Beware the Derivative

My mind naturally compiles things–sorting like things into some kind of order. I see the attraction and admire the dedication of people who take records from a location and compile them into a collection that is easily researched. Most of what is searchable on Ancestry.com is some form of compilation of records. We need them to do our research. I’m all for benefiting from the work of others. I’m learning to avoid becoming dependent on either the work of others or compilations.

Recently I have encountered examples of why it is not a good idea to take compiled data at face value, even when it is sourced. The first kind of error that creeps into compiled data is the transcription error: missing tick marks in the census, gender and race marked incorrectly, etc. To their credit Ancestry.com allows users to add corrections on most fields (although not those). Nothing replaces looking at the image to verify the information for ourselves. I’ve done transcription for Ancestry.com; it is challenging and easy to make mistakes.

Just today I discovered an error on a record on familysearch.org.

Schoolfield, Henry incorrect year

Below is the image used to produce the above transcription.

Schoolfield, Henry missing year

There is no year. Other dates on this same page range from 1745 to 1768, but most are in the 1760’s. The document itself is a transcription done about 1899 from the original church records that were not filmed by the LDS church.

Another type of compilation is a book. Spotting errors in books is more of a challenge, and close to impossible to correct. All too often the publisher is defunct and/or the author is deceased, leaving no one to update any later editions.

One book I rely on a lot in my current research project is Land Records of Worcester County, Maryland 1666-1810 by Ruth T Dryden. This book represents a staggering amount of work drawing information from various sources into a readable format that is unique in its focus on individual tracts of land in the county. I was lucky enough to find a library willing to lend it long enough for me to photograph all the pages relating to my Schoolfields and Houstons. It is impossible for a book this size to be error-free. It’s a human thing.

Land record error

The above is from page 575 of the book that begins to track the history of this tract of land through 1810. The wording of the 1720 entry alerted me to double-check the Will since this entry indicates both recipients received the ‘upper’ part of the property.

Land record correct
Somerset County, Maryland Liber 16 page 96

Checking the Will that was recorded in the Will book, we see that the lower part was given to his brother Joseph. The next page does indeed show that the upper part of Smith’s First Choice was given to Armwell Robert Vigerous. Bear in mind the Will book is itself a transcription of the original Will. Sometimes Will books are transcriptions of transcriptions of earlier versions that have deteriorated, or were kept separately by the county. Some archives possess the original Wills, and will, for a fee, provide a photocopy or photo of it. If there is any doubt about the transcription, it can be worthwhile to attempt to get a digital image of the original to see if it is legible. The above transcription has handwriting from the time period, so it is likely to be the first derivative of the original. In this instance, the error was easily resolved by viewing this image.

Example 3:

Somerset County Maryland Marriage References and Family Relationships, 1666-1800 by Lyndeth Esgar (2013) is another compilation I take with a dose of caution.

marriage record mess

I was looking for clarification about Katherine Givan as the mother of John Schoolfield’s children. I’ve written about this family before because this John Schoolfield was a possible parent to my Dolly Schoolfield. The names John Schoolfield and Mary Richeson/Richardson are in the water supply as Dolly’s parents. I have a post devoted to debunking this.

I wanted to know why Katherine Givan was named as the mother of John’s children. If the above image from that book were to be believed, then George and Day Givens were her parents. I looked for and found a Will for George Givan on Ancestry.com in Volume 25 Wills, Liber DD #4, pg 472 written 15 Oct 1748. The image is poor quality, but it reveals that George and Day Givan are brothers to Cathren Scoffel. George mentions his ‘cousin’ Thomas Givan Scoffel. Thomas Givens Schoolfield is mentioned in the Will of the above-mentioned John Schoolfield as his son. The Will was written 13 Jan 1772 and appears in Worcester Co Maryland Will Book 4 pg 132. I looked at the other Givan Wills from the correct time period and found that Katherine is the daughter of Robert Givan. His Will appears in Volume 21, Liber T & D, pg. 451 and is dated 24 May 1735. Katherine is not married at that point.

Also in that entry is the last name Gatchel for daughter Mary. It’s Satchel. The one that bugs me, though, is the name Miriam as one of the daughters. The Will Book shows the following:

Schoolfield, John list of children

One other time in this Will, her name is shown as Merin. Below is part of a marriage bond for Robert Schoolfield’s daughter Merin in Bracken County, Kentucky.

Schoolfield, Merin marriage bond
Ancestry.com. Kentucky, County Marriage Records, 1783-1965

She appears to have been named for Robert’s sister. (It is likely that the witness John Schoolfield is Robert’s son.) Yet the name Miriam persists in records and trees.

