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.

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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com. 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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!



Friday, March 27, 2015

DNA Circles: Thomas N. Ming and Susannah Stephenson


The Ancestors

According to his headstone, Thomas N. Ming, my 3rd great-grandfather, was born 14 February 1796 and died 20 June 1887. He was born in North Carolina and is buried in Burnet County, Texas. I can’t find Thomas Ming on the 1880 census, but more than likely, at the age of 84, he was living with one of his children. In fact, I believe that he probably was living in Burnet County with his son, Alexander Columbus Ming, when he died in 1887. According to Findagrave.com, there is only one other Ming buried in Fairland Cemetery in Marble Falls where Thomas Ming is buried, and that is Sarah F. Ming, the 6-year-old daughter of A.C. Ming, who died there in 1883. (In 1880 Alexander Columbus Ming and family were living in Hamilton Co., TX, so they must have moved to Burnet Co. between 1880 and 1883.)




There are two entries for Thomas Ming in the 1870 census, and they are a little confusing. They would make perfect sense if the dates were reversed, but as they are, they create a little puzzle. On 30 September 1870 T.N. Ming (age 66, born in Alabama) and his wife Susanna are enumerated in Grayson County, TX, living with their son William F. Ming. A different enumerator found Thomas (age 70, born in N.C.) on 1 September 1870, living with daughter Emily J. (Ming) Herst/Hurst, also in Grayson County. If the dates were just reversed, we would have a possible death date and place for Susanna, but as it stands, all we have is the question of where she was on 1 September 1870.

On the 1850 census the occupation of Thomas Ming is listed as “house carpenter”; both the 1860 census and the 1870 census (the one in which he is living with the Hersts) list his occupation as “carpenter.” A widely distributed likeness of Thomas Ming shows him holding a hammer and a carpenter’s square, the tools of his trade.




Thomas Ming married Susannah Stephenson around 1823, based on the date of birth of their first child, William Frederick Ming. Susannah was the daughter of Robert and Elizabeth (Whitley) Stephenson and the granddaughter of Col. William C. Whitley, and his wife Esther Gill Fullen. Susannah was born about 1802 in Limestone County, Alabama, and probably died around 1880 in Grayson Co., Texas.

Thanks to my cousin Paul Ming, a long-time Ming researcher, I also have a likeness of Susanna Stephenson. The origin for my photograph was a display at the Whitley House, but the original was donated to the house by Paul, who is a careful recorder of his sources. He got his copy from a Ming cousin who got it from her grandmother who was a daughter of William F. Ming.



Paul also gave me some background on the above-mentioned picture of Thomas Ming. He got it originally from a cousin who was a great-granddaughter of Thomas through his son, Alexander Columbus. This photograph is probably the origin of the middle name that many researchers have shown for Thomas because the back of the photograph is inscribed “Thomas Norton Ming.”

Children of Thomas N. and Susannah (Stephenson) Ming

Known children of Thomas and Susanna Ming were:

William Frederick Ming, known as Fred, was born in 1824 in Alabama. By 1829 Thomas and Susana had moved to Callaway County, Missouri, and William grew up there with his five younger brothers and sisters. (See my post, “The Ming Dynasty.”) In 1848 Fred joined the Peters Colony and moved to northeastern Texas. The 1850 census shows him married to Frances J. They had a daughter, Helen Ann, born about 1853/54, before Frances died, perhaps in childbirth. Fred took his daughter and moved to Grayson County, Texas, where his aunt Cynthia (his mother’s sister) and his uncle Samuel Wheat were living. There Fred married his first cousin, Susana, daughter of Samuel and Cynthia Wheat. They had their first child, Thomas Samuel Ming, in 1857, followed by Cynthia Frances (1859), Jefferson Davis (1862), George Alexander (1863), William Olive (1867), John (1869), James (1872), Martha (1879), and Josephine (1880). Two other children, Edney and Mary, died as infants.

(Thanks to my cousin Paul Ming for generously sharing his research into the lives of our Ming ancestors. He and I both descend from the William F. Ming family, Paul through son George Alexander, and myself through daughter Cynthia Frances. After many years of seeing each other’s names in Ming message boards, Paul contacted me just a few months ago. We have carried on a frequent email and snail mail correspondence and hope to finally meet each other this spring.)

