Tuesday, July 31, 2018

DRUcilla, not LUcilla!

It might seem a reasonable question to ask: why didn't you just look up Drucilla's own probate file? If you've been researching your genealogy for long, you already know the answer: things never go as simply as we'd expect.

Such was the case with Drucilla Charles, widowed wife of Thomas Hughs Hines and mother of his two daughters whom we last saw after her second marriage to Melburn Odum and birth of his daughter Mabel. Even though Drucilla was only sister of my third great grandfather, she was of particular interest to me because she was my key to lead to the previous generation of that pioneer Charles family in northern territorial Florida. Other than Drucillawell, at least until after the 1860 censusall the other members of my Charles family seemed to have met with untimely deaths.

Those Charles family siblings included another sisterone with the rather plain name of Mary A.who had become legendary because of her supposed demise after having run out of the house without wearing the stipulated red scarf which would be the signal for the neighboring tribesmen to refrain from shooting her. And yet, when I went looking for Drucilla's family after her most recent appearance in the 1860 census, all I could find was Drucilla's children and a woman named Mary A. McLeran.

And then, yesterday, I accidentally stumbled upon Drucilla's probate fileand the small detail that the administratrix of her case was none other than this same Mary A. McLeran. That was the detail I spotted on the last page of the probate folder. I had a lot of reading ahead of me. (Well, technically, behind me, because the first page I read was the last page of the file...got that?)

It would have been simple to just do a search for Drucilla in the Ancestry collection labeled Florida Wills and Probate Records, except for one thing: the very first page in the folder was labeled "Lucilla Odum," not Drucilla Odum. And, computers being the literal entities that they are, they search, well, literally. Whoever had indexed that file never looked inside to see whether that detail was accurateand how would I have known it was mislabeled?

I didn't discover that until I had finished reading most of the folder. I discovered, for one thing, that Drucilla had died on March 3, 1866, in Suwannee County, Florida. I also learned that she died without a will, which turned out to be an advantageous event for me, though it probably made life difficult for the guardian of her orphaned daughters. It was on account of this very detail that someone had to go before the local judge and declare that Drucilla had passed intestate, and indicate willingness to serve as administrator of the estate.

Appointment of such a person is not done haphazardly, of course, and in Drucilla's case, this particular person needed to state the reason why she should be considered an appropriate candidate for this position. That detail I found buried about midway through the stack, as I worked my way back through the file from that last page referring to Mary A. McLeran as administratrix.

It can be wearying work, reading through the boring repetition of a legal document. In this case, though, it was well worth the tedium, for this is what I found:

Probate Court, Suwannee County: 
In the matter of the Estate of Drusilla Odum deceased - 
On the application of Mary Ann McLeran who applies as sister and next of kin for letters of administration on the estate of said deceased...

There, in one sentence, buried in the midst of pages and pages of inventories, notes of debts, requests for money for the orphaned daughters, and administrative difficulties, was the smoking gun telling me that Drucilla's sister, Mary A. Charles of the legendary red scarf, had become one and the same with the Mary A. McLeran who served as guardian of Drucilla's children after her passing.

While it makes sense that she was indeed tied to Drucilla's family, Mary leaves us with more unanswered questions. For one thing, I can't find any record of her marriage to the unidentified McLeran. Nor can I find any trace of Mary, herself, after Drucilla's children have grown.

Furthermore, in those few records in which I can find Mary A. McLeran, she is tagged with a birth year of 1834, not the 1828 of the unmarried Mary A. Charles in her mother's household in 1850. Yet, the timing doesn't seem possible to allow a scenario of a first Mary A. Charles dying young, as the legend of the red scarf has it, then being replaced by a second daughter born after the demise of the first. If it were so, it would have been the second Mary A. Charles who would have shown up in that 1850 census, the one with the 1834 birth, not the 1828 birth.

I'm still on the search to find any traces of Mary A. McLeran, of course, and also to figure out how she ties in with the McLeran family. Remember, too, that the oldest McLeran burial in the local cemetery had led me to a connection with the Tison family, another surname in this family group in Suwannee County, so I'm going to keep drilling away at these surname connections in that small town of Wellborn, Florida.

In the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to take a detour to touch on the story of that other administratrix who, not long after Drucilla died, tried to skip town with the money of her husband's estate. I'll be prowling around in the hundred-plus pages of George Edmund McClellan's probate file to see just what it was that triggered a family's resentment which echoed down through the next one hundred years, even to the mid 1960s.

Above: Image from the files of Drucilla Charles Odum's probate case in Suwannee County, Florida, courtesy Ancestry.com.

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Wild Ride Through the Probate Files

I don't know what your opinion is of those ubiquitous shaky-leaf hints at Ancestry, but for the most part, the ones I've seen are usually spot onexcept for the one I want to tell you about today. It was wrongtotally wrong in that it pinpointed the word "wife" in a document and assumed the word referred to the woman I was seeking. That womanSidnah Tison, somehow related to the Tison family connected with the Mary A. McLeran I was trying to findwas the recently deceased wife of George Edmund McClellan of Wellborn, Florida, and, according to that shaky-leaf hint, supposedly the one mentioned in George's probate records.

About one hundred pages into his probate file, I realized the wife referred to in the records was not Sidnahshe predeceased George by about six yearsbut George's second wife. This second wifeher name was Celestiahad been appointed administratrix of George's estate, but before completing her duty had remarried and was in the process of skipping town with the money from George's estate, hence the reason for such a large probate file. That, however, is a story for another day.

All that to say, shaky-leaf hint or not, the wife referred to in George's filesat least in the first hundred pageswas not Sidnah Tison McClellan.

To say I was somewhat annoyed at being led down such a verbose path is an understatement, and I'd like to say it didn't affect me in the least, but...well, yes, I took out my frustration by grumbling about the insignificant detail of page one of the McClellan file starting with what looked like a continuation page of the appraisal.

Where was the actual will?

The Ancestry file was clearly marked to show that that was the first page of the McClellan file, but it also was obvious that the first page was not the beginning of the story. Admittedly, I was a bit obsessive about insisting that I find the first page of George's file, but that not only powered my way through those first hundred pages of dull, dry reading; it was what made me decide to look in the other files nearby to try and find what was not, obviously, filed in its proper place.

So I flipped back one page to the preceding file and started scanning for anything that would tie in with my missing McClellan paper. It didn't take long for my eyes to light on a name that made me stop in my tracks.

Remember, I'm looking through one-hundred-fifty year old records from a small town in the early years of Florida statehood. What I found seems only to reconfirm my hunch that this town was a place where everyone not only knew everyone else, but might have beenor becomerelated to everyone else. The name that popped up in the file preceding George McClellan's was that of Drucilla Charles.

Drucilla, if you remember from last week, was part of the pioneering Charles family in that region, predating Florida statehoodthe family of Reuben and Rebecca Charles, traders with the native tribes west of Saint Augustine since the days of Spanish rule in the region. Drucilla was also sister of the disappearing Mary A. Charles, the young girl of the legend of the red scarf. It was supposedly this Mary A. Charles who impetuously ran out to meet an arriving stagecoach while forgetting to don her signature red scarf which would protect her from attack by the neighboring natives. Learning that Drucilla, my ancestor Emma McClellan's dad Andrew, and this impetuous Mary A. Charles were siblings was what helped me connect my line to that of Suwannee County's pioneering Charles family in the first place.

While I have yet to buy in to the legend of Mary of the Red Scarf, the story of Drucilla's own life has a few pegs on which to hang the truth of her story. Drucilla was the Charles daughter who was widowed in the early years of her first marriage. Within ten years of that first marriage, this mother of two had married a second time and had a daughter by that second husband. All of that, however, is inferred by details left in the 1860 census. Other than Drucilla's first marriage, I have so far been unable to locate any documents confirming her second marriage, the birth of her three children, or the death of either of her husbandsor of Drucilla, for that matter.

