Sunday, January 24, 2016

Greenberry Mitchell

Sometimes, when dancing with the ancestors, you come across more than one person with the same name. Such is the case with Greenberry Mitchell. You see, there is not just one Greenberry Mitchell. No, having just one would be far too easy. There are two men named Greenberry Mitchell.

Actually . . . there are three. Okay, one of them is imaginary. Okay, not really imaginary, but, rather the third Greenberry Mitchell is a hybrid. Okay, not a hybrid, actually, but rather the third Greenberry Mitchell is a genealogical mistake. He never existed and yet . . . he has trees on Ancestry. Go figure.

Greenberry Mitchell3 is actually a blending of Greenberry1 and Greenberry2. He is the result of people confusing the other two and ultimately combining him into one person.

Now, first and foremost, this third Greenberry Mitchell probably came into existence a long, long time ago before Ancestry and the indexing of records. He was probably created by some researcher scrolling through microfilm and not realizing that, back in 1832, two babies were born into separate Mitchell families and named . . . you guessed it: Greenberry. It also doesn't help that both of these families lived in Warren County, Tennessee and that both men named Greenberry remained in that county the entirety of their lives.

So, back in the olden days of genealogical research, this was an easy mistake to make. 

Now, I cannot claim to know why the multiple people out there confusing Greenberry1 with Greenberry2, and those creating Greenberry3, never realized there were two men named Greenberry Mitchell. All I know is that it happened, and this post will disassemble Greenberry3 and reveal the truth, as far as I've been able to determine about Greenberry1 and Greenberry2.

I'm not passing judgement. I'm only passing along what I discovered. So, here goes . . .

First - 98% of the trees on Ancestry list Greenberry Mitchell as the son of Robert Mitchell and Jane Tate. 98%! This is a HUGE number. Plus, too many people rely on Ancestry as a solid source of information when, in fact, much of the information is suspect at best. My advice: use Ancestry as a stepping stone in your research, but use the facts you prove and disprove yourself as the actual road of your research.

Robert Mitchell married Jane Tate. This is important. The name Jane is important. The name Jane, and the error of a census taker, is very important in the creation of Greenberry3 and the 98% of trees on Ancestry that I mentioned in the above paragraph.

William Mitchell married Darcus/Dorcas (maiden name unknown, but possibly Coffee).

In the fall of 1831, both Jane and Darcus (this is how her name is spelled according to a census record) became pregnant. In the spring of 1832 both women gave birth to a baby boy and . . . named him Greenberry. Oy!

Flash forward 18 years and . . .

In 1850, in Warren County, Tennessee, on the census recorded on August 22, we have the following . . .
  • William Mitchell
  • Darcus Mitchell
  • Mary Mitchell
  • Julia Mitchell
  • Greenberry Mitchell (age 19)
  • Celia Mitchell (age 14)
  • Matilda Mitchell
  • Darcas Mitchell
In 1850, in Warren County, Tennessee, on the census recorded on November 28, we have the following . . .
  • Robert Mitchell
  • Jane Mitchell
  • Greenberry Mitchell (age 18)
  • Squire J. Mitchell
  • Andrew J. Mitchell
  • Ruth Mitchell
  • John Mitchell
  • Susan Mitchell
  • Robert Mitchell
Note: Mitchell is transcribed as Mitchael on these records.

For this blog post, Greenberry1 is the son of Robert and Jane (Tate) Mitchell. Greenberry2 is the son of William and Darcus Mitchell.

Greenberry1 married Cynthia Brewer. Greenberry2 married Sarah Dodson. 

But, before I get on with marriages, census records and death records, lets go back to the census records and something I do when I'm researching the ancestor: pay attention to the siblings. In this case, pay attention to Celia Mitchell because she was the key to separating Greenberry1 from Greenberry2. Always remember, and never forget, sometimes the key to a direct ancestor is his or her siblings, especially the female siblings.

By 1860, both Greenberry1 and Greenberry2 have married and had children. As I mentioned, Greenberry1 married Cynthia Brewer. 

In 1860, they're living in McMinnville, Warren County, Tennessee and have three children: George, Robert, and Lowry.

In 1870, they're still in McMinnville, with the following children: L. A., Canabert (i.e., Conner Robert), Laura and David. L. A. is George who was 7 in 1860, but 17 in 1870, and I'm guessing his name is George A., and don't have a clue why it was transcribed as L. A.

In 1880, Greenberry and Cynthia are still in McMinnville, and their son David is still living with them. 

And 1880, is the last I have found of them, most likely because a Greenberry Mitchell died in 1899 and that, would be Greenberry1. More on this in a bit.

So, now we switch over to Greenberry2, who by 1860 was married to Sarah Dodson. They married on September 18, 1857. They were living in McMinnville and had two children: Selitha and Murphy. Murphy plays an important part in the tracking of Greenberry and Sarah in later census records.

In 1870, Greenberry is listed as Green on the Census Record. The census record is mis-indexed under Washington County, TN with the post office of McMinnville (which is in Warren County, TN). On closer inspection of the actual record, the county is listed as Warren. This is just another instance where an indexer made a mistake and created havor for future researchers. On the census record with him are his wife Sarah and their children Tabitha, Murphy, James, Mary, and Ambrose (aka Christie). Also on the census record with him are his sisters Matilda and Dorcas. 