The second son of Thomas and Susanna Ming was Whitley F. Ming, born about 1830 in Missouri. On the 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses Whitley is found in Grayson Co. with wife Margaret and children: George J., Alice E., William W., Carrie L., Cora, and E.M. (Eugene.)

Frances Ming was born in 1835 in Missouri. Her story is told in my blog post, “Serendipity.” She is the grandmother of one of my largest DNA matches, Herbert Archie Miller.

Emily Jane Ming was born 14 November 1838, consistently giving Missouri as her place of birth on several censuses. At the time of the 1850 census she was living with her parents and siblings, Frances, Alexander, and Margaret, in Van Buren, Crawford County, Arkansas. She married Bradford C. Hurst, and their first child, Thomas Jefferson, was born about 1855 in Texas, although by the 1860 census the Hursts were living in Otoe, Kansas Territory. Four more children were born to the Hursts: Mary Frances, Franklin Pierce, Margaret E., and Bradford Lee. Emily’s husband died in 1870, and in 1871 she remarried to Rev. James Bedford, a Primitive Baptist preacher who was 30 years her senior. Remarkably, they had a child, Cynthia Ellen, who was born in 1876 in Parker County, Texas, when her father was 66 years old. Rev. Bedford died in 1892 at the age of 82. Emily went on to marry one more time to William Harvey Martin on 18 April 1895. Emily died in 1905 and is buried in Hood County, Texas. The economical headstone in the Martin Cemetery in Hood Co. includes the names of Wm. H. Martin who died in 1925, his first wife Sallie who died in 1893, and his second wife, Emily J. (Ming Hurst Bedford Martin.)



Alexander (sometimes spelled Elexander) Columbus Ming was born 18 November 1841, according to his death certificate, probably in Callaway County, Missouri. He married Margaret Lucinda Ferguson on 29 May 1865 in Grayson County, Texas, according to her application for Civil War widow’s benefits. Their children were William Alfred, Susie Catherine, Nancy Elizabeth, Margaret Emily, Sarah F., and Jane Irene. Alexander C. Ming died on 29 February 1928 in Bertram, Burnet Co., TX. According to his death certificate, he was a blacksmith and died of influenza with the contributing factor of old age. His parents are listed as Tom and Susan Ming.

Margaret Metilda Ming was born 22 Nov 1844 in Callaway County, MO. While documentation is sketchy, it appears that she married first to a Frank Baskett about 1860/61 and had two children with him: Frances Mary (Fannie) and Charles Columbus. She then married Oliver Peyton/Paten Mallow about 1872; it was a second marriage for both. They appear on the 1880 census in Collin County, Texas, with four children from his first marriage, her children by Frank Baskett, and their children, which include: W.O., born 1874; George F., born 1875; Wesley P., born 1876; Franklin Pierce, born 1879; and Grace, born 1884. Margaret Metilda died 14 July 1930 and is buried at the Orenduff Cemetery in Collin Co.

Descendants of Thomas N. Ming and Susannah Stephenson in DNA Circles

Counting myself, there are 4 members of the Thomas Ming DNA Circle. The Susannah Stephenson DNA Circle has the same 4 members. I am a DNA match to all of the other circle members. Two of the members are descended from Alexander Columbus Ming through his daughter, Susie Catherine. One member is descended from William Frederick Ming through his son Thomas Samuel; I am descended through William’s daughter, Cynthia Frances.

In the absence of a Chromosome Browser, I can’t tell if my DNA matches are on the Ming or the Stephenson side, or both. I’m not sure if Ancestry DNA differentiates its results in that way.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bridge to the Past

Ever since I began this blog I have been looking for a photograph for the masthead. I wanted something that said “bridge” and “past.” I had a few pictures of me, standing on bridges, but nothing seemed exactly right. I just realized I have the perfect photo—my favorite photograph from a trip to Great Britain and France in the summer of 2012.



Wales is the reason I went on the trip. I’ve been fascinated with the country since reading Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy in the 1960’s and the fascination only grew as I became a middle school librarian in the 1970’s and read the Newbery Award-winning Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper. When I found out that a high school teacher was sponsoring a trip to England and France that would include two days in Wales, I had to go. It still gives me goosebumps when I remember looking out the window of our hotel dining room and seeing the ruins of Dinas Bran, a location that figured prominently in the Dark Is Rising books.




Llangollen, the town, is on the River Dee, which was flowing fast and hard on the rainy days we visited it. The bridge was built in 1345. If that doesn’t say “past,” I don’t know what does.




