Monday, June 26, 2017

A Precious Puzzle Piece

Family history research is the world's largest jigsaw puzzle. However, those pieces don't come all wrapped up in a nice box with a picture on the front.

Finding the pieces is up to us and can be a life's work. Figuring out how they fit together is yet another challenge. Sometimes a piece even seems useless.

I found just such a piece last year. After learning a family member had been underage at marriage, I obtained the marriage license to see who gave parental permission for her to marry. Does this information look useful to you?

Pressius Lake,
she not being
eighteen years of age
and not having
a guardian

On the surface, this looks like a dead end. But it isn't. In fact this sentence is critical to understanding the Lake family of Morgan County, Illinois and Breckinridge County, Kentucky. To see its worth, it has to be taken within the larger context of all the other documentation on the family.

This section of the document reads:

State of Illinois
Morgan County
Know all men by these presents that we William York and Lindsey Lake do hereby indemnify Dennis Rockwell Clerk of the County Commissioners Court of said County for issuing a marriage license to John York and Pressius Lake, she not being eighteen years of age and not having a guardian and bind ourselves each and severally to pay all costs charges judgements fines etc, if any should accrue therefrom.
Given under our hands and seals this 13th day of October 1834
William York (his mark)
Lindsey Lake (his mark)
J W Evans

First, and most importantly, Precious Lake has no guardian. This is a critical clue that her parents had died by the end of 1834.

My working assumption is that her father was Aaron Lake who was enumerated in 1820 in both Breckinridge County, Kentucky, and Perry County, Indiana, though he primarily lived on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.

There has been speculation that Aaron Lake moved to New York state, dying much later than 1834. This document indicates (but does not prove) that the man in New York is not their father. It does prove that the Aaron Lake who died in Morgan County in 1835 is not the father of Precious and Lindsey. I have more evidence on the Aarons for a future post.

Second, it is interesting that Lindsey Lake served as surety for Precious Lake. Lindsey, if his birth year of 1813 is accurate, was barely 21 years old. Precious was about 16 years of age. Assuming them as the children of Aaron Lake of Kentucky, they were the two youngest children, so likely shared a special sibling bond.

There were two other men that I know of in Morgan County who could have provided surety in 1834: Aaron Lake and Reuben Moore.

Aaron Lake, as their (presumed) older brother, would have been the most logical choice. However, Aaron was unwell, based on his 1835 probate.

Reuben Moore, as their (presumed) brother-in-law, may have felt it was not his place. He also had the most to lose if there was legal and financial fallout.

I have to think that Lindsey was feeling proud of his 21 years and offered to help his baby sister. The men may also have thought that young Lindsey was the best choice, as he had few assets to lose.

This marriage license is the best proof to date that Lindsey and Precious were siblings. There is also DNA evidence to support a familial relationship.

Images of the license are below for researcher files. The remainder of the license reads as follows:
Mr Rockwell you will Issue a marriage License to my son John York to marry Pressius Lake and for so doing this shall be your voucher this 13 Oct 1834
William York (his mark)
State of Illinois
Morgan County
To any authorised preacher of the Gospel Justice of the supreme or Judge of any inferior Court or Justice of the peace of said County; Greeting [sic]:
You are hereby authorised and licensed to join in the Holy State of Matrimony John York and Pressius Lake the consent of his father being obtained, and we being indemnified with security for her and for so doing this shall be your sufficient justification.
Given under my hand as Clerk of the County Commissioners Court of said County, at Jacksonville this 13th October 1834
[signed] Dennis Rockwell, Clerk

Personally appeared before me, a Preacher of the Gospel, John York and Pressius Lake and were joined together in holy Matrimony on the 16th October 1834
[signed] John Fox

Ret 10 Nov 1834 and Recorded in Book A page 31
[signed] D Rockwell

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Precious Serendipity

Precious: of great value (Cambridge English Dictionary)

Serendipity: finding valuable things not sought for (Merriam-Webster)

Precious will be forever 16 years old in my mind. That was her age when she was listed, out of place, in the error-filled 1850 census of my ancestor. Was she really there, or was it just another error in the midst of many?

