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.

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







Sunday, December 28, 2014

DNA Circles: Robert Patrick and Elizabeth McMullen

Two more of my DNA Circles on Ancestry.com are centered on Robert Patrick and Elizabeth McMullen. Looking at these two ancestors in more depth has led to questions I didn’t know I had.

Robert “Robin” Patrick is my 4th great-grandfather. He was born in Staunton, Virginia, in 1764, and lived in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee before settling in Floyd County, Kentucky. His daughter, Sarah Patrick, born 5 January 1830, married Lewis Reed on 3 May 1849 in Morgan County, Kentucky. Their daughter, Nancy Emily Reed, married James Thomas Day in Magoffin County, Kentucky, in 1876 and moved to Oklahoma before statehood. They were the parents of my great-grandmother, Sarah Florida Day.

For years, without question, I have listed Robert’s wife and my 4th great-grandmother as Elizabeth “Betsy” McMullen. However, in doing more research for this post, I have found that there are facts about the marriage of Robert and Betsy that call into question whether she is my ancestor. In 1819 after the birth of seven children, Hugh, Henry, Hiram, Robert, Nancy, Margaret, and Brice—the latter two were twins born in 1816—Betsy filed for divorce, citing her husband’s adultery and abandonment as causes. According to Betsy, Robert was living with another woman.

Robert was ordered to come before the court but never appeared. One sheriff remarked that he “got sight of the defendant but could not arrest him.” Elizabeth was afraid that Robert would dispose of property with which he could provide her support, and Robert was “restrain(ed)…from removing or consigning his property without the jurisdiction of (the) court.” Apparently, after living with a woman named Nancy Prater Allen for several years, Robert finally married her after Elizabeth’s death in 1830. It has been assumed that all of the children born after Betsy filed for divorce in 1819 are the children of Nancy. In 1838 the couple, along with Robert’s brother James and several other families, left Kentucky for the West. They traveled over 700 miles to the new state of Arkansas, mostly by river raft. Robert was 74. If nothing else, he was a tough old man.

Most of Robert and Nancy’s children—Robert Jr., Wiley, Jemima, Mary Ann, George, and Rhoda--moved with them to Arkansas. And therein lies the problem. Sarah, my ancestor Sarah, didn’t. She married Lewis Reed in Morgan County in 1849. She is listed on the 1850 census in Morgan County with her husband; they are both 20 years of age. She died in Magoffin County in 1892. If she was born in 1830, she should be Nancy’s daughter.

But why would Nancy move to Arkansas and leave an 8-year-old behind in Kentucky? Who did she leave her with? So is Sarah really Betsy’s, as I have shown in my tree all along? Looking at just the evidence of family names, it would appear not. Sarah did not have any daughters named Elizabeth, but she named the daughter who would become my 2nd great-grandmother Nancy Emily. Surely Sarah would not name a daughter after the woman who had caused her father to abandon his family.

No doubt because Robert had so many children—most researchers claim 17 total—I have tons of matches to Patrick descendants. Not only do they show up in my DNA Circles and on the Ancestry DNA site, but also on Family Tree DNA. In all, I have at least 50 matches with Patrick descendants. I think I can confidently say that I am a descendant of Robert Patrick. But from which wife?

Again, the lack of chromosome data on Ancestry hampers my ability to answer this question. In theory I should be able to compare amounts of mutual DNA with my matches and determine if we descend from a full or half relationship. In other words, are we only connected by Robert Patrick, or do we have both of our 4th great-grandparents (Robert and Betsy, or Robert and Nancy) in common?

Putting that question aside for a minute, let’s look at my matches (35 of them!) within the Robert Patrick circle. Within the Robert Patrick circle are descendants that match at least one other person in the circle by DNA and also show Robert Patrick as a descendant in the tree they have submitted to Ancestry.

The trees don’t always match the facts. Some list all of the children with birthdates through 1830 as Elizabeth’s (since she was his known wife during that time period and no divorce decree has ever been found), even when the submitter’s ancestor is quite probably a child of Nancy’s. Some list all the children born after 1819—the date of the divorce petition—as Nancy’s, even though in the case of Sarah, that doesn’t really make sense. Some even show Elizabeth dying in Arkansas, although that was obviously Nancy.

