To use or not use a published family history?

My father-in-law gifted me with his copy of “The Ellerbe Family History” by Ronald William Ellerbe, published in 1986. [1] The book is “a compilation and interpretation of all of the discovered references to the Ellerbys/Ellerbes/Ellerbees in America.”[2]   References are listed at the end of the book.  Specific references are not tied to each fact or story.  I consider the information as assertions and seek to prove, or not prove, those assertions.  In this post, I present background information and describe my research approach for the Ellerbee family tree.  Future blog posts will report selected findings related to specific people and families.

family history book image

The work of others is useful in genealogy.  The Board for Certification of Genealogists addresses the issue [3]:

“Genealogists ethically, lawfully, prudently, and respectfully use other’s information and products. . . . Their data collection includes (a) providing full attribution to the originator, (b) accurately representing the originator’s information, and (c) honestly assessing the information’s nature and significance.”

Another relevant concept is evidence correlation.  Compare and contrast items to “discover parallels, patterns, and inconsistencies, including points at which evidence items agree, conflict, or both.” [4]

Chapter 14 of the Ellerbe book outlines our branch of the family, i.e. those who spell the surname ELLERBEE. The book’s author believes that we descend from a John Ellerby, “who died in Anson County, North Carolina, in 1752.”[5]  Although not the author’s primary line, I commend his extensive reporting.  He described four branches of the Ellerbee family:  Upson County, Georgia; Bulloch County, Georgia; Burke County, Georgia; and Tishomingo County, Mississippi. [6] My husband’s specific branch appears to be the Burke County, Georgia, branch with the patriarch being John Ellerbee (1808-1884).

When I started working on the Ellerbee family tree, I relied heavily on the Ellerbe book.  Specifically, I copied names and dates.  Then, I hunted for sources.  Whenever possible, I linked sources to copied information.  I can verify much of the information reported by Mr. Ellerbe.  I added 30+ years of updated information to my personal family tree.  I remain impressed by the amount of work that went into this book, especially since the work predates the internet!

Now, as I begin to clean-up my Ellerbee family tree, I have decided to step back. Instead of using the book as ‘fact’ and attempting to prove those facts, I temporarily put that information aside.  Previously, I asked “Does this information fit what’s in the book?”  This may not be the best approach.  I need to look more critically at each piece of information.  A new set of questions emerge:

  • Does this piece of information fit other information ?
  • If so, how?
  • If not, what are the differences? Can I explain those differences?

After answering those questions, then compare information to what is in the book.

Pretend that I am the subject of a genealogy television show. Typing my father-in-law’s name (Jerry D. Ellerbee), birth year (1938) and birthplace (Texas) in a online genealogy database reveals:

  • Texas Birth Index for Jerry Donald Ellerbee[7]: born 16 January 1938 in Jefferson County.  Parents: James Dreebon Ellerbee and Clara Doris Simmons.
  • 1940 Census[8]: 2-year-old Jerry D. Ellerbee , grandson, and 25-year-old Doris Ellerbee living with head of household,   Walter Ellerbee, age 67, and  wife, Katherine D. Ellerbee, age 60.

Generation 2 & 3:  James Dreebon Ellerbee. Name from Texas Birth Index and interview with Jerry Donald Ellerbee.

  • Texas Death Certificate for James Drebon Ellerbee[9]. Born 30 March 1915 in Texas. Died 29 April 1973 in Lufkin, Angelina county, Texas. Parents: James Walter Ellerbee and Katherine Powell.
  • 1920 Census (closest to James Drebon’s birth year)[10]: Dreebon Ellerbee, son, age 4, born Texas, in Cherokee county, Texas with J.W. Ellerbee, head, 48, born Georgia; wife, Kate, 40, born Texas; 4 siblings and Wright R. Ellerbee, 44, brother of J.W. Ellerbee.
  • Texas Death Certificate for J.W. Ellerbee.[11] Died 9 September 1942. Born 7 December 1872, Georgia. Father: Jim Ellerbee. Mother: Elizabeth Hayes.

Generation 3 & 4:  Click on J. W. Ellerbee in 1920 census to find record closest to his birth year of 1872:

  • 1880 census[12]: 7-year-old James W. Eleby, son, born  Georgia, living in Damascus, Georgia, with Elizabeth A. Eleby, age 33, head, widowed, born Alabama plus 5 siblings and 67-year-old Moses Hayes (female), mother [of head of household, Elizabeth], born Georgia.  Suggests that  Elizabeth’s husband, Jim Ellerbee, died before 1880.

