Are Samuel and Elizabeth the parents of Narcissa?

March brings spring flowers and Women’s History Month. My narcissus are blooming, one of the few flowers that thrive in spite of not inheriting my Dad’s green thumb! From my husband’s family tree, Narcissus/ Narcissa Rutherford Holcomb, first wife of George Creager Holcomb, became the logical choice for this post.

narcissus_2019George Creager Holcomb is my husband’s 3 times great grandfather on his mother’s side. My husband is descended from George and his second wife, Mary Ann Selman. Why write about Narcissus when we aren’t directly related? My husband shares a genetic link with the children of George and Narcissus. And, I know little about her.  Writing posts help me focus as I search for more information.

According to an extensive history of the Holcombe family, as published [1] :

D-3-4-2-1-4-1 George Craiger [sic] Holcombe, p. 499.2, had a grant of 
640 acres in Cherokee Co., Tex. June 24, 1851. He was the pioneer 
in Tex. of is family, having come from Ark. In 1842 with his 
father-in-law, Samuel  RUTHERFORD. . . . m. 1st in Cherokee Co., 
Tex._____, 184_, Narcissus RUTHERFORD, who d. _____, 185__,
 dau. of Samuel, b. Va.,  ____1801 and Elizabeth, b. in Tenn. ____,1802.
 Ch. (b. Mt. Pleasant, Nacogdoches (now Cherokee) Co., Tex. )
1- John Lewis,  ____ 1843, d. _____1865, 
2- W.____ Harrison, _____ 1845, _______, 
3-Sarah, _______, 1848, _______, 
4-George Washington, _____ 1850, ______.

Question  1:  Who were Narcissus Rutherford’s parents?

Samuel Rutherford and Betsy Brown married on 12 October 1828 in Greene county, Tennessee.[2] Betsy is a common nickname for Elizabeth.

The Holcombe history suggests that Samuel Rutherford lived close to George C. Holcombe’s parents, Joseph Holcombe and Sarah Creager, in Arkansas.  Both families are on the same page of the 1840 census for Washington county, Arkansas[3]:

Name: Saml Rutherford
Home in 1840 (City, County, State): Mountain, Washington, Arkansas
Free White Persons - Males - 10 thru 14: 3
Free White Persons - Males - 30 thru 39: 1
Free White Persons - Females - 30 thru 39: 1
Persons Employed in Agriculture: 1
No. White Persons over 20 Who Cannot Read and Write: 1
Free White Persons - Under 20: 3
Free White Persons - 20 thru 49: 2
Total Free White Persons: 5
Total All Persons - Free White, Free Colored, Slaves: 5

NOTE:  Listed only male children.  If Narcissa’s suggested birth year of 1827 is correct, then she would have been 13 years old in 1840.  Birth years for the older male and female were between 1801 and 1810.

Name: Joseph Hanleen [Joseph Holcomb] [Joseph Haulcom]
Home in 1840 (City, County, State): Mountain, Washington, Arkansas
Free White Persons - Males - Under 5: 2
Free White Persons - Males - 5 thru 9: 2
Free White Persons - Males - 10 thru 14: 1
Free White Persons - Males - 15 thru 19: 1
Free White Persons - Males - 40 thru 49: 1
Free White Persons - Females - 5 thru 9: 1
Free White Persons - Females - 40 thru 49: 1
Persons Employed in Agriculture: 5
No. White Persons over 20 Who Cannot Read and Write: 2
Free White Persons - Under 20: 7
Free White Persons - 20 thru 49: 2
Total Free White Persons: 9
Total All Persons - Free White, Free Colored, Slaves: 9

NOTE: 1840 census for Joseph is consistent with census and other records for his family.

George Holcomb and Narcissa [sic], his presumed wife, lived in Cherokee county, Texas in December 1850.  This census[4] is the only one with Narcissa [sic] specifically named:

Holcomb, Geo, 29, M, farmer, value $1,280, born AR
Holcomb, Narcissa, 23, F, born TN
Holcomb, John L, 5, M, born TX
Holcomb, Wm. H., 4, M, born TX
Holcomb, Sarah E, 2, F, born TX

Also listed in Cherokee county in 1850 were Samuel Rutherford, his presumed wife, Elizabeth and presumed daughter, Leona [5]:

Saml Rutherford  47 M  land value 640 birthplace: Tenn
Elizabeth  "     46 F  birthplace:  Tenn
Leona      "     20 F  birthplace: Tenn

George Creager Holcomb married his second wife, Mary Ann Selman, on 4 May 1853 in Cherokee county, Texas. [6]

