Monday, January 24, 2022

Didya Miss Me?


With thanks to those of you perceptive enough to find a way to perform a virtual welfare check, yes, I've been absent over the weekend. True, having the Internet service in our neighborhood go out for nearly a whole day contributed to the issue. But the mainstay of a miserable weekend has shown me that it is possible to not even have journeyed to Salt Lake City for my formerly-annual trek to SLIG (thinking of those who cast aspersions upon that wonderful organization for the co-incidental but inevitable January illness) to come down with something of an awful-disease variety: my entire family, despite all precautions including adhering to a sterling, up-to-date vaccination and masking protocol, has come down with the coronavirus.

I see I'm not the only one in the genealogy universe lately plagued with this unexpected outcome. From well-known lecturers to fellow genea-bloggers to even the "Plan B" speaker our local society had engaged for January's meeting—Plan A having been scuttled, also, due to the same virus—the disease is surging and impacting our community. My thoughts and prayers are with you; this is not an easy ride.

That said, it's been a rough go for me, as well. This is the first chance in which I've been able to sit up long enough to type a few words into a computer; don't expect any more for some time. It takes time to do research—let alone write coherently about the jumble of facts gleaned from pursuing promising rabbit trails. I'll be back when I can. In the meantime, please keep healthy with all the protocols at your disposal. For some, this is not a journey for the faint of heart.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Meeting Job's Family


If a straightforward search into my fourth great-grandfather Job Tison's roots yields us nothing but disagreeing assertions, perhaps, as has been suggested, we can glean some clues from his children. After all, some of Job's younger children were born in a time frame which yielded them a ripe old age coinciding with the romantic reminiscing about the "good old days" back at the start of the nation. Perhaps we can find some reports that way.

First, though, we need to examine just who Job's children were—and, in case that yields us nothing, also explore Job's wife's siblings. I find it curious that mentions of Job Tison were often coupled with reports of his father-in-law, West Sheffield, making me wonder whether there is more to that connection than meets the eye. Could Job have been orphaned and taken under his father-in-law's wings? Could this have been an example of an old-fashioned betrothal? We may also want to trace what became of Job's Sheffield in-laws, as well.

Job's 1824 will begins a long process of settling his estate—which went on for years, including a second marriage of his wife and executrix, Sidnah. Job was particularly careful to attend to the needs of his youngest children—then minor and unmarried—Susan, William, John, and Theresa. We also learn from his will that he had a son named Aaron, who had barely come of age when his father died, and two older daughters, the soon-to-be-married Sidnah (my direct line) and just-married Melinda. One last detail was the discovery of an unnamed older—and, by the time of Job's will, deceased—daughter who had married a man by the name of Carter, to whom she had borne a son and a daughter.

For each of these, we'll take some time next week to explore what can be found in those hidden nooks across the Internet concerning any of Job Tison's children—and, for that matter, his wife, Sidnah Sheffield Tison Peck, as well. 


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Speaking of . . .


Yesterday, I was fairly lusting over the twelve volume set of Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia. Today, I think I've gotten over it. As luck would have it, I didn't need to actually fly to Salt Lake City to access the entire collection at the Family History Library there; all I needed do was take a look at their website.

While true, all twelve volumes are indeed at the Family History Library, a little poking around online showed me enough of a snippet to dampen those flames of bookish desire. For the book's entry on Job Tison's father-in-law, West Sheffield, another researcher had posted a snippet from page 295 of the third volume of Folks Huxford's massive work.

In the very first line of the entry for West Sheffield, I spotted details I could easily work to verify—or discount—right from home. According to Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia,

West Sheffield of Wayne (now Brantley) County, was a son of John Sheffield, R. S., of Duplin County, N. C., and was born there Dec. 13, 1747. He died at his home in Wayne County, Sept. 22, 1830.

True enough, West Sheffield died on September 22, 1830, and his will was presented in court in Wayne County on the first day of November in that same year. The rest of that biographical entry, however, needs some closer scrutiny.

The least of our concerns is the assertion that Wayne County is now Brantley County. True, Brantley was carved from Wayne—but that didn't occur until 1920. Even if the original land upon which West Sheffield built his home now stands in that location, it is to Wayne County that we need to turn for records on his life story in the early 1800s.

But let's get down to more serious doubts—in particular, whether West Sheffield was from Duplin County, North Carolina, and, more importantly, if he was indeed son of a man there named John Sheffield.

I took the "R. S." after John Sheffield's name to stand for Revolutionary Soldier, though of course, I don't have access to the volumes to seek out any reader's guide to abbreviations used in the Wiregrass works. It is easy enough to see what can be found on any confirmed Patriot: just look at the website hosted by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

There, I find two entries for a John Sheffield. Fortunately, one is specific to a man by that name from Duplin County. Things seem to be going swimmingly so far—until, that is, we realize the entry is bathed in red ink. There seem to be problems with this Patriot's record. Prime among the objections is the obvious fact that a man born "circa 1740" would be hard pressed to father a son born in 1747. The D.A.R. record comments on this aberration.

Of course, West Sheffield has his own listing as a Patriot at the D.A.R. website, as well. An interesting comment added to that entry was his residence listed as the Beaufort District of South Carolina, bringing us back around to that other puzzle for the extended family.

While twelve volumes of biographical and genealogical information may seem, to those of us far from research repositories, to be a gold mine of information, we need to keep in mind that despite being published works, books can contain errors in research, or even copy errors. They are simply guides pointing a possible way for us to continue our own quest for answers.


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Déjà vu of Wiregrass Country


It was only yesterday, when perusing my Twitter feed, that I came across Judy Russell's pertinent comment in The Legal Genealogist:

Genealogy is as much a matter of geography as it is of history.

Of course, she had no idea I was on the search for the whereabouts of my fourth great-grandfather's parents somewhere in North or South Carolina; she was looking for her, ahem, "German" ancestors.

While the point is well taken—as we've already discussed here—that borders do move from time to time, geography is a pertinent part of genealogy for more reasons than those shifting borders. As I find in so many of my family history puzzles, it helps to know the places where our ancestors settled. Like, really get to know them.

Instead of trying to trace my line backwards through time—following unsubstantiated reports that my fourth great-grandfather Job Tison came from Pitt County, North Carolina—I want to tack in a different direction. Here's why.

As I explored the place in Georgia where Job Tison and his future father-in-law, West Sheffield, came to call home, learning about Glynn County and Wayne County gave me this strange, déjà vu feeling, as if I had been there before. I guarantee you, the only time I've ever been to Georgia was to fly through the Atlanta airport when my original wintertime flight home had been cancelled due to predictable weather eruptions. In other words: I've never set sights on Georgia from any way other than an aerial perspective. So how could reading about those two counties make me feel as if I had been there before?

Simple: I learned about Wiregrass Country.

Glynn County, where Job Tison settled, and neighboring Wayne County where West Sheffield established his home, were considered to be part of what is called Wiregrass Country. Named for the aristida stricta (or "wiregrass") warm season grass native to the coastal plains of the Carolinas, the region in which it best grows stretches from there southward to Georgia and the Florida panhandle, and westward toward Alabama. 

