Thursday, December 26, 2013

DNA Discoveries: Part 2 - Do I descend from Reuben Todd?


I descend from a James A. Todd who was born in Tennessee in 1813, lived in Rutherford County, Tennessee, and died in Collin County, Texas after 1880. Both online and published genealogies list him as a son of Reuben Todd of Rutherford County, TN. The problem with this assertion is there is no documentation to prove it whatsoever. Neither Reuben's estate files nor his pension ever give a full list of heirs. It is clear from his Census record that he fathered a large number of children, but proving who all of his children were has proven almost impossible. There were a large number of Todd men from both Rutherford and Cannon counties that could theoretically be James A. Todd's father. The Todd families of the two counties were not related to one another, though they did intermarry more than once. [DNA evidence has proven conclusively that the two were not biologically related despite the claims of many Todd researchers over the years.] Some of the Todd men left will's and estate record's that bore out the names of their heirs, allowing us to take them out of the running, but several, like Reuben, did not. So was Reuben Todd the father of James A. Todd?

The case against: 

There isn't much of a case against Reuben being James's father, with the main exception being the simple lack of documentation. No land, court, probate, or pension have ever really spelled out who Reuben's eldest sons were. We have the names of the children by his second marriage to Jemimah Todd because of Census and probate records, but the names of the children from his first marriage have not been proven or confirmed by any solid documentation. In 1810, Reuben has no sons in his household. By 1820, he has 3 sons under the age of 10. By 1830, he has a 5-9 year old son and a 15-19 year old son. It would appear that he perhaps had two sons die, but is always possible those sons were living with other relatives (perhaps kin of his unknown first wife who died prior to his 1827 remarriage) or working elsewhere. The four sons most commonly attributed to him are James A. Todd, John Pinkney Todd [who married Cynthia Todd, the daughter of Reuben's brother William and was an administrator of Reuben's estate], Jesse Todd [who married Nancy Russell, the sister of James A. Todd's wife Mary "Polly" Russell, and moved to Dallas County, Missouri along with James], and Frederick E. Becton Todd [who also migrated to Dallas County, Missouri]. In 1830, there are seven Todd households with 15-19 males living in them, so it is possible James A. could be in any of them, or none of them for that matter.

The case for: 

James A. Todd's first son was named William Reuben Todd. He has been ruled out as a son of Reuben's brother, William, who had his own son named James as proven by estate records. James, Jesse, and Reuben are all three on the same page of the 1840 Census, indicating they lived nearby one another. Aaron Todd's estate record have ruled him out as a father of James A. Todd. After moving to Missouri, he never has significant proximity to any other Todd's with the exceptions of Jesse Todd's widow, Nancy Russell Todd, and the fact that Frederick E. Becton Todd moved to Dallas County, Missouri, though I have not determined if their residences there overlapped or not.

What the DNA says: 

My closest Todd DNA matches were to other descendants of James A. Todd; one was a descendant of William Reuben Todd, and another was of my ancestress, Sarah Jane Todd. I also matched to a descendant of James's daughter Martha who married William P. Betterton. I also had some matches to Todd's from Madison County, Kentucky, where most if not all the Todd's in Rutherford County, TN lived before moving to TN, but those just show I am looking at the correct large-picture Todd family rather than zeroing in on a specific ancestor.

Unfortunately, overall the DNA results are rather inconclusive, mostly because of few samples by purported descendants of Reuben being found. The two samples I have come across show a promising link to Reuben, especially the sample from a descendant of Aaron Todd. I am still making this post so that perhaps other descendants of Reuben, confirmed or unconfirmed, may come across it and let me know that they have or are planning to submit DNA samples. Samples from descendants of John Pinkney Todd, Jesse Todd, Levi Todd, John Todd, William Lewis Todd, and any other possible or definite descendants of Reuben would be greatly welcomed.


User: DennisAdams29
Confidence: Moderate
Ancestors: Descends from B.B. Todd, son of Frederick E. Becton Todd, a supposed son of Reuben Todd

User: Lee Roy Person (on
Generations: ~4.1
Ancestors: Descends from Aaron Todd b. 1837, a confirmed son of Reuben Todd

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Age of Nicholas Gassaway Rogers

Sometimes the official documents make very little sense, but it's difficult to argue with them since you weren't actually there. Today is a day when I have official documentation which reports specific relationships between persons which make very little sense, and so I have to try and adjust my records accordingly.

Major Nicholas Gassaway, son of Thomas Gassaway and Susanna Hanslap, married Catherine Worthington, daughter of Thomas Worthington and Elizabeth Ridgely. Both Nicholas and Catherine have existing baptismal records which have them being baptized in 1719 and 1720, respectively. As they were likely baptized as infants, it is safe to assume both were born in the years in which they were baptized.

Despite this, somehow, most family trees I have come across online have their daughter Susanna Gassaway, who married John Rogers, as being born somewhere in the 1720's, some even having her approximate year of birth as 1720. Since she clearly cannot be the age of her parents, this information is incorrect.

Similarly, many have the year of birth of Susanna's son, Nicholas Gassaway Rogers, as approximately 1749, and some even list him as being born in the early 1740's. This would mean Nicholas Gassaway and Catherine Worthington would have become grandparents in their early-to-mid 20's. This seems highly unlikely.

Some might say "How do we know Susanna Gassaway is the daughter of Nicholas and Catherine?" Well, we know because of both of their wills. Nicholas names her "my daughter Susanna Rogers", and Catherine names her "my beloved daughter Susanna Rogers". Nicholas's will also names his grandson, Nicholas Gassaway Rogers, seemingly proving he is a biological grandson, rather than a son of a previous marriage of John Rogers. (It seems probable he had a previous marriage, as he appears to be significantly older than Susanna Gassaway, though he may not have been.) So if Nicholas Gassaway was born in 1719, when were Susanna and Nicholas Rogers born?

Nicholas Rogers was having children by the early-to-mid 1770's with his wife, Margaret Odell. Most have Margaret's date of birth being approximately 1753-1755. This would make her between 19 and 21 when she first became bearing children, and this makes sense. I think we can likewise conclude that Nicholas was born between 1753 and 1755, rather than in the 1740's.

While it is possible Catherine Worthington was bearing children as young as 14 or 15, I think it more likely she was 16 or 17. So I would estimate Susanna Gassaway's approximate year of birth to be about 1737. That way, she was at least 16-18 when Nicholas Rogers was born between 1753-1755. If only we had baptismal records for Susanna Gassaway and Nicholas Rogers as we do for Nicholas Gassaway and Catherine Worthington, then there could be more certainty regarding their ages, but as far as I have found, none exist.

To review:

Rather than having Nicholas Gassaway and Catherine Worthington born in 1719 1720, respectively, and having their daughter born in the 1720's, and having their grandson born in the 1740's, the more logical timeline should be: Nicholas and Catherine born in 1719 and 1720, Susanna born approximately 1737 (give or take a year), and Nicholas Gassaway Rogers being born between 1753 and 1755.

If anyone disputes any of this or has proof that any of these persons may be older or younger than I presume, please contact me.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Genealogy Road Trip: Days 1 through 4

Without going into copious amounts of detail, I'll summarize the gist of my past couple days as this: I have traveled from Michigan to Oklahoma for a couple of job interviews to be had a week apart. I started from home in Michigan and stopped on my way down in Jackson County, Indiana and then in the neighboring county of Washington. I did not make any more stops until I reached Alva, Oklahoma, where my first interview was held. The next day after my interview I headed for my grandmother's in Del City and made a couple of stops in Major County, Oklahoma where my Baker family once resided. After arriving at my grandmother's in Del City, she and my grandfather divulged some more genealogically interesting information. I am going to share all that I learned and experienced below.

Stop 1: Jackson County, Indiana Courthouse [Brownstown, Indiana]

My first stop was the county courthouse of Jackson County. They gave me great open access to their old probate records. I did not find everything I was hoping to, but I did find a record for the citizenship of my cousin Johann Friedrich Knostman and some probate records for Thomas May, my uncle.

Stop 2: Freetown Cemetery, Freetown, Jackson, Indiana

I went into Freetown in search of the Old Freetown Cemetery where it is said my 3rd great grandmother Marie Elisabeth [Mary Elizabeth] Knostman(n) May, wife of Andrew Lewis May, is buried. I found two cemeteries north of town in the vicinity of where I read the cemetery was located (all I could find online was a reference to the cemetery being "north of Freetown" so after entering Freetown I went due north until I found it). Neither cemetery was labelled, so I decided to explore both. I found out after-the-fact that the first cemetery I searched was actually the Freetown Cemetery, and it was the one across the street which was the Old Freetown Cemetery.

Here is a video documenting this stop:

Stop 3: Old Freetown Cemetery, Freetown, Jackson, Indiana

After exploring what I thought may be the Old Freetown Cemetery, searching for Mary's grave in vain, I searched the cemetery across the street. I called my mother to consult FindAGrave and confirm that the cemetery I was then standing in was indeed the Old Freetown Cemetery. After finding the name found on one the headstones in FindAGrave's index for the Old Freetown Cemetery, I knew I was in the right place.

