Friday, December 2, 2011

The Two Zachariah Mastersons

If dancing with the ancestors isn't hard enough when researching one ancestor, it becomes even more difficult when, well, there are two people out there with the exact same name! Geesh!

Case in point: my great x 4 grandfather Zachariah Masterson.

Here I was, doing the research, connecting the dots, and . . . WHAM! Yes, WHAM! I knew of his first marriage to Elizabeth Miller (my great x 4 grandmother, mother to Joseph E. Masterson), and of his second marriage to Tabitha Masterson-Brownfield (okay, she's a distant relative, not a first cousin or a sister), the widow of Joseph Brownfield. But, when googling for more information, I came across a marriage record for Zachariah Masterson and Anne Simpson.

Say What???!!!???

So, did Elizabeth Miller die after giving birth to her second child? It would make sense, and that would mean, since Zachariah allegedly married Anne Simpson in 1787, that she was then the mother of the next eight children. And, since he married Tabitha in 1804, it made sense that Anne died prior to 1804.

Yeah, famous last words . . . made sense.

The problem . . . Anne Simpson was still living in 1804. Great. Fine. Dandy.

But, I'm a persistent little bugger when dancing with the ancestors. I kept digging and digging and digging and - VOILA - came across a little tidbit of information that stated: Ann married first Zachariah Masterson 16 May 1787 in Bourbon County, Kentucky; married second, Isaac Cook on 3 December 1796 in Scott County, Kentucky.

Say What???!!!???

Uh, our ancestor Zachariah didn't die until 1829. Now, either Anne was a bigamist, or . . . her Zachariah Masterson wasn't the same as my ancestor.

Can you say light bulb going off in my brain? What I suspected, and I believe proved with the information about Anne's second marriage, is that there were two Zachariah Masterons - my ancestor, and the one that married Anne Simpson, and died prior to 1796.

Now, I have a bit more research to do before I can prove this 100%, or at least as close to 100% as is possible. Still, from everything I've found about my Zachariah, he only married twice - first to Elizabeth Miller and then to Tabitha Masterson-Brownfield. This information has been confirmed by a distant cousin Joseph E. Masterson (yes, descended from my great x 3 grandfather) of Bardstown, Kentucky.

The Masterson clan was famous having multiple members of the clan with the same name - John, Hugh, Joseph - so it's not unlikely that the Zachariah who married Anne Simpson is related to my Mastersons, he's just not my Masterson.

So, when dancing with the ancestors, don't get discouraged when you come across information that just doesn't make sense. Dig, dig, dig, and dig some more. Eventually - well, hopefully, eventually - you'll come across the information you need to prove/disprove what discouraged you in the first place.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Siblings Marrying Siblings

No, no, NO, not in that way!! Seriously, get your mind out of the gutters. Okay, there are some cousins marrying cousins in my family tree. But, to the best of my knowledge, no first cousins married each other. I can't say the same about second or third. Ha!

The one thing I've learned while dancing with the ancestors is that siblings from one family often married siblings from another family.

On my fathers side, five of the Halterman siblings married five of the Lane siblings. Talk about your double cousins. Then, three of the Smith siblings married three of the Gribble siblings, while one Smith sibling married a Gribble cousin.

Then, flip over to my maternal side, and the the Johnsons and Ballards, not to mention three of the Johnson children married Mastersons (two of the Johnsons married siblings, and one Johnson married a cousin of those siblings).

Then, you have the Hagan connection which . . . is way too convoluted to go into on this blog. Heck, I had to create an Excel chart to keep track of all the Hagans. Geesh.

The main point I'm getting at here, is with siblings marrying siblings, you can often discover a bit more information about the family tree. Why? Well, women are better record keepers than men in 99% of cases.

I have actually been able to find out more information about direct ancestors parents, by researching the siblings, especially the sisters, since they are the keepers of knowledge.

For example, when my grandfather's brother died, the names of his parents on his death certificate were indicated as "don't know" and yet when his sister died, the names of her parents on her death certificate were listed as Alexander Sweat and Catherine Langdon. In fact, when Catherine died, her daughter provided the information about Catherine's parents for the death certificate, which matched up with what I already found.

So, don't discount the siblings, or the information you might find when researching them as you go dancing with the ancestors.


Friday, October 7, 2011

It's All in the Name . . .

. . . as in getting the correct name of an ancestor to begin with to make dancing with the ancestors a bit easier.

Example: Phebe Clark, allegedly the daughter of Daniel, married Daniel Langdon, through which, my maternal grandfather is descended since Delana Catherine Langdon married Alexander Sweat. Their son William Joshua married Margaret Morris, and had three children, one of which was my grandfather.

Anyhow, I'd never been able to find anything past Daniel Clark. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Until today! Woo-hoo!

I did a Google (I bow down to the greatness of Google, btw) search as follows: Phebe Clark, wife of Daniel Langdon. Voila!!! I found her parents . . . David Clark and Hannah Woodruff.

So, at some point, someone loading information on Ancestry got lazy. L-A-Z-Y!! Don't do it, people. Confirm your facts before putting stuff out there. Just sayin' . . .

So, when dancing with the ancestors, don't stop digging until you discover the truth, as in Daniel was really David!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Same Name, Different Ancestor

What the Heck???!!!???

So, I'm dancing with the ancestors, adding the siblings, and their marriages, of my direct ancestors - on my maternal side - and I came across the name Mary Hussey. She married Moses Swett, brother to my ancestor John Swett.

The name seems familiar. I don't know why. I scroll through the Swett/Sweat side of the family tree and -


- Mary Hussey married Thomas Page. Their daughter Bethia married John Swett, son of Benjamin Swett.

The Horrors!!

Okay, not really, because . . .

. . . Mary's brother John married Rebecca Perkins and they had a daughter who they - you got it - named Mary!


Well, let's talk about freaky.

John Swett and Moses Swett are siblings. Mary Hussey (who married Thomas Page) and John Hussey are siblings.

Mary Hussey (who married Moses Swett) is the niece of his brother's mother-in-law and the cousin to his brother John's wife Bethia. Yeah, you read that right. Read it again for good measure.

