Thursday, January 29, 2015

Score Another One For
Genetic Genealogy


Sometimes, participating in DNA testing leads to the overwhelming sense of being lost in a strange world of numbers, big terms, and incomprehensible concepts. Muddling through the middle of it all can seem mind-numbing.

On the other hand, there’s nothing like success to shake one loose of that DNA malaise.

I mentioned to you, back in November, that I was contacted by a person whose mitochondrial DNA test results came back as an exact match to mine. For me, this is an unusual result. Out of the three tests I administer for my family—both my husband’s and my brother’s Y-DNA test and my own mtDNA test—this was the only instance of finding anyone who came as close as that.

The drawback was: the person claiming this exact match is an adoptee.

Put in a tailspin, trying to figure out just who among my mother’s maternal line ancestors—unbeknownst to anyone else in the family—could have put up a child for adoption, I did what I could to help my new mystery cousin with this quest.

The only help I could offer, it turns out, was a feeble attempt at comparing data. You see, if I trace my mother’s maternal line back through the generations, I don’t get very far. As you’ve already realized, if you follow A Family Tapestry with any regularity, is that I am stuck at the level of my second great grandmother.

That's the puzzle I've been trying to unravel, following that email from my mystery cousin back in November. I did write about the search, tangentially, in a couple more posts on DNA in December and earlier this month. Behind the scenes, the two of us were emailing back and forth, comparing notes, discussing possibilities—in my family (despite its limiting, brief documentation) and in his own research.

To his credit, my mystery cousin has been very focused on the pursuit. For someone with a background in genealogical research, this quest might have seemed easier, but there were multiple steep learning curves to mount in his case: the aspects of finding birth parents, overcoming legal obstacles of various states’ “sealed” adoption policies, learning about the world of DNA testing and the skills of genealogical research.

It was the aspect of DNA testing that helped lead this cousin to possible matches. While the mtDNA test provided a bit of direction, the main test that proved useful was the autosomal DNA test. This test identifies matches of a much closer familial range than the mtDNA or Y-DNA test can provide, making it the practical choice for such a pursuit. Not that it makes things easier. The test, in itself, is not a turnkey operation; the researcher does need to know what he is doing—and be prepared to put in lots of work following through with the search. DNA tests are a tool, not “The Answer.”

What I’m so excited to share, today, is that almost exactly two weeks ago, my mystery cousin emailed me the simple announcement:
            I have found my birth mother.

Overjoyed on his behalf, of course I wanted to know the details. This was, after all, somehow a person related to me. While we are still plotting out the nexus between his birth mother’s line and my mother’s line—hint: this may go back a long way beyond my brick wall second great grandmother—I am enjoying the latest reunion news from my cousin. He and his mom have spent hours chatting online, then by telephone and in a face to face meeting.

The conversation didn’t stop with their reunion. Both of them are intensely keen on sharing their story—the pain of the separation, the years of the search, the methods of the search and how they reconnected. Besides, after mounting that steep learning curve, now this cousin has a lot to share, as a resource in helping others with their search for their birth parents as well.

Their story is not over, of course. There is much to catch up on, after a lifetime of separation. Once they move beyond the exhilaration of this reunion, though, I, for one, hope they put their story in a form that can be passed on to others in the same dilemma. Telling their story at conferences would be nice. A book would be great. No matter how they share the saga, though, just the fact that they can share it is the most important part.

Sometimes, it is easy to see how DNA testing can work for others—but hard to actually put it to work for ourselves. In my cousin’s case, as an adoptee totally new to the field of genealogy, he had the motivation to learn—and then, to do what he had learned.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

“Citizen Science” and Genetic Genealogy


Of what purpose is it to determine familial relationships that reach beyond face-to-face familiarity?

It may seem strange to consider family relationships as distant as the eighth cousin scenario I mentioned yesterday. Yet, when we engage in the kind of DNA testing available to us today—and combine that with the paper chase for our family’s roots—we find ourselves delving into those kinds of distant relationships.

