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.

Friday, December 11, 2015

DNA Circles: Luke Russell Simmons and Priscilla Soles

I've been trying to write this post for weeks. First, I had second thoughts that I could find paper evidence of my connection to Luke Russell Simmons and Priscilla Soles. Then I met some other Simmons descendants and together we were drawn deeper and deeper into Simmons and Soles research. I'm glad I waited, because this week the research has led to a discovery that I hardly expected.

It's been years now since I found my paternal great-grandmother Fannie Smith's application to the Dawes Commission for Cherokee citizenship. Although denied, the application was full of genealogical gems. Among these was a statement from Fannie's mother, Elizabeth Simmons Mansell Cotton, in which she named her mother as Priscilla Soules. If she had just named her father as well, she could have saved me a lot of frustration. To my mind I just never could find sufficient evidence to prove that Elizabeth's mother Priscilla was the wife of Luke Russell Simmons.

Elizabeth Cotton's Dawes Commission affidavit

In any case, it appears that Ancestry DNA believes that Luke Russell Simmons and Priscilla Soles are my ancestors, so I am trying to prove them right, even though Ancestry has recently removed the mother of Luke Russell Simmons, Leodosia Gore, from my DNA Circles. I think it may be because one of our Simmons researchers removed her from his tree due to new evidence he uncovered, causing me to have fewer than the required number of DNA matches to belong to the circle. However, she is an important part of the story, so I'll start with what I know about her and her husband, John (not Isaac!!) Simmons.

The Ancestors

In June of 1832 Congress passed a provision giving pensions to soldiers who had served in the Revolution. In November 1832 John Simmons appeared before the County Clerk of Columbus County, NC and made the statement that he was then 69 years old and had served as a Private in the Revolutionary War, beginning in the year 1780. John Simmons was awarded $87.50 per annum, which he apparently received until his death in 1844. Widows or children of the former soldiers were also due any monies accrued from the time of the previous payment until the death of the recipient, so after his death his wife Leodosia applied for the remainder due on his pension. She named five surviving children: John A. Simmons, Luke R. Simmons, Priscilla Powell, Susannah Johnson, and Dorcas Neeley.

Part of Revolutionary War widow's pension application,
listing names of 5 surviving Simmons children

(By the way, a great number of trees on Ancestry show this Revolutionary War veteran as John Isaac Simmons. I don't know why. I have yet to see a document in which he is named as such. John Simmons was a common name in North Carolina in that era; so was Isaac Simmons. It makes me wonder if someone just combined a John and an Isaac on Ancestry, and everyone else copied the name without questioning it. As a matter of fact, an Isaac Simmons, age 76, appeared before the county court at the time of Leodosia's application and testified that he was present at the wedding of John and Leodosia in September 1789. He could have been a brother or cousin of John's. Thank you to my Simmons cousin, Sam Casey, who has spent many hours trying to disentangle the Johns and the Isaacs. (See his very helpful website at

John A., Priscilla, Susannah, and Dorcas have been hard for me to trace and identify, even though I have the names of the girls' spouses from documents generated after the death of Leodosia. Luke, their brother, is another story.

According to a transcription of the births recorded in the Bible of Luke R. Simmons, found in the Simmons folder at the Troy AL Public Library, he was born 20 May 1791. And here, for the first time in a written document is the name of Luke's wife--Priscilla--born 5 April 1792. (Thanks again, Sam!) Their marriage date is given as 24 January 1811. The transcription goes on to list the names and birth dates of Luke's children: Elizabeth, born 10 December 1812 (although the date my Elizabeth gives for her own birth is 11 November 1812); Jemima, born 13 October 1815; Susannah, born 14 August 1817; Patience and Nancy, born 2 January 1821; Leonard M., born 20 February 1823; Rebekah, born 8 June 1825; Elizur (Eliza), born 7 August 1827. The Bible was published in 1827, so most of the names and dates were recorded many years after the fact and may be in error. The youngest two children, Daniel Monroe and Dorcas, were not listed, which is understandable if the owner of the Bible failed to keep up with the new births. (There is evidence in Luke's estate file that Daniel and Dorcas were his children.) More surprising is the fact that his eldest children, according to most descendants' trees, are John R. (born 1806) and Luke Jr. (born 1809), who are not listed as children of Luke in the Bible and couldn't be according to his listed birth date or date of marriage.