Ewwwwww! Ha!

So, when you come across the same name, but different ancestor, when dancing with the ancestors, take a deep breath, and begin to dig just a little bit more. You'll probably find that Mary and Mary are related but not the same person, just like I did since, back in the day, the same names were passed down generation after generation, and amont siblings. Crazy but true!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sloppy Trees

Okay, when dancing with the ancestors, to me at least, it's important to get your facts as correct as possible before publishing the information . . .on Ancestry or anywhere. Check, double check, triple check and, if still in doubt, make a note so other researchers know that you're not positive of the information you're putting out on the web.

Now, I'll admit, my Ancestry tree probably has some incorrect individuals. As I go along, dig a bit deeper, I have removed certain individuals. There are points where I just stopped on a branch of the family tree because I couldn't confirm the information beyond that generation.

This is responsible research, people.

So, why am I ranting about this today? Well, clicked on one of the lovely green leaves Ancestry sports to notify members of a potential hint for that ancestor. I scrolled through the family trees and . . . WRONG information that couldn't possibly be correct!

Seriously people, they put the birth of a child of my great-great grandmother as being 1760. My great-great grandmother must have been a remarkable woman to give birth to a child . . . before she was even born! Yes, before she was even born.

It's not rocket science, people. If the relative you find on some family tree on Ancestry doesn't gel with the dates, as in the child is born before the parent, then you don't have to link that relative to your family tree.

When wrong people are linked to a tree, when dates don't gel, it makes research for others a wee bit more difficult.

Just sayin' . . .


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Bigger Picture

When dancing with the ancestors, I've found that I can't focus in just one direction when digging for information. Going in a straight line and refusing to step outside the proverbial box will often result in, no pun intended, dead ends.

Sometimes, you have to rethink your search methods.

Example: Mary Tate, one of my many times removed great-grandmothers. I don't have her maiden name. Why? Well, because society not too long ago only cared about the patriarchal line, and not the matriarchal line, meaning that the wives surnames weren't important and often weren't recorded.

Great. Fine. Dandy.

What's a researcher to do when trying to create a complete picture of their ancestry if he/she can't find the surnames of said ancestors?

Well, more often then not, there's not a damn thing that researcher can do.

Then again, I rarely back away from a challenge . . . which would explain the night, in the days of my youth . . . well, never mind . . .

So, what to do when all you have is a first name and no surname?

Here's my thoughts on the matter . . .

. . . more often than not, back in the day (1700s, 1800s, early settlement of this country) people married within the small area they settled, often marrying first, second, or third cousins, or other members of the same familial line. Yeah, a bit of an eeewww factor in there, but . . .

. . . then, there are the neighbors.

For example, my paternal great-grandfather John L. Smith, after the death of his first wife, married the daughter of his next door neighbor.

So, when faced with a situation where I don't have a surname for a female ancestor, my thoughts, now, are to investigate the neighbors.

The problem: until 1850, census records didn't list the names of all the members of the family.

Great. Fine. Dandy.

So, now, what to do, what to do? Well, my mind works in mysterious, and often scary ways, and I thought . . . what about witnesses to last wills and testaments?

Hmmmmm . . .

I have noticed, in finding last wills and testaments of various ancestors, that quite often the in-laws were referenced. So . . .

. . . in looking for Mary Tate's maiden name, I'm going to see what information I can find about the people who were mentioned in her husband's last will and testament, and/or were witnesses to said document, or other documents back in that time period.

Yes, it's a long shot. But . . . if I don't look, don't try, then what's the point of dancing with the ancestors in the first place?


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

EMail . . .

When dancing with the ancestors don't be afraid to email strangers. Seriously. I have emailed quite a few distant cousins when trying to confirm information. So far, they've all responded and been quite helpful.

I had one distant cousin send me all her information. Woo-hoo! Another send me a copy of their book on the Hagan branch of my maternal family, along with a bunch of additional information not included in the book.

Another cousin has been a big help in digging a bit deeper into my paternal grandmother's family. In fact, he found a census record for one of my great-half-aunts. Woo-hoo!

So, when you're dancing with the ancestors and you stumble across a site devoted to your ancestor, and you find an email address, give it a shot. You just never know what little tidbit of information your distant cousin might have.


Saturday, September 17, 2011


Whatever you do when dancing with the ancestors, do not let some one's misinformation stop you in your tracks.

Example - my great-great-great grandfather John Halterman (or Holtman, Haldiman, Haldeman, Hallerman).

I did a simple Google search - John Halterman, son of Christian Halterman - and came across a website that totally dismissed John Halterman as being Christian's son. Totally! Dismissed! Okay, the site did reference another site that listed John as one of Christian's sons, but then went on only to deal with the other children of Christian and his wife Eve, totally omitting any reference to John. Totally! Dismissed!

Well, being the stubborn individual that I am . . . I kept digging around and - voila - came across the last will and testament for Christian Haldeman that listed all of his children, including John, and his wife. HA! Yes, that's me being snarky at the other researcher who failed to keep digging.

Dancing with the ancestors isn't easy. It takes a lot of work, patience, and definitely perseverance. Dig, dig, dig, and then dig some more. Somewhere - in this age of technology - out there, is the information you need to confirm your descent. Somewhere.

Then again, sometimes, you just can't find it, but . . . my experience so far is, that if you keep digging, you'll probably find what you're looking for.

And, as I have said repeatedly in this blog, the reason to add all the siblings of your ancestors, is to help fellow researchers as they're dancing with the ancestors. The more information out there, the easier it is to confirm the information about your own ancestors.

Prior to finding the last will and testament of Christian Haldeman (Haltiman, whatever), I had the list of his children . . . which were confirmed as I read through the excerpt from his will.

So . . .

. . . put the information out there, people, if not when you first build your tree, then later as you dig deeper into each family name.



This whole cousin thing has me confused. I mean, I know that my first cousins are the children of my parents siblings. Got that one all figured out. My second cousins are . . .

