In an earlier post on this blog titled Brick Wall Paper, I thought I had discovered a census record for my great-grandfather James H. Myers.1
I speculated that the enumerator just dittoed the Cox surname onto some grandchildren. Wishful thinking on my part. Turns out the James H Cox is actually James Hamilton Cox. I discovered this in the best way possible. I got a DNA cousin match on Ancestry.com that proves I have the correct family for my Amarilla (Winnie) Cox!
Oddly my first reaction to this was, Be Careful What You Wish For. This new cousin match had Martha G and John Cox on it, but with a lot of other unknown siblings to the James Hamilton Cox. I was sad that I no longer had an early census record for James H Myers, but thrilled that I had proof I had the right family. I got to work correcting my tree and researching this James H Cox.
My first clue that he is the real deal was the 1880 US Census for James.
He named his first son Jerome Benjamin, which is his older brother’s name. I haven’t found James Hamilton Cox in the 1900 or 1910 census yet, but he does show up in the 1920 census in Cambridge, Washington, Idaho.3 This is the same location his brother Jerome Benjamin lived when four of his many children were born. Other records suggest James Hamilton Cox was divorced even though he is listed as single in this 1920 Census. He was working as a laborer in a pool hall.
I even have a theory on where the middle name Hamilton came from: a friend and neighbor with whom John and Martha Cox bought and sold land in Putnam County, Missouri: Hamilton Davis. I’ve been combing through a deed index for that county and have found multiple entries for land exchanges between the Cox family and Hamilton Davis.
Bless the heart of the woman who had her DNA tested on Ancestry.com and had this Cox line on her tree! I don’t mind being wrong on who I thought James H was…especially since now I know I have the correct family. Yay!
In my previous post I mentioned some court documents that I was waiting eagerly to get. I’ve received them, and it is going to take awhile to make sense of all of what I have. The indictment against Jacob Myers for Felonious Assault with Intent to Kill on first glance looks more like a ‘he said, he said’ deal. It is easily one of the most difficult to read documents I’ve attempted. The language is colloquial, the spelling is creative, and the handwriting is poor. As for the divorce between Jacob and Amarilla Myers, it was ug-ly. I knew he would have said something bad about her, but I was not prepared for his vitriol. Yikes. It’s easy to guess that this was a thoroughly loveless match from the beginning. Jacob simply did not like Amarilla at all. Sadly there is no mention of children or even a pregnancy.
The court record I’m most capable of making sense of right now is the civil suit that Amarilla brought against Jacob for not paying her the one third of the profit he made from selling land in which she had a one third stake. The amount she claimed he owed was $500, that she claimed he refused to pay. I haven’t yet seen the document that signed that one third stake over to Amarilla after their marriage, but I know from a distant relative that it exists. Legally, she was entitled to that $500. There is no judgment in this file; it is unknown if he was ever forced to pay her what he owed and promised (he told her he would pay her if she signed the deed; she signed the deed; he reneged). I don’t know if he even appeared because the summons was delivered by the sheriff to “a free white person over the age of 16, a member of Jacob Myers family’ on 1 April 1857 after the Sheriff failed to find Jacob in his county.
What does this have to do with four sisters? The juicy bit of this file is the list of witnesses Amarilla had called to testify on her behalf. I’m inserting this census record from the previous post to refresh our memory about who are these sisters.
The father is John S, the mother is Martha (G), the sisters are Lucrecy C., Winey A., Lucinda P. and Leann E. I speculate that Winey A is Winey Amarilla.
Here are the marriage records I found on Family Search
Lucretia first married Francis P Ashlock, Amarilla married Jacob Myers, Lucinda married Richard Summers, and Leann (transcribed Sean, mistaking an ‘L’ for an ‘S’) married Solomon J S Wisman. At the time of the civil suit–17 Sep 1856-Apr 1857, Leann was still a girl living at home.
The first name that jumped out at me from the list was Lucretia Ashlock. The next name of prominence was M. G. Cox. This is Lucretia’s mother; we know from the 1860 census that Martha’s middle initial was G. On paper, she is probably Amarilla’s mother too, as well as the mother of Lucinda and Leann.
When the witnesses were called Lucinda and Richard Summers had just been blessed with their second known child Preston Summers, so neither of them were called. However, three of Richard Summers’ siblings were called: Simon Summers, Jonathan Summers and Luanna Morrow, wife of William Morrow. From the 1860 census for Putnam County, Missouri, it appears there are close ties between the Morrow, Summers and Logsdon families. Isaac Fowler and his wife Mary Logsdon are next door neighbors of Martha and John Cox in 1860. Benson Williams might be Phillip B. Williams who lived two households away from Scott B. Wright, also close neighbors of John and Martha Cox. The people on this list of potential witnesses are poster children for FAN: Friends Associates and Neighbors.
Clearly Amarilla knew these people well enough to call upon them as witnesses for her claim and quite possibly her character. If Amarilla isn’t a biological child of John and Martha G Cox, then she’s at the very least a cousin. I think she’s one of four sisters. Now if the DNA would just support that belief, I’d be in business.
1 1850 US Census, Kentucky, Clinton, District 2, pg 188A, HH# 62
2 Putnam County Courthouse,1601 Main St. Room 204, Unionville, MO 63565, Circuit Court Case #31
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?
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.
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.
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.