Luke R. Simmons is listed as head of household on the 1820 census of Columbus Co. NC, with 1 male, age 26 to 44; 2 females 26-44; 1 male under 10; and 3 females under 10. Luke is obviously the adult male; Priscilla would be one of the adult females, but who is the other? Elizabeth, Jemima, and Susannah would be the 3 females under 10, and the 1 male under 10 could be John R. or Luke Jr., although they should both be over 10.

On the 1830 census of Columbus Co. there is 1 male 30-39 (Luke); 1 female 30-39 (Priscilla); and 1 female 50-59 (same female from 1820 census?) In addition, there was 1 female 10-14 (probably Susannah, just going by birthdate); 3 females 5-9 (Patience, Nancy, and who was the 3rd?); 2 females under 5 (Rebekah and Eliza); and 1 male 5-9 (Leonard.)

In 1837 Luke R. Simmons bought land in Pike Co. AL, and by 1840 he appears on the census there. Boy, this one is really confusing. There is 1 male 40-49, which would be Luke, but there is no corresponding female (Priscilla) in that age range. Instead, the oldest female is 30-39. There is 1 male 30-39 (which could be John R. or Luke Jr.) and 2 males 20-29 (don't have a clue.) There is 1 male 15-19 (Leonard) and one that is 5-9 (Daniel.) The 2 females 15-19 could be Patience and Nancy; the 1 female 10-14 would be Eliza; and one of the 2 females 5-9 would be Dorcas, but I don't know who the other one is.

Luke's political career began in Columbus Co. NC, where by 1832 he was the magistrate that attested to witness statements in the application of his father for Revolutionary War pension benefits. In 1872 William Garrett, former Alabama Secretary of State, wrote a book called Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama. He wrote that the Hon. Luke R. Simmons had been a state legislator in North Carolina from 1821-1833; then, after he moved to Alabama, he was elected to the state legislature from Pike Co. and served from 1837-1841. Garrett remarked that Simmons "...was always a Whig in politics." Simmons is also credited with suggesting the name for Troy, the county seat of Pike Co., named not for the legendary city but for one of his political opponents, Alexander Troy.

An oft-quoted short bio of Luke R. Simmons also floats around Ancestry; I don't know its origin. It claims that he was married to Priscilla Hargette, and that he and his wife were charter members of the Beulah Primitive Baptist Church in Troy and are probably buried there. I have found no evidence of the name Hargette for Priscilla, but neither have I found proof that she was Priscilla Soles, except for the statement her daughter Elizabeth made in the Dawes Commission application previously mentioned. It seems unlikely that Priscilla had married before she married Luke R. Simmons, although I guess it's possible.

Luke died in late 1844. His 99-page estate file is available for viewing in the Alabama Estate Files, 1830-1976 on, the LDS site. In addition to providing a glimpse into the debts and possessions of a Southern man of the mid-19th century, I hope it also provides some clues about family relationships. One of the attached documents, dated 11 December 1844, shows a debt from Luke R. Simmons to Peter J. Coleman for "1 coffin for his wife." While not perfectly clear, the dates on this and other documents lead me to believe Luke and Priscilla died within days of each other.