. . . well, that all depends on who you ask. Ha!

Seriously, one site I found states that second cousins are the children of first cousins. For example: my nephew and my cousin's child would be considered second cousins. Got it? But, what type of cousin is my cousin's child to me? Ah, that's the question of the moment, isn't it? Ha!

The child of my first cousin would be a second cousin to my nephew, but would be a first cousin once removed to me. Oy!

But . . . that's only one site I found about cousin relationships. Trust me, you don't want to know about some of the sites I found when I Googled cousin relationhips. Eeeew!

Now, another site indicates that first cousins share grandparents. For example, my cousin Susan and I have the same grandparents, so we're first cousins.

That same site states that second cousins have the same great-grandparents as me, but not the same grandparents. Say what?

To simplify: my grandmother was one of 15 children. Her parents are my great-grandparents. Her parents are also the great-grandparents of her siblings grandchildren. Get it? So, with that logic, the grandchildren of my grandmother's siblings would be my second cousins.

Yeah, it's confusing. Oh, and the removed part of the equation usually indicates there is a difference in generation, i.e., I'm one generation removed from my cousin's child, therefore, that child is my first cousin once removed. OY!

So, as far as I'm concerned, if there's a blood/dna relationship, and you're not an aunt, uncle, parent, sibling, great-grandparent, or whatever, you're, well, a cousin. Enough. Written!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Listing the Siblings of Direct Ancestors

When dancing with the ancestors, it is important - at least for me - to track all the siblings of my descendants. Why? Well, because often, knowing the siblings can help in the verification process, especially if you stumble - as I have done many times - across a last will and testament which lists the children of a direct ancestor. This is invaluable information.

Seriously, people, forget creating family trees with a single line of descent, like . . .

Ezekial McGregor - m - Mary McGee
Mary Jane McGregor - m- James Douglas Tate

Instead, give other researchers a bit of information that helps in your search, such as . . .

Ezekial McGregor - m - Mary McGee
They had the following children - Ezekial Jr., John Houston, William Bartley, James L, Mary Jane, and Richmond C.

The reason . . . by tracking the other siblings through census records, you can often find information out about a direct ancestor.

For Example: Mary McGee McGregor. I knew when she was born, but didn't have a date of death. I knew her husband died in 1861, and that she was listed on the 1860 Warren County census with him, so, in 1860, she was still alive. So, the other day, I decided to check out some of the children, and - voila - on the 1870 census Mary was living with her son William Bartley and his family. Woo-hoo!

So, now, rather than a blank for her date of death, I have put in: after 1870. I haven't been able to find her past that date, at least not online, but plan to check out the 1880 Warren County census records on my next visit to the State Archives in Nashville, TN.

So, when dancing with the ancestors, adding the siblings of your direct ancestor to your family tree can help in solving the mysteries you're sure to encounter when, well, dancing with the ancestors.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Revise Your Search Methods

I've said it before, well, wrote it before, and I'll write it again . . . it's all in how you search when you're dancing with the ancestors.

Paternal: Mary McGee McGregor, wife of Ezekial McGregor. I had a date of birth, but not a date of death . . . which is quite common the further back you research. So, I decided to try and figure out her date of death, or rather, an approximate date of death.

What did I do? Well, I'm glad you thought of that question. Ha! What I did was . . . research census records regarding her known children and . . .

. . . yes, indeedy, I found Mary on a later census record. Woo-hoo! So, at that point, I knew she was still alive in 1870. Woo-hoo!

I hit a dead - sorry, no pun intended - after that, so I've listed her death as after 1870, which, at least for me, is better than not having a date of death.

So, when dancing with the ancestors, revise your search, check out census records involving the siblings. You just never know what you might find.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Last Wills & Testaments . . .

. . . are a great source of information, if you can find them.

Normally, the wills will list the name of wife/husband, children, and often grandchildren and in-laws. By finding the last wills and testaments of various ancestors I have been able to verify the siblings and children of my ancestors.

Normally, I just do a simple Google search, such as "last will and testament of philip edelen" and see what pops up. I've been pretty lucky so far, finding quite a few excerpts or complete wills for my ancestors.

So, when dancing with the ancestors, look for their last wills and testaments. The information contained in those documents are a great source of information.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Middle versus First Name

I've spoken about stumbling blocks and perseverance when dancing with the ancestors. Well, today (well, technically yesterday, since I'm scheduling the post for today, and not yesterday when I actually wrote this post), when researching one of my ancestors I kept hitting dead (ha!, sorry, no pun intended) ends. Try as I might, nothing seemed to work until . . .

. . . I came across an archived copy of the last will and testament of Dennis Duvall (maternal line). Woo-hoo!

Silly me kept searching for James Dennis Duvall. Who knew that he, like me and many of my relatives, went by his middle name and not his first name. Woo-hoo!

So, lesson for today: if coming up with nada in your search results, try searching a different way, i.e., middle name instead of first and middle.


Friday, September 2, 2011


The key, at least for me, to dancing with the ancestors, is organization.

Or, as the title suggest . . . O-R-G-A-N-I-Z-A-T-I-O-N!

Okay, first, I'm not the most organized person in the world. Trust me, with family research comes lots and lots of paper (yes, I've increased my carbon footprint - I try not to, but . . .), which I put in stacks, and then stack other stacks on top of the previous stacks until, well . . . it gets ugly, really, really ugly.

So, yesterday, in an OCD moment, I organized my stacks and stacks and stacks and stacks of paper.

First - separated the stacks by maternal and paternal.

Second - separated the maternal/paternal stacks into well, maternal and paternal again. Ha! Seriously, I took my mother's side and separated those stacks into paternal (her father's surname) and maternal (her mother's surname) stacks, and did the same thing with my father's family.

Third - I got a bunch of different colored folders - manila, red, green, and purple - and I began to put the different stacks (separated by surname) into each folder.

Fourth - I labeled the folders.

Now, with my paternal side of the family, it was a bit easier to label the folders.

