Thursday, March 21, 2024

Googling Surnames


While it was tempting to follow the family trail of my fifth great-grandmother Elizabeth's father, Thomas Lewis, to the hardly believable story of his father John Lewis, we need to reel back the family fishing line to Elizabeth's mother's side of the story. My goal this month, after all, is to keep pursuing my matriline, so that is the direction we need to take for the remainder of this month.

To tell the truth, at this juncture, it seemed challenging to pursue that task, given that the next surname we will be examining is one I considered to be rather unusual: Strother. To disabuse myself of that intimidating notion, I decided to dive in to an introductory tour of surname possibilities: I Googled the surname "Strother."

I was surprised to see how many results turned up. From, I learned that the Strother surname could be found not only in the United States, but in Canada, as well as England and Scotland. It likely originated as a habitational name, though the precise location of that suspected "wooded marshland" from which the Strother surname was supposedly derived has yet to be discovered. More to our purposes, the article noted that by 1840, there were forty two Strother families living in Virginia, exactly where my sixth great-grandmother Jane Strother had been born about 1732.

Fortunately for me, the Strother family apparently was keenly interested in their own family history. I found several published records online, everything from a thirteen-page typewritten article from the collection of the Orange County California Genealogical Society to a September 1903 journal article in the Register of Kentucky State Historical Society. Better than that were the discoveries of specific Strother descendants' papers, including their own genealogical pursuits, archived in the holdings of the Atlanta History Center, the University of North Carolina, and the Digital Library of Georgia.

More interesting than that, at least to me, was stumbling upon the online existence of The William Strother Society, Inc.

Granted, all these discoveries are premature, given the fact that all I know, so far, is the least smattering of details about one member of the Strother family in colonial Virginia. And that is this: that Thomas Lewis, son of "Irish John" Lewis, married someone named Jane Strother, said to be daughter of William Strother and Margaret Watts.

And all I thought would happen with this project, given how searches for women in colonial Virginia can go, would be to run into a brick wall.

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