Canada — Wanderlust – The Story of the Origins and Travels of mtDNA Haplogroup H through History and Scientific Literature


• Greg Magoon — “Next-gen” Y Chromosome Sequencing
• Kathy Johnston — From X Segments to Success Stories: The Use of the X Chromosome in Genetic Genealogy
• William Howard — Using Correlation Techniques on Y-Chromosome Haplotypes to Determine TMRCAs, Date STR Marker Strings, Surname Groups, Haplogroups and SNPs
• Tim Janzen — Using Chromosome Mapping to Help Trace Your Family Tree
• Thomas Krahn — I’ve Received My Y Chromosome Sequencing Results – What Now?
• David Pike — The Use of Phasing in Genetic Genealogy
• Doug McDonald — Understanding Autosomal Biogeographical Ancestry Results

Now, a brief warning: these are not movie-theater-quality videos. Think home movies and not crystal clarity. People walked in front of the cameras. The lighting wasn’t the best. The sound systems glitched on occasion.

But they are audible, you can make out what was being shown, and even with the technical issues it’s a whole lot better than not having any chance to be part of this at all.


  1. One of the hard drives to which presentations were saved was accidentally knocked off a table at the conference. The challenge of recovering those files isn’t something I even want to think about. Kudos to Lennart Martinsson for his technical skills!
  2. Truth in advertising: some additional compensation will be paid to speakers based on video access purchases. So I may personally benefit if you buy access to the video package or to my individual video. Just sayin’.
Posted in DNA | 14 Comments

Facts but not stories

Today is the 119th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Carlton Livingston.

ArthurYoungest of the nine children born to my second great grandmother Martha Louise (Shew) Baird Livingston, the eighth by Arthur’s father Abigah C. Livingston, he is a man about which we know so much.

And so very little.

You see, there are tons of records telling us so many facts about Arthur Carlton Livingston.

• He was born 20 September 1895 in Bexar County, Texas.1 His family had moved there from Cherokee County, Alabama, sometime around 1888.2

• He was living with his parents in Williamson County, Texas, in 1900.3

• By 1907, the family had moved to Oklahoma. Arthur’s parents were recorded that year as residents of Comanche County, selling land in Frederick, now the county seat of Tillman County.4

• In 1909, Arthur’s mother died of tuberculosis.5

• In 1910, the family was still in Tillman County, where Arthur was shown as a 13-year-old schoolboy and farm hand. Only he and his brother Leva were still at home, though their widowed sister Etta Roberts and her two children were living with the family.6

• He registered for the draft on 5 June 1917, as a single man, a farmer living in Hollister, Oklahoma. He was described as of medium height, slender build, brown eyes and dark hair. He hoped he’d be exempt from being called up, noting he had a widowed sister and her two children he was helping to support.7

• He married Annie Wright in Tillman County around 1919. In 1920, they were living in Stephens Township, enumerated next door to his widowed sister Etta (Livingston) Roberts.8

• Arthur and Annie were parents by 1921: a son, Ralph, was born on the 15th of March 1921 in Tillman County. He was the first of eight children all told — and the one they lost as a child. He was just six years old when he died of blood poisoning.9

• The family was still in Tillman County in 1930. That census listed Arthur as a highway patrolman; the four then-living children were all shown as born in Oklahoma.10

• The Livingstons were still in Tillman County in 1940; six sons and one daughter were enumerated in the household that year, and my great grandmother — Arthur’s aunt — Eula (Baird) Livingston Robertson was living with them as well.11

• At some point after 1940, the family moved to California. It was there that Arthur died in 1963. He was buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.12

You see what the problem is right away, don’t you?

We have all the facts about Arthur’s life.

But we don’t know a thing about the man.

He was just a boy when his mother became ill and was sent to New Mexico in the hopes of saving her life. What was that like? How did it change his life? Was he particularly close to her, as the baby of the family, or had she been so ill for so long that he didn’t really know her?

You know it had to be a terrible blow to lose a child the way Arthur lost Ralph, in 1927. What impact did that have on his life, and the lives of his other children? Was Ralph remembered in that family group… or was there a concerted effort to move on and leave the sadness behind?

Arthur and his family stuck it out in Oklahoma all the years of the Depression and the Dust Bowl times. What took him to California? Did he miss Oklahoma? Was it always home to him, or did California become so much more to him as time went on?

What, I wonder, was he really like?

As a genealogist, I am happy to have as much information about Arthur as I do have. It’s far more than I have on many of my cousins.

But as a family historian, I am deeply disappointed. How very little I know of this cousin of mine… and how much I hope his closer kin may be recording his stories …


  1. See “World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” digital images, ( : accessed 19 Sep 2014), card for Arthur Carlton Livingston, no. 35-3-38-A (stamped), Tillman County (Okla.) Draft Board; citing National Archives microfilm publication M1509, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.
  2. His brother Noel was born in Cherokee County in 1887; his sister Susie was born in Texas in 1889.
  3. 1900 U.S. census, Williamson County, Texas, Justice Precinct 2, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 125, p. 117(B) (stamped), dwelling 143, family 154, “Author” Livingston; digital image, ( : accessed 19 Sep 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 1679.
  4. See Tillman County, Oklahoma, Deed Book 4:384-385, Livingston to Brown & Wade, 11 July 1907; Tillman County Clerk’s Office, Frederick.
  5. Linda Norman Garrison, Tillman County Personals: Abstracts from Frederick, OK Newspapers May 1902-June 1911 (Lawton, Okla. : Southwest Oklahoma Genealogical Society, 2009), citing Frederick (Okla.) Enterprise, 16 Apr 1909.
  6. 1910 U.S. census, Tillman County, Oklahoma, Hazel Twp., population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 250, p. 107(A) (stamped), dwelling/family 145, Arthur C. Livingston; digital image, ( : accessed 19 Sep 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 1275.
  7. “World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” digital images, ( : accessed 29 May 2011), card for Arthur Carlton Livingston, no. 35-3-38-A (stamped), Tillman County (Okla.) Draft Board; citing National Archives microfilm publication M1509, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.
  8. 1920 U.S. census, Tillman County, Oklahoma, Stephens Twp., population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 183, p. 116(B)(stamped), dwelling/family 21, Arthur C. Livingston household; digital image, ( : accessed 19 Sep 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T625, roll 1489.
  9. Frederick City Cemetery (Frederick, Tillman County, Oklahoma; on County Road N 220, Latitude 34.3986926, Longitude -99.0475769), Ralph Livingston marker; photograph by J.G. Russell, 25 April 2003.
  10. 1930 U.S. census, Tillman County, Oklahoma, Hazel Twp., population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 71-11, p. 196(A) (stamped), sheet 2(A), dwelling/family 36, Arthur C. Livingston household; digital image, ( : accessed 19 Sep 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T626, roll 1932.
  11. 1940 U.S. census, Tillman County, Oklahoma, Frederick, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 71-5, sheet 1B, household 26, Arthur Livingston household; digital image, ( : accessed 19 Sep 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 3335.
  12. Rose Hills Memorial Park, Los Angeles County, California, Arthur C. Livingtson Sr. marker; digital image, Find A Grave ( : accessed 19 Sep 2014).
Posted in My family | 7 Comments