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Blog 2023 01 18 Finding Proof of Strange Moves

Two recent research projects for the same client showed moves that simply did not make sense.  At least not at first and I almost dismissed both.  Let’s take a closer look.

The first one involved a widow moving to Louisiana and the other, parents leaving small children with the maternal grandparents in Jones County, GA, and moving to Mississippi without them.  Starting with the widow, Nancy Jane Sanders, nee Williams.  She and Tilman Sanders were married on 7 August 1851 in Bibb County, GA, by Rev D. H. Moore. [i] They are found on both the 1860 and she is on the 1870 censuses living in Bibb County, GA. [ii] In 1871, Nancy’s father, Reuben Williams, is listed as “Agent for Mrs. Tilman Sanders” on the tax digest for Bibb County. [iii]

Tilman apparently died before the 1870 federal census but after registering in the 1864 Census for Reorganizing the Georgia Militia. [iv] So what does this have to do with moving to Louisiana?  Many, many family trees online say she died around 1897 in Louisiana but they had no proof.  The hunt for proof was on!

Tilman Sanders pops up out of nowhere in 1850 as a 24-year-old man living with William Rufus Mosely and William’s wife, Mary.  Many believed that she was Tilman’s sister but the Mosely daughter, Sarah Angeline Mosely Parker’s death certificate in 1936 lists Mary’s maiden name as Bickley. [v] Additionally, the obituary of their son, Johnnie E. Mosely, that ran in The Macon Telegraph, lists him as 90 in 1954 putting his birth as 1864 and his mother is again listed with the maiden name of Bickley. [vi]

William Rufus Mosely is 32 in the 1850 census and becomes a prominent citizen in the area and is often referred to as Reverend.  He had several children, including a  son, William, who is listed as 8 on this census.  William grows up and marries Nancy Jane’s sister, Maggie Margaret C. Williams in 1877 in Bibb. County [vii]  Their eldest was Thomas H. Mosely, who wrote several books, one named Humorous Travels From Ridiculous to Sublime: From Laughter to Weeping in which, he tells many family stories he recalls as a child and shares some that were sent to him by family members. [viii] He remembered his aunts and uncles.  According to his writing, his Aunt Nancy died in Louisiana where her sister, Mary Addie Williams Moseley, and her husband, Bill Moseley along with the Williams sister’s brother, John H. Williams, were living.  Nancy reportedly died in 1897.  No official record has been located at this time to support her living there or her death.

Is this conclusive?  I would say it is because it is a firsthand account of where she was and seeing the evidence of two siblings living there gives credence to the fact.

Now, what about a William Parker and his wife, Elizabeth Jourdan Parker leaving some of their children in Georgia and moving to Mississippi?

In researching the parentage of Tabitha Ann Parker who married Michael Hartley in Crawford County, GA circa 1858. [ix] We know she was Tabitha Ann Parker based on the death certificate of their son, Walter Lee Hartley which lists his parents as Michael Hartley and Tabitha Ann Parker. [x] So who were Tabitha’s parents?

We first see her name as a 15-year-old living with an apparent grandmother, Tabitha Jordan in 1850 Crawford County, GA. [xi] Assuming that Tabitha Jordan is her grandmother, then who might her parents be?  Making the normal assumption that Tabitha Parker’s father was a Parker and her mother a Jordan, we find there is only one record of a Jordan(Jourdan) girl marrying a man named Parker and that is Elizabeth Jourdan marrying William Parker on 27 March 1832 in Jones County, GA. [xii]

How can we further support our position?  Let’s see who C. E. Odom, a 40-year-old woman listed in he same household on the above 1850 census is.  In a newspaper clipping from one of Tad Evans’ Jones County, GA Abstracts, we learn her name was Cynthia E. Odom.  A look for the marriage of a Cynthia Jordan to a Mr. Odom we find a marriage recorded to a Richard T. Odom on 31 January 1833 in Jones County. [xiii]

Numerous family trees show William and Elizabeth dying in Hancock County, MS.  Many documents, including newspapers, sometimes spelled Jordan as Jourdan.

