23 June 2014

#25-52ancestors; Bad Girls

Bad Girls Baffle Researcher

• Priscilla (Bankston) Mathews (ca 1786-1860)
• Sarah (Pierson) Hixson (ca 1813-after 1859)

It must be a head-strong, stubborn or willful gene that runs rampant in my family's DNA because it is rife with naughty daughters who did (or didn't do) things that so displeased their parents, they were cut out of their wills. The reasons are not always spelled out, leaving me to wonder what happened.

For example, on 11 September 1838, Lawrence Bankston of Wilkes County, Georgia, made an alteration to his last will and testament (dated 10 April 1834) “for good reasons.”  [Had only he bothered to explain!]

“Whereas I did convey in said will to my daughter Priscilla Mathews an equal share with other three daughters, which said gift I do hereby absolutely and entirely revoke and instead thereof I do hereby of my good will place my said daughter’s full share as given in my said former will into the possession of my grandsons Griffin Mathews and Isaac Moore for them or either of them to act as agent or trustee [for] daughter aforesaid for her sole benefit during her life and at her death to descend or go to and belong to the heirs of her body.” 

Bankston had four daughters who were married and living at the time. He mentions two beloved sons-in-law — Isaiah T. Irvin and Caleb Sappington — but he does not mention Priscilla’s husband (William Matthews/Mathis) or daughter Elizabeth’s husband (Samuel G. Mosley), which leaves room for lots of speculation. Both of these daughters had moved away from Wilkes County, but that seems unlikely to be the reason for him to have made this codicil. Moreover, he penalizes only Priscilla.

What is most curious is the two named "grandsons" who were to act as agents or trustees for Priscilla (Bankston) Mathews. Griffin Mathews, the eldest son of Priscilla and her husband William Mathews, was born about 1809, so was an adult when his grandfather died in 1844. However, Isaac Moore was not a grandson by blood, but rather the husband of a granddaughter, Sarah Ann Mathews (another child of Priscilla and William Mathews). Sarah Ann was born about 1814.

Why did Lawrence Bankston pick those two to handle the inheritance of his daughter Priscilla? Curiosity is forcing me to go back to the records of that Georgia county and find out what happened to Priscilla's share of her inheritance.

Then there was Sarah (Pierson) Hixson, daughter of Isaac Pierson. In his 1859 will in Preble County, Ohio, Isaac said, “I will and bequeath to my daughter, Sarah and her children 30 acres of land off of the north side of my farm that I now own in Twin Township [Preble County]  . . .”

But in a later modification, he instructs his executor to give to his daughters, Rebecca, Mary, and Sarah, $25 to make them equal with what he had given their only brother. And, he adds “that Sarah is not to have any more after she gets what I have given to her  —  the 30 acres of land and the $25 she is to have from my estate. And she is not to have any more, the balance is to be divided among my other children and their heirs.” 

Sarah is not found with her husband (William Hixson Sr.) and their seven children in the 1850 census and so far I have not found her in 1860 or later enumerations. So that makes me wonder. Oh, Sarah, what on earth did you do to make your Papa so unhappy with you and where did you disappear to and why? Are you hiding in plain sight right under my nose or am I barking up the wrong tree?

#24--52 ancestors: Disappearing Act

#24-52ancestors; Disappearing Act

John Vanderpool (1794-ca1840)

I found him! Genealogists recognize that shriek. You hear it now and then at libraries and archives. However, I was alone in the dawn’s silvery streaks of light when I found him, with only my computer’s blinking cursor to acknowledge my cry of joy.

He evaded me for years, and it took technology and the wonders of the Web to track him down. Somewhere between 1835 and 1840 he disappeared. He being John, the older brother of my ancestor, William Vanderpool. John was the administrator of his father’s estate in Marion County, Indiana, and court records revealed some legal disagreements with a brother-in-law in 1835. John was also appointed guardian of his younger sister, Mary – an idiot (that’s a legal term rather than a sibling’s slur). Then John and his wife, Susannah, and their children disappear – vanish from the face of the earth. Or so it seemed.