In June, 1860, 8- year-old George W. Holcomb was living with Samuel & Elizabeth Rutherford [7] , presumably his grandparents.  His age suggests birth year about 1851-1852. On the 1900 census, George W. Holcomb’s  birth is listed as Dec 1851.[8] George’s death certificate[9] records his birth date as 23 December 1850. His parents are listed as “ G.C. Holcomb, born Mo [Missouri]” and “Nacis Relarford, born Mo [Missouri].” Informant was W.F. Garrison or Miles Foss Garrison, husband of George’s daughter, Ethel.  As indirect information, George W. Holcomb’s death certificate plus the 1860 census back the assertion that Samuel and Elizabeth Rutherford were Narcissa’s parents.

Question  1:  Who were Narcissus Rutherford’s parents?

Based on indirect evidence, Samuel Rutherford and Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Brown were likely the parents of Narcissus/ Narcissa Rutherford. The assertion has not been definitely proven.

Based on 1850 census record, Narcissa was born about 1827 in Tennessee. The 1840 census for Samuel Rutherford suggests that he lived close to Joseph Holcomb’s family.  Perhaps the assertion that Samuel was George Holcomb’s father-in-law is true. The troublesome information is “3 males ages 10-14” on the 1840 census.  Ages of both Narcissa and her presumed sister, Leona, would be in this age range at that time.

Evidence to answer other questions remains elusive:


    1.  When and where did George and Narcissa marry? Based on birth of 1st child in 1843, probably in 1842.  
    2. When and where did Narcissa die? Where is she buried? Narcissa died between December 1850 (birth of last child) and May 1853 (date of George’s 2nd marriage). Possibly in Cherokee county, Texas. Perhaps she died from complications of childbirth.  
    3. When and where did Samuel and Elizabeth Rutherford die? Where are they buried? Samuel and Elizabeth certainly died after June 1860, possibly in Cherokee county, Texas.

George, Mary Ann, and the other 3 children of George and Narcissa remain “lost” in the 1860 census.  I searched  images for Cherokee, Nacogdoches and Angelina counties with no results.  Relatives found in Cherokee county in 1860 included George’s parents, Joseph and Sarah Holcomb, Mary Ann’s widowed mother, Ann Selman, and all of George’s siblings.  Are pages missing from these records?



Much of  Narcissa Rutherford Holcomb’s life and death remains a mystery to me. I hoped to discover  more answers  in a timely manner. I started a research log for Narcissus and documented what I had already found.  I tracked my searches and recorded findings.  I added the names of Narcissa’s descendants to my RootsMagic program.  Maybe I’ve been spoiled because of previous successes with minimal effort?   This brick wall shows only one very small crack.  I’m not sure if I met  the ‘reasonably exhaustive research’ genealogy standard this time.

What I learned:   Census record index on Fold3 easier for me to review than index on Ancestry. Fold 3 has census records for 1860 and 1900 through 1930.  Another  free website found : Cemeteries of Texas (

What helped:  Holcomb history.  Family tree last updated in 2016.

What didn’t help:  Not having list of references cited in Holcombe history.  Limited time to complete research and post per my own self-imposed deadline. Taking information in Holcombe history as fact.  Cursory searches of newspapers for obituaries and other information.

Next steps:   Search 1830 Tennessee census for Samuel Rutherford. Search 1860 census images again for Angelina, Cherokee and Nacogdoches counties.  Are pages missing?  Broaden search to other nearby counties- Anderson, Henderson, Houston, Rusk, Smith, Trinity.  Identify and search other cemeteries in the three target counties.  If no results, expand to cemeteries in other identified counties.


[1] Hannah Elizabeth Weir McPherson, The Holcombes. Nation Builders.: A Family Having as Great a Part as Any in the Making of All North American Civilization (Washington, D.C.: Elizabeth Weir McPherson, 1947), 500.

[2]Tennessee State Marriage Index, 1780-2002,”  database, FamilySearch (   : accessed 19 March  2014), Samuel Rutherford and Betsy Brown, 12 Oct 1828; from “Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002,” database and images, Ancestry (   : 2008);  citing p. 446, Greene, Tennessee, United States, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee.

[3] 1840 U.S. Census, Washington County, Arkansas, population schedule, Mountain, p. 261, line 4, Saml Rutherford, Joseph Hanleen; digital images, Ancestry (   :   viewed & downloaded 20 March 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration,Washington, D. C. microfilm publication M704.

[4] 1850 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, , p. 927B, household 847, family 847, Narcissa Holcomb age 23; digital images, Ancestry ( : downloaded ); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M432_909.

