The website AncientFaces is a free website dedicated to sharing biographies and photos of your ancestors or of historical events and the people who made those events history. This is a collaborative/crowdsourcing website where you can choose to add to existing biographies or upload your own photos of your family. They’ve been around for 20 years but I must confess I didn’t realize this website existed until the last few months. According to their About AncientFaces tab, they have over 1 million images and 200 million biographies which is definitely well worth checking out!

Starting an account is free on their site. You can choose to subscribe to emails detailing new features or comments made on your posts. Their landing page tells you “Everyone deserves to be remembered” and shows you photos that have been recently uploaded or topics of interest or families that have new information. When you find a topic or picture that you like, you can click on the heart and add it to your favorites. You can unclick on the heart and they are removed.

Don’t be fooled by what seems like only a handful of names in the biography section. If you were searching for the last name “Popplewell”, for example, in the “Search Biographies” section on the home page, you would click on a name ending in P that is closest to your surname. In my case, I clicked on Bonnie Pinson. This brought up a list of names from Pinson to Purchase but I don’t see the name Popplewell in this list. I clicked on a name close to Popplewell – Joseph Poppolardo – and I see a list of names from A. Popplewell to Zoe Popplewell. Scanning this list, I can click on the name of someone who interests me, read what has been written about them already, and add more information or a picture if I choose. (Clicking on someone will automatically add them to your favorites. If you do not want them added, just unclick the heart on their profile picture.)

Of course, you can always find people by using the search function at the top of the screen. If you use the search bar, you can choose to look for a person or a photo. Just typing in a last name will bring you to a family page that will let you know how many bios and pictures of people with that last name exist. If you see someone who might be an ancestor, you can click on that specific person. (I wouldn’t recommend that route if you’re looking for the last name “Smith” but it works well on unusual surnames.)

If you are adding regional research to your genealogy hunt, you can look for pictures of the area in which you are searching. For instance, I can search for “Jefferson County Colorado” and choose “photos” to see what pictures of this area have been uploaded by members. Currently, 9 photos appear when I do that search and each one is of a family or person. The pictures may not be specific to the place you are researching, but for them to appear in the search, there is a mention of the area in the photo description, such as the birthplace of the ancestor in the photo. When I choose “Denver Colorado” and “photos”, many more images appear, including a great photo of the highway from Denver to Idaho Springs in 1941, years before it was I-70.

If I look at the bottom of the page, I see that this photo is in an album titled “The 1940s”. Clicking on that link, I find more links to photos about Christmas, Life in the 40s, and the Holocaust.

Take some time and have a look at this site. Keep in mind that your bios can be edited by others as this site is collaborative and your photos will be available for everyone with a free account to view. I would advise not putting information about living people on this site. Take a look, though. Who knows? Maybe some distant cousin has that picture of your great-great-grandfather you didn’t know existed!

Happy Hunting!

Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay


The idea of researching my family tree while wearing an “I Love Family History” t-shirt while at the same time drinking coffee from a “Genealogy is Great” mug is motivating and exciting. Doing my essential grocery shopping each week while wearing a “Genealogy Equals Happiness” mask makes that task a little less drudging. While on the hunt for wearable genealogy, I found this website:

The apparel store on this site is full of genealogical goodies: mugs, totes, phone cases, magnets, t-shirts & all sorts of stuff. Initially, I was only looking for items with slogans, but this site also has a lot of books, e-books, charts, and forms.

As an example of some of the books available, they have The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy 4th Edition by Val D. Greenwood at a great price. I have this book and although I haven’t yet finished it, I am learning a lot from it. They also have about 7,000 other books, such as a new book titled Remembering Anabaptist Ancestors: Amish Migrations and Family Stories by Gerald J Mast. This book contains stories about some of my direct ancestors. There are also books specific to states, such as The Lost Cities Of Colorado by Laurel Michele Wickersheim and Rawlene Lebaron.

