RECONSTRUCT THE LIVES OF YOUR ANCESTORS
August 22, 2010
Genealogists must use every avenue to determine information on the ancestor for whom they search. Being perceptive of the available records is necessary. One can begin by just thinking of the records you yourself create on a day-by-day basis. The first record you created is probably your birth record. The next records you created were probably medical records, school records, census history, possibly court fines, rent history, a marriage record or records, deeds, church records and so on. Although the early pioneers to our country did not have all of these available, specifically birth and death records, they did have many opportunities to create most of those mentioned. Therefore, it is necessary to put yourself in their place to try to reconstruct their lives and imagine what kinds of records they could have created.
Recently I was researching a family who lived in Tennessee in the early 1800s. It was easy to check the deed indexes for records and determine just when the family came into the county. It was too easy! There were records on him everywhere! Was I really searching the correct man? To my dismay, I soon discovered that there were at least two men by the same name living in the county, and possibly three. Nevertheless, the same names appeared in the adjoining county. Now it was time to examine the original deeds referenced in the deed index.
To determine who my ancestor was, I began to plot the plantations on a map according to the various county surveys. At this point, I use a basic Excel computer generated form for tracking all land sales and purchases. I found that each man lived in a different quadrant of the county. Was it possible my ancestor had lived first in one county before moving to the other? A quick check of Thorndale and Dollarhide’s book on county census maps provided me with the information that possibly only one of those men could have been mine. His property lay within the area that changed from one county to the other. He had not moved. Only the county line changed. Was this man really mine? It was now time to check another type of record.
A check of the county’s cemetery tombstone inscription records showed my ancestor and his wife buried on what had been their own property. With this in mind, I followed all deed transactions in the area near the cemetery and local creeks. This time I did find and identify their land, and I found a general period when they came into the county. However, I wanted to be more precise.
I needed to find where they lived before coming to Tennessee. A census search using their grown children could possibly give me the answers I needed. Yes, a census check showed one of the older children born in South Carolina. I must double-check this clue for accuracy.
The 1800 census had two men with the early ancestor’s name living in South Carolina. They were in different counties. I needed to narrow it down. I can do this with a deed search of the two counties. The deeds provide me with the physical property descriptions. I am still not satisfied. Surprisingly, I did find one record that did. One of the Deeds of Conveyance showed my ancestor’s wife had signed a Release of Dower. It gave her full name, and even identified three of their children. I found several records on this couple, but there were no later records on them in South Carolina. By comparing the latest South Carolina deed with the earliest one in Tennessee, I was able to confirm when my ancestors left the state of South Carolina for Tennessee.
Everything I found was viable. The couple had farmed a huge area of land in both South Carolina and in Tennessee. My hard work had paid off. I now have the satisfaction of knowing where this particular couple lived before moving to Tennessee to live the remainder of their life. I have identified their children and I will continue to follow them for a few decades. I must search records to find whether they were born in South Carolina, or yet another state. Who knows? This couple might be the original immigrants to this country. The genealogical search is never finished. My motto is, forever onward, or backward as this case may be!
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.