Why bother? It’s not like we’re in a rush to assemble the world’s biggest family reunion—although, admittedly, somebody is. However, given the technology and the passion, we are handily equipped to engage in what is being called genetic genealogy. Every time we spring for that hefty DNA test fee, whether we are conscious of this or not, we are participating in assembling a body of knowledge about the joint past of all humanity.

If you haven’t considered this aspect, stop for a moment and consider Spencer Wells’ presentation last fall at the Genetic Genealogy Ireland event, part of Dublin’s Back To Our Past conference. Dr. Wells spearheads the National Genographic Project for National Geographic. His brief video, which you can see at the bottom of GGI2014’s announcement of his keynote presentation, nicely dovetails the Genographic quest with our genealogical pursuits.

You have got to know that there are numerous scientists eager to tap into such an assembled database of DNA results. Researchers are hoping to augment their understanding of pre-historic migratory patterns—as well as find resources to resolve other human challenges: anthropological, genetic, medical.

Along with the amazing arenas open to these researchers, with the rapid expansion of technology comes a mind-boggling enormity of databases. This puts me in mind of a term I was introduced to several years ago, in a book by Jeff Howe. The book’s title—and the word I’d like to dwell on for a few moments here—is Crowdsourcing. While his subtitle reveals the author’s focus—“Why the power of the crowd is driving the future of business”—it is equally applicable to science as well as business.

In fact, another term I had been introduced to at the same time—which fits in handily here—was that of the Citizen Scientist. Before the era of grant-driven scientific research, an acceptable paradigm of research was to include the viable observations of amateurs who were well versed in their field of study. Even at A Family Tapestry, we had met up with one amateur scientist of the early 1900s, in the person of Judge R. C. Flannigan’s wife, Anna Mary Haessly Flannigan, the persevering bird watcher in Michigan.

That grand tradition had all but disappeared in the mid 1900s, but has thankfully been making a comeback. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology organizes projects among its bird-watching adherents through the auspices of its “Citizen Science Program.” In astronomy, some of the latest discoveries have been through the efforts of citizen scientists, a fact not lost upon NASA—which devotes a page on its website, “For Citizen Scientists.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science is launching the first conference of the Citizen Science Association this coming February 11 in San Jose, California. Citizen science has come of age.

Clay Shirky, an author and instructor at New York University, has written about the dynamics behind the resurgence of citizen scientist movement. In his 2008 book, Here Comes Everybody, he examined the impact of the Internet on organizations and group dynamics, observing that technology’s tools boost collaboration in a way that lets it supersede the restrictions that once made many accomplishments the monopoly of institutional prerogative. Key in the shifting dynamic are the online tools that allow groups to get together and achieve tasks that once were considered too costly for their potential value.

In a Wikipedia article on citizen science, that very dynamic was noted:
Large volunteer networks often allow scientists to accomplish tasks that would be too expensive or time consuming to accomplish through other means.

Now, what does all that have to do with DNA testing? Think again about what you are achieving when you spring for that autosomal DNA test. You are not just out on a dilettante’s lark to locate distant relatives.  You are joining the many who are citizen scientists confirming—or correcting—the state-of-the-art conclusions of geneticists about how the human genome should be read. Every time you persevere in confirming a relationship among one of your DNA “matches,” you are sending your informed vote to those who watch the database at large: Yes, this is my sixth cousin, or No, this is not the correct relationship. We are not only using the technology for our own benefit. We are concurrently sending feedback, based on our own genealogical expertise—in a task that surely would be too expensive or time consuming for any research organization to fund on its own. Even an organization as respected and well-funded as National Geographic.

We, too, are citizen scientists.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Enormity of It All


In this era of “us four, no more,” it is hard to conceive of the multiplied numbers of large families begetting large families. Even during the era of immigrant families—those whose families started out large, but due to disease and hardship, saw their numbers dwindle in the end—genealogical records were no more complicated than the effort it took to keep track of all those premature deaths.

