Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

DNA Circles: Champion Farris and Catherine Davidson

IF Joseph Wheat, my great-grandfather, is the son of Henry Clay Wheat and Caroline Farris, then my 4th great-grandparents are, according to most trees, Champion Farris and Catherine Davidson. It has been so hard to get started writing this post, as I must depend on an almost non-existent paper trail and only a little DNA evidence to determine if these two are, indeed, my ancestors.

I have described my research into Joseph Wheat's ancestors (and descendants) in a couple of previous posts: "The Mystery of J. Wheat" and "More J. Wheat Mysteries Solved." To summarize: The first evidence of my great-grandfather that I found was the 1880 census of Collin Co. TX in which he was enumerated as J. Wheat with his wife Cynthia Ming and two children. J. Wheat stated that he was born in Texas and that his mother was born in Mississippi. Later, I found a marriage license, dated 21 January 1877 in Grayson Co. TX for J.A. Wheat and Cynthia Ming. It took years, and the discovery of a previously unknown brother of my grandfather Wheat, to discover the given name of their father on his death certificate: Joe Wheat.

Thomas J. Wheat's death certificate showing his father as Joe Wheat

This is where the paper trail fails, and I have to use supposition to identify the parents of Joe Wheat. What I did was to thoroughly research and identify every Wheat family that lived in Grayson or Collin Co. in 1870 and 1880. Henry Wheat, a widower, and three of his daughters were living in Grayson Co. in 1880, near many other Wheat family members I already knew. In 1870 the family, consisting of Henry, Caroline, son Joseph and four daughters were living in Davis Co. TX. Joseph, age 13, is the only Joseph Wheat on the 1870 census in Texas. On the 1860 census the family lived in Titus Co. and Joseph is enumerated as J.F., born in Texas. On both censuses Caroline gives her birthplace as Mississippi.

Henry and Caroline Farris Wheat family on 1870 Davis Co. census

A few inconsistencies still bother me. Joseph is enumerated as J.F., not J.A., on the 1860 census. His birth date varies from 1855 to 1859, depending on which census you are consulting. His father's birthplace is given as Arkansas on the 1880 census, yet Henry consistently gives his birthplace as Alabama. Joe disappears completely after the 1880 census, and Cynthia remarries in 1890.

A further discovery just over a year ago involved a DNA match whose ancestor, Pearlie Wheat, was the daughter of a J.A. Wheat who married Alice Brink in Milam, TX in 1885 and was buried in Stephens Co. OK in 1906. The date of his birth on the headstone is 15 February 1859 which dovetails nicely with his age of 21 on the 1880 census, and his marriage to Alice and birth of their children comes after the birth of his last child with Cynthia in 1884. However, the DNA match knew little about his family beyond Pearlie Wheat, so he could not corroborate my theory about the parents of Pearlie's father, J.A. I really have no doubt that this is my J.A. Wheat, but I still don't know who his parents were.

The DNA Circle Ancestors

So, what do I know about Champion Farris and Catherine Davidson, in whose DNA Circles I have been placed? Farris researchers give Champ Farris's birth year as 1765 or 1766, probably because he first appears as an adult on a petition to form Russell Co. VA in 1785 and on a personal property tax list for Russell Co. in 1787. Another date for which there is no evidence--so again, probably an estimate based on the dates of their children's births--is a date of 1783 for his marriage to Catherine Davidson. Champion last appears in Russell Co. on a personal property tax list in 1803 and sells his land on "Mockeson" Creek in 1804. He next appears on a petition to form Warren Co. TN from Smith Co. in 1806. Most Ancestry trees give his death date as 1820 in Franklin Co. TN, but again no-one gives documentation or their reasons for thinking so.

Most researchers give the parents of Champion as Elisha and Charlotte Mary (Vaughn) Farris. Champion is not listed as an heir of Elisha on an 1823 Scott Co. VA lawsuit over his estate--not a problem if, as has been stated, Champion died in 1820. At the death of Elisha in 1791 he did sign as security for Edward Farris, son of Elisha and administrator of his estate--so there is definitely a close connection there.

The deaths of Elisha and Charlotte/Mary have an interesting, if sad, history. Elisha Farris owned a tavern "two miles from Mockinson Gap" (near present-day Gate City, VA.) The inn was attacked by the half-Cherokee raider, Robert Benge, also known as Captain Benge or Bench. Elisha was killed immediately; Elisha's wife Mary, his daughters, Mary Farris Livingston and Nancy Farris, and a granddaughter were captured. Nancy Farris managed to escape, but the others were killed. 

Virginia historical marker about Indian attack on Elisha Farris family

It appears to me that many descendants on Ancestry confuse the Champion Farris who first appears in records in 1785 with a grandson with the middle initial T. who bought land in Missouri in 1853. A lot of them attach records for Champion T. to his grandfather, even when the events took place after the elder Champion's death in 1820. In fact, Champion appears to be a popular name for Farris descendants. On the 1870 census there is a Champion Farris, age 54, in Marshall Co. AL, married to Minerva, with children born in Alabama. On the same 1870 census there is a Champin Farris, age 55, living in Benton Co. AR with wife Luraney. I suspect he is our Champion T. Farris, as his older children were born in Missouri and his youngest in Texas. He also has a son, Champion, age 18.

Not much is known about Catherine Davidson. Most Ancestry trees show her birth date and place as 1770 in Franklin Co. TN, and her death date and place as 1802 in Russell Co. VA. Researchers may have good reason to give these dates and places, but I don't know what it is. Some researchers give her father's name as Col. George Davidson from North Carolina, but I think that is in error. His daughter Catherine was married to someone else. There was a James Davidson in Russell Co. who is often mentioned in the same documents with Farrises. I suspect that James or a possible brother is the father of Catherine, but I have no proof for that. In fact, I don't have any proof that her maiden name was Davidson, although she is named as Catherine in land documents with her husband.

Children of Champion and Catherine (Davidson) Farris

The following have been listed (with varying degrees of documentation) as children of Champion and Catherine Farris: Thomas, James, Nathan, Davidson, Levi "Kelly", Major, Elisha, William, and Mary.

Champion, James, and Thomas all signed the petition to form Warren County, TN. From January 1814 to May 1814 Sgt. Levi (Fearris), Pvt. Nathan (Farriss), and Pvt. Davidson (Farris) served in the Tennessee militia under the command of Captain James Tate (Tait.) The Farrises were no doubt close friends and perhaps even relatives, through marriage, of Captain Tate. Tate had grown up on Moccasin Creek in Russell Co. VA, married Ruth Davidson, moved to Warren Co. TN at the same time as the Farrises, and signed the petition along with them to form Warren Co. As militiamen, they fought the Creek Indians who were being supplied by the British with arms to fight the Americans, part of the wide-ranging actions we call the War of 1812. In 1855 Levi's widow, Margaret Nunley Farris, applied for bounty land due to Levi's War of 1812 service. The fact that Levi used the name "Kelly" came from this document.

