Friday, December 28, 2018

Tangled DNA, A Merry Chase: 52 Ancestors

It's a challenge to sort out two men (or women) of the same name. But when you don't know whether there is one man or two men, the research is even more challenging. You have to chase every available piece of evidence, including DNA. When the men are from the same family, evaluating DNA may be very complex.

A recent post to the DNAExplained blog was titled When DNA Leads You Astray. Roberta writes about careful DNA evaluation, using the hard science of FamilyTreeDNA and other companies, as opposed to the warm and fuzzy feel good science of AncestryDNA.

The Tangled DNA series of posts focuses on the Allee family of Alabama and Arkansas. However, if there had been no man named Merrill Allee, there would be no confusion and would be no need for such careful DNA evaluation. This final post of the series will discuss the name, the possibilities, the records and the DNA.

The Name Merrill Allee

My great-uncle, Thomas Merrill Allee, once told me about his name. Passed down through several generations, he pronounced the name as Merle, or phonetically as Murl. His last name, he and my grandfather pronounced as AL-ley. So when you see Merrill Allee, think Merle Alley. One nickname for Merrill/Merle is Merry, pronounced Murray.

The Possible Men

There is no doubt that a man named Merrill Allee was born to John Allee and Mildred Lawrence about 1790. The second person was a child born to Nicholas Allee and Mary Dennis between 1796 and 1799. This child was listed as Merry in the 1808 will of Nicholas. Both of these individuals were born in Virginia and were born within 10 years of each other. There are conflicting family legends, which were discussed in an earlier post about John Allee.

The Records



John Allee moved his family from Virginia to Kentucky about 1806. Merrill Allee first appears in the tax records of Barren County, Kentucky, in 1810, as a male of under 21 years of age. In 1812, he was taxed as being over 21. Those two records pinpoint his year of birth as close to 1790.

Merrill married Sally Stephens on November 9, 1809, and divorced her for desertion three years later. The divorce revealed that there was a daughter born in 1810 and that Merrill did not know where Sally and his daughter had gone (Equity Court Records, Book 1, 1812, Bundle 183). The 1810 census shows the three of them together under the name Merral Ally.

The War of 1812 militia service records report that he briefly served as Murriel Alley, Corporal, Captain David Harding's Company, 3rd Regiment, Kentucky Detached Militia. He is listed on Barren County militia rosters between 1812 and 1816.

Merrill last is found on the Barren County tax rolls in 1819. Monroe County was carved out of Barren County and adjoining counties in 1820. John Allee was taxed in Monroe County beginning in 1820, but Merrill does not appear on the Monroe County tax rolls except for the years 1824 through 1826. John was last taxed in Monroe County in 1827, before moving to Indiana.

Did Merrill move to Indiana with his parents, to Missouri with cousins, to Alabama with aunts and uncles, or elsewhere?


Turning to Alabama records, Merrill could be either of the possible men.

The 1820 census of Lawrence County, Alabama, lists Merral Alley with three males under age 21 and one female (a wife?) over age 21. This record would indicate the younger man and that he was only 20 years of age. Could a 30-year old pass for 20? Was there a tax benefit to being under 21? Did the census taker just make a mistake?

The 1830 census lists Mirri Ally with four male children and two female children. Mirri was aged 30-40 and his wife was 40-50.

Merrill bought and sold land in Alabama. The land transactions do not add clarity. 


By 1840, the family had moved to Saline County, Arkansas. Mirrill Allen had three young men, two young women, was aged 40-50 and his wife was 40-50.

Merrill is listed in the Saline County tax rolls with several creative spellings, including Muroil and Muril. He last paid tax in Saline County in 1849. It is possible that he aged out, with tax only being assessed through age 59. If that was the reason he was dropped from the rolls, it would indicate the older man. But there were other reasons to be dropped from the tax roll.

The 1850 census adds some interesting facts. It shows that Merrill was age 53 and was not able to read and write. His wife was age 70, with their marriage having occurred in either 1826 or 1816. It appears that 1826 was the more likely marriage date, which would mean that Ester was not the biological mother of Merrill's children. But could one or more be her children and his step-children? Was Ester a Gamble by birth, as speculated by Gamble descendants? Ester becomes part of the puzzle, as no marriage record has yet been found.

The last census where Merrill is listed is the 1860 census of Saline County. It lists Merrill as age 64 and his wife as age 74. Her age in later years was 84 and 94, so 74 seems correct and the 1850 census was wrong.

If Merrill was 53 in 1850 and 64 in 1860, he was the younger man. But why did he pay no tax after 1849? Census records are not a primary source and are often inaccurate.

Looking at the three presumed children of Merrill, all had stated birthplaces of Alabama: Abraham in 1818, Josiah in 1821, and Margaret Catherine in 1824. The second girl is believed to be a niece, Nancy Jane. The other two boys are unknown to me, though one may have been named Nicholas.

None of the three believed that they were born in Kentucky. However, it is possible that Merrill moved his family multiple times between Kentucky and Alabama, which would account for his absence on the Kentucky tax rolls.

Merrill Allee died between the census years of 1860 and 1870. If he was born in 1790, that would make him 70-80 years old at death. If he was born in 1796, he would have been 64-74 years old at death. The second seems more likely. However, either could be correct.

The DNA Challenge

There are questions and intermarriages that make DNA analysis especially tricky.

Mitochondrial DNA is not useful for Merrill, but could help clarify his wife through female only descendants of presumed daughter Margaret Catherine Allee Gamble.

But what if none of the children were his? What if they were step-children, nieces, nephews or cousins.  Y-DNA for his male Allee descendants could prove the line back to Nicholas Allee of Virginia, but cannot eliminate the possibility that he raised nephews or cousins.

Autosomal DNA matching is needed for this family, with the careful evaluation described in the blog posts at DNAExplained. Autosomal evaluation is needed for matches to the following:

Descendants of Nicholas Allee and Ann Stephens
Descendants of John Allee and Mildred Lawrence
Descendants of siblings of Mildred Lawrence Allee
Descendants of siblings of Mary Dennis Allee
Descendants of Joseph Allee and wives
Descendants of Isaac Allee and Sarah Walden, Isaac Allee and Melinda ____
Descendants of Elizabeth Allee and Elisha Stover
Descendants of Hannah Allee and Samuel Brown
Descendants of Nicholas Alley of Fayette County, Alabama
Descendants of Missouri Ann Allee Hitt

Extra caution must be taken where intermarriages occurred, including with the allied Gamble family:

Descendants of Nancy Jane Allee Grant via Martha Elizabeth Grant Allee
Descendants of Nancy Jane Allee Grant via Nancy Jane Grant Gamble
Descendants of Margaret Catherine Allee Gamble
Descendants of Abraham Allee and Margaret Gamble

The many intermarriages can cause bad conclusions. I would go so far as to propose that descendants of Martha Elizabeth Grant Allee should not be used for any sort of matching within the Allee family tree, as her descendants have the most tangled DNA in the tangled Merrill Allee branch.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Tangled DNA, Mystery Woman: 52 Ancestors

They are step-children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins. They are foundlings and orphans and even Orphan Train riders. They are the mysterious children who are attached to our families. You may have one that is an ancestor or your ancestor may have cared for one.

Our ancestors had difficult lives, especially before the advent of modern medicine. When they died and their children were orphaned, family and neighbors had to raise the children or find homes for them. These children may not have known anything about their parents and often no records exist to help researchers.

DNA matching is the best hope for identifying the parents of mystery children who were born within the past few generations. But even with mystery children, awareness of family intermarriages and puzzles is important.

Within the southern branch of the Allee family, there is a family cluster with two generations of orphans. Descendants of those orphans need to be aware of the various possibilities within the family.

Missouri Ann Allee was born in Alabama about 1838. The 1850 census shows her at age 11, living in Saline County, Arkansas, with Merrill Allee and wife Esther or Easter, age 70. Esther's age was closer to 64, based on later census records. Nonetheless, she could not have been Missouri's mother, though some online trees show that relationship. It was much more likely that Merrill Allee was Missouri's grandfather, uncle or great-uncle.

