May 2009 Vol. 1 No. 3
Dear Cousin Heathcliff,
When researching my ancestors I have seen the word "intestate".
What does that mean?
Sincerely, Lost In Time
Dear Lost In Time,
The word "intestate" means not having a will. When you
see it in genealogy and in reference to a certain person it means that person died and did not have a will. Since there
was not a will, the distribution of land, money and goods would most likely go to a probate court.
I have been searching and searching for my great, great grandparents graves!
I have looked at every cemetery there is in the county they died in and can not find them! Where could they be?
Dear Cemetery Walker,
the known cemeteries, many people in the 1800's and beyond were buried on their own land or a small cemetery was started near
by for those who lived in the area. Later those small cemeteries were abandoned. Unfortunately, these graves
are hard to find because now they might be in the middle of someone's field! One way of finding these graves is by talking to
people who have lived in the area for sometime. Get in touch with the local public librarian or the historical
society. They might know of someone who has information about the area!
Maps are an important tool in locating where your ancestors lived. There are several kinds of maps
that are helpful to genealogists such as state, county, city and maps that show locations of mountains, rivers and creeks. These
maps can be used in conjuntion with certain documents that describe where your ancestor lived.
such as deeds, can indicate whether the land was bordered by a river/creek, if the land was near mountains or other land marks.
By taking the information from the deeds or other documents and looking at a map that shows what area the river/creek flowed or where
the mountains are located, one can pinpoint more accurately where your ancestor lived in that county. For example, if your early
ancstor had land that bordered the James River in a certain county in Virginia, a map that illustrates the river and counties for
that state would lay out the course of the James River and the counties that the river meandered through. Therefore, one
could see on the map where one's ancestor lived.
Old maps from the very early days of America were quite
decorative and sometimes hard to read. These maps may not be as accurate since the borders were not clearly defined at that
The Internet and public libraries are excellent sources for maps. A prime website for maps
is geology.com. Go to the site and then click on US Maps which will take you to a page that lists all the states. Click
on a state that you are researching and scroll down to view all the maps for that state including maps for rivers and counties.
The USGENWEB Project at usgenweb.org and familyhistory101.com have many maps that show county formation.
Have you been meticulously searching for your early ancestor in Alabama or Mississippi and
have come up empty handed? You know they were there in the early 1800's or maybe even the late 1700's but when you search documents
from Alabama or Mississippi nothing comes up! Try searching the Mississippi Territory. Even though it is called
the "Mississippi Territory", the area bordered on Tennessee and encompassed what is now Mississippi and Alabama.
The Mississippi Territory was formed April 7, 1798. At the time Georgia claimed this land but soon relinquished its claim.
In 1804 the Chattahoochee River was used as the dividing line between the Mississippi Territory and Georgia. When the river
turned east the border then followed the 35th parallel. In 1812 the Mobile District of west Florida was included.
Pioneers searching for better opportunities had already settled in this area prior to 1798. Most
settled in the Natchez Distrct (MIssissippi), Tombigbee District (southern Alabama) and the Tennessee Valley (northern Alabama).
The weather and soil provided excellent conditions for farming especially for cotton.
Mississippi Territory was divided up in 1817. The western section became the new state of Mississippi and the eastern section
became the Alabama Territory. This territory became the state of Alabama in 1819.