James Farris moved to Jackson Co., AL where he appears on the 1830 census. Davidson and Levi lived in McNairy Co. TN in 1830. Davidson and Major Farris both appear on an 1837 territorial census in Mississippi. Davidson died in Tishomingo Co. MS in 1870, but Major moved on to Texas, where he appears on the 1850 census of Titus Co. I'm honestly not sure what evidence there is to connect this Major to Champion Farris, other than his proximity to Davidson Farris in Mississippi. Major does give his place of birth as Virginia on both the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Elisha Farris (born 1801) is also in Tishomingo MS by 1840. According to trees on Ancestry, Mary Jane "Polly" Farris married John Harris Woodley in Warren Co. TN, lived in Tishomingo Co. MS, and had a son named Levi Kelley Woodley.

1837 Mississippi Territory census showing Davidson and Major Pharis

Major Farris was the father of Caroline Farris, who married Henry Wheat and became the mother of a son I believe is my great-grandfather Joseph. While I can't definitely tie him to Champion Farris, I do have more evidence going forward. I got a lot of good information from the 1850 census in Titus Co. TX, but where was Major Farris before that? Good question. He appears on the 1837 Mississippi Territory census with just one name between him and Davidson Farris. Before that, there was a Major Farris in Pope Co. AR in 1830. If this is my Major Farris, then he has a lot of children that have not been accounted for. The parents of the family are between the ages of 30-39, and that is perfect for Major and his wife Lucy; there are two males under 5, 3 males 5-9, 1 female under 5, and 1 female 15-19. How does that match up to the 1850 Titus Co. TX census?

1850 Titus Co. census

One thing you can tell right away is that Major and Lucy (Family #122) moved around a lot. On the 1850 census Major gives his age as 52 and his birthplace as Virginia; Lucy is 50, born in Alabama. Enumerated with them are children L.G., age 24, born in Alabama; Reuben, age 18, born in Alabama; Thomas, age 16, born in Arkansas; Caroline, age 14, born in Mississippi; and Jasper, age 12, born in Texas. Just above Major's family on the census is M.P. Farris, age 26, born in Alabama; he is listed at the bottom of Family #121, Daniel and Dorothy McKinney. Daniel is 45, and Dorothy is 29. Could Dorothy be M.P.'s sister, and thus an older child of Major and Lucy? I believe she is. Subsequent censuses and Ancestry family trees show her name as Adeline Dollie (could be short for Dorothy); she had children named Lucy, Sallie Caroline, and Jasper; her daughter Sallie's death certificate lists her father as Dan McKinney and her mother as Dolly Farris. Family #124 has a head of household transcribed as Y.C. Farris (I think it's Z.C.); he is age 32 and born in Tennessee. Another child of Major and Lucy?

And how does this match up with the 1830 census in Arkansas? Not very well. If Dorothy and Z.C. are actually members of this family, their ages don't match up. We are missing both females, two of the males 5-9, and one of the males under 5. There is a gap in children between L.G. and Reuben, where two of the males might have fit. Could they have died or moved out on their own by 1850? Even though the ages of the children don't exactly match up, I do believe this is the same family. Thomas would have been born at about the time the family was living in Arkansas and Caroline at about the time they were living in Mississippi.

For more information on the family of Henry and Caroline Farris Wheat, see my original post about this family, "The Mystery of J. Wheat."

Caroline Farris Wheat headstone, Hall Cemetery, Howe, TX

Members of the DNA Circle

Since my connection with Champion Farris hinged on the hypothesis that Joseph Wheat was my great-grandfather and his great-grandson, I have looked with anticipation for a DNA match and proof of a relationship to this family. Back before DNA Circles, when there were only individual matches on Ancestry, I was thrilled one day to find a DNA match with J.M., a descendant of Champion Farris. He is still my only known Champion Farris match, and he is also a member of the Champion Farris and Catherine Davidson DNA Circles.

Champion Farris's DNA Circle has 14 members, and Catherine's has 6. I'm guessing this is because not everybody shows Catherine Davidson as a spouse of Champion Farris. In fact, I have found no evidence for Davidson as her maiden name.

Seven members (all from the same family group) of the Champion Farris DNA Circle are descended from Levi Kelly Farris. Three members (all from the same family group) are descended from Mary. Two (including J.M.) come from Elisha. I am the only member of the circle that descends through Major Farris. Of the six members of Catherine Davidson's DNA Circle three descend from Mary, one from Davidson, one from Elisha (J.M.), and one from Major (me.)


As I have said before, putting information about these ancestors in narrative form is very helpful. I have found connections I hadn't previously noticed and discrepancies that have led to further research. I really thought my problem with this family was that I couldn't prove that my J.A. was Joseph Wheat, the son of Henry and Caroline Farris Wheat. What I found through writing this post was that there may be another disconnect in the ancestral line at Major Farris. I found absolutely no evidence that Major was the son of Champion and his wife Catherine. (I actually found no evidence connecting any children to this couple. I found people with the right ages in the right places to be their children but nothing that connects them definitively to Champion and Catherine.)

Another complication that I had foreseen was that my Farris family from Virginia might be related to my Pharris family from Tennessee, and that my DNA match reflected this connection. Many Farris family researchers show James Esom Farris as a father of Elisha; my Pharris family in Tennessee also had ancestors named Esom or Isham. If that is the connection, however, it is so far back that I would be surprised if any DNA slipped through. Also, according to a researcher named Elvin Farris on Ancestry, mutations in y-DNA results show that Elisha's father was more likely Joseph Farris than James Esom. This is another instance where it would be helpful to know just exactly how much DNA I have in common with J.M., my only Farris family match.

In conclusion, a thank you and a piece of advice for Ancestry users: Most Ancestry trees are just chains of names with hardly any evidence to support connections between the generations. When you find someone like Elvin Farris who has meticulously documented and noted each and every piece of evidence, it is very much appreciated. (Also thanks to a long-time researcher, Robbie Farris Glover, to whom Elvin gives credit for some of his information.)

Example of helpful source notes by Ancestry user Elvin Farris

I'm going to try very hard to take this advice myself: When you have made a good guess about a piece of information, tell us why you reached this conclusion. For example, a jillion people show that Champion Farris died in 1820 in Franklin Co. TN. Why do you think so? Franklin Co. was formed from Warren Co. in 1807. Did Champion live in the part that became Franklin Co.? Why 1820 for a death date? Did you just copy that information from somebody else's tree, or do you have a reason to believe it's true--a will or transfer of property, for example?