Generation 4:  Click on Elizabeth A. Eleby for next census record.

  • 1870 census[13]: Miller county, Georgia. John J. Eleby, age 31, born  Georgia; Elizabeth , age 27, born Georgia;  5 presumed children, ages 4 months to 11 years.

Clicking on John J. Eleby and Elizabeth Eleby yields no immediate hints.  Clicking on oldest presumed children, Sarah E. Eleby, age 11, and William G. Eleby, age 9, also yields no quick hints except to other online family trees. My initial quick search ends here.  Information gleaned from this quick search:

  • Jerry Donald Ellerbee. Born 16 January 1938 in Jefferson county, Texas. Parents: James Dreebon Ellerbee and Clara Doris Simmons.
  • James Dreebon Ellerbee. Born 30 March 1915 in Texas. Died 29 April 1973 in Lufkin, Angelina county, Texas. Parents: James Walter Ellerbee and Katherine Powell.
  • James Walter Ellerbee. Born 7 December 1872 in Georgia. Died 9 September 1942 in Wells, Cherokee county, Texas.  Parents Jim Ellerbee and Elizabeth Hayes.
  • Jim Ellerbee (a.k.a. John J. Ellerbee, possibly John James or James John), born about 1839 in Georgia. Wife, Elizabeth Hayes, born about 1843.
    • Ages of children in 1870 were 4 months, 2 years, 3 years, 9 years and 11 years. Possible explanation for gap of 6 years (about 1861 to about 1867) is Jim’s absence during Civil War.
    • Alternative explanation for gap: Elizabeth was Jim’s 2nd

With this information in hand, return to Ellerbe book, pages 14-41 to 14-45:

  • _____ Jerry Donald Ellerbee not mentioned.
  • 7977 Dreebon Ellerbee.  [Son of]
  • 7945  James Walter Ellerbee (1872 -1942) and
    • 7970 Kate _____________.
    • [James Walter son noof ]
  • 7917 James John Ellerbee (1836-1877) and
    • Elizabeth Hayes (2nd wife). Married 2nd November 9, 1865, Georgia. *New information suspected but not confirmed during quick record search.
    • 1st wife: Sarah Bailey, married 1858, Calhoun County, Georgia. Died ca. 1863. *New information not found during quick record search. To be confirmed.
    • [James John Ellerbee son of]
  • 7910 John Ellerbee (1808 – 1885) and
    • 7911 Martha ________, 1st wife
    • 7912 Elizabeth _______, 2nd wife
    • * Information about John Ellerbee and his wives did not pop up during my initial quick online search on one website.

Quick online search of first four generations followed same basic lineage as Ellerbe book.  Kate’s maiden name of Powell was added.  The rest of the information requires more research and sources.  I now have confidence in at least some information in the Ellerbe book.

For more information:

Published Family Histories: An Under-Tapped Resource by Susan Kriete, April 26, 2018.

Finding and Using Published Genealogies by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, CG, No date.

Using Published Genealogies by David A. Fryxell, August 2, 2011. Published in November 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine.


I have encountered multiple published and private family histories. I approach each with some skepticism.  Sometimes, I work from the published history and attempt to connect my family to it. The desired connection isn’t always there.  I now try to look at each data set independently as I look for consistent and inconsistent information. Am I duplicating the works of others? Probably.  But, in the long run, I can identify consistencies and differences. Hopefully, my blog posts have enough detail so future researchers do not need to search for the same records.

What I learned:  Different approaches to work done by others.

What helped:  Ready access to online genealogy databases and a print copy of family history.

What didn’t help:  Trying to clear my mind and temporarily “forget” what is in the Ellerbe book.

TO-DO:  Continue critical examination of information related to this family in print sources.


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

[2]  Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p. i.

[3] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy standards, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.:, 2019), p. 16.

[4] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy standards, p. 27.

[5] Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p. 14-1.

[6] Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p.  14-2.

[7] Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, “1938 Births,” digital index, Ancestry (  : viewed, downloaded, printed 15 July 2019), p. 561. entry for Ellerbee, Jerry Donald.

[8] 1940 U.S. Census, Cherokee County, Texas, pop. sch., , enumeration district (ED) 37-31, p. 14B, family #258, Jerry D. Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry  (  : accessed & printed 15 July 2019); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll T627_4005.