When I read those books in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I didn’t know that I might be Welsh myself. The country seems to crop up again and again as a place my ancestors might have come from. At the very least, I’m pretty sure my Powell ancestors came from there, as Lydia Powell recorded in her “History of the Powells.” It may seem crazy, but I believe more and more that we are drawn, sometimes without even knowing why, to the places our ancestors called home.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

DNA Circles: Robert Stephenson and Elizabeth Whitley

The Ancestors

Robert and Elizabeth Whitley Stephenson are my 4th great-grandparents, three times over. As I have mentioned before, I am a descendant of three of their daughters: Esther, Cynthia, and Susannah. Ancestry.com has placed me in the Elizabeth Whitley DNA Circle with 8 other descendants of Elizabeth and in the Robert Stephenson circle with 5 other descendants of Robert. I can't explain the discrepancy in the number of circle members; I don't know whether it has something to do with our DNA tests or with the way our trees are constructed.

Elizabeth Whitley is well-documented as the daughter of William Chapman Whitley and Esther Gill Fullen, early pioneers of Kentucky. (See my post, "Daughter of the American Revolution.") I think it has been much harder for Stephenson descendants to build Robert's family tree and attribute the right parents, siblings, and children to him. Many researchers agree that Thomas Stephenson and his wife Elizabeth "Betty" Logan were the parents of Robert. Others have identified Betty as the sister of the Benjamin Logan who established Logan's Fort (later becoming Stanford, Lincoln County, Kentucky) in 1775. It seems likely that Robert Stephenson and Elizabeth Whitley were part of the same pioneer community in Kentucky, especially since Elizabeth's family lived at Logan's Fort. Records show that Robert and Elizabeth married on 28 May 1793 in Lincoln County.

Children of Robert and Elizabeth (Whitley) Stephenson

Robert and Elizabeth moved from Kentucky to Mississippi Territory (Limestone and Madison counties in Alabama), probably sometime before 1813 when daughter Esther married William Wheat in Madison County. Robert Stephenson died before 25 August 1825 when Elizabeth appeared in Limestone County orphan's court as administratrix of his estate, asking that his real estate be sold and divided among his children, listed as:

William WHEAT and Esther WHEAT, his wife, Whitley STEPHENSON, Samuel WHEAT and Scintha WHEAT, his wife, Elliott H. NIXON and Jane NIXON, his wife, Logan STEPHENSON and Mary STEPHENSON, his wife, Thomas N. MING and Susannah MING, his wife, Greenup STEPHENSON, Freedom STEPHENSON, William SMITH and Sarah SMITH, his wife.

Andrew and James Stephenson are also listed as infant (under 20) sons of Robert Stephenson and asked to be assigned a guardian. The court minutes also state that Scintha Wheat, Susannah Ming (both my ancestors), Greenup Stephenson, and Freedom Stephenson were not residents of the state, and the court ordered that a copy of "this order" be published in the newspaper for four weeks to give due notice to these heirs.

I can't say that I'm completely versed in women's rights in the 19th century, but it is interesting to me that Elizabeth can be the executor of the estate and yet not be considered a "guardian" for her own children. I also love how the spouse of each of Robert's daughters is listed first, along with "his wife"--who is the actual child of the deceased.

Because of the way the daughters are listed, much confusion has ensued over "Logan Stephenson and Mary Stephenson, his wife"; which of them is Robert's child? Lots of trees, including mine for a while, listed Logan as the son of Robert and Elizabeth, when many Stephenson researchers believe it is Mary who is the daughter. Logan is probably the son of Robert's brother James and therefore Mary's first cousin. His name, no doubt, comes from the maiden name of their mutual grandmother, Betty Logan Stephenson. Back to this question in a minute.

I guess it's a sign of those times that members of families, formerly living within miles of each other, all feel the temptation to move west. It appears that the three youngest of the Stephenson children, Sarah, Andrew, and James--the ones that were born in Alabama--remain there, but the older children, who were born in Kentucky, keep moving west.

Cynthia (Wheat) and Susannah (Ming) had already left Alabama by 1825, according to the court records following Robert Stephenson's death. Cynthia and Samuel Wheat were on the 1830 and 1840 censuses in Arkansas, then by 1847 in Milam County, TX, where Cynthia died about 1850. Susannah and Thomas N. Ming also lived in Arkansas on the 1850 census; Susannah is on the 1850 and 1860 censuses in Grayson County, TX, and died there in 1880.

