Surprise! (Although, I Should’ve Seen This Coming)

The 118th Annual Anderson Reunion was this past Sunday, and a good time was had by all. Especially me, as I had the pleasure of playing with my new cousin, Izzie, who is not quite five months old. Yes, she is adorable, and my only regret is that I couldn’t also spend some time with my other new baby cousin, who is three months old and also adorable. And that is the joy of a family reunion: seeing old friends, and making new ones as well.

If you’re wondering, this reunion is for the descendants of Mansfield and Harriet (Black) Anderson, who lived in Blount and Sevier Counties, Tennessee, before moving to Macon County, North Carolina, before 1850. I’m connected to the family through my maternal grandmother, Ruth (Anderson) Ledford, who was Mansfield and Harriet’s great-great-granddaughter. I’ve spent a little time researching Mansfield and Harriet, but have mostly left them alone because so many others are researching the family, including Roy Duane Collier, who published an article on the couple in 1987,1 and a cousin-in-law, Steve Beck, with whom I corresponded a little in the early 1990s, among others.

After the reunion, I spent some time on the Internet looking through FamilySearch‘s wonderful online database. I thought I’d see if they had any records online in Tennessee for Blount and Sevier Counties, something I hadn’t had a chance to look at yet. Honestly, I was really just piddling and didn’t expect to find anything.

Funny how those things turn out.

My search parameters were pretty loose; just a general search for Mansfield Anderson before I looked specifically at Tennessee. I scrolled through a couple of pages of hits for Mansfield Andersons living in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at least a few of whom were Mansfield’s progeny.

But then I saw a curious entry: an index card for a War of 1812 pension application for Mansfield Anderson of Macon County. The Mansfield who was born in 1797 and, I thought, not quite old enough to serve in that War. Hmm. And even more interesting, the typed entry included a notation that Mansfield and Harriet were married in 1823 in…*drum roll please*…Monroe County, Mississippi. Not Blount County, TN, as I had always been told and sincerely believed, but Monroe County, Mississippi.

So I headed over to fold3 and checked for the full applications (turns out, Mansfield and Harriet both applied), and they were doozies. Pages long and chock full of information, including affidavits by Mansfield’s eldest sons supporting Harriet’s widow’s pension application in 1878; Mansfield’s date of death; and Mansfield’s role in the War (a musician!).

Boy, do I love pension applications.

To say that this has opened up a whole new line of research on this family, and into the ancestry of both Mansfield and Harriet, is a bit of an understatement. In addition to naming two new localities where Mansfield lived and one for Harriet, the information found in those papers has turned what I thought I knew about this family completely around. Given that much of what I “know” about Mansfield and Harriet came from other researchers, at least one of whom gave no sources for his information, I shouldn’t be too surprised.

To be fair, this was in my pre-citation days back in the early 1990s. At that time, I just didn’t know to ask for source information when handed compiled genealogies. I know better now.

*Warning: Soapbox Rant Follows* Also to be fair, another researcher alluded to having found the above information, or parts thereof, in a message board post from a couple of years ago, something I failed to follow up on (probably due to a lack of time and/or resources). Unfortunately, this researcher did not share the source of his/her information, instead advising other researchers to look around because the information was freely available, although where it was supposed to be available is anyone’s guess. I really, really don’t like it when researchers refuse to share their sources. It holds the entire research community back by discouraging sound citation practices, and further neutralizes the great advantage of message boards, i.e. collaborative research. *End of Soapbox Rant*

On the bright side, I now have a whole new line of inquiry opened up on this family, not to mention some conflicting evidence to resolve. Yes, indeedy, things are looking very bright on the research front.

* * * * *

1. Roy Duane Collier, “Mansfield and Harriet Black Anderson Family,” The Heritage of Macon County North Carolina, Jessie Sutton (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter Publishing Company, 1987), 105.

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