Adventures in Family Tree Research Online — Tips for Doing Genealogy

 for George Washington Luckett  without using quotation marks, I would get a zillion irrelevant hits.   But searching for “George Washington Luckett”  in quotes homes in on him pretty well.    Also, “George W. Luckett.”

One of the free sites you will encounter is   This is a huge database of graves, created and maintained largely by volunteers.   You can search it by name, narrowing your search by state, county and/or individual cemetery.   A hit may be as simple as a name listed under a cemetery, or as detailed as a complete biography of the deceased with photo of the headstone, photos of the individual before death, and related photos, and links to grave listings of parents, spouses or descendants. helped me solve one of the mysteries around George Washington Luckett.   I was trying to find out when or if he moved to Texas.  My parents were from Texas and my grandparents, but GW Luckett was from Tennessee.    I found his son, my great grandfather, in Texas in 1880 but I found GW still in Tennessee in that year.    When I say “found” I mean I found their names in the census for those years and locations.   And the 1890s census is missing, nationwide (a fire in an archive or something like that).   He died in the 1890s, so the 1900 census wasn’t going to help, although it showed his widow and youngest son in Texas, adding to the suspicion he moved to Texas before he died.  Searching for him turned up nothing.  Then I got a clue from someone I met on  that one of GW Luckett’s daughters was buried in a particular cemetery in Texas.   The cemetery wasn’t that large so I just opened the full list of all the graves in that cemetery on and started looking.   There he was!   His name was misspelled as “G.W. Luckette” and that’s why searches on Findagrave for “G.W. Luckett” had not worked.  

Headstone of author's great great grandfather, found on

I sent a message to the person responsible for his page on, asking for any further details.   She replied that she actually had never been to the cemetery and didn’t know anything more about GW Luckett, but had just found a book in a junk shop in which someone had written a listing of several graves in the cemetery, and she had uploaded the information.   Then another volunteer had snapped a picture of the headstone and added that to his page.   Do you see how this can become addictive?   Then she assigned all future responsibility for GW Luckett’s page to me.   So, now I am the keeper of my great, great grandfather’s website.

Grave Snappers Needed is always looking for new volunteers.   One of the great needs if for people to photograph headstones in their area.   People researching the departed can enter photo requests on the FindAGrave website and these are then transmitted to volunteers living in the area near the cemetery in question.   If you have time, searching for a requested headstone and snapping a photo can be a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Another great resource on the web is another pay site:    But again, there is a free trial.  So you can get your research done for free on that website if you concentrate your work into the free trial period.    Footnote is great for war records.   I traced the Civil War records of several ancestors there.   Good old George Washington Luckett had one of the most interesting:  He was in the cavalry from the beginning of the war to almost the end, with a little time off in the middle.   I wondered about how  GW Luckett Jr. could have been born in 1864 with GW Sr. away in the cavalry, but had the answer.   Early in the war GWL  and his unit were sent to defend a fort in western Tennessee.   It was attacked by a little-known Union general named U. S.  Grant, and the fort fell.   GWL’s war record at this point says “escaped at the fall of Ft. ____” (I forget the name).     

 A few quick Google searches revealed that GWL’s entire cavalry unit was captured by Grant in that battle and sent to POW camp.    But not GWL.   He escaped and went home.   That’s how GWL Jr. could be born in 1864!   Then I learned that GWL went back into the war when his unit was released in a prisoner exchange.   I saw him listed as present,  then AWOL, then present again.  On other websites,  I read about his unit fighting all across the South, finally ending up in 1865 in one of the Confederacy’s last stands at Cape Fear, North Carolina.   There, in March of 1865 just a few weeks before Lee’s surrender, my great, great granddaddy apparently got fed up and quit.   He went over to the union, swore allegiance to the USA and was sent home.   It’s all there on, right down to his “X” on a photocopy of the oath of allegiance and a physical description of him. 

Page from Civil War record found on saying author's relative died of gunshot wounds

I traced another relative’s Civil War record through all the major battles around Northern Virginia, then at Gettysburg, ending in his death from gunshot wounds near Chattanooga.   The final record listed his personal effects, at a hospital in Atlanta, GA. 

For another of my great great grandfathers, I already knew he died of illness as a soldier in the Civil War because we actually have letters written by his army comrades telling of his death.   They were sent to his widow, my great great grandmother, and were passed down through the family.     I became interested in the men who wrote those letters, and traced their histories using online resources.  One of them, Leroy Tebow, was shot through the head later in the war but survived and had a teaching career after the war.    He was not related when he wrote the letter of condolence to my great great grandmother, but I found he later married into my family.    And I found his tombstone on, and was delighted to see it said “lover of education.”   

Some Cautions

Caution:  Pack a little skepticism when setting out on your family tree adventure.    There are a lot of errors propagating on genealogical websites.     A lot of people, especially on, but also elsewhere, are putting together family trees without sufficient care for accuracy.  You don’t want to incorporate their errors into your own research.   I have seen in

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