Blog 2022 07 04  Do you have Patriot Ancestors?

Whether you have or are interested in joining a lineage society or not, it is often quite exciting to learn that one or more of your ancestors either served in the military or supported the cause.  To join either Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), or Sons of the American Revolution you must prove your lineage to someone who meets the above definition.

Supporting the cause could be as simple as taking an Oath of Allegiance which every state had a version but not every copy still exists.  One way to prove allegiance even without the oath or proof of military service is through the state financial records where our ancestors may have sold beef or other items from a farm to support the troops.  They may have loaned money, given refuge, or supported through many other means and many of these records do exist if done at the state level.

I know that some of you, like my girlfriend, where it looks like ALL branches immigrated after the Revolution and that is great.  Their ancestor knew that things would be better in America than in their homeland.

This process will take time and cause us to use all of our skills to locate.  However, for some, it may mean only proving back to a specific descendant of the patriot.  For example, my 3rd great-grandfather was Lewis Thomas (1789 – 1860) [i] who married Elizabeth Mixon (1794 – 1863) [ii]in 1810. [iii]  We know her father was Redden Mixon because her sister, Mary Mixon, married Lewis’ brother, Banner Thomas.  Both Banner and Redden co-signed the marriage bond with Banner on the 4th of July 1808. [iv]

Redden Mixon is already an accepted descendant of Redden’s father, Jesse Mixon (circa 1744 – 1832) within the DAR list of accepted patriots. [v] If you click the link, you will see a red note saying that problems have been found with at least one previous paper.  After checking with a DAR registrar, there is a question of lineage but not concerning Redden.  So all I, or any of my Thomas cousins who descend from either the Lewis and Banner listed above, need to prove is our lineage to Redden.

Do you see how easy that is?  However, if you are dealing with a person with a common name or where there were multiple people in the same area or state with the same name, that could require a bit more work.  Additionally, some names in the DAR and SAR databases are red-lined for future applicants and may require more genealogical research to prove the lineage.

For me, I find it exciting that I have numerous ancestors who either we know, or are still trying to prove, served on the side of Liberty for all Americans.  While that freedom did not come for many people for another 80+ years, the pathway was laid out by our ancestors.  You might want to research to see if you can trace any of your lineages to Patriots.

[i] 1860 U. S. Census, Pierce County, Georgia, Mortality Schedule, p. 1, line 16, Lewis Thomas, image,, ( accessed 3 July 2022), citing NARA Publication T 655, roll 8.

[ii] Find a grave, database and images ( accessed 3 July 2022), memorial # 14914364, Elizabeth (Mixon) Thomas, birth 1795, death 1860.

[iii] Liberty County, Georgia, Marriage Bond, Lewis Thomas and Elizabeth Mixon (18 July 1808), Libery County Probate Court, Hinesville, Liberty County, Georgia, image,, ( accessed 3 July 2022).

[iv] Liberty County, Georgia, Marriage Bond, Banner Thomas and Mary Mixon (4 June 1809), Libery County Probate Court, Hinesville, Liberty County, Georgia, image,, ( accessed 3 July 2022).


Blog 2022 06 19 2022 Some Father’s Day Thoughts

Is your father still living? You are blessed. Have you ever recorded some of his stories that sheds light on who he is and about who his father was? Are you writing down stories about yourself and when you grew up for your posterity?

Unfortunately, I was not as attuned to wanting to know these things when my father died in December of 1981 and his father, about 30 days later in January 1982. I have since, written several very short stories which I do recall my grandfather telling me. But I never asked him about his parents to get some insights into just who, General Jackson Thomas (1862 – 1926) and Amanda “Maggie” Carter (1869 – 1909) were.

I have relied on what little I could learn from a daughter of GJ’s eldest son, James Miles Thomas, who had vague memories of her grandfather.

I am not talking about writing down novels, just very short stories consisting of a couple of paragraphs to a couple of pages.

You should also either write down or make a video recording talking about your life growing up and the dynamics of your own family. I remember telling my uncle recently that the only time football was on in our house was around Thanksgiving or Christmas when he and his family were at the house for the holiday because none of us cared for football. Matter of fact, I asked my kid brother how he got interested in all sports since we were raised a Chicago Cubs and baseball only family. He told it was more his kids got into them from their friends. Your children or grandchildren might be interested in knowing things like this.