There is an unexpected name in the jury records of Saline County, Arkansas. A man named Nicholas Ally [sic] served as a juror in 1841, along with Merrill Alley [sic] and other men who were allied with the Allee family. There is no other known mention of Nicholas in the county. Was Nicholas an unknown son of Merrill? Was Missouri Ann the daughter of the mysterious Nicholas?

Missouri Ann Allee married James Hitt on August 4, 1853. They had two children: James Milton Hitt (born 1853-1854) and Susan Missouri Hitt (born 1855-1856). By the time of the 1860 census, Missouri had died. James and the two little children were living with the family of Abraham Allee.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, many members of the Allee family relocated to Texas. The 1870 census shows [James] Milton Hitt and [Susan] Missouri Hitt, without their father, living with Abraham Allee in Collin County, Texas. Most likely, James Hitt had died in the war or during reconstruction. Abraham Allee and his wife, Margaret Gamble, finished raising the children.

James Milton Hitt married twice and had several children.

Susan Missouri Hitt's life is a puzzle. It is possible that she married Winfield Scott Chambliss and had three children before her death. However, that possibility is likely to be proven only by DNA matches between descendants of the Chambliss family and those of James Milton Hitt.

The parents of Missouri Ann Allee will be challenging to figure out. Perhaps Merrill can be proven as an ancestor or perhaps she was a child of Joseph Allee. Y-DNA is not useful for this problem. Autosomal DNA, such as the AncestryDNA test, with cousin matching, will be the most useful to identify the origins of this mystery woman.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Of Gedcom Files, Heredis and RootsMagic

Did you jump on the any of the sales prices for genealogy software this week? With a deal like $10 for Heredis, I figured why not try it. Supposedly it has some charting capabilities that outshine my other programs.

Unfortunately, Heredis didn't like my Gedcom file and it took several hours to realize that I needed to find a workaround. I had seen a review that mentioned difficulties with importing Gedcom files to Heredis, but I was in denial that it could happen to me.

I'll admit to using an ancient program to do data entry. It's much faster than "modern" programs. But I routinely export the database to Gedcom for reporting and for use on my mobile devices. Every once in a while there's a minor import problem, but never at the frustration level that I had with Heredis. The problem with Heredis is, that when it fails, it simply creates a log file that shows the line number in the Gedcom where the problem happened and a cryptic reason.

To figure it out, you need to open the Gedcom in a text editor of some sort that will show you the line numbers. After finding the line, you have to back up a few lines to find the person with the issue and you have to figure out what the Heredis import doesn't like. Then change the data in the original program, export the Gedcom again and try the import again. Rinse and repeat.

In this case, the cause of death and the source for it are not accepted by Heredis. The occupation is not the problem. To change the death cause in the original program, I can move it to medical information.

After looping through making changes for a couple of hours, I had reached the end of my patience. Then I thought of a favorite program, RootsMagic. It has never balked at my Gedcom. So I imported the Gedcom to RootsMagic and exported it back out. RootsMagic kept the events and sources and defined them in a more standard way. Heredis than imported the data with no problem whatsoever.

So if you're struggling with Heredis, consider using an intermediate program to cleanse your data. I believe that RootsMagic is the best Gedcom handler in my tool box. I suspect there are others that can do the job, as well.

Thanks, RootsMagic!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Tangled DNA, Legends and Possibilities: 52 Ancestors

When you're trying to figure out an intermarried family, it's important to know all the possible relationships you may have within the family. Your family legends may add confusion to the search. In the family I'm writing about, common and uncommon legends abound. If your family was in the United States before the Civil War, you probably have some of the same legends: a Native American ancestor, an elusive family Bible and a family that is split between north and south.

The best strategy for the family legends is to know what they are, but ignore them during your quest for records and for DNA. Hopefully, your results will help you determine the truthfulness of the legends.

The Allee family mixes the common legends in an interesting way. This is not a politically correct statement. Please understand it's historical, so needs no negative feedback. The legend is from the children of the first wife of Nicholas Allee.

When speaking about themselves and the children of the second wife, they say, "We went north and the Indians went south." The elusive family Bible legend adds that Merrill Allee (south) was the son of John Allee (north), as proven by the Bible that one cousin knows that another cousin knows that another cousin saw years ago.

Today, I'll introduce John Allee, called Jonathan Buford Allee by some in the family. I've not seen proof of his name. John was born in Virginia to Nicholas Allee and Ann Stevens between 1760 and 1765. He has been confused with a man named John Alley, who also was born in Virginia, in Russell County in 1764. Fortunately John Allee left a will in Putnam County, Indiana, that helps define his family. John Alley also died in Indiana, in a different county, with different children and with a Revolutionary War pension file.

John Allee lived in the area of Virginia that today would be in Franklin or Floyd County. His father was a planter or farmer, so John learned to work the land. On January 1, 1787, John married Mildred Lawrence in Franklin County. Most of their children were born in that area of Virginia, prior to their move to Kentucky.

John first appears on the tax rolls of Barren County, Kentucky, in May of 1806. His tax record tells us that his household included one white male over 21 (himself) and one white male over 16. He was taxed for 450 acres in the watershed of the East Fork of the Big Barren River. Over the years, he also acquired land that was in the Skaggs Creek watershed.

John's sons began to show up as adults on the Barren County tax rolls and census by 1810. Son Merrill is the one of interest to my family and his story will be the last in this series.

John's land became part of Monroe County, Kentucky, when that county was formed in 1820. He was taxed in Monroe County from 1820 until 1827.

The area where the Allee family lived is somewhere within a few miles of the Skaggs Creek Baptist Church (36.7928349,-85.6844162), which was organized by John Allee and others in 1814. Skaggs Creek is north of the church while the East Fork of the Barren River lies to the south. Neither is a large river, so they don't show up on the following map.

In 1829, John bought 80 acres in Section 10 of Township 13 North, Range 3 West in Putnam County, Indiana. There, in Jefferson Township, he built a horse mill, for which he is remembered in the county history books.

In the 1830 census, John's age was listed as between 60 and 69. Having been at least 45 at the time of the 1810 census, he would have been at least 65 in 1830. In 1834, being at least 69 years old, he made his will. Since he is not listed in the 1840 census, we can only assume that he had died between 1834 and 1840.

The 1840 census shows that his son, Noah Allee, was the head of the household, with an age of 30-40. In addition to his wife and children, there was a woman of age 70-80, who was possibly his mother, Mildred Lawrence Allee.

In 1842, Noah presented John's will for probate. Most likely, Mildred had died and Noah needed to claim his inheritance and distribute property to any other family members who were still alive. Noah was the youngest known son, with a proposed birth year of 1809.

It's hard to determine the exact relationships from the will. However, it is probable that John Allee had children named William Allee, Merrill Allee, Joseph Allee, David Allee, Noah Allee and Mildred Allee Chapman. Ruth Ann Shields was most likely a granddaughter, as she would have been far too young to be a daughter, being a minor in 1834. Louda Lain could have been a daughter or a granddaughter, as there is not enough information to determine a relationship.

The 1865 map of Putnam County shows that several tracts were owned by men who were members of the extended Allee family. John's original 80 acres had passed out of the family.

For descendants of the southern Merrill Allee, research into Mildred Lawrence and her parents and siblings will be needed. It would be her family's DNA that could prove the relationship between the northern and southern families.

A transcript of John Allee's will, as filed in 1842, follows. It begins at page 346 in probate court order book B and is also found at page 253 in deed book I.