If you have lots of notes to share or a letter or email from other researcher, click on Add Media/Add a story, being sure to give credit to the person who gave you the information, and attach the document. You can also attach Media to each individual fact in the profile. If you have short notes to add to an individual's profile, click on the type of information (Birth, Residence, Death) and add your notes in the box labeled Description. Of course, it's easy to attach documentation if it comes from Ancestry, but you can also click on Facts and Sources on the profile page, click the tab Source Citations and add information from other sources. I know it's a lot of work, but it's so helpful to other researchers and will also help you in the long run when you can't remember the origin or significance of a piece of information. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lost in Arkansas

My brother and I took a little cultural/genealogical excursion this past weekend. As usual, we talked history, politics, and books; ate good food; visited some interesting places; and had a couple of frustrating experiences that we turned into a really good story. So here's the story.

My brother wanted to check out the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, thinking it would be a fun destination for his wife and him when they become empty-nesters next month. We both love long drives and small towns, and we planned to visit the museum and maybe walk around the historic parts of Bentonville and Fayetteville. From our hotel between Springdale and Fayetteville, we planned to venture out on the second day to find the grave of our 4th great-grandfather, Robert Patrick, in Patrick, Arkansas, south of Fayetteville.

Our first stop was the town square of Bentonville. Even though the Civil War ended 150 years ago, it's not far from the mind of any small town in the South. In the center of the square is a monument erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1908, honoring James H. Berry, a Confederate soldier and the only governor of Arkansas from Benton County. The west, north, and east sides of the monument read: "They fought for home and fatherland," "Their names are borne on honors shield," and"Their record is with God."

Square in Bentonville AR with Confederate monument

We made our first circuit around the square, looking at the historic buildings that were constructed in the 1880's. We noticed there was a sidewalk art sale going on down one of the side streets, so we took a leisurely walk through the booths and visited with the painters, jewelry makers, and potters. We were getting hungry, and had choices of an old time soda fountain, an upscale buffet, and sandwich/salad/coffee shop (the Pressroom?) We ended up at the sandwich shop. Boy, I wish I could remember the restaurant's name because they had a great bacon and tomato sandwich they called the BLAT. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the mixed greens side salad.

Our next stop was Crystal Bridges. On the way there from downtown we saw some beautiful homes. One even had a deer grazing in the front yard. I had been to Crystal Bridges before for the Norman Rockwell exhibit, but there was no special exhibit going on at present. We toured the regular galleries and walked out to the trails. It had been really cool in the morning because of rain, but it was getting really hot and humid by the time we went outside. We didn't last long on the trails.

Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville AR

Tim on trail bridge at Crystal Bridges

In the evening we drove down to the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville and walked around. I was impressed with the sidewalks etched with the names of all the U of A graduates, starting in 1904. What a cool tradition!

The next morning we left our hotel between Springdale and Fayetteville and proceeded on the genealogical portion of our trip. We drove south of Fayetteville on Highway 16. I had already Mapquested the little community of Patrick, named for our ancestor, and determined that the closest town of any size was called Elkins. Pretty soon we were driving Highway 16 through Elkins, where a large grocery store and a McDonald's probably serve the communities for miles around.

On south of Elkins we were traveling on the edge of the Ozark National Forest, and the scenery was just beautiful. With all the recent rain we were surrounded by green trees and vegetation on either side of the road, then occasionally we would pass through an open area where we could see the mountains wreathed in early morning mist. We passed through a small community in Washington Co. named Durham, then we saw just a small green highway sign for the community of Crosses. Pretty soon we saw a sign saying we were passing from Washington into Madison Co. and finally another small highway sign for Patrick.

The Ozarks 

There was only one way to go. On the right side of the highway were a couple of buildings that looked abandoned. On the left was a road. Turning left off the highway, we soon came to a low bridge over a busy creek filled with all the recent rain. After just a moment of hesitation, Tim drove us over the bridge and up the road on the other side.

Scary bridge

Looks like a creek from this side

On this side it looks like a river

My brother is never afraid to ask for directions. We saw a man in a county truck who affirmed we were on the right road for the Patrick Cemetery. We stopped again to ask two men working in a garage who directed us to the edge of a fence just visible down the road. This was the Patrick Cemetery, and soon we saw a stone etched with the name of the cemetery and an arrow directing us to the road on the left. After driving a road beside the fence, we were soon turning into the entrance.

It's a pretty big cemetery. There were lots of Patricks, but we could see that there were a few other surnames that also had a large representation in the cemetery. I was looking for the older part of the cemetery. I had seen a picture of Robert Patrick's brass grave marker, and I knew there were larger stone markers around him. I was really not prepared for two large sarcophgi(?) next to Robert Patrick's grave. (I'm not sure that's what you call monuments of this sort in America, but that's what they looked like.) If you are a descendant also looking for these graves, they are just about in the center of the cemetery.

Robert Patrick grave and sarcophagi

Robert's grave shows his birth and death years (1764-1859) and proclaims him as a veteran of the War of 1812. Both sarcophagi bear the faint trace of the name "Nancy." (One almost looks like it says "Nancy Tackett.") There may have been other information there at one time, but I couldn't see it.

(Note 6/26/15: Nancy Tackett appears to be the daughter of Mary Ann Patrick and her husband, William Mason Tackett. William and Mary Ann had 10 children. A photo on, taken about 1885, shows 8 of the children. It was noted that one of the sons had died in war and Nancy had also died.)

Robert Patrick
KY Militia
War of 1812

Nancy Tackett?

Nancy Prater Patrick?

So there lie my 4th great-grandfather and my maybe 4th great-grandmother in a quiet cemetery on the edge of a forest in Arkansas. I'm pretty sure my grandmother didn't know they were there. Robert Patrick was dead long before his granddaughter, Nancy Emily Reed Day, came to Oklahoma. Grandma Day was born in 1853, so she was only 6 and living in Kentucky when he died. She had never known him. It took well over 150 years (and the Internet,, Findagrave, and Mapquest) for our branch of the family to find him again. I just wish he or Nancy could answer a couple of questions for me. Who was Sarah Patrick's mother? Why did you leave her in Kentucky when you moved to Arkansas? (See post "DNA Circles: Robert Patrick and Elizabeth McMullen.")

We left out the back entrance of the cemetery, which probably was the original front entrance.

Patrick Cemetery original entrance?

