Posted in Genealogy, Methodology

Jumpstarting Your Genealogy Brain

Amy Johnson Crow wrote about Breaking Out of Your Genealogy Comfort Zone. Seemed like a good idea. I’ve felt a little bit uninspired in my genealogy research lately.  I needed a new approach.  Amy broke out of her comfort zone by taking a non genealogy class and improving her social media skills.

yale-courseSo this idea has been rolling around in my head: Where do I need to improve my skill set? As I wrote up my proposal for a Civil War class for NGS 2017, it occurred to me, that I focus on researching Civil War and the records, but what about the war itself?  The years leading up to it, the years after it?  And how did it change the lives of my ancestors? Context is everything.

I turned to The Google and found this gem: Hist 119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877  It’s a free college course taught by Yale Professor David W Blight.

Yes, please.🙂

Even if I never watched a single session, the required texts alone are worth it!  No discussion of records or the GPS, but lots of discussion about the mindset of the people on both sides.

And understanding our ancestors in the context of their time and place will make us better genealogists.

And I’ve gained some new inspiration to tackle old problems with some new ideas.  How do you break out of your comfort zone and learn new things?


Posted in Conferences

My Family Married Each Other a Lot and Other Musings from RootsTech

When an offhand remark from RootsTech ended up on Twitter, I knew I must have had the attention of a few people!

Four lectures in four days along with a few booth demos of Ancestry Academy left me pretty tired, but it was worth it. Great groups of people in all of my classes – I had a great time.

The more I teach, the more I am convinced, conference goers love methodology. Tell me how to do something! I’m including links for PDFs of all of my talks. And a pointer to the livestream of my search talk.

If you were in my classes, thanks for attending!




Posted in Follow Friday

Genealogy Isn’t Free? An Oratrix? It’s Follow Friday!

What I’ve Been Reading This Week

What I’ve Been Writing This Week

Posted in Follow Friday, Genealogy

Moonshine, Civil War, Newspapers and an Assassin. It’s Follow Friday!

What I’ve been reading and writing this week.  Enjoy!

A couple of To Be Continued posts that you should start reading:

And a little shameless self promotion, my 3 posts in’s Sticky Notes this week:

Posted in Genealogy, Sorting Saturday

Never Assume Anything. Sixty and Serving. Sorting Saturday.

A couple of days ago I wrote a post The Legal Genealogist Inspires Me to Take Another Look at the Puzzle of Jeremiah which discusses why can I find no record of my 2nd great grandfather Jeremiah Gillespie fighting for the Confederacy?  Or the Union for that matter.

Marian Regan mentioned in a comment that maybe she should go back and look for her ancestor who seemed to old being born in 1817, but who knew?  Maybe he did fight.  It is not out of the realm of possibility.

Robert Bryant discharge
Robert Bryant discharge. Reasons include “old age” and “he is just worn out.

In 2011 I wrote a series of 6 posts for on the Civil War.  The last 4 were about Robert Bryant, who was born about 1802.  Yep, 1802.  He fought for the 7th Kentucky Calvary (Union) and died from complications from a skin infection in a military hospital.  Don’t assume anything!🙂

My two introductory posts:

Four posts about Robert Bryant:

I sometimes regret publishing these — they would have been an awesome case study for conflicting evidence for my CG.  It is what it is.

Posted in Genealogy, Treasure Chest Thursday

The Legal Genealogist Inspires Me to Take Another Look at the Puzzle of Jeremiah. Treasure Chest Thursday

I just read Judy Russell’s blog post The drafty Ohioan in her blog The Legal Genealogist where she discusses why Ignatius or Ignatz Fleitz didn’t fight for the Union during the Civil War.  Her discussion focuses  on laws at that time and what the possibilities were for not fighting.

