Elegy to Elizabeth  A. Hayes Ellerbee

In honor of Women’s History Month, I write about women in our family tree. This story is about Elizabeth A. Hayes Ellerbee from Alabama, my husband’s paternal great-great grandmother.

Elizabeth took a chance marrying Jim Ellerbee. She knew his story.  Along with other young men from Georgia, Jim joined the army of the Confederate States of America in 1861. He left his wife, Sarah Bailey, and their two young children in the care of her father, Judge William Bailey.  Rumor has it that Sarah’s stepmother, Indiana Cherry, Judge Bailey’s 3rd  wife, “did not like her step-daughter and step-children, so she had them move out of the house and into the slave quarters. . . .” [1] Sarah died before Jim returned home in June, 1865. A slave woman greeted Jim with his children, 6-year-old Sarah and 4-year-old William.

In November, 1865, Elizabeth A. Hayes, 21 years old, married James John Ellerbee, six years her senior, a widower, and father of two young children. How did Elizabeth and John know each other?  Elizabeth, born in Alabama in 1844,  and her family probably lived in the same county as Jim Ellerbee.

Elizabeth gave birth to 7 children during their 12-year marriage.  One child, John Uzemer, lived only 3 years and died in Georgia.[2]  James John Ellerbee died in December 1877, leaving Elizabeth with eight children, ages newborn to 10 years:  Asa (age 9 months); Wright (age 4); Barzellia (age 5); James Walter (age 8); Anna C. (age 7); Demarious (age 10); William (age 16) and Sarah (age 18).

The year 1880 – three years since her husband died. Jim’s oldest son, William Green Ellerbee (born 1861) followed his grandfather to Cherokee County, Texas, in the late 1870s.[3]  He must have corresponded with his stepmother.  Within a few years, William returned to Calhoun County, Georgia, and resided there with his sister. [4]  Elizabeth, now 33 years old, supported her family  as a field hand, possibly the only type of work available to her. Her two oldest children, 13-year-old Demarious and 10-year-old Anna, also worked as field hands in Early County, Georgia[5].  Elizabeth’s mother, 67 year old Moses Hayes, lived with them and cared for the younger children. The family’s situation can only be described as difficult.

Within a year or two, William moved his sister, stepmother and her children from southeastern Georgia to eastern Texas. [6] Elizabeth’s six children now ranged in age from 3 to 14 years old. Traveling in a covered wagon, the 700+ mile journey took 6-8 weeks. They possibly followed the south’s Old Federal Road through Alabama and Mississippi, crossing the Missisippi River at either Natchez, Missisippi, or Shreveport, Louisiana.

The next decades presented some stability for Elizabeth, her children and stepchildren. Two more of her children (Anna C. and Barzellia) died between 1880 and 1900.   “She managed her household with frugality and she educated her several children very well despite the hard times that prevailed everywhere.” [7]  . Marriages and the birth of grandchildren occurred in or near Cherokee County, Texas:

  • May 1888- William Green Ellerbee married Mary Ann Gulledge;  7 children.
  • November 1888 – Sarah Alice Ellerbee married John Grum Martin; 6 children.
  • January 1895 – James Walter Ellerbee married Katharine Deborah Powell;  6 children.
  • January 1898- Demarious Albina Ellerbee married Thomas Blanton; 7 children.
  • 1906 – Asa Alexander Ellerbee married Laura B. Lester; 3 children. They moved to Leflore County, Oklahoma by 1910.  Asa later moved to Oklahoma City, where he died.
  • About 1932 – Wright Roswell Ellerbee married Laura B. Lester; 1 child.

With one exception (Asa), all of these families remained close to Elizabeth. [8] [9]

Elizabeth A Hayes EllerbeeElizabeth Hayes Ellerbee died on March 25, 1917 in Cherokee County, Texas. She was buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery at Wells, Texas. Many of her descendants are also buried there.

Elizabeth Hayes Ellerbee ‘s life was full of unexpected events, some happy and some sad.  At the age of 21, she assumed responsibility for a husband, shattered by war and the death of his first wife, and his two children. She lost her husband after only 12 years of marriage. She gave birth to seven children and buried three of them.  She appears to have had close relationships with both of her stepchildren.  She left familiar surroundings in Georgia, traveling 700+ miles to post-Civil War Texas to pursue a better life for herself and her family.  Overall, I see her as a woman who took chances and left a legacy of hope for her descendants.



I rediscovered Elizabeth’s story during creation of an Ellerbee scrapbook for my father-in-law’s 80th birthday in January, 2018. What a wonderful story for my blog!  Women’s History Month in March is the perfect time to publish it. I began to appreciate the challenges and hardships faced by Elizabeth as I dug deeper into the records. She had to be strong to endure. She may say, “I did it for my children” and think little about the sacrifices that she made.  She met the challenges of being a single parent for her children and stepchildren. I am sure that she got discouraged at times.

Taking on the role of ‘man of the house’ had to be difficult for 17-year-old William. How I wish I knew more about the slave woman who cared for Jim and Sarah’s children after Sarah’s death. That is a story to be discovered! Secondary benefit: meeting one of my genealogy goals for the year to tell more stories about my husband’s family.

What I learned:  always more in the records to be discovered. Look beyond names & dates. I learned about the “Old Federal Road” which could have been the route taken from southwest Georgia to east Texas.

What was helpful: having records semi-organized and easy to locate for review.  Demarious’ Bible records sent to me last year by one of her descendants.  Research and commentary about the family in The Ellerbe Family History.

Not helpful: Nothing I can think of at this moment.

To-Do List:  Confirm death dates & locations for Anna and Barzellia.

 For more information about the Old Federal Road:

The Old Federal Road in Alabama:  http://oldfederalroad.aum.edu/

South’s Old Federal Road https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/United_States_Overland_Travel_1784_to_1839,_National_Road,_Old_Federal_Road,_Chicago_Road_(National_Institute)#The_South.E2.80.99s_Old_Federal_Road

Wagon trains to Texas:  http://www.genealogy.com/forum/regional/states/topics/ms/8044/

Archaeological Survey of the Old Federal Road in Alabama:     https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gregory_Waselkov/publication/259398790

Henry DeLeon Southerland & Jerry Elijah Brown. The Federal Road through Georgia.   Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1989.

Jeffrey C. Benton (compiler). The Very Worst Road: Travellers Accounts of Crossing Alabama’s Old Creek Indian Territory, 1820-1847. Tucscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 2009.


[1] Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History (Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, Inc., 1986), p. 14-43.

[2] Family data, Demarious Albina Ellerbee Family Bible, Holy Bible, (New York: American Bible Society, 1876); original owned in October 2016 by Darby Blanton, [address for private use], Darby is descendant of Demarious Ellerbee & Thomas Blanton.

[3] Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p. 14-43.

[4] 1880 U.S. Census, Calhoun County, Georgia, population schedule, District 626, enumeration district (ED) 4, p. 420B, dwelling 351, family 347, Sarah Elerbrie [Ellerbee] 20; digital images, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed, downloaded, printed 3 March 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administratin, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9_0136.

[5] 1880 U.S. Census, Early Co, Georgia, pop. sch., Damascus, enumeration district (ED) 026, p. 214A, family #, Elizabeth Eleby [Ellerbee] ; digital images, Ancestry (http;;//www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 4 September 2011); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publication T9, Roll 144.

[6] Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p. 14-43.

[7] Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p. 14-43.

[8]  1900 U.S. Census, Cherokee County, Texas, pop. sch., Justice Pct 8, enumeration district (ED) 30, p. 284A (printed), Family #21, John G. Martin (head) [wife, Sarah A. Ellerbee + 6 children]; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : downloaded & printed 4 September 2011); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll: T623_1619.  On same page: Family #22: Will R Ellesbee [Wright R. Ellerbee], head, 24; Elizabeth A. Ellesbee [Ellerbee], 58; Asa Ellesbee [Ellerbee], 23 ; Family #23: James W. Ellesbee [Ellerbee], wife Catherine + 2 children. Elizabeth is recorded as the mother of 7 children, 4 still living.

[9] 1910 U.S. Census, Cherokee County, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 8, enumeration district (ED) 0024, p. 14B (penned), dwelling 272, family 272, Ellerbee E (head), 60, wd; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 3 March 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T624_1538.

A maz(e)ing Genealogy (subtitle:  Proving family stories)

Subtitle: Proving family stories that provide minimal information

Watch the genealogy shows on television. The searches appear straightforward with records obtained in clear chronological order. Occasionally, the host says, “We had to really look for this information.”  Subjects type a name into an online database, usually Ancestry, and a particular record for their ancestor appears.  At a county clerk’s office, the marriage book opens to the exact page with the person’s marriage record. These presentations simplify the process of genealogy. Yes, genealogy can be simple and straightforward. More often, our genealogy path seems more like a labyrinth or maze with frequent dead-ends and no clear way out. The ‘brick wall’ may actually be a hurdle or temporary road block.

Read “The Brick Wall Checklist” for an opinion about brick walls.

person in maze

Source:  http://www.the-burgenland-bunch.org/Newsletter/Newsletter266.htm

“Which begs the question: what is the difference between a maze and a labyrinth? Although considered synonymous by some, it is generally accepted that a labyrinth contains only one path, often spiralling around and folding back on itself, in ever-decreasing loops, whereas a maze contains branching paths, presenting the explorer with choices and the potential for getting very, very lost.” (Source: https://theconversation.com/how-to-escape-a-maze-according-to-maths_71582:  accessed 10 Feb 2018)

Some characterize genealogy as a puzzle with missing  pieces. How do you put a genealogy puzzle together? Read this blog post for some ideas:  Finding all the pieces to the puzzle.  For me, the image varies with each family group/ person and the specific goal.

I have been doing genealogy for over 20 years. Last year (2017), I started a Genealogy Do-Over by carefully reorganizing and reviewing files. Each file contains multiple records and notes. This year, I focus on my mother’s family (Tucker-Maurer) with forays into my husband’s family lines (Ellerbee-Simmons and Johnson-Reed). The person of the week is Rosina Maurer, sister of my great grandfather, Herman Maurer, and the maze that I found myself in.

The first rule of genealogy is “Start with what you know.”  In this case, I started with a handwritten family history by my great-aunt, Viola Maurer Tucker, written in the early 1980s.  [1]

“Valentine & Katherine Maurer had 5 children:  Herman, Katherine, Joseph, Rose, Edward. . . . Rose married Jacob Smetz.  We lost track of them after Herman (our father) died.  They had 2 or 3 children and lived in New Jersey.”

With these minimal clues, the search began with the first record found for Rose –  1892 New York State Census, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York: [2] 

Page 3, column 1, lines 13-17: Valentine Maurer, 65, b. Germany; Annie Maurer, 64, b. Germany; Rosie Maurer, age 24, b. U.S., box maker; Joseph Maurer, age 23, b. US, brass worker; Edward Maurer, age 17, b US, mechanic.

New facts: Rose, a.k.a.  ‘Rosie’, born about 1868, single and living with her parents in 1892.  Disclaimer:  Still lost in the maze of 1870 and 1880 census records for this family. I haven’t yet done an exhaustive search in these records.

gg62755812Keep chronological journal, handwritten or computer-based, of when and where you find information even if information is conflicting or negative. This journal / research log will keep you from retracing your steps later. Transfer appropriate information to your family tree. On family tree, write notes about conflicting and negative information.

With this basic information, I am now ready to enter the maze to find Rose/ Rosie Maurer Smetz. First, I went to Ancestry’s online database and typed “Jacob Smetz” as Rosie’s spouse.  No records found for Jacob Smetz or any children.  A dead-end, return to entry point.

Next, I remembered a document already in my files -probate record for Anna Katharina Maurer, Rose’s mother, who died in 1899: [3]

Anna Kathrina Maurer probate pg 2_crop

Probate record for Anna Katharina Maurer, 1899.  Last paragraph on page 2.

 Did Viola have Jacob’s name wrong?  Try another direction.  Begin again with 1900 census. Changed Jacob’s surname to ‘Schnitz’.  – no results!!! Changed residence from New York to New Jersey. Again, no results! Back to entry point. Record each direction and results in journal.  This feels like a roadblock, so I end here to return later.

Start over.  Review available information again before entering the maze.  From the probate records, I saw, for the first time(?),  ‘Rosina’.  Try  ‘Rosina’ again with both ‘Smets’ and ‘Schnitz’.  Nothing found on Ancestry website. There have to be records for this family!

Try another strategy using Family Search online genealogy.  At last, a record found:  Marriage record for Rosina Maurer and Jacob Smets,  27 November 1895, Manhattan, New York. [4]

Jacob Smets, Marriage, 27 Nov 1895, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States; New York (City), New York, male, 34, single, white, birth year (estimated) 1861; birthplace: Elimpt, Germany. Father: John Henry Smets. Mother: Gertrude Corzilius. Spouse: Rosina Maurer, female, 28, single, white, birth year (estimated) 1867, birthplace Brooklyn, N.Y. Father: Valentine Maurer. Mother: Ann Catherine Corzilius.