Be it known that on this 28th day of April in the year 1842 Noah Allee one of the Executors of the last will and testament of John Allee late of Putnam County Indiana deceased personally came before me Arthur McGaughey Clerk of the Probate Court for said county, (in vacation of said Court) and made due proof of the following last will and testament to wit:
"In the name of God amen, I John Allee of Putnam County and State of Indiana being advanced in years but sound in mind memory and senses as old age will admit, do see cause to make this my last will and testament, I commit my soul to God and my body to be buried in a plain Christian like manner I will and do ordain that all just debts and lawful demands be paid and as for worldly estate which the Lord has bless me with I dispose of it in the following manner, I bequeath to my wife Mildred Allee, my house her part of the land that I cleared and all my property her natural lifetime if she is the longest liver, I bequeath to Noah Allee the land I now live on, all of it to be his after the death of me and my wife, what I have given William Allee, And Merril Allee is to be their part of my estate, I will to Ruth Ann Shields thirty dollars if she lives to be a woman, what I have give Joseph Allee, David Allee and Mildred Chapman to be their part of my estate, the mill with all that pertains to it to be sold and all other property and the value thereof to be divided between Joseph Allee David Allee, Noah Allee, Mildred Chapman, and Rutheann Shields and Louda Lain and Jos Allee David Allee and Noah Allee to be my executors. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 23rd day of February 1834.
John Allee seal "
(Seal in the original is a wafer with paper stuck over it)
A. McGaughey clk

Attest John C. Sherrill, Wm Conley

And on which said will is endorsed and written the following affidavit to wit: "State of Indiana Putnam County Sct. Be it remembered that on the 28th day of April 1842, before the undersigned Clerk of the Probate Court of said county personally came William Conley one of the subscribing witnesses to the within will, and being by me duly sworn pon his oath says that the within named John Allee, testator, at the time of making signing and sealing the within will was of sound mind memory and discretion, that the said testator signed the same in the presence of this deponent and one John C. Sherrill, and in the hearing of this deponent declared the same to be his last will and testament, that this deponent signed the same at the request and in presence of the said testator, as a witness thereto, and further saith not.
Wm Conley
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 28th day of April 1842
A. McGaughey  Clk
Recorded by me this 28th day of April A.D. 1842
A. McGaughey  Clerk  Probate Court P. Co.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Tangled DNA, Kissing Cousins: 52 Ancestors

When cousins marry, DNA matching is complicated for their descendants. However, intermarriages were common in the past and we must be aware of them as family historians and genetic genealogists.

In the Allee family, two daughters of Nancy Jane Allee Grant are known to have married a cousin. So it's important to identify her other children and their descendants to clarify cousin matches.

Nancy Jane Allee (Jane) was born about 1825 in Alabama, probably in Lawrence County. The very first question we have to ask is who her parents are and if that can that be proven by DNA matching.

Her parents are believed to be Joseph Allee and a woman named Lapruda, maiden name unknown. It appears that her father could not have been Nicholas or Isaac, brothers of Joseph. Both had children born at times that would make her inclusion in the birth order very unlikely.

From the early census records, it appears that Jane lived in the household of Merrill Allee and his wife, Esther or Easter. Esther may have been a Gamble by birth. If Jane was a daughter of Merrill and Esther and if Esther was a Gamble, the tangled DNA becomes more complex. Merrill's story will be told later in the series.

Jane spent her childhood in Alabama. Merrill moved his family to Arkansas by 1840, and we believe she went with the family. Joseph Allee's known wife appears to have died after giving birth to Emaline about 1842. Jane must have then gone to live with Joseph and help care for his five young children.

On June 30, 1844, Jane Allee married Thomas Jahue Grant, a farmer, in Lawrence County, Alabama. They had four children born in Alabama. About 1854 the Grants (and Joseph Allee) migrated to Arkansas, where three more children were born to Jane.

Template from Milestones, elements from Generations, all from ClubScrap

The Grants appear for the last time as a family unit in the 1860 census of Hot Spring County, Arkansas. They were living in Clear Creek Township at the southeast corner of the county, which adjoined Saline County, where most of the other Allee families were living. Living next door to the Grants were Anderson Allee and Milas Allee, who were sons of Isaac Allee.

Jane moved on to Denton County, Texas, with several of her children by the time of the 1870 census. She then disappears from known records.

Knowing Jane's children and their spouses is critical.
  • Joseph Grant (1850-) and Caroline Grant (1853-) are two of which I've lost track after 1860. 
The following three children did not marry known cousins:
  • Mary Grant married James Johnson in 1866 in Saline County, Arkansas. 
  • Samuel Grant married Maggie Shipp in 1879 in Denton County, Texas.
  • Laura Grant  married John Wesley Slater in 1879 in Denton County.
  • After the early deaths of Samuel and Laura, Johns Wesley Slater married Maggie Shipp in 1891. This is important to know when looking at their descendants. 
The two daughters who married cousins have very tangled DNA:
  • Martha Elizabeth Grant married Andrew Lafayette (Fate) Allee in 1866 in Saline County, Arkansas. Fate is believed to be a descendant of Merrill and Esther.
  • Nancy Jane Grant  married Merrill Abraham Gamble in 1871 in Collin County, Texas. He was the son of William Ira Gamble and Margaret Catherine Allee, who is also believed to be a descendant of Merrill and Esther.
  • It is also possible that Andrew Lafayette Allee and/or Margaret Catherine Allee Gamble are descendants of Joseph Allee, along with Nancy Jane Allee Grant.
How can this DNA be untangled? Y-DNA cannot be used for this puzzle. Female descendants of any daughter, with all females (no males) in the line back to Jane could assist in uncovering Jane's mother, using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). This test is available from FamilyTreeDNA, not from Ancestry. The same method could be used to research the mother of Margaret Catherine Allee Gamble. This test could prove the mothers were different, but would not provide names.

Cousin matching can be done using the common autosomal DNA tests and should focus on descendants of Samuel, Mary and Laura. Cousin matching can also be useful for descendants of  Andrew Lafayette Allee and his second wife (Betty Allen) and for Margaret Catherine Allee and her first husband (Mr. Logan).

Next time: John Buford Allee.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Fishing for DNA

Power BI Aquarium visualization by Enlighten

Have you thoroughly fished your family DNA pool? The experts of DNA repeatedly remind us to test the oldest generation and to test everyone we can. My latest fishing trip proved that theory in a very dramatic way. Rather than bore you with numbers, let me introduce the fish in this little DNA pool.

My cousin Connie, the woman who had the miracle Civil War era letter, had done an autosomal DNA test at MyHeritage, as had I. A comparison of Connie's match to my Dad (salmon), my uncle (purple) and me (blue) turned up small, but respectable matches.

Connie had not tested her older generation. She and I discussed testing options for her elderly family members and she decided to test them at MyHeritage, also.

Connie's Dad showed a stronger match to all of my tests, as we would expect. My Dad's fish is yellow, while my uncle's is gray and mine is blue.

Taking the extra step and paying the extra cost to test more relatives paid off dramatically. Her uncle had the strongest match to every member of my family. My uncle had the strongest match (turquoise), while my Dad and I had a smaller, but identical, match. The uncle to uncle match actually provided the most information.

Connie's uncle is missing one segment on chromosome 11 that all the rest of us inherited. He provides several other matching segments, on five different chromosomes, to help us with identifying more cousin matches in our Taylor line.

Of course, for those of you who want to see the centimorgan (cM) numbers, here they are.

If you haven't fished your DNA pool yet, the holiday specials should be starting in a few weeks. It's time to go fishing!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Tangled DNA, Farming Out the Children: 52 Ancestors

What's a father to do when his wife dies, leaving him alone with young children? In 1825, he had fewer options than today. Many widowed men and women turned to their extended family for help.

Today, for family history researchers, the choices our ancestors made can lead us to wrong conclusions based on the census. Were the children in a family the children of the head of household? Were they siblings, nieces, nephews or cousins? The census records before 1880 don't give a relationship.

If you're baffled by DNA cousin matches, maybe it's time to take another hard look at those early census records. Expand your tree and see if it leads to new conclusions.

For Joseph Allee, we have to ask some hard questions. Joseph was born about 1802, in Virginia, to Nicholas Allee and his second wife, Mary Dennis. Joseph first appears in the census of 1830 as a young head of household in Lawrence County, Alabama. His age is actually marked incorrectly.

There is a legend that Joseph had a daughter, Nancy Jane Allee, born about 1825 to an unknown wife, possibly named Lapruda. However, Nancy Jane did not appear with Joseph in the 1830 or any other census. It appears she was "farmed out" to be raised by other family members. Or was she even Joseph's daughter? Were there other children of this mystery marriage?