The wiregrass region used to cover far more of Georgia than it does today, and it featured some other characteristics which I also found strangely familiar. The sandy soil of the region featured one additional familiar feature: the longleaf pine. Far more prevalent in that wiregrass region in past centuries, the longleaf pine was useful not only for timber, but for turpentine. And that is precisely why the look of the land seems so familiar to me: I had seen this same geographic appearance over the miles while driving to the ancestral home of my McClellan line in Suwannee County, Florida—where Job Tison's daughter Sidnah moved after her marriage to George Edmund McClellan around 1830.

Perhaps I am belaboring this point, but it is for good reason. Not only have people sought out new places to live which seemed familiar to them, but those who were accustomed to living off the land developed ways to assess whether new territories had the natural resources to enable them to continue making their living with the skills they already possessed. I'll never forget Mark Lowe's instruction on southern research at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, advising his students seeking their disappearing ancestors to pay attention to soil maps. If those ancestors moved, they likely removed to a place with the same farming conditions required by the crops they had raised back home.

As it turns out, there was a particular migration pattern bringing people into the southeastern Georgia Wiregrass Country. While I'm still working on framing that picture, it appears one typical inbound route brought settlers from the Carolinas, seeking a familiar environment in which to engage in "self-sufficient" farming and livestock herding on cheap land with open range and relatively few other settlers.

While that description doesn't necessarily solve my research dilemma—were Job's parents from North or South Carolina?—it does at least warm me up to the idea that he didn't originate from another location.

There is another bright side to exploring this geographical angle. Once learning about Wiregrass Country, one can't help but realize that the land's unofficial moniker inspired a massive biographical work to catalog the many Euro-American settlers to the region. Called Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, the original seven volume set was written by Folks Huxford, with five additional volumes compiled by the Huxford Genealogical Society.

As you can imagine, obtaining all twelve volumes can be a prohibitive process—though a trip to Homerville, Georgia, during their pandemic-limited hours could gain you entrance to the Huxford collection of notes and books which became the impetus of what is now billed as "one of the largest privately owned genealogical libraries in the United States." Not on your itinerary for 2022? No problem: you can check the Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia index online for your ancestor's name, then tap the book's listing at in search of the right volume closer to home.

I've already checked for Job Tison: he is mentioned in volumes four and five. West Sheffield? He's there also, in volume three. And why stop there? A glutton for more research resources, I checked for Charles McClellan, father to Job's future son-in-law George as well as witness to Job's will, and even another promising connection by the name of Andrew McClellan.

Now, all I have to do is actually find a library which contains all those volumes. If there's nothing closer, looks like that will be something to add to my to-do list for my next trip to Salt Lake City. I know there's a library there which can help...  

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Where in the World was Job Tison?


Finding a validating census record may seem a commonplace ritual among those researching their family history. We have many finding aids to help us plug in a name and narrow the possibilities to just the right candidate—if we are researching our more modern ancestors. When it comes to seeking someone named Job Tison in 1790, we're facing an entirely different situation.

First, consider the liberties taken by the forerunners of our modern census enumerator. In 1790, an enumerator may have spelled such a man's name as Job, recalling the famed subject of the biblical tale of woe and endurance. Or he may have added an additional vowel to render the spelling Joab.

That's just for the given name. What about the surname? There is much to wiggle in the wiggle room there. When I first encountered records of my fourth great-grandfather, his surname was reported as Tyson, a surname spelling many readily recognize today. However, in other documents, Job's surname might be spelled as Tison, or even Teson.

Point well taken: be flexible with these early document searches, especially if looking at transcriptions rather than digitized originals.

So...if we open ourselves up to the possibility that our Job Tison could be anywhere in the fledgling nation of the United States in 1790, where might his name show up? Granted, this is a risky question to pose; the results to such a search could, theoretically, be overwhelming, and not very helpful. With that caveat, let's try our hand at such a search.

As it turns out, the only places where I could find any spelling variations for the name Job Tison were not in Georgia where he later resided, but in North and South Carolina. The entry in Pitt County, North Carolina—location of the home historically reported to be his origin—is no surprise to us, given what we've already discovered. However, the other result—in the Beaufort District of South Carolina, was unexpected, as was the lack of any entries for Georgia.

Let's take a look at these. First, the Beaufort entry. I found it interesting that there were two different entries for the Tison surname. Along with Job's—household with one "free white" male "of 16 years and upward" and one female—there was a replicated count for a man by the name of Aaron Tison, as well. I find that interesting, considering that our Job named his oldest son—at least the oldest one listed in his 1824 will—by that same name: Aaron. Perhaps this was a sign.

On the other hand, there was a listing for a "Joab Tyson" in the 1790 census for Pitt County, North Carolina, exactly where later history accounts indicated. That census entry also showed a two-person household: one male and one female. Along with the Joab Tyson entry, there were others listed on the same page, both Tysons and Tisons. In fact, there were several Tysons, as well as Tisons, throughout all of 1790 North Carolina.

Does that satisfy the contention that our Job Tison originated in Pitt County? I'm not quite ready to concede that, for several reasons. First, let's fast forward to the most recent decade in which we can find our Job Tison listed in the U.S. Census: for 1820. As it turns out, Pitt County happened to show that (presumably) same Joab Tyson—this time, spelled as Tison—in 1820. However, we already know our Job Tison was living—and about to be dying—in his home in Glynn County, Georgia, during that same enumeration, this time, listed as Job Tyson.

Yet another reason to doubt the Job Tison version appearing in North Carolina: although the 1790 census gathered names of heads of households sixteen years of age and older—and if our Job was born in 1770, he would certainly have shown as older than sixteen—he could very well have not been considered a head of household, if living with his parents or within another household.

The other consideration which holds me back from wholesale acceptance of the Pitt County theory is the report of Job's marriage to Sidnah Sheffield. Granted, I have no document to secure the date. The only record I have is a copy from a family Bible—and even that record entry was not contemporaneous with the event, itself, being embedded within entries for marriages as late as 1892 (the note immediately above Sidnah's wedding entry) and 1913 (the note immediately following her entry).

However, prior to Sidnah Sheffield's marriage to Job Tison in 1790—or whenever it was—she would theoretically be living in her father's household. So where was that? West Sheffield's name does not appear in the 1790 census—at least, that I can find—either in North Carolina or Georgia. The closest entries I could find were for two households of John "Shuffil"—junior and senior—in Moore County, North Carolina, and the home of a possibly widowed Elizabeth "Shuffield" and her six boys under sixteen in North Carolina's Duplin County. The latter county, according to an entry at, included a signature ten years earlier on a petition to the General Assembly listed as West Shuffield. Though I'd prefer to see that on an original document than a transcription—much less a note about a record—I'll take that as a clue.

With all that exploration, I can't say anything conclusive yet, but I sure want to explore those North Carolina counties more closely for any sign of our Tison and Sheffield families.

Monday, January 17, 2022

How 'bout a Third Look?


The search for information on distant relatives—such as my quest to discover more of the biographical details of my fourth great-grandfather, Job Tison—becomes more complicated, the further back in time we reach. Given that Job Tison was born in 1770—where is the question, and to whom—we are stretching back quite a while, indeed.

