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, March 21, 2013

The Mystery of J. Wheat

On the 1880 Collin County, Texas, census my grandfather’s father is listed as J. Wheat, born in 1859 in Texas; according to the census, his father was born in Arkansas and his mother was born in Mississippi. Since my mother had written in my baby book that my great-grandfather was John William Wheat, I spent years looking for a Wheat from Arkansas that had a son John that was of the correct age.  I searched censuses in Texas for a John Wheat born around 1859 and corresponded with Wheat researchers who had documented every Wheat that ever lived in Arkansas—no luck.  My Wheats in Texas, intermarried with the Mings, were from Alabama, not Arkansas.

My baby book--showing great-grandfather as John William Wheat
1880 Collin County Texas census 
Finally, through a Family History Center at a LDS Church in Tulsa, I found the marriage license of J.A. Wheat and Cynthia Ming on 21 January 1877 in Grayson County, Texas.  Yes, that’s right—still no name.  Just initials.  Not only that, but the license says “J.A. Wheat” and the minister’s return says “J.W. Wheat.”  At least I knew that J. and Cynthia were originally from Grayson County.

Marriage license of J.A. Wheat and Cynthia Ming
I began to collect more and more information but still nothing that would give me the identity of J. Wheat.  I found out that my grandfather John had a brother named Thomas, born in 1884.  I found out that Mrs. Cynthia F. Ming married Thomas L. Rhodes in Weatherford, Parker County, Texas, on 17 November 1890, so presumably J. Wheat was deceased before 1890. I considered that my Aunt Marie might have mistakenly attributed a death of a father and son by wagon accident to her Roberts grandfather when it really happened to J. Wheat and his oldest son A.B.—since A.B. also disappeared after the 1880 census.  I sent off to the National Archives and Records Administration for John William Wheat’s Army service records and found that although he was living in Collin County at age 5 months, he was born in Grayson County.

Marriage license of Thomas L. Rhodes & Cynthia F. Wheat
I decided to record every Wheat family living in Grayson and Collin counties on the 1870 and 1880 censuses.  Most of them were related to the Wheats I already knew from the Ming side of the family.  In 1870 the families listed in Grayson County were those of: William Whitley Wheat, son of Samuel & Cynthia Stephenson Wheat; James R. Wheat, son of William Whitley Wheat; Robert S. Wheat, son of William Wheat and Esther Stephenson (William is Samuel Wheat’s brother and Esther is another Stephenson sister); Samuel Wheat, son of William, with whom his mother Esther, age 86, was living.  The only J. Wheat even close to the right age is James H., son of Samuel, who is not married and still living with his parents on the 1880 census.

There is only one other Wheat family in Collin County in 1870 and 1880, seemingly unrelated to my Wheats.  They have a son James, but he is still young and living at home on the 1880 census.

Obviously in June 1880 my J. Wheat was living in Collin County, so he wasn’t living in Grayson County.  However, since the family was living in Grayson County in January 1880 when my grandfather John William was born, I thought I would see who was in Grayson County at the time of the 1880 census.  Most of the families were those previously living in Grayson County or sons of Robert S. or William Whitley Wheat who were now living on their own. One Wheat family from Georgia had a head of household too young to be J.’s father. 

But—living in Grayson County in 1880 is a father named Henry Wheat with his daughters Lucy, Mollie, and Emma.  Henry was the son of William and Esther Wheat, and his wife Caroline Farris, born in Mississippi, had died in 1874. In 1870 Henry lived in Davis County, Texas, with Caroline, daughters Lucy, Elizabeth, Henrietta, and Mary, and son Joseph, age 13.  The name Joseph Wheat does not appear in Texas on the 1880 census—unless he is my J. Wheat.  Circumstantial evidence, I know, but I was having a pretty good feeling about it. 

Henry Wheat on 1870 Davis Co. TX census, page 26
Henry Wheat family on 1870 Davis Co. TX census, page 27 
I hadn’t had any luck finding the name of my great-grandfather on any of John William Wheat’s documents.  The information on his death certificate was given by his father-in-law, Thomas J. Bell, who apparently didn’t know, as the father and mother are marked as Unknown.  But maybe with Thomas, his brother, I would have better luck.  I requested Thomas’s death certificate from the State of Oklahoma.  When I received it in the mail, I was more than excited to see that Thomas’s mother’s name was Cynthia Ming and his father was Joe Wheat!  Even then, the death certificate didn’t say who had given the information for the death certificate, so I was still uncertain.

Then, I found out that with Thomas’s social security number I could request his original Social Security application, so I did.  I waited impatiently for a month and finally received a copy of the application just a few weeks ago.  Even though it is hard to read, it also says Joe Wheat.  Only a few little details don’t match up: on the 1860 census when the family was living in Titus County, Joseph was listed as “J.F.” and was age 5, making his birth year 1855; his father Henry Wheat was born in Alabama, not Arkansas.  However, I have proven ancestors who have birthdates and names that differ by that much. I think I’ve probably found all the confirmation I will ever have, so I am declaring the mystery solved.   

This means that on the Wheat side of my family I am descended from three sisters: Cynthia Stephenson, wife of Samuel Wheat and mother of Susanna Wheat Ming; Susannah Stephenson, wife of Thomas Ming and mother of William Frederick Ming; and Esther Stephenson, wife of William Wheat, mother of Henry Wheat, and grandmother of Joseph Wheat.  Whew!

Whitley family tree at William Whitley House
Elizabeth Whitley Stevenson is mother of Cynthia, Susannah, and Esther


  1. Hi Becky,

    Congratulations on figuring out your Wheat lineage! I'm intrigued by a comment you made earlier in your post. You mentioned that you spoke with everybody who has researched all the Arkansas wheat's. I'm hoping for a list of names and email addresses. I'm descended from William "Buck"Wheat, son of James Wheat. That's where my trail runs cold. Is there anyway I could get in to contact with these AR researchers?


    Matthew Setterquist

    1. If you'll send me your email, I think I have some names for you. My email is