While not conclusive in itself, the 1840 census for William Parker in Jones County, which is on the other side of Macon, GA from Crawford County, shows one female aged 5-9, and one female aged 10-14.  Either of these could be Tabitha. [xiv] Is there any proof they moved to MS?  An 1850 census for Hancock County, MS shows an Elizabeth Parker, aged 63 and born in NC, living with a son or grandson named Jourdan Parker, aged 14. [xv] Two households before her is a Henry Jourdan from SC.  Based on the grandson’s name being spelled Jourdan, the same as Elizabeth’s maiden name, and assuming the enumerator got the place of birth wrong for one or both, it is logical to believe she is the same Elizabeth Jourdan who married William Parker and that they moved to MS.

For the purpose of keeping this short, I found other evidence that provides sufficient proof that shows the relationship of Cynthia Jordan Odom, the Jourdans in MS, and the Jourdans in GA to call this proved.

[i] Overby, Mary McKeown, Marriages published in the Christian index, 1828-1855; abstracts, Shady Dale, GA, 1971, Georgia Baptist Historical Society.

[ii] 1860 U. S. Census, Bibb County, Warrior District, Macon Post Office, p. 197 (inked), dwelling 1486, family 1526, hhld of Tilman Sanders, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com, accessed 28 September 2022), citing NARA publication M 653, roll 111. AND 1870 U. S. Census, Bibb County, GA Subdivision 8, Macon PO, p 78, Dwelling 716, family 681, hhld of Nancy J. Sanders, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com, accessed 28 September 2022), citing NARA publication M 593, roll 136.

[iii] Bibb County, Georgia, Tax Digest for 1871, Militia District 482 (Warrior), image 394/582, FamilySearch.org (www.familysearch.org: accessed 15 January 2023).

[iv] Cornell, Nancy J. 1864 Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia, Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000.

[v] Lamar County, GA, Certificate of Death, Georgia Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, registered no, 1442, stamped 4608, death certificate of Sarah Angeline Parker, date of death 23 February 1936, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com, accessed 28 September 2022).

[vi] “Johnnie E. Mosely, (Macon, GA) , The Macon Telegraph, 27 February 1954, p. 8, c. 1, Newspapers.com (www.Newspapers.com: accessed 17 November 2022).

[vii] Bibb County, Marriage Book F, p 153 (middle), (W. J. Mosely – Maggie C. Williams, 22 Nov 1877), Bibb County Probate Court, Macon, Bibb County, GA.

[viii] Mosely, T. H. Humorous Travels From Ridiculous to Sublime: From Laughter to Weeping, Macon, GA 1961.

[ix] 1900 U. S. Census, Crawford County, GA, Militia District 577, SD 3, ED 4, heet 21 A (inked), dwelling and family 376, hhld of Michael Hartley, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com, accessed 28 September 2022), citing NARA publication T 623, roll 190.

[x] Taylor County, GA, Reynolds Township, Georgia Certificate of Death, GA Department of Public Health, Registered # 3-8092, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com, accessed15 January 2023).

[xi] 1850 U. S. Census, Crawford County, Division 20, p. 73 & 74, dwelling and family 533, hhld of Tabitha Jordan, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com, accessed 28 September 2022), citing NARA publication M 432, roll 67.

[xii] Jones County, Georgia, Marriage Book B, p 76, (Parker-Jourdan 1832), Jones County Probate Court, Gray, Georgia, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com, accessed 28 September 2022).

[xiii] Jones County, GA, Marriage Book B (1821 – 1936)m p. 138 (bottom), (Odom – Jordan, 31 January 1833), Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com, accessed 28 September 2022).

[xiv] 1840 U. S. Census, Jones County, p. 132 (stamped), line 23, William Parker, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com, accessed 28 September 2022), citing NARA publication M 704 and roll 44.

[xv] 1850 U. S. Census, Hancock County, Beat 2 Police Jurisdiction, p 118, dwelling 213, family 219, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com, accessed 28 September 2022), citing NARA publication M 432 and roll 372.

Blog 2023 01 11 A New Year means New Goals

I have been remiss in getting my blogs out since returning from my younger cousin’s funeral.  I took it rather hard that a younger cousin died from cancer, possibly brought on by his heavy tobacco use when he was younger.  We did have the opportunity over the many trips I made in 2021 & 2022 to get reacquainted and share some good memories.