Freedom and Greenup Stephenson were also living out of the state at the time of their father's death. Searching for them is complicated by the fact that the Stephensons often used the Scottish spelling of their name, Stinson. I found Freedom Stinson living in Callaway, MO, in 1830 with his wife, Aletha Brunson. Some trees on Ancestry.com list his death date as 1839. "Green" Stinson married Malinda Jane Perry in Rutherford County, TN, on 29 Jun 1833, and is last found on the 1850 census in Limestone, AL, as "Green Stenson."

Esther and William Wheat and Mary and Logan Stephenson end up in Texas; Whitley Stinson is living in Hardeman County, TN, by 1840; some trees on Ancestry report his death in 1859 in Tippah County, Mississippi. Elliott Nixon's remarriage in 1837 in Hardeman County, TN, comes after the death of his wife Jane the same year.

Descendants of Robert Stephenson and Elizabeth Whitley in DNA Circles

Out of the 8 other members of Elizabeth Whitley's DNA Circle, I have DNA matches with 7 of them. Two of the circle members show Cynthia Stephenson has an ancestor; two of them show Susannah. The other four show Logan Stephenson as their ancestor, which is interesting since it is highly probable that Logan is not a direct descendant of Elizabeth at all. Which begs the question: since I am a DNA match with three of these purported descendants of Logan Stephenson, is it really his wife Mary that creates the connection to Elizabeth Whitley, or do we match two generations back with the parents of Robert and James Stephenson?

I am considered a Strong match to the Elizabeth circle, six members have a Good match, and two are shown to have "Some" connection. What does that mean, according to Ancestry DNA? A Strong match means there is a "considerable amount of proof that an individual is related to the shared ancestor (and other members of the DNA Circle.)" This is based on three factors: the number of connections; the strength of connections (the confidence score that each DNA match receives); and the number of people in the circle. (If you want to read about how DNA Circles are created and how matches are scored, go to one of your circles and click on the green question mark in the upper right corner of the screen.) Perhaps I have a Strong match because I have not just one, but three, connections to the children of Elizabeth Whitley?

Turning now to the Robert Stephenson DNA Circle, I am a member along with five other descendants. I am a DNA match to all of them, and all of them are members of the Elizabeth Whitley circle. Two of them are descendants of Cynthia, two name Logan as their ancestor, and one is a descendant of Susannah. Whereas I was a Strong match to the Elizabeth Whitley circle, all of us in the Robert Stephenson circle are considered "Emerging." According to Ancestry, "An emerging level means that there is some DNA evidence of a relationship but the DNA circle is too small for us to determine how strong that evidence is. As the circle grows, your connection level will most likely change."

What Next?

I don't know if Ancestry knew this would happen, or if it is an unintended consequence, but knowing how the DNA Circles work makes me want to improve my tree on Ancestry. I've already realized since starting this series on my DNA Circles that I haven't done a very good job of documenting siblings of my ancestors and their descendants.

Although I'm not a Mormon, I attended a genealogy workshop at our local LDS Family History Center a couple of years ago. One of the classes I attended was on "descendancy research," documenting the descendants of your direct and collateral lines. Not only does that sometimes help with locating ancestors in traditional paper research, but in these days of DNA testing, it pays to know the possible surnames and places of residence of as many of your family's descendants as you can find.

It looks like this research will be ever more important as Ancestry.com adds some features to DNA Circles. In a few weeks, some Ancestry DNA customers will find themselves assigned to new DNA Circles based on their DNA results alone. So, even if you don't have a known tree connection to the circle members, if you have a DNA connection, Ancestry will give you a "hint": the common ancestor of circle members whose DNA you match. With some research, you may be able to determine if you are also related to their identified ancestor.

As Blaine Bettinger, the Genetic Genealogist warns, "Only a certain percentage will actually be direct-line ancestors. It will be impossible to determine--based on the DNA Circle alone--whether an identified person is direct-line, collateral, or population-based...additional research will always, always, be necessary."

So what are my goals in advance of his new DNA Circles feature? I at least would like to get siblings, children, and documents attached to all three of my Stephenson lines on my public tree. Right now, only one of them is complete in any way at all. And before the new feature is added to the DNA Circles, I would like to write blog posts on the other 8 ancestors for whom I have DNA Circles: Thomas and Susannah (Stephenson) Ming, Champion and Catherine (Davidson) Farris, William and Rachel (Barker) Bays, Luke Russell Simmons, and Zachariah Wheat. 