I have to admit that I had listed Elizabeth as the mother of all the children, because I didn’t know until recently about the existence of the divorce petition. This resulted in my being placed in the Elizabeth McMullen circle, even though she might not be the mother of my Sarah. (By the way, when I changed the mother’s name in my tree to Nancy Prater, my Elizabeth McMullen circle disappeared. Now, even though I have changed the name back to Elizabeth, her circle has not reappeared. Shoot. I wish I hadn’t been so hasty; in comparison to Robert’s circle with 36 members, my Elizabeth circle had only 15 members. I really wish I had compared the names before the circle disappeared.)

Within the Robert Patrick circle are descendants of 5 of the 7 children that Robert had with Elizabeth McMullen: 4 descended from Margaret, 3 from Hugh, 3 from Henry, 3 from Brice, and 2 from Hiram. The remaining members of the circle descend from probable children of Nancy: 8 from Mary Ann, 5 from Jemima, 4 from George, and 1 from Rhoda. I am the only descendant of Sarah in the circle.

Eight members of the circle are DNA matches to me. Three of those are descended from Robert Patrick through his daughter, Jemima, a daughter of Nancy; then I have one each from Margaret, Henry, Hugh, and Hiram (all children of Elizabeth) and one from George, a son of Nancy.

The conclusions I reached about my first two DNA circles—Samuel Wheat and Cynthia Stephenson—also apply here. 1) Exploring these ancestors in more depth is a good exercise and gives a direction to my further research. 2) Lack of tools to manipulate the DNA data and erroneous trees make the DNA Circles a dubious help.

My main question is: Where was Sarah from 1838 to 1849? She wasn’t with her father, and she couldn’t have been with either mother. Nancy was in Arkansas, and Elizabeth was dead. So where was Sarah? Maybe if I can ever determine which of Robert’s wives was her mother, I might be able to find her with relatives of that wife. And then again, maybe not. I could only theorize, since her name doesn’t show up until the 1850 census after she is already married to Lewis Reed.

The Patricks and related families ended up in Madison County, Arkansas, and a little community, still called Patrick, grew up around them. Patrick, Arkansas, where Robert and Nancy are buried, is about two hours from where I live in Oklahoma. Robert Patrick was the grandfather of Grandma Day, my grandmother’s grandmother. I never heard my grandmother mention any relatives in Arkansas, and on some of our family trips we weren’t that far from Robert’s final resting place. Still, it makes me wonder. Grandpa and Grandma Day came to Oklahoma first, and later the Castle family followed. Even if Grandma Day never had any contact again with her grandfather, aunts and uncles in Arkansas, she had to know they were there. Maybe their trek by river 60 years before gave her courage to leave all she knew in Kentucky and move to Oklahoma.

I’m not sure what I think about ol’ Robert. For sure, adultery and abandonment of first wives is nothing new, but I think he treated Elizabeth pretty badly. I guess I have to admire his tenacity—he knew what we wanted and he just hung on until he got it—and his courage in moving west. I think a trip to the cemetery in Patrick is in order.

Photo from www.findagrave.com

Saturday, December 6, 2014

DNA Circles: Samuel Wheat and Cynthia Stephenson

DNA Circles is Ancestry DNA’s new twist on DNA matches. Judy Russell, who writes the blog The Legal Genealogist calls them  “…shaky leaf hints on steroids.” While still not giving genetic genealogists the tool they really want—something that lets you compare matching segments on a chromosome to identify DNA derived from a particular ancestor—the Circles combine DNA matches with family trees to create circles of Ancestry members who may share particular ancestors. 

Critics are warning that while DNA Circles may prove helpful to genealogists, they have a couple of drawbacks: 1. Since there is no way to compare actual DNA results, you can’t know for sure that the ancestor in your circle is the common ancestor of you and your match, and 2. The matches are only as good as the data in people’s trees, and everyone has seen common mistakes in numerous trees on Ancestry.

I thought it might be useful to look at my 14 DNA Circles--what I know about the ancestor in each circle; what, if anything, I know about my matches; any inaccuracies that I am aware of; and if anything can be learned from the endeavor.


The Ancestors

My 3rd great-grandparents, Samuel Wheat and Cynthia Stephenson, are the ancestors at the center of two of my DNA Circles. They married 13 November 1814 in Madison County, Mississippi Territory (Madison County, Alabama.) Samuel was the son of Zachariah Wheat and Priscilla Reynolds, who married 4 February 1782 in Upper Marlborough (now spelled Marlboro), Prince George’s County, Maryland, where many of our Wheat families seem to originate. Priscilla was the daughter of Thomas Reynolds and Elizabeth Bordley of Prince George’s Co.