Debt to Peter J. Coleman for "1 coffin for his wife," dated 11 Dec. 1844 

Elizabeth Simmons was born 11 November 1812, according to her own statement, or 10 December 1812, according to her father's Bible. She married John Mansell (Mansel, Mancil, Mancill, sometimes even Mansfield) in 1826 when she was 14 years old. She had seven sons and one daughter. William A., born about 1826 in NC, survived his enlistment in the Confederate Army, lived close to his mother for most of his life, and died after 1880 in Waterloo, Lauderdale Co., AL. Samuel, whose birthdates vary from 1828 to 1833, was born in NC, joined Company C, 15th Alabama Infantry, in 1861 and died in 1862 in Richmond, VA. Daniel Monroe Mansell was born about 1832/33 in NC, married Margaret Brooks in 1854, fought for the Confederacy, had a large family and died in Waterloo in 1876 at age 43. Benjamin Franklin Mansell was born in the late 1830's in Pike Co. AL and died a prisoner of war at Camp Randall, Madison, Wisconsin, in 1862. John E. was born about 1841/42 in Alabama, joined Company C, 15th Alabama Infantry, in July 1861 and was dead in Virginia by December of the same year. Amos P., born in 1843 in AL, enlisted in Company C., 15th Alabama Infantry, and died at Gettysburg in 1863. Elizabeth's husband, John Mansell, died in 1844. Simeon C. is transcribed as 14 on the 1850 census, but the age is smudged and hard to read. It could be 14 or 16 or even 4, as Simeon appears again on the 1860 census as a very clear age 15. I have not been able to find him in any other records.

Daughter Francis, my great-grandmother, was born in 1849, five years after the death of John Mansell. Her father is unknown. When she married my great-grandfather, Stephen A. Smith, in 1868, she used the maiden name Mancil. Elizabeth remarried to William W. Cotton in 1863. William appears to have died sometime between the 1870 and 1880 censuses. Elizabeth was apparently alive in Cleveland Co., Oklahoma Territory, when she appeared before a notary public to give the statement attached to her daughter's Dawes application. Family in Alabama believe her grave to be in the Mount Olive Cemetery, Waterloo, AL. It is thought she may have traveled with her daughter's family to Oklahoma and then returned to Alabama with other family members.

Marriage license of Stephen A. Smith and Francis Mancil

So are Luke and Priscilla my 3rd great-grandparents, and is Elizabeth Simmons Mansell Cotton their daughter? I can finally say that I think so, due to a fair amount of circumstantial evidence.

  1. Luke R. Simmons had a wife named Priscilla and a daughter named Elizabeth who lived in Columbus Co. NC and Pike Co. AL. My Elizabeth Simmons had a mother named Priscilla and written sources show that she lived in both North Carolina and Pike Co., Alabama. The birth date for daughter Elizabeth given in Luke's Bible is within a month of the date of birth Elizabeth gave for herself. The dates written in the bible were years in the past and could be in error, or Elizabeth could have been in error about her own birth date.
  2. My 2nd great-grandmother named herself as Elizabeth Simmons Mansell Cotton in an affidavit attached to the Dawes Commission application of her daughter Francis. She gave her mother's maiden name as Priscilla Soules.
  3. Elizabeth Mansell purchased items at the estate sale of Luke R. Simmons, along with Luke's daughter Eliza Simmons, his son Leonard M., and Sarah Simmons, the wife of Luke Jr. Elizabeth bought a loom, Eliza and Sarah both bought beds, and Leonard bought a Bible, possibly the one in which were written the birth dates of the Luke R. Simmons family.
  4. When Timothy Soles passed away in 1820, Amelia "Milley" Soles named Luke R. Simmons (her son-in-law?) as guardian of her minor children: Joseph, William, Nathaniel, Lemuel, and Helen.
  5. DNA evidence places me in Ancestry's DNA Circles for both Luke R. Simmons and Priscilla Soles.
Purchases at estate sale

Descendants of Luke R. Simmons and Priscilla Soles in DNA Circles

There are 12 members of the Luke R. Simmons DNA Circle. There are three individuals and a family group of three individuals (so a total of 6) Ancestry members in the circle with whom I share DNA. The three members of the family group are descended from Nancy Simmons, one of the twins born in 1821. At least Ancestry now has some additional information you can derive from your matches. The three family group members and I share single segments of 5.6, 5.9, and 7.4 cM's. One of them also has a shared match with my 2nd cousin Charles, a proven descendant of Elizabeth Simmons.

The largest match I have with an individual in the circle is one of 23.5 cM's across 1 segment. This member is a descendant of John R. Simmons, according to the accompanying tree, and also shares a match with my cousin Charles. Another individual member of the circle shares 23.2 cM's with me across 3 segments. This individual is a descendant of Dorcas Simmons, the youngest daughter of Luke and Priscilla. The 6th member of the circle with whom I share DNA is also a descendant of Dorcas; we share 11.3 cM's across 1 segment.