Since then, though, I have had a hard time trying to piece together all these loose ends of the Charles family's story. Although I find Drucilla's daughters, along with the orphaned children of her brother Andrew, together under the care of someone named Mary A. McLeranthe Mary A. obviously catching my eyein the 1870 census, it seems there are no further traces of these Charles siblings.

And then I get stuck researching an entirely different family line from the same small town in north Floridathat of my McClellansand in struggling over lost paperwork there, I stumble upon Drucilla once again.

This particular record I stumble upon happens to be in regards to Drucilla's own probate file. At least now I have an approximate date of her death. But what I see in this last page of her probate file gives me an idea I might find out much more about Drucilla if I take the time to review her entire case folder. Above the line which explains that the page is in regards to the estate of "Drucilla Odom, deceased," is the note naming the administratrix: Mary A. McLeran.

Mary A. McLeran Administratrix
In Acct: with Est. of Drucilla Odom deceased

Above: Entry on last page of probate file of Drucilla (Charles) Odom from Suwannee County, Florida; image courtesy Ancestry.com.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sticking to my Plan

Two weeks ago, I decided that, since I've signed up for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy's southern roots research class, I may as well focus on researching my own family's southern roots. That meant, however, forsaking any progress on three other family trees I've been working on: my father's Polish immigrant roots, my mother-in-law's colonial Catholic heritage, and my father-in-law's Irish-American story. I'll keep a tally of any future progress on these lines, of course, but any increases in the counts there will likely be owing to special events like cousins having babies. My main focus, from this point until January, will be on those Southern roots.

So, today's the day to see how well I stuck to my resolution in these first two weeks. It's not that I'm only focusing on this area for two weeksI have until January to see what can be done before the SLIG adventure. And it's not that I won't work on the other family lines at all. After making this decision, for instance, a relative on my father-in-law's line made a new ethnicity discovery via DNA testing that led to a flurry of research. I'll still be tree-building on these other lines, as welljust not as much as usual.

When we look at the numbers, in the past two weeks I did, indeed, make progress in my intended direction. My mother's treethe one with the many southern lines which I have forsaken horribly over the yearsstarted out, two weeks ago, with a count of 13,920. Now, I have 14,279, an increase of 359 individuals in the past two weeks.

That's wonderful progress, and I'm glad to see these lines unfolding with so many new branches. Happy, that is, until I take a look at the progress report for the other three trees I'm working on. My mother-in-law's tree: stuck in the same place as two weeks ago, at 15,667. Increase: zero. My father-in-law's line remains at 1,490, same as the last count; in order to accommodate that fascinating new DNA discovery, it was best to create a new, private tree, so that won't be included in my count. And nothing different for my father's line either, which checks in at 512.

There is a plus to having added so many names to my mother's southern-roots tree: it is helping me figure out some of those numerous DNA matches with surnames I've never heard of. Well, now I know a few more of them. Adding 359 names to the tally does count for something.

On top of that, the ever-increasing tide of DNA matches keeps relentlessly flowing in. At AncestryDNA, I still don't know how many actual matches I have, since they switched to labeling the fourth cousin and closer set by the vanilla-flavored "1000+" tag. But I do notice that my count in the category of "Shared Ancestor Hints" has been edging upwards. As I continue to add new branches to my tree, I suspect some of those shaky-leaf matches will show up with more frequency.

To get a better sense of how my matches are faring, I look at the numbers at the other sites where I've tested. Granted, the 4,899 matches I have at MyHeritage almost seem absurdand that count has stopped growing, over the past two weeks. But at 23andMe, I have a modest increase of nine, to 1,004unusual there, where I often experience a decrease of matches. And at FamilyTreeDNA, my current count is 3,222, an increase of forty since last time.

It's amazing to see how focusing on this branch of my ancestry has opened up possibilities. While I do know the family surnames back to about third great grandparents, for every man in my ancestry I need to add a wife's maiden name and trace that line backwards in time. Those, primarily, are the connections I'm missing. In many cases, I didn't even know those surnamesuntil now. Adding those names to my pedigree has opened up new possibilities and territories to research. Talk about multiplying research vistas.

While 359 might not seem like a large number in the bigger picture of research, each one of those names leads to more connections. If I can keep up that pace over the next few months, I'll have a clearer picture of just what research areas I really am stumped with, once I get the chance to meet, face to face, with some instructors who are well-known for their research prowess in this area. I certainly wouldn't want to waste that learning opportunity on questions I could answer for myself with some due diligence at home.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Getting to Three Rivers

In exactly three weeks, I'll be frantically packing my bags for another conference. For the first time, I'll be attending the Federation of Genealogical Societies annual conference, "On the Three RiversPast, Present & Future" which, this year, will be held at one of my favorite research destinations: Fort Wayne, Indiana.

While I'm looking forward to this event, it isn't the first time I've wanted to attend. I had taken a serious look at last year's FGS conference, until I realized one thing: there really isn't enough room in the host hotelor the rest of the city, for that matterto accommodate all the people attending the event.

I can't say I'm outlandish about my expectations for housing, but I think I can safely say the event will go smoother, in my opinion, if I have a safe and comfortable place to spend the night that doesn't also involve a long daily commute to a place where I pay a king's ransom to park my rental car.

So...I say I'm registered for this year's conference, but that is to say I'm registered in principle. Yes, my fees are paid. That is a start. But hotel room? Airline tickets? All that has to wait until the first domino can fall into place. No hotel room, no trip to Fort Wayne.

It's travel nightmares like this which make my favorite genealogical events stand out all the more. When I go to the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree, I know I can get a room in the host hotel, where I have the luxury of parking my car and forgetting it until the event is over. And on the opposite end of the calendar, I know when I fly to Salt Lake City for their Institute of Genealogy, I have a home away from home at the host hotel therebonus points in that case, since I don't even need to obtain a rental car, but can use the airport shuttle to whisk me to the hotel's front door.

I understand, of course, that larger events can precipitate logistical nightmares. If I ever had the guts to brave the crowds at RootsTech, for instance, I already am primed to expect a housing challenge; multiplying the thousands in attendance simply results in geometrically ratcheted levels of complications. The same would go for an NGS conference. I understand that. But it doesn't make me look forward to it.

Perhaps that is the price to pay for wanting to be social and have my genealogical education, too. Perhaps the way to hear the best speakers is to go where the biggest numbers can make it possible to afford a great array of presentations. Having had opportunities to hear some notable forerunners in the field at my favorite genealogical events, though, convinces me that it is possible to arrange otherwise. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

From One Clue to Another Question

Life in the early days of settlement in territorial Florida must have had its challenges. I have no factual basis to bolster that assumption, just those little details like ancestors suddenly disappearing or dying young.

While puzzling over my Charles family ancestorsmy third great grandparents Andrew and Delaney Townsend Charles each disappearing sometime before 1860, leaving their three orphaned (or abandoned?) children in the care of Andrew's widowed-and-remarried sister DrucillaI am grasping for any straws to piece this story together. Every lead I stumble upon, though, seems to open up another puzzling detail. So when, by the time of the 1870 census, I find Drucilla's girls in the care of yet another womanthis time, someone named Mary A. McLeranI'm stumped once again with that person's identity and relationship to the extended family. (Not to mention, I still suspect this Mary to be the Mary of the Red Scarf legend.)

In the process of trying to answer the question of just who Mary McLeran was, I uncover the fact that the McLerans were somehow tied to the Tison family, another one of my ancestral surnames. But how were they connected? I'm stumped by that.

In order to answer that question, I have two possible approaches. First, I can work my way back through my family lines to my Tison ancestor and press beyond that individual to see what sibling might have connected with this McLeran line. Or, secondly, I could take this individual who tied the McLerans and the Tisons togetherRebecca Tison, wife of Nevin McLeranand trace her family line to see where the connection might be with both Mary McLeran and my direct line Tison ancestor.