Unfortunately, after scouring the cemetery for nearly a half hour, I could not find Mary's grave. There were several unmarked fieldstones, but since the old indexes for the cemetery included Mary's date of death, I don't believe her to be in an unmarked grave. Perhaps, however, the information on her stone has faded away over time making it unidentifiable. I looked at every stone that could have possibly been her's and could not find it. But I enjoyed the experience regardless and appreciated being able to see Jackson County and the area where my May and Knostman families resided. I recorded another video documenting this stop:

Stop 4: The John Hay Center - Museum of the Washington County Historical Society in Salem, Washington, Indiana

I next stopped at the John Hay Center to see what information could be found on my Sellers, Persinger, Downing, and Duckworth families who once resided there. I found a great deal of good information on the Robert Sellers family and his children. I found very little or virtually nothing on the Downing's and Duckworth's. I found some information on the Persinger family, but none that helped me get any closer to tying my Mary Persinger to her specific Persinger clan.

What was really near about the museum was that they had on display a flintlock rifle which belonged to Luke Persinger, who I am certain is close relative of my Mary Persinger, most likely her 1st cousin. I got to take some pictures of it, and I recorded a video about the museum to help promote their very worthy cause, and a second video showing the interactive "Pioneer Town" which they had outside. A picture of the gun and the videos promoting the center can be found below.

The rifle at the top and the powder canister directly below it (not the horn but the small pouch) belonged to Luke Persinger, a pioneer of Washington County, Indiana and a relative of my family.

Stop 5: Fairview Public Library, Major County, Oklahoma

On my way to Del City from Alva, I stopped in Fairview to see if I could find obituaries for my Baker family members and to get directions to the Hope Cemetery where many of them are buried. I did not find any obituaries, but I did meat a very nice woman name Luise Maupin. She actually lives in the area where my Baker's resided (near what was once called Dane and is now closest to Chester, Oklahoma) and could recall her mother telling stories about "The Baker Boys" who would come to visit her parents (Luise's grandparents) John and Mina Evans. She recalled the Baker Boys (who would have been twins Albert and Elbert, Walter, and Hugh Arbrey Bolton, their half-brother, and for a time this group likely included their brother Cleveland before he left for California; all four of these men were old bachelors who never married except for Albert who married very late in life to a widow) as being a very friendly, polite lot, and while it was unclear whether their visits were purely for social reasons or not, Luise mentioned that her grandfather was renowned for brewing his own moonshine on his land during Prohibition and that that could have easily been part of the reason for the Boys' visit.

Luise then helped with guiding me to the area where the Hope Cemetery resides, and she also put me in touch with a local man named Vance Dow, who is an elder of sorts in the vicinity and who said he grew up near the Baker farm and was particularly familiar with the youngest of the group, Walter Baker. He said he remembered the Baker's attending church at the Midway Assembly of God (about 13 miles south of Fairview), a church which his father helped found. He remembered that Walter had a very large hump on his back from birth, and that everyone called him "Humpy Baker". He echoed the sentiments of Luise's mother that Walter was a very friendly, agreeable sort of fellow and Vance thought very highly of him. He then took me to where the Baker farm once stood.

The house is long-gone, but after securing permission from the current owners of the land, Bill and June Keeton, I looked around the vicinity where the house once stood and got a good feel for it. I picked up a couple of stones from the ground as keepsakes. I then visited the nearby Canadian River where Vance said the Baker Boys would often venture to fish; it was only about a mile or so from their home. I am very grateful to Luise, Vance, Bill, and June for their help in getting a brief look into the lives of my Baker forebears.

The Baker Boys were sons of Eli Calvin Baker and Sarah Jane Lollar Baker. Eli and Sarah separated but never formally divorced and resided near each other in Major County before Eli moved onto neighboring Blaine County, where he is buried in Canton along with his and Sarah's children William and Rosa. Their daughter Etta is buried in Colorado, and their daughter Ella, from whom I descend, is buried in Wapanucka, Oklahoma. The rest of the children, including Sarah's son from her first marriage to Archibald Bolton, Hugh, are all buried in Hope Cemetery with Sarah. Below are some pictures and videos from my adventure:

I saw some very pretty mountains on my drive into Fairview. These were taken in northern Major County.

These pictures were taken in Hope Cemetery near Chester, Oklahoma.

The Baker farm is located on the corner of EW 58 and NS 240 in Major County near Chester. It is across the street from a sign labeling the Canton Wildlife Management Area down the road. It now belongs to Bill and June Keeton. Location was identified by Vance Dow.

This is the Canadian River near where the Baker farm stood. According to Vance Down, the Baker Boys went fishing here frequently, probably within less than a hundred yards of where I was standing.

Stop 6: Del City, Oklahoma

After some less-than-fun adventures which I won't divulge here, I finally arrived in Del City, where I got to have some fun and enlightening conversations with my grandparents, some of which are of personal genealogical interest. I wanted to log them here so I don't forget about them later.

- My grandmother said that her mother did graduate from Murray College in Tishomingo with a two-year degree; I knew that she had attended Murray, but I had not known she'd graduated, which I thought was very cool.

- I got to hear some great stories about my great grandfather, Tom. My grandpa Charlie (who is technically my step-grandfather, but who has been my grandfather since before I was born so I consider him such) told me he admired and respected Tom as much as had anyone else in his life. My father has expressed similar sentiments in the past. Grandpa talked about how he was a master-of-all-trades, rather than just a jack, and that he could fix anything from cars to air conditioners and could build just about anything. He could do all of this without having acquired virtually any formal education whatsoever. He never worked a big-time, high-paying job, but he worked hard and always provided plenty for his family.

- According to my grandmother, two of the houses her father built are still standing. He built everything on the houses from the ground up, including the plumbing and the electrical wiring. She told me a story about how in the 70's both she, my father, and my Uncle Geary were all driving different Volkswagon models and they would break down constantly. One time they had to replace the transmission in Geary's car, and after it was all done, they found out they'd put it in backwards, so shifting into drive put the car in reverse and vice versa.

- My grandmother said her uncle Rube Skipper, her grandmother's half-brother, had a cleft lip and very much enjoyed his alcoholic beverages. She spoke highly of his sister, another of her grandmother's half-sisters, Sarah Skipper Combow, and remembered visiting her home in Colorado. Said she was a very nice lady. She knew nothing about her grandmother's other half-brother, Stephen Crider who later changed his name to Carl Clark, nor about her mother's half-brother, Romeo "Romee" Clements.

- My grandmother was born in Oklahoma City and she and her family moved to what would become Del City in the very earl 1940's, before Del City was even an official city, essentially making them "pioneers" of Del City in a way. There was virtually nothing here when she moved out here, and she remembers the land where her house and neighborhood now stand were just open, empty fields. She first lived about a half-mile from where she lives now, but that house was destroyed by a tornado when she was a little girl. Her father built a new house where their house stood, and eventually built a new house next door to that and they moved there. From her porch, she pointed to a small grove of trees about 80 yards from her house where she said there used to be a pond that she and her sister would play at as children.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Cowan Hunch

After discovering DNA matches to two descendants of an Andrew Cowan who was born in Tennessee in 1812 and died in Benton County Arkansas in 1884. My autosomal DNA matched with descendants of two of his daughters, so I checked the Cowan DNA database, and the Cowan from my branch falls into the same Cowan category as a direct descendant of Andrew Cowan did. The DNA indicates they both descend from the Seven Brothers SuperGroup; their tests are listed quite closely together on the Cowan DNA site:

Kit number 11081 represents a descendant of Andrew born 1812; kit number 7384 represents Reggie, a grandson of William Andrew Cowan who was the brother of my John David Cowan. They were sons of an Andre P. Cowan who died between 1860 and 1870, and he appears to have been the son of an Andrew Cowan who died 1846 in Bradley County, Tennessee. It is unclear who Andrew Sr.'s father was, but it was very likely a James Cowan who resided in McMinn County at the same time as Andrew, and who may be the James Cowan, son of David Cowan mentioned in his 1811 Sevier County will, found here:,_TN,_1811

Reggie's DNA is a very close match to descendants of this David Cowan, and so it appears Andrew Cowan  b. 1812 may too be of David's line. I have since compiled a theoretical lineage for Andrew which may connect him to David.

No one seems to know Andrew b. 1812's parentage. I do believe I have at least found his brother, and probably his father. There are just too many coincidences for this to not be the case. Andrew was born in Tennessee on 5 Jun 1812, according to his headstone. He died 28 Nov 1884 in Benton County, Arkansas according to that same headstone. He married Matilda Driskell on 4 Feb 1836 in Macoupin County, Illinois. He promptly moved to Iowa, where his first son was born on 6 Dec 1836. Andrew is found in the 1840 Census in Jefferson County, Iowa Territory. He is found in the 1850 Census in Wapello County, Iowa. By 1860, he is in Putnam County, Missouri. On 11 Aug 1867 he married a Margaret Thornsberry. In 1870 he is found in Benton County, Arkansas, and in Madison County, Arkansas in 1880. He is buried in Benton County.

