A while back, someone asked me about the estate records of Benjamin Odell. I’ve made partial indexes of many of the early probate books for Rabun County, so I was able to quickly go to the right pages in two of those books to find information recorded on Benjamin’s estate. I’m not going to post the entire estate proceedings here (that would take a lot of room), but I did want to point out a few interesting items that could be used to answer the questions many researchers might have about this family.
Oh, the dreaded brick wall ancestor, the bane of every genealogist’s life! We all have them, those ancestors who refuse to cooperate and instead prefer to lurk just out of reach of our inquisitive minds. Luckily for us (not so much for the lurking ancestors), there are plenty of tricks to help researchers break down those brick walls. Here are four useful techniques:
James R. Roberts (1828 – 1891) was my great-great-great-grandfather. His ancestry is a brick wall I’ve been chipping away at for several years. So far, I’ve identified at least two and possibly three siblings, but I still don’t know who his parents were.
One of the first records sets used to research 19th century ancestors in the US is the federal decennial censuses. James was married in 1853 in Jackson Co., GA, and all indications point to him living there for the remainder of his life. His brother, William, was enumerated in Jackson County from 1850 through 1880, and James was enumerated there in 1860, 1870, and 1880, but I have never been able to find him in the 1850 free population schedule. This bothers me quite a bit. If only I could find him in 1850, I often think, then perhaps I would find the evidence I need to link him to his parents. But there he is not, no matter how often I look or how thoroughly I search.
Fortunately, Georgia researchers have other records to draw from, including the many extant county tax records. Jackson County has a rich set of tax digests extending from the county’s earliest days through most of the 19th century with very few gaps. I had a little time last week, so I hopped on down to the courthouse in Jefferson, Jackson County’s county seat, and spent the afternoon reading those digests. I focused on the years 1849, 1850, and 1851, because those years’ tax records act as a substitute and supplement for the 1850 federal census.
Last year, a potential client approached me to perform research in a nearby county on an ancestral family. This client had never performed research before, instead relying on the work of others, but was interested in moving this particular family back in time a generation. After consulting with me and the others who had performed previous research, the client decided not to hire me because all the records had already been searched. The belief was, amongst that group, that there was no further information to be found pertinent to that family or the research problem because they had already gathered all documents created by or for the ancestor in question.
I strongly disagreed and explained why, but still lost a client over a common misconception, that all there is to research is extracting information from records about a particular ancestor.
One of my favorite resources for North Carolina research is the Guide to County Records in the North Carolina State Archives published by the North Carolina Office of Archives and History. The current edition was published in 2009 and constitutes a major update to the previous edition.
After a short introduction, the Guide goes on to describe both original records, bound and loose, and microfilmed records held at the Archives for each of North Carolina’s 100 existing and four defunct counties. The whole is rounded off by a Glossary where one can find short explanations for the various terms used.
Brick walls in our ancestry can come in many forms, but they usually boil down to the inability to extend a lineage. Often, a thorough search of extant records can help break down this barrier. Sometimes, however, the solution can be much less arduous. Such is the case with Ethel Lee (Penland) Ritchie.
I have recently had the privilege of sorting through the loose estate records for Macon County, as held by the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh, for an indexing project sponsored by the North Carolina Genealogical Society. Along the way, I’ve found several interesting items on my own family that I hope to share here over the coming months with other area researchers.
One of my more recent finds was located in the file folder for James M. Peek. According to Elizabeth Peek Crutchfield in the article “David Peek”, James was the son of David Peek and Mary Henderson.1 They had the following children, including James:
- Eda Peek, born about 1880 [sic] in Laurens Co., SC, married John Jackson Ammons
- Phoebe Peek, born about 1804 in Laurens County, married James Holland
- William M. Peek, born 12 January 1809 in Laurens County, married Polly Avaline Mull
- James Peek, born before 1820 in Laurens County, “[...] with wife unknown. He migrated to Alabama.”
- Ruth Peek, born in 1815 in Laurens County, married Milton Moss
- Judy Elizabeth Peek, born in 1819 in Laurens County, married Milton McCoy
- Jane Caroline Peek, born 10 February 1820 in Macon Co., NC, married Andrew Madison Bryson
- Mary “Polly” Peek, born in 1821 in Macon County, married Martin McCoy
- Louisa, born in 1822 in Macon County, never married
- David Lee Peek, born in 1828, married Jane Moss
After a long break to make ready for the FGS 2010 conference in Knoxville, and then to recover from the trip and catch up on other work, it’s time to resume our study of the ancestry of Roy S. Teague and Hattie (James) Teague Watkins. We’ll begin with Roy’s parents. To summarize what we know about Roy’s parents and siblings to date:
- Roy was enumerated in the 1930 US census, Clayton, Rabun Co., GA, next to Lina S. Teague (a widow, born about 1875), and four of her children, namely Faye C. Teague, Lucy Teague, Louie Teague (who was divorced), and Reba Teague.1
- Roy was buried in the same plot as Lina H. Teague, C. C. and Faye T. Barron, Paul C. Teague (Roy’s known son), and Louie and Fannie Q. Teague.2
- Roy’s obituary does not name his parents, but it does give his brothers as Louie Teague of Clayton and Grady Teague of Pontiac, Michigan; his half-brothers as Ulyus Teague of Rabun Gap and Melvin Teague of Canton, North Carolina; and his sisters as Mrs. Faye Barron and Mrs. Lucy P. Ramey of Clayton, and Mrs. Felton Sullivan of Tallulah Falls.3
Our previous research on the Roy and Hattie (James) Teague family revealed very little about the female half of this couple. To date, we know the following:
- Hattie James was born about 1906 in Georgia; both of her parents were also born in Georgia1
- She married Roy S. Teague in 1924 in Rabun Co., GA; the marriage was performed by M. H. James, a Justice of the Peace2
- She and Roy were living in Clayton, Rabun Co., GA, with three children in 19303
- They had probably seven children during the late 1920s through the 1930s4
- Between 1937 and 1967, Hattie remarried to a Watkins; she was still living as of the latter date5
What we haven’t found in our research is any record connecting her to her parents and possible siblings. While she and Roy were married by M. H. James, we have no clue who that person was or how he might otherwise be connected to Hattie. We don’t know when she died, or who her second husband might have been, nor can we even say for certain that she was the mother of all of Roy’s children. With so little to go on, how can we learn more about Hattie, and in the process extend her lineage backwards?