Ask and you shall recieve…maybe

Stevens family at Millard's funeral


This year we are starting a challenge for ourselves and our followers. Ok, mostly for me so I can make some headway on my research in a timely fashion. The challenge is to answer a question a week or a month (depending on how much research it will take). My first question of the year is: Is there a document out there for my great grandfather’s death? The photo above is the family at his funeral.

First, let’s pull out the handy dandy research log so I do not duplicate any research I have already done. Ancestors name at the top, Millard Stephens or Stevens, objective – locate a death certificate, and location – West Virginia. The first thing I will put is what I know from family and that is that he died late 1930’s early 40’s. The next thing I do is look for an obituary that would give me a date. Huzzah! I found one, in my own files from years ago and Boo! I did not mark down what website I found it. This, of course, was back before I learned how to research correctly (do as I say not as I did).  However, I had marked down what newspaper it was from, the Charleston Daily Mail, September 29, 1939.

Oobit Millard Stevens Charleston Daily Mail Wednesday evening September 27, 1939 page 14

I pulled up a 1939 calendar and found that September 29 was a Friday and it says he died on Monday so that would make his death on September 25. There are also two clues here, one is the Dunbar Masonic Lodge having charge of the burial in the family plot which I am guessing is out in the sticks somewhere from what my family tells me and the Rev. L. J. Priestly officiating. Before running down those two clues I pop over to the most wonderful WV research site where you can find birth, marriage, and death certificates and records. However, nothing shows up for Millard and I tried all different spellings, locations, and more to no avail. The date is recent enough that there should have been a record, right?

Moving on, I called the Dunbar Masonic Lodge and they were very helpful in sending me a file, and by file, I mean a one-page record that had Millard listed as a member but no record of them assisting in any way with a funeral. Next up, call the Kanawha County clerks office. They also did not have anything but sent me back to the state archives and they sent me back to the WV Culture site where I could request a search in the archives on the chance that maybe his record was not transcribed onto the site. I wrote the letter, included the obit, as I do not need them to send that to me, and am waiting for a response with fingers crossed.

Next, I researched the good Rev. L. J. Priestly. By putting his name on Google, it sent me to several WV Baptist sites. Baptist, who knew? After scrolling through several Google entries I found one that mentions the good Rev. and Forks of Coal Baptist Church, ah ha! Remember the Forks of Coal location in the obit? Click on the link, call the number, no answer and no message. But there is a Facebook page that seems to be updated frequently so I put in a message to them there and wait patiently for a response.

In the meantime, I plug in Rev. Priestly’s name in the search box in and the first thing that pops up is a city directory with Charleston, Dunbar, South Charleston, WV listed. Did ya see the Dunbar name? As in the Dunbar Masonic Lodge? Just helps to solidify that this is the right track. At this point, I went over all the places I could look and checked them off the list. You know the usual suspects, Ancestry, Family Search, Find My Past, Find a Grave. Nothing came up on any of them. Best hope at this point is a church record or the miracle of an actual death certificate from the state archives. Come on J. L. Priestly!

While waiting for a response from the church and the archives I called the Kanawha County Public Library and spoke to an awesome reference librarian who searched for an additional obituary for me. Sadly there was nothing. Just a few notes posted by the Masonic Lodge about the time and location of the funeral and one note in a social section about his son Herman and his wife returning from the funeral. The librarian did spend some time checking out the Rev. Priestly but not finding anything new or that I could use and directed me to a few other places to look such as the genweb site (which leads to Rootsweb which is currently down) and the Charleston WV Family History Center. The library had a handy-dandy donation tab so I could make a donation. Oh and nothing in the local histories at the History Center in case you were curious.

That is all I can do at this point until I hear back from the church and the state archives. I think my question for next week will be “Where did Millard live from birth to death?”. This will involve some Google Earth mapping (if I can remember how to do it). What is your question and did you get an answer? Curious minds want to know!