For example, when working with my dad's paternal side of the family, I did this label: Mitchell - Paternal - Mitchell or Mitchell - Paternal - Tate (and whatever other names on this line of the family). Then, I did the same thing with his mother's line. Woo-hoo.

Now, with my mom's side of the family, it was a bit more complex, so I took a more simple route.

Example: Boone - Blandford

The reason: too many dang names and trying to keep it all accurate, well, impossible. So, I took the easier route, but . . .

. . . on the front of the folder, I traced the descent pattern as follows:

Blandford - Wright

Blandford - Beaven

Blandford - Hagan

Blandford - Hagan (don't get me started, it's complex, and a bit twisted, but they weren't brother and sister - HA!)

Hagan - Boone

Boone - Hagan (again, don't get me started)

Boone - Duvall

Boone - Watson

Boone - Sweat

I did this on every folder related to the maternal line of my family tree. Yes, it took a bit of work, but, when I pull out the folder to work on that branch of the tree, I don't have to pull up Ancestry to check the descent, I have it right on the front of the folder. Okay, at some point I'll run a descent report and put it in every folder, but this just gives me ease of access to the information.

So, rather than do what I did, when you begin dancing with the ancestors, create the folders in the beginning so you don't have to spend hours and hours one sunny day organizing the stacks and stacks and stacks and stacks and stacks of information you'll accumulate when you begin dancing with the ancestors.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stumbling Blocks

Stumbling blocks happen in life, and when dancing with the ancestors. Case in point - Nathan Swett (maternal). I found a bunch of information out there on the web - digitized books, thanks Google - that mentioned his parents John Swett and Bethia Page, and some of his siblings, but . . . he wasn't mentioned.

Great! Fine! Dandy!

But, using I happened across his birth record that listed his parents as, yeah, you guessed it, John Swett & Bethia Page. Woo-hoo!

Now, once again, I've hit a stumbling block regarding Nathan's wife Mary Dearborn. The majority of the information I've found indicates she is the daughter of Thomas Dearborn and Mary Garland.

Dandy! Fine! Great!

But (dontcha hate when that happens?), one book I've found about the Dearborns only lists Thomas and Mary having four children . . . none of which are my ancestress Mary.

Fine! Dandy! Great!

Oh, but wait, I have a birth record - same hospital where Nathan was born, way back when - that lists her last name as Darbon (this is a common variant of Dearborn, Dearebarne, etc).

But (again), I still don't have the connection to Thomas and Mary that'd I'd like to confirm the relationship, and to start tracking the Dearborn (Dearebarne, Darbon) branch of the family tree.

So, I'll search and search, contact people who have tracked her in their trees, and hope to locate the verification.

So, as you're dancing with the ancestors, don't let stumbling blocks stop your search. Keep digging and digging.

Oh, while I'm thinking about it, often times you can verify relationships through Sons/Daughters of the American Revolution Applications, or, by Civil War Regiments.

I've been corresponding with another ancestor researcher - his ancestor and my great-grandfather were brothers. He was trying to track down more information on his ancestor. He had a few Civil War records, but wasn't positive they related to his ancestor . . . until I came along. Ha!

You see, a few of my ancestors and their siblings fought in the Civil War. They were all from Warren County, Tennessee, and all in the 16th Tennessee Regiment, but in differing companies - A, D, G, etc. So, I suggested to my fellow researcher that he focus his research on the 16th Regiment and . . .

. . . Voila! There was his ancestor.

So, keep digging, keep searching, try different options, step outside of the box. Don't give up. Keep looking!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Digging Game

So, when dancing with the ancestors, there's a certain amount of digging, which I call the digging game that goes on.

Case in point: Mrs. John Aldred

Okay, I guess you need a bit more info to understand that reference. Ha.

In attempting to track down ancestors - siblings, children, etc. - to verify a connection. I have had to dig, dig, and dig some more. I've had to change spellings of last names. I've had to use two different genealogy sites, and even Google a time . . . or twenty-five.

Dig, dig, and dig some more.

So, I have a handwritten copy of the death notice for my great-grandfather, which lists . . . daughters, Mrs. J. E. Hock of Louisville, a few more, and his sister Mrs. John Aldred of this city.

Well, I couldn't figure out which of my great-grandfather's sisters married an Aldred until, when verifying one of his brothers, I came across his death certificate, the informant of which was . . . A. C. Aldredge.

Uh-huh, my mind began to whirl about in delicate . . . twirls and one question came to mind: What if the spelling of Aldred was incorrect?

So, did some more digging and found out that my grandfather had a sister, according to census records, with the initials . . . A. C. So, a bit more digging, and . . .

. . . marriage record for J. C. Aldredge and A. C. Smith!!! Woo-hoo! Verification.

So, when dancing with your ancestors, keep digging. Alter the spelling of the last name. Look to death records - when you can find them - for additional information as well. If not for the death record of my great-grandfather's brother . . . I wouldn't have finally solved the mystery of Mrs. John Aldred of Nashville.


p.s. As a side note, it took me a while, but I also figured out which daughter (one of the children by his first wife) married J. E. Hock.

Monday, August 15, 2011

You Just Never Know . . .

. . . what freaky things might happen when you dance with the ancestors.

Yeah, there's the normal skeleton or two, possibly three, you might find in the closet. Every family has a skeleton or two, possibly three, in the closet. Trust me on that one.

Most families also lose touch with family members throughout the years. It happens. It's part of life. Enough said.

My family is no different. Many years ago, decades actually, we lost touch with my father's cousin's family. I don't know why, no one really remembers the why, it just happened, and we all moved on with our lives until, well, I began to dance with the ancestors. Like how I keep working the blog title into the posts? Ha!

So, we lost touch, years passed, and then I began to do the family research thing. Then, yesterday, my sister and I went to visit my paternal cousin and he handed over some ancient pictures. We knew some of the people. We didn't know most of the people, but we were 97% sure it was our grandmother's family, which got me to thinking about the estranged/lost branch of the family.

Hello, Google. I keyed in the following: Martha Smith, wife of Jess Andrews. BAM! I found a link to her son. So, flip on over to, type in his name and - BAM - two addresses for the son.