I want to take these approaches in order, but I already can see there's a problem with the first approach. Like the Charles family, my Tison ancestorthird great grandmother Sidnah Tison who married George Edmund McClellanseemed to come from a magically disappearing family line, herself. Curiously, she, too, died in 1860, making me wonder whether there was some sort of viral outbreak or other hazard that, at about the same time, felled so many of my ancestors in the region where they lived in northern Florida. But I know very little about her parents that I can find documented.

What little I do know about this Tison ancestor is that she was born in Pitt County, North Carolina, in 1806, and that her parentsJob Tison and Sidnah Sheffieldeventually moved the family to Glynn County, Georgia, where they established a profitable inn along the post road between two of the local county seats.

It's been a bear to locate any reliable material on the roots of my Sidnah Tison McClellan, but I've been piecing together the documentation in that excruciatingly slow way that doesn't make for exciting narrative. Following one misdirected lead, in searching for any names of Sidnah's Tison siblings, I ran across some telltale signs in, of all places, the probate file of her husband, George Edmund McClellan, pointing up once again how intertwined these families were in northern Florida.

Remember, I'm still looking for a connection to the Rebecca Tison who married Nevil McLeran in hopes of then finding the nexus with the Mary A. McLeran, guardian of the missing Drucilla Charles Odum's children. Yet, looking where I didn't expect to find the answer to that question, I stumbled upon what I'd call a smoking gun. In someone else's file. I'm beginning to wonder whether they all were related to each other. Or whether this was 1860s Florida's version of a soap opera.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Thought About "Searches"

When we are wrestling with those recalcitrant ancestors in our tree, we think what we are doing to turn around those brick-wall-worthy roadblocks is research. In reality, what we are doing is typing in a name or a keyword phrase and then pointing our cursor to click on a rectangular button containing the word "search."

But it isn't really a search. It's a point-and-click.

To search is to do what I haven't done for a really long time. The last time I found myself prostrated on the floor in front of the bottom row of books at a libraryor the lowest drawer in a card catalogwas probably pre-dawn of (Internet) history. Since the advent of online genealogical resources, I have seldom had the need to return to that dusty archive floor. Yet.

Sometimes, though, there is a need to get back to that up-close-and-personal position. There is no way that everything we ever hoped to find via an Internet search will be there, at that click of the mouse. Granted, a lot of genealogy-worthy material is already digitized, but even of that monumental collection, not everything is indexedprepared for the online hunt-and-peck process. But there are mountains of papers, records, manuscripts, books, photo collections, journals, and just plain stuff that has yet to be added to that wait list of material to be digitized.

Sometimes, we can't bring that mountain of material to us. Sometimes, we need to go to the mountain. And when we get there, what? Are we so handicapped in confining our research capabilities to point and click that we lose our ability to sort through those mountains of reference material? It is in that kind of effort that we begin to experience the literalness of the meaning of the word: search.

Read and discard. Read more and eliminate more possibilities. Read somewhere else and toss that, too. And finallyperhaps fifteen minutes before the close of the business hours on the last day of our research tripwe pull up the collection which holds the answer to our research question. That's searching.

I'm working on my southern roots right now. I'm a long way from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, so I'm confined to what I can unearth from online resources. But even here, I need to go beyond mere point and click genealogy. Even if nothing comes up when I type in a name and click the magic "search" button. I need to read, evaluate, learn and move on, better informed about the background and cultural setting of the people I'm researching. And I need to better handle those frustrating drawbacks of clicking to the end of the line of an online repository's collection with nary a promising lead.

Even in something as simple as exhausting all the possibilities of what befell our Mary of the Red Scarf, I find myself remembering to search beyond the realm of "search." I mentioned, yesterday, running across another Mary A. who was included in a census record for part of my family. Could that have been the missing Mary A. Charles?

This woman's name was Mary A. McLeran, and she was alone in a household with two girls who would have been Mary A. Charles' nieces. That was in 1870. After that, it seemed everyone went their separate ways. I could find the girlsby then grown up and marriedbut what became of Mary?

Looking in the listing for the extended-family cemetery in Wellborn, Florida, I could find several McLerans, but not any mention of Mary, guardian of the Charles girls. Neither could I figure out the connection between the McLeran line and that of the main family, the McClellans on whose property the cemetery was housed.

I started reviewing each of the McLeran burials listed in that McClellan cemetery. There were eight included in the cemetery listing, but I clicked through to each one to view it individually. That way, if a Find A Grave volunteer had been helpful, I might see some links to relatives of each McLeran and then follow those to see where they might lead.

Sure enough, one of the oldest of the McLeran memorials on Find A Grave did reveal a connection—not Mary McLeran, but a McLeran buried in another cemetery entirely! I had chosen to look at the oldest McLeran burials in the McClellan cemetery, and pulled up the memorial for Jesse Taylor McLeran. Jesse, born in North Carolina in 1832, had died in Suwannee County, Florida, in 1868.

The gem in reviewing Jesse Taylor McLeran's Find A Grave memorial was that it listed his parents: Nevin and Rebecca Tison McLeran. Nevin McLeran? I had seen mention of that name when I searched, line by line, through the county's 1850 census in search of any other members of the ill-fated Mary A. Charles' family. Not far from George Edmund McClellan's entry in the census, and close to the Charles household where George's future daughter-in-law Emma was living, was an entry for a Nevin and Rebecca McLeran.

What was interesting about this Nevin and Rebecca was the family which had married into the McLeran line. While I still am not sure just who Mary A. McLeran wasremember, she wasn't included in the burials at the McClellan cemetery along with those eight McLerans thereI now know how the McLerans tie into my family line: Rebecca McLeran was born a Tison.

Emma Charles, George McClellan's future daughter-in-law, was not part of the Tison line, herself...but her mother-in-law was. George's wife Sidnah was a Tison.

Of course, it will take more digging to figure out how this Mary A. McLeran was related to the Tison line. Perhaps such tangled relationships come from a small group of people living together in a small town over decades. I may find these surnames are related to each other in multiple directions. But I need to at least find a first mention of a connection between the Tisons and the McLerans. And that will require more searching.

I'm still not finding any further information on poor Mary Charles of the Red Scarf, but I have stumbled upon a lot of other Marys who have led me to previously-unknown connections in my family tree.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Finding Another Mary

I'm still checking to see if I can locate any sign of the unfortunate Mary A. Charles, whom legend had dying in her own front yard at the hand of a native who didn't spot the agreed-upon sign of the red scarf. That, of course, means every time I spot a Mary A. anyone associated with the Charles family's relatives after 1850, I wonder if that Mary might be the right Mary.

We saw yesterday that, while the Mary in question didn't turn out to be Mary A. Charles of the red scarf, she did lead me to an entirely new branch of my ancestors' line. I can handle stumbling across a mistaken identity like that.

Besides yesterday's Mary, there was another Mary I ran across who also caused me to wonder. If you'll remember Drucilla Charles, the sister of my direct line's Andrew Jackson Charles, for a period of time, she needed to leave her daughters in the care of others. While I have yet to discover the reason for this, during the time of the 1870 census, she had left her surviving daughter from her first marriagealso named Maryand her daughter Mabel from her second marriage in the care of someone else near home in Suwannee County, Florida.

Normally, I would have been more concerned about what happened to Drucilla than to the person with whom her girls were boardingexcept for one thing: the woman's name happened to be Mary A.

With a clue like that, it merits immediately putting on the research brakes and bringing all other progress to a screeching halt. Never mind that this woman was not named Mary A. Charles but Mary A. McLeran. Disregard the fact that her age wasn't quite old enough to qualify her as our Mary A. Charlesbesides, what woman of that era told the truth about her age?