Joseph Allee [Alley] was married on August 29, 1834, to a woman named Pricila Mallin or Pruda Mallin. Was this woman named Lapruda and not the mother of Nancy Jane? Was Joseph even married more than once? The marriage record is hard to read.

The 1850 census tells us that Joseph was a farmer and leads us to assume five children was born from this marriage before the death of the wife. The children were: Caroline, Nicholas, Elizabeth, Sarah and Emaline. Those of us who have researched this family believe that Nancy Jane returned from Arkansas to help raise these younger children after the death of their mother.

Nancy Jane's story will be in a future post, as her descendants have the biggest DNA challenge in this family branch.

Joseph joined many other family members when he moved his family to Saline County, Arkansas, by the time of the 1860 census. It was there that Caroline Allee married Newell Fowler on August 2, 1859. Elizabeth Allee married Marion McManaway on January 8, 1862. I don't know what happened to Emaline. Supposedly Sarah married another McManaway, though I have not found a marriage record.

On November 16, 1860, Nicholas J. Allee paid $80.00 for 80 acres in Saline County. He joined the Confederate Army, dying on September 26, 1862, at Graysville, Georgia. In 1872, his land claim was questioned. His sister, Caroline Fowler, appeared at the land office in Little Rock on February 14, 1872. She filed a declaration that Nicholas had lived on the land since November 16, 1860, until his death, and that she had lived there after that time.

Joseph Allee, a  68-year-old widowed farmer, appeared in the 1870 census of  Grant County, Arkansas, then was not found again in the census.

The DNA of the descendants of the Allee families of Alabama and Arkansas must be examined carefully to identify all the children of Joseph and to identify his wives. There is even the possibility that Joseph might have married the sister of one of his brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law. Y-DNA is not useful. MtDNA from the direct female lines of Nancy and her sisters might or might not show different mothers. The autosomal DNA test from Ancestry and other companies is most useful for cousin matching.

Next time: Nancy Jane Allee Grant.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Tangled DNA, The Patriarch: 52 Ancestors

Who were the parents of Nicholas Allee? What was his ethnicity? Was his mother a Native American? Were his wives?

There are many questions surrounding Nicholas Allee. He died in 1808, with his probate being entered in July in Montgomery County, Virginia. His will was written on May 20, 1808, and is recorded in Will Book I, page 347.

His will names:
Mary Daughter of Joseph Denis deceased who is married to me ... my seven children by the said Mary namely Anne Nicholas Merry Betty Joseph Isaac and Hannah ... Thomas Denis that now lives with me ... my six children by my former wife to wit Sarah Stephens Jemimah Hays Keziah Robins David John & William Allee ... Rhoda Cox my Grand daughter ... Peter Saunders and John Long to be Exrs ... 
Nicholas had married Mary Dennis on April 13, 1794, in Montgomery County. His eldest (known) child was Sarah Allee Stephens, born about 1756. His first marriage would have occurred about 1755. That would place his birth before 1738, and it is believed to be 1735. His first wife was named Ann and has been assumed to have been named Ann Stephens, based on family stories about his Bible, which was given to his eldest son, David.

The questions surrounding the birth and parentage of Nicholas were well stated by the author of Alley Ancestors, who wrote:
He is thought by some to have been born an Allee, while others believe he was an Alley ... From a study of land transactions related to a Nicholas that was done by an Allee researcher, "he" was noted in 12 such in 1751-1767. A review of these actions raises at least three questions:

1. Some transactions occurred in 1751 and 1752 - a little early for someone born in 1735.
2. The spelling of the name noted is as follows: Alee - 1, Alle - 1, Allee - 3, Allee & Alley - 1, while Alley was noted 6 times.
3. Was there more than one "Nicholas"?
Two theories have been passed down and written about his ancestry. One is that his paternal ancestry was British or Scotch and that the name should have been spelled Alley. Another is that it was derived from the French Huguenot name D'Ailly. This second theory has proposed a father named Nicholas, related to a family from Charleston, South Carolina. This man could have been the man named in the early land transactions and would also help explain our Nicholas spending time in South Carolina. To the best of my knowledge, neither theory has been proven to date.

Nicholas provided service and supplies to the military. On September 28, 1758, Nicholas petitioned the Virginia House of Burgesses:
... setting forth that in June last he was ordered out as a Guide to a Party of the Brunswick Militia, sent out for the protection of the inhabitants and in a skirmish with some Indians was shot through the body with two bullets and had his right arm broke which has entirely disabled him from getting the Consideration of the House ...
He was awarded 25 Pounds for his suffering.

On May 31, 1770, Nicholas was back:
... in the year 1757 the Petitioner supplied the militia of Prince Edward County with 372 pounds of Neat Pork, 2 barrels of Corn for which he hath never received any satisfaction; and that the Petitioners said claim was rejected because, as he was informed he did not attend and show why he had not applied sooner, the Reason whereof was that having been wounded in an Engagement with the Indians, soon after he removed to South Carolina where he remained until 1764; and therefore praying the House to make him a reasonable allowance ...
He was awarded 3 pounds, 9 shillings and 9 pence.

Nicholas also provided supplies to the American side during the Revolutionary War. 

Nicholas bought and sold quite a bit of land, holding at one time over 600 acres. Virginia counties changed and split throughout his life and tracing the land records would involve records from half a dozen different counties across the southern and southwestern area of Virginia. The inventory at his death included several horses, cows, bulls, geese and sheep, as well as bee hives. The crops still in his possession included rye and wheat.

The six children from his first marriage moved to Barren County, Kentucky. His eldest son, David, had served on the Virginia Continental Line during the Revolutionary War and had been awarded land in Kentucky for his service. His siblings joined him in the move, which was before Nicholas' death.

The children from the marriage of Mary Dennis and Nicholas Allee moved to Lawrence County, Alabama, by 1820. However, there may not have been such a clear split in the branches. The mystery connection will be covered in another post.

The paternal ancestry of Nicholas Allee can be analyzed via Y-DNA testing of Allee-named male descendants, comparing to others with the Allee/Alley surname variations. The Y-DNA test is not available via AncestryDNA. Family Tree DNA is the testing company to use for this sort of test and there is an Alley/Allee surname project available.

The maternal ancestry of Nicholas can best be determined from mtDNA testing of his unknown sisters via an unbroken female line. The identity of his father would need to be proven first. The ethnicity of his wives can be determined from mtDNA testing of his daughters via an unbroken female line. Again, mtDNA testing is best done at Family Tree DNA.

Autosomal DNA testing is also a possibility to determine his ancestry and that of his wives, though it would be a challenge due to the number of generations since Nicholas. This is the most common and least expensive DNA test. This type of cousin matching needs clarity of ancestry, which is the purpose of this series of explanatory posts for a tangled branch of the Allee family.

Next time: Joseph Allee, son of Mary Dennis.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Tangled DNA

Have you taken a genealogical DNA test yet? If not, why not? It's easy, inexpensive and a little bit of fun. The fun ethnicity results are less useful than the ability to identify cousins, but the latest ethnicity estimates from AncestryDNA are a huge improvement for me. Your mileage may vary.

Identifying cousins who are DNA matches can be tricky due to intermarriages. Some of those marriages are within religious or ethnic groups. Some are within small communities and even within families. If you are trying to figure out your DNA cousins, you probably have seen some trees that leave you scratching your head in bafflement.

Within one of my families, there are a handful of generations where the DNA is so tangled that making cousin assumptions can lead to incorrect conclusions. DNA may someday untangle the branches, but only with careful analysis and triangulation outside the tangled branches.

I don't carry any of the tangled DNA, but I want to share my research for my known and unknown cousins. The next few posts in the 52 Ancestors series will be about ancestors in the Allee family and the challenges that I have found during 20 years of research into the large family of my mother's adoptive father. 

Allee-Lucas Family, about 1909

Friday, September 7, 2018

A Favorite Photo: 52 Ancestors

One of my favorite photos is of my grandmother's older sister and her husband. I believe it was taken in celebration of their marriage, possibly on their wedding day.

