Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Merry Christmas! You're Going to North Carolina

On Christmas Eve I surprised my brother with his semi-annual nostalgic gift. It was a framed photo of the farmhouse my Castle great-grandparents rented from Dr. Fred S. Clinton when they first moved to Red Fork sometime in the 1910's. Dr. Clinton was a physician and co-owner of the Sue Bland, the first well to strike oil in Tulsa County. Clinton Middle School, where my brother and I attended 7th, 8th, and 9th grades, still sits on the site of the original farmhouse. When we attended Clinton Junior High School, it was in the original school building, built in 1925.

Clinton Junior High School in 1925
From the Beryl Ford Collection/Tulsa Historical Society

I had never seen a photograph of the Clinton farmhouse, but I attended a meeting with my grandmother when a painting of the old house was presented to the school. I wasn't even sure that a photograph of the house existed. A little research uncovered the fact that a photograph of the house was available from the Tulsa Historical Society. Voila!

Clinton Farmhouse
From the Beryl Ford Collection/Tulsa Historical Society

Tim really liked the photo, and he had a surprise of his own. During the gift opening portion of the evening, he leaned over to me and said, "Your gift from us is that we are going to North Carolina this summer." On our previous trips to Kentucky and Tennessee we had talked about how so much of our family had come from North Carolina and how neither of us had ever been there. As usual, we'll try to combine the genealogical and the historical. So where are we planning to go?

1. I'm thinking that our first stop in North Carolina will be Asheville, right on I-40, which will be our route out of Oklahoma, straight through Tennessee, and on to North Carolina. We can't visit North Carolina without seeing Biltmore and exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains.

2. Our Powell ancestors came predominantly from Wake Co., NC. The narrative written by our great-great-aunt Lydia from information given to her by her father Benjamin (See "The Powells") says that the Powell ancestors came from Virginia to Halifax Co., NC, then to Wake Co. before the Revolutionary War. Dempsey Powell was the patriarch of this family, and his name can be found on the 1790 and 1800 censuses in Wake Co. Fortunately, the county seat of Wake Co. is Raleigh, which is also the capital and location of the State Archives. It's also right on I-40.

I hope that some pre-trip research will help me determine if there are any Powell-related sites to see in Wake Co. The home of Dempsey Powell (or of his son Dempsey Jr.--sources vary) still was standing in Wake Co. in the 1960's. I found references to the home of Dempsey Powell's son Jesse that is on the National Register of Historic Places in Wake Forest. I'm hoping to convince my brother to let me have half a day at the Archives. According to the catalog of the Archive holdings, there is a box that contains information about Dempsey Powell's military service in the Revolution and a folder that contains the bounty land warrant awarding Dempsey Powell his land on the Duck River in Tennessee for his service. Surely Tim will want to see that.

3. It's only 3 hours from Raleigh to Roanoke Island. I can't be that close and not visit the site of the Lost Colony that has fascinated me since I first read about it 50 years ago. We can't see North Carolina without visiting the coast.

4. Doubling back to meet up again with I-40, we can follow it to its end in Wilmington. It's only a short drive from there to the border of Brunswick and Columbus counties where our Simmons, Soles, and Mansell relatives lived before they moved to Alabama. I think the best we can hope for there is to get a flavor of the area that our ancestors left in the 1830's.

My cousins and I speculate that the family's efforts to prove Cherokee membership were fruitless because we weren't Cherokee, but Waccamaw. According to the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe website, the Waccamaw tribal homeland lies partially in Columbus County, about 35 miles from Wilmington. Hopefully, we'll have time to visit the area, particularly Lake Waccamaw and the Green Swamp Nature Preserve.

5. Traveling north to meet back up with I-40 will take us to Charlotte. We have no family connection there, but I hear it's a fun city. Maybe we can stop for lunch or dinner on our way back home.

As usual, we'll push it to make the trip in a week, but I think we can do it. If you read this and have suggestions for our trip or more information about sites connected to our ancestors, especially the Powell and Simmons families, please let us know.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Simmons or Soles or (Maybe) Mansell DNA, Part 2

I had never heard of the Mansells before I discovered my great-grandfather's Guion Miller application for Indian citizenship on behalf of his children. He made a deposition in 1908 which includes some genealogically significant information:

"I think about the time of her (his wife Fannie's) birth her father died, and then after she was born his wife married a white man...Her mother's married name at the time she was born was Mansfield or Mansel, some called her Elizabeth Mansfield. Her name was Elizabeth Sims before marriage. My wife's mother's mother was Soles. Her given name was Priscilla Soles. My wife's father was John Mansel, sometimes known as Mansfield. I do not remember her father's parents' names...My wife's mother's name was Cotton when we came to this country (Indian Territory/Oklahoma.)"