This record opened the 1900 census for Jacob and Rosa Smets in Stonington, Connecticut [5]:

Jacob Smets, head, 26, b. June 1864, Germany. Rosa Smets, wife, 33, b. Nov 1867, New York, mother of 3, 3 living. Gertrude Smets, daughter, 4, b. Oct 1896, New York. Joseph Smets, son, 2, b. March 1898, New York. Arthur H. Smets, son, age 11/12, b. July 1899, Connecticut.

Jacob & Rosa apparently moved from New Jersey to Connecticut, about 140 miles,  between April 1899 (date of her mother’s probate) and June 5, 1900, date of 1900 census.  Arthur, their youngest son, recorded as born in Connecticut in August 1899, so the family moved during Rosa’s 5th or 6th month of pregnancy. I now have the names for 3 children and an interesting twist.  Why did they move to Connecticut? Jacob’s listed occupation as a weaver in a velvet mill probably answers that question.

The 1900 census led to the 1910 census for Jacob & Rosina Smets in Brooklyn, New York [6]:

Jacob Smets, head, 48, M1 [1st marriage], married 14 years. b. Germany; immigrated 1891, naturalized citizen. Rosina Smets, wife, 42, M1 [1st marriage, married 14 years, b. New York. mother of 4, 4 living. Gertrude Smets, daughter, age 13, b. NY. Joseph Smets, son, 12, b. NY. Arthur Smets, son, age 10, b. CT. Robert Smets, son, age 9, b. NY. Anna Dale, lodger, 70, b. Ireland. Henry Ryder, lodger, 65, n. NY. Murphy, lodger, 19, b. NY

Another child, Robert, born in 1901 in New York. Jacob & Rosina moved from Connecticut back to New York before Robert’s birth in 1901.

Circled back to Ancestry website, and found Jacob & Rosa in Brooklyn, New York, per 1905 census. [7]

Jacob Smets, 39, no. of yrs in U.S. = 15. Rose Smets, 36. Gertrude M. Smets, 8. Joseph Smets, 7. Arthur H. Smets, 5. Robert Smets, 4.

This again confirms their move from Connecticut back to New York.  It’s  late at night and I am stuck in the maze.  Time for bed!


Source:  Genetoons Genealogical Cartoons  (https://ancestralfindings.com/genetoons-cartoons-2/

Still in the maze but making progress. Continued to circle around the Ancestry database and discovered another opening:

1920 Census [8]—South Brunswick, New Jersey:  Jacob Smits [Smets], head, 58, immigrated 1892, NA YR: 1897. Rosina Smits, 52. Gertrude Smits, 23. Joseph Smits, 21. Anthon [Arthur] Smits, 20. Robert Smits, 18.

The family did live in New Jersey! Followed the tracks of Jacob and Rosa’s children with some success (to be reported in a later post).

Another opening: 1930 Census[9]—South Brunswick, New Jersey!  Jacob & Rose Smetts.  Changed surname spelling again:   Jacob Smetts, head, 64, b. Germany.  Rose Smetts, wife, 55, b. NY.  Herbert Dorer, Boarder, 32, b. Switzerland.

Changed direction to Find A Grave for Smets/ Smetts. Many possible detours (i.e. names) but no entries found for Jacob, Rose, or any of their children.

Changed direction again – to Newspapers. Com website. Nothing found for Jacob or Rosina Smets.  Then, three large openings in the maze after using ‘Smetts’:

24 July 1930 Central New Jersey Home News:  “ Letter of admin to Rose Smetts for estate of the late Joseph Smetts, who died. . . July 12.” [10]

17 Dec 1936 Central New Jersey Home News:  Obituary for William J. Smetts, “William Jacob Smetts, husband of Mrs. Rose Smetts.” [11] 

According to German naming traditions,  first names given at birth were rarely used and people were usually known by their 2nd name.  Could ‘Rosina’ be her middle name?  If so, what is her first name??

9 July 1949, “Henry Renk attended funeral services for Mrs. Rose Smetts. . . “  [12]

Possible clear path out of the maze, except for the mention of Henry Renk. What is his relationship to Rose?  Definitely a  BSO to be explored another day!

Retraced steps back to Ancestry website, searching now for  ‘Rose Smetts’.  Another opening:  1915 census – Frankling Twp, Somerset County, N.J.[13]:

Smets, Jacob, 46, b. June 1865, Germany. Rosina,  40, b. Nov 1874, New York.  Gertrude, 17, b. Oct 1896, New York. Joseph, 16, b. Mch [March] 1899, New Jersey. Arthur H., 15, b. July 1900, Conn. Robert, 14, b. June 1901, New York.

Retraced steps (again!) to  recheck for page numbers of newspaper entries (forgot to record these earlier).  Looked around the location one more time and discovered a previously overlooked item:

Death notice for William J. Smetts, 14 Dec 1936:  “son, Arthur H., died November 18 [1936). . . daughter, Gertrude Anderson.”. [14] 

At last, a clear path out of the maze!  Some areas (residence in 1870 , 1880, 1940) remain just out of reach.

Looked over the top of the maze walls, using a broad search term: “Rose Smetts died 1949”.  Found:  Obituary for Mrs. Rose Smetts[15]:

Maurer_Rose_mSmetts_death notice

Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, New Jersey, 6 July 1949, p. 2, column 3

Exit point of the maze.  Now, the final test question:  Was information given at the entry point proven?

“Rose married Jacob Smetz.  We lost track of them after Herman (our father) died.  They had 2 or 3 children and lived in New Jersey.”

“Rose married Jacob Smetz” – Rose married William Jacob Smetts.  Proven with spelling variations of Jacob’s surname.

“They had 2 or 3 children” – Jacob and Rose had 4 children, 2 of whom died between 1930 and 1940.   Proven plus one.

“lived in New Jersey” – Jacob and Rose moved to New Jersey between 1910 and 1915.  Both of them died in New Jersey.  Proven.

If you are interested, view Rose’s life summary: Maurer_Rose_Timeline2



What began as a routine task soon became an intriguing and frustrating study. I often run into name variations but there seemed to be more twists and turns than usual for Rose’s family. Maybe I just wasn’t picking up on clues. I originally viewed this as a zig-zag path with many choices of direction. Then, I realized that I was going in circles. The concept of a maze seemed more fitting as I reached dead-ends and had to retrace my steps. Before starting my Genealogy Do-Over, I rarely followed through for the siblings of my direct ancestors.  And, I stopped quickly when I could not access readily available information.

What helped:  handwritten family history provided by great-aunt Viola, even with its minimal information. Tools and techniques learned during the past year. Slowing down and documenting everything.  Searching for additional information before finishing this post.

What didn’t help:  early frustration when surname variations didn’t produce results.

What I learned:  Go back to original data, even when you think that you have learned everything you can from it. Thorough documentation takes more time but helps by forcing review of information more than once. It’s OK to put research aside for days, weeks, or months.

Footnotes/ Sources:

[1] Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” p. 4 ; MS, 1800s to 1980s, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York; privately held by great-niece, Susan Mercedes Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017. Carbon copy of original document created ca. 1975-1980 sent to Ms. Ellerbee by her great-aunt.

[2] New York State Department of Health, “New York, State Census, 1892,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded 31 January 2018), entry for Rosie Maurer, age 24; citing New York State Education Department, Office of Cultural Education, Albany, New York; 173 Hopkins Street.

[3] Probate record for Anna Katharina Maurer, p. 2.  Kings County, New York, Probate case files, Anna Katharina Maurer; “New York, Kings County, Probate Administration Records.,” digital records, Author: New York. Surrogate’s Court (Kings County)., Ancestry. com, New YOrk, Wills and PRobate Records, 1659-1999 (www.ancestry.com: accessed & printed 20 May 2016); names children, confirms date of death.

[4] “New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24C2-M4S : 10 February 2018), Jacob Smets and Rosina Maurer, 27 Nov 1895; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,493,451.

[5] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M97F-TCG : accessed 10 February 2018), Rosa Smets in household of Jacob Smets, Stonington township (excl. Stonington borough), New London, Connecticut, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 488, sheet 7A, family 166, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,150.

[6] “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M5S9-VNK : accessed 10 February 2018), Rosina Smets in household of Jacob Smets, Brooklyn Ward 30, Kings, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 1098, sheet 7B, family 151, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 985; FHL microfilm 1,374,998.

[7] 1905 New York State Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district (ED) Assembly district A.D. 07, E.D. 22, p. 18, lines 1-6, Jacob Smets; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 10 February 2018); citing New York State Archives, Albany, New York..

[8] 1920 U.S. Census, Middlesex County, New Jersey, population schedule, South Brunswick, enumeration district (ED) 71, p. 5A (penned), dwelling 59, family 60, Jacob Smits [Smets] 58; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 10 February 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T625_1057.

[9] “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, Family Search (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X4XG-DQN : accessed 11 February 2018), Rose Smetts in household of Jacob Smetts, North Brunswick, Middlesex, New Jersey, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 63, sheet 2B, line 100, family 50, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1367; FHL microfilm 2,341,102.

[10] Letter of admin for Joseph Smetts.

[11] “William J. Smetts,” Obituary, Central New Jersey Home News, 17 December 1936; online images, Newspapers.com (http:///newspapers.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 10 February 2018).

[12] “Henry Renk attended funeral services”, The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey”, local newspaper (9 Jul 1949): p. 7; PDF images, (http://www.newspapers.com  :  accessed 10 Feb 2018), key word Mrs. Rose Smetts.

[13] 1915 New Jersey State Census, Somerset County, New Jersey, population schedule, Frankling Township, p. 1A (penned), Jacob Smets 46; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 16 February 2018); citing New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, New Jersey, reference no. L-14, Film 58.

[14]“William J. Smetts”,” death notice, The Central New Jersey Home News, 14 December 1936, death date, death of son, funeral information; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 16 February 2018); citing The Central New Jersey Home News. p. 17, column 4.

[15] “Deaths: Smetts- Rose Maurer”, Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, New Jersey, 6 July 1949, p. 2, column 3. accessed, downloaded & printed 23 Feb 2018 from Newspapers. Com.

A Valentine in the Family Tree

Do you have a Valentine in your family tree?  Both my husband and I have ancestors named Valentine. One of my genealogy goals  for 2018 is to tell more stories about my husband’s family so this post focuses on Valentine Creager (aka Valentin Cregar/ Kruger) , my husband’s 6x great-grandfather. The story of Valentine and his descendants extends from Pennsylvania to Maryland and Kentucky then, eventually, Texas.

Disclaimer:  Six years ago, when I began collecting information about the Creager family,  I was not diligent in saving digital and/or print copies of reference materials.  I remember reading some items but have no idea where I found them. Research notes? Virtually non-existent. Source citations? Incomplete.  Digital or paper copies available?  Sometimes. Results? Secondary sources in this particular blog.  Frustrated?  Yes!  Then, I remember — this is one reason for my Genealogy Do-Over!

valentine center tree w names

The Creager surname is believed to be an Americanized version of the German surname,  Krieger.   Our American ancestors trace to Johan Casper/Caspar Krieger, who immigrated to America in the 1730s. [1]  Valentine Creager , third child of Casper Creager and  Maria Christiana Hofferth/ Hoffert  was born in 1734 in Oley Mountain, Berks County, Pennsylvania.  According to Scharf’s (1968) history of western Maryland,  “a company of German immigrants came down from Pennsylvania and established themselves in the valley of the Moncacy [River]. . . . “ (p. 360).[2]  Casper and his family followed sometime later.

Valentine was baptized by Rev. John Casper Stoever in Oley Hills, Pennsylvania on 2 March 1734 at St. Joseph Lutheran Church (aka Hill Church) [3]. Valentine is believed to be the only child whose birth and baptism can be validated from church records at this time. Irene (Creager) Lawson [4] stated, “At the time of Velte’s baptism, his father, Casper, was a resident of Oley Hills,  Pennsylvania, and was an official at St. Joseph’s Church or Hill Church and was one of the three designated to purchase 50 acres of land for a cemetery on August 12, 1747.” (page 10).

When he was 25 years old, Valentine Creager received a 21 year grant of land in the area known as Monocacy Manor, near Frederick Maryland, in 1759. [5]   A manor was land set aside by the original English lords, such as Cecilius Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore and the first Proprietor of Maryland, as a lease.   “Initially, the term of a lease was designated for a period equal to the natural lifetimes of three individuals selected by the leaseholder. They frequently were for his own life and the lives of perhaps two sons. . . . “ [6].  At the end of the lease, “land and improvements were to revert  to the Lord Proprietary” (Tracey & Dern, p. 305).  However, the Revolutionary War  probably disrupted these agreements  as evidenced by  the 1781 confiscation of the Monocacy Manor leases which were then  sold as Loyalist property [7].



Map of Monacy River area in Western Maryland.  Note how close it is to Pennsylvania and West Virginia.