Most researchers have Samuel’s (and his brothers’) place of birth as Loudon County, Virginia, which is only about 50-60 miles from Prince George’s County, although it appears that Zachariah Wheat died in Prince George’s County in 1792 at the age of 28. Samuel and his brothers—Josiah, William, and Benjamin--all resided in Madison Co. AL by 1813. Josiah married Martha Fletcher in Madison Co. in 1812; Benjamin married Mary Gourley there in 1812; and William married Esther Stephenson, Cynthia’s sister, again in Madison Co. AL, in 1813.

Samuel apparently makes a detour to Tennessee (daughter Mary Elizabeth was born there in 1826), before he next appears on a tax list in Washington Co. Arkansas in 1828 and on the 1830 census there. In 1840 he is still in Arkansas, but by 1846 he is in Red River County, Texas, and appears on the 1850 census in Milam, Texas. He is in Bell Co. in 1860, living with his daughter M.E. (Mary Elizabeth) and her husband, G.W. (George Washington) Cloer. He died in 23 November 1866 in Grayson Co. Texas and is buried at the Hall Cemetery in Howe.

Samuel was a Primitive Baptist preacher and helped start several churches in Arkansas and Texas. His headstone reads: “In memory of Elder Samuel Wheat, who departed this life November 23, 1866, aged seventy-nine years and one day. Elder S. Wheat had been an old school Baptist from his youth and a minister of the cross for fifty-eight years. Standing firm amidst all the siftings and schisms among the churches. The fearless advocate of electing and reigning grace. Elder Wheat was born in Virginia, emigrated to Alabama, thence to Tennessee, thence to Arkansas, then to Texas in 1847, making his first discourse to Pilot Grove Church in Grayson County to which he made his last a few days before his death. From the 48th Psalm, Walk About Zion.”


Samuel Wheat headstone, Hall Cemetery, Howe, TX
when headstone was still intact
from findagrave.com

Cynthia Stephenson (sometimes spelled Stinson) and her sister Esther were the daughters of Robert Stephenson and Elizabeth Whitley. Elizabeth was the daughter of William Whitley and Esther Fullen, early Kentucky pioneers whose home was known as the “Guardian of the Wilderness Road” and still stands near Crab Orchard, Kentucky. (See my post “Daughter of the American Revolution.”)


Children of Samuel and Cynthia (Stephenson) Wheat

I have been able to document the following possible children of Samuel and Cynthia (Stephenson) Wheat:

Joseph Wheat, born in 1815 in Alabama; married Malitta DeRecors; appears on 1850 census in Milam, TX; most trees list death date as 1850. Some trees list Joseph as the son of William and Esther (Stephenson) Wheat. Joseph is usually in the same places as Samuel (Madison, AR; Milam, TX), but so is William. Joseph’s first son is Drecory (coined, no doubt, from his mother’s maiden name); second son is Samuel, and third son is William. (If Samuel’s brother William is also my ancestor, as I believe, I would share DNA with the descendants of Joseph Wheat, no matter whether his father is Samuel or William.)

Sarah Elizabeth Wheat, born 1817 in Alabama; married William Jackson in Arkansas; William Jackson is on tax list in Arkansas in 1849, William and Sarah are on 1850 census in Grayson Co. TX; Sarah and children (including son John, age 9) definitely appear on 1870 census in Grayson Co.; Sarah Jackson, widow, living with son John, age 18, on 1880 census; says her parents were born in North Carolina. I wish I could find proof that this person—Sarah Elizabeth Wheat—is daughter of Samuel and Cynthia.

*William Whitley Wheat, born 1820 in Madison, AL; married Cynthia Ann Maynard in 1838; was living in Texas by 1846, where he appears on the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses, dying in Grayson Co. in 1890; buried in Hall Cemetery, Howe, TX. Undoubtedly son of Samuel and Cynthia. Prominent citizen of Grayson Co. where he was a county commissioner for 8 years; subject of a Texas Historical Society marker.

*Mary Elizabeth Wheat, birthdates according to censuses vary from 1822 to 1830, birthplaces both Alabama and Tennessee; married George Washington Cloer Jr., probably in Alabama; on 1850 census in Madison Co. AR; definite proof of connection to Samuel Wheat, as he is living with the Cloers on the 1860 census in Bell Co. TX; G.W. Cloer died in Civil War; Mary Elizabeth died in 1895 in Collin Co. TX.

