Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Perhaps It's Time to Backtrack

Sometimes, the answers to those burning genealogical questions seem to remain just one step beyond reach. That has been the case with those third great-grandparents of mine, William Riley and his wife, Cassandra Fincher. All I had hoped for, when I started this journey, was to locate something a bit more specific than just the name of the state in which they were born.

In the meantime, I've traced their son—also named William, but with the handy delineating middle initial "F," which I suspect might have stood for his mother's maiden name—from his home in Washington County, Tennessee, westward through the state and eventually on to Putnam County, Indiana. And yet, after all was told—including a tempting rabbit trail in the form of a gossipy newspaper report of a paternity suit—I stuck to my research purpose (well, almost entirely) and followed the junior William all the way back to Tennessee.

Wait. What?

To tell the truth, my genea-spidey sense tells me the William F. Riley who showed up, back in Washington County, Tennessee, might not necessarily be one and the same as the William F. Riley who disappeared from Indiana around the time of that same 1900 census. If for nothing else but confirmation, I decided to persevere and see if I could locate the other names mentioned in the final records of the man's stay at the Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

That meant I had to locate a document explaining who Bettie Taylor and Mary M. Riley of "Jonesboro," Tennessee were. Besides the unnamed "widow and daughter" who were present at the time of William Riley's death, these two women were mentioned specifically by name and location. Chances were good that they could be relatives of some sort. But how?

As it turned out, there was one Bettie Taylor living in the whole of Washington County, according to the 1900 census. Whether she was one and the same with the woman named specifically in the Soldiers' Home records, I can't be sure. But I have yet to figure out her connection—if, indeed, this is the right Bettie Taylor. With a name like that, chances could be really good that it wasn't.

It would have been helpful to find a Mary M. Riley living nearby, but that was not the case, though I leafed through the pages of the 1900 census where Bettie was found. And yet, Eliza herself—soon to be a widow after the time of that census—appeared along with William in that same census, and yet not anywhere close to either of those two named women.

What could have happened? Was it possible that Eliza's daughter came from Indiana to be with her mom only at the point at which the end appeared near for William? If so, that might explain no other Riley connections appearing in the Washington County census records, six years before this man's death.

The next step, of course, would be to find out what became of that daughter. Her maiden name, tantalizingly enough, was Mary Riley, as well—but that was a name she had long before forsaken. It would have been handy, had she married a Taylor, as her middle initial was "E," possibly for Elizabeth, which could be shortened to Bettie. A beguiling narrative, to be sure. But incorrect.

To trace this possibility more closely, however, means we need to backtrack to visit this younger Mary's story. Which means, also, that it might just suit our purposes, at this point, to revisit that odd mention of a paternity suit, back in Greencastle, Indiana, where Mary and her parents had once lived.

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