Until my brother and I found this application in the archives at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, I had always thought my grandfather's mother's name was Fannie Cotton. My source for this information was my grandmother, and I don't doubt that this was what she had heard or what she thought to be true.

Here are the facts as I know them: 1. Others have listed a birthdate of 7 June 1849 for Fannie. I don't know exactly where this information comes from, but in any case, Francis Mansfield, age 1, is enumerated on the 1850 census of Pike Co. AL with her mother Elizabeth Mansfield and brothers William, Samuel, Daniel, Simeon, Benjamin, John, and Amos. She is consistent about her age in later censuses: age 11 in 1860, age 21 in 1870, and age 31 in 1880. 2. Her mother's husband and father of the boys was John Mansell, who died around 1843/1844. 3. Her mother married William W. Cotton on 26 August 1863.

If you've been following closely, you see the discrepancy. Even though Fannie used the name Mansell on her marriage license to Stephen A. Smith, John Mansell could not have been her father as he was dead at least five years before her birth. William W. Cotton was probably not her father either. He and Elizabeth did not marry until 1863, and I haven't been able to find him on the 1850 census in Pike Co. It's possible that Fannie was the daughter of one of the Mansell sons, granddaughter to Elizabeth, but so far there's no proof of that either, and Stephen flatly states in his deposition that John Mansell was her father.

Genealogists certainly wish they could trust every piece of information they find in a written document from the actual time period, but in this case you have to take a closer look. First, the source of the information is Stephen A. Smith who is relating information about his deceased wife's family. Second, his motive is to gain Cherokee citizenship for his children. However, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt. It's not crucial that he establish John Mansell as the father of these children as he is claiming Indian descent through the mother, Elizabeth Simmons.

I think he was either reporting what he had been told or he was trying to protect the reputation of his late wife whose mother apparently was not married to her father at the time of her birth. In fact, I kept hoping I would find some way that he was telling the truth, some discrepancy in the date of John Mansell's death, but I read the estate papers myself on, and they are dated from 1843 to 1848 and do not list Francis (Fannie) as an heir of John Mansell, deceased, although all the boys are listed.

Perhaps DNA will someday provide the data that will allow me to identify Fannie's father. What I was pleased to find in the list of surnames of Leo Pentney Gaines on FTDNA was the name Simmons, as this corroborated what Stephen Smith said in his deposition: that Elizabeth's maiden name was Sims (in other places, he used Simes or Simmons.) Some trees on have Elizabeth's maiden name as Monroe and Monrow, perhaps derived from the middle name of her son Daniel.

Other statements made by Stephen were either carefully worded or literally true. "I think about the time of her birth her father died"; well, give or take 5 years or so. "Her mother's married name at the time she was born was Mansfield or Mansell"; true. "My wife's mother's name was Cotton when we came to this country." I think this is further proof that Elizabeth did come to Oklahoma with the Smiths in 1894. This has been stated by some family members and disputed by others because of Elizabeth's age at the time, but in the original application for Indian rights that was filed while Fannie was still alive, Elizabeth made her statement before a notary public in Cleveland Co., Oklahoma Territory. This brings us back to the Webb family again. It was suggested to me by a Mansell cousin that perhaps Elizabeth came to Oklahoma with the Smiths and returned to Alabama with Joanna Mansell Webb's family, who traveled back to Alabama before finally settling permanently in Oklahoma.

Some of Stephen's other statements still require some proof which I hope DNA can someday provide. In a Guion Miller application filed by one of the Mansells, Elizabeth's father is identified as Benjamin Simmons. Some trees list his wife as Leannah Souls. Many Mansell researchers recognize some kind of connection between Elizabeth and Luke Russell Simmons. (She is listed as one of his creditors in his estate papers and bought several items at the auction of his assets.) The wife of Luke Russell Simmons has been identified as both Priscilla Hargette and Priscilla Soles.

Leo Pentney Gaines and I share 111 cM's on our FTDNA tests, which is not a small match. We are definitely related, probably as descendants of Elizabeth Simmons. Not only did DNA help me find this cousin, it may someday help me identify the true fathers of Fannie and Elizabeth. The obituaries of Mr. Gaines also alerted me to the fact that his mother remarried and had other children with a different last name. If they ever do DNA testing, I will be aware that they are also descendants of Mamie Webb, Joanna Mansell, and Elizabeth Simmons.

