Saturday, August 28, 2004

Transcribing the 1850

I'm a confirmed genealogy nut and have been since the age of 8.

It was about that time that my grandmother started doing genealogy, and while I didn't ever go with her when she did her research, I did get to look at all the "Family Group Sheets" that she shared with my mother.

I would sit and stare at them, trying to memorize the names, and then write out the family relationships in different ways on yellow legal pads.

First of all, FGSheets are a very limited way of looking at the information (thank goodness for genealogical databases!) and secondly I have a very complicated family - with an ancestor who married his uncle's granddaughter.

That's a complicated thing to "see".

Later, I got a Master's degree in History and worked at a State Historical Society as a librarian. That was a lot of fun, but I didn't start doing real research until a few years ago, and the advent of internet resources has completely facilitated my work. Without it, I wouldn't have much more than family stories, so I'm a big proponent of free, online genealogical resources.

So now I'm transcribing the 1850 Jackson Co., Missouri census for USGenWeb.

I've always wanted to do something, and when I noticed that not one single census year for Jackson County had been transcribed, I decided that that was what I had to. I have one line of my family in Washington and Kaw Townships, but they rest of them are strangers to me...

I've just turned in my first township, so I'm a bit nervous, I guess. It took me forever to do it because I'm such a perfectionist. Ah, well. No such thing as perfection in transcribing! But that doesn't mean I won't try...

You can see the images that I'm working with at Ed and Sandy Mackley's wonderful Missouri census images page, without which I would not be able to create my (soon to be searchable) transcription.

The most interesting thing I've found so far is a young man named "Fleury Fontenelle", born in Fort Laramie about 1834. He might be an undocumented son of Lucien Fontenelle, the famous trader. Lucien did have a son named Henry Fontenelle, but he is said to have been born in 1832 in Nebraska. That's not far enough "off" to discount the possibility they are one and the same, but it tends to support my thoughts.

So, I hope his name is Fleury. It's a common French name and seemed to be what I was reading. It did not look like "Henry" to me.

You can judge for yourself, if you'd like. He's on Page 230B, line 26.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Human nature

One of the odd ideas I run into all the time is that 'back then' things were different.

I've actually had a woman argue with me that a man convicted of killing his daughter couldn't have done it because 'fathers didn't kill their daughters back then'.

So when I found this page of notes from the County Court Minutes in McMinn Co., TN in the early 1860s, I had to chuckle.

I found a "cousin" of my husband's recorded there:
p.530, Apr 1861; Jeptha Sivils guilty of being father of illeg. child of Malissa B. Only which was orn 11 Jan 1860.
He wasn't the only one. You should take a glance at the webpage. Here are a few excerpts:

p.482, Nov 1860; James Montgomery denies that he is guilty of bastardy on Mary J. Dixon.

P.454, 2 July 1860; Petition of James Lamar in 1857. He was accused of being father of illegitimate dau. of Hersula Pearce named Sarah Virginia Pearce born 1 Nov 1856; he has been supporting child; mother is loose woman and he wants to legitimatize child and change name to Sarah Virginia Lamar.

p.473, 2 Oct 1860; Thomas Grisham age 15 bound to Wm. W. Porter. Thos. is illegitimate child of Ursula Pearce and John Grisham, dec'd was his reputed father.

and then there were the divorces:
p.76, Dec. 1852; Divorce granted Mary Dunlap. Married John Dunlap in Bradley Co. early 1849. John abandoned Mary.

p.112, Ar 1853; Divorce granted Matilda McCarver from Wm. McCarver who abandoned her.

p.141, 11 Aug 1853; Lewis Erwin granted divorce from Barbara Erwin, married about 29 July 1845. Barbara has deserted Lewis and is guilty of adultery with on Elijah Largent.

p.222, 5 May 1863; The State VS Thomas J. Cate. Bigamy, married on 9 Nov 1830 Mary Cate, married on 8 Aug 1862 in McMinn Co. Tabitha Ledbetter while still married to Mary, who was still alive. Eli Cate the prosecutor. John Neil & E. B. Cate witnessess for State.
And half this was going on during the Civil War:

p.543, 27 May 1861; Called Session of County Court - voting upon the organization of a home guard - postponed for the present - vote to lay a tax to support the indigent families of volunteers in the service in the Southern Army during the continuance .

p.552, July 1861; A man in each district paid for ascertaining no. of guns, rifles, & shotguns.

p.206, Nov 1862; Martial law existing.
Even in war time, life goes on.