Now this could be purely coincidence, but the coincidences are too many for my taste. There is a David Cowan who was born about 1815 in Kentucky who I believe is Andrew's brother. He married a Martha Chastain on 5 Jun 1834 in Morgan County, Illinois. Morgan County is adjacent to Macoupin County where Andrew is married in 1836. In 1840, David is found in Jefferson County, Iowa Territory, one page away from Andrew. In 1850, David is still in Jefferson County while Andrew is in adjacent Wapello County. By 1860, David had also moved to Missouri, where he is found in Nodway County, which is 3 counties west of Putnam County. David has not been located for the 1870 Census, most likely because he appears to have been in Indian Territory; the 1880 Census indicates his daughter Maud who was born 1871 was born in Cherokee Territory. But by 1880, David is in Carroll County, Arkansas--which is adjacent both to Madison County where Andrew was residing at this time, and to Benton County where Andrew is buried.

Now that is a whole lot of coincidences to me for these two to not be brothers. They were married in adjacent counties, in the same county in 1840, and in adjacent counties in 1850 and 1880. They followed each other from state-to-state. Obviously, this is all speculation, but how many coincidences can there be until it appears to be true?

So to find Andrew's parentage, I started from the beginning. There were four Cowan households in counties adjacent to Macoupin in 1830, and only two of those contained sons in the 15-19 age range: William Cowan in Sangamon County, and Hugh Cowan in Morgan County. Hugh is almost certainly David's father, if not Andrew's. David named a son Hugh, David was married in Morgan County, and there are three Hugh Cowan's in the 1820 Census in Kentucky. The one living in North Middletown in Bourbon County has two sons under 10; the one in Nicholas County has one and the second one in Bourbon County has none. Now the biggest problem with the theory of Andrew and David being brothers is found on the 1880 Census; Andrew claims both his parents were born in Tennessee, while David claims both his parents were born in Ireland. Obviously, Census records are not considered  a perfect source for birthplaces and parents' birthplaces, but this point should be considered.

Now is Hugh was the father of Andrew, that would place him in Tennessee in or around 1812 when Andrew was born. As it would have it, the aforementioned will of David Cowan, written in 1811, mentions his having a son named Hugh three times. Could this be the same Hugh? Maybe so, this is purely speculative, but it certainly seems possible.

My purpose for posting this blog is my hoping that a researcher of either Andrew's or David's families might happen upon this, contact me, and provide me with any more information that may support or detract from this theory. I welcome any contact at all on the subject. My Cowan family remains one of my two largest brick walls, and I am always looking to shorten the gap between my Andrew who died 1846 in Bradley County, and David of the 1811 will.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Children of John Christian Barnhardt & Elizabeth Berringer of Cabarrus County, NC & the Parentage of Barbary Barnhardt, wife of Jacob Moose

The commonly listed parentage for Barbary [as spelled on her headstone, but typically spelled Barbara in Moose family trees] in most Moose and Barnhardt family trees, including my own, has bothered me for some  time. They are frequently listed (as dozens of trees on will attest) as John Christian Barnhardt and Mary Elizabeth Barringer. My primary issue with this assertion is that John and Mary were almost certainly too old to be Barbary's parents. John was born in 1719 and Mary in 1724, according to their memorial headstones in Cabarrus County, North Carolina and according to all family records. Barbary's headstone clearly puts her year of birth as 1784, at which time Mary would have been 60 years old, far past the time when most healthy women are able to bear children. [Women over 55 are very unlikely to give birth, and the list of those who have is very short.] John and Mary's last child, as best as we know, was born about 1862, 22 years before Barbary's birth. (That was the year of birth for Sophia Barnhardt). Based on this, I find it extremely unlikely, if not impossible, that Barbary could be the daughter of John Christian and Mary Barnhardt, begging the question, who is?

Based on geographic proximity and John Christian's progeny being the only Barnhardt family in the Cabarrus County region, it is fair to assume based on her 1784 birth year that Barbary was almost certainly a granddaughter of John Christian. But through which son? I am going to look at each known son individually with as much information on them as I can find to come up with the most logical conclusion. According to the records of the Coldwater Reformed Church in Cabarrus County, John Christian was "buried at Coldwater Aug 11, 1799 Christian Bernhard, born in St. Johannes in the Palatinate April 5, 1719. He married Elizabeth Barringer, lived with her in marriage 49 years, begot 10 children, whom 5 are still living; lived to see the birth of 28 grandchildren of whom 5 so far have died. He died August 10, 1799 after a protracted illness and attained an age of 80 years, 4 months, and 5 days."

This clearly states he had 10 children, though most trees I have found for him list only seven: Daughters Sophia, Ann Elizabeth, Christiana, and Susan/Susanna, and sons George, John Matthias, Christian, and Matthias Alexander. However, Matthias Alexander was actually John Christian's great grandson. The reason for the confusion stems from him being the son of John Christian Barnhardt, son of John Matthias, son of the first John Christian. A biographical sketch on Matthias Alexander and his descendants can be found here: This leaves three children of John Christian Barnhardt unaccounted for.

We will first look at George Barnhardt, who was born in December of 1760 according to his Revolutionary War Pension application. While he would be old enough to be Barbary's father, his only known marriage was to Mary Mitchell, and that marriage occurred in "late 1789 or early 1790" according to an affidavit filed by their children. (Source: So unless George had an as-yet-undiscovered previous marriage prior to Mary Mitchell, he is most likely not Barbary's father.

The next son to look at is John Matthias Barnhardt. He was born 6 Apr 1752, so he was old enough to have been Barbary's father. However, the only known marriage for him was to Anne Margaret Bushart on 24 May 1785, a year after Barbary's birth, so again, unless John had a previous marriage prior to Anne Margart, it is unlikely he is Barbary's father. It is, however, slightly more likely that he would have had a previous marriage than for George to as by the time of his marriage to Anne Margaret, John was 33 years old, leaving plenty of time prior to that when he could have married and fathered other children.

Next up is Christian Barnhardt. Christian married a Nancy Suther. I have a found a few lists of children for him on (listing Ann Elizabeth, John, Catherine, Margaret, Mary, and Rachel as his children), but little information on him for the most part. He has 2 10-15 year old daughters in his household in 1800, but Barbary would have been 16 by 1800. His 1818 probate records indicate he has children, but does not specify their names, only specifying his wife, Nancy Barnhardt. It is possible that one of the 10-15 year old's is Barbary, but it does not seem likely given that based on family trees, his daughters appear to be accounted for.

These are the only sons I have found listed for John Christian Barnhardt, but as previously asserted, there are at least 3 children we do not know of, and perhaps more. Though the primary purpose of this post is to assert the parentage of Barbary Barnhardt, I do want to take this time to point out that I have found little-to-no-evidence proving the names of any of John Christian's daughters. I take particular issue with "Christiana", whose husband Jacob Derryberry appears to have had no connection to Cabarrus County whatsoever, instead being connected to Burke County. I have found no documentation that Jacob Derryberry's wife was a Barnhardt at all, nor that John Christian had a daughter named Christiana.

I have found even less evidence to support the existence of the supposed Susan/Susanna Barnhardt. A few trees have her listed as the consort of a Phillip Bostian, but virtually no other information on her has been found. Similarly, there is virtually no evidence proving the existence of an Ann Elizabeth Barnhardt; I have not found any place that even lists a spouse for her, or any other pertinent information. For the last remaining daughter listed for John Christian Barnhardt, Sophia, there is significant documentation at least proving her existence and residence within Cabarrus County, but I still have found nothing to prove her being a Barnhardt. I am willing to continue attaching Sophia as a child of John Christian, but as of now, I don't believe I can attach Ann Elizabeth, Susan, or Christiana as children of John Christian Barnhardt without further documentation. As far as I am concerned, at least six and possibly seven of John Christian's children need to be identified.

I would like to next assert that I have yet to find proof that "John Matthias"'s first name was actually John. This would not be uncommon if it were, as "Johann" was a common first name among Germans who then went by their middle name. I once found a German family who had named all of their children Johann and Marie, i.e. John and Mary, but with all different middle names, which they would then go by as their primary names; Johann Frederick was Frederick, Johann Heinrich was Henry, Johann Gerhard was George, etc. However, I have yet to find documentation indicating that Matthias had a John before his name. The 1780 Reconstructed Census lists him simply as Matthias, as do the 1790, 1800, and 1810 Censuses. When he is listed as a witness for a deed or a will, he is listed simply as Matthias. I think the name "John" being applied to him may be rooted in the fact that his grandson was named John Matthias and people just automatically assumed the full name had been inherited, rather than just the middle name. (Similarly, I have an uncle named James Johnson Todd; his father's name was James Todd, and so for decades researchers named the father James Johnson Todd, even in published materials, assuming they shared a full name. As it turns out, more than a dozen records list him as James A. Todd, so the assumption was completely unfounded and led to dozens or more people having bad information in their records.) I have yet to find a document where his name is listed as John. If such a document exists, I would appreciate being pointed in its direction, but until then I will be listing him simply as Matthias.

After a few more days of researching, I believe I have found Barbery's father, and at the same time, I believe I have found a new son to list for John Christian Barnhardt. There is more evidence to support my former assertion than my latter, but I believe both stand on strong footing as well as they can with us lacking a will for John Christian or a will for Barbary's father.