Now, for the freaky part: both addresses are within minutes of my house. Minutes, people, minutes. FREAKY!

One address has a phone number. Yes, I did. I dialed the number and a woman answered. I told her . . .

. . . my name is Scott, and I believe I'm related to your husband. Were his parents . . .

Long story not really short, yep, I was talking to my cousin's wife. It turns out that her first cousin is . . . my neighbor. Seriously, people, my neighbor. Oh, and her husband, through his paternal side of the family, has a cousin who lives . . . on my street as well.

First, small street, no more than twenty houses. Second - OMG! FREAKY!

So, with one short phone call, I've made a family connection that can hopefully help fill in some of the blanks on my grandmother's paternal family, and, will also get me in touch with this cousin's siblings so we can meet, swap stories, and hopefully identify the people in the photographs. Oh, and also net me some more photos to add to the family document. Woo-hoo!

So, when you begin to dance with your ancestors and befriend Google, you never know, your relatives might be just around the corner . . . literally.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Local vs. Federal . . .

. . . census records!

As you should know by know, Census Records are a bit iffy in nature. Why? Two words: transcription errors.

So, keeping in mind that Census Records are iffy, they still help out in confirming basic information: spouse, children, etc. This basic information has helped confirm more than one family connection as I've been dancing with the ancestors.

The reason I'm posting about local versus Federal Census records, is because of my trip to the State Archives yesterday. I spent part of that visit going through the local Census Records for Warren County, Tennessee where a bunch of my paternal ancestors settled, and where some distant cousins probably still live.

Anyhow, I was attempting to find more information about my great-grandfather. So far, he appears parentless, dropped on the Earth by aliens. Go figure. That'd sure explain a lot about my family. Ha!

So, starting with 1900, I worked my way back through 1870, looking up all the Mitchells and all the Tates. Why the Tates? I'm glad you thought that question. Ha! My grandfather married a Tate, so it seemed obvious - at least to me - that there was some connection between the Mitchell and Tate families. So, after writing down every page number connected to the Mitchell family, then the Tate family, I looked for page numbers in common, or one page apart.


In the 1880 Warren County Census I found that there was a Mitchell family that lived just down the road from my Tate family. Woo-hoo! And, lo and behold, one of the children could well have been my great-grandfather - double Woo-woo-hoo-hoo - which made the connection between the two families a bit more than a coincidence. Also, according to that Census, my great-great grandfather Tate was a farmer, as was my great-grandfather. Yes, another coincidence, and connection.

So, with the basic information from the 1880 Census readily available, I went to the 1870 Warren County Census. Paydirt, people, paydirt. I found the Mitchell family again, and this time, instead of initials, actual names and - BAM - there was great-grandpa Mitchell, and the year of birth matched!

Can I have an AMEN??

Yes, I know, it's all coincidence, and no verifiable proof . . . at this point. Still, too many coincidences for my liking. I seriously believe I have found my great-grandfather's family, and made the Warren County connection. I'm hoping, through further digging, to somehow prove the connection. Still, too much information matches what I know, so, at this point, I'm adding this family to the family tree.

But, I do want to mention that, on the 1880 Federal Census, the transcriber added 10 years to my great-great grandmother's age. On the 1880 Warren County Census her age is listed as 58; however, on the Federal Census it is listed as 68. Yeah, I can picture someone interpreting a 5 as a 6, especially if someone's penmanship wasn't the best in the world.

So, when looking at Census Records, do not let age discrepancies stop you. Find other Census records for the same person. Sooner or later, you'll find enough evidence to get a general age for your ancestors.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Backwards Research

Okay, part of dancing with the ancestors is doing backwards research. Say What!?!?

Please, people, it's not as confusing as it sounds. In my family tree there is a marriage between the Boarman and Edelen families. In trying to verify information about the Boarman family, I kept getting conflicting information. So . . . I did some research on the Edelen family and - WOO HOO - I found the connection I needed to verify some information.

So, that's what I mean by backwards research. Or, maybe it should be called sideways research. Whatever the name, sometimes the straightforward path just won't do, and you have to take a little sidetrip to discover the information you need to verify your ancestral connection.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Last Wills and Testaments

Okay, I haven't been dancing with the ancestors as much as I have previously. Obviously, I'm doing a little two-stepping right now since I'm typing this post. Ha!

A good source of information, especially in verifying wives/husbands/children are the last wills and testaments of your ancestors. Again, with this Google is often your friend. Just type in . . . last will and testament of (insert ancestor's name).

In finding the last wills and testaments of my ancestors, I have been able to verify names of children, as well as marriages that help verify information.

For example, the last will and testament of Richard Edelen mentioned "an unnamed grandaughter who was the wife of Charles Boone and the daughter of Thomas James Boarman".

So, right from the start, I have verification of the marriage of unnamed Boarman to Charles Boone, who is my ancestor. Now, I'd already verified her name, so I know it was Mary. In addition, this will helped verify her father . . . Thomas James Boarman. Woo-hoo!

So, in dancing with the ancestors, don't discount their last wills and testaments, because, quite often, the verification you need to prove a relationship is found in those doucments.

Happy dancing, people.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Census Records . . .

. . . are your friend! Okay, they can't buy you drinks, or designate drive for you, but . . .

. . . they can provide useful information about siblings of your direct ancestors.

For example, I didn't know that my great-grandmother Mary Willie Watson Boone (maternal) had quite a few siblings. In fact, other than the fact that she married Victor Ivo Boone and had 15 children by him, I didn't know much about her.

Now, I know that she had seven brothers/sisters, and that her father Richard Hiliary Watson had nine brothers/sisters.

Census records can also help you find out who your ancestors married.

So, for the past few days, I've been adding siblings, marriages and children to my direct ancestors, because . . .

. . . I want as complete a portrait of the family as I can possibly get.

I want future researchers to see the connection between family members, and have enough information to make the necessary connections in their own research.

So, when dancing with the ancestors, pay close attention to census records.