I have taken to doing just this. Short stories like the above and about my 4-year-old, father, being tied to a mule with a note pinned to his shirt for his uncle Jesse whose farm was next to my grandfather’s, and the mule being told to go to Jessee’s. My grandfather was heading to town to get the doctor for his youngest son who did not survive the day.

As I have said, the more we understand our parents and ancestors, the more we understand why we were raised the way we were.

Blog 2022 05 30 2022 Memorial Day Thoughts

I am way behind on blogs and I promise I am getting back on track.  I have felt overwhelmed with work and the pressure of my one and only vehicle giving out.  Just as I was feeling really down for all that has gone not quite right or flat-out wrong in recent weeks, it dawned on me that this is Memorial Day Weekend.  And my woes do not even come close to comparing.

I just returned from our small town Memorial Day Service and I am honest when I say that when standing and saluting while Taps is played, my eyes get very watery thinking about all the lives sacrificed so that we can have days like this.  Many Americans do not understand the four U.S. military recognition days so please allow me to elaborate.

Armed Forces Day is May 21st each year.  On Armed Forces Day we honor people like my nephew who are still in uniform.  My nephew is in the U. S. Army Reserves and we honor those who are willing to put their lives on the line for our freedom.

Veteran’s Day is celebrated on the 11th of November, officially at 11 A.M. which marked the end of World War I.  On Veteran’s Day, we honor those like my niece, both of my brothers, my father, and six of my uncles.  Men and women who were willing to sacrifice their lives and put on the uniform, finished their tour of duty, came home, and took off their uniform.  Men and women, dead and alive who at some time in their life, wore the uniform.

Memorial Day was originally recognized to honor those men and women who died in uniform in conflict and came to be celebrated on the last Monday of May.  It is still mainly a day to remember those who sacrificed their lives for our liberty but it has changed slightly recently to include everyone who died while on active duty whether the U. S. was in an armed conflict or not and regardless of the circumstances of their death. [i] Men like my girlfriend’s grandfather who was a WWII USAF pilot who was making a career in the Air Force but died on active duty in 1957 in a car accident.  To put it another way, they never came home to their families in the same way the above veterans did.

POW\MIA Day is a day much less celebrated but a day that we, as Americans, should stop and reflect on and it is on 16 September each year.  These are men and women who, while serving in a conflict area either disappeared or were reported captured but what happened to them is unknown.  At least the families whose loved ones died on active duty know what happened to their family members and can go on with their lives.  Those whose loved one’s life remains unknown are left in limbo.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend a formal military dinner or veteran organization meetings you will see that we (I am retired Army) honor these men and women above all others.  Why?  Because as I stated, their fate is unknown.  Much like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, “Unknown but to God.”

To put it succinctly:

  • Armed Forces Day honors those still in uniform
  • Veteran’s Day honors those who wore the uniform, came home and took off the uniform
  • Memorial Day honors those who, while wearing the uniform, died, many while giving their last ounce of devotion
  • POW\MIA Day honors those who not only did not get the opportunity to take off their uniform but what happened to them remains unknown.

Be sure to always take the time to remember and reflect on what Memorial Day really is.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Memorial Day Ceremony at a National Cemetery, I encourage you to do so, especially if it is one where the Scouts are out there planting flags and marking the graves of veterans.

I know Memorial Day also marks the beginning of summer and I am not trying to take away from that, I just want to remind you of what this day is truly all about.

On a genealogy note, military records are also a great place to find information on your ancestors who served.

[i] Provided their death was deemed “In the line of duty” by their service.  This means, they were not doing something illegal, etc. that resulted in their death.

Blog 2022 05 08 2022 Genealogical Acts of Kindness

If you are a regular researcher then there are probably times you need something but are unable to travel somewhere to get something or it is just not financially feasible.  What do I mean?

You want a picture of a grave marker that is not on Find-a-grave or a court record from a local courthouse.  Maybe you need someone to look for some index books on court or church records from a county on the other side of the United States because those records are not indexed online.