Don’t forget to check out the clearance section. For a few bucks, you can find books such as After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans by  Donald R. Shaffer and London: A History by  Francis Sheppard.

By the way, I don’t get any kickbacks from this site. I’m glad they exist and I wanted to share my latest find with you. They currently have a sale going on, too.

Meanwhile, on the genealogy research front, I have started a spreadsheet listing all the neighbors of my great-great-great-grandfather, George Lewis, on the 1850 census for Cross Creek Township, Jefferson County, Ohio. I plan to cross reference these names with the ones on the 1855 Illinois State Census in Cumberland County and see if I find any matches. I do not know the father of George Lewis, although there is a suggested ancestor on without documentation. I’m curious to know if the Lewis’ moved to Illinois with any family members or groups. I know his in-laws moved out to Illinois and perhaps I can find some other collateral relatives. I’m sure I’ll be writing a blog post on this in the future.

Meanwhile, Happy Hunting and Happy Thanksgiving!

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay



Cemeteries have always fascinated me. On a trip to Boston when I was in college, I couldn’t walk by a graveyard without going in. I took so many pictures of tombstones of people both famous and non. (Somewhere I have a collection of tombstone pictures waiting to be uploaded to the net!)

Here in Colorado the tombstones are not quite as old as they are on the east coast. I still occasionally wander through the graveyards, reading the stones, wondering about the people and whether anyone out there still remembers them or pays a visit once in a while. When I was younger, I’d climb over the walls if I ran across an old cemetery to check it out. Sometimes the stones were vandalized and that always made me sad.

I discovered a website called “Ancestors At Rest”. The URL for this site is At first glance, it looks like a website from the 1990s and I wondered if it was actually still being updated. I’ve clicked on some of the links and found most of them are still valid. There are links to the Olive Tree Genealogy website and Facebook pages which are alive and well. I will be discussing the Olive Tree Genealogy website in a future post.

I was not able to find a Search box on this site, but I looked at some of the links available and what is posted on the site. There is also a Site Map at the bottom of the website which came in handy.

So, what types of records are there on this site? Coffin Plates. What is a coffin plate? I didn’t know. I learned from the site that “The history of Coffin Plates or casket plates is a long but not very well documented one. Coffin plates are decorative adornments attached to the coffin that contain free genealogical information like the name and death date of the deceased.” So why are these floating around and not buried in the ground? Apparently, they used to be attached to the coffin and buried (and some have been removed when graves have been relocated), but gradually people started to take them off before burial or even just display them on a stand next to the coffin. This website has a list of coffin plates that have been found, alphabetized by last name. I had to click on a coffin plate for a Sarah M. Martin. I found a picture of a beautiful plate with her birth and death dates – 1830 to 1866. The creator of the website, Brian L. Massey, has a personal collection of 500 of these.

There are links to Funeral Cards/Memorial Cards, a handful of Funeral Home records, some Family Bible records, and Obituaries. There are a few Death Certificates, Church Burial records, Wills, and a few Cenotaph Ontario records (war memorials). Of course there are cemetery records, but other surprising records such as naturalizations and censuses.

Of course I had to find out what Colorado records were there. I found “Search Free Death Records by Country” and the United States is organized by state. All of the cemetery listings were for Logan County. I’ve lived in this state for 50 years and I do not know where Logan County is – shame on me! It is in the NE part of the state and the county seat is Sterling. (I’ve been to Sterling several times.) I clicked on the link for the St. Petersburg Cemetery and found a good sized list compiled by a lady named Peggy.

There are links throughout this website for other sites that have free or paid genealogical info. This site is definitely worth looking into to see what is available for the area you are searching even though these are not extensive collections. There is a link to the Ancestors At Rest Blog but that has not been updated since 2017. On that blog is a bio of Brian L. Massey, the creator of the website.

Happy Hunting!