A Charles Barnhardt is well-documented as having been a long-time resident of Cabarrus County; it appears he has been there as long as any other Barnhardt. However, for some reason I have not yet discovered, he is typically attached in family trees to Henry Barnhardt and Gertrude Swing of Guilford County, North Carolina, or to no parents at all. Why no one else has concluded that he could be one of the unknown children of John Christian Barnhardt is a mystery to me, but it's clear he fits at least circumstantially.

It was pointed out to me by another researcher that Charles was missing from the 1790 Census in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina where John Christian and his sons Christian, Matthias, and George, along with a Henry, were residing. They had concluded that he was the Charles Barnhart found in the 1790 Census in berk County, Pennsylvania, despite the fact that all of his identified grandchildren listed their respective Barnhardt parent's birthplace as North Carolina in the 1880 Census, including those whose parents were born prior to 1790.

Then by a happy accident, I found that Charles is indeed in the 1790 Census in Mecklenburg County, NC Census; his last name has been indexed on as "Barenheart", but when looking at the image it clearly says "Barnhart". So this clearly indicates that Charles was living in the portion of Mecklenburg which became Cabarrus, as were John Christian and his sons. He was a mere two pages from where John Christian and his sons were clustered, but it's difficult to really assess how closely anyone lived to one another in this Census as portions of it are written alphabetically rather than in order of household. The unknown Henry Barnhart is on page 4, while John Christian and sons are on 9 and Charles on 11; I have found no further record of this Henry, but it is possible he could be another of John Christian's unknown children, though there is no further evidence to prove it.

My logic for applying Barbary as a daughter of Charles and his wife, Anna Hagler (I have found no source for this name), starts with her marriage to Jacob Moose. Her security for this union was a "Chas. Barnhart". Whether this is Charles Sr. or Charles Jr. isn't necessarily relevant, as Charles Jr. is the son of Charles Sr. and therefore would have been Barbery's brother if it is not indeed her father. (Source: Though she died in 1839, Barbary's Moose in-laws remained close to the Barnhardt clan. Matthias Barnhardt was a witness to the will of Jacob Mussgnug, Barbary's father-in-law, and Charles Barnhardt Jr. and Julia Ann Barnhardt were the witnesses to the will of her mother-in-law, Barbara Bushart Moose.

Barbary also fits into the Census records for Charles Barnhardt Sr. I have found several lists online for his children which have that he had two unknown daughters, one born approximiately 1781 and one born approximately 1783. This doesn't make sense as Charles has only one daughter between the ages of 16 and 25 in the 1800 Census, and his 10-15 year old daughter would have been Anna Barnhardt, but it does mean he had one unaccounted for daughter whose age range fits Barbary's (born 1784). Lastly, Barbary is buried in St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery, which is also where Charles Barnhardt Jr. and George Barnhardt, sons of Charles Sr., are interred.

Finally, according to records from the Cabarrus County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, in July 1828 the administrators of Charles's estate were named as his son, George Barnhardt, and none other than Jacob Moose. (

I have found less evidence connecting Charles to John Christian other than geographic proximity, but given the number of John Christian's unknown children, I have not found reason to detract from the probability that Charles was his son. Charles is in Cabarrus County in 1800 living next to his eldest sons, John and Jacob Barnhardt. A third supposed son, Phillip, is also in enumerated in Cabarrus that year. The other Barnhardt brothers are spread out a few pages away. In 1810, it is difficult to ascertain how far each of the Barnhardt brothers lived from one another as it appears some pages were done in alphabetical order, while others were not. There are also a high number of Barnhardt households in this census which have not been connected to one another; there are 14 Barnhardt heads of household in Cabarrus County in 1810, and only 10 in 1820. Three of those missing would be Christian Jr., Matthias, and Charles, who all died between 1810 and 1820. But in 1810, there is an extra Charles, a Paul, a "Stophel" [which may be Christopher], an unknown "Matthews" [which may be another Matthias], and a Nancy whose husband has not yet been determined.

Despite the holes in the Barnhardt research, I believe it is safe to attach Barbary as the daughter of Charles, and Charles as the son of John Christian. Unless new evidence comes to life that detracts from this position, this is how I will keep my records for now.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Levi Lawson Moose & Levina Troutman

In my opinion, the best genealogical discoveries are often the ones you find when you weren't even looking for them. I have spent years looking for the precise date of death for Levina [sometimes spelled Lovina, Levinia, Lovinia, and Lavina] Troutman Moose, the widow of Levi Lawson Moose. I could not find record of her headstone anywhere, and though North Carolina had death records in the early 1900's, I could not find one for her. I contacted several researchers from the Cabarrus County area back in the RAOGK days, and all of them came up empty in their searches for Levina. I had completely given up hope of finding it until today, when I found it completely by accident.

While researching the Barnhardt family of Cabarrus County, I was looking at the North Carolina Estate Files collection on I was looking for the estate records of Barbary Barnhardt Moose when another name popped out at me: Lovina Moose (1906). I was floored. Suddenly, I had her year of death, and I hadn't even been looking for it! After looking through the estate files, I found out her son, Albert Henderson Moose, had actually sued the administrator of his mother's estate, A. Crowell, all the way to the North Carolina Supreme Court over a note on his mother's estate. One can find documentation on Moose v. Crowell fairly easily online; the records in various published court proceeding resources did not include Lovina's name, or else I would have found what I was looking for much earlier.

As I continued to dig, I found Crowell's Administrator Records in FamilySearch's North Carolina Probate Records collection which finally provided me with a precise date of death: 19 May 1906. I felt very accomplished because of this, and then happened upon another genealogical gem. I began looking through the probate records for her husband Levi Lawson Moose, and ended up finding the full names for all 5 of their sons. The record showed that their son Henry's middle name was actually Harmon and not Harrison as it has been listed in countless Moose family trees. I also found their son John W.'s middle name which I had never found and have not seen in any other trees; his middle name was Wylie. It confirmed the full names of the remaining sons as well, namely Lawson Jeremiah, Julius Monroe, and Albert Henderson.

I hope other Moose and Troutman researchers will come across this post and be able to add all this new-found information to their records. I guess it goes to show you should never give up ALL hope of finding that elusive piece of information.

Michael Downing and Mary Persinger of Virginia and Indiana

For years, there has been much speculation online regarding the identity of the wife of Michael Downing, a long-time soldier who served in the Indian Wars and even volunteered to fight in the War of 1812 as a man over the age of 40. Some have given up identifying Michael's wife, listing her simply as "Mrs. Downing". Others have gone with a seemingly made up name, Mary Anne Wells, which as it turns out has an element of truth behind it, but the name is still incorrect. After seeing the ideas posed by Ilene Kreider of Iowa, a descendant of Preston Downing of Cedar County, Iowa who will also be discussed in this post, I dug a little deeper and have come to agree with her conclusion that Michael's wife has seemingly been hiding under our noses this whole time.

On 26 Jun 1789, a Michael Downey/Dawney married a Mary Persinger in Botetourt County, Virginia. I believe this to be our Michael Downing for a number of reasons. But first, it is important to note that the marriage record gives a great clue for where the name "Mary Anne Wells" came from; the marriage record lists Mary as "Mary Persinger daughter of Nelly Wells". Clearly a past researcher came across this marriage record long ago and came to the same conclusion that Ilene and I have: That this was our Michael and his long-lost wife. However, where the name "Anne" came from is still a complete mystery, and the unknown researcher seems to have concluded that Mary was a Wells by birth who married a Persinger and then re-married to Michael Downing. However, the majority of widows who remarried would be listed as "Mrs.", so had Mary been a widow, she likely would have been "Mrs. Mary Persinger". I believe the more logical conclusion is that it was Mary's mother who re-married to a Wells after her Persinger husband died; later on, I will lay out the DNA evidence which supports Mary having been a Persinger by birth.

To be sure of Michael Downing's connection to the Persinger family, one does not have to look far. Almost all of the Persinger's in Virginia at this time (1780's-1790's) were descendants of one man: Jacob Persinger of Switzerland who died in Virginia about 1774, possibly in Greenbrier County. So all of the Persinger's in Botetourt County and later Alleghany County, Virginia were very closely related. You'll find the only Persinger's in the state in the 1780's and 1790's in these two counties. You'll see that a few then migrated to Kanawha County, Virginia [now West Virginia] by 1810, which is the place we first find Michael Downing without absolute certainty. Some of these Persinger's then went on to move to Washington County, Indiana along with the Downing's and the May family, who married into the Downing's twice [Brothers Reuben and Thomas May married Elizabeth and Margaret Downing, respectively. It is from Reuben and Elizabeth that I descend]. You'll then find that Michael's daughter Catherine married George Persinger, and Michael's likely-nephew, Preston Downing, married George Persinger's sister, Martha Persinger. You'll find the family living near Luke Persinger both in Kanawha and Washington counties, and he is an elder half-brother to George and Martha, all of who were children of John Persinger, who died about 1810/1811 in Kanawha County, [West] Virginia, before his family moved on to Washington County, Indiana.

