Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 9, Number 7 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 April 26, 2017
Publisher's Notes In this article, we discuss finding Great Grandpa. I am asked all the time about tips to finding our ancestors. There is no one solution, but in this article I address some common issues people have with their research.
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James L. Douthat
CAN'T FIND GREAT GRANDPA
I cannot tell you how many times I have been doing a lecture or even just a talk about history and genealogy that someone does not come up to lament that they have looked for years for their great grandpa and cannot find anything. Normally, we talk about the situation for a few minutes, and I will make a few general suggestions that they have already looked into with no results. At this point with just a very surface set of bits of information, there is very little to suggest. It takes a long stretch of research just to see where the problem is, and this is impossible in the time and space allowed when the question is asked.
I have thought about this type of situation and have come up with several suggestions as to the reason for the problem, not solutions necessarily; but avenues for resolution of the problem. Most of the time, especially with beginners, they are looking for just that one specific individual and for a specific spelling of the name. Helping a friend once, I suggested we look for a variety of spellings of the name we were looking for. He assured me that it was only spelled one way, all of the others were fake. At the courthouse of interest, we found a deed in the name of the individual. He agreed that this was the property of the person in question. In a close reading of the deed, we found that the individual’s name was spelled three different ways in that one deed. This was a real eye opener for him and put his family research into a different plane of thought. Remember that spelling has not always been an item of importance to many people. Having transcribed hundreds of pages of old documents, I have found that spelling is more by sound than by rule. Common words are frequently misspelled regularly. Do not narrow your research by some idea that it has to be spelled just one way.
A second reason that we fall short of finding the information is because we are looking in the wrong place. When we start researching a family or even an individual, we know one or two things about them and one of those facts is where they came from. Sometimes, this is fairly vague even at best. We might think they are from Virginia from the earliest of time. This looks like it is specific enough, but Virginia is a large state and in times past it has been even bigger. The first records of the state give the state territory from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River as best as the map makers thought. More especially Augusta County, the earliest county west of the Alleghenies went to the Mississippi and north to Canada covering seven present states. Out of this territory came Kentucky and West Virginia where settlers and land records abound. If they just happen to settle in Hampshire County, Virginia we are to locate them in present West Virginia but we are stuck in our mind looking in “Virginia”. This is easy to see from the state level, but not as easy on the county level.
Keep in mind that the counties have changed more frequently and more recently that most would envision. We traced on man over a twenty year period in east Tennessee and discovered that in that twenty years he was in three states and seven counties, yet never once left the rocker on his front porch. Where do we find him? In all of the above records. If you have someone in southwestern Virginia, they might actually be living in upper east Tennessee. Lands north of the Holston River for a time were a part of Augusta County, Virginia. The first deed records for Sullivan County, Tennessee are registered in Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia. Take some time and learn the history of the area of interest. You will find this most enlightening.
A third reason we cannot find what we want is that we do not take advantage of the material that we already have on hand. Frequently, we take bits and pieces of data and draw conclusions from those few bits of information. Take a little while and take all of your data and get these tidbits of data into some order and organization. You need to write down all of the various spellings of the name, various locations, extended members of the family, neighbors given from the census, occupations, etc. Everything is on the table.
One more suggestion for our failure to find what we want is that we do not have sufficient data. As we organize what information that we do have, we see areas that we need to fill in the blanks. We need to start and fill in those blanks first and as a result we should be able to search for the one fact we want. For example, you want the death date of your ancestor. The tombstone is not marked with it, there is no death certificate and at this point we have not located the family Bible. I was running a series of deed abstracts for a community over the weekend and discovered written in those records the death date of one of the principal land owners where his wife is willing to sell the land for the community. This was totally out of place, but a legal document none the less. Given in this document were also the names of children, siblings, and other names that were not given in the original deeds in the courthouse. You never know where the data is located, so it is good to keep researching.
We are not failures in our research, but there are reasons we just have not found what we need yet. “YET” is the word to remember, so down the road it will all come together.
Virginians and West Virginians in Missouri Prior to 1900 : The vast majority of this material is found in a series of records produced by the state of Missouri called “Atlas”. In the late 1870s each county in Missouri took a census of the citizens listing the following: Name, Address, Occupation, Nativity, and date migrating to Missouri.
Tazewell County, Virginia Early Settlers 1810 to 1850 : In this volume we have taken the census for 1820 through 1850 and added the tax list for 1810 to create a record of those living in the area at the time. Here are many names on this list that today would not be considered a part of Tazewell. At the time of its creation, Tazewell was more than three times the present size including the counties of Wyoming, McDowell, and Mercer in West Virginia as well as portions of the surrounding counties in Virginia.
Johnson County, Tennessee Wills and Letters of Administration Volume 1 Book 1 1827-1867 : Includes full text of the wills and is not an abstraction.
Rutherford County, Tennessee Wills, Inventories, Settlements Volume IV 1816-1820 : This volume of the wills, inventories, and settlements are full text items covering the time period listed.
Howard County, Missouri Records : Includes a brief history of the county, Circuit Court Records, Tax Papers, County Court Book B, Marriages, and Death Register.
Knox County, Missouri Records : Brief History of the County, Marriages, Civil War Discharge Papers
Lawrence County, Missouri Records : Brief History of the County, Will Books, and Marriage Books
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