Esstella "Stella" Margaret Crispen was born on October 28, 1899, near Meno, Oklahoma Territory. She was named for her two grandmothers. Her mother, Daisy Myrtle Maddox, was the daughter of Elizabeth Esstella Lake. Her father, Clark Earl Crispen, was the son of Nerinda Margaret Kerr.

Her father, a blacksmith by trade, was not cut out for farming. About 1907 he leased his Oklahoma farm to his brother-in-law and moved his family to Michigan, living first in Van Buren County. The family later moved to Coloma Township and eventually into the town of Benton Harbor.

Template and elements from Botanicals digital kit, ClubScrap, 2015

Henry L Pitcher was raised on a farm in Watervliet Township. How the couple met is not known to me, but most likely it was while the Crispen family was living in the Coloma area. The couple were married at the home of the pastor of the Watervliet First Methodist Church on November 12, 1918.

Henry first worked with his father on the farm. However, after his father died in 1928, he sold the farm, moved to Coloma Township and became a realtor. They had one child, Opal Kathleen Pitcher, born on November 19, 1919.

The couple had health issues which cut their lives far too short. Stella had scarlet fever as a child, which had weakened her heart. Henry struggled with arthritis. The hometown newspaper printed lovely obituaries at their passing.

The News-Palladium
Benton Harbor, Michigan
Thursday, August 28, 1952
Page 21
H. L. Pitcher, Coloma Realty Agent, Succumbs
     Coloma, Aug. 28 -- Henry L. Pitcher, 57, Coloma real estate man, died Wednesday noon at Mercy hospital, where he was admitted the previous day.
     Although Mr. Pitcher had suffered a serious arthritic condition for many years, he had remained cheerful in his work and had many friends in the community. He was a lifelong resident of the Coloma community, having been born on a farm north of Coloma on May [sic] 5, 1895.
     Mr. Pitcher is survived by his wife, Esstella; his mother, Mrs. Lydia Pitcher, who made her home with him and his wife; one daughter, Mrs. Donald Gearing, and a granddaughter, of Coloma. Also surviving are a brother, Jerome Pitcher, and a sister, Mrs. Clark Shimer both of Watervliet.
     Funeral services will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Davidson funeral home, with the Rev. William Goltz of Hartford, former Coloma minister, officiating. Burial will be in the Watervliet City cemetery.

The News-Palladium
Benton Harbor, Michigan
Tuesday, March 15, 1955
Page 13
Mrs. Esstella Pitcher
     Coloma, March 15 -- Mrs. Esstella M Pitcher, 55, died Monday night at Mercy hospital, Benton Harbor, where she had been a patient 12 days. She had been in ill health many years.
     Born Oct. 28, 1899 in Meno Okla., Mrs. Pitcher had lived in the Coloma vicinity since she was eight years old. She was married to Henry Pitcher Nov. 12 1918, in Coloma. He died in August, 1952.
     Mrs Pitcher is survived by a daughter, Mrs. Donald (Opal) Gearing, and a granddaughter, Joyce Kepil, of Coloma, her mother, Mrs. Daisy O'Neil, of Tucson, Ariz., two sisters, Mrs. Fayette Allee, of Tucson, and Mrs. Leonard Scherrer, of Pasadena, Calif., and two nieces living in the west.
     A nephew, Earl Knapp, lives in Benton Harbor.
     Mrs. Pitcher's body is at the Davidson funeral home. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Stella Crispen Pitcher and Henry Pitcher are buried together in the Watervliet Cemetery.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Chicago Plumbers: 52 Ancestors

The 1871 Chicago Fire has always been an abstract concept for me, as I thought my family didn't live in Chicago until after that date. With the recent discovery of the Mitchell family in Wisconsin came another discovery -- John T. Mitchell and his family were living in the 18th Ward of Chicago at the time of the fire.

John T. Mitchell was born to Peter Mitchell and Ann Taylor in Fife, Scotland, on October 7, 1827. By the time he was 13, he was a linen hand-loom weaver apprentice in Linktown. Sometime between 1849 and 1851, John came to America, first settling in Wisconsin. The 1860 census finds John farming in Monroe County, with his wife, Mary McGregor, and an unnamed son. When, in 1862, men eligible for military service were listed, John was still living in Monroe County.

By 1865, John and Mary had moved to Illinois. Anna had joined the family, being born in Illinois about 1864. Mary J. followed about 1866 and John Gavin Mitchell on June 23, 1868. The 1870 census shows that the eldest son had died and that John Mitchell's occupation was a plumber. Throughout the census years for the rest of his life, he was a plumber. John Gavin Mitchell followed his father into the trade, advancing to the position of a city plumbing inspector by 1910.

When the fire swept through Chicago on those horrible days in October of 1871, the Mitchell family was in its destructive path. Only one small corner of the 18th Ward was spared. Not having an address for the family, I don't know exactly the impact on them. However, the odds were against them and, no doubt, they fled in terror.

The 1900 census reveals that two of Mary McGregor Mitchell's four children were living. Which two? Choices are Anna, Mary and John.

The 1880 census tells us that Anna was living. John Gavin Mitchell is not with his parents. Had he died and they later took in an orphan? Or was he off with family for the summer? Was he in juvenile detention? Where was Mary J.? Had she married or had she died? What happened to Anna after 1880?

John T. Mitchell died on May 10, 1911, and was buried at the historic Rosehill Cemetery. Mary McGregor Mitchell followed on September 7, 1913. John Gavin Mitchell died on December 27, 1945, and was buried in the Mt. Carmel Cemetery.

Having lost the threads for this branch of my family, this post is definite cousin bait. If you're related, please do contact me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Who's in the Photo: 52 Ancestors

You've been researching your old family photos, right? So play along to identify a photo shared by my distant cousin, Connie. It's got some great clues. There is a man's name on the back and a photographer's mark on the front. The woman's dress is distinctive. Have you already guessed a time frame?

The back of the photo says David Henderson. Is that Senior or Junior? Putting the clues together will solve the puzzle.

The photographer is Williams of Portage, Wisconsin. Doing a Google search for Wisconsin photographers turns up a wonderful index compiled by the Wisconsin Historical Society. The current link is:

It's not usually that easy to identify a photographer's mark. We got lucky. The index says that George W. Williams was active in the Portage area between about 1900 and 1906.

The high sleeve of the woman's dress is a style that was popular in the 1890's. The photo was probably taken in about 1900 and certainly no earlier than 1893. With a time frame established, it's time to review the men named David Henderson.

David Henderson, Sr., was born in Fife, Scotland about 1799. He was a linen hand loom weaver in Scotland. He and his family came to Wisconsin in 1850, where he became a farmer. He is listed on the 1880 census of Columbia County, Wisconsin, though his tombstone gives a death date of 1879. Considering the stone was laid at a later date, it's likely he died in 1880 or after. He does not appear on the 1885 state census.

His wife was Ann Taylor, the widow of Peter Mitchell. She was born about 1800 and died about 1886, according to the same tombstone.

Since both David Henderson, Sr., and Ann Taylor Henderson had died before 1890, they cannot be the couple in the photo. Therefore, the photo is of their son and his wife.

Digital scrapbook elements from ClubScrap and DigitalScrapper

David Henderson, Jr., was a boy of 7 when the family came to Wisconsin from Scotland. He was born on January 15, 1843, in Linktown, Fife, Scotland. According to the census taken in June, 1860, he was working as a farm laborer, though he had attended school within the prior year.

Just a few houses away in the 1860 census, the 7-year-old Jane Robbins lived with her parents, John and Elizabeth (Thompson) Robbins. On June 8, 1886, David Henderson, Jr., married Jane "Jennie" Robbins in Columbia County. They had three sons: George, Edwin and William.

David continued farming throughout his life, dying on November 12, 1908. Jennie lived a much longer life, living until October 20, 1947. Jennie and David Henderson, Jr., and Ann and David Henderson, Sr., are all buried in Bach Cemetery in Columbia County, sharing a single large stone with the four names.