I think it highly unlikely that the Downing's would move about the country and inter-marry with a family whom they were not well-connected. It was not uncommon in the least for cousins to marry cousins, so when Catherine Downing married George Persinger, I believe she was marrying her cousin. Whether they were 1st or 2nd cousins, I have not yet determined, but that is a discovery I hope is made soon. Given the Downing's migrational patterns with the Persinger's, and the multiple marriages between the families, I have concluded that Michael Downey who married Mary Persinger is indeed Michael Downing, and Mary Persinger is our long-lost wife. If anyone has a theory that they think bests this one, feel free to come forward, but I think the circumstantial evidence is significant.

Yet another piece of evidence seemingly confirming this connection to the Persinger family is in the form of several autosomal DNA matches. My DNA has matched five Persinger descendants so far. One of those matches is inconclusive, as I actually share two other biological connections with this person, so it's impossible to ascertain exactly which match or matches the test is picking up on. My other four matches are as follows:

1. Match with a descendant of Catherine Persinger, daughter of Luke, son of John, son of Christopher, son of Jacob
2. Match with a descendant of Elizabeth Persinger who married Henry Harmon; she was most likely the daughter of John Persinger, son of Christopher, son of Jacob
3. Match with descendant of William Reid Persinger, son of Jacob b. 1772, son of Christopher, son of Jacob
4. Match with descendant of Jacob Persinger, son of John, son of Christopher, son of Jacob

Clearly these four matches with Botetourt County Persinger's cannot be a coincidence; as my family does not intersect with any Persinger's at any other place in my tree, the logical conclusion is that I descend from Mary Persinger who married Michael Downing.

As far as the question "What  makes you think that Downey and Downing are the same name?" goes, I believe that an evolution toward the spelling "Downing" came over time, but that the name was still originally pronounced "Downey" hence the spelling. For evidence, you can see that Michael's last name is spelled "Downing" in the 1810 and 1820 Censuses, but in 1830, it is spelled "Downe" even though his son's name on the same census is "Downing"; the same happens with other Downing households in Washington County, Indiana in 1830 with the households of Preston, his mother, and the not-related-to-Michael Downing families of Abraham, Alanson, Erastus, and William [these Downing's were from New York]. You can see this interchangeability occur elsewhere as well; in 1820, John Downing of Dearborn County's name is spelled with the -ing, but then in 1830 he and his sons names are spelled "Downey". I believe this illustrates that the two spellings were interchangeable but still represented the same family, so while this is just a theory, the reasoning is sound.

Now the questions that remain are: Who was Mary Persinger's father? Who was her Wells step-father? And what became of Mary's mother, Nelly? I have not been able to answer any of these questions as of yet, but I have formulated a list of candidates for Mary's Wells step-father, and I have worked on narrowing down who her father could and could not be.

The identity of Mary's father has not yet been determined. Clearly it was a Persinger who predeceased her 1789 marriage, so while the above DNA evidence would point to John son of Jacob being her father, since he lived until about 1820, she most likely descends from one of Jacob's other sons. Mary was married in 1789, and assuming she was at least 15 years old at the time of the marriage, she was most likely born before 1774, which eliminates any of Jacob's known grandsons from contention as her father as only a couple of them would be old enough to father a child, and those that were were still living in 1789. It is possible an unknown grandson of Jacob was her father, perhaps an elder son of Christopher who was about the same age as John who married Nelly, fathered Mary, and then died at a fairly young age. This also seems conceivable given the number of connections the Downing's have to John's children; if Mary were their 1st cousin, their connections would make even more sense. The reasons I have not listed Mary as a child of Christopher or John as would seem logical is because they were both still living in 1789 and neither is known to have had a wife named Nelly.

Jacob Persinger Sr. apparently also had sons named Phillip and Abraham. It has been asserted by some Persinger researchers that the two were killed by Indians, perhaps even in separate incidents, but I have not seen proof of that, and I believe one of the two are most likely Mary's father, seeing as Christopher, Jacob, and obviously John were still living at the time of Mary's marriage. I am hoping perhaps a Persinger researcher will help me uncover this mystery in the near future.

In looking over Botetourt County tax lists, and the 1810 and 1820 Censuses, I have compiled a list of potential step-father's for Mary Persinger. One of these men were most likely the husband of Nelly Wells.

Bolded names are the men I consider prime candidates.

1785 Botetourt County Tax List [Source:] :
Wells, Jeremiah

1786 Botetourt County Tax List [Source:]:
Wells, Jeremiah
Wells, Richard

Note: A John WALLS, John WILLS, and William WILLS also appear on both of these tax lists, keeping open the possibility of multiple spellings or poor spellings of the name WELLS.

1790 Virginia Tax Lists/Replacement Census [Source:]:

Downey, Michael [King & Queen County] [No other Downey's in King & Queen, none in Botetourt; only Michael Downey/Downing in any of the tax lists. I don't believe this is "my" Michael, however, based on the below 1800 Replacement Census]
Wells, Abner [1789 - Botetourt]
Wells, Benjamin [1789 - Botetourt]
Wells, Jeremiah [1789 - Botetourt]
Wells, Moses [1789 - Botetourt]
Wells, Richard [1789 - Botetourt]

1794 Botetourt County Tax List [Source:]:
Wells, Jeremiah

1800 Virginia Tax Lists/Replacement Census [Source:]:
Downey, Michael (ESTATE) [1798 - King & Queen County] [This appears to allude to this Michael Downey being deceased, but I'm not certain that's what it means. A "Jarley" Downey also appears in the county.]
Wells, Jeremiah [1802 - Kanawha County] [Jacob & John "Parsenger" also appear in this 1802 list for Kanawha County. No other Persinger's are indexed. Jacob & John are also listed in the 1801 tax list for Kanawha, but Jeremiah is not:]

Note: No Downing's, Downey's, Persinger's, or Wells's are found in the 1796 Kanawha County tax list:]

1810 United States Census - Kanawha County, Virginia
Downing, Michael
Persinger, Jacob
Persinger, John
Persinger, Luke
Wells, Benjamin
Wells, James

Note: Jeremiah Wells is not present in Kanawha County for the 1810 Census, but Kanawha County marriage records show he married a Patsey Russell in Kanawha County in 1810. He is in Kanawha County in the 1820 Census. Source:

1820 United States Census - Washington County, Indiana
Downing, Michael
Persinger, Luke
Persinger, Katherine [Widow of John Persinger, Luke's father]
Wells, Benjamin
Wells, David
Wells, Richard
Wells, William
Wells, William

Without having been able to find much on them with online resources, I consider Jeremiah, Richard, and Benjamin Wells prime candidates for being Mary Persinger's step-father and husband of Nelly Wells. Discovering the identity of Mary's step-father will likely lead to the answer to my final question: What happened to Mary's mother, Nelly?

I will be sharing this post on a couple of Persinger family message boards, as well as e-mailing some Persinger researchers in hopes I can formulate a more solid theory regarding the identity of Mary Persinger's father. Or perhaps another Persinger researcher will happen across this post with a theory to share, which I would gladly welcome.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Olive Jane Hollis

Today I learned yet another lesson about trusting the research of others, even sources you believe to be reliable. For years I have accepted the research of the very thorough Zela Sain McBride, whose research on the Sain and related families has been valuable to me and other researchers for decades now. However, today I browsed through the book “The Life & Times of James Hollis Sr.” [henceforth abbreviated as L&T] and the accompanying “And His Descendants” (two separate books bound together as one) by Shirley A. Hollis, PhD and Mary Nell Hollis Franks (2002 – Family Tree Press) and found that they did not agree with Mrs. McBride’s assertion that my 4th great grandmother, Olive Jane Hollis, was the daughter of James Hollis III and Rhoda Choate of Wayne County, Tennessee. Rather, they countered that she was the probable daughter of Stephen Hollis, James Hollis III’s half-brother, both being sons of James Hollis, the title progenitor of the book. This assertion made me decide that I needed to take another look at Olive and find out if I have her parentage correct. Olive being the daughter of Stephen Hollis would mean big changes for my tree, primarily because it would mean I am not a Choate, but rather a Drake. Stephen was the only known son of James’s first marriage to Sarah Drake, while James Hollis III was the product of James Jr.’s second marriage to Sarah Choate. If I descend from Stephen rather than James III, then my tree is going to look significantly different.

Hollis and Franks’s “L&T” states: “The [Olive] Jane Hollis and Asa Absalom Holmes family in Arizona, feel that she was the daughter of James Hollis and Sarah Choate, according to the research of Zela Sain McBride. She had Olive Jane Hollis descending from this line. The family thinks that since Olive Jane died so young (about 1855 Newton Co., MO), the family in Tennessee forgot about her and her children in records, settlements, etc. (It does not personally matter, at all, to the authors as to which line she descends from, we just haven’t found the proof to make that definite decision.) The AUTHORS think she is probably the daughter of Stephen and Nancy Loggins Hollis…” They go on to list a few reasons why they believe she is the daughter of Stephen, rather than James, with the primary points being:

-          Olive Jane Hollis is not listed in the estate settlements of James Hollis III , in family Bible records, or in the family lawsuits later

-          1840 Census shows William Allen Hollis, son of Stephen Hollis, near Absalom Holmes

-          This same William Allen named one of his daughters “Olive”

-          Olive’s first daughter was named Nancy, perhaps in tribute to Stephen’s wife Nancy, her possible mother

There were other bullet points listed that did not seem relevant in attaching her to James or Stephen. The lack of mention of Olive or her children in any records concerning the family of James Hollis III does seem to make it appear unlikely she was a member of that family; asserting that she was simply “forgotten” doesn’t make a lot of since, as the administrator of James’s estate would have been legally obligated to contact all heirs of James regarding the estate’s settlement, so barring the possibility that Olive was disowned or otherwise estranged from the family prior to her death, it is highly unlikely that the estate’s administrators would simply conveniently “forget” to reach out to Olive’s surviving children, who would have been legal heirs of James III were they his descendants.