*Martha Jane Wheat, born 8 December 1827 in Madison Co. AL; married Andrew Jackson Edwards in Arkansas in 1845; on 1850 and 1860 censuses in Madison Co. AL; on 1870 and 1880 censuses in Tarrant Co. TX; died 1916 in Parker Co. TX. The Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas, published in 1889, lists three siblings of William Whitley Wheat: Samuel, Elizabeth, and Martha.

*Susanna Wheat, born 1835 in Arkansas; on 1850 census in Milam, TX, with her parents, Samuel and Cynthia; married her 1st cousin, William Frederick Ming, about 1856; on 1870 census in Grayson Co. and 1880 census in Collin Co. TX; living with her daughter Martha “Mattie” (Ming) Bell on the 1900 census in Garvin Co. OK. Susanna died in 1916 in Carson, OK, while living with the Bells. (More information has come to light about why Susanna, my ancestor, was living apart from her husband in 1910. Explanation to come in future post.)

*The 1850 census is the only census that lists both Wheat parents, Samuel and Cynthia, with children living at home at the time. The children were: James, age 20; John, age 18; Susanna, age 15; Samuel, age 12; and George, age 10.

Many trees list a son Andrew, born 1818. I couldn’t find any more information about him, nor anything definitive about James, John, Samuel, or George. Some trees list a younger daughter named Sallie; is she the same person as Sarah Elizabeth, even though their birthdates vary widely? Which Elizabeth is the one that The Biographical Souvenir lists as a sister of William Whitley Wheat: Sarah Elizabeth or Mary Elizabeth?


Descendants of Samuel and Cynthia in DNA Circles

So now let’s look at the descendants who join me in the DNA Circle with Samuel (11 matches) and Cynthia (3 matches). Ancestry’s claim about DNA Circles is that they look at the DNA matches first and then look at the trees to determine if two matches should share the circle with their common ancestor. You will match at least one other person in the circle by DNA; some other people in the circle will match someone else in the circle, but not you.

And as Roberta Estes, in her blog DNA Explained, points out: The common link is, of course, that in addition to genetically matching someone in the circle, they all share a common ancestor in their tree. Now, yes, it does go without saying that if everyone has the same wrong ancestor -- the circle will show that ancestor. Conversely, if you are the only one with the right ancestor's name and everyone else has the wrong name, then you won't be shown in that circle."
From Roberta's post, "Ancestry's Better Mousetrap--DNA Circles," 19 November 2014.

Ancestry has some kind of fancy algorithm that finds reliable matches in the trees. Sometimes spelling or nicknames or quotes seem to defeat their search. Are my matches’ trees reliable? Are we all listing the right ancestor? Is the shaky leaf the real deal, or do we really connect in some other way? Am I missing some connections because some Ancestry users, including me, have used nicknames or question marks?

The first Ancestry user in the Samuel Wheat DNA Circle is a descendant of Mary Elizabeth Wheat (Cloer.) We are considered both DNA and Tree matches. Samuel would be our 3rd great-grandfather.

The next Ancestry user in the Samuel Wheat DNA Circle gives her 3rd great-grandmother as Sarah Elizabeth Wheat. We are both DNA and Tree matches. Samuel would be her 4th great-grandfather.

The next Ancestry user in the circle shows her 3rd great-grandmother, daughter of Samuel and Cynthia (Stephenson) Wheat, as Mary Polly Wheat, born 1801. There is a big problem with that. In 1801 Samuel would have been 14 and Cynthia would have been 6, according to the user’s own tree. Ancestry considers us both DNA and Tree matches. I believe we are DNA matches, not through Mary Polly Wheat, but through her real ancestor, Mary Polly Stinson, daughter of Robert and Elizabeth (Whitley) Stephenson, who married her 1st cousin, Logan Stephenson. And in fact, this user and I are both in the Robert Stephenson and Elizabeth Whitley DNA circles.

The next user in the circle is the descendant of Martha J. Wheat. We share Samuel Wheat as our 3rd great-grandfather. The next has the right wife for Logan Stephenson, Mary Francis Stephenson, but makes her a daughter of Samuel and Cynthia. Again, while we are DNA matches, Ancestry makes the erroneous assumption that we are Tree matches, just because we both have Samuel Wheat in our trees. Again, our DNA connection appears to be Robert Stephenson and Elizabeth Whitley, and again, we both appear in those circles.