When did Valentine Creager marry Maria Christina (maiden name unknown)? Reported dates vary from 1760 to 1768.  The only agreement seems to be that they were married in Maryland, probably Frederick County. Births of their children partially reflect Valentine’s absence from home during the Revolutionary War:

  1. Daniel Creager born 1764                                     Spouse:  Anna Barbara Schmitt
  2. Elizabetha Creager  born 17 Feb 1768
  3. John George Creager  born 11 May 1771            Spouse: Margaret ‘Peggy’ Myers
  4. Susanna Creager born 22 Feb 1773                     Spouse: Abraham Miller
  5. Christian Creager born 22 Mar 1774
  6. Thomas Creager born 6 Feb 1775                         Spouse: (1) Rebecca Robbins                                                                                                                       (2) Sarah Ann Hedges
  7. Amelia Creager born 24 Nov 1780                         Spouse:  Nathan Crum
  8. Maria Creager born after 1781

Researchers disagree about the number of children born to Valentine and Maria.  Baptismal records for Elizabetha, John George, Susanna, Thomas, and Amelia support relationships. [8]  A 1798 confirmation record for Maria Creager names Valentine and Maria Creager , which suggests a possible relationship to them.[9]  In the Lutheran Church, confirmation means that the young person accepts responsibility for the practice of their religion and adherence to church beliefs. I was raised as a Lutheran so am aware of the significance of this event.

An online message board [10] mentions one additional child, Henry, born in 1766, and another source[11] mentions Christian, born in 1774.  I make no attempt to prove or disprove either claim.   Some genealogists question whether Daniel is the son of Valentine and Maria or the son of one of Valentine’s brothers.

Valentine Creager served in both the French and Indian War of 1757-1758 and the American Revolution. In 1774, his name appears as a member of a Committee of Observation whose duties were to watch the British and Tories.  His allegiance to the American cause included an appointment to raise money for buying arms and ammunition. [12]   By October 1777 and possibly as early as November 1775, he received an appointment as Captain of the 4th Company. [13]  Re-organization of George Washington’s Army found Valentine serving in multiple units throughout the campaign.  The Maryland Flying Camps saw little action during the war but served an important function as observers of the British and protectors of local populations.

Valentin and his family continued to live in Frederick County, Maryland, after the Revolution.  The 1790 United States Federal Census names Valentine Creager, Frederick County, Maryland and these members of his household: [14]

Number of Free White Males Under 16:   1  (1 son, probably Thomas)

Number of Free White Males 16 and over:  2 (Valentine + 1 son, John George?

Number of Free White Females:  2 (Maria + daughter or 2 daughters)

The reported death date and place for Maria Christina Creager, Valentin’ s wife, vary from ‘after 1780 in Maryland’  to ‘3 June 1797 in Washington County, Kentucky’ with no specific notes or sources recorded.

gg62755812TIP:  If you are unsure about something, write a note to share what information you have.   Example (with some fictional data):  “March 1780, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Frederick County, Maryland,  Valentin and Maria Kruger as sponsors for Hans Hofferth, son of Johan Hofferth and wife, Anna. So, Maria died sometime after March 1780.  Since the ages of females were not recorded in 1790 census, uncertain if Maria was one of the 2 females listed with Valentine Creager.”

Several of Valentin’s sons, including John George, our direct ancestor, found their way to Kentucky by the early 1800s. [15]   In 1803, Valentine sold land in Frederick County, Maryland.  This transaction provides the last known record about him.  According to an online family tree [16], Valentine died about 1808 in Washington County, Kentucky.  The date and location of Valentine’s death and burial are not yet confirmed.

Records of Valentine Cregar’s Revolutionary War service formed the basis for his recognition as a Patriot by the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution. (Valentin Cregar,  #A084178).  Descendants of his sons, John George Creager and Thomas Creager, proudly acknowledge themselves as Daughters of the American Revolution. Some of  John George’s descendants, specifically his daughter Sarah and her husband,  eventually settled in Texas.   John George and his wife, Margaret, are believed to have died in Boxelder County, Texas.

Our descendancy family tree (in a more traditional format)

Creager to Ellerbee descendant chart

Mable Venette Reed is my husband’s maternal grandmother.




I was really frustrated when I could not resurrect print or digital copies of pages from Irene Creager Lawson’s  book, The Creager History.   AARGH!!!!  But, my frustration grew smaller as I found copies of some sources.  My research techniques have certainly improved and continue to improve.  I learned a little about the colonial period in Maryland.  Found online digital copies of multiple records cited in other sources.  A particularly exciting find was PDF copy of original records in German from Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Woodboro, Maryland !  Difficult to read handwriting but I was able to pick out ‘Valentin’.  With birth dates of Valentin’s children in hand, I found entries for some of the children and copied the relevant pages.  Yes,  I wrote the complete URL to each document!  And the date accessed!

What helped:  basic information already gathered for mother-in-law’s DAR application.  Access to resources about Maryland at the Oklahoma Historical Society Library here in Oklahoma City.  Finding a website with digitized church records for Frederick County, Maryland and the digitized  Maryland State Archives Online.

Website with Maryland church records:    Bob Fout, Genealogist    http://bobfoutgenealogy.com/records/

What didn’t help:  not previously exploring discrepancies in reports by various researchers.  Accepting some reports on face value without checking their sources.  Only a few Genealogy Do-Over tasks have been completed for mother-in-law’s family tree:  paper files placed in color-coded files,  individual checklists and research logs started for a few people.  But, I now have more about Valentine Creager!

Future plans:  Continue file clean-up.  Confirm sources cited by others.  Keep looking for copies of original sources.  Write notes about consistencies and discrepancies in records as well as reports made by others.    Keep paper and/or digital copies of all online resources, including complete URLs!

[1] “Descendants of Hans Ernst Krieger and Other Krieger families of Frederick Co., MD (aka Creager, Kruger, Creeger, etc.”  Updated; 2007-06-12.  Rootsweb ( https://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=grannyapple1130&id=I0051    : accessed 12 Feb 2018).  Cites various sources; acknowledges duplications and missing sources and that the information “is not without errors.”

[2] J. Thomas Scharf, History of Western Maryland being a history of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Alleghany, and Garrett Counties from the earliest period to the present day; including Biographical Sketches of their Reprsentative Men. Vol. 1 (Baltimore: Regional Publishing Company, 1968), p. 360.

[3] “Records of Rev. John Casper Stoever, Baptismal and Marriage 1730-1779,” Harrisburg Publishing Co: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1896, archived at WayBackMachine (https://archive.org/details/recordsof revjohno1stoe.pdf   : accessed 13 Feb 2018), p. 7, entry for Krueger-George Valentine.

[4] Pages from Irene Creager Lawson, The Creager History (Austin, Texas: Privately published, 1985) in documentation file supporting Membership Application of L.A. Golding (National no. 751615) on Valentine Cregar (1734, Pennsylvania – aft. 1803, Maryland ), approved 1 Feb 1993;  National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Office of the Registrar General, Washington, D.C

[5] Grace L. Tracey & John P. Dern, Pioneers of Old Monocacy: The Early Settlement of Frederick County, Maryland 1721-1743 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1987),  p. 323.

[6] Tracey & Dern, Pioneers of Old Monocacy, p. 305.

[7] Tracey & Dern, Pioneers of Old Monocacy, p. 305.

[8] Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church (formerly St. Peter’s), Rocky Hill, near Woodsboro, Frederick County, Maryland, Parish Registers, 1767-1889: Birth/Baptism Records 1767-1854, digitized by Bob Fout 2016; Bob Fout Genealogy (http://bobfoutgenealogy.com/records/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/GRHC_Baptisms_1767-1854.pdf   accessed 13 Feb 2018).  Entries found for Elizabetha (entry 14),  John George (entry 84),  Susanna (entry 114)  , Thomas (entry 150)  and Amelia (entry 251).

[9] Membership Application of L.A. Golding (National no. 751615) on Valentine Cregar (1734, Pennsylvania – aft. 1803, Maryland ), approved 1 Feb 1993;  National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Office of the Registrar General, Washington, D.C.

[10]  Audrey Shields Hancock, “George Valentine “Velte” Creager,” Rootsweb, website/discussion board  8 February 2002 (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~grannyapple/CREAGER-KRIEGER/B . . .accessed & printed  10 July 2011;   site currently offline).

[11] A letter to Mrs. Avonne Golding, dated 21 May 1987, from Wm. C. Willman, Research Correspondent, The Historical Society of Frederick County, Inc., Frederick, Maryland, names Christian and gives a birth date but my review of those digitized records did not reveal an entry for Christian. [Source: DAR documentation file, L.A. Golding (National no. 751615)].

[12] Scharf, History of Western Maryland, Vol. 1, pp. 128-129.

[13] “Journal & Correspondence of the Council of Safety, July 7-December 31, 1776”,  Archives of Maryland, Vol. 12, p. 317.  Image copy, Maryland State Archives Online (http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000012/html/am12–317.html  : accessed 13 Feb 2018).

[14] 1790 U. S. Census,  Frederick County, Maryland, p. 201 (penned), col. 1, line 22,  Valentine Cregar; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed 13 Feb 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration microfilm M637, roll ____.

[15] 1810 U.S. Census, Washington County, Kentucky, p. 337 (stamped), col. 1, line 6, John Creager; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed 13 Feb 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration microfilm M252, roll 8.

[16]  Randmisc, “Creager Family Tree,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/163769/person/-2087063383/facts   : accessed 13 Feb 2018), “George Valentine Creager,” death data undocumented.


Share your work with a family history scrapbook

Earlier this month, I presented an Ellerbee Family History scrapbook to my father-in-law in honor of his 80th birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAPA!!

This project is my 4th genealogical scrapbook, 3 traditional paper format scrapbooks and 1 digital scrapbook. The projects evolved as a different way to present information about a family. As mentioned in earlier blogs, I wrote a narrative history about my dad’s family in 2012. I then promised my in-laws to research each of their families. The first two projects, both paper scrapbooks, resulted.

Project #1:  Simmons Family Scrapbook.

Paper scrapbook created for my father-in-law, about his mother’s family. He knew his grandfather as Clay Simmons but little else about the family. My quest, then, focused on discovering his Simmons’ heritage. That quest led to our first genealogy field trip to east Texas (a topic for another blog post!). HIs grandfather’s full name was Henry Clay Simmons.  Ancestors include James Aster Simmons, the first Baptist minister in Trinity County, Texas, circa 1856.  The Simmons family traces back to Virginia (ca. 1745) and the birth of a man named William Simmons. I used different color schemes for each generation.

Migration of Simmons Family
Suggestion:  Add a name to each place and date. 

Project #2:  Johnson-Reed Scrapbook. 

Paper scrapbook created for my mother-in-law, whose maiden name is Johnson. I used a book of floral design papers as background. Rather than an in-depth look at a single family line, Nana Linda’s scrapbook embraces direct ancestors of both Papa (Horace) Johnson and Nana (Venette) Reed for 4-5 generations. Several years ago, my in-laws pulled out on old suitcase full of family pictures. Some of those pictures found their way into this scrapbook.  A brief biography of a distant cousin who founded an Arkansas town added to the family tree.

Holcomb-Reed_graph for blog

Sample page from mother-in-law’s scrapbook.  Diagram shows relationship between two families. 

Project #3:  Posten Family. 

Digital scrapbook for my 90+ year-old aunt; presented to her during our trip to Pennsylvania in August 2017. Our family tree extends to our oldest known direct ancestor, Thomas Postens (born 1782, New Jersey – died 1854, Pennsylvania).  During my childhood, we traveled to Pennsylvania every other year.  Trips became less frequent after Dad’s mother died in 1964, so this scrapbook focused on the more recent story of my immediate family. Page themes included weddings, three generations of military service and my sons. A shoebox of pictures inherited from my mother yielded pictures of Grandma Posten with me and my siblings. My aunt readily identified when and where each picture had been taken.  My oldest son bears a definite resemblance to my dad and Grandpa Posten when they were in their early 20s.

Project #4:  Ellerbee Family Scrapbook.

Paper scrapbook created for my father-in-law. I promised this one as supplement to Simmons Family Scrapbook. Years ago, Papa shared his copy of an Ellerbe family history (Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, Inc., 1986). The book represents an extensive history of multiple family lines with similar spellings of the surname.  A boon to this genealogist! This scrapbook focuses on our direct family line, Ellerbee. Recent contact with a second cousin yielded copies of pages from a family Bible published in 1876. Yes, I gave credit for sharing those photos! Review of documents led me to a new appreciation of one widow’s journey from southwestern Georgia to eastern Texas in the early 1880s with 6 children aged 3 to 14.

Consider a scrapbook to share your next genealogical project. Choose a method – paper or digital.  Time, resources and cost determine the size and method. Begin with a smaller project such as persons who fought in a specific war, a single generation or location, persons with the same given name through multiple generations, or stories about people in a family picture. The process of creating scrapbook pages can even help crack a brick wall! I used a single branch of the extended family for two of my projects. Think creatively about how to present information such as a census record.

census example from scrapbookSimple format, band of design paper on a solid background.  Copy of 1910 Census, Cherokee County, Texas for W. J. Simmons, wife, Janie, and 4 of their 9 children.  Small leaf sticker pointed to the family. Transcription of entry for W.J. Simmons is on next page for easy reading.  In 1900, W.J. & family lived in Coltharp, Texas, a town which no longer exists. Picture of historic marker and information about the town followed the 1900 census record.