I grew up knowing all of my Aunts and Uncles and most of my cousins, although I never met any of the children of my Uncle Art who lived in Texas and I do not recall meeting Uncle Robert’s daughters.  I also had an Uncle who was an alcoholic and his wife took the kids from Cullman, AL to east Georgia when I was young. Therefore I have had a difficult time researching their children’s families.  Facebook has helped me get in contact with some of those uncle’s grandchildren not to mention many other newly discovered cousins.  I get a kick out of getting a FaceBook message or text telling me their name and that we are supposed to be related and can I tell them how.  My first response is always I don’t know.  Who are your parents and grandparents?

So a new year and new goals.  One of my goals this year is to finish two parts of my portfolio to submit a packet to get certified by the Board for the Certification of Genealogists.  There are three parts to what is required from an applicant. A KDP (Kinship Determination Project), that covers three or more generations proving their kinship, and at least one must be using a proof argument or proof statement.  Another is a Case-Study where we have to do an analysis because we have conflicting, negative, or must use only indirect evidence.  The third part is a research report done for someone else.

I am almost finished with the KDP but learned last year that the case study I was working on will not meet the criteria.

Another of my other genealogical goals for this year is to attend at least one institute and the National Genealogical Society’s national conference in Richmond.  Additionally, I want to attend some classes to improve my forensic research cases.

Have you sat down and written out your genealogical goals for the year?  If not, maybe you should.  I learned a long time ago, that if you do not set goals along with a realistic timeframe to accomplish them, they will not get done.

So let’s all get started.

Blog 2022 09 21 Family Thoughts

I will state right up front, this week’s blog may sound like I am rambling, my apologies.  Over the past year, I have made numerous trips to the area my mother grew up in Alabama to help take care of a younger cousin with cancer.  I was supposed to be there taking care of him this week but the Lord called him home early Saturday morning and I just returned home late last night from the funeral.

As the family genealogist, I have seen the number of people in each branch who have died young from repetitive diseases.  One of my branches saw several from 3-4 generations die from stomach cancer, the oldest about 70 and the youngest about 54.  My mother was one of ten children, eight died before their 66th birthday.  One was Leukemia, one was sclerosis/lung cancer, two were massive heart attacks (my mother was one), and the other four were from cancer of one sort or another.  My paternal grandfather suffered late in life with a pocket forming at the bottom of the esophagus resulting in all food being pureed like baby food.  His youngest half-sister suffered from the same ailment and one of my brothers and nephews has similar issues.

As we begin to see a pattern, do we encourage our family members to get tested early while the disease might be caught?  We do not want to violate their privacy or sound like we are using a bully pulpit, but I think we should encourage them.  My cousin who just passed away worked closely for the same small company and was close with the owner for over 35 years.  Paul, the owner, was almost in tears as he encouraged my deceased cousin’s youngest brother to give up smoking since we all watched Marvin die from cancer that may have been brought on by his decades of smoking.

Have you seen patterns while researching your family?  Have you shared your findings with them?

I warned you there will be some rambling.

Findagrave does not know the exact location of the small country cemetery where Marvin was buried.  I will be taking care of this since I dropped GPS pins at his grave and his wife’s grave.  Do you help with this sort of information?  I recently wrote about volunteering when visiting cemeteries.

Remember, my mother was one of ten kids meaning I have 45 cousins and 3 siblings.  I was surprised how many of the ones I have seen in recent months who have no idea that there were ten kids and much of anything about the family.  I do not bore them but I do try to answer their questions.  One of my 1st Cousins, once removed, who was not raised by her biological father and did not even know her dad was not her biological father, who I have gotten to know in recent years, kept asking me at the funeral who everyone was.  Problem was, the vast majority attending were not family but friends of Marvin’s and his family.  He was one of those unique people who lived his entire life in the small farming community he was born in so he had acquired a lot of friends in his 59 years of living.  Many of his friends he had known since High School and earlier.  It reminded me of when my Aunt Fran died of Leukemia and I had been away from this branch of the family due to my 30+ years with the Army.  I stood by my Uncle Tom doing the same thing my young cousin was doing to me.  “Who is that?”

I’ll finish with one positive note that we spotted at the little cemetery.  This person must be into genealogy.

Blog 2022 09 13 Family and DNA Thoughts

Every once in a while (maybe a bit too often) I open links that pop up on Facebook which typically brings about more spamming of “Suggested for you” links.  But one I read this past weekend dealt with DNA and the damages it brought to families, although a bunch of the stories had great outcomes.  So here are my thoughts.

