Friday, January 25, 2013

Ancestral Mysteries

Dancing With the Ancestors is rarely a dull endeavor. A person never knows what they might find as they dance into the past. Yes, a few nuts fall out of every family tree. There's a skeleton or four lurking here, there, and everywhere. It's an adventure. 

There are stumbling blocks, i.e., brick walls you can't seem to get around, along the way. Luckily, the family tree has more than one branch, so when one branch abruptly ends, there's always another branch to explore. 

I've had my share of abruptly ending branches in my quite extensive family tree. Frustrating, doesn't even begin to cover it when that happens. Still, with so many branches to explore, I just leap here, there, and everywhere, and, eventually, came back to that abruptly ending branch.

There are also mysteries . . .
  • Why wasn't 2 x Great Grandmama Elizabeth Hall-Morris on the 1860 with her husband and children?
  • What are the actual ages of 2 x Great Grandparents Alexander & Catherine (Langdon) Sweat? Why do they have different birth years on every Census Record?
  • Why did Great Aunt Euphemia Smith marry multiple times?
  • Who is the father of 2 x Great Grandpa James Douglas Tate?
On and on the mysteries appear before me as I dance with the ancestors. In many cases, bit by bit, I peel back the layers and discover some, if not all, of the answers.

Great-Great Grandmama Elizabeth Hall-Morris was actually at her parents house, who lived next door to her and her husband, when the census taker came to take the information. Thus, she appears on the record at her parents house, while her husband and their children appear on the census for her house. Mystery! Solved!

Great-Great Grandpa Alexander Sweat, from what I and a distant cousin have theorized, altered his age when the census takers came because he didn't want to go to war. He needed to be at least ten years older in order to avoid the Civil War draft so . . . he and his wife both lied about their ages, and never stopped lying. Great, talk about a skeleton in the family closet: Great-Great Grandpa Alexander Sweat was a draft dodger. Note to self: omit that fact from the family history book. Ha!

I don't have a clue why Great Aunt Euphemia married multiple times, but she did. At first, since she was on the 1900 census with her husband and children, but not the 1910, I thought she had died, until . . . I found a marriage record for her that stated she was divorced. The Horrors!! Ha! Then, every death notice for a member of her family seemed to have her with a different last night. Obviously, the woman could just not commit!

And now, the mystery that I probably won't ever solve, but have come to a definite conclusion about: the parentage of Great-Great Grandpa James Douglas Tate.

My belief has always been that, due to popular theories, he is not the son of John Tate and Leodicia Hogg-Tate, but rather their grandson. He was born in 1839. Leodicia, his alleged mother, was born in 1783. She would have been 56 when he was born. I seriously doubt, back in the 1800s, a woman was still having children at the age of 56. So, my theory has always been that James Douglas was the child of John and Leodicia's daughter Sarah (aka Sally) Tate. This supposition was upheld by the fact that in 1870, Sarah Tate was living with James and his family. 

Well, my mind being what it is, and traveling down varied paths as I attempt to reach a conclusion, suddenly hit upon another idea: What if Sarah/Sally was not in fact a child of John and Leodicia, but the widow of one of their sons? It would have made sense that, after the death of her husband, she moved in with his family, since that often happened back in the day. Then again, she could be his older sister-mother who had him out of wedlock. 

Still, my line of thinking now is that his father was a Tate, the son of John and Leodicia, who died prior to 1850. Sarah and her child, potentially children, moved in with Leodicia and, eventually, with her son James Douglas and his family. 

So, when dancing with the ancestors, don't let a mystery stump you, just keep digging away, even if you have to leap to other branches for a bit!


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