* Edited 9/7/18 to correct a typographical error in the census year.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Farewell, Senator

As a resident of Arizona, I voted for you. I voted against you. Regardless, you always were "my senator." I supported you because you supported me. Even after moving out of Arizona, I appreciated your leadership.

Thank you, Captain McCain, for your service to your country.

Thank you, Senator McCain, for your service to Arizona, to the United States and to the planet.

You are missed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

On Top of the Blue Ridge

Did your ancestors migrate through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley along the Great Warrior Trail? For many years the valley was a major route for migration and travel between Pennsylvania and North Carolina. This 1751 map shows dramatically how the mountains in Virginia limited westward migration and controlled the direction of travel. Today Interstate 81 parallels the old trails.

Map from Library of Congress

Some of your ancestors, like Thomas Jefferson and like some of mine, may have chosen to live in the Shenandoah Valley or surrounding mountains. Whenever I drive through that area, the beauty awes me and I understand their choice.

Soon, for the first time in his life, my younger brother will spend a few days in the magnificence of the lower Shenandoah. If you are a cousin, do read on to see if one of our shared ancestors lived in this beautiful area. Someday you might even wish to follow the trail yourself.

So, brother, this post is for you!

Near the orange marker at Glen Wilton, John Derrick owned land and it was the area where he died about 1790. It is also where he married Anna Maria Dunkelberger. Here Philip Fry married Maria Magdalena Derrick in 1781. The Fry family migrated on to Tennessee and Alabama. Philip had 25 children and many of our DNA matches are from this line in my father's ancestry.

Switching to my mother's family, the dark red marker is in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, formerly Greenbrier County. Members of the Greaton family were taxed in this area. David Greaton moved on to Ohio and Illinois. His daughter Elizabeth married Lazarus Maddox in Ohio in 1816.

Also in Greenbrier County, John Kelly was born about 1779. He moved on to Tennessee where his  great-granddaughter married Benjamin Franklin Pryor.

The dark pink marker is at the community of Hanging Rock. In this area a large group of Swiss Anabaptists made their home near the end of the 1700s. Today this group is known as Church of the Brethren. Our ancestors and relatives who settled here included members of the following families: Peffley, Rettinger, Gerst/Garst, Bosseck, Graybill, Borndragar, Mangus, and many more. My ancestors moved on to Indiana and Kansas, but many family members stayed in Virginia.

Lastly the purple marker sits near the stunning Blue Ridge Parkway. Nicholas Allee in 1797 was granted 38 acres that adjoined land he already owned. The land is partially described as
... Lying and being in the County's of Montgomery, and Franklin, the greater part thereof, in the County of Montgomery on the dividing Ridge, including the heads of Daniel's Run, the waters of Black water, and bounded ... top of said ridge ...
What amazes me about this grant is that it specifically mentions the Blue Ridge (dividing ridge) and lists the watercourses in a way that the land can be identified within a few miles. The counties no longer have a common line, as Floyd County was carved out of Montgomery County in 1831. The creek named Daniel's Run no longer appears to begin at the Blue Ridge, but its probable course can be seen on topographical maps. Using Deed Mapper software to determine the shape of the property and researching the watercourses,  I believe that it included land that today is part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, including milepost 144.8, the Pine Spur Overlook. I'm looking forward to visiting this site and seeing what my ancestors saw. 

Nicholas Allee died in 1808 and his descendants moved on to Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas. His legacy lives on in hundreds of descendants and his land enchants thousands of visitors to the Blue Ridge each year.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Letter Home: 52 Ancestors

One little error on a ship's passenger list created a brick wall in my Wisconsin research. A combination of serendipity and a miracle demolished that wall.

If you are part of my Dad's family or just appreciate a genealogical mystery, please stay with me through this amazing tale. If not, go straight to the miracle at the end of this post.

The serendipity started on the day of my Dad's memorial service. One of my cousins told me that he was planning a fall trip to Wisconsin. He would be willing to do some family research for me if he could. That would be nice, but there was a big problem -- I had been stuck for years and had not spent much time on these branches. With a willing victim, I decided it was time to dig back into Wisconsin. Thanks for the push, cousin!

You may think I'm strange, but I believe that those of us who research our family history receive inspiration from the other side: angels, spirits, heaven, whatever term fits for you. I started talking to my Dad asking him to send me help for all his brick walls.

My first step was reviewing specific surnames in DNA cousin matches for my Dad and Uncle. It looks like DNA matches will eventually solve our McFarlane puzzle, but there were no useful clues for the Mitchell family. It was time to face the possibility of a Mitchell surname study.

I knew very little about Margaret Mitchell. Her surname came from my great-grandfather's death certificate, which is not a primary source. Was the name even correct? She had been born in Scotland about 1830 and her eldest known child was born in Wisconsin about 1858. Her husband, Joseph McFarlane, had no wife living with him in Columbia County in 1850. There has been no marriage record found. She supposedly had family in Wisconsin.

That left some questions. Did they marry in Scotland and immigrate at different times? Had she been married before? Did she come to America as a Mitchell or a McFarlane or under some other name? I couldn't find any passenger list that fit. Also, not all ship lists have survived.

One of the challenges to finding a migrating ancestor is to be sure the person in the new location is found with some of the same people in the old location. That's true whether the move is across the ocean or across a state. Unfortunately I had no family context for Margaret.

However, there was one clue that I had never examined in depth. In the 1850 census of Columbia County, a woman named Margaret Mitchell of the right age was listed. She looked like a married woman, but there was no way to be sure. She was in the same household as a man named George Mitchell. Was she a wife or a sister or even a cousin? Was there a family connection to the Henderson family with whom they were living or were they hired hands? It was time to research this household, especially George Mitchell.

The 1850 census record is very hard to read. The head of the family is David Henderson, age 51, a weaver born in Scotland. With him are Ann Henderson, age 50 or 51; David Henderson, age 7; George Mitchel, age 27; Margaret Mitchel, age 20; William Taylor, age 57. Everyone was born in Scotland.

I had already seen the passenger list for the Henderson family. It looked as if Margaret Henderson had come to America with the family and then married George Mitchell. The Barque Clutha had arrived in New York on June 8, 1850, having sailed from Glasgow, Scotland. On board were David Henderson with wife Ann and family, listed as David Henderson and Margaret Henderson. The word Do stands for ditto. On the next page was Hugh Taylor, who may or may not have been the same man with them in Wisconsin.

By the time of the 1860 census, both Margaret Mitchell and William Taylor had disappeared from the family. Had she died or was she my Margaret? Since looking at these records in earlier years, indexes for the Scotland census of 1841 had come online at Ancestry. It was time to search through the 1841 census for George Mitchell, born about 1823.

There, in the 1841 census, was the answer to the family relationships. Had I braved the paywall at Scotland's People years ago, I might have unraveled this sooner. However, I hate how they structure their prices, so had avoided it. In order to look at the images of the census and church records, I have now conceded defeat and they have acquired a bit of my money.

In the 1841 census, David Henderson was living in the same household as Ann Mitchell and her three children: George, John and Margaret. The ages were rounded down in this census, so they do not align perfectly with the ages in the US 1850 census.

John Wilson was the head of the household. Also with him were Elizabeth Wilson; Ann Mitchell, age 40; George Mitchell, age 18; John Mitchell, age 10 (he was about 13); Margaret Mitchell, age 10; William Taylor, age 40; and David Henderson, age 40. Everyone was born in the County of Fife. William Taylor was listed as a tailor, but the rest of the males were linen hand-loom weavers, an occupation that was in decline due to the industrial revolution. Young John was an apprentice. They lived on a lane named Gas Wynd in the community of Linktown, which is near the town of Kirkcaldy and across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh.

Research in the records of the Abbotshall Parish of the Church of Scotland revealed the parents of the Mitchell children were Peter Mitchell and Ann Taylor. They had another daughter, Helen, who had died. Ann Taylor had married Peter Mitchell on May 14, 1820. Peter's assumed death was not recorded.

The widowed Ann married David Henderson on November 22, 1841. Their son's birth was recorded as January 15, 1843, in Linktown.