Oh, did I mention, that when reviewing census pages, I found that my great-grandfather Smith (paternal) lived just a few doors down from his future second wife? Uh-huh, try that one on for size. I wonder if she baby-sat for him and his first wife. EEEWWW!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Member Connect

Member Connect is a neat feature on the Ancestry site that allows a person to connect with other Ancestry members doing research on the same family member.

Now, as I've said before, Ancestry, in many instances, is suspect at best because most people don't take the time to verify the information they're linking to on the site.

I do. So . . . my trees are as accurate as I can make them, based on information from family records and the Internet.

But . . . back to Member Connect. What I've been able to do using Member Connect is verify dates of birth/death for relatives on the many branches outside the direct descent of the family tree.

My grandfather was one of 10 children. I've gone in, with information provided by my uncle, and added the marriages/children of all his siblings. Trust me, lengthy task when you're talking about a Catholic family.

But . . . in some instances, I didn't have dates of birth/death for spouses, or dates of birth for the children.

I have been able to find this information by using Member Connect on the Ancestry site. Woo-hoo!

It's nice to have actual dates of birth/death versus blank spaces, and to have the information regarding where they were born/died.

So, if you hit a stumbling block in your research, check out the Member Connect option. You just might find the information you're looking for!

Have fun as you dance with the ancestors!!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Great Grandpa William Joshua Sweat (maternal)

Great Grandpa William Joshua Sweat was born March 1, 1859 to Alexander and Catherine Langdon Sweat. He was one of three children - William, James, and Elizabeth.

On October 26, 1886, he married Margaret Morris. They had the following children:
  • Joseph Leo
  • James Monroe
  • George Alexander
  • John Patrick
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • William Oscar (Papaw)
  • Catherine Elizabeth (Lizzie)
  • Mary Ida
  • Charles Daniel
Sometime around 1906/1907, William Joshua Sweat disappeared.

Family legend (okay, not really legend, but . . .) has it that, at the same time great grandpa went missing, so did a woman from the same town. Uh-huh, yeah, you don't need to be a genius to figure that one out.

Papaw (William Oscar) spent his entire life searching for his father. He died not knowing what happened to his father.

At some point, sometime in the 80s, Uncle Joe (Rothman) met a man at Fort Knox that bore a striking resemblance to the Sweat family, I believe to Uncle John (but could be wrong on that one). After speaking with the man, and mentioning William Joshua's disappearance, the man admitted there was a big family secret in his family that the family didn't talk about.

Long story short, the man agreed to meet with Papaw. He drove to Lebanon Junction and . . . knocked on the front door.

Well, anyone who knew papaw always came to the kitchen door. The front door was just for appearances, not to be used . . . unless you were going to sit out on the front porch and watch the many, many, many, many grandkids race around the front yard. Boy, those were the days.

So, papaw didn't answer the front door. The man thought no one was home. The man went away and . . . the mystery remains unsolved. Was he a descendant of William Joshua Sweat? Did William Joshua start another family? How long did he live?

At this point, we don't know - and maybe never will - the answers to those questions. All we know for sure is that one day, in 1906/1907, Great Grandpa went out for a pack of cigarettes (sorry, couldn't resist) and never came back.

Karen Skees - our second cousin, third cousin (her great-grandfather was James Sweat, William's brother, and her grandmother was Louisa Boone, mamaw's sister) - has found some information, but hasn't had time to research any of it . . . so far.

The information she discovered was that in 1906, after some tragedy where four children died, a lay person at St. Vincent de Paul church in New Hope, KY baptized the four children, and listed the mother as a non-Catholic, and the father as . . . William Joshua Sweat.

Dun, dun, dun . . .

At that time, there was only one William Joshua Sweat (dear old great grandpa - well, not so old at that time) in New Hope, Nelson County, Kentucky.

So, more questions . . . Was William Joshua actually their father? Did he have another family that no one knew about? Did he just believe those children couldn't go to heaven without being baptized? Did he give them his name so they could get to heaven?

Well, at this point, we just have more questions. Maybe one day we'll dig deep enough to find the truth. Maybe one day we'll know why great-grandpa disappeared.

Until then, I only have my warped imagination and the inspiration for an historical mystery loosely based on great grandpa's disappearance. Oh, the places my imagination has gone as I plot out this future novel.

Did I mention that on her death certificate, Margaret Morris Sweat is listed as a . . . widow?!?!? Uh, huh, maybe he didn't just disappear, maybe . . .


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

FamilyTree Maker Software

Greatest software . . . EVER! Okay, probably not, but it is a nifty software program put out by Ancestry.

So, the other day, I bit the bullet and bought the software. It arrived this past Saturday. Woo-hoo!

Great stuff, people. Great stuff.

Descendant Charts - these are the greatest. I can click on an ancestor, click generate and voila . . . I have the descendant chart for my 12th Great Grandfather and . . .

. . . I can click another button and change the number of generations revealed.

So, if I don't want to include myself (or my siblings on the chart), I can just alter the number of generations and stop with mom/dad, or my grandparents, or whatever! Woo-hoo! This ability is coming in handy as I create the charts for the documents I'm working on for the Sweat, Boone, Mitchell, Smith . . . and all the other branches of the family tree.

This program also links to my Ancestry account, so it pulled all the family tree information I compiled directly into the software, as well as all pictures I had uploaded, and any other information - death certificates, marriage records, census records, and, well, whatever - I added over the past few months.

Place Charts - these will detail the various places all, or some, of the ancestors have lived throughout the generations. It's pretty awesome to see the places displayed in a chart, and on a map as well.

So, if you're considering doing ancestor research, you might consider this software, or some other software, which will help in compiling/organizing the information you find out there.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Great Great Grandma Lane . . .

. . . and the many spellings of her last name! This is on the paternal side of my family tree.

Bear with me on this one, because we have . . .

. . . and a few more to boot! Geesh!

Talk about variations of a last name, let alone her first name . . .

E. C.

Woo-hoo for variations . . . NOT!

So, if ancestor research wasn't hard enough to begin with, there are all these freaking variations! Geesh!

But . . .