Let me start by saying I believe the people who changed your diaper, wiped your mouth, fed, clothed, and housed you are your parents.  Regardless of biology!

That said, anyone planning on taking a DNA test needs to prepare themselves mentally for the possibility that their results are not going to be what they expect.  The two terms used in this community are Non-Paternal Event (NPE) and Misattributed Parentage.  Due to a lot of controversy over the form term they are now saying, Not the Parent Expected.

The fallacy with saying Non-Paternal Event is that there was a paternal event, just not the one expected.  The insult of the term is that too many offspring in this category do not want to be referred to as an event in that way.  That is why I prefer the Misattributed Parentage.  We may find that there was an adoption, a sperm donor, or invitro-fertilization using another woman’s egg.

While I personally believe that once a child reaches the age of about 17, they need to be told the truth but too many parents are afraid the child may decide they want a closer relationship with their biological parent than with the one who raised them.  While this does happen, I have yet to see a story written where that was the case except for where the parent who raised them was dealing with their own demons of substance abuse or violent behavior.  In most normal families, there is that curiosity and desire to search and try to find but the parents who raised them should not feel slighted in any way.

Several of the stories were done by people wanting to know their ethnicity and that is how they found out. I need to remind you to take the ethnicity portion with a grain of salt unless you are of a heritage that was not mixed with a lot of others for many generations.  For example, my late wife who lived her first four years in a Korean orphanage was always labeled a Korean-American.  Recently my oldest son did the DNA test and he came back 50% Korean which meant she was 100% and that is believable.  But for most of us, the results are XX% British, XX% French, or German, etc.  Who is to say that this is accurate since the French invaded Germany many times over the last 1,000 years and Germany invaded France, the British invaded other countries, and the Vikings invaded what is now the British Isles.  So these ethnicities are so mixed, I take my results with a grain of salt as I have watched them change many times over the past 7 years.

But back to the main topic.  Should you take a test and discover a deep dark secret, I would suggest you be very sensitive as to why a particular parent may have wanted to keep it a secret and could possibly be embarrassed and then angry that you discovered it.  I would strongly recommend not throwing it in their face.  I recently spoke to a medical Doctor in Michigan who knew his dad was not his biological father but never knew who was.  That is until a half-sister popped up on his testing site and shared the name and pictures. The pictures matched the man he saw in photographs his mother had of her with the man about the time he was conceived.  I know his biological father was dead already and I don’t recall if his mother was either but he had no animosity over the matter.

The Army taught me to put the bottom line up front and in a way I did that but to state it more bluntly.  No one should take a DNA test unless they are prepared to see information that does not match their expectations.

Blog 2022 09 06 Miscellaneous Cemetery Thoughts

We had the opportunity to get out of town this past weekend to Columbus, Georgia just to get away.  But we still found ourselves wandering some cemeteries looking at the unique grave markers and carvings.  Some headstones will give you clues about the person such as the Masonic Lodge symbol indicating he was an active member that the time of his death.  If it is a woman’s grave and has the Eastern Star symbol or one of the many women’s organizations related to freemasonry then it gives you more places to look.

We saw several where the headstone was carved to look like a tree and I immediately knew they were members of Woodmen of the World, another fraternal organization.  Headstones with lambs typically indicating a child is buried there.  Sometimes the headstone gives us additional information such as, “Wife of”, “Daughter of”, or “Son of.”  Look for indications of military service which can lead to more records.

If you are at an older cemetery where the family bought the plot with multiple graves, you want to research each and every person buried there.  In one of the cemeteries we were at, everyone in a particular family plot were Crawfords by birth or marriage.  But in one corner, was a grave marker and the engraving gave no indication this person was a Crawford.

One final thought on cemeteries, if you have a free account at FindaGrave.com (and I encourage you to if not), then consider looking on Findagrave whenever you visit a cemetery for requests for a photo of GPS.  Using the phone app, when you get to the actual grave, you drop a GPS pin that helps others find the grave when they visit.  Also, people are looking for pix of the headstone (if one exists).  You can also request someone to take a picture for you but please try to furnish them with all available information.  That might mean calling the cemetery office to get the exact location.  I also add a couple of photos showing the surround features.