Back to Jeptha, who's been a special problem, which this record helped to resolve.

In 1870, he's shown in Bradley County, TN with wife Eliza and four children. His brother and mother are next door.
the Ninth District, Page No. 13/100A
24 June 1870 by R.T. Engledow
P.O. Athens
line 34, 95/95 SIVELS Jepthy 41 M"[W] Farmer 2000/800 " [Tennessee]
Eliza 29 F"[W] Houskeeping " [Tennessee]
Susan 12 F"[W] " [Tennessee] attended school
Sarah 10 F"[W] " [Tennessee] attended school
William 9 M"[W] " [Tennessee] attended school
Albert 5? M"[W] " [Tennessee]
SIDWELL William 16 M"[W] Working on Farm " [Tennessee] attended school
Page No. 14/100B
line 1, PARKER Ella 15 FW Asst Houskeeper Tennessee attended school
line 2, 96/96 SIVELS Jack 35 M"[W] Working on Farm /400 " [Tennessee]
Jane 80 F"[W] Asst Houskeeper NCarolina
Louisa 30 F"[W] Tennessee
PARY John 16 M"[W] " [Tennessee]
Most researchers seem convinced that the 1860 Bradley County census of this family, which shows the husband's name as "Levi" is simply a mistake.

Dist. Thirteenth Dist., pg. 230/278B
31 July 1860 by James
P.O. Cleveland
line 5, 1521/1521 Levi SIVELS 33 M Farmer Painter
1000/100 " [Tenn]
Liza 18 F " [Tenn]
Susan M. 3 F " [Tenn]
Sarah C. 1 F " [Tenn]
Sarah 60 F " [Tenn]
Telitha 19 F " [Tenn]
Timothy 15 M " [Tenn]

The problem is that Jeptha is still in his mother's household in McMinn County in 1860. And McMinn is where Malissa's daughter California was born in January of 1860. It seems clear that Jeptha needed to be in McMinn County for that.

The 9th Civil District, Page No. 32/277B
19 June 1860 by Thos Rogers, P.O. Calhoun
line 18, 228/228 Teeman SIVILS 65 F Farmer 1000/350 Va
Rebecca 29 F Seamstress Tenn
Jeptha 27 M Farm Laborer " [Tenn]
Jane 25 F " [Tenn] cannot r/w
Andrew J 23 M Farm Laborer " [Tenn]
Sirena 20 F " [Tenn]

The whole issue would seem to be resolved by their marriage record:, Marriage records, 1808-1958 Rhea County (Tennessee). County Court Clerk: Jeptha CIVILS married Ruth E. SIVILS 20 Nov 1866 Rhea, Tennessee.

Ruth's maiden name is well known as Gibson. And she started having children named "Sivils" in 1857. Clearly there is a missing marriage record. A marriage to Jeptha's cousin Levi.

The problem is that the only record that exists for Levi (except this 1860 census record) is a note made out by descendants of his brother Timothy's family, but since Timothy is living in Levi's household with his/their mother in 1860, and Jeptha is living with his, I'm confident that the family tradition is correct. Levi is not to be found in 1850, nor are most of his siblings. These Sivils seem to have a special gift for disappearing...