Find-a-grave has an option where you can request a photo of a grave that is not already photographed or has a bad photo.  If you are a registered member (it is free), then you can log in and if you going to a cemetery or at the cemetery, you can see if anyone has made such a request and you can help them by finding the grave and taking a picture of it.  You can also drop a GPS grid pin while standing by the grave to make it easier for others to find it.  If you do make the request, please enter all the information possible so the other person knows they have the right one.  I remember seeing a request for “Infant Thomas” in a cemetery with over two dozen such graves.  If you know or have an approximation of, the dates the individual lived, put it in the request.

Do you regularly go to a local genealogical library?  If you are also a part of a local genealogical society, then ask if they get requests for someone to do a simple look-up at the library or courthouse.  The society often gets such requests but too many societies ignore them because they do not have any members willing to help people.

Such requests do not take much time and do not require you to be an expert in the field of genealogy.  Just a simple Act of Kindness to fellow researchers.  It is what we call a ‘Record Pull’ and the more we are willing to help other researchers the more they might be able to help you.

Many of you have a full-time jobs and may not have a lot of time to help others but what I am suggesting is that when you are already planning a trip to a genealogical library, cemetery, or courthouse, see if someone has a need that you can do while you are already there.  It is built in for Find-a-grave but you will need to check with the local genealogical \ historical society to see if they have any requests.

If you are a user of Facebook and other social media that has genealogy groups, join them to follow what is being asked, learned, and requested.

It is always great to be kind to someone else.

Blog 2022 03 27 2022 Tomahawks and Genealogy?

Last night I went with my favorite female and several others to a place here in the Atlanta, Georgia area called, “Bury the Hatchett.”  It is a hatchet and tomahawk throwing venue and it was really a lot of fun.  I found throwing the tomahawk a lot easier and more accurate than the hatchet.

What does any of this have to do with genealogy?  Great question.  We often discuss learning the stories of our ancestors and here is one that pertains to one of mine.

The time is April 1776 in Screven County, Georgia.  Governor Reynolds, who served from 1754 – 1757, was not a favorite governor but he did set up a court system that started at the Court of Conscience.  Using today’s analogy, it would be a cross between the small-claims court and the misdemeanor court.  When colonists had a dispute with each other, they took it before the Court of Conscience which was presided over by a Justice of the Peace.  When a case could not be settled to satisfaction here, it went before the Governor’s Council.  Very few records exist today for those courts.

Fortunately for me (and others with ancestors in Screven County around that time), we have what appears to be a former Judge’s personal ledger of cases.  The case I am referring to in April of 1776 concerns my ancestor, Gilshot Thomas, Sr.  This is how the story goes.

Gilshot Thomas vs Isaac Cartwright (Gilshot is the plaintiff [his name is first] and Isaac is the defendant)

The Plaintiff complained that the defendant took a Bell of his mare and produced Arthur Sharber as a witness who being duly sworn made oath that he was in Company with Isaac Cartwright in the swamp and heard him say that he would take the Bell off a Mare belonging to Gilshot Thomas.  And the said Sharber heard a Bell throwd in the River which he took to be the Bell of a mare that was on Thomas’s mare and that the mare returned after him without any Bell.  The Deponent further saith he did further hear said Cartwright say “When he was done with his crop of corn That he would take his gun and tomahawk with a wallet full of salt and go into the Swamp and live upon Gilshot Thomas’s Hogs and also upon Nat’l Miller’s Hogs.  The committee taking the above into consideration Judged it Expedient and There fore ordered The He Pay Twenty Shillings ti said Thomas for Sd Offense & Give Security for his good behavior for the Future. Signed by Order of the Committee.

N.B. Joseph Humpries became the Defendants Security for hi good Behaviour to Gilshot Thomas for six months before Signing.

Gilshot and Arthur Sharber are accusing Isaac Cartwright of maliciously throwing a bell belonging to one of Gilshot’s mares in the Savannah River and threatening to live as a squatter on both Gilshot and a neighbor, Nathaniel Miller’s land and hogs.  Gilshot owned about 250 acres of land, most of which was swampland and he raised wild hogs.

If we but look, we can often find interesting and fun stories concerning our ancestors.  Always look in places when the opportunity presents itself.  One thing you might ask at such locations is, “Is there anything else you have from this time period concerning the people of that area?”