In 1880 they are back in Warren County, and living in McMinnville with the following children: Tabitha (aka Selitha), Murphy, Jas. T., Christie (known as Ambrose in 1870), Minnie, and Dillard. Also living with them at the time is Jane Dodson who is recorded on the census record as the mother of . . .  Greenberry Mitchell. Say what?

Yes, she is listed as the mother of Greenberry Mitchell. And this, dear readers, is where 98% of the researchers out there confuse Greenberry1 and Greenberry2 and create the hybrid Greenberry3. 

It is my belief that everybody who looked at this census record took the fact that Jane Dodson, listed as the mother of Greenberry Mitchell (when, in fact, she was his mother-in-law), was in fact Jane Tate. Robert had died in 1871, so most researchers, without digging any further, made the mistaken assumption that Jane Tate-Mitchell remarried a man named Dodson. Why they didn't connect the dots between Jane Dodson and Sarah Dodson, I don't have a clue!

The problem with the assumption that Jane Tate-Mitchell remarried a Dodson is this: Jane Tate-Mitchell died in 1874. So, unless she's a zombie who then married a Dodson, there's a bit of an impossibility here.

Further research by me, showed, in 1850, that Jane Dodson was living with her husband Eli, and their children Latitia, Sarah, Laura, and Meria. So, the Jane on the 1880 Census record is Sarah's mother and Greenberry's mother-in-law. Then, there is Sarah Mitchell's death certificate which lists her parents as Eli Dodson and Jane Ware. Mystery solved.


So, this is an easy mistake to make. It's also an easy mistake to correct if a researcher takes a little bit of time to do, well, do some research and verify the results. 

Taking things at face value, when doing research, is never a good thing.

But, now let's move forward to 1900. Greenberry and Sarah are living with their daughter Ollie, who was recorded as Minnie on the 1880 Census record.

But also, in 1900, in Warren County, we have James Mitchell living with his wife Hattie (he married Hattie Cantrell on September 16, 1880) and their children: Roy E., Waymon, Lueby E., and Lela O. Also in the house with him is his aunt Celia Mitchell!

Now, if you remember, way back in 1850, one of the children of William and Dorcas, along with Greenberry2, was Celia Mitchell. She was the key to beginning to unravel the mystery of Greenberry1, 2, and 3. Then, there is the death certificate for James Mitchell which lists his parents as Greenberry Mitchell and Sarah Dodson.

Now, in 1910, we have Sarah Mitchell living with her son Murphy and her daughter Ollie. In 1920, Murphy is the head of household, but living with him are his sister Ollie, his mother Sarah, and his father Robert. Say what? I thought Greenberry was his father. Well, in fact . . . Greenberry Robert Mitchell was his father! OY!

BUT . . . according to the tombstone located at Riverside Cemetery in McMinnville, Tennessee, G. B. Mitchell was born May 14, 1832 and died April 20, 1902. Sarah was born April 19, 1833 and died October 23, 1927 - this is confirmed by her death certificate. So, if Greenberry (aka G. B. Mitchell) died in 1902 . . . who in the heck is Robert, age 82, listed as the father of Murphy Mitchell? Did Sarah remarry after her husband's death in 1902? Did she marry a cousin? I don't have a clue. All I know is that Greenberry was dead by 1902, so whatever Robert Mitchell is living in the household with Murphy in 1920 . . . it's not his biological father. 

So, the take away from all of this is: do not take Ancestry trees at face value. Prove and disprove absolutely everything for yourself.

The other takeaway is that Greenberry1 is the son of Robert and Jane (Tate) Mitchell and Greenberry2 is the son of William and Darcus Mitchell. This has been proved through census, marriage, and death records.

I can't change the misinformation out there on Ancestry, nor the multitude of people that have merged Greenberry1 and Greenberry2 into Greenberry3. All I can do is put this information out there and hope that future researchers will find this post and apply the correct parental and sibling information to Greenberry1 and Greenberry2.

My final take away is, when dancing with the ancestors, do the hard work for yourself. Sometimes, you're going to run across two people born in the same year, with the same name, and living in the same town/county all their lives. When this happens, a bit of work on your part, can stop confusion and false information from being spread. For the record, it took me less than an hour to deconstruct Greenberry3 into Greenberry1 and Greenberry2. Yes, I have the advantage of census records being indexed and knowing to research the siblings. But, so do many of the researchers out there who continue to perpetuate Greenberry3! Your diligence can help future researchers.



  1. I have two Greenberry Mitchells in East Tennessee, that Im having trouble in Hancock Co, the other in Grainger Co, which is right beside Hancock! I thought they were the same person, but they are both on seperate censuses in the same years. Both were born in late 1700s in SC...oh, and there's yet another Greenberry Mitchell thats living in SC around the same time!! I'm thinking that SURELY there's a connection!

    1. Kevin - from what I've found, there were two distinct Mitchell lines: one arrived in the New England area and the other in MD (this is my line). Captain William Mitchell and his brother Thomas Mitchell settled first in MD. William Mitchell then moved to VA. From that point, that line spread out to NC, SC, TN, KY and beyond. Greenberry was a popular name in the 1800s, so it's not surprising to find multiple people with the same first name, let alone surname. There's most likely a connection since families tended to share names. William has been passed down in my family for generations, with siblings giving their children that name, so you might have six or more William Mitchell(s). Then, siblings would name their children after a brother or sister, thus creating multiples of another name. It can be quite confusing.