Family pictures, Bible records, and original documents are ideal for this type of project. Copies of these items abound in all of my scrapbook projects.

Check the cost of your chosen method. For a paper scrapbook, you will need the scrapbook itself, paper, plastic sleeves and tape. Use archival quality, acid-free paper and sleeves.  Buy tape labelled for scrapbooking.  A scrapbook kit provides these items , except for the tape, plus stickers and other add-ons.   For a digital scrapbook, compare cost and other requirements such as minimum number of pages. Most offer templates and other helpful hints. Create your own pages or ask for help from one of their designers. Once the digital scrapbook is created, how will you distribute it? Digital and print copies are both options. Consider cost of postage to mail a print copy of the finished product to you and/or others.

For either method, allow plenty of time. The first two paper scrapbooks took about 6 months each because I could only work on them 2-4 hours or less per week. I had done little research on the Simmons family, subject of the first scrapbook, so gathering information took more time than for the other scrapbooks. Our scheduled visit to Pennsylvania dictated the time frame for the 20-page digital scrapbook which took about 20-24 hours total to create. The last scrapbook entailed two weeks of intensive work, about 30-40 hours per week.

For a comparison of Digital scrapbooking websites:   https://www.comparakeet.com/digital-scrapbooking-sites/

Paper scrapbooks. Choose size of scrapbook. Sizes range from 4 inches x 6 inches to 12 inches x 12 inches. So many choices of papers and colors! Choose a theme such as color, location or event.  When starting, purchase a theme kit or packet of design papers plus complementary or contrasting solid color pages. Allow time and money for multiple trips to the craft or scrapbook store! Wait for sales!!  Scrapbook specialty stores often sell unique papers that cost slightly more than papers found in craft stores. Check online sources for paper and other items. Some online sources allow you to order single pages. I ordered a Civil War Confederate packet and a Korean War theme packet online. Take pictures of your finished product.  You can then share these digital pictures with others in your family.

Develop a tentative table of contents, by section and/or page. The overall purpose of your project guides the sequence. In general, each section of my paper scrapbooks represented one generation.  The section started with a printed family group sheet followed by pictures, census records and other documents. Final pages in the section told a story about a specific person or event through local newspaper reports, church/ county histories or a summary written by me.

One challenge is finding creative ways to present various documents.  For a multi-generational family history, begin with a pedigree chart using a pre-printed, fill-in-the blank family tree form. Blank forms with handwritten entries personalize the scrapbook. Add stick-on items. Buy theme-based scrapbook packages at craft stores or online. I have jewels, flowers, letters of the alphabet, U.S. state decals, ribbon and leaves to add as accents. For the most part, I used fairly simple designs and shapes.

page 14_John Ellibee_Martha Love_marriage record_Ellerbee scrapbook_Jan 2018

Copy of  Marriage record for John Ellibee & Martha Love, 1842.  Full page from marriage record (with red circle around entry), enlarged view of actual entry, and a handwritten label identifying the document. Solid color background with coordinating bands of design paper at top and bottom of page. 

As you accumulate items, think about the information in or about the item. What is the most effective way to present the item? There are at least 3 men named William Green Ellerbee among the ancestors so green paper backs their stories. Use a state outline behind a document. Military symbols accompany copies of service records. A picture of a schoolhouse goes well with a copy of a school record. I wrote a newspaper-type story about a genealogical brick wall and presented it on (yes, you guessed it!) brick wall paper. A death certificate or tombstone picture on black paper with the words “In Memoriam’  is powerful. If available, add a picture of the person to a copy of a funeral notice. Add your own handwritten note to a census record – “6 year old Noah is listed as son but it is unlikely that 60-year-old Martha is his mother. Still looking for parents of Noah.” Sometimes, simply present the item on a solid color piece of paper.

Use contrasting and coordinating colors. The color wheel guides this concept. Complimentary colors, such as red and green, appear directly across from one another. Analogous colors, such as green and yellow, appear close to each other. Examples of various color schemes:

color wheel 2

Link to source for  Color Wheel

Choose a base color for your project, then expand by adding different color schemes for each page or section. For my mother-in-law’s scrapbook, a pink and maroon flower-themed paper guided color choices for the rest of the book.

linda scrapbook sample title page

Are source citations important for scrapbooks? I believe that the answer is, “Yes!” Plan space for citation when setting the page format. I added source citations for census records and other documents. For photos of the family Bible, my citation reads “Photos of pages generously provided by .  .  .  .   .  .,  descendant of . . . . .”   Relate the provenance of the item in the photograph:  “Handwritten journal kept by Grandmother Bailey, found at Grandmother’s house by Judith Bailey, current owner of the journal.” Format source citations for other records, such as census records, according to current genealogical standards.


These scrapbooks were time consuming, medium difficulty, rewarding projects. I had little personal experience with scrapbooking before I created the first one. My husband is a graphic artist who offered constructive criticism. Now, I regularly scour local craft stores for sales on scrapbooking items. I started with one family history themed scrapbook packet and bought multiple single pages. I now have 6 boxes of scrapbook paper in assorted themes, designs and colors. Last summer, I bought 2 boxes of scrapbook papers and accessories, worth about $70, for $10 at a garage sale. For the latest project, I bought 10 design specific pages but only used 4 of them. There are more stories in the documents!

What helped:  Paper scrapbooks done in 2013 & 2014. Bought scrapbook supplies at various times during the past 4 years and only when on sale! Identified general color scheme of black, blue and green before starting current project. High quality copies of 3 pictures done at office supply store. Searched internet for page ideas. Genealogical research essentially complete on family before starting most recent project with most documents in paper or digital files.

What didn’t help:  With 1st project, no experience with scrapbooking. No clear format in mind, minimal planning. Genealogical research ongoing throughout 1st project. This project — home printer malfunction halfway through. Printer was down for 4 days while we waited for part. Good news – we didn’t have to buy a new printer! Used printer downtime to create items on computer and plan rest of scrapbook pages. Started creating pages in the middle of the family line, which was a little confusing.

Suggestions for future:  Tentatively plan sequence of sections and pages before starting. Inventory materials on-hand for ideas. Complete genealogical research as much as possible before starting scrapbook but remain open to new ideas or documents that may surface. Continue to look for scrapbook page ideas.

For more information, find print books about scrapbooking at your local bookstore or public library.

Websites you may find helpful (in no particular order):

Scrapbook your family tree (supplies and page layout ideas): http://www.scrapbookyourfamilytree.com/product-category/genealogy-scrapbook-paper/:

Scrapbooking genealogy (supplies and page layout ideas):    https://www.scrapbookinggenealogy.com/

Scrapbooking Your Family History: http://www.thoughtco.com/scrapbooking-your-family-hitory-1420758

Scrapbook A Family Tree:  https://www.familytree.com/scrapbooking/scrapbook-a-family-tree/

Pinterest, ideas for page layouts and links for supplies:  https://www.pinterest.com/rustico3059/scrapbook-your-family-tree/

The complete guide to starting your family tree scrapbook:  https://scrapbookingcoach.com/the-complete-guide-to-scrapbooking-your-family-history-for-generations-to-come/

Scrapbooking Your Family History: A Beginner’s Guide:   http://www.scrapyourfamilyhistory.com






Share your work during this New Year

Earlier this month, I watched another  television show (of three seen recently) about the Lost Colony of Roanoke, Virginia.[1]  Hosts for each show have expertise in varying fields such as archaeology[2] and geology[3].  Each approaches the mystery from a different perspective.  If I remember correctly, all hosts interviewed some of the same persons, visited some of the same locations and viewed/ analyzed some of the same items.  Each found something unique with similar but different conclusions.  My suggestion:  Bring all of the hosts together in Roanoke where they share their methods and visit locations again, as a group.  They compare findings and debate differences.  As a group, they come to joint conclusions, noting similarities and differences.  What a wonderful show that would be!

This brings me to the topic of this blog– sharing your genealogical research as a New Year’s resolution.  I tend to work independently.  However, I realize the value of seeking others with similar genealogy interests. Their perspective has often shown me things that I had missed. Or, they delved deeper into a relationship than I had done. Why not build on the work of others?

Reader, beware!  This is especially true in genealogical research.  With the advent of the internet, there are many more ways to share work and misinformation. Build on the work of others but take time to confirm their work.  Confession time– how many of you ever posted questionable or unverified information? Raised-hands I did and it has been haunting me ever since! How many of you copied information because ‘it looks OK’?  Again, guilty as charged!  Although, I am much more careful now than in the past!

I received a typewritten family genealogy from a cousin who had gotten the information from an elderly great-aunt. [4] typed Posten lineageLooks reasonable!   From my dad, I knew names of his dad and his grandfather.  My beginning research efforts gave me the name of James D. Posten, next in line.  So far, so good.  Using this information as a base, I began to prepare my application to join the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Since James died in 1914, I eventually wrote for, and received, a copy of his death certificate.  Next person in line – Thomas Posten- confirmed!  I also searched from the other direction – from Jacob Postens to Thomas.  I found Jacob’s Revolutionary War Pension file online [5].   Additional information about Jacob’s children and grandchildren was located in two county histories published in 1886[6] and 1900[7].  No Thomas!

More bad news!  Before I verified the information on the typewritten document, I shared it as fact on multiple message boards and my online family tree.  Dispelling this myth has been on ongoing process for the last 7 years.  Even though I readily share the accumulated information about Jacob Postens and his descendants[8], relatives still argue the direct relationship.  No one has produced evidence to prove that we are direct descendants of Jacob Postens and his wife, Ann Burson.

Sharing genealogical findings can be controversial.  Everyone wants credit for his or her work.  So, give credit to that other researcher! “This information based on Sally Ramsey’s online tree, entry for Jacob Holland.” If you disagree with the other person, be respectful:  “Two online tree shows death date for Jacob Holland as 1908; sources are gravestone and church records. Death certificate and family Bible records show death year as 1909.” Contact the owners of the other trees and offer to share copies of all documents.

No one works in a vacuum.  We rely on the work of others to discover our own family roots. Census takers asked questions and wrote answers on blank pages, transcriptionists typed the handwritten pages, someone created the paper and digital indexes, publishers put together the books, and librarians catalogued and shelved the books.  Family members kept great-grandfather’s Bible and your cousin now has it. A relative wrote a biography about your great-great grandmother’s brother.  Newspapers recorded family comings and goings. Local historians published essays and family stories in the county historical society journal.  There is room for error at each step of the process.

In the 1980s, my father-in-law attended an Ellerbee family reunion. He met a man who had written and published an extensive history of the Ellerbe/ Ellerbee/Ellerby family. My father-in-law shared the book [9]with me. The information in this book saved me many hours of research. Connecting the names and information with specific sources (listed at the end of the book) became my task. I found only one piece of incorrect information:  the wives of John Ellerbee (born 1808- died 1885).  In the book (page 14-41), John’s wives are listed as 1st, Martha and 2nd, Elizabeth. Birth dates of children, a marriage record, and census records indicate the reverse.  Comment on my posted family tree[10] begins with his data, cites records and ends with:

Conclusion:  Ellerbe book has the names reversed. Martha was John’s 2nd wife. I am keeping Elizabeth as name of John’s 1st wife without any other proof of her name at this time (August 2011). Any reliable info to keep or change this information is welcome.

This entry acknowledges Mr. Ellerbe’s work and gives the rationale for my conclusion. I am open for comments.

Online family trees are repositories of both correct and incorrect information.  Inconsistent data are not always recognized.  A desire for quantity may override a concern about quality.  A BSO (bright shiny object) lures even an experienced genealogist to stray from their stated objective.

Private or public online family tree?  This remains controversial with pros and cons to each.  Public trees:  Pro (& con) – anyone with access to the website can view your tree.  Anyone can copy your work to his or her tree. You may or may not get credit for finding that elusive document!  Private trees:  people must contact you for information and/or access.  Someone else cannot easily copy your work. This limit may deter anyone from contacting you.

Are my trees public or private? The answer is “Yes”. Some of my trees are public and some are posted on more than one website. My primary reason is for potential contact by other relatives, which has occurred.  My public trees are not as extensive as the trees housed on my computer within genealogical software programs.  I do not post all information on the public trees.  For example, I do not post copies of documents such as birth, marriage, death certificates that I paid for! I do include a note: “Tree owner has copy of birth certificate.” I also do not post information that others may not readily know.  Other trees reside only on my computer or on paper.  Most common reason is tentative nature of the information.  I do not have any online trees that are labelled as ‘private’.  No specific reason. You decide what to do about your own family trees.