This was a lead I definitely had to check out.

There was something else arresting about this discovery. Something in the back of my mind told me there was a McLeran in my family tree already. But when I went to search my research database, nothing came up. The memory was taunting meinsisting that surname was part of my family historybut the tools I had at hand wouldn't let me figure out how.

I decided to take a different approach to seeing how this Mary A. McLeran connected to my family. In the area near where the Charles family once operated their ferry and trading post in territorial Floridaa place called Luravillethere was also the property of another related family, that of George Edmund McClellan. It so happens that the McClellan property includes the family burial grounds, which, thankfully, are still well-kept. I decided to take a look at the McClellan cemetery entry on Find A Grave.

Sure enough, once I pulled up the listing for all the memorials associated with that cemetery on Find A Grave—there are, by the way, 213 of them added so far, with ninety eight percent photographedthere were several McLerans buried there.

Only problem: of the eight McLerans buried at the McClellan family cemetery, none of them was named Mary A.

Who was this woman? Obviously, this is going to take a bit more research than serendipitously scoring a find at the family's own cemetery. After the year in which she took care of Drucilla Charles' two daughters, she seemed to have vanished from the family connectionsif she was family at all.

Somehow, though, there was a connection between the McLerans, the Charleses and the McClellans. The cemetery on the McClellan property shows that clearly. It's just the paperwork which isn't supporting my contention.

If it weren't for my quest to confirm whether Mary A. Charles had indeed died, just as the legend had it, I probably would just scratch my head and go back to building my pedigree. She isn't, after all, part of my direct line; that honor goes to her brother Andrew. I don't suppose, however, that a family history researcher who has stayed on the trail this long can bear to just walk away from a mystery, even if it isn't part of the direct line. We are just too curious to set such things aside and stick to the main points.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Sorting Out the Marys

If Reuben and Rebecca Charles' daughter Mary had met her demise in a moment of impetuous forgetfulness, running out to meet the incoming stagecoach without her signature red scarf, it would be no surprise that we can't find her in any records after the 1850 census. There, alone, could we find her in the home of her widowed mother Rebeccaat least, we can presume the Rebecca there was her mother, as the census that year doesn't state that for a fact.

However, by the time of the 1860 census, we can find neither Rebecca nor her daughter Mary. Rebecca was supposedly shot while standing on her front porch; according to her headstone in the Charles family cemetery in Luraville, Florida, she died on January 25, 1852.

In that same cemetery is a small marker commemorating Rebecca's daughter Mary. However, though it gives a year of birth1828it leaves a question mark for the year of her death.

Of course, it could be possible that, after losing both her parents, Maryif she survivedmight have chosen to marry. That possibility prompts me to keep my eyes open for any possible Mary of the right age, in the right region, who might have finished life with a different surname.

When a Mary did pop up in a family's household in later years, that same question would pop into my mind: could this be Mary Charles?

Tracing the rest of the Charles familyReuben and Rebecca's children Drucilla, Andrew, and ReubenI brought each line as far as I could go with census, marriage and death records. On the younger Reuben's line, I followed him through his marriage to Mary VanZant, and the birth of their son, Garrett VanZant Charles. But then Reuben died in 1878, leaving Mary, by the time of the 1880 census, to provide for household expenses by serving as a music teacher while son Garrettby then in his twentiesobtained work as a telegraph operator.

By the time of the next available census record in 1900, Garrett was also gone, having passed away in 1890. Where was Mary?

I may, from time to time, get irritated by those ubiquitous shaky-leaf hints at Ancestry, some of which seem to lead to disconnected realities, but in the case of this Mary, Ancestry's hint led me to a place where I'd otherwise never have found her. A Mary Charles, listed as aunt, was living in the household of Matthew and Fannie Scarborough in Lake City, Florida. She was listed as a widow, and mother of only one child who had already died. This Mary's place of birth didn't seem to agreeit was given as Florida while I had already seen documents stating she was born in Georgianor did the exact year of birth.

Curiosity got the best of me, however, and I had to see why Ancestry had decided that I'd be interested in this particular Aunt Mary. I had to check out just who this Scarborough family might have been.

Finding the answer led me back quite a way to another messy puzzle in my family tree. Perhaps you remember my orphaned second great grandmother, whose parents Andrew J. and Delaney Charles seemed to have disappeared inexplicably, some time before 1860. Andrew, remember, was big brother to the younger Reuben Charles, deceased husband to our Aunt Mary.

Besides my second great grandmother, in Andrew and Delaney's family, the 1850 census had listed two sons. Their names were given as Benjamin and Francis. I have yet to find the slightest trace of either of them.

Further complicating my research is the small detail of a gender changeat least that's what seemed to be indicated in the 1860 census, where my orphaned Emma seemed to be living with two other Charles children named Rupert and Fannie. Since the years of birth seemed to be fairly close to my Benjamin and Francis, my only guess was that the son Francis of 1850 was really the daughter Fannie of 1860.

Fast forward to the 1900 census and the household of Matthew Scarborough, where Aunt Mary was now living as a sixty-five year old widow. Matthew's wife, as you'll notice, was named Fannie. If that Fannie was really Andrew's "son" Francis, then the wife of Andrew's brother Reuben would indeed be rightfully called aunt by that Fannie.

Of course, there is the possibility that Matthew also had an aunt named Mary. But that she would likewise have been married to a Charles man is doubtfulthough I will take a look to rule that out.

What this discovery did for me was to resolve the dilemma of what had become of the "son" Francis, as well as open up a new line of descent for me to trace. Hopefully, that line will lead to new DNA matches, now that I've identified another line in my family tree. And it certainly has illustrated for me the importance of tracing the entire timeline of even those who marry into my family lines. If I hadn't done so for this Mary, widow of my third great grandfather's younger brother, I would have missed that opportunity.

There was, however, another Mary who popped up in another Charles family household, making me wonder, all over again, about that Mary of the Red Scarf.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Stalking the Legend

Take a step backwards and it will all fit in the picture clearly now. Take a step forward, and you can see, closely, all the details you need for your answer.

We took a step backwards, in our attempt to resolve the puzzle of just who my third great grandfather's parents might have been. Andrew Jackson Charles, living in the wilds of territorial Florida, had married Delaney Rosella Townsend in Madison County, just south of the Georgia border, in 1841, leaving a handwritten court record to document the event in what was then still the Territory of Florida.

Andrew Jackson Charles remained there in Madison County through the time of the 1850 census, but because he was married and head of his own household by that point, we find no clue via the census to tie him to any other members of the Charles family.

We did know, however, that he had a sister named Drucilla. Though we discovered Drucilla's complicated life led her through a path of marriages and name changes, she was, thankfully, still single at the time of the 1850 census. We find her, at that point, in the Columbia County household of fifty year old Rebecca Charles (listed on the previous page of the census record).

Along with Rebecca and Drucilla, there were two other people with that same Charles surname: twenty two year old Mary A. Charles, and eighteen year old Reuben H. Charles. Of course, the name of this younger Reuben Charles is tantalizing, in sparking the conjecture that he might be son of the Reuben Charles of the legend we discussed last week.

More to the point, in connection with that same legend, is the fact that the household also included a young woman named Mary. If you remember, it was Mary of the household of merchants Reuben and Rebecca Charles who had run out the door to greet an incoming stagecoach, neglecting to wear her protective red scarf. Of course, Rebecca Charles and family had continued to operate their trading post and ferry service long after Reuben had passed awayat least until 1875, if the legend can be believed in at least this detail. As for the date of the impetuous Mary's demise, my source for the legend didn't reveal that information.

But was that unfortunate daughter killed for her forgetfulness? In following the paper trail documenting the family of Mary's sister Drucilla, not only do we find her marriage to Thomas Hughs Hines in Madison County in 1852, but her residence in the household of her second husband, Melburn Odum, in nearby Bradford County in the 1860 census. Yet no sign for Mary.

