A tangled web of 4 blended families

Blended families are like a tangled spider’s web. The web consists of marriages, children, spousal deaths or divorce, remarriages, more children, another spousal death (or divorce) and marriage to a spouse with children from a former marriage. Suddenly, you are tracking four or more families.  Names and dates blur. My web includes two families that eventually became two (2) blended families (total of four families) and 17 children. This post outlines the families and their relationships.

As every genealogist knows, you do not always find records in chronological order. Bits and pieces emerge at various times during your search. You put these bits and pieces together into a timeline of events. The families in this web are:

  • Family #1:  James Thomas Lafayette Powell and his 1st wife, Deborah A. C. Daniel.  3 children.
  • Family #2/ Blended family #1:  James Thomas Lafayette Powell and his 2nd wife, Katherine Deborah Brown. My husband’s paternal great-great grandparents.  5 children.
  • Family #3:  Elias Barker and his 1st wife, Launa Barber.  6 children.
  • Family #4 / Blended family #2:  Elias Barker, 2nd husband of Katherine Deborah Brown Powell. 3 children.

I found documents at various times. Retrieval dates indicate the sporadic nature of my research on these families. I offer this chronology to show the back and forth nature of genealogical research.   

2011. Document #1:  Death certificate for Katherine Deborah Ellerbee [1](wife of James Walter Ellerbee), my husband’s paternal great-grandmother. Parents listed as James Thomas Lafayette Powell and Katherine Deborah Barker.   

2012. Document #2: (I didn’t realize its significance until later). Widow’s Application for Confederate Pension, filed in 1932.[2]  “Mrs. Catherine Barker. . . widow of J. T. L. Powell. . . . James Thomas Lafayette Powell. . . . remarried to E. Barker, Sept. 1st, 1892, who died Aug. 20th, 1900.”  Conclusion:  Barker was surname of Catherine’s 2nd husband.  What was her maiden name?

Dec 2015. Document #3:  1880 census for J.T. L. Powel, age 45, and wife, Catherine, age 20.[3] Children:  Alvey Powel, son, age 14;  J.M. Powel, son, age 12; Peter Powel, son, age 9; D.C. Powel, daughter, age 9 months.  Analysis:  Alvey, J.M. and Peter could not be Catherine’s children.  D.C. Powel Is probably Katherine Deborah Powell Ellerbee, born 1879 per her death certificate.

2016. Document #4:   Death certificate for “Mrs. Catherine Barker”.[4] Parents listed as “R.L. Brown” and “Marguerite Puckett”.   Conclusion:  Catherine’s maiden name was Brown, not Barker.

2016. Back to Document #2:  “I was married to him [J.T.L. Powell] on the 22nd day of April, A.D. 1877, in the county of Cherokee, in the state of Texas.” Confirms marriage date for Catherine and JTL Powell.

2016. Document #5:  (recorded as “tentative”): 1900 U.S. Census for Elide Booker, age 46, and wife, Catherine Booker, age 41, with 8 children [5]—Isaac, age 15;  Milton, age 13; Cora, age 11, Katie L, age 8; Bertie R., age 6; Ernest E., age 4; Alpha M. age 1; and stepdaughter, Jessie, age 11.  Analysis: Catherine & Elide married September 1892. Isaac, Milton, Cora are certainly not hers; Katie could be hers but could also be daughter of Elias and his 1st wife.  Bertie R., Ernest and Alpha are certainly children of ‘Elide’ and Catherine. Catherine listed as mother of 8 children, 7 living.  Who are Jessie’s parents? 2019:  Elide Booker identified as Elias Barker.

March 2017. Document #6: [6] 1870 census for J.T. L. Powell, age 35, and Dan A.C. Powell, female, age 32.  Presumed children:  Alonzo Powell, age 4; Jas M, age 2.  Analysis:  “Dan A.C. Powell, age 32” is probably James Powell’s 1st wife.  What is her first name and maiden name?

March 2017. Document #7.   Marriage certificate for James T.L. Powell and Deborah A.C. Daniel, married 1857. [7] Analysis: Name of James T.L. Powell’s 1st wife was Deborah A.C. Daniel.  Consistent with 1870 census. Confirms Deborah as James’ 1st wife.

October 2019.  Documents # 8 and 9.  Marriage record for Elias Barker and Launa Barber, 1874. [8] Find A Grave memorial number 79870105 for Euna Barker, “mother”, death date 1892. [9] Analysis: Confirms Elias’ first marriage and his first wife’s death in 1892.

October 2019.  Document #9.  1880 census for Elias & Launa Barker with one child, Tempe, age 3 months. [10] Analysis: Elias and Launa were married with one child in June 1880.


Family #1:  James T.L. Powell married Deborah A.C. Daniel in 1857 at Sumter county, Georgia. James and Deborah had 3 children- Alonzo, James M. and Peter (born 1872).  Deborah presumably died in Texas between 1872 and 1877.