And of course my 2nd great grandfather, Jeremiah Gillespie, pops into my head.  His older brother Everett Milton enlisted.  His younger brothers Varlan, William and John all have enlistment paper trails.  But I have never found any record of Jeremiah fighting.  Why not?  He lived in Amherst County, Virginia in 1860 and in 1870.  The Confederacy by the end of the war had almost every male between the ages of 17 and 50 fighting.1

So how old was Jeremiah during the Civil War?  His birth year has always been a bit fuzzy, but here is what we know.  I have a record of a bible page, that lists his birth date as March 4, 1826.2

Jeremiah Gillespie's birth date in the Gillespie Family Bible
Jeremiah Gillespie’s birth in the Gillespie Family Bible: March 4th 1826

His marriage as it is recorded in the Amherst marriage register suggests that he is was born in 1828 or later.  He is married November 21, 1848 and as listed as underage (under 21).  If he were born March 4th, 1828, he would have been twenty.  For the sake of argument, let’s assume he was born either March 4, 1826 or 1828.

Register entry for Jeremiah and Mary Gillespie
Register entry for Jeremiah and Mary Gillespie

I build a table to see how old Jeremiah was on the dates of various Conscription Acts:3

Dates and Age of Jeremiah for 3 Confederate Conscription Acts
Dates and Age of Jeremiah for 3 Confederate Conscription Acts

From this table, we see that at least by July 15, 1863 he should have enlisted in the war.  Why didn’t he?  What exemptions were there?

On October 11, 1862, the Confederate Congress passed what was known as the Twenty Slave Law allowing men who owned over 20 slaves exemption from service.4 But the 1860 slave schedule shows us that Jeremiah owned no slaves. The only Gillespie in Amherst County who is listed as owning slaves in 1860 is Wyatt Gillespie, whom I believe to be Jeremiah’s brother-in-law.5 I don’t think it was the Twenty Slave exemption.

I do notice something interesting on the Encyclopedia page. It’s a picture of document used for Applying for a Military Exemption. Can anyone say “To Do List!”

Applying for a Military Exemption article on Encyclopedia Virginia
Applying for a Military Exemption article on Encyclopedia Virginia

It was possible for a man to purchase a substitute for $300.  But I don’t believe that Jeremiah was a man of much means. In 1860, he declares he has real estate worth $300 and a personal estate of $50; his occupation as a farmer.6  Sure, anything is possible, but I don’t think this is it.

The Confederacy did exempt men who worked in occupations “such as railroad and river workers, civil officials, telegraph operators, miners, druggists and teachers.”7

So I have two possibilities:

  1. He enlisted and I just haven’t found the right record yet or
  2. He has an exemption, and I should try searching for that paper work.

And I always wanted to believe he was a spy! But for now, I’m going to try and track down exemption records.  The answers are out there.


1. Wikipedia (, “Confederate States Army,” rev 4:16, 31 Dec 2012.
2. The Holy Bible, (New York, American Bible Society, 1857), “Family Records, Births”, p840; privately held by Anne Gillespie Mitchell, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] California, 2012. The sons of Tarlton and Mahala Gillespie are listed with their birth dates; it appears that they were all written at one time and are dated April 20 1860.
3. Wikipedia, “Confederate States Army,” rev 4:16, 31 Dec 2012.
4. Lee, Susanna Michele, “Twenty-Slave Law,” Encyclopedia Virginia (http:// accessed : 10 Jan 2013); Foundation for the Humanities, 31 May 2012
5. 1860 U.S. census, Amherst County, Virginia, slave schedule, Gill?spie; NARA microfilm publication M653.
6. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule,, p. 132 (penned), dwelling 979, family 977, Jaremiah Gillispie; digital images, ( accessed : 18 Jul 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication, M653, roll 1332.