The births of the Mitchell children were all recorded in the Abbotshall church records on a single page, rather than on pages spread over several years. It appears to have been either a transfer into the parish or an effort by the minister to document families, as other families are listed in the same mixed way on the page.

The Mitchell children were George born October 18, 1822; Helen born April 14, 1824 and died about January 19, 1841; John born October 7, 1827; and Margaret born February 26, 1830.

Returning to the erroneous passenger list, David Henderson, Sr., was the step-father to young Margaret, who then had sailed to America in 1850 under the Henderson name instead of the Mitchell name.

Having found all these lovely records for the family, the next question was whether they are my family or just a coincidence.

I traced the family forward, finding that John and George had lived near Margaret Mitchell McFarlane in Wisconsin at times. John Mitchell had moved to Chicago, where Margaret's only surviving son had later moved. There was a lot of circumstantial evidence, but I wasn't fully comfortable that this was the right Margaret Mitchell. All the other Mitchell lines ended or were impossible to find.

The next step was tracing the David Henderson family forward. Was it true that there was family in Wisconsin? Were there living cousins?

The descendants of David Henderson are few. I found two elderly gentlemen who are living, one of whom has a unique name. Searching for him on Google turned up a legal proceeding having to do with his land. The other gentleman has several descendants. One of the daughters -- I'll call her Connie -- was listed as having the power of attorney for her uncle. Included on the legal documents was her full address. The legal documents had disappeared from the internet only a couple of weeks later and were apparently online for only about a month. Finding her address so easily was truly serendipity.

I created a descendants chart for Ann Taylor, her children and grandchildren. I wrote an actual letter explaining who I was and asked if Connie could put me in touch with the family historian, if there was one. I sent off the letter and chart in the mail and waited impatiently to see if she would answer.

Connie responded by email and we've had an ongoing conversation for several weeks. She reported that her uncle was the one who knew all the family history, but now has dementia. She had never heard the names Mitchell or McFarlane, but would check into documents that she had received from her grandmother.

A few days later she sent me a scan of an amazing letter from 1862. The letter, which follows, proves without a doubt that Ann Taylor was the mother of Margaret Mitchell McFarlane and that George Mitchell was Margaret's brother. It also reveals a previously unknown child of Margaret's that fills in a six-year age gap in her children.

Connie had collected all the papers from her uncle's house when she moved him out. She'd thrown most of it away. For some reason he had saved this one old letter, but she didn't know why. In turn, she had saved it. I suspect they were curious as to the identity of the people who wrote the letter and to whom the letter was sent. The survival of this letter is truly a miracle and for me to have found the person who had the letter is yet another miracle. Connie and I have agreed that she will send the letter to the museum in Monroe County, Wisconsin, where the director has agreed to add it to their historical archives.

The letter to Ann Taylor Mitchell Henderson reads as follows:

Jefferson, Monroe
April 1st 1862
Dear Mother
     It is at present my sorrowful duty to inform you of the death of Margaret's youngest boy .. he died in the morning of the 21st of March at 4 A.M. and was buried on the saturday afternoon following. His trouble was Measles and whooping cough. Her oldest boy (Joseph) has had the same troubles and has not yet got well? of the whooping cough. Many of the children round here ar similarly afflicted, also diphtheria or putrid sore throat is pretty prevalent in this part of the country. As for the rest, all are well.
     I am living with Margaret for a little till I can get my own house fixed. I received your last letter and Mr. McFarlane also received the one you sent him. We both join in writing this and hoping you are all well. The snow is wearing very slowly away and we are afraid the spring will be rather late cattle feed is scarce, many have nothing at all to give their animals - we are not so bad but don't care how soon the grass were up.
     I can't devine who is meant by Betty Brand let me know when you write.
Yours Afftly,
Geo. Mitchell
Joseph McFarlane
St Mary's P.O.
Monroe, Wis.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Take a Sidestep: 52 Ancestors

Sometimes the only way to push back a generation is to step sideways and research siblings and cousins of your ancestors. Stuck in Wisconsin research for years, I recently decided to research a man named George Mitchell, who might be a relative of my great-great-grandmother. Indeed, he turned out to be her brother. The miracle of how that relationship was proven is a story for another day. Today, I'm introducing George to my family.

George Mitchell was born October 18, 1822, in Fife, Scotland. It appears that he and his siblings had their birth dates recorded at the new church when they moved within Fife, so the actual parish of birth is unclear as of this writing. In the 1841 census of Scotland, he was listed as an 18-year-old with the occupation of linen hand-loom weaver. Power looms were soon to threaten his livelihood.

In the spring of 1849, George left Scotland for America, arriving in May, possibly on the ship Cuthbert. Six months later he was living in Columbia County, Wisconsin. There he declared his intent to be naturalized, but he did not recall his exact arrival date in New York.

George was farming by September of 1850, when the census taker came calling, and he continued farming for the rest of his life. By 1859 he was paying taxes on just over 72 acres of land in section 9 township 13 north range 9 east, Fort Winnebago Township.

George Mitchell's 1859 tax receipt is still in the hands of a family member

George was a single man of nearly 40, yet living with his mother and her second family in June of 1860. In November of the following year, no doubt after the harvest, he sold his land to his mother. Some 80 miles to the west, in Jefferson Township, Monroe County, he joined his younger siblings. He lived for a while with his sister Margaret Mitchell and her husband, Joseph McFarlane, and their children.

A man named George Mitchell was purchasing land in Jefferson Township as early as 1858; however, it is unclear if it was the same George. The land was within two miles of land purchased by his brother and brother-in-law, so it is possible. There was another George Mitchell in the area and there has also been some online confusion with others. This is an opportunity for further research in land records.

Men in Jefferson who were subject to military service were placed on a list in August, 1862. George and his younger brother John were both on the list. However, it appears that neither served during the Civil War. Other local men did serve, among them a man named Emanuel P Gleason. He died in Louisiana in 1865, leaving a widow and three small children. George Mitchell married Phoebe Jane Drummond (or Drummonds) Gleason on May 10, 1866, becoming the step-father and guardian of the children: Mary, Samuel and Louis. George and Phoebe had no other children.

By the time of the 1870 census, George had moved a few miles north to Angelo Township. In 1874, he purchased, from the federal government, 160 acres in Angelo Township, in section 34 of township 17 north range 3 west. By 1897, much of this land, plus more, had been transferred to his stepsons, Samuel H Gleason and Louis N Gleason. It may be that George had invested in land with the military pension he was collecting on behalf of the children.

Throughout the rest of his life, the census reported he was a farmer, but the 1880 census said he was teaching school. That may have been an error on the part of either the census taker or a census copyist. Or it may have been something he tried in his later years or did in the winter.

George Mitchell died on July 24, 1907. His death record shows that the retired farmer died of exhaustion with contributing factors of myocarditis and senility. He was buried at Farmers Valley Cemetery, Monroe County, Wisconsin. Phoebe Jane Drummond Gleason Mitchell died on January 20, 1912, and was buried in the same cemetery.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Resigned: 52 Ancestors

Officers who resigned their commissions during the Civil War likely had dozens of different reasons. One of my extended family members may have had a rather unique reason, though his stated reason may not have been the entire truth. During earlier wars, such as the Civil War, many of the volunteer units were formed from a community. The men were neighbors, friends and family. They would have bonded. Changing units would probably have been like changing high schools. Bear that in mind as you read about Thomas Jahue Grant.

Thomas was born on or about January 1, 1823, somewhere in Alabama. He married Nancy Jane Allee in Lawrence County on June 30, 1844. Studying the Grant surname in Lawrence County and adjoining Morgan County leads to the theory that he was the son of Thomas B Grant and Sarah, whose maiden name is unknown. Online researchers have proposed an 1803 marriage for this couple, which would be impossible given their ages. Further research is needed into his parentage.

Template from Milestones, elements from Generations, all from ClubScrap

Thomas J Grant began farming in Alabama, holding no land in the 1850 census. The family moved to Arkansas about 1854, probably to join Nancy's Allee cousins. The couple had five daughters and two sons, with the first four born in Alabama and the last three in Arkansas. In July, 1860, Thomas bought 40 acres of land from the federal government in township 6 south, range 13 west, in Saline County. That area is now part of Grant County and is north of Grant County Road 7 and west of US Highway 167, near Grant County Road 507.