In addition to myself there are only 2 other members of the Priscilla Soles DNA Circle. One of them is the same individual with whom I share 23.2 cM's in the Luke R. Simmons circle. The other shares 5.6 cM's with me in the Priscilla Soles DNA Circle, although he shows her in his tree as Pricilla Hargette. Don't know how Ancestry figured that one out.

Discoveries and Conclusions

I think I might have finally convinced myself that Luke R. Simmons and Priscilla Soles are my ancestors. I have met several new Simmons cousins, none of whom join me in the Luke or Priscilla DNA Circles, because our connection is further back. We are still gathering information; trying to disentangle the Johns, Isaacs, fathers, sons, nephews, and cousins; looking for our most recent common ancestor; and veering off to study collateral families, like the Soule/Souls/Soles families of Massachusetts and North Carolina. Believe me, that little extra research into the Soles family was one gratifying job! More on that in the next post.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

DNA Circles: Champion Farris and Catherine Davidson

IF Joseph Wheat, my great-grandfather, is the son of Henry Clay Wheat and Caroline Farris, then my 4th great-grandparents are, according to most trees, Champion Farris and Catherine Davidson. It has been so hard to get started writing this post, as I must depend on an almost non-existent paper trail and only a little DNA evidence to determine if these two are, indeed, my ancestors.

I have described my research into Joseph Wheat's ancestors (and descendants) in a couple of previous posts: "The Mystery of J. Wheat" and "More J. Wheat Mysteries Solved." To summarize: The first evidence of my great-grandfather that I found was the 1880 census of Collin Co. TX in which he was enumerated as J. Wheat with his wife Cynthia Ming and two children. J. Wheat stated that he was born in Texas and that his mother was born in Mississippi. Later, I found a marriage license, dated 21 January 1877 in Grayson Co. TX for J.A. Wheat and Cynthia Ming. It took years, and the discovery of a previously unknown brother of my grandfather Wheat, to discover the given name of their father on his death certificate: Joe Wheat.

Thomas J. Wheat's death certificate showing his father as Joe Wheat

This is where the paper trail fails, and I have to use supposition to identify the parents of Joe Wheat. What I did was to thoroughly research and identify every Wheat family that lived in Grayson or Collin Co. in 1870 and 1880. Henry Wheat, a widower, and three of his daughters were living in Grayson Co. in 1880, near many other Wheat family members I already knew. In 1870 the family, consisting of Henry, Caroline, son Joseph and four daughters were living in Davis Co. TX. Joseph, age 13, is the only Joseph Wheat on the 1870 census in Texas. On the 1860 census the family lived in Titus Co. and Joseph is enumerated as J.F., born in Texas. On both censuses Caroline gives her birthplace as Mississippi.

Henry and Caroline Farris Wheat family on 1870 Davis Co. census

A few inconsistencies still bother me. Joseph is enumerated as J.F., not J.A., on the 1860 census. His birth date varies from 1855 to 1859, depending on which census you are consulting. His father's birthplace is given as Arkansas on the 1880 census, yet Henry consistently gives his birthplace as Alabama. Joe disappears completely after the 1880 census, and Cynthia remarries in 1890.

A further discovery just over a year ago involved a DNA match whose ancestor, Pearlie Wheat, was the daughter of a J.A. Wheat who married Alice Brink in Milam, TX in 1885 and was buried in Stephens Co. OK in 1906. The date of his birth on the headstone is 15 February 1859 which dovetails nicely with his age of 21 on the 1880 census, and his marriage to Alice and birth of their children comes after the birth of his last child with Cynthia in 1884. However, the DNA match knew little about his family beyond Pearlie Wheat, so he could not corroborate my theory about the parents of Pearlie's father, J.A. I really have no doubt that this is my J.A. Wheat, but I still don't know who his parents were.