7. CJ’s Civil War Home Page ( accessed : Jan 10 2013 ), “Confederate Draft.”

Posted in Wisdom Wednesday

Wisdom Wednesday — The World is a Limitless Place

I am a perpetual student because the world is a limitless place. — Elissa Scalise Powell

I had the honor of being in Elissa’s class when I was a student in the Boston University Online Certificate program.  She was inspiring then, and in a recent post on APG mailing list, she delivered the above gem.  (I couldn’t find this attributed to anyone else, so I assume it is hers.)  It was part of a great discussion about education.

When I was a computer science student at the University of Arkansas working on my bachelor’s degree, I remember sitting in an architecture class and thinking, there is absolutely no way I am ever going to know all there is to know about this.  It inspired me to go get a Master’s Degree at Purdue.

I had that moment in my BU class where the light went on and I knew I would have to pick and choose what I became truly knowledgeable about in Genealogy.

For me, I want to know all I can about Southern Genealogy, specifically Virginia, and the Carolina’s and the Civil War.  That is where my family’s history lies.

Oh, and sourcing!

Some days I feel like I am making progress and some days I am overwhelmed.

But I keep reading and practicing.  Because the world is indeed a limitless place.

Posted in Blogging Prompts, Maiden Aunts and Bachelor Uncles, Sunday Obituaries

Sunday’s Obituary — Maiden Aunts and Bachelor Uncles: Sarah, Civil War Child

Sarah Gillespie, daughter of Jeremiah and Mary Gillespie was born sometime during February of 1860 in Amherst County, Virginia. She was had 1 sister and 2 brothers; the family had a $300 farm and personal possessions worth $50.1

Sarah, 8 months old in the 1860 census, which was enumerated October of 1860.

She died in Feb of 1865.2

Her short little life spanned the Civil War.  She had 4 or 5 uncles who fought in the war for the Confederacy and I’m quite sure many neighbors.  The stress that must have been in the household is difficult to imagine.  I’m sure during the end, that good food and medicine were hard to come by.

I have no idea why she died.  Her mother was about 5 months pregnant with my great great grandfather Wyatt when Sarah died.  The pain Mary must have felt losing one child while carrying another.

I have just two records that Sarah is in, the 1860 census and her death index.

A brief blip in human history, but not forgotten.


1. 1860 U.S. Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule,, p. 132 (penned), dwelling 979, family 977, Jaremiah Gillispie and family; digital images, ( accessed : 18 Jul 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication, M653, roll Unknown.
2. Virginia, Deaths and Burial Index, 1853-1917, database, ( : accessed 22 Jul 2012), entry for Sarah Gilispie, daughter of Jerry and Mary Gillespie, Feb 1865, Amherst, Virginia.
Posted in Genealogy, Sunday Obituaries

Sunday’s Obituary — Maiden Aunts and Bachelor Uncles: Harriet Ann Gillespie

Harriet Ann Gillespie was born on June 14 1850 in Amherst, Virginia and died at the age of 70 on October 5, 1920 in Lexington, Virginia.  She never married.  (I had a photograph of her tombstone which is in Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, but I lost it when my dog chewed up my phone. Backups, heh?). Her grave is a short distance from her brother Wyatt’s home at 108 Houston Street where she appears to have lived at least the last few months of her life.

Harriet was the oldest child of Jeremiah Gillespie and Mary E Gillespie who according to my Great Aunt Eva were first cousins.  In 1850 she lived with her parents on a farm in Amherst, Virginia. 1

By 1860, the family had grown.  Harriet had two brother s James and William, ages 9 and 7, and sister Sarah who was born in the Feb of 1860.  (Note: Brother George was born January 28, 1856, but is not listed on the 1860 census.) 2
Virginia seceded from the Union in April of 1861.  Her father’s brothers Everett Milton, Varlan, William, and John Calvin all served in the Confederacy.  There is not record of her father serving which remains a mystery as to why he did not.  At the age of 35, while he was a little old to serve at the beginning, give the shortage of men the Confederacy has, it surprises me that he was called up.  He may have served and I may have not found the record of it yet.