That makes at least three errors in one entry from a compilation. One problem comes from at least one of the sources the author cites also being a compilation, making it a few generations from the original.

The lesson here is to view compilations as finding aids, not established facts. Go to the sources that are cited, then review them for accuracy. Get as close to the original as possible. Then cite the earliest version rather than the compilation.

 

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I Love Me Some Half-siblings

Working with DNA matches on ancestry.com is a fun challenge for me. The one thing basic matches can’t do is tell us which part of an ancestral couple provided the DNA match. Was it from the mother or the father? That’s why DNA circles tend to show up in pairs. We have to dig a little deeper to make that determination.

Holmes 01
Abigail C Holmes and George H Wood family

Abigail C Holmes and George H Wood had seven known children. My ancestor is their daughter Josephine. I have cousin matches to descendants of all five of the children who lived to have children of their own (includes Josephine). Does this tell me that I share DNA with both Abigail and George? Not exactly. I shared DNA with one of them, that much is certain. To learn if it is one or the other or both, more has to be learned about their families, in particular their siblings if they have them.

No document has yet been found stating the identities of Abigail C. Holmes’ parents. Normally the above direction: look at the siblings, would apply. Except that two of Abigail’s unproven siblings married proven siblings of her husband George H. Wood. The only clear DNA cousin matches I have for her full siblings are also Wood relatives. How do I then distinguish between Holmes DNA and Wood DNA?

Circumstantial evidence points to Abigail’s father being John Holmes, born 1790 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and died circa 1857 probably in Nodaway County, Missouri.

1850 Census John Holmes
1850; Census Place: District 19, Edgar, Illinois; Roll: M432_105; Page: 165B; Image: 338

Here is John Holmes with his second wife Rebecca Partridge née Miller. Line 30 is Elma J. who lived long enough to have a death certificate issued by the state of Illinois. It shows that her parents were John Homes (sic) and Sarah Collins. We believe Sarah Collins was John’s first wife who probably died before John remarried on 29 Apr 1847. Line 32 is Melissa L Holmes, believed to be the first known child of that union between John and Rebecca. Line 33, Isaac N(ewton) Partridge is believed to be one of the known children from Rebecca’s first marriage to Robert Partridge. Line 39 is Polly Holmes, who married the day before John Holmes and Rebecca Partridge.

Holmes 02
Illinois Regional Archives Depository Edgar County Marriages

Here is the presumed widow Rebecca Holmes with her reassembled family in 1860.

Holmes 03
1860; Census Place: Ottumwa, Coffey, Kansas Territory; Roll: M653_347; Page: 772

Line 14 is Melissa seen in the 1850 census; line 15 is Lourena C. Holmes born in 1852, line 16 is L. Isaac Holmes, and line 17 is Almira Holmes who was born in 1857 in Missouri, which is why I place the death place for John in Missouri. The older members of this household are the children from Rebecca’s first marriage. Line 21 is Isaac N. (yes, that’s an ‘N’) from 1850; line 22 is Rebecca’s daughter who was living with Rebecca’s mother in the 1850 census. It took some real doing for a single woman to reassemble a wide-ranging family in one place like this. I have some admiration for this woman, even though she’s not my kin. Her daughter is, though.

One of the many advantages to building families laterally and down to more recent generations is all the surnames we get to collect to use to search DNA matches trolling for identifiable cousins. One of Lourena Holmes’ descendants had an unusual surname that I remembered, so when this cousin match showed up and I looked at her tree, I recognized it as being one I had recently added to my tree. (I won’t use the name here because the recently deceased relative is too close to the living cousin.) It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to figure out how we were related because she had another unique name on her tree that threw me off the scent. This cousin was enormously patient with me as I tried to sort it out. I was thrilled when I finally figured out that she was a descendant of John Holmes and Rebecca Miller Partridge! Proof positive that John Holmes really is my ancestor. The DNA we share came from him, and him alone.

Is this enough to satisfy a lineage society? No. But it moves John Holmes out of the realm of pure speculation and into a solid connection.

George H Wood has many proven siblings and parents and aunts and uncles, so proving his DNA wasn’t a challenge. Now I know I have DNA from both parents of my Josephine Wood, one of the parents of Abigail Holmes. All because of a half-sibling.

Brick Wall Paper

Autosomal DNA testing is such a miracle. How did people do genealogy before this technology was introduced? You know what else is a miracle? Ancestry message boards. Well, genealogy message boards in general. Third miracle? The Family History Library. Well, the Mormon church with all their dedication to preserving our heritage on microfilm. It’s like the holy trinity of ancestor worship.