I only wish that determining my connection with some of my other DNA matches was as easy as it was with Mr. Gaines. This week I've found a dozen new cousins that all match in the same area of Chromosome 19. A dozen! Can I determine who our common ancestor is? Not that easy. That's a post for another day.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Simmons or Soles or (Maybe) Mansell DNA, Part 1

Back at the end of November I got a match on Family Tree DNA with a man named Leo Pentney Gaines. I actually know how I am related to him. If you haven't jumped on the DNA bandwagon yet, you might not realize how seldom you actually know how you are related to your matches. I think some people assume that DNA testing will answer every question they have about their family trees, but unfortunately, that's just not true--at least not yet.

Out of my first page of matches on Family Tree DNA (in order by number of cM's shared), you can see how many I actually know by looking at the table below.

Match Shared cM's Suggested Relationship Do I know how we are related?
My brother 2282.00 Brother Yes
Miller 134.68 2nd-3rd Cousin No
Huff 122.26 3rd Cousin Yes
Leo Pentney Gaines 111.60 2nd-4th Cousin Yes
Castle 83.96 3rd Cousin Yes
Coy 74.33 2nd-4th Cousin No
Dexheimer 70.23 2nd-4th Cousin No
Hay 69.83 3rd Cousin Yes
Stroud 68.35 2nd-4th Cousin No
Childress 68.26 2nd-4th Cousin No

Those who have been tested have the opportunity to list family surnames and download a Gedcom (their tree) to FTDNA. Some take advantage of that opportunity, and some do not.

  • Miller is my closest match next to my brother. At a 2nd cousin level I should probably know who he is. We do not have a single surname in common, including Miller.
  • Huff is one of my Huff cousins. I happen to know that he is deceased. Neither his surnames nor his tree is posted on FTDNA. I know how I am related to him because I have made contact with a couple of hard-working Huff cousins who are finding and encouraging other cousins to test and keeping track of the matches.
  • More to come on Leo Pentney Gaines.
  • As you might have guessed, Castle is one of my Castle cousins. Our great-grandfathers were brothers.
  • Coy has not posted surnames or a tree. I've investigated a little but have been unable to determine how we are connected.
  • According to her posted tree, Dexheimer and I have a couple of locations in common: Russell Co., VA, and Morgan Co., KY. I haven't determined exactly how we are connected, but I have a number of ancestors who migrated from Russell Co. to Morgan Co., so I hope to eventually find our common ancestor.
  • Hay and I share Huff and Roberts ancestors.
  • Stroud posted both surnames and a tree. We have some surnames in common, but I have not been able to determine the exact connection.
  • Childress did not post surnames or a tree.
Out of my second page of 10 matches, I only know how I am connected to one match. (As the number of shared cM's gets smaller, the common ancestor gets farther away and harder to trace.) So you can imagine how excited I was to be able to figure out my connection to Mr. Gaines.

I don't want to discourage anyone from DNA testing because it will only get better as time goes on and more people are tested. I do want to encourage those who test to take advantage of all the tools you have at your disposal. If you can't download a tree, at least list your surnames and reply to email queries from your matches. It is easy to go into your profile on FTDNA and add surnames and locations. In fact, adding locations to my surnames is a goal I have added to my genealogy "to-do" list.

If you do have some information to work with, you can sometimes figure out your connection to a match, as I did with Leo Pentney Gaines. It actually was pretty easy, and I was equally as excited that an existing paper trail on my Smith side has now been validated by DNA.

First, I searched for Leo Pentney Gaines on Even though I didn't know a birthdate or location, I thought I would try because he had a fairly uncommon name. Depending upon the age of the person tested, it might be possible for you to find one of your matches on the 1930 or 1940 census. Sadly, the first result I got in my search for Mr. Gaines was his obituary. He died in October. His home was in Texas, but he was buried in Oklahoma. If I had Googled his name, I would have gotten the same result, and if you don't subscribe to, that is an option.

A second result was the 1930 census for L.P. Gaines, which included the names of his parents, Harry Leo and Mamie Gaines. They were living in Fitzhugh, Pontotoc County, Oklahoma, which is where, according to the obituary, Mr. Gaines was buried. So I still had the right family, and living with them in 1930 was Mamie's mother, Joanna Webb. Here was a name I recognized. Her father was Daniel Monroe Mansell, the half-brother of my great-grandmother Fannie.