Last Friday, we took a second look at what I've already entered in my genealogy database for Job Tison and his family. Thankfully, posting my research dilemmas online through the medium of a genealogy blog makes for some helpful crowdsourcing, and readers have risen to the challenge. Perhaps this is one way to remind us all to take a third look at resources as we grapple with our brick wall research questions.

In an email after Friday's post, fellow genea-blogger Charles Purvis of Carolina Family Roots advised me to widen my search by taking it to resources online like Google Books. And blogger Kathy Duncan of Porch Swings, Fireflies, and Jelly Jars suggested broadening the scope by looking "downstream" at possible published later-life recollections of Job's children or grandchildren, such as this brief bio of Job's son found in the February 19, 1879, Brunswick Advertiser.

There are indeed several other resources we can explore during the remainder of this month, but these helpful suggestions remind me that, in preparation, it would be helpful in that "third look" to review just what we already know about Job Tison's family.

In brief—and I'll share more as the week progresses—I have found that several researchers claimed Job Tison was "from" Pitt County, North Carolina. The problem is that none of the mentions of this detail seem to include documentation to verify that assertion. Worse, now that I've taken Kathy's advice in reading the article she mentioned, I see the Brunswick Advertiser stated back in 1879 that Job Tison—and, incidentally, his wife Sidnah Sheffield—were born "on the line of Virginia and North Carolina," yet that is certainly not an apt descriptor for the location of Pitt County.

True, that one biographical sketch for John Mason Berrien Tison featured details for just one of Job Tison's descendants. I have seven other Tison children's lives to explore—and undoubtedly, I've missed maybe one or two of the earliest of his children. Plus, going on the F.A.N. Club theory that Job Tison may well have shadowed his father-in-law's migration pathway, I can do likewise for Sidnah's father, West Sheffield and (especially) his many sons.

In the meantime, tomorrow we'll strike out to explore the possible census entries from the Virginia-North Carolina border southward to see whether there are any signs of either Job Tison or West Sheffield as early as the first census in 1790. If nothing else, that exercise will confirm or reject the reports that Job Tison had moved to Glynn County, Georgia, by the time he was fifteen.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Getting a Chance to Give Back


Years ago, genealogical pursuits were mostly fueled by the energy of dedicated volunteers. These were research advocates who made sure to locate disappearing record sets which could benefit from being brought to light so others could access them more easily, as well. Local genealogical societies took the forefront in such endeavors, unearthing, transcribing, indexing, preserving, cleaning and re-housing—whatever it took to save our collective personal history narratives so others could find the family names they were seeking.

Fast-forward to today. The genealogical world has changed. Granted, we still hold to many of the same research standards, but our finding aids have undergone a massive facelift. In many cases—I note the recent news of two local counties to the east of my home as sad examples—our county genealogical societies are dying, or at least withering, leaving researchers across the country and, indeed, around the world, to hope that someone at or or MyHeritage or FindMyPast will take an interest in lil ol' Harper County, Kansas, or Arthur County, Nebraska, or, for that matter, the black hole of digitized newspapers, Stockton, California. If local volunteers are no longer banding together to preserve these local records, who will?

Rather than bemoan the loss of the will-to-volunteer, I've decided to become a one-woman movement to give back. If only a little, I've realized that each of us, even if we don't have a local genealogical society to rally us together, can go that extra mile—or ten feet, or two inches, anything—to help give back for all the help others have given us over our years of research.

There are still, of course, organized opportunities to volunteer our help. The indexing process at FamilySearch is one organized way to help out, especially with the upcoming release of the 1950 census this April. But there are many tasks we can join in on a daily basis, as we go about our research efforts.

Consider the crowdsourcing efforts of providing feedback, any time you spot a mistaken transcription—especially a machine transcription—from a resource like It only takes a minute or two, for instance, to edit the impossible "Emmett R. Hiuis" to restore it to the actual "Emmett R. Hillis" published in a newspaper before adding it to my mother-in-law's family tree. Once done, though, it not only cleans up my family tree readout, but stays in place to help others, as well.


Another way to help is by uploading privately-held documents or photos to your ancestor's profile page at whatever cloud-based genealogy service you use. Over the past month, I have benefited from several fellow subscribers at who had a copy of a family Bible record, or had scanned an old local history book or other hard-to-access resource. While I'm glad to be on the receiving end on behalf of those brick-wall ancestors, I can't help but recall some of the photos and records I have that could easily be passed along to others in a public gathering place like or the other genealogical organizations.

Then, too, there are the brave ones who have ventured out to the world of technology and explored ways to post their family tree on their own website through "next generation" programs. Or those who, in a less-scary process, have joined the ranks of hundreds of genea-bloggers to post stories about their own ancestors. It is always exciting to discover someone else is researching the same ancestor.

For that matter, I'm thankful for those readers who have reached out to "give back" with their comments, both on other genealogy blogs and here at A Family Tapestry, as well. Just this week, I've received helpful notes with tips on places to look while researching my fourth great-grandfather Job Tison. The information is out there, but no one person can keep track of it all.

Once again, we crowdsource the answers to more completely research our ancestors from across the country and around the world. I'm grateful for those who have been willing to give back by sharing. That certainly inspires me to continue to reach out and give back, as well.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

What a Big Mess
a Little Bug can Make


Last week would have marked my traditional annual trip to attend the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy held there by the Utah Genealogical Society. And, up to only a few weeks prior, this year would have marked a return to an in-person venue after an awkward hiatus due to the too-great risks of the pandemic.

How I would have loved to have been there. And how glad I am that I didn't spring for the preparations. What a big mess such a tiny "bug" can make for even the best of plans.

Though I know the program seamlessly reverted to an online-only option, watching online from my isolated position at home just wouldn't have been the same. I know; I tried it the previous year. Yes, I learned much—but that was all I gained for the experience. The people factor, the networking, the milling about, the reunions with friends from past years just wasn't the same, at least for me.

As difficult as it must have been for the SLIG administrative team to make that last minute decision to abandon original dreams, the choice was likely inevitable. Even after that announcement, here at home—far removed from Salt Lake City—I could watch the hospitalization numbers earlier this month ratchet upwards alarmingly, and know it couldn't be much better anywhere else, no matter where a person calls home. And, on a miniature scale, our own local genealogical society's board traced a route through a similar decision tree to arrive at the conclusion that our own first face-to-face meeting would prudently have to wait out the winter.

On the larger scale in which the UGA must operate, there are significant consequences to such cancellations, and I am not surprised to see that the SLIG leadership has opted to announce next year's Institute to be a virtual-only event. The dates are already up on their website—January 22 through 27, 2023—with fifteen courses already announced.

Those in the know already have marked their calendars for the opening of registration on July 16, 2022, poised to claim their first course choice right at 10:00 a.m. Mountain Time. Even with an online-only venue, classes fill up quickly.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Taking a Second Look


When stuck on a research question, as I am with my fourth great-grandfather Job Tison, it sometimes helps to go back and take a second look at all the documentation already gathered. When we focus on one specific research question—as I had in the past, when looking at Job Tison's probate case to examine the specific listing of slaves named in his records—unrelated details may fly by our eyes unnoticed. Sometimes, the very facts we are seeking now turn out to have been there all along. This time, looking with fresh eyes, we can sometimes unearth those details from their camouflaged position.