In the case of well-to-do colonial American families, however, in many cases, those numbers of hale and hearty descendants were often maintained over multiple generations. Such was the case with the tale of our Taliaferro line.

Even at the point at which I pick up the line in colonial America—not until several generations in, with Zachariah Taliaferro’s birth in Virginia in 1730—there were multiple cousins to be had. Tracing this all had to have been a challenge. Granted, there were several who were up to the challenge, for we have their legacy in the form of books like the Ivey and the Pilcher volumes I mentioned yesterday. But following those lines from that end point through their current-day descendants is a task still needing to be done.

Why do something like that? Because now that we have the technology—and the digitized, searchable resources—we also have the compulsion to do so, thanks to the popularization of DNA tests for genealogical use.

As I've mentioned before, there is no use taking that DNA test without the corresponding assistance of one’s own genealogical paper trail. When you get the results back from your DNA tests, you will meet up with cousins removed by upwards of five generations. How would you confirm the connection, if not armed with the documentation to reveal it?

Now that I have taken those DNA tests—both the full mitochondrial DNA test and the autosomal DNA test—I am grappling with the matchmaking phase of the adventure. As it turns out, quite a few of my matches line up along these long-established colonial family lines—one of them being the Taliaferro family. Yes, the line of large families begetting large families, through multiplied generations. Anyone have a scorecard?

You think I’m jesting? The other day, I grunted through the calculations to arrive at the conclusion that one DNA match and I were eighth cousins, twice removed. Think that’s extreme? Yesterday, I was going through some notes from a three year old email, and realized that a friend of mine had sent me an explanation for how she was a Taliaferro descendant, as well. While I’ve yet to sit down and map it all out, my thumbnail sketch indicates our mutual ancestor is twelve generations removed from us. Yay. We’re cousins. I can’t wait to tell her.

There is one caveat—and yes, that would be yet another reason this pursuit is fraught with difficulties. The caveat is that several of these Taliaferros had the propensity to have their children marry cousins. We saw it when my second great grandfather’s older brother William Broyles married Rebecca Taliaferro, his first cousin once removed. We may also have seen it when my second great grandfather married Mary Rainey, daughter of a Taliaferro—although that is still speculation on my part.

Do these multiple family intermarriages result in elevated centiMorgan counts, when it comes time to review autosomal DNA results? Just ask my eighth cousin, twice removed. He seems to think there is something hidden in the data that makes our relationship closer than what it appears on paper. He is likely right. I suspect the culprit is these multiple Taliaferro marriages.

But how would you know, if you didn’t have the paper trail to check? Sometimes, the numbers get so big, you can’t keep track in your head. That’s the kind of math you have to do on paper.

Given the discovery that a friend of mine, living in the same town as I, turns out to be my cousin—albeit very distant cousin—I wonder how many of us, walking around in our home towns, run into distant relatives every day, but never know it. If you’ve been around in this country long enough—and come from families large enough—those chances may be bigger than you thought.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Just Grunt Through It


Sometimes, the only way to face up to the tedium of genealogical research is to sit down, roll up your sleeves and do it. Just do it.

I took a deep breath and did just that, yesterday.

Well, let me amend that: I took a very deep breath and began this process of genealogical grunt work. This will be a long slog. There are kazillions of Taliaferros. And I am setting out on a task to document them all.

I had thought it might be brilliant to isolate all the Taliaferros who had been married—along with my (possible) third great grandmother, Mary—in the Georgia county of her marriage to Thomas Firth Rainey. At least, then I’d have some strands to trace backwards through time to their Taliaferro parents. It would give me a snapshot in time of which of the family members were living there in Oglethorpe County at the same time.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Using several digitized copies of old genealogies, I tried re-assembling the family line. I started out with three books: Pilcher’s Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher and Kindred Families, Ivey’s Ancestry and Posterity of Dr. JohnTaliaferro and Mary (Hardin) Taliaferro, and Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia, by George R. Gilmer. For good measure, I threw in Genealogies of Virginia Families from the William and Mary College Quarterly, volume II, to double check those auxiliary lines.

