Monday, January 15, 2024

A "Singularly Verified" Dream


In wrestling with the deeply-buried roots in our family tree, it's best to start with what we know before digging down into the murky unknown. Thus, in seeking the Carter roots of my fourth great-grandmother Margaret Chew Carter, who eventually became the bride of "old bachelor" Zachariah Taliaferro, it's best to start from the vantage point of her married life, complete with the names of her children—known values which keep my genealogical wanderings centered in reality.

Still, in searching through the book we discovered last week—the 1912 publication by Dr. Joseph Lyon Miller, The Descendants of Capt. Thomas Carter of "Barford"—it was encouraging to spot between its covers what, at least to me, was a familiar story from my family's past. I had read this story in other, more recently published, genealogy books, and wonder whether the Miller book was their source for the tale in which Zachariah Taliaferro, persuaded by a Virginia friend to delay his return home to South Carolina, had a dream about the grand ball he was about to attend, and which was the prime reason for his delayed departure. 

In his dream, bachelor Zachariah saw himself entering the ballroom and spotting a beautiful young lady across the room, tying her slipper. As author Joseph Miller put it in his book, on the night of the actual event, Zachariah found his dream "singularly verified." The beautiful young lady, Margaret Chew Carter, eventually became his bride.

Those details I've already documented in my own family tree, so it was affirming to see the listing of Margaret's children in the Miller book, just as I already knew it to be. From that starting point, I could then move cautiously back through time, seeking what leads I could then verify about the Carter family through other documentation.

There were a few details I found in the process—one I felt confident could be confirmed through Margaret's father's will, and one which has already confounded me. A book intended to trace the lineage of the founding Carter immigrant in the American colonies, the Carter book obviously would have provided a listing of the children of Margaret's father—John Carter—but it also mentioned that Margaret became her father's one child who inherited the old Carter residence. Both of these details can easily be verified, once we find John Carter's will.

Where I am stumped is in the book's statement that John Carter served as a captain in the Revolutionary War. While one resource is by no means a complete listing of the universe of possibilities, the D.A.R. listing of Patriot ancestors is a first go-to website when I wish to confirm service in that war. In the case of John Carter, there is a listing at the D.A.R. website, but it comes with so many red flags that I begin to doubt the details asserted in the Miller book. Chief among the problems, at least in my mind, is the website's statement regarding the identity of John's first wife, combined with the tricky detail of his having two different daughters to whom he gave the name Margaret—one child from each of his two wives, at least according to the Miller book.

While finding a genealogy book of the early 1900s detailing all the names in multiple generations of an ancestral family may seem like a dream come true, it only reminds me, once again, of my oft-repeated motto, "Trust but verify." It may be great to find a trailblazer for our research, but we need to enter that relationship with our eyes wide open. Now we start with the real work.

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