Hopefully, future blog posts will show how the new DNA Circle hints helped me break down some long-standing brick wall. We'll just have to wait and see--and do more research.



Sunday, February 1, 2015

DNA Circles: Daniel Reed and Martha "Patsy" Lewis

Daniel and Martha Reed were my 3rd great-grandparents. Their son Lewis was the father of my 2nd great-grandmother, Nancy Emily Reed (See “Grandpa and Grandma Day”) and the grandfather of my great-grandmother, Sarah Florida Day Castle (See “Big Mom”). Lewis Reed married Sarah Patrick whose parents were the object of my last post on DNA Circles. The Reeds were certainly an easier family to research than the Patricks—hardly any mysteries.

In fact, one little mystery was cleared up. Lewis had a twin brother. I have always called him “Lipe.” Lewis and Lipe—I thought those were cute names for twins, and since Lewis was obviously given his mother’s maiden name as a given name, I assumed Lipe was also a family name, maybe even a clue to the maiden name of some female ancestor.



As I began to research the Daniel Reed family, I realized that none of the public trees on Ancestry.com showed a son named Lipe. Instead, Lewis’s twin brother was named Jesse. A closer look at the 1850 census, along with some help from a Google search for handwriting styles in the 1800’s, led to the discovery that “Lipe” is really Jesse. Apparently, when writing a double “s” in the 19th century, a swooping letter--resembling a cursive "f"--was used for the first “s.” Together, the two s's look like a p. Only after learning this fact did I notice that the loop on the “J” at the beginning of Jesse’s name was on the left, while the loop on the “L” of Lewis was on the right. How many mistakes in family trees, I wonder, have been made because of penmanship?

It is also interesting to note that these twin boys began a tradition that followed the family through four generations. While Nancy Emily Reed Day had a passel of girls and one little boy, her daughter, Florida Day Castle, had twin boys—Wardy and Warner, and her daughter, Fannie Castle Smith, had twin boys—my dad Jack and his twin brother Mack. I wonder if any of the other members of the DNA Circle of Lewis and Martha Reed had twin boys.

Warner and Wardy Castle

Jack and Mack Smith

 The 1850 census of Morgan County, Kentucky, was particularly helpful in establishing all the children of Daniel and Martha Reed. I really have never seen one census where the oldest child is still living at home and the youngest child has already been born. Usually, you have to look at two or three censuses in order to establish the names of all the children in a family, but for the Reeds, the 1850 census lays it all out. From oldest to youngest, they are: Jesse and Lewis, twins, age 20; James, 17; Anna, 16; Nancy, 13; Eliza, 12; Rachel, 10; John, 8; Wiley, 6; Solomon, 5; Sarah, 4; Phebe, 3; and William, 0.

1850 census, Morgan County, Kentucky

 On the 1860 census the family is enumerated in Magoffin County (I think the residence remained the same but the county boundaries changed.) The children still living at home are: Wiley, 18; Solomon, 16; Sarah, 15; Phebe, 14; and William, 10. Pheby, 22, and William, 20, are still living with Daniel and Martha on the 1870 census. The addition to the family is John M. Reed, age 1. Now who does he belong to? Martha is 62, so he can’t possibly be hers. Is he a child of Phebe’s or William’s, or a son of one of the other children, visiting his grandparents? I found no documentation of Phebe’s marriage, but trees on Ancestry show her marrying Samuel Jackson in November of 1871. James has a son, also born in 1869, but he is enumerated with his family in 1870 as John F. Reed. Okay, so maybe the Reed family has one small mystery—but this one I can live with.

The spouses of the children of Lewis and Martha are illuminating. Some of the names, such as Lykins and Stacy, are common names in Morgan County. It’s obvious that the Reed children married within a small community, as evidenced by the surnames of their spouses. Lewis and William married Patricks; Jesse and Nancy married spouses named Walters; and James and John married Praters.

Looking farther back in the tree, I find I have another situation like the one with my Wheat ancestors. Again, I hear the voice of Jeff Foxworthy in my head, saying, “You know you’re a redneck when your family tree doesn’t branch.”