While at Parkhill Cemetery in Columbus, where my Aunt and Uncle are buried and many of my Uncle’s family I did this.  My cousin was saying his parents were buried near the mausoleum but there are three at that cemetery.  I took a picture while standing by their graves of the nearest one and another picture of a statue nearby to help people find the place.  The GPS feature was not available when I attended their funerals back in 2008 and 2009.

Blog 2022 08 28 Some Ancestry Tips

Do you use Ancestry.com ©?  Whether you have a paid version or use it at a local library, let’s look at a few hints, tips, and tricks.

First off, if you have an account and a tree and are accepting the hints (green leaf), watch out that if the new information has something different that you do not write over what you have.  For example, you have the wife by her maiden name but are now accepting a document with her married name, if you are not careful, it will change her name when importing.  Once you say yes, a pop-up sidebar appears with the details from the record you are importing on the left under the blue header and what your tree has on the right under the green heading.  Here are two ways to not change your tree, you can click on the Was under the name or you can click on the Save as an alternate option or both.

Additionally, when a person has had more than one spouse and children by both, make sure you select the correct other parent when importing them.  By the same token, if you have accepted the wife by the married name and then find the marriage record to accept, be careful that you import the information as the same wife and correct the previously used surname and not as a new person.

How about adding new information and media which you did not get from an Ancestry.com-owned brand?  From the facts section, you can add a new fact and upload the media or you can add a weblink to the information.

Another hint that you might see is the Potential Father/Mother.  I suggest looking to see if there are any attached sources and what those sources are.  You cannot click on the source to look it up but you can capture that information look it up through regular search features.  If there are no sources, I take as suspect, if the location(s) being suggested do not line up quite right, you might want to hold off until you have done more research.  If the location information and dates look reasonable, then go ahead and accept it provisionally.  Then after accepting the information, you must research the person thoroughly to make sure it is correct.  It could be that your Georgia ancestor who was born, lived, and died, was fathered by a man born in South Carolina and died in Alabama.  However, you need to ensure that he stopped off in Georgia long enough for your ancestor to be born and reach an age where he could be on his own before the father continues west.  If you end up accepting a Potential Parent and it turns out to be incorrect, simply delete them.

What if you find a tree that is private and you want to contact the owner?  Click their name and see when they last logged in.  If within the past 30 days, you have a better chance of hearing back, if over a year, then they probably either died or let their membership lapse.  But do not be disheartened.  Get their username and any other information then Google their username.  Many, many people use the same username for multiple apps and you might find an actual email address.

Next, whether you have your own account or use the library edition at a research place.  When using the library edition, if you log in, you are actually using the home edition, if not, then strictly the library edition (LE).  The LE will not allow you to create a tree or make any changes to a tree.  You cannot send messages to people who own a tree.

However, you can and should do all the traditional researching and download documents, along with the source citation information, and save it to a USB drive or email it to yourself.  When finding a tree where you want to reach out to the tree owner, click their name and get their information and Google them for a possible email address.

Blog 2022 08 14 Tying the Right Person to the Documents

How do you know the document you are looking at belongs to your ancestor?  When there was more than one person in the area with the same name, how do know which John Doe to assign the information to?

This is where knowing more about our specific person of interest helps us determine whether it belongs to our person or someone else.  We must get past the simple facts and get to know the person as a person and their family.  I’ll start with my paternal grandfather, Joseph Henry Thomas who often filed papers as J.H. Thomas, and his wife, Viola.  I grew up knowing my grandfather and always remember him not being very tall and walking with a distinct limp.  In researching WWI Draft Cards from Appling County, Georgia where he lived, there were several, J.H. Thomas, Joseph H. Thomas, and Joseph Thomas filers.  Which one belongs to my grandfather?  Only one of the cards said not qualified for service due to being deaf in one ear and having a club foot AND being short.  Bingo!

In another case doing random research on him, I saw the name show up in a couple of city directories.  Since he was a farmer all his life, or so I thought, I decided to take a look.  I found a Joseph and Viola living in Columbus, Georgia, and at the same time, a Joseph and Viola living in Brunswick.  Since these had to be two different men I looked more closely at the one in Brunswick since that is where his oldest brother (half-brother), James M. Thomas lived and worked for the shipyards.  It turned out that it was my grandfather and his sister who were living there and so was his father, General Jackson (GJ) Thomas.  GJ was the principal resident and the rest were ‘boarding’ there.  His eldest brother was living down the street and another brother also lived on the same street.  Apparently, they all took jobs as carpenters at the shipyard for a while.  Meanwhile, GJ still had a farm in Appling County.