Now that I'm stuck on Job Tison's personal details—specifically, what documentation can I find to pinpoint where he came from in North Carolina, if those reports are indeed true—I'm more than willing to go back and check everything I've already gathered, in minute detail if necessary. And as I go, I'm thinking things through—for instance, with his timeline.

Supposedly, Job was born in 1770. And reports of his later life in Georgia portray him as having come there from Pitt County, North Carolina. But "coming from" and nativity are not always the same detail. All I know is that the man ended up raising a family in Georgia and leaving a messy probate case in Georgia's Glynn County which took decades and additional family deaths before it was resolved.

In my own record, Job's oldest child had shown as a daughter, Sidnah, who became part of my direct line upon her marriage to George Edmund McClellan and subsequent move to a new life in northern Florida. That is not exactly the case, however. Besides Sidnah—"Sidney," born about 1806—there was an older son, Aaron. But there was also an unnamed daughter listed in Job's will, a child who had predeceased her father—but not before marrying a man by the name of Carter and bearing him two children.

Those two children were remembered by name in their grandfather Job Tison's will. Thankfully, they can now be found by name in this transcription of Job's will, as well as another published abstraction of the same. The granddaughter, named Eliza, and her brother Job, named after his grandfather, were likely born to a Tison daughter named Naomi, who married a Matthew Carter in Wayne County, Georgia, on August 4, 1811.

Think about that for a moment. If Naomi Tison was married in 1811, she could likely have been born sometime around 1791 or a few years afterwards. Where did her parents live then? Could there have been additional children before Naomi, as well?

Looking back over other resources I had found in the past, I noticed this one entry in another of Job Tison's granddaughters' D.A.R. application summary. Unlike the others printed in the Lineage Book of D.A.R. charter members, this particular entry had neglected to include the simple letter "m" signifying "married" before a date published in the granddaughter's entry. Thus, the line concerning her grandparents read:

Granddaughter of Job Tison (1770-1824) and Sidnah Sheffield (1776-1855), his wife, 1790...

and then continued with the other ancestors in the D.A.R. member's line. Not seeing the "m" before "1790," my mind just glossed over the significance of that date.

So...if Job and Sidnah were married in 1790, where did that occasion take place? And were there any additional children born before the listing I now have, beginning with son Aaron's birth in 1803? A gap between the 1790 date of marriage and that of the birth of the first child I have listed (1803) seems unusual for that time period.

An insignificant mere letter like the missing "m" may not seem to you to be worth the attention I'm giving it. On the other hand, realizing that was the date of marriage, it now opens worlds to me in my quest to find an answer to my research question. Granted, since Sidnah Sheffield's father seemed already to be living in Georgia, the marriage likely occurred at that same location. But just in case, I'd like to trace not only where any earlier children might have been born, but any other sign of a household headed by someone with that name—Job Tison—anywhere besides his eventual home in Georgia.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Not Where They Found it


Footnotes are great for helping other researchers replicate the paper trail that led you to the family history answer you've been wrestling with for days (weeks, years). When it comes to noting an online resource, though, the troubles begin when URLs start shifting.

URLs—those online addresses with the unwieldy official title, "Uniform Resource Locators"—apparently can change over time, as webmasters rearrange the organization of their website. Clicking on a hyperlinked address is like magic: it can whisk you immediately to the location of a specific file—if, that is, the file hasn't since changed its address. Sometimes, though, the promised document other researchers might have told you about in the past is not where they found it anymore.

Keeping that URL address steady over time, no matter what, is like a gold standard, in my opinion. Of course, that's provided the specific online record we're seeking has been cited with a URL. In some cases, only the descriptor of the document set might be provided—and if that footnote's resource undergoes reorganization, well, there you go once again. Just because we find a footnote for the document we covet doesn't mean the document will still live at that same spot when we go to find it.

Take my fourth great-grandfather Job Tison's trail from, supposedly, North Carolina to Georgia. Since every mention of the Tison name seems to be coupled with a report on his father-in-law, Revolutionary War Patriot West Sheffield, I figured I'd add that name to my FAN Club research approach.

It might have seemed a stroke of luck to stumble upon an article mentioning West Sheffield's extensive estate papers in a 2017 post at Legacy Family Tree's blog, but alas, I couldn't replicate the footnote's way marker once I took it for a spin at I did, however, locate the Sheffield will itself in the browse-only online collection. Sadly, none of the juicy details were in that part of the file, though—only the factual litany of descendants which, admittedly, does serve to help in the strictest genealogical sense.

None of that, however, serves to point me backwards in time to that mystery spot in North Carolina where West Sheffield was said to have originated. Nor did it help me, by any hint of association, discern where West Sheffield's daughter Sidnah might have pledged her troth to my Job Tison.

Fortunately, however, the Legacy Family Tree author was not the only one to willingly share resources. Once again, another subscriber came to my rescue, posting a copy of the same marriage document which Michele Lewis had reported in the Legacy Family Tree Legacy News article. And in this case—thankfullythe researcher also noted the exact URL so I could find it at, too.

Of course, it's not the documented marriage woes of that other daughter of West Sheffield that I'm interested in, but merely a hope that something else in the apparently extensive file might provide me a clue as to his origin—or at least a tip regarding his family's complicated timeline that brought them from that unknown location in North Carolina to their final home in Wayne County, Georgia.

Now that I've found the spot, I'm in for a long season of reading up on all the details.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Becoming a FAN


A most useful concept in family history research techniques can be the "FAN" Club, an acronym representing the Friends, Associates, and Neighbors of our difficult to trace target ancestors. In the case of my fourth great-grandfather, I'm beginning to realize that his FAN Club may be just what I need to find the answer to my question, "Where in North Carolina was Job Tison born?"

Granted, we've already read one article which stated he was from Pitt County, North Carolina. But if Job Tison was born in 1770, it's a far stretch to simply take an author's word for the fact from a report penned in 1933. I'd like a bit more information on how that detail was garnered, thank you.

According to local historian Margaret Davis Cate's column in the July 7, 1933, Brunswick News, Job Tison arrived in Glynn County, Georgia, about 1785. That would mean he was only fifteen when he got there. Did he come alone? Probably unlikely, given his age. That's the first clue that I need to look around for others who might have been traveling partners.

I noticed the same article in the Brunswick News detailed the history of Job's eventual father-in-law, West Sheffield. Interestingly, West Sheffield also came from somewhere in North Carolina, but unlike Job, had settled in nearby Wayne County, Georgia.

Though D.A.R. records readily indicate that West Sheffield was born in North Carolina, they note his service in the Revolutionary War was in Georgia, not North Carolina. Indeed, one of Job Tison's granddaughters applied for D.A.R. membership, stating that her great-grandfather West Sheffield had served as a private from Wayne County, for which he was granted land bounty.

That same membership report includes a statement about West Sheffield's father, John, who also lived in Wayne County, Georgia, but was born in North Carolina, and had died back there in Duplin County, two counties removed from Pitt County. Could John Sheffield have been returning on business to his original home in North Carolina when he was stricken?

The connection both of these men had with North Carolina—both frustrating in its possible coincidental closeness and its stubbornly remaining anonymity—certainly calls for not only further research, but research of the deep kind of inspection perhaps not available online. Despite that, I took my question to Google to see if there was anything to be found on West Sheffield and Wayne County, Georgia.