Suggestions about sharing:

  1. Share your findings based on personal preferences. “Willing to share summary of information from multiple sources.” “Richard married Rita in 1932 per marriage certificate.  Daughter, Sarah, born 1929 per 1940 census.  I have copy of Sarah’s death certificate which lists Sarah’s mother as Donna King.”
  2. When in doubt, say so. “Two families with similar names found in this county; this may not be correct family.” “1910 & 1920 census suggest birth year of 1889; death certificate lists birth year of 1891.”   “Maiden name Smith per Jones family history; need to confirm with other sources.”  “Jacob Postens as direct ancestor from typewritten pedigree from elderly aunt; relationship not supported by multiple sources; contact tree owner for more info”.   “Handwritten name looks like Sa____son.”
  3. Be kind. Please check dates.  Betty would have been 8 (or 65) years old when 1st child born.”  “I visited John & Jennie’s grave last week. They are buried in Roberts Cemetery, not Robinson Cemetery.  May have been a transcription error.”  “I respectfully disagree with you on this point. My reasons are . . . .”  “I see your point and have made a note on my tree.”
  4. Check your own work carefully. “Middle name reported as Amelia and Ash by relatives; no documents found to support either one; changed here to initial ‘A’ .”
  5. Compliment good work. “I really like how you report discrepancies and questions.” “Thanks for sharing the pages from the old Bible.” “Thanks for full reference to newspaper obituary.”  “Your post about James’ parents is consistent with my own research.  I think that you are on the right track.”
  6. Admit your mistakes. “I shared the typewritten pedigree from elderly aunt and did not verify information.”  “Surname transcribed as Roberts by me when looking at handwritten census; marriage record & death certificate indicate name was Robertson.”  Your admission may save others from making the same mistake later.

So, during this New Year, resolve to share your work within limits set by you. Use the work of others and acknowledge their contributions.  Respect the opinions of others even when different than yours. Record your mistakes and make the necessary changes.  “Please” and “thank you” are still politically correct!

FYI — Yes, I became a Daughter of the American Revolution, using dad’s mother’s ancestor, Thomas Ostrander of New York.  Initially, I spent 3-4 months on the Jacob Postens’ line and got very discouraged.  A D.A.R. member suggested that I look at the women and this produced my connection to Thomas.  Lineage from me is:  Daniel Richard Posten (dad), Jennie A. Richards (dad’s mother), Ostrander Richards (Jennie’s father), Sarah Ostrander (Ostrander’s mother, 2nd wife of Nathaniel Richards; she died shortly after her son’s birth), Thomas Ostrander.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hiREFLECTION  This entire post is a reflection of my experience about sharing and the negative effect of misinformation.  What helped:  acknowledging that not everything you get from older relatives is necessarily true.  Access to internet and multiple other sources.  Kept lots of notes!   What didn’t help:  Initial reluctance to acknowledge that older relative could be wrong. Being totally stumped by brick wall.  Next steps:  Question everything! When you hit a brick wall, put the work aside and review later.  Keep extensive notes in journals, genealogical software, and research logs.

Another way to share:  Share your work with a genealogy buddy – It’s time to get a genealogy buddy

[1] Bill & Jim Vieira, Return to Roanoke: Search for the Seven; (video documentary, aired 4 January 2018; distributed by History Channel), television.

[2] Josh Gates, The Lost Colony of Roanoke, Expedition Unknown series; (video documentary; Season 3, Episode 4, distributed by Travel Channel), television. The Travel Channel.com (http://www.travelchannel.com/shows/expedition-unknown/episodes/the-lost-colony-of-roanoke  : accessed 10 January 2018.

[3] Scott Wolter, Mystery of Roanoke, American Unearthed series (video documentary, Season 1, Episode 7; aired 1 February 2013; distributed by History Channel, television. History Channel (http://www.history.com/shows/american-unearthed/season-1/episode 7   : accessed 10 January 2018

[4] Posten family traditions regarding ancestors of John Posten (born 1887), Ruby Grace Gardner, compiler (Pedigree and notes privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma) as reported by Vera Posten Brooks, ca. 1989.  A handwritten note on the document states, “I don’t know how accurate it is.”

[5] Deposition of claimant, Ann Burson Postens, widow’s pension application no. W3296; service of Jacob Postens, state of Pennsylvania; “Revolutionary War Pension and bounty-land warrant application files, 1800-1900”, images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com :  accessed 12 July 2017),  Jacob Postens, citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800-ca 1912, documenting the period ca 1775-1900, M804 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration [n.d.], Roll 1957.

[6] Alfred Matthews, History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: R.T. Peck & Co, 1886), p. 1127; download from Wayback Machine (https://archive.org/details/historyofwaynepi00math   : accessed 12 July 2017).

[7] Commemorative biographical record of Northeastern Pennsylvania including the counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe, containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and many of the early settled families (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co, 1900), pp. 1438-1439; download from Wayback Machine (https://archive.org :  accessed 12 July 2017).

[8] Susan Posten Ellerbee, “Jacob Postens: Our Ancestor?”; (MSS, July 2017; privately published by Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma.  

[9] Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History (Baltimore, Maryland: Gateway Press, Inc, 1986).

[10] Susan Ellerbee, “Jerry Donald Ellerbee Tree,”, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/60654669/person/48059652815/facts  : accessed 15 January 2017), “John E. Ellerbee”, John’s wives (comment).

End of year report: Genealogy Do-over

Recently, Colleen Boyle posted about her accomplishments for the year on the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook group. [1] At times during the past year, I, too, felt overwhelmed by the enormity of my task.  Four family lines (my parents, my in-laws) comprise the bulk of my research efforts, with 300-400 persons in each family tree.   Families of my brother-in-law, my nephew’s father  and other Posten families who may be related to dad’s family are also part of my research.

When I compare the status of my digital and paper files in January, 2017 to their current status,  I have made a lot of progress.  Here’s my accomplishments for 2017:



  1. Color-coded paper files for each family line – parents, parents-in-law + others.
  2. Recorded complete information in paper and digital files for both sets of parents + 2 generations.
  3. Adopted standard record-keeping system for individuals and families. Completed forms for all of Dad’s direct ancestors (my focus for 2017).  Partially completed forms for some individuals not in his direct line and for some individuals in other lines.
  4. Started notebooks for BMD certificates & records. Dad’s line:  BMD records for 5 generations placed in archival quality sleeves  + several  other people , including originals sent to me by  husband of 2nd cousin. notebooks2
  5. Obtained birth, death, marriage certificates for maternal grandparents (both born 1892, d. 1974 & 1984 respectively, married 1917). Originals placed in archival quality sleeves & appropriate notebook.
  6. Digital copies of original BMD certificates & records complete for 2-3 generations of direct ancestors in each family line.
  7. Created blog to describe experience and tell family stories. Made posts 2-3 times per month.  Connected to 1st cousin who I haven’t  talked to in years after she found my blog!  Added pedigrees for each major family line (Posten-Richards, Tucker-Maurer, Ellerbee-Simmons, Johnson-Reed)  to blog.
  8. Began using research logs on template created by Thomas MacAntee. Made a few changes in log format.   36 logs created to date.
  9. Bought Evidentia & Evernote.  Used each one 5-6 times. Continuing to explore how to use these tools.
  10. Bought Evidence Explained  book.  Using this extensively.
  11. Bought ‘Ancestry citations’ cheat sheet. Using this extensively.
  12. Created digital Research Toolbox.  22 websites/ blog posts added.
  13. Attended two online webinars – New York Vital Records (mom’s family) and Writing a family history. Now have specific plan for revision of Posten family history written in 2010.
  14. Genealogy research trip to Pennsylvania (dad’s family). Met with 90+ year-old aunt and other relatives, tramped 14 cemeteries, visited 2 county historical societies.  Found and photographed grave of my paternal grandparents!  Note:  paternal grandparents listed online as buried in 3 different cemeteries.  Placed them in correct cemetery on FindAGrave website.   Sent corrections to online cemetery managers.  Posted about this in blog.


    LaCoe family reunion,  August 13, 2017.  Newton, Pennsylvania.

  15. Attended LaCoe family reunion in Pennsylvania. Dad’s maternal grandmother was Amelia Magdelenne LaCoe.
  16. Connected with 2nd cousin and her son through DNA testing. Used  skills & tools to help them search for her father’s family.   Convinced my brother to have his DNA done.
  17. Opted to stay with Roots Magic software.
  18. Began more extensive research on siblings of parents and grandparents. Almost complete for Dad’s siblings through their grandchildren.
  19. Created naming convention for digital media files. Changing file names as I work on each person/ family.
  20. Joined three facebook groups – Genealogy Do Over, Early PA families, Pittston PA families.  Already member of RootsMagic facebook group.
  21. Implemented data back-up plan for files – home computer, external hard drive, cloud servers x2, paper copies.  Discussed future with oldest son.
  22. Expanded list of online sources regularly used to obtain information.
  23. Still following BSOs at times.

  2018 Goals:

  1.  Continue  paper & digital file clean-up.  Focus on mom’s family as Dad’s family files are now fairly clean.
  2. Submit at least one article to a local genealogical society for publication in their newsletter. Use information from 2010 Posten family history.
  3. Revise at least 4 chapters of Posten family history book. Explore publication options with expected publication in 2019.
  4. Send copies of grandparents’ BMD certificates to cousin.
  5. Send for at least 6 BMD certificates. If budget permits, request one certificate per month.
  6. Blog-related goals:
    1. Post on more regular basis, optimally every 2 weeks.
    2. Expand to husband’s family, at least 4 stories about his family during the year.
    3. Explore options for posting family trees to blog.
  7. Learn more about DNA testing.  Join DNA Do-over Facebook group.
  8. Assist nephew to combine family trees of his parents (his mother is my sister).


Organization of paper and digital files greatly improved over last 12 months.  I learned new technical skills while creating blog.  Reconnecting with a cousin as direct result of my blog is an unexpected benefit.  Genealogy research trip was more organized than would have been otherwise. With limited time there,  I identified specific goals for the trip and met most of those goals.  Husband wants to plan a trip south (southern Georgia & Alabama) to explore his family lines.  I am more consistently using varied sources for online research.  Appropriate documentation of all sources is more consistent.

Blog itself changed.  Initial entries focused on tasks and results for a specific month of the Genealogy Do-Over.  Later entries apply lessons from Genealogy Do-Over as I tell the stories of various family members.  The informational/ educational posts include examples from my genealogy work.

Another way to look at the process:  “Give your genealogy an annual checkup”

To paraphrase a recent ad campaign:

Colored file folders, notebooks, ink for printer  = $159.00

Photocopying forms at office supply =  $79.50

Genealogy reference books & programs = $156.00

Backup external hard drive + subscription = $36.00

Continuing education = $129.00

Improved genealogical research skills + future-proofing  = priceless

[1] Colleen Boyle, “Genealogy Do-Over Group,” Facebook (https://www.Facebook.com/groups/genealogydoover  : accessed 10 December 2017), posting “I tend to set unrealistic goals. . . . “, 8 December 2017.

Writing & publishing a family history: Part 3. Evaluating sources & information

In two previous blog posts, I described format changes for the next edition of Dad’s family history and examined citation of sources.   This blog post, third in the series, presents evaluation of  sources and  the information in them   Get a cup of your favorite beverage and a snack because this is a long post!  You may even want to read it in 2 sittings!

Entering the facts in a database or research log is only the beginning!  “Oh, no,” you say, “there’s more?”  Oh, yes, there’s more!  Review the document itself.  Identify the document  (or source)   as original/ primary, derivative/ secondary, or authored / tertiary.  Classify the information found in the source as primary, secondary, or unknown.   A statement about both the source and its contents can be included in your citation of the source.

“The Evidence Analysis Process Map”, designed by Elizabeth Shown Mills, puts these concepts in perspective:

QL17-Gallery (1)

Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 17:  The Evidence Analysis Process Map”.  Evidence Explained (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-17-evidence-analysis-process-map  :  accessed 18 December 2017.

To begin, use one of the sources cited in the previous blog:

1790 U.S. Census, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, township not stated, p. 112 (penned), col. 1, Peter Pofte [Poste]; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, viewed, downloaded 17 October 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M637, roll 8.

1790 United States Federal Census

The document is a scanned or microfilmed copy of the original document, held at National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. (the repository).  An online database provided access to the document. Document is a primary source.

The writing is uniform, indicating that one person filled it out. Census takers received instructions about the report and what information to collect.  Recording the information at or near the time of the event, the census taker asked questions of a household member, possibly the head of household, Peter Poste, or a neighbor.  The number and ages of people in the family should be validated by other sources and serves as a base for future research.    Primary information.

Guidelines for Evaluating Sources & Documents


In genealogy, sources are classified as original, derivative or authored. [1] You may also see the terms primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. [2] , [3]  The concepts are essentially the same.  An original source is “material in its first oral or recorded form.”   [4]  Created at or near the time of the actual event, reports by someone who experienced or witnessed an event are  classified as original sources. [5]   This includes original materials from the time period, such as tax lists.

Examples include original birth & marriage certificates, physical objects (such as a cross-stitch sampler), autobiographies, personal diaries and audio recordings.  A map created at or near a specific date is an original source. [6]  Other examples are creative works, such as art, poetry and music and original articles or reports of research studies.  Are satellite images of the earth primary sources?  Yes, if the image has not been changed.  An exact photocopy , microfilm image, photograph or scanned image of a document [7]  are generally classified as primary sources.  However, the information may be either primary or secondary.