Census records for the various members of the Charles family didn't seem to include a Mary Charles for any of the decades I was able to locate. From her absence in these records, it would seem reasonable that she might have, indeed, been slain by a vigilant member of the local tribe.

But then I get to the 1900 census and the Columbia County, Florida, household of someone named Scarborough. In it was a woman by the name of Mary Charles. Prior to the details on her age and date of birth, we find the listing of her relationship: aunt. Who was this Aunt Mary Charles, and how was she connected to Matthew and Fannie Scarborough? Was this the missing Mary Charles of the legend of the red scarf?

To answer this, it takes another step closer to the details to ferret out our answer. Stepping closer always helps reveal those details.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Growing Pains

It's the middle of the summer. Our local society, as we often put it, "goes dark" during the months of July and August. So...what did we do last week? Host a special seminar right in the middle of our vacation.

Granted, we had a special opportunity handed to us: one of our favorite speakersGena Philibert-Ortegaplanned to be in the area, so we snagged her for a "double header" of two workshop presentations in one morning. (If you're in northern California, don't count on squeezing in to her sold-out presentation today for the California Genealogical Society. If you hurry, though, maybe you can get in on her speaking tour's last stop in Marin County on Thursday, July 26.)

That event successfully completed doesn't mean we can get back to vacation mode. Summer will be gone in a blink, and we will be back to monthly meetings, special interest groups, and our volunteer services of teaching workshops to beginners and offering one-to-one research coaching at our genealogical reference section in our downtown library. Add to that our board's dream: to offer special seminars on a regular basis to reach out to those from our community's many ethnic heritages to encourage them to delve into their own roots, toolike our plans for a workshop on researching Japanese-American ancestry.

Someone recently asked me if our group is growing. That's a hard question to answer. I think the situation was best framed by our former research coordinator, who took the long view with a foundational explanation in his presentation celebrating our sixtieth anniversary in 2012.

In his presentation, he reminded us that, at one pointlong before the advent of online research resources like Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.orgour local society was thriving. We were a busy group of volunteers, finding and replicating local records of genealogical significance and publishing them in books which we sold far and wide. Once that material could be accessed by the click of a mouse, our reason for being seemingly vanished.

In charting that year-over-year membership change for his presentation, his PowerPoint graph clearly showed a radical drop in membership at about the point at which Ancestry took off. Not much after that, our local book sales income drastically reduced, as well. In order to survive, we had to make changes.

Simply put, we needed to re-invent ourselves. This has been a gradual process, involving many approaches, as we reach out to a community of avocational genealogists who appreciate the need to gather together in support of each other's research progress.

As for that questionare we growing?the answer is, yes, again...gradually. And differently. We are not the same group we were in the early 1990s or before. And we have more growing yet to do. Where once it was fine for members to meet in each of our homes in a round-robin effort to make space for our activities, we now need a place outside our members' houses to call our home. Where once we were simply an informal group of people working for the common good of the family history community, we've had to become official and obtain legal status as a nonprofit entity. Where once we were operating as a group of friends, we now need to run this organization like a business.

Sometimes, I feel like we are not up to that. I know that's how I feel when I'm struck by the realization that, just like any business, we need to have operated in such a way as to get our own credit rating. Who would have thought that looking for ancestors needed to be a business proposition? But we areif we need to continue operating in today's nonprofit world.

We are leaders in our community, working to create opportunities for our members to advance their own ability to research their heritage. But when we are making a place for othersand a possibility for otherswe need to learn how to step up to the next level. And that, for individuals or organizations, is called growth. It stretches us. And sometimes, that hurts.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Now Indexing: Naturalization Records

It's back to New York State and the naturalization records of that state's Southern District for me. Yep, it may seem like I'm altruistic in this volunteer effort to index digitized records at FamilySearch.org, but it's really on account of selfish reasons that I zoom in to work on New York records. I have roots in that New York City arearoots with no documentation that I can find of arrival from elsewhere.

Don't think I'm going all Native on you. I know my paternal roots originate on another continent. It's just that I'm having difficulty tracing their migratory movements. I'm waiting for the day those magic documents get digitized and indexed so they are findable by online search engines.

Actually, I don't do well just waiting. I wait by taking action. And indexing records at FamilySearch.org is the best way for me to cope with that research impatience. So, once a month, I stop by their website's indexing page to look for another available project working on anything having to do with the port of New York.

This time, I worked on two batches of records. While all the subjects of these records came in through a city in the state of New York, some came from Canada via Buffalo while others came from Russia through the port in New York City. I indexed a dancer from Montreal, a woman returning to the U.S. from Saskatoon, a couple from the island of Antigua in what was then called the British West Indies, and a man and wife plus four of their children from Russia.

Seeing that family with the four children made me wonder just how the indexers decide on which details will be recorded. Husbands and wives are indexed, according to instructions provided, but there is no field to enter the information on the children. What if a researcher only knows the name of the childsay a great-grandparent for whom knowledge of his parents' names would be a gift? At this point, my mantra about always look at the document rings true; otherwise, this valuable information would be missed. Still, if the child's name was all that would lead a researcher to find the document, the link to discovery is lost by such a process.

Even so, I like to continue this effort. I figure if I only do a small amount but stick to it every month, I will have made a helpful contribution in the long run, while not exhausting myself enough to drop out in the early stages. It's a selfish project I'm engaged in, true, but it is a slow and steady contribution that will eventually benefit others, as well.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Exploring Research Dilemmas
by Wandering Around

When it comes to my mother's southern roots, the research dilemmaor at least one of themis finding a way to connect my third great-grandfather, Andrew Jackson Charles, with the previous generation. When a direct path isn't evident between the generation I knowthat would be Andrew Jackson Charles' daughter Emilyand the generation that draws a complete blank, it's time to strike out in every direction.

I'm not even sure how I first stumbled across Andrew Jackson Charles' name. Someoneone of those helpful volunteers who sometimes are right, but sometimes are wrongentered a note on my second great grandmother's Find A Grave memorial that she was daughter of Andrew Jackson Charles and Delaney Rosella Townsend.

Shethat would be the future Emily McClellan, wife of William Henry McClellanwas born April 24, 1849, according to the dates engraved on her headstone. That, of course, meant I could look her up in the 1850 census and see what I could find about her parents.

Sure enough, there was an Emma residing in the household of one Andrew J. Charles, although she was listed as a child of two years of age, not the toddler we would have expected. Along with his (presumed) wife, listed as Lania, there were two other children: six year old Benjamin and four year old Francis.

All would go swimmingly in this research journey if only we could replicate that household ten years later. But unfortunately, neither Andrew nor Delaney were anywhere to be found in 1860.

What I did find, in that 1860 census, was "Emma" Charles along with a brother and a sister, in the household of Melburn and Drucilla Odum. Along with the Odums' infant daughter Mabel, though, there were several other children, presenting a number of differing surnames. There was an Emma whose last name was Hines, along with her sister Mary. Of special interest in my research situation, there were also two teenagers by the surname Charles, along with my Emma Charles, who at this point had appropriately aged to be eleven in 1860.

It took a lot of document wrangling to uncover the connection between the Odums, the Hines, and the Charles children. Drucilla, apparently, was a widow when she married Melburn Odum. Emma and Mary Hines were her two daughters by her 1852 marriage to Thomas Hughs Hinesmaking the girls half-sisters of Mabel Odum. As for the Charles children, they were likely in the Odum household because of some familial obligation. I guessed it was either because the Charles children were related to the Odum line or Drucilla was, herself, a Charles.

Discovering the Charles-Hines marriage, it turned out to be the latter, giving me one more key to unlock the mystery of the previous generation. Now, instead of looking for the unnamed parents of Andrew Jackson Charles, I was on a mission to uncover the parents of Andrew and Drucilla.