4 thoughts on “Ask and you shall recieve…maybe

  1. Me again. You might be able to tell I just found your podcast today. Are you still doing it? I am currently addicted to genealogy podcasts and Genealogical Mystery books. But my question is about research logs. Yours in particular because I’m just beginning to hear I need to start keeping one. Is your Reaearch Log in paper notebooks? On line? In a Word Doc? On your smartphone? Does RootsMagic support one? I was thinking of maybe using school composition books by surname? Or maybe Notes in my Apple smartphone. Is your columnar? Narrative? Have you blogged about yours and I failed to notice? Did you ever create one and later realized another style was better? At 75 I don’t have enough time for lots of experimenting. I need to get doing gen research right from now on, put my many scoured people/docs/pics in a program and create/use a research log worthy of leaving for one of my kids to pick up my research later. Really appreciate your blog and your help! Many thanks and blessings! Is/was your J L Preistly a relative of the famous author Priestly who went by his surname and similar initials.?

    1. Hi Simona,
      We are still podcasting but as you can see we are not super regular. We both are so busy it is often hard to find time to get it done.
      If you are referring to my excel log for documents, I keep a digital and paper copy of all documents and give them a letter number like M54. The M would be for marriage and the number would be the next in sequence. Then on my log I have the names of all the people I am researching in alpha order down the left side and across the top are the documents I could possibly find. So if it is a marriage record for John Smith I then find his name and scroll over to the marriage column and put M54 in the box. I will add this to his wife as well. The digital copy is named M54 John Smith marriage certificate and filed in a folder under Smith (for the entire Smith family). The print copy goes into a binder in the Marriage section in numerical order so it is easy to find. When I need to get my hands on the paper copy I just look in the log and see the number and can easily find it.
      The other research log would specific to what question you are trying to answer and keep track of where you have already researched so you dont go to the same place two or three times. I have tried others and this one works for me and yes, there are different ones out there that you can try out. As far as my phone I have a microsoft excel app on my apple phone and I can pull up my log on there. This is especially helpful if I find a document and see quickly if I already have it. If I do there will be the letter-number in the box.
      Yes, Roots Magic has a research log in its program very similar to the paper one and it is very helpful.
      I do not know about the Priestly connection but that is an interesting thought.
      Hope this helped a little bit.

      1. Oh my goodness gracious! This was so descriptive and helps me a ton!! Love the simple file numerical system! Simplest and best I’ve heard described. Errrr read.

        Ive been saving my digital docs by a 3 letter code by type then year then the name of the primary person or persons placing surnames first. This results in descriptive but long names. And creates filing and retrieval challenges.

        Your System would work for me as long as I have a device with me to access the Numbers or Excel Log Spreadsheets. I usually do have my iPhone or iPad about me. It’s too brilliant and simple for me to have ever thought up on my own.

        And frankly- my paper docs are only separated (to a degree) by whether the family is Dad’s lines or Mom’s and then USA or UK since mom’s mom was born in UK. To be specifically honest – I have tubs of unsourced documents & photos in relatively unsorted piles within the tubs. Many are stacked in an unused shower stall.

        I even have my grandparents diaries and letters back to WW1 in tubs and an old sea chest. They had an open marriage which makes for interesting reading. Didn’t do much for their children in my opinion but they were brilliant creatives aka The Great Gatsby sans the rich trappings. I’m proud of their genius if not of their lifestyle choices.

        I am really enjoying your podcast and HUGELY appreciate your kindness and time to respond so THOROUGHLY and well!

        Plugging along in grace and learning slowly as I go, Simona

        p.s. Typed on a smartphone by a creaky arthritic. Sorry for uncaught errors


      2. Simona, that is so wonderful that you have all that correspondence saved away and I am sure will be interesting reading for future generations. How fun!
        One thing I like about storing things digitally is you can put them in so many places (files) without make lots of paper copies, but I still have the paper copies too but just one with my system.
        Thanks for sharing your story and keep plugging along!

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