The variations in spelling is only one of the issues when dancing with the ancestors. You see, the more you dig, the more likely a mystery will unfold . . . or at least that's been my experience so far.

Let's take dear old Great Great Grandma Emmaline Halterman (Holtman, Holdman, Etc.) Lane.

When using FamilySearch, I came across my Great Grandmother's (Martha Lane Smith's) death certificate, which was witnessed by her daughter, my Great Aunt Clara Smith who - in a fit of pique, or perhaps with just a lack of knowledge - decided to throw a wrench into my (her great-nephew, and most likely favorite great-nephew - just sayin' - ha) research.

How did Aunt Clara do this? Well, let me tell you . . .

You see, Aunt Clara witnessed the death certificate and filled out the pertinent information, such as: deceased's date of birth, deceased's mother's name, deceased's father's name, etc. Fine, dandy, all is right with the world, except . . .

Dear, dear Great Aunt Clara filled out the following about her mother's (Martha Lane Smith) parents: Emaline Holdman and Franklin Pierce Lane.


Emaline C. Holdman (Holtman, Haltman, Haldeman, Etc.) married Hardin Smith Lane on December 30, 1855 . . . and I have the marriage records to prove that little event. Emaline and Hardin had four children: Mary, Martha (my great-grandmother), Franklin Pierce, and Hardin Smith Jr., who was born in March 1863, three months after his father was killed in December 1862 during the Battle of Murfreesboro during the little event known as the Civil War.

So, who in the heck is Franklin Pierce Lane . . . and when, if, did Great-Great Grandma Lane marry him?

I don't think she did. I think, as often happens, information is misconstrued.

I'm guessing that Franklin Pierce Smith, the son of Emmaline and Hardin, as the oldest male, at some point assumed head-of-household duties. In fact, Emmaline - according to census records - lived with Franklin, his wife and children, for many years, before moving in with her oldest daughter Mary Lane-Winnett.

There aren't any records of an Emmaline and Franklin P. Smith marrying. In fact, other than her marriage record to Hardin Smith, there aren't any other marriage records out there on her. Then again, remarrying a Lane would have been highly possible, since the Lane family was quite numerous (Hardin had 11 brothers/sisters) in Warren County, TN during that time.

However . . . all census records indicate that Emmaline never remarried. I think poor Aunt Clara was just a bit confused and listed Franklin as Martha's father since he, at some point, had taken on the role of head-of-household.

See, isn't dancing with the ancestors fun?

So, always remember, and never forget, when dancing with the ancestors . . . Perseverance, Patience, and Persistence.

Also remember that human error plays a large part. The younger generations often do not have a clue what Mamaw and Papaw's last name is, or whether Grandpa Smith is the first or second husband of Grandma Smith.

So, as you dance with the ancestors, remember to dig, dig, and dig some more. Sooner or later you'll, hopefully, find the truth of the matter.


Monday, May 23, 2011

The Name Game

No, not banana, fanana, bo . . .

. . . but rather the multiple spellings of a single name.

For example: my mother's maiden name is Sweat, but once upon a time it was spelled Swett, and even Swete! Woo-hoo, makes digging for ancestors quite the challenge.

Then, there's my Great-Great Grandma Emmaline Halterman or . . . is it Holdman . . . or Holtman . . . or . . .

ARRRRRGGGGHHHH! Talk about making a descendant's life miserable.

Dear old, Great-Great Grandma Emmaline had quite the variations in her last name, and that's even before I go way back into the history banks researching her ancestors.

Some examples . . .
  • Marriage Record = Halterman
  • Her daughter's death certificate, Great Grandma Martha Lane Smith, mother's last name = Holdman
  • Her death certificate, father's last name = Haltman
  • A story about her husband, who died in the Civil War, lists her last name as . . . Holdman
So, four variations on a single name. Plus, there's a book about Warren County, TN that lists the last name as Halterman. Ah, the joys of variations. Joy, Joy, Joy . . . NOT!

So, when researching your ancestors, understand that name variations will play a big part in finding, or not finding, the information you are looking for. Don't give up, just use variants of the last name and - fingers crossed - hope for the best. It's worked for me. Woo-hoo!!!


Friday, May 20, 2011

The More You Dig . . .

. . . the bigger the skeleton you find! Ha! Kidding.

. . . the bigger the mystery you might discover.

Case in point: Great-Great Grandpa Alexander Sweat, son of Israel Sweat and ??????

Yeah . . . ??????

According to what my grandfather (Papaw, for those in the know) knew, Alexander Sweat was the son of Israel Sweat and Lotty Hare (more on her in a later post - boy, do I have more about her in a later post).

Well, fine, dandy, and all that jazz. Except . . .

. . . Great-Great-Great Grandpa Israel Sweat was married . . . multiple times.

First to Sally Russell who died after the birth of her sixth child, John Wesley Sweat, in May 1823.

Fine, dandy, no problem.

Alexander Sweat was allegedly born July 2, 1822 . . . or is it 1824 . . . or is it 1832. Well, therein lies the mystery my digging into records discovered.

First - ancestry lists his birth as 1822. Ancestry is suspect, so . . .

Second - A census record, showing Charlotte (aka Lotty aka . . . just wait until you read the post on her), Israel was deceased by this time, and some others, Alex included, lists his birth date as 1832.

Third - Alexander's death certificate lists his birth as July 2, 1824.

So, now I have three potential dates-of-birth for Alexander Sweat.

Find, dandy . . . CRAP!

Now, if he was born in 1822, then Sally Russell and not Lotty Hare was most likely his mother.

But . . .

If he was born in 1824, well . . . Israel and Charlotte didn't marry until October 1827.

Uh, huh, you do the math.

Now, if he was born in 1832 . . . fine, dandy, no problem, except . . .

. . . his death certificate lists his birth as 1824.

Fine, dandy . . . CRAP!

So who in the heck is Alexander Sweat's mommy dearest? Sally? Charlotte? Some unknown woman?

I don't have a clue, but . . .

My best guess is that Israel, with an infant on hand, married the first available woman to a) care for the infant and b) care for his other children who were all of a young age.