Let’s go back to the marriage records. The FamilySearch.org Georgia marriage collection included nine entries—although several duplicates were included—that fit my search parameters. The trouble was, once I moved beyond the Oglethorpe County records I was seeking for Taliaferro weddings, comparing the details with those in the published genealogies brought more frustration than resolution.

Perhaps I just need to remind myself that, from our computerized vantage point, we have instantaneous access to more records than the average researcher in the early 1900s could ever hope to have.

Perhaps I can set the record straight on some of these lines.

Perhaps, though, I need to tread carefully and not assume I’m just setting things straight. Even government documents have been known to contain errors—not to mention their transcriptions.

And so I went, carefully treading through the text of four different publications, toggling back and forth between the open tabs on my computer, seeing which author said Person A married Person B when another author insisted it was really Person C. For now, I’m banking on the government documents being the voice of authority—but I’ll sure be open to the possibility that it was otherwise. I’ll take time after going through this mind-numbing process to run the names through newspaper archives and other resources to see if I can find any further mention confirming correct names and identities.

I have to remind myself of my underlying purpose for all this. Sometimes, when we get mired in the overwhelming details of the search, we need to cling to that all-important purpose. It’s the anchor that lets us hold firm to our resolve, no matter how much we might want to give it all up.

In the case of this Taliaferro chase, I’m seeking the identity of my third great grandmother and her kin for two reasons:
·       First, to break through the brick wall ancestor that may help me connect with my mystery cousin—and adoptee—with whom I share exact mtDNA results
·       Second, to fill in as many blanks as possible to give me the genealogical road map to navigate through all my autosomal DNA matches I’ve received since testing last December.

In the meantime, I’ll continue the search under cover. No need to dread countless posts recounting endless details. You know how I’ve compared watching genealogical research unfold with witnessing sausage-making. Neither does genealogy lend itself well to becoming a spectator sport. But if I stumble upon something interesting or exciting, you can be sure I’ll bring it up.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Uh-Oh…


Perhaps it was with a certain smug satisfaction that I concluded yesterday’s post—a little too prematurely. Yes, I discovered a record showing Thomas F. Rainey marrying someone named Mary E. Talafero in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. And yes, I’ve seen indications that that same Mary Taliaferro might have been sister to Charles Boutwell Taliaferro—the man who took in two of her unmarried children after her passing. But to find a Mary and Charles who are children of the same Georgia Taliaferro family? Well, that’s the catch.

There is more work to be done. Apparently, that is what the old reports are telling me.

Or, perhaps genealogies published by brick and mortar establishments of bygone years are no more infallible than are e-genealogies shared online today.

Let’s take a look at what can be found on those hallowed pages of another century's researchers.

The first task, logically, would be to seek the parents' names of siblings Mary E. and Charles Boutwell Taliaferro. A number of researchers have assumed a specific Taliaferro parent, but now that I’m trying to plug these two descendants into the larger Taliaferro picture, I’m not so sure.

We can assume, given Charles’ middle name of Boutwell, that he descends from a woman whose maiden name was that same Boutwell—and that we have in the person of the wife of Zachariah Taliaferro (1730 – 1811), named Mary. Given that date range, though, it is more likely that Mary Boutwell Taliaferro would be Charles’ grandmother, not mother. A number of researchers hold the father to be one of Zachariah’s and Mary’s sons, who went by either the name Warren or Warner. I’ve seen both versions—and frankly, looking at the handwriting in some census records, I can see how there could be confusion.

Just to surmount the current distress, let’s assume Charles’ father was Warren/Warner, son of Zachariah and Mary. That would not be too far fetched an assumption. Remember, the cemetery where Charles’ sister Mary was buried was a family burial grounds. If you took a peek at the link I shared yesterday, listing the names of all who were buried at that Johnson Cemetery in Coweta County, Georgia, you’d recognize a resonance in the name of Charles' sister Mary's son, also buried in their plot: Warren Taliaferro Rainey. Who do you suppose that child of Thomas F. and Mary Taliaferro Rainey might have been named after?