Further giving strength to the argument that James was not Olive’s father is James’s Census records for 1830 and 1840, which each includes two girls who would have been in Olive’s age range (5-9 and 15-19, respectively); both of those girls can be accounted for as confirmed heirs of James, namely Catherine Hollis (born about 1822) and Louisa Jane Hollis (born 20 Jan 1824), wife of James H. Gambrell. As Olive cannot be accounted for in James’s households in Census records, nor in any estate records or subsequent lawsuits regarding said estate, I believe I can firmly say that she was not the daughter of James Hollis III and Rhoda Choate.

Now that we have deduced she is not a daughter of James Hollis III, it’s time to start from scratch. Let’s look at what we know:

-          Olive Jane Hollis was born about 1823, presumably in Wayne County, Tennessee. Her maiden name is given in a book by her daughter, Phoeba Louiza Holmes, compiled late in life outlining what she knew of her ancestors and keeping track of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

-          Olive married Absalom Holmes on 9 Nov 1840 according to various online sources, but no proof of this date has been found. Wayne County, Tennessee marriage records for this time period have been lost. As Absalom was a resident of Wayne County in the 1840 Census, and the Hollis clan was also from Wayne County, we presume that is where the marriage occurred. Listing their date of marriage as “circa 1840” seems to be the most appropriate route; in the 1840 Census, Absalom is still married to a woman in the 20-29 age range, his first wife Julia Ann Gamble, but Nancy Ann Holmes, daughter of Olive and Absalom, was born about 1841, so the two of them were likely married somewhere in late 1840 or in 1841.

-          By 1850, Olive and Absalom have moved to Van Buren County, Arkansas with their children and Absalom’s brood from his first marriage.

-          Sometime before 1856, when Eliza J. Holmes was born, Absalom remarried to Elizabeth Hannon, indicating that Olive had died sometime between then and Phoeba’s birth in 1851.

Now we should try and logically deduce the potential candidates for Olive’s father. It’s clear she was born of one of James Hollis Jr.’s sons, but which? There aren’t actually very many plausible candidates outside of James and Stephen. Thomas Carroll Hollis would have been old enough, but his only daughter in the 1830 Census is under age 5, and in 1840 is only in the 10-14 age range, likely making her too young to have wed Absalom Holmes. William Newton Hollis would also be old enough, but he presents an odd dilemma. He has no daughters in the 1830 Census, only a male under 5. However, in 1840, he has a 15-19 year old girl living in his household who fits Olive’s age. While Stephen is left to appear as the last remaining viable candidate, as Hollis and Franks clearly deduced, but he does not have a girl in his household fitting Olive’s age; he has only a 10-14 year old girl, though it is possible that a) the census-taker mistook Olive's age or b) she is actually younger than she gives her age to be in the 1850 Census, the only record we have indicating her age. This leaves William with the only one of the three with a female in his household Olive’s purported age. I have not found any trees or records indicating that William had a daughter Olive’s age, so the 15-19 year old female may not be Olive at all.

Some trees list that James had sons named Charlie and Silas, but no substantial proof has ever been identified proving their existence. John Hollis, born 15 Jan 1805, would technically be old enough to be Olive’s father, but his age makes it unlikely. Further, he has no daughters in his 1830 household. There is still a possibility that Stephen is Olive’s father; after all, he did migrate to Missouri at approximately the same time the Holmes clan move to Arkansas, but even when Olive moved to Missouri, it was to the opposite end of the state from Stoddard County. Stephen is missing from the 1830 Census, so we do not know with certainty whether or not he had a daughter Olive’s age; he very easily could have, and she simply was not at home when the 1840 Census-taker came around, or else she worked or resided elsewhere with other relatives, or, as previously mentioned, her age in 1850 may be incorrect or the census taker could have mistaken her age.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any conclusive evidence as to Olive’s parentage. Just about the only thing that can be determined is that she was most certainly not a daughter of James Hollis III and Rhoda Choate, but whether she was a daughter of Stephen or possibly of William we do not know. I plan to look into acquiring probate records for Stephen and William to look for mentions of Olive’s children, but should that avenue be fruitless, we may be left with never knowing with certainty who Olive’s parents were. While William Allen Hollis’s proximity to Absalom Holmes in 1840 and his naming a daughter “Olive”, as well as the fact that Absalom’s brother/nephew (exact relationship undetermined) Abram Holmes resided in Stoddard County makes it tempting to add her as Stephen’s daughter, I don’t believe she should be until further evidence is discovered. I do hope, however, that she will be removed as a daughter of James Hollis III on trees and that perhaps someday we will find definitive evidence tying her to her father.

UPDATE, 10/20/2014:

Some great DNA evidence supporting Olive as the daughter of Stephen has popped up in my DNA results.

As most know, we all get certain amounts of DNA from different ancestors, and sometimes we get more of one ancestor's DNA than another's. But then our sibling, or first cousin, could have more or less DNA from one of your shared ancestors. And the DNA from a certain ancestor could be all but gone from your genetic code while still being present within one of your siblings, cousins, or your parents.

I have DNA samples on for my grand uncle, Robert Ronald Moose, as well as two of his first cousins, Jurhee Anita Moose and Dale Hubart Moose Jr., who are half-siblings, sharing the same father, Dale Sr., brother of my uncle Ronnie's father, Robert Royer Moose.

One of Dale's 5 closest DNA matches on Ancestry turned out to be a direct descendant of Stephen Hollis. The sample was from a woman with the initials M.J.B. whose sample was submitted by her first cousin, user RodgerHuffman1949. She is the descendant of Seth Grant Hollis through his son Cary Pope Hollis. Their match was with 95% certainty of being 4th-6th cousins. If Olive is Stephen's daughter, then M.J.B. and Dale are 4th cousins. M.J.B. would also be 4th cousins with Ronnie and Jurhee.

M.J.B. does appear as a match for both Ronnie and Jurhee, but at a smaller likelihood. With Ronnie, they share a "Low" certainty of being 5th-8th cousins, and the same goes for the match with Jurhee. This sheds a little doubt on the results, until I found that Dale had another match with a Stephen descendant, though not a close one. He has a "Very Low" confidence match to use osuolivers1, a descendant of William Allen Hollis through his son Stephen Compton Hollis. This user did not match Ronnie or Jurhee.

However, collectively, I feel these DNA results make a very good case for Olive being the daughter of Stephen. Though still not entirely conclusive, these DNA results are certainly supportive. As previously stated, we all get different amounts of DNA from different ancestors, so it's very possible that Dale simply got more Hollis DNA than Jurhee or Ronnie. That is my interpretation of the results, anyway.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

From Orange to Bedford: An Examination of the Probable Children of Jacob Wilhoite and Amelia Holt

The book “The Ancestors & Descendants of Jacob Wilhoite, 1751-1821, Vol. 1” by Jacob William Wilhoite and Della Faye Wilhoite [1991 – Beaver Press, Inc. – Manchester, TN] (and Vol. 2 as well) attaches a total of 14 children to Jacob and Amelia Holt Wilhoite. This list is duplicated all over the internet, plus or minus various children here and there. Unfortunately, since Jacob died without leaving a will, many researchers over decades have had to try and piece together a list of heirs using primarily circumstantial evidence. That sadly will be the case here as there is little formal documentation tying Jacob to any of his children other than John and William.

I am setting out today to try and make as complete a list as possible, while weeding out those who do not belong as children of Jacob and Amelia. I will go in order of how they are listed in the book, giving the name and details of each person, followed by stating why or why not I believe them to be children of Jacob and Amelia. Hopefully this list will be of assistance to those thrown off by the mismatched, assumed, and incorrect lists found all over the internet, as well as in published materials.

1. Jacob Wilhoite – Often listed as “Jr.”, this Jacob was born about 1781 in Orange County, NC and died about 1833 in Bedford County, TN. He married Mary “Polly” Powell on 2 Dec 1803 in Orange County. Jacob is found in the 1810 Census in Orange County listed as a “Jr.”. He is living right next door to Jacob Wilhoite “Sr.”. While a Jr.-Sr. relationship does not always mean a father-son relationship, when they live next door to each other and then proceed to move to the same county in Tennessee together, it makes a pretty strong case. Also, Jacob’s wife Mary’s brother, Thomas Powell, married Mary Wilhoite, and the two of them also made the journey to Bedford County. Though this evidence is circumstantial, I am confident in attaching Jacob Jr. to Jacob Sr.