Oh, did I mention that Malissa and her daughter are enumerated just a few pages over from Jeptha in McMinn County:

The 9th Civil District, Page No. 29/276A
18 June 1860 by Thomas Rogers
P.O. Calhoun
line 26, 205/205 Levi ONLY 55 m Farmer 1500/400 N.C.
Mahala Jane 47 F S.C.
Melissa 21 F Tenn
Thomas J. 17 M " [Tenn]
Sarah J. 15 F " [Tenn]
Mary 12 F " [Tenn]
Amanda 4 F " [Tenn]
E. JOHNSON 19 M Farm Laborer N.C.
Texanna 2 F Ten
California 6/12 F " [Ten]

I've found California in 1870 working as a domestic servant in McMinn County. I think she is the "Callie Onley" who married S.A. Hartsell in Bradley County (a neighboring county) in 1884, but I haven't been able to find them.

Malissa herself got married in 1874 in McMinn County, Tennessee to Ezekiel Swafford. I haven't been able to find them either.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Tag, you're it

I think I've found another one. I don't know that I have, but it sure looks like it: another tag.

The first "tag" I ever bumped into had been attached to my great-great grandmother Martha A. Davison Boyd.

I got started in genealogy with the Boyds because it was Martha's daughter Ida and granddaughter Jessie who largely raised my grandmother, so she felt a special closeness to the Boyds and had started her research there. I found a woman doing work on the Boyds and shared information. She told me that Martha's middle name was "Avarilla". I thought "how fun!" and put it in my notes.

A few years later, I found a typescript made by Jessie in 1943 of the family bible, and in a handwritten note at the bottom she said that Martha Davison's middle name was Ann (her middle name wasn't specified in the record, just the initial). I told this to my Fellow Researcher, and she wrote back that she hadn't thought that Martha's middle name was really Avarilla - that a relative had told her it was, but that she didn't think he was a very reliable source, but that she wasn't going to change it in her records because she used it as a "tag", that is to say, she would know if someone was using her work without giving her credit if they had Martha's middle name as "Avarilla".

I was flabbergasted. I'd never heard of such a thing.

But what made it unforgivable (to me) was that once she had access to a more reliable source, she refused to change it! Her "tagging" being more important than the (likely) truth!

As a genealogist it can be so hard to get accurate information that I really couldn't believe what she was saying. She must have felt that same frustration of knowing you were dancing around a 'truth' you couldn't prove. Her work is really good, and she was always very generous with it. A lot of people use it. In fact, I can't find anyone using "Martha Ann", though I cite my source and she did not, but her vast research lends crediblity that I cannot outweigh.

People really should read and cite sources.

But now I may have another.

For years I've dealt with "Jane Telita Cox" and I've been trying to find her in the 1930 census without any luck. I was chatting about her to my husband, about how humorous it was that in every census her first name was different: in 1900, "Jane", in 1910, "Runer? J.", in 1920, "Eurma? J." It was one of the reasons I wanted to find her, to see what name her husband had 'made up' next...then Bill said, "Well, those names are kind of similar, aren't they?"

As he said later, "I thought you got a funny look on your face when I said that..."

I was thinking that I had never seen one record that suggested her name was "Jane Telita" except a family group sheet. Not even "Jane T."

So I sat down immediately to really find her in 1930. I did. I was willing to look at every record in Arkansas in which the first name of the husband was "James", but I didn't have to go that far...they were still in Boone County (the first place I looked).

This time the record was perfectly clear: Arranna J. Ewards (should have been Edwards). Looking at the 1920 census again it looks like "Errana". She had an aunt named Rena (now I'm thinking Arrena?). In any case, clearly the "Telita" (which was her mother's name) is completely wrong.

As I said, I don't know that her middle name was a tag, but I have had some communication with descendants of Janie (as she was apparently called) and they were the first ones to raise the issue with me. Again, the researcher who said her middle name was "Telita" was a good researcher with lots of stuff and she shared it. It lent credibility to her statement, though I had not seen even a "T.", suggesting that she would be on the right track. She certainly hasn't admitted it to me nor refused to change her work (I've lost contact with her), so I don't want to disparage her unfairly. She might really think Jane's middle name was Telita.

In any case, the real lesson is that incredulity is always a good trait in a genealogical researcher...