She did exist, as she married the next year. My ancestor had previously administered the probate for a man of the same surname. Was there a connection? Her lovely name stuck in my brain for over 15 years, but I didn't see any reason to research that family.

Last year another woman named Precious appeared in the same county. My brother had a DNA match to one of her descendants. This older Precious was a member of the family. As I studied the extended family, I found the name again. Perhaps our young Precious was related to the family through her mother. I created a speculative tree for her and set it aside.

Recently I pulled out the heavy county history to see what more I could learn about the older Precious. This particular book is somewhat like a city directory. Within each township is a list of heads of households along with occupation and location. Interspersed are a few short biographical sketches. Lack of an index was no problem, as I could quickly read the sketches for everyone in a couple of small townships.

I turned to the page with my ancestor's bio. Glancing at the facing page, my eye landed in the middle of a bio of a stranger. What jumped out at me was the name of the man who might be the father of young Precious. His wife had my family surname. The stranger had married the sister of Precious! I did a happy dance and started adding Elizabeth's new-found family to my tree.

Returning to research young Precious, I followed her moves between counties, the births of her children and the too soon death of her husband at the end of the Civil War. She had a few grandchildren and died at a very old age. But at that point a problem arose. She appeared in the state death index with a different father. Now what?

Since death records are not primary sources, I searched for any other record to support either father. Having no luck at Ancestry and Family Search, I turned to Google. I did several searches and found another county history.

Precious, in her 70s, had her own bio in the 1907 history of the county where she was living. She named her parents, the same as Elizabeth's, listed their approximate death years and also gave the count of her siblings. Thank you, Precious, for this unusual bio for a woman!

Since that serendipitous finding, I sent for and received the probate file for Precious' father. It is a goldmine of information for that family. It does not prove the relationship to my ancestor, but with all other clues, I believe the connection between these men is important.

Stay with me if you are researching families of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky that are part of or allied with the Weathers, Moore and Lake families of Morgan and Cass Counties, IL. This is a part of my proof case for the Lake family.

Meet the Elizabeth (Betsy) Lake and Reuben Moore Family


Precious Moore states in her bio that she was born November 10, 1833, in Morgan County, IL. She married Joshua S Weathers on November 09, 1851, in Morgan County. She was one of six siblings, with only two surviving in 1907.

Elizabeth Moore was born December 11, 1836, and married John Frederick Muntman on November 23, 1852, also in Morgan County.

They identified their parents as Reuben Moore and Elizabeth (Betsy) Lake. Betsy died about a year before Reuben, who died on December 13, 1840.  His coffin was purchased the next day for $7.50.

Lindsay Lake (probably Betsy's brother) took out letters of administration in Morgan County, IL, on December 16, 1840. The minor heirs were: Polly Moore, Julia Ann Moore, James Moore, Elizabeth Moore, Andrew J Moore and Precious Moore. No bondsmen were listed in the copies of the probate that I received (the Morgan County clerk's office did a very poor job of copying this file). The probate appears to have been closed in 1846.

The children's legal guardian was Charles Coffin, J.P, who was responsible to make sure their assets were protected. However, the children lived with family members.

Andrew J. Moore died on April 20, 1841, and John C. Carter paid the funeral expenses which were later reimbursed from the estate.

Elizabeth Moore resided in the household of John York. He received twelve months support, "for keeping and boarding". She is likely the 13 year-old girl named Elizabeth that was in the York household in the 1850 census.

In January, 1842, Polly Moore is called Polly Turner. I have found no further information, but would certainly like to know what happened to her.

In January, 1844, Juliann Moore is called Juliann Brooks. She was stated as deceased in the accounting of January 15, 1846, but the accounting kept her as an heir. The estate paid in 1845 for her to have medical attention from Dr. J.R. Dowler of Beardstown, so her death year was likely to be 1845. I believe that her marriage was to William Brooks in Pike County in 1843. Did Juliann have children who inherited her share?