This is just one of several stories in the ledger which is located at the Georgia State Archives.  Have you found any such stories about your ancestors?  Have you shared with family members in such a way that makes it interesting to read?  I have begun writing them down as short stories of not more than three pages.  Where I have been able to prove the stories accurate, I state how I can prove or truly believe them accurate.  For example.

I have heard this story from my grandfather, Joseph H. Thomas, my Uncle Charles Forrester, and one other person.  Therefore, I believe the story to be accurate.

Sometime shortly after WWII, my father’s older sister, Thelma, brought home a USAF Veteran of the War, Charles Forrester.  My grandfather was a farmer in Surrency, Appling County, Georgia and they lived in what wasn’t much more than a log house. 

I can only assume that my aunt Thelma was getting ready and Charles was waiting on the front porch.  Charles stood close to 6 feet tall and my grandfather was short, maybe 5 ½ feet tall.  Charles lit up a cigarette while waiting.  My grandfather thought it was a most vile and disgusting habit and began waiving his finger in Charles’ face, demanding to know why he smoked.  At some point, my grandfather must have paused to get a breath and Charles cut him off and pointed to granddad’s front yard and said, “Why do you grow it?  If people do not buy it and smoke it, you do not get money.”

I reckon no one ever stood up to my grandfather like that and made him stop and think.  After a few moments, my grandfather looked at Charles and said, “If I stop growing it, will you stop smoking it.”  That was the last year my grandfather grew tobacco, he switched to peanuts.  As for Uncle Charles, he also quit smoking.

My advice.  Look for, learn, and write down the stories you find about ancestors and their collateral families and write them down in a fun and interesting way for your grandchildren to learn them

Keep hunting those elusive ancestors and their stories!




Blog 2022 02 22 2022 Tenacious Research for accuracy

How tenacious are you as a researcher in ensuring your research is accurate?  So often, bad information just gets perpetuate again and again and again.

Take for instance, the trees show a Jonathan Pearman Weldon.  Only one problem, Jonathan had a brother named Pearman A.K.A. Perman, but no middle name of Pearman.  It seems that several of the “researchers” crossed records of his brother with him and thus determining his middle name.  So let’s break it down for you.

In 1850, 29-year-old John Weldon is residing in Franklin County, Georgia just down from his brother Welburn Weldon. [i] This family consisted of John age 29, Amy age 30, Jemima age 7, William age 5, George w. age 2, and James age 1.

In 1870, the family is one county over in Hart County, Georgia, once again where his brother Welborn lives.  So where is he in 1860? [ii]

In 1860, their brother, Pearman (A.K.A. Perman, Pierman) is living in Sumter County and far too many people have attributed this census to John or Jonathan and thus adding a middle name that does not belong to him. [iii]

How do we know?  Simple.  While John’s family appears to have eluded the 1860 census, we find Perman’s family enumerated time and time again once the family left the Hart County area and moved south overlapping the same time frames as John’s.

These are two different people and John does not and did not have the middle name of Perman.  As a matter of fact, we find him listed in the 1900 U. S. Census as Jonathan H. Weldon [iv]

I’ve already written about some people changing my 4th great grandfather’s name from James Thomas to James R. Thomas simply because the 1830 U. S. Census lists James R. Thomas as the head of household.  That is correct, his son James R. was the head and not the 70 year old father.

Please, be tenacious that you a) are accurate in your reporting and b) not perpetuating bad information.

[i] 1850 U. S. Census, Franklin County, Georgia, population schedule, district 30, dwelling and family 555, household of John Weldon, ( : accessed XXX), citing NARA publication M432, roll 70.

[ii] 1870 U. S. Census, Hart County, Georgia, population schedule, Reed Creek District, p. 120, dwelling 911, family 891, household of Johnathan Weldon, ( : accessed XXX), citing NARA publication M593, roll 157.

[iii] 1860 U. S. Census, Sumter County, Georgial, population schedule, Americus Post Office, Districts 16 and 26, dwelling 186, family 189, hld Pearman Weldon,, ( accessed xxx), citing NARA publication M653, roll 136.