But you can almost understand the impulse. I can't count the number of times I've seen people use my conclusions as their own without giving me any credit. It doesn't bother me, but it is rude, disingenuous and counter-productive. I always put my sources online, so sometimes people will say that my sources were their sources (though the citation style is clearly the one that I worked out myself). The only accurate way for them to have cited, say, the John H. Brown 1850 Greene Co., TN census record from my notes is to have noted that it had been transcribed by me. They don't.

If people would always state their source not only would other people be able to judge the quality of assertions for themselves, but they would also not feel the urge to 'tag' their work. If you source is your Aunt Judy, put her name (or initials) with it. And the date. If it's a will, put that. And the county it was written in and the date. It will help everyone who works on that line.

Read the sources, people. And put them in your own work.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Found William V. McNeely

I had an awfully good day today.

I found Wm. V. McNeely in the 1850 census.

Now, I know you don't know that that's a big deal, but it is...

The first step was to find William in the 1860 census. I've known where he was in 1870 for some time: he was living in Scott County, Arkansas where six years later his daughter, Mary M. McNeely, married Edmon S. Hamby.

Mary and her older brother James were both listed as being born in Georgia, so that's where I've focused for 1850, but their younger brother was born in Tennessee in 1856, so I was going back and forth for 1860. His second wife Lucinda was also listed as being from Georgia, but I finally found their marriage record by pure chance in Sebastian Co., Arkansas in 1864. I was looking for the record of another family entirely and noticed the "McNeely, W.V." marrying a Lucinda. She was too young to be the mother of any of these children, but I'd imagined they'd gotten married in Georgia at any rate. They didn't.

After finding that record I began looking a little closer to Ft. Smith and Sebastian Co. and finally found a "William McNeely" with children James, Mary and John, all the right ages, in Iron County, Missouri. The birthplaces weren't spot on, but they never are, are they?

That was the original relief: finding them all together in 1860. And not too far away was John C. McNeely and living with him and his large family was "Jane McNeely 75 born in Pennsylvania". Since William reported his parents as having been born in PA in the 1880 census, I felt I had enough to move forward...

And then there was the key, John C.'s son and William's (probable) nephew, William V. McNeely.

John and his family eventually ended up in Newton County, Missouri, where William the younger married Lucreasy Trent. It was in an old query posting that I found a woman looking for "William Lance and Lucresy Trent McNeely". Now, I had seen his many census listings, and they were invariably "William V. or W.V.", so I thought, huh, must be William Vance...that's kind of unusual...

So today when I tried YET AGAIN to find William and his mother Jane and her other son James in Tennessee in 1850 (John C. having already been in Madison Co., MO by 1850) I was sure I'd have no luck. I've searched and searched and searched...but today I tried the *wildcard* trick yet again, but this time I noticed "McNeelea, Vance"...

Knowing leads seeing, as usual.

That was it. 1850 Hamilton Co.,TN Census:

Dist No 27, pg. 911/459A, 24th Oct. 1850 by R.P. Jones
line 4, 1232/1232 Gincea McNEELEA 45 F N Carolina
Vance 18 M Laborer Tenn, James 10 M " [Tenn]
line 7, 1233/1233 George McNEELEA 22 M Farmer Tennessee married in the last
Rhoda 18 F " [Tennessee] married in the last year

"Gincey" was a nickname for Jane...very, very tricky of them! So, yeay! I found another brother too, but, unfortunately they all probably got married in Hamilton Co., TN, where all marriage records of this period have been destroyed...this is especially frustrating because the most likely woman to be William V.'s first wife is Louisa Gardenhire, daughter of George Gardenhire, and I love the name "Gardenhire".


I like William V. quite a bit. He eventually became a minister. Here is a link to part of his work for the Missionary Baptist Church of Shiloh, near Ione, Scott County, Arkansas.

And another with the current "full story" of his family: Descendants of James McNeely and my database (think, searchable!) for the Hamby-McNeely families.

So, I had a good day!

And decided to share my joy (and my research) by starting this blog.