One of my prized items is an autograph book that belonged to my maternal great-grandmother, Anna Klee Maurer.   The small book contains notes from her friends and teachers.  The most significant entries (to me) are the notes written by Anna’s future husband, Hermann Maurer (dated October 21, 1883) and the notes written, in German, by her future in-laws,  Valentine and Katharina Maurer.

Anna Klee front pages_crop

Anna (Klee) Maurer .  “Autographs Album”  ( book,  Brooklyn, New York, ca 1883); privately held  by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Ms. Ellerbee is Anna’s great-granddaughter.  The book has multiple handwritten entries which appear to be from her friends and teachers as well as her future husband, Hermann Maurer, and his parents, Valentin & Katharina Maurer.  Entries by Valentin and Katharina are written in German.  Some entries are dated, varying  from April to October, 1883. Hermann and Anna married December, 1883. The book was found in the personal effects of Ms. Ellerbee’s mother, Eunice Bertha (Tucker) Posten and was probably given to her by her mother, Charlotte A. (Maurer) Tucker, daughter of Hermann and Anna.

The book itself is a primary source.  Translations of the German language entries are derivative sources.  A transcription of all entries in the book becomes a derivative source with secondary information.

In contrast, derivative or secondary sources are created after the event.  A copy of an original or original in which the content has been manipulated are examples.  Derivative sources interpret or evaluate evidence, especially when the original work was done by others.  Specific examples include delayed birth certificates, tombstones, county record books (which are transcriptions of original documents), databases, translations, transcriptions of personal diaries or audio recordings, and some family histories.

An image copy of an original birth, marriage, or death certificate is a primary source.  However, if the certificate is a transcription of the original certificate, then it is a secondary source. My maternal grandparents’ death certificates, obtained from the state of New York, are original sources with a blend or primary and secondary information.

My great-aunt Viola wrote a brief family history of the Tucker and Maurer families.  The handwritten document names five generations of my mother’s family with some birth, death, and marriage dates.  Two family stories tell of possible lost fortunes.  I have a carbon copy of the original document.   Here’s my citation with source and contents evaluation:

“Maurer- Tucker Family History.” (Handwritten notes. Huntington, New York, ca. 1985), carbon copy privately held by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2010.  Transcribed by Ms. Ellerbee in 2012. Author considered  reliable.  No sources given.  Family stories told to Mrs. Tucker by her grandparents.  Most names & dates have been verified with other sources.  Secondary source with blend of primary and secondary information.

The third category of sources is authored works which are a “hybrid of both original and derivative sources” [8]  Labelled as tertiary in other disciplines, these sources obtain information from primary and derivative sources.   Examples include manuscripts with personal conclusions; family histories may fall into this category.   Other types are county histories with genealogical and biographical information, textbooks, directories, video documentaries and reference books such as encyclopedia, handbooks, and manuals.  The Posten family history that I am revising is this type of source.

Q & A

Are photocopies  original or derivative sources?  Mills (2015, p. 30) states  “. . . image copies as originals so long as (a) the images are legible; and (b) their information does not conflict with other information.”  If these criteria are not met, treat the image copy as derivative and  “seek access to the material from which the images were made.”   This concept provided my rationale for seeking the actual books at a local library instead of using online copies of the same books.

What about a scanned or digital image of a  marriage record found online?  Most consider this as a primary source, it meets the criteria above.  Some consider this as a derivative source.   If possible, obtain a copy of original by personally visiting or requesting the document from the repository.  Remember that the county clerk’s office or the church where the marriage was performed are the repositories, not the online database.  The church or county hold the original document as filed in their office.  A note of caution here.  Ask for an actual copy of the original or you may get a copy of a form with information typed in.  This type of document is a transcript of the original and, therefore, not a primary source.  (Disclaimer:  I read this on a blog and now can’t find the reference!).


As the next step, evaluate the information in the document. Similar to the classification of sources, information is classified as primary, secondary, or unknown.  Any document may contain a blend of these categories.  Information in the document, a.k.a,  content , is classified according to its origin[9] :

Primary information is information provided by someone who experienced or witnessed an event .[10]  If created at or near the actual event, the document or information is marked as primary. [11] Examples include eyewitness accounts of an event, names of persons on census records, and first person accounts of an event  in their original form, such as handwritten entries in a personal diary.

What about death certificates?  Death certificates contain both primary and secondary information.  The person’s name and  death information – date, time, place and cause of death- are primary information.  The person’s date of birth, place of birth and parents’ names are secondary information.

Secondary information  is information provided by someone who has some knowledge of the event but did not actually witness the event.  An intrepretation or evaluation of someone else’s work is secondary.  Specific examples include marriage information copied into a courthouse or county marriage book, hearsay, tradition, and local lore.  The family stories documented by my great-aunt Viola are secondary information.  A newspaper report of a family reunion contains secondary information although the reporter may use information obtained directly from the participants.

Information is labelled as ‘unknown’  when you don’t know who provided the information.  Two examples are a newspaper obituary with no documentation of source and a photograph with no information about the persons in the photograph.  This information needs to be validated by other sources.  When you locate the newspaper where the obituary was published and the publication date, the information can then be classified as ‘secondary’.

Demarious Family Bible

Family Bible Records:  Original or derivative? 

To evaluate family Bible records,  follow guidelines from historical research methods for evaluating documents.  [12], [13]  Ask these questions:

  1. When was the Bible published? If the Bible was published prior to the events documented, then the record (and its scanned or photo copies) might be a primary source.   When photocopying or scanning Bible records, also copy the title and publication date pages.  “My cousin sent me a copy of the Bible pages but doesn’t  have the page with the publication date!”  Now what?  Look further.
  2. Who wrote the entries? You may not know exactly who entered the information.  I am fortunate to have a scanned copy of the presentation page for one family Bible so I know who the Bible belonged to and can date the entries from that point.  A transcription of that information equals a derivative source.
  3. Look for differences in handwriting. If the entries were made close to the time of each event, you should see differences in the style of handwriting as well as differences in the ink.

Ask similar questions about each document that you review.

  • Who created the document? Does the person have the authority to do so?  Ask if the creator is an expert on the topic.  A mother who writes her baby’s name and birth date in the family Bible is certainly an expert on the baby’s birth!
  • What does the document contain? Is the information relevant to your research?
  • When was the document created? If not an original document, when was it copied?  If a transcript of the original,  when was the transcription done?  How accurate is the transcription?  Think of census records.  How many times have you seen a name that was transcribed incorrectly?  Was the error because of poor or illegible handwriting?
  • Where was the document created?
  • Why was the document created?
  • Assess the quality and accuracy of the information in the document. Can you verify the information using other sources?

To summarize, careful review and analysis of every source and fact leads to a more accurate story about your family.  Seek primary sources whenever possible.  Do you include an evaluation of every source and every piece of information?  Ideally, yes.  Drop-down menus appear on most genealogy software programs for this task.  Document  the classification of sources and information on research logs.  Use software, such as Evidentia  (https://www.evidentiasoftware.com ), to assist in your analysis.

For a fun and more concise view of the topic:

RootsWeb’s Guide to Tracing Family Trees, Guide No. 12 (http://rwguide.rootsweb.ancestry.com/lesson12.htm   : accessed 18 December 2017.



As a nurse and teacher, I participated in 10-12 research studies during my career.  As either primary or co-investigator, I wrote and implemented protocols, then analyzed  the data and finally, wrote the final reports.  I applied lessons learned from these experiences to genealogy.   As I wrote this blog, I realized that I have not consistently evaluated sources and information.  In some cases, I saw what I wanted to see.  Months later, as I again reviewed the document and my notes, I thought, “How did I ever come to THAT conclusion?”  I am slowly becoming a better genealogist.  There is so much to learn!

What helped?  Reading about each topic from a variety of sources.  Fairly consistent information in the sources. There is some debate about whether photocopies of original certificates are primary or secondary sources.  Putting the information in a chart form for easy comparisons, although I didn’t include the chart here.

What didn’t help?   Finding other websites written in a more concise or reader-friendly format.  I had to consider that maybe I just needed to post a list of the websites and let readers go there.  But, I always learn something when I write my blogs, so here it is!

Next steps:   Take time to critically review at least one document or piece of information per research session.  I often just skim over this process.  Put a copy of the Evidence Analysis Process Map on my bulletin board.  Add items to my Research Toolbox (done).


[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015), 24.

[2] The US GenWeb Project, Primary & Secondary sources (http://www.usgenweb.com/research/sources.html  : accessed 19 Dec 2017).

[3] “Comparative Literature:  Primary, secondary & tertiary sources.”  Yale University Library (https://guides.library.yale.edu   :    accessed 14 October 2017.

[4] Mills, Evidence Explained, 24

[5] George E. Morgan, How to do everything: Genealogy. 3rd edition.  (New York: McGraw-Hll, 2012), 32.

[6] Joni Seager,  “Mapping” Primary and Secondary Sources. (http://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/25244   :  accessed 19 December 2017

[7] Morgan, Genealogy, 10.

[8]Mills, Evidence Explained, 24.

[9]Mills, Evidence Explained, 25

[10] Ibid.

[11] Morgan, Genealogy, 32.

[12] Randall Seaver, “Original or Derivative Source?  Bible Records,”  Weblog:  Geneamusings, 13 June 2012 (http://www.geneamusings.com/2012/06/original-or-derivative-source-bible.html  :  accessed 14 October 2017.

[13]   Gena Philibert Ortega, “Genealogy 101:  #4:  The Family Bible.”  Weblog:  Genealogy Bank, 8 November 2016 ( https://blog.genealogybank.com/genealogy-101-4-the-family-bible.html  :  accessed 18 December 2017.

Writing & revising the family history:  Part 2.  Citations & sources.

In my last blog post, I described format changes to be made in the next edition of  my dad’s family history, “Posten Family of Northeast Pennsylvania”.  In this blog post, the second of a 3-part series, I examine the citation of sources with examples from my own work.  A later blog post will present types of sources and their evaluation.

What about citations, also known as references?  In general, I followed the Chicago Manual of Style[1] with some variation and greatly simplified many entries.

Example #1:  Census records, listed generically in the original manscript:

U. S. Bureau of Census. Washington, D.C. Census records accessed on various dates from various sources:

1790: Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

1920: Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania

Although easy to understand, these references are not complete.  Using Elizabeth Shown Mills book, Evidence Explained [2], as a guide (an item added to my Research Toolbox this year), the footnotes for these items now read:

  1. Bureau of the Census. Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Pennsylvania. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1907), p. 45, column 1, Peter Poste.
  2. 1920 U.S. Census, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, pop.sch., Ransom Twp., enumeration district (ED) 93, p. 6B, Family #118, John R. Posten; digital images, com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, viewed, downloaded 13 December 2016); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., Roll T625_1578.

The first reference is for the printed book, found at the Oklahoma State Historical Society library in Oklahoma City.  In the first edition of the Posten family history, I often added a statement such as “personal copy” or “accessed at Oklahoma Historical Society Library on 28 December 2011.”  These locations are helpful for “working notes. . . as an aid in case we need to reconsult it.  However, a citation to the facility most convenient to us personally would be of little value to users of our work who live elsewhere.” [3]  So, those comments will be deleted in the next edition.  However, the information remains in the first edition as well as in my handwritten and digital notes.

What if I found the 1790 census reference online?  If I accessed the print version of the book online, then the footnote would be similar to this:

“Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States, taken in the year 1790. Pennsylvania,”  population schedule, p. 45, col. 1, Peter Poste;  digital images, United States Census Bureau Library (https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1790/heads_of_families/pennsylvania/1790i-02.pdf   : accessed 17 October 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.  Record Group 29.

For a digital copy of the original page, viewed online, the footnote would be:

1790 U.S. Census, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, township not stated, p. 112 (penned), col. 1, Peter Pofte [Poste]; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, viewed, downloaded 17 October 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication 637, roll 8.

Review the above 1790 census examples again and look for differences.  How many differences can you find?  Here’s my list:

  1. Page numbers.  Page number 45 from the print and online books, page 112 from online database.  Online book is digital image of the printed page, so page number for the first two footnotes is the same.  Digital image from Ancestry is a copy of the original document with a different page number as recorded on the original document.
  2. Spelling of name. Poste from print and online books, Peter Pofte [Poste] from online database.  The first two are typed transcriptions of the original document. The third is a copy of the original document.  My interpretation of the spelling was placed in brackets since it is different than what is written on the original document.   For more information about ‘long s’ (often looks like ‘f’ in early documents) and ‘short s’,  go to this blog:   Andrew West, “The Rule for Long S”, Babelstone, 12 June 2006 (http://babelstone.blogspot.com/2006/06/rules-for-long-s-html  : accessed 17 October 2017, para. 7.
  1. Source of the source. First footnote is from a printed book, complete with publisher and publication date.  No additional information needed because this book is available at many libraries.  If it is a rare book or part of a special collection and not readily available, then add the repository.  The 2nd and 3rd footnotes identify the repository (citing . . . . ) or location where the original item is held or originated.   Specific information (Record Group 29; microfilm publication 637, roll 8) reflects  information given in the database.  Remember that online databases are lists of documents and other information, not repositories.

