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.


  1. I can't imagine how many Sarahs you had to sift through in that Findagrave search.

    1. Actually, Wendy, now that I think of it, I can't remember how, exactly, I called up that search. You can't search Find A Grave without at least entering a few letters for the surname field. I may have done a search by county, or some other parameter, but then scrolled through pages of results. After years of grinding through microfilms, I've gotten the knack of speed reading through scrolling readouts.

  2. Good luck with this fascinating family connection! Please do share what happened to encourage this family to leave Georgia for Kentucky and wind up in Missouri, of all places.

    1. Will do, Marian. As soon as I can figure it out, myself :)

      Actually, I'm closing in on some suspected reasons for leaving Georgia. And I have a few ideas about Missouri, as well. Everything is incremental, of course. Not every move is the result of a major decision. And this one took two generations to completely unfold.

  3. I was reading some of your different posts. I often go to the "you might also like" buttons. I saw on one button the painting " The Bookworm". This is one of my favorite paintings. Then, I started looking at more. I really like this part of your posts. So, here is my question. Do you go to Wikipedia and add these to your blog somehow or is there a gadget/widget that can be added to a blog that randomly selects these. I hope my question makes sense.

    1. Oh, wonderful, Margie! I'm glad you like the paintings--especially "The Bookworm."

      There is a way on the blogger's dashboard to insert images. For Blogspot users, the icon looks something like a miniature painting, and is located to the right of the "Link" option on the tool bar.

      Margie, there are all sorts of options for inserting images to your blog. Many people use public domain stock images or photographs, but since I am writing about history--albeit micro-history--I chose to use public domain artwork. This means finding artwork either published before 1923 or older than cut-offs for the copyright law in the country in which you are writing (for the U.S., 70 years from the time of the creator's death, but different countries have longer periods). For more information on copyright issues, you might find Judy Russell's blog informative--she's not only an attorney, but also a genealogist.

      For the artwork used here on A Family Tapestry, I select each piece specifically for the post it accompanies. For instance, when I was writing about my then-upcoming research trip to Ireland, I featured Irish painters and landscapes. When writing about my husband's Ohio ancestors, I looked for farm scenes.

      Most of the time, I use public domain material I've gleaned from Wikipedia, but I also use Library of Congress files, and even my own collection of old letters and photograph.

      It might seem easier, as a busy blogger, to use a random-access photo widget, but I think it adds more to the reading experience if visuals somehow accentuate an aspect of that day's post.

      If adding artwork to your blog is something you want to do, I hope this will be an encouragement for you to give it a try, Margie. Looking forward to seeing what you decide to do!

  4. Thank you for such a detailed explanation. I appreciate the time it took you to help me. Also, I noticed that your paintings compliment the post. I really enjoy reading your blog.

    1. Glad to hear it, Margie. Thanks for your comments. I'm happy to provide any help or suggestions I can, so always feel free to ask.

  5. Like you, my ancestors took a similar route - and I learned about things like the "The Great Wagon Road," one of the effects of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Then I learned of Daniel Boone and the trek through Cumberland Gap - and the later "Trail of Tears." The mountains (and government policy) shaped the route from PA, MD, VA south to Georgia and around (or through the gaps) of the Appalachian Mountain chain. The route only hints that "to find more farm land" they moved that way -

    After the Civil War years, there was a move to Texas and Oklahoma - with Texas becoming part of the USA just before the war. Oklahoma's "formation" was the result of the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889.

    I would still love to have been able to sit down with my g-grandparents and ask them "Why?" My mom's grandmother moved from Civil War ravaged Tennessee/Alabama in the 1880s - her grandfather moved from Barren County, Kentucky - about the same time.

    1. Well, being able to sit down with our ancestors and have those kinds of chats may be a luxury we'll never be granted, but we can speculate. Routes like the ones you mentioned will indeed be part of the scenery on our journey through the next few days, as will that ever-present quest to find more--or at least "better"--farmland.

      It's just tantalizing to discover that you and I are both eyeing those documents from Barren County, Kentucky, Iggy. Who knows???


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