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, June 18, 2015

Lost in Arkansas

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

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

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

Square in Bentonville AR with Confederate monument

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

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

Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville AR

Tim on trail bridge at Crystal Bridges

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

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

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

The Ozarks 

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

Scary bridge

Looks like a creek from this side

On this side it looks like a river

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

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

Robert Patrick grave and sarcophagi

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

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

Robert Patrick
KY Militia
War of 1812

Nancy Tackett?

Nancy Prater Patrick?

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

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

Patrick Cemetery original entrance?

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

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New Ancestor Discoveries

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

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

NAD #1 -- Hannah Elizabeth Embry

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

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

NAD #2 -- Christopher Columbus Snodgrass

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

NAD #3 -- William Jackson

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

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

NAD #4 -- Martha Jane Kendrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAD #5 and #6

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

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

NAD #7 and #8

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

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

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

Sunday, May 31, 2015


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

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

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

William Frederick Ming 1824-1911

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

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

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

Oil field workers, Seminole OK, about 1927

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

Cynthia Francis Ming Wheat Rhodes
and second husband, Tom Rhodes

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 7, 2015

DNA Circles: William Bays and Rachel Barker

The Ancestors

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

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

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

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

Children of William Bays and Rachel (Barker?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original complaint brought by Ann Sergeant against her siblings and mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Sargent Castle death certificate

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

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

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

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

Court case reference to survey of James Haney

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

Members of the DNA Circles of William Bays and Rachel Barker

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

New Ming Cousins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traci, Bobbie, Paul, Ruthie, Toni, Kathryn

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

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

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

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

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

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, 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.