Here's the funny part of the story. The next part of our trip consisted of finding I-40 and following it into Oklahoma so we could visit our mother's grave in Dustin, OK. While I-40 crosses into Oklahoma at Ft. Smith, far south of our present location, it was easier to go north and catch it in Fayetteville. So we headed north again on Highway 16. Just outside of Elkins there was a huge traffic jam due to road work, so we stopped for breakfast at the McDonald's in Elkins and waited for the traffic to clear. Back on the now-clear Highway 16, we came to the outskirts of Fayetteville and a sign that said to turn left for 16 West. According to our map, this would take us to I-49 South and eventually to I-40.

Let's just say it was a scenic road. We drove and drove and drove through green, few houses in sight. Siri wouldn't help us. She thought we were in Iceland. We saw few road signs, which was very frustrating to my brother, but eventually we saw a sign down the road. It said Durham. Then we saw the sign for Crosses, then the one that said we were passing into Madison County. Again. Somehow we had gone north, turned west, and ended up south of Elkins. Again. When my brother finished fuming, we both began to laugh. Was it a vortex? Our own personal Groundhog Day? A bad map, bad navigator (me)? We'll never know.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New Ancestor Discoveries

I've been writing about Ancestry DNA's new wrinkle on autosomal DNA matching--DNA Circles. To be considered a member of a DNA Circle based on a particular ancestor, you must have that ancestor in your tree on Ancestry and you must match DNA with at least one other person in the circle. For example, I belong to the Daniel Reed DNA Circle. Daniel Reed is my 4th great-grandfather. Out of 23 members of the circle, I share DNA with 5 members. The other 18 members share DNA with at least one other person in the circle. We all have Daniel Reed in our public trees on Ancestry.

Recently, Ancestry DNA has added another feature that they call "New Ancestor Discoveries." These are ancestors or relatives suggested by DNA evidence alone. In this post I want to look at the 8 "new ancestors" that Ancestry DNA suggests for me, based on my DNA test results and the test results of members who already have these ancestors in their family trees. (See Roberta Estes's blog,, for her take on the ancestors/relatives Ancestry DNA suggested for her. She calls them Bad NAD's.)

NAD #1 -- Hannah Elizabeth Embry

The following facts were compiled from 595 trees on Ancestry, according to her NAD bio. Hannah was born 10 May 1815 in Garrard County KY. She married on 22 October 1833 in Butler Co. KY. She died 1 September 1877. Her parents were Isaac Embry (1786-1850) and Martha "Patsy" Jameson (1780-1882.) Ancestry says, "DNA evidence suggests that you're related to a group of Hannah Elizabeth Embry's descendants." I match 3 of the 11 members of the Hannah Elizabeth Embry DNA Circle.

Oh, how I wish I could figure out how I am related to Hannah Elizabeth Embry! I feel certain that I have a connection to the Embry and Pharis families of Butler Co. KY, but I have been unable to identify the exact ancestor that connects me to these two families. I suspect he is James Pharis of Jackson Co. TN, whose mother was Delilah Embry. (Many of the families of Jackson Co. TN had ties to Butler Co. KY. Delilah's father John is supposed to have died in Butler Co.) If James is the unidentified father of my 2nd great-grandmother, Elzina Huff, I don't know how I will ever prove it. Hopefully, future DNA test results will point definitively to James or some other Pharis/Embry ancestor. I will definitely keep an eye on future DNA matches to this NAD.

NAD #2 -- Christopher Columbus Snodgrass

Christopher Columbus Snodgrass (1801-1877) was the spouse of Hannah Elizabeth Embry. If, in fact, I am related to this couple, it's to Hannah and not to Christopher; however, since Ancestry relies on family trees to create DNA Circles, they have no way of showing from which spouse the DNA comes. Since my 3 DNA matches are to descendants of this couple, they both show up as my NAD's. Since Ancestry is suggesting relatives, not necessarily ancestors, I guess it doesn't really matter to them that Christopher is not my relative by DNA.

NAD #3 -- William Jackson

Ditto William Jackson. He is the spouse of my 2nd great-aunt, Sarah Elizabeth Wheat. Sarah was the sister of my great-great grandmother, Susana Wheat Ming. William was born in 1812 in White Co. TN, married Sarah in 1834 in Madison Co. AR, and died in 1879 in Pilot Grove, Grayson Co. TX. On the 1860 census of Grayson Co. TX, William and Sarah and 6 of their children are living next to William F. and Susana Ming.

According to Ancestry DNA, once I put William Jackson in my tree, he would disappear from my New Ancestor Discoveries, and that is exactly what happened. He and Sarah are now in my DNA Circles, the only circles I have that are not direct-line ancestors or their spouses. In the case of this NAD, Ancestry DNA did make a helpful suggestion.

NAD #4 -- Martha Jane Kendrick

According to her bio compiled from 104 trees on Ancestry, Martha Jane was born on 22 May 1854 in Kinderhook, Virginia. She is found on the 1860 census in Washington Co. VA. She married first in 1871 to Joel Kaylor and later to Wyndham Clark. By 1900 she was living in Madison Co. AR. She died in Pettigrew, AR in 1947. Her parents were John Kendrick (1831-1865), born in Washington Co. VA and Phoebe D. Morgan (1829-1882), born in Scott Co. VA.

Both the name Kendrick and her mother's birthplace in Scott Co. are clues as to how I could be related to Martha Jane. I do have a Kendrick in my family tree. She is Isabelle Kendrick, my 5th great-grandmother. She is the ancestor of Rachel Sargent, my 2nd great-grandmother, wife of Goldman Davidson Castle. Isabelle was born in 1754 in Stafford Co. VA and died in 1822 in Russell Co. VA. Her parents were Patrick Kendrick (1725-1803) and Jane Fox (1730-1805).

As you may have noticed, Martha Jane and Isabelle were born a century apart. Since there appears to be no direct-line connection between them, common sense would dictate that the connection between them has to be at least a generation or two before Isabelle. The way the NAD's work is that Martha Jane already has a DNA Circle. The fact that she shows up as a NAD to me is a suggestion that I would show up in her circle if I had her in my tree. Of the 4 members of Martha Jane's DNA Circle, I have DNA matches to two of them. Maybe one of their trees will give me a clue to how, or if, Martha and Isabelle are connected.

One of the two DNA matches, Azkjo55, has an extensive tree. In fact, we have two "Shared Ancestor Hints," symbolized by Ancestry's little green leaf. One of our shared ancestors is, sure enough, a Kendrick--two generations back from Isabelle. He is Thomas Kendrick (1699-1770), my 7th great-grandfather. My tree only includes my direct-line ancestor, Patrick Kendrick, son of Thomas, and Azkjo55 only shows her direct-line ancestor, John Kendrick, son of Thomas. However, if Patrick and John were, indeed, brothers, that could definitely be my DNA connection to Azkjo55 and to Martha.