[iv] 1900 U. S. Census, Hart County, Georgia, population schedule, Bowersville, District 1116 Hall, supervisor’s district 38, enumeration district 50, dwelling 165, family 166, household of Jonathan Weldon, , ( : accessed XXX), citing NARA publication M623, roll 204.

Blog 2022 02 06 2022 Understanding Wills

Many researchers hunt high and low for a will believing it will answer all of their questions and find themselves disappointed.  Before we begin, remember, the overwhelming number of wills written prior to 1900 were done by men.  So this blog will be slanted toward those wills.  However, if the widow had property that was hers in her own right, then you may find her wills as well.

Let’s start with the fact that the vast majority of deaths of a parent, particularly a father were intestate.  Intestate means, without a valid will.  The cause for this varies greatly.  Whether it is because they died suddenly without any warning or they died owning nothing of real value, no will was written.  Additionally, there are all the courthouse disasters causing the loss of records.

So what do we look for when a will does not exist?  We look to see if there was sufficient property, real and personal, worthy of probate and an administrator being appointed.  This is particularly true if minor children or an adult child were needing special care existed and the courts or the family wanted to make sure they were taken care of.  So look for letters of administration or twelve-month support.

If a will does exist, will it answer all of your questions?  Probably not.  Many men listed only the names of their minor children and may or may not appoint a grown son to act as executor or co-executor.  I recently read one that leads me to believe he had a daughter with special needs because he set up the equivalent of a trust for her lifetime care and comfort.

You might also find wills where the married daughters are not listed with their married names or husbands’ names listed.  This, along with calling a daughter by their nickname, make it difficult to further track them.  I recently worked a case like this where the youngest daughter is only referred to as, Polly.  If she was really Mary Ann, then she was married but the will does not help make that connection and no known document has been located to prove that Polly and Mary Ann are the same person.

Another mistake I find quite common is when there is language in the will that gives a hint that his wife at the time of his death was not the only wife he had and may not be the biological mother to all of his children.  Yet, researchers often make that mistake, and thus his second wife would have been 9 years old when giving birth to the first child.  By the same token, do not assume that just because the name of his wife in the will is different than what you find on other legal documents that it indicates a second wife.  It could be something as simple as he refers to his by a nickname or his pet name for her and the legal documents use her legal name.  Everyone on this planet knows my sister by the name of Beth.  But that is not her true name, it is a nickname for her middle name.  Instead of going by her first name, she has made her legal name, D. Elizabeth.

The last thing I want to point out about wills is, to look for the date it was proved.  That means, it was brought into the courthouse, after the testator died, and presented to the court to be legally entered.  While in rare cases, wills were previously filed, if more than one can be found, it is the one just in front of the file being “proven.”  If there is a huge difference between the date the will was signed and when it was proven, they most likely died closer to the date proven.

One last piece of advice, do not get your hopes up too high on finding a will to resolve all of your questions.

Blog 2022 01 30 2022 Mortality Schedules

Did you know the U. S. Census created a Mortality Schedule in 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and some states did it in 1885?  These can be a valuable find if your ancestor died within the time period the schedule included.  Additionally, some tie directly back to the population schedule.

However, many people do not read them correctly.  So let’s take a look at each one.

For every year, you can search to find the instructions the enumerator was to follow.  Most of the time, they did but occasionally, you might find where an enumerator either misunderstood or chose to ignore them.  This is the set of instructions from the 1880 U. S. Census for completing the Mortality Schedule.

Most importantly we need to know the dates of the schedule.  In most cases, it is the year ending on 31 May which means, you go back one year to the same date and anyone who died between that date and 31 May of the census year is counted.  In other words, anyone who died between 1 June 1849 and 31 May 1850 is to be included.  You must look at the month the person died to determine what year to apply and this is one of the most common mistakes people make with mortality (and other) schedules.