Sara Martin/Smart Canyon Genealogy

Image by ju-dit from Pixabay

Website Wednesday


I was thinking that this particular Website Wednesday wouldn’t happen due to all of the computer problems I’ve had this last week. Take note: make sure you back up your files to a cloud service. You will be very glad you did! My computer may need to go in for service but I was still able to write this up.

This week, I wanted to take a look at the Allen County Public Library. The URL for this library is This library is not just a local library for Allen County, Indiana. It happens to be the second largest genealogical library in the United States.1 The focus is on North America, but they happen to have some British and European records, also. They hold 11,000 periodicals from genealogy and historical societies all over the United States, some defunct and some still publishing. Because of this, they have created PERSI – The Periodical Source Index. The PERSI Index can be found at It is free to search, but you need a subscription to view any images. You can always contact the Allen County Library if you see something that you would like copied.2 Currently, it is $7.50 for 6 articles, plus .20 per page.3

One of the great things about ACPL is their free webinars that you can view. I have watched several and they provide some valuable information. For instance, this month they are having webinars on such topics as Revolutionary War Pension Records, Finding Your German Family History, 19th Century Military Records, and Free Newspaper Sites to Assist Family Historians.

They offer both free databases and on-site databases if you can visit. Examples of free databases include African American Gateway, Family Bible Records, Our Military Heritage, and Other States Resources. Being as I live in Colorado, I am always curious to see what Colorado records are available elsewhere. They have available online the Canon City Daily Records Index from 2014 to 2016 which appears to be typewritten births, marriages, and obituaries from Canon City.4

You can also subscribe to their free newsletter, Genealogy Gems, which gives updates about their collections plus research tips. The back issues from 2004-2019 are currently available to view online.5 I would encourage you to check out their newsletter, watch some webinars (the people who present them are great!), and look around on their site.

Happy hunting!

1FamilySearch Wiki contributors, “United States Archives and Libraries,” FamilySearch Wiki, (accessed November 10, 2020).

2FamilySearch Wiki contributors, “Periodical Source Index (PERSI),” FamilySearch Wiki, (accessed November 10, 2020).

3“The Genealogy Center – Our Services “. 2020. Acpl-Cms.Wise.Oclc.Org. (accessed November 10, 2020).

4“Canon City Daily Record Index, Fremont County, Colorado – ACPL Genealogy Center”. 2020. Genealogycenter.Info. (accessed November 10, 2020)

5“The Genealogy Center – Genealogy Gems”. 2020. Acpl-Cms.Wise.Oclc.Org. (accessed November 10, 2020)

Website Wednesday

I’ve amassed quite a number of favorite genealogy websites under my “Ancestry” bookmarks folder on Chrome and I thought I would take the time to share some of them with you.  There will be websites that are fairly well known but others will be a bit more obscure.  I intend to go in alphabetical order as I post each week but I can’t promise that I won’t skip around!

Access Genealogy

The URL for this free site is  Their home page is full of pictures and articles and is frequently updated.  I have been subscribing to their blog posts and the topics vary from “Czechs in Cleveland” to “The Heritage of Clarks, Nebraska” to “An Account of the Captivity of Hugh Gibson”.  This website was started over 20 years ago.

According to their home page, they specialize in Native American genealogy, but they also have links to free databases and sources online for all types of genealogical records.  The home page explains how to do searches on their site for these records.

Besides Native American, the tab headers include Black Genealogy, Cemetery Records, Census Records, DNA, Military Records, and Vital Records.  There are also links to records for US States on the side.  I looked up Colorado and saw an interesting title: “Highway 83 Abandoned Cemetery, Arapahoe County, Colorado”.  Four individuals are buried there. With a bit of googling, I found that this abandoned cemetery is (or was, not sure if it is still there) somewhere between S. Parker Road and S. Jordan Road and is known as the Lewis Cemetery.

Under the Military Records tab, I discovered that the National Park Service has a database for all of the prisoners of war in the infamous Andersonville Prison.  I was able to find my great-great-grandfather, John A. Johnson, who served in the 38th Illinois Regiment, was captured, sent to Andersonville, and miraculously survived.