In addition, Warren/Warner’s siblings included another sister by the name of Frances, who married someone named Penn. We find her buried, along with Mary Taliaferro Rainey, in that same family cemetery.

All looks reasonably good—until, that is, we head for those time-honored genealogy books.

Before we start entangling ourselves within the annals of family history, let me provide you with a handy online scorecard for the Taliaferro family. No guarantees that this one is totally correct, either, but I like how it provides footnotes for key assertions. From Barbara Breedlove Rollins’ Family Files, you can find the specific section I’m referring to by clicking here.

So, what can we find in the old genealogical reports? Let’s look first at Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher and Kindred Families, compiled by Margaret Campbell Pilcher in 1911. If you are on Ancestry.com, you can find a copy of the text in question provided here. For those not willing to spring for Ancestry’s subscription fees, you can fortunately also access the public domain text through Internet Archive here.

In dense text at the end of the book, the author reviews the descendants of the Virginia colony’s Taliaferro family. At page 400, she begins a recital of all the children of Zachariah and Mary Boutwell Taliaferro. By page 402, the text covers the children of their son Zachariah—most pertinent to the daughter who married into the Broyles line I’ve been discussing for the past month. Two thirds of the way down page 403, the narrative arrives at that son of Zachariah and Mary we've been discussing today, given here as Warner.

According to Ms. Pilcher, Warner married a woman named Mary M. Gilmer, and together they had four children. Ms. Pilcher identifies those children as Nancy, Charles (Boutwell), Sophia and Polly.

If you arrived at the name of that fourth child, Polly, and breathed a sigh of relief, take it back. According to Ms. Pilcher, Polly married a man by the name of Landrum, not Rainey.

But wait! Another one of those four siblings did marry someone by the name of Thomas Rainey. If you are astute enough to notice that none of the remaining candidates, among those four siblings, was named Mary, you get extra points for your keen sense of the obvious.

Yes. We are in trouble.

Okay, so let’s not be too hasty with our judgments. Let’s cross check the Pilcher tome with another equally long-winded title, The Ancestry and Posterity of Dr. John Taliaferro and Mary (Hardin) Taliaferro. This one, compiled by Willie Catherine Ivey, was the volume I first discovered at the Sutro library in San Francisco during one of my early forays into the treasures hidden in genealogical repositories, years ago. This text, as well, is available through Ancestry.com, but unfortunately, the 1926 volume is not accessible in digitized form online (at least that I can find).

According to the Ivey text, the page 105 outline of Zachariah and Mary’s children lists the son in question as Warren, not Warner. Yet his four children are listed with the same names, and are paired with the same spouses as were listed in the Pilcher book.

What are we to make of that? I suppose we can assume that these old volumes were indeed correct, and take our search elsewhere. After all, there are hundreds of pages of genealogical reports of descendants of the Taliaferro line to be had in these volumes alone. Noting these records would, if nothing else, help me navigate the nearly seven hundred DNA matches I’ve been notified about since taking my own autosomal DNA test. At best, they might help me identify exactly which Mary Taliaferro it was who married someone named Rainey in time to give birth to my second great grandmother.

On the other hand, I’ve spotted mistakes even in revered publications such as these. After all—though not in the two titles cited above—I’ve run across reports insisting that my third great grandfather died young in battle, when that was not the case at all. Besides, one thing we have in our favor that these authors from the early 1900s did not have is digitized copies of all the census records. Where they would have had to take hours—no, more likely, days—of grunt work to slog through bound copies of original documents (if those were even accessible to them at all), we can now, with the tap of our finger, call up the documents in question in rapid succession. It is more likely to find all the verification we need now than it was then, closer in time to the occurrences in question.