Here's where genetic genealogists (and to be honest, even serious paper genealogists) have problems with Ancestry.
1) There is little evidence on most people's trees that Thomas Kendrick had two sons named Patrick and John. That's not to say that there isn't evidence, but a lot of Ancestry users borrow names from other users without documentation, or with documentation for a completely different person with the same name. Just because 104 people say that Martha Jane Kendrick was a descendant of Thomas Kendrick through his son John doesn't mean that's necessarily true.
2) To really prove a DNA relationship, according to genetic genealogists, you must have triangulation. Three descendants must match on the same DNA segment and show paper evidence (wills, census records, etc.) for the same ancestor. First of all, Ancestry doesn't give segment information, and second, Azkjo55 and I have another possible shared ancestor couple, John Barker and Martha Snead. Without segment information, we will never know if our DNA match is through the Kendricks, the Barkers, or both.

I understand why people might prefer Ancestry DNA to one of the testing companies that show matches along with segment information. It's a lot of work to match up segments with an individual and then find your common ancestor, especially when many of the people who test on Family Tree DNA, for example, don't even upload their family trees. Ancestry does all of that for you. In fact, their viewpoint is that "it's almost impossible for you to find enough matching segments with other users to have confidence that you have a common ancestor. To solve this problem, we created DNA Circles, where we collect evidence across millions of trees and DNA from all Ancestry DNA members. Because of this power of numbers, the evidence that you really did inherit DNA from the same ancestor as everyone else in the circle can increase."

I'm not sure I completely agree with them, but I've decided I'm going to try to use the information they provide, with reservations, and hope that it can help me. I think they can make a unique contribution because they do have a great number of users who have contributed trees and DNA.

I could put Martha Kendrick in my family tree, as I did with William Jackson, and see her NAD disappear to be replaced by a Martha Kendrick DNA Circle; however, since I can't prove to my satisfaction that John and Patrick Kendrick were brothers, I'm going to hold off for now.

NAD #5 and #6

Based on almost 1200 trees, Benjamin F. Burden was born in 1783 in Baltimore, MD. He married Elizabeth Tully on 6 November, 1801, in Nicholas Co. KY. He appears in Butler Co. KY by 1810 and died there on 12 May 1862. Out of 23 members of the Benjamin F. Burden DNA Circle, Ancestry says I match 10 of them by DNA. I match 9 of 21 members of the Elizabeth Tully circle.

I have absolutely no idea how I am connected to Benjamin F. Burden and Elizabeth Tully. While many of the DNA matches to the Burdens include an Embry in their trees, not all of them do. I guess it's possible that I am picking up Butler Co. KY in each of the matches but don't have a true connection with the Burden/Tully descendants. With that many matches, it's worth trying to figure out how we are related.

NAD #7 and #8

My last two New Ancestor Discoveries, at least for now, are Sabrina Cutbirth and David Wilcoxson. Sabrina was born in 1800 in Maury Co. TN and died in 1877 in Farmersville, Collin Co. TX. David was born in 1796 in Rowan Co. NC and died in 1883 in Farmersville. They married in 1825 in Tennessee.

I match 4 of 23 descendants of Sabrina and the same 4 of 20 descendants of David. Two of the 4 matches are in the same family group and administered by the same person. They are both direct-line descendants of Sarah E. Wheat and William Jackson. K.D., the administrator, is a member of four of the same DNA Circles that I am a member of: Zachariah Wheat, Elizabeth Whitley, Robert Stephenson, and Samuel Wheat. Easy, huh? Our connection is with the Wheats or their ancestors--except that the other two matches don't have Zachariah or Samuel Wheat, Elizabeth Whitley, or Robert Stephenson in their trees. 

Even Ancestry's DNA Circles and New Ancestor Discoveries don't always make things easy.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


If you had time to save something from your house in a disaster, what would it be? A lot of people would answer, "Photographs." Judging from the news coverage of several recent disasters in Oklahoma, photographs are the first possessions that people search for in the wreckage of their homes. I know they are the first things that I would grab if I had a chance. It is a little reassuring to me to know that I have saved a lot of them on various computers, flash drives, and on this blog. If, heaven forbid, I should ever lose the originals in a disaster, I still have access to the most precious of them.

Why are our photographs so precious to us? There are lots of reasons. They connect us to our past. They help us remember those we loved who are now gone, and good times that we shared together. In the case of our own children, we can see their progress from gap-toothed first grader to high school graduate to happy groom or bride. Maybe we can even see ourselves in old photographs of our grands and greats. I remember the first time I ever saw early photos of my maternal grandmother, Cora Bell, and realized how much I resembled her. In some cases, if we are lucky enough, we can even meet an ancestor through a photograph.

That's why I was thrilled this spring to receive a letter from my "new" cousin, Paul Ming, that included some photographs. One was a picture of our common ancestor, William Frederick Ming.

William Frederick Ming 1824-1911

The other came with this explanation: "I have enclosed a picture post-card. My aunt Josephine Ming Waterfield gave it to me not long before she died. It was sent to her when she was young obviously by an older person. My aunt was in her 80's when she gave it to me and didn't remember who it was from. She wrote 'John William Wheat, year 1908' on the card but didn't remember who his parents were. Do you know who he is?"

John William Wheat (2nd from left), photo taken 1908

Oh, boy, did I! He was my grandfather, John William Wheat, and this is the only picture I have of him in which he is identified. Among this group of dapper young men, he is the second from the left, pointed out by a big arrow drawn on the photo. What a priceless thing to know what my grandfather looked like! The only other picture of him that I have ever had was of a large group of oil field workers in Seminole OK, posed on and in front of a big flat-bed truck. My aunt Marie thought he was one of the men standing in front of the truck, but she wasn't sure herself which one he was. 

Oil field workers, Seminole OK, about 1927

Another gift from my cousin Paul came in the mail after we finally met in person this March. This one is even more precious because I didn't expect there to even be a picture of my great-grandmother, Cynthia Francis Ming Wheat Rhodes, mother of John William Wheat. In this photo, taken around 1900, she poses with her second husband, Tom Rhodes, who was 30 years older than she was. I don't know why I couldn't have inherited her tiny little figure!