Too much? I effuse about all three things coming out of Utah right now. I would not have gotten as far as I have with tracking down the ancestors of my James Henry Myers without all three of these capabilities. Bored of him yet? I wouldn’t blame you if you were, but honestly, this story just keeps getting better and better, and promises to get even better. I’m having too much fun right now.

Quick refresher from previous posts: DNA results led me to the father of James Henry Myers: Jacob Myers. Ancestry Discovery and FHL digital marriage image led me to a possible biological parent for Jacob Myers (James’ father) in John Naylor. FHL digital search gave me the marriage record for Jacob to Amarilla Cox.

One of the problems with breaking down one brick wall is that there is another brick wall right behind it. Never thought in a million years I might figure out who were the parents of Amarilla Cox. On paper, I may have found them.

Let me see if I can adequately recap the timeline of how this progress came about. I performed a Google search for Emarilier Cox, the name on the marriage record. I discovered a message board post asking for information from her descendants. Lucky for me the individual who posted it is still a member of Ancestry, so I was able to send a message to her; we began corresponding. She has a wealth of information about Jacob Myers. I learned from her that he, and subsequently his ‘widow’ had a Civil War pension file, which I ordered. My first reading from it didn’t give much new information since I’m not descended from his last wife, but it does present me with the ability to create a timeline of where he was and when from 1850 until his death in 1888. This is valuable for many reasons, primarily because he’s so difficult to pin down in Census records, and there might be another Jacob Myers in Putnam county around the same time. She also told me about a record where Jacob had transferred ownership of some land to Amarilla Cox after they married.

Meanwhile I requested the index to court records for Putnam County from Family Search. Armed with case and page numbers from the index, I ordered the reel with the first two volumes of court records and read through the references. The index showed me a tantalizing Myers v. Myers file that I was eager to learn more about. My thought was that it might have been a divorce record for his first wife Elizabeth Minick. Imagine my surprise when I found that he had initiated divorce proceedings against Amarilla! He married Amarilla on 18 May 1856. What do I find for 18 Oct 1856?

Amarilla Myers responding to Divorce suit.
Amarilla Myers responding to Divorce suit.1

The cad. The birth month and year I have for James Henry Myers is May 1857. Uh. Hmmm. Anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? Was this a shotgun wedding? Was James conveniently told he was born in 1857 rather than 1856? Luckily the index gave a case number for this petition. I called the Putnam County Circuit Court this week and learned this file still exists! I’m excited to learn what, if anything, might have been said about Amarilla when the copy is received. (On a side note: the woman who helped me with this is super nice.) I do know from these records and the clerk that the divorce was not granted.

I haven’t captured an image of it yet, but on that same reel is a reference to another case where Jacob was indicted for Felonious Assualt with Intent to Kill! I suspect that is going to be another post all by itself. I’m on pins and needles waiting for the copy of that file! Key in the record was mention of a witness named Martha Cox. It doesn’t take much to guess how little time transpired between me getting home from the Family History Center and searching the 1860 Census for Martha Cox2.

Possible parents for Amarilla Cox

I love my life. This thing is so tantalizing and has so many possibilities. James H. Cox aged 5. None of the people who have saved this image to their Cox lines have a clue who that is, or the set of two-year-old twins on the page. I can’t stop myself from speculating that James H. Cox is really James H. Myers, and that he is living with his grandparents. If James really was born in 1856, then he would have just turned four when this census was taken. If he really was three, this is a stretch, but not unheard of if the informant was John Cox. A forty-seven-year-old male not knowing how old his grandchildren are is hardly news.

Enter the Message Board Miracle, part deux. Back in 2001, a message was posted asking for descendants of John T. Cox from the 1860’s. Other people might remember when Heritage Quest had superior transcriptions for census records before Ancestry ruined it. Back then I could have found this record myself. Bless this person’s heart for transcribing this to make it so I could find it now, because Ancestry’s transcription of it is way off.