[5] 1850 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, , p. 897B, dwelling 641, family 641, Saml Rutherford age 47; digital images, Ancestry (   :  viewed & downloaded 20 March 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M432_909.

[6] “Texas Marriage Collection, 1814-1909,”  database, Ancestry (   ; accessed 20 March 2019), entry for George C. Holcomb and Mary Ann Sellman,Cherokee county, Book B, p. 142.

[7]  1860 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Beat 2, p. 431, dwelling 268, family 268, Samuel Rutherford; digital images, Ancestry ( : viewed & downloaded 20 March 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M653_1290.

[8] 1900 U.S. Census, Anderson county, Texas, population schedule, Palestine, p. 6A (ink pen), George W. Holcomb; digital images, Ancestry (  : viewed 20 March 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publication T623.

[9]  Johnson County, Texas, Death Certificate no. 37184, George Washington Holcomb, 7 July 1937; digital image in “Texas Deaths, 1890-1976,”  Family Search  ( : accessed & printed 3 March 2017); Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.

©Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots, 2019

A Genealogist is . . .

How would you complete the statement “A genealogist is . . . . “ ? Start with the word itself.  Genealogy  comes from two Greek words – “genea,” or descent and “logos,” or discourse.[1]


Follow with a standard dictionary definition, from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language[2]:

Page 944:  “1: an account or history of the descent of a person, family or group from an ancestor or ancestors or from older forms; an enumeration of ancestors and their descendants in the national order of succession.  2: regular descent of a person, family, or group of organisms from a progenitor or older form. 3: a study of family pedigrees and the methods of investigation of them.”

Page 1315: “Lineage. 1.a. descent in a line from a common progenitor.”

Morgan (2012) [3] defines genealogy as the “study of a family’s line of descent from its ancestors.” (p. 3).  He differentiates this from a family history, defined as “the study of a family’s history and traditions over an extended period of time and may involve documenting some or all of the facts.” (Morgan, p. 3).  A genealogist “place[s] family members and ancestors into geographical, historical, and social context.” (p. 4).

Genealogical research includes concepts and strategies from multiple disciplines such as anthropology, geography, history, psychology and sociology.  Williams (1960) included  biography, law, medicine and linguistics.  [4] What do each of these disciplines contribute to genealogy?  Here’s a summary with my personal definitions:

  • Anthropology is the study of groups of people within their natural environment. Focus is the group’s culture, physical environment, and interpersonal / family/ group dynamics.  To better understand the person and family from a genealogy perspective, explore their physical address (urban vs. rural, neighborhood),  geographical  location (country,  county or parish, town), family traditions, and personal accounts of events in the lives of individuals.  Consider people’s behavior within the context of the place and time in which they lived. Anthropology also seeks to understand the perspective of the people being studied.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a hospital was viewed as a place to die; today, a hospital is generally viewed as a place to regain health.
  • Biography is a person’s life history. Genealogy “adds background” [5] to the person’s story. A biographical profile for an ancestor records a chronological history of that person.  For some of my female ancestors, the frequency of births and deaths of their children seemed overwhelming when I placed all of those birth and death dates on the woman’s biographical profile.  I did not realize that James D. Posten’s mother died when he was only 12 years old until I filled in James’ biographical profile.
  • Geography is the study of the physical environment in which we live. The effects of drought, such as the 1930s Dust Bowl, is one example.  Dramatic changes in the land itself resulted in many families leaving the Midwest during that time.  Boundary changes reflect the study of geography.  How many of your ancestors lived in the same town for decades but are recorded as living in three (or more) different counties?  A major flood changes the course of a river and subsequently results in an entire town being destroyed.  A town with the same name develops 5-10 miles away from the original site.  Trace family migrations with geographical maps.
  • Historical events profoundly affected the lives of our ancestors. Consider the decision of men and women to fight (or not) in a particular war.  The experience of Black families in the South during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was different than the experience of White families who lived in the same place. Was an ancestor part of the Women’s Suffrage movement?  When did the women in your family tree first register to vote?
  • Law may be used to establish relationships. Legal documents and processes are often primary sources of information.  Probate records may include an actual death date and the names of heirs.  Birth, marriage and death records can hold treasures or  no new information.  A court case involving a land dispute gives insight into family relationships.
  • Linguistics is the study of language. Terms used by our ancestors provide clues to national origin. Surnames were often derived from a particular location, occupation or relationship.   Johnson originally referred to the  “son of John”.
  • Medicine studies disease and how to cure, prevent, and treat them. Today, we focus more on genetics, a specific branch of medicine.  Look at the causes of death for your ancestors. Relate the cause of death to specific outbreaks of disease or natural causes in the locality.  Compare photographs of your ancestors with your family today. What physical characteristics do they have in common?
  • Psychology is the study of the human mind including mental processes and behavior. In general, the individual is the focus of study although ‘group think’ also falls under the purview of psychology. We often ask, “What was my ancestor thinking when that decision was made?”  or “What did my ancestor think about . . . ?”  Personal diaries, journals and letters provide insight into their perceptions of events and people.  Other documents such as newspaper articles and legal proceedings give clues about the person’s state of mind.  Membership in a particular group shows a glimpse of our ancestor’s values and beliefs.  This aspect of genealogy is most evident when we begin to write our ancestor’s story.
  • Sociology is the study of the structure, interactions, and behaviors of groups of people or, broadly, the study of human society. Families are the often the focus. Sociology and anthropology overlap in that each studies groups of people.  Anthropology focuses on culture while sociology focuses on society.  Placing families within their social context is one tool used by genealogists.  A family’s religion or ethnic background or nationality often influenced where they lived in a particular community.  Values and belief systems change as society changes.