According to Mills (2015), a repository is “an archive, government office, library, or other facility where research materials are held.”[4]  Consider that definition when deciding whether to add the repository information or not.

If you have the original document, such as a family Bible, then you are the repository. Here’s an example using my great-aunt’s handwritten family history:

Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer- Tucker Family History.” (Handwritten notes. Huntington, New York, ca. 1975-1980); carbon copy privately held by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2010.

Example #2:  A book, originally found online.  Fortunately, the Oklahoma Historical Society Library in Oklahoma City has a complete set of the Pennsylvania Archives, so I was able to put my hands on the books.  From the working manuscript:

“Chester County Tax Rates, Oxford, 1774,” In Pennsylvania Archives, Series 3, Volume XII, page. 71.  Accessed 12 December 2011 from www.fold3.com

Although you can find the information from the above footnote, it is not complete. If I continued to use the online database version, without copying information from the title page of the book, the footnote might look like:

“Chester County Tax Rates, Oxford, 1774”, Provincial Papers:  Proprietary and other tax lists of the County of Chester for the years 1774, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1785; Pennsylvania Archives, Series 3, Volume 12, page 71; digital images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com  : viewed 12 December 2011).

More complete footnote, based on actually viewing the print copy:

“List of taxables of the County of Chester, 1774: Chester County Tax Rates, Oxford, 1774”,  Provincial Papers:  Proprietary and other tax lists of the County of Chester for the years 1774, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1785, William Henry Egle, editor, Pennsylvania Archives, 3rd series, vol. 12,   (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Wm. Stanley Ray, 1897), 71.

You can find the referenced page from either of the two footnotes for the online source. With online sources, remember to look for a copy of the title page and publication page.  In this example,  only the last footnote gives the complete information.

A final suggestion about citing online sources – check the website before you publish.  I found several websites that changed or disappeared since I first accessed them in 2010 or 2011.


Reflection/ Journal

Took more time than I expected – about 4 hours at the library.  This was at least the 3rd time that I had looked at the books but first time to actually get the full information about the reference.  Yes, it seems as if there is some duplication and/or unnecessary information.  Consider this scenario- your great grandchild finds your work 75 or 80 years from now.  Will he or she know exactly where and how you found your information?  Chances are that they will have to look up the meaning of  ‘www.website.com’! And, what, exactly is a ‘digital copy’? These terms were foreign to writers of family histories 40 years ago!  Photocopy machines were invented about 75 years ago but not readily available until about 1959.  For more information about the evolution of copy machines, read this article:

Happy Birthday, Copy Machine! Happy Birthday, Copy Machine!

What helped. Having print copy of Evidence Explained book.  Written information in initial draft of manuscript about date & place item was located.  Library call number recorded on some documents.  Using blog as a practice venue as I am still learning how to cite sources correctly.

What didn’t help. Putting off the inevitable that citations needed to be re-done.

Future:  Photocopy title pages of books and/or copy all possible information before leaving library or repository.  If applicable, record library call number.  Write the location, such as Oklahoma Historical Society library, Oklahoma City, and the date copied on my copy of the title page.  Staple or paper clip pages together before leaving the building.  And, the work continues!

[1] The Chicago Manual of Style.  16th edition.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2010.

[2] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015)

[3] Mills, Evidence Explained,  51.

[4] Mills, Evidence Explained, 829.

Writing & revising a family history. Part 1. Content & format.

This blog post is the first of three posts about revising a previously written family history. The focus of this post is Content and Format. The next post discusses Citation of Sources. The third post, Evaluating Sources, includes types of sources.  Examples from my own work are incorporated throughout.

When I grew serious about genealogy 10 years ago, one goal stood out– to write and publish a history of dad’s paternal family, Posten. Writing the family history became more important following Aunt Grace’s death in 2011. Aunt Mary, dad’s youngest sister, is the only one of Dad’s siblings still alive.  I finally completed the history in 2012 and sent copies to a few people, including Aunt Mary.  The original manuscript[1] traces our family back to Thomas Postens (1782-1854), dispels an oral family tradition about Thomas’ parents and grandparents, mentions family histories of several women who married Posten men (maiden names of Richards, Fulkerson, LaCoe)  and discusses our possible relationship to Poston/ Poste/ Posten families found in late 1700s/ early 1800s Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The document represents over 20 years of genealogical research.

The format of the first edition is relatively informal.  Yes, I presented facts and noted sources.  I also included information about the research process, such as moving forwards and backwards in time to discover the names of all 8 children of one family and the mother’s maiden name.  Journal type entries are common. I documented process as well as results. In essence, I created a working document rather than a finished piece.

My sister commented that the history was ‘confusing’. When I read the document again in 2014, I realized what she meant. It all made perfect sense to me!  But, it may not make sense or seem logical to others.  For example, in each generation, I began numbering individuals again with number 1.  My reasoning? I thought it would be easier for my elderly aunt, and others, to understand. While that may be true, random numbering does not meet any genealogical standard.  Over the years, I have read and consulted multiple published family histories.  Each one seems to have its own numbering system!

How important is it to follow a genealogical standard for numbering? Some may consider this irrelevant.  I respect their opinion, especially if the system is logical and easily followed by readers.  Identifying your readers guides your choice of numbering. A sequential numbering system in which each person has a unique number, starting with ‘1’, is one possibility.  However, if you plan to submit part or all of your work for publication elsewhere, such as an historical society journal, follow the guidelines for that journal.  A recognized numbering system improves the quality of your work in the eyes of others.  An item added to my research toolbox is the 2008 summary by Joan Curran, Madilyn Crane and John Wray, Numbering your genealogy. [2]

Since 2012, I attended several workshops and webinars about publishing and consulted with a professional genealogist. Participation in the Genealogy Do-Over[3] helps me to refine research skills and extend my research toolbox.  I began to look more critically at each piece of data and each document. Right now, I am still stuck on finding my great-grandfather, Daniel S. Posten (born 1859) and his parents, James D. Posten and Meriam Mills, in 1870 census. This particular objective has been temporarily put aside. See how my thought processes work?  Not always in a straight, linear fashion!

Back to writing, revising, and eventual formal publication of the Posten family history. Based on what I have learned, recommendations include:

  1. Choose and follow a specific numbering convention for lineage. Rationale:  Follow a specific, recognized genealogical numbering system.
  2. Reorganize content, start with Dad and work backwards in time. Include facts and stories about direct ancestors with only 1-2 paragraphs about collateral and ‘possibly related families’.   Rationale:   Less confusing while still acknowledging real and possible relationships.
  3. Describe research process as addendum to relevant chapter or section. Rationale: readers can choose to read or skip this information.
  4. Add family group sheet at end of each chapter, as relevant. Rationale: provides overview of family, including siblings of direct ancestor.
  5. Write articles about collateral families (surnames of women who married Posten men) and other ‘possibly related families’. Delete most, if not all, appendices.  Rationale:  Less confusing to readers.  Shows readers that additional information is available, if they are interested.
  6. Insert footnotes at bottom of each page in addition to a reference/ source list at the end of each chapter. Rationale:  When readers copy individual pages, they often copy only that page and may not also copy or refer to the list of references at the end of the chapter.
  7. Revise entries for footnotes and reference/source lists. Rationale:  Follow recognized system with complete and accurate citation of sources, recording the “specific location of each piece of data” and “details that affect the use or evaluation of that data.”[4]  Location does not necessarily refer to the library where you found the item but to the item itself.  (Citation of sources, including footnote entries, will be addressed in another post).
  8. Locate print copies of as many sources as possible. Whenever possible, cite the print item rather than online image. Rationale: This is a personal preference.  I prefer to handle the actual book or journal article or document.  The original item sometimes has additional information that is not included online. If print copy is not readily available,  use online copy of the original source, such as online copy of print book.
  9. Locate original sources for online images and indexes, as needed. Consult and reference the original sources/ repositories.   Rationale:  Many online images are from sources other than the website on which found. Online indexes use other sources to create the index.  Example:  The National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) is the repository for U.S. Federal census records, not online websites which show images of those records and/or provide an index of the names on the original census record.  However, if using an online website, acknowledge the website as the place where you found the record as well as citing NARA as the original repository.

Here’s the original sequence of chapters and proposed changes:

Original Proposed revision
Chapter Working Manuscript- 2012 Proposed Changes- 2017
1 Posten Name The Posten name:  origins, derivative spellings, history of Pennsylvania county formation & relevance
2 Family origins- original immigrant. (moved to Chapter 8 in proposed revision) Daniel Richard Posten (1917-1998) & Eunice Bertha Tucker (1919-2007)- my parents.  Include info about meeting George Avery Posten in 1980s. Add brief info about Tucker  family.
3 Pennsylvania Posten families early 1800s. Summary of Poston histories (moved to Chapter 8 in proposed revision). Pennsylvania county formation (moved to Chapter 1 in proposed revision). John Ray Posten (1898-1948) & Jennie A. Richards (1884-1964) – my grandparents. Brief info about Richards family.
4 Jacob Postens. Includes descendent list from 1700s to 1900s.  (revision – brief mention in ‘who’s the daddy’ chapter). Daniel S. Posten (1859-1918) & Elizabeth Phoebe Fulkerson (1860-1938). Brief info about Fulkerson family.
5 Richard, Samuel, William Postens (included summary of Samuel Posten descendants in New Jersey).  (revision – moved to ‘who’s the daddy’ chapter) James D. Posten (1829-1914) & Meriam Mills (1834-1897). Brief info about Mills family.
6 Thomas Postens Thomas Postens (1784-1852) & Esther Brown (1790 -1841).  Brief info about contradictory information for children of their daughter, Phoebe.  Mention Elihu Posten as caretaker of Thomas’ deaf son after Thomas’ death.
7 James D. Postens Who’s the daddy?’ of Thomas Postens.  Evidence for & against each possibility. Omit detailed descendant lists.
8 Daniel S. Posten.  Includes Fulkerson/ Fulkerson. Beginnings.  Original immigrant.   1700s – early 1800s.  Poston family histories.  Summary of PA Posten families in other parts of the state, specifically Huntingdon county.
9 John Ray Posten. Includes Richards & LaCoe. Summary.  Include complete descendant list for Thomas Postens.
10 Daniel Richard Posten Not needed.
Appendices Appendix A.  Benjamin Avery Posten, Missouri Omit appendix.  Ancestor of George Avery Posten. Article for Oklahoma Historical Society journal.  Refer to article in relevant chapter.
Appendix B.  Elihu Postens, Monroe Co, PA Omit appendix. Brief mention in Thomas Postens’ chapter as caretaker of Thomas’ son deaf son after Thomas’ death. Article for Monroe County Historical Society.
Appendix C. William Poste/ Posten of Bucks & Huntingdon counties. Included info about other Posten families in Huntingdon county. Proposed lineage & link to James Posten & Rhoda Shafer of Iowa. Omit appendix.  Brief mention about William in ‘Who’s the daddy’ chapter. Series of articles:  1) William & Peter Poste to Huntingdon County PA Historical Society.  2)Other Posten families in Huntingdon County PA. 3) James Posten & Rhoda Shafter to Cass County, Iowa Historical Society.  Possibly a ‘how I did this’ article.

progress imageProgress to date:  chapter 1 revision – done, following the above recommendations.  Revision process begun on Chapter 2.   To anyone who hasn’t compiled your research yet,  start small, with one or two stories or generations.   Writing these blog posts has helped me.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hiREFLECTION:   took more time than I expected.  Went to library for print copies of many books which I had accessed online.  Pleased to find that Oklahoma History Society library has a complete set of the Pennsylvania Archives series plus other books that I used. Somewhat discouraged that I didn’t see duplications and confusing sections earlier.

What helped:  writing down a plan for the revision.  Print copy of 1st  edition as well as copy of 2nd edition on computer screen for easy comparison of both versions as I edit.  Time away from 1st edition allowed me to see it from a different perspective. Glad that I didn’t send 1st edition to county historical societies.  Constructive criticism from relatives who have a copy of 1st edition. Research tools obtained from participation in Genealogy Do-Over.  Attending a week-long webinar series about writing family histories and receiving additional input from an expert.  Further refinement of proposed family history.

What didn’t help:  Not being able to locate some sources again.  Some files are still not organized.  I have begun to use various tools more consistently so this problem should be minimized in the future.

What I learned:   One step/ chapter at a time.  Read previous chapters again before starting on next one. End product will be more reader-friendly with minimal duplication of information.

[1] Susan Posten Ellerbee, “Posten Family of Northeast Pennsylvania” (Yukon, Oklahoma:  Susan Posten Ellerbee,  [address for private use, ] Yukon, Oklahoma), 2012.

[2] Joan Ferris Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane & John H. Wray.  Elizabeth Shown Mills (Ed.). Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families and International Kin. Special Publication No. 97.  (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2008).

[3] Thomas MacAntee, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016);  download from Amazon.com

[4] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015), 43.

