Monday, December 12, 2016

Considering Rachel's Brother

Having made little progress in finding more on the origins of Rachel Riley Boothe, my second great grandmother, it's time to see what can be discovered by taking a detour to research her siblings. The 1850 census in northeastern Tennessee showed three people of similar young adult status in the Riley home then. The oldest, Mary, was born in North Carolina about 1825. The next, William F., was born there as well, around 1830. Rachel was the youngest of the three, arriving about 1834.

If these three household members were siblings—and remember, the 1850 census gives us no indication of that—their ages were spaced such that there could have been at least two others in the gaps. One of those two might have been lost to a childhood death, but the older, if born between Mary and William, could have been old enough to have already married.

Gleaning anything on whatever became of the younger Rileys would be nice. There was nothing I could locate on cemetery records for the parents, William and Cassandra, nor any other Rileys that might possibly have been linked to this family. Thus, the impetus for tracking Rachel's two siblings.

Mary may have suffered the fate of female invisibility, for I have yet to locate any possible reasons for her disappearance. With the availability of Washington County marriage records, I tend to doubt that. Yet, with no success in finding any Riley burials in the area, I have no support for assuming she died young and unmarried. For now, she isn't a very promising lead in my quest to find out anything more about this Riley family history.

Son William, however, may have provided some clues. May. If I were seeking any record of his whereabouts prior to online search capabilities, I might not have sounded so chirpy about that assessment, for the one lead I did locate was for a William F. Riley living in Indiana. And I didn't even find him until the 1870 census.

If that was our Riley—and with a surname like that, we need to wake up to the possibility that he might be the wrong Riley—he apparently got married before leaving town in Tennessee. Fortunately, an 1852 marriage record, entry number 703 in Washington County, shows William F. Riley marrying Eliza J. Thompson on June 10.

When William Riley showed up in Putnam County, Indiana, however, he had lost his middle initial, and his wife had gained a more elegant version of her name: Elizabeth. Still, he was born about the same time as we had gleaned from the 1850 census, and he was still showing as born in North Carolina. Eliza-Elizabeth was reportedly born in Tennessee, providing another assurance that we might have the right family. And so were their three children, whose names uncannily matched those of our William's sisters, Mary and Rachel. In fact, his son John's middle initial—W—might easily have stood for his own given name, making all three children namesakes of their father's childhood family constellation.

Or maybe Mary and Rachel were just popular names at that time in American history.

This was quickly turning out to be one of those instances in which I wasn't really sure whether I had the right family. To find any way to either support or discard that theory would mean more research. And so, deeper down the Riley rabbit hole I went...

Above: Excerpt from Washington County, Tennessee, marriage record number 703, dated June 9, 1852, for William F. Riley and Eliza J. Thompson, whose marriage was officiated by William Ellis, Justice of the Peace, on the next day, June 10, 1852. Image courtesy


  1. Jacqui, I saw your request for other letters from the LCI 707, back in 2011 I am in possession of copies of some of these, if you are still interested send me a note at

    1. Will do, Jon! Yes, I am interested! Thanks for getting in touch.

  2. Very hard to tell if the names are just popular or of "family"...

    1. Yeah...I'd definitely want more evidence to back up any conjecture here...


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