Unable to find John and his family in 1840 or later censuses or in any Marion County, Indiana records after 1835, I finally stumbled upon his younger children in Missouri in the 1850 census – living with their older brother. So where was this family during this 15-year span?  What happened to John and Susannah? The trail was an icy-cold; I soon exhausted the few clues I had, including a search for Bounty Land Warrants (BLW). John served in the War of 1812, and under an 1842 act he could have chosen land in areas other than Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois. However the search for a BLW was negative, and I came to one of those dead-ends that most family historians encounter at various stages of research. I put the hunt for John and Susannah on hold and worked on other problems. In genealogy, you never run out of problems to solve. At least I never have.

American land records are invaluable for tracing roaming, restless ancestors across the vast expanse of this huge country. I was well aware of these records, having solved a few genealogical problems with them before. However, without a clue to which county, even which state, John and Susannah might have removed to after they left Marion County, Indiana, there was not much hope of finding him -- not easily or quickly in any case.

The Bureau of Land Management -– Eastern Division established a website in 1998 where records may be searched online for the states whose records it hold. One early morning I decided to explore the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Home Page http://www.glorecrds.blm.gov/ -- and that is where I found him. In January of 1837 he purchased 80 acres of land in Shelby County, Illinois (for the princely sum of $1.25 an acre). A search in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri land patents at this website had turned up several John Vanderpools. However, armed with the narrow time frame I had, I was able to sift out unlikely candidates and turn my focus on the records of Shelby County, Illinois.

On 13 October 1838, John and Susannah sold this property and disappeared again. At least I've narrowed my search from 15 years to 12. Is that progress or what?

10 June 2014

#23 Surprise in the Old Will (James Putman)


The Surprise in the Old Will
James Putman (1743-1811)

Beginning genealogists are often warned to be prepared because you never know what you will find when you start probing in the past. Not all of our ancestors were perfect. Of course, they don’t listen. I didn’t. In fact, finding a number of family skeletons early-on in my digging only whetted my appetite to know more and the “real” story of my ancestors.

My paternal side is mostly Dutch, French and German, winding back to 17th century in this country and to early settlements in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. However, my mother’s ancestors (mine too, of course) are something else.

They all arrived years before the Revolutionary War with a mix of ethnicities — Swiss, Scots-Irish, Irish, French, Swedish, Scottish, Welsh, more Germans, and a purported English line or two. Most of them came through Virginia or the Carolinas and eventually headed west and kept on going.

A big surprise has been the diversity of occupations and economic levels among them — some were dirt poor, while others were well-fixed. They participated in all of America’s wars, some whole-heartedly and some were drafted. During the War Between the States, some fought for the Union, others were Confederates, some traded sides back and forth and a few headed to the Far West to escape it all. But the most difficult thing for me to deal with has been the discovery that a number of them were slave owners.

I’ve read my share of wills, probate records and inventories and spent plenty of time trying to figure out the name of some old implement or piece of furniture. While this information can be interesting and historically educational, usually the main reason for a search in these records is to ascertain genealogical relationships and to “prove” that your ancestor is the son or daughter of a certain person.

Recently a cousin sent me a note about a South Carolina will that named our common ancestor — Elizabeth (who was called Betsy). Another unknown cousin had found the information and posted it online. Our Elizabeth “Betsy” Putman married Hezekiah Ray about 1802 probably in Union County, South Carolina. They had four or five children before she died about 1811. Hezekiah soon remarried (see my earlier blog about Mean Patsy) and removed to Tennessee. According to this will, Betsy’s father was James Putman. Thanks to Bill Putman for finding this will and sharing it.

Will of James Putman of Union County, South Carolina
(Recorded and probated 6 January 1812; citing Will Book A, p. 269)

. . . to my beloved wife Joice, the Negro Lucy, a list of items . . . the land and plantation to be rented, all that is not rented to Ralph Jackson, to my son Amos Putman my Negro child Jerey that now sucks his mother, to my son Joseph Putman thirty dollars, to Hesekiah [sic] Ray's children had by his wife Betsy my daughter thirty dollars to be equally divided when they come of age, to my 3 grandchildren Bazel Putman, Jensey Putman and Zadock Putman ten dollars each when they are capable of taking care of it. My children William, Jesse, James, Jabel, Amos, Daniel Putman, daughter Nancy Lawson fifty dollars each. After the death of my wife, what she leaves of the Negroes and other property to be sold and equally divided amongst my children.
My sons William and Jabel Putman to be executors.
Dated: 11 December 1811

Well, there goes my summer of leisure. Research at the library calls loudly. The other day on Facebook I saw someone announce they had finished their family tree. I’ve been researching more than four decades, and with this new discovery that supposedly goes way back in England, I may be digging another 40 years, so pardon me if I LOL.