Civil War Veterans- Confederate and Union

WARNING:  This post contains information about men who fought in the Civil War for both Confederate and Union armies.  Some readers may be uncomfortable with the content. My children inherited genes from both Confederate and Union soldiers.  This post shares the stories of their great-great-great grandfathers:   James T.L. Powell, a soldier in the Confederacy, and Jeremiah Tucker, a Union soldier.
home soldiers.jpg

Display in our living room.  Civil War soldiers were cross-stitched by my sister from a pattern issued during Civil War Centennial, ca. 1961.

James Thomas Lafayette Powell

James T.L. Powell is my husband’s paternal great-great- grandfather.  James T. L. Powell was born on May 13, 1835[1], in Georgia, probably Calhoun County, tentatively identified as the child of Hilliard Powell and Laney Faircloth.[2]  James married Deborah A. C. Daniel on June 28, 1857,in Sumter County, Georgia. [3] By 1860, James, school teacher, and Deborah moved to Calhoun County, Georgia, apparently with no children. [4]

James T.L. Powell enlisted in the Confederate States Army on March 4, 1861, in Morgan, Georgia and served as a private in Company C, 25th Regiment, Georgia Militia. By 1864, he achieved the rank of  2nd lieutenant.    At the Battle of Nashville on December 15 – 16, 1864, captured Confederate soldiers included Lieutenant Powell.  [5]  Transported first to the nearest military camp at Louisville, Kentucky,  James’  journey north continued four days later, on December 20, 1864, to a final destination of Johnson’s Island, near Sandusky, Ohio.  The  500-mile  journey from Nashville to Johnson’s Island probably consisted of travel by both train and on foot.

Powell_civil war records_draft3.jpg

Three of 18 records found in James T L Powell’s Civil War records files

The Prisoner of War Depot at Johnson’s Island consisted of 40 acres and held prisoners from April, 1862 to September, 1865. [6]  Less well known than the infamous Andersonville Prison in Sumter county, Georgia, conditions at over-crowded Johnson’s Island were  similarly desperate.  Ill-clad Confederate prisoners of war also suffered because of not being used to northern winters.[7]  Arriving in December, James shared the same raw conditions as other prisoners.

‘Discharged or paroled’  from Johnson’s Island on June 17, 1865, [8]  James made his way back home to Georgia and reunited with his wife, Deborah, in Calhoun County, Georgia.  The 900-mile trip home coiled through Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.    James and Deborah had three children:  Alonzo ‘Alvey’, born about 1866 in Georgia ; James M. born about 1868 in Georgia, and Peter, born about 1871 in Texas. [9] Deborah probably died in Texas.

On April 22, 1877, James married  Catherine Brown, 17-year-old  daughter of R.L. Brown and Marguerite Puckett  in Cherokee County, Texas.[10]  They had three children:  Katherine Deborah , born August 15, 1879, in Cherokee County, Texas ; William B. , born February 19, 1882 in Texas and Jessie , born January, 1889 in Cherokee County, Texas. [11] The younger Katherine and her husband, James Walter Ellerbee, are my husband’s paternal great –grandparents.

James T. L. Powell died on September 27, 1890, and is buried in DeSoto Parish, Louisiana. [12]

James TL Powell gravestone.jpg

Find A Grave Memorial ID #67392240.  Photo by Jerry Bohnett, taken ca 2011.

He may have been visiting his children when he died.   His widow married Elias Barker on September 1, 1892, in Cherokee County, Texas.  Mr. Barker died on August 20, 1900, leaving Catherine again a widow.  Catherine Brown Powell Barker died on March 8, 1944, in Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas. [13]

See also:  Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison,  Friends and Descendants of Johnson’s Civil War Prison:     https://johnsonsisland.heidelberg.edu/index.html

Jeremiah Tucker

Jeremiah Tucker is my maternal great-great grandfather.  Jeremiah Tucker was born on September 23, 1839 in New York, child of Thomas W. Tucker and Lavinia Clearwater.[14]   Jeremiah married two times, possibly three – to Margaret, surname either Irwin or Collins, and Allie Traver.  (See Blog posted on April 24, 2017, for some information about Margaret and Allie; report pending).

Jeremiah served as a private in the 56th New York Infantry Regiment, Company I. [15] His unit defended Washington, D.C., then fought in battles at Yorktown and Williamsburg, Virginia.  In July, 1863, they reinforced the black soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry at the Fort Wagner, [South Carolina] siege, memorialized in the film, Glory. [16]  From there, the 56th New York continued south to Charleston, South Carolina, where the men mustered out. [17]  During the war, Jeremiah reportedly lost vision in one eye.

Jeremiah_Tucker_civil war records1

Partial service record for Jeremiah Tucker

After discharge, Jeremiah returned to his home in Greene County, New York,  where he married a woman named Margaret in 1867.[18] Together, they raised five children:  William Frederick, born 1868; Millie, born 1870; Augusta, born 1872; Mary E., born 1874; and Thomas George, born 1877.  Their oldest son, William Frederick Tucker, and his wife, Bertha Traver, are my maternal great-grandparents.  Another child, Lavinia, born in 1862 and recorded as ‘daughter’, resided with Jeremiah and Margaret as late as 1880. [19]

Jeremiah Tucker c

Original photograph given to my uncle, Esbon, from my great-aunt Viola. 

After the Civil War, Jeremiah became a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans.   Jeremiah died on April 16, 1914 at the age of 74 years, 6 months, and 23 days and is buried in his home town of Greenville, Greene county, New York., [20]

Interesting similiarities:

  1. Both men married for a second time after the Civil War.
  2. The first child born after the Civil War became our (my husband’s and mine) great- grandparents.
  3. After the war, both men faced a journey of about 900 miles to return to their homes. I expect that James’ journey was much more difficult than Jeremiah’s.


Reflection/ Journal entry

This post will be seen by some as not politically correct, especially in light of recent events surrounding statues and images of Confederate leaders.  I was disturbed this summer by the acts of vandalism against statues of Confederate leaders. Destruction of property is a crime.  I understand that some are offended and/or uncomfortable with these images and the beliefs represented.  However, the Civil War is part of our American experience, whether we like it or not.  Brave men and women fought for their beliefs on both sides, much as men and women fought in the American Revolution and wars since.  History cannot be erased and is often retold.  Sometimes, we judge our ancestors’ actions according to current morals and ethics.  This can lead to the retelling of history according to standards different than those of the actual time period in which the historical event occurred.  I believe that the perspectives of the actual time period should be considered.

Some may say,  “But, your viewpoint is skewed because your husband’s ancestors fought on the side of the Confederacy.”  Perhaps.  I want my children to be proud of their heritage,  all of their heritage!  So, we proudly display pictures of both Confederate and Union soldiers in our home.  When we visit the grave of James T.L. Powell,  we will place a Confederate flag because he is a Confederate veteran.  And, my children know that they have both Confederate and Union blood flowing in their veins.

Enough of the soapbox.  What did I learn?  The horrors of Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp.  My husband’s family includes others who fought and died for the Confederacy.   The number of slaves owned by my husband’s ancestors varied widely from one to thirty or more.  I learned about the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R, veterans of the Union Army).    I was surprised when I looked up the location of Fort Wagner and immediately made the connection with the film.   I have no information about my mother’s family’s views about black persons although I do not recall ever hearing her say anything discriminatory or derogatory.

A federal law granting benefits to Confederate Civil War veterans passed in 1958. Information and misinformation abounds concerning the language and intent of this law and earlier, related  legislation.  If you are interested, here are three of many websites with information on this issue:

Confederate veterans benefits:   https://www.truthorfiction.com/confederate-soldiers-are-considered-u-s-veterans-under-federal-law/

“Confederate soldiers were not United States veterans.” Blog posted August 24, 2017 by James Howard.  Presents both sides of arguments about Confederate veterans and pardons for them.    https://jameshoward.us/2017/08/24/confederate-soldiers-not-united-states-veterans/

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.  National Park Serive, Department of the Interior. “Confederates in the Cemetery:  Federal Benefits & Stewardship”  :  https://www.ncptt.nps.gov/blog/confederates-in-the-cemetery-federal-benefits-stewardship/

What helped ?  Access to online and print sources.  Careful review of documents revealed new information and insights.  Being open to the stories.  Searching for evidence to support conclusions.

What didn’t help? My negative reaction to those who seem to want to erase the Civil War from U.S. history, or water the history down to a version that is ‘politically correct’ according to today’s standards.  This formed the impetus for me to write this post. Incomplete sources and citations.

Summary:   This post describes two ancestors –men who fought for the Confederacy (Ellerbee family) and Union (Tucker family).  Individual stories grew from genealogical and historical records.  The post ends with a short rant about recent attacks on statues of Confederate leaders. I realize that genealogy blogs are not the usual place for political commentary and I recognize my own subjectivity on this subject.

[1] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed & printed 29 November 2012), memorial page for J.T.L. Powell, Find A Grave Memorial # 67392240, citing Wallace Cemetery (Evelyn, De Soto Parish, Louisiana), memorial created by Jerry & Donna Bohnett, photograph by Jerry & Donna Bohnett.

[2] Coolnethead, “Powell Family Tree,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/42063713/person/20387548981/facts  : accessed 9 November 2017); “Hilliard Powell”,  birth and death data undocumented.

[3] “Sumter County, Georgia Marriage Book, 1850-1857”,  marriage record for James TL Powell & Deborah A. C. Daniel, Book 3, page 218.  Marriage Books, Sumter County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives (http://vault.georgiaarchives.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/countyfilm/id/289112/rec/3  : accessed, downloaded & printed 24 March 2017), citing The Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

[4] 1860 U.S. Census, Calhoun county, Georgia, pop. sch., 3rd District, p. 47 (penned), dwelling 335, family 335, James T.L. Powell age 25; digital images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com  : accessed, downloaded & printed 8 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M653_113.

[5] “Carded records showing military service of soldiers who fought in the Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903-1927, documenting the period 1861-1865; ” entry for James L. L Powell (18 pages); digital images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com :  accessed, downloaded & printed, 8 November 2017);  ; citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M266, record group 109, state Georgia, roll 0386.

[6] Depot of Prisoners of War on Johnson’s Island, Ohio.  (http://www.johnsonsisland.org/history.htm  : accessed, printed & downloaded 14 Nov 2011).

[7] James I. Robertson, Jr.  The Civil War: Tenting tonight.  The soldier’s life. (Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1884), 113, 115.

[8] Widow’s Application for Confederate Pension, Catherine Barker, widow’s pension file no. 50567, Civil War, Confederate, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.  Carded records, compiled service record, James T. L. Powell, Lt., Co. C, 25th  Regiment Georgia Infantry, Civil War, RG 109, NARA-Washington, D.C.

[9] 1870 U.S. Census, Calhoun County, Georgia, pop. sch., Militia District 626, p. 55 (penned), p. 585 (stamped), dwelling 510, family 486, Jas T L Powell; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded 9 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M593_138.

[10] Widow’s Application for Confederate Pension, Catherine Barker, widow’s pension file no. 50567, Civil War, Confederate, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.

[11] Death certificates for Katherine Deborah Powell & William B. Powell, personal files of Susan Posten Ellerbee.  “Jessie Booker”, step-daughter listed with ‘Elide & Catherine Booker” in 1900 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, pop.sch., Justice Pct 8, p. 284 (stamped), dwelling 16, family 16, Jessie Booker; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : viewed 9 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T623, roll 1619.

[12] Find A Grave, J.T.L. Powell, Find A Grave Memorial # 67392240.

[13]  Jefferson county, Texas, death certificates, death certificate #14269 (1944), Mrs. Catherine Barker, 8 March 1944; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 9 November 2017); citing Texas Department of State Health Services, “Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982”, Austin, Texas.

[14] Jeremiah Tucker, death certificate (copy of original certificate stamped ‘for genealogical research only’),  no. 22078 (16 April 1914), New York Department of Health, Vital Records Section, Genealogy Unit, Albany, New York.

[15]“Abstracts from original muster rolls for New York State infantry units involved in the Civil War: 56th Infantry,” New York State Archives; entry for Jeremiah G. Tucker; Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com   : accessed 9 November 2017); citing New York State Archives, Digital Collections, Records of Military Service, Civil War, (http://digitalcollections.archives.nysed.gov/).

[16] Glory, directed by Edward Zwick (1989, Hollywood, California: TriStar Productions).

[17] “56th Infantry Regiment, Civil War,” NYS Division of Military and Naval Affairs, New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center (https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/infantry/56thInf/56thInfMain.htm:   accessed 8 November 2017 ); citing The Union army: a history of military affairs in the loyal states, 1861-65 — records of the regiments in the Union army — cyclopedia of battles — memoirs of commanders and soldiers. Madison, WI: Federal Pub. Co., 1908. Volume II.

[18] 1900 U.S. Census, Greene county, New York, pop. sch., Greenville, enumeration district (ED) 78, p. 8A (penned), dwelling 189 , family 196, Jeremiah Tucker; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 8 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T623_1039.

[19] 1880 U.S. Census, Greene county, New York, pop. sch., Greenville, enumeration district (ED) 81, p. 2B (penned), dwelling #1, family #1, Lavinia Tucker age 18; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded and printed 8 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 836.

[20] Jeremiah Tucker, Greenville, Greene county, New York; death certificate no. 22078 (16 April 1914).