Saturday, July 22, 2017

It Pays to Have Connections

If it wasn't for one small detail concerning the woman whose parentage we're seeking, I might have experienced considerably more difficulty in accessing the information. As it is, in trying to piece together the matriline of an orphan—who just happened to be my second great grandmother—we're struggling with guesswork tangled up with lack of documentation. Seeking verification of genealogical details in the era of the 1700s and early 1800s is so different than experiences in researching our more recent history.

By the time we moved from my second great grandmother, Mary Rainey Broyles, to her mother Mary Taliaferro Rainey, to her grandmother Mary Gilmer Taliaferro, and then her great-grandmother Elizabeth Lewis Gilmer, we've arrived in the mid 1700s. Trying to determine the parents of a woman in that time frame might have been tricky; sometimes these people were mentioned by name, and sometimes they were nearly invisible.

In the case of Elizabeth Lewis, though, she had something going for her. After marrying her husband, Thomas Meriwether Gilmer, she just so happened to give birth to a son who eventually went on to become governor of the state of Georgia. Some biographical sketches—though not all—of governor George Rockingham Gilmer include a line crediting Thomas and Elizabeth as his parents.

That portion of a lineage which fortuitously includes my (presumed) matriline helps bolster confidence that I'm on the right track. Besides, it elevates chances that the family's previous generations might have rubbed shoulders with all the right people, too. I could use a few more handy connections like that in this research project.

It certainly wasn't difficult, employing a Google search and some choice keywords, to locate public domain genealogies containing just the names I was seeking. For Elizabeth Lewis, the current stepping-off point on this matrilineal pursuit, it was easy to find her place in two volumes (apparently using the same sources, which does make me hesitate) mentioning her parents' names.

From William Terrell Lewis' 1892 Genealogy of the Lewis Family in America, we see Elizabeth mentioned, along with her twelve siblings and the note that she was born in 1765 and married to "Thos. M. Gilmer." Turning to the preceding page, it reveals her father: Thomas Lewis, a surveyor in colonial Augusta County, Virginia. His wife, Elizabeth's mother, was mentioned as "Jane, daughter of Wm. Strother, of Stafford County."

This is supported in another volume of similar name but slightly later date of publication (1906), Genealogies of the Lewis and Kindred Families, where we find one of those name-dropping entries, thanks to Elizabeth's relationship as mother of the governor of Georgia. For our purposes, that provides us with the feature of Elizabeth's mother as Jane Strother, daughter of William Strother of Stafford County, Virginia.

While this second volume also detailed Elizabeth's father Thomas Lewis' heritage—son of John Lewis and Margaret Lynn and grandson of Andrew Lewis and Mary Calahan—we have to remember that is not our goal in this pursuit.

Jane Strother, however, is. And, as it turns out as I surveyed the surnames in my mtDNA match's pedigree, that was exactly the point at which I needed to focus my attention: to the Strother family. 

Above: My second great grandmother's matriline now reaches to her second great grandmother, Jane Strother, daughter of William Strother and wife of Thomas Lewis. Graphic layout of the pedigree courtesy of

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