The DNA Circle Ancestors

So, what do I know about Champion Farris and Catherine Davidson, in whose DNA Circles I have been placed? Farris researchers give Champ Farris's birth year as 1765 or 1766, probably because he first appears as an adult on a petition to form Russell Co. VA in 1785 and on a personal property tax list for Russell Co. in 1787. Another date for which there is no evidence--so again, probably an estimate based on the dates of their children's births--is a date of 1783 for his marriage to Catherine Davidson. Champion last appears in Russell Co. on a personal property tax list in 1803 and sells his land on "Mockeson" Creek in 1804. He next appears on a petition to form Warren Co. TN from Smith Co. in 1806. Most Ancestry trees give his death date as 1820 in Franklin Co. TN, but again no-one gives documentation or their reasons for thinking so.

Most researchers give the parents of Champion as Elisha and Charlotte Mary (Vaughn) Farris. Champion is not listed as an heir of Elisha on an 1823 Scott Co. VA lawsuit over his estate--not a problem if, as has been stated, Champion died in 1820. At the death of Elisha in 1791 he did sign as security for Edward Farris, son of Elisha and administrator of his estate--so there is definitely a close connection there.

The deaths of Elisha and Charlotte/Mary have an interesting, if sad, history. Elisha Farris owned a tavern "two miles from Mockinson Gap" (near present-day Gate City, VA.) The inn was attacked by the half-Cherokee raider, Robert Benge, also known as Captain Benge or Bench. Elisha was killed immediately; Elisha's wife Mary, his daughters, Mary Farris Livingston and Nancy Farris, and a granddaughter were captured. Nancy Farris managed to escape, but the others were killed. 

Virginia historical marker about Indian attack on Elisha Farris family

It appears to me that many descendants on Ancestry confuse the Champion Farris who first appears in records in 1785 with a grandson with the middle initial T. who bought land in Missouri in 1853. A lot of them attach records for Champion T. to his grandfather, even when the events took place after the elder Champion's death in 1820. In fact, Champion appears to be a popular name for Farris descendants. On the 1870 census there is a Champion Farris, age 54, in Marshall Co. AL, married to Minerva, with children born in Alabama. On the same 1870 census there is a Champin Farris, age 55, living in Benton Co. AR with wife Luraney. I suspect he is our Champion T. Farris, as his older children were born in Missouri and his youngest in Texas. He also has a son, Champion, age 18.

Not much is known about Catherine Davidson. Most Ancestry trees show her birth date and place as 1770 in Franklin Co. TN, and her death date and place as 1802 in Russell Co. VA. Researchers may have good reason to give these dates and places, but I don't know what it is. Some researchers give her father's name as Col. George Davidson from North Carolina, but I think that is in error. His daughter Catherine was married to someone else. There was a James Davidson in Russell Co. who is often mentioned in the same documents with Farrises. I suspect that James or a possible brother is the father of Catherine, but I have no proof for that. In fact, I don't have any proof that her maiden name was Davidson, although she is named as Catherine in land documents with her husband.

Children of Champion and Catherine (Davidson) Farris

The following have been listed (with varying degrees of documentation) as children of Champion and Catherine Farris: Thomas, James, Nathan, Davidson, Levi "Kelly", Major, Elisha, William, and Mary.

Champion, James, and Thomas all signed the petition to form Warren County, TN. From January 1814 to May 1814 Sgt. Levi (Fearris), Pvt. Nathan (Farriss), and Pvt. Davidson (Farris) served in the Tennessee militia under the command of Captain James Tate (Tait.) The Farrises were no doubt close friends and perhaps even relatives, through marriage, of Captain Tate. Tate had grown up on Moccasin Creek in Russell Co. VA, married Ruth Davidson, moved to Warren Co. TN at the same time as the Farrises, and signed the petition along with them to form Warren Co. As militiamen, they fought the Creek Indians who were being supplied by the British with arms to fight the Americans, part of the wide-ranging actions we call the War of 1812. In 1855 Levi's widow, Margaret Nunley Farris, applied for bounty land due to Levi's War of 1812 service. The fact that Levi used the name "Kelly" came from this document.