When the Civil War began, Thomas enlisted in Company F, 11th Arkansas Volunteer Infantry, Confederate States of America. The company muster roll reported that he was a 4th Sergeant, age 37, 5'9" tall, with gray eyes, dark hair and a fair complexion. He was a farmer, born in Alabama, who had a rifle worth $12.

Company F was comprised of men from Saline County, several of them being cousins of his wife. When the company elected their officers, Thomas J Grant was elected 2nd Lieutenant and that assignment was recorded as of August 19, 1861. His official service record has no indication that he was ever a Sergeant.

The company primarily was deployed along the Mississippi River, starting in September, 1861. Control of the river was important to both the Union and the Confederacy. The company was stationed near New Madrid, Missouri, by April, 1862. They were part of a Confederate force that defended Island Number 10 against a Union gunboat. The weather and the fighting defeated the Confederates, leading to the surrender of all the troops on April 15, 1862.

While his soldiers were being surrendered and transferred to Union prison camps, 2nd Lt. Thomas J Grant was sick in a military hospital. When he recovered, he had no unit left to command. He wrote the following letter of resignation:

Memphis, Tenn, April 19th 1862

Lt Col Cook
    Please accept this my resignation of the office of 2nd Lieutenant Com. F. 11th Reg. Arks Vol.
    Cause - The entire regiment being taken prisoners at Island 10, am desirous of returning home to raise a company for active service in the Confederate army for three years or during the war.
    Age thirty-nine years three months and nineteen days and was mustered into service on the 18th day of July 1861 at Benton, Saline Co., Arks for the term of twelve months.

Very respectfully
T. J. Grant

Thomas did return home to Arkansas. Rather than raising a new unit, he joined a local militia company known as Captain Jonas Webb's independent company of scouts. Webb's scouts were distrusted and even accused of robbery and murder. Thomas self-reported having killed a fellow soldier at the command of Captain Webb.

The scouts harassed Union troops whenever possible. There was a report by another soldier that Webb's scouts had engaged Union forces just before the bloody Battle of Jenkins Ferry, near Leola, Arkansas, on April 29, 1864.

Thomas Grant's family was living in Texas by 1870, but he is not found on the census. His death date and location are unknown. Again, some online researchers have mixed him up with another soldier of the same name. It is possible that our Thomas died during the Battle of Jenkins Ferry. It is also possible that he went to Texas with his wife and children and died there.

Was Thomas justified in his resignation? His letter follows. Click on the image to enlarge.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Bugler: 52 Ancestors

When you think of a military bugler, what do you hear and see in your imagination? Perhaps it's the mournful sound of Taps at a military funeral. Maybe you see the Cavalry galloping across the landscape to the notes of Charge. Or maybe you hear the perky notes of Reveille mingling with the groans of weary soldiers rising from their beds.

As an Army bugler in 1846, my third great-grandfather had to learn to play dozens of signal tunes, though Taps wasn't composed until after his death. However, you won't find his name on any lists of Arkansas soldiers -- at least not his correct name. The name of Josiah Allee, Bugler, Company I, Arkansas Mounted Volunteers, has been incorrectly written and/or misread in most records.

Captain William K Inglish of the same regiment signed an affidavit on May 4, 1850, stating:
... that he is the identical Wm K Inglish who was Captain of Company "I" in the Regiment of Arkansas Mounted Volunteers commanded by the late Colonel A. Yell afterwards by Col. John S. Roane, that in said Company "I" there was no such person as Josiah, also Joseph Allen, and if such name is entered on the muster rolls, the same is erroneous and instead thereof, the name of Josiah Allee should be inserted...
Josiah was born about 1821. His parents are believed to be Merrill Allee and his wife, Esther or Easter. He had several siblings, including an older brother, Abraham, born about 1818. The family lived and farmed in Lawrence County, Alabama. By 1840 they had moved to Davis Township in then Saline County, Arkansas. Today that land is in the southern part of Grant County. The Allee family had a tannery, as well as farming.  The family was musical, with nephews of Josiah in later years remembered for their musical talents.

Abraham was also a country lawyer, so it's likely that Josiah likewise had some education and was able to read and write. How Josiah met his wife is a mystery, as she lived some 30 miles away, near Benton. They may have met through family connections or Josiah might have hired himself out. Regardless of how they met, on December 29, 1842, Josiah, age 21, married Mary Jane Pelton, age 15.

Mary Jane gave birth to their only child, Andrew Lafayette Allee, on August 24, 1844. By the spring of 1846, Mary Jane was sick and being visited by a doctor. Also in the spring of 1846, on May 13, 1846, the United States declared war on Mexico. The call went out for volunteers to serve for one year. Josiah volunteered, joining on July 1st as a private and stating his age as 24. Did he need the money to pay doctor bills?

The volunteers from Saline County traveled first to Washington, Arkansas, where they were formally mustered into service. Josiah was appointed as a Bugler on July 25, replacing Miles Haley, whose rank was changed from Bugler to Private.

The Arkansas regiments marched to San Antonio, Texas, where they arrived on August 28. They joined the forces under the command of General John E. Wool and spent the rest of August and most of September drilling.

The topographical engineers, led by Captain George W Hughes, left San Antonio for Mexico on September 23, a few days ahead of the main body of the Army. General Wool and his forces followed. Captain Hughes reported that the whole army crossed the Rio Grande on [by] October 12, 1846.

Here I must diverge from other articles on the internet. Captain Hughes and his engineers documented latitude and longitude for the area of the crossing, as well as distances between locations and dates of travel. Other internet articles will state the location of crossing differently.

The location of the town nearest the river crossing was known to Captain Hughes as Presidio del Rio Grande. That name no longer is in use, but has led to bad assumptions. The closest readings reported by the engineers were made four miles from the town and are 28°20'48.5"N 100°31'12"W. The location was also documented as being about 25 miles from Nava, which is slightly northwest of that location. Today the town near the river crossing is known as Guerrero, in the Mexican state of Coahuila.

The true location of  Presidio del Rio Grande is important to my family. Captain Inglish's affidavit continues with the sad tale:
...The said Josiah Allee died at Rio Grande Crossing, or Presidio, on or about the 18th day of October 1846.

Josiah had served less than four months and did not die in any documented battle. In the early part of the war, illness was a bigger threat to the soldiers than battle, but his cause of death was not included in his service file. No doubt he was buried near where he fell, somewhere near the town of Guerrero.

Josiah's wife had also died during 1846, leaving their son an orphan. Josiah's brother, Abraham Allee, fought the Army to obtain an orphan's pension for Josiah's young son. That fight created a wealth of documentation about Josiah, including proving the correct name of this Bugler who served his country.

Source list:
  • Traas, Adrian George. From the Golden Gate to Mexico City: the U.S. Army Topographical Engineers in the Mexican War, 1846-1848. Office of History, Corps of Engineers and Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1993.
  • Allen, Desmond Walls. Arkansas’ Mexican War Soldiers. Conway, AR: Arkansas Research, 1988.
  • Book Committee (Plano, Tex.). 1985. Plano, Texas: The Early Years. Wolfe City, Texas: Henington Pub. Co. 
  • Service File of Josiah Allee [Allen]
  • Service File of Miles Haley
  • Pension File of Josiah Allee
  • Marriage records of Saline County, Arkansas
  • 1820 census, Lawrence County, Alabama Territory
  • 1830 census, Lawrence County, Alabama 
  • 1840 census, Saline County, Arkansas
  • 1850 census, Saline County, Arkansas
  • Land records of Saline County, Arkansas
  • Land records of Lawrence County, Alabama  
  • Tax rolls of Saline County, Arkansas
  • Probate of Josiah Allee, Saline County, Arkansas
  • Probate of Samuel Pelton, Saline County, Arkansas
  • Wikipedia article: Taps
  • Google Maps 
  • Family stories about Abraham Allee