Because I knew that history of a Charles family in the area of my maternal roots in north Florida, of course I felt there might be a likelihood of such a connection. But googling for the history of the specific Charles family whose name was bestowed to the Charles Spring we mentioned yesterday did not bring up anything more interesting than a river guide's blog on Charles Spring and the historic Bellamy Road. Interesting diversion, but not enough to provide traction to my own adventure.

Switching to a different approach, I visited FamilySearch.org to see what I could find on Andrew and Delaney there. A handwritten document issued in Madison County by the Territory of Florida verified their marriage in 1841, but was not the type of duty-bound governmental document which would include useful details like parents' names. Name of the groom, name of the bridetake that and consider myself lucky to have found even that much on the territorial frontier.

While I was at that website, though, I fell to the temptation to see if anyone was researching that line. FamilySearch, after all, hosts a tree-building program. Although I don't, at this point, use the FamilySearch tree myself, I couldn't help taking a peek.

Sure enough, there he was in the FamilySearch tree, Andrew Jackson Charles, with enough detail to assure me this was the right individual. But when I took a step backwards in time to see if his parents were listed, all I found was a blank. I am, evidently, not the only one stumped by this line.

That didn't conclude my business on that website, however. I went back to the full listing of hits for my search on Andrew Charles and noticed one unusual entry tucked away among the results from my search on Andrew's name and dates.

One thing I had previously noticed about Andrew and the sister I discoveredDrucilla, later the wife of Melburn Odum in the 1860 censuswas the disparity in their ages. Andrew was likely born in 1814, while Drucilla was born twelve years later. A whole host of other children could have fit into a time gap that wide. Perhaps I could find some others.

That unusual entry I found in the search results happened to point to another Charles living in the same region. Her name was Mary Charles and she was even younger than Drucilla Charles. Here was the link to her entry in the 1850 census. I'm not sure why her entry came up when I was specifically searching for Andrew Charles, but this was a clue worth following. I'm a nosy type and researching by wandering around is not beyond me.

What was absolutely tantalizing about this 1850 census entry was that not only Mary Charles was mentionedremember the Mary who ran out to meet the arriving stagecoach without grabbing her red scarf?but the 1850 Charles household included two other significant names. One was that of Drucilla herself. The other was the head of household: a woman by the name of Rebecca.

Granted, census records in that time period did not indicate relationships. But chances are fairly good that there was some sort of connection between that Rebecca Charles of the trading post and ferry at Charles Spring, Mary Charleswhom we've already seen listed as her daughter, at least in the legendary senseand the Drucilla whom I've lately learned was my Andrew J. Charles' sister.

Of course, this Rebecca could have been their aunt, doing just as Drucilla later had done, in taking in her nieces and nephew after her brother Andrew died. Still, this does give me a clue that there is some sort of relationship between these people, even if I can't yet declare them to all be children of the legendary Ruben and Rebecca Charles.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Never Forget the Red Scarf

Red has always been an eye-catching color, and my maternal ancestors always seemed to be on the cutting edge of life, so perhaps that's why a certain story about the Charles family in northern Florida caught my eye. This story probably borders on legend, but it may involve some of my ancestors, even though I haven't found my way back that far in my family history. I'll share the story here as suchlegenduntil I can figure out a way to determine it was otherwise.

Yesterday, I mentioned that I am descended from the Charles family of Suwannee County in northern Florida. Although I can't yet determine the exact relationship between my third great-grandparents, Andrew and Delaney Townsend Charles, and the Charles family in this legend, considering the size of the region at that point in Florida history, there is a good chance there is a connection.

In my family, Andrew and Delaney's daughter, Emma, married William Henry McClellan, son of the same George Edmund McClellan who had been one of the signers of the original Florida state constitution. This Emma and her two brothers were apparently orphaned, as their parents each dropped out of the scene at about the same time, around 1860.

That same yeartime of the 1860 censusthe eleven year old Emma could be found in the household of Melburn and Drucilla Odum. After all these years of researching family history, it was only in the last few months that I figured out that Drucilla was sister of Emma's father, Andrew Charles.

Drucilla, as it turns out, is the one who will likely connect me with the more historic branch of the Charles family, the legendary Ruben and Rebecca Charles.

Ruben and Rebecca, it turns out, were originally settlers in this northern Florida region long before not only statehood, but also the years as a territorial possession of the United States. Apparently, during the waning years of the Spanish occupation of the area, Ruben and Rebecca Charles set up a trading post somewhere to the west of Saint Augustine.

In the course of their business, Ruben and Rebecca became friendly with some of the native people living further inland and established a long-lasting relationship with them. This was preceding the United States' 1821 purchase of Florida from Spain.

Eventually, the U.S. government decided to establish forts in the area, and built a military road stretching from Saint Augustine to Pensacola, which became known as the Bellamy Road. Astute businessman Ruben Charles was quick to establish a new business location along that stagecoach route and in 1824, built a trading post and ferry near the place now known asthis is a clueCharles Springs.

Ruben and Rebecca Charles, still friends with the local tribe, nevertheless got caught in the inevitable tensions brought about by increasing numbers of American settlers and military personnel entering the region. As hostilities increased and communities in the area were attacked and burned, as the legend goes, the Charles' community was never attacked. Howeverand this is the legendary stipulationthe native tribe's leadership stipulated that they would never attack the Charles family as long as they wore a red scarf to signify who they were.

Though Ruben Charles may have died around 1840, this arrangement was still honored for all the members of the Charles family. As long as they were wearing that red scarf, the agreement would be honored.

One day, according to the legend, as the stagecoach was approaching to make its customary stop at the Charles' trading post, their daughter Mary rushed out to meet it, forgetting to wear her red scarf and she was mistakenly killed.

Though that event may border more on legend than history, it was not the only time tragedy struck the Charles family. In 1852, Rebecca Charles was shot while standing on her front porch. This, however, might not have been due to forgetfulness about that necessary red scarf; the Charles family's friendliness with the native population may itself have been the cause behind her death. In the recounting I found on the incident, the insinuation was that perhaps it was another white settler who had brought about her death, rather than any member of the inland tribe.

Eventually, political maneuvering and military action made way for an environment in which the red scarf no longer was needed. The Charles family continued to operate the ferry until about 1875, a much different era than the years in which their fledgling business was started.

While it is thrilling to discover that one's ancestors are the key figures in a local legend, I can't yet definitively claim that connection. I'm still stuck at the generation of Andrew and Drucilla Charles, brother and sister, who were children of an unnamed Charles man in northern Florida. While stories are fascinating, it is grunt work of a genealogical kind that will enable me to confirm that connection.

And that, as it turns out, isn't often as fascinating as those legends.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Zeroing in on the Great and the Small

Before even starting on this research project to learn more about my southern roots, I knew there would be some easy targets. My third great grandfather George Edmund McClellan, for instance, was one of the signers on the original Florida state constitution. My chances of finding any records of the part he played in early statehood formation will be higher than those chances for any of the lesser-known of my relatives. It will make sense to look for the McClellan name in archives and manuscript collections, for instance, just because of that history.

But for the othersthose with what we would tend to call more humble originsthere may still be opportunities to find their story. It's a strange dichotomy, when searching for these lesser-known family members. On the one hand, it's likely such people on the frontier wouldn't be immortalized through documents or other records; there just weren't any notable accomplishments beckoning the general public to remember them. On the other hand, these people's mere status as pioneers sometimes elevated their stature to a more visible plane.

In cases such as the family names which married into my McClellan linethe Charles family, for instancethe status of early adopter or early arrival helps keep their names in mind, at least in dusty, dry history accounts.

Those, however, often are tucked away in local collections, some of which, from across the continent, may seem invisible to strangers. This is where cultivating relationships with local librarians and archivists, as well as local historical and genealogical societies, becomes useful.

