Genealogy #8: Overlooked Sources, part 2

Overlooked Sources, part 2

This is a continuation of a posting about considering sources you might not ordinarily think of when starting your genealogy journey.

2. Family Sources
Another excellent source is a compilation of family stories or books on the family.
Before you decide your family does not have any such items, make sure you search thoroughly.
Often, books or stories were published without certain branches or generations being aware of it.

A great place to check are libraries in the hometowns of your ancestors.
If anything is published, it is often customary for a copy to be presented to the local library.

Also check with far-flung or shirt-tail relatives (so-called because you are related to them distantly, if at all).
They may know or be in possession of items that you did not know existed.

For example, I have several wonderful family memories recorded by family on my mother’s side, but I was sure nothing existed on my father’s side.
But when I visited the library in Curtis, Nebraska, I found that short biographies had been compiled by family members of original pioneers in the area, and published in a single book.
That book not only included a passage on my great-great-grandfather, but also one on his in-laws, my great-great-great-grandparents!

Now, experienced genealogists will tell you that these types of sources are dangerous: memories can be faulty, and often the stories are not only second-hand, but are never properly documented in the first place, leaving them riddled with errors.
But I still maintain, as in a previous series of posts (Family Clues), that even incorrect information can have enough correct bits to put you on the right trail to finding the truth.

When contacting relatives, don’t forget to ask about pictures!
I had never seen a picture of my great-grandparents on the Jones side until I was given one by my uncle.
I did not even know he had it!

I have a couple of pictures of my great-great-grandmother on my mother’s side, but I found another picture that was posted by a distant cousin.
Not just another picture, in this one she is smiling: it is now my favorite picture of her!

One of my dad’s cousins had several pictures of my grandfather, his siblings, and parents.
My dad only had one picture of his father, and that was near the time of his death.
As I never knew my grandfather (he died weeks before I was born) any picture at all is worth a great deal.

More to come in Overlooked Sources, part 3.

Genealogy #8: Overlooked Sources, part 1

Overlooked Sources, part 1

Chances are, if you’ve spent much time researching your genealogy at all, you’ve already found which sources are your favorites.
Many of these highlighted in previous posts include such items as census lists, military records, and utilizing on-line sites like and
These are still all excellent sources, of course, but if you don’t find what you are looking for (or even if you do) you may choose to continue your search in other ways.

There are many, many different sources out there, in fact so many that I really could not hope to list them all and still make this post available to you this year!
In all honesty, brand-new genealogists are better at this than dyed-in-the-wool old hands, because as I stated before, we genealogists tend to choose our favorite sources early on…and then we forget to continue foraging for further information, later.
Thus, this is just a sampling of sources that I hope will help you think more creatively when trying to track down information that remains elusive.

1. Census Indexes.
Along with census lists, often there were census indexes printed that listed only the head of household.
While you would still then need to track down the original source to see who else lived in the household, this source is particularly useful when you don’t know much about the family.

For example, I was searching for the father of Sarah Caleb Doyle, born in Kentucky 1805. (This was literally all I knew).
So, I first went to the 1810 Kentucky Census Index, and wrote down all the Doyle families in Kentucky that year, along with their home counties. (There weren’t that many in 1810).
Then…I crosschecked to see who had a daughter that fell into the right age grouping.
This was tougher, as little Sarah might have been 5 or 6 when the census was taken, depending on when her (unknown) birthday fell.

But as it happened, only one family had a female of that age grouping: Farmer Doyle, in Shelby County.
I was excited to find this, but I knew this was only circumstantial evidence.

Still, it was a lead!

So, months and months later during subsequent research, I discovered my Doyle Family was from Shelbyville, Kentucky!
Rushing back to my notes, I found Shelbyville is indeed in Shelby County.
Now I definitely keep census indexes in the forefront of my research…they can be very helpful!

More to come in Overlooked Sources, part 2.

Genealogy #7: Don’t Give Up! part 3

Don’t Give Up! part 3

So the first two parts of Genealogy #7 dealt with those ancestors of mine who I felt certain were patriots, but couldn’t prove it, or are documented patriots, but I ran into insurmountable brick walls when trying to prove my direct lineage from them (at least…so far).

This last part addresses what happened when I finally had a break-through.

One of my family lines went back to 1850s Maine, but there it stopped.
I had tried unsucessfully for years to find more information on this family, mainly because of two important details.
I did not know the name of the father of my ancestor, who unhelpfully died before the first census naming my ancestor was taken.
The family name I was researching: Jones.