Cynthia Francis Ming Wheat Rhodes
and second husband, Tom Rhodes

Just last week I was the recipient of more photos--this time from my Castle cousin, Linda. I have a lot of Castle and Day family photos, since I inherited both my grandmother's and my great-grandmother's, but I had never seen these. Linda has been going through her parents' photo albums and brought along several when we met for dinner. She was nice enough to scan these photos of Grandpa and Grandma Day; one of the Castle boys with my grandfather, Weaver Smith; and a group shot of the Castle family, including my grandfather and grandmother, in front of Big Mom's house. Talking about inheriting physical features, it's easy to see that the Smith boys--my dad and my brother--inherited their beautiful hair from my grandfather. I can sure see what my grandmother saw in him!

Grandpa and Grandma Day with great-granddaughter Marilou
(L to R) My grandfather Weaver Smith,
Goldman, Warner, and Forrest Castle

Castle family in front of Big Mom's house
My grandparents are in the back row, framed between the two pillars

Want a project to work on that will really make a difference to you and your descendants? 

  • If your family photos are in one of those old magnetic or adhesive photo albums, take them out now! Put them in archival albums or boxes.
  • Being careful not to damage photos, list the people depicted on the back. Someday you will be gone, and nobody will know who these people were.
  • Scan your most precious photos and save them somewhere that will be safe in a disaster. In these days of ever-changing technology, it's hard to know what that is. Computer hard drive, flash drive, the cloud? Use your best judgment.
  • Check out an online photo archive like Look for photos of your family, or better yet, post some of your photos there.
  • If you are a subscriber to, post photos there and make them accessible to the Ancestry community.
  • Print those vacation photos that are still on a photo disk and put them in an album.
  • It's great to have a photo album in your purse or pocket, i.e. your cell phone, but what happens when something happens to your phone? Find a permanent way to save those priceless photos!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

DNA Circles: William Bays and Rachel Barker

The Ancestors

Russell and Scott are adjacent counties in southwestern Virginia. The area that became Russell County belonged to several other counties before being separated from Washington County in 1786. Scott County was formed from Russell and Lee counties in 1815. A number of my paternal ancestors, especially the ones who later resided in Morgan and Magoffin counties in Kentucky, came originally from Russell and Scott counties. They include the Castles, Sargents, Oneys, Kendricks, Days, Barkers, Bayses, Lewises, and Hortons, and not only those, but the Farrises and Davidsons from the Wheat (maternal) side of my family.

In fact, the petition to form Russell County in December 1785 was signed by a Bays, Jacob and Joseph Castle, Patrick Kendrick, John Lewis, Benjamin and William Oney, and Champ Farris. The description of the county included many place names associated with these ancestors, such as the Clinch River, the Holston River, Moccasin Creek, and Powell Valley.

My 4th great grandparents, William Bays and Rachel (Barker?) came from Scott County. William died there in 1827, and Rachel Bays is listed on the 1830 Scott County census as a head of household. While some Ancestry trees list her as Rachel Barker and others as Rachel Broadwater, there is apparently no evidence for either. Both Barkers and Broadwaters were present in the area. Based on circumstantial evidence, it is possible that Rachel was the daughter of John Barker and Martha Snead. (I have numerous Ancestry DNA matches to descendants of John and Martha, but that only proves that numerous Ancestry users think their ancestors are John and Martha.)

William and Rachel's youngest daughter Anna married John Sargent on 15 January 1820 in Scott County; after John's death, she married James Haney in 1841, again in Scott County. Anna and John Sargent's daughter Rachel married Goldman Davidson Castle and became my 2nd great-grandmother.

Children of William Bays and Rachel (Barker?)

I think of myself as a serious genealogist, but I'm going to admit something here that would make many serious genealogists cringe. On my family tree on I had a list of the children of William and Rachel Bays, but I didn't find them through painstaking research. I copied them from somebody else's tree on Other trees listed even more children--with absolutely no documentation, including birth or death dates. I at least tried to document the existence of these nine children and find evidence of their lives, even though I didn't know where their names came from originally.

After looking carefully at these children while writing this post, I knew their names had to come from somewhere, maybe a will or Bible record. I had no doubt that there was some document that linked all these siblings, even though I couldn't find a tree on Ancestry that cited that record. Some of these siblings stayed in Scott County, some moved to other locations in Virginia, others moved to various locations in Kentucky. How would you ever identify them as coming from the same family unless there was some evidence? While I didn't completely trust the names I copied from other people's trees on Ancestry, there did seem to be some facts--origin in Scott Co., residence in other locations associated with this family--that made the names plausible.

And then, when I had almost finished this post, I found the record upon which this list of siblings was based. It was attached on an Ancestry tree to Elizabeth Bays, a child of William and Rachel that I didn't even have on my list. I am grateful to the Bays researcher who found the document--a court case--in the records of the Virginia Chancery Court and transcribed the portion of the file that would be most helpful to genealogists. He also provided the link to the actual record, 
which I read.

Ironically, the court case was brought by my ancestor, Anna Sargent, against her mother and siblings, claiming that she had not received a fair portion of her deceased father's estate. The list of defendants corroborated the list of siblings I copied from Ancestry, with one exception. While many trees list Joel Bays as one of the children of William and Rachel Bays, it turns out it is really his wife Elizabeth who was their child, and her husband Joel was her first cousin. The transcription of the court case was attached to this Elizabeth on a family tree to prove that she, not her husband Joel, was the child of William and Rachel Bays.

The court case gave me quite another shock when the original complaint listed the widow of William Bays as "Rebecca." I just couldn't figure out how William could have remarried since his wife Rachel appears as head of household in 1830 and didn't die until 1846. Apparently, the name Rebecca was an error, as later the court records list the widow many times as "Rachel."

The suit was brought against "1 Charles Bays, 2 Joel Bays and Elizabeth his wife, 3 John Bays, 4 Thomas Cody and Polly his wife, 5 Isaac Gray and Rebecca his wife, 6 John Barker and Sarah his wife, 7 William Bays, 8 Peter C. Bays children & heirs of William Bays deceased and also against Rebecca [sic] Bays widow of said William deceased." It states that William died in 1827, and the estate was divided in 1831. 

Original complaint brought by Ann Sergeant against her siblings and mother

Anna Sergeant complained that she had not received her portion of one of the tracts of land owned by her father. Reading the descriptions of the land makes me wonder how the metes and bounds system could have ever worked well. Hardly anyone could agree on the extent of the tracts or how much they were worth. What I found really entertaining was how many ways they could spell the word we know as "moccasin," as in Moccasin Creek. Most prevalent were "moqueson" and "mokasin."