But sometimes, it's just the luck of the draw. A good run through Google hits may reveal nuggets I'd never suspect to find, like the mention of the Charles family's early position in northern Florida. A reporter for a local newspaper wrote a series on the area's history, which subsequently was re-edited for inclusion in the Suwannee County website. There I caught a glimpse of that Charles surname in the recounting of northern Florida's territorial history.

Whether that original Charles family settling in the area is linked to my own Charles relations, I haven't fully documented yet, but you know I'm working on that project now. Still, related or not, it's an interesting story, and I'll take the time tomorrow to share it.

Ancestors or not, this experience points up the value of googlingand re-googlingthe search terms I am seeking, even for those un-famous ancestors not likely to be included in history books.

Besides that, it reinforces the need to have at least a basic idea of local history during the time period I'm studying. And it also points to the value of having historic maps on hand to help guide a researcher through those ever-morphing county boundaries. Oftentimes, the people we're seeking, back in those early days, had the locations in which they lived change on a regular basis, when the truth of the matter was that they stayed put in one single placeit was the place names which were doing the changing.

All together, these approaches can, indeed, flesh out the story of our lesser-known ancestorsbut I'm still glad that a pioneer status may invoke a sort of rule of first mentions, when it comes to recovering my family's history, especially for the little guys.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Getting Tactical: the McClellan Lines

If I'm going to conquer the many lines constituting my as-yet-unknown southern families, this will require delving into the details. My drawback, at this point, is being able to research in great detail, as so much of what documentation is needed is regarding pioneer settlers. Not too many pioneers kept recordsunless, of course, they survived to brag about their conquests afterwards. Some of those folks in my roots, apparently, did not.

Beginning today, I'll catalog the surnames I need to pursue, and what little I know about them. Who knows? Maybe a distant relative will grab some of this cousin bait and agree to collaborate on research.

For beginners, let's take a look at my mother's McClellan line. All I know about this family is what I learned through my maternal grandmother, who was a McClellan, herself. This family had roots in Florida since at least 1833, when my third great grandparents had a baby girl born somewhere in the land that eventually became the state of Florida.

That was the family of George Edmund McClellan and his wife, Sidney Tyson. They, collectively, formed the brick wall that has had me stymied at this position ever since I began researching their line. I have seen other researchers mention that George was born in the Barnwell District of South Carolina, but have failed to replicate such research results, myself. Likewise, others have noted George's wife Sidneywith her surname sometimes rendered Tyson, and at other times spelling it Tisonto have come from either Pitt County, North Carolina, or Glynn County, Georgia.

What I can be sure of, so far, is the McClellans' location, once they arrived in Florida. That, no matter how the county boundary lines changed over the years, was essentially in or near a speck on the map known as Wellborn. Pre-dating the formation of the state of Florida, the McClellans' land saw its governmental jurisdiction fluctuate from territorial to statehood (George Edmund being a member of those writing the original Florida constitution), and the county of Suwannee get carved from Columbia County.

Thanks to some online resourcesnamely, the Suwannee County website itself, as well as a brief summary of their history on the Suwannee County Chamber of Commerce websiteI can see where part of my McClellan forebears' story fits in the narrative.

But nothing I've found, to this point, explains what brought the McClellans to where they settled in northern Floridano matter whether it was from North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia. And this is what I mean to untangle as I prepare for my class in southern research at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy next January.

Of course, the story of the McClellans will need to include that of George's wife, and the story of the Tysonor Tisonfamily. Job Tison, George Edmund McClellan's father-in-law, has left a smattering of records stretching back to the late 1700s, indicating his presence in Pitt County, North Carolina, a new research field for me. (If you don't know where Pitt County isno worries; neither did Ithink Greenville. However, at the time Job Tison resided there, it was a county of a mere eight thousand people.)

The McClellan saga will need to expand to include the story of one of George's daughters-in-law, Emma Charles, daughter of Andrew Jackson Charles and Delaney Townsend whose early demise left Emma and her two brothers orphans. A twist of fate like that leaves me with many questions about their roots, as well.

In a more modern part of this research predicament, a large number of my DNA matches seem to have southern roots, as well, telling me that pushing back those brick walls to an earlier generation may help me finger the most recent common ancestors I share with these many mystery cousins. One by one, I'm addressing those farthest reaches of my McClellan lines and documenting my way back to the present. It's grunt work, to be sure, but hopefully, it will open doors to identifying the links with a good number of DNA matches.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Taking the South: the Strategy

When devising a research plan, I'm accustomed to limited perspectives. "Research the Kelly line" or "get ready for that research trip to Fort Wayne" are typical, short-range plans I come up with.

In tackling my southern roots, especially in preparation for the SLIG class on southern research I'll be attending next January, I've got to expand my horizons. Why? In my case, it's not just a matter of researching one surname, or one line out of many. Thanks to my mother's family history, every line leads to a root in the south. Her paternal line involved a migration trek through colonial Virginia to settle in Tennessee, with a possible link to North Carolina, as well. Her maternal lines were in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and elsewhere, also stretching back to colonial times.

It's one thing to learn how to expertly research a state. But in this case, we're talking about learning how to research an entire regionfrom the northern border of Maryland to the islands at the southern end of Florida, and from the tip of Cape Hatteras all the way to the endless domain of Texas.

That's a lot of learning.

The funny thing is, I've got kin in almost all of those places. And some of those folks have been making it pretty hard for me to find them.

It takes a plan to outfox those recalcitrant ancestors. And a strategy to step up my game from its status quo level of progress. For the past few years, my plan (other than for specific research trips) has been to move through all the branches of my family tree and add about one hundred documented ancestors or their collateral lines per week. Granted, now that process will be revised to focus specifically on only my maternal southern lines until I complete next January's class. But I need to do more than just "focus." I need some specific details to guide me.

A typical approach I've taken has been to regularly review my DNA matches to ascertain which family line can claim these hundreds of matches. While I've been contacting about one to two matches per weeksome with gracious answers returned, some with nothing but silencethis is certainly no way to scale a mountain the size of my match lists. I've used some tools at GEDmatch.com and DNAGedcomhey, I've even dabbled with DNA Painterbut I need to bite the bullet and learn how to master Genome Mate Pro.

Also, for the next six months, I need to organize a spreadsheet with all DNA match information, including notes from contacts, and which matches can be corresponded to which family lines. I think it would be great to just pull up a report of all the DNA matches across testing companies, for, say, my McClellan line. There is so much time frittered away, simply going back to look up one detail from one company, then jumping to details from another company. Streamlining the process, across all testing repositories, will help conserve time.

Most of all, though, my strategy needs to include the basic tactic of pushing each southern family line back as far in time as I can go through online resources. For families whose roots reach back to the 1600s here, it does me no good to stop at an ancestor living in the 1800s. There are still many lines I've not attended to, since stopping for lack of progress on their research when I last reviewed them ten years ago. So much has changed in online access to records in just the past year or so that it pays to review all these abandoned research lines to probe for fresh access to documentation. That will need to have its own plan for systematic review.

So, who am I looking for? I've got the Davis and Laws lines in Tennessee, both of which have me stuck in the early 1800s. I've got the Tilson line in Tennessee, which I know came from Mayflower origins in Massachusetts via Virginiabut how? I've got the Boothe line, also in Tennessee, from Nansemond County in Virginia, where I'm also stuck in the early 1800s. Likewise the Rileys, another early Tennessee family, supposedly from North Carolina in the late 1700s.

My maternal grandmother's Florida roots don't make life any easier. I've got McClellan, Charles, Tison and Sheffield who supposedly arrived there from North Carolina and Georgia, but how? I have yet to find out.