Key in the search term Biographies in the search bar and many biographies will pop up in the results section.  You can narrow the search results by location.  For instance, there are 470 biographies of people from Ontario, Canada.

Many of the links direct you to, the largest database of genealogical records not behind a paywall, but some of the links lead you to transcriptions such as the Register of St. Philip’s Parish, South Carolina which I arrived at through the South Carolina link on the right-hand side of the home page.  Unfortunately, some of the links will also direct you to a paid site such as Ancestry.

I encourage you to check this out, especially if your subscription to Ancestry, MyHeritage, Findmypast, etc. has lapsed and it’s driving you bonkers not being able to do your genealogy the way you were doing it before.  There is plenty out there to find, you just have to do a bit of creative hunting!

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Murder on the York Road

Image by Alicja from Pixabay

The year is 1861. George Lewis, a 47 year old man who is not too old but no longer young, is hauling freight in a wagon on the York Road outside of his home in Greenup, Illinois. Maybe he is hauling supplies like timber staves that are needed for his shop back home where he makes barrels, buckets, and casks. Perhaps he is thinking about his family: his beautiful wife Sarah, with her long red hair, or his new baby girl, Ezube, or maybe his oldest son, Jacob, already 14 and becoming quite the young man.

Watching his horses and the road, he is startled by a shout. He looks around and catches sight of some outlaw band of men, intent of robbing him of his money and his cargo. He shouts at the horses but too late – they are on him. Too quick for him, they seize his property and take his life, leaving George laying there lifeless on the road.

At their house, Sarah waits, along with 7 children, for a man that will never come home. The two youngest girls will never remember their father. Jacob will have to assume the responsibilities of the man of the house. Their 17 year old daughter, Mary, will have to help assume the burden.

This man is my great-great-great grandfather. I was aware for many years that he died relatively young in his forties. Was it an accident, I wondered. Did he succumb to cholera, typhus, diphtheria? Did he have a weak heart? I never knew. I just recorded the facts as I saw them. His last mention on a census was in 1860.

I do not yet know who his parents were. He was born in New York around 1816 and he migrated west to Steubenville, Ohio where he was a cooper, falling in love and marrying a woman named Sarah Neal. After a few children were born, the National Highway was calling out, promising a new life in a new state. This was the road that ran from Cumberland, Pennsylvania to Greenup, Illinois – the first federally funded road, since replaced by I-70 and US-40. The highway was popular in the 1840s and 1850s before the advent of the railroad and George and Sarah knew they could make a good home and prosper farther west in Greenup, Illinois, located in Cumberland County.

Upon looking at some Ancestry trees that included my George Lewis, I discovered that a couple of my cousins had mentioned George was murdered on the York Road. What?? I had never heard this story. My family members are great story tellers and surely they would have related this to me as I was growing up! I had to ask my uncle if this could possibly be true and he was skeptical. He had never heard the story before. He had to ask HIS uncle if this was true and surprise! My great-uncle said that yes, George Lewis was murdered by robbers while he was hauling freight on the York Road. He had never felt the need to tell us, apparently.

I had to soak that in! What a surprise. I had just made a post on social media that I didn’t have any murders in my family that I was aware of. Be careful what you say!

Have any of you been surprised by something you discovered in your family tree? Let me know in the comments below.

Finding the Myth in Family Mythology

Many families have a myth. Start talking about family history and someone will remark that they are related to someone famous (living or dead), that they have Native American ancestry, that there’s an estate somewhere with money that they are entitled to, silver that is still buried in the ground from the Civil War, or that there is royalty in their lineage.

Not every story is a myth. If we can trace our roots back far enough, we can probably find prominent people in our history from whatever continent or country we come from. Many of us are related to famous people and certainly some of us have Native American ancestors in our family tree. Sometimes, though, these stories are just that – stories.