Martha Lewis was the daughter of John Lewis and Rachel Henson. John was the son of James T. Lewis and Winnie Henson. James T. was the son of Nathaniel Lewis, and Winnie was the daughter of Paul Henson. Rachel was the daughter of John Henson and Mary “Polly” Lewis. John Henson was the son of Paul Henson, and Mary “Polly” Lewis was the daughter of James T. Lewis and Winnie Henson. That means that the parents of Martha “Patsy” Lewis, John Lewis and Rachel Henson, were 1st cousins on the Henson side of the family, and 1st cousins, once removed, on the Lewis side of the family. 

Nathaniel Lewis
James T. Lewis
Elvira Helton
John Lewis
Paul Henson
Winnie Henson
Elizabeth
Martha "Patsy" Lewis
Paul Henson
John Henson
Elizabeth
Rachel Henson
James T. Lewis
Mary "Polly" Lewis
Winnie Henson


It stands to reason that there will be some strong DNA matches among the descendants of Martha “Patsy” Lewis. Again, it’s too bad that Ancestry doesn’t offer a way to determine if a DNA match comes from Martha’s side of the family or from Daniel Reed’s. What I do have are 22 people in Daniel’s DNA Circle and 22 people in Martha’s. Ancestry put all of us in the same circles because we all have Daniel and Martha in our trees and all of us have a DNA match with at least one other person in the circle. The 22 people in each of my circles are the same, although with 5 of them I do have DNA matches as well. 

Among the Ancestry members in Daniel’s and Martha’s circles, six of them descend from Lewis’s twin brother Jesse; 3 from James; 3 from Nancy; 3 from William; and 2 each from Rachel, Sarah, and Solomon. I am the only descendant of Lewis in the DNA Circles. I have DNA matches with two descendants of James Reed, and one each from Jesse, Sarah, and William.

At the very least, the DNA Circles have caused me to revisit some of these ancestors that I haven’t looked at in a long time. My brother will be very interested to see the Revolutionary War record of our ancestor, Paul Henson, as described in his (and his widow Elizabeth’s) applications for bounty land and pension due for his service. I was also very interested to read the conclusions of Lewis researchers who believe they have traced Nathaniel Lewis and his wife Elvira Helton to their origins in Wales and Ireland. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Back to the Books: 1850 Census, Jackson County Tennessee, Family #1111

My Huff/Pharis/Carter cousin Barbara challenged me to research 15 families living in close proximity on the 1850 census of Jackson County, Tennessee. This is the third family in the series: Caleb Roberts, his wife Sally Huff, and their children, Simon, Nancy, Nathan, James (Polk), Amy/Anna, and Lucinda. The families enumerated on either side of them are William and Elizabeth (Pharis) Lambert and Samuel and Lucinda (Hardcastle) Huff.

1850 census, Jackson County TN

This family is of particular interest to me because Caleb Roberts was the brother of my 2nd great-grandfather Stephen Roberts, and Sally Huff is thought to be the sister of my 2nd great-grandmother Elzina Huff. As I research this family, let’s see if I can find documents that support those conclusions.

First, what information can I cull from the 1850 census? Caleb Roberts is generally given a birth year of 1810. On this census he is age 42, making his birth year about 1808. His occupation is farming. Sarah (Sally) is 34 and has indicated that she cannot read or write. Simon, age 10, has attended school in the past year, but that column is not marked for any of the other children. Nancy is age 9, Nathan is 7, James is 5, Amy is 3, and Lucinda is 8 months. All were born in Tennessee.

Comparing families from census to census is always enlightening and sometimes confusing. Sometimes the names and dates are so different that you wonder if you have the right family. However, once I found the 1840 census for Caleb’s family, it was pretty straightforward. (I almost didn’t find it and wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been scrolling through the District 15 enumeration for Jackson County. Because Caleb’s name was abbreviated as “Robts,” he didn’t show up in a search of the 1840 census for Jackson County.) Caleb’s family in 1840 consisted of 1 male age 20-30, 1 female age 20-30, and 1 male under 5.

1840 census, Jackson County TN

By 1860 Caleb and Sally had added two more children to their family and lost two. This time Caleb was 58 and Sally was 44. Simon was 20, Nathan was 16, Polk (James) was 15, Anna (Amy?) was 13. The two additions to the family were Caleb, age 6, and Joshua, age 3. Missing are the oldest daughter, Nancy, and the youngest from the 1850 census, Lucinda. While it appears that Lucinda must have died, I think that Nancy had married and was still living in Jackson County.