Here are the children listed in the court case and thus the children of William and Rachel Bays:

Defendant #1 was Charles Bays. I found him at 65 years old on the 1850 Floyd County KY census and therefore born about 1785. He was the head of household of a family including wife Susannah and four children. All members of the family were born in Virginia. Floyd County KY was a transition residence for many of my Morgan/Magoffin County ancestors.

Elizabeth Bays, defendant #2 along with her husband Joel, was 66 on the 1850 Scott County census (Western District) and therefore born about 1784. She is listed on the census with her husband Joel Bays, age 68, and their daughter Malinda, age 23. Elizabeth and Joel were born in Virginia, but Malinda was born in Tennessee. Next door is William Bays, age 26, born in Tennnessee, most likely the son of Elizabeth and Joel.

Trees that list John Bays as a child of William and Rachel Bays give his birthdate as 1787 and his death date as 10 September 1867 in Carter County KY. They show his wife as Jane Kilgore, and one tree lists nine children of this marriage. A John Bays appears on the 1820 Scott County census and the 1830 and 1840 censuses in Russell County. I could not find a John Bays on the 1850 or 1860 Carter County KY censuses. However, an extensive entry for John "Jack" Bays on Findagrave claims his birth in Washington County VA in 1787 to William and Rachel Bays, his marriage to Jane "Jennie" Kilgore, residence in Morgan County KY in 1840, the birth of eight children, and his death in 1861 in Carter County. He was defendant #3 in the court case.

Numerous trees on list Mary "Polly" Bays as a child of William and Rachel. They give a birthdate of 1792 and a death date of 28 September 1853 in Perry County VA. She is listed as defendant #4 in the court case, along with her husband Thomas Cody.

The court case lists Rebecca Bays as defendant #5, along with her spouse Isaac Gray. Trees on give her birth year as 1794 and a death date of 1850. While many trees on Ancestry and sources on the Internet repeat this information, I can't find a marriage or census record for them.

Sarah "Sally" Bays, defendant #6, married John Barker on 26 March 1815 in Scott County. They are living in the Western District of Scott County on the 1850 census as family #357 with five children, ages 22 to 11. Their children's names follow family naming traditions. Son Joel is 20 and daughter Rachel is 14. Sarah is age 51 on the 1850 census, thus born in 1799. A Lydia Vickers, age 25, is living with the family. Older married/widowed daughter?

William Bays, defendant #7, is pretty well documented as a child of William and Rachel, even without the evidence of the court case. He was born in 1795 in Scott County VA and died on 19 October 1878 in Elliott County KY at age 77. These facts are supported by his death record which also includes the names of his parents: William and Rachel Bays. Descendants show his wife as Ann Elizabeth Kilgore whom he married in Scott County.

Peter C. Bays married Mary "Polly" Addington on 27 May 1830. Peter is 49 (born 1801) on the 1850 census of District 54, Russell County. In 1860 Peter and Polly are living in Knox County VA. Peter was defendant #8 in the court case.

Anna Bays, my ancestor, was born in 1804 in Virginia. She married John Sargent (spelled various ways) on 15 January 1820 in Scott County. Signed by William Bays and John "Sergant," the marriage bond reads:

"The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas there is a marriage shortly intended between John Sergant and Ann Bays Now if there is no lawful cause to obstruct the same; then this obligation to be void otherwise to remain in full force and virtue. Signed and delivered in the presence of John Sergant William Bays"

Rachel Sargent Castle, my 2nd great-grandmother, was born to John Sargent and Anna Bays on 29 September 1825, according to her death certificate. Trees on show an older sister Sally, born 1822, and a younger brother William, born 1827. John Sargent died in 1827, the same year as his father-in-law, William Bays.

Rachel Sargent Castle death certificate

On 11 March 1841 Anna married James Haney in Scott County. By the 1850 census James and Anna were living in Morgan County KY with children Louisa, age 18; Granville, age 16; Gilean, age 13; Lilburn, age 11; Miriam, age 8; and Elizabeth, age 2. George Washington Haney was born in 1850, apparently after the census. None of the Sargent children appear with their mother on this census. Rachel had married Goldman Davidson Castle in 1844, so she was already in her own home. William married Lizanne Stacy in 1854, so I'm not sure where he was in 1850, but not with his mother and step-father.

Among researchers there has been some discussion about the mother of the older Haney children. Louisa, Granville, Gilean, and Lilburn were born between 1832 and 1839. Some believe they were the children of Anna Bays Sargent, even though she didn't marry James Haney until 1841. The only clue to the identity of the first Mrs. Haney, if not Anna Bays Sargent, is the death certificate of Granville Haney that shows his mother as Anna Fugate. However, researchers have not found an Anna Fugate in the vicinity that fits the bill.

It's interesting that William and Lizanne Sargent named two of their children Gillian and Lilburn. William, who never knew his father, must have been very close to his half-siblings, if that's what they were. He didn't name a child after his known full sister, Rachel, unless that is Gillian's middle name. She is enumerated on the 1870 census as Gillian R. 

The fact that the court case was brought in the 1830s may be a clue as to the situation in which Ann Sargent found herself. If she was widowed and unattached to James Haney at the time, she may have truly needed the money from the court case in order to support her family. But--it is also interesting that James Haney figures prominently in the court case. If you read it fully, he appears as a witness and, if I am reading correctly, he also delivered notices to appear in court to the defendants. So maybe she really was his common law wife at the time, or at least he was not an uninterested bystander. 

Court case reference to survey of James Haney

One document, signed by Thompson G. Martin, Comr. (Commissioner?), recommended that each defendant (except Charles Bays who had taken no part in the division of the estate, having already received his portion while his father was still alive) remit to Ann Sergeant the amount of $11.42. Wow. Was the family just so scattered or so dysfunctional that they couldn't each have donated an equal amount to help their widowed little sister? Or did they know something that we don't know about her ability to support herself? In any case, the documents do not show if all the defendants ever paid, though a couple of them were given credit for smaller amounts already received by Ann Sergeant.

Members of the DNA Circles of William Bays and Rachel Barker

There are 10 members of the William Bays DNA Circle. Two claim descent from William Bays through his son, John Bays; two name Sarah "Sally" Bays as their ancestor; and two show Peter C. Bays. One each claims descent through Joel, Charles, and William. While it certainly could be true that the Joel Bays descendant can name him as an ancestor, he is not the link to William Bays; his wife Elizabeth is. I am the only member that shows descent through Anna Bays. I am considered a "Weak" match, probably because I only share DNA with one other member in the circle.

There are 15 members of the Rachel Barker DNA Circle. Four of them state that they are from the "Mary Virginia Barker Family Group." Yay! Maybe this is proof that Rachel really was a Barker. Not so fast--all the members of this family group are descendants of Sarah Bays, who was married to John Barker. So DNA Circles still can't tell us if Rachel was a Barker, even though at least 15 circle members show her as such in their trees.