So, the question at hand now—given this confusing array of conflicting details—is: where to, next?

And the answer is: actually, I really don’t know.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Whatever Became of Mary’s Parents?


Seeking information on Mary Rainey—my second great grandmother, and soon-to-be wife of Thomas Taliaferro Broyles—has been challenging. Granted, tracing her whereabouts via digitized documents has been a boon unlike any experience I’d had in my pre-computer, dusty-archives-crawling days before the 1990s. But still: this ancestor has got what it takes to be a brick wall candidate. Even though I’ve progressed to finding possibilities online, I need to remind myself: these are possible proofs of her existence. I may be totally wrong.

On the other hand, I take my assurances, thinking about that bit of family lore passed down by my mother, years ago. I can just imagine the scenario: my mother, as a young child temporarily being raised by her grandmother, found herself in the same sort of conversation I, a generation later, found myself—asking about her parents. The answer, from my great-grandmother in response to her granddaughter’s question, would of course be about this very same Mary Rainey.

The answer: her grandmother’s mother had been adopted. So, what was there to say?

When I first heard this story, I had assumed the same scenario we now picture when someone tells us that he or she is adopted: the standard closed adoption process where courts seal the agency records and slam the door shut on any possibility of finding one’s true roots. That might very well be the case, if we were talking about someone born in the twentieth century.

I had to remind myself, though, that this person’s mother—my mother’s grandmother’s mother—was not born in the twentieth century. And things before that century were vastly different. Including adoptions.

Sometimes, in previous centuries, parents died young, leaving destitute families behind. Gone were the social services we’ve come to expect now as all-pervasive in our communities. In their place might have been compassionate human services agencies administered by churches or alliances of concerned citizens. But mostly, the “agency” of last resort was extended family: the aunts and uncles and grandparents who would “do their duty” by taking in an extra child, providing a bed and warm meals, likely in return for an extra set of hands helping out around the house or on the farm. If you’ve ever read the oft-mocked children’s story, Pollyanna, you realize that was the premise sending the young heroine on her adventures at the home of her own maiden aunts.

In an era like the 1860s, couple that parental-death scenario with the great disrupter of that decade—the American Civil War—and you likely have a reason why many children became orphans in need of help from compassionate (or at least dutiful) relatives.

In a case like Mary Rainey’s, who would be those likely relatives? Well, they likely would be either Raineys or Taliaferros—especially considering Mary’s mother was supposed to be a Taliaferro, herself. So, finding the young Mary in the household of another Georgia family by the name of Taliaferro would be a good sign. That’s what was so encouraging about finding Mary living with Charles and Mildred Taliaferro in the 1870 census—even though the enumerator represented Mary as merely domestic help in their household.

That discovery also meant Mary’s own parents had to have been gone by that point. So, were they?

If the 1860 census record we had found was the right one for our Mary’s family, it already showed Mary’s mother as head of household. Mary’s father had to have been deceased by that point. Whether owing to a tragic occurrence on account of the war, or for other reasons—I have yet to locate any record of the cause of his death—it turns out that Thomas Rainey, senior, passed away on October 16, 1858. This I know, only thanks to the work of a Find A Grave volunteer, Dianne Wood, who originally set up the memorial on that website for Thomas Firth Rainey, a sixty two year old man buried in Coweta County, Georgia.

Not long after the 1860 census was taken, Thomas’ wife took her place next to her husband at the Johnson Cemetery in Palmetto. She died on March 5, 1863—providing us the explanation for her absence in the 1870 census, and the reason why her younger children Mary and Thomas would be in another family’s household.

Would that be the household of a relative? Only if that mother Mary was a former Taliaferro, herself.

Headstone for Mrs M E Rainey at Johnson Cemetery in Palmetto Georgia
Judging from the list of burials at that small Johnson Cemetery in Coweta County, it may well have been a family burial ground—much like the burials we had seen back in South Carolina for the younger Mary’s future Broyles in-laws—for it is peppered with reoccurring uses of that distinctive “Taliaferro.”

