Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Matrilineal Tiptoe

It's a struggle to find my way backwards through my matrilineal line, once I hit that brick wall of my third great grandmother, Mary Taliaferro Rainey. For one thing, her lifespan sits squarely astride the great divide of the 1850 census: married and out of her father's household from 1850 onward, no names on census records except heads of households prior to that point.

However, from that discovery in the 1870 census, showing my third great grandmother in the Georgia household of one Charles and Mildred Taliaferro, it is possible to infer who her parents might have been. This, of course, allows us to tentatively proceed with assuming the makeup of my matrilineal line before this stopping point.

We've been over this routine before, of course—but that was back when we last slammed into that brick wall. Not knowing for sure, I felt stymied, and left well enough alone (barring some irresistible rabbit trail snares which you know I followed).

That was then. Now, I need to somehow pick up the trail and move forward, so it's time for a recap. Here's where we are:
  • We assume (for the time being, or at least until finding something to disprove this well-founded assumption) that Mary Taliaferro Rainey, Thomas Rainey's wife, was my third great grandmother's mother. We've already spent a painstakingly long time examining that possibility.
  • That Mary, in turn, would be daughter of Warren Taliaferro and his wife, Mary Meriwether Gilmer—as well as sister of their son Charles Boutwell Taliaferro in whose household, after her death, her two children, Thomas and my Mary, lived during the 1870 census.
  • Mary Meriwether Gilmer was daughter of Thomas Meriwether Gilmer and Elizabeth Lewis—she of the surname that just made me chase down that rabbit trail that led to confirming me as umpteenth cousin to explorer Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame.
  • Elizabeth Lewis, in turn, was daughter of Thomas Lewis and his wife, Jane Strother.
  • Jane, with a lifespan stretching from 1732 to 1820 in Virginia, now becomes my new brick wall ancestor.
There's no use bemoaning my fate at the foot of yet another brick wall, however. For each of these women, I need to trace back down the line—a reverse genealogy—of each daughter of each mother, to see if there is any nexus with my exact match mtDNA mystery cousin.

There's still plenty of work to do before I find myself idling at the foot of this brick wall.


  1. Deeds, court and estate records could make some things apparent. Exploring their existence for family clusters might make the phrase "brick wall" more what most mean by it.

    1. It hardly matters what someone else might mean by brick wall. Until it can be knocked down or worked around, a brick wall is a brick wall. As we all grow in our research prowess, somehow, those brick walls become more invincible to match our increasing skill sets.

  2. If nothing else, it would be nice if there was a way to label someone in Ancestry family tree as "not conclusive" or "?" When I go back to the family tree - it would be nice to see who I thought was "shaky" and continue to research them.

    1. The only approach I've heard for dealing with including "suspected" relatives in the Ancestry family tree has been to designate your tree as private. That way, while you experiment, no one can stumble upon your guesses, clone them and replicate them throughout the digital universe. Admittedly, it would be nice to also flag an entry and say: "This one is only a test."

      However, in the "new" Ancestry--which is soon to be the only Ancestry--for those shaky leaf hints, at least they've provided the addition of a "maybe" category for hints you are not entirely sure about accepting. It's a start...


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