2. Amelia (Milly) Wilhoite – Born 20 Nov 1782 in Orange County, NC and died 22 Mar 1865 in Bedford County, TN. She married John Whitesell on 12 Oct 1803 in Orange County, NC. Fortunately, Amelia is pretty easy to attach to her parents. Not only did she make the trek from Orange County to Bedford County with the rest of this clan (though it should be noted that that in and of itself does not guarantee they are the same family, as Jacob Sr.’s 1st cousin, Young Wilhoite, also took the same journey from Orange to Bedford, and there have been several times when the children of Young and the children of Jacob have been confused, as will be discussed further in this essay), but she is buried on the former property of Jacob Wilhoite in what is now referred to as the Whitesell-Wilhoite Cemetery. Amelia and her husband John are buried there along with a son, John Jr., and an Eveline Whitesell, who was either an unmarried daughter or a daughter-in-law. Also buried there are Jacob and Amelia Holt Wilhoite, their proven sons John and William, several grandchildren, and a few others. Based on Amelia’s marriage record proving she is indeed a Wilhoite, and her burial on Jacob’s property, I feel confident attaching her as a child of Jacob Sr.

3. Lewis Wilhoite – Born about 1786 in Orange County, NC and died after 1860 in Bedford County, TN. (Many trees have his date of death listed as 20 Feb 1863, but I have not seen any documentation proving this date.) He married Frances “Fanny” Christmas on 19 Dec 1813 in Orange County, NC. Obviously, Lewis also made the trek from Orange to Bedford. He is residing only a few households away from Jacob Jr. in the 1820 Census. His household for the 1840 Census has thrown many researchers off; he is listed as Willis instead of Lewis. It is most certainly the same person, as from 1830 to 1840 both households have very similar neighboring households. In 1840, he is only a few households from his nephew, Pearce Wilhoite, son of Jacob Jr. This Census has led many researchers to name him “Lewis Willis Wilhoite”. However, I am of the belief that this was simply an error by the census-taker. I have looked over many records and documents concerning Lewis, and not one indicates he had the middle initial “W”, or any middle initial at all. I think this was simply an unfortunate error which has led many researchers to give him an incorrect name. Lewis is listed as the bondsman for Catherine Wilhoite’s 1810 marriage to Flower Swift in Orange County. Additionally, Lewis’s close associations with Jacob Jr. and his son on the Census as well as John and William Wilhoite in Chancery Court records (they appear on nearly a dozen records together) lead me to believe he is indeed their brother, so I feel confident attaching him as a son of Jacob Sr.

4. John Wilhoite – John was born about 1810 in Orange County, NC and died before 1850 in Bedford County, TN. He married a Huldah B. Warner. Huldah is buried in the Whitesell-Wilhoite Cemetery, her original headstone still standing. The date of death on her headstone, 21 Mar 1844, matches the date of birth on the death certificate of her daughter, Huldah. John is also supposedly buried in the same cemetery, though his original headstone has not been located (there are many field stones and unmarked graves in the cemetery). John can be confirmed as a son of Jacob Sr. by an 1821 deed that is found in Bedford County Deed Book 0 on page 55 that has Jacob Wilhoite, Sr. deeding 200 acres to John “for love and affection for his son”. (Source: It should be noted that John is listed as “John M. Wilhoite” in most family trees and on pages concerning the Whitesell-Wilhoite Cemetery. However, none of the several Chancery Court or County Court records apply a middle initial to John. In fact, I have not seen him given a middle initial in any formal documentation anywhere, leading me to list him simply as “John” as there seems to be no proof that his middle initial was “M”.

5. William Wilhoite – Born 1 Mar 1804 in Orange County, NC and died 12 Jun 1839 in Bedford County, TN. He married Anna Adeline Warner and had 3 sons and a daughter, with two of those sons surviving to adulthood and one of them perishing in the Civil War. One of William’s granddaughters married Henry H. Horton, a governor of Tennessee. William is easily attached to Jacob Sr. per a deed identical to the aforementioned deed from Jacob Sr. to John. The transaction took place on the same day (page 57) for the same amount of land “for love and affection for his son”. (Source:

6. Catherine Wilhoite – Catherine was born about 1791 in Orange County, NC and died after 1860 in Bedford County, TN. Many trees have her date of birth as 16 Oct 1791 and date of death as Aug 1864, but offer no proof for either of those assertions. She married Flower Swift on 28 Jul 1810 in Orange County, NC with Lewis Wilhoite acting as bondsman. She has both a son (Thomas W.) and a granddaughter (Kezira K.) buried in the Whitesell-Wilhoite Cemetery on Jacob Sr.’s former property, with both of their original headstones still intact. The Swift’s are living two households from the households of John and William Wilhoite in 1830. Catherine’s association with Lewis, proximity to John and William, and her descendants being buried in the Whitesell-Wilhoite Cemetery lead me to confidently attach her as a child of Jacob Sr.

7. Sarah Wilhoite – Sarah was born 18 Dec 1784 in Orange County, NC and died 18 Dec 1841 in Marshall County, TN; these dates come from the Thomas Powell Family Bible, presently owned by Milton Thomas Powell, Jr. of Chapel Hill, TN. She married Thomas Powell on 5 Apr 1803 in Orange County. (It should be noted that the bible gives their date of marriage as 25 May 1803.) Thomas was the brother of Mary Powell who married Jacob Wilhoite Jr. The Powell’s reside next door to Thomas and Mary Wilhoite Murdock in both 1830 in Bedford County and 1840 in Marshall County. Sarah’s association with Jacob Jr. (marrying his wife’s brother) and Mary Wilhoite Murdock, as well as the fact that she made the trek from Orange to Bedford County presents enough circumstantial evidence to attach her as the daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr.

8. Mary “Polly” Wilhoite – Born 31 Mar 1779 in Orange County, NC and died 18 Aug 1838 in Marshall County, TN. These dates come from the Murdock Family Bible, now in possession of a Jane Murdock. She married Thomas Murdock on 27 Jan 1804 in Orange County, NC. Other than the trek from Orange to Bedford, the only close tie to the Jacob Sr. family appears to be the Murdock’s close association with the aforementioned family of Thomas and Sarah Wilhoite Powell, next to whom the family resides in 1830 and 1840. While this circumstantial evidence is decidedly weaker than many of the previous cases, since I am confident of Sarah’s tie to Jacob Sr. I am also fairly confident attaching Mary to Jacob Sr. Also note that this Mary is listed as “Cynthia (Polly)” in the Wilhoite book. However, her marriage record and other documents identify her as Mary or Polly; where the name “Cynthia” came from I haven’t the slightest clue.

9. Frances “Fannie” Wilhoite – Born 18 Jun 1796 and died 9 Oct 1846 in Bedford County, TN. She married a John Barrett. No marriage record has been found. As no marriage record has been found, there is no formal documentation in existence that gives Fannie, wife of John Barrett, the maiden name “Wilhoite”. She is listed as Jacob’s child in the Wilhoite book, and many online trees and databases apply “Wilhoite” as her maiden name, but there is no proof of that. I have not found any documents tying she or her husband to any of the Wilhoite’s or even the Holt’s. Though the family resides in Bedford County, their household has not been found to be in significant geographic proximity to any of the aforementioned Wilhoite households; there is also no documentation indicating that the family originated in Orange County, NC. I have seen no evidence that she is connected to Jacob Sr. or even that she was a Wilhoite at all. Until I am provided with any sort of documentation tying her to Jacob’s family, I do not feel she should be attached as a child of Jacob Wilhoite Sr.

10. Susan Wilhoite – No information is listed in the Wilhoite book on her other than she was born in born in Orange County, NC and she married a ______ Craig. I looked at all of the Craig households in Bedford County, TN for 1820, 1830, and 1840 and none of them were in proximity to any of the aforementioned Wilhoite households. There is not sufficient information that this Susan Wilhoite even existed, much less any information that would tie her to Jacob Wilhoite Sr. Therefore, I do not feel she should be attached as his child.

11. Mary Wilhoite – No information listed other than she was born in 1784 and married a _______ Kimmons. Several online trees have a Mary Eleanor Wilhoite marrying an Edward Kimmons. Edward Kimmons did reside in Bedford County. In 1830 he is in close proximity to Willis W. Wilhoite, son of Young Wilhoite Sr., and in 1840 he is in close proximity to Young Wilhoite Sr. himself. No marriage record has been found for this supposed union. There is no evidence that the wife of Edward Kimmons was a Wilhoite, much less the daughter of Jacob. If she is indeed a Wilhoite, she is more likely connected to the Young Wilhoite clan. Additionally, Mary Wilhoite, wife of Thomas Murdock, is almost certainly Jacob’s daughter, and it is not likely he would have two daughters named Mary. I do not believe there is sufficient evidence to attach this Mary as a child of Jacob Wilhoite Sr.

12. Hannah Wilhoite – The only information presented for Hannah in the Wilhoite book is that she married a _______ Moore. In scouring Bedford County, TN records and indexes, I did not find the Wilhoite clan closely associated with any Moore families of the county. I can find no evidence that this person even existed, much less that she was Jacob’s daughter; she should not be attached as a daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr.