1 Court records v. A-B 1855-1867 Putnam County, FHL Film # 1010790
For all the time I’ve been spending trying to find out who his parents are, I haven’t really spent that much time on James Henry Myers and his life. He’s worth re-visiting for me because what I believed to be true about some of his circumstances turned out to not be true because I had the wrong set of parents and had constructed a narrative that fell apart when I did the DNA research. So I’m going back to the fundamental exercise that I learned from Crista Cowan’s videos: What do you know, and how do you know it?
James H Myers is my great-grandfather. He and my great-grandmother Elisa (Lizzie) Kuck applied for a marriage license in Holt County, Missouri on 12 Dec 1888.1 Kuck is pronounced Cook. I suppose it’s possible to think Elisa is pronounced Louisa. Anyway, I know she was living in Craig, Holt, Missouri, and this lines up with when they started their family, so I feel confident this is the correct record.
The 1910 US Census indicates that she had 7 children, 5 of whom were still alive.2 The five living offspring were all daughters: Marietta, Amarilla, Emma, Louvre and Faye. My uncle told me there had been a little son, Benji (Benjamin) who everyone loved very much, but he died young (choked on a marble I think). The 7th child is unknown to us.
Based on where the daughters were born, they moved around some before they settled down in Missouri again. At one point they lived in Kansas, and in 1891 they lived in LeGrande, Union, Oregon. In 1897 they were living in Unionville, Putnam, Missouri, where my grandmother was born. None of us ever knew why they were living there. Could this have been the one place James thought of as home? He might have been born there since his father lived there for most of his adulthood.
About 1898, ten years after the license was obtained, and presumably the marriage was solemnized, this studio portrait was taken.
By 1900 the family was living in Craig, (Union Twp.) Holt, Missouri again.3 Craig was a natural place for Lizzie to live. Her family immigrated from Germany and ultimately settled there. This census record is now the only census so far where I have found James listed. What do I know now? He was born May 1857 in Missouri. This record shows his father was born in Missouri (not true) and his mother was born in Kentucky (probably true). He was employed as a stone mason and they were renting their home.
I also learned from my uncle that James had a drinking problem. He relayed an interesting story about how one night James came home bruised and battered and drunk (a brawl?), once again, and it got on Lizzie’s last nerve. When he passed out, she sewed him into his bed sheet. She then proceeded to wallop him with either a belt or buggy whip. This was meant to make him stop drinking, which my uncle said worked. I’ve read that women in the early 20th century were expected to keep their men on the straight and narrow; that they were responsible for the moral fiber of the family. Today we’d call this behavior domestic violence. If James had done this same thing to Lizzie, we would be appalled by it, and believe that she would have had had every reason to leave him if circumstances had been reversed. So maybe there really was a reason why James left. I have read the half-page divorce decree that is dated 7 Jan 1905. Alas it doesn’t go into the details of the complaint. It only states that James didn’t respond to the summons and that Lizzie was awarded custody of the children. She was strong enough to bring up the girls as a single mother from the time James left until she remarried in 1909.
I do know that the only person to forgive him for abandoning the family was my grandmother. She is the reason we know anything at all about this man. She reached out to him as an adult and maintained a relationship with him. From her we learned that in the end he said he only had one daughter. This signals to me that he was hurt by being shunned by his other offspring. My grandmother was his only advocate in his later years. She visited him periodically in St. Joseph, Missouri.
If I’ve found the correct death certificate for him, then he was very ill before he died alone and impoverished in 1937 at the age of 79. His occupation was a Cigar Maker, and he was buried in a pauper’s cemetery.4 I suspect the only person who was sad about this was my grandmother. She was the only link to this entire branch of the family. She is the one who knew his mother’s maiden name was Cox (see previous post). Her ability to forgive, and the importance she placed on family history saved that important detail that led to my discovery all these years later.
Now for another update on this mini-saga: James might have been a Myers in name only. Yes, his father was Jacob Myers. I now have found ample DNA evidence to support that claim. Jacob Myers, on the other hand, might have been a Naylor. And THAT might be the connection to the Ancestor Discovery. I’ve got three cousin matches with Jacob Myers as an ancestor through descendants of two of his other wives. However when I was investigating Daniel Myers (named in the history book as the father of Jacob), I found someone who is descended from Daniel Myers through his second wife Sarah, who had taken the DNA test, and who does not match. Through correspondence I learned that Jacob Myers’ tombstone in Putnam County, Missouri, indicates that he was born 9 Dec 1815. Daniel married Elizabeth, widow of John Nailer on 1 Aug 1817.5
One of my Ancestor Discoveries is the daughter of an Elizabeth Naylor (John’s sister, perhaps?). When I track this family through other people’s trees, this Naylor family came from England. The Daniel Myers line might well be German, as our family believed, but if James was really a Naylor…then not German. That also tracks with the ethnicity for me and my uncle, which is heavy on Great Britain, and thin or non-existent from Europe West. I never would have gotten this far without the DNA cousin matches and now, the Ancestor Discoveries, frustrating as they can be.
1 Missouri, Marriage Records, 1805-2002 Ancestry.com
2 1910 US Census, Missouri, Holt, Craig, ED 117, pg 7A, ln 2
3 1900 US Census, Missouri, Holt, Union, ED 94, pg 5B, ln 68
4 Missouri Digital Heritage Death Records, Certificate #19502
5 “West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FRTM-YJD : accessed 17 May 2015), Daniel Myers and Elizabeth Nailer, 1817; citing Lewis, West Virginia, United States, , county clerks, West Virginia; FHL microfilm 825,112.
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:
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.
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:
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.
1Adair, Sullivan, Putnam and Schuyler Counties, Missouri (p. 426). (1888). Chicago, Illinois: The Goodspeed Publishing Company.