Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Second Glance

How many times do we look at a document and see just so many words—and then return to read it years later, and suddenly those words speak volumes to us?

That’s what happened yesterday, when I was reviewing the letter that was likely behind my grandmother’s inspiration to send those news clippings of her parents’ passing. After that letter’s advice to “send $1.14 to to Dr. Montague Boyd for one those books on the Broyles,” my grandmother’s Aunt Nellie went on to explain,
Dr. is your Great uncle Edward Broyles grandson. He was raised in Savanna Ga.
Somehow, the part about “Savanna Ga.” had been lost on me before. Not that this detail will help me any with my current project of documenting eligibility for the Daughters of the American Revolution. But it might help with that secondary project I’m working on: finding the link to my mystery cousin—the one who surfaced following a match between us on our mitochondrial DNA tests.

Since the mitochondrial DNA test—mtDNA for short—follows the genetic line from child to mother to maternal grandmother, and likewise upward through the female line of each generation, I took this discovery as a prompt to begin sprucing up my notes on each of those women in my family tree. Everything is in order, up through four generations—from me through my great grandmother, Sarah Ann Broyles McClellan.

When it comes to Sarah’s mother, however, the details disintegrate. There are researchers giving her maiden name as two different—though similar—surnames. There are differences of opinion as to who her parents were. The one surname that some claim doesn’t seem, on the other end, to have any such record of her as a child in that genealogy.

Then, there’s that story I remember my mother telling me, about one of her female ancestors likely being adopted. Was it Sarah’s mother?

Unfortunately, the woman died young. If she was buried with her husband, I can find no trace of a record supporting that. In fact, I can’t find much of any record of her at all—save for one possible marriage record for someone fitting her name, who married a Tennessean known as “Thomas F. Broyles.”

Thomas F. Broyles? Close. But not quite right. My second great grandfather was Thomas Taliaferro Broyles. It would take a lot of imagination to convince myself that the “F” in the marriage record was a poorly written “T.”

January 1871 marriage record of Thomas Broyles and Mary Rainey of Muscogee County Georgia

However, there is one bright spot in the scenario. Clerks do get the record wrong, sometimes. Unbelievably, they’ve managed to enter wrong names in the record a number of times. As many marriage licenses as I’ve read, I’ve seen it myself. I can hope that’s the case here, but somehow, I feel like I need something more to go on than mere hope.

Better than that possibility, though, is this: the marriage took place in Georgia. Not in Tennessee, where the man lived. Not in South Carolina, where he grew up. But in Georgia.

What would make someone from the northeastern hills of Tennessee want to head far across Georgia to claim his bride? He would have had to have some sort of local connection, I would think. But what? All the Broyles family had been raised in South Carolina.

Here it was, right below my own nose, though. I knew it all along, thanks to this letter from Aunt Nellie: there was a Broyles relative in Georgia. But somehow, I had always missed the significance of it. Could he have been the connection that led Thomas T. Broyles to find and marry his wife Mary?

Sometimes, the way to disprove a theory is to treat it as if it were the opposite: try to prove that it is true. When the theory doesn’t turn out to work, you know it’s an idea you can discard. For now, I’ll take my marching orders to be to examine this Broyles relative in Georgia, to see if somehow, his family would lead Thomas from Tennessee to his bride in Georgia. This will involve checking the census records from each pertinent decade, and also taking a look at the maps for each area named within the state of Georgia.

Hopefully, at the end of this romp through Georgia, we’ll have a better grasp on whatever led the Tennessee doctor to his Southern belle.  


  1. Hi Jacqui, two thoughts. Look at the marriage record again and remove the crossbar from the F, now it looks just like the T in Thomas. Also do you have Dr Boyd's book? It is available online at UPENN Hathitrust Google him

    1. Oh, Kat, I've stared and stared at that handwriting, trying to convince myself that that cross stroke wasn't there, but I'm afraid I didn't succeed. It is almost as if the crossbar has an additional mark--like a serif--at it's very end, as if to emphasize the thought, "Yes, this is indeed an F, not a T." On top of that, though I didn't include the rest of the image, the upper part of the form included the same, very deliberate, addition of that cross stroke on the first entry of his name.

      I wish...but it looks like it is an F. That, however, doesn't preclude the clerk making an outright error, though. I'm banking on that one. But you and I know that this kind of quandary is going to need more than one supporting piece of evidence before I feel better about assuming it is my ancestor.

      Thanks also, Kat, for mentioning the Hathi Trust resource. I had linked back to it when I first mentioned the book in the post the other day, but I think I'll go back and add the hyperlink here, also--just in case a distant Broyles cousin comes visiting, you know ;)

  2. My money is on clerk-error in copying from one document to another.

    Reading that letter a second time just proves that we are never truly "DONE" with a document.

    1. Learning about our family's history is a cumulative process. What just seemed like so many insignificant words can take on an entirely different meaning, once additional documents have been discovered. I'm learning that it is never a waste of time to go back and review old documents with those now-better-informed eyes.

      Yeah, Wendy, that possibility of clerk's error is what I'm banking on, as well. We'll find out soon enough...I hope.

  3. I LOVE it when that happens. Not only underscores the value and importance of revisiting and reviewing documents, but the value of organizing them and filing them so that we can actually find them later.

    1. Sigh. So true, Michelle.

      What this experience has taught me, though, is that there is another category we can label in this saga of revisiting records: the possibilities that can pop up when we see the same old documents with the newly-educated eyes of recent discoveries. Learning is definitely a cumulative experience. Don't ever want to discount that observation!

  4. I'm trying to figure out what this webpage means/says:

    I think I saw some place that said Thomas F was Charles brother (but I wasn't paying much attention...)

    1. Yes, Thomas and Charles were brothers. That GenForum entry was posted by a distant Broyles cousin of mine, with whom I've corresponded years ago over the extended Broyles family. That post may seem confusing because Charles had quite a colorful life. We'll get into that more in the next few days...

  5. So frustrating for sure..F's and T's and why can't they do it right:)


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