[9] “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry   : downloaded & printed 15 July 2019), entry for James Drebon Ellerbee; citing Texas Department of Health, Austin, TX.

[10] 1920 U.S. Census, Cherokee County, Texas, pop. sch., Justice Precinct 8, enumeration district (ED) 35, p. 14A, family #253, Dreebon Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed 15 July 2019); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll: T625_1787.

[11] Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982, digital images, Ancestry (   : downloaded & printed 15 July  2019, entry for  J. W. Ellerbee, citing Texas Department of Health, Austin, TX.

[12] 1880 U.S. Census, Early Co, Georgia, pop. sch., Damascus, enumeration district (ED) 026, p. 214A, family # 242, James W. Eleby [Ellerbee]; digital images, Ancestry  ( : accessed, downloaded, printed 15 July 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publication T9, Roll 144.

[13] 1870 U.S. Census, Miller County, Georgia, population schedule, p. 15 (ink pen), family #120, John J. Eleby; digital images, (  : accessed, viewed, downloaded 25 July 2019); National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.  microfilm publication M593_165.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2019

What’s in a name – Sally or Ciety or Suzetta or Sarah Bailey?

The name of a person on a record is not always what it appears to be.  A person’s first name (a.k.a. given name) at birth and the name by which they are known are often different.  One name may be used on legal documents and a different name, often a middle name, on other records.  Then, there are nicknames and variations of given names. The given name-middle name-surname order is common in America but not in other countries.  To address the dilemma, genealogists ask:  “Is Person A on Document A really the same as Person B on Document B?”  Clues from various records lead to a best guess.  This post describes such an event in the Ellerbee family tree.

James John Ellerbee is my husband’s paternal great-great-grandfather. The maiden name of James’ first wife was Bailey. Her first name could be Sally, Ciety, Szetta, Sitie or Sarah. 

Source #1: Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History (Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, Inc., 1986).

Page 14-43: “Jim Ellerbee served in Company L, 25th Regiment of Georgia Infantry Volunteers (Calhoun Repeaters); he enlisted as a private September 2, 1861, and served for the duration of the war. His regiment surrendered at Quincy, Florida, May 11, 1865. His first wife was a daughter of Judge William Bailey. Before going off to war Jim Ellerbee moved his wife Sally and their two children to the home of Judge Bailey. The Judge’s new wife did not like her step-daughter and step-children, so she had them move out of the house and into the slave quarters where they lived with a female slave. Later Sally became sick and died. The slave woman continued to care for the two small children until Jim returned home from the Civil War. He returned in the spring of 1865, dirty, in rags, his hair down to his shoulders, his health poor, with a muzzle loading rifle as his sole possession. He found his family in that grievous situation, and a general distress prevailed everywhere. He remarried later that year and rented a farm near Damascus, Georgia.  Just 12 years later he died.

His oldest son, then 17, moved to Wells County, Georgia, in Angelina County, to work for his grandfather Judge Bailey (who had moved there after the Civil War). William Green Ellerbee moved his stepmother and the rest of the family to Texas about two years later. “  NOTE: Specific source not cited. Book contains list of sources at the end.

Source #2:  John N. Cravens, William Edward Bailey: Georgia Planter and East Texas Farmer (Wichita Falls, Texas: Tosh Press, 1962). Copy given to Susan Posten Ellerbee by her father-in-law, Jerry Donald Ellerbee, ca 2012.

Page 3: “[W.E.] Bailey was married three times. In 1839, he married Miss Sarah Sutton of Calhoun County, Georgia, where he then lived. His wife died shortly after their child was born. In 1849, he was married a Miss Elizabeth Hutto near his home and one child was born to them. After his second wife died, Bailey married Mrs. Indiana Cherry Moore at Bainbridge. Delta, now Decatur County, Georgia in 1853. [Footnote] (5).”

Footnote 5:  “Obituary” previously cited and another clipping of an obituary of W.E. Bailey owned by Anna Bailey Cochran, a granddaughter.

“Obituary” in the East Texas Reformer, IV, No. 31, Jacksonville, Cherokee County, Texas, Thursday, February 23, 1899.

No further mention made about  children born to William Edward Bailey and his first two wives.