03 June 2014

#22-52ancestors: Jane Does

Jane Does (sort of)

Jane (Weibling) Vanderpool
Elizabeth Jane (Peacock) Connally

There are not many ancestors named Jane adorning my family tree. In fact, they are scarce as hen’s teeth as my granny use to say — one of her many Southern sayings that use to send me into fits of girlish giggling. I grew up on a farm and we raised chickens. I knew that hens did not have teeth. In fact, granny and grandpa didn’t have any either — teeth that is, but that’s another story.

At the most I have five Janes in my direct line. However, two of them are without any documentation — just the notoriously unreliable “family legend” and a third might just be a figment of someone’s imagination or because an earlier family genealogist became bored with all of the Marys, Elizabeths, Nancys, and Susannahs and decided to pull a “Gustave Anjou”
 (http://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Fraudulent_Genealogies )
and spice up our tree with a “Mary Jane.”

Both of my provable Janes died young, which might be the reason I decided to write about them. One was probably in her early- to mid-30s when she died and the other was only 22. One was of Dutch or German origins (probably). Jane (Jannetje) Weibling married into my Dutch Vanderpool family in New Jersey or New York about 1733. The last written record I have of her is the 1741 baptism record of her daughter, Sara Vanderpool, in the Dutch Reformed Church in Smithfield, Pennsylvania.

From that area the family — at least my line — soon removed to wilds of Virginia and eventually to North Carolina by 1757. Records of Jane’s husband, Abraham Vanderpool, have been found in those localities, but nothing about Jane has been uncovered. Evidently she died between 1741 and about 1745 and her husband then remarried and had additional children by his second wife. What is sad (for me, the genealogist) is I have no clues to the names of Jane’s parents or any siblings, her ethnicity or when and where she met my Vanderpool ancestor. She is mentioned only three times  — in Dutch Reformed Church records, as the mother of three daughters, one of whom died at 16 months of age.

Didn’t Jane Weibling have any family in New Jersey or New York in the early 1700s? Or did their surname become so transformed or mangled along the way that I’ve been unable to figure it out or identify them? Hang on, Jane Weibling, I’m still looking for you. I have not given up.

The other story granny use to tell me which would make me giggle was one to remind me to be proud because I was a Peacock — a descendant of the Peacocks of Atlanta, in fact. Well, that didn’t mean much to me as a kid on a farm in Oklahoma. Even years later when I began to explore my ancestry seriously, my tendency was to brush aside the fancy family legends about any rich or illustrious lines and try to focus on the facts. I mean untangling our family legends and tall tales told by an uncle who never let any facts get in the way of a good yarn was a full-time job for many years.

However, you should listen to your granny, especially is she is as smart as mine. My granny knew what she was talking about — her mother-in-law — Elizabeth (Connally) Frick, a widow, lived with her son and his wife (my granny) for many years. Elizabeth was a descendant of Louis Peacock, an early Atlanta-area pioneer. The details about the Peacock-Connally-Fricks connections I did not learn overnight, or by clicking on an online tree, or figure it all out in a weekend, but eventually I discovered that my great-granny was the only child of Elizabeth Jane (called Jane) Peacock who married “Big Charles” Connally at the tender age of 15 — much younger than my other female ancestors. In 1849, my great-granny was born in Atlanta — and her mother — Elizabeth Jane (Peacock) Connally died in early 1852 at the tender age of 22 — the mother of only one known child.

I have no pictures of Elizabeth Jane Peacock (1830-1852) or of her husband, Charles William “Big Charles” Connally (1817-1886), but fate smiled on me and a double cousin shared with me some pictures of her ancestors — Thomas Whipple Connally (1809-1884) and Temperance Arnold Peacock (1818-1896). Thomas Whipple Connally is an older brother of my “Big Charles” and Temperance is an older sister of my Elizabeth Jane Peacock.

Thomas Whipple Connally (1809-1884) and his wife, Temperance Arnold Peacock (1818-1896).
Picture was taken about 1850 in or near Atlanta, Georgia.

Thank goodness for generous cousins who care and share.