In fact, Mary Rainey’s mother was listed as a Taliaferro, herself. Her memorial on Find A Grave lists her under the entry, “Mary Elizabeth ‘Polly’ Taliaferro Rainey.” Though the memorial doesn’t indicate how that maiden name was verified, one look at the only accessible online index providing marriage records for the era reveals a Thomas F. Rainey marrying a Mary E. “Talafero” on June 9, 1818, in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

For a name traditionally spelled “Taliaferro” but properly pronounced “Toliver,” I’d say that rendition was close enough.


Photograph, above: Rainey family burial plot at Johnson Cemetery in Palmetto, Coweta County, Georgia, from the Find A Grave memorial for Mary Elizabeth "Polly" Taliaferro Rainey; with thanks for permission granted to use photograph courtesy of photographer and Find A Grave volunteer, Dianne Wood.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Keep Looking


I’ll cut to the chase: the moral of yesterday’s story is to never stop looking. Who knows whether the very next search could bring the answer to your question?

Perturbed by my smashing non-success at locating a simple ancestor by the name of Mary—alright, I admit: it was a challenge—I couldn’t quite lay down the quest, even though frustrated. Granted, when a surname has so many spelling variations as to leave me searching for a string that includes more wildcards than alphabetic characters, it does feel like time to give up.

But I couldn’t. I kept staring at that 1850 census result for Coweta County, Georgia. It had all the makings of a promising hit: last name phonetically in agreement with what I was told was my second great grandmother’s maiden name, mother named Mary, and brother named Thomas. It’s just that the ages were all jumbled up.

Rather than trash everything and start again from scratch, I decided to play “What If.” In other words, “What If” I could find the family—or even a portion of them—in the subsequent census? I was game to check.

Searching through the 1860 census possibilities, the only one I could find that remotely matched was a household in Campbell County, Georgia. Not being familiar with the geo-political subdivisions of the state of Georgia, all I could tell was that it wasn’t the Coweta County location where I had previously found a potential match. Nor was it the Muscogee County location of my second great grandparents’ wedding in 1871.

I had no clue even where Campbell County was located. So I looked it up. And no wonder: as of 1931, there is no such thing as Campbell County, Georgia. The county was absorbed, as a cost-saving measure, into Fulton County. For those of you who do know your Georgia geography, you now realize approximately where it was located: near Atlanta.

Actually, though the 1860 census showed residence in a different county than the 1850 census, the distance between the two homes was not that great—only a matter of about ten miles.

There were other differences to note, though. Most significant was the absence of Thomas’ and Mary’s father. Also named Thomas, the elder Rainey had reported his age as fifty three in the 1850 census. For whatever reason, he was totally missing from the subsequent census.

Also missing in this 1860 census—if the families were one and the same—were older son Charles (now about age thirty two) and daughters Sarah (who would now be twenty four) and Mildred (now approaching twenty three). Perhaps these older Rainey children had married and set up households of their own—requiring another search to double check my hunches about these possible relatives.

More significant than that, though, was the absence of daughter Mary. While in the 1850 census, she had shown as a fifteen year old child—and could likely have also been married and removed from the household by now—I had my doubts about any wedding bells in her future. For one reason: there was now a different Mary in the Rainey household.

For whatever reason, the Rainey household—if, indeed, it was one and the same as the one I had located from the 1850 census—now sported a younger Mary. This girl, listed by the name, “Mary W. E.,” showed in the 1860 census at the age of nine.

VoilĂ ! The possibility revives itself! We now have a family constellation which included a son Thomas who was well on his way to becoming the twenty seven year old “clerk” in the Columbus, Georgia, household of Charles and Mildred Taliaferro—and a nine year old Mary who likely was the nineteen year old “domestic” entry in the Taliaferro household, ten years later.

I believe we may have a match.


Above: 1895 Rand McNally map of the former Campbell County, Georgia; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain. 
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