Source #3: 1850 U.S. Census, Baker County, Georgia, population schedule, Third District, p. 46B, family 97, William E. Bailey 36, head of household; digital images,  Ancestry (    : accessed, downloaded, printed 2012); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication roll M432_61.

  • Family no. 97:
  • William E. Bailey, 36, born Wilkinson Co, GA [Georgia]
  • Louiza, 16, born Baker Co, GA [Georgia]
  • Ciety, 10, born Baker Co, GA [Georgia]
  • John King, 17, born  SC [South Carolina]
  • NOTE:  1850 census does not list relationships of persons in household.

Source #4:  1860 U.S. Census, Jackson County, Florida, population schedule, Marianna, p. 111, Family 785, John J Ellerby; digital images, Ancestry  (     : accessed, viewed, downloaded on 3 February 2017); National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M653.

  • Family no. 785 (transcribed as written)
  • John J. Ellerby, 21 male, race:  marked with X,  farmer, born Georgia.
  • Szetta Ellerby, 18, female, race: marked with checkmark , born Georgia
  • Sarah A Ellerby, 1, female, race: marked with checkmark , born Georgia
  • John Stanley, 26, male, race: marked with X, farm laborer, born N. Carolina
  • Thomas Houston, 33, male, race: marked with X, farm laborer, born  S. Carolina
  • William Johnson, 13,  male, race: marked with X, farm laborer, born Georgia
  • NOTE: 1860 census does not list relationships of persons in household.

Sources # 5 & 6:  Death certificates for William Green Ellerbee and Sarah A. Ellerbee Martin Sutleff, presumed children of John J Ellerbee and his first wife.  Death certificates accessed online from Ancestry ( )

  • Texas Department of Health, death certificate state file no. 56, Sarah Alice Sutleff.  Birth:  July 6, 1859 in Macon, Georgia. Death: January 23, 1954 in Angelina county, Texas. Parents: James Ellerbee, ‘Sitie’ Bailey.  Note:  ‘Sitie’ has quotation marks on the certificate.
  • Texas Department of Health, death certificate no. 9457, W. G. Ellerbee. Birth: Jan. 12, 1861 in Georgia. Death: March 18, 1932 in Lufkin, Angelina county, Texas. Parents: W.G. Ellerbee, Miss Bailey.  Note:  W.G. Ellerbee’s parentage  is a topic for another post. 


  • From Ellerbe history, John J. Ellerbee’s 1st wife was Sally Bailey. Specific source not cited for information.
  • Sally is a derivative of the name Sarah. Source:  Behind the name: Sally
  • Biography of William Edward Bailey does not name the child of Bailey’s first wife, Sarah Sutton. Source is obituary for William E. Bailey. I have not been able to locate or obtain a copy of the obituary.
  • 1850 census: 10 year old Ciety Bailey living with William E. Bailey, age 36 and 16-year-old Louiza Bailey. Ciety’s estimated birth year of 1840 is consistent with 1st marriage of Judge Bailey in 1839.  From unconfirmed sources, Judge Bailey’s mother was Ciety Allen.
  • 1850 census: “Louiza” is likely Elizabeth Hutto, Judge Bailey’s 2nd wife whom he reportedly married in 1849 per Bailey biography.
  • 1860 census: Szetta Ellerby [Ellerbee], age 18, presumed to be wife of John J. Ellerby [Ellerbee]. Estimated birth year 1841 or 1842.  Sarah A. Ellerby, age 1, presumed to be their daughter, Sarah Alice.
  • Death certificates for children of James J Ellerbee and his 1st wife list mother as ‘Sitie’ Bailey and ‘Miss’ Bailey. Digital copies of the original certificates.
  • Two of five sources (1850 census and death certificate for Sarah Alice Sutleff) show similar given names of Ciety and Sitie for her mother. Two of five sources (Ellerbe history, 1860 census) list different names of Sally and Szetta. One source (death certificate for W.G. Ellerbee) lists his mother’s name as ‘Miss Bailey’ .
  • Three of five sources (Ellerbe history, children’s death certificates) suggest a maiden name of Bailey.


  • Sally Bailey, daughter of Judge William Bailey (Ellerbe history), Ciety Bailey (1850 census), Sitie Bailey (daughter’s death certificate) and Szetta Ellerby (1860 census) are probably the same person.
  • ‘Miss Bailey’ named on son’s death certificate is likely the same person also known as Sally, Ciety, Sitie, and Szetta.
  • Sally Bailey, 1st wife of John J. Ellerbee, is likely the child of Sarah Sutton and William Edward Bailey.
  • Sally’s given name was perhaps Sarah, after her mother. Her daughter, Sarah, was possibly named after her grandmother, Sarah Sutton.




