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, May 31, 2015

Priceless

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 www.deadfred.com. Look for photos of your family, or better yet, post some of your photos there.
  • If you are a subscriber to Ancestry.com, 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com. 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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.