Now, Jones is not the most common surname in the U.S., but it is very common, particularly where I was looking in Maine.
After searching for my ancestor (whose name I did have: Lewis Jones) through census lists for a long time, a friendly genealogist at last found him for me: living with his widowed mother and brother in Illinois!

So now I had his mother’s name (Sarah), but no father’s name.
After checking through multiple Maine marriage sites, I finally found Sarah married to Cyrus Jones, in Old Town, Maine (where Lewis, and it turns out, Sarah, were born).
Sometime after that, I located Sarah and Cyrus, living with their first son, George, (who died before the 1860 census, along with his father).


I was very excited to have located one more proven generation back in my Jones line, and was content.
But then in February, about 8 months after I had located this information, I thought that I would put Cyrus Jones’s name into the descendency search program on the Daughters of the American Revolution.
I knew Cyrus was much too young to be a patriot, but maybe he came from a patriot family?
Well, as it turned out, he wasn’t listed.

But his father, Cyrus Jones, Sr. was!

And just like that, the shadows fell away, and I was suddenly looking at the descendency chart of one Elijah Jones, patriot.
MY patriot.
In my JONES line.
Who knew?

And the outcome of this particular story, more than any other I may share with you, is why you don’t give up.

Genealogy #7: Don’t Give Up! part 2

Don’t Give Up! part 2

Continuing in my search for American Revolution Patriots, I next turned to my dad’s side.

The two most promising candidates in this case are Stephen Randall and John Scarborough.
As with the two on my mother’s side, Randall is a proven, established Patriot through DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution).

But John Scarborough is a different sort. He was in the right place at the right time, and there are books that state that he aided the Revolution in the form of contributing supplies, but where is the proof?
It is difficult to prove someone did or did not contribute in this manner.
But, I thought I would try.

Tom Boyd, a strong genealogist who was from my branch of Scarboroughs, had done extensive research on the family.
He had left no stone unturned in his pursuit of data on our Scarboroughs, to the point that if he stated something was true, then he had found the evidence to back that statement up.
Unfortunately, Tom did not offer his list of sources along with his fact-filled material, and now he has passed on.
This means that although we have his information to show us the way, we must painstaking prove each step that he had already proven.

I went to the DAR library this past summer (2011), and I was just dumbfounded at the sheer size of it.
I spent hours going over books and looking for data in many different forms, and at the end, well…I could not prove or disprove the patriotism Tom attributed to John Scarborough.
You see, you don’t have to have an ancestor with military experience.
So long as they contributed to the rebel efforts against the crown, that is considered patriotic!
So, it was very disappointing to fail to find the same information Tom Boyd did.

But I hope to find it, yet.

With Stephen Randall, my difficulty in proving linkage comes through failing to connect him to my ancestor, Anna Randall, his daughter.
The reason here is circumstantial: Stephen died in 1801, and Anna was born in 1802.
An impressive, yet annoying number of genealogists have pointed to these facts as evidence Stephen could not be Anna’s father.
It is annoying, because posthumous births have occurred throughout human history. To say they don’t exist is disingenuous.
But here’s my problem: Stephen’s probate does not mention Anna (because she wasn’t born yet) and when Anna married, her marriage information does not disclose parents, because Anna’s mother, Cinthia, had passed away by this time, as well.
Anna herself died in 1872, Illinois, and there were no obituaries at that time, nor death certificates.
So linking her to her own parents has proven impossible. So far.

As another genealogist pointed out, new information is being released all the time…we never know what we will discover tomorrow!

Genealogy #7: Don’t Give Up! part 1

Don’t Give Up! part 1

I had always been intrigued by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
They were greatly admired by my beloved grandfather, and then there was the huge historical connection.
I knew my family had been in America a long, long time, so I felt certain there must be a patriot in the family on one side or the other….

The next three posts (including this one) are about that search with trials and tribulations to find just one provable patriot, and the (possibly) insurmountable problems that surfaced.

I began with my mother’s side, as I knew the most about her ancestors.
My grandfather’s family is Holland Dutch (he arrived in the US in the ’30s), so I just concentrated on my grandma’s side.
After checking out lines that had potential (people in the right place at the right time) I found two individuals who were confirmed patriots that were supposed to be in my family line.

Now, what I mean by “supposed to be” is this: after doing research in a number of places on the internet, the popular opinion seems to be that these two men are in my family.
However, popular opinion isn’t the same as established fact!
If I were going to claim these men as ancestors, I would need to prove my conection.
Alas, this was the tough part.