In another case, I was looking for what happened to one of the sons of a particular immigrant ancestor as the immigrant and younger kids were in St Louis, MO in 1860 and the eldest was still in Jefferson County, IN.  Many trees on Ancestry.com have him serving in the Union Army and going to Kentucky, others to Iowa, some to Missouri, and others to Chicago.  I found a pension card for a widow whose husband had the same name as the person I am researching and he joined in Louisville, KY which is across the river from Jefferson County, IN.  Something in the information indicated his profession before joining was a butcher.  That was the profession of the immigrant and several sons and grandchildren.  Once I received the packet, it turned out to be the one I wanted.

While I could have ordered the wrong one, I took the chance and spent the money because of my knowledge of the family being butchers.  It is incumbent on all of us to learn as much as we can about the entire family so that we can use those clues to narrow down the information as to whether it belongs to our person or not.  I have previously written about how I was able to prove a father-son relationship through the son’s brother who had documented proof.

If we cannot prove the information either way when we find it, we must set it aside until we gather additional information.  That way, we can either add it to the profile of our ancestor or dismiss it as belonging to someone else.

Blog 2022 07 30  Interested in DNA?

Many folks are part of a genealogical society and many of them have Special Interest Groups (SIGs).  One might be on DNA and you should consider joining it to learn more.

I recently received emails from two different people with two different approaches.  The first one said they match me on GEDMatch and do I know how we connect?  Simply answer, No.  The other said he lived in New South Wales and we matched, without naming the testing site, but went on to say they also match Tom, JC, Mary, and Lana F.  That is the right way to approach someone.

Because that match Tom, my uncle, then they are definitely on my mother’s side.  My mother’s father was Andrew Amos Akers and her mother was Dorothy Ella Wales.  The fact that this person also matched JC and Lana F means the connection is on Dorothy’s side of the family.  JC is the son of Dorothy’s oldest sister and Lana the granddaughter of Dorothy’s youngest sister, Florence.  Now I can pinpoint the connection.  Dorothy’s grandmother was Charlotte Phoebe Roberts who was born in England and immigrated first to Toronto, Canada, and then to Chicago is the most natural connection.  And it was.

As to the first connection, she agreed to join me at my next DNA SIG and I will attempt, using GEDMatch to find the connection.  I may not be able to get to the very specific but using information I described above, we can get pretty close to the correct family.  If you are interested in joining us, we meet on the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 7 PM Eastern and you are welcome.  Just email me a request to join at least 2 hours before the meeting.

Blog 2022 07 25   Finding Records in the Strangest of Places 

I am currently attending the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR) so this week’s blog is short.

One of the tenets of a presentation given by Claire Bettag, CG, FUGA, in a 2012 lecture at the National Genealogical Society forum dealt with assuming that records of the same type are similar in content.  That is not always the case and you might be surprised to find records that otherwise might seem out of place.

I have written about my hooligan ancestor who was medically discharged from the Army during the Civil War, reenlisted, and then deserted.  However, his second wife was not aware of this and filed a widow’s pension in 1907 wanting him declared dead.  One of the documents she had to provide was a copy of their marriage in Toronto, Canada in 1882.  When I received the inch-thick packet from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in it was a copy of a Canadian marriage license.  Not a normal place to look for one.  I already had two copies of it, one I got off a website and the other when I was at the Canadian Archives of Ontario in Toronto.

I knew my great grandfather, General Jackson Thomas, and his third wife, Mrs. Unity Medders Dean had split.  What I was not sure about was whether they divorced, although she is listed as a widow in his obituary of 1926, legally separate, or simply split.  One day while copying all land and deed records that I could find one with his name on them, I came across a unique one.  On 5 February 1924, they agreed to live in a state of separation and he was giving her land and livestock for her care and their daughter.  Who would think to look in a land deed for a Legal Separation Document?

