Sunday, January 25, 2015


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, 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, 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.


  1. Have you looked in the grantor-grantee index for Coweta County? A copy is online:

    1. Patrick, thanks for the reminder about the USGenWeb sites. Actually, I took a look around, once I followed your link, and saw there were other mentions of Taliaferro family members there, as well. Appreciate your mentioning it!

  2. Oy. My head hurts. Yours must hurt too - hitting it against that "confusion"!

    1. All I can do is tell myself it will feel a lot better, once I get it all down on paper and documented...


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