Below is a couple of excerpts from the 1850 U. S. Census Mortality Schedule and Population Schedule from Barnwell District, North Carolina. [i] As stated, we see in the heading, “Persons who Died during the Year ending 1st June, 1850.”  Emphasis added.  So these people may have died between 1 June 1849 and 31 May 1850.  We see many here whose color is listed as ‘B’ for Black but no indication of whether they were enslaved at the time or not and no last names in this example.  Unfortunately, the enumerator was not instructed to make any distinction pertaining to their status.  We see on line three, a 39-year-old lady named Likey, who was born in North Carolina but died of pneumonia, who had been a cook, and was sick for 21 days.  Without additional information, it might be difficult to determine more about her and her family but there are some places to look.  Tax records often record the names and ages of enslaved people by the owner and might give insight.  Many wills and estate packets list the names and ages of enslaved people and occasionally, their occupations.  Don’t give up, keep looking.

We also see a 34-year-old Margaret Kemp who worked as a laborer. It would be worth looking at the 1840 census for a Kemp family in Barnwell District to see if a family can be found that she would fit.

Below, on lines 2 and 3 we see a possible family from page 64.  Once again, William Edenfield is 45 when he died in March 1850.  We would expect to find a man named William in the 30 – 39 age category, instead, the schedule shows him being 40 – 49.  A good researcher will not reject these as being the same man, we understand that censuses are notoriously inaccurate.  If 11-year-old Charles is William’s son, he could be one of the 4 boys under five recorded in 1840 as shown below.  Since the schedule’s year ended 1 June 1850, then Charles died in July of 1849.  This is a common mistake people make, same as Louisa Frader, she died in August of 1849, not 1850.

1840 U. S. Census for Barnwell District. [ii]

We have taken a look at one method to know which families these souls belonged to, there are several others.  Unless the surname is unique or there is some other indication, you simply do not know for sure.  You will have to research other records to see the best options.



Let’s take a look at the 1860 Mortality Schedule. [iii] We see here in Pierce County, Georgia that a white, male, 71 years old who was born in South Carolina died of Typhoid.

We know he was white because this particular enumerator only identified Black and Mulatto people.  Furthermore, we see he was married at the time of his death so we should find a widow.  I have included both 48-year-old Joseph and 12-year-old Rhoda Ann because Lewis was my 3rd great grandfather, Joseph was his son and Rhoda Ann was Joseph’s daughter.  There was an apparent Typhoid epidemic that year.  Lewis died in January so that would be 1860 but both Joseph and Rhoda Ann died in 1859.  Note that there is no indication as to what militia district any of the deceased lived in when they died.

If we look at the 1860 population schedule in militia district 1181, dwelling 159, family 163, the schedule shows a 65-year-old Elizabeth Thomas living, her son and daughter-in-law and their family there as well.  Since she is listed as head of household, it appears to be her place.


What about 1870? [iv] Indiana, like many of the other states, has a consolidated mortality schedule at the state level but is divided by county.  Here is the first time we see a direct correlation between the mortality and population schedules.  First, we see this page covers Charlestown, Clark County, in Indiana.

Note that Robert Sikes, age 14 belonged to family # 18.  When we look at the Charlestown portion of the population schedule, we see at the top, the house of Thomas Sikes in family 18.

You may see that there is also a daughter named Martha who is 14, she could be a twin but this would require more research.  However, it is easier to tie the deceased to a specific household, not necessarily a family.  If there is more than one enumeration district, you may need to look through all pages with a family with dwelling and family # 18.  There is no indication of exactly how the deceased is related to the family.  The only hints we might find is when the deceased was married then we would expect to find a widow or widower.


The last U. S. Mortality Schedule was in 1880 and it is even easier to tie to the household. [v] The Supervisor and Enumeration Districts are in the header.

So we see here on the 4th line an entry for Harry Hargis and little Harry belongs to family # 119 in Supervisor District 1, Enumeration District #123.  When we look at the population schedule we can see the Hargis family.

Are you beginning to see the valuable information you may find within the mortality schedules?  Of course, this is only helpful if your ancestor died within the time specified for that schedule.

To see what states had mortality schedules download this pdf from the census bureau.

There are many other schedules the government made while doing the census and you may want to look closely at each of them.

[i] 1850 U. S. Census, Barnwell District, South Carolina, Mortality Schedule, page 60 (inked), image, ( accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication T 655, roll 7.

[ii] 1840 U. S. Census, Barnwell District, South Carolina, Population Schedule, page 191 (stamped), image, ( accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication M704, roll 508.