There was. Of all the unexpected resources, I found an article posted by Michele Lewis in the Legacy Family Tree blog on September 11, 2017. The article itself was about tracing records from burned counties and focused on an example from Jackson County, Mississippi. I assure you, that is the farthest from my research goals I could think of at this point, so let's just say that was unexpected to find.

However, the story the author presented was an illustration of how records from one burned county may be found—at least in duplicated version—in a far removed county. In this case, the document under examination was a marriage verification belonging to another daughter of West Sheffield—who at the time was living in Mississippi, site of the burned courthouse—which ended up in West Sheffield's estate papers in Georgia. A digitized page from that record was included in the Legacy Family Tree article, and a footnote provided a resource online at

Guess I'll be doing some serious reading of those estate papers, if I can actually find them online. Perhaps I'll be fortunate enough to find some slips of unexpected documentation, too. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

If No One Had Told Us


It is at times when I research ancestors like my fourth great-grandfather Job Tison that I become most aware of the fragility of family history. At some point, but for some weak link in the nexus between public history and the private nano-history of the common individual, if no one had told us the story, we would never have any way to know it. That thin line connecting generations can be so easily broken and disappear.

This is when I become so aware of how beholden I am to the other family story-tellers who heeded that calling to record what they personally knew. Whether they realized it or not, they became the nodes in this tenuous line who spoke up enough to be heard, who wrote down what they knew so it could be passed on.

Much of what I already know about Job Tison comes from such reports. If I'm lucky, some of the written material will come with scholarly footnotes and bibliographies—but I doubt it. Barring such academic road maps, I'll be left to rummaging through whatever archival material has not been burned in courthouse fires or blown up through the ravages of war, or washed out by the storming furies of nature.

In the meantime, I'm happy to trust what other researchers have passed along—a clipping shared by an subscriber, or an enterprising blogger or an avid local historian. That, at least, is what I will start with, as we take this journey backward through time, beginning with the 1824 end of Job Tison's life in Glynn County, Georgia.

One such local historian compelled by the inner drive to "pass it on" was Margaret Davis Cate. Whoever she was—the website WorldCat provides her life timeline as 1888-1961—she was the writer to whom we can attribute the snippet an Ancestry member linked to the hints gleaned at that website for Job Tison.

The article shared at Ancestry continues the conversation we began yesterday about the Old Post Road in Georgia and the historic marker placed there in 1932 by the Brunswick Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. As it turns out, I was able to find a transcription of the article, which ran in The Brunswick News on July 7, 1933, shortly after the plaque was placed in a ceremony at the Old Post Road. (Though the transcription is freely available, after accessing the hosting website,, you need to perform your own search by pressing the Control plus F keys, then entering the surname Tison to locate it.)

The article, entitled "Old Post Road Historic Path," was indeed credited to local writer Margaret Davis Cate, and provided a history of the road and its surrounding area. From the column, we also learn that the tavern established by Job Tison and his wife, Sidnah Sheffield, was a wooden structure which, according to the author, was "perhaps the oldest wooden structure in this section" and, at least as of Ms. Cate's 1933 article, still standing.

While it was Job Tison's wife, Sidnah Sheffield, whose Patriot father West Sheffield gained more attention in the Brunswick News article—perhaps also the instigation for the DAR chapter to place the historic marker—the article did mention that Job Tison was from Pitt County, North Carolina, and that he arrived in Georgia about 1785. How the author substantiated that detail, I can't tell, but despite the lack of any scholarly attribution, I'm grateful for yet another one of those tenuous links and the desire of that one lone voice to be an instrument to "pass it on." These are the way-markers pointing us in at least a possible direction.

I realize through that Sheffield-Tison connection that there may be more to that link between Job's new home in Glynn County and his origin in North Carolina. We'll take a look at Job's in-laws tomorrow to see what we can learn. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Found on a Roadside Marker:
My Fourth Great-Grandfather


When we push so far back in our family's history, it sometimes begins to seem as if the ancestors named in the pedigree aren't real people. They are so far removed from us, from our time period, and sometimes even from the places where we live. Though in some ways I do feel that sense of being so removed from him, in other ways, there is no such disconnect with my fourth great-grandfather, Job Tison. There is a marker on a roadside in Georgia which claims his existence for me.

True, Georgia's "Old Post Road" Historic Marker 063-4B spells the man's name as Job Tyson—a spelling switch I've grown accustomed to over years of trying to trace him and his descendants—but the history and the documentation line up with what I've found.

According to the roadside plaque, which I first learned about courtesy of another researcher, Job Tison's efforts, no matter how small, have gone down in history.

     This road, formerly an Indian trail which paralleled the coast, was used by the Spanish and British. In 1778 it was traveled by Revolutionary soldiers who marched against Fort Tonyn. The first mail service south of Savannah was established over this road in 1763. Later it became a regular stagecoach route.
      At Coleridge, a short distance north of the present Waycross Highway, Job Tyson maintained a tavern for travelers along the post road. It was the only hostel between the Altamaha and Satilla rivers and was a regular stagecoach stop.

There are some problems trying to learn more about the man, though. Just taking a closer look at the text on this historical marker can give an idea of what I mean. For instance, that Old Post Road was used by soldiers who marched against Fort Tonyn. But where was Fort Tonyn? I googled it to learn that either it was "believed by some" to have been located on Amelia Island—wherever that was—or was located somewhere in what is now Nassau County, Florida.

Granted, that doesn't help a researcher discover just where that stagecoach stop might have been. But let's move on to another way marker: "at Coleridge." Right: that detail isn't producing helpful results, either. Google wasn't helpful, and Wikipedia certainly didn't have anything to say about Coleridge. One note on the blog Roadside Thoughts laid it out straight: "So far, we have found very little information about Coleridge." They conceded that the place must have been "historic."

At least they speculated the town was likely in Glynn County, a promising detail, since that is where I've found my Job Tison—supposedly one and the same as the marker's Job Tyson. One of Georgia's eight original counties, Glynn County was established in 1777, in plenty of time to establish the courthouse where Job Tison's estate stood frozen in a messy probate case from the time of his death in 1824 until the close of 1858.

Glynn County was not Job Tison's native home, however, and that is my quest to discover for this month's research goal. There are researchers who say Job was born in colonial North Carolina, and that may well be true. I would like to explore that for myself, and assemble the documentation to trace him back to the place where he was born—and to the as-yet-undiscovered couple who could claim him as their son. We'll start tomorrow by laying out what is already known, and then delve into the unknown after that point.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Managing Merges


Those of us exploring the previously uncharted territory of our oft-intermarried ancestors learn sooner or later that the farther-removed branches of that family tree contain duplicate entries. To fix that discrepancy, those of us on find a friend in the tool that allows us to "merge with duplicates."

My mother-in-law's family tree is full of such examples, and from time to time, I need to look behind the scenes to harvest those duplicate entries and merge them. Take my example from yesterday, two separate profile pages for what turns out to be the same person, a man named Charles Wesley Snider.

Once I carefully examined the records for each man named—Charles W. Snider, father of Mary Ann, versus Charles Wesley Snider, father of Mary Ann—it was time to initiate the merge process on my mother-in-law's family tree at Here's the basic steps.