13. Jennie Wilhoite – The only information presented for Jennie in the Wilhoite book is that she married a ________ Holt. This information is incredibly vague as there were a number of Holt families in Bedford County, TN who were all relatives of Amelia Holt, wife of Jacob Wilhoite Sr. Many of the Holt families were closely associated with the Wilhoite’s, which makes sense given their relation, but I found no record of any of them having a wife name Jennie. There was a Jennie Holt who married an E. T. Bomar in Bedford County on 16 Aug 1861, but that was most likely Virginia Holt, daughter of Henry Holt (born 1785 in North Carolina). I have found no evidence that this Jennie Wilhoite existed, much less that she was Jacob’s daughter, and therefore she should not be attached as a daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr.

14. Margaret Wilhoite – Volume 1 of the Wilhoite book only states that she was born Nov 1797 and married Jordan Cain Holt. In Volume 2, it became clear the books were referring to Jordan Cain Holt, Sr., son of Joshua Holt who was a son of Michael Holt. While this would make Jordan related to a daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr. he is actually more closely related to Mary “Polly Powell, wife of Jacob Wilhoite Jr., who would be his 1st cousin. Now Jordan Cain Holt was married to a Margaret. She is buried next to him in Center Cemetery in Shelbyville with the dates 30 Nov 1797 to 31 Jul 1853 on her headstone. Unfortunately, there has been no marriage record for Jordan and Margaret discovered. However, Jordan C. Holt appears to have been involved in at least 3 sets of Chancery Court Records with John and William Wilhoite, and several sets of County Court cases with John (one of those including William). However, since I only recently began to explore the possibility that Margaret could be a daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr., I have not yet explored these court cases to see if a relationship between Jordan C. Holt and the Wilhoite’s has been established. Until it has been, if it can be at all, I do not feel Margaret should be attached as a daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr., though the possibility of adding her as a child should remain open.

So in conclusion, unless proof can be brought to light that can viably attach Frances, Susan, Mary wife of Edward Kimmons, Hannah, Jennie, or Margaret as children of Jacob and Amelia Holt Wilhoite. Their list of children should, in order, look like this:

1. Mary “Polly” Wilhoite, born 31 Jan 1779
2. Jacob Wilhoite Jr., born about 1781
3. Amelia “Milly” Wilhoite, born 20 Nov 1782
4. Sarah Wilhoite, born 18 Dec 1784
5. Lewis Wilhoite, born about 1786
6. Catherine Wilhoite, born about 1791
7. William Wilhoite, born 1 Mar 1804
8. John Wilhoite, born about 1810

As previously stated, all but John and William are based on circumstantial evidence, which should be noted in any genealogical file concerning the family. However, I hope that by having all the evidence in front of you , you can see why each child is attached to this family.

Anyone with comments or additional information is welcome to contact me.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dispelling the myths of Jacob R. Wilhoite's Civil War service

There are many myths online and in published materials concerning the Civil War service of Jacob R. Wilhoite, son of William Wilhoite and Anna Adeline Warner. There have even been myths about his brother, John Benton Wilhoite, as well but those seem to have dissolved over time for the most part.

Here is a summary of Jacob R. Wilhoite's service in the Civil War according to family myths and legends:

Jacob was a Colonel under General Nathan Bedford Forrest in the 4th/8th (Baxter Smith's) Tennessee Cavalry. He was killed at the Battle of Chattanooga near Missionary Ridge on 24 Oct 1863. His mother and a house-slave went to the battlefield, recovered his body, and brought it back home through enemy lines to be buried in the family cemetery.

Now the last half of this story could easily be true; in fact, if Jacob's body actually is interred in the Wilhoite Cemetery in Chapel Hill, then it most likely is true. The other parts of the myth are what need to be dispelled:

1. That Jacob R. Wilhoite was a Colonel. (Not true)
2. That Jacob served in the 4th/8th Tennessee Cavalry under Baxter Smith (Not true)
3. That Jacob served under Nathan Bedford Forrest (Not true)
4. That he was killed at the Battle of Chattanooga (Almost true, but not quite)

There are no service records for any men with the last name of Wilhoite (or any of the alternative spellings) in the records of the 4th Tennessee Cavalry or the 8th Tennessee Cavalry (Smith's). To be fair, Company A of the 8th Tennessee Cavalry (Smith's) was made up of men from Marshall County, Tennessee, which is where Jacob is found in the 1860 Census. However, there are no records indicating Wilhoite served among the 4th or the 8th in either the regiments' records or regimental histories. If Jacob were a Colonel, he most certainly would have had a service record and/or some sort of mention among the regiments' records at some point in time (whether it was when he was elected an officer, appointed a colonel, and/or killed in action). In fact, if you Google-search "Colonel Wilhoite", "Colonel Jacob R. Wilhoite", "Colonel J. R. Wilhoite" or any variations of the sort, what few results you do find are posts by descendants of this family further perpetuating this myth. The book "The Ancestors & Descendants of Jacob Wilhoite, 1751-1821" is often cited as a source for this information, but unfortunately, the information is just wrong. Jacob did not serve in the 4th or the 8th Cavalry units and he was not a Colonel.

It is not that Jacob did not serve; he did, just not with the units people stated. Company F of the 17th Tennessee Infantry was made up of men from Bedford and Marshall Counties. (See TN GenWeb page for the 17th, or Steve Arnold's page on the 17th Among their ranks was a Private J. R. Wilhoite. After thoroughly scouring the few Wilhoite men named James, John, Joseph, Jeremiah, or any other J name from Bedford, Marshall, and their surrounding counties, I concluded that none of those "J. Wilhoite" men had the middle initial of R. It is listed in some trees that John Wilhoite, son of John M. Wilhoite and Huldah Warner, born about 1842 in Bedford County, bore the middle initial of "R", but he is not listed with any middle initial in any County, Chancery, or Circuit court books. While his brother Richard is consistently listed with his middle initial (these are primarily in guardianship hearings after their father had passed away), John never is; he is simply listed as "John". Further, this John does not appear in any Bedford County or surrounding county records after these guardianship proceedings, and he does not appear in the 1860 Census. So not only is their no proof of his middle name being "R", but there is no proof he even lived to see the Civil War.

Based on the conclusion that there are no other "J. R. Wilhoite"'s anywhere in that region of the state, it was reasonably decided that this J. R. Wilhoite is indeed Jacob R. Wilhoite, and despite his service record being relatively small, it appears to give a significant detail further proving J. R. to be Jacob. O  May 15, 1862, about a year into his service, Col. Hawthorne assigned Wilhoite to a special detail as a courier for the regiment's surgeon. The very last service record for J. R. Wilhoite for the 17th Tennessee Infantry is dated 2 Sep 1863 in Charleston (meaning Charleston, TN in Bradley County, as the 17th would be engaged in the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19-20. It says the last Wilhoite was heard from was 30 Aug 1863. Jacob R. Wilhoite's headstone bears his date of death as 24 Oct 1863, and the family stories are that his body was recovered near Missionary Ridge, which is near Chattanooga. The 17th fought at Chattanooga (These personal notes from various members of the 17th bear that out:, and I don't think it is just a coincidence that J. R. Wilhoite's last service record is dated 2 Sep 1863 and then Jacob R. Wilhoite dies on 24 Oct 1863, just over a month later, and both just happened to be from Marshall County. Based on this information, I have concluded that Jacob R. Wilhoite died serving in the 17th Tennessee Infantry, rather than the 4th or 8th Cavalry, which also means he did not serve under General Forrest, as Forrest was in charge of cavalry units at Chattanooga.

Lastly, according to this website's timeline for the Chattanooga campaign:, on 24 Oct 1863, no official engagement appeared to occur. The Battle of Brown's Ferry occurred a few days later, and The Battle of Missionary Ridge did not occur until a full month later. This could mean a couple of things. If Jacob's headstone is correct and he died in 24 Oct, then he likely was killed in a skirmish of some sort, or else was shot while acting as a courier. It is possible though that the date was off by a few days or even a few weeks, depending on when Jacob's headstone was actually erected. If the detail in the family's bible mentioning that Jacob was found near "Myssionary Ridge" is true, then perhaps is date of death was actually 24 Nov 1864, plus or minus a couple of days. If Jacob's body was recovered from the battlefield as the story goes, then it would have been several days after he was killed that the news of his demise would have reached his mother and she would have been able to reach that battlefield, so it is possible she knew not exactly what day her son was killed and was simply estimating. Now according to Steve Arnold's page, J. R. Wilhoite "died in camp" ( While his service record did not mention this, it is possible this information was gleamed from another source of the 17th. I have reached out to Mr. Arnold for more information, and should he provide it, I will add it to this essay.

All in all, I think the documentation speaks for itself. It's a nice story to pass on through the generations that one's long-lost-uncle was a Colonel in the Civil War and fought with a famous general and died heroically. While he certainly could have died heroically, the rest of the information in the old family story of Jacob R. Wilhoite was purely a myth. Who knows where the legend began, but I think it's time that the facts were laid out for all to see so that only the true information of Jacob's story is perpetuated further. It is certainly not a tarnish to one's legacy to have been a Private in the Infantry rather than a Colonel in the Cavalry, though some may see it that way. I think it is more harmful to Jacob's legacy to have completely false information about his life spreading throughout the family, so I hope this information will help other researchers of the Wilhoite Family in and around Bedford County, Tennessee with having their information as accurate as possible.