Match #6 is a descendant of William Whitley Wheat. I would agree that we are both DNA and Tree matches. Match #7 is a descendant of Sarah Elizabeth (Wheat) Jackson. While I’m still uncomfortable that I can’t directly tie Sarah Elizabeth to Samuel and Cynthia, I’m prepared to agree that Match #7 and I are DNA and Tree cousins.

The next circle member is a DNA match to the Circle, but not to me. He is a descendant of William Whitley Wheat. I’m prepared to believe we are paper cousins who just don’t share an appreciable amount of DNA. The next is a descendant of Sarah Elizabeth (Wheat) Jackson. We are considered both DNA and Tree matches.

Circle member #10 is a DNA match to the circle and a Tree match to me, as we both show Samuel Wheat as our ancestor. She shows her descent from Samuel’s daughter, Mary Jane (Wheat) Edwards. While researching this child of Samuel and Cynthia, I saw her name as Martha Jane and Mary Martha, but never Mary Jane. ??? I am #11 in Samuel Wheat’s DNA Circle.

I share Cynthia Stinson Stephenson’s DNA circle with 2 other people. The discrepancy in the number of members in Samuel’s and Cynthia’s circles can be explained by the fact that the two other circle members and I listed Cynthia as Cynthia Stinson Stephenson. Apparently, the other members in Samuel’s tree showed her as Cynthia Stephenson. Makes me wonder, if I changed it, would I gain 8 more members in Cynthia’s circle?


Conclusions

My conclusions? Wow, there are a lot of mistakes out there in Ancestry Land. About DNA Circles?

Pro: I’m not sure. It seems like a good idea to have your DNA and Tree matches that show a common ancestor all in one place. And now that I’ve done all this research to verify my circle matches, I have more people to add to my tree and a better “big picture” of the Samuel and Cynthia (Stephenson) Wheat family.

Cons:
1.       You can’t depend on people’s trees, even if they appear in your DNA Circle. Duh.

2.      You can’t depend on the ancestor in your circle being your common DNA connection with the other circle members. In two instances above, Samuel and Cynthia (Stephenson) Wheat are not our common ancestors; Robert and Elizabeth (Whitley) Stephenson are.

3.      Although it seems like Ancestry has done all the work for you, it actually took me hours of research and analysis to determine that at least two of these matches were completely bogus. (However, part of that is because I had never done the necessary research to document all the children of Samuel and Cynthia Wheat—just the one who really mattered to me—Susanna (Wheat) Ming.)

4.      Ancestry needs a Chromosome Browser! With that tool and Ancestry’s extensive database, all of us could determine exactly how we are connected, but in addition, I could easily determine that for two of the members, our common ancestor is not Samuel Wheat but Robert Stephenson or Elizabeth Whitley. And with a Chromosome Browser, I could probably find out if it is Stephenson or Whitley DNA, thus helping me with future matches.

5.      Ancestry DNA users may be persuaded to make their trees Public or include theoretical ancestors in their trees in the hopes that they will be included in a DNA Circle. I have already succumbed to this myself by adding some probable (by DNA) but undocumented ancestors to my tree, hoping that inclusion in a DNA Circle will give me the “proof” I’m looking for.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Back to the Books: 1850 Census, Jackson County Tennessee, Family #1110

Family #1110 on the 1850 Jackson Co. census is William Lambert, age 39, with his wife of 2 years, Elizabeth “Betsy” Pharris, age 18. Enumerated with William and Betsy are William’s children by his first marriage to Katherine Lewis: Lewis, age 18 (same age as William’s new wife); Nancy, age 16; Anderson, age 12; Judah, age 12; William, age 10; and Andrew, age 6. James, age 1, would appear to be the child of William and Betsy.

William Lambert family, 1850 census,
Jackson County, Tennessee
William Lambert was a comparative newcomer to Jackson County, having arrived sometime between 1840 when he was enumerated on the census in Surry, North Carolina, and 1850 when he appears on this census. According to a note by a descendant on findagrave, Katherine died en route to Jackson County. William and Katherine’s marriage bond may be found in Surry County, NC, dated 29 April 1831. William was also supposed to have had a second wife, Nancy Philpot. If Katherine did die en route to Jackson Co., then it’s possible that William and/or Andrew were sons of Nancy.