First, I pull up the profile page for one of the two duplicated individuals. Generally, I prefer working with the profile containing the least amount of information, and merge that into the one with more details in the profile page. My reason is simple: I have no idea who else is lurking in the tree with the same name. More importantly, I have no idea, just from the view presented by this merge tool, whether any other people with this name would be duplicates, as well. Sometimes, I can't really tell without viewing the entire profile page for an individual, and I don't want to break, while in the midst of this operation, to double check other possibilities.

Thus, I start with the profile containing the least amount of information. On that person's profile page, I click the drop-down menu labeled "Tools" to reveal the choice, "Merge with duplicate."


Once I select "Merge with duplicates," the next screen that appears shows me the individual I've selected on the left of the page, with the work area for my target "Person 2" on the right. Sometimes, when you bring up this screen, will have already made a suggested target person for the merge. Sometimes, as in my mother-in-law's case, there might be two or three additional suggestions. Worse, sometimes those suggestions aren't even the person I had in mind.

This is where I have to tread carefully. I resist any urge to click on the suggested names until I can thoroughly check out those options—which I only do after accomplishing the process I've come to complete at this time. I only shop for duplicate ancestors with my shopping list in hand. 

In the case of my selected target, Charles Webster Snider, it turned out that Ancestry had absolutely no idea who to suggest. However, the column on the right provides the instructions, "Type the name of a person in your tree." As you can see from this example, I had barely typed "Charles Webs" into the dialog box when Ancestry picked up the clue and provided a suggestion: Charles Webster Snider, exactly whom I wanted.

Once I make my selection for the target person, scrolling to the bottom of that page, I can click the button labeled "compare" for a final double-check. If satisfied, I then can click the green button below, labeled "Merge" and the task will be completed.

Keep in mind that clicking "Merge" does not mean the overall process is over. If both my entries for Charles contained the listing of a spouse, the merge might create the need to follow through with a two-step process, to eliminate the resultant duplicate spouse entry. Other times, I've ended up with two sets of children listed after the initial merge for the parent. If you ever see an Ancestry tree hint listing an enormous set of children, and then looking closer, realize there is a duplicate for each name listed, you are probably looking at the result of an abandoned partial merge. Always double check this merge result to make sure you haven't left any duplicates behind.

In the case of all my trees—but especially with my mother-in-law's tree—I don't simply document a pedigree chart, but include all collateral lines and their descendants. I do this for DNA testing purposes, to make it easier for me to connect the dots between DNA cousins and their position in the family tree. It has helped me place so many of those DNA match cousins on my trees, instead of still being left with that bewildered, "Who are all these people?" feeling.

The down side, of course, is having to regularly do the work on this "Endogamy Lite" family tree to merge the inevitable duplicate entries. While I do track my research progress on a biweekly basis to check the total count on the trees—my husband's tree is now up to 25,124 individuals, thanks to the holiday research surge of an additional 463 names—I also know that net increase hides the fact that several duplicate entries have been merged in the process.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Seeing Doubles


For those whose family trees are riddled with cases of "Endogamy Lite," the challenge becomes to identify those ancestors whose names appear in more than one spot on the pedigree chart, so that they can be "merged" into one ancestral profile. This is most easily achieved by those who use a desktop-resident database management program, such as Family Tree Maker, where the program can list the possible duplicates for you at your command. On, the process is a little different, though still very possible. It just takes a couple more steps.

Since is my primary go-to workspace for researching and cataloging my family's trees, I generally manage the entire process from that service. Once I realize—as I discussed yesterday—that I've just entered a new profile for an ancestor with a strangely familiar name, I go searching to see whether I can confirm that hunch.

First, on my tree's main page (showing the pedigree chart) or from any ancestor's profile page, I click the down arrow on the bar on the top left, just under the Ancestry tool bar, listing the name of my family tree. From there, I can select the option, "Tree Overview."

That leads to a page with categories of information on the current status of my tree. The part I am interested in right now, in order to find duplicates, is to look at the listing for all the individuals included in my tree. For that, on the "Tree Overview" page, I look to the far right column, down from the listings "Home Person" and "Last Person Viewed" to find the heading "Summary." From there, I select the clickable link labeled "People," which brings me to a new screen.

On this new page, "All People," you can enter any name from your family tree, and the Ancestry program will bring you to that person's profile page. That, however, is not my purpose for visiting this spot today; I want to look over an alphabetically arranged list of all the ancestors in this tree, to scan for duplicate names.

Keep in mind, since this tree contains over twenty five thousand profiles, I'm going to want to hone my search to a more manageable level. Since I already know my mother-in-law's portion of this family tree contains many duplicate entries—remember that "Endogamy Lite" situation—my approach, when I've already made a mental note about such details, will be to enter the surnames I feel are most likely to contain duplicates.

This is the tree for which there are many possibilities. But I don't want to simply scan for duplicate names. Everything can conspire against me if I use such an approach—everything from father to son name-afters, to multiple cousins named after a favorite ancestor. I have to widen my visual inspection to more than just names.

For instance, my mother-in-law's tree overview can contain multiple listings such as this:


Which ones are duplicates? I can't really tell unless I also keep an eye on the rest of the details included in the tree overview readout. This tells a more complete picture:


In this case, I can more clearly spot the fact that the first two listings might represent a repeated entry, one which requires me to take a closer look before I decide to merge the two profiles. In addition, this process helps me realize the Elizabeth without any further details entered could also possibly represent a duplicate—but that I'd first need to do further comparisons with that individual before deciding how to proceed.

And so I continue, working my way through the specific surnames which I already know are most likely to yield duplicate entries due to ancestral families intermarrying. After that Ohio Flowers family sweep, I move on to another surname with such possibilities, Snider (also spelled Snyder in some branches), and visually check the names in the alpha listing. I run across another instance similar to my question about the Elizabeth with no further details: a Charles W. Snider versus a Charles Webster Snider. Could those two entries represent the same person?

Often, when building a family tree from the present—for instance, starting with the home person as self, spouse, or our own parent—we have no way to foresee that any one ancestor in the family line will eventually claim more than one spot in the bigger picture. In an oft-intermarried family history such as this one, I might be researching the ancestry of another surname, and end up with one ancestor marrying a Snider. Or I might have entered the parents' names for the spouse—a habit I try to maintain to better identify those who have married into the line of the branch I'm researching—and have nothing else with which to identify the person, other than name.

In the case of the man named Charles Webster Snider, it turns out that he was my mother-in-law's second cousin once removed, a man who had a daughter he named Mary Ann. This Mary Ann was born in 1929, and eventually married a man named William James Kelly. 

Turning to the other entry, the one for Charles W. Snider, I see from his nearly-empty profile page at that he also had a daughter named Mary Ann. While I have no entry for this Charles' wife as I do for Charles Webster Snider, the coinciding names for the daughters seem compelling. Looking further, I see that not only did Charles W. Snider turn out to be a duplicate entry for Charles Wesley Snider—arrived at in this family tree from different research directions—but that I had already been working on merging yet another duplicate for this identity, as well.

All that is left to do, once I've double checked documentation to confirm the double entries, is to merge the two individuals—a process we'll discuss tomorrow.   