[iii] 1860 U. S. Census, Pierce County, Georgia, Mortality Schedule, page 551 (inked), ), image, ( accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication T 655, roll 8.

[iv] 1870 U. S. Census, Clark County, Indiana, Mortality Schedule, page 136, image, ( accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication, T655.

[v] 1880 U. S. Census, Cook County, Illionois, Mortality Schedule, Supervisor’s District 1, Enumerator’s District 123, page 1 (inked), image, ( accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication, T655.

Blog 2022 01 23 2022 Those pesky middle initials

Do you determine your connections based on an initial?  Do you exclude people who may be your connection simply because they do not have the correct initial, some other initial, or no initial at all?  Do you know when the average person in America started having middle names or initials?  We will take a look at a couple of scenarios to help you determine when to rely on them and when to consider ignoring them.

In colonial America, middle names were almost exclusively used by only those with royal titles.  The average colonist did not have middle names and you typically do not start seeing them until after 1781.  Even then, that initial may change a half dozen times.  You may often see someone start using their middle name and either drop a middle initial or make a middle initial from their first name.  You simply cannot trust it, you must use it as a simple clue like everything else.

Have you ever seen where middle initials mysteriously appeared and wondered where it came from?  Sometimes, it can be quite simple, especially with the illiterate ancestors.  Over time, they learned to make an initial of either their first or last name and began putting that instead of an ‘X’ or ‘+.’

John X Doe
John J Doe

Gets transcribed into John J. Doe.  And voilā, mystery resolved. Everyone thinks he had the middle initial of ‘J.’

So how did a literate man suddenly get an initial?  The answer I believe is quite simple if someone stops to think about it and apply logic along with some simple detective work.

Take the case of a prominent, literate man, Courtney Norman (Circa 1718?? – 1770).  Throughout his entire life, he signed his name to numerous legal, land, and other documents.  For example, he clearly signed Courtney Norman on a tract of land he sold to a man named Henry Stringfellow. [i] Then why do researchers put Courtney C. Norman?  I believe it all stems from his will, where it looks like it is signed Courtney C. Norman. [ii]

However, if he signed Courtney C. Norman, then why did someone add, “his mark?”  If he did not sign his name, then why not?  The answer I think is given in the will.  We are uncertain on exactly when Courtney was born and 1718 is a logical guess.  In today’s day, 52 years old is not considered old, but Courtney wrote, “being sick in Body.”  The ‘C’ may have been all he was able to write.

We as family researchers must take great care not to attribute information to an ancestor that does not belong and do not assume what someone else wrote is correct simply because it looks good.

[i] Culpeper County, Virginia, Deed Book B, pages 440, Clerk of the Court, Culpeper, Culpeper County, Virginia, (www.FamilySearch.og: 19 December 2021).

[ii] Culpeper County, Virginia, Will Book B, Page 238, Division of Courtney Norman Estate, Clerk of the Court, Culpeper, Culpeper County, Virginia, ( accessed 19 December 2021).

Blog 2022 01 16 2022 Trusting Others Research

Have you ever wondered whether someone else’s research is truly accurate?  Were they being thorough or just trying to tie in one or two lines?  Might there have been an ulterior motive resulting in slanted research?  For example, did a couple only have grandchildren from one of their nine children who lived to adulthood?

While this is possible it is not common and may require deeper research.  I know I have discussed this before but I see more and more online trees simply copying bad research into their own trees and this is not a good practice.

I am now working on my third case of determining legal ownership of land which lacks a clear title.  In order to do this, I must track down every living descendant of a daughter who died around 1899.  The land has been passed down from generation to generation without a will or legal transfer.  However, the only trees I can find relate to the line which stayed on or near the land.  They might have little interest in finding other legal heirs to share whatever money they will get for selling the land.

Some other reasons why people may deliberately exclude a branch could be some family split such as a change in their religious denomination, criminal record, opposing side of hot issues like military draft, slave ownership, etc.  The list could go on.

My point goes back to a disclaimer I have stated many times, “History IS what History WAS.”  Whatever our ancestors did in the past should not be a reason to exclude them from our trees.  If we are truly interested in researching our family history then we should be all-inclusive for the best accuracy and understanding.