Friday, July 20, 2018
Exploring Research Dilemmas
by Wandering Around
When it comes to my mother's southern roots, the research dilemma—or at least one of them—is finding a way to connect my third great-grandfather, Andrew Jackson Charles, with the previous generation. When a direct path isn't evident between the generation I know—that would be Andrew Jackson Charles' daughter Emily—and the generation that draws a complete blank, it's time to strike out in every direction.
I'm not even sure how I first stumbled across Andrew Jackson Charles' name. Someone—one of those helpful volunteers who sometimes are right, but sometimes are wrong—entered a note on my second great grandmother's Find A Grave memorial that she was daughter of Andrew Jackson Charles and Delaney Rosella Townsend.
She—that would be the future Emily McClellan, wife of William Henry McClellan—was born April 24, 1849, according to the dates engraved on her headstone. That, of course, meant I could look her up in the 1850 census and see what I could find about her parents.
Sure enough, there was an Emma residing in the household of one Andrew J. Charles, although she was listed as a child of two years of age, not the toddler we would have expected. Along with his (presumed) wife, listed as Lania, there were two other children: six year old Benjamin and four year old Francis.
All would go swimmingly in this research journey if only we could replicate that household ten years later. But unfortunately, neither Andrew nor Delaney were anywhere to be found in 1860.
What I did find, in that 1860 census, was "Emma" Charles along with a brother and a sister, in the household of Melburn and Drucilla Odum. Along with the Odums' infant daughter Mabel, though, there were several other children, presenting a number of differing surnames. There was an Emma whose last name was Hines, along with her sister Mary. Of special interest in my research situation, there were also two teenagers by the surname Charles, along with my Emma Charles, who at this point had appropriately aged to be eleven in 1860.
It took a lot of document wrangling to uncover the connection between the Odums, the Hines, and the Charles children. Drucilla, apparently, was a widow when she married Melburn Odum. Emma and Mary Hines were her two daughters by her 1852 marriage to Thomas Hughs Hines—making the girls half-sisters of Mabel Odum. As for the Charles children, they were likely in the Odum household because of some familial obligation. I guessed it was either because the Charles children were related to the Odum line or Drucilla was, herself, a Charles.
Discovering the Charles-Hines marriage, it turned out to be the latter, giving me one more key to unlock the mystery of the previous generation. Now, instead of looking for the unnamed parents of Andrew Jackson Charles, I was on a mission to uncover the parents of Andrew and Drucilla.
Because I knew that history of a Charles family in the area of my maternal roots in north Florida, of course I felt there might be a likelihood of such a connection. But googling for the history of the specific Charles family whose name was bestowed to the Charles Spring we mentioned yesterday did not bring up anything more interesting than a river guide's blog on Charles Spring and the historic Bellamy Road. Interesting diversion, but not enough to provide traction to my own adventure.
Switching to a different approach, I visited FamilySearch.org to see what I could find on Andrew and Delaney there. A handwritten document issued in Madison County by the Territory of Florida verified their marriage in 1841, but was not the type of duty-bound governmental document which would include useful details like parents' names. Name of the groom, name of the bride—take that and consider myself lucky to have found even that much on the territorial frontier.
While I was at that website, though, I fell to the temptation to see if anyone was researching that line. FamilySearch, after all, hosts a tree-building program. Although I don't, at this point, use the FamilySearch tree myself, I couldn't help taking a peek.
Sure enough, there he was in the FamilySearch tree, Andrew Jackson Charles, with enough detail to assure me this was the right individual. But when I took a step backwards in time to see if his parents were listed, all I found was a blank. I am, evidently, not the only one stumped by this line.
That didn't conclude my business on that website, however. I went back to the full listing of hits for my search on Andrew Charles and noticed one unusual entry tucked away among the results from my search on Andrew's name and dates.
One thing I had previously noticed about Andrew and the sister I discovered—Drucilla, later the wife of Melburn Odum in the 1860 census—was the disparity in their ages. Andrew was likely born in 1814, while Drucilla was born twelve years later. A whole host of other children could have fit into a time gap that wide. Perhaps I could find some others.
That unusual entry I found in the search results happened to point to another Charles living in the same region. Her name was Mary Charles and she was even younger than Drucilla Charles. Here was the link to her entry in the 1850 census. I'm not sure why her entry came up when I was specifically searching for Andrew Charles, but this was a clue worth following. I'm a nosy type and researching by wandering around is not beyond me.
What was absolutely tantalizing about this 1850 census entry was that not only Mary Charles was mentioned—remember the Mary who ran out to meet the arriving stagecoach without grabbing her red scarf?—but the 1850 Charles household included two other significant names. One was that of Drucilla herself. The other was the head of household: a woman by the name of Rebecca.
Granted, census records in that time period did not indicate relationships. But chances are fairly good that there was some sort of connection between that Rebecca Charles of the trading post and ferry at Charles Spring, Mary Charles—whom we've already seen listed as her daughter, at least in the legendary sense—and the Drucilla whom I've lately learned was my Andrew J. Charles' sister.
Of course, this Rebecca could have been their aunt, doing just as Drucilla later had done, in taking in her nieces and nephew after her brother Andrew died. Still, this does give me a clue that there is some sort of relationship between these people, even if I can't yet declare them to all be children of the legendary Ruben and Rebecca Charles.