The Moore house and land was leased for $2 per acre to Lewis Giberson on April 1, 1841, with the lease ending on January 1, 1844. The crops were ruined by a flood in 1843. The leased land was listed as 40 acres in the NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of section 33, township 17 north, range 13 west. Was the lease term due to James Moore coming of age by 1844? I have no further information on James.

The probate lists another 96 acres, but there is no information on the disposition of any of the land.

Elizabeth Moore Muntman died on December 13, 1926, in Morgan County. She is buried with her husband in Hodges Cemetery near Meredosia. The biography for John Frederick Muntman appears on page 759 of the History of Morgan County, Illinois (Donnelley, Loyd & Company, Chicago, 1878).

Precious Moore Weathers moved to Hancock County, IL. Her biography starts on page 699 of the Biographical Review of Hancock County, Illinois (Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1907). Precious died there on August 03, 1925, at the age of 91.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Celebrating Mothers

It's Mother's Day in the United States. Today, sharing an old scrapbook layout, I'm remembering my Mother and all the other women who shaped my family. I miss you, Mom!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Locating Mary's Grandfather

Have you ever thought about doing the genealogy of a place, as well as genealogy of a family. Think about the political map of Europe and the many changes over the centuries. Though an ancestor may have lived in one village throughout their life, the name of the country or duchy where they lived may have changed several times. Understanding boundary changes are essential to finding the records of our ancestors.

Mary's grandfather presents a perfect storm of the challenges in location research in early Virginia records. Fortunately, as of this writing, there is a wonderful resource for United States boundary changes at a website named On this site you will find historical county formation maps for the contiguous 48 states. The maps use a program named AniMap, which is available for purchase from The GoldBug. I've owned a copy for many years and use it often. The Virginia images I show here are from AniMap, with a bit of coloring added by me.

The story starts with Mary Maddox Neff's mother, Elizabeth Greaton, who was born in Virginia about 1798. Her father, David Greaton, signed her marriage consent in Pickaway County, Ohio, in 1816. He filed a lawsuit there in 1810, so was no longer living in Virginia by that date. Yet Virginia location research cannot just stop in 1810, as you'll see.

What did Virginia look like in 1798? AniMap shows the combined Virginia and West Virginia, as it was a single state in 1798. Fortunately the western boundaries of Virginia had been set, so there is a western limit to this particular Virginia research.

The name David Greaton is fairly unusual and fortunately shows up in a few online records. Remember that online records are the tip of the iceberg. There may be many other records and other men, but the online records at least provide one place to start looking in the challenge to locate the man who is my ancestor.

David appears in the tax roll of Greenbrier County in 1785. We'll be focused on the blue area for this research. Greenbrier County is very large, so in reality, he could have been living anywhere in that county. Fortunately there is another clue that helps focus the search.

Since David must have reached at least 18, and likely 21, by 1785, he would have been born no later than 1767. If he was born in this area of Virginia (at this point unknown) where might his family have lived?

Have you seen the name Botetourt (pronounced Bot-a-tot) County? Oh, my, one of the big historical counties of western Virginia. It was carved out in 1770, so he could not have been born there. Let's go back further.

In 1761, Augusta was the mother county for all of western Virginia, with no boundary except the Pacific ocean and, realistically, the mountains.

Are you following so far? The Greaton research would start in Greenbrier and potentially track backwards through Botetourt and Augusta, as well as other counties. I will need to create a list in reverse county formation order before going on a field trip.

Now let's move forward in time. The name David Greaton (Grattan) appears in a head-of-household list in Bath County in 1791 and a marriage record is found in Bath County in 1792.

See the blue area? That small section of Bath County came from Greenbrier County. It is certainly possible that there was more than one David Greaton or that there was just one who moved. However, it is most likely that there was only one at that time and that he lived in the section of Greenbrier that became Bath. So research needs to include Bath and in fact will start there.

That area of land didn't stay in Bath County. In 1821, it was absorbed into Pocahontas County. Why would that matter? David Greaton was long gone by 1821, first to Ohio and then to Illinois.

