Update: Priority Surnames

A while back, I wrote about pinpointing my priority surnames in order to provide a better focus to my personal research. I have had a bit of luck learning more about a few of those ancestors, and wanted to share a little of what I’ve found.

Elizabeth (Morris) Carver
I’ve already written about one breakthrough, when I described finding the death certificate of a great-something uncle, William M. Carver, who was the son of William and Elizabeth Carver.

The death certificate included Elizabeth’s maiden name, Morris, and listed her place of birth as Cobb Co., GA. Cobb County was not formed until 1832, when northwest Georgia was opened to white settlement on land (eventually) ceded by the Cherokee. Since Elizabeth was born about 1800, it’s highly unlikely she was born within the jurisdictional boundaries of a county not formed until after several of her children were born. It may be, however, that her family (parents and siblings) moved into that area after it opened up. There were several Morris men living and doing business in Rabun County during the same time as Elizabeth and her husband, William. I have not been able to pursue each of these men fully yet, but have it on my “to-do” list.

James R. Roberts
Here is one man I never thought I would find, but I have made some progress. I have been reorganizing my office and shuffling files around for the past few months, and during this process, I picked up James’ file and began transcribing records related to the probation of his estate, records I’d photocopied several years ago during a trip to his home county of Jackson in Georgia.

There were several important clues to the life and time of James and his family held within those records, not the least of which was a reference to vouchers held by Rachel Garner and Jake Cheatham. The whole entry including these names struck me as being a little odd, so I followed up and found that Rachel’s maiden name was Roberts, and that she was buried in the same cemetery as Jake, who apparently was one generation younger and had married a Garner, possibly one of Rachel’s daughters. Rachel was of an age to be James’ sister, and so I’ve been investigating that angle.

While I was at it, I re-studied the federal census records I had gathered for James and found several clues I’d previously overlooked. As it turns out, James lived near the widow of Lewis Roberts in 1870, and in 1880, his older daughters (by his first wife) were living with an Elizabeth Roberts whose relationship to the eldest daughter was given as “aunt.” I’m fairly certain all or most of the Roberts family in this area of Jackson County were related, or at least entertwined, but I haven’t quite worked out how yet.

Nancy (Lay) Callahan
While looking through James R. Roberts’ estate records, I also found references to his estate paying monies to several of his daughters by his first wife, Mary (Callahan) Roberts, for their part of the estate of Zachariah Lay. Finally, I had found a connection from Mary to her parents, John and Nancy, and then to the only Lay in Jackson Co., GA, who was of an age to be Nancy’s father but who I hadn’t previously eliminated as a candidate for said father.

Part of the block with proving Nancy’s parentage lay in the fact that Zachariah seemed to have disappeared from the record at about the same time that Nancy died. I couldn’t find records in Jackson County related to the probation of his estate and, I confess, at the time I was originally looking at this family (some 15-odd years ago), it never occurred to me that he might have moved out of the area…which he did, to Tennessee, with several other children. While these entries within the estate records of James R. Roberts will need to be shored up by other records, I was quite ecstatic to discover the “missing link” nonetheless.

And the moral of the story is…
The evidence we need to prove generational and other connections is often in the place we least expect it. Following collateral lines, sometimes even two or three generations out, is often one of the most useful things we can do to break our brick walls.

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