A search in Jackson County for a Nancy, born about 1841, turned up one result in District 15 in 1860: Family #114 consisted of Mat J. Anderson, age 26, his wife Nancy D., age 19, and daughter Arcadia, 2 months. In 1870 M.J. Anderson with wife Nancy is again enumerated in District 15, Jackson County, as Family #120. Children enumerated are Aaron B., age 10; A.B. (female), age 8 (Arcadia?); Elizabeth, age 6; William, age 4; and Mat J., age 2. Family #121 is Mat’s father Jubal, age 78. Family #122 is Samuel and Lucinda (Hardcastle) Huff.

1870 census, Jackson Co. TN,
Mat & Nancy (Roberts) Anderson

The 1870 census is one of those ones that make you wonder if you are even talking about the same family. The head of household is L.C., age 60. His wife Sarah is 55—amazing how they get closer in age as the years go by! They are living in District 3. Nathaniel (Nathan?), age 25, and wife Leah, and J.P. (James Polk), age 23, and wife Mary, had both married within the year and were living with the young men’s parents, along with their brother Josiah (Joshua?), age 12. (Nathan married Leah Spurlock, and James Polk married Mary Ann Haley, so this is no doubt the right family, even with the discrepancies in birth dates and names.)

1870 census, Jackson County TN
L.C. & Sarah Roberts

The 1880 census shows five related Roberts (enumerated “Roberds”) families living right in a row in District 11. Josiah, age 22, has married Penelope (Hargis), and they have a 1-year-old daughter Dora. Nathan and Leah have two children, Drury and Lee. Living with them is their ne’er-do-well uncle (my 2nd great-grandfather), Stephen Roberts. (Fairly definitive proof that Caleb and Stephen were, in fact, brothers.) Caleb, age 69, and Sarah, age 61, are living alone. Simon, with his wife California, have 5 daughters and 1 son, ranging in age from 13 to 3. James K. (Polk) and Mary also have 6 children, ages 9 to 2 months.

Amazingly enough, Caleb was still living when the 1900 census was taken. He was 90 years old (I guess he finally settled on a birth year of 1810) and resided with his oldest son Simon, still in Jackson County.

Since lack of records and DNA evidence have brought into question the parents of Elzina Huff, I have begun to question everything that has been said about the Huff sisters. Most researchers of the family have accepted the fact that Roberts brothers (Caleb and Stephen) married Huff sisters (Sally and Elzina), but I’ve never found evidence for the common parents of Sally and Elzina, or even the fact that Huff was their last name.

That’s why I was pleased to find the death certificate of Nathan A. Roberts on Family Search, the LDS site. He died on 9 July 1920 at the age of 76. The death certificate lists his parents as Calab Roberts and Sallie Huff.

Death certificate of Nathan A. Roberts

 Then I found a death certificate for “Joe Sire” Roberts. Surely this is supposed to be Josiah. (You have to love our ancestors, their hillbilly drawls, and lack of spelling skills!) The certificate states that he was born on 3 September 1852 in Jackson County and died 23 April 1943. The informant for the certificate was Cora Roberts, who was a daughter of Josiah Roberts, according to the 1910 census in Jackson Co. On this census Josiah’s wife is not the Penelope of the 1880 census, but a woman named Dona Denson whom he married in 1888. According to Joe Sire’s death certificate, his father was “Kaylep” Roberts and his mother was Sallie Holleman!  What the heck?

Death certificate of Josiah "Joe Sire" Roberts

Just for the record, I have absolutely no DNA matches with Holleman descendants. My matches with the Huffs have to come from somewhere. For now I’m choosing to believe that Sally Huff was Caleb’s wife and that she and my Elzina had some kind of connection—either as sisters, half-sisters, or even cousins. So, until I find out differently, Elzina was a Huff married to Stephen Roberts, who was definitely the brother of Caleb.


And, you know what? I do have a large DNA match to Brenda, who is a descendant of James K. (Polk) Roberts, son of Caleb and Sally. And I have another large DNA match to Ed, who is a descendant of Nathan A. Roberts, son of Caleb and Sally. Because some of those segments match those of Huff descendants not related to the Roberts, I know that I have Huff DNA. Now if I could just figure out how Elzina got that name.


James & Mary Roberts- My Great Grandparents
James K. "Polk" and Mary Ann (Haley) Roberts
photo borrowed from my Brenda cousins