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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

May 31, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Wills in Lee County

Q: How do I locate a will that you filmed in Lee county Georgia so that I can make a copy of it? I have a copy of the will sent to me by the library in Albany Georgia. They told me that you microfilmed the wills and I should contact you to find out how I could get a copy I can read. One side of mine is almost black and I cannot read that side. Are these wills in a book in the library? I went to your LDS Family History Center but could not find a listing under Lee County. The Bible records are of Anson Ball, and I know that you have microfilmed the will since I have a partial readable will. -- Marie

A: It looks like you may have confused with the Family History Library. They are two separate entities.

A search of the Family History Library Catalog, though, did reveal that there are microfilmed probate records for Lee County, Georgia. In fact, the will records cover the years 1854 to 1955. They were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1964 under the direction of the Family History Library.

I double-checked the date of microfilming to make sure that the entries would be in any version of the Library catalog that is currently available.

In rereading your message though, perhaps you were looking for a catalog subject heading for "Wills" as opposed to the heading of "Probate Records" that includes all types of records that may be generated at the time of death. In addition to wills, the records found under this heading may be inventories, letters of administration, and guardianship bonds.

Unauthorized Use

Q: While perusing the Family Tree site, I noticed that there is some information relating to my own research which apparently has been published on WFT Vol. 39, Tree 144. This is very distressing to me, as I did not authorize any of this data for publication. Also, much of the data is unverified as of present and could be incorrect. This does nothing for either your or my own credibility. Kindly advise me how this information was approved for publication in the first place. If someone else has sent the information for publication (unfortunate as much of it is, as yet, unsubstantiated), then perhaps this is cause for some legal steps to be taken.-- Wanda

A: There is some confusion as to what rights a researcher has over the research they have done. Often I get messages similar to yours requesting, sometimes demanding, that I make sure either a tree is removed from the World Family Tree or that someone's Web page be deleted because information about their family appears on it.

There are researchers all over the world, many of them incorporating information from a tree of mine or yours into their database. In many cases we have actually sent them the information that we now find displayed online. In other cases they have simply found the information through their research and incorporated it into their database. They either publish this database on the Web or submit it to a compilation such as World Family Tree.

Unless the individual involved has taken a family story that you wrote or some other creative aspect of your family tree (a photo you own, for instance) there is no legal issue involved here. Facts are not copyrighted. Facts can be found in many different ways by many different people. To assume that you are the only person who knows something is to be mislead.

While I will grant you that it can be surprising to discover yourself in the World Family Tree, as it has happened to me, there is nothing that we can do to have the information removed or updated. You can however find out who submitted the information and then correspond with that person. If nothing else, perhaps you can convince them to republish the tree, this time with accurate information. You can request submitter information by visiting this Web page that includes the steps for requesting the contributor information.

Finally, I did want to respond to your comment about credibility. There are many compilations similar to World Family Tree that are out there. Among them is RootsWeb's WorldConnect and the Ancestral File of the Family History Library. For some reason it is only World Family Tree that is expected to be 100% accurate, perhaps because it falls under the subscription umbrella. Compilations such as World Family Tree and Ancestral File are secondary sources at best. They are the research of other individuals and should be used only as clues in the pursuit of more reliable documents such as vital records and wills. As researchers, it is our duty to verify the information found in a secondary source.

Ellis Island Records

Q: Records listed on the ship manifests show marital status, but do not indicate if anyone was traveling with them. Do they have any records to indicate wife, husband, children? -- Chester

A: I am not sure if you are referring to the new online Ellis Island Records Web site or the actual manifests themselves.

Usually on the ship manifest a family was listed together. While there is no relationship listed to the head of the family, if you find three or four people in a row with the same last name, it was usually the parent or parents followed by the child or children. The ages seem to bear this out. Of course, additional research would need to be done to prove that indeed these people were a family.

If you are viewing the listing for an individual found in the online database for Ellis Island, you may not have gone far enough in your search. First you have the list of hits for a given search. You can then click on one of those individuals to get the passenger record, or more aptly the record of that specific passenger. On this screen you will find along the left side a link to the ship manifest. This will take you to a list of individuals as they appeared on the page. Finally at this point you can then view the scanned page.

Whether you find the individual online or on microfilm, the initial information will eventually be the same. The original manifest though will offer more information as there were many questions asked of those disembarking at Ellis Island.

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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