Friday, July 21, 2017

A Different Type of Research

Moving back into the eighteenth century brings us to a much different style of genealogical research. Long gone, by now, are those government-issued birth, marriage, and death records which researchers of twentieth century ancestry have come to rely on. In their place, hopefully, are church records of baptisms and marriages, and court records of wills, guardianships and probate.

Entering, stage left on this scene of earlier American history, also comes another resource. Whether insufferable temptation to commit the genealogical sin of copying someone else's research or boon to those whose desperation is owing to lack of any other options, those hundred-year-old genealogies of early American families sit silently on the shelves of our most-revered genealogical libraries and await our response. Use them? Or not?

I caved. Admittedly, while authors of the genealogical publications of the late 1800s and early 1900s may have been hampered by the vastly restricted access to resources—so unlike what we enjoy today, with digitized records and instantaneous access online—they were also likely to have been prepared with the scholarly discipline of the academically trained.

I promise myself to use these books—for the time, at least—as trailblazer material, and to follow up on my own by seeking out any documentation to confirm what those closer to the matter may have "known" through hearsay from their elder relatives.

On the matrilineal trail for the mothers' line of my orphaned second great grandmother—even that being an exercise in educated guesses—we've so far come from Mary Rainey, wife of Thomas Broyles, to her presumed mother, Mary Taliaferro Rainey, to her mother, Mary Meriwether Gilmer, wife of Warren (or possibly Warner) Taliaferro.

Let's pause to consider the treasure trove we've now stumbled upon, by virtue of associating with those two surnames, Meriwether and Gilmer. As has been observed by other researchers—including some who self-published their own pedigrees in the time-honored tradition of local and state genealogical societies of the past—those surnames have been intertwined over the generations since, undoubtedly, colonial times.

Thus, there are a number of books that can be consulted, as I found out by going to the book section of and just searching for one of those surnames, Gilmer. While we always need to be cautious of the possibility that authors back then were just as liable to make a mistake as any careful research might still do today, it was informative to see what could be found about the woman we left off with yesterday in the pursuit of my second great grandmother's matriline.

If Mary Meriwether Gilmer was indeed her grandmother, who was her great grandmother? Right away, in Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia, a book containing much detail about the extended Gilmer family, we see that "Warren Taliaferro...married Mary M. Gilmer, daughter of Thomas M. Gilmer."

Another book, The Gilmers in America, provides a glimpse of the family constellation of that Thomas M. Gilmer:
The eldest son, who, on the death of his father [Peachy Ridgway Gilmer], became the head of the Gilmer family according to the old English method of reckoning, Thomas Meriwether Gilmer, took upon himself the responsibilities of matrimony before he had attained his majority, and a year after this serious venture he displayed his independence of character and his self-reliance by removing with his young wife, Elizabeth Lewis, to Georgia and settling on Broad River which was then (about 1783) a far frontier.

Thus we are supplied with another mother in this matrilineal pursuit: Mary Meriwether Gilmer Taliaferro's mother was the former Elizabeth Lewis. Another book of that era, The Meriwethers and Their Connections also mentions that relationship.

With that, we can now extend my orphaned second great grandmother's matriline another generation, for the purposes of the mitochondrial DNA test results I'm seeking to confirm with a corollary genealogical paper trail. So, we move from my second great grandmother, Mary Rainey, to Mary Taliaferro, to Mary Gilmer, and now to Elizabeth Lewis.

And with that connection to the Lewis family—another colonial American family intermarried with several others—we'll certainly encounter more published assistance in tracing this line.

Above: Beginning with my orphaned second great grandmother, Mary E. W. Rainey, we now can trace her matriline through to her own great grandmother, Elizabeth Lewis. Graphic layout of the pedigree courtesy of



  1. Some days I trust those scholars over today's modern Millies and Miltons. There's a lot of modern 'garbage' facts out there. I often begin with findings from the oldies as a lift off for deeper research. It's nice to have those starting points.

    1. Yes, agreed, Gayle: I like having those starting points, if they are available. Of course, I'll be gathering my own set of documentation, as well, but it's a good start.


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