Elizabeth Pharris was the daughter of William Pharris, usually called “Billy” to distinguish him from his father William (“Big Bill”) and his grandfather William (“Old Man”).  Elizabeth’s mother, Mariah Vinson, had died when Elizabeth was only 2 (3 Sept 1834), and then her father died two years later (25 Feb 1836). She was raised by her grandparents, James and Elizabeth (White) Vinson. According to the Chancery Court Minutes of Jackson County, Elizabeth “…went from the grave (of her mother) to Vinson’s house and staid there till she married.”

Why was Elizabeth’s childhood a matter for the court? Because not long after she married William Lambert, they sued the administrators of her father’s estate, James Pharris and James Vinson, stating that “they believe James Pharis and James Vinson still owe money to Elizabeth from this Estate.” The case dragged on for years in Jackson County’s Chancery Court.

William and Elizabeth went on to have several more children, according to the 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses. They were: Mariah, second child and first daughter, born 1851; Alitha, born 1853; Eliza, born 1855; William, born 1858; Samuel, born 1862; Millie, born 1866; Matthew, born 1869; and Elizabeth “Bettie,” born 1874.

William and Elizabeth (Pharris) Lambert
Photo contributed to Ancestry.com

 The last census on which William Lambert appears is the 1880 at age 68. He is enumerated with his wife Elizabeth and four children still living at home: Samuel, Millie, Matthew (enumerated as Madison, but it has to be Matthew); and Bettie. Elizabeth Pharris Lambert is still living on the 1910 census with her daughter, Bettie Philpot, a widow, and four of her children.

Mariah is the child of William and Elizabeth that is most interesting to me, because she has a connection with my Huff/Roberts ancestors. Mariah married George Washington Huff, son of Samuel and Lucinda (Hardcastle) Huff, on 16 July 1870. They are enumerated twice on the 1870 census. They were enumerated as family #63, apparently in their own home, as they are the only names at that residence. Their neighbors on either side were Leonard “Knight” Huff (listed as Luna Huff) and his son, James Pendleton Huff (listed as Penelton Huff and transcribed as Perretta!) They are enumerated again at Stephen and Elzina’s home, #179, where they were apparently visiting next door to Mariah’s parents, William and Elizabeth, who lived at #178.

George Washington and Mariah (Lambert) Huff,
1870 census, Jackson Co. TN at their own home

For a long time I have tried to make much of the fact that George and Mariah were at Stephen and Elzina’s house on that enumeration day. At first I thought they were living with the Roberts family, until I found them enumerated at their own house. Then I tried to make a connection with George Huff’s family, thinking that Elzina and George might have been siblings, both children of Samuel Huff. (I still haven’t completely given up that theory, as Samuel was of age and unmarried at the time of Elzina’s birth. He didn’t marry Lucinda Hardcastle until he was almost 40. Could his first wife have died, leaving him with a baby Elzina that he gave to his mother Susannah to raise?) Finally, now that I know I am also a Pharris descendant, could Mariah, daughter of Elizabeth Pharris, be the connection?

George Huff and Mariah Lambert married on 16 July. They were enumerated at their own home on 30 August and at Stephen and Elzina’s on 3 September. It’s pretty apparent they were just visiting. Now—were they visiting cousins, siblings, or just friends and neighbors? I wish I knew.

So, the point of this exercise is to look at connections among these Jackson Co. families. Through Elizabeth’s ancestors, connections have been made to the Vinson and Pharris families. Through Elizabeth’s descendants, connections have been made to the Huffs. I’m looking forward to digging into the Lamberts’ neighbors at house #1111, Caleb and Sally Huff Roberts and at house #1112, Samuel and Lucinda Hardcastle Huff.

I can’t leave William and Elizabeth Lambert without pointing out that one of their descendants is one of my largest DNA matches at 122 cM’s. By the early 1900’s George and Mariah and many of their 10 children had moved to Illinois. George appears for the last time on the 1910 census in Johnson Co. IL. He died 4 Sep 1911 and is buried in Williamson Co. IL. Mariah appears on the 1920 census in Williamson Co., and she died there on 11 Nov 1929.


George and Mariah’s son, Mitchell Cullom Huff (appears in some places as Joseph Mitchell Huff), married Lizzie Keith in Jackson Co. on 24 Dec 1910, and died in Johnson Co. IL on 21 Dec 1954. Mitchell and Lizzie’s son Andy, born in Illinois in 1920, is my big DNA match, probably because we share both Huff and Pharris DNA.