Her only sister, Sarah died in Feb of 1865 at the age of 5. 3

Her mother’s brother Wyatt also served.  He died in a Yankee prison camp in Elmira New York on May 8, 1865. 4 Harriet’s youngest brother Wyatt was born on July 15, 1865. 5  While I don’t know for sure, I suspect he was named for his Uncle.

In 1870, Virginia is admitted back into the Union and Reconstruction starts.  It is not hard to imagine that the family is weary and embittered by the war.  Harriet works as a farm hand on her parent’s farm that is value ad $100.  She lives with her parents, her brothers James, William, George and Paul in Pedlar, Amherst, Virginia. 6  Given the number of men who died in the war, it is very likely that the number of suitors was greatly diminished which may explain why Harriet never married.

In 1880, she lives with her parents, and her brother’s George and Wyatt, all of them working on the family farm. 7

In the next 20 years, her parents Jeremiah and Mary die, although I have yet to locate the documentation for exactly when, and I’m not sure what happens to the property that they own.   In 1900 Harriet lives with her brother George in Pedlar renting a farm.  They appear to be living next door to James H Donald, who is the older brother of George and Harriet’s brother, Wyatt’s wife, Laura Donald. 8

I cannot find Harriet in the 1910 census, but in 1920 she is living with her brother Wyatt and his wife Laura.  She passes away in October of that year. 9

She lived through the Civil War, and I’m sure she saw much hardship.  It appears that after her parent’s death she lived with other family members.  She is mostly entries in census records.

Was she kind? Was she bitter? Did her family willingly take her in?  Or did they feel duty bound?  Did she have a suitor who died in the War?

She lived through impassioned, racially charged times in the South.  What did she think and feel about the times she lived through?

I will probably never know much about her, she is truly one of those forgotten stories in the Gillespie family tree.  But at least she is a little less forgotten.


1. 1850 U.S Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, Eastern, p. 96 (inferred), dwelling 340, family 340, Jeremiah Gillaspie and family; digital images, ( accessed : 18 Jul 2012);  citing NARA microfilm publication, M432, roll 933.
2. 1860 U.S. Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule,, p. 132 (penned), dwelling 979, family 977, Jaremiah Gillispie and familydigital images, ( accessed : 18 Jul 2012);   citing NARA microfilm publication, M653, roll RRR
3. “Virginia, Deaths and Burial Index, 1853-1917,” database, ( : accessed 22 Jul 2012), entry Sarah Gilispie, daughter of Jerry and Mary Gillespie, Feb 1865, Amherst, Virginia.
4. Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 22 Jul 1922), memorial page for Corp Wiatt Gillespie  Find A Grave Memorial no. 35296331, citing Elmira Prison Camp, Chemung County, New York, USA.
5. Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 6 Aug 2010), memorial page for Wyatt Paul Gillespie (1865 – 1941), Find A Grave Memorial no. 56048050, citing Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia; the tombstone is for Wyatt Paul Gillespie and his wife Laura Cecile Donald.
6. 1870 U.S. Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, Peddler, p. 497 (stamped), dwelling 218, family 210, Jeremiah Glasby;  digital images, ( accessed : 18 Jul 2012);  digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, M593, roll 1633.
7. 1880 U.S. Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, Pedlar, enumeration district 19, p. 215A (stamped), p. 13 (penned), dwelling 118, family 125, Jese Gilaspiedigital images, ( accessed : 18 Jul 2012);  digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, T9, roll 1353.
8. 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, Pedlar, p. 123 (stamped), enumeration district (ED) 11, sheet 19-A, dwelling 336, family 341, George C and Harriott A Galispie; digital image, ( : accessed : 19 Jul 2012 ); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1699.
9. 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Rockbridge County, Virginia, population schedule, Lexington, p. 133 (stamped), enumeration district (ED) 121, sheet 1-A, dwelling 336, family 341, Harriet A Gillespie; digital image, ( : accessed : 19 Jul 2012 ); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1906.