Growing up, I was told we might have some Native American heritage. The tribe? The Tuscarora. Once I was in high school, I realized the branch of my family that might be Native American was actually from Tuscarawas County, Ohio and there the family myth began! There was another myth that we were somehow related to one of the presidents but so far, I haven’t found evidence of this (although I haven’t spent much time trying to prove that). My sister’s in-laws told her they were related to the Sperrys of the Sperry Flour Company and after quite a bit of digging, my sister did manage to make a connection, however slight. My uncle told me that my great great grandfather once shot a man but I haven’t yet found proof of that (and I’ve looked) so it’s up in the air as to whether that is a myth. (Interestingly, another one of my great great grandfathers DID shoot a man, so anything is possible.)

I love hearing these family stories, whether from my family or my friends’ families. The difficulty comes when I am doing serious research on a family tree. I have the ancestors and the stories that they tell me and this is what I begin with. Once I start gathering documentation and working backwards, I realize some of the family myths are just not adding up with the facts. With the advent of Ancestry online trees, I have the ability to check and see if others have the same family lineage that I have been given on their trees and they usually do. I check for documentation that I did not come across in case someone has scanned a Bible record or a letter or a missing newspaper article that fills in the gaps and explains why that person is in the tree besides just hearsay. I usually am not that lucky.

It seems that everyone in my husband’s family claims descent from a shadowy figure named Rigdon Martin who was born around the time of the American Revolution and immigrated to South Carolina from Ireland. Myth? Truth? He’s been the Martin family brick wall for decades. He had a son named Rigdon Martin whom I can document on the census and from some of his children’s death certificates. I can tell from one of the censuses that there is a senior Rigdon Martin but I don’t have anything definitive that the two are related other than timing, the odd name, and the location. It’s reasonable but not proven. Unfortunately, the county they lived in is a burned county – most records destroyed during the Civil War.

My husband took a Y-DNA test and he did discover that almost all of the men said that their earliest known ancestor came from Scotland or Ireland. Mike only did a 37 marker test and most of these men had various Scottish or Irish surnames other than Martin. Okay, the Irish part of the legend seems to be true but is the oldest Rigdon Martin the immigrant? And is he the father of the younger Rigdon? Mike did match all 37 markers with a Martin from North Carolina. His earliest known ancestor is a John Martin from the 1840s in North Carolina.

This got my research out of the box. The box was the “myth” – Irish immigrant, late 18th century, South Carolina. Did our Martins came from North Carolina? Mike’s DNA match should share a common ancestor with Mike. I need to find it. Maybe THAT ancestor came from Ireland. The North Carolina Martins seem to think the immigration was earlier in the 18th century. What has been passed down for generations still needs to be reexamined in a different light and from a different angle.

In many family mythologies, there is a bit of truth. The truth just sometimes needs to be teased from a story and dusted off and put in it’s rightful place on the branches.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Genealogy is Good for the Genes

Hi, and welcome to my new blog! My name is Sara Martin, owner of Smart Canyon Genealogy. I wanted to write about some of my experiences researching my family tree and I am interested in what other fellow genealogists are experiencing.

I used to work in the financial services industry and I may again work in that field. I took some time off in the fall of 2019, fully expecting to get right back to a full time job in the spring of 2020. Well, we all know what happened then. . .COVID-19. The Coronavirus put a glitch in that path. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go back out in the world while some crazy virus was ravaging the public so I started pursuing my hobby religiously, daily, fervently, feverishly. You get the drift.

My husband suggested I do this work for other people along with our own families. Good idea! But how to go about that? I am currently taking classes with the National Genealogical Society and attending webinars and reading books. Back in school mode after quite a few years! I want to do this correctly and professionally. I have 40 years experience but I needed to learn what is new and updated out there in family tree world. I needed to explore new shoots and new roots with new boots. (Okay, I just couldn’t help myself there!)

I hope you enjoy what I have to say on this blog. I will definitely be posting when I go “live” and start doing this amazingly fun research for other people. Meanwhile, happy hunting & stay safe (such a 2020 cliche)!

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