Hey, trust me, from the research I've done, multiple marriages way back when were the norm. Heck, Great-Great Grandpa Miles Nicholas Boone only waited 2 1/2 months after his wife's death during childbirth to remarry. Eeeewwww! But, seriously, it's what seemed to happen a lot back then.

So, it's highly likely he remarried, got his wife with child, and then she died either in childbirth, or some time soon after, and definitely (well, hopefully) before he married Charlotte, who was already a widow and had a young child of her own, in 1827).

So, as you dance with your ancestors, prepare to run into roadblocks and find mystery after mystery.

Fun times, people, fun times!!!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Death Certificates

Okay, yeah, the title's a bit morbid, but . . . death certificates, when you can find them, are a great source of information . . .

. . . sometimes! Ha!

Sometimes, they don't help at all.

Death certificates often, but not always, list the parents of the deceased, as well as the parents birthplace. Woo-hoo, more verification of information.

Not always . . .

Case in point: Great-Grandpa Charles A. Mitchell - the mysterious man who seems to have appeared out of thin air. Okay, not really, I know he was born in Dekalb County, Alabama on October 4, 1858. I know - or knew, but still really know, nothing much else about him. I don't have his parents names - the Mitchell Family Bible was no help at all. What the heck, people? Still, I was determined to learn his parents names.

Oh, the false presumptions people have when they first begin dancing with their ancestors. I journeyed to the State Archives here in Nashville, scrolled through the microfiche and . . . voila, found his death certificate. Back to the microfiche cabinet to get the roll containing his death record . . .

. . . scroll . . .

. . . scroll . . .

. . . scroll . . .

VOILA! The death certificate for Charles A. Mitchell. Parents name . . .


Father's name . . . Mitchell.

Double CRAP!

Mother's name . . . Forrest.

Triple CRAP!

So much for helpful information on that death certificate. Back to square one and the belief that dear, old Great-Grandpa Mitchell was beamed down to earth by aliens.

Oh, and then there are the times where the following is inserted, as the case with Great-great Grandpa Alexander Sweat, for parents names: don't know!

Well, gee, could you be any more helpful? Ha!

But, don't dwell in the depths of despair like Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Death certificates are not a lost cause, as evidenced by . . .

Great-great Grandma Mary Catherine Langdon Sweat, Alexander's wife! Her death certificate revealed her parents names . . . which I'd already found using Ancestry, but some other verification is always nice.

So, if possible, go for the death certificates. Hopefully, you'll have better luck, and less mysteries (more on that later - ha!) than I have.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ancestor Research

About a month or so ago, on a whim, I decided to start a family tree using ancestry. Well, that was my first mistake, because . . . this became a sort of obsession consuming huge amounts of time. Who knew?

Now, rather then go into all the gory details, I'm first going to give some tips about doing family research, or, as I like to call it dancing with the ancestors!

  1. BEWARE - this can become an all consuming project that will eat up your time faster than my cat Squeaky - lover her dearly - eats her food . . . and then begs for more.
  2. Ancestry - is a great resource, but . . . the information on Ancestry is suspect (more on this later).
  3. Google - is a source to be reckoned with since they digitized thousands of books, many of them genealogical related (more on this later).
  4. Dig, dig, and dig some more - the information is not always readily available, but . . . some perseverance and patience will do wonders when searching for dead relatives.
  5. State Archives - every state has one. Luckily, the archive for my state is not far from my house. Huge, huge resource - census records, cemetery books, death records, birth records . . . you name it, and they're probably there.
  6. Family Trees - okay, a lot of times you'll find a family tree that doesn't list your relative. Don't despair. Just because your relative isn't listed as a child of so-and-so, doesn't mean your relative wasn't a child of so-and-so (more on this later).
  7. Family Search - this is a wonderful website created/run by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. They have copies of many death certificates, that you don't have to search through microfiche at the State Archives to find. I was able to find my great-grandmother's death certificate this way.
So, those are the basic tips you need if you decide to do family research.

Now, on to the more on this later items:
  • Ancestry - be careful when compiling your family tree using this site. Some of the information is accurate. Some of the information is, well, not so much. People sometimes build their trees without paying attention to the details. Case in point: Edwina Carter was born in 1862, and yet her parents are listed as being born in 1870. Uh, yeah, do you see the problem? Sometimes, people get carried away and don't pay attention to what they're doing, or what they are linking to. The further back you go in your ancestor research, the more iffy the information.
  • Census Records - these are a great source of information, but the census takers were, well, only human, and errors did occur. For example, my great aunt married a man named Hoffman, yet on one census, she and her husband were listed as Mollman. On Ancestry, you can correct the information, which I did. Oh, and birth dates - unless you have a birth certificate, these are going to be suspect on census records. When searching for someone on a census record using Ancestry, always do +/- 2 or more years.
  • Google - ya gotta love Google, especially the digitized books. When I run into bumps in my search, I'll often do a simple search . . . Nathan Swett, son of John Swett . . . and see what happens. Since Google digitized books, I've actually been able to find books related to the Swett side of my family.
  • Relative Not Found - okay, this is a biggie, but . . . a lot of times, when people are compiling their family trees, they don't give a flippity-floppity about brothers/sisters of their ancestors. They're only concerned with their direct ancestors, not the ones branching off. Case in point: in one genealogical book, John Swett and Bethia Page have five children listed, Nathan was not one of them, and then there was the line and probably others . . . which meant, they probably had more children, they just weren't mentioned in this book. To that end, I did find a birth record for Nathan Swett listing his parents as John Swett and Bethia! Woo-hoo! So, just because you at first don't find your relative listed, don't give up and think you've hit a dead end. Keep. Searching.
And, that's it for this initial post. I'll be posting a lot more as I continue this research, and I'll also be putting out information on my family line, as well as pictures, copies of death certificates, and other such stuff.

This is an amazing journey I've started. I love the mysteries that surface . . . my great-grandfather on my paternal side seems to have appeared out of thin air. Seriously. More on that later . . . Ha! I hope you follow along with me as I take this journey.