Friday, January 7, 2022

The Downside to "Endogamy Lite"


In our current era, the instance of someone marrying a cousin is just something we never expect to add to our family tree, but that wasn't always the case. As we push backwards in time, charting our pedigrees, there are times from the distant past when we may encounter such a scenario, as uncommon as it is now.

Other than discovering true cases of endogamy, where intermarriages within a close-knit or isolated community repeat over multiple generations, there are researchers who will find a minor version of that scenario, called pedigree collapse, appearing in the distant branches of their family tree.

Simply put, pedigree collapse involves seeing the same couple's names repeated in more than one location in a pedigree chart. In other words, when cousins marry cousins some time back in your family history, where two sets of great-grandparents, say, would usually have been placed in the chart, those two sets are represented by the same couple, listed twice. Instead of eight great-grandparents, for instance, someone with pedigree collapse might only have six great-grandparents, if a cousin married a cousin.

Those who are researching colonial American ancestors—whether in the United States or Canada—may see that scenario played out among their relatives in the 1700s or earlier. Another example would be for those ancestors who settled in geographically isolated areas, or who tended to marry only within their specific religious organization.

Of course, that is only what we discover when we actually work our way back to those distant time periods. In the meantime, remember that family history research is a pursuit of ancestors built on the premise that we start with ourselves and work our way backwards in time, generation by documented generation. How are we to know, from our starting point, that Ancestor X is going to turn out to be cousin of her own husband? We only realize the punch line when we get that déjà vu feeling that we've seen those surnames entered somewhere before—like, in our own family tree!

So it has been with the work in progress on my mother-in-law's family lines. She was the one whose ancestors from a close-knit Catholic heritage migrated out into the then-wilderness of the Ohio frontier and, having not much of a choice in that early time period, ended up intermarrying.

Now, from my point of view, I begin to realize I'm wandering into the far fringes of what I call "Endogamy Lite" as name after familiar name pops up in my mother-in-law's ancestry database. Only, because I didn't realize it when I began that journey, I've built, say, eight lines leading to eight separate great-grandparents when there were, in reality, only six.

In other words, it's time to merge the duplicates in her tree.

Trust me, these duplicates are much farther removed than a simple case of great-grandparents. They are also complicated with a twist—such as great-grandchildren descended from half-cousins marrying, or sibling sets marrying sibling sets, blending two families in more ways than one. No matter what the story was, one hundred or even two hundred years ago, since I'm working my way back there from the present, I've ended up with more relatives than there are in reality, simply because I didn't know at the outset that that was going to happen. And that is the downside to "Endogamy Lite" that has become my behind-the-scenes clean-up chore for this month.

Now that I've laid out my research goals for 2022 during the twelve days after Christmas, my genealogical Epiphany celebration aside, I'll start the research work in earnest beginning next week, when we begin exploring the early nineteenth century history and documentation resources for Glynn County, Georgia, in search of my fourth great-grandfather Job Tison's roots.

In the meantime, I've got some "Endogamy Lite" spring cleaning to do on my mother-in-law's lines. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Searching for Outlaws


It was a long time ago when I first heard the term "outlaws" applied to relatives of relatives—a word delivered with a smile and a wink, the first time my cousin introduced me to some of his relatives who weren't exactly mine.

There's been a lot of family history that's been researched after that first discussion of "outlaws" but that cousin has never let me forget the story of his side of the family. While he has been extremely helpful with my pursuit of our mutually shared line—my paternal, his maternal—he has his own family story which spans generations and includes fascinating stories, too. In gratitude for how he has helped my research, it's only fair that I take a month to assemble and organize what I've found on his other side of the family.

The Eggert story is the story of enterprise and invention, with a unique business handed down over the generations. Sometimes, in the hearing of it, my mind tends to collapse the generations, yet another reason for getting the details down on paper. And paper it will be, for my cousin's oft-repeated request has been for me to print up a family tree so he can refer back to it in real life, rather than via a computer screen. There is just something about the tangible-ness of grasping—literally—the ins and outs of relationships, especially through multiplied generations.

For my last of the Twelve Most Wanted monthly research goals for this new year, in honor of my cousin's long-time support of my research, I'll revisit this "outlaw" line of my father's brother-in-law's ancestors from the New York City metro area.


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Remembering Auld Acquaintance


While we are well into the new year—at least, past most of the celebration—I can't leave the season without remembering one sentiment oft repeated in song by people who probably don't even recognize the phrase's meaning. As I've been working my way through DNA matches lately, one connection got me to thinking about those old acquaintances—in particular, older family members I'll no longer see, who were the connecting link to other members of the extended family.

Some people jokingly call these folks "outlaws" as a abbreviated way to say relative-of-a-relative. The South apparently uses the shorthand, "kin." I'd like to borrow from this new year sentiment for my next-to-last Twelve Most Wanted target for 2022, in naming one entire family line as my focus to research next November.

The family in question is the Gramlewicz line from Żerków, Poland. True, Gramlewicz is the maiden name of my second great grandmother, wife of Mateusz Laskowski of the line I discussed yesterday. I worked on that line as one of my goals in a previous year, with disappointing results, and would like to revisit the effort again this year.

What I learned from the last time was that there actually were two different Gramlewicz lines in that tiny town for the limited time period in which I could find online records. Maybe those two lines connect further back in time. Maybe they don't. But I did see that the other line has a descendant who, as a fresh immigrant in New York City, stayed with my great-grandfather, Anton Laskowski, upon her arrival in the new country—and called him "uncle" in the first American census after her arrival.

Turns out she wasn't quite the niece that label led me to believe. Perhaps she was using the label much like our parents taught us to call their close friends—not really a relative at all, but at least a respectful way to address one's elders.

I'd like to see if I can find more on this family—and not just for this one "auld" acquaintance; there's another. That "niece" had a younger brother whose granddaughter reached out to me via email years ago. We spent some time evaluating our respective family trees, but didn't quite find the correct connection. In remembering this other "auld" acquaintance, I'd like to tackle this Gramlewicz mystery once again in the coming year. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Examining Family Groupings


Sometimes, the ancestor-a-month approach to setting family history goals is not aptly applied to some research dilemmas. Take today's target—not to mention the last three goals for the year. In applying the concept of my Twelve Most Wanted to my father's ancestors, the method falls short.

I'm still reeling from my unsuccessful close of the previous year, in which my hope to tackle my paternal Polish roots ran smack into the brick wall of lack of online record access. After all, I can't very well hop a flight to Poland at this COVID-infested moment. How does one go about setting goals that would follow in the path of such recent virtual failures?

Rather than attempting to select a specific individual for this coming October's research goal, I'll switch tactics. Since utilizing the results of DNA testing is my overarching theme for 2022, I'll follow suit for these three difficult months and look for family groupings, rather than individuals. From that point, I'll inspect the big picture to ensure I've done all I can to include descendants of the ancestral surname. The main point is to provide a working chart useful for resolving my DNA matches of unknown connection.

For October, we'll return to the Laskowski family from Żerków, Poland. Laskowski was my paternal grandmother's maiden name, and she was actually born in Poland, so I don't have far to reach to connect with potential relatives still living in Poland—wherever they are. In addition, I have distant cousin matches on some testing sites—MyHeritage being the most notable—who appear to have Polish, or at least Eastern European types of names. How to connect with them, lacking a more complete tree and access to more current documentation for the family, is the question.