James Farris moved to Jackson Co., AL where he appears on the 1830 census. Davidson and Levi lived in McNairy Co. TN in 1830. Davidson and Major Farris both appear on an 1837 territorial census in Mississippi. Davidson died in Tishomingo Co. MS in 1870, but Major moved on to Texas, where he appears on the 1850 census of Titus Co. I'm honestly not sure what evidence there is to connect this Major to Champion Farris, other than his proximity to Davidson Farris in Mississippi. Major does give his place of birth as Virginia on both the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Elisha Farris (born 1801) is also in Tishomingo MS by 1840. According to trees on Ancestry, Mary Jane "Polly" Farris married John Harris Woodley in Warren Co. TN, lived in Tishomingo Co. MS, and had a son named Levi Kelley Woodley.

1837 Mississippi Territory census showing Davidson and Major Pharis

Major Farris was the father of Caroline Farris, who married Henry Wheat and became the mother of a son I believe is my great-grandfather Joseph. While I can't definitely tie him to Champion Farris, I do have more evidence going forward. I got a lot of good information from the 1850 census in Titus Co. TX, but where was Major Farris before that? Good question. He appears on the 1837 Mississippi Territory census with just one name between him and Davidson Farris. Before that, there was a Major Farris in Pope Co. AR in 1830. If this is my Major Farris, then he has a lot of children that have not been accounted for. The parents of the family are between the ages of 30-39, and that is perfect for Major and his wife Lucy; there are two males under 5, 3 males 5-9, 1 female under 5, and 1 female 15-19. How does that match up to the 1850 Titus Co. TX census?

1850 Titus Co. census

One thing you can tell right away is that Major and Lucy (Family #122) moved around a lot. On the 1850 census Major gives his age as 52 and his birthplace as Virginia; Lucy is 50, born in Alabama. Enumerated with them are children L.G., age 24, born in Alabama; Reuben, age 18, born in Alabama; Thomas, age 16, born in Arkansas; Caroline, age 14, born in Mississippi; and Jasper, age 12, born in Texas. Just above Major's family on the census is M.P. Farris, age 26, born in Alabama; he is listed at the bottom of Family #121, Daniel and Dorothy McKinney. Daniel is 45, and Dorothy is 29. Could Dorothy be M.P.'s sister, and thus an older child of Major and Lucy? I believe she is. Subsequent censuses and Ancestry family trees show her name as Adeline Dollie (could be short for Dorothy); she had children named Lucy, Sallie Caroline, and Jasper; her daughter Sallie's death certificate lists her father as Dan McKinney and her mother as Dolly Farris. Family #124 has a head of household transcribed as Y.C. Farris (I think it's Z.C.); he is age 32 and born in Tennessee. Another child of Major and Lucy?

And how does this match up with the 1830 census in Arkansas? Not very well. If Dorothy and Z.C. are actually members of this family, their ages don't match up. We are missing both females, two of the males 5-9, and one of the males under 5. There is a gap in children between L.G. and Reuben, where two of the males might have fit. Could they have died or moved out on their own by 1850? Even though the ages of the children don't exactly match up, I do believe this is the same family. Thomas would have been born at about the time the family was living in Arkansas and Caroline at about the time they were living in Mississippi.

For more information on the family of Henry and Caroline Farris Wheat, see my original post about this family, "The Mystery of J. Wheat."

Caroline Farris Wheat headstone, Hall Cemetery, Howe, TX

Members of the DNA Circle

Since my connection with Champion Farris hinged on the hypothesis that Joseph Wheat was my great-grandfather and his great-grandson, I have looked with anticipation for a DNA match and proof of a relationship to this family. Back before DNA Circles, when there were only individual matches on Ancestry, I was thrilled one day to find a DNA match with J.M., a descendant of Champion Farris. He is still my only known Champion Farris match, and he is also a member of the Champion Farris and Catherine Davidson DNA Circles.

Champion Farris's DNA Circle has 14 members, and Catherine's has 6. I'm guessing this is because not everybody shows Catherine Davidson as a spouse of Champion Farris. In fact, I have found no evidence for Davidson as her maiden name.

Seven members (all from the same family group) of the Champion Farris DNA Circle are descended from Levi Kelly Farris. Three members (all from the same family group) are descended from Mary. Two (including J.M.) come from Elisha. I am the only member of the circle that descends through Major Farris. Of the six members of Catherine Davidson's DNA Circle three descend from Mary, one from Davidson, one from Elisha (J.M.), and one from Major (me.)