1850 Cox family in Clinton County, KY
1850 Cox family in Clinton County, KY3

John T. Cox 35 KY (the initial is actually an ‘S’)
Martha Cox 35 KY
Lucrecy C. Cox 15 KY
Winey A. Cox 13 KY
Lucinda P. Cox 10 KY
Leann E. Cox 6 KY
Jeremiah Cox 4 KY

These are significant names. That same Missouri marriage database that gave me the Cox-Myers marriage record also has the three other girls on this census: Lucinda married Richard Summers. They are living next door to Margaret and John in the 1860 Census. Lucretia married F.P. Ashlock; Leann E married Solomon Wisman. Amarilla married Jacob Myers…all of them took place in the 1850’s in Putnam County. Is Amarilla that Winey A. Cox? The age is plausible; the proximity to the other Cox girls is supportive. James’ 1900 Census record reports that his mother was born in Kentucky. I’m prepared for this to fall apart. Not for the first time with this family. I will probably have to wait to see if a descendant from one of these other children gives me a DNA match I need for proof, but I’m hopeful that I’ve made some serious progress on this family thanks to some 14-15 year-old message board posts, FHL and Ancestry DNA.

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1 Court records v. A-B 1855-1867 Putnam County, FHL Film # 1010790

2 1860 US Census, Missouri, Putnam, Liberty, pg 346, HH# 35

3 1850 US Census, Kentucky, Clinton, District 2, pg 188A, HH# 62

Dumb Luck

Continuing on the work from my previous post where I try to use the DNA results I’d been given to help me solve my James Myers problem, I have an interesting update.

I got bored and frustrated with trying to make that Ancestor Discovery work in my family, so I pursued a different angle. I went back to that 3rd cousin match for the Myers line to see what more I could learn about it.

First a quick back story. Not long ago my uncle sent me a packet of pictures and newspaper clippings he thought I’d be interested in. I remember seeing a family tree he showed me a few years ago that mentioned that James Myers’ mother might have been a Cox. And he told me that James’ second daughter was named Amarilla after either James’ mother or grandmother. In this packet he sent was a piece of stationery from a Regal 8 Inn in Flagstaff, Arizona. On the back was a hand-written family tree of sorts. The best part was this:

Myers, James family tree cropped

That was the whole extent of what was known about James’ family.

So I went looking for documentation for the line of that 3rd cousin match. Using census records I had what I believed was the great-great grandmother of the 3rd cousin: Matilda Corporan. A ‘hint’ led me to a possible husband for her: Jacob Myers. I wanted to see if I could prove this relationship, so I went to Ancestry.com and searched the Missouri Marriages, 1805-2002. Nothing matched. Then I remembered what Crista Cowan is always saying about these databases: Read the description! It might be that the database doesn’t cover the locale needed. The description didn’t indicate what counties it covered because there is a drop down menu that shows the counties.

Missouri Marriages

Putnam county is conspicuous in its absence from that list. I could have searched all day in that database and never found it because that county isn’t included. Good to know. So I Googled Putnam County Marriages and of course the first result was Family Search. (Which by the way is an easy way to bypass the filtering system in the search function on Family Search–Google takes you right to the correct database.) I searched the Family Search Missouri Marriage records for Jacob Myers to see if this marriage to Matilda Corporon was there and got this:

Myers, Jacob marriage results

There she is at the bottom of the page. Ahh, but look what was staring me in the face–a record I never thought I’d find–Jacob Myers and Emariler Cox!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Insert Hallelujah Chorus here.)

Emariler is Amarilla written phonetically as pronounced by someone who says words ending with an ‘a’ that sound like an ‘r’. That’s the other thing Crista Cowan stresses: think about how the people in that time and region would pronounce a name. It’s always so much fun to find something I’ve been looking for for a very long time when I wasn’t actually looking for it. That’s the best kind of dumb luck. (Honestly, I’ve had so many false starts on this family I was reluctant to believe my good fortune at first.)

By my reckoning Amarilla was Jacob’s 2nd wife of four. Jacob was Matilda’s 2nd husband of three.

What does this do to my Ancestor Discoveries? Well I found a reference that states that Jacob is indeed the son of Daniel1; and Daniel at one point lived in the same county as Collins family (previous post). Now that Amarilla Cox is no longer a pipe dream, but a real person, it would appear that the Ancestor Discovery couple is even more difficult to shoehorn into this family. I’m not going to rule them out because DNA has proven helpful in the past, and there are still all those cousins to consider. Anything I do now would be pure speculation, which I’m not opposed to, but I’m not seeing the benefit of indulging that line of thinking at the moment. They might hold the key to the identity of Amarilla Cox for all I know. That would be good because at the moment I’m clueless where to even begin documenting this woman.

The real star in this show is family lore. For all the times I’ve disproved family lore over the years, it was nice to find a record that validates a story handed down through the generations. So welcome to the family Amarilla Cox. I hope I can learn more about you, and that you don’t just disappear into the dust of time.

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1Adair, Sullivan, Putnam and Schuyler Counties, Missouri (p. 426). (1888). Chicago, Illinois: The Goodspeed Publishing Company.