And by day, volunteers in the various regions of Poland are adding to the assembled databases they are posting online, for which I am grateful. The region of Poznań is one such location benefiting from this volunteer effort, fitting perfectly with my research needs. A visit to their site a year after my latest effort will hopefully reveal additional information.

My goal is to be as thorough as possible with records available by October for the extended Laskowski family in Żerków. From that point, I'll trace each Laskowski line of descent forward to the present day, matching up any records aligning with DNA matches at the five companies where I've tested.  

Monday, January 3, 2022

Following the Ex


What do you do when your family history research brings you up short in front of a second spouse? Do you follow the story of the "ex" and all the kin connected to that new add to the family? Do you bother organizing all those step-relatives in their proper place in the family tree? Or do you prefer to remain satisfied with direct-line-only pedigrees?

Lately, I've been working on a fourth cousin descended from my Tison ancestors in Georgia. One particular line presented the "his, hers, and theirs" scenario for the children (sometimes with multiple iterations of the process), and I didn't just want to glean the direct-line relatives and then walk away.

That meant seeking out the subsequent obituaries for the previously-deceased or divorced spouse's other wife or husband, gleaning the names of all the children in common for that couple, then transposing the details into the blended family's picture. When a research goal is to find a place in the family tree for each of the descendants of one's ancestors, as mine is for DNA testing purposes, it is important to know who is who. That includes those collateral lines—and even all the details of children from their multiple marriages.

In selecting the final choice from my father-in-law's ancestors to pursue for the upcoming year's research goals, I feel the need to linger a little bit longer on the founding immigrant ancestor of his patriline, John Stevens. Immigrant John Stevens already figures in my Twelve Most Wanted for 2022 as my eighth choice for the upcoming year's research duties. However, what I find in the ninth month may help fill in some blanks if I miss the mark with August's research project.

The reason I'm confident of this possibility is that, like my Tison cousins, John Stevens had a second marriage. Of course, in that era in which he lived—the 1800s—his first wife was not exactly an "ex" but a wife who died following childbirth. Still, the research process is the same when it comes to sorting out the children. Though my father-in-law descended from John Stevens' first wife, the second wife bore him three daughters. They, too, have descendants who may be DNA matches—if only I know of their existence and can trace their line back to our mutual Stevens ancestor.

In addition, just as I've always wondered whether the Stevens surname was truly my father-in-law's "real" Irish patrilineal surname, I have questions about John's choice for a second wife. The reason? Though she also claimed to have emigrated from Ireland, her maiden name—Murdock—seems more likely to have been Scottish.

Running on the F.A.N. Club theory—that those who stay together through thick and thin may have an abiding reason for their connection, whether family, associates or long-time neighbors—I find it curious that the Irish immigrant patriarch claiming a not-particularly-Irish surname should choose, for his second wife, someone else from Ireland with a not-particularly-Irish maiden name. Could the association point us in the right direction to discover where John Stevens really came from?  

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Seeking the Stevens Surname


DNA is figuring prominently in my research goals for 2022 already. Or perhaps it's just that I've had my father-in-law's research goals so firmly in mind that the idea is inserting itself into the rest of life.

Was it just coincidence that, in researching another line last night—on my mother's ancestors, not even close to my father-in-law's Irish roots—I discovered my fifth cousin on my Tilson side just happened to live not more than four hundred feet from the house in Fort Wayne where my father-in-law's grandfather John Kelly Stevens once lived? Of course, we need to insert a good sixty years interim into the equation, but still: that's about as close a near-connection as I've ever been able to find on paths crossing between distant relatives.

With such "coincidences" in mind, and while in the midst of deciding who to add next to my Twelve Most Wanted list of research goals for the new year, I may as well tackle the founding immigrant on my father-in-law's patriline. John Kelly Stevens' own father, John Stevens, was the Irish immigrant whose arrival in Lafayette, Indiana, became the start of an American legacy for my father-in-law's descendants.

After years of researching the Stevens line, though, I've realized one disturbing detail: there don't seem to be any other Stevens men out there who share this line's Y-DNA. Nor can I find any indication of John Stevens' siblings, either in this country or in his supposed origin in County Mayo, Ireland, with one blip of an exception. This, despite the arrival in Lafeyette of a likely Stevens relative—possibly even a brother—who followed the same route from County Mayo to follow in John Stevens' path, just a year after he arrived here. And then disappeared.

Where did these Stevens people go? Where did they come from? And even more troublesome: was Stevens really their original surname? With stories I've heard in the world of family history research—everything from the anglicisation of Irish names to Irish tactics to avoid conscription in the British navy—I begin to wonder whether John Stevens' name was never really Stevens at all. I want to examine whether there are any reasonable connections in County Mayo for either John or Hugh Stevens (the other Stevens immigrant to Lafayette). If not, what could that surname have possibly been?

The eighth of my research goals for 2022 may seem messy, indeed, but sometimes we need to follow the path of questions with an unclear trajectory. Call this a month of exploration. It certainly isn't a clearly-planned target I'll be hitting. But it will be worth the effort to embark on this different type of learning expedition.

Above: Crossing paths: what are the chances? Map of neighborhood near downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, showing the 1920s home of my father-in-law's grandfather John Kelly Stevens (1519 Oakland Street) within one minute's walking distance from the home where my distant Tilson cousin settled, decades afterwards.


Saturday, January 1, 2022

Dealing With Unfinished Business


Today may mark the beginning of a new year, but I need to bring some unfinished business forward into the new calendar's freshness. In my quest to outline the Twelve Most Wanted for research goals in 2022, I can't escape the fact that there are several goals not fully achieved from past years. Today's selection highlights one of those examples.

With this seventh choice for research plans in 2022, the selections move from my mother-in-law's family lines to those of my father-in-law. This means entering the realm of the Irish diaspora, with all the pertinent paperwork woes attached.

In my father-in-law's case, he had an additional complication: his maternal grandfather's journey to settle in the United States included a several-year stop in Canada. Apparently, the town his great-grandfather chose to call his new home was a location in Ontario for which the earlier records either are not digitized, or perhaps now non-existent. Missing are cemetery records for that time period, as well as any other signs of their existence after a widowed Denis Tully's household showed up in the 1861 census for Brant County.

After that point, several of Denis Tully's children moved further across the international border to either Detroit, Michigan, or Chicago, Illinois. But what happened to Denis—or even his wife Margaret—by that point is not clear. I had presumed them both dead before 1870—except for one twist.

Apparently, a DNA match showing up in my husband's results points to a connection with that same Tully line, but not in the States. That line remained still in Canada. While I'd like to think it belongs to one of the missing sisters I haven't been able to trace, that is not what the DNA match account's administrator thinks. That account shows a different pedigree stretching back to that generation than I had researched.

Obviously, it's time to compare notes, and possibly build an alternate tree. No matter what the outcome, though, the challenge will be to piece together records which may not have been available online, but which could possibly remain in repositories back home in Ontario. It will be my goal for this sixth Most Wanted ancestor to connect with local record-keepers to see whether more information can be found. After all, the DNA does have a valid point. It's the paper trail which needs some closer inspection.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...