As I have said before, putting information about these ancestors in narrative form is very helpful. I have found connections I hadn't previously noticed and discrepancies that have led to further research. I really thought my problem with this family was that I couldn't prove that my J.A. was Joseph Wheat, the son of Henry and Caroline Farris Wheat. What I found through writing this post was that there may be another disconnect in the ancestral line at Major Farris. I found absolutely no evidence that Major was the son of Champion and his wife Catherine. (I actually found no evidence connecting any children to this couple. I found people with the right ages in the right places to be their children but nothing that connects them definitively to Champion and Catherine.)

Another complication that I had foreseen was that my Farris family from Virginia might be related to my Pharris family from Tennessee, and that my DNA match reflected this connection. Many Farris family researchers show James Esom Farris as a father of Elisha; my Pharris family in Tennessee also had ancestors named Esom or Isham. If that is the connection, however, it is so far back that I would be surprised if any DNA slipped through. Also, according to a researcher named Elvin Farris on Ancestry, mutations in y-DNA results show that Elisha's father was more likely Joseph Farris than James Esom. This is another instance where it would be helpful to know just exactly how much DNA I have in common with J.M., my only Farris family match.

In conclusion, a thank you and a piece of advice for Ancestry users: Most Ancestry trees are just chains of names with hardly any evidence to support connections between the generations. When you find someone like Elvin Farris who has meticulously documented and noted each and every piece of evidence, it is very much appreciated. (Also thanks to a long-time researcher, Robbie Farris Glover, to whom Elvin gives credit for some of his information.)

Example of helpful source notes by Ancestry user Elvin Farris

I'm going to try very hard to take this advice myself: When you have made a good guess about a piece of information, tell us why you reached this conclusion. For example, a jillion people show that Champion Farris died in 1820 in Franklin Co. TN. Why do you think so? Franklin Co. was formed from Warren Co. in 1807. Did Champion live in the part that became Franklin Co.? Why 1820 for a death date? Did you just copy that information from somebody else's tree, or do you have a reason to believe it's true--a will or transfer of property, for example?

If you have lots of notes to share or a letter or email from other researcher, click on Add Media/Add a story, being sure to give credit to the person who gave you the information, and attach the document. You can also attach Media to each individual fact in the profile. If you have short notes to add to an individual's profile, click on the type of information (Birth, Residence, Death) and add your notes in the box labeled Description. Of course, it's easy to attach documentation if it comes from Ancestry, but you can also click on Facts and Sources on the profile page, click the tab Source Citations and add information from other sources. I know it's a lot of work, but it's so helpful to other researchers and will also help you in the long run when you can't remember the origin or significance of a piece of information. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lost in Arkansas

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

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

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

Square in Bentonville AR with Confederate monument

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

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

Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville AR

Tim on trail bridge at Crystal Bridges

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

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

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

The Ozarks 

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

Scary bridge

Looks like a creek from this side

On this side it looks like a river

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

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

Robert Patrick grave and sarcophagi

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

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

Robert Patrick
KY Militia
War of 1812

Nancy Tackett?

Nancy Prater Patrick?

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

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

Patrick Cemetery original entrance?

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

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New Ancestor Discoveries

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

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

NAD #1 -- Hannah Elizabeth Embry

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

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

NAD #2 -- Christopher Columbus Snodgrass

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

NAD #3 -- William Jackson

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

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

NAD #4 -- Martha Jane Kendrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAD #5 and #6

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

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

NAD #7 and #8

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

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

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

Sunday, May 31, 2015


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

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

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

William Frederick Ming 1824-1911

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

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

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

Oil field workers, Seminole OK, about 1927

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

Cynthia Francis Ming Wheat Rhodes
and second husband, Tom Rhodes

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 7, 2015

DNA Circles: William Bays and Rachel Barker

The Ancestors

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

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

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

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

Children of William Bays and Rachel (Barker?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original complaint brought by Ann Sergeant against her siblings and mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Sargent Castle death certificate

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

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

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

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

Court case reference to survey of James Haney

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

Members of the DNA Circles of William Bays and Rachel Barker

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

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

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

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

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