I have multiple handwritten notes on various documents about Sally Bailey Ellerbee’s name.  I compiled the information in one document when updating my father-in-law’s Ellerbee scrapbook.  I used the Genealogy Proof Standard as a guide. Both original and derivative sources were used; source citations are mostly complete. The sources contained secondary information and reflect indirect evidence. Multiple data and sources were correlated.  I addressed conflicts and wrote a conclusion.

What I learned:  Look at each document critically. Second or third or fourth review may yield insights that you missed previously. 

What helped:  Copies of all documents and sources readily available. Notes written earlier on various documents. Compiling all information in one document.

What didn’t help:  Initially, not recognizing possible derivations of the same name.

To-do: Continue search for documents and evidence about Sarah Sutton and her presumed daughter. Keep research logs.

Reflection on Independence Day 2019

When did you realize that you might have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War?  Did you hear stories from older relatives about your grandmother’s great-great-great grandfather?  Perhaps an ancestor provided food or supplies to the war effort.  You trace your family tree back to the early 1800s and wonder, “Who might have been here in the 1700s?”  “Did someone actually fight in the American Revolution?”

Some people found at least one of these ancestors.  Others discovered family members who supported the British.  Slaves and free persons lived here during the 1770s and 1780s.  Your family may have arrived in the United States later.  In this post, I list family surnames and identify known or presumed Revolutionary War patriots.  There are probably more but I haven’t found them yet.  Some are recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Some may also by recognized by the Sons of the American Revolution.


Surnames:  Postens, Brown, Mills, Eccert, Fulkersin/ Fulkerson, Yates, Shotwell, Richards, Van Sickle, Ostrander, Smith, LaCoe, Dupuy, Ash, Miller

Revolutionary War Patriots:

  • Thomas Ostrander (1745 – 1816); recognized by Daughters of the American Revolution
  • Nathaniel Richards (1759 -1831); presumed
  • Cornelius Van Sickle                      ; presumed


Surnames:  Tucker,  Clearwater, Irwin,  Traver, Hallenbeck, Jones, Havens, Maurer, Metzger, Korzelius, Klee, Wolfe.  (Note: Maurer, Metzger, Korzelius, Klee and Wolfe families immigrated to United States in early to mid-1800s).

Revolutionary War Patriots:

  • Joseph Traver (abt 1732 – after 1790); recognized by Daughters of the American Revolution
  • Samuel Jones (ca 1759 – 1827; recognized by Daughters of the American Revolution

Husband’s paternal:

Surnames:  Ellerbee, Love, Hayes, Powell, Brown, Puckett, Simmons, Roach, Wright, Bailey , Allen, Sutton, Hester, Fayard, Ryan, Lanier

Revolutionary War Patriots:

  • Jonathan Roach (abt 1737 – after 1802); recognized by Daughters of the American Revolution.

Husband’s Maternal:

Surnames:  Johnson, Williams, Greer, Hutson,  Black, Bull, Reed, Friddle, Williamson, Copeland, Holcomb, Creager,  Selman,  Embry, Madden, Edens, Adams, Richardson

Revolutionary War Patriots:

  • George Valentine Creager (1734 – 1808); recognized by Daughters of the American Revolution

Many of our personal ancestral families lived in the United States in late 1700s and early 1800s.  At least one family may have been Tories (a.k.a. supported the British).

In summary, the roots of my family and my husband’s family run deep in American history.  Neither of us have any nationally famous persons in our family trees.  Although family stories told of Native American ancestry, our DNA shows no genetic links there.  Our ancestors immigrated to the United States from the British Isles, Scandinavia, and western Europe (primarily France and Germany).  Some of our ancestors influenced events locally within their own communities or within their home state. Some of my husband’s ancestors owned slaves.

We recognize the societal norms of the times and locations that influenced our ancestors’ choices.  We cannot change that part of our family history. I am diligently recording our family’s history and sharing information with others.  I encourage you to do the same. Without all of them, we would not be here!!

Susan M. Posten Ellerbee
Designated Family Genealogist for our branches of the Ellerbee-Johnson-Posten-Tucker families
Yukon, Oklahoma, USA

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog 2019