The reasons to care about Pocahontas County are church records, cemeteries and possibly probate records. Assuming the Greaton family attended church within that area, that church is now in Pocahontas. If a sibling or parent died after that county change, the probate could be there. I would ignore Pocahontas at my own peril. Add that to the research list.

There are still more changes after 1821 that I need to be aware of. What happened in 1861? That's right, Virginia seceded from the Union and became the capital of the Confederate States of America. All those counties changed the nation to which they belonged.

And, of course, 1863 brought the next big change. 50 counties left Virginia and the Confederacy, forming the state of West Virginia and rejoining the Union.

The research list got a bit more complex. Greenbrier and Pocahontas are now in West Virginia. Archives will primarily be in Charleston, West Virginia, with some records in Richmond, Virginia. Due to the 1863 change, it is likely that county information will be found in federal records of both the Union and the Confederacy.

Bath, Botetourt and Augusta are in Virginia with archives in Richmond.

For anyone doing Virginia research, there is one more potential twist, though it doesn't affect this exercise. Here's a fairly modern map. All the yellow areas are independent cities that are no longer part of counties.

As you research your ancestors, whether in the USA or elsewhere, remember that understanding the genealogy of location is a critical part of  your search.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mary's Iceberg

Only a tiny fraction of all genealogical records are available online. That was the assertion of one of the speakers that I heard at FGS 2016 this past summer. And that makes sense. 

This series has been focused on online search strategies to flush out hidden records. However, collecting all the available records for a family goes beyond searching names in online collections.

How do you locate offline collections in the US? And how do you decide what collections are of value?

Start with the Family Search Wiki for locations that are of interest. Check out Cyndi's List, USGenWeb and other sites that describe resources. Look at websites for genealogical societies, historical societies, libraries, churches and archives. State and local government websites often list holdings. Remember to check the NUCMC, the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections.

Also use your favorite search engine to search the entire internet. You never know what will turn up in an internet search. I located a collection of family letters in a university archive by simply doing a Google search.

I've shared with you just a few of the records that I have for Mary Maddox Neff and her family, but there are many others under the tip of the iceberg. I've been collecting Maddox family records for over 14 years.

Many online "records" are actually indexes to complete records. Each of those underlying records has to be evaluated, in addition to other offline collections. I had to analyze the cost and value of each record. Only you can do the value analysis for your own findings.

Here are some of the costs I've paid for copies (plus postage or travel costs):
  • Mary's obituary from genealogical society: $4
  • Marriage consent for Mary's mother from genealogical society: $1
  • Tax rolls for Mary's father from genealogical society: 25 cents/page
  • Probate for Mary's father from genealogical society: 25 cents/page
  • Death certificate for Mary's brother from state archives: 25 cents 
  • Obituary for Mary's great-grandnephew from library: $7
  • Deeds signed by Mary and siblings from county courthouse: $2/page
  • Probate for Mary's brother from county courthouse: $1/page
  • Criminal court case for Mary's nephew from county courthouse: $1/page
  • Marriage license for Mary's aunt from county courthouse: $12

What about the Civil War pension files for Mary and her husband, George M. Neff? We've seen index cards in two online collections, but the pension files themselves have not been microfilmed. Copies of the original pension files from NARA cost $75 for the first 100 pages and may take a year to be be copied and made available. It's a huge gamble with a huge price tag. If the files contain Mary's Bible records, the cost might be worth it. To George and Mary's descendants, it certainly might be worth it. For me, $150 is not cost effective.

You can see that copies from record collections managed by societies and archives can be much more reasonable to purchase than copies of records held in government collections. Reach out to local societies. They often have family files and indexes that you can use at their facility or that they will use to do lookups at a minimal cost to you.

Field trips are a favorite strategy for me to visit societies and courthouses. But if a field trip isn't in your plans, you can borrow microfilm of some records at your local Family History Center or through OCLC.

Record collections are somewhat random. You'll never know what's available until you look for the offline iceberg.