Family #2/ Blended family #1:  James T. L. Powell married Catherine Deborah Brown in April, 1877 at Cherokee county, Texas. They had at least 5 children – Katherine, William, Jessie and two undiscovered.  James T. L. Powell died in 1890 leaving his wife, Catherine, a widow with 4 or 5 children.  The older children from James’ 1st marriage apparently married before their father’s death.  

Family #3:  Elias Barker married Launa Barber in 1874 at Milam county, Texas. Records show 6 children.  Launa died in 1892, possibly after birth of youngest child, Katie, in February 1892. 

Family #4/ Blended family #2:  Elias Barker remarried in September 1892 at Cherokee county, Texas, to Mrs. Catherine Powell, widow of James T.L. Powell.  Elias died in August 1900, leaving Catherine again a widow. Elias and Catherine had three children – Reba ‘Bertie’, Ernest and Alpha.  Four of Elias’ children from his first marriage – Isaac, Milton, Cora and Katie- were still at home.


I found these records over an 8-year period.  Some records were duplicated in my files.  Current analysis of the combined documents revealed previously overlooked information. I didn’t fully identify gaps until this review.

Next steps for me:   Review all documents again. Search for additional documents and information about each family. Report findings as blog posts focusing on one family per post.


Another task for Genealogy Do-Over.  Filling out the research logs for James Thomas Lafayette Powell and his 2nd wife, Catherine Brown (my husband’s great-great grandparents) showed me that more than one family was involved.  I completed research logs for James and both of his wives.  I started Research logs for Elias Barker and his 1st wife.  Research logs for the 17 children?  One done for my husband’s great-grandmother, Katherine Deborah Powell Ellerbee.  Others are on my to-do list with priorities to be assigned.  I am on a different path than when I started.

What I learned/ recalled:   Blended families are not a unique phenomenon to the late 20th century.  1900 and 1910 censuses list number of children born and number living for women.

What helped: Access to online databases. Created ‘Blended family pedigree chart’.  Printed records in files.

What didn’t help: Incomplete paper files and research logs.

To-Do: Search census records for Catherine Brown Powell Barker- 1910 through 1940; add to her research log — DONE. Create & complete research logs for Deborah A.C. Daniel, Elias Barker.  Defer research on other children of these families. Confirm birth, marriage, death dates for Catherine’s known 6 children.  Search for information about her other children (2 or 3 as indicated by 1900 & 1910 census).  

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2019


[1] Cherokee county, Texas, , certificate no. 36955, Katherine Deborah Ellerbee, 9 July 1959; digital images, Fold 3 (http://www.fold3.com    : viewed, printed, downloaded 4 October 2019); citing Texas Department of Health, Austin, Texas.

[2] “Widow’s Application for Confederate Pension”, 8 February, 1932, Catherine Barker, widow’s pension application no. 50567,service of James Thomas Lafayette Powell (lieutenant, Co. C, 25th Regiment Georgia Infantry, Civil War); “U.S. Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958,”   Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed,downloaded, printed 29 Nov 2012)  citing Texas, Confederate Pension Applications,1899-1975, Vol. 1-646 & 1-283, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.

[3] 1880 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Precinct no. 8, enumeration district (ED) 19, p. 1 (ink pen); p. 447A (stamp), dwelling 6, family 6, D.C. Powel age 9/12; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com    : viewed, downloaded, printed 26 December 2015); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T9, roll 1295..

[4] 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.

[5] 1900 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 8, enumeration district (ED) 0030, p. 1B (ink pen) & p. 2A, dwelling 16, family 16, Catherine Booker [Barker]; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, downloaded 9 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publication T 623, Roll 1619.

[6] 1870 U.S. Census, Calhoun County, Georgia, population schedule, Militia District 626, p. 55 (ink pen, p. 585 (stamp), dwelling 510, family 486, Jas T L Powell; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, downloaded. printed 9 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M593_138.

[7] “Sumter County, Georgia, Marriage Books, Sumter County Ordinary Court, 1850-1857,”p.218, no. 24, James T.L. Powell, Deborah A.C. Daniel, 28 June 1857; digital images, University System of Georgia, Georgia Archives (http://vault.georgiaarchives.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/countyfilm/id/289112/rec/3   : accessed,downloaded, printed 24 March 2017); Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

[8] “Texas, County Marriage Records, 1817-1965,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : accessed 10 October 2019), entry for Elias Barker and Launa Barker; citing “Marriage Records, Texas Marriages,” Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.

[9] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com   : viewed & printed 10 October 2019), memorial page for Euna Barker, Find A Grave Memorial # 79870105, citing Mount Hope Cemetery (Wells, Cherokee, Texas), memorial created by seemore, photograph by Deb.

[10] 1880 U.S. Census, Lee county, Texas, population schedule, , enumeration district (ED) 094, p. 79A (stamp); p. 49 (ink pen), dwelling 316, family 319, Elias Barker age 26; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : accessed, printed, downloaded 10 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 1316.