Many of these families are rich in history yet difficult to find, thanks to their status as early interlopers on the American frontier. My hope is that, with the many additions to online resources in the past few years, a fresh look at each of these lines will yield promising results. And for those mysteries still remaining, well, isn't that why I'm taking that research class at SLIG? One way or another, at the end of this campaign, these research strategies should yield me some helpful materialand help me figure out just how all those mystery DNA matches connect.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Southern Focus

When I decided, at my bi-weekly tally two weeks ago, that my next project focus needs to be on my southern maternal lines, I realized that would mean setting aside research on the other lines I'm working on. Of course, whenever those rare DNA test matches pop up on other family lines, I'll do what it takes to note any newly-discovered lines on my father's tree or my in-laws' trees. But from here on out until the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy class I'm taking in January, I may as well devote myself to working on the family line which relates to the southern research class I'm taking there.

So let's see how well I stuck to my plan in the past two weeks. When I started in this new direction, back at the beginning of the month, I had 13,732 in my mother's tree. Now, I have 188 more namesand supporting documentationadded to that tree. That's almost twice the increase I had gained over the past two-week sequence.

However, I couldn't quite let go of researching my mother-in-law's line, particularly because that is where most of my husband's DNA matches turn out to be. So, with a little incidental sprucing-up over the past two weeks, I still managed to add 140 documented names to her tree, as well. That tree, by the way, now has a total of 15,667 ancestors and relatives.

The hardest part about taking this new research approach is that absolutely nothing is happening on either my father's tree or my father-in-law's tree. Each one gained a big fat zero over the past two weeks. I'm not comfortable seeing those two lines languish, but unless a targeted research issue pops upsay, a promising connection via DNA test matchesI'll just have to set those two trees aside for a season.

As far as those DNA matches go, they seem to be in the doldrums, themselves, making me wish for a sale to perk up those languishing match numbers. I may have 3,182 matches at FTDNA, 995 at 23andMe, and an unbelievable 4,899 at MyHeritage, but for the most part, those represent distant connections or already-documented relationships. I'm still yearning for that magical moment when a match shows up whose line provides the answer to one of those intractable research puzzles. Don't we all.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Off the Shelf:
Tracing Villains and their Victims

Sometimes, when I pull a book down off a shelf at my home, it's a volume which has been gathering dust for a long, long time. Other times, like today, it's a recent addition to my book-hoarding collection.

I'm not sure exactly how I stumbled upon this book by the prolific Dr. Jonathan Oates, but I suspect I first saw it at the book seller's exhibit during break time at SLIG one year. Or perhaps a fellow blogger mentioned it online. In either case, I put it on my wish list at Amazon, and a certain thoughtful someone in my family decided to make it a Christmas gift.

Fast forward to July, when I began wondering just howand whenI could write up the outrageous story of the international crime spree of my distant cousin, John Syme Hogue, the "yeggman." That's when I remembered the reason that certain book seemed like such a good idea to read.

The book, Tracing Villains and Their Victims, provides a guide to researching one's black sheep ancestors, which is exactly what I intend to pursue in more detail than when I first posted the story of my distant cousin. There is, however, a caveat to the usefulness of this booksomething I hadn't, at first, noticed. Jonathan Oates, the Ealing Borough Archivist and Local History Librarian, happens to specialize in a region far removed from that of the black sheep in my family: London, England.

Despite that drawback, the book still provides many useful resources, not only for England, but in guiding the reader through any legal system related to the British heritage. Thus, my criminal cousin, caught for his deeds in Canada, faced a judicial system, a hundred years ago, much like that of its parent nation, the primary focus of Oates' book.

Not only that, but in other research projectsfor instance, reading the petty court reports for my husband's ancestors in County Kerry, Ireland, or the sentence of "transportation" for another Irish relativeI find the guidance offered in the Oates book to be helpful. The impact of the British legal system reached across the globe. Those now in Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand as well as the United States can better understand our ancestors' plight at the hands of the British judicial system of the past centuries through the reading of this guide.

The key is understanding the history of the development of that judicial system. That helps us understand what our ancestorsboth law abiding and law-evadingexperienced. As with understanding any type of history, learning the specific details of one given time and place will paint a clearer picture of what our own ancestors expected as day-to-day risks and protections.

Of course, for those notorious ancestors that sometimes pop up in our research, a book such as Oates' can help illuminate the process by guiding us to the documents we seem to crave in our quest to fill in the blanks on these people's lives. In John Syme Hogue's case, once I'm ready to delve into the court proceedings in both Manitoba and Ontario, I'm sure I'll need a handy guide through this internationalto mesystem of law and order.


Friday, July 13, 2018

Looking for the Next Thing

The end of a project always creates an unwieldy vacuum. What's next? There are so many directions in which to head, making the choice difficult. But a choice does need to be made.

While I'm waiting for the green light on our next photo-hunting trip to the hills, I have some family research projects to work on. The big item on this agenda is to take a good look at my deep south ancestors, where a number of research projects have been hiding. Granted, it's a challenge to do on-site research when your ancestors lived in South Carolina or Florida or Tennessee and when the researcher happens to currently live in California, but I will eventually cross that bridge to get some hands-on work done.

In the meantime, I do have a class coming up next January at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy which will focus on that very topic: researching southern roots. I need to go back and pull up the main stories I want to pursue, so I can arm myself with questions once the first day of class opens. I haven't really delved into that side of my family, so there certainly is work to be done before class starts.

Regardless of these good intentions, I will probably not jump right in to that line of research quite yet. Why? Because a tempting offer just came calling with its Siren Internet call: there's free access to all the records at the New England Historic Genealogical Society website from this very moment onwards to next Tuesday. I'd like to insert only until Tuesday, July 17, but I suppose I should be grateful.

I suppose I can also claim that, in taking up the American Ancestors offer, I will really be doing the very work that I need to do, leading up to that SLIG class next January: my Tennessee Tilson line is, after all, rooted in the early years of colonial New England. As in, Mayflower colonial. And taking up the NEHGS offer of free access gives me a chance to peek at the Mayflower Society Silver Books to see what they have written on Ruth Bartlett, my fifth generation Mayflower-descendant ancestor.

Of course, I can't really help it if I find myself wandering off into other records...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Time for Another Road Trip

Now that the last of the abandoned photographs has been sent back to family, it's time to look for more. The thought that my ancestors' picturesor yours, for that mattercould still be out there, facing the fate of being tossed out or lost in an estate sale, is a compelling consideration. While what I'm doing here at A Family Tapestry may never give me the chance to find my own family's photographs, at least it will allow me to grant a fellow researcher a pleasant surprise. Consider this a "giving back" project.

So it's off to a few more antique shops to see what we can find. Wemy indefatigable genealogy-rescuing travel partner Sheri Fenley and Iare hoping to schedule a trip up to California Gold Rush country again soon.

If you recall, last time we went, we headed northeast to the area around Sutter Creek and Jackson. This time, we plan to follow the Gold Country Highwaystate highway 49, named on account of the "49ers" who arrived there in 1849, just after the start of the gold rushto the south of our last visit. Our goal this time will be to visit the historic community of Sonora, and possibly also stop in Jamestown or Angels Camp.

The good news is that there is at least one antique shop in Sonora, our first stop, which hasat least, according to their response to my query—"hundreds" of photos. We'll see whether any of those pictures include the vital element: an inscription on the reverse which provides enough identification of the subjects to make it possible for me to return the item to family.

Though most of the photographs I've already found were taken long after gold fever died down in the foothills of northern California, I am still amazed at how many picturestaken in the 1870s through the early 1900sstill made their way from family roots in other countries to those relatives who chose to settle where their "get rich quick" schemes faded, so long ago. It is always fun to explore those bins storing abandoned photographs from a century long gone, and apparently, we are in for more fun with our next trip to the foothills.

Meanwhile, before we ever get on the road again, I've got some other research to take care of. We'll take a look at the to-do list tomorrow.
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