Now,  you are probably asking,  “What does all of this have to do with my genealogical research?”  questionAll of these disciplines follow similar research methods.  Research in each discipline involves the careful, systematic review of documents and information.  Information may be obtained first hand or through other sources.  Research occurs in the field, in buildings and online.  Specific methodologies and analyses involved in each discipline are beyond the scope of this blog.  Genealogy also requires the careful, systematic review and evaluation of documents and information.

To summarize, a genealogist is anthropologist, biographer, geographer, historian, legal analyst,  linguist, medical scientist,  psychologist and sociologist as well as detective.  These perspectives broaden your view as you copy facts and develop a more comprehensive analysis of those facts and the sources from which the facts are drawn.  So, dust off your school text books and add more perspective to your genealogical research!

Other sources consulted for this post:

Desmond Walls Allen, “Family history detective,”  Family Tree Magazine, 28 October 2011 (   :  accessed 11 March 2019.)

Michael Erben, “Genealogy and sociology:  A preliminary set of statements and speculations,” Sociology,  25(2), 275-292, 1991. Abstract . Sage Publications (   :  accessed 11 March 2019).

Emily Garber. “Genealogy is anthropology.” (going) The Extra Yad, 26 April 2013 (  :     accessed 11 March 2019).

Jeanne Kay Guelke and Dallen J. Timothy (editor), Geography and Genealogy: Locating Personal Pasts, E-book edition (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2008.  Chapter 1:  Locating personal pasts:  An introduction by Jeanne Kay Guelke and Dallen J. Timothy.  (   :   accessed 11 March 2019)

Arnon Herskovitz, “A suggested taxonomy of genealogy as a multidisciplinary academic research field,” Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, volume 4, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 5-21; image copy, JMR  (  :   accessed 11 March 2019).

Sheila O’Hare. “Genealogy and history.”  Common-Place, Vol. 2, No. 3 (April 2002), (    :     accessed 11 March 2019.). 4 parts.

Need lighter views?  Read these two blog posts:

Alona.  “Are you a genealogist or a family historian?”  Lonetester, 21 March 2017 (   :   accessed 11 March 2019.

Lorine  McGinnis Schulze, “What kind of genealogist are you?”  Legacy Family Tree News, 30 October 2015 (  :  accessed 11 March 2019).



I am still in kind of a fog after the death of my husband’s father last month.  Even genealogy doesn’t interest me much. I can’t seem to stay focused.  So, here is an article that I started last year.  Yes, I rechecked all of my sources.  For my next post, I plan to tell a story about a female ancestor in honor of Women’s History Month.

What I learned:  Start articles when I think about a topic.  Keep adding to these articles.

What helped:   Having an almost complete draft of this article on my computer.  Re-discovering an old genealogy ‘how-to’ book on my bookshelf.  I bought this book about 2 years at an estate auction.

What didn’t help:  Anxiety about what to write. Wanting to stay on track with posts every 2 weeks.

To-do:  Pick a female ancestor from husband’s family tree for next post.

©Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2019


[1] Ethel W. Williams, Know your ancestors: A guide to genealogical research. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1960.

[2] Philip Babcock Gove, editor-in-chief. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Inc, Publishers, 1993.

[3] George G. Morgan, How to do everything genealogy (3rd ed.) New York: McGraw Hill, 2012.

[4] Williams, Know your ancestors pages 11-13.

[5] Williams, Know your ancestors, page 12