Friday, July 3, 2015
Getting From Hither to Yon
It's one big problem in genealogical research: an ancestor you've been studiously following, tracking backwards in time over years of life's twists and turns, suddenly disappears. The paper trail goes cold.
Sometimes, that big change comes at you with clues: census records warn you that the man who settled in Missouri was, many years before, born in Kentucky. Sometimes, the disappearance comes with no trace: a married woman for whom no maiden name has been supplied leaves no confirming documents.
It's helpful to understand general migratory patterns when desperate for direction on those missing-in-action ancestors.
Of course, some patterns are more obvious than others—witness the immense draw of the beautiful woman standing in New York harbor whom we've dubbed the Statue of Liberty; legions of immigrants have followed the siren call, forsaking destitute situations across the Atlantic Ocean in war-torn countries of Europe for her welcoming greeting in a New World.
Other patterns only become obvious to the genealogical researcher after laying aside the ancestor treasure hunt for a refresher course in local history. In seeking answers about the family of my mystery cousin—the one tracing the matrilineal line stalled at the 1860s point of Sarah Kinslow Stinebaugh in Dallas County, Missouri—it was indeed confirming to find neighboring immigrant settlers following the very pattern I was seeking.
I needed to find a company of immigrants who started in Georgia, moved through Kentucky, and ultimately settled in the region near Dallas County, Missouri. I found a possibility—and one conveniently also related to my own maternal lines—in the family of one Frederick George Gilmer.
Gilmer is one of those early American colonial names that comes in handy in genealogical research. If you have the good fortune of uncovering that surname in your family's history, you can tap into a wealth of other people's research and documentation via an assortment of published material of the late nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century.
Not only that, but like many of those early colonial families, in the case of the Gilmers, there was much intermarriage between surnames. The Gilmer line includes a number of related names also in my family tree, such as Taliaferro, Harvie and Meriwether. Likewise, each of those other families have a number of genealogies published regarding their heritage—offering possibilities to cross-check one author's research against the other manuscripts.
The target person I had stumbled upon, late last Sunday evening when I should have been putting my research to bed for the night, was a woman by the name of Sarah Harvie Gilmer. Don't let that name fool you into thinking she was married with children; according to her Find A Grave memorial, she died childless. Hers was not a misapplied (and misspelled) masculine middle name. Nor a kept maiden name. The surname-as-middle-name device, customary among some of my Southern ancestors, provided the hint that this Gilmer descendant was related to the Harvie family—a good sign, indeed, for me.
Sarah's entry first caught my eye because, well, she was named Sarah. Also, conveniently, she was born in Kentucky but had migrated to Lincoln County, Missouri. I had, out of desperation in grappling with my mystery cousin's Sarah Kinslow Stinebaugh, tried an experiment on Find A Grave: search for all Sarahs within a birth time frame who were mentioned as living in Missouri. (I still am not satisfied that our mystery Sarah was indeed a Kinslow.) That's how I had spotted this Sarah.
Sarah Harvie Gilmer turned out to be a daughter of Frederick George Gilmer, who in turn was a son of John Thornton Gilmer and Martha Gaines Harvie.
That, as you now see, is where Sarah's middle name Harvie came in: from her paternal grandmother. And that Harvie and Gilmer family had come from Wilkes County, Georgia, that huge post-colonial county from which was later carved, among others, Oglethorpe County where some of my Taliaferro kin once lived.
Though there is not even any glimmer of a connection between the one Sarah (Kinslow) and the other (Gilmer), the existence of that family—who, conveniently, along the way, stopped long enough in Kentucky to birth some of their children—gives me not only the idea but the hope that this was a potential line of travel not only for this Gilmer line, but for the family from which this other Sarah originated. And, given the proclivity for intermarriage among my family lines, perhaps a chance for this Kinslow daughter to have somehow been intertwined with that Gilmer and Harvie line as well.
After all, something had to move our mystery Sarah from her birthplace in Kentucky to her married home in Missouri. Not only that, but there had to be a nexus, somewhere in the mystery Sarah's ancestry, connecting her matrilineal line with that of mine.
Before I could uncover that link, though, I needed to discover just how these families left Georgia for Kentucky—and ended up in Missouri.