The other members of the Rachel Barker DNA Circle descend from Charles (1); Joel (1) and Elizabeth (1), so that's really Elizabeth (2); John (2); William (1); Peter (2); and two more Sarahs. I make 15, and again I am the only descendant of Anna in the Circle. And again, I match with the same one member of the Circle, which makes me a Weak match in this Circle, as well. 

Conclusions? The really positive thing about has always been the ability to collaborate with descendants you would probably never find otherwise. I doubt that I would ever have found Ann Sergeant's court case without the help of a Bays descendant who thoughtfully transcribed portions of the case and supplied the link to the original document so I could read it myself. But as always, Ancestry users cannot just copy names to trees or claim ancestors without proof. When family trees and DNA Circles are based on shoddy research and erroneous names, they are useless.

I still have my doubts anyway as to how useful the DNA Circles are without a Chromosome Browser. I share my trees on Ancestry with other researchers, and they share theirs with me. And then we say, "Have you uploaded your Ancestry results to Gedmatch? Have you heard about Genome Mate?" Too bad that Ancestry has to hoard our DNA results and dole them out to us as they see fit.

Friday, April 3, 2015

New Ming Cousins

One of the first blog posts I wrote was called "The Wheats in Texas." In that post I talked about my surprise when I found a gravestone with the name "Susanna Wheat Ming" in the little Carson Cemetery outside of Dustin in Hughes County, Oklahoma. It was a clue that led me to connections between the Ming and Wheat families that I didn't know existed. I found out last Sunday that that post also led me to new Ming connections with cousins I didn't know I had. 

In those early years of genealogical research, I assumed that my Wheat-Ming great-grandparents' marriage was the first combination of those two families. I knew that a Ming (Cynthia, my great-grandmother) had married a Wheat, but I didn't know that a Wheat (Susanna) had married a Ming. Then on the 1880 census I found my grandfather J.W. Wheat, age 8 months, living with his parents J. Wheat and Cynthia, who in turn were living with Cynthia's parents, William F. Ming and wife Susanna. I discovered that William F. (Fred) Ming and Susanna were first cousins. William's mother was Susanna Stephenson, and his wife Susanna's mother was Cynthia Stephenson, who had married Samuel Wheat. So Susanna Ming was originally a Wheat and now the gravestone "Susanna Wheat Ming" made perfect sense. Until recently, though, I still didn't know how she had come to be buried in Carson Cemetery.

The Mings have always been fun to research because the name is fairly unusual. Back in the day, surname message boards were a great place to connect with relatives and share genealogical discoveries. For years I saw the name "Paul Ming" on Ming family message boards. I noticed that he lived in Oklahoma, although not close to me, and it was fun to know that I had a Ming cousin nearby, even though we had never met.

And then last November, out of the blue, I got an email from Paul Ming:

"Hi Becky, my name is Paul Ming and this is a picture of my great grandmother Susanna Wheat Ming with her daughter Martha and grandchildren. Grandma and Martha are both buried in Dustin, OK. I would like to hear from you. I have several years of research on the Ming lineage. Also I can always use another cousin. I live in Texas but raised an Okie. One of my daughters lives in Owasso. Looking forward to hearing from you."

Thus began a several-month correspondence by email and snail mail. Paul sent me one packet of information about the Mings and Wheats and another with much of his research on the Whitley family and the Whitley House. In the Ming/Wheat packet was a gift beyond measure--the only picture I have of my grandfather, John William Wheat, in which he is identified. (The only other photo I had was of a group of oil workers, and I still don't know which of them is my grandfather.)

We had planned to get together at Christmas when Paul and his wife were visiting their daughter, but he came down with the flu. We kept corresponding, and finally, Paul was going to be here this past weekend for his daughter's birthday. My brother was free Sunday afternoon and picked me up for the short drive to Traci's house. What I was delighted to find was that not only was I going to get to meet Paul and his wife but all four of their daughters, my new cousins.

Traci, Bobbie, Paul, Ruthie, Toni, Kathryn

Me, Paul, and Tim
We spent almost two hours looking at family photos and all of Paul's research into the Mings and related families. Paul's wife Bobbie added so much to the conversation that it was obvious that she knows just as much about the Mings as Paul does. In fact, it was Bobbie who shared the story of how Paul had found me, and it all goes back to his great-grandmother and my 2nd great-grandmother, Susanna Wheat Ming.

Buried in the little Carson Cemetery outside Dustin, Oklahoma, is my grandfather, John William Wheat; his wife, Cora Lee Bell Wheat Altstatt; and his grandmother, Susanna Wheat Ming. Down the same row, right at the front of the cemetery, are Frank Bell (Cora Bell's uncle); his wife, Martha E. (Ming) Bell (Susanna Wheat Ming's daughter); and Frank and Mattie's daughter, May Eaunice, who died at the age of 16. I knew that Susanna was living with her daughter Martha "Mattie" Bell when she died. What I didn't understand was why her husband, William F. Ming, was living 200 miles away in Granite, Oklahoma, with his daughter Helen from his first marriage.

Paul had the answer to that little mystery, thanks to our cousin Benton Bell, another of Frank and Mattie's children. Apparently, after Fred and Susanna Ming grew older, Fred's daughter Helen asked them both to move to Granite and live with her family. Since most of Susanna's children lived in south central Oklahoma or north Texas, she preferred to stay closer to them and chose to remain in Hughes County. I always wondered at the couple's separation, and I'm glad to know that Susanna was welcome in the home of her step-daughter.

We never know what little ripples our actions cause. It turns out that Paul was responsible for the gravestone marked "Susanna Wheat Ming" in the Carson Cemetery. In 1993 he had found out from Benton Bell where Susanna's grave was, compared to the other markers, and he placed a concrete headstone there, inscribed with her name and birth and death years. I saw the marker, and it started me on a decade of research into the histories of the Ming and Wheat families. That marker became an important part of that early blog post, "The Wheats in Texas." Then last fall Paul was playing with his new Samsung tablet, a gift from one of his daughters, and was so surprised and happy to see the gravestone he had placed in my blog post. As Bobbie explained, that led to his email to me and to a happy family get-together this past weekend.

I found out that I have a cousin, Traci, who lives fewer than 5 miles from me. I could have passed her at the Owasso Wal-Mart and never known that she was my cousin. Paul says we will continue to get together when he and Bobbie are up this way. Paul says he doesn't have many cousins, and he doesn't plan on losing me now!