I have also seen a complete copy of a will in the land and deed records of a different county.  Why?  Because the deceased owned property in that county when she died and the property had to be probated.  The judge in that county required a copy (certified transcription) from the original probate court.  That had to be provided.

I have found copies of marriage records in probate records and in land records.  I have heard of all sorts of records being found in military and railroad pension files.

So back to the original false assumptions, do not assume that records filed by type ONLY contain those types.

Blog 2022 07 17   When Census Records Don’t Exist 

We often wonder how we can track our ancestors between the census or when, for whatever reason, they do not appear in the census.  What other records might be available?

Taxes are my favorite go-to records.  Property Taxes and Poll Taxes have been around since before the Revolution.  Sometimes called Quitrents under the Colonial system, it was a tax.  While the Poll Tax took on new meaning post-Civil War, it also was a tax, typically on free men of militia age, and goes back before the US Revolution.

Wherever you are researching, you should look for tax records.

In many of the colonies, the landowners paid a Quitrent which was nothing more than a property tax based on acreage or cleared acreage.  One thing to keep in mind is to compare the date the land was granted by the King vs when the Royal Governor granted the land.  In one example, the King’s grant did not come until many years after the Governor and Royal Council granted the land.

The first federal tax levied against the population was in 1798 when America thought they might be going to war against France [i]and needed to raise $2 Million quickly.  The tax known as the Glass Tax or Window Pane Tax, taxed buildings based on square footage and heavily on windows. [ii] One example where this tax could be helpful is distinguishing men with the same name.  The information includes the person’s name, dimensions, and material of the main house and all other buildings such as kitchen, stables, and barns.

You may not know that the first Income Tax was between 1862 and 1872 for the northern states and 1865 – 1872 for the states who joined the Confederacy.  Congress needed to raise money for the war effort and instituted a tax on all income over $600 per year.  It was a progressive tax in that, all income between $600 and $10,000 was taxed at 3% and all income over $10,000 was taxed at 5%.  Then in 1864, it was raised to 5% for income over $600 and now less than $5,000 and 10% for all income over $5,000.

What we can glean from the Civil War Income Tax might continue to distinguish people with the same or similar names and can put them in a specific location.  This is because the source of the income, in detail, is listed.  Information such as, operating a distillery and paying for 3,755 barrels of Brandy made from grape, 2,901 barrels of Brandy NOT made from grape, and other types of liquor.  While another person nearby with the same name might have been a rancher with 126 head of cattle, 5 calves, 10 hogs, 75 head of sheep, etc.  If you knew the line of business your ancestor was in, you can determine exactly which tax record belongs to whom.

Property Tax records are among my favorites when they can be found.  These also asked about income but depending on what the Federal or State opted to tax, certain personal property was also taxed.  In California, they taxed items such as pianos, furs, horses, wagons, and watches.  Depending on the quantity the owner paid the tax.  In Georgia, the property tax was conducted in conjunction with the Poll Tax, so men between 18 and 60 paid the poll tax, if they owned real property (land) they had to list ALL property then owned in Georgia and which county it was in and the number of acres based on that it was used for such as pine for timber, grazing for livestock, or farming.  Here we often see where someone else is acting as an agent because the owner did not actually live there but was out of state, or was away for some reason and worth delving into.  Also, I could see where some of my family members were acting as administrators on the estate of their children who died and the probate case was still open.

Based on age, we can see where a male property owner is not yet 21 and pays on the property but not the toll, and once turning 21 we can determine the approximate age.  Same on the other end where they crossed the age limit whereby they stop paying taxes.  This is still true today in many places.  Property Tax records are public records and anyone can look up someone else’s property tax records.  If your state, county, or city has age benefits, you can tell when someone ages out of paying things like education tax or gets a reduced property tax.

If your ancestor ran certain businesses which required a special license such as an inn or tavern they were most likely required to pay a tax and obtain a license.  Additionally, if they ran a business, check with archives, historical societies, nearby universities, and libraries to see if perhaps they have copies of the company’s ledger listing customers, employees, and taxes collected.

I have probably said this before but in all records, taxes included, always check the last couple of pages to see if your missing ancestor was added as an addendum.

[i] https://ussconstitutionmuseum.org/major-events/the-quasi-war-with-france/

[ii] http://www.westonhistory.org/topics/federal-direct-tax-of-1798/