The two men in question were Henry Yeary and Isaac Holeman, one each from both my grandma’s parents.
I had determined their patriotic standing through the DAR books at our local library.

But linking up would be harder, and for very different reasons.

In Henry Yeary’s case, I am able to prove my link to his son-in-law, but not his daughter.
I have been looking and looking, and I cannot find proof of marriage between Mary Polly Yeary and Abner Hatfield.
This situation is complicated by the fact that Henry Yeary had a sister by the same name.
But I hope one day to establish this connection.

In Isaac Holeman’s case, the situation is much more bizarre.
His daughter, Patience Holeman, married James Dean.
But I cannot prove a link to them through my ancestor, Nancy J. Dean, who is purportedly their daughter.
Perhaps the most perplexing is that Nancy is not mentioned in James Dean’s probate.

But she was born in Jessamine County, Kentucky, where the only Deans were James and Patience.
So if they aren’t her parents, who could be?
I hope to sort this out for good, someday.

Genealogy #6: Family Clues, part 3

Family Clues, part 3

It is exceedingly helpful to have all the details you can muster with you as you continue your research.
Especially when doing On-the-Road research, the more details you have, the better off you’ll be.

One specific example of where not having enough details can trip you up: multiple marriages.

I have matriarchs on both sides of my family who married four times!
In one instance, my ancestry was derived from the first marriage; but in the other, I am descended from the third marriage.
Knowing the details of all the marriages helps when trying to find graves, obituaries, probate and will information, all kinds of stuff.

Another example of requiring details comes from when I was looking for the grave of my great-grandmother’s brother.

Since I was a little girl, my grandmother, at my urging, would pull out the old, worn bronze medallion with a gold star and tell me the story again: how her grandmother was what was called a Gold Star Mother, because her son had died in World War I; how he actually had survived the war, and was on the train to travel to the coast and return to America; how he had already contracted the flu, and so was pulled off the train, and he died over there, in France; how my grandmother’s grandmother had traveled with other gold star mothers to visit the graves of their sons; and how years later my grandmother had received the commemorative medallion from her grandmother, who had kept it in memory of her trip to France.

Many years later my own grandmother gave me the medallion as her grandmother had given it to her, since she knew I loved the story behind it, and I was so interested in family history.

A few more years after that, I was traveling through Europe and wanted to find my great-grandmother’s brother (Lester Charles’) grave.
Knowing all the facts of how and when he had died made all the difference when trying to locate his actual marker.

As for the story of the search and how that ended…I’ll save that for another day. 😉

Genealogy #6: Family Clues, part 2

Family Clues, part 2

All those family stories that either aren’t true or just don’t make sense?
Make sure you give plenty of credence and time to each one…even an obviously false one may have some bits of truth to it.

This is the third example from my own family legends.

#3: “My grandfather was killed in a drive-by shooting by the Ku Klux Klan.”

Now, this one, as you no doubt can imagine, was a real doozy.
I was talking to my great-grandfather’s sister, who was describing what had happened to her mother’s father, Oliver Stanley.
The family knowledge that we had simply stated that Oliver had died…no tragedy, no murder, just…died.
But this was the kind of story I just could not let alone.
This particular event in 1885 was supposed to have taken place in North-Eastern Oregon.
Lots of Indians around at that time, but the Klan? I had serious doubts.
And a drive-by shooting? This wasn’t Los Angeles we were talking about…and cars wouldn’t be invented for some time.

So I checked into it.

I couldn’t believe what I found.

Local newspaper accounts described the events leading up to the shooting death of Oliver Stanley!

It seems Oliver was a local blacksmith, and ranchers in the area were angry that a number of horses were disappearing from their properties.
Though no proof was established, Oliver, and several others in the area, were accused of the theft.
At their trial by jury, they were acquitted, as hard evidence was not provided.
However, despite the not-guilty verdict, all the accused men were instructed to cross the state-line by nightfall.
(The town in question was about 30 miles from the border, traveling on the strongest road)
The others all left immediately, but Oliver returned home to say goodbye to his children (his wife had already passed).
A group of vigilantes followed him home, and killed him in his front yard.


Not the Klan.

Not a drive-by shooting.

But just hearing such an outlandish story made me go check it out…and the resulting factual information was hugely interesting to me…and the rest of my family!

So those stories that are clearly false, or else totally confusing?
Check them out!
You might be surprised at what you do find.