Of laptops and laundry: A light-hearted look at things that interfere with genealogy

Do you remember this poem? I embraced this idea when the boys were small. Now, those babies are grown and out on their own. I retired from work outside of the home in 2016. Genealogy is now my 40+ hours per week job although my husband sometimes says it’s more of an obsession. I need to remember that genealogy DOES keep! Especially, if you have thorough, complete records of your efforts. 

My 10-year-old laptop died a few weeks ago. That event certainly interfered with my genealogy work.   In January 2017, I accepted the reality of disorganized paper and digital genealogy files. I resolved to correct the situation. That’s when I discovered Thomas MacAntee’s Genealogy Do-Over program. [1]  One step is “securing research data.” I followed directions and began routine backups.  Daily data and image backups on the cloud and weekly backups to an external hard drive. Last year, I began monthly backups of all laptop files (not just the genealogy files) to the external hard drive.  These activities resulted in minimum loss of data when my laptop died.

I knew that the laptop’s days were numbered. Laptop’s response time gradually slowed.  My son offered to build a desktop computer for me. We planned for the new computer to be functional before laptop died. Oh, well!  Only one loss found so far – bookmarks to websites. Remedies:  Sync bookmarks with another computer. Periodically save bookmarks to HTML file; store file on Cloud, flash drive and/or  external hard drive.  

We bought a Surface Pro notebook computer in 2017. The purpose was twofold:  (1) Don’t take laptop with personal information on a genealogy field trip.  (2) Take pictures with notebook rather than a camera. Pictures didn’t need to be downloaded from camera to computer.  My husband became an excellent photographer of gravestones! Although there was a lot of perceived ‘junk’ on old laptop, we decided to use the Surface notebook minimally. The Surface became my lifeline while son built desktop computer.  Desktop is now up and running!

Which brings me to another thing that interferes with genealogy – laundry (and other housework).  There are always 2-3 loads of laundry to be done.  Buzzers on washer and dryer alert me to step away from the genealogy work (usually on the computer) for a few minutes. Actually, not such a bad thing! Cleaning house has never been one of my favorite jobs. I describe myself as a ‘laissez-faire’ housekeeper—the house doesn’t have to be completely dust-free and spotless clean.  I live by this motto:  “My house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.”  Everything does get cleaned, just not every day!

And, there is the issue of food! My family is always appreciative when I cook. Sometimes, I resort to my “meal prepared and on the table in 30-45 minutes” mode that was common when I worked outside of the home. One advantage of retirement is that I can now prepare those ‘’week-end only when I have lots of time” meals on a weekday. Of course, there are still the “what do you want from take-out” days and “let’s get a pizza” days.  Grocery shopping and meal prep also mean that I put the genealogy aside for various time periods.

Genealogy does keep! But only if you have complete, thorough records of the data and your analysis. Document everything you do, then save it in more than one way.

Try this mantra:  

      Records searched and dutifully filed. 
      Data reviewed and analysis writ down.    
      Media saved, backup plan in effect, files are in order.  
      More Genealogy will keep till tomorrow. 
     (Unless, of course, you just found that elusive person or item 
       that answers one question but generates more!)  


I had to get out of serious genealogy work for a bit. I have been getting bogged down with small details. The elusive ancestors from the early 1800s and late 1700s remain elusive. Oh, I have names, dates and places.  Questions remain:

  • Who is Thomas Ellerby’s father? Thomas bought land in North Carolina in 1724.  Candidates include Thomas, John, William and Edward Ellerby, all of whom were in Virginia circa 1683-1690.     
  • What is relationship between Thomas Ellerby, who moved from Virginia to South Carolina about 1737 and John Ellerby, who bought land in North Carolina in 1738? Both men owned property near the Pee Dee River which runs in both North and South Carolina.
  • John Ellerby died 1751 in Anson county, North Carolina. Is he ancestor of our John Ellerbee, born 1808 in Georgia and died 1884 in Florida?

The amount of work needed for do-over of Ellerbee family tree is overwhelming. Other projects beg for my attention. Solution? One project at a time. Work on each project at least once a week.

Temporarily put aside further review and searches for those early Ellerby/ Ellerbe/  Ellerbee ancestors.  I reviewed digital and paper files for John E. Ellerbee and his two wives, completed research logs and re-wrote citations to meet standards.  The same process is complete for four generations of Ellerbee men who are direct descendants of John E. Ellerbee plus 13 other persons. Scattered re-written source citations appear throughout my RootsMagic tree. Proposed work plan:

  • Wives of Ellerbee men and their direct ancestors.
  • Siblings of Ellerbee direct ancestors.
  • Simmons direct ancestors (father-in-law’s mother’s family).
  • Wives of Simmons men and their direct ancestors.
  • Siblings of Simmons direct ancestors.

Continue applying lessons learned in Genealogy Do-Over.

[1] Thomas MacAntee,  Genealogy Do-Over (https://genealogydoover.com/are-your-ready-for-the-genealogy-do-over/    :  accessed 7 October 2019).